The SFFaudio Podcast #328 – The White Ship by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
a Science Fiction, Horror, or Fantasy story?, hard to classify, Idle Days On The Yann by Lord Dunsany, wistful elements, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, a spiritual or psychological analog, a long prose poem, describing lands that never were, a lovely little tale, narrative isn’t exactly the point, the bird, the bird as an eidolon of the ship, the eidolon Lathi, Jason Thompson‘s comic adaptation of The White Ship, the ghost ship, why is the bird blue?, over the cataract, falls as if it wasn’t going to, the world ending, a description of Cathuria, aloe and sandalwood, an imagined land, dreaming Cathuria into existence, the sacred river Narg, Kublai Khan, a dream snatched away and smashed, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe, Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe,
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE—Out of TIME.
Lathi and Thalarion, Celephais, The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath, an old dreamer and lighthouse keeper of Kingsport town, fewer and fewer ships, a great delusional fugue state, a white spar and a blue bird, Polaris, a watchman in a watchtower, a beautiful symmetry, structural similarity, a beautiful dead woman, Eleonora, Ligeia, Morella, un-whimsical, Hypnos, the bearded mentors, astral projected journey, going to far, moon-beams, The Moon-Bog, a bridge of moon-beams, big ancient cities, civilization, you can’t have books without cities, lore x 3, he was given many books in his youth, when he was young and filled with wonder, Thanatos the Greek god of death, the throne of Azathoth, a dream of falling, the sin, Randolph Carter is seeking in the dreamlands, where the gods dwell, the gods have conquered, the person from Porlock, Jeff Vandermeer’s dream, William Hope Hodgson, fungal growths,
Then came we to a pleasant coast gay with blossoms of every hue, where as far inland as we could see basked lovely groves and radiant arbours beneath a meridian sun. From bowers beyond our view came bursts of song and snatches of lyric harmony, interspersed with faint laughter so delicious that I urged the rowers onward in my eagerness to reach the scene. And the bearded man spoke no word, but watched me as we approached the lily-lined shore. Suddenly a wind blowing from over the flowery meadows and leafy woods brought a scent at which I trembled. The wind grew stronger, and the air was filled with the lethal, charnel odour of plague-stricken towns and uncovered cemeteries. And as we sailed madly away from that damnable coast the bearded man spoke at last, saying: “This is Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained.”
The Valley Of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe,
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.
what the heck does that mean?, nameless things that feast upon the corpses of men, a large layer of death, allegorical symbolism, the platonic forms,
“On the green and flowery mountains of Cathuria stand temples of pink marble, rich with carven and painted glories, and having in their courtyards cool fountains of silver, where purl with ravishing music the scented waters that come from the grotto-born river Narg.”
what good writing!, Fungi From Yuggoth XVIII: Gardens Of Yin
Beyond that wall, whose ancient masonry
Reached almost to the sky in moss-thick towers,
There would be terraced gardens, rich with flowers,
And flutter of bird and butterfly and bee.
There would be walks, and bridges arching over
Warm lotos-pools reflecting temple eaves,
And cherry-trees with delicate boughs and leaves
Against a pink sky where the herons hover.
All would be there, for had not old dreams flung
Open the gate to that stone-lanterned maze
Where drowsy streams spin out their winding ways,
Trailed by green vines from bending branches hung?
I hurried—but when the wall rose, grim and great,
I found there was no longer any gate.
verse for birthday cards, The Haunted Lake, Christmas poems, a concordance of themes, all the shades of Lovecraft, The Picture In The House, The Bells, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the discover of sanity blasting horrors, ebbs and flows, soul and sanity loss, cosmic transcendence, drawing what we see,
“For the aeons that I dwelt there I wandered blissfully through gardens where quaint pagodas peep from pleasing clumps of bushes, and where the white walks are bordered with delicate blossoms.”
