The SFFaudio Podcast #196 – Scott, Jesse, and Tamahome discuss the Blackstone Audio audiobook of A World Out Of Time by Larry Niven.
Talked about on today’s show:
Tamahome is a third, Ender’s Game, 1976, Rammer by Larry Niven (1971), a fix-up novel, Infinivox, Pat Bottino, “his most perfect short story”, the novel ruins the short story (sort of), the anticipation is more interesting than the resolution, chapters 2 and 3 nullify the power of chapter 1, Corbell, Peerssa, the Clouds of Magellan, “a fuck you ending”, interesting social systems, a sciencey vocab, cryonics, Bussard Ram Jets, ergosphere, Protector, Beowulf Shaeffer, The Soft Weapon, the Technovelgy website, biological package probes, the bubble car, the empty man, gravity assisted subway, poster TV, RNA shots “don’t read Cliff Notes, eat Cliff”, planaria (flatworms) experiments, humans are wired for language, birds are wired for flight, young forever, Star Trek, null field, consciousness transferal, continuation of consciousness, Robert J. Sawyer, Rollback, Identity Theft (or Shed Skin), your robot body, we care about will, Four Worlds Of The Diamond by Jack Chalker, “there’s a mystery that needs to be solved, cloning, Lilith: A Snake In The Grass, Audible.com, The River Of The Dancing Gods, The Identity Matrix, Demons Of The Dancing Gods, G.O.D., Inc., Dancers In The Afterglow, Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley, “who are you when you’re just some ground up hamburger?”, he’s treated like a criminal, why don’t the citizens want to make this trip?, a certain kind of person, Louis Wu, “a special sort of breed”, the two CBC Ideas shows on James Cameron, manned spaceflight, Playgrounds Of The Mind, “my favourite characters are all tourists”, “I demand to be a tourist”, The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, a whole world in zero gravity, “this guy is Mr. Physics”, Arthur C. Clarke, Hothouse by Brian Aldiss, Ringworld, The Ringworld Engineers, Robert A. Heinlein, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, David Brin, passing a planet, “something on the order of that”, moving planets, Uranus, mathematically logical (but with non-existent materials), the air is full of the oceans, the null-rooms, a null-box, zero-entropy space, better sandwich storage, transporting the garbage out, Doctor McCoy, quantum communication and quantum teleportation, Think Like A Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly, Seeing Ear Theatre, Dream Park, Oath Of Fealty, The Mote In God’s Eye, Inferno, Lucifer’s Hammer, Luke Burrage, Escape From Hell, Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, an alien invasion story, Scott has a signed copy!, elephantine aliens with twin trunks, the audiobook of Footfall is available, a book written by people who care about science!, a septic tank full of books, Robert A. Heinlein, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, David Brin, the DHS vs. the U.S. military, what would Larry Niven do as the head of the EPA?, a Death Star, Obama’s unemployed geekishness, Newt Gingrich, moonbase!, he loves himself because he’s surrounded by idiots, the idea of an idea man is fantastic, Douglas Adams, a thousand or ten thousand year project, focused on the current and the recent past, the deep time issue, time capsules, the Long Now Foundation, cathedral building, pyramid building, “on the cosmic scale”, the space race was motivated by military competition, Space X http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX , a private moonbase?, the ultra rich, science isn’t for profit, human existence isn’t for profit, space probes, hydro-electric dams, where is the Moonbase Kickstarter?, maybe we could have just one guy and his clone up there, Moon, real Science Fiction, Crashlander, Neutron Star, Peter F. Hamilton is an ideas man, Great North Road, five pages describing a weather change, another fix-up novel, Neutron Star, the animated Star Trek, Kzin, Alan Dean Foster, World Of Ptavvs, Algis Budrys, telepathy, Charles Stross, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Community, The Big Bang Theory, Dan Harmon’s keynote.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, Vikas Adam, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Roxanne Hernandez
14 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Solar System / Asteroids / Mining / Gravity / Aliens / Alien invasion /
One of the pleasures of listening to science fiction audiobooks over the years has been hearing Orson Scott Card’s Ender series. Besides being expertly narrated by an ensemble led by Stefan Rudnicki, these audiobooks are entertaining because Card isn’t delivering the same book over and over. In Earth Unaware, Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston take the series in yet another direction.
