Author Topic: EP459: The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere  (Read 25714 times)

AM Fish

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Reply #25 on: August 27, 2014, 11:15:26 AM
This was a halfway decent coming out story but seemed to me have very little to do with SF. I wonder, is there a sense in which gay themes somehow override other criteria because they are, as yet, relatively daring?
The gay theme of the story was important to me only because it was economical: there is no need to explain why the sister would reject Matt and Gus' relationship. I read it more as a story concerning the anxiety of introducing your future spouse to your family or meeting your future in-laws.  A longer story might be better suited to present a sister that rejects her straight brother's future wife.

I was confused about it being a science fiction story but I'm still learning.  And, because of the sci fi association, I couldn't help thinking that the water falling might have something to do with something related to science (Matt can remember a time when the water didn't fall.  What happened to cause the change?).

I enjoyed the way the languages and the character's half understanding of some words (poe poe and gohng gohng) helped them better understand each other.



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Reply #26 on: August 27, 2014, 11:28:03 AM
I was confused about it being a science fiction story but I'm still learning.  And, because of the sci fi association, I couldn't help thinking that the water falling might have something to do with something related to science (Matt can remember a time when the water didn't fall.  What happened to cause the change?).

Hugo stories don't have to be science fiction, and Escape Pod tries to run all the nominations for the Short Story category regardless of whether they're Science Fiction or Fantasy.



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Reply #27 on: August 27, 2014, 12:57:56 PM
I think the most interesting part of the story for me was how people managed to get around the Water, and how the air would become more/less humid depending upon how close to the truth you were.

The scene with the pan and Matt/Michelle, though, confused me so much that I listened to it twice. Michelle was saying something that Matt knew was untrue, but Michelle didn't KNOW it was untrue. So the Water falls if you assume something that you don't know is/isn't true? That has much farther-reaching implications... my daughter, in third grade, was doing math problems on her computer last night. She made a few mistakes. Even though she didn't KNOW the right answers to them, she TRIED to get them right and made educated guesses. Would the Water have fallen on her each time she made a mistake, and therefore ruined her computer? Or what about when I'm at work and I commit some code and there's a bug in it? Do I get the Water?

While I think the story was enjoyable and the conceit of being able to/unable to lie was a good one, once the layers get peeled back to apply the Water to other situations it brings up disturbing questions about how things have changed elsewhere.

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adrianh

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Reply #28 on: August 27, 2014, 01:24:13 PM
The scene with the pan and Matt/Michelle, though, confused me so much that I listened to it twice. Michelle was saying something that Matt knew was untrue, but Michelle didn't KNOW it was untrue.

Well — one could argue that neither one of them really knew whether it was true or untrue.

My reading was that Michelle was "knowingly" telling something she didn't believe to be true with the intent of hurting Matt. With the abusive way Michelle interacts with Matt in the past, and the limited contact Matt has had with his family since the water started falling, I can believe she fell into old ways of interacting — forgetting the consequences. Matt, knowing how his sister's mind worked, figured out what was coming and acted accordingly.




albionmoonlight

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Reply #29 on: August 27, 2014, 02:05:11 PM
Interesting to me that the first two stories we have heard on Hugo month are much more focused on relationships than on their fantastic elements.  Great speculative fiction is necessarily great fiction.  And great fiction tends to be about people and how we interact with each other.  The fantastic and speculative elements just help to provide a broader canvas on which to paint those pictures of people.

To me, the water falling was an essential part of this story.  The main dramatic tension in the story involved admitting the truth of who you are to yourself and then admitting that truth to others.  The fantastic element of the water both provided a story-long metaphor for that tension as well as helped to actually drive the plot by creating a world where truth and lies are made more physically apparent.

The fact that the fantastic element of the water did not dominate the story made it, to me, more realistic.  That's how humans are.  We adapt to our universe and keep living our lives.  Sure, for the first couple of weeks, the world would pretty much stop as people got used to the water that falls on you from nowhere.  But then what?  We'd have to keep growing food.  We'd have to keep fixing our roads.  Drilling our oil.  Educating our children.  Life would go on.  Just with the water.

BOSS:  "Johnson, I need you to have that presentation for Hardees done by Friday!"

JOHNSON: "But, Boss, water keeps falling on us from nowhere!"

BOSS: "Yeah, I know.  Who gives a shit?  Keep a towel by your desk.  Hardees is our biggest client, our meeting with them is Monday, and we can't afford to lose that account."

If someone from 1930 learned about smartphones and tried to write a SF story set in 2014, he would probably have every other sentence focus on the fact that most of us carry around portable supercomputers that are all networked into a global communications system.  To him, that would be fantastic and the only thing any of us could possibly discuss or think about.