Basil Elton’s sin, distant whispers, really?, better than Sona-Nyl?, “Dude you’ve always lived alone!”, a sea-faring Tyler Durduen, a Coleridgian-Obi-Wan Kenobi, a big eastern theme, fantastical oriental places, like Narnia, Arabia mythologized, a marked contrast, Lovecraft as a homebody in the center of a great American port, like living in Atlanta and never getting on an airplane, Citizen Of The Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein, wherever you go, there you are, an interesting visualization, Celephais, writing down dreams, a penniless tramp, travels tell me, King Kuranes, his spirit lives on in the dreamlands, scented monsters, the basalt pillars of the west, Jason And The Argonauts, the Pillars of Hercules, Gibraltar, DC Comics, Thalarion and Themyscira, The H.P. Lovecrafts‘ song The White Ship, late-sixties hippies and beatniks, wow these are AMAZING!, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Posted by Jesse Willis
I think The Terminator may be the best Science Fiction film ever made. And I think that no one person, credited or uncredited, can take all the credit for it.
In the video below, edited from an episode of Prisoners Of Gravity, Harlan Ellison explains how he got his screen credit in The Terminator:
Soldier is the first episode of Season 2 of The Outer Limits (the original series). It’s plot features a futuristic time traveling soldier who, after a thunder crack, appears in a then modern urban alley. The soldier is nearly indestructible, and is incredibly strong. Later, he breaks into a gun shop. In the ultimate scene he confronts his (also) futuristic enemy and they are both destroyed. Those are the basic plot commonalities between Soldier and The Terminator. There are many, many differences. Visually though, there are some striking similarities. These are nicely documented here and here.
That all said, Soldier‘s story plays out very differently from The Terminator, you can see a lot more connections, if you squint really hard.
For example, the solider is scarred like Kyle Reese and is sometimes unintelligible like Schwarzenegger’s T-800 – but ultimately the two, the TV episode and the feature film, are radically different in both scale and scope.
Interestingly, Demon With A Glass Hand the fifth episode of the second season of the original The Outer Limits television series, also written by Ellison, has similarities to both The Terminator and another film.
Like Soldier and The Terminator, Demon With A Glass Hand features a protagonist sent from the future into the past. But in this case, unlike in the title character in Soldier, the time travel was done quite deliberately – and done by humans in order to save mankind – more like The Terminator right?
Also similar, our hero in Demon With A Glass Hand, is nearly indestructible, can survive being shot over and over, feels no need to sleep, is being hunted by enemies also sent from the future, and he is programmed! Those are the basic plot commonalities between Soldier and The Terminator. More on that other movie a little later.
In the Starlog article (December 1984) there is no mention of The Outer Limits or Ellison. But, in it James Cameron does say: “I read all the classics, all the old Ace paperback novels.”
I do not expect that Cameron read all of the following stories. In fact I don’t think it is even necessary to know, and it isn’t crucial to my argument. Indeed, only one of the following stories was actually published in an “old Ace paperback”, (Second Variety was published in The Variable Man and Other Stories, Ace D-261).
My argument is that the story ideas and story points, even more than visuals, from the The Terminator, came very much out of 1950s science fiction.
Now before we get to the meat of my argument I’ll do a little sidestep towards another film, just to make it all the more confusing… its actually laying the groundwork for something, trust me.
Look at these images:
As you can see Demon With A Glass Hand shares something in common with Blade Runner, as much Id say as Soldier does with The Terminator.
The baddies in Demon With A Glass Hand, seen above, have racoon style eye makeup, like Blade Runner‘s Pris. Our hero in Demon With A Glass Hand, as it turns out, is an android that didn’t know he was one, just like in Blade Runner (and Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?). Blade Runner was also shot in the same stylish office building in Los Angeles (the Bradbury Building*). And, the final fight of both stories ends in the same way, out the window and onto the roof of the Bradbury!
The “cybernetic organism” of The Terminator is in essence an android, a robot that looks like a human being, specifically a male human being if you want to get all technical.
Now even more than Ellison, who does have an android in Trent, the hero of Demon In A Glass Hand it is Philip K. Dick who is best known for his androids. Though robots that look like, think they are, or can pass for human aren’t unique or original to Dick, they are something he kind of specialized in. Stories like Imposter and The Electric Ant have androids and of course there is Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?.
Now practically everyone knows that Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? was adapted into a 1982 film called Blade Runner.
