The SFFaudio Podcast #212 – Jesse, Mirko and Mr. Jim Moon discuss The Willows by Algernon Blackwood.
Talked about on today’s show:
Algernon Blackwood’s television show, “the ghost man”, the expansion of consciousness, the extension of human personality, ghosts, Saturday Night Story, H.P. Lovecraft’s essay Supernatural Horror In Literature, almost nothing happens, “ghoulish work”, cosmic horror, Mr. Jim Moon outlines of the story, the nameless Swede, travelogue, the Danube, a lonesome expanse, an elemental presence, the rising spirits, the shunned place, the man’s body (or the black otter), “never human in the first place”, overlapping dimensions, The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, The Black Stone by Robert E. Howard, why is it set in Europe?, The Wendigo, Blackwood actually canoed on the Danube, Marcus Aurelius, the Black Forest, Blackwood attended school in the area, hard guys, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, “the soul chilling fury of Nature’s terrible dethroned gods”, the joke becomes unfunny, Romania, Transylvania, “looks fantastic but no-one lives there!”, evidence of human habitation, we have to keep going farther and farther to find the borderlands, their thoughts are manifested, telepathy, With Morning Comes Mistfall by George R.R. Martin, a review of Bright Messenger by Algernon Blackwood from Fantasy & science Fiction, the “Diva”, nature spirits, sprites, fairies, planetary entities, nature’s policemen, WWI, haunted tree?, occult and paranormal writing, occultist jargon, the chain of being, neo-Platonism, intermediary spirits, what did these two dudes do wrong?, sacred groves, druids, devilish places, The Children Of The Stones, the stolid Swede, red Indians, the noble savage, Guy de Maupassant’s The Horla, the drowned peasant, the conical holes, Chupacabra?, alien sampling?, footprints?, fingerprints?, Jaws, the hidden monster, “having rid himself of the morsel”, empty planet, “the sounds a planet must make driving along through space”, J.R.R. Tolkien, Old Man Willow, the Withywindle, the evil trees, Tolkien was familiar with Blackwood, Tom Bombadil is a nature spirit, Goldberry is a river spirit, “he’s got a bloody song for everything”, the Wikipedia entry for willow, the bronze skinned figures, fairy mischief, fairies fuck with you, what’s with the paddles?, a sacrifice, man where was your editor?, you didn’t really do anything wrong but show up, canoeing ghost stories, Voyageurs, a deal with the devil on Christmas Eve, La Chasse-Galerie (aka “The Bewitched Canoe” aka “The Flying Canoe“), Deliverance, leisure travel vs. work travel, the drones, the last gasp of the Grand Tour, Alien vs. Evil Dead, the punishment of the idle, reckless youth, Cabin In The Woods, The Complete Weird Fiction Of Algernon Blackwood, short stories are best enjoyed in short doses.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #201 – The Inn by Guy de Maupassant, read by Mirko Stauch. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (34 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mirko.
Talked about on today’s show:
Where and why, more and more Maupassant, is there a definitive list of Guy de Maupassant SFF stories?, German translations, the BBC audio drama adaptation of The Inn, RadioArchive.cc, a ghost story, the twist in the end or the twist middle, great writing, an ambiguous ghost story, a psychological happening, the dog’s reaction, revenant, “it becomes the monster”, Louise Hauser, is Ulrich dead?, Gaspard, The Others, Maupassant tricks us, “they bury themselves”, Ulrich is punished for no reason, the voice, white noise, Ulrich’s religious beliefs, Cologne on a cold night, the ravens!, the audio drama improves on the short story!, a filling metaphor, “the immense ocean of pale mountain summits”, mainstream, the vertical issue, Wolfgang von Goethe, “only a very stable character”, a proto-cosmic horror, The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft, a Christmas story, describing nature, the second meaning, “arose from the snow itself”, “he’s alone on the Moon”, being alone, cabin fever, we are alone in the cosmos, community allows us to hide from the harsh truth, gambling, “I would have brought a bunch of books”, “illiterate mountain peasants”, a lonely island, did Gaspard fall into a crevasse?, nature is the monster, the unknown is more terrifying, the terror of the soul, undeserved guilt, “eighteen degrees of frost”, “he was of a sleepy nature”, 1886, Guy de Maupassant visited the Alps, riddled with disease, the Inn at Schwarenbach, The Shining by Stephen King, an internal flaw, “he could speak no human words”, Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin, Perry Rhodan, Silent Running, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, the dog as a symbol, the dog as a companion, the importance of routine for the lonely, the demon of loneliness, “all is busy work before the grave”, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Castaway, The Piece Of String (aka The Piece Of Yarn), “eating a sandwich that you find on the sidewalk”, he dies alone and unloved, “two feets”, every Norman is trapped in disbelief, it could have happened to us!, his hair turned white, Supernatural Horror In Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, “the unseen”, “the outer blackness”, able to appreciate the immensity of reality, Honey Boo Boo, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, The Call Of Cthulhu, “when I think of H.P. Lovecraft I don’t think of immense tentacles.”
