Talked about on this episode: Original fiction from Tor.com featuring stories from Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, Charles Stross, and others; The Man Who Sold the Moon short story collection by Robert A. Heinlein; Jesse has fun trying to pronounce “elegiac”; the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb); “Simon pure” science fiction; The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov; Heinlein’s short fiction versus his novels; Have Spacesuit Will Travel; Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and comparisons to The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the merits of the Catching Fire film; the politics of dresses in the Hunger Games universe; Archetype by M.D. Waters; gender in dystopia; listening to audiobooks at 2x speed; The Loon by Michaelbrent Collings; Christopher Golden’s Snowblind; Phantoms by Dean Koontz; 30 Days of Night; Marko Kloos’s Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure; The Master of the World by Jules Verne; find out where grits came from; Jules Verne’s science is awful; The Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott; “I’m the king of the world!”; A New Beginning by Craig Brummer; Honor Among Thieves, a Star Wars novel by James S.A. Corey; Tam gets a Star Wars geography lesson; Jenny gets a Star Wars fashion lesson (hint: the guys in white are NOT the good guys); Tam is dressed as Princess Leia; The Gods Themselves, a strange book by Isaac Asimov; Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh; Mystery Men; Atopia by Matthew Mather; Influx by Daniel Suarez; The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley; Dawn of Swords by David Dalglish and Robert J. Duperre; The Land Across by Gene Wolfe; ruritanian romance and Bangsian fantasy; don’t call if Kafka-esque; Moon over Parador starring Richard Dreyfuss and Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein; A Darkling Sea by James Cambias (not yet in audio); V-S Day by Allen Steele (Locus review); The Martian by Andy Weir; The Scorpion Game by Daniel Jeffries (no audio, Tam’s Goodreads review); Eldrich Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft on Downpour; Stories of your Life collection by Ted Chiang now available in audio.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Gods Themselves
By Isaac Asimov, read by Scott Brick
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 26 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |
Themes: / aliens / electron pump / cosmic egg / multiple universe theory / sex in space /
Only a few know the terrifying truth – an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun… They know the truth – but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy – but who will believe?These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth’s survival.
- Disclaimer -
I’m no physicist. This book, in parts, kind of torqued my noggin.
Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves won the 1972 Nebula then the 1973 Hugo. The premise? Pretty straight forward. Will we destroy the universe?
I like this book. The first 2/3 kept me running. The last 1/3, I slowed to a stroll and enjoyed the pace change. The time spent with the aliens was intriguing, both in the differences and similarities to humanity. Asimov packs a punch, tackling the question of energy versus environmental cost. In some ways it’s comforting imagining that even in the future, we humans still salivate over a dangled free lunch. The characters in the other universe are stunning. I could have read twice the content volume on that environment alone. When I reached the lunar colony, it took some time to cultivate an interest in the people and their situation. By the time I was interested, it was ending. This left me feeling off-kilter and only slightly irritated. Don’t ask me to explain, but I found the chocolate bar with almonds scene very touching.
Scott Brick narrates this release. Early on, I didn’t know if I could handle listing to Brick’s performance. He has a nice voice, but he has a habit of injecting unneeded drama into almost anything he reads. Fortunately, within the first twenty minutes, I found Brick’s style quite suited to the content. After finishing and reflecting, I think Brick was the right choice for narrator.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Harper Audio was founded in 1952 under the name “Caedmon.” Harper Audio still occasionally publishes under its Caedmon label but its real heyday was in the late 1970s. Uniquely, the back of each album featured unique liner notes typically written specifically for the LP. Witness this vintage magazine ad (from Unearth, Spring 1978):
Posted by Jesse Willis
Maissa Bessada narrates for us Silly Asses a one page (400 word) satirical short story by Isaac Asimov.
Also available is a |PDF| made from a scan of the original publication in Future Science Fiction, February 1958.
And here is the complete text:
Silly Asses by Isaac Asimov
Naron of the long-lived Rigellian race was the fourth of his line to keep the galactic records.
He had a large book which contained the list of the numerous races throughout the galaxies that had developed intelligence, and the much smaller book that listed those races that had reached maturity and had qualified for the Galactic Federation. In the first book, a number of those listed were crossed out; those that, for one reason or another, had failed. Misfortune, biochemical or biophysical shortcomings, social maladjustment took their toll. In the smaller book, however, no member listed had yet blanked out.
And now Naron, large and incredibly ancient, looked up as a messenger approached.
“Naron,” said the messenger. “Great One!”
“Well, well, what is it? Less ceremony.”
“Another group of organisms has attained maturity.”
“Excellent. Excellent. They are coming up quickly now. Scarcely a year passes without a new one. And who are these?”
The messenger gave the code number of the galaxy and the coordinates of the world within it.
“Ah, yes,” said Naron. “I know the world.” And in flowing script he noted it in the first book and transferred its name into the second, using, as was customary, the name by which the planet was known to the largest fraction of its populace. He wrote: Earth.
He said, “These new creatures have set a record. No other group has passed from intelligence to maturity so quickly. No mistake, I hope.”
“None, sir,” said the messenger.
“They have attained to thermonuclear power, have they?”
“Well, thats the criterion.” Naron chuckled. “And soon their ships will probe out and contact the Federation.”
“Actually, Great One,” said the messenger, reluctantly, “the Observers tell us they have not yet penetrated space.”
Naron was astonished. “Not at all? Not even a space station?”
“Not yet, sir.”
“But if they have thermonuclear power, where do they conduct the tests and detonations?”
“On their own planet, sir.”
Naron rose to his full twenty feet of height and thundered, “On their own planet?”
