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Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:23 am
by StalinSays
Feature: Death Comes But Twice by Mary Robinette Kowal
Drabble: Whodunnit? by Jeff Johnston

Image

Sunday, February 6, 2011
As always, he took delight in my interest in the scientific pursuits. 'My assistant took the journey yesterday, by way of a shot to the heart. Prior to that, our trials on convicts included strangling, drowning, and beheading. By Jove! That reanimation was a sight to see...

Mary Robinette Kowal
Larry Santoro
Revolution SF
Art by Philip Pomphrey

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:03 pm
by strawman
My wife and I liked this story. In some ways, it seems that man's main motivation for scientific work is to mitigate the consequences of man's choices. Just one example: We want to fly, but when we try to fly, we fall and get broken. So we either give up flying, or we invent a work-around. Some desires are tougher. Alchemy has yet to produce gold. But diamonds and pearls have been done.

Resurrection fits right in there. And as usual, artificial work-arounds have some detectable flaw. Scientists discovered as a consequence of Frankenstein the need to discover these unintended consequences, which is why we have beta testing, right? It is also why we train people to talk 300 words a minute so they can fit drug commercial disclaimers into a 30 second slot (did he say "anal leakage?!").

So based on that, it's a little dated. The story would need to be about 1910 or so. Otherwise, not enough skepticism of the scientist's claims. On the other hand, he could just be incredibly naive, I suppose. But then, I may be getting into considerations beyond what is necessary for short speculative fiction.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 11:11 am
by Polecat
´Twas a delight most pleasing.
Probably my favourite story for a very long time. It packed a lot of metaphysics into a short time - how about the morals of temporarily killing criminals to literally "put the fear of hell" into them in order to reform. Shades of Clockwork Orange.
But of course it turns out that science can´t "save" us, as the man of straw has pointed out - the analogy with flying is a good example; invent a work-around, only to discover that we can do it only at the cost of poisoning the world we live in. Neither Rod, Dog nor God gave us wings.
The "datedness" of the story also appealed to me - I am a great lover of fin de siecle Literature of all sorts, be it original or derivative.
For some strange reason, the story also made me think of Diamanda Galas, an association I can´t explain at all.

Respectfully

The Polecat

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:55 am
by blueeyeddevil
strawman wrote:Resurrection fits right in there. And as usual, artificial work-arounds have some detectable flaw. Scientists discovered as a consequence of Frankenstein the need to discover these unintended consequences, which is why we have beta testing, right? It is also why we train people to talk 300 words a minute so they can fit drug commercial disclaimers into a 30 second slot (did he say "anal leakage?!").

So based on that, it's a little dated. The story would need to be about 1910 or so. Otherwise, not enough skepticism of the scientist's claims. On the other hand, he could just be incredibly naive, I suppose. But then, I may be getting into considerations beyond what is necessary for short speculative fiction.
Actually, I think it's pitch perfect if it were a story written contemporarily with 'Frankenstein'. I get the sense -though there is nothing I can especially point to- that this is written intentionally not only referring to an earlier age, but with the intent of writing as one in an earlier age would. That we as modern people see around the issues involved doesn't lessen this story's ability to slide neatly into the 'my-god!-what-have-I-done?!' camp of stories from that era.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:30 am
by Paranatural
I rather enjoyed this one, but I did find it a mite bit predictable. I was rather certain I had an idea what was wrong with the elixir from the first time it was mentioned, seeing as how the story began. It was a bit surprising that it worked on the same person more than once. Anyway, it was well written, and, I must say, Larry was the perfect man for this narration. What I mean by that is that the writing style matched his voice perfectly. In all, an enjoyable time spent while waiting on Chinese takeout on the way home.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:12 am
by LarrySantoro
Thanks, Paranatural. I sort of pegged the year at somewhere between 1890 and 1900. The narrator's backstory, in the back of my head, was that he was a somewhat credulous, wealthy middle-class guy, who made enough money in the City to enable him to invest in Dr. V--'s 'elixer' without fully understanding what he was getting into but proud to have been asked.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:00 pm
by Goldenrat
Listened to this on a road trip with my high school lad, after it was over we looked at each other and both said "that was awesome". Perfect DC fare, mysterious and creepy. I agree with Paranatural, Larry was the perfect choice for narrator on this one. His voice fit and he knocked it out of the park.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:32 pm
by strawman
LarrySantoro wrote:Thanks, Paranatural. I sort of pegged the year at somewhere between 1890 and 1900. The narrator's backstory, in the back of my head, was that he was a somewhat credulous, wealthy middle-class guy, who made enough money in the City to enable him to invest in Dr. V--'s 'elixer' without fully understanding what he was getting into but proud to have been asked.
Right, I hadn't thought about that angle. Optimistic Credulity does seem a typical feature of the Age of Enlightenment. In many ways, it was the period before unintended consequences were discovered to be one of the physical laws.

