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EP064: Head of State

By Ed W. Marsh.
Read and Produced by Wichita Rutherford (of 5 Minutes With Wichita).

“There’s a reason we don’t use nano to cut the President-Chairman’s hair. You know about the assassination attempt three years ago?”

Everyone did. “I thought he was fully recovered.”

“What’s left of him. Yes. All of that civilian nano would interfere with crucial signals sent and received by the nano in use by the MedTechs. Can’t risk it. That bomb was nasty. What I’m telling you is classified, obviously. We have no intention of presenting Arrington to the world as less than the man he deserves to be.”

Rated PG. Contains implications of violence, heavy politics, and split ends.

Referenced sites:
Worldcon: Anaheim, CA, August 23–27
Bring Sigler’s Ancestor to Sci Fi!
Wil Wheaton
EP036: Connie, Maybe
EP061: I Look Forward To Remembering You
EP055: Down Memory Lane

Comments (58)

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  1. J. Chaffin says:

    Marvelous! The rich production was wonderful. Very well worth the listen. Congratulations as well for the growing culture influence of Escape pod.

  2. George B says:

    This story is definitely in my top 5 EP episodes. Wichita’s narration is unique, and the production’s the best I’ve heard so far.
    Thanks for all your hard work on this EXCELLENT podcast!

  3. x-1 addict says:

    i felt like i was listening to old time radio, have wichita read more often!!!

  4. Djerrid says:

    Ever since the first Escape Pod story, I was wondering how much adding some generic sound effects and a soundtrack would add to a story. It turns out, quite a lot. I know you guys won’t be able to do it every week, but just having different characters speaking from different speakers is great for immersion.

    Here’s a suggestion: Ask if any of your listeners would be willing to produce one of your stories. They can add their enhancements to one of the older stories as an audition. I don‚Äôt know if you have the means to reward them for their effort, but I‚Äôm willing to bet someone would do one pro bono.

    Now, time to listen to that old copy of “War of the Worlds”…

  5. Adam says:

    Interesting story, coupled with a wonderful reading and great sound effects. (Loved how you could hear the crackle and hiss of the electrics/nano when Arrington figured heavier in the narration.)

    I’m going to have to go back through the archives to find the other Wichita-read story you mentioned.

  6. Brian says:

    I love Wichita Rutherford! After this story I hope he becomes a regular on Escape Pod. I pride myself on being a Geek, and enjoy most all geek related subjects. Saddly however, I am not a fan of Bluegrass music. Yet here is a man who obviously enjoys *both* Bluegrass and Science Fiction. Who, I ask you, is the better man?

  7. SFEley says:

    Hi Adam,

    You can find the other Wichita story here. And thanks for reminding me — I just retroactively added that link to the post above.

  8. Wendell says:

    I guess I am in the minority, but I cannot stand Wichita’s voice. Both stories he has narrated I have had to zip right past within a matter of minutes.

    The accent, the tone, the pace… like nails on a chalkboard (which I am sure many people like as well).

    All tastes are unique and the great thing about Escape Pod is that you get something different with every installment. I cannot wait to see what is in store for us next week!

  9. Janice in GA says:

    Wichita’s voice doesn’t bother me a bit. But for me, much music in the background really distracts me from the narration. I find myself losing track of what’s going on in the story because the backgound music always seems to be too loud.

    Sometimes I’m in the mood to listen to radio drama, and but mostly I just like narration.

  10. RKG says:

    He me an interestin’ ride in to work today listenin to this here fine story.

    People was a-lookin’ at me all funny-like, on account I was smilin’ like I was deranged sittin right there in tha car…

    Nother good-un! Thanks Steve.

  11. Archie says:

    Fantastic. The accent almost put me off but I stuck with it and what a great and chilling story. I loved the voice work and the sound effects along with the stereo shifting on the vocals. Nice work. Certainly when you can it would be great to have an enhanced edition like this.

  12. I did enjoy the sound effects in this episode, but I honestly don’t think I’d like every story to have them. Think about adding sound effects to “I Look Forward to Remembering You,” “Down Memory Lane,” or a fair number of other EP stories, and it just doesn’t work. That very thing happened to one of my college professors when she had a story produced as an audio recording; they didn’t serve any real purpose, and overall just got in the way of the narrative.

    Excellent job this week, though. Everyone I know gets a real kick out of Wichita’s style, and the story was a great choice for it.

  13. Eddie Maynord says:

    I love Wichita! He made this fun to listen to. I wish you would have him more often. I really enjoyed a story done this way.

  14. Jeff Storey says:

    Until the last line of the story, I thought that the Witchita ‘production’ made the story seem stupid and laughable.

