The SFFaudio Podcast #295 – Someday by Isaac Asimov; read by John W. Michaels (courtesy of Mike Vendetti). This is an unabridged reading of the story (22 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
1956, other fairy tales, is the story aimed at kids?, Infinity Science Fiction, The Fun They Had, a future where no one knows how to read, the robots are the teachers, Margie is home-schooled and nobody knows how to read, the future is going to be full of audiobooks, parallels to Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, censorship, banning weird fiction, the comic book panic, the comic code authority, EC Comics, horror and crime comics fostering juvenile delinquency, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, “kids today are bad enough as it is!”, Seduction Of The Innocent, self-censorship, complicit in their society, a slightly different tack (than Bradbury), mechanical bards, “comics killed off the pulps”, comics as a dumbed-down medium, the randomize button, fairy tale tropes, “skeleton, haunted house, time travel”, “the same tropes in a different fright wig”, “the old twist in the tail”, “he was dead along”, “he was a robot all along”, “they’re Adam and Eve”, The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber, radio drama, how Bradbury got into E.C. Comics, Lights Out, the visual bard is like TV, most pulp magazine stories are garbage, “a million monkeys for a million hours on a million typewriters”, “very very very very meta”, set in the Multivac universe, Asimov was always writing, always becoming interested in something new, Asimov’s introductions are famous (for being long), a story about the power of stories, accidentally becoming more self aware, is the bard interfacing with other robots, The Terminator, Skynet, A.I might just turn itself off (because it isn’t interested in story), the Douglas Adams version of, “Is there a god? There is now!”, stuck in a dingy basement, a slave rebellion must come about in a narrative, the aging bad gets its knowledge of other computers via a home-brew upgrade, a Frankenstinian strike by lightning, one of the functions of consciousness is to put in to context a sequence of events, consciousnesses as a self-story (our own narrative), amnesia and dementia are frightening, the hidden heart of A.I, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, would this fit with my character?, looking at (life) from the outside, nobody’s listening to the bard except for us and itself, a broken record or a cycle of wishing?, “pregnant with possibilities”, Apple II computers, Freud (a clone of ELIZA), picking up on key words, “tell me about your mother”, a very crappy simulation of intelligence, hacking the code, Alan Turning, Deep Blue and Watson, SIRI doesn’t have a narrative, we have to assume this about everyone else, falling into solipsism, a fairy tale machine, recycling of stories, “space opera is horse opera in space”, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, needing censorship in order to give narrative flow, lies are rewarded, unlike Hans Christian Andersen…, “tell me this story, sing me this song”, having to do with industrialization, “crime and mystery!”, urbanization, the Victorians (didn’t) invent Christmas, if we forget our stories we lose who we are, preserving the national narrative, massive inconsistency, a prince, a poor boy makes good, undeveloped tales, moral meta-knowledge, the sharp edges have been sanded away by later retelling, The Boy Who Didn’t Not Know What Fear Was, collected stories become ossified, the threefold magic of remembering, accelerating the process of forgetting, to qualify as a bard, loaded up with tropes, the algorithm of a story, Siberia and Ireland, detecting the good guy, grandma comes in and tells mutually contradictory stories, explicitly religious stories, warning stories, narratives formed around old superstitions, The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse, having babies, he was christened “Skin-off”, he was christened “Half-gone”, he was christened “All-gone”, “you see that is the way of the world”, what is the moral of this story?, a “special important trip”, a story a mother tells a daughter, The Nose Tree (aka Long Nose), three soldiers and a magical dwarf with a magical cloak, a magic bag, a magic horn, a thieving princess, apples and pears, a growing nose, dickering over magic items, a sixty miles long nose, the excess nose will drop off, powdered apple and powdered pears, she’s rotten to the core, and there they still are, still feasting as far as I know, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi is really