EP076: The Dinner Game

By Stephen Eley.
Read by Maia Whitaker (of Knitwitch’s SciFi/Fantasy Zone)

“Do I know you?” she says.

“I remember you,” he says, and she smiles. It’s another game. He has been a spy fleeing his country. She has been an adulterous First Lady. They have been psychiatrist and schizophrenic; vampire and victim; two blind people speculating on the world they cannot see. They will make love as themselves when they leave the Rose for a room upstairs, and tomorrow he will finish his business and leave her city. But first they dine as other people.

Rated R. Contains sex, violence, sacrilege, and other epic necessities.

Referenced sites:
Twenty Epics (Amazon link)
Twenty Epics (PDF download)
Silent Universe

Comments (80)

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  1. Michael says:

    I loved it. Absolutely fantastic…you wrapped the fantasy with a fantasy. This one will get you entered into the monthly budget.

  2. gjk says:

    I agree that this is a little different from the usual episode; however it was still quite entertaining. Keep up the good work.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing; the story concept was executed well, and the concept of the anthology was similarly brilliant.

    A couple of times the storytelling (retelling?) of the male lead went on maybe just a hair long, but always you brought it back. I particularly liked it when he broke the game and spoke to her directly, annoying her. It gave a good break, and brought a needed emphasis on the here and now.

    I don’t see why this can’t be in the sweet spot for stories Escape Pod would run; it had the fantasy element, presented directly even if it was in a modern setting, and a nice twist that creeps into your awareness just before the reveal, like any good twist-ending should. Maybe this is more “Modern Myth” than “Magical Realism” but the former is in such short supply, I’d be quite happy to see the guidelines expanded to fit well-executed stories with this theme.

  4. jp says:

    Outstanding story!
    And the quality of the voice artist was superb! A good reader makes a tremendous difference. Thanks!

  5. Simeon Weinraub says:

    It is pretty clear to me from the title, that this is not a story about some epic fantasy love, but rather how a couple of genre fans rollplay over dinner when they get a night out away from the kids. Kinky.

  6. JClark says:

    More like “how a man and his mistress rollplay over dinner, before having sex in a hotel room, when she gets a night away from her husband (who is his business partner)”, but otherwise that’s about right.

  7. WNDRWolf says:

    Stephen Eley takes pass, dribbles down the court. He has left everyone behind him. Eley jumps up from the free throw line OMG it is a SLAM DUNK!


  8. Chris M says:

    Good, Unusual, Eley

  9. Brian says:

    Robert Heinlein suggested in one of oh his books that every story became true it it’s own alternate universe. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Heinlein but ever since then I’ve always fancied the idea that every story must be true somewhere. (It was quite hard for me to accept that M. Night Shyamalan made all of Lady in the Water up!) Perhaps even a story within a story is true somewhere. πŸ™‚

  10. Who does this guy think he is? This is the biggest pile of crap I’ve ever heard — oh, Hi, Stephen! πŸ˜‰

    Seriously, the story is pretty solid. This is a very clever way of invoking the feel of an epic — recall that most of our early epics were passed down through oral tradition. To intertwine that classic method of delivery with romantic subtext in the modern world is very inventive.

    On the negative side, I did think some of the expositive delivery by the male character did trail a little long, and, to be honest, I really don’t think this qualifies as speculative fiction, Stephen. But who cares — it was still enjoyable, and everyone has a different definition of speculative fiction. Given the choice between reading (or hearing, in this case) a solid tale and missing the chance because someone thought it didn’t fit their definition of speculative fiction, I’ll take the former.

  11. Chris Miller says:

    Masterful, Steve. Just masterful. Perhaps it’s time you put together your own short story collection on Podiobooks? πŸ™‚

  12. evilgus says:

    I actually didn’t like this one. Sorry Steve, since I know it was yours, but in my meagre opinion it was probably the weakest story told on Escape Pod for a while. It didn’t hold my attention.
    The girl was pretty good however, apart from when she said Boojolais hehe.

