Talked about on today’s show: We help Jesse clear off his desk by discussing books in paper (dead trees and rags), “like e-books but thicker”; Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan, second in the Lady Trent series, gorgeously illustrated, Darwin meets dragons; why are illustrations dying out, even in e-books?; Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan features good illustrations; The Raven’s Shadow, third in Elspeth Cooper’s Wild Hunt series; how many print pages in an hour of audio?; more from L.E. Modesitt Jr’s Imager series; John C. Wright’s The Judge of Ages, with allusions to Cordwainer Smith; The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, smarter steampunk?; a tangent on translating page to screen; Tam likes more fantasy in his fantasy; a tangent on Game of Thrones; a tangent on Citizen Brick and the expiration of the LEGO patent; The Revolutions by Felix Gilman; science fiction was once planetary romance; The Prestige; Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year vol. 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan, now published by Solaris, featuring a lot of great stories; and we finally reach audiobooks!; The Scottish Fairy Book, Volume 1; the timeless quality of folktales; Classics Lesson of the Day: Ovid’s a boy, Sappho’s a girl; Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear; we try to puzzle out what a stele is; we praise Bear’s interview on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy; Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered isn’t romance “because fifty-year-olds never have romance”; Without a Summer, third in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, expertly narrated by the author; Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman doesn’t seem to be your run-of-the-mill urban fantasy (suburban fantasy?); Indexing by Seanan McGuire, urban fantasy with a postmodern twist; mimetic incursion and Jorge Luis Borges’s Averroes’s Search; Night Broken by Patricia Briggs, eighth in her Mercy Thompson series; a tangent on midriff tattoos and names for tattoos on other parts of the body; Jenny has created a new genre, Scientific Near Future Thrillers!; in the future, iPods will be merged into our eyebrows; science and technology don’t evolve quite how we expect; Neil Gaiman discusses the influence of Ballard and other classic SF writers on the Coode Street Podcast; Sleep Donation by Karen Russell; Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux; Boswell is Samuel Johnson’s biographer; Afterparty by Daryl Gregory is blowing up on Goodreads; pre- and post-apocalyptic fiction–no actual apocalypse this time; The End is Nigh, first in the Apocalypse Triptych edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey; the tech gremlins didn’t want us to discuss Dust, the third in Hugh Howey’s Silo series; Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor; The Forever Watch by David Ramirez, Jesse thinks the protagonist has too many jobs; “pause resister”, WTF?; Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, already reviewed here at SFFaudio; we struggle to define Pentecostal; religious opposition to the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass; Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s The Edge of Tomorrow (originally entitled All You Need Is Kill), Groundhog Day meets Fullmetal Jacket, film adaptation features Tom Cruise; Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer, a hardboiled detective story on Mars; Noggin by John Corey Whaley; Decoded by Mai Jia; Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones is a refresh of The Arabian Nights; Frank Herbert’s Direct Descent is about a library planet; novella is the best length for SF; Night Ride and Other Journeys by Charles Beaumont, a “writer’s writer” who wrote for The Twilight Zone; Christopher Moore’s The Serpent of Venice is an irreverent Shakespeare/Poe mashup.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #246 – Hypnos by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Mr. Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Julie Hoverson, and Melvin Cartegena.
Talked about on today’s show:
An early Lovecraft story, a favourite Lovecraft, getting tangled in the mythos, similar elements, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, chronology, artists vs. scientists, Polaris, alternative dream realities, a mystic connection to a star, The Dreams In The Witch House, the funniness, a man falls in love with a statue, statuesque features, Greek mythology, He, sudden and instant friends, recurrent themes, a smarter friend, is this the original Fight Club?, The Hound, The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, not enough drugs in Kent, London, the Fu Manchu Limehouse connection, caffeine and amphetamines, aging, astral projection, ‘a man with Oriental eyes’, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Abdul Alhazred (was a Lovecraft persona), The Nameless City, Einsteinian theory, S.L. = Samuel Loveman, “all the cosmos is a jest”, wordless understanding, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an Olympian brow, Hypnos is the god of sleep the son of night and the brother of death, Charles Baudelaire, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, Harley Warren = Samuel Loveman, Ambrose Bierce, together but ahead, a column of gold, a red light, breaching the chambers of Hypnos, ambiguity, a symbolic or allegorical Tyler Durden, a way to avoid writing dialogue, “control the universe and everything under it”, in dreams you do control the universe, Lucid dreaming, “it’s not like Inception“, certain techniques, dream logic, Seattle, Tetris before bed, documenting dreams, Lucid dreaming is ultimately pointless, Julie’s dreams, NREM vs. REM dreaming, the function of dreams, sorting and practicing, incubating a dream at the temple of Hypnos, Phantasy (one of Hypnos’ sons), plungings and soarings, scary dreams, aether, The Police, Wrapped Around Your Finger, someplace beyond time, drifting, Ovid’s family tree for the family of Hypnos, Death and Sleep look like each other, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Phobotor, Phanatos, Hypnos lived in a cave without a door, at the entrance of the cave were poppies and other flowering drugs, mandragora, old guys at young gay parties, screaming starts happening, if it were written today, who is this story being told to, a confession from an asylum or hospital, a cosmic joke, a schizoid break, his brow was white as of marble, volumes exchanged in a look, Freddy Krueger, dream mythology, Dreamscape, Inception, The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny, Uncle Scrooge in The Dream Of A Lifetime, Sleepwalkers, Naomi Watts and Ray Wise, Guy de Maupassant, a sequel, Masters Of Horror: Cigarette Burns, John Carpenter, many remakes, There’s A Family Of Gnomes Behind My Walls And I Swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Any Longer by J.R. Hamantaschen, weird dubiousness, Masters Of Horror: The Dreams In The Witch House, Wake up Julie!
