EP163: Revolution Time

By Lavie Tidhar.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Flurb #2, ed. Rudy Rucker.
Special closing music: “Think For Yourself” by George Hrab.

“I don’t see why you necessarily think it leads to the Chrono area,” Monty said, playing devil’s advocate. It was a month earlier, at the usual place: The Trotsky, a damp, dark watering hole in a run-down part of town which, rumour had it, was once visited by the man himself, in his own dark, yet colourful, past.

“Where else would it lead, man?” Morgan sparked up a joint and stared at him across the table. The smoke framed her face like the shape of a heart. “I wouldn’t be here –” she waved her finger at him, “and you wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t something both of our respective organisations thought was worth pursuing.”

I smiled, admiring her strength and her energy. Monty scowled. “Take that puppy-dog-in-love look off your face. It’s embarrassing. And you,” he said, addressing Morgan, “should know better than to get your hopes up. After all, as the saying goes, they only ever bring back Shakespeare.”

Rated R. Contains some profanity, some violence, and communist propaganda. May be illegal in Louisiana.

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Comments (39)

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  1. Graham says:

    Long time listener (Joined at EP20); right of center, non time-traveler.

    I have more faith in your choice of story and direction for EP than all other “leaders” I know (Corporate, Political, Interplanetary).

    Keep doing what you do

  2. Kevin says:

    Did I miss something? Were there other “left-wing time travel dry political satire” episodes?

    Besides the fact that the main characters here are Marxists, was this episode a left-wing dry political satire?

  3. BadMonkey says:

    Yeah, Which story was leftist?

    Time Travel is so yesterday – man! 🙂

  4. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    I don’t know why it would come as a surprise to anyone that science fiction might tend toward the “left”. (Note: I certainly haven’t seen a trend in left stories from EP.) “Left-wing,” or liberal implies the notion that change is good. “Right-wing” or conservative means adopting the status quo.

    How interesting would science fiction stories be if the future looked just like the present? They wouldn’t be interesting at all. Science is generally a liberal enterprise. Get new data supporting a new conclusion and you have to change your mind. But look at politics. When Kerry changed his mind, he was called a “flip-flopper” by the right, who could think of no worse insult than to imply that people might change their minds on occasion.

    Seriously, if your life revolves around trying to detect political bias in fiction, just do us all a favor and shoot yourself. You’re a waste of skin.

  5. Sushma says:

    I liked this story…but…I had a hard time picturing it happening in the US, if the revolutionaries had been like the Michigan Militia reenacting the Whiskey rebellion, or a bunch of super religious rebels, it would have made sense. Part of the problem was that Marx seemed more like Mao- you know- the charisma with the ladies, the long march, the betrayal of former comrades. It would have made more sense if it had been happening in Nepal or India where there are Maoists.

    But it did make me think of how one’s cultural expectations work in sci-fi and how many liberties you can or can’t take with the context you put your characters in. I hope we’ll hear more from Lavie Tidhar.

  6. Changwa Steve says:

    Another in a string of really good stories recently. SE is on a roll : )

  7. Josh says:

    Fun story. You’re mispronouncing Nevada, though. It’s a common mistake, especially back east, but it’s my experience that many folks from Nevada get awfully upset about it. I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

    “Although the name is derived from the Spanish word Nevada, which is the feminine form of “covered in snow”, the local pronunciation of the state’s name is not IPA: [nəˈvɑ.də] (as in the “o” in “odd”), but IPA: [nəˈvæ.də] (as in the “a” in “glad”).[4] In 2005, the state issued a specialty license plate via the Nevada Commission on Tourism that lists the name of the state as Nevăda to help with the pronunciation problem. Local residents – particularly natives of the state – resent hearing Nevada’s name mispronounced in the national media, a problem that has crystallized with increased coverage of the state following the 2008 Presidential Primary Elections.”

  8. That Guy says:

    Ugh. This was one of the worst EP stories ever. From the incoherent timetravel plot (Why do they “keep” taking Shakespeare? Isn’t once enough? Does Shakespeare remember anything about his journeys forward? Doesn’t this screw with the timeline? What’s the deal with the “blob of energy shot into a theoretical other universe”?), overall silliness (Since when are Wiccans and commies ever motivated enough to put together an efficient paramilitary cell-based organization with advanced weapons and satellites?), and just plain non sequiturs (Why did Marx disappear? How did he know about the future? You mean half the world got blown up, and then it’s just business as usual?) this was a chore to sit through.

    I couldn’t care about any of the characters, the meandering, random plot failed to engage me. And it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to bring Marx–whose ideas have been thoroughly, utterly demolished and debunked–forward in time. There’s a subtle irony involved, too, with communist revolutionaries using technology that would never have existed without capitalism. Communism doesn’t produce innovation–only stagnation and regression. It takes the promise of reward through personal enrichment and amassing of capital to create innovation and new technology.

