The SFFaudio Podcast #200 – Jesse, Mirko, and Gary Lovisi discuss the Science Fiction novel Mars Needs Books! by Gary Lovisi.
Talked about on today’s show:
the great description, Audible.com, it’s a prison novel, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel, it’s a book collector’s novel, Philip K. Dick, a reality dysfunction, The Man In The High Castle, 1984 by George Orwell, “retconning“, Stalin, airbrushing history, a new Science Fiction idea!, Amazon’s Kindle, Mark Twain, “The Department Of Control”, J. Edgar Hoover, Simon is the most evil character ever, oddball individualists, a straw man gulag, one way of keeping the population in control is to send troublemakers away, another is to give them someone to hate, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, the Attica Prison riot (1971), Arabella Rashid, entertainment media, when you can’t tell what the truth is anymore it’s very easy to control people, maybe it’s an allegory for our times, Paperback Parade, SF writers were wrong about what our times are like, Mars, crime novels, Science Fiction as a metaphor, people are scared of reading, “I like good writing”, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, getting the word out about Mars Needs Books!, Gargoyle Nights, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance, horror, fantasy, nice and short, short books pack a punch (and don’t waste your time), Stephen King, Patrick O’Brian, ideas, paperback novels from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, customers want thick books, Winter In Maine by Gerard Donovan, were looking at a different readership today, James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, there’s nothing that doesn’t add to the story, “Lawrence Block is scary good”, Donald E. Westlake, Robert Bloch, Eight Million Ways To Die, A Pair Of Recycled Jeans by Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter (Ed McBain), Charles Ardai (was on SFFaudio Podcast #090), book-collectors, Murder Of A Bookman by Gary Lovisi (is also on Audible.com), collectable glassware, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, cool dialogue, Driving Hell’s Highway by Gary Lovisi (also on Audible.com), That Hell-bound Train by Robert Bloch, noir, Violence Is The Only Solution by Gary Lovisi (paperback), hard-boiled, revenge, betrayal, personality disorder, Sherlock Holmes, westerns, “if there’s one truth in the universe that I know it’s that Germans love westerns”, which frontier are you talking about?, The Wild Bunch, a western with tommyguns, Akira Kurosawa, Outland (is High Noon in space), Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, hard-boiled, violence, the Martian national anthem, Prometheus Award, libertarian motifs, world-building, GryphonBooks.com, Hurricane Sandy, Wildside Press, POD Books, eBooks, fire and water, that paperback is still in readable condition in 150 years?, fanzines, Jack Vance, The Dying Earth, Robert Silverberg, Dell Mapbacks, paperbacks were disposable, used bookstores, sex books.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / Fantasy / Christmas / Elves / Santa / Noir / Murder / Reindeer / It’s a Wonderful Life /
If you’re looking for a holiday story that’s not yet another retelling of The Christmas Carol, then pick up Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man. Gumdrop Coal is framed for murder after being ousted from the Coal Patrol and he’s out to clear his name.
Fired from his longtime job as captain of the Coal Patrol, two-foot-three inch 1,300-year-old elf Gumdrop Coal is angry. He’s one of Santa’s original elves, inspired by the fat man’s vision to bring joy to children on that one special day each year. But somewhere along the way things went sour for Gumdrop. Maybe it was delivering one too many lumps of coal for the Naughty List. Maybe it’s the conspiracy against Christmas that he’s starting to sense down every chimney.
Take all the Christmas references your sweet tooth can stand and keep going, add in an embittered and betrayed Elf from the Coal Patrol, Reindeer with the panache of top gun fighter pilots, and a spunky girl reporter, Buttercup Snitch, who either only has eyes for Gumdrop or is in on the frame job.
The story is told by Gumdrop Coal, leader and founder of the Coal Patrol, in a wonderful hard bitten noir style. Gumdrop is used to dealing with some nasty customers (children). The Coal Patrol are the guys who work from the Naughty List. After it’s been checked, twice.
Set in Kringle Town with Santa and the Elves. Filled with characters you will have heard from assorted Christmas Fairy. But they aren’t all as you might expect.
It isn’t all candy and Christmas trees; there is also a dark side to Kringle Town. The other side of the tracks: Potterville. If you’ve ever watched It’s a Wonderful Life you should recognise that name.
Gumdrop doesn’t believe Naughty Boys and Girls should be treated the same as their well behaved siblings. That smothering all children in gifts regardless of merit lessens both the gift and the child.
Johnny Heller tells it in a wonderful straight-up noir-style, even when doing the high pitched elves.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell
Themes: / fairy / wizard / urban fantasy / near-death /
After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard. He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill. Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…His soul.
After a slight departure from normal Dresden Files form in the preceding Ghost Story–owing to Harry’s (near) death and all–Dresden returns to corporeal form in Cold Days. But he can’t expect a warm welcome, even from his closest friends, because he’s now fulfilling his service as Winter Knight to Mab, the fairy Winter Queen. And this novel manages to raise the stakes again, for Harry, for Chicago, for the world. There have been so many Dresden Files novels now they actually fall into categories: there are vampire novels, fairy novels, wizard council novels, undead novels, and so forth. As the series grows there is more and more crossover, but Cold Days easily qualifies as a fairy novel.
