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Drabblecast 039 - The Beekeepers

Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:49 pm
by Mr. Tweedy

Feature The Beekeepers by J. Alan Pierce

"The Tehtix– They are nature's magnum opus, an experiment of nature that will undo all things through its very success..."

Art by Brent Holmes

Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:53 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
Wow. Great story. Huge, epic, tragic, and also creepy enough to make your skin crawl.

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2007 11:17 am
by Graham
Yeah man, enjoyed this one. I like this kind of story, and it went somewhere else I didn't expect towards the end. I liked the creepy imigery of the Tehtix crawling all over people. Good one.

Posted: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:26 pm
by Philippa
"Thick, onion-coloured worms living in the sores..."

Nice! I love a story that makes me queasy. I found this really well paced for an epic tale in barely 20 minutes! I had to look up that great "meteor" story - definitely some sort of cover-up going on I reckon, I'm off to stock up on penicillin and canned food (thank goodness shotguns are legal in the UK, the government clearly recognises that we need them for the zombies...)

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2007 10:02 pm
by normsherman
Yeah, this is one of my favorite stories we've gotten. It was pretty heavy for the first half before it started getting gross and tragic.

I liked the end, with the aliens having to "adapt to be able to live with themselves", - implies that even beings, no matter how advanced or "moral" they think they are, still operate in the same brutal, survival of the fittest kind of way.

I found it hard to buy that the Tehtix could "adapt" like that and not be considered intelligent- that wasn't natural selection or evolution, it was problem solving. Didn't really get in the way of a good story though.

Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:31 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
That brings up the one thing that confused me: Was the narrator a human or an alien? It seemed like it could go either way. He talks about coming up to a "blue planet" and having developed FTL travel (which makes him sound alien), but he talks about the end of human civilization in the past tense, like it's something that happened a long time ago and he's trying to piece an account of it together from scattered fragments of data (which makes him sound human).

The conclusion I decided on was that the narrator was human and the story is a message to aliens, warning them of what is about to happen while assuring them that the memory of their own civilization will be better preserved than the memory of Earth was. I figured the blue planet must be some other blue planet that the human/tehtix fleet was approaching.

Not that it makes any practical difference. The story is the same either way.

Oddly, this story reminds me a lot of (favorite movie) The Ring. In both stories, the monster will kill you unless you agree to help it spread it pernicious influence. You can resist the evil and be destroyed or become its servant and live, which is a very interesting moral dilemma.

It would be interesting to do a sequel from a different angle. Say the people of a given world decide to resist the evil and devote all their energies to creating a virus that kills Tehtix. The people use it on their own world, wiping themselves out, since killed the Tehtix also kills the hosts. But they launch satellites broadcasting the formula for their anti-Tehtix virus out into the galaxy, so that other worlds will have a fighting chance.

Then you'd have the contrast of the species (from this story) that became killers in order to survive, versus the species that destroyed itself so that others could have a chance.

BTW, I like that Drabblecast is doing some stories with deeper themes instead of just goofy/funny ones. It's a good mix.

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:08 am
by normsherman
whoa, totally different take on the story than I had Tweedy. I'll have to go back and listen again with your interpretation in mind. I hadn't considered that the narrator might be from an advanced human race-

I definately thought it was an alien narrator- like he was making a soliloquy relaying all the information he had gathered from Earth's satelite's up to that point as his ship full of tehtix was just arriving to Earth, about to end it. As far as he's concerned, Earth is already dead and he's just making record of how things went down. I got the impression he was just talking to himself, or to earth indirectly as he looked down, trying to justify things to himself.

Cool sequel idea. Would't the virus kill the other alien race though also if it killed the tehtix?

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:37 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
Why, yes it would. So the Tehtix-alied race, having already sold themselves to the devil, would be obligued to destroy the virus and keep the Tehtix going. Very interesting...
I claim that scenario as mine! No one else can use it!

(Posting with my Wii. Typing with a pointer is awkward.)

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 10:56 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
Wait, my bad. I listened to it again (with my wife) and realized I'd missed some. The Tehtix "hive" arrives after a planet has been infected. Earth had already been taken over by what amounts to Tehtix scouts–which is what the alien narrator describes–and then the main body of them comes down and consumes all life.

The meteor-borne Tehtix arrive and multiply until there are enough of them to telepathically summon the hive, and the hive is what ends the world. Makes perfect sense now.

Again, very cool ideas.

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:21 pm
by AynSavoy
I agree with Philippa that the pacing was excellent. I also think it worked really well as an audio story; for most of the story it could very well have been just a third-person narrative, a non-character description of events, but that didn't make it any less interesting to listen to.

The one thing I wanted toward the end of the story was a return to the first-person singular perspective, after the narrator has switched into first-person plural. I think the plural works well at the end, especially considering a hive-mind kind of situation with the tehtix, but the way the story begins makes it sound like there will be some sort of intimate confession. Does it matter that it is this historian in particular? Perhaps not.

