Episode 62: Podcast Saga 15 - What about the [Show] World?


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            Maybe I was too dramatic last week. Or not necessarily dramatic. That might not be the right word. Maybe I just made a big deal out of something that was pretty obviously true. After all, every story told by humans would technically be a human story or would have elements of our humanity in it. It’s just how things work. We are the thing doing the creating, and we have these biases, you could call them. I mean, we just haven’t figured out how to fully strip ourselves of our human nature, at least in a narrative context. Which should make you wonder what types of stories artificial intelligence will someday tell. But that’s neither here nor there.

            Nor anywhere but a spiral to some place I don’t want to go right now. I’m just trying to segue to the point that there really is something to be said about the technology in a sci-fi story. The way gadgets intertwine to create the world or to move the plot along. In the intricacies and our relationships to them. I mean, that might be the thing you really want or like about sci-fi. But to me, it was never so important.

            However, I can be a team player. So enter two audio fiction shows that are more technology heavy from my perspective. Or at least, you could point out the intense connection the narrative itself has to the technology that compose it. Almost to the point of a fixation rather than a co-existence. That probably didn’t make sense. It is to say, however, that if you put the science in science fiction, sure enough, I’ll still find something about the human experience to poetic muse about even if it isn’t appropriate. Or the best use of my time. It’s what I gravitate too, I guess. But you probably already knew that.

            But I mean, we do have a relationship with the literal things in our lives, for better or worse. I mean, how many people you know who have a little cleaning robot in their home are emotionally attached to their little cleaning buddy. And what about our frustrations? Or hope? Or anything.

            Now, there’s something we can talk about.

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            Hi. It’s M. Welcome to Episode 62.

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            Like, I said, I’ve got two podcasts on the docket today. Also I am very aware that I’m running a little more fast and loose with the interpretations this week. But like I said last week, I was taught to be or learned to be skeptical of science fiction, and it wasn’t until recently, until podcasting, that I realized that there was something else out there. That there was something more to what I always thought I knew about an entire genre. Which yes, incredibly naïve and simplistic. We’ve been over this.

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            Moonbase Theta Out is a science fiction series from Monkeyman Productions that’s currently in-between its first and second seasons. Season One had Roger Bragado-Fischer, from the communications division or in charge of the communications, reporting back to management in a series of official weekly broadcasts. These are more formal transmissions, though Roger is allotted a certain portion, a small portion, of each broadcast for a personal message. Roger works for The Moonbase program owned and controlled by a corporate entity whose existence you can easily picture. There used to be a series of science bases on the moon, but then profit. Or lack thereof. Roger and his team are on the last base, Theta and it is twenty weeks away from closure. So they wait. Well, there’s a little bit of work to be done, but technically, yeah, they wait.

            Season 2 promises to explore these same events through the perspectives of the people involved, so—hopefully—we will have more personal messages than one man trying to reach out to his husband. I mean to say, the story will be flushed out, gaps will be filled, and names will stop being names once we open up the narration a bit.

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            And that leads to the (quote) thing about Moonbase Theta Out that I wanted to talk about. So right now, this show is Roger telling the story of events in a way that does necessitate some filtering. We as the audience are taking the perspective or at least, hearing the same thing as, this abstract corporate entity. That context requires a great deal of sterility and formality because, you know, anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of business, particularly if some sort of scandal arises. That’s just how they all work. The corporation in this context is remarkably generic. Unfortunately and fortunately. I guess it depends on your opinions.

            But obviously, Roger can’t or won’t put everything into every transmission. Obviously, he won’t explicitly say everything. But beneath the surface, beneath what we are hearing, is a narrative arc that maybe ambiguous corporate entities aren’t interested in at all.

            Then again, they would be if there was profit to be made…

            Whatever, I guess. I mean, I don’t guess. I do something less than guess. Whatever that would be.


            Ultimately, this show is just the final set of weekly broadcasts from Moonbase Theta, starting at the twenty week mark and continuing until the closure date. It’s the moments before some sort of ending. I imagine it’s not just the ending of the base or the mission or the Moonbase program. but of their time together, of this era in their lives. For better or worse.

            And Roger can remind us that it’s for the better, right? Anxiety of delayed supply rockets, tech problems, or other forms of potential destruction aside. He spends his portion of the broadcast reaching out to Alex, a clearly much beloved husband and their (I assume) very cute pets. That’s part of the world he gets to have afterwards. So shouldn’t he want the mission to end sooner? I mean, all the problems will be behind him AND he gets his family. Win-win.

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            In some ways, yes. When you get to that point. But Moonbase Theta Out is about the time just before all that. In many ways, it’s about the transition. That storm before the calm, you could call it. And that’s what we’re witnessing: the unravelling and the human reaction therein.

