Talked about on today’s show:
a recent novel, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, a long novel, a genderless society, an absence of vocabulary, a politics-biology-language fusion, a light space opera, a murder mystery, a multi-body perspective, foreshadowing a sequel, confusing historical allusions, empire, imagination, personal story, dialogic, magnetic fiction in space, a puppet-like main character, mysterious actions, an unsatisfactory explanation, slave women, a fight for emancipation, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, auxiliaries, the story of Spartacus, Roman family bonding, Jane Austen, dystopia, slaves into servants, expected violence, Roman colonization, a distinct approach to human ethics, the Old Testament, old-fashioned faith, short stories, key words, views of reality, spiritual progress, omnipotent deities, reconstructed ancient religions, J.R.R Tolkien, Lieutenant Ahn, Hindu deities, tea, Jo Walton, coffee, Japanese morality, Shintoism, Horrible Histories, Scholastic books, Frank Herbert, religious engineering, Hellstrom’s Hive by Frank Herbert, government religion, Dune by Frank Herbert.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1968, science fiction by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner, abridged version, audiobook, repetition of theme, an introductory novel to Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick, jam packed with action, one long day, the fake police station, a classic Dick move, how many androids are there in this book?, movies, androids, legitimate slavery, Luba, minority, androids v. slaves, reality of humans, psychological tests, visuals, dialogic science fiction, Wilder Penfield, The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton, mood organ, existential humor, satire, artificial, unbelievable world, endless competition, goat glands, Sydney’s Catalog, the BBC Radio 4 audio drama by Jonathan Holloway & Kerry Shale, parallel characters, undercut truth, an animal theme, religious allusions, Mercer, Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan), lurker, detective story, lack of world descriptions, less striking scenes in the movie, Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick, tomb world, fraud corpses, Mercer v. Jesus, lack of introduction in the movie, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the maker, hope of freedom, androids as fiends, humans yet not humans, what is the definition of human?, the question, the title, empathy to androids, Deckard’s predictions, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, predestination, fake things, simulacra, electrically modified ecology, emotional drug, consumerism, The Days of Perky Pat by Philip K. Dick, Nanny by Philip K. Dick, the vale of reality, the cuckoo clock in Blade Runner, layered symbols, visualizing future technologies, Kayla Williams, unobvious connections, paranoia, suspicion of government, The Exit Door Leads In by Philip K. Dick, unimportance of religious reality, environmental awareness, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, dehumanization in war, androids = inverted human, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, television, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, 1984 by George Orwell, podcasting, Metropolis (Fritz Lang), Max Headroom, “Five Minutes Into the Future”, The Red Room by H.P. Lovecraft, haunted media.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #280 – Völsungasaga translated by Eiríkr Magnússon and William Morris; read by Corpang (of LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the saga (4 hours) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
anonymous, 1000 AD, Beowulf, Germanic myth collection, Volsung Dynasty, quick character changes, irrational logic, biblical similarities, Sigurd, echoes of myths, family relationships in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Tales of Dragons, a hodgepodge of influences, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, dramatic events, wolves, half-historical and half-saga storytelling, origin from Homeric Myths, odes, cyclical time, less Christian influences than other written sagas, a source or influences on stories and also influenced by earlier sagas, Vikings on History Channel, moral lessons to be awesome, unconsciousness of glorious kings with immoral actions, The Old Testament, hierarchy of power, jealousy of wealth and power, Medieval Japan, neighbor relationships, attitudes toward prophesy and fate, stoicism and acceptance, Odin Mythology, simple naming of characters, absence of fear of death, reincarnation, female equality, werewolves, Roman Mythology, frequent raiding, laws protecting wolves, wolves as outlaws, Caligula, power creates rules, Christian epics with Christian rule system, power of sacrifice, irrational idea of original sin, The New Testament subverting the idea of superiority, master morality and the slave morality, a lot of similarity to Beowulf, a source for education and entertainment, reason for being dramatic, 13th century literature, history in a very vague and incorrect way, more atrocity earlier in the saga, parallel between fantasy and real life, Story of Attila, transmission of knowledge, Haida Gwaii’s similarity to Vikings, We are really here for the gold!, names of dwarfs, broken names, obsession of money creates craziness, atrocity and craziness as history, story created before medieval nobility, morality as generosity, guest morality, Richard Wagner, being near Vikings is dangerous, endurance of pain as superior, no laughs and mild jokes in Volsunga saga, disrespect is bad, burial traditions create conflict, William Morris, the absence of slaves in Tolkien Fiction, free society.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about in this episode:
