Sunday, June 28, 2015

Short Story Sunday

Inappropriate Behavior
by Pat Murphy


This story had the potential to be great but it really fell short.  I've been listening to my back log of Escape Pod episodes, so I've been picking and choosing which ones to post here, pretty much whichever ones stand out to me.  Usually it's the really good ones that I want to write about.  This one however, bothered me so much, I can't get it out of my head and the more I think about it the more I dislike it.  It's about an autistic girl who remotely operates a cockroach machine on a deserted island when a man is shipwrecked there and she's the only thing that can save his life.  When the story begins the reader has no clue that the cockroach is an autistic girl, that's discovered later in.  And when it is revealed, boy does the author bash it over your head.

I think the thing that bothered me the most about the story was when Annie, the cockroach girl, asked Evan, the shipwrecked man, to tell her a story.  This happens twice, and the stories were Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk.  Now these stories pretty much everyone in Western society knows.  The few that don't know these stories are too young to comprehend them.  That being said, why did Murphy feel the need to retell this within his story?  Here's why - it was an excuse to bash Annie's autism over your head a little bit more.  Let's take a characters actions from a story then examine their every action and decide if it was something Annie would do or if it was a NT action (a term that was constantly used that bothered me just as much as these retellings).  She decided that Cinderella wasn't NT (aka Cinderella was autistic) because being forced to live on a cot in the kitchen was nice, and going to a ball wasn't, and marrying a prince was just about the worst thing ever.  Annie got upset over the ending because it wasn't what Cinderella would've wanted, she wanted to go back to her filthy cot in the soot of the kitchen.

I get that the Murphy was trying to make a point about autism and try to get people to understand it better through a story, but really, this was the absolute worst way to go about doing it.  I know plenty of autistic people, I haven't met one that I didn't like.  Sure they act a little odd, but once you get used to their peculiarities they're great people.  That being said, Annie was 100% unlikable.  I felt awful for Evan, of all the island he could be stuck on he was on one with her.  She cared more about fiddler crabs having rocks then she did about another person's life.  The only character worse than her was her doctor.  A quack through and through.

I think one thing that made me hate this story as much as I did was the narration.  Usually  when i don't like a narrator I put up with it (the beauty of listening to 30 minute short stories on audio) then promptly forget about it, because either the story was so awesome it made up for the bad narration, or because the story was so unmemorable that the bad narration faded into obscurity just as quickly as the story did.  This story was narrated by MJ Cogburn.  Listening to her read felt like listening to a 9 year old trying to read (and I'm being very generous there).  She paused in all the wrong places, she had extreme difficulty pronouncing simple words. She stumbled over easy sentences, it was torturous to listen to.  She made a bad story drag on twice as long as it needed to.  I don't know if she herself has issues reading aloud, or if it was a decision for the character.  If it was a decision it was poorly executed, Evan and Annie had the same bland toneless slow narration, and if it were done because of Annie, it made her sound like autism wasn't her only problem.

This story gets my lowest rating 1/10.  The only enjoyable part of listening to it was Alasdair's intro and outro.  I first listened to this story on Escape Pod.  The full story is posted there as well, I recommend reading it over listening to it, but I really don't recommend you do either.  Instead just go to the next episode, That Other Sea, it's so much better!

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