The SFFaudio Podcast #236 – The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard, read by Paul Boehmer (courtesy of Tantor Media’s The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (60 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Matthew Sanborn Smith, and Bryan Alexander
Talked about on today’s show:
Second-to-last Solomon Kane story chronologically, “Red Shadows” and “Wings of the Night” close contenders for Solomon Kane stories, the latter featuring harpies from Jason and the Argonauts, history of Solomon’s staff explained in other stories, fetishes (not THAT kind!), joojoo stick, magical weapons, Wandering Star edition illustrated by Gary Gianni, comic book adaptations, vampire-slaying, story uncharacteristically well-plotted including foreshadowing, “plains and hills full of lions” oh my!, lion sleeping habits, “Africa is full of never-explained mysteries” excuses plot holes, prefigures Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld movies, one of few stories to depict ‘nation of vampires’, Kiss of the Vampire (film), Transylvania, homeopathic symbolism, sex sells, ‘Howardian damsel in distress’, voodoo, feminization of the jungle, homoerotic undertones, Howard biography Blood and Thunder by Mark Finn, post-Colonial critique, vampires in fiction oscillate between sexualized and homicidal, Stephen King slams Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight vampires, Nosferatu (relatively unknown at the time of this story’s writing) introduced the idea that sunlight kills vampires, the Devil as source of Kane’s lustful urges, “Howard doesn’t do metaphors very well”, vampire-zombie continuum, Howard as great visual writer, animal characteristics ascribed to Kull and Conan but not Kane, snake imagery (related to serpent in Garden of Eden?), Slave Coast, vultures, nature of the soul, “Rogues in the House” (written in one sitting while Howard had a headache), the dangers of over-interpreting Howard, Howard’s subconscious, early 20th-century magazines preoccupied with race, Cosmpolitan (it was once a literary magazine), race hierarchy, Solomon Kane less racist than Howard himself, racial hierarchy, Berbers, Solomon Kane’s conflicted personality, the New Model Army, Howard’s characters are solitary, Puritans, Kane has a death wish, Kane’s celibacy, significance of Solomon Kane’s name, Ben Jonson satirizes Puritan names (in Bartholomew Fayre), so does Terry Pratchett (in Lords and Ladies, Mormonism, concept of congregation of all believers, English Civil War and its sects, Grendel in Beowulf as descendant of Cain, Sandman comics, Kane is “always on the road”, Matthew Hopkins witchfinder general, wood imagery, we learn what a palaver is, The Dark Tower series, temptation, inquisition, H. P. Lovecraft, cohesion of Howard’s works, history of the English language, George Harrison’s coyright infringement, parallel evolution in fiction, Clark Ashton Smith, Charles Baudelaire, genocide, the importance of a shared reader-author premise, shared cultural values, Hitler, The King in Yellow, Woodrow Wilson was a racist, zombies vs. animals.
Posted by Seth Wilson
Talked about on today’s show:
the classic Tarzan yodel, the dum-dum service, Tarzana, California, those beautiful Burroughsian run-on sentences:
“From this primitive function has arisen, unquestionably, all the forms and ceremonials of modern church and state, for through all the countless ages, back beyond the last uttermost ramparts of a dawning humanity our fierce, hairy forebears danced out the rites of the Dum-Dum to the sound of their earthen drums, beneath the bright light of a tropical moon in the depth of a mighty jungle which stands unchanged today as it stood on that long forgotten night in the dim, unthinkable vistas of the long dead past when our first shaggy ancestor swung from a swaying bough and dropped lightly upon the soft turf of the first meeting place.”
