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EP133: Other People’s Money

By Cory Doctorow.
Read by Amanda Fitzwater.
First appeared in Forbes Magazine, October 2007.

Which is why she was hoping that the venture capitalist would just leave her alone. He wasn’t a paying customer, he wasn’t a fellow artist — he wanted to *buy* her, and he was thirty years too late.

“You know, I pitched you guys in 1999. On Sand Hill Road. One of the founding partners. Kleiner, I think. The guy ate a salad all through my slide-deck. When I was done, he wiped his mouth, looked over my shoulder, and told me he didn’t think I’d scale. That was it. He didn’t even pick up my business card. When I looked back as I was going out the door, I saw his sweep it into the trash with the wrapper from his sandwich.”

The VC — young, with the waxy, sweaty look of someone who ate a lot of GM yogurt to try to patch his biochemistry — shook his head. “That wasn’t us. We’re a franchise — based here in LA. I just opened up the Inglewood branch. But I can see how that would have soured you on us. Did you ever get your VC?”

Rated G. Contains Byzantine finance and potentially disturbing art.


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Comments (58)

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  1. Here Here! Living in Helsinki while getting paid by a boss in California is something this 21 year old loves doing and is amazed no one else has.

  2. Baxter Turnham says:

    Amanda Fitswater is a little hard to understand at times.

  3. Shane says:

    I love Cory, but I just can’t get into his science fiction. Except certain things like Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town it just comes through as one long string of silicon valley buzzwords. The sort of thing you get in forwarded emails from your boss.

  4. Janice in GA says:

    I had a lot of trouble understanding the reader as well, enough so that I dumped out of the program early.

  5. […] gonna be sorry for posting this out of annoyance later, but here goes: This week’s is the 1st EscapePod cast ever I’ve stopped listening to halfway through, indeed English is not may native tongue, […]

  6. Alex says:

    I’ve never commented on an Escape pod story before, I usually love them, and Escape Pod is my all time favorite #1 podcast. When “other peoples money” started, I thought it was being read by a computer generated voice, like the one you use to introduce every episode.

    I’m especially disappointed at how bad the voice sounds, as I am also a Cory Doctorow fan.

  7. This seemed to be a very interesting essay in speculative economics disguised as a short story. But like other commenters, I found it hard to understand the lady’s English. I did listen to it in its entirety, though.

  8. Stan! says:

    I have to agree that the reader’s accent was too thick. It didn’t block me out entirely, but I DID have to concentrate fully on what I was hearing (sort of how it was back when my Japanese was barely good enough to watch some anime without subtitles).

    I think the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the prose was tight to the point of being terse, and it contained lots of quick, almost throw-away references that were meant to give meaning to the top level conversation, context to the world, and nod & wink to today’s global economic shenanigans. That’s A LOT to parse all at once, and even more so when the pronunciation is so regional.

    On the whole, I really liked the story. But I’m looking forward to READING it rather than listening to the podcast again. I think the voice in my head will make the whole thing more approachable.

  9. Uri says:

    I had to quit listening for this episode for the first time ever since the beginning of EscapePod.
    English is not my native tongue, so the story was just not understandable.

    Though, it encouraged me to go and read it on Cory’s site.

  10. Dave Tackett says:

    I have to admit that even though I am a huge fan of both Escape pod and Cory Doctorow, this story bored me to tears. I don’t think the reader was a factor because I finished the story at Forbes and the only improvement was that I could read faster to get it over quicker.

    Of course I am looking forward to next week’s Escape Pod and Cory Doctorow’s next story! This one just wasn’t to my taste.

  11. Mike says:

    Have to concur that the readers accent was too thick. Dropped out after a few minutes, it just wasn’t as enjoyable as usually.

  12. Don says:

    Couldn’t understand a word of it. Any chance of re-recording it?

  13. ryan says:

    This episode had some kind of bad interaction between the recording technique and the reader’s voice that resulted in a very hard to understand product. I don’t think it was soley the reader’s accent, I watch a lot of BBC so I’m quite used to the Commonwealth’s various dialects. I’m a big Doctorow fan, so this was a very frustrating episode.

  14. Texas Al says:

    Dialects and accents are colorful and all, but Can all of use, Texans, Brits, Australians, New Yorkers, and everyone in between just agree to use some kind of mutually comprehensible standard English pronunciation at least for the purposes of producing a podcast for worldwide consumption? Especially when there’s a story with this much jargon to begin with. As I recall, you’ve run into this problem last time you hired a reader with a thick cockney accent.