    Now, I wonder if the ‘production’ added or subtracted from the original story. I wonder if the story would still have the same impact without the ‘production’.

    Ultimately, excellent story; abivalent about the delivery.

  15. Lar says:

    Story: Great!
    Wichita: Great!
    Fancy-smancy production: Great!

    The quality stories on Escape Pod don’t need pretty wrapping to make me like them. But, pretty wrapping is nice.

    Bottom line: You keep making ‘em, I’ll keep listen’n to ‘em. With or without the frosting.

  16. Mark L says:

    A refreshing break. I really like the regular form but I think you should do it this way more often. Wichita was a brilliant choice for the first time. I’ve passed this story along to people who wouldn’t have listened to sci-fi normally. You’ll be adding fans with this one.

  17. L33tminion says:

    I liked the radio podcast play style. It would be annoying if all the stories were produced like that, but I hope you continue to do that sort of production every so often.

    Keep up the good work!

  18. Sternhammer says:

    I really enjoy listening to Wichita but have no interest in his music. Please get him to read more stories in the future. Oh, and the sound effects were great but not necessary in every story.

  19. Colin F says:

    Enjoyed the story and Wichita’s reading of it, but thought the added production went too far and threatened to overwhelm the storytelling at times.

    I don’t have a problem with a few well-placed sound effects, it was the music that I found off-putting.

    I don’t suppose you have the audio files available to put up a straight reading as a comparison?

    Still, kudos to the escape pod for always moving forward and trying new things. Looking forward to the next download, as always.

  20. Derrick says:

    This was another great show. I thoroughly enjoyed Wichita’s delivery. You have a good ear for choosing him for the right type of story, Steve. The extra production really added to the story, and yes, it would be good to hear productions like that more often, but I understand that it would be quite time-intensive, so you’re right, you don’t need to do that every time to keep me listening. Actually, you didn’t have to do it at all, so thanks for the extra effort. Keep up the good work, team.

  21. Jeremiah says:

    I gotta say that the Wichita persona isn’t working for me with the story. I didn’t mind the extra production, but I’m not sure it really added to it. Maybe with a different narrator it would have been worth it for me.

    I think I just want something more like ‘reading’ generally.

  22. Greg says:

    Sometimes these things things get a touch boring and its hard to listen to someone just talking. I really liked this one. Apparently it is time consuming, but if you can get Wichita to do another one in the future, I know I would just love it. He’s awesome.

  23. spencer says:

    I really liked it when one person talked, it would come in one ear, and the other person through the other. loved the production,the buzzing and distant computer sounds added a sort of eerie feeling the barber must of had. Great job Wichita Rutherford!

  24. Dotan says:

    Wichita’s reading was enjoyable except that in parts of the exposition he seemed to be yelling himself breathless: settle down, pardner! there was also one line of dialog by the barber that had the effect used for the President’s voice.
    I really liked the production values and the way the story was elevated from a nifty short-short to an audio play extravaganza. ;-)

  25. Stephen,
    This was the most outstanding episode to date. I loved the vocal effects, stereo panning, sound effects, music–all of it. I, for one, would love to hear more of this. Thank you!

  26. TVJ says:

    Wow. Wichita can put “the touch” on anything. I loved it.

  27. Jeff S says:

    Liked the story this week, Steve. I almost hate to admit it because I’m not sure if it was production, story or a mix of the two, but I want to say I didn’t like the extra production, but for some reason I can’t.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not the type of thing I would look forward to every week, but as a once-in-a-while thing, I don’t mind it so much.

  28. Tim says:

    This was one of the more unique readings, I’ll give you that. I don’t think all stories should have the sound effect, the music, or stuff like that, but every once in a great while (with the right story and I think this was a perfect story for it) I think it’ll be a good thing.

  29. GJK says:

    I have to say, I thought the story was great … it has a “fallout-esc” feel to it (dunno how many geeks out there have played the fallout series of RPG’s). I hesitate saying anything bad about escape pod because I almost always enjoy it. However, I think the reader’s accent and spin was a little detracting from the overall story. I had trouble getting into the feel of it. So, while other people enjoyed it; I felt like turning it off after the beginning.

    I resisted that impulse and was able to finish the story, it just wasn’t as good as it could have been.

    That’s just my opinion; I am a single voice among many.

  30. Little E says:

    I thought it was awesome. I don’t want to hear somebody reading a story for the first time and at the same time recording it (not very well) and then expect me not to like it when somebody else takes the time to add music and sound effects and make the story come alive. I give it a 10 and want you to do moer like that.

