EP179: Arties Aren’t Stupid

By Jeremiah Tolbert.
Read by Philippa Ballantine (of Chasing the Bard).

First appeared in Seeds of Change, ed. John Joseph Adams

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Nobody went home to their Elderfolk while we waited for Niles to come back. That was a rule. If Niles never came back, then we wouldn’t have to. Nobody wanted to see the meanies anyway. They had us Made and then hated us afterwards, which wasn’t fair. All arties know you love the things you Make no matter what. But Elderfolk were just-plains all grown up and they didn’t make any sense at all. Some of the younger arties started to talk about going back, but we older arties who knew Niles better said no, that we’d wait.

Three days passed before Niles came back. It was dark and everyone was sleeping but me, because little Boo’s music itched in my brain. He came in carrying big boxes, and I cried big tears of happy at that. He’d brought some new supplies, and we’d be Making again in no time flat. I watched him for a while, carrying in box after box, and finally I fell asleep. It felt good knowing he was back.

Rated PG. Contains some harsh slang and violence against the system.

Referenced Sites:

The Dispatches of Dr. Roundbottom

Philippa Ballantine’s official site

Comments (87)

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  1. DrCrisp says:

    When you read science fiction, you want to go not just to foreign lands but alien lands; where the rules are different. Half the fun is getting grounded into the new reality, accepting it and seeing how the story works in that new reality. Thats the power of science fiction; the story is the “figure”, the new world is the “ground” of the art. While our conscious mind follows the story/figure part, the world/ground is imprinted into our subconscious. And it makes it all the more powerful of a genre.

  2. IFC says:

    Like Cinderella Suicide before it—my favorite EP story—it took me a while to get used to the reader’s accent. Admittedly, I’m not particularly familiar with the NZ English accent, and I would have to say that I’m rather conflicted. Is it my responsibility to be familiar with its particular inflections, or should Mr. Eley choose a reader with an American accent for stories with difficult slang. I don’t really have the answer, but I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought that this podcast didn’t reach beyond the US borders.

    As an aside, I can’t believe nobody noted the timeliness of this story. Seems likes playing god and creating creatures is all the rage these days. Ever heard of a little game called Spore? I really liked how the story treated the creating of life as art. Even though the Brainiacs created the means by which life to be made, it was the artists who actually made it. That was the most novel aspect of this story for me.

  3. First things first, Steve, for the love of Khersis, don’t combine jargon-heavy prose with strong accents!

    That said, this one wasn’t too bad- the Kiwi twang actually suited the argot pretty well once I got used to it. And the story was decent, too. Interesting to think about those born into a technology-sterilized world using that same technology to go back in the other direction. Clever.

    And yes, I did note the timeliness of this story wrt popular culture- Pokemon, Spore, etc; not to mention issues of urban artspace reclamation (otherwise known as vandalism).

    I totally want one of those genefacture kits, where can I get one?

  4. Oops, sorry… didn’t see the prior admonishment about harping on the narration. Guess you got the point already, =P

  5. Raving_Lunatic says:

    Personally, i disliked it for the first five minutes and then loved it simply for categorizing human beings into different groups and allegiances, and liked it for showing us its “world”. The plot wasn’t bad either, and I really didn’t see anything wrong with the narration. The slang gave me more trouble though.

  6. [...] For the First Queen and the nay-sayers at Escape Pod! [...]

  7. Brian Hunt says:

    This story rocked and had a good message(especially in this time of elections) that those in power do not give it up easily. as far as the use of Pip and her accent…..we all need a little kiwi in our diet…

  8. Milo says:

    I don’t think this could ever have worked if the reader had an American accent. I think one of my favorite aspects was the minimalism in the description in places; my imagination went wild when given the word “Tinmen.”

  9. Old Man Parker says:

    Me an arty. Me like story. Me not stoopid.

  10. Blaine Boy says:

    Who said the artists can’t think linearly? Who said the thinkers can’t make art? Who says the meat-head isn’t capable of thought? Who ever dared to say that one-type of thinker had to stick to that type of thinking? (Not accusing anyone, just trying to make a point.)

    I won’t ever bother going near the issue of accents and narration except for this little comment: I understood it perfectly, even being an American, I have no idea what you people are talking about.

