Author Topic: EP414: Knowing  (Read 17284 times)

eytanz

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on: September 21, 2013, 06:52:30 PM
EP414: Knowing

by Matt Wallace

Read by Mat Weller

--

A grey pallor hung heavy over the landscape. Heaven’s fire had long gone out, leaving the sky a cold hearth. The ashen soot that covered it might once have been the burning ember of eons, but now its livid color irradiated the early dawn. It soaked every molecule of air like a pale leaden necrosis, existing independently of the season, fostering neither cold nor heat.
A caravan of old cars rambled through the grey morning, balding tires rolling over the broken disrepair of State Highway 24. Chrysler Imperials and winged hatchback Newports, Chevy Chevelles and Novas and flatbed El Caminos, Dodge Darts and Coronets, Ford Fairlanes and Falcons, Lincoln Comets and Continentals, Olds Eighty-Eights and Cutlass Supremes; early 1960’s vintages, all. They traveled toward Oneonta, the Northern New York town whose name was taken from the Iroquois word for a place of meeting.
The Earth’s reclamation of its wilderness in post-nuclear North America continued. Lush foliage blurred as the cars headed deep into the rural upstate, creating rich green wraiths in their murky windows that danced and swooped and curved. The lead car, a Dodge Charger that outshined the rest by miles, would reach Gilboa around breakfast time.
There the wind blew warm through the world’s oldest forest. There they’d been called.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



dannyfatkullin

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Reply #1 on: September 22, 2013, 08:29:47 AM
So... What *was* the answer?

I have two theories of what it could've been - either that the only god is Satan or that there is none.

Any other ideas?



mb

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Reply #2 on: September 22, 2013, 11:02:30 PM
The - excellently read - story reminded me of Mike Carey's Lucifer Morningstar http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer_(DC_Comics)
but I don't think that the answer is that there is only the Devil. I think the answer is More along Nitzsche's proclaiming that 'God is Dead' - or never was - and more maybe that we are / create our own gods.
Which doesn't exclaim why the physical earth is falling apart but maybe that is a metaphor, too.
Any better ideas? Anyone?



quasidoza

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Reply #3 on: September 23, 2013, 05:20:42 PM
You'll know when we get it right because the universe will breakdown when enough hear it.  I think the question should be, was it right to have told everyone.

I thought it might be that they were in purgatory and heaven & hell destroyed each other we existed as part of our decaying will.  It must be something as bad for both sides or they'd have used it to destroy us hairless apes.

Maybe it's that the Pastafarians are correct or that 60s flares were our as good as it was going to get.



Thunderscreech

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Reply #4 on: September 23, 2013, 08:15:07 PM
This story left me asking myself a variation on an age-old question: What is the difference between fantasy and science fiction? 

I think I've garnered an understanding that there can often be overlaps, especially when Clarke's Laws come into play ('any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic') but even then, there's usually some sort of tie-in that I can use to make the connection.  For example, the Dragon Riders of Pern started out as a pretty straightforward fantasy that ended up being exactly the opposite, a science fiction saga involving interstellar colonization, genetic engineering, psionic talents, time travel, etc.  On the surface, it looked like basic sword & sorcery-class escapist fantasy, but when I got to a certain point, I realized I had been led down the garden path. 

By the standards above, what does that say for Robert Heinlein's 'Job: A Comedy of Justice'?  It's also classified as science fiction, but it has the same hidden element that I can't follow to differentiate it from fantasy.

Clearly, this is something of a personal failing on my part and rather than sit in a corner scratching my head perplexidly over it, I throw myself upon the collective brains of the community.  Help this one get the answer to that most basic of comprehension questions in this regard:  What am I missing? 



quasidoza

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Reply #5 on: September 24, 2013, 07:18:50 AM
How about science fantasy?