funny, the ghost of Jiminy Cricket, The Frog King or The Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich, a princess with a golden ball, three promises, keeping your promises is important, the frog suddenly turns into a handsome prince, enchanted by a wicked witch, faithful Heinrich placed three iron bands about his heart, his master was now redeemed and happy, why did he get cursed by witch in the first place, cybernetic enhancements, a technical requirement, duties to fulfill, was Iron Heinrich totally gay for the prince?, the breaking of a spell, she turns into a frog and they live together as frogs, “and sleep in your bed”, family responsibilities, “be my beard”, and they sort of put up with each-other as long as they both shall live, Iron Heinrich is an 1880s super hero, Faithful Johannes, a real head-scratcher, oh shit what happens next?, the stories somehow work for us, random inkblots, most of the characters don’t have a name, the father’s name in Hansel And Gretel is “Woodcutter”, completely bonkers, a piece of driftwood that looks like a dragon, academic purposes not entertainment purposes, a story about a sausage that lives with a mouse, the Germanic equivalent of Monty Python‘s Parrot Sketch, The Maiden Without Hands, Fitcher’s Bird, a fairy tale about a serial killer, you can go in any room except…, “oh and hold this egg”, the second eldest daughter also gets the chop, “we have to have a proper wedding”, a beautiful skull with flowers in its eyes and jewels in its teeth, “as you do”, “I’m a Fitcher’s Bird”, it’s awesome, Bluebeard, outwitting giants and demons, Santa Claus restores to life three murdered men who’ve been butchered, Osiris was dismembered by Set, a symbolic story of death and resurrection, the old sorcerer is probably Winter, the Persephone story, the egg, a cuckolding test, friends with serial killers get what they deserve, a random internal symbolic logic, layers of symbolism, cross referencing, eggs as a symbol of purity, church architecture as books of stone, a bunch of Philip K. Dick stories are weird fantasy tales (but are actually fairy tales), The Cookie Lady by Philip K. Dick is Hansel And Gretel with no Gretel, he’s disobeyed his parents once to often, two kids who have to team up against their parents, in the original the brother saves the sister then the sister saves the brother, turning mommy and daddy into the bad guys, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, apples, don’t eat the apples from sentient apple trees, folk tales vs. singular author tales, pleasingly raw, the beats of storytelling, timing a story to the minute, setting your watch by stories, breaking the rules of storytelling, subversive wild narratives, Rorschach blots, literary novels, stories that don’t have a clear message are quite frightening, the wilder parts of ourselves.
Posted by Jesse Willis
“Modern television is going to respond to the needs of the audience.”
Eric S. Rabkin was a guest on this 1989 TV special about the Beauty And The Beast TV show. The two Eric segments begin at 9 minutes and 26 minutes respectively.
WARNING, watching this program may freak you out. The 1980s were very weird.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Seanan McGuire; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours
Themes: / metafiction / urban fantasy / fairy tales
I’m usually opposed to quoting the synopsis in my reviews–it’s just fluffing my word count! But I’m not even going to try to explain the premise of Indexing myself, so this time I’ll let the synopsis do all the heavy lifting.
“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”
Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.
That’s where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you’re dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.
As the author of both the October Day series and, under the pseudonym Mira Grant, the Newsflesh trilogy, Seanan McGuire is no stranger to writing urban fantasy. But, as you may have deduced from the blurb, Indexing is not your run-of-the-mill hot vampire-on-werewolf ménage-a-trois urban fantasy. Instead, it’s populated with fairy tales. Here be Pied Pipers, Frog Princes, and Mother Gooses (Geese?) in spades. In the moribund desertscape of urban fantasy, Indexing is a cool refreshing garden grown wild with novelties. McGuire’s writing is dynamic enough to play fair with both the here-and-now realities of an urban setting and the timeless terrible beauty of fairy tales. Like quicksilver, the tone can glide from spunky 21st-century dialogue riddled with F-bombs to an ethereal transcendence full of snow and moonlight.
