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Author Topic: EP493: Beyond the Trenches We Lie  (Read 8278 times)

eytanz

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on: May 22, 2015, 12:39:04 PM
EP493: Beyond the Trenches We Lie

by A. T. Greenblatt

Read by Andrew Clarke

---

This morning, the Globs are waiting for us, just like always. Despite what the official propaganda shows, we, this little band of ragged soldiers, don’t even bother to line up anymore. We just cram down our nutritional packets as fast as we can and climb out of our holes. Captain Beamon scowls at our lack of discipline, but he doesn’t push the point. Not when there’s a battle to be won.

Beyond the trenches, the meadow is flourishing from the war. The grass is dark and lush, though it’s been trampled by soldiers. You can hear the brook running about a hundred paces away, fat and happy, while the tall elm trees on its banks overlook the whole situation from a distance. Win or lose, they will still grow for a long time to come.

Every morning, I yank myself out of a trench, pull myself up with my cane, and make my way across the field. We never start the fight running, despite what the vids show. No need. The Globs will wait for us.

Hell, they are waiting for us. On the other side of the brook, they’ve gathered on the banks, their clear gelatinous bodies undulating. Their neon eyes watching, boring into me from across the meadow, seeing nothing. Seeing everything.

Every time, I shudder. And every time, hate myself for it. I hold the clod of dirt I pulled from the trench wall to my nose, inhale, and remember.

My lies are endless. Everyone on the front line needs a mantra. Everyone needs a prayer. Mine helps me remember it’s the Globs that should be afraid of me.

Still, in spite of it all, I enjoy my morning walk. In the first weeks of fighting, the mud repulsed me (you avoid squishy, smelly, wet things on the station -usually at all costs). But now I walk through the field barefoot, savoring the wet thwacking sound my soles make with each step, though I’m careful not to snag my feet -or cane – in the soft uneven ground. Unlike Reggie, I never relished my boots.

When we reach the banks, we halt, taking a moment to eye our enemy. Sizing each other up, as it were. And then, slowly, we begin the assault.

I pick my way carefully down the bank and ease my feet into the water -my time on Earth has taught me to mistrust slippery pebbles. A comrade, Mae, offers me an arm and together we cross the brook.

The Globs meet us on the bank, slick and shiny like river stones in the morning sun. It’s impossible to tell for sure, but I can swear there are more of them today.

Why are you here?


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Fenrix

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Reply #1 on: May 22, 2015, 02:23:40 PM
Does all the feedback in this thread have to be lies?

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


coke

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Reply #2 on: May 22, 2015, 05:20:40 PM
Liked the story, loved the reading, especially the glob voices. Well done!



FrogNLotus

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Reply #3 on: May 24, 2015, 05:16:24 AM
That was a really original story and true on many levels.  For those of us who have been to war, it is interesting how we rationalize being a participant.  We tend to make all sorts of statements to justify our purpose and to make sense of the ever present question at the back of our minds, "Why?"  Nothing is completely true, all manner of lies make it easier to convince the heart and mind that such a dire quest is the rational course of action to take--our lies can be endless in our search for meaning.  Often, freedom and duty are hollow words that merely echo across the span of history to make the effort appear noble and to inspire others to join us on an adventure that--under normal conditions--would be considered truly insane. 



slic

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Reply #4 on: May 24, 2015, 08:56:12 PM
A truly fantastic story!  Like a well crafted image with many details that unconsciously leads the eye to the main focus, this story does a splendid job of painting interesting visuals for my mind's eye, all the while leading me through revelations that guide me right to the focus of the story.  There were details where needed for the world building and character depth, and no pointless descriptions about say the glob's home planet, etc. 

I can understand Mur's point about this being in the "oh my God, so many good stories..." pile, I would go so far as to say that it is much better than those that did run in February.
I liked how the main character's boast "My lie's are endless" turned out to be a lie in itself (but I think he knew that from the beginning himself).  It rung true that the main character questioned the point of it all. I think this will be a personal view, but the character made me think of Loki (in the vein of the Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris).