  13. Tim says:

    I think a story like this, with a concept like the 20 epics told in 10,000 words or less, was written and told as well as it could have been.
    Guess that’s the problem I had with the story, it was all “telling” and that breaks the first rule of writing a story, show, don’t tell.
    I will agree Epics aren’t what they used to be. The Wheel of Time series comes to mind where as it’s epic, but is it interesting? That’s what made Lord of the Rings, the Cold Fire Trilogy, and The Rama series stand out great epics to me. They came to an end yet we still got the thrill of it being epic.
    Very nice try Steve, but I think the idea itself is too much of a handicap to overcome, IMHO of course.

  14. Thorpie says:

    And I thought I would have gotten near the first post for this. Shows how much devotion your reader… erm listeners… have. Anyways this is the first story that has movied me to comment (and donate), and it was FANTASTIC! Unbelieveably fantastic (gave me chills)! Give yourself a gold star and make sure you spend your story pay on something really really nice.

  15. Eli, why have you stopped announcing the rating of the story at the beginning of the podcasts? I haven’t yet listened all the way through this story, but I noticed two R rated stories in a row without the ratings announcement. Why have you stopped? I think that this was a good and necessary feature, and made the podcast better.

  16. Spork says:

    This was a steaming pile of monkey shit. You’ve not only run better, but you yourself have written better.

    You actually got this crap accepted and run in a published book? It bored the ever-lovin’ shit out of me. I nearly got into an accident on the ride home from the office from falling asleep at the wheel. This was boring, dull, tedious, mind-numbing.

    Please don’t run any more of your own fiction unless you run it past at least twleve people, and at elast half of those haven’t submitted stories to you in the past. This completely sucked, and not in that porno-is-fun sort of way.

  17. slic says:

    I enjoyed the story, though I think it would have ended better at “Many years are an instant to me,” she says. He presses her closer. “Then we have a little time.”
    Like the movie Artificial Intelligence, the story went past the ending.

    Spork, as a writer myself, I know not everyone will like my stories. I also appreciate constructive criticism. What you wrote was useless, profane invective. Next time make the effort to tell the writer what you specifically didn’t like about the story.

  18. Spork says:

    slic, how much more infomative does a response need to be when it consists of “bored the ever-lovin’ shit out of me.”

    The rest of my commentary is just value-added…

    Here’s the really funny thing about putting your work out there for other people to consume. Sometimes, people will tell you exactly what they think of your work. I’m under no obligation to be nice about it. None. I’m nice about the things I like, not about shit like this story.

  19. PragmaticallyWyrd says:

    This story was totally awesome. I loved it, not just because it was every bit the short-read epic it was billed as, but also because it was a very good example of a free form role playing game session.

    Play this episode to people that need help understanding that RPGs can be much more than DnD.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  20. yak sox says:

    Wow, I’m a tad surprised to see a couple of critical comments here — the problem I find with the commenting dynamic here is that it’s overwhelmingly gushing, and that if I have anything critical to say it’ll get hounded down.

    Sorry, but this story bored me. Dialog based things are difficult to make interesting unless they’re acted, (…and even then).

    Please bring back those superhero stories.

    Plus, am I the only one who actually listens to the podcast on an iPod? The narrator’s “s” sounds were piercing my eardrums. It sounded better when she was doing the male (deeper) voice — perhaps this person’s next narration could be done in an FM jock’s tone of voice – ehehe.

  21. Thorpie says:

    Hey, I just want to say my bit and be done. As you see above I liked the work. But I honestly mind if you did or didn’t. BUT I DO I think that negative feedback is more constructive, so creating a open environment to express to be able to say what you think is important.
    With that said, Yak Sox you did well. The more people that step forward and give their thoughts the better the work will get. On the same note though Spork, you seem to have gone way too far. You didn’t like the story, thanks for saying so, now please move on.
    So I ask anyone else who is commenting, please keep this friendly, especially when youβ€šΓ„Γ΄re tearing the work apart.

  22. Spork says:

    (Comment deleted. You can say what you like about the work, but insulting other listeners is out of bounds. — Steve)

  23. Pilitus says:

    Steve, it was a very cool story. You’re right, it has a lot less action then your standard escape pod story, but it works. If there were more markets in spoken fiction it might not be appropriate to run here, but since Escape Artists is currently the biggest player in this field, you should feel free to try and branch out with your stories, if nothing else to try and find the right stride and potential directions for new projects. (Like you need more magazines, I know.)

