A Martian Odyssey is a classic of alien human interaction. Isaac Asimov said of it and of Weinbaum:
“With this single story [A Martian Odyssey], Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him.”
It is also argued that this is the first story to satisfy Astounding editor John W. Campbell’s famous challenge:
“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”
When it was republished, just 4 years later, in Startling Stories, A Martian Odyssey was added to the “Scientifiction Hall Of Fame”:
And with that that same printing was this extolling editorial explanation:
A Martian Odyssey
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: January 13, 2009
Early in the twenty-first century, nearly twenty years after the invention of atomic power and ten years after the first lunar landing, the four-man crew of the Ares has landed on Mars in the Mare Cimmerium. A week after the landing, Dick Jarvis, the ship’s American chemist, sets out south in an auxiliary rocket to photograph the landscape. Eight hundred miles out, the engine on Jarvis’ rocket gives out, and he crash-lands into one of the Thyle regions. Rather than sit and wait for rescue, Jarvis decides to walk back north to the Ares. First published in Wonder Stories, July 1934.
Here’s an illustrated |PDF| made from the original publication in Wonder Stories.
Posted by Jesse Willis
WGBH/PRI’s Sound & Spirit was a music show, by Ellen Kushner.
The Gaiman content begins shortly after the 32 minute mark. There’s also a nice bit of Gilbert & Sullivan near the end. Here’s the official description:
Prophecies, solutions to pressing problems, windows to the soul… Dreams are wellsprings of creativity, a place where our life and the shadowlands meet. Join Ellen Kushner for a conversation with the Sandman graphic novel author Neil Gaiman; and hear music written about or even received in dreams by Alan Hovhaness, David Maslanka (based on work of Carl Jung) and world artists from Hawaii to Australia.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #208 – Scott, Jesse, and Tamahome talk about the Audible.com audiobook The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age by Stanisław Lem
Talked about on today’s show:
reality shows, Duck Dynasty, about words, puns, rhyming, nothing, negative, was Lem a robot?, modern or timeless?, H.G. Wells, full of great ideas, fables, fairy tales, The Brothers Grimm, royalty,
“Have it compose a poem- a poem about a haircut! But lofty, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter S!!” …
Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Some savage, spectacular suicide.”
shooting an arrow at a barn, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Robert Sheckley, robots, the Google Doodle tribute to Stanisław Lem, a metaphor for our reality, the Wikipedia entry on Fables, Aesop’s Fables, Eric S. Rabkin, Scott is interested in Lem, Karol Wojtyła (aka Pope John Paul II), Poland, a small interesting country, Memoirs Found In A Bathtub, Audible’s audiobook, why did Jenny “Lem” this Lem?, Fox is not necessarily always the same fox, distant past? distant future?, “mostly harmless” palefaces, Princess Crystal, everybody’s a robot, a suitable suitor,
“Your Highness, my name is Myamlak and I crave nought else but to couple with you
in a manner that is liquid, pulpy, doughy and spongy, in accordance with the customs of
my people. I purposely permitted myself to be captured by the pirate, and requested him
to sell me to this portly trader, as I knew the latter was headed for your kingdom. And I
am exceeding grateful to his laminated person for conveying me hither, for I am as full of
love for you as a swamp is full of scum.”
The princess was amazed, for truly, he spoke in paleface fashion, and she said:
“Tell me, you who call yourself Myamlak the paleface, what do your brothers do
during the day?”
“O Princess,” said Ferrix, “in the morning they wet themselves in clear water, pouring
it upon their limbs as well as into their interiors, for this affords them pleasure.
they walk to and fro in a fluid and undulating way, and they slush, and they
slurp, and when anything grieves them, they palpitate, and salty water streams from
their eyes, and when anything cheers them, they palpitate and hiccup, but their eyes
remain relatively dry. And we call the wet palpitating weeping, and the dry—laughter.”
“If it is as you say,” said the princess, “and you share your brothers’ enthusiasm for
water, I will have you thrown into my lake, that you may enjoy it to your fill, and also I
will have them weigh your legs with lead, to keep you from bobbing up …”
“Your Majesty,” replied Ferrix as the sage had taught him, “if you do this, I must
perish, for though there is water within us, it cannot be immediately outside us for longer
than a minute or two, otherwise we recite the words ‘blub, blub, blub,’ which signifies our
last farewell to life.”