    Dumb, bad, awful story.

  9. artifex says:

    Hmmm, if that was something other then the daydream of someone still vaguely in love with the idea of Communism, then I doubt I’m the only one who missed it.

    Something else: In eight centuries, we’re probably either going to have a post-scarcity or hunter-gatherer economy– the idea that we’ll still be arguing about state property and the plight of the worker class is just about absurd enough to imply a romanticization of said argument.

  10. Hmmm… I found the deadpan silliness charming. Not amazing, but not bad either.

  11. Stewart says:

    How can an idea be debunked?
    Just as in the story, some might well argue that the failure to achieve success through Marx’s ideas is but a temporary setback, and that capitalism is still on course to destroy itself, indeed, with the current global situation concerning shortages of staple foods, the revolution could be closer than any of us think.
    How about that, we’re all about to star in our very own episode of Escape Pod, are you as excited as I am?

    Anyway, great story, lighthearted and whimsical despite appearances to the contrary.

    (and so is this post)

  12. drewish says:

    +1 for Josh’s comments.

    Screwing up the pronunciation of Nevada drove me crazy… the wost part was that the line was “Hope, Nevada–my home town”. All I could think was if it was your home town you’d at least know how to pronounce it.

    That said I’ve listened to Escape Pod for two years and loved every minute of it–so thanks for the good times and excuse to comment.

  13. That Capitalist Guy says:

    How can an idea be dubunked? “I think gravity works opposite on Tuesdays,” “The Tooth Fairy brings me money,” are trivially debunked. “We’ll be greeted as liberators,” should have been trivial but was debunked by testing it out.

    “Capitalism exploits workers,” has also been shot down through experience. Just answer this question: would you want to be a “worker” 200 years ago or now? The answer, of course, is now, because capitalism has sparked the innovation that has made labor much easier. It’s the thing that allows even poor people to own cars and widescreen televisions.

    “Everyone shares equally” does not promote competition, and without competition there is only stagnation. Communism is great if you never want to move past itchy wool clothes, ill-fitting shoes, corn gruel, and oxcarts. If you want Levis, Nikes, Cheesy-poofs, and Toyotas, you get that through capitalism.

    Marx got debunked by people realizing that the reason there are upper and lower classes has nothing to do with one oppressing the other. It’s because there’s always going to be an uneducated class of dullards. These are the people who will spend their lives emptying trash cans and screwing the tops on toothpaste tubes in factories and living in a double-wide. They’re there not because they’re being purposely oppressed; they’re there because they don’t have the drive or skills to do anything better.

    Marx is debunked by the simple realization that it’s better to allow people to rise to what they’re capable of and allow them to reap the fruits of their labor, rather than to steal from the more successful and redistribute to the lazy, unskilled, and poor. Regression to the mean is not a pretty thing, and that’s what showed Marx’s ideas to be full of shiat.

  14. Scott says:

    Yeah, ignoring the above screed, I will say that this is one story that made me say “Hey I could totally get a story published by Escape Pod!”. So not bad, but I think I can do better. I tend to write horror though so I am more likely to submit to PP (and I am in fact waiting on hearing back about one). Still I think I’ll give sci-fi a shot. It’ll be left of center, but I promise no time travel.

  15. V says:

    RE: the story

    at points cute, entirely unrealistic, very silly, somewhat like a lampoon of Clancy gone left (since afaik Clancy is a conservative).
    The characters were pretty flat,
    and I have a hard time picturing social activists in this country being comfortable with guns and wanting actual armed hostilities to occur, not only because the government just uses that as an excuse to crack down on you, but also because a lot of activists here are pacifists nowadays. That said, I’d like to hear more of Tidhar’s work. Maybe its just a perspective issue . . .
    I wonder the story was inspired by the play “Marx in Soho” by Howard Zinn. The authorities that rule the afterlife allow him to visit the earth for one night, except they return him to Soho New York instead of Soho in London . . .

    RE: multiple attacks on socialism as a philosophy

    If Marx’s carefully considered analyses of the political and economic structures humans create were so invalid, why would anyone view them as enough of a threat to attack them as vehemently as they have been for over 100 years?

    Also, a historical note: Communism as it existed in the USSR was more fascist than socialist, and its the same way now in China, if not worse. Do your homework. I admit that the propagandism the “revolutionaries” in the story engage in troubles me as a result . . .