    Of course, like practically everyone else who’s writing a response along these lines, I love Cory Doctorow, I love EscapePod, and look forward to reading the written version of this story.

  15. Rick Rottman says:

    I was excited to hear it was a story by Cory Doctorow, but my excitement turned to frustration when I realized a minute into it that I couldn’t understand the reader.

  16. […] http://escapepod.org/2007/11/22/ep133-other-people… Which is why she was hoping that the venture capitalist would just leave her alone. He wasn’t […]

  17. jeREMy says:

    I am a huge Cory Doctorow fan but I stopped listening to Amanda Fitswater 3:31 into the podcast. Cory’s style of writing (mainly the quick whit) combined with Amanda Fitswater’s quick speech and thick New Zealand accent left me so frustrated I had to turn of the podcast. Better luck next week…

  18. r2d2blue says:

    OK…me too.

    The problem wasn’t the accent, but the direction. Was there a director for this production?
    If so…fail.
    The problem?
    SPEED!!!!!
    Someone should definitely have slowed this woman down!

    REDO!!!!!
    We have the technology!

    And of course…thanks for all the great stories!

  19. phignewton says:

    ok… even if nobody else listened thru the entire thing i’ll have a go. In this story Cory posits a future in which the money people, the VC’s with millions to invest no longer holds sway , they arent as flexible as individuals empowered by technology, thats the constant theme in Cory’s scifi, networked technology can make us unique an empowered individuals instead of mindless drones in the thrall of the futuristic dystopian mega corporations… um, yay, heres hoping it can. What does it mean though that this was published in Forbes magazine… and entity that worships the perveyors of VC and creators of mindless thralldom? and also… well if such a product as the narrator of this story is creating existed… you can just see it appearing on bOing bOing with addulations as to its niftyness. It all comes full circle, this isnt scifi for our entertainment, bOing bOing isnt mindless pap about gadgets and nicknacks, this is POLITICS, the struggle to define the future is at hand.

  20. jazzmodeus says:

    Whew — I thought it was just me. I have lived overseas and never had much trouble with accents. I love Cory Doctorow, but found this reader too hard to understand.

  21. mircea says:

    i think this story was for escape pod what zero absolute is for temperature: you can’t get any worse.

    on the other hand, i it really got me to appreciate, by antithesis of course, all the good stories and nice reading that i heard on escape pod before.

    looking forward for some really high sf temperatures :)

  22. Matthew says:

    I hope that some quality control for actual equipment used can somehow be instituted. My girlfriend’s family is from NZ, so the accent was no problem… but the actual sound of the reading was so horrendus that I couldn’t tell s’s from f’s, t’s from b’s from d’s… I had to stop listening, because I was retaining nothing.

  23. Neil Leslie says:

    I hate to leave a “Yeah, me too,” comment, but yeah, me too. I have to concur with all the previous commenters. Ms. Fitzwater’s thick New Zealand accent combined with all the casually tossed-off business jargon combined to make this story dang near incomprehensible. The reader and story were horribly mismatched. Even after reading the print version at Forbes.com, I was still confused. I’m sorry, but this is not one of your better efforts, Steve-O.

  24. john says:

    living in San Francisco, CA I get to deal with all kinds of crazy accents everyday. ordering a burrito can be a challenge sometimes. so who’s to say what language will be like in the future. I thought the read was spot on because it representative that the innovation or product and making money won’t have to be from perfectly spoken english.

  25. Matthew says:

    Perhaps if the program had been recorded better, we wouldn’t have had trouble with the accent.

  26. Don says:

    Just to elaborate a bit more, it seemed that the loud parts of syllables were amplified greatly and the quiet parts of words were covered up, which makes me think it was incorrect use of compression ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_level_compression audio level compression not audio data file compression)

  27. Sin Nombre says:

    As a New Zealander, I agree that while her accent is fairly broad for a Kiwi, the main problem seems to be the audio equipment and/or compression used on this story.
    I found myself having to concentrate to follow the story much more than usual, and I can guarantee the accent had nothing to do with it!

    However, I don’t think she read it too quickly – just differently from the standard American accents we’re used to; though I admit, I do prefer the more downbeat reading style that a lot of the other readers use (like Ben Phillips on Pseudopod).

  28. Gurgel says:

    So many other has commented on the reading, wich, althogh charming, was both hard to understand and also felt slightly at odds with the feel of the story.