    I actually have a comment on Mr. Stephen Eley’s control of the situation that I think you might like (comment #43). (Special emphasis on the “might.”) After reading his statement this image popped into my mind (this also includes later commentors):

    (Beowulf-esque hall) In the middle of the hall is a rabble of commoners each of the two general opinions have gathered their followers and are on either side of a bench arguing and generally causing a ruckus shouting at each other. Enter King Eley. Slamming aside the hall-doors enters the great king covered in his heavy fur robes. (Think Viking-lord and you get it.) He brandishes his Sword of Moderation and all fall silent. The few onlookers wait for one of the Opinionated to make a sound or a movement and watch as their heads roll to the ground. Exiled in Seattle makes pointing motions to the other side of the table but otherwise does nothing. Nev the Deranged, enters the hall and sits down to speak but looks over at the great King Eley and quickly shuts his mouth. All is silent in the hall again…for now.

    I think I have a little too much free time on my hands if I can write a comment such as this one. But I have so much fun writing them, I can’t help myself.

    Yours faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  11. Blaine Boy says:

    On my previous comment: Mr. Eley, I am not implying that you are dictatorial in any sense of the word. I just happen to have an over-active imagination and I thought someone might appreciate. (I like to play to any crowd I can get which often ends up not working.) I apologize if this seems less than humorous in any way. If I have offended you, please feel free to tell me and I will try to refrain from making further comments such as the one posted above. Thank you for your time.

    Your faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  12. George says:

    Whoa – what’s the big fuss about accents? The story is written and narrated in English. So the accent is not North American. So what?

    Make an effort people. I am shocked that this is even an issue to anyone interested in SF. Do you think that if orange-skinned hexapods flew in from Arcturus they would speak with the same accent you do?

    Their methods of communication might not even involve speech. If your enjoyment of a story depends on it being spoon-fed to you (i.e. no slang to figure out) and it being read in your accent, then I guess you still believe the earth is flat and is at the centre of the universe.

    Such provincial thinking is unbecoming. I urge in the immortal words of George Clinton: “Free your mind, your ass[es] will follow.”

    Mr Eley, Mr. Tolbert, Ms. Ballantine: keep up the great work!

  13. A particularly stupid artie says:

    OK, so English isn’t my first language. In fact, it’s fourth. So I have no idea what this story was about, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. While the newfangled wordslangy thingies went totally over my head and made me awfully confused, the reading and accent were so pleasant and soothing that I just let it flow over me and take me to a blissful place, far away from the rainy and dark bus stop I spent way too long on.

    More readers from down under, please!

  14. madjo says:

    I’d sell off body-parts (not necessarily my own :P), for a chance to hear Pip read from the dictionary or from the phonebook… :)

    So I just queued up this story in my mp3-player for my commute tomorrow. :)

  15. I really enjoyed this story. By the end, I really had a good understanding of the setting and what was going on. It was an intriguing premise and I really enjoyed the reading.

    I’m not sure how anyone could have been confused by the accent. I can understand being confused by the new lingo, but it was clear what was being said. As for the quality of the voice, no offense to the other talented readers on Escape Pod, but this is the best so far in my opinion.

  16. Brave Space Monkey says:


    Oh wait… (does anyone do that anymore?)

    This story must have gotten to people. We’re still posting on it while there is a new story already in the wilds of the Inter-web. With only a few comments posted on it.

    Maybe the measure of a story is the number of people that get fired up enough to post about it (good or bad)?

    PS, Arties aren’t stupid…

  17. valjean24601 says:

    Not Bad. I had trouble understanding what Phillipa was saying. Also I thought it was unrealistic how the Arties were able to create creatures so easily. Besides this it was a good story.

  18. Blaine Boy says:

    Sorry for filling up all this space, but I just really want to say this. Specialization is necessary not just intellectually but also athletically. Almost every sport is based types of specializations. Between sports, positions, and even teams there are all sorts of specializations. I have learned from experience that it pays to specialize in a sport ( unless you are really talented and can play several sports/ positions well.) I have been jumping sports every few years and I realized how much better off if I had just stuck to one sport and just kept going with it. Alright, then. I hope I haven’t wasted too much of your commenting room and reading time. I hope I don’t have to take up more of it (until the next story of course.)

    Yours faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  19. HTI says:

    I must say I like Phillipas accent very mutch. In Ireland we do sprout some funny accent of our own but I think the NZ one is just so much more entertaining to listen to. I guess it boils down to what kind of local accents you have weather you have trouble understanding the narrator of this story or not.
    As for the specialization discussion here if the baseknowledge is brought enough it is good and needed but if the basis is not there it will be detrimental in the end.

  20. madjo says:

    Specialisation has its pros and cons.

    Knowing a little from a lot of subjects can be enough in some cases, but in others it’s better to know a lot from a few subjects.

    For my work, for instance I do need to specialize (I’m a software test engineer), because it is such a broad field that knowing enough from a lot of relevant subjects is quite hard.