Posted by Jesse Willis
Review of Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson and Bill Breen
Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry
By David Robertson and Bill Breen; Read by Thomas Vincent Kelly
Approx. 10 Hours 23 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: June 25, 2013
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Business / LEGO / STAR WARS / Denmark / Copyfight /
I’m not one for business books, and this is explicitly a business book. The closest I’ve come to one, in the last decade, was Joseph Finder’s corporate espionage thriller Paranoia. On the other hand, I really am one for LEGO and Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry is an audiobook about The LEGO Group.
Most of the book is about the recent history of LEGO, how it became unprofitable, and how it, through controlled innovation, recovered from that unprofitably. Along the way there is a fair amount about the company’s history – and even more importantly about the philosophy behind the “system” of The LEGO Group’s core product, the LEGO bricks themselves.
I started with LEGO in the mid-1970s, and barring a few pieces (lost, vacuumed, and stolen) along the way I still have much of it. But, similar to many other AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO) I experienced a decline in interest in LEGO as I entered my teens. As a kid I appreciated that LEGO allowed you to build your own toys, as a tween I programmed my own robotic LEGO creations (LEGO LOGO for Apple II) – but shortly thereafter the corporation seemed somehow go off track – creating products that were less LEGO sytem than LEGO branded toys. That is until around the mid-1990s. And that’s about when my re-invigoration of interest in LEGO started. No coincidence there, as this was also about the same time as the company’s financial revival. It seemed that the more I got more into LEGO the more the company became financially viable – but, of course, it was actually the reverse.
Indeed, Brick By Brick is essentially Robertson and Breen trying to figure out how the company works, where it went wrong, and how it recovered. In doing this they have looked at a number of failed projects, how they came to fail, how the company reorganized itself and how, with help from both adult LEGO fans and child LEGO fans they learned to operate without patent protection.
One of the more interesting comparisons between companies that Robertson and Breen make is that of LEGO to Apple. The parallels between the companies’ aesthetic philosophies (and cult like devotion by their customers) are many. I myself am a committed Apple iPhone user, not because I buy into the ecosystem, but rather because of the sculptured discipline of the technology. Likewise, though Megablocks and other LEGO competitors are making bricks that are 100% compatible with (and cheaper) than LEGO I am scrupulously careful to weed out MEGABLOCKS and other “fake lego” from my collection. The iPhone’s competitors aren’t really competitors, and the LEGO system’s competitors aren’t really competitors.
Back to the book, David Robertson and Bill Breen talk about a number of LEGO lines that I like, particularly the CITY, SPACE, and CASTLE lines but they also explain the thinking behind popular licensed IPs like STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Several chapters cover the creation of the successful BIONCLE line (originally conceived as a line called “VOODOO HEADS”), the innovative board game division (that sneakily gets moms to buy more LEGO), and the massively expensive failure of the LEGO UNIVERSE project (an ambitious project aimed at disrupting LEGO’s own core market). And that last one is one of the most fascinating sections of Brick By Brick. By trying to make the experience perfect, by trying to produce a graphically rich massively multiplayer online game without bugs, then charging a whopping $40 to start playing it LEGO screwed up royally. The failure of the LEGO Universe project is all the more ironic in that a lone computer game programmer, Markus “Notch” Persson, came to create a sucessful kind of digital competitor to LEGO system, in the form of Minecraft. Peterson’s success, using almost no resources and no money, make the error of LEGO hierarchy all the clearer. But in an even more ironic move LEGO has since produced a Minecraft set!
In my view the only thing missing from Brick By Brick is talk about the very successful, collectible Minifigures line (now up to Series 10). To my ears Minifigs get very short shrift in Brick By Brick. I’d love to hear a two or three hour audiobook about that alone.
