EP107: Eight Episodes

2007 Hugo Nominee!

By Robert Reed.
Read by MarBelle (of Director’s Notes).
First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2006.

Eighteen months later, the fledging Web network declared bankruptcy, and a small consortium acquired its assets, including Invasion of a Small World. Eager to recoup their investment, the new owners offered all eight episodes as a quick-and-dirty DVD package. When sales proved somewhat better than predicted, a new version was cobbled together, helped along by a genuine ad budget. The strongest initial sales came from the tiny pool of determined fans—young and well educated, with little preference for nationality or gender. But the scientists in several fields, astronomy and paleontology included, were the ones who created a genuine buzz that eventually put Invasion into the public eye.

Rated PG. Contains some suggestive imagery, references to infidelity, and not very good television.

Referenced Sites:
World Science Fiction Society
Steve’s LiveJournal

Comments (31)

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  1. MikeK says:

    Interesting story. It was nice to see some classic space-oriented SF slipped into an otherwise more (post)modern story. Initially the level of abstraction didn’t really work for me. I actually found myself thinking I would’ve enjoyed the straight-up “Invasion” story more than the Wikipediafied (can I coin a new word here?) retelling Mr. Reed produced. Once I saw where things were headed, I changed my mind, but I still found myself wondering what such cleverness robs from a story. A sense of wonder and amazement was the first thing that came to mind. A story of ambiguous alien contact via a crummy TV series told through a dry article seems less viscerally appealing than a story about the actual alien contact as it occurs, even if it happens via a crummy TV show. Maybe I’m not being fair; I might dismiss this hypothetical story as amateurish, if I even read it at all. I generally like experimental storytelling and even dry articles, but something about this story made me ponder the idea that clever style sometimes hinders a good story more than it helps. Despite the questions the story raised for me, though, I really enjoyed it. Thanks!

  2. mjn9 says:

    I enjoyed this story. Wasn’t there an old Twilight Zone or something about a tiny little alien invasion?

    You’ve introduced me to podcasts and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every story I’ve listened to. These are GREAT for my dreadful Atlanta commute! Thanks for this great site!

  3. mjn9 says:

    PS- I just sent you a$60 check because I’ll be listening to a lot of these and I’m not sure I trust PayPal….

  4. bmfrosty says:

    There was a small reminder of a Douglas Adams quote:

    “Due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, the entire battle fleet was swallowed by a small dog.”

    But it did read like a Wikipedia entry. Neat idea, but the flow just didn’t click. Maybe it would have worked better in HTML.

  5. L33tminion says:

    I thought this was a fabulous story. I really enjoyed structure of the story, but I’m a big fan of that sort of multi-layered abstraction.

  6. Omar says:

    I loved this story, mainly because I It reminded me of my infernal hatered for Networks that like to cancel my favorite shows ( are you listening fox?) I’ve also be thinking about diversity in the SF world. As a hispanic american, who is also an evangelical, I notice how few people like me there are in this world of yours. I asked my friends at church what they thought of Sci Fi, and they answered, “well, we like Lord Of The Rings.” I wonder If its that sci fi has become like a gentlemens club, with very limited membership to only the people who know the secret handshake, or are we (hispanics evangelicals, blacks, ect.) to caught up in the present to care what the future might look like.

  7. Ilahdus says:

    This was the best for a while! Not quite sure why, but I just did not have my thoughts wandering off while listening — as it is very often the case. Of course it was partly because the story was easy to follow (I have English as a third language, which might add to that effect), but I also did like the story.

    In general, I dislike too detailed stories, especially if the details seem forced and unreal. This one just flowed naturally. Definitely saved my (otherwise lousy) morning!

  8. Loz says:

    I’m one of those who found the one step back approach a handicap to enjoying the story, I don’t know whether MarBelle’s deadpan delivery was also a factor (although I liked that story he read a few months ago) but it just came across as a story that neither the author or the reader was that interested in telling me. I’m surprised this is a nominee for an award, even though I don’t particularly follow the sci-fi industry or the Hugos.

  9. kaufman says:

    I was disappointed to hear that the long-living mother ship spent billions of years waiting to produce the equivalent of Odyssey 5, when it would’ve been more effective to at least shoot for a Firefly.

  10. Scooter says:

    Enjoyed this very much, but is it really appropriate to rate this ‘G’? Nothing is really stated explicitly, but there’s the a pretty strong implication of sexual content.

  11. santana says:

    I cannot stand this reader. Every sentence has the same singsong pattern. When I heard his voice start reading this story, I turned it off immediately because I knew my teeth would be on edge within a minute.

  12. I liked this one. The po-mo uncertainty of the TV show’s “ontological status” was neat. I hate po-mo academe, but I like it in fiction every once in a while.

    Didn’t quite understand where the three young bright suicides fit into the plot.