I have two equal and opposite reviews in mind for Cold Days, and instead of choosing which to write, I’ll write both.
The first review argues that Cold Days, the fourteenth installment in the Dresden Files, suffers from serious series fatigue. With a few exceptions, it features largely the same cast of characters, the same locales, and the same themes that readers have grown accustomed to. Despite some glimpses of growth, development, and transformation, Harry Dresden is largely the same smart-mouthed, down-on-the-heel practicing wizard he was in Storm Front. His all-too-frequent pop culture references that once seemed amusing now strike a chord of annoyance. The frenetic action sequences that a few novels ago felt exhilarating now come off as trite and paint-by-numbers. In short, the novel makes me feel as if my once solid relationship with The Dresden Files has fallen a bit flat.
Some of the problems present in Cold Days are inherent in the stagnant conventions of urban fantasy as a whole. Except for a few quick jaunts to Edinburgh or Mexico, the entire series has largely taken place in Chicago. While Aristotle’s unity of place might be best practice for a play or even a novel, it certainly doesn’t work for a series of this length. This reader, at any rate, longs to see the heroes face other challenges in far-off lands. Worse, the single, small, isolated locale undermines the severity of the universal threats posed by the series’ villains. It’s difficult to take seriously a dangerous entity bent on world destruction when the only destruction in evidence takes place within a few city blocks.
With all the storylines introduced over the course of thirteen previous novels, it’s inevitable that not all of them can be picked up or carried along in a sequel, nor should they be. However, a pretty major development took place in book 12, Changes, prior to Harry’s apparent death, that is surprisingly absent from Cold Days, even in Harry’s continuous flow of internal monologue. He makes oblique references to it a few times, but I’d hoped that particular surprise would herald a shift in the series rather than merely the plot for a single novel. It is to be hoped that Jim Butcher will pick up this important thread in future novels.
The other review in my head praises Cold Days as a worthy installment to the Dresden Files series. This is largely on account of Jim Butcher’s vigorous writing style and strong characterization. Pop culture reference overload notwithstanding, Butcher’s writing, like a fine oak-aged whiskey, has only improved with age. Though the action sequences as a plot device are overused, there’s no denying they’re well-written. There’s a knock-down drag-out bar fight early in the novel, and you really can feel every shotgun blast and flying bar stool. The witty, flippant language that jaunts through the novel makes the few moments of gravity or pathos all the more powerful. There’s an exchange between Harry and his friend/love interest (to quote Facebook, “it’s complicated”) Karin Murphy that’s poignant and dramatic enough you’d expect to find it in a Scorsese flick.
And while Harry Dresden himself might wear thin at times, the host of supporting characters still haven’t lost their charm and complexity. Harry’s half-brother Thomas, his apprentice Molly, and polka-infused Medical Examiner Butters all make welcome and notable experiences. These characters crackle with life, personality, and possibility. For me, fantasy and science fiction novels, however wonderful their locales and however revolutionary their ideas, are only as strong as their characters. In a series of this length, the importance of characters increases exponentially. And even if some, including the protagonist, rub me the wrong way at times, they’re still characters I know and care about.
So, two equal and opposing reviews–how to break the tie? Simple: will I read the next Dresden Files novel? The answer is a definite yes. I don’t say this lightly. It takes a lot to keep me, and probably most readers, invested in a long-running series, especially in a sub-genre I don’t usually read. (Incidentally, the fact that I don’t often enjoy urban fantasy means you should take my first, negative review with a pinch of salt.) I bowed out of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after book seven, and I put down Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels after the third installment. Blasphemous as it sounds, I’m even losing patience with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet through thick and thin I’ve stuck with The Dresden Files for fourteen novels filled with great characters and complex supernatural elements. And I’m eager for a fifteenth.
The audio edition marks the return of James Marsters, best known as Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Series TV series, as narrator. Ghost Story, the previous novel, was narrated by John Glover. I feel sorry for narrators who have to pick up a series mid-stream, like John Lee who stood in for Roy Dotrice in narrating George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows. John Glover performed admirably in his reading of Ghost Story, and if he had read the series from the beginning there would have probably been no cause for complaint. But for the previous twelve novels, James Marsters was Harry Dresden. His dry, sometimes deadpan style perfectly fits the Chicago detective noir tone of the novels. So his return to the series is a welcome breath of fresh air. Also, major props to Marsters for hitting the sustained high notes in the dialogue of the minuscule fairy underlings.
Posted by Seth
Filed under: Aural Noir, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show:
Matt is sorry, audiobooks and paperbooks, The Mongoliad (Book 1) by Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, E.D. deBirmingham, Luke Daniels, Brilliance Audio, “speculative history”, shared worlds, Jenny appreciates the effort, Mongolian food yum!, Genghis Kahn And The Making Of The Modern World by Jack Weatherford, swordplay, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Angry Robot Books, “our hirsute friend”, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose“, Peter Boyle, The X-Files, “I’m on team more please”, Counter Clock World by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday, “The librarians have all the power and they use it for evil.”, Red Dwarf, Backwards, WWII in reverse, time’s arrow, South Park, Dreadnaught: The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier by Jack Campbell, military SF, Steve Gibson (of Security Now), “Gratuitous Space Battles”, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Battleship, Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov’s website, D&D style action, George R.R. Martin, Shadow Prowler, is there a Russian Goodreads?, Luke Burrage, The Scar, The Hot Gate by John Ringo, Baen Books, Sword & Laser, Omega Point (A Richards And Klein Investigation) by Guy Haley, an angry AI, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan, “don’t poke the nerds”, Farmer In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, collective tractor problems, Tunnel In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, Silent Running, bringing earth from Earth, Nick Podehl, “solar operas”, The Number Of The Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, a bloaty book, Sliders, lawyer world is our world, bickering about who is in charge, “sensual”, The Number Of The Beast Wikipedia entry, Amidala is Ozma?, Space: 1889, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction: Volume 4 edited by Allan Kaster, After The Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh, Charles Stross, Robert Reed, Kiss The Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton, noir, Anne Rice, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (email Jenny if you’re an audiobook reviewer in search of audiobooks to review), Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde, Hamlet, The Unwritten, Recorded Books, One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde, Shadow Of Night by Deborah Harkness, a Martian day, Moon War by Ben Bova, the “Grand Tour” series, Kim Stanley Robinson, mowing the lawn while audiobooking, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, Downton Abbey, Cranford, The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman, The Secret Pilgrim by John le Carré, A Perfect Spy by John le Carré, Michael Jayston, AuralNoir.com (SFFaudio’s long forgotten clone), “it’s about ideas”, John le Carré as a narrator, Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Penguin Audio, Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman, Breaking Bad, a surreal chain of events, Kirby Heyborne, Homeland by Cory Doctorow, Eric S. Rabkin’s Coursera Course: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, Night Watch by Linda Fairstein, A Game Of Thrones food, when is Winter coming?, Barbara Rosenblat, It’s The Middle Class Stupid by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, is that a speech impediment or an accent?, I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me by Joan Rivers, “You’re not the gay son I wanted.”, Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures Of A Hollywood Geek by Olivia Munn and Mac Montandon |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Newsroom, Attack Of The Show, Michael Caine, audio biographies, My Life by Bill Clinton, Bossypants by Tina Fey, 30 Rock, SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, Phil Gigante, The Stainless Steel Rat, Fatherland, Kop Killer by Warren Hammond, wife wife wife, Spider Play by Lee Killough, Beware the Hairy Mango, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Fatal Girl (anime audio drama), internal consistency, is anime a genre?, Hayao Miyazaki, Tony C. Smith’s District Of Wonders network, StarShipSofa, Tales To Terrify, Crime City Central, Protecting Project Pulp, Lawrence Block, Lawrence Santoro is awesome, should we care about networks?, Mucho Mango Mayo (a new story every day), web-series writing month, Saki, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Dis-Belief, cosmic horror, parallel universes.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The latest StarShipSofa podcast, episode #232, features Neil Gaiman‘s 2010 novelette The Truth Is A Cave In The Back Mountains as its “main fiction.” The narrator is Richie Smith and the story begins at about 12 minutes in.
Podcast feed: http://www.starshipsofa.com/feed
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
There are few words that can get me as excited about a story as “Neil Gaiman” – he’s one of only a handful of living writers that’ll make me read anything he writes.
And when a story gets podcast I tend to go a little crazy, extracting the narration from any framing bits within the podcast, running that extracted audio through Levelator, and making my own art for the resulting MP3. Like this:
I took the original cover art by the wondrous Tom Gauld from the collection (Stories) where the novelette first appeared, photoshopped it (actually Paint.neted it), used MyFont.com’s “What The Font” feature to find the font (Didot LTStd-Roman), and put it all together.
Looking at it from the outside, it probably sounds completely bonkers to you. And perhaps it is.
But what can I do?
The medication that I’ve been taking for it (two carefully measured cups of coffee every morning) aren’t reducing the behavior in the slightest. Do you think I should up my dosage?
Update: Having now finished listening, I find The Truth Is A Cave In The Back Mountains to be yet more proof that Neil Gaiman is one of the best authors of any century. What Ted Chiang is to Science Fiction Neil Gaiman is to Fantasy.
Posted by Jesse Willis
House Of Secrets, a comic shop in Burbank, California, hosted this live reading of a Criminal short written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Sean Philips. It’s called 21st Century Noir and delivers on every aspect of that title.
Here’s the official vid:
And here it is from a different angle:
Posted by Jesse Willis