  31. 3CountyLaugh says:

    I liked the story but found the extras distracting. I am one of those people that looses sounds in crowded environments. I often have to go “huh” when people talk in a crowd and I wasn’t focusing on the little bit of lip reading I do. Probably nothing a hundered dollar hearing aide couldn’t help, but I’m not going there yet. I like really…. clean… radio drama, think Prairie Home Companion or The Shadow, but all the layering made this one really difficult to pick the story out of the back ground. It’s often been a reason for me to drop other podcasts I’ve tried.
    As others said, once in a while it’s fine, I don’t mind having to rewind and listen again or listen with my partner and have him tell me what I miss, but all the time & I’d have stop listening.

  32. Cindy says:

    I think this showcased the narrator too much. I had to concentrate too hard to get to the story. I hope you don’t do this very often

  33. Mike D says:

    I think you’ll get more listeners if you keep doing it this way. Or at least do it like this more often. Breaks the monotany.

  34. Jason Sells says:

    Regional accents are fun! This note is in response to the “outro” segment in show 65. Steve indicated that despite the many positive comments on “Head of State”, future stories would not be narrated by individuals with strong accents such as Wichita Rutherford. I strongly feel that this would be a mistake. Part of what makes a story fun for me is the personality that the reader imparts to the story. Paul S. Jenkins, Frank Key, and Mur Lafferty, to name only a few previous readers, all have their own charming and unique inflections. Everyone has their own idea of what “fun” is. I personally don’t find stories featuring zombies or undead creatures very much fun, but that doesn’t stop me from contributing at the $5/mo level. Please don’t sacrifice the fun of an occasional story with an unusual accent for the sake of clarity. If a listener truly desires the “plate-glass window” clarity that Asimov recommended, he or she can surely find a print version of the story.

  35. Mitch says:

    Loved the story & the production! Reminded me of “Children of the gods” – high quality special effects.

    It wouldn’t fit every story, nor would I want the extra production effort to reduce the quantity of stories. I’d rather have an extra EP flash than a highly produced regular.

    I have recently been craving more varitey in voices – Wichita fit the bill!

  36. Ed W. Marsh says:

    I wrote Head of State. And I will admit it was a bit of a jarring experience to hear Wichita reading my story, at first. But I got used to it and I liked it.

    I had given Escape Pod the right to do whatever they wanted with the story in terms of production. I had even given the author the right to make small changes without consulting me as I was unusually hard to reach.

    Having listened to it a couple of times, I have to add, A) I’m flattered that Wichita put so much oomph into the production. B) It’s good for the the writer’s ear to hear his words through unexpected filters. There are changes I intend to make to the story based on Wichita’s read–words and rhythm choices that never would have occurred to me reading the story in my own author’s voice.

    I had submitted a first story to Escape Pod with the suggestion that, if accepted, it might be a good one for Wichita to voice. I did not expect him to do this one, but I’m glad he did.

    And thank you to everyone for the comments.

    Go Escape Pod! Go!

  37. Hakan says:

    Yay! That was great and I love the accent – I myself find it hard to understand but still, it gives a lot of colour to the story!

  38. Spork says:

    I liked the podplay aspect of the reading, but Wichita sucks at narration of a dramatic and suspensful story. He’s too cutesy and inappropriately breathless. Like when you had that idiot Evo read the Don Isidro story, I spent more time paying attention to the narrator than the story.

    The story is very chilling, but with Wichita’s cutesy wheezing twang, the suspense and chill was lost. Wichita reading a story like this is too much like watching an empty-headed news bimbo on the six o’clock news tell me a buss full of special education children was driven into an aligator pit and nothing but helmets were recovered…all with a fake plastic smile and false cheer in her voice.

    Sound effects, bells and whistles? Keep ‘em. Maybe you could have a spin-off Podplay Podcast. Or Podioplay, or Pod Drama, etc. As for Wichita, if I never hear him narate on here again, that’d be just fine with me.

  39. Dedra says:

    I thought this was a great variation. I was able to get folks who wouldn’t try EP to take this one on. I agree with the above many, not every time and not just W. Rutherford. I thought it was a good blend for this story.

  40. Annette says:

    I loved the naration Wichita did. I thought it was wonderful and wish he would do more.

    A.

  41. Mitch S. says:

    It loved the big production. I think you should do one at least every 7-10 stories. It takes the listener to a completley different headspace when you do it that way. Spoken word if fine, but mix it up a little for the masses here. To me and my kids Wichita’s style can’t be beat here. And normally I don’t let them listen here due to language issues. I know when Wichita starts talking there won’t be anything my kids can’t listen to. Regardless of what or where it is. Please have him do more.

  42. Wiz says:

    I enjoyed the story, but I thought Wichita’s delivery in this case was distracting. In contrast, I enjoyed his reading of “Connie, Maybe.” I think the difference may have been that his delivery seemed to fit better into the earlier story, and because he wasn’t as over-the-top, shrill and overly theatrical.

