The Coming Of The Ice by G. Peyton Wertenbaker

July 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The Coming Of The Ice - illustrated by Frank R. Paul

I posted about this story, as part of a larger LibriVox collection, back in 2009. Then, I described it thusly:

The Coming Of The Ice explains the strange and sad fate of a man who undergoes an operation to make him immortal (and sterile).

I had somehow forgotten about it. But, as I heard someone describe it recently I was reminded of it, tracked it down again, and enjoyed it wholly afresh today.

The Coming Of The Ice deserves to be far better known. Not only is it a really terrific story, but the narration, by Giles Baker, is absolutely outstanding too!

Sam Moskowitz, in his introduction to the 1961 reprint of The Coming Of The Ice wrote the following about it:

One of the gravest editorial problems faced by the editors of AMAZING STORIES when they launched its first issue, dated April, 1926, was the problem of finding or developing authors who could write the type of story they needed. As a stop-gap, the first two issues of AMAZING STORIES were devoted entirely to reprints. But reprints were to constitute a declining portion of the publication’s contents for the following four years. The first new story the magazine bought was Coming Of The Ice, by G. Peyton Wertenbaker, which appeared in its third issue. Wertenbaker was not technically a newcomer to science fiction, since he had sold his first story to Gernsback’s SCIENCE AND INVENTION, The Man From the Atom, in 1923 when he was only 16! Now, at the ripe old age of 19, he was appearing in the world’s first truely complete science fiction magazine. The scope of his imagination was truly impressive and, despite the author’s youth, Coming of
the Ice
builds to a climax of considerable power.

Back in 1926 the editorial introduction, presumably by Hugo Gernsback himself, said this about The Coming Of The Ice:

This powerful and tragic story by the author of “The Man From The Atom” tells of a man who acquired terrestrial immortality – tells of a world many centuries hence – a time when everything is changed. This one man remains as a relic of the 20th century, He is alone with strangely developed human beings, the product of ages of evolution. Climactic changes are taking place. The world begins to grow cold. New York is almost in the Arctic region and Italy is covered with snow all the year around. In spite of their enormous intellectual development, all human beings must perish. Our hero alone can withstand the intense cold. He wanted eternal life – and he got it – eternal life, purely intellectual. What does he do with all his years? And how does he enjoy them?, Read this powerful story.

LibriVoxThe Coming Of The Ice
By G. Peyton Wertenbaker; Read by Giles Baker
1 |MP3| – Approx. 40 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: February 4, 2009
“Strange men, these creatures of the hundredth century, men with huge brains and tiny, shriveled bodies, atrophied limbs, and slow, ponderous movements on their little conveyances … it was then that I was forced to produced my tattered old paper, proving my identity and my story.” First published in Amazing Stories, June 1926.

|ETEXT|

Here are two PDF versions:

Amazing Stories, June 1926 |PDF|
Amazing Stories, July 1961 |PDF|

[Thanks also to David T. and Carlo!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4: Dangerous Visions

June 14, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4Dangerous Visions “A season of dramas that explore contemporary takes on future dystopias” is the title for new BBC Radio 4 programming that airs from Saturday June 15 to Friday June 21, 2013.

Here’s the official description:

Alternative worlds dominate radio drama this week. To complement productions of The Drowned World and Concrete Island (next week) by the master of the near future J.G. Ballard, writers imagine their own dystopias in our season Dangerous Visions. As well as the maternal death syndrome threatening the survival of the human race in The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, dramatised from her own novel by Jane Rogers, the original plays ask what happens if sleep is outlawed? If cloning becomes a matter of course, and your loved ones are indistinguishable from their cloned replicants? If North London declares UDI against the wasteland of South London? If human sacrifice becomes an accepted necessity? If one man becomes immortal? Along with other related programmes on Radio 4, 4 Extra completes the season with a chilling new four-part serialisation of William Golding’s classic fable, Lord of the Flies, exploring the very essence of good and evil.

Here are the programs, and related goodness:

Saturday 15th June:

Dangerous Visions: The Sleeper
Radio 4, 1430: A fable for our times. In The Sleeper by Michael Symmons Roberts we see our own society as it is today but with one familiar element removed. This is a Britain in which, decades ago, human beings gradually lost the gift of sleep. With Maxine Peake and Jason Done.