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (and SFBRP #151), Edgar Allan Poe should be read aloud, The Return Of Tarzan, racism, Esmeralda, Gone With The Wind, minstrel shows, Chicago, Arizona, the mammy archetype, radio drama racism, Jar Jar Binks, Star Wars: Episode III, October 1912, historical dialect, Jane (the white lady), “you just shot a woman in the head”, cannibalism,
Conan Tarzan lynches his mother’s killer, rope tricks, out of context vs. in context, Tarzan as a god, Ballantine Books, the dum-dum scholars, Project Gutenberg edition, ERB Incorporated, Tarzan The Censored by Jerry L. Schneider, Tarzan Of The Apes censorship and “improvements” since the original publication, “an English grammar Nazi”, The Heathen by Jack London, taking out or changing a few words can hurt the story, Earnest Hemingway and William Shakespeare are “too wordy”, Tab Cola, Tarzan’s relationship with the cannibal villagers, “mankind and civilization aren’t”, colonialism, the Belgian Congo, King Leopold II, contemplating cannibalism, “the white god of the woods”, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), Wisconsin, Tarzan’s ape father is driven away by Kerchak (and turned into a museum exhibit), “the Evil village of Scotland”, the sadness that comes with the deaths is powerful, Paul D’Arno, Obi Wan Kenobi, “Tarzan was the blockbuster hit of the twentieth century”, A Princess Of Mars, Ruritania, The Mad King, “complete in one issue”, All-Story, the scanty Science Fiction elements, feral children, Romulus and Remus, Mowgli, Tarzan is a wild child, “this line from a book”, all of Burroughs characters are excellent language learners, when Tarzan writes a note, Lord Of The Jungle (Dynamite Entertainment), the mistaken dual identity, “Jane has massive bosoms”, Green Mansions (starring Rima, The Jungle Girl), Johnny Weissmuller, “the Sheena of South America”, Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, Psycho, significantly more significant, the primary driver of fiction of this period is character, Nancy Drew, book serials, Rudyard Kipling dissed Burroughs’ writing and grammar, White Fang is kind of like Tarzan Of The Apes, first person vs. third person, you can’t admire the character from afar if the story is told first person, Sherlock Holmes, “that turn towards character is a turn towards the third person omniscient POV”, “that heroic distance” (1910-1950), Raymond Chandler, “I read Chandler”, Tarzan is the only Burroughs series that doesn’t turn to first person narration, John Carter’s character, why is Tarzan such a big character, Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography Of Lord Greystoke by Philip José Farmer, Tarzan as a quiet sophisticate, Doc Savage, The Green Odyssey by Philip José Farmer, Farmer is a fan of character, a stranger in a strange land, what ruined Julie for religion, The Mastermind Of Mars (is PUBLIC DOMAIN), “Tur is Tur.”, copyright, copyfight, jungle Tarzan vs. cafe absinthe drinking Tarzan, “the machine”, the Weissmuller Tarzan, where does he get his razor?, “that knife was his father”, “next book please”, Tarzan And His Mate , “lots of wet people”, “skin friendly”, melon-farmer vs. motherfucker, Boy and Cheeta are Hollywood, Scrappy-do, what did Tantor have to say?, Sabor the lioness, “there are no tigers in Africa, Ed”, Crocodile Dundee, Beyond Thirty, The Mucker, yellow peril looking dudes, The Girl From Hollywood, The Man Eater, early road trips, The Land That Time Forgot, The Lost World, the Caspak series, WWI, “sheer headlong adventure”, The Asylum, closing words, “it’s not what you think”, “really really good fun”, baby ape skeleton in the cradle, a classic of writing, a touching story, “and vengeance is his”, serialization in newspapers, cliffhangers, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins,
Posted by Jesse Willis
“In a remarkable short story, ‘The Grove of Ashtaroth,’ the hero finds himself obliged to destroy the gorgeous little temple of a sensual cult, because he believes that by doing so he will salvage the health and sanity of a friend. But he simultaneously believes himself to be committing an unpardonable act of desecration, and the eerie voice that beseeches him to stay his hand is unmistakably feminine.”
-Christopher Hitchens (The Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)
The Grove Of Ashtaroth was written by the fifteenth Governor General of Canada, John Buchan. Despite that high position, he was the viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch for five years in the 1930s, Buchan is probably better known today as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps. Buchan’s novelette has been described as a “weird story” (by the makers of Escape) or as “high fantasy” (in The Fantastic Imagination) by editors Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski, a 1977 anthology).
I’m not sure exactly what it is, except very interesting and certainly within the vague borders of the Fantasy genre. The Grove Of Ashtaroth reminds me of a short story by Philip K. Dick, Of Withered Apples.