    Funny thing, if you’re talking about the US–the ideal of capitalism is the free market system (think of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” which some of you invoked). If you live on this planet, you don’t really live in a free market system. Powerful individuals, companies, and lobbying groups tilt the politicoeconomic pinball machine in their favor all the time. The US is successful (insofar as it is) because of its military clout and protectionist legislation (tariffs much? agricultural subsidies much? NAFTA much?)

    Look at the suffering in today’s headlines and tell me that capitalism does not have a human and environmental cost. Any system based solely on self-interest does.

    I’m not going to respond here to any responses to this post because I don’t want to start a flame war, I was just annoyed by factual inaccuracies and also wanted to say so, in the hope that it might make people think a bit about why they jump to the defense of a system that has helped to cause food riots, foreclosures, war, deaths due to preventable disease, and environmental devastation.

    But forget that already. Focus on the story. Sheesh.

    Because really, although Marx is a character and the idea is to go get Marx, this feels more mischevious than politically serious. As I said before, cute.

    And there’s a bigger message to be found in the metanarrative here, I think.

    At least fans can unite in their love of sf across the political spectrum…If anything can give us hope for the future of humanity, even more than any political system, it would be peoples’ capacity to bond across culture and age and political orientation and race and hopefully even class and goodness knows what other differences in their love of thoughtful literature, and their support of the arts. Because the arts not only help to make life worth living, but provide folks with valuable opportunities for self-expression, togetherness, and community building. Although some might call that sort of internationalist paean socialist.

    I’m fine with that. I’ll admit at this point that I’m a card carrying socialist . . . ( :

    Point is, if we play together (share the common interests of fandom), we support each other, and I’ve seen folks in fandom come to the aid of strangers in trouble time and time again, through fundraisers, charity auctions, blood drives, etc. Hopefully that impulse to help can work outside the group, too.

    Oh, and mutated water life? We have that already . . .between pesticides and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    Just my $2.00. ( : It was long. I know.

  16. Stewart says:

    Capitalist Guy.

    I’d love to answer your post, but I don’t want to hijack the comment section as that wouldn’t be fair on the writer of the story.
    You name the forum and I’ll be happy to meet you there.

  17. OldGuyPaul says:

    rain???? nevada desert??? it is 113 and severely dry.
    great story. I love them all.
    even the old story no one could belive was apprpriate. it covered the zietgiest very well. (sorry can’t remember story or author)

  18. Bookman 12pt says:

    I tried… but the phrase “time travel” shortly followed by “Shakespeare” pushes the big red “Cliche” button which locks out my sensory perceptions.

  19. Audita Sum says:

    Meh. I wasn’t a fan. First, I can’t remember reading or hearing a time travel story that I actually liked. The subject’s all kind of stale. Second, I found the way the characters related to each other somehow unrealistic. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just wasn’t well-written enough to make me believe in it.

  20. Audita Sum says:

    I’m still waiting for the story where they bring back some random, non-famous person from the past.

  21. Sushma says:

    It seems silly to go after this story for ideological reasons. Maybe its a better story than I thought, if its eliciting all these reactions. Why does Marx get such a knee-jerk reaction especially from people who haven’t actually read him? or have only read Communist Manifesto (which is hardly representative of his thought) because they were forced to in school? Too scared to read Capital? Maybe there need to be more sf stories with Marx in them.

  22. Another Ranter I Suppose says:

    The only thing I can say after hearing this is : this would have been better on Pseudopod. The plot of this story and the advocation for one of the most destructive “free-thinkers” (ironic for a man whose work ultimately influenced the deaths of millions) is a horror story.

    But we’re living it. Otherwise intelligent people with little appreciation for history are advocating the establishment of an ideal that just worked out so well for the Soviet Union and is working out so well for modern-day China. Aren’t some of you the same ones taking issue with the human-rights violations centered around the recent activities in Tibet?

    Embracing ideas simply because they seem new and radical can be as much of a trap as forever refuting change. Since there have been comments about conservatism, let me turn the tables and say that setting onself up to easily accept the new and shiny simply because it’s new and shiny could lead to swallowing snake oil.

    The most dangerous thing about socialism and its romanticism is people are going to get exactly what they think they want. Capitalism isn’t perfect, sure, but Socialism paves the way for tyrants in a way that Capitalism simply can’t match. That’s what people don’t get — Marx’s theories are corrosive. You don’t have oppressive societies accidentally spring up under Marxism, you have them inevitably spring up. The only question is when the powder goes off.

    It’s not silly to go after this story for ideological reasons. I’d have the same reaction over a piece where Josef Stalin or Hitler came dancing through the daisies to save America from the evil Capitalists, many of whom are buying Lavie’s work with their disposable income they wouldn’t have in the bastardized, regretably-advocated system of Marxism.

    It’s a shame to see such good writing wasted on this kind of subtext. Mr. Tidhar is a solid writer, but he is very misguided.