  24. Am I the only one who’s having trouble downloading this story? My podcatcher (Juice) stalls at 100% without finalizing the download. If I try to download the MP3 directly off the website (tried both IE and Firefox) the download also stalls right at the end and never finishes. πŸ™

  25. Spork says:

    Insulting other posters? I did no such thing. But, fair play, Stevie. I comment about the site/stories. I don’t comment about other posters, unless they comment about me.

    You run boring shit like this, and I call you on it. I don’t invite a discussion from your cult members, but as soon as they bring it, I respond. Period.

  26. Jeff S says:

    I didn’t really care for this story. I will say that it was interesting, but lacking action, was also quite boring. I think, for me, it’s the type of story. I grew up reading mostly Heinlein (a very narrow view, I know) so I’m into a little more action and a little more space.

    That said, can we get a sci-fi story in space, Steve? Something with a space uhh…dude or space wars? Please?

  27. Lar says:

    I take full responsibility for this. Murphy heard me comment last week about the high-class discussion in this blog. This had to be the result of such a comment.

    I apologize.

  28. elision says:


    I’d say that this story was absolutely within the realm of SF, but then I might be biased by the fact that I came to SF originally via classical mythology and this was mythic down to its bones. (Regardless of where the truth of the narrator’s identity lay.)

    Unlike some other commenters, I didn’t mind the talking-heads approach to the story, either — there was enough action contained in the dialogue that the story sucked me in.

    From a performative standpoint, I wonder if primarily dialogue-based stories might not present better with multiple readers? I’m sure EP has run some of each, and it might be interesting to head back into the archives to see which ones hold up better.

  29. slic says:

    Spork:”slic, how much more infomative does a response need to be…”?
    Much more. Explain what bored you. The dialogue? The setting? The fact there was a woman? If you want better stories then detail what you like and don’t like about the story. Or give examples of stories you have enjoyed.

    About elision’s comment on multi-readers. I prefer one reader, I like someone telling me a story more than hearing a kind of radio play.

  30. JRDeRego says:

    I never thought I’d like a discussion thread about a story more than the actual story itself. While I did enjoy The Dinner Game, I’ve had more than my share of chuckles reading the vitriol in the thread here.

    The mark of an effective story, in my mind, is its ability to elicit both glowing praise or ruthless virtual spittle flecked diatribes of hatred.

    Thus, The Dinner Game was certainly effective.

    As for the multi voice approach, I LOVE IT. I love the idea of hearing these as more of a radio play. It would make it easier on the writer too, if there was some play-type submissions format for stories that fall into this “almost a radio play” style.

  31. HappyHippy says:

    Steve – fantastic.

    I’ve been listening to the show for a good while now and this was one of very few I’ve immediately wanted to listen to again.

    Publishing yourself on here must take some guts and I’m sure you’ve wondered if you’ve made a mistake more than once. At first I must admit I was concerned that it might be a bit self-indulgent, but the story had me hooked very quickly and unfolded in a way that left me completely absorbed.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this *was* speculative fiction (what other genre could it possibly fit into?) and that it was undoubtedly worthwhile.

    Not everyone loves Asimov, or Bova, Clarke, Niven, Banks, etc. Even those who do don’t love every story. I haven’t loved every story I’ve heard on here (although I’ve liked most of them) but this one definitely worked for me.

    I don’t want to be overly ‘gushing’ or join your ‘cult’, but credit where credit’s due. Keep up the good work.

  32. JClark says:

    The difference between Spork’s and yak sox’s comments was largely the difference between being honest about your opinion, and being negative for the sake of it.

    Hiding behind “I was just being honest” doesn’t cut it. You can be honest without being insulting, even when you’re being negative.

    I thought this was an interesting story, though it’s hardly my favorite. I do think it was a touch wordy in places, and the ending should have been cut just a touch shorter, as another poster mentioned.

    Overall though, I enjoyed the atmosphere, and generally the whole concept of this piece. Something different is great every once in a while (though, honestly, too many stories of this type would get old fast).

  33. Hippy, it’s not speculative fiction because it is nothing more than a conversation between two erstwhile lovers, good though it might be. (Sorry Stephen — have to call it like I see it).

    Look at this way: If the man in the story had been weaving a tale about his supposed-days wooing her while on the open range in the 1860’s, we wouldn’t call this Western Fiction, would we? Nor would we call it political drama if he brought up the supposed-time he bagged her in the oval office, blue dress and all.