I know, I know. It’s been proven time after time. When a book series gets to the point where [Original Author] picks up [Insert new author here (often a relative)], the results are just… not good. I’m happy to report that Earth Unaware is an excellent novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Aaron Johnston and Orson Scott Card created and are telling the story of the First Formic War in the comic format. I haven’t read those, so I can’t say how similar this novel is, but Aaron Johnston says in the Afterword that Earth Unaware draws from the characters and events in those comics.
The subtitle (First Formic War) implies that we’re in for a military SF novel, but that’s not what this is. This novel is a tense near-space adventure set in the not too distant future and peopled with characters I cared about. The opening reveals the thoughts and feelings of teenager on the El Calvador, a mining ship in the Kuiper Belt. Close by, on a different ship, is a man who has invested much time and effort into the invention of a gravity laser. He needs to prove his worth to his corporate employer. And back on Earth, an elite military unit is being formed. These lives, some entwined, move forward as normal until all interests are altered in the face of the arrival of an alien ship in the solar system.
Even though the cover doesn’t say it, this is Book 1 of at least a few. I look forward to the continued development of the concept of difference. On Valentine Wiggin’s Hierarchy of Foreignness is Varelse. True aliens, aliens so alien that we can’t even communicate with them or even hope to understand them. How could war with such a race be avoided? Difference also extends to human beings, who seem so content to drop their conflicts in the face of greater danger. Why is that what it takes?
The audiobook is performed by multiple narrators in the style that fits Orson Scott Card’s stories so incredibly well. The narrators (all excellent) change with the POV of the story. Reading the story were: Stefan Rudnicki, Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, Vikas Adam, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Roxanne Hernandez. Top notch!
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
I posted last about Philip K. Dick’s shortest short story back in 2010. I’m reposting it because I’ve made a three page |PDF| to go with it (made from it’s first publication, Science Fiction Stories).
The Eyes Have It, is just a simple story about a literal man and the ridiculous alien invasion he imagines. It’s a silly little piece of fluff. A mere lighthearted thought experiment. Just a fun little story of no real account or import. In fact it’s barely …. wait one second … could it … ? …. what if … ? … HEY! That’s that just what they want you to think!!!
The Eyes Have It
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 8 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: March 20, 2010
A little whimsy, now and then, makes for good balance. Theoretically, you could find this type of humor anywhere. But only a topflight science-fictionist, we thought, could have written this story, in just this way…. First published in 1953 in Science Fiction Stories #1.
Posted by Jesse Willis
A first contact story and a mystery story! When a massive alien, the size of a city, enters Earth’s atmosphere fighter jets are scrambled to meet it. The alien seems to be in search of something – but what it is won’t turn out to be what we expect. Here’s part of the description of the alien:
She had a head, drawn back most of the time into the bloated mass of the body but thrusting forward now and then on a short neck not more than three hundred feet in length. When she did that the blunt turtle-like head could be observed, the gaping, toothless, suffering mouth from which the thunder came, and the soft-shining purple eyes that searched the ground but found nothing answering her need. The skin-color was mud-brown with some dull iridescence and many peculiar marks resembling weals or blisters. Along the belly some observers saw half a mile of paired protuberances that looked like teats.
The Good Neighbors
By Edgar Pangborn; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: February 21, 2009
You can’t blame an alien for a little inconvenience—as long as he makes up for it! First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1960.
And here is a |PDF| made from the original publication in Galaxy.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Out of the Dark
By David Weber; Read by Charles Keating
17 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military / Aliens / Alien invasion / Historical /
No one would have believed in the early years of the 15th Century that human affairs were being watched from the orbiting ships of the Galactic Hegemony’s Survey Force. No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised as the French and English forces advanced towards each other across the field of Agincourt. Few men even considered the possibility of life more vegetarian than ours and yet, from their survey ships, minds immeasurably more craven than ours, regarded this Earth with horrified revulsion. And slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.
David Weber attempts to take the traditional alien invasion and add an unusual twist. The twist, unfortunately, isn’t brought to fruition until very nearly the end of the book, where it clangs into place more like a late addition, a Deus Ex Machina.
Out of the Dark starts as a typical alien invasion: ships arrive in-system, observe us for a while to find where the big cities and military bases are, then strike them from orbit. Wipeout the majority of the population and then attempt to sweep in to rule over the cowering survivors. Shock and Awe. Unsurprisingly the aliens discover how tenacious we humans are. They struggle to comprehend why we are unhappy about having half the population of Earth wiped out in an afternoon. Is there something wrong with us? Are we not civilised?
