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Short story discussions > Nebula Nom: The Axiom of Choice, by David W. Goldman

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message 1: by Candiss (new)

Candiss (tantara) | 1207 comments Let's discuss The Axiom of Choice* by David W. Goldman, nominated in the Short Story category for the 2011 Nebula Awards.

*Please note: This story is in PDF form at the link provided on the Nebula Awards page. If anyone finds it online for free in another format, please let us know.


message 2: by Laurel (new)

Laurel There is a gimmick to this story. It is quite intelligently done, and does create a unique metaphor for the story. But, in the end I found it broke up the flow of what could have been a wonderful story. A story I wish I could have read and been completely overwhelmed by.


message 3: by Nikita (new)

Nikita (nikita42) I think I have to agree with Laurel. The gimmick fits with the story and what it's about, and it's a nice way to make a point, but it also detracts from it a bit as well.


message 4: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 971 comments I'm not sure that the gimmick fits the story. I would like to see it written another way. (a different "person" -- a different flow of action) As for what the story's about, except for the impact that death and maiming can have on everyone involved (which admittedly is pretty big stuff), I found it underwhelming.


message 5: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 82 comments I agree the gimmick confused me. I think its and interesting story but I didn't enjoy it


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 132 comments The gimmick mimicked a Choose Your Own Adventure book pretty perfectly in my opinion, down to the second person voice, which I would otherwise object to. The author includes some clever variations in the choices, to indicate that some choices really aren't choices at all. I think it was an effective tool given the themes of choice and free will.
The author got the folky stuff and the touring details down, and I guess I could really relate because that's my life too, though part-time these days. That said, I would never ever get on a tiny Cessna at night with a drunk pilot, and I had trouble feeling for someone whose problems stem from that one incredibly stupid choice.


message 7: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
I actually thought the gimmick was perfect here, in the way it echoed the whole determinism vs. free will theme of the story. I kinda groaned when I started reading, thinking he was really going to write a story in that format and not looking forward to hop-skipping around the story, but when I saw how he was using it, I thought it was clever and appropriate. The character's life was something I could relate too (if not for the choice Sarah mentions in the post right before this one!). The ending was moving. I actually would sign up to read a longer version of this one - which is always a good sign for a short story.


message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 132 comments What was the element in this story that allowed it to be called speculative fiction?


message 9: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
Hmm. Good question. I guess it's literally science fiction in that it's built around a scientific axiom? Plus the Choose Your Own Adventure format is often associated with fantasy role-playing like D&D, I think? I know it's a bit of a stretch.


message 10: by Shel, Moderator (new)

Shel (shel99) | 2238 comments Mod
I agree with Stefan - I liked the gimmick. I thought it was an unusual way to explore the whole idea of free choice. But I'm not sure, either, what makes it speculative fiction....


message 11: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K | 298 comments All this, plus I really loved the ambience it created....good story


message 12: by Random (last edited Apr 25, 2012 07:34PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 828 comments I still have two more stories to go, but so far this, along with Movement, are my favorites of the group.

Like Stefan, I liked the gimmick and feel it works very well with the underlying theme.

In regards to the initial choice mentioned by Sarah and Stefan, was that a choice of free will anymore than any other "choice" offered in the story?

". . . an axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted within the particular domain of analysis, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory and domain dependent) truths." - yanked shamelessly from Wikipedia

The story directly confronts the idea that freewill is an axiom, that it can never be proven because it is impossible for us to know the paths not taken. In fact, the lack of viable other choices reinforces the idea that freewill is only an illusion, and that any postulates based upon this axiom are in of themselves faulty. (What a nightmare of a statement. I think I might go mad if I knew for certain that this was true.)

At the same time, the ending gives the impression that it was the lack of choice that was the illusion, even though it does nothing to show any other choice available.

No conclusions, but I have a feeling I'll be thinking about this story for a long time, and that is the sign of a good story. There's no doubt in my mind that this sits squarely in the realm of SF.


message 13: by Random (last edited Apr 25, 2012 02:16PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 828 comments I should add - the characters and events in this story are actually irrelevant in regards to the point. The fact that people are drawn to this portion of the story is, in my opinion, a sign of how well he was able to write this on two different levels.


message 14: by Random (last edited Apr 25, 2012 02:31PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 828 comments Random wrote: "At the same time, the ending gives the impression that it was the lack of choice that was the illusion, even though it does nothing to show any other choice available."

Is it a sign of impending madness when you start replying to yourself? :D

In regards to my quote:

How often is it that we do this to ourselves? We seem to convince ourselves that there are no other choices, other paths, available. I know I have done this, and I have seen others do it as well.

The ending very blatantly only offers one choice. However, it is also a kind of parallel with the start of the story, which in of itself gives the impression that those multiple paths were available and viable all along, if the character had only been willing to see them and take them.


message 15: by Dani (last edited Aug 22, 2012 11:37AM) (new)

Dani (danooli) Candiss wrote: " If anyone finds it online for free in another format, please let us know. "
Here it is in audio format, free from Podcastle :) (no, I don't work for Podcastle, I just love them lots.)
http://podcastle.org/2012/06/05/podca...


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