            But didn’t you just say that the reports have to be professional, you might be pointing out. Aren’t they transformed into something else by sheer virtue of being observed in a professional context? Well, you aren’t wrong for pointing that out, but I’m not wrong for this observation, either. But to explain that, I need to do some more laying out of what I think this phenomenon is like to experience.

            I know I’ve mentioned that terrible job I had working for a narcissist who disguised his nature with performance-grade altruism. I talked about how disconnected I felt from the rest of the world, alone, lost, isolated, partially because my boss kept beating me down. Pro tip, when someone decides to be miserable and gets some deep satisfaction from it, you aren’t going to change their mind. Their pleasure—no matter how it was gained—will always be prioritized above whatever you do.

            So I should have been happy to leave, right? I mean, for one, the company was so determined to not give me any sort of benefits, that I was never taken off of temp-status despite being expected to put in the extra work and act—not just pretend but genuinely act—like I would be there forever. I’m sure they wanted me to be there forever because they said as much, but they weren’t willing to do what would rationally be considered their part of the bargain.

            Also, I had a month long trip coming up. The advantages of temping and working in the arts at night. Also, I was travelling to see and with family. So it was a lot less expensive. It was just air fare I had had to save up for. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible. But I mean, despite whatever this company wanted, I was on my way out. There was no way around it.

            That isn’t to say they didn’t try to find a way around. Towards the end, they did try to (quote) “reason” with me, offering me fulltime employment status that they should have tossed out at three months in a thirty day term mark. But by then, it was too late. And I shouldn’t have to explain why, right? I mean, I was unhappy. I knew they were terrible people, I hated the work, and I had a better job lined up for me when I came back. Unpleasant current moment and happily ever after waiting in the wings. It should have been straightforward, right? I should have been happy?

            But it wasn’t, and I wasn’t. There wasn’t just enthusiasm and joy but this surreal state of being. It resisted words, then and now. This anticipation, this fear, this…. Unmooring. It turns out being adrift is a surprisingly neutral state. Neutral in that it doesn’t matter what you’re leaving or why or where you are going. There’s a time in which there is a disruption to your current being, and while you think you know what that disruption means, you also know that existence and all the nuances therein are going to march on regardless of your expectations.

            And there’s something scary about that because that might mean you got trampled.

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            For all I could say about Moonbase Theta Out, this is the most impressive, this ability to portray this sense as it usually manifests itself: in situations in which you have to ignore it, suppress, or pretend that everything is fine. Even if you feel like you know, it’s not. Because it can be, right? Everything could be fine. In time.

            It’s hard to process the loss of things and circumstances, even those that weren’t ideal. And it’s harder to express partially because it runs counter to expectations. In Moonbase Theta Out, real problems do arise that give these feelings something to latch onto. In many ways, the fears loosely felt when adrift are realized, and it helps us to understand other. In many other ways, it’s worse than that, but if you listen to the show, you know what I mean.

            What if lost is replaced by something worse. That’s possible. That’s what we fear. Even with people, right? That the friends we have that aren’t great friends could step away and leave us with something worse or even nothing. Destructive relationships are still relationships, after all.

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            Part of the formula in Moonbase Theta Out that makes this possible is the corporate presence looming overhead. It forces the break on terms that might not be desirable for the simple and yet not so simple reason of money. It dictates what happens, and to be fair, it technically provides what is needed to do all of those things. But the piece that is missing is choice.

            And that’s ends up being a somewhat okay segue into the next show I want to talk about. We Fix Space Junk produced by Battle Bird Productions, which is a great name for a production company, particularly one with a science-fiction podcast like this one. One that is high energy, comedic, and yet also kind of dark… At times. In the premise. In the inciting action. In the buil— I’ll get to that. I promise because I do recognize that there is a lot to unpack in what I just said.

            But for now, I should point out that this story surrounds seasoned smuggler Kilner and the reluctant fugitive Samantha as they travel the galaxy doing odd jobs for the corporation that doesn’t literally own them but also literally owns them. A feeling many of us might know considering the way debt tends to compound on itself, even when that isn’t literal compounding.

            This is where the line between premise, inciting action, and environment gets blurred a little bit. Because yes, this is a major part of the story, it was a contract in the beginning that both created the debt that made the story possible and made the story possible, but this corporation, Automnicon, is literally in their space craft with them. Well, not literally but also literally. They are the company that makes pretty much everything. Well, they are the second biggest company in the universe. Samantha was actually raised by the owners of one of the biggest, and then that went away because of course it did. And that’s an awkward learning curve to come back from. I don’t mean that attitude of “I can just pay someone to do this” to “I need to do this myself.” Which, well awkward, is easy to write off out of frustration and is also not really relevant here.

