Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

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Varda
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by Varda » Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:10 am

Algernon Sydney is Dead wrote:
Various wrote:surely there must be some expendable equipment/clothes laying around equaling 110 lbs...
Maybe it's the engineering crowd I run with, but I thought this would be obvious. (1) You don't put a lot of expendable stuff on this kind of craft. (2) Considering the G forces involved, the pilot probably needs his chair to stay conscious, or maybe even alive. (3) If they are shaving fuel to such insane margins (which I doubt they would ever do in real life -- except in less "routine" emergencies), then there is no way, they wouldn't have already cut mass to the bone, to save that precious fuel.
This is a really good point, and one I hadn't thought about -- that the author might be writing with the engineers in mind, who would therefore be able to follow the logic of why certain things are non-expendable without further explanation.

In that case, it's not so much a plot hole as an accessibility issue. I for one am definitely not an engineer, and therefore want at least another sentence or two in the story to convince me that there really, really isn't a measly 110 pounds of crap they can chuck out the door.

Still, it was distracting enough that I think the story would have been improved by just a little more detail in this area. When I write something and my readers say they didn't understand something, I work under the assumption that 98% of the time it's a failure on my part as the writer, and not their reading comprehension. I hardly think it's fair to blame readers for missing the point if I didn't make it clear enough to begin with. I think something similar is at work in "The Cold Equations", as so many of us found ourselves distracted by a detail that could be so easily clarified given just a few more words. As the whole plot hinged on our believing that there was no way to save the girl, it's frustrating not to be able to relax and enjoy the story because I can't suspend my disbelief.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by Algernon Sydney is Dead » Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:46 am

Good point.
But, he can be forgiven, a little, because he sold it to a SF mag instead of The New Yorker or Cosmopolitan. ;)

Also, this was way before authors had to put up with so much feedback from pesky readers. "Shut up, pay up, and read! What the hell does a computer network have to do with it?!"

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by ROU Killing Time » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:53 am

Algernon Sydney is Dead wrote:Good point.
But, he can be forgiven, a little, because he sold it to a SF mag instead of The New Yorker or Cosmopolitan. ;)

Also, this was way before authors had to put up with so much feedback from pesky readers. "Shut up, pay up, and read! What the hell does a computer network have to do with it?!"
You said SF instead of Sci-Fi. Now that really is old school.

I guess you aren't all bad after all, ASID. :roll:
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by BryanLincoln » Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:00 am

Beth Peters wrote:First of all, this was an outstanding production. I don't think I've ever heard better voice acting on any audio production I can recently remember. Sets a new bar for full cast audio IMO. Kudos to the guest producer, I see why Norm is a fan.
Thanks so much, Beth. It's an absolute privilege to produce the talented voices that are so willing to work with me.

As for the story itself, I don't want to comment too much. I think it represents the age in which it was written. Similar to a (racist) Tarzan story I one narrated, I see old stories as a comment on the times in which they were written. They are worth retelling not because they were right in this way, but because they were wrong.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by El Barto » Mon Aug 05, 2013 3:33 am

When this episode started I knew I'd read the story before and I was certain I remembered how it ended – and I was completely wrong. Norm's intro further lured me into thinking that the original story ended with one dead passenger and that the editor made the author change it to have the pilot throw himself out the airlock instead.

(I assumed from the description that there was no chance in hell they could cobble together anywhere near 110 pounds worth of other stuff to throw out the airlock -- and the only cargo they were carrying was the life-saving medicine.)

As a quick aside I'll say from the legal point of view that in modern times her family would sue the shit out of the ship company and almost rightfully so. Stowaways are a known risk and the lack of security and lack of notice to potential stowaways that their presence on the ship would guarantee someone's death is simply inexcusable. Take that and combine it with the fact that the EDS ship was accessible via a civilian pleasure transport and you have a mind-boggling jury verdict that will ensure that every future stowaway is properly deterred.

When the horrible end came I too was in tears.

Overall a great production of a powerful (if flawed) story written many decades ago.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by shagin » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:18 am

I'll grant that this is a SF classic, but it's also another version of "You're in a lifeboat with 5 people and the dog, and you need to throw something overboard to keep from sinking. Do you throw the dog out of the boat?"

The story didn't do much for me. I enjoyed the narration, but the plot showed it's age and highlighted some of the changing thoughts on the genre. I do agree that the Commander could have thrown out enough gear and supplies to balance the issue of weight, but there is the question of whether or not the colony/science team would have had enough gear to get the shuttle back into space.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by Chivalrybean » Mon Aug 19, 2013 5:07 pm

Read most of the comments, and glad I wasn't the only one who wondered about throwing other things out the airlock.

Soon as the airlock opened, for instance, I was like "How much air just went out, and how much did that weigh?"

Had that at least been covered (as someone else said) with 'adding it all up, we are short X pounds' would have satisfied me. Just felt like a giant plot hole.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by tbaker2500 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:34 pm

Chivalrybean wrote:Just felt like a giant plot hole.
Now, that is worth some mass right there. Throw that out, and maybe she could have lived!
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by chemistryguy » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:25 pm

I can't add anything to these discussions other than to say I'm glad I toughed out the story so I could read all the discussions.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by Luca aged 7 » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:47 pm

I did not read all comments. I see people already mentioned throwing the chair, pencil, etc. out the airlock.