  34. Chris says:

    Okay, let’s see…

    Is this sci-fi? Not really, no. Is it speculative? I’ll give it that.

    None of that really matters, though. It was a great story about a great romance that may or may not have taken place across other universes, other times. It strikes me a bit as true geek love. What self-respecting geek hasn’t wanted to be a goddess or hero or something similar?

    The ending was a little weak, though. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it was supposed to blur the lines between reality and fantasy a bit more. I think it could have been done a bit more succinctly, but that’s just my opinion.

    However, this doesn’t detract from the fact that it was a great, GREAT read, and one that is inspiring me to go out and pick up 20 epics, as well as any other stories Steve Eley might have authored.

  35. Chris says:

    You know, I should also mention that I think running it by the two other editors was a very good idea. It’s very tricky to objectively decide if your work is up to the standards you think it is. So kudos to you on that score, too.

  36. J Clark says:

    Sure, it was just a conversation, but it was a detailed conversation about an epic and fantastic battle in a magical past. So who else would run a story like this?

    It’s not straight fiction, since it is a story about mythic battles and god, even if that story is framed as a conversation. I figure that if a straight fiction venue won’t take it, then it must be speculative fiction, if only because it’s something odd, or experimental, or out there and who else is going to run it?

    At least, that’s my thought on the subject.

  37. J Clark says:

    And to add, that story about the wild west would probably be considered a wild west story. I mean, who would enjoy reading it, a fan of straight drama or a fan of wild west stories? Similarly, would someone who isn’t a fan of fantasy enjoy this story?

  38. Colin F says:

    Spork – it’s OK to be critical, but try to remain civil. You’ll win no friends here with your style of commenting.

    Personally, I enjoyed the story. In fact whan I got to the end I felt I needed to listen again to catch some of the nuances I’d missed.

    In fact, after a slightly patchy period I felt that the last 4 episodes of Escape Pod have been extremely solid. Kind of reminds me of when I first discover the ‘Pod and listened in every spare moment to catch up on the backlog of episodes.

    I can understand why you choose to run your own work past others for approval, but on the evidence I’ve seen (heard) so far I’d be more than happy to see a few more Steve Eley originals!

  39. George says:

    (I love when people use honesty as an excuse for rudeness.)

    Steve — good story. I *didn’t* like that it was one long scene with two people talking. After the first few minutes, the story drew me in. I enjoyed it quite thoroughly. I could make lots of workshop-type complaints but I think any criticism I can offer is trumped by the simple fact that this story works, and works well.

    This story definitely benefited from the professional reader (yak sox – maybe you need to upgrade your headset?)

    It’s brave to run your own story in such a venue where:
    1. you’re the editor, and could abuse the system if you wanted to, and
    2. where your listeners will go to your website and tell you *exactly* what they think of it.

  40. Mike Resnick says:

    Spork, I read your comments with interest. I see you also loathed the Kress and Turtledove stories. (In fact, I’m a little hurt that you had nothing terrible to say about mine.)

    I have a suggestion. If these podcasts offend you so much, there is a simple solution: write to Stephen Eley and ask for your money back.

  41. Some of these comments bring up an interesting and old maxium in writing, Showing vs. Telling.

    Though most people say that Showing beats Telling every time, I’m afraid that I have to differ in opinion, and I believe that this story is excellent evidence for my point.

    Though Showing is a stronger method for conveying feeling, Telling can be a powerful tool in adding mood and making a point with swift clarity. The only trouble is, it’s more difficult to use Telling in a masterful way.

    In this story I believe that Stephen Eley used both Showing and Telling to bring his story to life and in my opinion, he did this well.

    Often, Telling is to shallow, but sometimes Showing is gilding the lilly, it takes skill to know the difference.

  42. Tim says:

    I have to disagree with you J.R. (respectfully, of course.) I do agree telling is sometimes better than showing, the little telling you do in a story the better the story is. While listening to this and hearing about hordes of armies fighting, forgotten romance, and other stuff I was frustrated because I thought, “Man, I would love to see that develop page by page, book by book.”
    This kind of story and this kind of format was just too limiting, I felt Steve had to come up with a gimmick ending to justify the story mechanics and because of that I felt cheated. (Not Steve’s fault, but the fault of the premise, an epic in less than 10,000 words.)
    Now, I could be wrong, this is the only story I’ve heard in the twenty epics book. Maybe some other writer found a way to show a wonderful epic story in 10,000 words and, if they did, I’d love to read it!

