EP168: Family Values

By Sara Genge.
Read by Alasdair Stuart (of Pseudopod).
First appeared in Cosmos, August/September 2007.

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Senator Wu accepted Twing’s seed out of courtesy, although she had no
intention of conceiving his child. Twing of Sails had thrown this
party in his house in her honour, but he wasn’t as free with
kilojoules as he was with genetic material, and Senator Wu wasn’t
prepared to funnel the heat donations of her two crèche mates to bring
another man’s child to the World. She acidified the pores in her
tentacle and waved it around, letting the current carry away the dead
spores. She smiled at Twing and a wave of blue burst from his centre
and radiated towards the thin membranes that rippled on the edge of
his disc-shaped body.

He didn’t look bad, but he wasn’t as comely as Senator Wu. Her body
was an almost perfect sphere, and she was well aware of it. Wherever
she went, she took care to rotate every few minutes, lest gravity pull
on her too long in any one direction and tug her gelatinous figure out
of shape.

Rated PG. Contains alien reproduction, politics, and other sordid topics.

Referenced Sites:
The Daily Cabal

Comments (30)

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  1. Bookman 12pt says:

    I am glad I get to be the first to comment. What a treat! Be on the lookout for Sara Genge. She is building quite the name for herself.
    I can see why. This was a fantastic story. Great worldbuiling! Glad to hear it narrated by Alasdair Stuart, He really did it justice.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Arghhh – I listen to 2 minutes, had to turn it off. Can’t stand the speech processing and clicks in the speaker’s voice.

  3. Stuart Moore says:

    I’m the same, what on earth has happened to the audio? If he’s used to introducing Pseudopod, surely he can get a better audio setup than that

  4. Paul Gilbert says:

    Thank you for playing the song “I’m your Moon”. As a person who argued with a few people that “My Solar System includes Pluto”, it’s gratifying that someone was able to articulate these feelings in a wonderful romantic ballad.

  5. storman_norm says:

    Couldn’t quite get my head around this one. The emotions of these people (caring for ones child) was similar, but the energy thing seemed odd to me.
    Steve, are we due for another Union Dues yet?
    Mr. Stuart usually does an awesome job, did his microphone go on the fritz or something?

  6. arcsine says:

    Good story. Excellent world and society building… very quick and focused.

    Nice ‘what if…’

    What if heat was the essence of hot and steamy romance novel sex?

  7. kevin.e.a. says:

    It’s nice that such a short story can still satisfy. The author has a fantastic imagination. A jellyfish alien sex and political intrigue story is a first for me (although I know that there are fetish websites for almost anything)!

  8. tim callender (babylonpodcast) says:

    I liked this story a lot as well. No earth-shattering, soul-searing revelations. Just a day in the life of… something quite alien and yet still familiar. Another winner.

  9. Evo Shandor says:

    This story is not my cup of tea, and I was unclear what Teacher’s motivation for propping up Wu was, but I certainly appreciate this story. It combines romance and politics with characters both very human and very alien. In the hands of an inferior writer, this story would have been three-times as long and rather dull. This kind of dense writing – not “dense” as in impenetrable but as in a lot of information conveyed in few words – is refreshing and quite a skill.

  10. Howie Feltersnatch says:


  11. Azure says:

    I can’t say that I really enjoyed this story. While I did eventually get swept into the waves of the plot, I ultimately left unsatisfied.

    Steve, my friend Raine and I don’t actually gather ’round the water cooler to discuss Escape Pod, because we no longer live in the same city, but we do talk about it whenever we get a chance. She sent me an instant message just yesterday letting me know that you read one of my comments. (A big shout-out to you for saying my name right.) Is it wrong to let the world know that we had an Escape Pod Brunch?

  12. scatterbrain says:

    Bad audio, but it reminded me a lot of Van Eekhout’s Show and Tell.

  13. gus says:

    I couldn’t get through the strange sound either. Is Alasdair undergoing some dental treatment? Or is he just reminiscing with Clarise about Fava beans and Chianti?

  14. James says:

    I really enjoyed this story. An alien story with aliens, not just humans with personality quirks. Yet, it’s still relatable through the universal themes of sex and politics.

  15. DrCrisp says:

    Science fiction is about aliens. Good science fiction is alien. Great science fiction is for aliens. This was great science fiction.

    Like Heinlen, you get plopped down in the world and they know what is “right” and you don’t and half the fun is following the story and figuring out the world. Its like being a kid

  16. cathfish says:

    I agree with DrCrisp – this was great science fiction. Alien and beautiful. I look forward to more by Sara George.

  17. Wesley says:

    As a beginning writer, I have mulled countless hours on ways to tell an alien story from an alien POV. I am both humbled and excited to hear Sarah Genge do it so well.

  18. DarthVadas says:

    I`m sure Alasdair Stuart is a nice guy but his voice is not for reading. All his words end in what I could only describe as call Hard Treble ZZZZZs. Ive heard him read for Pseudopod and it is the same. Unfortunately I was unable to listen this podcast for more than a minute.

    Please give me more Steve Eley and his wife…..wonderful!

  19. FippleBuss says:

    I listened to this on my way to work, and I laughed out loud with pure delight when this story was over. It was an absolute gem of a story. Stories like this one are exactly the reason why I listen to EscapePod, and this particular story is why I’m going to recommend it on my blog.