loled when I thought about if Doctor Frankenstein had had investors. There's an idea for Kevin Anderson.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:38 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
I love this story because it is so unpretentiously oldschool.

I am bored by this story because it is so unpretentiously oldschool.

I dig the epistolary style precisely because it is so dated. In the days of Verne, Wells and Stoker, almost all sf/f was written that way. It's almost never done now, and so using it gives a story instant pedigree. I loved the presentation of the thing: The style meshed perfectly with the subject matter, and the narrator was perfect to delivery it. It felt like I was listening to The Classic Tales podcast, but with that distinct Drabbley flavor, almost like J.B Harrison had asked Norm to guest produce and episode. Brilliant.

But the episode's virtue is also its failing: Like in most of those tales of yester-century, the story is so straightforward and the twist so obvious to the modern reader that the ending is almost implicit. The alchemist invents something fantastic. We take it for granted that invention must backfire in some ironic way. It always does. Always has. So when the ironic backfiring is, itself, the twist at the end, the story seems almost unfinished. That was just the setup, right?

Despite that, the triumph of style made for an enjoyable 20 minutes.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:44 pm
by LarrySantoro
strawman wrote:
LarrySantoro wrote:Thanks, Paranatural. I sort of pegged the year at somewhere between 1890 and 1900. The narrator's backstory, in the back of my head, was that he was a somewhat credulous, wealthy middle-class guy, who made enough money in the City to enable him to invest in Dr. V--'s 'elixer' without fully understanding what he was getting into but proud to have been asked.
Right, I hadn't thought about that angle. Optimistic Credulity does seem a typical feature of the Age of Enlightenment. In many ways, it was the period before unintended consequences were discovered to be one of the physical laws.

loled when I thought about if Doctor Frankenstein had had investors. There's an idea for Kevin Anderson.
Actually, not a bad thought for me, too. I may play with that idea.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:49 pm
by strawman
One further: Actually do a Dr. Frankenstein Start-Up, starting with business plan, then write the book as a corporate history.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:38 am
by Mikes
Goldenrat wrote:Listened to this on a road trip with my high school lad, after it was over we looked at each other and both said "that was awesome". Perfect DC fare, mysterious and creepy. I agree with Paranatural, Larry was the perfect choice for narrator on this one. His voice fit and he knocked it out of the park.
I could not agree more on all counts. Perfectly written and perfectly delivered. Pure DC class. I think I already have one on the list for next years Best Of.

I think Paranatural had something by saying it was a little predictable, it being, as Mr Tweedy said, unpretentiously old school, but for me at least this was not a problem. I lose myself in stories when I listen/read/watch, so any twist hits me as it was supposed to and I felt a tinge of dread when the narrator got the call from the doctor.