Archive on 4: Very British Dystopias
Radio 4, 2000: Beneath the calm surface of British politics, lurking in the imaginations of some of our leading writers, terrible things have happened. Professor Steven Fielding examines these dystopian visions which have gripped creative and public imaginations.

Lord of the Flies: Fire on the Mountain (part 1 of 4)
Radio 4 Extra, 2300: William Golding’s classic story about a group of boys plane-wrecked on a deserted island. New dramatisation by Judith Adams, with Ruth Wilson narrating.

Sunday 16th June:

Dangerous Visionaries
Radio 4, 1445: As Radio 4 begins its new season of Dystopic Dramas, Dangerous Visions, the playwright and poet Michael Symmons Roberts wonders how close the gap between imagining and living in dystopia actually is.

Dangerous Visions: The Drowned World
Radio 4, 1500: JG Ballard’s story of a scientific mission surveying drowned cities. This is a future where the earth’s atmosphere, and human consciousness, has eroded. Adapted by Graham White.

Dangerous Visions: Face to Face with JG Ballard
Radio 4 Extra, 1800: The late author of Empire of the Sun and many works of speculative fiction reveals his perspective on the world and the media.

Monday 17th June:

Dangerous Visions: The Testament Of Jessie Lamb
Radio 4, 1045/1945, Monday to Friday: Jane Rogers dramatises her award winning dystopian novel about a teenage girl who decides to save humanity. Starring Holliday Grainger as Jessie Lamb.

Dangerous Visions: Billions
Radio 4, 1415: Blake Ritson and Raquel Cassidy star in Ed Harris’s wicked tale of love and deception, in which Mark comes home to find a replacement wife provided by her insurance company.

Tuesday 18th June:

Dangerous Visions: Invasion
Radio 4, 1415: On his return from Mars, Astronaut Kadian Giametti wakes up in quarantine. Slowly he discovers that the world outside his cell has changed beyond recognition.

Wednesday 19th June:

Dangerous Visions: London Bridge
Radio 4, 1415: In Nick Perry’s dark vision of the future, the River Thames has become a border separating the crime-free police state of North London from the lawless slumland of the South.

Thursday 20th June:

Dangerous Visions: Death Duty
Radio 4, 1415: In Michael Butt’s dark vision of the future, a city-state plagued by drought has instituted a system of sacrifice in a desperate measure to bring about rain. With Nicholas Jones.

[Thanks to David and Roy!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #214 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft

May 27, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #214 – The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft; read by the fabulous Mike Bennett. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (3 hours 2 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Julie Hoverson, and Mr. Jim Moon.

Talked about on today’s show:
My only holy book, Deities & Demigods, Deep Ones, Dagon, serving the will of Cthulhu, “they can only be killed by violent death”, why are they evil, seafood, miscegenation, the war on alcohol, they like to drink and wear jewelry, are there Deep Ones in Guantanamo Bay?, only crackers and soup, Innsmouth, Massachusetts, Captain Obed Marsh, persuaded to breed with a deep one, immortality, 19th century, “festering quietly”, “a nice family reunion”, why is The Shadow Over Innsmouth so cherished?, Call Of Cthulhu The Dark Places Of The Earth, a Skyrim mission, Dagon and Mother Hydra, Dagon, New England Tahitians, Walter Gilman in The Dreams In The Witch House, The Thing On The Doorstep, Doctor Who’s The Sea Devil is The Shadow Over Innsmouth with less schtupping, The Silurians, can’t go wrong with a good sea monster, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Julie’s adaptation will have more sex!, Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, g-men, an Esoteric Order Of Dagon style-cult, a traumatic read, the end, the film of Dagon (set in Spain), Stuart Gordon, Castle Freak is one of the best dramatic Full Moon films, the Masters Of Horror adaptation of The Dreams In The Witch House, The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society adaptation (Dark Adventure Radio Theatre), the framing story, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, who is our protagonist confessing to?, Double Indemnity, heredity and atavism, 1920s, 1930s, Zadok Allen, Julie’s adaptation of The Rats In The Walls, The Picture In The House, female characters in Lovecraft, Cool Air, Lovecraft cares about words, House Of The Dead, the San Juan Islands, the naming of islands, Lovecraft crafts with love, August Derleth!, “the full gibbous moon”?, racism, the “Gilman Inn” is a pun, The Whisperer In Darkness, he’s there for the architecture, “reluctant fascination”, that old uncle who smells weird, The Shuttered Room by August Derleth, the worst fanfic writer ever, posthumous collaboration, Fishhead by Irvin S. Cobb, The Harbor-Master by Robert W. Chambers, an inbred wild-man, local rednecks, “a bit too close to the sea”, an economic depression, isn’t it a good deal?, arranged marriages, what’s with the Innsmouth Chamber Of Commerce?, in the Octopus’ garden, Brown Monkey, Dick Dynamo: The Fifth Dimensional Man, meta, 118 Migration, Afterlives (a Bangsian fantasy), the golden era of internet audio drama, a new idea, Hypnobobs, classics vs. moderns, old books have vocabulary, Jack London, MTV saturated audiences?, Goodreads reviews of Dracula, Fifty Shades Of Grey, atheist vicars?, the stress on the importance of reading may breed bad books, teachers pick books with big social value, Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, turning kids off literature, Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, using Robinson Crusoe as a guide to life, police procedural, obstreperous, The Murders At The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, the audiobook of The Moonstone.