    I actually rather enjoyed Alasdair Stuart’s narration, both his voice and delivery. I didn’t find the audio quality very disturbing at all.

    Also, no offense intended to storman_norm, but I strongly dislike the Union Dues stories, and I’m very disappointed that I seem to be in minority on this. I just can’t believe Union Dues is being held up as preferable to this story.

  20. V says:

    strengths (some already mentioned)
    *skillful worldbuilding, with graceful exposition where necessary
    *realistic seeming politics (except instead of shaking hands you’re getting sprayed with spores, hmm…)
    *interesting gender play (female politicans, pregnancy a plus)
    *tantalizing glimpses of a worldview that priviledges knowledge, experience, etc.
    *visually engaging (trying to imagine what these creatures look like!)

    *psychologically, I can see why teacher gave her heat, but at the same time his decisveness seems less than realistic. How can he know he wants to join the pod of someone he barely knows, no matter how acclaimed she is?

    I hope this gets considered for the Tiptree; not sure what else is in the running this year, but the story felt like Tiptree to me, and I suspect that work was an influence on this, although this was easier to wrap my head around at first glance so to speak than I’ve found some Tiptree . . . Much more alien than LeGuin but the social structures reminiscent of some of her short stories too.

    Couldn’t hear any sound issues on my headphones.

    Bring Alasdair Stuart back again! I really enjoy the way he reads.

    More like this!

  21. Tom Wilson says:

    Personally, I liked Alasdair’s reading, but I had to concentrate to get past the audio problems. I propose we all chip in & get him a better microphone. 🙂

    As to the story: I loved it. I always like stories where we’re presented with alternate takes on family and social interaction; part of what makes Science Fiction so great is that people can explore this kind of thing without getting all tied up in knots over it.

    I remember that my parents freaked when they saw the Alien Nation episode where the guy had to “prepare” the cop’s wife for pregnancy. That sickened them. I tried to explain that this had come from an older SF story (two, actually), and that the idea of trios wasn’t new in the SF world.

    But it’s that kind of “let’s take this thing out of the box and really examine it” that has always fascinated me. This story touched on that, just barely, and I would like to have seen more of the social structure of this world.

    That’s really the only flaw in this story: just as we see the crisis, the story’s over. And since the crisis is completely intertwined with the social makeup of this world, we don’t get to revel in the conflict and actually SEE the little tramp get beat down. It’s too bad, really. I would love to have seen the showdown between these two ladies. I have a feeling it would have made an episode of Springer look like a picnic.

  22. Hans Voss says:

    First escape pod I couldn’t finish, because of the appalling audio quality.

  23. Sherry says:

    I very much enjoyed this story despite the audeo. I’m impressed the author conveyed such vivid descriptions of these aliens with so few words.

    My 1st post here. I was driven to comment on this story. (I’m a two year subscriber.)

  24. […] only problem while listening to it, was I wasn’t sure if anything […]

  25. Calculating... says:

    a little confusing. as a huge jane austen fan, i got really excited after hearing the intro, but then i got lost trying to figure out their social norms enough to follow the story.

    once i gave up trying to figure it out and just listened to it, i really started to enjoy it more, but was still confused in the end.

  26. Laura says:

    I really enjoyed this one. It made me want to know more.

    And yes, thats my water cooler. Ok, so I own a small business and its just my partner and me, and we don’t actually have a water cooler, but we do discuss EP while working. We also sometimes talk about it in public as in “hey Kelly, doesn’t that remind you of that EP episode…” “Oh yeah that one from a few weeks ago..” “yeah that one” and completely lose anyone else talking to us. Makes us seem mysterious (or just geeky).

  27. […] is an abusive act of ownership. Another story by Genge, a memorable politico-romance entitled “Family Values,” appeared on Escape Pod a few weeks ago, and her most recent offering is just as original and […]

  28. dnaknitter says:

    I’m with those who commented on how well the author gave us the essence of a very complicated, very different world with so few words. And I thought the reader’s voice was…well, sexy, actually, and made a great contribution to setting the mood of the story. I’m definitely going to look for more from this author.

    I’m a fairly new Escape Pod listener who’s about to become a subscriber, and I’ve also recommended Escape Pod to several friends. I don’t have a water cooler to gather around right now…but does it count that in my last workplace (about 18 years ago) we used to have “Star Trek lunch” every Tuesday, where about 20 people would gather in a conference room to watch ST:TNG videos while eating? And that the other co-organizer (with me) of this weekly event had a voice that reminded me of Steve Eley’s?

  29. popepat says:

    Wow. Two in a row for me that I just love. As one who really hates hearing alien bio-techno-speak for the sake of being alien, I have to say this one did it RIGHT. Wonderful prose. I felt like I was there. I WANTED to be there!
    Steve, I am so glad that you run such a wide variety of stories. Just when it seems like everyone likes Union Dues and I start fearing you’ll convert to an all-Union Dues format, you come up with something beautiful for the other half of the listeners.
    Yeah, count me as one of the Just-Not-Into-Superhero-Workplace-Politics types.
    Great reading by Alasdair, too. Then again, ever since the one about the intelligent Space Marine helmet, I’ve been a sucker for aussie/brit accents in podcasts.

  30. […] “Reparations” (time travel to post-nuke Japan) and Sara Genge’s “Family Values” (sex and politics with wildly non-human […]