Drabblecast 083 - Floating Over Time

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Drabblecast 083 - Floating Over Time

Post by Kevin Anderson » Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:51 am

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Floating Over Time
by Robert Reed

She was a machine, fabulously complex and durable and imaginative. She was also alive...


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Music by
The Brothers Femme

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Mr. Tweedy
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:36 am

Oh yeah! A Robert Reed story! I won't get to listen until tomorrow, but now I'm excited.

Way to get more big names, Norm!
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:08 pm

Awesome!

This was a very lyrical story, and it's hard to talk about it in non-poetic terms. Plot? Not really. Just two character and one moment in time, preserving them beautifully like butterflies in amber... Whoa, okay, that was gooshy, but I liked this story in a gooshy way. It pulled my heartstrings. I almost shed a tear at the end, the final images were so tragic and so lovely. I loved how detailed the descriptions of the characters were and how deep their respective motives. And I love how uncluttered and simple their final meeting is, as if just being together in the end is all the resolution needed. A beautiful story.

I don't mean to open up a proverbial can here, so I'll be brief: Stories like this and the real science that inspire them always impress me as very religious. How can one hear about string theory or quantum mechanics, how can one contemplate the vast wonders of space and not be impressed by the sheer magnitude of possibility? Can there be any justification in saying "There is no (insert noun)"? I mean, here's a story about a man in his last moment transcending time to meet with a vast and ancient intelligence and have an intimate heart-to-heart with it about the illusion of past and future, and we call it science fiction. It just strikes me on a routine basis that the wall between science and religion doesn't actually exist. (There's a big high wall between reason and unreason, of course, but that's an unrelated discussion.)

And that's why I love stories like this: They blur all those lines that we're used to keeping sharp and show how everything can flow together. That's what makes them affecting and beautiful, IMHO.

And the music was perfect! It created just the right mood. Pensive, sad, subtly hopeful.

Awesome!

Nitpick: One of the outdoor ambient sound effects sounded like jungle, not deciduous forest. It kind of took me out of the moment.
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Post by normsherman » Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:49 pm

Mr. Tweedy wrote:
Nitpick: One of the outdoor ambient sound effects sounded like jungle, not deciduous forest. It kind of took me out of the moment.
Ah, well I never got the impression it was set in a deciduous forest so I went with a swampy ambience to indicate there being a lake/water
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Post by strawman » Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:53 pm

I agree with Tweedy that the story is haunting and lyrical and deep in a way that easily evokes a religious perspective. I think that questions of infinity and eternity inevitably become religious speculation, because the questions are beyond our ability to conceive. We can't even prove it's fiction, but no one is offended, because no one claims it is fact either. It seems to me that our appetite for it indicates that somewhere in the DNA of Homo Sapiens is a hunger to discover and understand the meaning of things, which has often led him on wild goose chases, so it leads others to be skeptical of the impulse. But even the skeptics enjoy the stories, because they need to feed their hunger.
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Post by deflective » Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:55 pm

this piece worked for me. it teetered at the edge of the over-sentimental but kept it together. i was left thinking of a Gaiman paraphrase, 'you get the same thing that everyone gets: a death.'
Mr. Tweedy wrote:How can one hear about string theory or quantum mechanics, how can one contemplate the vast wonders of space and not be impressed by the sheer magnitude of possibility? Can there be any justification in saying "There is no (insert noun)"?
i'm always a little disappointed when someone catches a glimpse of the fantastic nature of reality and the best that they can do with it is anthropomorphization. imposing some sort of larger, more powerful version of themselves to create meaning where they don't see any at the moment.

don't get me wrong, imposing any sort of explanation without a well reasoned justification is flawed. just that anthropomorphization seems like a particularly lazy way to go.

