Bsides 48 – Last Son of Tomorrow

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Algernon Sydney is Dead
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Bsides 48 – Last Son of Tomorrow

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:58 am

Feature: Last Son of Tomorrow by Greg van Eekhout
Genres: Action Drama Fantasy

Image

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
John was born with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, and he often wondered why. But as a boy, it was simply wonderful to have those abilities. He could lift his father’s tractor overhead before he learned to read. He could outrace a galloping horse. He couldn’t be cut or bruised or burned. He could fly…

Episode Art: Bo Kaier
Read by: Dave Thompson
Music: "The Curse" by Josh Ritter
First appeared in May, 2009, on Tor.com.

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strawman
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Re: Bsides 48 – Last Son of Tomorrow

Postby strawman » Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:11 pm

There's more to this than meets the ear. I am left looking for clues, and trying to make out the lyrics to "The Curse" :

He opens his eyes, falls in love at first sight
With the girl in the doorway
What beautiful lines, how full of life
After thousands of years what a face to wake up to

He holds back a sigh as she touches his arm
She dusts off the bed where till now he's been sleeping
Under miles of stone, the dried fig of his heart
Under scarab and bone starts back to its beating

She carries him home in a beautiful boat
He watches the sea from a porthole in stowage
He can hear all she says as she sits by his bed
Then one day his lips answer her in her own language

The days quickly pass, he loves making her laugh
The first time he moves it's her hair that he touches
She asks "Are you cursed?" He says "I think that I'm cured"
Then he talks of the Nile and the girls in bullrushes

In New York he is laid in a glass-covered case
He pretends he is dead, people crowd round to see him
But each night she comes round, and the two wander down
The halls of the tomb that she calls a museum

Often he stops to rest, but then less and less
Then it's her that looks tired, staying up asking questions
He learns how to read from the papers that she
Is writing about him and he makes corrections

It's his face on her book and more and more come to look
Families from Iowa, upper West-siders
Then one day it's too much, he decides to get up
And as chaos ensues, he walks outside to find her

She's using a cane, and her face looks too pale
But she's happy to see him, as they walk he supports her
She asks "Are you cursed?" but his answer's obscured
In a sandstorm of flashbulbs and rowdy reporters

Such reanimation, the two tour the nation
He gets out of limos, he meets other women
He speaks of her fondly, their nights in the museum
But she's just one more rag now he's dragging behind him

She stops going out, she just lies there in bed
In hotels in whatever towns they are speaking
Then her face starts to set and her hands start to fold
And one day the dry fig of her heart stops its beating

Long ago on the ship, she asked "Why pyramids?"
He said "Think of them as an immense invitation"
She asks "Are you cursed?" He says "I think that I'm cured"
Then he kissed her and hoped that she'd forget that question.


I have concluded that Mr. van Eekhout must have written the story after listening to the song. Either that, or Norm has a supernatural ability to pull the perfect song out of his hat.

But (Nope. DANG!), he wrote the story in 2009, and the song was released in 2010.

So now my guess is that we're on the backside of the contracting universe so, as the story suggests, time is travelling backwards. Okay, that works.
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Re: Bsides 48 – Last Son of Tomorrow

Postby chacha » Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:12 am

Really loved the music in this one, both the end song and the song at the beginning, too - may have to go look up those artists ----


And the story was great - I'm surprised there aren't more "Hey let's actually flesh out this superman thing" stories out there /

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Re: Bsides 48 – Last Son of Tomorrow

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Wed Jul 30, 2014 1:49 am

This was an awesome episode, soup to nuts.
First, I just finished listening to that Josh Ritter ditty for the third time and will be buying some of his songs shortly. Thank you, Norm, for continually introducing, such interesting and moving music.

The story was gripping and thought-provoking and well narrated by Mr. Thompson. This whole episode was definitely "A" material; I think that if it was on the main feed, people would be raving about it much more.

Stories about the life and death of remarkable people, and/or civilizations, and/or the universe are my Kryptonite. They always set me to thinking about my own insignificance; how most of my dreams are now proven forever out of reach, and how I have, at best, maybe a decade left to make the smallest of ripples (Or just say "F it" and try to die happy-ish).

This story got me thinking more about what "Superman" really means.
The human race has accomplished what it has by tiny, tortured applications of rational action, backed up by levels of coordination (of individuals ideally acting for their own best interest) on a grand scale.
Humans are NOT: faster, stronger, or more talented with abilities than other species. Humans thrive best when they are smarter, less coerced, and voluntarily cooperate.

The Superman of comic books is an unthinking parody of the opposite of that. He's not particularly smart, nor are his friends. He's "Super" because of brute physical attributes, and ludicrous magical powers that he uses mostly without cost or comprehension. He's a child's mistaken view of what can make a man, or a nation, great.

~~~~
This story made me realize:
  • Superman has physical abilities far beyond that of any 10 men, of course, but his abilities are also far beyond any one, or two, chunks of matter. (And Superman is allegedly made up of matter, same as everything else.)
  • Superman's abilities are those of several machines, or even systems of machines. And his sensibilities are not quite human (wearing underwear on the outside is a tell).
  • The versions where Superman is immortal-ish, mean that Superman must be more of an idea, or a propagating event than any chunk of flesh and bone.
  • Superman is not human, but he is hopefully raised and guided by particularly good humans -- so that he does not become a monster (by our biased use of that term).

In short, the real Superman can only really be either the sum of human accomplishment -- scattered over billions of individuals and thousands of years.

Or, superman can be our successor species, that we will no-doubt create. Superman might just be the product of the Singularity, if we are lucky.

Let us hope that, like this story's superman, the real-life "Superman" views us without malice and when (if is certain) "he" conquers us, he rules with tolerance for "minor" faults.

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Re: Bsides 48 – Last Son of Tomorrow

Postby tbaker2500 » Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:34 am

Good analysis ASID.
Good story. I react strongly against super hero stories on audio podcasts, they usually are full of pathos or poor writing, or both. This story had some of each, but the saving grace of actually trying something new. And it actually tried to make you think.
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