“But tell me, Myamlak,” asked the princess, “how do you furnish yourself with the
energy to walk to and fro, to squish and to slurp, to shake and to sway?”
“Princess,” replied Ferrix, “there, where I dwell, are other palefaces besides the
hairless variety, palefaces that travel predominantly on all fours. These we perforate until
they expire, and we steam and bake their remains, and chop and slice, after which we
incorporate their corporeality into our own. We know three hundred and seventy-six
of murdering, twenty-eight thousand five hundred and ninety-seven
distinct methods of preparing the corpses, and the stuffing of those bodies into our bodies
(through an aperture, called the mouth) provides us with no end of enjoyment.
the art of the preparation of corpses is more esteemed among us than astronautics and is
termed gastronautics, or gastronomy—which, however, has nothing to do with
“Does this then mean that you play at being cemeteries, making of yourselves the
very coffins that hold your four-legged brethren?”
the poet robot,
Trurl adjusted, modulated, expostulated,
disconnected, ran checks, reconnected, reset, did everything he could think of, and the
machine presented him with a poem that made him thank heaven Klapaucius wasn’t
there to laugh—imagine, simulating the whole Universe
from scratch, not to mention
Civilization in every particular, and to end up with such dreadful doggerel! Trurl put in six
cliche filters, but they snapped like matches; he had to make them out of pure corundum
steel. This seemed to work, so he jacked the semanticity up all the way, plugged in an
alternating rhyme generator—which nearly ruined everything, since the machine
resolved to become a missionary among destitute tribes on far-flung planets. But at the
very last minute, just as he was ready to give up and take a hammer to it, Trurl was
struck by an inspiration; tossing out all the logic circuits, he replaced them with
self-regulating egocentripetal narcissistors. The machine simpered a little, whimpered a
little, laughed bitterly, complained of an awful pain on its third floor, said that in general it
was fed up, though, life was beautiful but men were such beasts and how sorry they’d all
be when it was dead and gone. Then it asked for pen and paper. Trurl sighed with relief,
switched it off and went to bed.
Men are such beasts but we’ll be sad when they’re gone, the paperbook, kudos to narrator Scott Aiello, satire of something, Mandrillion the Greatest, ruler of the Multitudians, the perfect advisor, fantasy with Science Fiction language, lawyer soup, Escape Pod, Peter Swirski, A Stanislaw Lem Reader, reviews, people who review Lem, Lem = genius, sitting in awe, “Imagine a mixture of Borges, Calvino, Saint-Exupéry, Pynchon, Douglas Adams, Samuel Beckett, L. Frank Baum, Dr. Seuss, Lewis Caroll, and perhaps a little Philip K. Dick. That’s what this is like, sort of.”, complete impatience with reading “another one of these or another one of those”, A Perfect Vacuum, a big show-off, the ideas per story quotient, Gene Wolfe, Jorge Luis Borges, meta, overwhelming wordplay, digressions aplenty, format and rules, classic Hard SF, the hyperdrive handwaviumed away, all of language is handwavium, Sodium stars with an N, we think when we’ve named something we’ve understood it, make sense out of nonsense, stardust into toilet seats:
Feeling dismay rather
than disappointment at this neglect, I immediately sat down and wrote The Scourge of
Reason, two volumes, in which I showed that each civilization may choose one of two
roads to travel, that is, either fret itself to death, or pet itself to death. And in the course
of doing one or the other, it eats its way into the Universe, turning cinders and flinders of
stars into toilet seats, pegs, gears, cigarette holders and pillowcases, and it does this
because, unable to fathom the Universe, it seeks to change that Fathomlessness into
Something Fathomable, and will not stop until the nebulae and planets have been
processed to cradles, chamber pots and bombs, all in the name of Sublime
Order, for only a Universe with pavement, plumbing, labels and catalogues is, in its sight, acceptable
and wholly respectable.