You can judge for yourself what you think it is most like.
But your best bet, in audio, for the moment at least, is to listen to the 1948 Escape radio dramatization!
Escape – The Grove Of Ashtaroth
Adapted from the novelette by John Buchan; Adapted by Les Crutchfield; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 31 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: February 29, 1948
Paul Frees as John Buchan
William Conrad as Lawson
And if you were wondering, the only major difference between the original story and the dramatization is that the unnamed narrator is named (after Buchan himself) in the dramatization.
[Thanks also to Escape-Suspense.com]
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #133 – Beyond The Black River by Robert E. Howard, read by Todd McLaren (courtesy of Tantor Media’s The Conquering Sword Of Conan). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novelette (2 Hours 29 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse and Tamahome).
Talked about on today’s show:
Todd McLaren, Conan’s voice is confident, Balthus is the Jimmy Olsen to Conan’s Superman, Robert E. Howard’s avatar in Beyond The Black River is Balthus, “the damnedest bastard who ever lived”, “buckets of mead”, a noble death, a prominently displayed dog, barbarism vs. civilization, Red Nails, “the viking hat”, The Savage Sword Of Conan, Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Tam is a Conan novice, The Last Of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, western, “alabaster skin”, the triumph of Barbarism (is the coda for the story), Texas, would the 1% agree with Howard?, Picts, the world of Hyboria, Cimmeria was a real place, history, historical romance, physical display, don’t overblow the homo-eroticism, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, autodidacts, Margaret Atwood’s interview on CBC’s Q, “occasionals”?, Walt Whitman and Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, sword and sorcery, did Howard invent the barbarian as a character?, Genghis Khan, forbidden knowledge, Howard and Jack London, The Call Of The Wild, California, Alaska, Yukon, slavery, civilization to barbarism, “a Conan dog”, atavism, Zogar Sag is the Jesus to Jhebbal Sag’s God, secret language magic, secret symbols, Conan The Barbarian, Conan is at the height of his power, atavistic magic, “what was I missing”, chatty Conan, Brian Wood’s new Conan comic (adapting Queen Of The Black Coast), Barry Windsor Smith, “he’s busy getting revenge”, a distillation of what’s in the stories, Conan and the philosophers, Oliver Stone and John Milius, Conan The Destroyer, sword vs. sorcery, Berserk (manga), “if you were in the Hyborian age which god would you worship?”, “a Klingon god”, “who is the good guy in Beyond The Black River?”, why does Conan side with the Aquilonians?, “swarthy white men”, Conan is bronzed by the sun not swarthy, end the Jersey Shore references, “this is a war story”, Conan doesn’t believe in an external valuation, why is there only one Devil?, Gullah the Gorilla God – the hairy one who lives on the moon, Africa, Aquilonia is France, Hyboria is Europe, Hyperborea (boreal + hyper = far north), Stygia = Egypt, Texas history, the Picts are the Comanche in this story, Julius Caesar, degenerating white men, Kull, Brule The Spearslayer, “noble savage”, a “symphony of racism”, Bran Mak Morn: The Last King by Robert E. Howard, Kings In The Night, The Whole Wide World, The One Who Walks Alone by Novalyne Price Ellis, Vincent D’Onofrio as Robert E. Howard channeling Conan, photographs of Robert E. Howard, Howard was a LARPer, “Howard was a rough-hewn intellectual”, boxing, gun culture vs. cat culture, WWII, Lidice, “even a white man’s dog is worth more than seven Picts”, Bill Hollweg’s Queen Of The Black Coast audio drama, would Beyond The Black River make a good audio drama?, Lou Anders’ Hollywood Formula doesn’t work here, philosophy of the woods, audiobooks and comics are better than movies, SSOC #26 & #27, Dark Horse’s Savage Sword Of Conan, Volume 3, ostrich feathers tell a story, a frontier story, Weird Tales covers by Margaret Brundage, the Hulk, supple, Red Nails would be a good readalong, laser beams and dinosaurs.