Posted by Jesse Willis
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show:
Recent arrivals first, here’s Jenny’s list, Harry Harrison’s Deathworld, Speculative! Brilliance audiobooks (from public domain works), “he’s super clear”, author of Make Room! Make Room! (aka Soylent Green), Planet Of The Damned, “nice font”, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Telling is in the Hanish Cycle, the out of print Harlan Ellison version of A Wizard of Earthsea, The Lathe Of Heaven and the PBS TV-movie with Bruce Davidson (trailer), Work Of The Devil by Katherine Amt Hanna, “the devil has no time for long novels”, Joe Hill’s Horns and In The Tall Grass (with Stephen King), Philip K. Dick’s Vulcan’s Hammer, similar to Colossus: The Forbin Project (film), “goes Skynet on your ass”, The Game-Players Of Titan has slug aliens, good names for bands, Time Out Of Joint, Tears In Rain by Rosa Montera is inspired by Blade Runner (it has a female Rutger Hauer), translated from Spanish, The Woodcutter by Kate Danley has fairy tale characters, Beowulf, Jeff Wheeler’s Legends Of Muirwood series released all at once, House Of Cards is a great British show, Dead Spots by Scarlett Bernard sounds like one of those Lifetime movies, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke has a disturbing android romance, ewww!, Tam knows who Steven Erikson is (Forge Of Darkness), re-read of the Malazan series, we need urban fantasy and military SF people, Tenth Of December by George Saunders, prefers short stories, on Colbert, Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell, her novel Swamplandia has been optioned by HBO, New releases start, Poe Must Die by Marc Olden, Ben Bova’s Farside comes out soon (hard SF), narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Stefan’s Fantastic Imaginings, where’s James P. Hogan’s Inherit The Earth?, the movie Frequency didn’t star Kevin Bacon, the entire X Minus One radio drama run, short story audio collections having chapters and a table of contents, Star Wars audiobooks with enhanced sound, Bryce’s review of Star Wars: Scoundrels, more Star Trek novel audio books, more classic sf, Leigh Brackett, Jerry Pournelle, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke, George R.R. Martin, “you’re welcome, Audible”, The Mad Scientist’s Guide To World Domination by John Joseph Adams, short fiction is back, Olaf Stapelton, like a science fiction The Silmarillion, SF Crossing The Gulf podcast will discuss Olaf Stapledon and others, Mary Doria Russell, where’s the audio version of Karen Lord’s The Best Of All Possible Worlds? (actually it came out the same day as the print version), Jenny loved it, what is the Candide connection Karen?, indie Scifi Arizona author Michael McCollum on Audible (Steve Gibson approved), the Audible Feb2013 Win-Win $4.95 sale, get the first in a series cheap, Sharon Shinn’s Archangel Samaria series, Image Comics’s first issue sale, The Red Panda audio drama becomes a comic (cover), John Scalzi’s The Human Division serial, wish science fiction authors in TV series, George R.R. Martin to develop more shows for HBO, football jerseys vs Star Trek uniforms.
Posted by Tamahome
Does it matter if what you believe is factual?
George R.R. Martin has an answer here in his very thoughtful piece of SF. The Way Of Cross And Dragon, which was recently audiobooked by Lightspeed, explores the concepts of heresy, blasphemy, faith and metaphor.
Lightspeed – The Way Of Cross And Dragon
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
1 |MP3| – Approx. 52 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: June 2012
First published in Omni, June 1979.
Posted by Jesse Willis
George R.R. Martin on Fantasy (“Everything That Is Wrong With Commercial Fantasy In A Single Quote”)
Brian Murphy, of the Silver Key blog, has posted about something interesting he found on another blog (Everything Is Nice). It’s about this poetic description of Fantasy written and read by George R.R. Martin (that sums up “Everything That Is Wrong With Commercial Fantasy In A Single Quote”):
Myself, when I think of Fantasy I think of The Twilight Zone, of Philip K. Dick’s Beyond The Door, of James Powell’s A Dirge For Clowntown, of Homer’s The Iliad, of Jorge Luis Borges and his Garden Of Forking Paths.
To me fantasy is not an endless adventures in a magical medieval Europe, nor a tattooed vampire with a sword in one hand and a laser blaster in the other.
To me Fantasy is countless tiny worlds – many like our own – many radically different – some entirely impossible, but all of them firmly found within my world.
Fantasy, to me, exist within the books themselves, and in my memory of them, and in my consciousness when I think of them, all as a part of the larger world I live in.
Fantasy is not a place of escape, nor a world separate from mine in which I wish to live.
I don’t view Fantasy literature as a form of escapism.
To me Fantasy is something to enjoy, like a fine meal. Something to inspire an attitude, not a way to understand the world, nor as a consolation or a substitute for a harsh reality I’d rather not think about.
But commercial fantasy, the endless book series that take up larger and larger section of the bookstore shelves, is, to me, a very small and uninteresting part of Fantasy literature. It is the part that gets the most attention. But it shouldn’t.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Wild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Edited by George R. R. Martin; Read by Luke Daniels
19 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
Themes: / alternate history / superpowers / alien virus / superhero / urban fantasy / science fiction / horror /
In the aftermath of WWII, an alien virus struck the Earth, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Originally published in 1987, the newly expanded saga contains additional original stories by eminent writers.