the are no rules in The Cyberiad, owookiee’s 1 star review of The Cyberiad, a Droopy cartoon as directed by Tex Avery, The Perfect Imitation adapted, saggy biologicals, Daniel Mróz’ illustrations, Tobias Buckell’s blog post about The Fate Of Today’s Book Bloggers, the way Luke Burrage reviews books, a constructed object vs. a piece of art, conversations between writers, how books should be talked about, the SFSignal new releases posts, zombie novels, you’re reading the books wrong, you should read by author, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, Philip K. Dick, George R.R. Martin, Fred Himebaugh (@Fredosphere), Twitter fight!, looking for reasons not to read books, Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert, if a book sucks you usually stop reading that author entirely, Neal Stephenson, positive that tell you nothing about why it’s good, wandering through the woods eating rocks and bark, moods, Star Wars fans, get meta, reviewing novels vs. short stories, in the context, negative reviews tell you a lot more about a book than positive reviews, this book has too much science, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, panspermia and ancient astronauts, the finite and the infinite, iTunes U, characters on Battlestar Galactica are always confronted the question “what is human?”, synthesis, the enemy is the ally, the enemy is indistinguishable from one’s self, a space fable, Caprica,
Sumerian Aramaic Sanskrit and Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Firefly, a gift of kindness, Porco Rosso, Hayao Miyazaki, what is IT Tam?
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
By Peter T. Leeson; Read by Jeremy Gage
Audible Download – Approx. 7 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible, Inc.
Published: September 4, 2009
Themes: / Economics / Piracy / History / Slavery / Democracy / Anarchy /
Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.
I love non-fiction, and I love books that look at history, books that look at history through one lens or another are even better! And so there is much to love in The Invisible Hook. The title is a play on Adam Smith’s elegant metaphor for how markets work, the invisible hand. Most of the examples cited deal with the Atlantic and Caribbean pirates, rather than earlier Roman era or modern day pirates. But we get a sense of how it likely worked in other regions and times. Chapters on the paradoxical attitudes towards pirate slavery, the wildly contradictory stories about piratical impressment, and the chapter on the Jolly Roger, the pirate flag, are absolutely fascinating. And, as something of a piratical hobbyist myself, I’m pleased to report they deliver clear insights only hinted at in other non-fiction books about piracy. You know you’ve got a good book in hand when you find yourself relating the premises, arguments, and conclusions of whole chapters to friends.
How good is the analysis really? That’s kind of hard to tell. Democracy and equality as a function of economics? Wonderful! Seems logical, seems plausible. And that’s the sort of thing you don’t hear often enough. Indeed, economist Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, gets a shout out early on in The Invisible Hook. This is a book in that vein, a kind of entertaining pop-economics, well written, and very thoughtful. But it also boasts the same kind of inarguable psychohistory-style post-analysis of such books. It reminds me of books like William Rosen’s The Most Powerful Idea in the World, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Well written history looked at through the lens of a soft science makes the seemingly inexplicable events of history seem almost inevitable. That is to say, this book should be just one of many such on such topics. In the end though how can you not wanto to read a book that makes piracy, as depicted in The Princess Bride, actually very plausible?
But this is not as merry a ship as it might be. As with many book published these days, there’s some bit of puffery. Concepts well illustrated in a paragraph or two are revisited, whole passages nearly reworded, and I’m betting that this for reasons of market driven economics. It might be that each chapter can be looked at on it’s own, textbook style, but listened to as I did, back to back the chapters have a tendency to revisit the same ports too often. This is one of my major complaints about books these days. Too many books are being published with too many words that don’t say different things. At under eight hours even this relatively slim volume, by today’s market standards, but it’s still puffier than any pirate’s shirt really ought be. It is like a pirate cutter on the stalk, slowed down by a sea-anchor of unneeded repetition. Saying the same thing over and over and over. Get my point? Okay, its the market, and to be fair Adam Smith’s own The Wealth Of Nations is a bloody long book, 36 hours! I’d be willing to bet my strong right arm that the original article, as published by Levitt (mentioned in the book), would be an even better audiobook than this very fine one, and no doubt it’d measure at least a peg leg shorter.
Narrator Jeremy Gage is from the old school of audiobook narration, the kind I like. He doesn’t so much as perform a book as read it. His conspiratorial tone typically him a great choice for first-person POV novels, like Lawrence Block’s Burglars Can’t Be Choosers. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve heard him narrate. So now I can say he’s great for non-fiction too.
Posted by Jesse Willis
I’ve posted about Robert Louis Stevenson’s murderous classic, Markheim, before (the audiobook and another radio drama). But, I’ve just discovered a very good new adaptation (from 2006) available at RadioArchive.cc. The sound design is excellent, and its lengthy enough to bring out most of the nuance in the text.