  43. I think that alot of these “telling vs. showing” arguments miss what Steve was doing. By creating a new mythology and then having it spoken, Steve succeeded in not just writing an epic. but also a commetary on the oral tradition and its power. The couple are role-players, but they are also bards. folklorists, actors, playing out the same story over an over, just as poor, blind Homer did centuries ago. It’s not just that Steve chose to do telling over showing, he HAD to. The story is a about telling, about the stories and lies we tell each other, even to the ones we love.

    There was a great deal going on in this story, so much that the mythological struggle of a hero and an imprisoned goddess pales before the ordinary people who live the tale.

  44. I also want to add on the strength of this story, I’m going to buy “20 Epics.”

    Good job, Mr. Eley.

  45. Gary H says:

    Congratulations Steve! Your story has inspired many more comments than other recent stories. If you read this far into the comments, not only am I impressed with your writing, but also your perseverance.Good, bad, or otherwise, you’ve motivated a lot of people to comment. There’s something to be said for that. This was a slight departure from the normal stuff, but sometimes change is good, and refreshing.
    I have no problem with you running your own work, especially since it has already been published, so it has a stamp of approval from someone outside the escapepod family.
    Just keep running compelling stories and this podcast will continue to be successful.

  46. Joseph M says:

    Neil Gaiman . . . that is who this story brings to mind. Gods existing in modern settings. Mind you I like Neil Gaiman’s work so this is a good thing. I enjoyed the story and the presentation.

    Now, I’m off to amazon.com to find that 20 epics book.

  47. I can’t help but think that either I’m the only one who saw the reversal that the stry he was telling had in fact been reality (and that at the end of the story, he left for his next plane of existence and she would be there when he was ready to find her), or I saw something that wasn’t there. My own heightened sense of self-esteem leads me to believe that a lot of people saying this is just a scene with two people talking didn’t “get it”.

  48. JClark says:

    I’d had that thought as well (and I believe some of the earlier comments indicate that they felt that as well), but I think it’s simply a matter of interpretation. The story of this man chasing a goddess through different incarnations, of finding her over and over again but not being able to claim her parallels the story of two illicit lovers, who meet and roleplay different scenarios over and over again before parting.

    I think that’s part of the point f the way it’s written. You can make a case for the story being real, or for being just a story.

    And actually, after listening to the ending again, I’ll take back my comment about it going on a bit too long, I like the way it ends.

  49. Art Carnage says:

    The good: I liked the way the audio was subtly manipulated (post production?) to differentiate between the narration in the “real” world, and the “story” world. Nicely done.

    The bad: Sorry, but it’s the story. It was about as interesting as listening to two people taking turns reading from the Cliffs Notes version of an obscure 17th century novel that you have absolutely no interest in. Pieces like this are why I’ve stopped listening to NPR’s “Selected Shorts”. It comes off more as a writing exercise, rather than an attempt to convey ideas and/or stories.

  50. omar reyes says:

    outstanding work. Normally I can’t stand epics, but this was short enough, and interesting enough, that it kept my attention the whole time.

  51. Spork says:

    Hey, Resnick.

    If you serve a bowl of soup with a turd floating in it in a soup kitchen, does the hobo not have the right to complain a little? I suppose you’d just tell him to go ask for his money back, huh?

    Free has nothing to do with my right to bitch and moan about it. Just as it has nothing to do with my expectations of quality. I expect quality, and usually get it from here. When I don’t, I pipe up to try and get things back on track.

  52. Chris Lester says:

    Hey Steve! For my money — and unlike some people who comment here, I AM paying for this podcast πŸ™‚ — this story was entirely worthy of being included in Escape Pod. Yes, it broke the Show-don’t-Tell rule so thoroughly that creative writing professors in the Andromeda Galaxy are still recovering the pieces, but it’s a MYTH. Myths are made for skalds and tribal elders to share with their people around the campfire, and they very rarely contain the sort of dialogue and action that you would expect in a modern novel. To me, this story evoked that same sense of classical storytelling. I wouldn’t want every story to be like this, but it was a nice change of pace, and I think it was the only way to really present a story of this magnitude in such a short amount of time.