This was a slight tongue in cheek point about there being hybrids, I then saw
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_fantasy

And it's on the internet, so must be true!  :P




MadeInTheDark

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Reply #6 on: September 24, 2013, 08:13:08 AM
Well I must say this little ditty tickled my fancy when, in the second paragraph, I realized I had owned, co-owned or driven all of the cars listed. Then, suddenly with barely time to put nostalgia back in the cupboard, I found myself locked in a room with some sort of Christopher Moorish character on steroids and I must admit the sensation was quite pleasurable  riding me to the end with no negative residue or complaints.

The answer? Come on people... it was encoded in the demons spew.

"We,  humanity as represented in the story, are all a bunch of _____."
Hint: 5 letters, plural, and the one profane outburst my wife forbids in front of the children, quite popular in Britain.

3 Diablo Pentagrams to the author
4 Biker Unicorns to the narrator

--
Cheers -- MitD

« Last Edit: September 24, 2013, 06:28:43 PM by MadeInTheDark »

"Writing is more than hitting the keys in the right order. The best ideas are made in the dark" -- MitD


chemistryguy

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Reply #7 on: September 24, 2013, 06:40:23 PM
We apologize for the inconvenience. 


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #8 on: September 24, 2013, 08:30:46 PM
Ok, not looking at the other posts just now because I'm in the midst of listening, but I gotta say....

Matt, "industrial winch" sounds a lot like "industrial wench" here. Bit of a different meaning...
 
(edit - nor should "Twain" be twine. I mean, the author of Huck Finn isn't Mark Twine, it he?)
Just sayin'

 ;)
« Last Edit: September 24, 2013, 09:01:59 PM by InfiniteMonkey »



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #9 on: September 25, 2013, 02:31:48 AM
Ok, now that I've finished it and had a while to think about it, I think the following:

It's interesting that both Escape Pod and Podcastle had stories this week start in post-war hellscapes.

Sorry, this story did not pass the scratch test for Science Fiction. It's got a demon right there in the beginning and then it goes on to mix it up with the Pope, with nary a naturalistic explanation in sight. Not Science Fiction. (Heinlein's Job is classified as SF because he's a science fiction grandmaster, and where else are you gonna put him?)

But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. I especially liked the hilariously foulmouthed demon. Though I would have rated the story stronger than it is, just for that. Of course, I also just finished the second Sandman Slim novel.

And while I, too, loved the scene Alisdair mentions in Kingdom of Heaven, I have to say that more than anything else what it reminded me of was the famous Monty Python sketch "The Funniest Joke in the World", with a joke so funny that it kills - literally - on contact. The Answer is much like that. Anything the author would offer would not compare with whatever your imagination can conjure. And in many ways, the Answer is a McGuffin. The Answer isn't important, it's important what one does with it.



matweller

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Reply #10 on: September 25, 2013, 03:46:30 AM
Ok, not looking at the other posts just now because I'm in the midst of listening, but I gotta say....

Matt, "industrial winch" sounds a lot like "industrial wench" here. Bit of a different meaning...
 
(edit - nor should "Twain" be twine. I mean, the author of Huck Finn isn't Mark Twine, it he?)
Just sayin'

 ;)
Read the text. I read what the author wrote.

http://escapepod.org/2013/09/21/ep414-knowing/

I actually had to re-record "wench" because the first time I thought it was a typo. The second time I assumed either there was something I didn't know going on, or it was the author's error -- either way, I did what I was told.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #11 on: September 25, 2013, 04:22:30 AM

Read the text. I read what the author wrote.


I stand corrected. My apologies.



Dem

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Reply #12 on: September 25, 2013, 01:24:32 PM
Ok, not looking at the other posts just now because I'm in the midst of listening, but I gotta say....

Matt, "industrial winch" sounds a lot like "industrial wench" here. Bit of a different meaning...
 
(edit - nor should "Twain" be twine. I mean, the author of Huck Finn isn't Mark Twine, it he?)
Just sayin'

 ;)

Glad you said that then I didn't have to :-)
Also, never mind the PG 13 guidance, how about a 'don't be eating your lunch' suggestion?!