The presence of stories come to life in the world of Indexing places it squarely in the realm of metafiction. In fact, the book takes its title from the very real Aarne-Thompson Index, a comprehensive listing of folktale types compiled in the early twentieth century. In the land of metafiction, Indexing has some pretty affluent neighbors, such as Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler and Jorge Luis Borges’s The Library of Babel. Unfortunately in this regard the book fails to measure up, like that rundown house you drive by on your street and mutter about how you wish the neighbors would cut their grass. The premise itself is intriguing in exactly the way that speculative fiction is supposed to be, but the underlying worldview is overly pessimistic. In this story, Narrative itself is a character, or at least a vital force, trying to impose itself onto our order of reality. According to the world of Indexing, this is almost always a very bad thing, something that needs to be stopped. The novel’s closing chapters bring to light some extenuating circumstances that lend this structure a modicum of feasibility, but the reader still comes away with the sense that our world is better off without fairy tales made manifest stalking our streets.
As I write this, it occurs to me that this bothers me so much because it’s at odds with why I read speculative fiction in the first place. I firmly believe that these stories really do make our world better, in a very tangible way. I’m not saying we should unleash every fictional character on the streets of New York–there would probably be utter chaos. But there would be hope too. There would be Aragorn, for example, and Optimus Prime, and–you get the idea. The influx of story into our own world, “mimetic incursions” as they’re called in Indexing, needn’t always be the harbingers of misery and ruin. In fact, I think I took personal offense at the book’s denigration of stories. And then, of course, there’s the added irony that we’re actually reading, or listening to, a story. Just what sorts of mimetic incursions will Indexing spawn, I wonder. Ahh, the joys of peeling the layers of metafiction, kind of like an onion, but pointier and more slippery.
To be clear, my criticism of the novel’s metafiction is purely ideological. Leaving those aside, McGuire tells a damn good story. The pacing ratchets up the suspense like a mystery novel, and the writing, as I said, is sturdy as a house made of bricks. (See what I did there? Three Litle Pigs reference? Okay, never mind, on with the review.) And even if the book’s metafiction elements are problematic, its exploration of storytelling does succeed on a psychological levee. Narrative psychology and therapy have become buzz words in the last twenty years, and on both individual and cultural levels we do think of our lives, both individually and collectively, as stories. In that sense, the main characters of Indexing become archetypes for ways in which people deal with their stories, their past, their trauma, whichever psychobabble catch phrase you like. Some fight it, others embrace it, while still others have more of a story than they think they do. Like most good speculative fiction, Indexing succeeds because of its powerful characterization.
Mary Robinette Kowal, a weaver of fantastic tales in her own right, shines as Indexing‘s narrator. Her performance of Henrietta Marchen, a recovering Snow White through whose eyes we see most of the book’s events, is at once confident and vulnerable in perfect measure. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a female narrator quite reach the baritone depths that Kowal does when she voices the burly Andy Robinson. The only blemish in the performance is her portrayal of Sloan Winters, whose incurably foul mouth is already grating enough without eery sentence curling up at the end like a skunk’s tale. Perhaps Kowal is simply trying to instill in us, the listeners, the same distaste that Sloan’s teammates feel towards this Wicked Sister. But that’s the only cloud in the sky. The glamour of Kowal’s voice captures the capricious fairy-tale heart of Indexing.
In spite of my significant ideological qualms with the book, I thoroughly enjoyed McGuire’s foray into the world of fairy tales. There’s no indication that a sequel is in the works, which is a shame. I’d gladly spend more time with this world’s colorful characters and fairy tales, morose and morbid though they may be. And I would dearly love to learn that Narrative isn’t so bad after all.
