The SFFaudio Podcast #328 – The White Ship by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
a Science Fiction, Horror, or Fantasy story?, hard to classify, Idle Days On The Yann by Lord Dunsany, wistful elements, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, a spiritual or psychological analog, a long prose poem, describing lands that never were, a lovely little tale, narrative isn’t exactly the point, the bird, the bird as an eidolon of the ship, the eidolon Lathi, Jason Thompson‘s comic adaptation of The White Ship, the ghost ship, why is the bird blue?, over the cataract, falls as if it wasn’t going to, the world ending, a description of Cathuria, aloe and sandalwood, an imagined land, dreaming Cathuria into existence, the sacred river Narg, Kublai Khan, a dream snatched away and smashed, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe, Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe,
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE—Out of TIME.
Lathi and Thalarion, Celephais, The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath, an old dreamer and lighthouse keeper of Kingsport town, fewer and fewer ships, a great delusional fugue state, a white spar and a blue bird, Polaris, a watchman in a watchtower, a beautiful symmetry, structural similarity, a beautiful dead woman, Eleonora, Ligeia, Morella, un-whimsical, Hypnos, the bearded mentors, astral projected journey, going to far, moon-beams, The Moon-Bog, a bridge of moon-beams, big ancient cities, civilization, you can’t have books without cities, lore x 3, he was given many books in his youth, when he was young and filled with wonder, Thanatos the Greek god of death, the throne of Azathoth, a dream of falling, the sin, Randolph Carter is seeking in the dreamlands, where the gods dwell, the gods have conquered, the person from Porlock, Jeff Vandermeer’s dream, William Hope Hodgson, fungal growths,
Then came we to a pleasant coast gay with blossoms of every hue, where as far inland as we could see basked lovely groves and radiant arbours beneath a meridian sun. From bowers beyond our view came bursts of song and snatches of lyric harmony, interspersed with faint laughter so delicious that I urged the rowers onward in my eagerness to reach the scene. And the bearded man spoke no word, but watched me as we approached the lily-lined shore. Suddenly a wind blowing from over the flowery meadows and leafy woods brought a scent at which I trembled. The wind grew stronger, and the air was filled with the lethal, charnel odour of plague-stricken towns and uncovered cemeteries. And as we sailed madly away from that damnable coast the bearded man spoke at last, saying: “This is Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained.”
The Valley Of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe,
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.
what the heck does that mean?, nameless things that feast upon the corpses of men, a large layer of death, allegorical symbolism, the platonic forms,
“On the green and flowery mountains of Cathuria stand temples of pink marble, rich with carven and painted glories, and having in their courtyards cool fountains of silver, where purl with ravishing music the scented waters that come from the grotto-born river Narg.”
what good writing!, Fungi From Yuggoth XVIII: Gardens Of Yin
Beyond that wall, whose ancient masonry
Reached almost to the sky in moss-thick towers,
There would be terraced gardens, rich with flowers,
And flutter of bird and butterfly and bee.
There would be walks, and bridges arching over
Warm lotos-pools reflecting temple eaves,
And cherry-trees with delicate boughs and leaves
Against a pink sky where the herons hover.
All would be there, for had not old dreams flung
Open the gate to that stone-lanterned maze
Where drowsy streams spin out their winding ways,
Trailed by green vines from bending branches hung?
I hurried—but when the wall rose, grim and great,
I found there was no longer any gate.
verse for birthday cards, The Haunted Lake, Christmas poems, a concordance of themes, all the shades of Lovecraft, The Picture In The House, The Bells, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the discover of sanity blasting horrors, ebbs and flows, soul and sanity loss, cosmic transcendence, drawing what we see,
“For the aeons that I dwelt there I wandered blissfully through gardens where quaint pagodas peep from pleasing clumps of bushes, and where the white walks are bordered with delicate blossoms.”
Basil Elton’s sin, distant whispers, really?, better than Sona-Nyl?, “Dude you’ve always lived alone!”, a sea-faring Tyler Durduen, a Coleridgian-Obi-Wan Kenobi, a big eastern theme, fantastical oriental places, like Narnia, Arabia mythologized, a marked contrast, Lovecraft as a homebody in the center of a great American port, like living in Atlanta and never getting on an airplane, Citizen Of The Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein, wherever you go, there you are, an interesting visualization, Celephais, writing down dreams, a penniless tramp, travels tell me, King Kuranes, his spirit lives on in the dreamlands, scented monsters, the basalt pillars of the west, Jason And The Argonauts, the Pillars of Hercules, Gibraltar, DC Comics, Thalarion and Themyscira, The H.P. Lovecrafts‘ song The White Ship, late-sixties hippies and beatniks, wow these are AMAZING!, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #327 – The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Martin Reyto courtesy of Legamus. This is an unabridged reading of the short story (24 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse Willis, Seth Wilson, Jim Moon, and Juan Luis Pérez.