    But I would instead like to concentrate on the story itself. I had read it previously, when forbes put it on the web, and I thought it was excelent and was eagerly looking forward to hearing it read.
    But I have to say, a story of this type just did not work in audio, the stacking of buzzwords and economic concepts that was thoughtprovoking in letters just washed past me in spoken form, impossible to concentrate on or find a grip on where the thoughts could take of an ponder

  29. jazzmodeus says:

    John (comment 27) — while I agree that future language will naturally sound strange to us, I must disagree with your point:

    First, language in 20 years won’t be very alien to us (this story was set in 2027, IIRC). Language takes at least decades to change significantly. I don’t have trouble understanding movies made in 1987, or 1947 for that matter.

    Second, I doubt that the point of the story had much to do with changes in language. (I couldn’t finish listening to it, so may be wrong here).

    Third, even if I’m wrong about point #2, I submit that an incomprehensible reader wasn’t an intentional way to illustrate that point.

    It seems that a thick accent, a hasty read and maybe poor audio compression conspired against us. An improvement in any one of the three might have mitigated the other two.

    I usually really like hearing readers with non-American accents: Alasdair Stuart on Pseudopod always does a great job, and Frank Key reading “Hesperia and Glory” was fantastic.

  30. JuJu says:

    The reader made me glad I’m not a “boying cahstahmah” (buying customer).

    This episode headline says “Read by Stephen Eley”. If only it was.

  31. Tayefeth says:

    I, too, found the combination of accent and production values incomprehensible. I had to bail early, which is a shame because it sounded like an interesting premise. I hope it’s re-recorded at some point.

  32. Brian Fane says:

    I, too, have to chime in regarding the sound quality. I’ve heard the reader before, and haven’t had a problem. I agree with other observations that the problem likely to be more technical than caused the accent.

    Eventually, I could understand the words, but I had to juggle three tasks: understand the words, understand the story, and drive. Since I felt that driving was probably the most important of those three tasks. I had to shut off the story. I might try again, later, when I can devote my entire brain to it.

  33. Kel says:

    I would rather hear Steve do a woman’s voice than this voice (just kidding Steve. Your female voice has actually gotten quite good from you started Escape Pod). I don’t mind accents, but as mentioned earlier, the combination of that voice and the material just didn’t match. I was listening to the podcast in my car and had to turn it off as it got frustrating to the point of being life threatening (paying more attention to the podcast than the road).

  34. Gab says:

    I couldn’t understand this too well.
    The speaker’s accent was too thick.
    I’m sure it would have been a good story.

  35. Cecilia says:

    Well, I was interested enough that I went all the way to Forbes to download the text and listen to it once again and follow the text.

    Though the acronyms lost me somewhat (what’s with acronyms that marketing guys can never have enough of them?) I really got into the story, especially having so much to relate to: I’m female and forty, I started my company in 1997, I was offered stock in exchange for development work on every ridiculous web project on earth but never got capital worth the name for my projects, I saw the whole dot bomb grow and explode, I bid for an Aereon chair when all the startups tanked… just like probably 90% of the people that’s still left in the business.

    So this wasn’t exactly a sci-fi story for me. Rather an extrapolation of things that were into what they will be… Wait a minute, that’s a good definition of sci-fi too!!

  36. DLJessup says:

    As with many of the other commenters, I dumped out of the podcast after I got too frustrated with trying to understand the speaker’s accent. The only other time I’ve had anything close to this frustration level in listening to the story was EP097: Cinderella Suicide, and at least there, the difficulty was intentional: the author had created a whole new colloquial vocabulary for the narrator.

    I did read the story at Forbes (thank you for the link!), and I wasn’t really taken with the story there, either. It was … boring. It’s hard to pin it down the problem any better than that. There weren’t any philosophical issues being discussed nor any physical action, but I’ve liked stories I’ve read that had neither. Oh, well.

  37. […] Text Version: tinyurl.com/3cz9bw Audio Book: escapepod.org/2007/11/22/ep133-other-peoples-money/ […]

  38. Grant Stone says:

    Being a kiwi, I didn’t have any problem with Amanda’s accent, but something was up – it all sounded compressed like an overproduced CD.

    And as for the story… I’m not sure it was. Just a buzzword-laden infodump monologue. I have a cup of tea, and this wasn’t mine.

  39. Berend Harmsen says:

    I just finished this story after two attempts and just had to check the comments to see if it was just me, but it turns out I wasn’t the only one that was unable to make sense of the unfortunate combination of the recording technique, the accent and reading speed of the narrator and the ‘buzzword-laden infodump monologue’ (thx, Grant).
    At least it generated a rare consensus about the production, right down to the universal first assumption that we were listening to a computer-generated voice at the beginning.
    It made me realise, though, how rarely I ever feel like this with EP: this was the first one in 133 episodes I ever almost skipped. Keep it up!