Slowly Naron drew out his stylus and passed a line through the latest addition in the small book. It was an unprecedented act, but, then, Naron was very wise and could see the inevitable as well as anyone in the galaxy.
“Silly asses,” he muttered.
Asimov wrote Silly Asses on July 29, 1957. To put that in context, just ten days earlier (July 19, 1957), as a part of Operation Plumbbob the USAF filmed five Air Force officers standing directly under an atmospheric nuclear detonation. The idea was to demonstrate the safe usage of nuclear weapons over civilian populations.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
The audiobook, Recorded Books, the appendix, The Lord Of The Rings, the feeling in your right hand, a dream-like book, Room 101, a disjointing of time, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Signet Classic, already a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League at 12, a 1971 sex drive, memory, Winston Smith’s obsession with the past, the three traitors, the Soviet Union as applied to Britain, show trials, it is so effective, The Running Man is a prole version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, “WHITMAN, PRICE, AND HADDAD!!! You remember them! There they are now, BASKING under the Maui sun.”, down the memory hole, the brutality of the movies and the applause of the audience, the crushing of weakness, the terrible children, the 1954 BBC TV version starring Peter Cushing, Winston’s own memories of his childhood, did Winston kill his sister, his bowels turn to water when he see a rat, the return of the mother, a bag of decay, the 1984 version of 1984, John Hurt looks like he was born to play Winston Smith, is it Science Fiction?, dystopia, does this feel like Science Fiction?, Social Science Fiction, If This Goes On… by Robert A. Heinlein, Animal Farm, Goldstein’s Book, the re-writing of history, collapsing the vocab, The Languages Of Pao by Jack Vance, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, The Embedding by Ian Watson, Isaac Asimov’s review of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell imagines no new vices, WWIII, in regular SF we get used to a lack of motifs, the coral, the memories, the place with no darkness, everything is recycled in a dream and people merge, in dream logic 2+2 can equal 5, reduction of the world and the self, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, soma, The Hunger Games, Wool by Hugh Howey, cleaning day, grease, transformed language, a crudboard box, euphony, a greasy world, a comparison to We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, We The Living by Ayn Rand, Harcourt Brace, Politics And The English Language by George Orwell, V For Vendetta, Norsefire vs. IngSoc, a circuitous publishing history, crudpaper, prole dialect, part dialect, New Speak, military language, Generation Kill, military language is bureaucratic language, Dune by Frank Herbert, Battle Language, private language, Brazil, the thirteen’s hour, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, victory means shit, Airstrip One, speakwrite, Star Wars, careful worlding, a masterwork, a transformation and an inoculation, watch 1984 on your phone while the NSA watches you watch it, North Korea, “without getting to political”, 2600‘s editor is Emmanuel Goldstein, the traitor Snowden, that’s what this book is, it’s political, The Lives Of Others, hyper-competent, the bedroom scene, “We are the dead.”, how did the picture break off the wall, dream-logic, Jesse knows when he’s dreaming, if you dream a book you must generate the text, dreaming of books that don’t exist, a great sequel to Ringworld?, The Sandman, “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.”, O’Brien, Martin, the worst thing is you can’t control what you say when your sleeping, uncanny valley,
Whatever it was, you could be certain that every word of it was pure orthodoxy, pure IngSoc. As he watched the eyeless face with the jaw moving rapidly up and down, Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being but some kind of dummy. It was not the man’s brain that was speaking, it was
his larynx. The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck.
Polar Express, the book within the book, high end books, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, is London the capital of Oceania?, the value of the book, Stephen Fry’s character, a book that tells you only things you already knew, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick, the possibilities of other books, supercharged moments in movies, Twelve Monkeys, Dark City, Book Of Dreams, utopias within dystopias, reading in comfort and safety, the golden place, Julia is a pornosec writer, Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Processed Word by John Varley, Russian humor, is there really a war?, power is the power to change reality, Stephen Colbert’s truthiness, doublethinking it, the proles seem to be happier, feeling contempt, lottery tickets depress Jesse, “renting the dream”, the proles are obsessed by lotteries, who is the newspaper for?, the chocolate ration, Larry Gonick’s The Cartoon History Of The Universe, how stable is Oceania?, guys and Guy, how stable is North Korea?, Christopher Hitchens, there’s no hope in 1984, the subversion mechanism has been subverted, changing human behavior, Walden Two by B.F. Skinner, Faith Of Our Fathers by Philip K. Dick, genocide, racial purity, are they bombing themselves?, where does Julia get all her treats?, utopia is a nice cup of coffee, The Principle Of Hope by Ernst Bloch, what’s missing from your life comrade?, is Julia playing a role?, she’s the catalyst for everything, misogyny vs. misanthropy, Nietzsche’s master morality slave morality, political excitement is transformed into sexual excitement, ‘I have a real body it occupies space (no you don’t you’re a fictional character)’, Julia’s punk aesthetic, I love you., she’s the dream girl, the romantic couple that brings down the bad order, The Revolt Of Islam by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Pacific Rim, The Matrix, Equilibrium, Mephistopheles, Mustapha Mond, Jesse thought she was in on it, the prole lady out the window, nature, ragged leafless shrubs, nature has been killed, the Byzantine Empire, the Catholic Church, cult of personality vs. an idoru Big Brother, Eurythmics, we’re nostalgic for the Cold War, the now
iconic ironic 1984 Apple commercial, dems repubs NSA, has Britain been secretly controlling the world using America?, George Bernard Shaw, society and politics, SF about the Vietnam War, petition for and against the war, Judith Merril, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, China.
Posted by Jesse Willis
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