Kudos to the narrator - very well read.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #5 on: May 25, 2015, 05:38:59 PM
What struck me about this was the strange nature of the war between humans and the globs.
Humans are clearly defending themselves from being eaten. But they have a very real incentive not to end the war. The more globs that are killed, the richer Earth becomes. A long, drawn-out, sustainable war on multiple battlefields is the best thing that could happen. Of course, fighting such a war is difficult. It brings to mind the question of machines that can lie...
But what's in it for the globs? They've clearly come up with a pretty interesting strategy for fighting, instead of physically attacking the more physically capable humans, hit them in their soft-spot: our huge brains. But once mankind figured out how to defeat the globs, it no longer seems sustainable to them. They die by the thousands, and once every few days a few of them get to eat someone. That hardly seems like it's worth it for the globs.
So, that had me wondering.

Also, was I the only one wondering how Blackadder would handle himself in such a war?

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wintermute

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Reply #6 on: May 25, 2015, 10:21:23 PM
Also, was I the only one wondering how Blackadder would handle himself in such a war?
He'd put a pair of underpants on his head, push pencils up his nose and pretend to be crazy.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


Zelda

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Reply #7 on: May 25, 2015, 10:54:45 PM
I found this story more frustrating than fascinating. I thought it raised a lot of interesting issues but then dropped them all to focus on a very familiar area. I've never seen the idea of words as weapons fleshed out this way and would have loved it if this set-up was used to explore any aspect of that concept. The background description also made me courious about a lot of things. Why didn't children on the space stations have crayons? Or shoes? If the globs wait for the humans to come to them why were the soldiers living in trenches rather than a more comfortable arrangement? But the only question the story was interested in was how Nim felt about his brother's death. The answer to that was obvious.

The delight Nim took in the outdoors was lovely and a pleasure to read. In the end though the phrase that keeps coming to my mind is: World War I, but with aliens.



Anyanwu

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Reply #8 on: May 28, 2015, 02:08:36 AM
"The lies we tell about ourselves are more revealing than the truths we hide" author unknown. Telling lies is so easy....comfortable, even. Some folks in my community make it a game, sitting around for hours "tellin' lies." As a child, I'd listen to these engaging stories and think they were real.  Lies can be protection, wise, community building. Lies help us live harmoniously together. Lies get a bum rap. In my experience, the cold hard truth can be as dangerous as a knife, a bullet or a noose. Skillful lying is a life saving talent for some of us ( hey we are consumers of fiction). Love this story because the liars are the heroes, the courageous soldiers, in a war where the truth gets you killed. I found it very Buddhist how the character touches the earth to ground himself to reality.  I also like how the story ends, not by resolving who,what or why the blobs are, but by Nim facing his own truth, unable to lie anymore, grieving honestly for his brother. Usually I listen to these episodes in the car with the car speakers. Chance would have it that I listened to this episode via earbuds. The globs' "Why are you here?"  and "Why?" Seemed to seep into my brain. It really creeped me out on a primal level. It put me in the story and the globs in my head. Awesome!  Strong work, escape pod.



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Reply #9 on: May 28, 2015, 03:03:36 AM
I really enjoyed this one. A little light on the science, but sci-fi is so often better that way. I especially enjoyed the reading, and the line "My lies are endless."

But what's in it for the globs? They've clearly come up with a pretty interesting strategy for fighting, instead of physically attacking the more physically capable humans, hit them in their soft-spot: our huge brains. But once mankind figured out how to defeat the globs, it no longer seems sustainable to them. They die by the thousands, and once every few days a few of them get to eat someone. That hardly seems like it's worth it for the globs.
So, that had me wondering.

I was thinking the same thing.

I also wondered about the globs' arrival. Maybe I missed it, but how did they get here? And why didn't they use technology as a weapon if they can travel through great distances of space? Why is this a foot soldier thing at all?

Anyway, that problem with the premise aside, I thought it was good. (And very well read.) It served as an excuse to tell a story largely through lies, which was a neat trick--and pulled off admirably.



shanehalbach

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Reply #10 on: May 29, 2015, 01:02:57 AM
Loooooved this one.

O.M.G. with the narration. That is some buttery man-voice, right there. When he said, "This morning, the Globs are waiting for us, just like always." I literally laughed out loud with delight. And that was before I even heard the voice of the Globs. I think I need to make a new ringtone. (Whyyyyy? Whyyyyyy? WHYYYYYYY?)

Quote
But they have a very real incentive not to end the war. The more globs that are killed, the richer Earth becomes.