            I mean to refer to the sense of trust she has now lost. That the family who should have loved her has turned their backs on her when it was more convenient to blame her for something, actually a series of somethings. And when her romantic partner does much of a similar thing.

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            These forms of love are supposed to be consistent, foundational things, and nope, plot twist, really, what Samantha has to fall back on is capitalism. It’s the utility and desire latent in the transactions of a mega-corporation: that’s what Samantha will always be able to count on.

            And that’s incredibly dark. We shouldn’t just boil down all relationships to greed, but don’t let that fear turn you off from listening to We Fix Space Junk. For one, it’s purposely a bit satirical, and it’s also science fiction. In both instances, a story would exaggerate or distort a particular trait or quirk in current life-slash-existence to prove a point. It doesn’t mean anything it presents is a lie, but it also doesn’t mean everything is pure, unaltered truth. It’s just a distortion of the truth that gets at the heart of it.

            Simply put, transactional relationships have their appeal. (Pause). Yes, I mean, this set up does highlight the plight of the modern worker and the student debt crisis, etc, etc. But I think that’s the sort of thing that gets covered in other podcasts, not necessarily We Fix Space Junk grounded podcasts, but you know, it comes up. Whereas this aspect of our human nature is something we are more likely to hide from. And that is, this sense that relationships that are built around some sort of transaction can feel more reliable than the alternatives. Despite how we exult the alternatives.

            You can prove a transaction exists. You can prove an agreement was made. There is an entire branch of law devoted to that sort of things. Those are objective facts, but affection is harder to pin down. I have to trust the person who claims to love me, who—by virtue of their position in my life—is capable of doing the most damage to me. And if I’ve already been burned before, well that’s going to be a little hard.

            Insert stories of heartbreak and bad partners making it hard to love again. Yeah, yeah, I know how predictable that turn would be. After all, romantic love is at the center of all things, right? Or that’s how the story usually goes. That’s what we normally see, particularly around Valentine’s Day. That’s a real concern in the right light.

            But look at it this way, from my perspective, I am bound to my love by my fear of being adrift and by their choice to stay in love with me. Or at least, to act on that love for me despite the difficulties therein. But if I—let’s say—sign a binding contract with a major corporation capable of doing almost anything to keep me alive, whether or not they will notwithstanding, then I can expect some level of consistency from them. There are lengths they are willing to go, even if it’s to get the profits they wish to have. And as long as I can provide whatever I can do for them, I have them.

            If I am consistent, they will be too.

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            That’s consistency, though. Not loyalty. Loyalty and the emotional fulfillment it offers is what is important, but it’s not going to get you as far as you may ultimately need to go, but however, when you are afraid, you will take what you can get. It’s the best you can do. It’s the short term solution that will get you through the day, even if you aren’t happy about it. Or as happy as you could have been.

            And suppose you do want that long term solution? Well, then we’re back to a different problem, aren’t we? To the storm before the calm. The feeling of being adrift, struggling to find that all important direction.

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            Of course, that all falls apart when you remember that this is a company compounding interest at an absurd rate just because they can. (New music fades in) Like I said, there are other musings to be had about this show and greed in general that I think have happened albeit without a reference to We Fix Space Junk. My point is that, it’s not something we aren’t aware of in other contexts. This distrust of those relationships we culturally exult is a bit harder to admit to. Families and lovers are supposed to give us energy and life and are romanticized and cherished above all things. Just overlook the part where everything could go wrong. Or has gone wrong for many people. It’s an easier narrative to believe. It’s a more comforting one. Even if it’s not accurate.

            We Fix Space Junk ends up pretty blunt about this. That sometimes the best relationships you have aren’t based on family or love. Because these relationships can go awry. And then we have to—or hope to—have something else to fill that void. Maybe it’s the accidents of fate or the contracts we sign. There just needs to be some flexibility in that schema, you would think, so that we can roll with punches and eventually find that real, authentic happiness with real, authentic love. Because there are billions of life trajectories to be had, many absurd adventures, many unforeseen challenges, and other types of twists and turns down the road. From them, priorities may shift. Rigid cultural schemas aren’t great for that sort of thing. They ignore the real issues and let other arise.

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            To be fair, there’s a lot more to We Fix Space Junk than a musing on the types of relationships out there and how the cards may actually fall. These are the thoughts that have always struck me: that a corporation trying to essentially own you might be better than what you’ve had before. It doesn’t make the corporation; it just makes everyone else super, super, wrong.

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            This has been a production of Miscellany Media Studios. Thank you for listening. Find us, our other shows, and transcripts at miscellanymedia.online. That’s miscellanymedia.online.   Thanks.