The stories contained in the audiobook are:
“Prologue” by George R. R. Martin
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop
“The Sleeper” by Roger Zelazny
“Witness” by Walter Jon Williams
“Degradation Rites” by Melinda Snodgrass
“Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace” by Michael Cassutt
“Powers” by David D. Levine
“Shell Games” by George R. R. Martin
“The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner
“Transfigurations” by Victor Milán
“Down Deep” by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper
“Strings” by Stephen Leigh
“Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn
“Comes a Hunter” by John J. Miller
There are also a variety of “Interludes” in between the stories, which are short bits mostly written in the form of newspaper or magazine articles or first-hand witness accounts. These interludes are often used to bridge the narrative with real events from US history, to provide the reader with insight as to the feelings in this “alternate history” type world.
Generally, this is a story of the effects of an alien virus on humanity between the time shortly following World War II through the late 70’s/early 80’s. The virus was brought to earth by aliens from a planet called Takis. It was developed as a device to give Takisians superpowers to be used as a part of large-scale family wars on Takis. The aliens wanted to test it, so sought to release it on Earth, as humans are genetically very similar to Takisians. “Prologue” introduces us to an alien who is called (by the humans, as his name is not well-suited to human speech) Dr. Tachyon and the “Wild Cards” virus. Dr. Tachyon is also a Takisian, but tried to prevent the release of the virus on Earth. “Prologue” sets the scene and tone for the world of the book. It also provides an insight into Dr. Tachyon’s values: he doesn’t ask first for the President of the US, he instead asks for the top scientists and thinkers. This is an obvious nod by George R. R. Martin to those who have true powers in the US.
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” tells the story of Jet Boy, an American superhero, and the release of the Wild Cards virus over Manhattan in September, 1946. Jet Boy is a true hero, an all-American kid who came back from fighting in World War II with a superhero story of his ace flying abilities. He is the only superhero in the book who wasn’t a superhero because of the virus, but because of his innate abilities and selflessness. In a theme that becomes common through the book, the reader is reminded that a hero is a hero because of what they do, not because of their skills. Jet Boy tries—and fails—to stop the virus from being released.
The virus is brutal. It only impacts humans, with no effects on other species. It kills most of its victims, but those who survive (only about a tenth of those exposed to the virus) are not left unscathed. Through the rest of the book, the reader is introduced to various people impacted by the virus. The first stories tell mainly of “Aces,” those who get super powers from the virus (usually in the form of telekinesis and/or greatly enhanced physical abilities. Later, the reader is introduced to the concept of “Jokers,” who become horribly deformed due to the virus. The first interlude presents the concept of “Deuces,” those who get an “ace-like” ability that is not particularly useful, like “Mr. Rainbow,” whose ability is to change the color of his skin.
The narrative takes the reader through time: each story is a snapshot of a period in US history and provides a sort of “alternate history” of how that time may have been different if there had been these Aces and Jokers were around. Some of the early stories, taking place during the era of HUAC and McCarthyism, show how the aces became subjects of witch hunts and were forced into service in the US military or intelligence agencies. Jokers are looked upon as second-class beings, a theme that plays a large role during the stories set in the 60’s and 70’s, mirroring the US Civil Rights Movement. Some of the stories are sad, such as “The Sleeper” and “Witness.” Some are a bit more uplifting and triumphant, such as “Shell Games.” A lot of the stories, especially the later ones, become a bit creepy, with people using their powers for selfish reasons, as in “Strings.”
All in all, Wild Cards serves as an interesting statement on humanity through the guise of a “what if” scenario. All of the stories are eminently believable—at no time did anything that happened seem overwhelmingly unlikely. To some extent, that’s a bit of a sad statement on humanity—as the book goes on, aces and jokers alike seem to be only interested in helping themselves, looking out for their own (often misguided) interests.
The narration, done by Luke Daniels, was pretty good in the audiobook. He had a good speed and good intonation for most of the characters, and it was easy to tell each character apart. As often happens with male narrators trying to do female voices, some of the females sounded whiny, but it wasn’t so over the top so as to be unlistenable. After listening to this narration, I’ll be keeping Luke Daniels on my radar when looking at audiobooks.
Personally, I preferred the stories in the first half of the book to those in the second half. In the second half, the stories got quite a bit darker, more creepy and violent. After the strong lead-in with the Prologue and “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway,” I quite enjoyed the origin stories and the weaving-in of events in US history. As the book progressed, the stories didn’t seem quite as engaging—for one, I actually repeatedly fell asleep while listening, and ended up having rewind and re-listen to some of the others. There was also one story that was too graphic both in terms of sex and violence for me, “The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner. By the end, I wasn’t interested in more stories of people serving their own interests. There are other books in the series, which I have heard are more like the stories at the end of the book—I’m not sure that they’ll be for me. But I enjoyed this anthology well enough and would recommend it to others interested in a cross of science fiction, general fiction, and horror genres.
Review by terpkristin