In the Galactic Hegemony vegetarianism is the norm for intelligent star-faring races. Omnivores and carnivores being too aggressive to develop the required technological base required to reach the stars without wiping themselves out. There is one exception to this rule, the Shongairi, and they make the other races in the Hegemony nervous just by existing. So, in an attempt to weaken the Shongairi, the Hegemony grant them the right to colonise three other worlds, including one discovered some 500 years before. A world that also has the pacifistic Hegemony worried.
According to the Colonisation rules of the Hegemony, any race that has not advanced enough technologically are fair game to be colonised. Naturally their assumption is that Earth, being populated by a crazy race that commits such bloodthirsty battles as that observed at Agincourt five centuries earlier, will still be very low on their technology scale. The Shongairi are then somewhat surprised to find that we have developed so far as we have, indeed possessing some technologies that rival their own. We may still be trapped upon our home planet, but we have advanced computer technology and encryption techniques that make them think we should really be classed at a level where we would be granted a protected status. Considering the expense of the time and resources involved in the launch this offensive, the Shongairi Commander decides to sweep that data under the carpet and hope that no-one notices. Bombing us back to the stone-age to hide the evidence if necessary. And thus the invasion goes ahead and half the world’s population is lost to a kinetic bombardment.
The novel follows several characters, although most are expended showing how effective our weaponry is against an alien ground force that expected to face nothing more advanced than a bow and arrow. They are expended in that they demonstrate, repeatedly, that the Shongairi react with overwhelming orbital strikes. This pattern repeats several times through out the book and does become a little tedious.
The Shongairi alien nature is basically that of a predatory pack animal, almost canine in nature. Their philosophy is that when faced with an overwhelming opponent you surrender. That humans refuse to acknowledge the Shongairi’s superiority confuses them. This mentality reminded me a lot of the elephant-like aliens from Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Footfall from the ’80′s.
The characters include Master Sergeant Stephen Buchevsky who finds himself a passenger on a military cargo plane flying over Eastern Europe when the aliens strike and his plane is force to make a crash landing. With only a handfull of other US personnel from the plane he begins gathering locals around him as he becomes their protector. He joins up with a local group who’s charismatic leader seems to be too friendly, helpful and successful at defending against the Shongairi. Buchevsky is a gee-shucks hero doing the best he can.
One of the other main characters is Dave Dvorak. Or, as I think of him, Dave “Mary Sue” Dvorak. Dvorak is one of the most prepared people to hide out in the Carolina hills, in what reads like a palatial cabin with his family and friends. Although he actually does very little plot-wise he becomes a middle-man for lots of other survivors in the area and through these contacts we hear about much of what is happening in the world. When we aren’t watching sacrificial attacks against Shongairi troops. We do get to hear in excruciating detail how, over the previous few years, he and his brother-in-law converted a family cabin in the woods into a home away from home, complete with redundant power generators, hidden food and weapon caches and a huge underground fresh water tank.
We are also shown the invasion from the alien’s perspective. Much of their emotions are expressed in the positioning and twitching of their ears, reinforcing the K-9 impression that their omnivore and pack nature suggests. There is almost no physical description of them, that I remember, beyond this.
The cover blurb talks of the survivors receiving help from an “old enemy”. I’m not going to spoil this aspect of the book, although I guessed it just from reading the blurb and was actually looking forward to it. Other readers have claimed to have been blind-sided by it. I can see why, but only if they simply hadn’t read the book cover. It is not a genre I’m aware Weber has written in before. I was disappointed with the execution of this aspect. The surprise element doesn’t feel integrated into the book as a whole. It really felt like the story had originally been written without it, then realising that he had dug a hole too deep for humanity to get out of, he had to go back and add this in to tip the scales in our favour. The conclusion wraps up very quickly; like a TV series been told they are being cancelled and only have two episodes to wrap everything up. Or he got bored with the story and wanted to finish it and move on to something else.
And yet, this is not the worst aspect of this book for me. I have also been listening to Weber’s Safehold series, but have abandoned it after the third book, in large part due to this flaw. Weber has started writing massive monologues for many of his characters that run on for tens of minutes at a time. They are both internal and external discourses where the characters go into minute detail about what has already happened, their current position, beliefs, expectations and plans. Two or three times per book I could swallow, but this feels like it is becoming Weber’s go-to method of filling out a scene. They feel completely unnatural, especially when it is one character talking at another. In some situations this would be okay, a specific character who was prone to this sort of thing, or that the situation called for the character to speak for such an extended time, without any apparent aide-memoire or time to prepare. Even if it helped to move the plot on quickly, I might be tempted to forgive it, but it seldom does. It is often a repeat of information we already know, explained from the current character’s slightly different perspective. Yet not actually adding anything to the story other than word count. Unfortunately any interruption to my listen during one of these monologues meant that when I returned I had no little or no idea who was talking. I could eventually infer who was talking, after a few minutes, based on the geography and names of characters they mentioned, but seldom from how the character spoke. Neither the writing nor unfortunately the narration had enough colour when it came to most of the character voices.
The narrator, Charles Keating, does well with most of the book, especially the alien lisping Shongairi. Unfortunately he too struggles to bring life into Weber’s indigestible, interminable speeches.
This had the potential to be an interesting hybrid of genres, but really feels like something bolted on at the end. Weber’s editor needs to get tough with him and curtail those endless monologues.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell
The subject of SFFaudio Podcast #125 [which will be live Monday September 12th, 2011] is The Horla, a sort of ghost story by Guy de Maupassant. If you’re still not familiar with this particular Guy let me place him in context for you. He was one of the inventors of the short story and a master of the form. The stories he wrotes hold up incredibly well, being completely fresh despite being more than century old. His style is simple, straightforward and even more accessible than the works of either H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe (despite their tales having been written in English and his being written in French). Poe’s writings, of course, all preceded Guy de Maupassant. In fact Poe died the year before Maupassant was born! There’s kind of a succession going on here…
Poe -> Maupassant -> Lovecraft
…Maupassant died in in 1893, Lovecraft was born in 1890. But unlike so many of Maupassant’s tales, the ones that leave you smirking sympathetically at a collection of colourful characters, The Horla is not a tale of a social faux pas with an ironic twist – instead, I judge it as being three-fifths Science Fiction, two-fifths Horror, and 100% totally freaky!
Check out this haunting passage:
“The vulture has eaten the dove,
and the wolf has eaten the lamb;
the lion has devoured the sharp-horned buffalo,
and man has killed the lion with arrow, sword and gun;
but the Horla is going to make of man what we have made of the horse and the ox:
and his food,
by the mere exercise of his will.
Woe to us.”
I think what I like best about The Horla is the strong bent towards skepticism and naturalistic explanation that’s exhibited by the unnamed protagonist. He comes across like a hard Science Fiction reader, full of excitement for the wonders of the universe. He’s unwilling to accept magical explanations for the obviously strange phenomena he witnesses. He tells us his story in diary entries that seem to track both his mood, variously ebullient and depressed, as well as the facts and impressions of the strange happenings on his estate and elsewhere in France. When he leaves his seaside home, where the bulk of the action takes place, he relates a story that sounds like it must be fully supernatural. And in Paris, where he has first hand experience of disturbing para-psychological phenomena (post-hypnotic suggestion), he reserves judgement. And finally, when lying in bed he repeatedly experiences something we today might describe as sleep paralysis. Is it that the narrator insane? Or does the universe have a secret that is not yet widely known? Find out for yourself!
Here are two fantastic audiobook versions:
By Guy de Maupassant; Read by Jim Moon
1 |MP3| – Approx. 57 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: February 22, 2011
“Mr Jim Moon delves into classic French literature to unearth a seminal vampiric tale of creeping fear, dread and madness”
And from the same podcaster, a thorough and fascinating exploration the story and the film adaptation:
Diary Of A Madman
1 |MP3| – Approx. [DISCUSSION]
Podcast: March 05, 2011
“This week Mr Jim Moon launches into an in-depth discussion of Guy de Maupassant’s The Horla. Also we have a look at its screen adaptation – Diary of a Madman starring Vincent Price.”
There have been two audio dramatizations:
Mystery In The Air – The Horla
By Guy de Maupassant; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 25 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: August 21, 1947
“The Horla, written in 1887 by Guy de Maupassant, is an unusual horror tale about an invisible alien entity that seeks to inhabit and control human beings. It was cited by Lovecraft as being the inspiration for his classic story, The Call Of Cthulhu, and as an important forerunner to the weird horror genre pioneered by himself, August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, and others, in the early-mid 20th century. This version, from Mystery in the Air (oddly, a summer replacement for the Abbott and Costello Show), benefits from a brisk script and a wonderful live performance by Peter Lorre as your weekly raging psychopath.”
Two stunning illustrations, by Lynd Ward, from The Horla:
An uncredited illustration from Library Of The World’s Best Mystery And Detective Stories, Volume 4:
Here’s the trailer for the very loosely adapted 1963 movie starring Vincent Price:
Posted by Jesse Willis