  40. Anonymous says:

    I was able to understand the accent okay, but the story itself left me flat … it felt like one long conversation/exchange of ideas, rather than like a story with real characters.

    But more and more it seems like Escape Pod is about the science fiction ideas rather than the characters, and the stories … just aren’t as varied and compelling anymore.

    With fantasy no longer a part of Escape Pod, I no longer have that feeling of knowing I’ll be seeing a wide range of types of stories with a wide range of different “textures.” This was one of the things I really liked about Escape Pod, and I miss it.

  41. basest says:

    Let me add to the long list of people complaining about the reader’s diction. I thought it was some sort of effect as well, at first, but eventually decided that it was probably over-compressed or something, and made her thick accent difficult to understand. I usually listen to Escape Pod while I’m working, and while I did listen to the whole episode, I can’t say that I have any recollecion what the story was actually about.

  42. Roni says:

    I’m just here to transform my voice from one of the silent ones to the loud.

    I had a major problem with the dialect as well. I’m not a native English speaker, so it was even more difficult for me. On the first pass I stopped listening after about 2 minutes in – my brain just gave up! I listened through on the second try, but it was still very hard – as one of the commenters already stated: I really had to concentrate to understand, and this is very hard to do on the morning commute.

    Since I don’t have a lot of spare time, I really like how Escape Pod enables me to enjoy great SF stories while on the go, but this accent incident nearly made me miss this story altogether – which is a shame.

  43. let’s see… accent… poor quality… too fast… jargon… otherwise not bad…

    yep. all covered ad nauseum by previous commenters.

    a LOT of previous commenters. did we break some kind of a record with this one, I wonder?

  44. Bitter Bob says:

    I am a native English speaker, but the story was tedious to listen to because the narators accent was so thick. I gave up after a few minutes. The narator has a character voice. If she wants to narate, she needs to pronounce the King’s Enlish. Try the story again without a narator trying to impress people with her character voice.

  45. Yicheng says:

    Another non-native english speaker here. While I found the reader comprehensible with effort, the thick accent added another altogether-different flavor to the story, but not in a good way.

    I, too, decided to go to Forbes.com to read the actual story itself. To the reader’s credit I think the story itself was too full of name-dropping and “tech-hipster-talk” to lend itself to any sort of reading. As a software professional I thought the story sounded like it was just trying too hard, and ended up coming across as a bit pretentious.

  46. Mike Taylor says:

    Just couldn’t follow this, like so many others, due to combination of accent and audio quality. Had to give up.

  47. scatterbrain says:

    I’ve listened to the first eight minutes and I have apsolutely no idea what the bloody hell is going on.

  48. Rachael says:

    It’s too bad. The story seems excellent, and Fizwater is charming and engaging to listen to. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow her either. Perhaps if she’d spoken slower?

    Can’t wait to read more of Cory’s stuff!

  49. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    This “story” (if “story” is an appropriate word to describe a transcript of a one-sided conversation about outre technical aspects of the VC community) was so bad it could be used as a torture means in GTMO. The reading was terrible. At first I thought it was being read by a 1980’s-era voice synthesizer. Not only was the story impenetrable, but the accent of the reader was too, requiring loads of concentration to decipher lines like, “Wanna the fawndeeng pawrtnurrs, Kloinuh oi theenk,” was too much for me.

    Worst…escape…pod…ever.

  50. tenacitus says:

    I could not understand a thing the lady said I know to stay away from anything read by Amanda SonofWater in the future

  51. […] Escape Pod 133: Other People’s Money by Cory Doctorow […]

  52. sarah says:

    Man, I’m from New Zealand too, and I couldn’t follow her. I think it was the erratic pacing and the fact that she was PUTting the emPHASis on THE wrong sylLABes.

  53. […] the end of Escape Pod podcast, number 133: Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it […]

  54. […] “Other People’s Money” by Cory Doctorow at […]

  55. Jake Nordstrom says:

    Catching up on archived stuff, so this post is way after the fact. The accent quite simply is unacceptable. I.e., The BBC has apparently changed (2010) its policy — originally instituted no doubt in the name of British political solidarity — of allowing broad regional accents. There’s no sense making the great majority of listeners struggle. You don’t hear people in the US narrate anything in a thick Brooklyn accent. This was to my mind a very bad production lapse in an otherwise extremely outstanding podcast series.