But do these folks know that the title of the Blade Runner was licensed from a book by a different author and entirely unrelated to Dick’s?
Ridley Scott acquired the rights to the title of a script based on an unrelated 1974 Science Fiction novel entitled The Bladerunner.
Why did he do this?
He didn’t have to, nobody has the legal right to claim exclusivity on book and movie titles – but as a matter of smart practice, when millions and millions of dollars are at stake, they often do such crazy things.
Now back to Philip K. Dick. He could, had he been alive in 1984, argued that his stories could have inspired The Terminator or even Demon With A Glass Hand!
Ellisons 1958 script for Demon With A Glass Hand has a “time mirror” – a device related to time travel – and so does a Philip K. Dick story.
For example, Dick uses what he calls a “time scoop” and a “time mirror” in a story called Paycheck (Imagination, June 1953). A time “Dip” turns up in a story named Meddler and in his novel Dr. Futurity (itself an expansion of a novella, Time Pawn) has a time “dredge.”
Here’s a snippet from Paycheck:
“It’s developed a time scoop.”
“A time scoop. It’s been theoretically possible for several years. But it’s illegal to experiment with time scoops and mirrors. It’s a felony, and if you’re caught, all your equipment and data becomes the property of the Government.” Jennings smiled crookedly. “No wonder the Government’s interested. If they can catch Rethrick with the goods –”
“A time scoop. It’s hard to believe.”
But Dick didn’t invent the idea either, a story from Amazing Stories, December 1942, has the same tech, its actually in the title!
Another story that could have inspired The Terminator is The Skull. This 1952 story was published in If: Worlds Of Science Fiction. In it the protagonist is sent back in time in order to kill a man who can’t be allowed to live. He doesn’t know the man’s identity, but the clue lies within his own head, kind of like The Terminator.
Now to get out of time travel, let me ask you, where is Skynet, the evil A.I. in either of those Ellison stories? They are absent. But, he has evil computers, ones that want to destroy humanity even, for example there’s AM, the evil A.I. from I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. But that story is from 1967, and is not Skynet, exactly…
Well, let me tell you about The Great C, first published in Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, September 1953. This story is set in a Fallout-style post apocalyptic wasteland. Straight away we learn that a band of humans have survived underground after a global nuclear war. The plot consists of following:
One of their number as he sets off with three questions to visit what the reader infers to be a great oracle. The oracle is the titular “Great C” with “C” being short for “Computer”. But unlike the Colossus supercomputer (from Colossus: The Forbin Project) that merely threatens nuclear war, this supercomputer pulled a full-Skynet and actually used the offensive nuclear capability on it’s creators, man.
Now Second Variety, first appeared in Space Science Fiction, May 1953. And it was later adapted to film as Screamers. It is set in a post-WWIII world where killer robots, known as “Claws”, are developing newer and newer models of killer robot for human infiltration.
Check out these two illustrations from the story:
So, why did Cameron’s The Terminator have to give credit to Harlan Ellison if Scott didn’t have to give it to Blade Runner?
I suspect it all happened pretty much as Ellison said it did. That in the unpublished interview notes for that Starlog interview Cameron actually said that he “ripped-off a couple of Outer Limits segments” and perhaps even “a couple of Harlan Ellison stories.”
But it doesn’t matter to me. Credits or dollars, the only thing I really care at all about the story, and I think that The Terminator builds on great SF stories by the likes of Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov and H.G. Wells, and some Outer Limits TV episodes, and maybe some other movies too.
Humans do this and it is a good thing. I’m glad so many humans had a hand in making it.
By listening to stories, and by retelling them we continue the process of story refinement. The Terminator wasn’t a “rip-off” it was a tribute, it stands alone, and it stands tall and proud next to the great SF stories that came before it, in 1950s TV, 1950s books and 1950s magazines and probably to the decades before it too.
As for the James Cameron Harlan Ellison dispute, well, Cameron may have had a “huge ego”, as Harlan Ellison put it, or maybe he didn’t – who knows – Ellison had “never met the man” – it may just have been a self-deprecating statement. We can all use a little of that, and a lot more Philip K. Dick.