I actually thought they were going to amputate limbs and arrive as one-armed torsos. THAT WOULD BE COOL! But would it cut the 105 pounds? Weigh each limb after amputation.

Or cut her head off and put it in the freezer for reanimation later.

Or at least have her fight back and they both go out the airlock in the melee.

Overall, cool beginning and premise for a story with so many cool endings possible. I was hoping for an ending I had not even thought of. Too much whining and crying and lame ending.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by strawman » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:59 pm

Luca aged 7 wrote: Too much whining and crying and lame ending.
Most of our comments agree with you, Luca.

You need to remember this story was written about 50 years ago, in the age of Mayberry RFD, back before Opie became Ron Howard. Nowadays, we toss teenage girls out the airlock just out of boredom, and especially wish Miley Cyrus was available.

But back then, they used to whine and cry about nearly everything.
It was a much sissier era.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by Algernon Sydney is Dead » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:24 pm

strawman wrote:But back then, they used to whine and cry about nearly everything.
It was a much sissier era.
Shame on you for such an insanely absurd statement and trolling attempt. I have half a mind to mail you an asbestos jar of peanut butter, with MSG and transfats added.

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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by strawman » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:20 pm

Best Answer:

1) Waaaahhhhh!!!!!

2) QED
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by tbaker2500 » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:47 am

strawman wrote:back before Opie became Ron Howard.
If Luca is anywhere near age 7, he likely won't know Ron Howard. But he may know Opie ironically.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by cinnamon » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:47 pm

So I'm going to go against the grain a little bit and say I did like this story. Maybe because I hadn't heard it or of it before? I'm not sure.

It really didn't bother me that the girl's gender came into play. I think that (right or wrong) for a lot of grown men it WOULD come into play in that situation. It doesn't mean I like the double standard or don't think it should be battled, but in the context of the story it IS reflective of something very ingrained and isn't surprising.

And yes, he was a total coward but honestly wasn't that part of the point? For quite some time where I thought the story might be going was that he would heroically throw himself out of the airlock instead, and I was preparing for the eye-rolling of a lifetime but was pleasantly surprised by the real ending. The rules suck, he's a coward, she's dead (and horribly) for no good reason, and now it's back to business as usual, too bad so sad but anyway WE GOT THIS HERE CARGO.

These days anti-heroes are so common but for this character to have been "allowed" to be such a loathsome poo-bag, despite all his angsty hand-wringing, left me more satisfied than I would have been if she had been saved.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by Praxis » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:11 am

You can give 'those earlier days, when we knew not what we know now' too much leeway sometimes.

In the story, there are ways that the stowaway could have been saved but, when the author isn't otherwise beating a dead horse to even further death by going on and on about how, "sadly, there is just no other option etc, etc, sniff, sniff, crocodile tears.....", these options are ignored because, let's be honest,the story isn't about showing the harshness of space travel or the diferent factors that need to be taken in to account in the tight-fitting mass/speed/fuel calculations. It isn't, really, even about showing the (in)significance of a life compared to the importance of a space (travel) mission, all of which can and do make for great stories:

really, the story is written (so unconvincingly written, imo) as a way to set up a situation where someone is killed but there is to be "no blame whatsoever". Implicitly, it is maybe meant to be the child's fault that she 'must be kiled'? Or maybe any responsibility can just be foisted on the uncaring universe that.......gaaaaahhh! it is such a rubbish story and unconvincing set up it's just not worth trying to think about the story in any wider sense, I certainly don't think the author did.

I don't comment on many Drabblecast stories since they are generally great and I don't have much to add but this story was a poor choice for the usually excellent Drabblecast, I think.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by tbaker2500 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:53 am

Praxis wrote:Or maybe any responsibility can just be foisted on the uncaring universe that.......gaaaaahhh! it is such a rubbish story and unconvincing set up it's just not worth trying to think about the story in any wider sense, I certainly don't think the author did.
Hee hee...
Isn't it amazing when you dislike a story so much is causes physical pain? I get that way with stories which tell me how I'm supposed to feel, rather than presenting the situation, and letting me interpret it as I may. Stories which wrest control away from the listener, rather that provide a world for the listener to be immersed in.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by strawman » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:55 pm

tbaker2500 wrote:Stories which wrest control away from the listener, rather that provide a world for the listener to be immersed in.
Songs which are earworms. Stories which are parasitic wasps, invading your brain, forcing you to listen, to obey...
So, Tom, do you even know where you've been for the past 6 years?
*cat splat*
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by ROU Killing Time » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:50 pm

Interesting that a generally criticized story generated a thread of this size.

I think the worst case scenario must be no one saying anything at all.
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Re: Drabblecast 289 – The Cold Equations

Post by normsherman » Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:31 pm

Yah, and this was a heavily blogged about story too. I knew it would be controversial-- it's always been one of the most controversial stories in SF and while that's not the only reason I picked it, I thought that new generations of ears should hear it.
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