To us, it is just part of the universe as we currently understand it.  Certainly not more important or deserving of our attention than bringing the person we love home to meet our parents and our mean sister for the first time.



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Reply #30 on: August 27, 2014, 03:05:49 PM
The gay theme of the story was important to me only because it was economical: there is no need to explain why the sister would reject Matt and Gus' relationship. I read it more as a story concerning the anxiety of introducing your future spouse to your family or meeting your future in-laws.  A longer story might be better suited to present a sister that rejects her straight brother's future wife.

To me it the fact that the relationship was between two men was an integral part of it--It wasn't just about the sister, it was about violating the parent's traditional expectations.  Turns out he didn't give them enough credit, and they were pretty much cool with it without having to be convinced, but he didn't know that until it happened.



Zelda

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Reply #31 on: August 27, 2014, 08:57:23 PM
I found this story frustrating. Matt was focused on his experiences almost to the point of being self-obsessed and seemed to have a lot of self-pity. He always reserved a motel room when he went to visit his sister because at some point she always threw him out. If he knows she's going to throw him out anyway, why would it be harder to be thrown out for something important than for whatever reasons she's used in the past? If this is a routine occurrence then it significantly lowers the stakes on Matt's coming out.

Making Michelle's expulsion of Matt a pattern also shows very different family dynamics than if this were the first time it happened. His parents have been accepting this behavior? Why? It's not plausible that traditional Chinese parents would let their daughter become the boss of the family. But if the parents condone Michelle's behavior then they love Matt less than he thinks they do.

The water seems to have started falling since last Christmas. Matt had planned not to see his family this Christmas because the water is falling now. Telling such a narrowly focused story only a few months into such a remarkable phenomenon gives off the same vibe of self-obsession. Here in California and in many other parts of the West we are experiencing a terrible drought. If I could make water appear by saying "I love the taste of Brussels sprouts" it would be a miracle. The story Matt tells is the equivalent of How the Nuclear War Ruined My Wedding Reception. It's true, and it's important to him, but he sounds very detached from humanity as a whole.



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Reply #32 on: August 27, 2014, 09:06:26 PM
Please let's not suggest that all traditional Chinese parents would react in one monolithic way regarding how they run their families.


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Reply #33 on: August 27, 2014, 10:06:58 PM
(I know I heard this before... possibly on StarshipSofa).

The thing I liked most about this was that it was both a portrait of and gentle rebuke against tradition; having the parents being more hip and relaxed than the sister (who's totally plausible) was a great way to end it.

And if anyone else out there is looking for a "lying is impossible" story, I highly recommend "City of Truth" by James Morrow.



Zelda

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Reply #34 on: August 28, 2014, 03:25:49 AM
Please let's not suggest that all traditional Chinese parents would react in one monolithic way regarding how they run their families.

OK, these parents. Matt tells us that his sister spent all morning and afternoon carefully staying within the boundaries of what their parents consider polite behavior whenever one of the parents was present. Does she suddenly stop caring what her parents think? Or does she believe they have no objection to what she's doing? This is a pattern, rather than a departure from her past behavior. How did this pattern become established in this family?
« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 03:37:06 AM by Zelda »



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Reply #35 on: August 28, 2014, 01:38:36 PM
Here in California and in many other parts of the West we are experiencing a terrible drought. If I could make water appear by saying "I love the taste of Brussels sprouts" it would be a miracle. The story Matt tells is the equivalent of How the Nuclear War Ruined My Wedding Reception. It's true, and it's important to him, but he sounds very detached from humanity as a whole.

It did cross my mind that being able to produce pure water at will would be a huge boon to large portions of humanity who either lack water entirely or at least lack water that isn't dirty and diseased, making this about that would've stolen the whole focus of the story.  If John wanted to write a story about the water's impact on regions in dire need of fresh water in the same world, he could, but it would be an entirely different story.



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Reply #36 on: August 28, 2014, 04:37:54 PM
Here in California and in many other parts of the West we are experiencing a terrible drought. If I could make water appear by saying "I love the taste of Brussels sprouts" it would be a miracle. The story Matt tells is the equivalent of How the Nuclear War Ruined My Wedding Reception. It's true, and it's important to him, but he sounds very detached from humanity as a whole.

It did cross my mind that being able to produce pure water at will would be a huge boon to large portions of humanity who either lack water entirely or at least lack water that isn't dirty and diseased, making this about that would've stolen the whole focus of the story.  If John wanted to write a story about the water's impact on regions in dire need of fresh water in the same world, he could, but it would be an entirely different story.
OK, I'll admit that I had heard this one somewhere else, wasn't totally wowed by it, and was a bit behind with my podcast listening when it dropped into my iTunes feed, so I mumble mumble mumble just marked it as played and moved on to something else mumble mumble.