    As for the other production — the sound effects, music, etc. — I’m generally a fan, when it’s done well, and I liked most of it this time. There were a couple of places where I had trouble hearing the narration over the background — this was on top of the trouble I was having understanding Wichita’s dialect.

    Overall, this was a good story, but I wasn’t thrilled by the presentation.

  43. Mark says:

    Enjoyed it tremendously. Keep up the good work.

  44. Rachel says:

    I liked this one best of all. It came to life so to speak. I liked it all. I had no problems at all hearing Wichita or understanding what he said. I wish there were more like this.

    RH

  45. D Wyrick says:

    After listening 3 times to this one I’ve decided its brilliant. The first 2 listens I thought so too but I wanted to make sure. I listened to Wichita’s podcasts and this guy should be up for the “best sounding” or “best produced” podcast at the podcast awards. Billiant.

  46. David K says:

    While I find Wichita’s accent can be distracting to the story, there is certainly no arguing about his production skills! I thought he might have over-melodramatized a few portions of the story with the special effects, but overall it was a welcome and complementary addition. I would love to hear more stories done like this in the future!

  47. Neal Dench says:

    I thought this was marvellous. Although I thought I’d find Wichita’s accent distracting, I didn’t. Indeed, it enhanced the reading tremendously, and the tongue-in-cheek (to me) reading he gave was tremendous.

    As to the rich production, I thought it was lovely, and very appropriately done. I understand why you couldn’t do this all the time, but I’d love to see more of this on an occasional basis.

    Sincere thanks for all the work you and your readers put into Escape Pod, and to the authors for supplying their work to you. I thoroughly enjoy it, though I haven’t commented before.

  48. James says:

    Why does he yell every 8th word?

    I love the accent, but HE just put THE emphasis ON the wrong words.

  49. xP-86 says:

    Its one of those things that you get, or you don’t get. I loved it.

  50. Neal Dench says:

    James — that emphasis on odd words was one of the things I found the most charming.

  51. [...] http mp3 Extrait “There’s a reason we don’t use nano to cut the President-Chairman’s hair. You know about the assassination attempt three years ago?” [...]

  52. Simon says:

    Finally got around to giving this story the attention it deserved..

    The Wichita thing has been done to death in the preceding 52 comments, so i wont go into that, lets talk about The Story!

    I enjoyed this. It reminded me very very, very strongly of an old Frank Miller comic called Martha Washington Goes To War (and the preceding story Give Me Liberty) – Miller has an obsession with puppet presidents kept alive by technology, a theme he first visited in The Dark Knight Returns, but the post-apoc elements of this story absolutely sing Martha Washington both in style and humour.

    To be honest, it’s such a blatant thematic and stylistic rip from Martha that, if the author has read these and knew of the influence when he wrote it, well.. It’s not to his credit. On the other hand, if this was subconscious, then it’s a terrific homage to Miller. If he’s never read Miller (who is, just about, the second most famous comic writer after Alan Moore) then wow, what a meeting of minds.

    At the same time, I would just like to say that this ISN’T SF. No real ideas content, and the world isn’t build to sell us a vision. This is escapism, this is hollywood, this is a DC comic.. This is not SF. Fun.. But not SF.

  53. Pedantry Be We says:

    I agree that a more-produced story is a nice treat – like dessert – but prefer the meat-and-potatoes style of the usual podcasts.

    One small (really, REALLY teeny) quibble: this is the second story in which the word “cache” was mispronounced “cash-A” (rhymes with sashay). It’s “CASH” (like money). “Cachet” is pronounced “cash-A,” but it means a totally different thing.

  54. Abby says:

    Enjoyable story, and the ending manages to be both horrifying and morbidly funny. Honestly, though, the production turned me off. I almost skipped the story, but I was driving and decided to give it ten more seconds … another ten seconds … and I got interested about five or six minutes in.

    I don’t mind full cast audio productions, or sound effects; I just didn’t like the “aw shucks, I’m just a hick” overacting of the narrator. It reminded me of the low-budget motion rides in Las Vegas casinos, the kind with a recorded “host” who tries to engage the kids by acting over-the-top stupid.

  55. Timo Pietila says:

    Story was nice, but I really, really hated the reading. It was too fast, too much shouting, too much horrible overacting.

  56. Kara says:

    This is the first “podcast” I have listened to, and was directed to this particular one for a school assignment. I thought the reading was great. The story was better. I look forward to listening to more of these when I have time.

  57. scatterbrain says:

    Dystopian hair cutting as told by Wichita Rutherford?

    Score!