    Besides that, I’d rather not have a dentist cut my hair. Similar for hair dressers checking my teeth.
    Some specialisation is necessary.

  21. cold ethel says:

    good story. good commentary. thx.

  22. DrCrisp says:

    Blaine Boy (Comment #60)

    (Beowulf-esque hall) Where’s Angelina Jolie?

  23. I would just like to comment that, as a general rule, I LIKE accents, whether Brit or Aussie or Kiwi or Gaelic or North Carolinian, or whatever. And, upon reflection, I liked this particular accent paired with this particular story.

    I think I just had a knee-jerk reaction based on that one story about… whatever the hell it was about, I still don’t know… that featured the dual-untintelligibility-factor of both accent and jargon.

    So, I guess what I’m really saying is, “Thanks, Steve, for doing a better job picking a narrator we could understand than in the past.”

    Aaaand, I’m done now.

  24. Lucianno says:

    Excellent story. Not to pile on the already lengthy discussion about accents and slang, but I have to say that this one wasn’t too bad. The slang was pretty straightforward- it wasn’t any worse than Ender’s Game (which it reminded me of), anyway. The accent wasn’t either. In fact, the only story where I actually had to stop listening because I had no clue what was going on was Cinderella Suicide. This was nowhere near that.

  25. amc says:

    I don’t mind, and often enjoy, having to get accustomed to an accent as a person reads a story. But to pair that choice of a heavy-accented narrator with a story so laden with completely new words (essential to the plot) was a mistake, imo. If I were the author of the story I’d be pretty frustrated with Stephen’s choice. Me, I had to turn it off after 10 minutes of understanding only about 50% of the story and realizing it wasn’t going to get any better. The story sounded great, though, so I’m hoping to find the text version.

  26. SF Fangirl says:

    I found this an okay, merely good story. Nothing great. I had no problem with the accent. It did take me a bit to be able to get the slang. I have to say for a while I thought “artie” refered to artificial like a created being. Then I wasn’t positive it didn’t until I gathered that the brainiacs and thicknecks were created the same way. There were too many unanswered questions about the universe to take this story to a higher level for me. Throughout the whole story I was puzzling out the universe. I don’t mind that, but prefer it to end before the middle of the story. What little was explained didn’t make sense to me. Why create children to allow them to run wild? Why create kids who need to create and not allow them to and go so far as to destroy their creations when it physically hurts them? The universe didn’t hold together with the little info we got.

  27. Azure says:

    I enjoyed this story. I must admit that the combination of accent and new words confused me for a few moments, but I just opened my mind up to understanding and it was good. I think far too often people have their minds closed to understanding and instead get frustrated and critical.

    Anywho, after I figured out the Universe, I quite liked this story. It was touching and fun. Me likey the arties & harmony.

  28. oldguypaul says:

    I used to work in the pokey pokey and really enjoyed the great reading of Pip in this story. The slang was great and the NZ lilt made for a great combination. More please Steve.

  29. wyrdo says:

    wow, I could listen to this narrator read the phone book. Story was not bad too.

  30. xena says:

    Not my favorite. I am rarely tempted to stop listening to escape pods before the end, but I nearly didn’t finish this one through. It just didn’t pull me in. Not due to the reader’s accent, that’s actually what kept me listening.

  31. Calculating... says:

    i loved that even within their own clique there were levels to which people belonged.

    its scared me though cause that is what our future is. genetic alterations at birth will create a super race of humans, specialized for certain tasks.

    scary stuff

  32. amc says:

    To follow up from my previous comment, I went to Amazon and purchased the anthology (Seeds of Change) in which this story appears. Great tale, and many other wonderful stories in the book. Highly recommended.

  33. [...] Pod has recently podcast two of the stories from Seeds of Change: Arties Aren’t Stupid by Jeremiah Tolbert and Resistance by Tobias S. Buckell. Go give them a listen! November 5, 2008 | Filed Under News [...]

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  35. [...] During today’s run, I listed to Adventures in SciFi Publishing #69 (Tom Lloyd) and part of Escape Pod #179 (”Arties Aren’t Stupid”).  Earlier this week, I listened to I Should Be Writing #105 (welcome back, Mur!) and Accident Hash [...]

  36. valjean24601 says:

    I can’t get enough of this story. The slang and the tone of the piece made me want to here more. I was a little nervous when I heard the from New Zealand. Once when this happened, I couldn’t understand what the person was saying, but with this it worked perfectly with the story. This story compelled me to read a Clockwork Orange, which is a good book despite the confusing slang words.

  37. [...] Listen to the audio version at Escape Pod. VN:F [1.7.5_995]please wait…Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast) Read the Story [...]