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


matweller

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Reply #13 on: September 25, 2013, 01:37:11 PM

Read the text. I read what the author wrote.


I stand corrected. My apologies.

You're not wrong, no need to apologize. I just didn't have time to verify with the author and in a pinch I side with the printed word.

As it happens, I agree with you. I would almost believe that 'twine' could be a variation of 'twain', although I can't find mention of that anywhere and it would be kinda ironic since 'twine' is almost an antonym of 'twain'.

I believe 'wench' is just wrong, but I've been burned making that judgement call before too.

The good news is that my studio computer is back in shape now [thanks, everybody for not being too harsh about the audio quality of recording on my Blue Mikey] so if I can find time to verify these with the author, I'll re-record in better quality.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #14 on: September 25, 2013, 02:03:09 PM

As it happens, I agree with you. I would almost believe that 'twine' could be a variation of 'twain', although I can't find mention of that anywhere and it would be kinda ironic since 'twine' is almost an antonym of 'twain'.

I believe 'wench' is just wrong, but I've been burned making that judgement call before too.

The good news is that my studio computer is back in shape now [thanks, everybody for not being too harsh about the audio quality of recording on my Blue Mikey] so if I can find time to verify these with the author, I'll re-record in better quality.

Or he could just write a story about an industrial wench. Might prove interesting.



matweller

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Reply #15 on: September 25, 2013, 02:56:34 PM
...especially one you have to secure to the bed of a truck and has the power to rend a demon in twine.



langly

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Reply #16 on: September 27, 2013, 01:11:30 AM
'Dread the passage of Jesus, for he does not return'

Ok, has no one noticed the startling similarities to a Nick Cave song?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr7o_UFzrzY

From "Songs in the key of X" and is very strange and I think is deeply entwined with this story. Or is it so obvious I am overstating? Maybe I'm hallucinating the connection?

Very well done story. In feel it was almost like James Blish's Black Easter/Day after Judgement. I really liked it.





washer

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Reply #17 on: September 27, 2013, 03:20:33 AM
I liked the demon a lot, some of the most colorful swearing I've ever heard.  I didn't like much else, though.  It seemed too much like a story a middle-schooler would write, where they say "He did this" & "He did that" for five pages til you get to the end and they make the big reveal that "He" was whoever-he-was the whole time!  Isn't that shocking?  I dunno.  I don't mean to gripe, from the prose it's clear to me this isn't Wallace's first rodeo, I just really hate that device where something is hinted at the whole story.  After a certain point, you're no longer even in suspense, you just want the reveal already so you can get on with the story.



Windup

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Reply #18 on: September 28, 2013, 04:40:25 AM
This story left me asking myself a variation on an age-old question: What is the difference between fantasy and science fiction? 

I think I've garnered an understanding that there can often be overlaps, especially when Clarke's Laws come into play ('any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic') but even then, there's usually some sort of tie-in that I can use to make the connection.  For example, the Dragon Riders of Pern started out as a pretty straightforward fantasy that ended up being exactly the opposite, a science fiction saga involving interstellar colonization, genetic engineering, psionic talents, time travel, etc.  On the surface, it looked like basic sword & sorcery-class escapist fantasy, but when I got to a certain point, I realized I had been led down the garden path. 

By the standards above, what does that say for Robert Heinlein's 'Job: A Comedy of Justice'?  It's also classified as science fiction, but it has the same hidden element that I can't follow to differentiate it from fantasy.

Clearly, this is something of a personal failing on my part and rather than sit in a corner scratching my head perplexidly over it, I throw myself upon the collective brains of the community.  Help this one get the answer to that most basic of comprehension questions in this regard:  What am I missing? 

I have to admit, this one "broke" my usual answer (borrowed from Orson Scott Card): "Science fiction has rivets, fantasy has trees." 