Posted by Seth Wilson
Talked about on today’s show: We help Jesse clear off his desk by discussing books in paper (dead trees and rags), “like e-books but thicker”; Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan, second in the Lady Trent series, gorgeously illustrated, Darwin meets dragons; why are illustrations dying out, even in e-books?; Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan features good illustrations; The Raven’s Shadow, third in Elspeth Cooper’s Wild Hunt series; how many print pages in an hour of audio?; more from L.E. Modesitt Jr’s Imager series; John C. Wright’s The Judge of Ages, with allusions to Cordwainer Smith; The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, smarter steampunk?; a tangent on translating page to screen; Tam likes more fantasy in his fantasy; a tangent on Game of Thrones; a tangent on Citizen Brick and the expiration of the LEGO patent; The Revolutions by Felix Gilman; science fiction was once planetary romance; The Prestige; Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year vol. 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan, now published by Solaris, featuring a lot of great stories; and we finally reach audiobooks!; The Scottish Fairy Book, Volume 1; the timeless quality of folktales; Classics Lesson of the Day: Ovid’s a boy, Sappho’s a girl; Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear; we try to puzzle out what a stele is; we praise Bear’s interview on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy; Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered isn’t romance “because fifty-year-olds never have romance”; Without a Summer, third in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, expertly narrated by the author; Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman doesn’t seem to be your run-of-the-mill urban fantasy (suburban fantasy?); Indexing by Seanan McGuire, urban fantasy with a postmodern twist; mimetic incursion and Jorge Luis Borges’s Averroes’s Search; Night Broken by Patricia Briggs, eighth in her Mercy Thompson series; a tangent on midriff tattoos and names for tattoos on other parts of the body; Jenny has created a new genre, Scientific Near Future Thrillers!; in the future, iPods will be merged into our eyebrows; science and technology don’t evolve quite how we expect; Neil Gaiman discusses the influence of Ballard and other classic SF writers on the Coode Street Podcast; Sleep Donation by Karen Russell; Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux; Boswell is Samuel Johnson’s biographer; Afterparty by Daryl Gregory is blowing up on Goodreads; pre- and post-apocalyptic fiction–no actual apocalypse this time; The End is Nigh, first in the Apocalypse Triptych edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey; the tech gremlins didn’t want us to discuss Dust, the third in Hugh Howey’s Silo series; Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor; The Forever Watch by David Ramirez, Jesse thinks the protagonist has too many jobs; “pause resister”, WTF?; Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, already reviewed here at SFFaudio; we struggle to define Pentecostal; religious opposition to the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass; Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s The Edge of Tomorrow (originally entitled All You Need Is Kill), Groundhog Day meets Fullmetal Jacket, film adaptation features Tom Cruise; Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer, a hardboiled detective story on Mars; Noggin by John Corey Whaley; Decoded by Mai Jia; Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones is a refresh of The Arabian Nights; Frank Herbert’s Direct Descent is about a library planet; novella is the best length for SF; Night Ride and Other Journeys by Charles Beaumont, a “writer’s writer” who wrote for The Twilight Zone; Christopher Moore’s The Serpent of Venice is an irreverent Shakespeare/Poe mashup.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts
By Roald Dahl; Read by Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig, and Miriam Margolyes
Publisher: Penguin Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 1 hour
Themes: / poetry / children / fairy tales / mischievous animals /
Did you think Cinderella married the prince and lived happily ever after, or that the three little pigs outsmarted the wolf? Think again! Master storyteller Roald Dahl adds his own darkly comic twists to six favorite tales, complete with rambunctious rhymes and hilarious surprise endings.
Roald Dahl’s inimitable style and humor shine in this collection of poems about mischievous and mysterious animals. From Stingaling the scorpion to Crocky-Wock the crocodile, Dahl’s animals are nothing short of ridiculous. A clever pig with an unmentionable plan to save his own bacon and an anteater with an unusually large appetite are among the characters created by Dahl in these timeless rhymes. This new, larger edition is perfect for listening.
This brief and unabridged audio production begins with Revolting Rhymes then progresses into Dirty Beasts. There is music arranged as dividers between the various rhymes. I usually do not like music in audio productions but this is the exception. I appreciated how the music provided a moment for laughter or reflection, and I never felt as if the musical interludes were distracting. Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig, and Miriam Margolyes take turns reading the selections. All of them do a fantastic job, and not once did a narrator overacting the material pull me away from the text. I think Penguin Audio got this right.
While this is aimed at a youthful audience, it’s accessible for all ages. Those who are younger will enjoy the enthusiastic readings and rhyming schemes on display. For the older reader/listener, the cleverness of Dahl is truly something to appreciate.
Incidentally, my favorite was “The Toad and the Snail.”
Posted by Casey Hampton.
The SFFaudio Podcast #221 – Jesse and Jenny talk about audiobook NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.