The description of the spreading of the virus and parasite took me back a class I took that Spring where we spent some time studying parasites; some of the craziest stuff happens in real life that certainly seems like it can't possibly be the result of an evolutionary process (but of course it is).

My favorite example is of a parasite that gets eaten, along with grass, by sheep; the sheep then excretes waste containing larvae which gets eaten by snails; the snails leave a sort of slimy goo that looks particularly tasty to ants. One single individual parasite--only one, of the hundreds!--makes its way into the brain of the ant and somehow gets that ant to climb to the top of a blade of grass...which is then eaten by a sheep.

How cool is that?! Ant mind control?!

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 5:50 pm
by AynSavoy
I realized last night exactly what the title refers to (I'd just forgotten while listening to the story), and it's awesome. People have complained about titles giving away the punchline--"The Suit," for instance--but "Beekeepers" didn't seem to tip anybody off on this one. Perhaps the metaphor was just strong enough to not immediately lead to a conclusion?

Or maybe everyone else forgot about the title, like I did.


Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:00 pm
by jalan
Thanks for the feedback everyone and for the great reading and production Norm!

The story was rejected from Strange Horizons and Pseudopod because there was 1. No dialogue or characters 2. Too thick with ideas, not enough action- only setup.

Whereas "The One that Got Away" was rejected from Heliotrope because it was only dialogue ... I'm glad Drabblecast thinks outside the box and that these stories have found a home.

Yes, I intended the story to be from the perspective of an alien. There are many ambiguous elements though, for better or worse.

I'd love to see someone do spinoffs with these ideas or within the tehtix universe!

Wow- Ayn, thanks for the post about the sheep/slug/ant parasites! Amazing!

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:10 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
You really wouldn't mind me saying "Tehtix" in a story I wrote? (Not that I have much time to write at the moment, but for future reference.) I was actually thinking of plots for an RPG type video game, and I think the Tehtix slave-race that is compelled to destroy all other life in order to survive would be perfect villains. I always like villains that you can feel sorry for.

I notice that we've both been rejected from the same places. That makes me feel a little better. Knowing that really good stuff like this gets rejected makes me hopeful that my rejections aren't just a sign that I suck. Have you had any other successes?

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:54 pm
by AynSavoy
It's also nice to know WHY the stories were rejected. Personally, I think that audio format is perfect for something that is all dialog like "The One that Got Away."

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:57 pm
by jalan
Hey Mr Tweedy,
No I wouldn't mind, pollinating ideas is fun. You can be a pal and throw me a bone if you get famous with it, if you want. :-)

I haven't had any notable successes in any big markets , I just write for fun and hadn't really submitted work anywhere till earlier this year. Glad to be your brother in rejection though!

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 6:11 pm
by Philippa
AynSavoy wrote:My favorite example is of a parasite that gets eaten, along with grass, by sheep; the sheep then excretes waste containing larvae which gets eaten by snails; the snails leave a sort of slimy goo that looks particularly tasty to ants. One single individual parasite--only one, of the hundreds!--makes its way into the brain of the ant and somehow gets that ant to climb to the top of a blade of grass...which is then eaten by a sheep.

How cool is that?! Ant mind control?!
Lovely, aren't parasites just the coolest things? That reminded me of something I saw in a nature documentary once, Leucochloridium paradoxum - the larvae are ingested by snails, and then develop into "broodsacs" which move to one of the snails tentacles and pulsate in response to light. The infected snails aren't capable of detecting light as well and therefore don't hide as uninfected snails do, exposing them to predatory birds which are the final hosts in which the parasites develop to adulthood - cue snails consuming bird poop and the whole delicious cycle of life begins anew! The pulsating sacs in the snails tentacle are fascinating and grotesque and defy description, luckily a scrounge on youtube pulled up this rather good clip, check it out:

Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2007 7:08 pm
by tbaker2500
I've been sick and running behind on my podcasting.

All I can say is that I was awfully glad I listened to this one AFTER I got better!

I loved this story and "The one that got away", thanks to the author and Norm.

The one thing that I think this story could benefit from in future installments, is the fact the nature, somehow, always seems to have counterbalances. Even if the ecosystem is changed drastically, things always return to a point of equilibrium. To me, the Tehtix have grown too comfortable in this way of life, and aren't going to see what's coming next.


P.S. "that irritates the nasal passages of those near the meteor. Umm-Hm!" Norm was that "Umm-Hm!" you doing a black woman? Absolutely hilarious!

Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2007 7:23 pm
by normsherman
Oh that was just me being sassy. MMMhmm

I think you got sick because you were behind in your podcasting. The same thing happened to an isolated village in Costa Rica...

Phillipa's YouTube clip

Posted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:15 pm
by strawman
You have completely cured my bird-dropping fetish.

Posted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:32 pm
by AynSavoy
I just remembered last night that "The One that Got Away" was the first story I ever listened to on Drabblecast, and it hooked me. So well done there. =)