The Drabble and Twabble get two thumbs up also. Bravo all around.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:45 pm
by Etaan
Polecat wrote:´Twas a delight most pleasing.
Probably my favourite story for a very long time. It packed a lot of metaphysics into a short time - how about the morals of temporarily killing criminals to literally "put the fear of hell" into them in order to reform. Shades of Clockwork Orange.
Good point about Clockwork Orange. When I first heard that part, I was reminded of Constantine (the comic book/movie.) Obviously, the good doctor didn't go into much detail with the results of his tests, but I'd like to think that they would be spectacularly successful. In my mind, the glimpses of hell are as excruciatingly eternal as the heavenly visits are fleetingly brief. One day pass in hell and I'd be a changed man, believe you me.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:46 pm
by Unblinking
Loved it! It's now among my favorite Drabblecast eps of all time. Great reading by Larry, I love a well-written epistolary style. The nature of the elixir was one I hadn't seen before, one that can only grant eternal life by dying every day and glimpsing the afterlife every time, (and only then if you have ready access to more elixir and someone you trust to administer it). Very interesting dilemma. And I liked the open question of whether he would go to Heaven or not. That's a tough call for me. I think that it would NOT be suicide as his daily death is completely inevitable, it is only his resurrection that is his choice, and I hardly think that choosing not to resurrect is a sin. If anything were suicide, I'd say that allowing his friend to shoot him in the head would count, but the fact that he didn't experience hell afterward implies to me that this was not judged thusly.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:35 am
by moonowl
I almost never, ever say this at Drabblecast but I really disliked this story.

(I'm so sorry if Mary is reading. I'm not a jerk, but I feel the need to be honest. I'll be constructive I promise).

For one, stories with a fantastic element need you to suspend belief. The problem is you can only ask your audience to accept so much.

I just cannot wrap my head around that a man who could make such an elixir via endless trial and error and rigorous process, could miss the fact that it would kill you again in such a short time frame. He even tested different murder and resuscitation methods, found out you had an hour window to use it, etc. Yet, even after what seemed to be vigorous testing, in all his many subjects he never once thought about giving it a few days/weeks and looking at long term effects?

I am also guessing this means he did ALL his trials and deemed it perfectly safe well within 24 hours, before he discovered his own re-death? I find it REALLY hard to imagine he went on such an extensive a bloody resurrection rampage in one day. Also consider we heard in detail his own slow dispatch. Does crazy murdering Lazarus have a time turner? I just don't know how he could have bled himself out, killed his assistant, arranged to experiment on the convicts, then killed all the convicts, discovered the hour administration time limit and showed up at the sponsor's home in the very same day.

Speaking of killing people, suicide will send you to eternal flames and murdering a maid, decapitating convicts and shooting your buddy in the head, well that's going to be OK with the Pearly Gatekeeper? Honestly, I was waiting for the serial killer/scientist to get his in the end (besides a rather plain Christian damnation) but nothing came of that little irony.

Well produced and read as always Larry, good concept and I always love a period piece. I just couldn't buy the plot.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:19 pm
by tbaker2500
Great drabble!
The story was very good, and the narration was top-notch. Perfect voice for this story.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:35 am
by tbaker2500
I remembered another thing- the SFX at the end of the story sure sounded a bit like Hell (not that's I know :roll: ). I think Norm was rooting for him to go to Hell. :D

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:37 am
by Mikes
moonowl wrote:Speaking of killing people, suicide will send you to eternal flames and murdering a maid, decapitating convicts and shooting your buddy in the head, well that's going to be OK with the Pearly Gatekeeper?
The way I took was intent. The Dr never intended to kill them. And as for the test subjects, they were death row convicts, and we don't call executioners murderer's.

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:44 am
by normsherman
tbaker2500 wrote:I remembered another thing- the SFX at the end of the story sure sounded a bit like Hell (not that's I know :roll: ). I think Norm was rooting for him to go to Hell. :D
;)

Well, there's no way to know for sure, but it's a little more dramatic, spooky and resonant to think about the hell side isn't it?

Re: Drabblecast 197 - Death Comes But Twice

Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 5:49 am
by moonowl
Mikes wrote: The way I took was intent. The Dr never intended to kill them. And as for the test subjects, they were death row convicts, and we don't call executioners murderer's.
He drowned, decapitated, horribly poisoned people and hardly anyone blinked an eye. I suppose using the condemned as test subjects was acceptable then, but what about the maid? I don't know if torture or pain is equal to a quick death, even if they don't die or recall. What creeped me out is how it seemed to cause him such little distress.

Besides, he really did kill them, intent or not. Just if the main guy went to Hell (if you go with norm's version) suicide intent or not.