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EP191: This Is How It Feels

By Ian Creasey.
Read by FNH (of The Cthulhu Podcast).

First appeared in Asimov’s, March 2008

Guest Host: Tony Smith (of Starship Sofa)

Nathan’s eyes stung as he remembered how Jenny used to do just that: the same jump down the stairs, the same windmilling of her arms as she landed…. The grief swept over him like a palpable wave, making him stagger backward.

“Dad?” Christopher kicked his backpack down the hall to the door. “You all right?”

“It’s nothing,” said Nathan. He rubbed the implant-port behind his right ear. It’s nothing. It’s not real.

But it felt real.

Rated PG. Contains themes of death and child endangerment.

Comments (28)

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  1. Ed from Texas says:

    Science fiction often provides a platform for an author to make a statement about our world by hiding it in the future or in an alien culture. But, this story is so unsubtle, ham fisted and agenda driven that it becomes easy to ignore the naked manipulation that the author is trying to deliver. I guess I’m just too jaded anymore to be won over by this kind of thing anymore.

  2. Ray says:

    Not bad. It was certainly manipulative, as Ed noted, but some of the sci-fi elements were interesting enough that I let this slide. “Brain implant as penalty for victimless traffic infraction” seems ridiculous on the surface, but this story made it seem reasonable.

    I spent half the story terrified that Nathan would learn Christopher was a second, more effective state-induced hallucination. The hopeful ending was a pleasant surprise.

    Speaking of surprises: Tony C. Smith as acting captain of Escape Pod? To paraphrase one of my favorite podcasters: “Thanks so much Tony; you’re a star.”

  3. scatterbrain says:

    My, that was soooooo New Labour’s Britain it was untrue: rampant privatization, government conspiracies, private lives invaded and clockwork oranges everywhere!

    Although it’s certainly going to alienate many American listeners, this is a definite favourite for me.

  4. The Syndicate says:

    Pretty cool. Rarely does science fiction even attempt to “tug at the heartstrings” as it were, but this managed to do exactly that. Quite a unique piece. I hope to hear from Mr. Creasey again.

  5. George Bailey says:

    This is great scifi!
    Excellent world-building, a sweet sweet main concept and a truly touching conclusion.

    Escape Pod just made my Friday!

  6. eagleapex says:

    That was a wonderful story

  7. steph says:

    Interesting story! The ending was much better and less cliched than I was expecting (I was expecting the protag to accidentally run over his own son – melodramatic much?).

  8. I’m a big fan of FNH and his “The Cthulhu Podcast”. It was a wonderful experience to hear him read a moving and emotional piece of science fiction.

  9. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    Wow. What a story. It had everything: a needlessly detailed, boring description of the minutiae of getting ready for the day; breeders whining about how hard it is for them to get to work because they’ve got kids; and one or two minor science fiction elements.

    A little sci-fi in the middle of a boring, bland story…are you sure this wasn’t Cory Doctorow?

  10. I liked the story. I’m not as picky as other people about manipulative under tones, as long as it keeps my interest. I do have to say that I miss Steve doing the intros. Not that this intro was bad, but change is hard.

  11. SethW says:

    Regardless of the agenda the story didn’t support itself. After a few sentences there wasn’t much left to listen to, I was left cold and hoped for a rally that did not come.

  12. phignewton says:

    not bad… but not entirely good either. If one wanted to limit someone to drive under 35 mph i can think of lots less intrusive technological fixes…

  13. Seekerpilgrim says:

    This is the first time I almost had to pull off to the side of the road, I was so close to tears. I’ve had several losses over the past year, and this story (besides showing that science fiction does NOT have to be all starships and aliens)hit very hard. Slow your life down, be here now, because tomorrow someone you love may be gone.

  14. [...] Money # 20 (Not So Toxic?); I Should Be Writing #113 (Paul Malmont and Brett Savory interviews); Escape Pod #191 (”This Is How It Feels,” by Ian Creasey); and Phedippidations #178 (All in Stride).  So there you have it: I get longer runs, you get more [...]

  15. AMC says:

    is there something wrong with the link? iTunes is reporting an error, and I can’t listen to it/download it here either.

  16. DrCrisp says:

    Reggae hosting?

    A very British story. Classic bit where the whole world in the story is “normal” except for one little bit, and how that changes things.

  17. D. C. says:

    I remember reading this story in Asimov’s last year. The flaw with this story is there is no real plot. It starts with a character who is cruelly suffering and ends with the same character cruelly suffering. In between, we learn why he’s being made to suffer, but there’s no resolution, no change of status, no evolution.