    I do have to agree with the other Chris (comment 34) when he says that the ending was a bit weak. I was hoping for something that would hint that these people really might be a pair of eternally star-crossed lovers, and not just an adulterous couple sharing a spicy bit of role-playing. I didn’t really get that sense from the ending as it stands — it seemed to fall back into the world of the mundane, which was a bit of a let-down after the epic tone of the rest of the story. That said, though, I still enjoyed it, and I look forward to the next time you run one of your stories.

  53. ApocD says:

    I never thought I’d agree with anyone named Spork or Art Carnage, but I have to say I didn’t care for this story at all. I thought there would be listener backlash on this one, so I’m surprised to see that most of the comments here are positive.

    I first started to worry about Escape Pod when Steve started running Sigler and Lafferty stories. It seemed too in-house for me. Then, when he ran his own story for the first time, I almost unsubscribed. I thought about it, though, and decided that with all of the work he puts into the show and all of the entertainment I’ve gotten from it, I should give him a break. Now, I’m ready to unsubscribe again. I know no one’s forcing me to listen, but it’s hard to unsubscribe. I like Steve’s commentary and most of the stories. It’s just hard for me to respect an editor who runs his own stories; I thought Steve was better than that. OK, that’s enough moaning. (from me, at least)

  54. Chris Lester says:

    In fairness to Steve, ApocD, he’s only run two of his stories out of 76 episodes, and he asked other people to make the call on whether they should be included. As far as running Sigler and Lafferty stories — well, you can say what you want, but it has probably brought Escape Pod a lot of new listeners who otherwise might not have found it. I know that I only gave it a try because of Mur’s “I Look Forward To Remembering You”, which she mentioned on I Should Be Writing and Geek Fu Action Grip.

    I don’t see how anyone could claim favoritism here. Yes, Escape Pod has run a few stories by Steve’s friends and associates in the podcasting community. So what? It’s also featured stories from Hugo Award winners, bestselling authors, and unknowns who are getting their work published for the first time anywhere. It’s a good mix, and I for one enjoy it.

  55. Nick DeLong says:

    I am very impressed by this story. It, like some of my favorite short stories by Asimov and others, accomplishes a lot in a small space.

    If this is what is in store in other “Twentty Epics” stories, I’ll definately check it out.

  56. slic says:

    Spork:”Free has nothing to do with my right to bitch and moan about it.”
    You’re right. But the point being made by everyone who has commented on your input is about the civility of it. The bum with the turd is still a jackass if he throws his soup in the face of the guy serving it.

  57. ApocD says:

    I’m sure Scott Sigler’s stories brought in a ton of listeners, too. I just hope stories are being chosen for their quality and not for the number of listeners they’ll bring in. (full disclosure: I liked Hero)

    This is a podcast, so I understand that Steve can do whatever he wants. I don’t want Escape Pod to just be another podcast, though; there are already plenty of those. I’d like to see Escape Pod up there with the top SF markets,and I don’t think that will happen if he runs his own stories. If I saw a copy of F&SF at the bookstore with a Gordon Van Gelder story in it, I would know the end had some for the magazine.

    Escape Pod is Steve’s, so he’s free to take it in whichever direction he likes. It just doesn’t seem to be going in the direction I once thought it would.

  58. L33tminion says:

    I enjoyed the story. I found the ending incredibly sad, for some reason. I’m not quite sure why.

  59. JClark says:

    Spork said: “If you serve a bowl of soup with a turd floating in it in a soup kitchen, does the hobo not have the right to complain a little?”

    Certainly, but that’s a really bad analogy. Soup with a turd in it isn’t edible, it would be gross and dangerous to eat, and maybe one in (I hope) many thousands of people would even attempt it. Besides, even soup kitchens have to meet sanitation and health requirements or be shut down. That makes it a false analogy, just one of many types of logical fallacies I’m sure you hold near and dear.

    A better analogy would be a hobo going to a soup kitchen and getting tomato soup when he wanted chicken noodle. Most everyone there is happy with it (as most everyone is happy with this story, don’t assume your opinions are universal facts, especially when looking at a long page of mostly contradictory evidence), but this one hobo doesn’t like tomato soup. Would he have the right to complain then?