Talked about in this episode:
Title has a hyphen; published in Weird Tales in June 1926, but written for a St. Patrick’s Day event; most critics dismiss the story; most characters are nameless; no Cthulhu mythos; Greek ties to Lovecraft’s The Tree; H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast; thematic similarities to The Rats in the Walls and Hypnos; conflict between the bog goddess and her servants; frogs; moonbeams; Greek Pan pipes, not Celtic pipes; on the story’s un-Irishness; competing models of colonization; Protestant work ethic; Pied Piper of Hamelin; surviving narrator motif similar to Ishmael in Moby Dick; departure from the traditional Lovecraftian narrator; the poetry of Lovecraft’s prose, alliteration, etc.; Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature; spoiler in Weird Tales art; the joys of reading aloud; Lovecraft’s Dunsanian story The Festival; architecture; Tolkien’s Dead Marshes and the gothic symbolism of bogs, etc.; Lovecraft’s descriptionn of cities in The Mountains of Madness and landscapes in The Dunwich Horror; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and similar impressionism in film; The Quest of Iranon; unreliable narrators à la Edgar Allan Poe, especially The Fall of the House of Usher; laughing; bog draining and the curse of the Tiddy Mun; the city of Bath and the intersection of Roman and Celtic cultures; John Buchan’s The Grove of Ashtaroth; this is actually a happy Lovecraft story!; Robin Hood and the defense of the land; humans destroy megafauna; Lovecraft’s The Hound; American horror trope of the Indian burial ground; the lack of Celtic mythology; will-o’-the-wisps; how does one drain a bog? Ask the Dutch; disappointment in scientific explanation for stories; the ruins and the Gothic tradition.
The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa continue their journey through The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien with a discussion of Book III “The Treason of Isengard” (aka the first half of The Two Towers).
Talked about on today’s show:
Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes instead of six volumes due to paper shortages; surprise, Jesse prefers shorter volumes; Ayn Rand’s thick books, and thin books like Anthem; pocket editions of The Hobbit; small books make us feel like giant Alice in Wonder characters; The Two Towers is the shortest volume, though Return of the King is bulked up by appendices; as a first-time reader, Maissa appreciated the quick pacing; Anthony Boucher’s review claims the volume makes “inordinate demands” on readers; overwhelming back history; the difference of reading review and reading for pleasure; reading at Shadowfax speed!; “hope is in speed”; the poetry of Tolkien’s prose; Anglo-Saxon influence on alliteration in Rohan speech; the beauty of Tolkien’s descriptions; Gimli’s descriptions of the caves; the illegitimate heirs of Tolkien can’t compete with Tolkien’s command of language; the Orcs as comic relief; three factions of Orcs set against the three races of runners; Legolas and Gimli working through their differences; evil by definition does not make alliances; Saruman’s cloak of many colors as a symbol of evil; the Orcs’ lack of coöperation; who is the wandering old man in the hat?; the contrast between the Orc draught and Ent draught, similar to Gandalf’s flask of Miruvor in Book II; the persistent symbolism of waters and drinking in this volume; similarities between Rohan and Anglo Saxon culture; linguistic parallels between the speech of the Rohirrim and Old English; “sister-daughter” and different familial relations in Rohan; the emerging importance of Éowyn; the underpopulation of Middle Earth; parallels between the Third Age of Middle Earth and Europe after the “fall” of Rome; Gondor = Rome to some Tolkien scholars; Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon on World War I; the influence of World War I on Tolkien’s writing; flood and trench imagery of Orthanc recalls the devastation of World War I; Middle Earth (and the modern world) is in a time of transition; conversation with Éomer about the persistence of legends; “not we, but those who come after, will make the legends of our time”; people tend not to recognize they’re in a time of transition; Jesse deftly defines “Flotsam and Jetsam” for us and ties them into the book’s backward-looking and forward-looking symbolism; Tolkien’s love of etymology; action like the Ents’ storming of Isengard happens off-stage; Agatha Christie style foreshadowing with Longbottom Leaf; we don’t really care about Helm’s Deep; “Aragorn joined Éomer in the van”; horrible tree puns; Old Forest as the Fangorn of the West; we’re pretty sure the Entwives are hanging out there; the Elves are less interesting than Ents because the Elves are too perfect; the Elves talked the Ents into wakefulness; Shadowfax’s race of horses can understand the speech of men; the pre-speech age of human beings and Koko the gorilla; the Rangers are the detectives of Middle Earth; Voltaire’s Zadie and Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin from The Murders in the Rue Morgue; debate about existence of evidence for the Entwines–stay tuned to the next volume!; finding the Entwives = Mission Impossible (cue theme); the growth (in many ways) of Merry and Pippin; Gandalf’s foresight in allowing them to join the Fellowship; “they are the pebbles that began the avalanche of the Ents’ rising”; the