Episode 98: Tupac Shakur And The End Of The World by Sandra McDonald

Where will you be when the end of the world comes? At home, able to spend the final days of your life with your loved ones? Or will you be caught far away, and spend your final days trying get back to them? And what does Tupac Shakur have to do with all of this?

Also, Big talks about the Muppets, Rish talks his usual nonsense, and they both talk about the story’s ending. Plus, Big recounts his recent battle with gurus!

Warning: the “bunt” jokes begin here. Next week, they get worse.

Special thanks to Rich Girardi for producing the story, and to Juliet Bowler and Rich Girardi for lending their voices to today’s episode.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.

Related Links:
Sandra McDonald’s Site
Juliet Bowler’s Site
Rich Girardi’s Lady Jade’s Lair
Some sound effects were provided by freesound.org.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


21 Responses to “Episode 98: Tupac Shakur And The End Of The World by Sandra McDonald”

  1. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the reference to fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. You see, I wrote a paper on FOP in high school, and I’ve found the disease fascinating ever since. The idea of a viral form of FOP going around the world was pretty terrifying, and the author did a very good idea of evoking that terror.

    I was also fascinated by a disaster story that defied the “plucky hero/ine” trope. Because, let’s face it, we can’t all be survivors. Maybe Jack went on to save the day – or at least himself – and maybe not. What we got was Susan’s life and Susan’s perspective, right up until she discovered that she was not the winner of this particular game.

    That said…

    First of all, this story bleaked the hell out of me. Compassion fatigue kicked in after the third or so reference to the fact that this was the END OF THE FREAKING WORLD, and I found my interest in the characters – and therefore the story – waning out of sheer self-preservation. Then the characters started dying senseless, unheroic deaths, and that was it for my engagement. Perhaps the sub-genere of non-heroic post-apocalyptic fiction just isn’t for me.

    Secondly, I did not appreciate the way the story talked to itself. The constant movie references and self-commentary felt like a version of “tell, don’t show” which continually threw me out of the story. Again, perhaps this would have been different if I’d seen more of these movies, but I don’t think so. It was the characters that interested me, not the references. Now, if the characters had been making the references at each other during dialogue, it might have been explicatory rather than disruptive.

    Finally, the bad science got to me, mostly because it was unnecessary. I don’t understand why the fast-acting FOP had to be a magical supervirus that behaved in viris-like ways when an ordinary, but virulent virus with a sufficiently long dormancy period would do just fine. Again, it threw me out of the story. Perhaps that’s just because I’m a science teacher.

    In the same vein, I just couldn’t buy that a disease like the one the narrator described could have the effect it did in the story. I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. Would a lot of people die? Sure. There’d be casualties, at first. But do you know that people with FOP sometimes go years between injury-induced flare-ups? People with advanced cases of leprosy have to do the same thing. I just can’t see why human culture just didn’t adapt, or wouldn’t adapt presently.

    Did you know, by the way, that there are contagious cancers? The cancer cells get into you and then start reproducing, just like they were in their own body. Ok, not “you.” So far the only contagious cancers are in dogs. Still… it’s a pretty scary idea.

    Anyway, on to my second finally, the whole Tupac thing annoyed me a little. I work with inner city kids; Tupac Shakur and those like him are their heroes. Tupac wasn’t necessarily a nice man, but he was a cultural icon. It seemed… disrespectful to include him in this way – to simultaneously harp on him and dismiss him – when it really didn’t add all that much to the story. If the main character had been a big Tupac fan – or a big Tupac detractor – then her dying in his memorial would have been ironic. As it was, it seemed totally arbitrary. I understand that a lot of the story was meant to be cruel and arbitrary, but it’s… insensitive and impolitic to use somebody else’s cultural icon as your arbitrary randomness, especially when there are so many other options.

    I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this story, overall, but neither would I condemn it as terrible and bad. I can see how it might have appealed to others, but it didn’t really do it for me.

  2. Scott Pigg Says:

    I always enjoy a good end of the world story, but this needed to be a bit longer and have a more dialogue. As always though I enjoyed the story and the ending.

    Oh and Tasmanian Devils also have contagious forms of cancer. So fingers crossed for them, but it doesn’t look good. It really may be the end of the world for them.

  3. Samantha Says:

    Well, that was super depressing, though as usual excellently read and produced.

    Gonna have to disagree with Mark about the movie references; I really enjoyed that aspect of it, as I have perodically speculated we all live our lives as the stars of our own movies. Sometimes I even imagine what soundtrack music would be playing at various moments in my own life. So that comparison really worked for me. Can’t speak about the bad science; I don’t have much science training. Which I suppose is to my advantage as it lets me enjoy more stuff, perhaps. :P

    Ending made me think of ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.’

  4. Scott Pigg Says:

    I agree with Samantha. I feel its part of the social norm (and not in a bad way) for people to reference movies when talking about a subject, and often. To day dream inside of the movies we love and to choose our “soundtrack” when we fined ourselves in interesting places and situations.

  5. Sean Ford Says:

    I enjoyed the story a lot, as I usually do this sort of thing.

    The science part didn’t bother me at all. Maybe I’m lucky I’m a dumb hick. I have a friend who’s a chemist, and he was really bothered that “Spider-man 2” depicted tritium wrong, whereas I was just blown away that it actually exists. And don’t get me started on my cousin, who thought “Terminator 2” was stupid because there’s no way liquid metal could work.