Nevertheless, I seem to recall that the water is only a temporary phenomenon, isn't it? Once you can't stand the anguish which goes with it and say something unequivocally true, doesn't all the water vanish again? Otherwise I'm sure irrigation by untruth would have very quickly become part of everyday life.

Need a few bucks? Go stand on the edge of a reservoir and say, "Actually, my dog is a cat," and the nice man will give you some money for each minute the rain falls.

Oh, and if you slice your brussels sprouts and fry them in garlic butter, they are quite nice. ;)

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Reply #37 on: August 28, 2014, 04:56:11 PM
Nevertheless, I seem to recall that the water is only a temporary phenomenon, isn't it? Once you can't stand the anguish which goes with it and say something unequivocally true, doesn't all the water vanish again? Otherwise I'm sure irrigation by untruth would have very quickly become part of everyday life.

The quantity and temp of the water depends on the strength of the lie, and the reverse effect depends on the strength of the untruth.  I don't think they usually balance each other out--the mention of the water actually drying up as a result of the truth was reported as being an unusually strong truth, if I remember correctly.

In any case, I think that there's enough obvious incentive to being able to spontaneously generate fresh water that there would definitely be scientific research into how to maximize the water yield from lying. 

If you want to create an ethical system, could try put a metal grating on top of an open water tower, maintaining a queue of liars to go up and lie so their lies will contribute to the supply, and provide a zipline back to the ground and require them to wait until they get to the ground to tell the balancing truth.  Both the lie and the truth seem to have a small area of effect, so speedily moving the liar away from the reservoir might enable most of the water to be maintained.

If you want to create a horribly unethical system, tie a person up and force them to make a horrible horrible lie, so that the water downpours, and then render them mute in some way so that they can't balance it.  It seems that the water will keep on downpouring indefinitely.  Could put the victim in waterproof gear to stave off hypothermia.  The victim will go insane from the strain, but if one could potentially produce hundreds of gallons of pure water by doing that, that could keep a lot of people alive through the sacrifice.

But this is, of course, all entirely outside the scope of this story.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #38 on: August 28, 2014, 05:07:42 PM
An electric shock would have worked without maybe the immediate feeling that wait, we need water, why is this bad?

Hmm. I just realized this is sort of like the ice bucket challenge. Just this morning I read about the rice bucket challenge getting off the ground in India - instead of dumping water on your head, give a bucket of rice to someone in need of food.



Gary

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Reply #39 on: August 29, 2014, 07:30:40 PM
I'm confused about why this one got nominated. It's an okay retread of an old romance plot-line but I'm sure there were a lot of "okay" stories out there.

It is basically a script for a "Lifetime TV" movie of the week with just a little bit of occaisional magic thrown in to try and cross into a different genre'.
It could have been more of a SciFi story if it's main plot was the mystery water and our main charactures were working to figure out what/why it was. Instead, the MAIN plot was this romance story and inter family relationships that occasionally mention this phenomenon. The main conflict itself was anything but original. So they were gay. Big deal. I'd hate to think that THIS was the only reason this stood out enough to be chosen. Taking the "different race, different culture" significant other home to mom and dad is a storyline that has been done for decades. I even think I have heard a version of this that involved different speacies done on Escape Pod before. So what makes this story special enough for an award nomination?

While I am whinning ... why is it, in this oft repeated plot, that the significant other that our hero is willing to have the family showdown for, is always a Supermodel Astrophysisist that moonlights for Doctors Without Borders?
If you are going to retread this plotline, how about makeing it a guy who is willing to loose his family for the love of a skinny, shy nerd who works in a comic shop. Now THAT would be true love, right?

Okay, so all of that being said, it wasn't a bad story. Just not much of a science fiction story and in my opinion, not really different enough to stand out.  :-\



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Reply #40 on: August 29, 2014, 07:52:06 PM
It could have been more of a SciFi story if it's main plot was the mystery water and our main charactures were working to figure out what/why it was. Instead, the MAIN plot was this romance story and inter family relationships that occasionally mention this phenomenon. The main conflict itself was anything but original. So they were gay. Big deal. I'd hate to think that THIS was the only reason this stood out enough to be chosen. Taking the "different race, different culture" significant other home to mom and dad is a storyline that has been done for decades. I even think I have heard a version of this that involved different speacies done on Escape Pod before. So what makes this story special enough for an award nomination?

Go knock on the doors of 2684 Hugo voters who cast a vote for this category and ask them!

Point me at any story and I can rattle off a dozen ways it's like another story, because if a story were unlike all other stories in all ways it would be incomprehensible.  A majority of 2684 Hugo voters thought this was a story worth winning.  I voted for it because I thought the speculative element gave the coming-out some extra tension, the writing was smooth, and I was invested emotionally in it.  Apparently a lot of other people were too.



