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
Commentary: Appendix N: Inspirational And Educational Reading by Gary Gygax (from AD&D’s original Dungeon Masters Guide)
Long out of print, but still incredibly relevant, this list of inspirations for the phenomenon that is Dungeons & Dragons, and role-playing games in general, deserves to be better known. There is a Wikipedia entry for the “sources and influences on the development of Dungeons & Dragons”, but there’s nothing like looking at the real thing.
So, here it is in it’s entirety, following it you will find hypertext links to the Wikipedia entries for the specifically mentioned novels and collections (when available).
Appendix N lists the following authors and works:
Poul Anderson – THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD
John Bellairs – THE FACE IN THE FROST
Edgar Rice Burroughs – “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series
Lin Carter – “World’s End” Series
L. Sprague de Camp – LEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et al.
[L. Sprague] de Camp & [Fletcher] Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE
P. J. [Philip Jose] Farmer – “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.
Gardner [F.] Fox – “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.
R.E. [Robert E.] Howard – “Conan” Series
Sterling Lanier – HIERO’S JOURNEY
Fritz Leiber – “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.
A. Merritt – CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; [The] MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al.
Michael Moorcock – STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)
Andrew J. Offutt – editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Fletcher Pratt – BLUE STAR; et al.
Fred Saberhagen – CHANGELING EARTH; et al.
Margaret St. Clair – THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
J.R.R. Tolkien – THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy” [aka The Lord Of The Rings]
Jack Vance – THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al.
Stanley [G.] Weinbaum
Manly Wade Wellman
Roger Zelazny – JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.
Now with regards to the audio availability of the works and authors on this list I have composed the following set of notes:
Too few of the novels and collections specifically mentioned above are or ever have been audiobooks. But, there are several that have: the two Jack Vance books, the Tolkien books, of course, and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is available from Downpour.com (narrated by Bronson Pinchot). Unfortunately very few of the remaining bolded titles are in the public domain. One of the interesting exceptions is The Moon Pool by A. Merritt, which is available from LibriVox and narrated by veteran narrator Mark Douglas Nelson.
Of the series, those are the ones mentioned in quotes, I recommend Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first Pellucidar novel, At the Earth’s Core which is available from narrator David Stifel’s site – we also have a podcast discussion of that book HERE. And we did a show on A Princess Of Mars, which is the first audiobook in what Gygax calls the “Mars series.” The audiobook is HERE and the podcast is HERE.
Andre Norton’s work is actually well represented on LibriVox.org, have a look HERE.
Several of Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” collections were produced by Audible, HERE. But several of the stories are also public domain and are available on our PDF Page, for turning into audiobooks or podcasts!
Roger Zelazny’s first Amber series book was once available with Roger Zelazny’s narration, today Audible.com has the original ten book series as narrated by Allesandro Juliani.
As for H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Lord Dunsany, we have done several audiobooks of their stories for The SFFaudio Podcast, available on Podcast Page, so that’s a good place to start.
Further recommendations would have me point you towards the excellent small press audiobook publisher Audio Realms, which has the majority of the great Wayne June’s readings of H.P. Lovecraft. They also have two volumes of Robert E. Howard’s “Weird Works.” Even more Robert E. Howard is available from Tantor Media.
I should also point out that most of the authors listed in Appendix N are now represented somewhere on our PDF Page, a page made up of U.S. public domain stories, poems, plays, novels, essays and comics. Please make some audiobooks, audio dramas, or podcasts from them! We will all be all the richer for it.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
the Pulpscans Yahoo! Group, how to do copyright renewal searches properly, the tools, The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, Astounding Science Fiction, two ways stories can be protected by copyright, before 1963, publisher renewals, author renewals, renewals after 1950 are on copyright.gov, 1923-1950, a text file for magazine renewals, and a text file for author renewals, Weird Tales, 1920s to the 1950s, OCR failures, looking for something to not be there, a very heavy burden, pseudonyms, false renewals, erroneous renewals, the pre-internet days, the Philip K. Dick estate’s copyright “pattern of abuse”, revisions, the 36 public domain Philip K. Dick stories, “they never got it wrong the other way”, a statistician could do something very interesting there, The Adjustment Bureau / Adjustment Team, the H.P. Lovecraft estate (if there is such a thing), the S.T. Joshi corrected texts, Home Brew (magazine) with Clark Ashton Smith, ebooks, paperbooks, and audiobooks, the Science Fiction Megapack, trademarking, licensing stories, horror, fantasy, golden age of science fiction, Lester del Rey, Westerns, length is not an issue in, Eando Binder, short stories in comics, Jack Binder, Captain Marvel, Whiz Comics, Captain Video, Tom Corbett, the Adam Link stories, Otto Binder, banned from Amazing Stories, “E” and “O”, unattributed short stories in comics, Fawcett Comics, Westbrook Wilson, Richard Lupoff, the space patrol stories, Joseph J. Mallard, a Nazi saboteur lost in the north woods, a dodge for a cheaper rate, silver age comics drop text stories, early DC Comics, Night Of The Living Dead, Zulu, fanzines in the public domain, Ray Bradbury in the public domain, copyright notification is no longer required, USA copyright lifetime + 70 years, 1984 by George Orwell is public domain in Canada but not yet in the USA, Donald A. Wollheim, a quasi-legal loophole, The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was briefly public domain in the USA, the scarcity of the Ace paperbacks of The Lord Of The Rings, the state of Ace doubles etc., unless it’s work made for hire, children’s books, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, copyright compilation renewals, Analog renews a magazine…, how would we know if an author asks for his or her rights back?, the Guy de Maupassant Megapack, a victim of availability, Jules Verne, translations, a recent obsession, a gold mine [metaphor], an estimated 85% of books and stories published before 1964 are in the public domain, reading the letters pages of Weird Tales, Robert Bloch, spotty renewals, Ray Bradbury changed the name of stories a lot, pulp magazine editors, editorial meddling, respecting the text but keeping your job, annotated text links, nothing new can enter the public domain in the USA, corporate copyright to 95 years, the puppet Sonny Bono, life +70 years for authors is, 1922 and before is without question in the public domain in the USA, Mack Reynolds, buying author estates, Lester del Rey, H.B. Fyfe, unpublished manuscripts, John W. Campbell, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, archaeology for writers, 37 unpublished Mack Reynolds novels were thrown away, what is an author’s estate worth?, thousands of $$, R.A. Lafferty estate sold for $70,000.00, a major SF author’s estate was worth 1/4 million $$, the trend in ebooks, 14,000 different paperbooks and 1,100 ebooks and the ebooks earn 4 times as much as the paperbooks, the audiobook trend, Audible.com, Lois McMaster Bujold audiobooks, 200 audiobooks, a value added for authors, because Amazon owns everything…, a benign dictator forever?, when all competition is gone…, Amazon vs. Hachette, Amazon is demanding a higher and higher cut of ebook sales, 85% of ebook sales are through Amazon, a giant anti-trust situation, it’s like Highlander … there can be only one, when everything goes seamlessly into the Kindle…
Posted by Jesse Willis