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 THE MACHINE OF DEATH (predicting) View next topic
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Boorishly P. Foundry
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:41 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

What if people realized that they couldn't change their destinies? So the people who got "drowning" wouldn't necessarily avoid swimming pools since they'd know that fate would catch up with them somehow anyway. But every time they went swimming, they'd have this icky depressing feeling and they wouldn't be able to have any fun. It would just suck all the joy out of living.

Like the kids would be all like, "Daddy, daddy, can we go swimming today?" And you'd be like, "Well, fine, I guess." But the whole time you'd just be standing in the shallow end thinking "Is this the time? Is this the time when I actually die?" And maybe you make a half-hearted attempt to go swimming, but then you just feel sick and you sit down on the edge of the pool because you're afraid you'll throw up. And then your son is all like, "Daddy, daddy, watch me do a cannon ball!" And you look up and watch him jump in and you try to be excited for him, but all you can think about is that you'll probably die in a place like this someday and you can't stop imagining what it'll be like.

And then you go home and you start to take a shower, but then you start wondering if it's possible to drown in a shower. And you start thinking up all these improbable ways that you could die there. Then later you dry yourself off and go down to the kitchen to get a drink to calm yourself. And then you think about how the doctor didn't say drowning in water and you read somewhere that it only takes a teaspoon of liquid for a person to drown so then you almost can't swallow the drink you made because your throat is so tight. And then you throw the glass across the room and you start crying and you didn't even see your little son in the corner watching you the whole time and now he's scared to death and why did you ever go to that stupid doctor in the first place.

Actually, Ryan, maybe you should write this story after all. It sounds like it could be pretty good.

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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:47 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Yeah, it's got a lot of possibilities! It's sort of like people who are really allergic to something, only expanded to encompass all activities, and changed so that you won't definitely die if you eat a peanut, but you will definitely die one day by eating a peanut.

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Boorishly P. Foundry
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:54 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

You could do a whole anthology with a lot of short stories about how different people react to this information. Like if some guy got "trampled by an elephant" maybe it wouldn't be that hard to avoid elephants, and he would always be on the look-out for escaped animals. But people with really common deaths (like drowning or getting hit by a car) would have to just DEAL WITH IT as best they could. Maybe some people would become daredevils and some people would become super cautious and maybe some people would totally just not look at it and everyone would think they are crazy.

Do it, Ryan. Do it! Abandon all your other projects and write this anthology!

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BenB



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:58 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Also: you'd know all the ways you wouldn't die. So if, for instance, you knew you'd someday be killed by an escaped circus animal, you wouldn't be afraid to go sky-diving, or base-jumping, or to climb Mt. Everest, because in none of those situations are you all-too-likely to be killed by a circus animal. Especially not on Mt. Everest.

You could even go to the moon strapped to highly explosive rockets!

Whee!

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Elliot



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:58 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Have you guys seen Big Fish? The story about the old witch woman with the glass eye that you could see your own death in?

I think if we knew the circumstances of our own death, it would warp our sense of fear about death to something quite different from what it generally is now. I think a more clear reminder of our own mortality would over all have a more humbling effect than inducing paranoia or worrying, because I think humans are pretty adaptive with those sort of things, if they are there constantly. It's like the guys who build skyscrapers and are constantly in danger of falling hundreds of feet to their death. It might be scary at first, but they get used to it, and it's just part of their life after a while. I think the sort of icky depressing feelings are based on our current conception of death with the normal assumption that we're not going to die any time soon unless we're really old, terminally ill, doing something dangerous, etc.
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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:59 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

HMM, maybe I will! People seem to really like the idea when it's condensed down to six panels, perhaps they'll like it just as much when it's a big ol' book!

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The Famous Mr. Klaw
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:01 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

BenB wrote:
Also: you'd know all the ways you wouldn't die. So if, for instance, you knew you'd someday be killed by an escaped circus animal, you wouldn't be afraid to go sky-diving, or base-jumping, or to climb Mt. Everest, because in none of those situations are you all-too-likely to be killed by a circus animal. Especially not on Mt. Everest.

You could even go to the moon strapped to highly explosive rockets!

Whee!


Except then you'd go sky-diving and it would turn out you were using an Elephant Brand Parachute that wouldn't open.

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Squidd



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:05 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I wonder if maybe this should be a COLLABORATIVE anthology? And it should of course be noted that I am saying this because I would hate to see you abandon all your other projects, and not because I would be interested in contributing a story to such an anthology.

Except that, uh, I would. Be interested. If that's how you wanted to do it. Y'know, just sayin'!