I think that's the crux of it, right there. Come on, we're talking about lies here and nobody brings up the government? Where my tin hat folks at? :)

It seems highly likely to me that all is not as it seems. Obviously, lies are being told. It seems to me that someone stands to benefit by the rejuvenation of the Earth; what better way to keep it going than to institute a 1984-style endless war, complete with lying propaganda.

Are the aliens even evil? Where do they come from? How many of them are there? What do they want? Why aren't there more soldiers? Why don't the soldiers go on the offensive and try to attack the Globs at their source? Who are you? Why are you here? Whyyyyyy?

I'd like to say I know the answers to all of that, but I'd be lying.  ;)


Fenrix

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Reply #11 on: May 29, 2015, 01:30:41 AM
Everyone else who commented in this thread has been eaten by the globs. Clearly, this story was awful. I'll save you with some good old fashioned American folk stories:

Quote

How long I traveled I know not, but I came at last to a great city by the sea, where I set up as a physician. The name of that place I do not now remember, for such were my activity and renown in my new profession that the Aldermen, moved by pressure of public opinion, altered it, and thenceforth the place was known as the City of the Gone Away. It is needless to say that I had no knowledge of medicine, but by securing the service of an eminent forger I obtained a diploma purporting to have been granted by the Royal Quackery of Charlatanic Empiricism at Hoodos, which, framed in immortelles and suspended by a bit of crêpe to a willow in front of my office, attracted the ailing in great numbers. In connection with my dispensary I conducted one of the largest undertaking establishments ever known, and as soon as my means permitted, purchased a wide tract of land and made it into a cemetery. I owned also some very profitable marble works on one side of the gateway to the cemetery, and on the other an extensive flower garden. My Mourner's Emporium was patronized by the beauty, fashion and sorrow of the city. In short, I was in a very prosperous way of business, and within a year was able to send for my parents and establish my old father very comfortably as a receiver of stolen goods—an act which I confess was saved from the reproach of filial gratitude only by my exaction of all the profits.


All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Unblinking

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Reply #12 on: May 29, 2015, 02:09:45 PM
I liked it.  The way that lies were emphasized in story was kind of like the concept of negative space.  You know the lies aren't true, but you can still see a story in the space around the lies because the lies still define a demarcation between what it is true and what is not.  It's a sculpture of a story.  We begin with a block of stone, and each lie is a chiselled-away piece of rock that is not part of the sculpture, until at the end the untouched stone is what defines the whole.

Great narration too.

And great outro--I will admit I had to listen to the whole outro before I realized Mur was killing globs, and had to listen again with that in mind.  Although the blob-feeding version might be taken as somewhat bleak, I see a positive note in the statement "This current state of affairs in the genre is going to last a long, long time, I'm sure of it."  So glob-feeding Mur apparently thinks that this year's Hugo debacle won't be lasting--I hope that's true.  In any case, I am paying more attention to other ways to celebrate great fiction of 2014, like the Locus awards.

They've clearly come up with a pretty interesting strategy for fighting, instead of physically attacking the more physically capable humans, hit them in their soft-spot: our huge brains. But once mankind figured out how to defeat the globs, it no longer seems sustainable to them. They die by the thousands, and once every few days a few of them get to eat someone. That hardly seems like it's worth it for the globs.
So, that had me wondering.

I wondered about that too.  My theory on it is that the blobs are not extraterrestrial.  They are earthlings, and probably older than us, but have been in a long hibernation cycle under the ground, waiting for the environment to be right to encourage a breeding cycle.  Even though they eat bodies, I feel like they only gain real nourishment from psychic energy just like they are only harmed by psychic energy, and the process of eating isn't so much about metabolizing the juicy meat, but is more like squeezing the psychic energy from the human husk--I imagine psychic energy is produced in much greater quantities in the process of dying as the body ramps up all its processes to fight oblivion.  But it has to be seasoned right, with truth, or its poisonous.  The globs at the end don't eat Nim when he says nothing and they are waiting for him to tell a truth.  And then the globs shit fertilizer, like so many animals do.  At the time of the story, they're probably about ready to die back from lack of food sources, perhaps all melting away into the earth to fertilize plants and to seed the next generation of globs.  Since the humans have an extraterrestrial habitat, maybe they'll go back to recolonize the green and lush earth, and will think their enemies gone by disease in a War of the Worlds fashion.  Until the population gets to world-breaking proportions again, and then the globs will have their day once again.

