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EP098: Just Do It

By Heather Lindsley.
Read by The Word Whore (of Air Out My Shorts).
First appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2006.

“What do you see?” he asks.

I want to say a menace, but instead I tap the delivery barrel and give the context-appropriate answer. “Unused ad space.”

Suddenly he’s a schoolmaster who has finally found a bright pupil in a classroom full of dunces.

“Exactly, Ms. Monroe. Exactly. No square millimeter wasted, that’s what I say.” He leans across the table and whispers conspiratorially, “We’re looking at co-branding an AOL-Time-Warner-Starbucks Lattepaloosa Crave with a Forever Fitness session discount.”

Rated R. Contains sexual innuendo, advertising warfare, and better living through chemistry.

Comments (34)

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  1. J.D. Harper says:

    Great story this week. You could not have picked a better voice actress for the role either. Very well done.

    I find it difficult to believe that the government would really stand by and allow the chemical manipulation of its citizenry by large corporations. Unless, of course, the government was also manipulating its citizenry. You think campaign ads are bad now? Just wait until you’re hit with a Vote Cheney dart.

  2. James says:

    Ok, wow. That was scary. Definitely a Pseudopod candidate.

  3. deflective says:

    yes, great stories for the past two weeks and an especially good job matching the stories with their narrators.

  4. Simeon says:

    Hmmm. Happiness is a warm gun. Who knew?

  5. Santos says:

    Loved the story… the reader’s silky voice and superb delivery really brought this one to life for me.

  6. L33tminion says:

    Excellent story, one of Escape Pod’s best for sure.

  7. Chad says:

    Agreed, The Word Whore presented it very well.

  8. Rush says:

    Fantastic story! One of the best I’ve heard on EP. Great cyberpunkism. Loved the multi-branding and the stepford-like twist at the end was the creeps!

    Keep it comin!

  9. Paul Haring says:

    Could work for Pseudopod, but regardless the MBA student in me who is currently taking a marketing class can’t decide whether to quiver in fear or nod wildly in excitement.

  10. Jordan says:

    that was awesome

  11. Elizabeth GM says:

    I’m chiming in with the consensus here: that’s the best story I’ve heard here yet (though admittedly I’ve only gotten here recently and so have heard about 10 so far). It was beautifully written: natural dialogue, spare but powerful narration. And the narrator was pitch-perfect. Such a smart, sexy voice – perfect for the character – and beautifully practiced delivery. Please invite her back!

  12. Weasel Boy says:

    Such a great story! Beautifully written. I loved the twist at the end, didn’t see that coming. Great work Heather!!

  13. Texas R Aggie says:

    Clever. This may help explain belief in man caused global warming.

  14. Peter Tupper says:

    Excellent story, well executed. The phrase “parenting gun” is going to give me a tiny chill for some time.

  15. J. D. Harper says:

    Ooh, that’s another idea: What happens when the kid pretends to go to sleep, sneaks into his parent’s room, and steals the parenting gun? Are there trigger locks on these things?

    Also, would these things be allowed on airplanes?

  16. Unless children are finally banned from airplanes, I would insist the ‘gun’ travels with them (to be used by the poor woman with the pounding gin headache in the seat nearest the one screaming the loudest ‚Äì always me)… but that’s just my sweet maternal nature coming out ;)

  17. desert florist says:

    GREAT STORY! Well read. Suddenly those delicious smells wafting from the food courts at the malls seem even more devious.

  18. L. says:

    I <3 Heather Lindsley, already, but wow, this story was cake and the voice actress was sugary sweet, carb heavy frosting.

    Hm… rubs the lump on her own forehead

  19. Adam B says:

    It was mentioned a couple of times that several class action suits had been overruled, but not explained how or why. Could be that those B mods were used for that somehow and also to make the government allow Cravetech to do what they were doing. Just a theory.

    As for the guest intro, it was great but I feel the urge to point out that the black lodge speak was a bit more complicated than “just” playing it backwards. The really tricky part was that the actor Michael Anderson had to say the lines backwards (and walk and dance backwards too) so that when they reversed the audio and the video he sounded like he was talking “normally” but sounding really odd and appeared to be walking forwards. Hope I don’t sound too much like a know it all now.

  20. Archie says:

    Lovely voice on Heather and it worked for the story. Did the story work…erm mostly. There is no way that it would be granted legal status however why spoil a fun story with factual points!

    I’d welcome a sequal with some of the children become immune to the darts due to over use and rebelling to take over the world! A ten year old for president….or would that seem any different?! Oops sorry political joke there from a friend across the pond in the UK. No shouting please!

    Liked the story. Even if the bad guy won.

  21. Hysteria says:

    What a story! It was very cyberpunk, which I loved, but it also left me wondering what happens after. I mean, this guy, Tom, has behavioral modifications…he can pretty much rule the world if he wants to. Just release the chemicals in an aerosol form in Congress and get some new bills passed. Release them in the White House, and the bill gets signed into law. And if he wants to go for the grand effect, release the aerosol world-wide, and darned if people will be so full of love and admiration for Tom that they won’t want to do whatever he says. He wouldn’t even have to set up a castle or fortress–just let the rest of the world go on doing what it wants, only deferring to him whenever he wants.