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Reply #41 on: August 29, 2014, 08:24:53 PM
I noted this above, but to me, this was pure speculative fiction.

You have a fantastical element--in this case the water that falls on you from nowhere.  That fantastical element helps to move along a plot or create a tension or otherwise reveal something about humanity.  That, to me, is the core of SF.

Here, the protagonist has had trouble being true to himself and trouble revealing his true self to his family.  The water forces him to confront those things.  It proves to him that Gus loves him in the beginning.  It proves to him that he loves Gus at the end.  It forces him to confront the fact that some of his sister's abuse involved flat-out lying to him (the frying pan scene).  But for the water, she would have been able to plant that seed of doubt into his mind.  It proves to him that his parents really are OK with him and Gus being together.  But for the fantastical element in this universe, there is no story.  He and Gus just keep dating and not telling his parents.

And, as a bonus, the water worked as a metaphor throughout the story.

As a technical matter, I would call it fantasy and not science fiction.  And, but for Hugo month, it may have run on PodCastle instead.  But, to me, it clearly falls into the realm of speculative fiction.



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Reply #42 on: September 04, 2014, 01:22:41 AM
Didn't Hugo month used to be June-ish on Escape Pod? I certainly remember that we don't usually know which story won before the group is aired...


I think the speculative element here was super cool, but felt the story was pretty well-trodden for a Hugo winner. Ehh, that's probably one of the reasons why it won. Anyway, I did enjoy the listen, and the resulting speculation about possible collection methods for the water.



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Reply #43 on: September 04, 2014, 01:46:09 PM
Didn't Hugo month used to be June-ish on Escape Pod? I certainly remember that we don't usually know which story won before the group is aired...

It did! 

Back in the day when Hugo month was launched here, there was no Hugo packet and thus no central place to get all the short stories to read (you might be able to get them piecemeal at the discretion of the publishers), and so Escape Pod was a resource to get all those together.

Now that the Hugo Packet is available to all Hugo voters to get most of the content for free (and generally all of the short stories) perhaps the focus has shifted to just publishing whenever the content can be made, or publishing around the announcement deadline. 

I would prefer if the stories could all be published before the voting deadline.  I'm a voter, and that would mean that I could use my more abundant reading-with-my-ears time to get all the short stories and use my scarcer reading-with-my-eyes time to read the other categories to try to get as much done before deadline as possible. 

But I understand if that's not possible due to challenges in getting the reprint rights for the stories, and producing them in audio. 



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Reply #44 on: September 05, 2014, 01:32:16 AM
Dude. Dude! DUDE! I just figured something out.

You know how Gus is "training," saying things that are only kind-of true and then enduring the resulting existential despair? What if the point of this training is to be able to say things that are true... but truer, kind of like how you don't necessarily train your body by doing exactly what you plan to do with it, but sometimes by isolating that muscle and training the hell out of it. If anyone could figure this out, it's philosophy-reading personal-training Gus.

If Gus is training to say things with more truth, maybe he's doing it because he knows that it's the only way to get Matt - analytical, neurotic Matt, who Gus knows has been idly studying the water that falls on you from nowhere - to understand just how much he loves him.

This adds a whole other dimension to the story, as well as bringing up that love is something you invent in the world, not something you discover. Gus is working to invent love with Matt so hard that it becomes something on par with a universal physical constant, a law of the universe, because that's the only way love ever survives.

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Reply #45 on: September 11, 2014, 12:37:07 PM
I was kind of underwhelmed by this story, especially compared to Mur's story which I heard immediately prior to this one, since I'm a few weeks behind.

I really didn't like Matt very much. I didn't believe he really loved Gus, even if the gods of water did. He was selfish, all through the story. I couldn't help thinking it would be best for Gus if Matt did just marry some nice Chinese woman so Gus could find a man who would love him as he deserved.

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Reply #46 on: September 24, 2014, 03:44:16 AM
This qualifies as magical realism, right?

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Reply #47 on: September 24, 2014, 12:12:44 PM
Sure, basically.



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Reply #48 on: September 24, 2014, 02:05:13 PM
It fits the description of magical realism as I understand it, yes.  Which seems to boil down to "what you call fantasy if you would be ashamed to admit to your peers that you read fantasy".

But it does have the feel of the sort of fantasy to could appeal to a litfic crowd.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2014, 02:06:44 PM by Unblinking »



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Reply #49 on: September 24, 2014, 03:19:49 PM
According to the Wikipaedia article,
Quote
Magical Realism is a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment.

So although there hasn't always been water falling from nowhere, the fact that it does, and is simply accepted as a fact of life, would certainly make this Magic Realism. Or Magical Realism, if you prefer more syllables.

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