Here, we had a tree and demon right there in the beginning, but it also had an industrial winch (wench, whatever. Big machine with a motor and a spool. And rivets.  Almost certainly lots of rivets...)  Not to mention the survival sphere thingy at the end. 

More to the point, both religious/magical/mythic explanations AND scientific ones were employed.  Though the "big stuff" tended to magical, while science-like explanations were reserved for minor points. 

I suppose if you held a gun to my head and said, "Science fiction or fantasy?" I'd say, "Fantasy." 

Well, no. I'd probably actually say: "Whoa, you are taking all this classification stuff WAAAAYYYY too seriously.  Let's just put the gun down and enjoy the story, shall we?"

Which is what I'm actually saying...  ;)

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


Windup

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Reply #19 on: September 28, 2013, 04:46:14 AM
I don't mean to gripe, from the prose it's clear to me this isn't Wallace's first rodeo, I just really hate that device where something is hinted at the whole story.  After a certain point, you're no longer even in suspense, you just want the reveal already so you can get on with the story.

Yeah, I went all the way through that until I reached the point where I decided that "The Answer" was like the contents of the briefcase in "Pulp Fiction" -- the unseen thing that drives the action but is never revealed.  A true MacGuffin.

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


Windup

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Reply #20 on: September 28, 2013, 06:17:42 AM

And finally, to second a point made in the podcast: If you haven't done so, go listen to "The Failed Cities Monologues." It is one of the most absolutely amazing things I've ever heard come out of my iPod.  It's a common plot developed through multiple points of view in a future dystopia.  Structurally innovative, well-written, brilliantly produced, with terrific narrators. 

Here's the iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-failed-cities-monologues/id219621168

Podio Books: http://podiobooks.com/title/the-failed-cities-monologues/


"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


langly

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Reply #21 on: September 28, 2013, 04:58:40 PM
Here is the 'answer' in the latin and the lyrics to the Nick Cave song. Maybe there isn't a connection?

"Time jesum transuentum et non revertentum"

We were called to the forest... when we went down.
A wind blew warm and eloquent
We were searching for the secrets of the universe...
And we rounded up demons and forced them to tell us what it all meant
We tied 'em to trees and broke them down one by one
And on a scrap of paper, they wrote these words...
And as we read them, the sun broke through the trees...
"Dread the passage of Jesus, for he will not return."
Then we headed back to our world and left the forest behind...
Our hearts singin' with all the knowledge of love.
Then somewhere, somehow, we lost the message along the way...
And when we got home, we bought ourselves a house.
And we bought a car that we did not use...
And we bought a cage and two singing birds...
And at night we'd sit and listen to the canary's song.
For we'd both run right out of words...
Now the stars, they are all angled wrong...
And the sun and the moon refuse to burn
But I remember a message in a demon's hand
Dread the passage of Jesus for he does not return...
...he does not return...
...he does not return...



rlzack

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Reply #22 on: September 28, 2013, 11:01:15 PM
What was the answer? Go back and re-read Arthur C. Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God". Am I showing my age yet?  :)

I liked this one. The Answer never being revealed, but, as has been said, it's not the Answer that is important; it's what we do with that information. And seriously, given the number of falunatics (to coin a word) of all stripes, isn't the outcome quite believable? Except maybe for the physical manifestations in the world, but maybe even those were intended to have all been man-made.

Beware!



Devoted135

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Reply #23 on: September 30, 2013, 03:34:44 AM
Perhaps it's simply due to the influence of the current flash contest, but this felt like a giant riddle story to me. If the point is to present a study on how humans would react to a devastating "answer", then I'm disappointed with the broad strokes that were used and would have preferred a more nuanced approach. If the point was "a devastating answer will destroy the world", then I feel that not including the "answer" was a cop-out. At least Douglas Adams had the guts to make up an answer instead of leaving the audience hanging. :-\



Cynandre

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Reply #24 on: September 30, 2013, 07:19:39 PM
I believe I have a problem. I will be still asking Why? :)

Insanity takes it's toll. Please have exact change.