  23. Another Ranter I Suppose says:

    Eeek. On further reflection, I just realized this could have been a satirical piece. If it is — man, do I have egg on my face, and apologies to Mr. Tidhar.

    I do stand by my points about Marxism, however.

  24. Craybe says:

    I didn’t mind the story; it was alright but not brilliant. I didn’t feel overly connected with the characters although I can see the author made a good attempt.

    I think my only real problem with this story is the fact that the Americans nuked themselves to get rid of opposition…… I may have missed something but the idea of destroying half (I’m pretty sure that is what was stated in the story) of the country to prevent a revolutions sounds naive. It would be the same as me cutting off my legs because I had athletes foot.

    Still good work with the narration and anyone who gives Steve a hard time for the stories he chooses to air may have a nuke knocking on their door if they aren’t careful 😉

  25. Vance M. says:

    Not a fan. Could have skipped this one. Escape Pod is still an amazing Podcast…but I think this one was more of a miss than a hit.

  26. Sushma says:

    Another ranter, yup, its satire. And its funny to see everyone get their panties in a twist over a fictional character.

  27. Chris says:

    Oh dear. I was waiting for this story to get interesting and then it ended. Meh. Not my thing really.

  28. Paranatural says:

    As I live in Louisiana I feel qualified to comment. I’m rather certian that most of the locals here would indeed like to see this made ‘illegal’. Of course, we just had a good old fashioned book burning in Shreveport a couple of weeks ago..

  29. Crotalus says:

    I didn’t have strong feelings about this one either way. I’ve come to expect a certain degree of leftist slant in virtually every entertainment medium. I just shrug it off and enjoy the tale if I can.

    I only recently discovered the Pod, quite by accident and I fell in love with it.

    I’ve only one thing that puzzles me.

    Why doesn’t Steve have a link to either of the other sister podcasts, Pseudopod and Podcastle, anywhere on the homepage here? (Or am I just too blind too find it?)

    I know there has been heated debate about “crossover” between genres of SF, fantasy, and horror….

    BUT does that mean there can’t be a means to easily “crossover” from one podcast to another???

    I mean…. really.

    Keep up the good work.

  30. …What the hell did I just listen to?

    I’ve heard that “they only ever bring back Shakespeare” line before, but I can’t remember the context. Where is that from? Or am I just imagining it?

  31. Evo Shandor says:

    Did not like this one. There seemed to be a lot of plot mechanics, but no story. This story could have been:
    * A love story between the main character and Morgan
    * A character study of what would drive someone to embrace socialism
    * A character study of Marx as a young man
    * A topsy-turvy time travel story
    * A heist story in getting into the Chrono Building
    * A chase story
    * A war story

    But none of these were explored. Characters and their interaction were simple, Marx is a functional element instead of a character, getting into the Chrono Building seemed very simple, the time machine idea is overly simplistic, and the war element was too clean. In the end, all this was about is the “gotcha” at the end that Marx revealed, which feels a little cheap.

    So, lots of plot, very little in the way of story. I think if this piece doubled its size and explored one element to make it a story, it would be a lot better.

  32. Naum Nurgle says:

    like the beginning reply of “meh”

    meh, if he was a young Marx he would have had none of the full brewed marxist thought; still be in love with Hegel.

    Now the old Marx riddled with carbuncles and bilious vomits; there would be a leader of the revolution beyond a figurehead.

    The excuse for posters to have a dig at communists is sadly misplaced; have you Americans not moved onto communist bashers to middle east bashers instead?

    The trotskist in me shouts forward more stories like this comrade Steve!!

  33. scatterbrain says:

    As a socialist myself, I am shocked that I have finally found someone, Comrade Tidhar, who also believes a new revolution is imminent, but I believe also that the satire could have been played a little better in this story.

  34. WillMoo says:

    I actually kind of liked this one. The only problem I could point to is if they could go back to get Marx to help with the revolution then others could go back and get Marx 20 minutes earlier to hinder the revolution then they would have to go back 40 minutes earlier to get Marx to help the revolution and the others would have to go back an hour earlier to get Marx to hinder the revolution…. rinse, repeat.

  35. […] Lavie Tidhar’s “Revolution Time,” read by Stephen Eley, an attempt is made to start a revolution by hijacking a time […]

  36. Insurance says:

    Great site. I have to agree withe following comment

    “I didn’t mind the story; it was alright but not brilliant. I didn’t feel overly connected with the characters although I can see the author made a good attempt.

    I think my only real problem with this story is the fact that the Americans nuked themselves to get rid of opposition…… ” insurance

  37. […] Revolution Time was published on Escape Pod, the message board thread ran to six pages, with off-shoot threads. My […]