Posted by Jesse Willis
*The “Bradbury” in the Bradbury Building is no relation to Ray Bradbury … or is it?
The SFFaudio Podcast #327 – The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Martin Reyto courtesy of Legamus. This is an unabridged reading of the short story (24 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse Willis, Seth Wilson, Jim Moon, and Juan Luis Pérez.
Talked about in this episode:
Title has a hyphen; published in Weird Tales in June 1926, but written for a St. Patrick’s Day event; most critics dismiss the story; most characters are nameless; no Cthulhu mythos; Greek ties to Lovecraft’s The Tree; H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast; thematic similarities to The Rats in the Walls and Hypnos; conflict between the bog goddess and her servants; frogs; moonbeams; Greek Pan pipes, not Celtic pipes; on the story’s un-Irishness; competing models of colonization; Protestant work ethic; Pied Piper of Hamelin; surviving narrator motif similar to Ishmael in Moby Dick; departure from the traditional Lovecraftian narrator; the poetry of Lovecraft’s prose, alliteration, etc.; Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature; spoiler in Weird Tales art; the joys of reading aloud; Lovecraft’s Dunsanian story The Festival; architecture; Tolkien’s Dead Marshes and the gothic symbolism of bogs, etc.; Lovecraft’s descriptionn of cities in The Mountains of Madness and landscapes in The Dunwich Horror; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and similar impressionism in film; The Quest of Iranon; unreliable narrators à la Edgar Allan Poe, especially The Fall of the House of Usher; laughing; bog draining and the curse of the Tiddy Mun; the city of Bath and the intersection of Roman and Celtic cultures; John Buchan’s The Grove of Ashtaroth; this is actually a happy Lovecraft story!; Robin Hood and the defense of the land; humans destroy megafauna; Lovecraft’s The Hound; American horror trope of the Indian burial ground; the lack of Celtic mythology; will-o’-the-wisps; how does one drain a bog? Ask the Dutch; disappointment in scientific explanation for stories; the ruins and the Gothic tradition.
24 minutes of … Whoa. … about Providence #1 by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
The Lost World is a great read, Tom Barling illustrations of The Lost World, the Ladybird editions, King Kong, The Valley Of Gwangi, full of jokes, slapstick, witty banter, an awesome character, a role model for us all, Professor Challenger is Brian Blessed, every audio drama, every movie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot, a sideways angle Gilles deLEuze’s A Thousand Plateaus, Professor Challenger made the earth scream, “his simian disposition”, When The World Screamed, The Poison Belt, The Land Of Mist, The Disintegration Machine, an end of the world story, you could do it as a stage play with a single set, the humiliation chair, Challenger and his wife embracing, The Strand Magazine (U.K. vs. American editions), they knew what gold they’d found, competing with Argosy and the colourful pulps, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, it’s the same story, Lost Horizon, the 1998 quickie movie of The Lost World, other adaptations, Summerlee as a woman, the 2011 2-part BBC Radio drama adaptation, Diana Summerlee, a male book, Dracula, assembling a team of adventurers, the sacrificial American, a mad Texan, Maple White Land, From The Earth To The Moon by Jules Verne, both books have a major role played by a noble, Lord John Roxton, he rocks, the 3 part BBC Radio drama (available as a 3 CD set), the wise sage, comic relief, a double act, a towering bastard, a modern day Munchhausen, the frame story, an evolutionary biology exemplar, the central lake, a vaginal symbol, a 1912 book, becoming soft, the Boy Scouts, a moral equivalent to war, a testosterone shot, it’s a cartoon, Roxton’s test, Boys adventure, a genocide, slavery, the 1960 adaptation, the 2001 adaptation, a romance, ahistorical women, the 1960 adaptation, the prince is turned into a princess, every Edgar Rice Burroughs book makes this change, otherwise we couldn’t go back to our women, ape city from Planet Of The Apes, the Rod Serling scripted movie, one of the great scenes of history, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, it’s not about gender roles, it’s about racism, these Indians are so degraded their barely above the average Londoner, stupid and wise, every magazine story in the 19teens is about race and going soft and miscegenation, their good negro, the description