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Boorishly P. Foundry
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:12 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Or what if there are a bunch of people on a plane together. And one lady says to the person next her, "You know, I'm always so afraid to fly because I'm supposed to die in a plane crash but I had no choice today." And the person next her is all like, "You're supposed to die in a plane crash...? Me too..."

And then they're like OH CRAP and they start asking around, and all the people around them are supposed to die in a crash too. Except maybe there are a few people here and there who are supposed to die other ways. And the people are like, do we tell the pilot? Will that make it worse? Can it possibly be just a coincidence? Why doesn't everybody die? What do the other people do differently? Is there anything we can do at all?

And then they start telling the people who aren't going to die all these messages to give to their family and stuff. And the hours go by and there's nothing wrong with the plane and everyone is like, "What's going on? Are we going to crash or not? Maybe on landing?" And then the flight attendants get everybody ready just like there's going to be a crash landing even though there's no reason to think there will be. And everyone starts getting hysterical as the plane starts its descent. They have the runways cleared at the airport and fire trucks standing by and its very tense and the plane keeps descending and then...

I don't really know how to end the story actually.

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Boorishly P. Foundry
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:16 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Actually, I guess that's pretty much the same as Ryan's alternate ending to the comic, except less creepy.

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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:17 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Maybe it's not such a bad idea! I'd like the universe to be consistent though, and I'm not really interested in having a story where someone escapes his fate. The whole joy of the setup is that you'll always die as you're told you were, maybe not just in the way you expect.

I guess then I'd contribute a story and edit it! And I'd take submissions!

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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:20 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I really like that idea Boorishly, and how people would be trying to shoehorn "plane crash" into their own death predictions.

Here's a draft of an introduction I wrote to the anthology JUST NOW.

The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn't give you the date and it didn't give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words "DROWNED" or "CANCER" or "OLD AGE" or "CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN". It let people know how they were going to die.

The problem with the machine is that nobody really knew how it worked, which wouldn't actually have been that much of a problem if the machine worked as well as we wished it would. But the machine was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark, and seemingly delighting in the ambiguities of language. "OLD AGE", it had already turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by an bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death - you can know how it's going to happen, but you'll still be surprised when it does.

The realization that we could now know how we were going to die had changed the world: people became at once less fearful and more afraid. There's no reason not to go skydiving if you know your sliver of paper says "BURIED ALIVE". The realization that these predictions seemed to revel in turnabout and surprise put a damper on things. It made the predictions more sinister - yes, if you were going to be buried alive you weren't going to be electrocuted in the bathtub, but what if in skydiving you landed in a gravel pit? What if you were buried alive not in dirt but in something else? And would being caught in a collapsing building count as being buried alive? For every possibility the machine closed, it seemed to open several more, with varying degrees of plausibility.

By that time, of course, the machine had been reverse engineered and duplicated, its internal workings being rather simple to construct, given our example. And yes, we found out that its predictions weren't as straightforward as they seemed upon initial discovery at about the same time as everyone else did. We tested it before announcing it to the world, but testing took time - too much, since we had to wait for people to die. After four years had gone by and three people died as the machine predicted, we shipped it out the door. There were now machines in every doctor's office and in booths at the mall. You could pay someone or you could probably get it done for free, but the result was the same no matter what machine you went to. They were, at least, consistent.


***

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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:25 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Oh man, "electrocution" would be a terrible one to get. That could happen anywhere!

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Beth
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:25 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Or what about a pretty happy-go-lucky person who finds out that he's going to die by committing suicide? He's confused at first--his life is pretty good, he's emotionally healthy, and he can't imagine doing that sort of thing. And then he realizes that something will have to happen to make himself want to kill himself. Maybe his wife will leave him. Maybe he'll be responsible for the death of someone else. Maybe he'll be in a terrible accident that leaves him crippled and disfigured. And then he'll be driven mad waiting for the event that makes him decide to end it... which, of course, would cause him to just get it over with and end his life now.

Man, Ryan, this whole idea is pretty hugged up.
Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:26 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Write a story for the anthology Beth!

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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:29 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Also I think it would be cool if each of the stories was titled with the cause of death. So there'd be a story called NATURAL CAUSES and one called AIRPLANE CRASH, etc.

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Bearclaw
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:33 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

NATURAL CAUSES would probably be the worst!

That's about as ambiguous as they come.

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Boorishly P. Foundry
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:35 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Do all the stories have to end with the person dying? Or can some of them be about how these predictions affect people while they're still alive?