Adapted from the story by Robert Louis Stevenson; Adapted by John Taylor; Performed by a full cast
MP3 via TORRENT – Approx. 45 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: February 1, 2006
On Christmas Day 1886 with London shrouded in fog, a man shadows a girl across Blackfriars Bridge towards the back streets of Holborn. His name is Markheim and his intentions are unremittingly dark.
Directed by John Taylor
Tommy – Mark Straker
Markheim – Jack Klaff
Girl – Abigail Hollick
Visitor – Anton Rodgers
Crispin – Anthony Jackson
And for German listeners there’s THIS sexy sounding version produced as a part of a cool series called Gruselkabinett (which translates to “Chamber of Horrors”).
There is no finer model for the study of setting than this story affords. It is three o’clock in the afternoon of a foggy Christmas Day in London. If Markheim’s manner and the dimly lighted interior of the antique shop suggest murder, the garrulous clocks, the nodding shadows, and the reflecting mirrors seem almost to compel confession and surrender. “And still as he continued to fill his pockets, his mind accused him, with a sickening iteration, of the thousand faults of his design. He should have chosen a more quiet hour.” So he should for the murder; but for the self-confession; which is Stevenson’s ultimate design, no time or place could have been better.
There is little action in the plot. A man commits a dastardly murder and then, being alone and undetected, begins to think, think, think. It is the turning point in his life and he knows it. Instead of seizing the treasure and escaping, he submits his past career to a rigid scrutiny and review. This brooding over his past life and present outlook becomes so absorbing that what bade fair to be a soliloquy becomes a dialogue, a dialogue between the old self that committed the murder and the new self that begins to revolt at it. The old self bids him follow the line of least resistance and go on as he has begun; the newly awakened self bids him stop at once, check the momentum of other days, take this last chance, and be a man. His better nature wins. Markheim finds that though his deeds have been uniformly evil, he can still “conceive great deeds, renunciations, martyrdoms.” Though the active love of good seems too weak to be reckoned as an asset, he still has a “hatred of evil”; and on this twin foundation, ability to think great thoughts and to hate evil deeds, he builds at last his culminating resolve.
The story is powerfully and yet subtly told. It sweeps the whole gamut of the moral law. Many stories develop the same theme but none just like this. Stevenson himself is drawn again to the same problem a little later in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Hawthorne tried it in “Howe’s Masquerade,” in which the cloaked figure is the phantom or reduplication of Howe himself. In Poe’s “William Wilson,” to which Stevenson is plainly indebted, the evil nature triumphs over the good. But “Markheim,” by touching more chords and by sounding lower depths, makes the triumph at the end seem like a permanent victory for universal human nature.
If the story is the study of a given situation, Markheim, who is another type of the developing character, is the central factor in the situation. We see and interpret the situation only through the personality of Markheim himself. Another murderer might have acted differently, even with those clamorous clocks and accusing mirrors around him, but not this murderer. There is nothing abnormal about him, however, as a criminal. He is thirty-six years old and through sheer weakness has gone steadily downward, but he has never before done a deed approaching this in horror or in the power of sudden self revelation. He sees himself now as he never saw himself before and begins to take stock of his moral assets. They are pitifully meager, though his opportunities for character building have been good. He has even had emotional revivals, which did not, however, issue in good deeds. But with it all, Markheim illustrates the nobility of human nature rather than its essential depravity. I do not doubt his complete and permanent conversion. When the terrible last question is put to him – or when he puts it to himself – whether he is better now in anyone particular than he was, and when he is forced to say, “No, in none! I have gone down in all,” the moral resources of human nature itself seem to be exhausted. But they are not. “I see clearly what remains for me,” said Markheim, “by way of duty.” This word, not used before, sounds a new challenge and marks the crisis of the story. Duty can fight without calling in reserves from the past and without the vision of victory in the future. I don’t wonder that the features of the visitant “softened with a tender triumph.” The visitant was neither “the devil” as Markheim first thought him nor “the Saviour of men” as a recent editor pronounces him. He is only Markheim’s old self, the self that entered the antique shop, that with fear and trembling committed the deed, and that now, half-conscious all the time of inherent falseness, urges the old arguments and tries to energize the old purposes. It is this visitant that every man meets and overthrows when he comes to himself, when he breaks sharply with the old life and enters resolutely upon the new.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Waldentapes, an imprint of Waldenbooks, produced some very interesting audiobooks in the mid 1980s. They are now all out of print. Do you have any?
Here’s are two that I have:
Posted by Jesse Willis