    Yes, it’s an imaginative use of technology to change behavior/punish transgressions, but where is the author’s judgment on it? While I felt sympathy for the plight of both fathers, I got no feeling whether Mr. Creasey believes the speeder deserved his fate or whether being forced to feel another person’s grief is an appropriate punishment, or what we Americans would call “cruel or unusual”.

    It is heart without morals.

  18. Bingorage says:

    A great premise, unfulfilled.

  19. [...] worth mentioning is Tony C. Smith`s, Starship Sofa’s esteemed host, guest appearance on another favorite podcast of mine, Escape Pod. A few things can put a big smile on my face like [...]

  20. vvvlad says:

    This story did exactly what SF stories are supposed to do… made people think (by using strange mind ticks) about the important stuff in life.

    This one is a little bit too strange for Escapepod, I would expect to hear it on Drabblecast…

    Tony you were great! :)

  21. Jay says:

    I reckon this was great SF due to it’s subtlety – the futurism was not explicit but part of the overall blend. I liked that.

    I thought the story was well crafted because it introduced it’s elements in a surprising, compelling way.

    The narrator suited the story and made it come alive.

    Tony’s intro/outro were great and he created interest in his own podcast – well done Tony.

    I listened to this one twice. A very successful podcast in my opinion.

  22. JB says:

    As a teenager over twenty years ago, I had to great misfortune to be the fellow who drove too fast and hit the kid. The child did not die, but he was very badly injured and hospitalized for many weeks. I’m certain he suffers the effects even today.

    I don’t recommend the experience. I’ll have the photorealistic image of his body impacting the hood of my truck with me till I die. And I could fill a novel with all the “minutiae” I remember from that afternoon. That minutiae is important to our comprehension of the protagonist’s state of mind.

    In the end, one survives such things by integrating them into the self. For some time after the accident, I shoved it aside in my mind and didn’t speak of it. But as I’ve grown older, the experience has become part of me, and it has come to instruct my living. God knows I’m a very careful driver now, but there are other ways, too. I’m respectful of children, and I recognize my reponsibility to them. I’m slower to criticize others’ “stupid” mistakes. I’m forgiving.

    That’s what I think is going on with our protagonist, he’s working through the process of integrating this into his self. Sometimes the heroic choice you make is to accept what is your lot and go on living.

    Am I projecting? Probably. I don’t care. I like the story.

  23. LaShawn says:

    I like this story, particularly because of all the manipulative elements in it. The fact that I know that the writing is attempting to pull at my heartstrings, and yet I fall for the sentamentality anyway, well–I found it to be well-done. And really, the message behind the story is a good one. It’s good to step back, slow down, take a breather. And I am also glad that ultimately, the protagonist recognized this, even though he knew he was being manipulated into it. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

  24. sdd says:

    Great idea, not about the tech or the use of the tech but the idea that we think we know but we really don’t know it feels.

    We all are disconnected in some way from each other. Even the father talking to the hologram as if it was his daughter. That was a bit freaky.

    Also find it funny that if we had this technology we would use it for something so banal as speeding.

    Why not use it to relive being in love for the first time, being hugged by your child or just relaxing and being happy.

    But no, it seem normal that we would use such impressive technology to brow beat people to slow down. Better to mandate the use of a stick than offering a carrot.

    Like others have said in this section. This story is what SF is all about.

    JB – thanks for sharing your comments it was well thought out and heart felt.

  25. fabkebab says:

    Wow – I really enjoyed this story – I thought it was a standout in my time spent listening to escape pod – Perhaps I am at a different time in my life from many of the podcast fans (I have children) but I thought this was thought provoking and well paced

  26. Blaine Boy says:

    First off: Tony, you have me hooked, I must subscribe to the Starship now.

    Second, and this is mostly to D.C., the resolution is that he is no longer really suffered. He has learned his lesson that he must be more responsible but also enjoy the life he has including the time he has with his children.

    Anyways it was a cool story with a great lesson. See ya ‘Scapers! (Guest hosts should say that at the end of their outros)

    Sincerely,
    The Blaine Boy

  27. MasterThief says:

    This is the only Escape Pod story that both creeped me out and pissed me off. No, I don’t care how pure the motives are, any government that claims the right to muck around in people’s heads like that over a f#$^g traffic ticket is not a government that I would willingly live under.

  28. [...] to “This Is How It Feels” by Ian Creasey at Escape [...]