    The answer is no, he wouldn’t. He’s being offered free food, the soup kitchen operators did their best to please everyone, and most everyone is pleased. They don’t deserve to be screamed at by the one guy who seems to think they should consult with him before every meal.

    Your analogy would be like me bitching about a car my mother gave me – that worked fine but I didn’t like – by saying “if someone offered you shoes then nailed boards to your feet, even if he did it for free, you’d complain wouldn’t you?” Of course, but that’s a terrible analogy, and exactly what you were doing.

    By the way, I’ve taken the trouble of coming up with a catch phrase for you, which you can have for free (though you’ll probably compare it to me pissing on you or something, seriously dude, get that scatological obsession checked out before it’s too late):

    “Spork: If I can’t work in the word ‘shit’ at least once per post, it’s just not worth my time.”

  60. Spork says:

    (Comment deleted. That’s strike two. Insult your fellow listeners a third time, and you’ll be banned. –Steve)

  61. Emma says:

    Spork, where is all this anger coming from? It must get tiring lashing out at people you dont know on the internet!

    Anyhow, just wanted to say that I enjoyed this story. I dont always like the stories on Escape Pod, but the way I figure it is that if I buy a monthly magazine and it has four stories in it, then I might only like two or three. And I think its cool when a story like this comes along and I enjoy it, because left to my own devices I would prefer to read hard science fiction. So thanks Escape Pod, for moving me out of my comfort zone and bringing me so much great fiction.

  62. Michael says:

    Steve — This is the first story from Escape Pod that I can say truly made me work to listen to it. It was mentally draining, and while it was passable, it didn’t digest very well.

    Could have been my mindset (I had hand surgery this morning, so I’ve been grouchy the past week, much to my wife’s chagrin = and, yes, one handed typing is a pain, but the drugs are at least decent), but something just didn’t feel right about it.

    The characterizations were good, the motivations seemed right, but something was just a bit “off”.

  63. Spork says:

    That’s nice Stevie. I come on here, comment about the story, other commenters come at me, and make it about me, and you hold me accountable where you let them off the hook.

    My comment stands. If you don’t like my comments, don’t read them.

  64. SFEley says:

    There’s nothing wrong with responding to other comments, Spork. There’s nothing wrong with dialogue.

    The reason I’m deleting your comments and no one else’s is because no one else is directing profanity at other people. Stop calling people names, and we’ll get along fine.

  65. Spork says:

    Shit, there you go again, being all fucking reasonable-like.

  66. […] This week on Retrieval Detachment: Flash Fiction – How Word Count And Story Size Need Not Matter. We discuss the Wired article “Very Short Stories”, and the Escape Pod episode “The Dinner Game” by Stephen Eley. […]

  67. Kaylea says:

    I thought the concept was interesting, original, and worthwhile, but it might have benefitted from more production — two voices might have kept the ‘oof, this is a lot of telling rather than showing’ sentiment to a minimum.

    If I had been reading this from the page, I probably would have created (in my head) more distinct voices for the two characters and felt less “told to” because of it.

    Also, maybe a filter on the audio would have been helpful? I am by no means an audio expert here, and I have enjoyed Knitwitch’s reading in the past, but for some reason this time there was a whistling noise with all of the ‘s’ sounds, which distracted me πŸ™ like fingernails on chalkboards. Audio quality on EP is usually high, but those darn sibilants tripped you up this time. (Ooh, I used a fancy word!)

    I just doublechecked the submission guidelines, and they do explicitly say that “fantasy” falls into the scope of the podcast — maybe some of the folks who are critical of the selection are expecting more “hard core” sci-fi? Perhaps some listener expectation management is in order?

    Eh, random musings.


  68. DanielD says:

    Although this is one of my favorite Podcasts… this particular story, although somewhat interesting, just didn’t seem to fit the context.

    It wasnβ€šΓ„Γ΄t disagreeable, I just can not seem to come up with any words to describe what I did or did not like about it. This is probably my biggest complaint.

    Maybe I didn’t pay enough for it… I’ll make a donation and see if it helps.

  69. Gary H says:

    Regarding Steve podcasting his own work:
    1. It’s his podcast.
    2. The work was previously published.