One could see the globs as agents of Gaia, meant to give a counterstroke to the destructive humans, keep human population from destroying the earth.




hardware

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Reply #13 on: June 03, 2015, 11:23:29 AM
This was an interesting scenario, and I liked the use of repetition and layers of lies used to convey exposition. If I have a issue with it it's that the symbolism seems a bit too much of the nose, and the ominous countdown of days left on earth made it too clear where we were going with the story. As far as the motivation of the globs, I thought they were some kind of hive mind, asexually reproducing during night,  simply playing a numbers game, wearing down their enemy with existentialism, as it were. Or did you have the feeling that the humans were winning ?



Unblinking

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Reply #14 on: June 03, 2015, 02:11:42 PM
This was an interesting scenario, and I liked the use of repetition and layers of lies used to convey exposition. If I have a issue with it it's that the symbolism seems a bit too much of the nose, and the ominous countdown of days left on earth made it too clear where we were going with the story. As far as the motivation of the globs, I thought they were some kind of hive mind, asexually reproducing during night,  simply playing a numbers game, wearing down their enemy with existentialism, as it were. Or did you have the feeling that the humans were winning ?

I did not have the feeling the humans were winning.  Though, if humans are their only food source, because nothing else can speak truths, I expect it is likely that they will die of starvation from scarcity.  Even creatures that reproduce asexually need a source of nourishment to produce more mass.



Zelda

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Reply #15 on: June 03, 2015, 10:18:02 PM
When Mae thanked Nim for saving her life, was she lying? Was Captain Beamon lying when he complained that the globs "won't stay dead?" Because if he wasn't, if the globs are immortal, then it shouldn't be possible for the humans to win.



Scatcatpdx

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Reply #16 on: June 05, 2015, 08:13:25 PM
I hated this story IT is NOT  SCIENCE FICTION! ...............  did I get a few of the globs.


I thought the story was interesting me, the story gives new  meaning war is hell. I  wonder if somebody crack and  just tell the truth as means of sucide.

 I wonder why everybody is in space,  Washington DC should be one of the safest place, a political speech a tactical nuke ;)        

I was not hot about the outro comments.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2015, 07:03:34 PM by Scatcatpdx »



Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #17 on: June 08, 2015, 07:22:27 AM
The narrator for this story deserves a trophy with Brian Blessed on top for his work on the blob voices.  He really sold it.  

When I saw the title of this piece, I rolled my eyes at thinking this story would be some sort of completely unrealistic science fiction story about trench warfare vs. aliens.  Which actually was true.  But I ended up loving it anyway, because it was a solid piece of science fantasy that was great fun to listen to.  The author hit a really difficult mark here, at the intersection between complete absurdity and serious introspection on the part of the protagonist.  A little bit too much either way, and the piece wouldn't hold together like it does.  

And I love the title of this piece. 
« Last Edit: June 08, 2015, 07:24:09 AM by Chairman Goodchild »



Devoted135

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Reply #18 on: June 22, 2015, 02:57:02 AM
Wow, this narrator gives Dave Robison a run for his money!!

I really liked this story, the implacable "whyyyyyy" making every victory seem like just another step toward inevitable defeat. That plus the really interesting character development through inverses made this a winner for me. I do have to wonder about questions raised upthread, such as what the blobs were hoping to accomplish, and why they didn't mind getting massacred during their slow victory. But, I wasn't thinking about any of that while listening.



Ryan H

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Reply #19 on: September 24, 2015, 03:18:54 PM
Story and narration were both strong, and the voice of the globs kind of chilled me after a while. A heart-wrenching premise, to literally have an enemy try to destroy you by asking why you fight, what you're doing here -- and the only defense is to literally say you don't care about anything, you don't grieve death and don't fear it yourself. I'm sure I'll be turning this one over in my mind for a long while.



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Reply #20 on: August 31, 2016, 06:10:40 AM
I really liked this story. As many have pointed out, the way it was told in "negative space" made it more powerful, actually. I still don't know what the blobs were doing, but I thought that they made things greener just by being, not by being killed.

From the comments, I absolutely *loved* this thought and can't believe this never occured to me! Just brilliant.
Washington DC should be one of the safest place, a political speech a tactical nuke ;)