three runners sped 220 kilometers in four days; it proved fortuitous that Pippin found the Palantir; the Palantir is FaceTime with Sauron; Merry and Pippin were key to Boromir’s redemption; return of the black swans–and the eagle!; Ariel in The Tempest by Shakespeare does all the work for Prospero, just like the eagles; Gandalf actually performs magic in “The Voice of Saruman” chapter; the voice in Dune; Gandalf takes over the council of wizards; the blue wizards aren’t present because they’re too “swear-y”; the recurring importance of choice; Tolkien is always on the side of free will; Aragorn’s decision not to follow Frodo; Palantir are the “seven stones” of Gondor’s flag; the Palantir is neither good nor evil; Palantir symbolizes communication of superpowers between the world wars, and the iconic red phone; The Victorian Internet by Tom Standee: the telegraph is the best thing since sliced bread; the lazy visual shortcuts that the movie takes with the Palantir and with Saruman’s influence on Théoden; The Man Who Never Was; meanwhile, Sam and Frodo are slogging through; the inevitable breaking of the Fellowship; the four elements in Gandalf’s death and resurrection; more Lovecraftian weirdness in the bowels of Middle Earth; Gandalf has changed; Norse worm gnawing at the roots of the World Tree; Treebeard as shepherd of the trees; “boom, boom, dahrar!; Net names tell the whole story of things; Freebeard’s bed isn’t for sleeping; Shakespeare’s disappointment at Shakespeare’s sleight-of-hand with the trees of Birnam Wood not actually coming to life in Macbeth; “fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane” almost perfectly echoed in The Two Towers; nobody does Elves better than Tolkien; the joy Tolkien must have had writing about trees.
“Aragorn and Legolas went now with Eomer in the van.”
By Seth Wilson
Talked about on today’s show:
1990, what was it about this book…, nothing much happens, utopia, utopian novels generally don’t exist, Brave New World, conflict, the only death in the book, if it was a literary novel, Ramona’s thighs, almost a perfect novel, “constructed”, softball, batting a thousand, light symbolism, Tom in Switzerland, so much to think about during the lazy days, a magical transformation, fascinatingly insightful, what human beings are trying to do all the time, “that’s the novel I wanted to read”, a tryptic, The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, three Californias growing out of the 1980s, cyberpunk, Orange County, TSA, the water situation, Chinatown, machinations, evil corporations, KSR is a really smart guy, a genuine world, comparing to Heinlein’s bad guys, conflict (or lack thereof), why theater is fun, wrestling!, softball, his Mars books, baseball as a metaphor, small ball, a small ball utopia, the October of his own utopia, what are utopia, an almost meta-SF novel, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, “must redefine utopia … the process of making a better world … struggle forever”, 2065, a bigger theater, fewer baseball diamonds, starting from scratch won’t work, there’s a lot of work to be done, an underpopulated world, how we got there, emigration to Space, the understated Mars landing, the drought in California, climate change (global warming), Antarctica, Worldcon 2006, Anaheim, Luke Burrage’s review of The Gold Coast, he’s sophisticated, Shaman, the four shamanic elements: air/earth/fire/water, sooo well constructed, the mask party, great magic bullshit, not The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Prisoners Of Gravity, Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman, tackling a really substantial subject, an almost bullet-proof approach, the economy doesn’t work and the geology doesn’t work (in The Lord Of The Rings), the housing situation, Viking style or Haida style, its all fashion, the defining look of how any utopia can work, the economic model, socialism, Stephen Harper, [Kim Stanley Robinson] has thought of everything, the black banks, some sort of federal system?, the New Oregon Trail?, a local government utopia, it’s a certain kind of communism, Alfredo, labour taxation, another junction box, there’s still money but nobody is talking about it, the scene at the fire, the community is the fire department, no police, what do you do with criminals?, exile, Amish communities exist at the sufferance of the surrounding state, they’ve got Skype/Facetime, we have to not hate our brothers around the world, sister cities, delegations, Paul takes exception, Minneapolis, magnifying certain aspects (and shrinking others), the Greens have had there day, what’s going to happen, where’s the public library?, an ebb and flow, drag racing, Oscar’s interests, neighbors invading is the only possible hole, an ecological society, an ecology of local systems, by not competing in the way that some can compete you’re going to get crushed, if the utopia is unstable…, Kevin as the catalyst, small solutions, a feel good message, the Athenian polis approach to community, who started that fire?, the evil mustachio thing, if we asked KSR, he’s earned that, A Short Sharp Shock, the kerosene … who did it?, a happy death, let’s spend some time here, When Tam asked: “Does it get less boring?”, going back to work, how to deal with reality, moderation in all things including moderation, smoking, Kim Stanley Robinson is incredibly wise, a very wise book, relationship stigmas have been done away