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Blackstone Audiobooks audiobook edition of Mindswap by Robert Sheckley, The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley, Rick Jackson’s Wonder Audio version of The Status Civilization, Marvin, existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, Mars, swapping minds vs. swapping bodies, xenophiles, “metaphoric deformation”, one of the greatest scenes of comedy ever in a novel, mind vs. body, mind vs. brain, consciousnesses and memories, Mindswap is “a subversive ontological satire,” Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, extracting sunlight from a cucumber, “theory of searches”, existentialism for a Science Fiction audience, Voltaire’s Candide, Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, balance is superfluous, “contemplation is the most direct form of involvement (and so it is avoided by everyone)”, Bertrand Russell, New York, solipsism, cognitive dissonance, Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, Chekhov’s gun, comedic soliloquies, speaking with a lisp, the twisted world, the interventionist fallacy, the authorial sting, “the ripe greenness of her ovipositors”, Luke defends the honour of the name Kathy, Marvin The Paranoid Android vs. Marvin The Martian, Roland Barthes, absurdity is funny, a pseudo-Gulliver’s Travels, the mechanics of the humor, Gregg’s top five written objects, Laputa, “the pinnacle of satire”, A Modest Proposal, “everything is bullshit”, Dr. Jeykll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (our next readalong), Dracula, Lair Of The White Worm, Ken Russell, Gothic, On The Buses, Africa, “Africa? Where do you mean in Africa?”, Namibia vs. South Africa, Kilimanjaro vs. Everest, a set can’t be a member of itself, “it’s all a big giant steaming pile of absurdity” vs. “the glory and excitement of being alive”, monsignors vs. bishops, “you’re just not in our target market”, “I don’t believe what someone believes has to be true or not”, spiritual experiences vs. explanations of them, there’s a helmet for that (spiritual experiences), the charismatic formula, true vs. honest, Luke’s blog post on spiritual experiences and atheism, Thomas Aquinas, “truth is relative”, Gregg has big sets!, Julie is completely talk-able, Margaret Atwood history denier, the Apollo missions, making stupid easier, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a great aggregator , Glenn Beck’s snakedance, smart people are making the universe complex, “the enemy of nuance” vs. “the enemy of history”, rejecting reality, why they argued with Jefferson, their totally alienable, “this is why I watch 30 Rock“, Kids In The Hall, you have the potential of niche markets, ‘the United States is the greatest country in the world (with the greatest failures and great achievements)’, nobody cares about Africa (or South America), not knowing the Prime Minister of Canada vs. not knowing the Governor of Guam, Peter F. Hamilton’s latest book, a bunch of fun loving existentialists, Sheckley’s short stories, City by Clifford D. Simak (it has conflict), Sheckley at his best is Voltaire and soda (or Voltaire and tonic), Flannery O’Connor, the keyword game, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, art and craft are the same thing, craftsmen aren’t artists, I Hate Music, “I’m NOT tone deaf!”, Charlie Parker, iTunes=music, mp3=music, “it’s like I’m gay and I’m the only one”, This Is Your Brain On Music, Gregg is too emphatic (?), “I – do not – sound – like – William Shatner.”, Weird Al Yankovic, “my guitar is the best girlfriend I ever had.”
Gray Morrow‘s illustrations of Mindswap from the June 1965 of Galaxy:
Posted by Jesse Willis
You can make a good case for the sexism in old books. Just look at the Book of Genesis: Lot’s Wife. Noah’s Wife. These are the ladies so oppressed that they didn’t even deserve names. However, I think we can attribute what looks like the exact came same kind of sexism in titling Allan’s Wife more to marketing than anything else. This is, after all, the third novel in the Allan Quatermain series. And it’s not actually very much about his wife, at least at the start. It tells more tales of Quatermain’s time in South Africa, his observations about two dueling witchdoctors (they use their magic to control lighting), his father’s death, and eventually the fate of his wife. For the record Allan Quatermain’s wife (of the title) is named “Stella Carson.” Come to think of it, some clever writer could probably do a whole series of YA books called The Adventures Of Allanah Quatermain (perhaps a secret grandaughter?). Until then…
Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/3718
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[Thanks also to mim@can and James Christopher]
Posted by Jesse Willis