    Of course, Tom is one of the best kind of villains–the one who doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. I’m pretty sure that he sees behavioral modification in roughly the same way Jeff Skrilling of Enron saw his claiming profits on an idea before it actually made money–if he was smart enough to come up with an idea, than it’s his right to get every possible benefit from it. I can see him shooting the heroine in about 20 years with a b-mod dart that makes her suicidal, and shooting a younger woman with a b-mod dart that inspires love.

    It’s a great commentary on marketing, whether or not you should use your ideas, and where the line is drawn between selling something and forcing it. I wonder how many CEOs have heard this story, and have instructed their marketing departments to come up with something similar.

  22. migla says:

    Wow! Excellent story! It me a bit nauseous and I felt like throwing up on a billboard. Also, it made me crave french fries, but I resisted.

  23. Gary H says:

    I listened to this story the same day I read this article about paid word of mouth advertising. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6478889.stm
    I’m afraid. Very afraid. Could it happen? Sure, why not. Our government is not above corruption, especially if someone uses a parenting gun on them.

  24. IWByte says:

    Didn’t expect to have my heart pounding at the end of this type of story! Wow – I think that the success of this story is BOTH the story and the reader – a perfect mix – keep it up!

  25. Ryan Nichols says:

    This is an outstanding story read and performed well. If I ever get roped into business ethics, I’ll consider assigning it as required reading.

    I detected a couple of false notes in the story, one of which struck me as a misplaced attempt at humor. Tacking on names of conglomerates ad nauseum as a comment about multinational-something-or-other-ism doesn’t work. People can only ‘chunk’ a short set of phonemes at a time, which is why only law firms have proper names composed of five or six proper names–and why we never remember those names.

    The second point concerns the method by which crave drugs are administered. Someone commented that there isn’t any way that administering these drugs by means of darts would pass FDA muster. Indeed, that is true, but the additional fault I find with Lindsey’s use of that method is that I wouldn’t expect a firm that is smart to administer the drugs in a way that so alienates (and pains!) their customers. For example, think about how much labor costs would run the firm if they are training and hiring snipers to shoot individual darts at individual people in order that the target buy…an order of small fries. There is absolutely no profit in that method whatsoever. The way a fast food chain makes money on contracting Crave to do this baffled me. This is a bumbling mistake that soils an otherwise wonderful story.

    Much more simple and effective would be releasing those drugs in an aerated form–quiet, inconspicuous, no training required, not subdermal so not painful and your employees can do it on the subway or street en route to work–viola!

    Last point–pardon the length–if I were CEO, I would include some kind of stimulant along with the crave drug itself. Make them happy that they’ve been ‘infected’. Even better, make them both happy that they want to go get some fries AND make them unaware that they’ve just been drugged into it. Customers fighting against themselves after being shot with a dart would not endear them to patronize that restaurant in their non-drug addled lives. Had Lindsey thought like a capitalist a bit better, the story would have been improved.

    Ryan

  26. Yicheng says:

    I enjoyed this story greatly. Just from skimming the comments, I think a lot of people have found the obvious logical flaws in the plot, as well as further social implications of being able to specifically affect consumer habits and desires. The conspiracy nut in me can easily imagine what would happen if the technology of Crave Industries were to be turned to use in the realm of politics (as are a lot of advertising tactics). Imagine competing “fire-squads” of shooters roaming voting centers on the eve of the Presidential election targeting would-be voters with crafted darts to make them favor one candidate over another. Heck, they may even have “counter-shooters” to target competing shooters with darts filled with an overwhelming desire to suddenly take a trip to another country. Or how about a lobbyist darting a Congress-person for a crucial swing-vote on the way to the capital on the morning of a crucial vote.

    Having said that, I think the author was clever to not write the story like another “Dark Future” scifi-noir. The light-hearted tone nicely complements what would have otherwise been a very disturbing topic, and makes the story more approachable and enjoyable. It’s only after we stop listening to it, that we understand how scary the story actually was.

  27. George says:

    What’s this? Not a single “hated it”?

    What happened to Spork?

  28. Scott says:

    Great story and reading Steve. Many Kudos.

    BTW, I think this belonged on Escape Pod. I don’t understand the comments that it should be on Pseudo Pod.

  29. Scott says:

    French Fries… mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  30. good fiction well read. definitely a case of ‘advertising gone wilder’. :)

  31. [...] ¬†After an introduction like that, I’d like to see you resist ‘Just do it’. [...]

  32. scatterbrain says:

    A great story that shows that capitalism, truly does, shit on us all.

  33. [...] scary… A good short Sci-Fi story comes to mind. You can listen to it for free on the excellent EscapePod.org (warning, rated R). That’s where I heard it, along with Advertising Warfare concept [...]