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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:38 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

No, they don't have to end with them dying at all! But I'm assuming the prediction wouldn't be a critical part of the story (ie, knowing it before the story starts won't ruin anything). All I'd like is that it's not clear that they've avoided their fate - though the story can certainly end with them BELIEVING they've avoided it. It's just that a story where the machine fails would sort of undermine all the other stories.

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Beth
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:41 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Are repeats okay, or do I need to, I don't know, call shotgun for "SHOTGUN ACCIDENT"?

I would seriously consider writing one, though I am not a very good writer.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:41 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Ha ha, it would be great if the machine predicted that you'd die of STUPIDITY and for your whole life you have to deal with people thinking you're a moron.

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Elliot



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:42 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

yeah, or if you got SYPHILIS or something.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:44 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Oh OH, what if the machine printed off "caffeine," and the guy who got it spent his entire life avoiding coffee and soft drinks, fearing that every single one would lead to heart failure or some other complication?

And then one night, he's up late at the office, and he decides against having a soda to keep him awake. He leaves the office, falls asleep at the wheel on his drive home, and crashes into a Starbucks at 70 miles per hour, killing him instantly.
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tgjensen



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:44 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

BenB wrote:
Also: you'd know all the ways you wouldn't die. So if, for instance, you knew you'd someday be killed by an escaped circus animal, you wouldn't be afraid to go sky-diving, or base-jumping, or to climb Mt. Everest, because in none of those situations are you all-too-likely to be killed by a circus animal. Especially not on Mt. Everest.

You could even go to the moon strapped to highly explosive rockets!

Whee!


And then you go ahead climbing Mt. Everest but you have a terrible falling accident and all your limbs freeze off and you lose the ability to talk, and even though you get rescued you have no limbs and are unable to communicate and you have to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair, until one day your sister who doesn't know how you are going to die decides to cheer you up by taking you to the circus where suddenly the elephants RUN AMOK, everybody's fleeing and you're sitting there, thinking "oh."

OH MAN
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Ryan
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:45 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Hah hah, I love the STUPIDITY one! And yeah, repeats would be fine. You should write one Beth!

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:51 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

While I do think the idea is fun and could make some fun stories, isn't it the same idea that's in virtually every old Greek tragedy? Just another iteration of trying to escape your fate, or in struggling to accept your fate, etc.?

My essay to get into college was on a similar topic, on being told that you have three weeks to live, what do you do? My answer was that I would be too embarrassed to admit that I was about to die for fear that if I didn't, no one would ever believe me again. So I would try to tie up loose ends subversively, and virtually nothing would change until the day of my death, where regrets would happen.

Anyway, here's my contribution to the situation iterations: A depressed iconoclast who wants to find a flaw in the system and aims to kill himself in exactly the opposite manner to what the machine says gets a card that says "tragic." Extrapolate from there.

Edit: It occurs to me that "virtually every old Greek tragedy" is a gross gereralization, but I made it anyway.

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BenB



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:54 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

tgjensen wrote:
BenB wrote:
Also: you'd know all the ways you wouldn't die. So if, for instance, you knew you'd someday be killed by an escaped circus animal, you wouldn't be afraid to go sky-diving, or base-jumping, or to climb Mt. Everest, because in none of those situations are you all-too-likely to be killed by a circus animal. Especially not on Mt. Everest.

You could even go to the moon strapped to highly explosive rockets!

Whee!


And then you go ahead climbing Mt. Everest but you have a terrible falling accident and all your limbs freeze off and you lose the ability to talk, and even though you get rescued you have no limbs and are unable to communicate and you have to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair, until one day your sister who doesn't know how you are going to die decides to cheer you up by taking you to the circus where suddenly the elephants RUN AMOK, everybody's fleeing and you're sitting there, thinking "oh."

OH MAN

Well, you had to go SOMETIME.

I would've probably just had him get to the top of Mt. Everest, only to have his Sherpa guide pull a box out of his coat and say, "Check it out! For entertainment, I brought along my flea circus!"

Or something.

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BenB



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:55 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Ooo... ooo... or maybe his guide used to be IN the circus. He could be the escaped "circus animal"! I mean, humans are animals, right?

Possibilities!

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tgjensen



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:55 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

KILLER FLEAS

EDIT: OR KILLER SHERPAS
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BenB



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:57 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Killer sherpas would be more realistic, but killer fleas would be more FUNNY. If I made it killer fleas, I'd just end the story right there... leave it to peoples' imaginations how the fleas manage to kill the guy.

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