EP068: Depth of Field

By Stephen Dedman.
Read by Jonathon Sullivan.

One of the governor’s advisers had recommended appointing a committee of science fiction writers to investigate the saucer sightings as a way of diverting the public, and the governor had agreed. However, as none of the selection committee were SF readers, Project Birdwatch was dominated by screenwriters, writer-directors, writer-director-producers, and the occasional typecast actor. Few of them were brilliant, but they knew one side of a television camera from the other, and at least none of them had been blacklisted. The novelists and short story writers who had joined Birdwatch had soon given up in disgust. Ed had signed up for the same reasons as most of the others; the possibility of publicity, and the badly-needed fifty dollars a month. Besides, seven pretty blonde women had been abducted, and someone was responsible!

Rated R. Contains profanity, brief scenes of graphic violence, and questionable filmmaking.

Referenced sites:
Worldcon 2006: Anaheim, CA, August 23–27
Dragon*Con: Atlanta, GA, September 1–4

Comments (10)

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  1. Andy Ross says:

    A very interesting story… if for no other reason than the fact it highlights a seemingly growing problem with contempory media (movies, games, etc.) regarding risk taking & originality versus cost & technology. It was also very entertaining, even for someone whos only relevant knowledge before listening was that Plan 9 sucks. Bravo Escape Pod, once again!

  2. Bela says:

    Pretty good idea for future entertainment. It might just turn out like that.

  3. ~eriC says:

    ok i am confused, was the starlet aware she was going to be torn to shreds?


  4. Sullydog says:


  5. Simon says:

    Good story, best you’ve had in quite a few weeks… I liked the way the Ed character was developed – although I do think that story only really works if you’ve seen the Tim Burton movie, too many obscure biographical references otherwise. So to any reader who didn’t get this one, I strongly recommend the movie.

    What I really wanted to comment on was your bit about literary SF at the end. You said that the stories have to have “strong pacing and action” – Really? That’s really sad. My 3 favourite stories you’ve ever done are Shadowboxer, Craphound and Robots and Falling hearts – none of which are particularly action packed and all certainly slow paced.

    Science fiction is about hitting the reader with ideas, and viewing it as a form of escapism (I’ll never forgive William Gibson and George Lucas for their influences towards rampant escapism) really lowers the tone of the genre. “literary” science fiction always seems a bieffect of having a really good SF writer hidden beneath – Bradbury, Sturgeon, Le Guin, Keyes and while there are some writers who hang heavily on being stylists (Bradbury and Ellison are good examples) that doesn’t mean “beautiful”, it means powerful. Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle is magnificent, profound, moving and it may well have changed my life – but I’d be uncomfortable calling it beautiful…

    So please, is there any chance of having more “thinking persons SF”. Ideas are at the heart of the genre, and to me The Kings Tail and Green Thumb had about 6 original ideas between them.

  6. Kate says:

    So, the starlet has been kidnapped into a life of being slashed to death and regenerated? Not feeling it, guys — or perhaps feeling it too much.

    It’s an interesting commentary on Ed Woods’ movies, if that’s what the author intended. And an interesting commentary on what’s considered risks. Nice deal for the producers and the directors, not so great for the talent. But perhaps the author thinks that’s the way the people behind the camera think of the people in front of the camera … just objects to be used and moved around.

    I listened to this twice, and in the end I found it misogynist.

  7. Sullydog says:

    Kate, I think I know what you’re saying, but I would aver that the story isn’t misogynistic so much as it is just unexpectedly _nasty_ at the end. Ultimately, I think this is more of a horror story than an sf story, and I suppose that one could make an argument that it might have been better presented at the new sister podcast, _Pseudopod_.

    And it goes without saying that in horror, female characters all too often get, er, the, um, wrong end of the stick. So to speak. That may well be misogynistic, but if it is, then so is much of the horror genre.

    (All just my personal .02, btw. I, too, thought the story was a bit disturbing at the end…as I think it was supposed to be.)

  8. Michael Damkier says:

    Interesting. My take on the ending is this. The guy from the future said that the starlets didn’t want to return and that was their choice. I think the ending is a very cynical take on the hollywood scene that even though the actors are torn to shreds they are in a film and that is all that matters.
    My two cents anyway.

  9. Eredgedut says:


  10. scatterbrain says:

    Great black humour.

    Did the interaction of the two characters in the first half remind anybody else of Mad Bull 34?