with, casual but not disposable, no ideology, take out the thing that you like, whatever system they seem to have…, the inevitable swinging of a pendulum, Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars (aka Against The Fall Of Night), frozen in time with a focus on art, Nineteen-Eighty Four and Brave New World are forever dystopias, “interpenetration”, a metal ceramic material, Oscar’s hike, going for walks, reality entering a body, we are a part of our environment, a religious moment, the mask party, as a motif word, every part of the community interacts, they live inside each others’ homes, a great scene of Alfredo and Kevin working shoulder to shoulder, Rattlesnake Hill is a symbol for Kevin, that’s no human nature, Jenny’s visits to former utopian society, the Shaker village in Kentucky, New Harmony, Indiana, we’re living in a utopia, how many times have you guys run for city council, campaigning is not fun, trying to convince people door to door is a horrible job, maybe its time, it IS what he’s saying, a bitter pill, KSR’s bio, Jesse’s mom, tons of meetings, we tried to go to a movie theater, the inertia of a city council is less, “turning the ship”, Jenny’s really good example, Greencastle, Indiana, no discrimination if you do business with the city, Our Angry Earth by Frederik Pohl and Isaac Asimov, get organized, maybe that sense of mobility is the problem, love the place you’re at, utopia is not a destination it’s an activity, The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond, staying where you were born, it goes both ways, Ted Cruz, subversive groups, Anonymous, different strategies, Last Week Tonight, Jon Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, dick pics, high-minded people are all sold, does this program have your dick pick?, you need a comedian, LIBERTY!, go with the dick pic.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #313 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa continue their journey through The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien with a discussion of Book II “The Ring Goes South” (aka the second half of The Fellowship Of The Ring).
Talked about on today’s show:
Many meetings; Elrond’s powerpoint at the council; Bilbo’s demands for lunch (after missing his first and second breakfasts); the science fiction info dump; Council of Elrond’s unfeasibility in today’s publishing world; council is a series of chained short stories; a whole bunch of new characters; the rhythm and pacing of Tolkien’s storytelling; the protracted timespan of the novel; crotchety Bilbo; Caradhras and the “jaw-cracker” Dwarven tongue; Sam as the mediating character; Bill the Pony; dreams and The Wizard of Oz; the inevitability of Frodo’s quest; the dreams of Boromir and Faramir; Boromir has something to prove; Boromir’s complex relationship with Aragorn; the one walkers set against the nine riders; Boromir is Gondor-centric and doesn’t see the big picture; nuclear weapons as a modern analogy for the ring, Mordor = Nazi Germany, Gondor = Russia, Canada = The Shire; Canada’s refusal of nuclear power; the importance of choices in the story; Saruman of Many Colors; “he who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom”; subverting readers’ expectations; “I will take the ring, though I do not know the way”; the ring and addiction; Galadriel’s long battle with temptation; Caradhras again, the anthropomorphic mountain; The Mirror of Galadriel and the choice to look; Teleport = teleportation + pornography; Tolkien’s letters, and Galadriel is not the Virgin Mary; Galadriel’s soul gaze–Boromir’s response: “this is bullshit!”; Frodo’s relationship with Galadriel as fellow ring bearers; more dubious analogies: Gandalf (or Isildur) as Eisenhower; the raw deal the Stewards get in Minas Tirith; Sam’s always excluded from the meetings; Rivendell and Lothlórien’s competing bed and breakfasts; Galadriel’s gifts; The Lord of the Rings as modernized Viking sagas; Babylon 5 is Lord of the Rings in spaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!; Jesse has seen everything; the Moria dungeon crawl; the Lovecraftian tentacle monster; how did Gollum enter Moria; Dungeons and Dragons vs. the Tolkien estate; wolves; the reappearance of “chance”; Frodo’s perilous sturgeon Amon Hen; repeated references to star- and moonlight; the strange nature of Elf magic; a digression about bears, bees, honey, and wolves; the Elven cloaks vs. Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak; the nature of the other rings; race conflicts in Middle Earth and the fairness of blindfolds; the film’s vulgarization of dwarves; the poetry of Middle Earth; the complexities of a multilingual world; “nom de traveling”; black swans on the Great River; Jesse is a “philosophically-trained Elvish dude”; white swans and symbolic logic; not many big predators in Middle Earth; Romantic ideas of nature; vegetarians and vegans in Middle Earth; the slippery slope of vegetarian logic; orcs in Lord of the Rings vs. goblins in The Hobbit; George MacDonald’s Goblin Princess; the etiology of the orcs; Sauron’s exploits in Númenor (read: Atlantis or Ultima Thule) before the ring; Robert E. Howard’s Conan is an Atlantean; multiple readings; what are the rest of the dwarves up to?; bosses and minibuses in Moria; Legolas, Gimli, and intercultural stress in Middle Earth; looking forward to The Two Towers; Maissa is still on board as a first-time reader.