of rage, the red mist, getting savage, Heart Of Darkness, the white feather, spiritualism, anticipation WWI, Roxton has a ton of rocks (diamonds), evolutionary psychology, Hungerford, proving the ability to care for a large number of children, a classic case (undermined at the end), Gladis Potts, an amazing amount of stuff happens in this book, good scientific analysis, poor Malone, there’s reason to fear reporters of this era, a sophisticated view of the press, that’s always been the case, news was a big business in 1912, wire services, 15 years earlier (in Dracula), The New York Times, TV journalism, pointing at pictures and saying “oh dear!”, Charlie Brooker, Newswipe or Screenwipe, a high information culture, 5 posts a day, 3 editions a day, The War Of The Worlds, Now It Can Be Told by Philip Gibbs, the hoax aspect of the book, Doyle’s problem with science, quasi-hoax in the original illustrations, the way Sherlock Holmes stories are told, the Maple White illustrations, playing with the nature of the evidence, preserving an information and financial monopoly, meticulous description, the British tradition of the novel, a very realistic novel, protestant novel, is Robinson Crusoe real?, The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole, Edgar Allan Poe, The Balloon Hoax, meta-textual questions, assorted deranged individuals, the imitators of H.P. Lovecraft, Dracula is a found footage novel, future proofing the story, At The Mountains Of Madness, Ruritanian romance, Mount Roraima, a partial pterodactyl wing, the trump card, pterodactyl wing, founding a private museum, the Evolution Museum in Kentucky, a fairy museum, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions, science studies, the Royal Society, “we’ve discovered everything”, “we’re all done inventing”, the aether of the vacuum, “extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence”, an antecedent for Professor Quatermass, Bryan’s beard is intimidating, Bryan with beard and axe, The Horror Of The Heights, star jelly, Eadweard Muybridge, Sherlock Holmes as a the great Asperger’s hero, Neal Stephenson’s new novel is offensively hard SF, Larry Niven, you don’t have to understand science to do it, Jurassic Park, the movie, Steven Spielberg, the betraying geek, what saves them, kids and dinosaurs, American conservative standard American movie, Schindler’s List, A.I., the Americans are very repressed,
“I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man,
Or the man who’s half a boy.”
C.S. Lewis, Gomez the traitor, Lord John Roxton’s private war, the flail of the lord, half-breed slavers, hewers of word and drawers of water, this is totally colonialism, Rhodesia, Mungo Park, Water Music by T. Coraghessan Boyle, the 1925 silent film version, Willis O’Brien, the Brontosaurus, the 1960 version, the sound effects, the dinosaurs sound like tie fighters, The 39 Steps, show me the lizards, Jules Verne’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth, 1860s paleontology, Ray Bradbury: ‘dinosaurs are awesome’, Ray Harryhausen, creationism, the poor iguanodon, dinosaurs are inherently partly mythical, the dinosaurs are all female, parthenogenesis, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain, The First Great Train Robbery, Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, Beowulf vs. neanderthals, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, Congo, intelligent apes, Gorilla Grodd, DC Comics, Planetary, Lord Greystoke, loving riffs on SF classics, Doc Savage, The Shadow, too much incident (for a modern book), value for money, Speed, the whole bus gimmick, Interstellar, shallow water planet, weird ice planet, the O’Neil colony, ideas are of primacy, a humorous bombastic semi-psychotic reading, Bob Neufeld’s narration for LibriVox, John Rhys Davies, the 2001 TV adaptation with Matthew Rhys as Malone, The Americans, the science, The Andromeda Strain‘s scientific density, Andy Weir’s The Martian: “we’re going to science the shit out of this”, five-dimensional beings, the Nolan brothers, Elysium, in the geography of the public mind, Conan Doyle’s passions, “I’m obsessed with fairies now!”, FairyTale: A True Story, science runs the risk of P.T. Barnum, we need a Conan Doyle and a Houdini.
Posted by Jesse Willis
This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (8 hours 20 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.
The Lost World was first published as a serial in The Strand Magazine from April to November 1912.
The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!
Posted by Jesse Willis