There’s very little to say about narrator. Thomas Vincent Kelly is a relatively new narrator, his reading is clear and precise, like the LEGO system. The occasional Danish place-name pronunciation, and the names of the LEGO products themselves are the only real narrative challenges. Kelly delivers.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #220 – The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster; read by Elizabeth Klett (for LibriVox). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 13 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Professor Eric S. Rabkin, and Mr. Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
Novelette or novella, novellini?, E.M Forster wrote some Science Fiction?, genre boundaries, H.G. Wells, adventure, horror, The Time Machine, a critique of English society, dystopias, diegesis, a didactic approach, The War Of The Worlds, a bogus bifurcation of the body and the spirit (or the mind), ambiguous possibility, the “Machine” of the titles, Morlocks and Eloi, a reversal, a complement, prophetic vs. appropriate, looking through my blue plate, this book is the biggest existential critique of my lifestyle, it was lovely to meet Jim and Eric, a caricature and a critique, blackberry season, a swaddled lump of flesh, a curiously intrusive narrative technique, a fable, author backchat, in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien, lampshading, breaking the fourth wall, an aural phenomena, a fable, a parable, philosophical scenarios, Plato’s Myth Of The Cave, The Republic, Socrates, ontological imaginary equivalents, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, the narrator isn’t exactly human, “back chat”, man is not necessarily the measure of all things, empiricism vs. rationalism, the unanswerable questions of the stars, everyone is a lecturer in the future, “second hand ideas”, the French Revolution not as it was but as it might be in our society, Alexander The Great’s monstrous rampage through Asia, “the juice of the individual human experience”, we have many books, books as experience generators, Ion, J.R.R. Tolkien, “there is a muse”, the rhetor, aiming out of the subterranean, why are we obsessed with essays?, SAT style essays, a quasi-Aristotelian view of happiness, what does a happy horse look like?, fleet fleets make happy shipwrights, happiness verb, man is not an animal like the others, the body doesn’t matter, man is a mind, big fat babies, the wealthy vs. the working, the bloom of Victorian society (men in sheds), a satire of academia, the Logical Positivists, natural deductive logic, Mr. Jim Moon does a lot of research, rehashing, Terry Jones, Christopher Columbus, Nathaniel Hawthorne, an unexpected continent, the North-West Passage, telling powerful and relevant, the use of the word “idea”, “forms”, Rene Descartes, interpenetration, Orion, the hunter giant,” when you give a bad podcast do you ask for euthanasia afterwards?”, you’re not there for the characters, a very erudite story, Vashti (from the Book of Esther), Purim, the worst possible kind of mother, “the book”, unmechanical, religion, what is the machine exactly?, is the machine Capitalism? Google? Wikipedia? The Internet? Communism?, the beds only come in one size, the six sided cell, a hive society, command societies, totalitarianism, “machines are in the saddle and ride mankind”, the trains make us run on time, a network of machines is the Machine, a perfected machine disallows individuality, “In the dawn of the world our weakly must be exposed on Mount Taygetus”, the worship of Helios, Ancient Greece, the homeless don’t die, despite being set in the future this is a danger in human existence, a perfect social system (utopia), an inversion of the ancient Spartan technique, not to go against the Greek, an inversion of the Garden of Eden story, in real life, a very disturbing story, a hopeful ending, a white snout, sexual competition as in Dracula, have we learned our lesson?, a passion for connection, Wall-E, infantilized adults, vomitorium, Logan’s Run, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, an anti-romantic Eden, “they give me no ideas”, “metal blind”, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster invented Skype?, pneumatic tube, Paris, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, the business of Science Fiction isn’t technological prediction, a totalizing synergy, the blue slates, an Edwardian future, the machine religion, humans enslaved by their own social attitude, Cory Doctorow, the mending committee doesn’t know how to fix anything, personifying and deifying the machine, Voltaire’s “The better is the enemy of the good.”, Protagoras, the Sophists, a sophist editorial cartoon, give me money and pay attention to me, an incredibly weak story with spectacularly fruitful ideas, what does it mean to say “I read something and liked it?”, The City And The Stars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, its left to us to ponder some very deep questions, we’re not at The City And The Stars tech yet, the 1970s and the 1990s was the time for Brave New World, complementary drugs, the work and the context we read them in, recycling of knowledge and group consensus, exciting and relevant for our time, where and when we are when we first read something is important, Against The Fall Of Night, The Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Have Space-Suit, Will Travel, Little Brother, the civilized society and the outer savage, Dr. Eric & Mr. Moon.
Posted by Jesse Willis
I probably should have told you about this podcast earlier, the thing is, I forgot just how stupid BBC policy can be. So, hurry up and subscribe to this great podcast before what remains of the earlier files drop out of the feed!
Tales from Ancient Greece, a production of BBC Learning, is a dramatized retelling of the Greek mythology. Officially the show is “particularly suitable for children aged 9 to 11,” but I like it quite a bit too. The premise is that Hermes, the winged messenger god, was a witness to practicality every famous Greek myth and in each 15 minute show he’ll take us on one such adventure. Here’s a snippet of the official description:
“[Hermes'] stories are full of laughter and sorrow and unusual people, places and creatures. The series includes such favourites as the story of Persephone, King Midas, the Minotaur and Medusa.”
Unfortunately you’ve already missed Orpheus and Eurydice (episode 2) and Persephone (episode 1)!
The show is weekly and began with Episode 0, beginning on May 1, 2013 (it was just an introductory 9 second podcast announcing that the show would be weekly).
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
My favourite episode so far was that of Perseus And The Gorgon (episode 4) |MP3|. I’ve even LEGOized it!
Posted by Jesse Willis
From 1920: The Statement Of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft – |MP3|
Posted by Jesse Willis