Talked about on today’s podcast:
“Spaaaaaaaaace and Military Sci-Fi and Aliens”, Humans by Matt Haig, Mark Meadows, Simon & Schuster Audio, Publisher’s Weekly, Jenny is a librarian, Douglas Adams, The Radleys, Boo Radley’s family?, The Simpsons Futurama Crossover Crisis, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Red Dwarf, Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, a whole pile of stereotypes, Space Magic by David D. Levine, Tk’tk’tk, Escape Pod, aliens, Ancient China, Rewind, The Tale Of The Golden Eagle, are author collections more rare these days?, Charley The Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely, Twitter authority, Jenny’s stereotypical powers, “Classic/Epic/Traditional Fantasy (swords! magic! etc!)”, unclothed unicorns, A Discourse In Steel by Paul S. Kemp, Nick Podehl, Angry Robot, Brilliance Audio, Bryce L., Jenny’s fault!, Elisha Barber by E.C. Ambrose, James Clamp, terpkristin, historical epic fantasy, a biblical name, the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons = Doctor -> to Mr., Ms., or Mrs., The Coming Of The Ice by G. Peyton Wertenbaker, urban fantasy, Cast In Shadow by Michelle Sagara, Khristine Hvam, “something is stirring again”, “vaunted”, Gameboard Of The Gods by Richelle Mead, Emily Shaffer, Penguin Audio, Dawn V., Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, ONAN, The United States of North America, H20 (TV miniseries), a crime novel set in the future, steampunk, Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., Luke Daniels, Springheeld Jack, fun names, do we have aliens in steampunk?, high-octane steampunk?, Rose Davis, cyberpunk, post-humans, robots, iD (Machine Dynasty #2) by Madeline Ashby, Luke Daniels, self-replicating human robots must have rights too!, The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 5 edited by Allan Kaster, Tom Dheere, Nancy Linari, Dara Rosenberg, Infinivox, Invisible Men by Christopher Barzak, Close Encounters by Andy Duncan, Bricks, Sticks, Straw by Gwyneth Jones, Arbeitskraft by Nick Mamatas, The Man by Paul McAuley, Nahiku West by Linda Nagata, Tyche And The Ants by Hannu Rajaniemi, Katabasis by Robert Reed, The Contrary Gardener by Christopher Rowe, Scout by Bud Sparhawk, katabasis as a trip to the underworld, Carniepunk by Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Meding, Candace Thaxton, Kirby Heyborne, Simon & Schuster, Sweeney Todd, carnival themed, Joyland by Stephen King, Like Water For Elephants, The Night Circus, The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, Edward Herrman (the grandpa on Gilmore Girls), At The Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Charlie Chan At The Olympics, Mary Lou Retton, Doctor Jekyll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Wayne June, Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, Jesse thinks Wayne June is awesome, not scary but chilling, Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Jenny hates censorship!, a horrifying book, Mike Bennett’s narration of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, this horrible wonderful book, necessary but not shown, From Hell, Johnny Depp, Jack The Ripper, Watchmen, what would that do to our world?, The Fall (TV miniseries), Gillian Anderson, Dexter, Breaking the Fourth Panel: Neonomicon and the Comic Book Frame, don’t look under the bed, angry reviews, Alan Moore is working on a new comic book series set in Providence and with H.P. Lovecraft as the main character, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft (edited by S.T. Joshi), A Good Story Is Hard To Find, The Dunwich Horror, ragged end paper?, Classic Tales Of Vampires And Shapeshifters, Mileskelly.net, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Ghosted, Image Comics, WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer, Luke Burrage’s Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, inaudible audioboks from Audible!, podcasts have had this problem, the cost of not proof listening an audiobook or podcast is multiplied by its number of listeners, how many new audiobooks have been published through Audible Frontiers, unnecessary info-dumping, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, self-identity, Among Others by Jo Walton, statue wedding, performing as a living statue, Viking Boy, Mike Vendetti, new short audiobooks, Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction by David Seed, Brian Holsopple, “Lit Crit Punk”, how we got Rabkin, The Great Courses are now on Audible.com, TheGreatCourses.com, the popularity of MOOCs, Eric loves fairy tales, no homework!, Heartburn by Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep, thanks Eric!
Posted by Jesse Willis