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Post by strawman » Thu Oct 02, 2008 1:59 am

deflective wrote:
Mr. Tweedy wrote:How can one hear about string theory or quantum mechanics, how can one contemplate the vast wonders of space and not be impressed by the sheer magnitude of possibility? Can there be any justification in saying "There is no (insert noun)"?
i'm always a little disappointed when someone catches a glimpse of the fantastic nature of reality and the best that they can do with it is anthropomorphization. imposing some sort of larger, more powerful version of themselves to create meaning where they don't see any at the moment.

don't get me wrong, imposing any sort of explanation without a well reasoned justification is flawed. just that anthropomorphization seems like a particularly lazy way to go.
To say 'the fantastic nature of reality' is to assert that the nature of reality is fantasy. If anthropomorphization is a fantasy, then, aren't you asserting it is reality?
I think that its precisely because we do see meaning in creation, we are struck by the fact that our own hunger for meaning, and our desire to communicate meaning in stories, is in harmony with creation. It is like the merbaby... it is just... like... us.
Sure seems like the opposite of lazy to me.

"Don't get me wrong, imposing any sort of explanation without a well reasoned justification is flawed."
It may be flawed, but that's why Pandemic's rightful place upon the throne was usurped.
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Post by deflective » Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:47 am

strawman wrote:To say 'the fantastic nature of reality' is to assert that the nature of reality is fantasy. If anthropomorphization is a fantasy, then, aren't you asserting it is reality?
not even a little. congrats on a self-aware choice of name though =)
strawman wrote:I think that its precisely because we do see meaning in creation, we are struck by the fact that our own hunger for meaning, and our desire to communicate meaning in stories, is in harmony with creation. It is like the merbaby... it is just... like... us.
Sure seems like the opposite of lazy to me.
we see faces in woodgrains and clouds because we're used to seeing faces. it takes a lot of work to free your mind from expectation and just accept what's in front of you instead of always interpreting so that it fits in with the familiar. lots of work, but that's when you see the really interesting stuff.

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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:14 am

I'd be very curious to know what, exactly, you mean by "anthropomorphism." I know many religions endow nature itself with personality, but I get the feeling you mean something more than that. (Generally, when atheists talk to this Christian about religion, they totally lose me and have to explain to me what they're talking about. I've listened to people who thought they were tearing my beliefs to shreds only to have me scratch my head and ask them where they heard such strange ideas.)

That would be a spin-off topic, though. I don't want this thread to become totally devoted to the R-word before many people have shown up to voice their thoughts on the story itself.
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Post by Igwiz » Thu Oct 02, 2008 1:26 pm

I agree with all of the compliments. Marvelous story, and impeccably produced.

At first I thought it was interesting that religion was raised, considering that I thought the piece was very... critical, and nearly dismissive, of religion. But, in retrospect, it seems perfectly natural for the breadth and scope and majesty of this story to invoke a hushed sense of awe.
Now, don't get me wrong; I don't mean negative criticism, which is often derogatory or rude. Rather, I mean intellectually critical.

I found this in the last third of the story, when the space probe was beginning to categorize and outline its message. "She" says (paraphrasing) that throughout the millions of civilizations and philosophies, religions and gods that she had found, nearly all of them fit pretty well into the general, generic wisdom of the mundane. That they were able to be coded into short-handed data, and distilled into one of only a handful of themes.

What I took from the story was this:

"Life" with a Big "L," even in a multi-million year experience, seemed to be pretty derivative, and repetetive, and predictable. That there weren't really any truly novel yet generalizable epiphanies left out there in the vastness. Because the distillation, the... "codification" of those concepts and beliefs (whether through the vehicle of philosophy, or science, or religion) made them bland and understandable, yet ultimately empty of individualized meaning.

But, "life" with a little "l" was still somehow precious, particularly to the individual that was living it. Regardless of whether it was a 70 year-old human who was choosing to die, or a multi-million year old organic computer, it was life, with a little "l," that was precious. It may have been simple, or totally remarkable, but in the end, one was no more precious than the other. They just... were.

So, for me, this story was far from religious. But then, so am I.

But, perhaps that is the true genius of this tale.

As Mr. Tweedy said,
They blur all those lines that we're used to keeping sharp and show how everything can flow together.
I saw and heard and shaped this artistic, amorphous tale into an intellectual and non-theistic experience, because that existential approach is bounded by my own personal beliefs. But, this beautiful and deep and majestic tale may also support and renew the beliefs of somebody who is religious, and they may have felt their mystery and faith and spirituality reborn.