  13. Jack says:

    I disagree with mot people on most counts. I enjoyed the story, I liked the narrative device employed and I thought the reader was pitch perfect.
    It reminded me of the first short in the Animatrix, with the soft vox computery voiceover.
    I thought the premise was novel and can see why this was nominated for a Hugo, it seemed current enough to seem like a fresh take on existing themes. In that sense, telling it from an omniscient remove kept it from being “another contact story” or “another little alien story”. Aiding that was the loose end like the scientists and such that I think are details that keep the “omniscient remove”, there would be a lot of loose ends and dead end tangents in a simple encyclopedia entry for the Kennedy assassination, don’t you think?

    I liked the narrators inflection, I think it fit perfectly with the assignment, apart from a few quotes from the show it’s not like she’s acting or given the opportunity to emote, it’ not the piece for that, in fact her kind of cool, but slightly ‘just wait, there’s more’ delivery was a perfect match for the story, good ear, Steve!

    This kind of What-Ifery makes for some of my favorite SF, a break from real-time or firt person adds to the variety and diversity of the podcast, don’t you find?

  14. Icepick says:

    As with many SF stories, I found I liked it more at then end than in the middle. While I thought I knew where it might be going, I found that I was far more enchanted with the idea than the telling of the tale.

    I thought the narrative device was clever.

  15. mikec says:

    It was a great story but I have to agree that the narration worked against it. There is deadpan delivery and then there is simply dead delivery. It reminded me of being back in high school when the English teacher forced people to take turns reading aloud… what a disservice to the writer! But in the end I’m glad I kept listening.

  16. It was possibly the fist time I “read” a Robert Reed story through to the end – I know it’s a good author with interesting, thought-provocking ideas, but somehow his style doesn’t do it for me, and I’ve tried several times, and will keep on trying. So thank you for providing this opportunity 🙂

    The story is engaging, and the option of presenting it as an article was a very good one. The worst part came near the end (spoiler warning!), when Reed suggests that the series misterious authors might have been the aliens themselves – a bit too obvious. He should have left it at that, would have made for a greater effect, and he didn’t have to try and explain everything…

    Anyway, Steven, your podcast is getting better every issue – the stories, the narrations, etc. I hope you keep it up. It’s something I always look forward to hear about… 🙂

    All the best.

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  18. PopePat says:

    I am a fan of this reader (he won me over with his rendition of the thinking-talking starship trooper helmet several podcasts back) and a fan of this story. A refreshing difference in point of view helped keep this from being just another staid invasion story. At every turn I was cognizant (in the back of my mind) of the story’s continual efforts to leave things up to interpretation. Sometimes I hate that when done badly, but this was done well.

  19. artm » Qotd says:

    […] Robert Reed, Eight Episodes […]

  20. Dave (aka Nev the Deranged) says:

    This story had a sort of suspense for me, not because I wasn’t sure what would happen (I figured out the gimmick almost immediately), but because I wanted to see how the author would get there. Ultimately, it wasn’t a standout, but it wasn’t bad either.

    I, too, remember the story about the helmet-AI that was a poet and a patriot… that one was awesome.

  21. jweldin says:

    I agree with santana. This reader difficult to take. It seems like to much mental work to listen to him tell the story. His accent and tone make it very hard for me to “just hear” the story. After three attempts to get through the story without drifting off into my own thoughts, I gave up.

  22. jweldin says:

    … and yes, I meant “This reader is difficult” and “too much mental…” not “to much mental…”

    I should probably read my own post before pressing submit next time. Sorry.

  23. paul griffin says:

    ooh a review,
    I really enjoyed this episode, one you got past the reading off it (as someone said like a entry on wikipedia) and it made me want to to cancel the thing itself at first but I’m glad that i did not.
    Thanks for podcasting all these hugo nominated stuff, its excellent.

  24. rubso says:

    Being a fan of short SF and an occasional Triology reader, I was surprised not to have heard of Mr. Reed until today when I finally got to listen to this one.
    This to me is an easy to read /listen-to style. Loved the reader…

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  26. Katie says:

    Fantastic read! But yes, I do see some similarities to the work of Douglas Adams here!

  27. […] I just listened to EP107 which was a dramatic reading of a Hugo Award nominee short story (titled “Eight Episodes” by Robert Reed, no relation) that will make ya’ think. It’s an interesting perspective […]

  28. […] I just listened to EP107 which was a dramatic reading of a Hugo Award nominee short story (titled “Eight Episodes” by Robert Reed, no relation) that will make ya’ think. It’s an interesting perspective […]

  29. […] Eighteen months later, the fledging Web network declared bankruptcy, and a small consortium acquired its assets, including Invasion of a Small World. Eager to recoup their investment, the new owners offered all eight episodes as a quick-and-dirty DVD package.3 […]

  30. dblanchard says:

    I just listened to “Eight Episodes” a couple days ago, and today saw this in the news: