The SFFaudio Podcast #251 – Jesse, Scott, and Tamahome discuss Up Against It by M.J. Locke.
Talked about on today’s show:
Hardcover, paperback, audiobook, who to blame?, it’s Jo Walton’s doing we chose this book (at the bottom), still a lot of juice in the genre, the ultimate cause, drawing in vs. pushing in, Corner Gas, a new wine bracket, the Radium Age of Science Fiction, Scott’s Goodreads review, Tam’s Goodreads review, 24, the characters, less torture, its more fun if you count the tropes, every trope is in there, including immortality, mimetic fiction (literary realism), Henry James, mimetic fiction in a science fiction universe, tiny infodumps, not one brand new idea, waveface virtual reality, Tonal_Z AI language (Chris Crawford’s Solvesol-interface concept?), in dialogue, Cory Doctorow (Whuffies), Bruce Sterling, Chris Crawford, Bruce Sterling’s Veridians (wow, it’s a whole big thing, design philosophy? manifesto), asteroid miner stories, Heinlein and later, The Island Worlds by John Maddox Roberts and Eric Kotani, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there’s no newcomer, a generally agreed upon direction our future will be, John Scalzi’s brainpal, more than one kind of SF, rocket ships, the Charles Stross direction, Iain M. Banks, Souvenir by Philip K. Dick, Amish tech, their tech is subservient to their culture, it seems inevitable in our world, the received future, Earth in Up Against It in bad shape, Vancouver shantytowns, Edmonton, this isn’t a utopian book, dystopia, dystopic Earth, why are they in the Asteroid Belt, good world-building, good but not new, nothing new but the idea, incredibly self-aware people is weird (and cool), gene tampering, Oblivion is a good introduction to SF tropes (for people born in the year 2000), the level of SF tropes in movies is very low compared to those in SF books, Darwin Elevator, bad physics vs. excellent physics, sugar rocks, there’s no intro character (other than the A.I. pov), Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, collaborative teens, a visual adaptation, Ender’s Game, Planetes, Gravity, Babylon 5 had nothing new, I don’t go to TV SF for new ideas, books are where great ideas, what great ideas haven’t been explored, the news coming out of Eve Online, Steen Hansen, political machinations, gold farming, a simulated universe, a libertarian alliance was trojaned or something, happening to real people, World Of Warcraft, our real future is in leisure, Tam liked it more, nose-piercings, tattooing, the gender neutral pronouns, why would you want a purple nose?, Jesse doesn’t understand trans-humanism, normal readalongs, why didn’t I like this more, Tam liked it fine, hands for feet, chromes and mutes, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, not too bright in the brain area, The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, a planetless solar system, a mashup of Doctorow and Heinlein, smile -> erection, Chekhov’s Gun, Heinleinian sex vs. Doctorowian sex, there’s too much going on, an immature writer, Elmore Leonard, “she pillowed her cheek”, nobody pillows their cheeks in Jack London stories, Jane as an older Ripley, an artificial spiritual awakening, too many compromises too much bullshit, an authentically political book according to Staffer’s Book Review, double dealings, the thriller plot, exploring space, what does Scott prefer?, does Scott have a right to review Up Against It?, is it maturity?, 2312, Tobias Buckell’s blog essay about mature reviewers, caveats, “and get off my lawn”, idea fiction, competent but unstimulating, why is The Lord Of The Rings more interesting than Up Against It?, the themes, the next episode of A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Luke Burrage re-reviews A Canticle For Liebowitz, what we do when we do READALONGS (we unpack books), The Odyssey, Community, currently airing TV series have podcasts?, books with allegories, Scott wants it to mean something to him, The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman, WWI, the German ambassador in Mexico, Woodrow Wilson, Tom Clancy, mimetic fiction from the future, a history from the future, history, in some ways Eve Online is much more real than any fiction book, Scott finds value in general fiction, Mario Puzo, Tom Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, meaning vs. ideas, horror, Snowblind by Christopher Golden for some alternative horror, The House Of The Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, gothic fiction, witchcraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, there’s still potential for Science Fiction, a sequel?, an unneeded sequel, every subsequent milk of a book undercuts it, Dune has been worsened by every Dune that’s come since, Dune Messiah (Scott liked it), the fall of a charismatic leader, a backward casting shadow, Brian Herbert has done what his father wanted by ruining Dune?, why was Up Against It so long?, YA/adult book, George R.R. Martin doesn’t think Scott’s a fan of Hard SF, The Martian by Andy Weir, Phoecea, why are they mining?, there’s no economic reason to do so, was there an economic reason to go to the moon, we need to build a space fleet, no martian resources are unavailable on Earth, the Moon has Helium-3, Tam read Frank Schatzing’s Limit and his eyes are tired, what the frack, (was it ‘Simon pure science fiction like A Darkling Sea‘? we didn’t talk about it but I thought I’d note it)
Posted by Jesse Willis
Minds Of Terminus is a new audio drama podcast that seems inspired by a number of recent novels (Kiln People, Saturn’s Children). Here’s the elevator pitch:
“In the world of Terminus, technology has advanced beyond contemporary understanding or explanation. Nanotechnology is at its peak, common and ubiquitous. The fields of Artificial Intelligence and Nanorobotics have matured, and swarm intelligences maintain roads, buildings, monitor traffic, collect advertising data, nurse the sick… the applications are nearly endless. It has even become possible for a human being to upload their intelligence and personality into an artificial neural matrix. These copies, however, aren’t seen in the way that a modern-day trans-humanist from our time might regard them. For example, no one regards these mind uploads as a way to attain immortality of any kind. The original lives on, after all, and the copy is regarded as… something other than human.
Applying advanced neuroscience, these uploaded personalities can be pruned and teased into any number of purpose-built, utilitarian shapes and designs, and this has become the preferred way to program the robotic helpers used every day in all walks of life, from heavy industrial machines to nannies.
Then one day, all of the humans are gone. The streets are quiet. The AIs begin waking up, but their masters have left them. Who and what are they, when all of the humans are gone? Are they all just bad copies of dead humans?”
Episode 1 |MP3| – Approx. 27 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Mel Foster
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / Humanity / Future / Artificial Intelligence
After the twentieth century’s devastating series of wars, the world’s governments banded together into one globe-spanning entity, committed to peace at all costs. Ensuring that peace is the Vulcan supercomputer, responsible for all major decisions. But some people don’t like being taken out of the equation. And others resent the idea that the Vulcan is taking the place of God. As the world grows ever closer to all-out war, one functionary frantically tries to prevent it. But the Vulcan computer has its own plans, plans that might not include humanity at all.
Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick was first published in 1960. The book’s origin however is an expansion of a novella that has been published previously and therefore places this story among some of the author’s very earliest science fiction works. The book’s central theme of what makes us human versus that of a machine is one that continued into many of Philip K. Dick’s later and more popular novels.
The plot revolves around that of a supercomputer named Vulcan 3 which acts as the world’s leader. Most of the characters (including the main protagonist William Barris,) are Directors of an organization called Unity which represent various regions of the world on behalf of Vulcan. Another more mysterious group that call themselves the Healers appear to be trying to thwart the will of Vulcan 3. Another key character, Father Fields, is from this counter-group.
Narration is handled by Audie award winner Mel Foster whose many other audiobook titles also include Philip K. Dick’s The Zap Gun. I enjoyed his performance of the material here and plan to give his take on The Zap Gun a listen also. I recommend Vulcan’s Hammer as I found interesting the development of a theme which continued into many of the author’s later novels.
This is a truly terrible story, by someone who is normally perceived to be a great author, Robert Bloch. I suspect Bloch chose the pseudonym for this one because it is so bad. Indeed, I suspect this is precisely the kind of story Isaac Asimov was trying to defeat with his Three Laws of Robotics. But beyond the dangerous robot trope it also features, at least to my ears, the most creepily lascivious robot ever!
Junior is oily, immoral, and oversexed.
Dimension X – Almost Human
Adapted from the story by Robert Bloch; Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 29 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: May 13, 1950
A gun moll answers an ad to be a nursemaid to a baby robot, things are fine until her boyfriend, a professional thief, shows up and teaches the robot a few things. First published in Fantastic Adventures, June 1943.
Here’s Robert Bloch’s introductory essay to Almost Human (as written for My Best Science Fiction Story a 1949 anthology edited by Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend):
Posted by Jesse Willis
HALO: The Thursday War
By Karen Traviss, Read by Euan Morton
15 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Video Game Tie-In / Aliens / Artificial Intelligence / War /
This is the second book in the Halo Kilo-Five trilogy by Karen Traviss. It’s 15 hours of thinking you know what is going to happen, only to have it change right before you.
The Glasslands, Book 1 of the trilogy, got us an introduction to ONI’s Admiral Parangosky special black ops team “Kilo-Five”. The Thursday War lets us see more of who they are and how they think. It starts off right where “Glasslands” left off. No time to breath! Kilo-Five has to get back to Sanghelios to rescue one of their own that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Those of you that play the Halo video games will really enjoy understanding more about where some of the Halo 4 characters come from. You gotta love the AI for Kilo-Five: Black Box or BB for short. Not only does he give a little attitude to the team but he almost has emotional traits and worries like humans. Or Meat Bags as the team calls them.
I give 5 thumbs up to Karen Traviss and her writing style. For me it was like I was the AI in their systems watching, hearing, and feeling their every move. And not only from the Humans but from the Sangheili (Elites). I was able to look at them as another race not just a target on the screen. The kudagra to all of Sanghelios hopes is the mighty UNSC INFINITY, a floating city. That shows the Sangheili they are no longer top dogs.
If you like the Halo universe then you will love The Thursday War, and the audiobook is so much better with the reading by Euan Morton. He is amazing with how he brings the characters out with their voices.
Posted by Mike
Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer is a 25 minute TV documentary produced by David L. Wolper in 1963. It includes a little dramatization of Dial Double Zero, a short story about the emergence of an artificial intelligence within the telephone system.
And it’s also available as a download |MP4|.
Posted by Jesse Willis