    Out of 76 episodes, it wasn’t my favorite and it wasn’t my least favorite, but will one episode make me stop listening? No. Thank Steve for his hard work, don’t insult him or other listener. I don’t donate near enough for the value I get out this podcast.

  70. Martha Holloway says:

    It was a solid story although it left me a little dissatisfied. I never was quite sucked into the ancient warrior/scholar pursuing his beloved and hated night goddess lover aspect though. I think it had to do with certain modern phrasings in the way he told his story even as the setting was becoming more and more timeless–time seeming to pass without notice (suddenly empty dishes removed from the table), the two lovers alone in that place (the restaurant growing darker and emptier, the sound of other diners muted and more distant). The scene returns to the mundane as they leave, with the restaurant peopled and lighted as it was at the beginning of the dinner. The mythic evaporating into the quotidian.

    Of course, it would take either a supremely confident goddess, a lover too well versed in role playing, or a supremely oblivious woman to be unconcerned about a man who confesses that he has sworn to kill her and who simply goes off to bed with him. There, that’s it–Goddesses who have had their secrets revealed are more fickle, more dangerous. The woman does not seem dangerous enough or deceptive enough in the modern scene to be the deadly, cruel, deceptive goddess of night depicted in the man’s story.

    Oh, and KnitWitch did a fine reading. I also heard some sibilance in the recording that detracted from the story and I listened to the story on the drive home on an iPod transmitter and my car speakers.

    The pronunciation of “Boojolais” did not bother me as much as the wine later being referred to as a Burgundy. Nononono, Steve, Beaujolais wine is produced from Gamay Noir grapes “The flavors are of wild, red fruits such as red currants and fraises des bois, with suggestions of something darker like mulberries or raspberries” [www.burgundywinecompany.com] and it is a light, drinkable wine. Burgundy wine is usually made from Pinot Noir whose “aroma is often one of the most complex of all varietals and can be intense with a ripe-grape or black cherry aroma, frequently accented by a pronounced spiciness that suggests cinnamon, sassafras, or mint….It is full-bodied and rich but not heavy, high in alcohol, yet neither acidic nor tannic, with substantial flavor despite its delicacy.” [www.winepros.org] In other words, although the Beaujolais district is considered geographically part of the Burgundy wine region, Beaujolais wine is distinct from classic Burgundy wine and you really shouldn’t call them by each other’s name.

    Looking forward as always to next week’s episode.

  71. Martha Holloway says:

    Damn, it stripped out my fake HTML code poking fun at my own pedantry! Read all that wine snob hoo hah as tongue in cheek, please!

  72. mike el says:

    wow steve i want to thank you for this story, this is the reason that i listen to escape pod, to be taken away by a stoy. to allow the writer to show you a door in your own thoughts, real or otherwise, that you can peek out of this world and into another. it was a story that i listened to 4 or 5 times and still enjoy

  73. Winsmith says:

    Astounding and truly Epic!

  74. Bob says:

    Nice story. Not something I would have chosen from a list of stories but it grew on me.

    I liked the way you leave it up to the listener to decide whether it is just a kinky dinner game or the culmination of an epic.

  75. Susan says:

    I loved your story. It was open enought to allow each hearer to bring their own experience to colour the tale. In my case it brought flooding back memories of a similar game played with an ex boyfriend. the ending also was open which was great.
    Sorry to take so long to show my appreciation but I have to wait for a friend to download the podcasts for me and pass them on. No money changes hands just a lot of gratitude.

  76. Chuck LeDuc says:

    I didn’t like it: I found it boring, and eventually it put me to sleep, a first for Escape Pod. It was high on pretense but absent of suspense. I felt like I was reading Cliffs Notes for a series in which Piers Anthony channels H.P. Lovecraft. It takes courage to put up your own work, Steve — in this case it didn’t pay off — so keep trying.

  77. Martin says:

    Hi, I’m a big fan of Escape Pod. Your pod casts keep me sane…ish at work.

    I have never felt compelled to leave a message, but this is the best story I have heard on Escape Pod! Great stuff! Keep up the good work!

  78. scatterbrain says:

    Is it me, or is there too much shagging and obnoxious goddertry in legends and myths?

  79. TerminusVox says:

    I liked this story. I liked it so much I dug through the discussion boards until I could find this thread and comment on it. Good work Steve!