Deep One from Dieties & Demigods

The Shadow Over Innsmouth - illustration by Frank Utpatel

Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows

Posted by Jesse Willis

Clarkesworld: Guest Of Honor by Robert Reed

April 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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I first heard Robert Reed’s outstanding novelette, Guest Of Honor, as an audiobook in the mid-1990s. It was narrated by Amy Bruce for Infinivox (get that version HERE).

It blew me away.

Guest Of Honor is undeniably GREAT SCIENCE FICTION, the kind of which only seems to show up once or twice a decade. If you haven’t already heard it, prepare yourself for some pure idea fiction.

There’s no official description for this astounding story so here’s mine:

When immortality is on the table accidents are naturally the uppermost fear on your mind. As an immortal you wouldn’t do anything nearly so dangerous as space travel, but all the same as an immortal you’d necessarily crave such new sensations so as to offset the boredom of an infinite future. And that’s where Pico comes in, she’s an adventurer gathering experiences for the immortals who sponsored her back on Earth. Her story, or stories, even if they are only vicarious, will be cherished by the many and she will be the guest of honor when she returns.

Clarkesworld MagazineClarkesworld Magazine #79 – Guest Of Honor
By Robert Reed; Read by Kate Baker
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 21 Minuites [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Clarkesworld
Podcast: April 22, 2013
First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1993.

Podcast feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/clarkesworldmagazine/podcast

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Pygmalion’s Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum

October 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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Pygmalion’s Spectacles was first published in 1935 in the aptly named Wonder Stories magazine. Four years after it’s first publication it was reprinted in Startling Stories as a “classic” and it was placed in their “Scientifiction Hall Of Fame.” It was reprinted again in Fantastic Story magazine in the Spring 1955 issue. Three magazine publications is a rare occurrence for any SF story. So, what makes this story special?

Well, this tale of utopia, immortality, and romance, is also, most probably, the very first story to feature the concept of virtual reality.

Here’s the description from the Wikipedia entry:

A comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality was published in 1935 in the short story Pygmalion’s Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum. In the story, the main character, Dan Burke, meets an elfin professor, Albert Ludwig, who has invented a pair of goggles which enable “a movie that gives one sight and sound [...] taste, smell, and touch. [...] You are in the story, you speak to the shadows (characters) and they reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it.”

And though the ideas may be pioneering, the plot of Pygmalion’s Spectacles is very similar to Fitz-James O’Brien’s The Diamond Lens, itself an excellent SF tale. The tone of their respective endings differs, but their plot, in which a man falls in love with an intangible woman, is straight out of the Greek mythology that Weinbaum alludes to. And they both use science, rather than magic to get to their respective endings.

There is, I should also point out, a LibriVox |MP3| recording of the Metamorphoses by Ovid, a 2,000 year old poem featuring the myth of Pygmalion.

Pygmalion's Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Here is a |PDF| made from the Pygmalion’s Spectacles publication in Fantastic Story. And here are two LibriVox versions (my advice, go for the first one):

LibriVoxPygmalion’s Spectacles
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 43 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 13,2009
He put on the glasses and fell in love with a dream… First published in Wonder Stories, June 1935.

LibriVoxPygmalion’s Spectacles
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Chrystal Layton
1 |MP3| – Approx. 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 17, 2007
He put on the glasses and fell in love with a dream… First published in Wonder Stories, June 1935.