1976, “hey it’s Zelazny”, Tibor and whatnot, “The Great C.“, waking from a gnostic dream of oblivion, “the book is opaque to say the least”, “on the pilg”, recommended for super Dick-fans who like religion, New Wave (basically shitty), Christianity, Ted White, the Sector General novels, mythology and religion, 80-85% Dick, post-apocalyptic story, the local A.I., the sacrifice of the Athenians to the Minotaur, like a Jeopardy game, heliocentricity vs. geocentricity, “Benford, Bear, and Brin’s new Foundation trilogy”, Hari Seldon in a chimpanzee body, The Best Of Gregory Benford, it’s a paycheck, “If you wanna read this piece of shit that’s fine … I’m getting paid.”, cynicism, looking for the truth behind things, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Tibor’s conversations, there’s no fixed ground, Dr. Bloodmoney, Or How We Got Along After The Bomb, the fallout from nuclear fallout, Utah, Denver, “where are they getting this coffee?”, the socio-economic underpinnings of this book are fantasy, The Man In The High Castle, is he really worried about his bottle?, Autofac, the consequences of automated production, an economic weapon a weapon of war, Gresham’s law, The Crawlers, incs = incompletes, the thalidomide baby phenomenon, Arthur C. Clarke, Of Withered Apples (and our podcast about it), the apple tree scene doesn’t pay-off, the dog, episodic feel, the parallel pilgrimage of Peter Sands, the guy with the face problem, devil from the sky, Lufteufel (from the German words “Luft,” meaning “air,” and “Teufel,” meaning “Devil”), the class of people who engage with believers but don’t believe themselves, if you go into churches…, if there is a point to this story, representation, no photos of Jesus, does it matter if we worship a false image?, drawing a symbol, “the novel is extremely gnostic”, Zelazny’s Amber series, Islam goes the opposite way, depictions of Muhammad, believers tend not to worry about such details, the Klingons, the gnostic gloss, “it works as what it is”, the miracle of the arms and legs, a vision of the Deus Irae, what’s going on with the cow?, she’s a holy cow, the authors say?, “the cow slept and dreamed – Tibor ruminated.”, mechanical arms only (no legs), the crucifixion in reverse, the endings, Lufteufel and his daughter, dissolution, he does partake in divinity, Dr. Abernathy, Luke Daniels, the ozone in the air, an Arthurian motif, the healing of the wound, The Last Defender Of Camelot, dedicated Stanley G. Weinbaum and The Martian Odyssey, connecting the books, The Martian Odyssey is important and interesting but not great, “a classic of the field”, the first Science Fiction to come out of the 1920s, mostly junk, aliens that are just alien, where it fits in the history of Science Fiction, PKD’s favourite author was A.E. van Vogt, changing things up every thousand words, a formative influence on both Dick and Zelazny?, Eric S. Rabkin, maybe they had coffee together, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., dung beetles, the lizards (Lizzies), the talking bird, “the little black boys”, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison, transformed by Am, another name for God or Popeye, evil turns into good, it’s all for the best, the philosophy behind Voltaire’s Candide, “it was good that we had a nuclear war”, the story of Noah, the ultimate Spring cleaning, religious people don’t tend to get stuck at that point, “maybe I’m wrong”, somebody is going to enjoy that sermon by Dr. Abernathy, the passing of good out of evil, internal arguments, “good” is not as strong as “evil”, a very clever sophistic argument that kind of works, a lot of German, allusions to other literature, and “the stars threw down their spears”, William Blake’s Tyger Tyger, a gnostic poem, the currency of half-forgotten poems, funerals and weddings call for the imagery and vocabulary of poetry, cultural tools for sealing social relationships, The Stars My Destination, what is gnosticism?, going out into a cave…, a vision quest, revelations, Jesus’ marriage, canonized gnosticism, religion as Jesus fan fiction, fan service, Galactic Pot Healer, a crisis of faith, a god needs help, a lack of editing, the meditation/drug thing, pastors can be grumpy without coffee and cigarettes, Abernathy is an asshole.
Posted by Jesse Willis
This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (10 hours 1 minute) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.org. The Star Rover was first published in 1915.
The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!
Posted by Jesse Willis
C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius and Reluctant Prophet
By Alister E. McGrath; Read by Robin Sachs
13 hours 56 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Oasis Audio
Themes: / biography / religion / fantasy / medieval literature
Before setting out on this review, I must apologize for the liberal use of the first-person pronoun, which I normally use sparingly. This book intersects my personal and professional interests at several points, so I’m not even going to attempt an objective, impartial review, if such a thing is even possible. I am, as Lewis was, a student of medieval literature, though I can only dream of reaching his depth of knowledge and scope of imagination in this field. Furthermore, I undertook part of my studies at Oxford University, which was home to Lewis for much of his life. The City of Dreaming Spires, as Matthew Arnold called it, exerted a profound influence on Lewis’s life and work, and having walked its winding cobbled streets and ancient quadrangles it’s easy to understand why. Last, but certainly not least, Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia had a profound impact on my intellectual and imaginative development as a child. In this I suspect I’m not alone, and I hope this review will encourage readers to learn more about the life and mind behind one of the wellsprings of modern fantasy.
Before discussing the biography itself, I should say something of its author. Though currently Professor of Theology at King’s College, London, McGrath’s previous post was in Oxford, where I had heard his name spoken with a great deal of respect while I was there. The biography lists ever so slightly in the direction of Christianity, reflecting its author’s background in theology and apologetics, but on the whole it’s a balanced work firmly grounded in scholarly research of Lewis’s works and correspondence. The biography, of course, deals extensively with Lewis’s religious and spiritual development so central in his life and work, but the work by no means white-washes Lewis’s life or even his faith. This audio recording is preceded by an interview with McGrath, whose calm, measured voice assures us as listeners that we’re chosen a trustworthy guide down the path of Lewis’s life.
Like most biographers, McGrath takes a strictly chronological approach, with very few detours either to backtrack or to foreshadow. The narrative takes us through Lewis’s birth and childhood in Northern Ireland, through his lengthy tenure at Osxford University, to his final years as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge. The biography strikes a delicate balance between Lewis’s rich inner life as reflected in his writings and his sometimes tumultuous outer. In the former case, McGrath devotes considerable space to Lewis’s conversion experience and subsequent development of his spirituality. As an academic, I was also pleased that Lewis’s scholarly works, notably on Edmund Spender’s Faerie Queene and Milton’s Paradise Lost, receive some attention. In regards to Lewis’s personal life, the biography charts Lewis’s many professional disappointments resulting from his popular religious work and the rift that formed between Lewis and other Oxford academics. Lewis’s relationships also receive some attention, in particular his long-running peculiar arrangement with the older Mrs. Moore and his controversial marriage to Joy Davidman. Of course, there is significant interplay between Lewis’s inner and outer lives, and McGrath expertly weaves these strands together to illustrate how one sometimes influenced the other. The book concludes by reflecting on the rise of Lewis’s reputation in various circles, religious and popular, after his death in 1963.
Two whole chapters are dedicated to Lewis’s development of The Chronicles of Narnia. McGrath packs a lot of material into these relatively few pages, from Narnia’s inception in Lewis’s mind, to the debate over the proper reading order of the books (Lewis’s ordering, order of publication, or internal chronology), to the works’ modern reception, especially Philip Pullman’s criticism. This section also manages to delve a little deeper, too, highlighting the philosophical and theological underpinnings of this imaginative, not imaginary, world. McGrath deals with the question of whether Narnia is an allegory, and also links the work to Plato’s Republic and the allegory of shadows in the cave. Obviously this is a lot of topics to cram into so little space, and I would have liked a more thorough treatment, but to be fair this is a biography, not a work of literary criticism. McGrath has promised a fuller, more scholarly edition of this book in the near future, which will likely feature copious footnotes providing a wonderful paper trail for the Narnia enthusiast eager to learn more. SFFaudio readers should also note that Lewis’s lesser-known Space Trilogy also receives brief treatment in this biography.
Though built on academic bedrock, C.S. Lewis: A Life is written in a lively, accessible style. McGrath uses Lewis’s own words, or the words of his associates, when possible, which imbues the book with a sense of immediacy and authenticity to the work. I sometimes felt as though I were in the room with Lewis, Tolkien, and the other Inklings as they discussed important religious, mythological, and literary matters. Like Lewis himself, McGrath also has a way of explaining complex intellectual and theological matters in a way that an average reader like me can understand. This is, in my view, the hallmark of any solid intellectual or literary biography. My only criticism of the book, and it’s a trifling one, is that McGrath hardly even alludes to any sexual relations between Lewis and Mrs. Moore, or later between Lewis and Joy Davidman, even though it’s obvious there was some sort of sexual element to these relationships. Perhaps McGrath found this matter distasteful, or thought the book’s Christian readers would. In any case, this omission is to me the one glaring lacuna in an otherwise thorough life story.
Robin Sachs’s stately narration lends the perfect air of British respectability to the audio edition. His pronunciation of some of the book’s more arcane linguistic and literary terms are, for the most part, spot on. As mentioned earlier, the inclusion of an interview with Alister McGrath, is a welcome addition, and provides additional insights into an already insightful work. Another minor quibble: I feel the interview should have been included at the end of the audiobook, rather than the beginning. I prefer to go into a book unbiased by the author’s later thoughts on the book. Again, though, this quibble is very minor. What does conclude the audiobook, however, is an amazing recording of Lewis at his deep-timbres lecturing finest.
There are certainly many other windows into the lives of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other Inklings. Despite the influence of these authors on my own life, I have to admit I have not read most of these other works. So I’m very glad that one of the first I’ve read has proved to be such an enlightening and entertaining journey, (mostly) free from the partisanship and polarity that plague some biographies of relatively recent figures. I can’t think of many readers who wouldn’t benefit from or at least be entertained by Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life.
Posted by Seth Wilson