Posted by Seth
Talked about on today’s show:
On the comparative merits of the book, movie, and the BBC audio drama; the similarity between the audio drama and the film; Ian Hom as Frodo in the audio drama (elder Bilbo in the film) and Michael Hordern as Gandalf; Rob Inglis’s superb audiobook narration and singing; poetry and singing as a reflection of Tolkien’s mythological influence; Kenneth Morris’s influence on Tolkien; The Silmarillion and the creation of Middle Earth; The Tolkien Professor and Michael Drout as resources for further Tolkien scholarship; Jesse’s first encounter with The Hobbit; the birth of Jesse’s fascination with audiobooks; the depth of Tolkien’s world-building and lack of depth in fantasy successors; Aragorn is unsung hero; on how the audio helped Jenny get a handle on the series; Seth’s regular reading of the novels; Maissa has questions as a new reader; the cliffhanger ending of Book I; on the making of the rings; the ring as an analogy to modern technological addiction; Steve Jobs as Sauron; Maissa envisions true palm technology and Jesse envisions a real technological ring; Doctor Who; Socrates, Gyges, and a ring of invisibility, how much agency does the Ring have?; religious subtext; more on the ring’s agency; “more than one power at work”; on how Tolkien had to retcon The Hobbit; Tolkien’s letters and his attention to detail; Frank Herbert’s similar world building process in Dune; on Middle Earth’s historical depth; the cats of Queen Berúthiel; Farmer Maggot vs. the Black Rider; hobbits make the story relatable; Gandalf as rabble-rousing priest and prophet (Moses, Jeremiah); “birthday presents” and the circularity of the tale; “The Conspiracy Unmasked” and the power of friendship; the untold tale of Fredegar Bolger; on the faults of hobbits; parallels with modern military conflicts; economics in the books (or lack thereof); the varieties of goodness and evil; the Prancing Pony has free wi-fi; a time of transition and the Elves’ pilgrimage to the Gray Havens; on Gollum’s possession of the ring; Tom Bombadil as unexplained phenomenon; Jesse wants a Tom Bombadil Bed and Breakfast; on the importance of Frodo’s encounter with the Barrow White; Tolkien could have written weird fiction; Sam’s selfless sacrifices; Tolkien’s impact on our real lives; we are all Butterburs wanting to be Sams; Sam learning his letters; class differences in the Shire, Hobbiton as Downton Abbey; “the road goes ever on”; does Sauron have corporeal existence?; no Harry Potter style set pieces in favor of a much more organic feel; Jesse tells us the definition of scrumping; Tolkien’s descriptions of nature; on Tolkien and fantasy tropes; influence on Dungeons and Dragons; Bombadillo cadence; comparisons with contemporary writing of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series and Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories; Tolkien’s preference for allegory over history; the power of words in Tolkien and its parallel with Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea; on the novel’s slow opening; on the film’s simplification of plot and characters, Merry and Pippin in the film are Dumb and Dumber; if Gandalf can make fireworks, why are there no guns in Middle Earth?; for a wizard, Gandalf doesn’t do much magic; (who let the dogs out?); Tolkien and World War I; on Gandalf’s refusal to take the ring; on the etymology of wraith and the origin of the ring wraiths; more on Plato and Socrates’s Ring of Gyges parable; Gollum’s fascination with roots and beginnings; Aragorn’s healing power (foreshadowing!); giving the ring to the wrong person is “like giving a machine gun to a baby”; Saruman twisted by even the idea of the ring; Maissa is a prescient reader.
Posted by Jesse Willis