Dancing with Death

April 12, 2008

Dancing with death is not so much of a new thing to us in the subcontinent, but most of us do it unconsciously, or rather with implicit consciousness.

When we can quite easily live a luxurious life in some far away developed country, we choose on the contrary to take our chances in the war-ridden, corrupted and utterly-useless country that we call home. How the power of human conscience suppresses the innate survival instinct is kind of hard to explain.

But anyhoo, the wonderful thing about being born in the Internet age, is that where-ever you live, you can listen to wonderful podcasts such as Podcastle.

I’m already a big fan of the sciencefiction podcast escapepod. And when they announced the birth of their new cousin fantasy podcast “Podcastle”, I was quite literally off my feet. Their first episode “Come Lady Death” was exceptionally good. Didn’t have any white unicorns, stars falling from the sky or great elven philosophers singing about a mystical past, but it was subtle and imaginative.

Yay for podcastle! It’s pods & poems like these that makes dancing with death all the more worthwhile.

Several online polls like this one, say that the best ever science fiction short story written was Nightfall by Issac Asimov. (Until it recently came down to second place so that the story called Ender’s game could come first.)

I listened to Nightfall on the escape pod and half way through I felt thoroughly cheated. It’s a good story alright. But not very mind bending. I was searching for some crazy alien technology scrambled with a hint of popular science. Maybe some string theory in between and a wild conspiracy theory to wipe all life by means of neutron bombs and well placed nano-bots who are controlled by a central AI who’s reached far beyond any singularity that the human mind can understand.

Instead all I got was some depressing debate with a psychologist, cultist, scientist and journalist trying to figure out whether the world is actually going to end in a couple of hours or whether it was just a fragment of their imaginations.

But after listening to the whole story, which was actually written in 1941, and thus can be excused from not having the above cheap fictitious elements I longed for, me and meself realized deeply that stories are built on more subtle things.

So my review of Nighfall can be summed up in these few words; it’s boring but brilliant.

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