What I hear the story saying is, "Regardless of what it meant to you, or how you internalized it, it's OK."
"The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'" ~ George Carlin

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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Thu Oct 02, 2008 3:43 pm

Igwiz wrote:So, for me, this story was far from religious. But then, so am I.
I'd love to hear you guys expound. I started another thread for the purpose. Stop on over if you don't mind some friendly discussion with a guy who considers himself ultra-religious.
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Post by Kevin Anderson » Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:19 pm

Seems like a long time since we've had any drabbleNews. Budget cuts? or has the world just stop being strange?
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Post by strawman » Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:29 pm

Just for you, Kevin. Just for you.


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Post by Kevin Anderson » Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:06 am

Awesome Strawman! Were they drinking domestic? I collect cool jock-o-lantern pics. Email them if you got em’.

I can't really add much to what has already been so eloquently and passionately said about Mr. Reed's story, only that I wish I had 1/10th of this brilliant writer’s talent.
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Post by deflective » Fri Oct 03, 2008 5:39 am

Igwiz wrote:But, "life" with a little "l" was still somehow precious, particularly to the individual that was living it. Regardless of whether it was a 70 year-old human who was choosing to die, or a multi-million year old organic computer, it was life, with a little "l," that was precious. It may have been simple, or totally remarkable, but in the end, one was no more precious than the other. They just... were.
this is similar to my impression. compared to the ship we're like mayflies but in the end we all have to face our death. more time doesn't make it any easier, resolving yourself to the nature of existence and your inevitable end. it was a human who found his peace and welcomed the ship.

the ship may have including herself in the transmission, coded together with the civilizations she visited. that transmission may have even been targeted at our solar system. she would have lived a tragedy, working her entire life to complete an exploration that no one would ever see. but ultimately she lived her life and, with a little help, found the strength to accept her death.

we all should be so lucky.

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Post by Goldenrat » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:41 am

Wow, great story. I will have to listen again and soak it all in.
deflective wrote: i'm always a little disappointed when someone catches a glimpse of the fantastic nature of reality and the best that they can do with it is anthropomorphization. imposing some sort of larger, more powerful version of themselves to create meaning where they don't see any at the moment.

don't get me wrong, imposing any sort of explanation without a well reasoned justification is flawed. just that anthropomorphization seems like a particularly lazy way to go.
I agree. Excellent comment.
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Post by cammoblammo » Mon Oct 06, 2008 12:24 pm

That was one hell of a good story.

I had to listen to it twice. The first time around I was completely intoxicated by the lyrical nature of the words, and I took very little in of the story itself. The second time around I listened to the story, and I understand what Norm meant---good call too, not adding feedback or the other regular departments.

This is another example of a great Drabblecast that doesn't need poop jokes, zombies or parasites to work. I don't mind those, but it's fantastic that the editorial staff are wise* enough to go for depth rather than cheap laughs just often enough to stop the Drabblecast becoming typecast. Well done.



*Yes, I did watch the DragonCon video and I've listened to the Death match podcasts. Credit where credit's due, I guess...
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Didn't Like It

Post by sevenfooter1 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:26 pm

Looks like I'll be the black sheep when posting my comments to this story. I listened to this one in my car and I found myself day dreaming and not at all interested, which usually doesn't happen with the drabblecast story. Maybe I missed something the first time around, so I'll definately have to go back and listen to it again to see what all the fuss is about.
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Post by tbaker2500 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:01 pm

Sorry, it just didn't do anything for me. It felt like an attempt to be so vague that you filled in your own meanings. Some people like that type of story, I'm just not into it.
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Post by normsherman » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:02 pm

Question: I'm messing with mics and EQ a little- did anyone think "too loud or too soft" in regards to the music or narration?

Did S's sizzle a bit too much in the narration?

Depending on if your in a car, with ipod/headphones, at laptop or at a desktop there can be a big difference in the balance of things and I'm trying to find a middle ground.
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