Pygmalion’s Spectacles illustration by Lumen Winter (from Wonder Stories, June 1935):
Pygmalion's Spectacles -  illustration by Lumen Winter

Pygmalion’s Spectacles illustration by Virgil Finlay (from Fantastic Story Magazine, Spring 1955):
Pygmalion's Spectacles - illustration by Virgil Finlay

Painting of Pygmalion and the statue by Jean-Baptiste Regnault:
Jean-Baptiste Regnault - Pygmalion

[Thanks to Tim at The Drama Pod for the reminder]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Last Call by Tim Powers

September 11, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Last Call by Tim PowersLast Call
By Tim Powers; Read by Bronson Pinchot
16 CDs – Approx. 19.1 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: December 2010
ISBN: 9781441757364
Themes: / Fantasy / Gambling / Immortality / Las Vegas / Poetry / Arthurian Legend / Greek Mythology / Egyptian Mythology

Scott Crane abandoned his career as a professional poker player twenty years ago and hasn’t returned to Las Vegas, or held a hand of cards, in ten years. But troubling nightmares about a strange poker game he once attended on a houseboat on Lake Mead are drawing him back to the magical city. For the mythic game he believed he won did not end that night in 1969—and the price of his winnings was his soul. Now, a pot far more strange and perilous than he ever could imagine depends on the turning of a card. Enchantingly dark and compellingly real, this World Fantasy Award–winning novel is a masterpiece of magic realism set in the gritty, dazzling underworld known as Las Vegas.

Tim Powers’ Last Call (1992 William Morrow and Co.; 2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.) is studded with references to old myths, snatches of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” the art of poker playing, and the unique culture and atmosphere of old and new Las Vegas. It contains numerous major and minor characters, overarching themes and subplots, and digressions into probability theory. In other words, it demands close reading and attention to detail. Listening to it in half-hour chunks as I did while driving to work was probably not the best idea, and may have affected my review of the book, but what follows is an honest appraisal.

There’s a lot to like in Last Call, and I lot I liked. At its heart it’s really about the vast, mysterious forces driving the universe and the ways in which they manifest in our lives. Why does tragedy pass over a criminal and take a good person instead? Why does a disease like cancer randomly strike a family man with a wife and children to support? Although life appears chaotic and meaningless, perhaps there are active, purposeful forces of fate at work as well, old gods that exist outside our typical suburban lives but can be sought out and appealed to, and even manipulated. In Last Call Powers breathes new life into ancient myths like the Arthurian Fisher King, the Greek god Dionysus, and the Egyptian goddess Isis, incorporating themes of resurrection and physical health tied to spiritual health. These ancient demigods reappear in the forms of unlikely modern-day characters, including broken-down ex-gambler Scott Crane and his estranged foster-sister Diana. Last Call also includes a cast of memorable bad guys, including a bloated fat hit man Trumbull who is convinced that eternal life can be had through the consumption of raw flesh, and the chief baddie Georges Leon, a mystic who achieves immortality through stealing and possessing the bodies of the living. Crane is the central figure in the story, a man who in 1969 played a portentous game of Assumption with a powerful set of tarot cards. Twenty years later Crane returns for a second game against Leon with nothing less than his soul on the line.

Last Call is ultimately a hopeful book, as it implies that there may be a purpose to our lives and a way to control one’s destiny, if you can read the cards and master the archetypes of the Tarot. In Powers’ hands playing cards are a metaphor for the mysteries of life and the skill and luck required to navigate its uncertain waters.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods employs a similar conceit of old gods reincarnated in the modern world but I must say I enjoyed Gaiman’s take better. Powers is a talented writer and I enjoyed his descriptions of the seedy soul of Las Vegas, as well as some memorable set-pieces he creates, including an encounter with the ghost of the infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel beneath the waters of Lake Mead. But the slow pace of the narrative, the meandering plotline, the too-numerous characters and plotlines that drop in and out of the story without sufficient explanation and resolution (Crane’s wife Susan, for example), and tedious descriptions of card game after card game make Last Call a difficult listen and at times an outright chore, despite the fine narration by Bronson Pinchot.

Perhaps my lukewarm reaction to Last Call has something to do with the fact that I I’m not a fan of card playing; Vegas is a cool place to visit and I’ve tried my hand at a few slot machines, but sitting down at a table in the company of hardcore gamblers has zero appeal for me. If you read Last Call watch closely for the signs, the subtle flush of cheek or restless eyes that the best card players know how to detect and interpret. As for casual readers: Beware.

Posted by Brian Murphy

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