    I have no idea how wireless internet works, helium balloons go up, how a tape player can record, or how nipples get hard, but I’m just glad that they do.

  6. “I have no idea how wireless internet works/helium balloons go up/how a tape player can record/ or how nipples get hard/ but I’m just glad that they do”

    Uh oh. I think I feel a country music lyric coming on!

    oh wait, maybe that was a Tupac verse?

    especially if we can rhyme ‘record’ with ‘get hard’

    or maybe we can just make a Tupac record with a country music background. Then we can all be friends.


    ps. i prefer listening to songs or pieces over listening to genres of music. It’s usually possible to find some good songs in any given genre. I haven’t taken on the polka challenge yet, but I’d bet there’s something good in there.

  7. I read this story on Futurismic and enjoyed it. So I skipped the story part of the show. Sorry.

    I enjoyed the commentary this week, and I’m going to listen to Guru Showdown so that I can consider if I want to try out.

    Biggest wasted chance at a “bad” ending that could still have been really great, story-wise: Harry Potter 7. SPOILER ALERT: imagine how much more awesome the story could’ve been if the whole King’s Cross thing hadn’t happened and SOMEONE ELSE had fought the final battle?

  8. Morgan Elektra Says:

    I enjoy a story with a good downer ending… I hate when storytellers feel the need to have a down ending without earning it, just to shock people (*coughmovieversionofTheMistcough*). But I didn’t feel like this story did that. I dug the simple narration and felt a connection to Sue. I thought she had an interesting voice (storywise, thought the narrator did a good job as well). I also liked the twist on the suberbug… having it not kill people but just, essentially, turn them to stone. It’s a creepy idea.

    Also… chatter-wise, Rish got a little forceful at one point there and… well, let’s just say I enjoyed that part quite a bit! ;)

    • Marshal Says:

      Morgan, don’t encourage Rish like that. :)

      • Morgan Elektra Says:

        Sorry Marshal, but I can’t help myself where he’s concerned. He has that effect on me. I’d say I was his #1 fan, but that sounds a little too Annie Wilkes… oh hell, who’m I kidding? I’ll say it anyway… :D

  9. Marshal Says:

    This story was a good one for me, I think mostly because of the unhappy ending, especially when snuck in after the fake happy ending. It was very effective. I also admire the people who are willing to go for the unhappy ending. I always bug my wife by saying things like “wouldn’t it be cool if he died”. I even thought it, but didn’t say it while watching Tangled.

    Great production, Rich! Again, especially there at the end.

  10. While I’m not a big fan of “End Of The World” stories, and I abosolutely HATE downer endings, I still liked this story. It had an odd effect on me. I still think about it, and that’s a good thing, right?

    PS: I like the credits at the end of the story. Its a nice thing to do for those who put in their time.

  11. Marshal Latham Says:

    Just for the record, I enjoy the cast list. I also enjoy the Muppets.

  12. I don’t really like stories, fiction, art or creative expression in general. They’re not the kinds of things I would personally own. But I listened to this because it had Tupac in the title, and I think that pretty much redeemed the entire thing.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is:

    He was Tupac, and he would have approved of this message.

  13. “I don’t really like stories, fiction, art or creative expression in general. ”

    Heh. No offense intended, but I just don’t understand that at all. It’s like saying you don’t like happiness, or puppies, or something. How do you have fun?

    • Only gangster rap for me please, thank you kindly!

      Whenever I feel pulled to expand my awareness, to enjoy a new perspective, to walk in an imaginary world of wonder and delight, or to, as you say, ‘have fun’, I immediately shove down that impulse and instead reach for the nearest gritty, true-to-life portrayal of the daily struggles of urban young people, mainly males.

      The repetitive rhythmic accompaniments, the Dr. Seuss-style lyricism, and the stylized chants of the choruses are the only concessions I make to human artistic expression. Those should be enough for any person I say.

      • Samantha Says:

        Ah, I see. Well, as they say, “Word to your mother,” “Homeboy.”

        • Indeed, homegirl.


          All in humor, of course. I live, breathe, perspire, and artificially inseminate ART.

          Look out for my anthology of Shirley Bassey-inspired tone poems entitled: ‘Spoiler Alert: I Love You'(c)

  14. I enjoyed this one a bit, though like Mark, I was a little annoyed that the virus was so ridiculously virulent. I think that a sufficiently large disaster could have sufficed; it didn’t have to magically end the entire world. I was… not as taken as Big with the trick ending, which felt a bit too detached and sardonic, like I was reading a Jonathan Swift story. Part of it is that I hadn’t had a chance to get close to the characters due to the myriad distancing effects the story used (the telling, the summarizing, the dismissiveness, the referential commentary), so the “happy” vibe wasn’t thrilling to me. It struck me as odd how hard the story worked to push me away and keep me from caring. I wanted to care and to engage, but the story insisted on maintaining its ironic distance and pulling inversions of the standard tropes solely to invert tropes and remind me that I was reading (hearing) a story instead of really empathizing with the characters.

    However, I thought the sound effects were excellent and really added a lot to the story. Much of the text’s push-away was countered by the vividness of the sound drawing me in. In particular, the sound of footsteps on gravel after the last line made that ending hit home hard; they shifted the focus abruptly to Jack and his position as the sole survivor, and oh, man, was that a poignant image. Am I allowed to like the story based on something that wasn’t actually IN the story itself? Regardless, I have to give mad props to the production.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: