The SFFaudio Podcast #208 – Scott, Jesse, and Tamahome talk about the Audible.com audiobook The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age by Stanisław Lem
Talked about on today’s show:
reality shows, Duck Dynasty, about words, puns, rhyming, nothing, negative, was Lem a robot?, modern or timeless?, H.G. Wells, full of great ideas, fables, fairy tales, The Brothers Grimm, royalty,
“Have it compose a poem- a poem about a haircut! But lofty, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter S!!” …
Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Some savage, spectacular suicide.”
shooting an arrow at a barn, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Robert Sheckley, robots, the Google Doodle tribute to Stanisław Lem, a metaphor for our reality, the Wikipedia entry on Fables, Aesop’s Fables, Eric S. Rabkin, Scott is interested in Lem, Karol Wojtyła (aka Pope John Paul II), Poland, a small interesting country, Memoirs Found In A Bathtub, Audible’s audiobook, why did Jenny “Lem” this Lem?, Fox is not necessarily always the same fox, distant past? distant future?, “mostly harmless” palefaces, Princess Crystal, everybody’s a robot, a suitable suitor,
“Your Highness, my name is Myamlak and I crave nought else but to couple with you
in a manner that is liquid, pulpy, doughy and spongy, in accordance with the customs of
my people. I purposely permitted myself to be captured by the pirate, and requested him
to sell me to this portly trader, as I knew the latter was headed for your kingdom. And I
am exceeding grateful to his laminated person for conveying me hither, for I am as full of
love for you as a swamp is full of scum.”
The princess was amazed, for truly, he spoke in paleface fashion, and she said:
“Tell me, you who call yourself Myamlak the paleface, what do your brothers do
during the day?”
“O Princess,” said Ferrix, “in the morning they wet themselves in clear water, pouring
it upon their limbs as well as into their interiors, for this affords them pleasure.
they walk to and fro in a fluid and undulating way, and they slush, and they
slurp, and when anything grieves them, they palpitate, and salty water streams from
their eyes, and when anything cheers them, they palpitate and hiccup, but their eyes
remain relatively dry. And we call the wet palpitating weeping, and the dry—laughter.”
“If it is as you say,” said the princess, “and you share your brothers’ enthusiasm for
water, I will have you thrown into my lake, that you may enjoy it to your fill, and also I
will have them weigh your legs with lead, to keep you from bobbing up …”
“Your Majesty,” replied Ferrix as the sage had taught him, “if you do this, I must
perish, for though there is water within us, it cannot be immediately outside us for longer
than a minute or two, otherwise we recite the words ‘blub, blub, blub,’ which signifies our
last farewell to life.”
“But tell me, Myamlak,” asked the princess, “how do you furnish yourself with the
energy to walk to and fro, to squish and to slurp, to shake and to sway?”
“Princess,” replied Ferrix, “there, where I dwell, are other palefaces besides the
hairless variety, palefaces that travel predominantly on all fours. These we perforate until
they expire, and we steam and bake their remains, and chop and slice, after which we
incorporate their corporeality into our own. We know three hundred and seventy-six
of murdering, twenty-eight thousand five hundred and ninety-seven
distinct methods of preparing the corpses, and the stuffing of those bodies into our bodies
(through an aperture, called the mouth) provides us with no end of enjoyment.
the art of the preparation of corpses is more esteemed among us than astronautics and is
termed gastronautics, or gastronomy—which, however, has nothing to do with
“Does this then mean that you play at being cemeteries, making of yourselves the
very coffins that hold your four-legged brethren?”
the poet robot,
Trurl adjusted, modulated, expostulated,
disconnected, ran checks, reconnected, reset, did everything he could think of, and the
machine presented him with a poem that made him thank heaven Klapaucius wasn’t
there to laugh—imagine, simulating the whole Universe
from scratch, not to mention
Civilization in every particular, and to end up with such dreadful doggerel! Trurl put in six
cliche filters, but they snapped like matches; he had to make them out of pure corundum
steel. This seemed to work, so he jacked the semanticity up all the way, plugged in an
alternating rhyme generator—which nearly ruined everything, since the machine
resolved to become a missionary among destitute tribes on far-flung planets. But at the
very last minute, just as he was ready to give up and take a hammer to it, Trurl was
struck by an inspiration; tossing out all the logic circuits, he replaced them with
self-regulating egocentripetal narcissistors. The machine simpered a little, whimpered a
little, laughed bitterly, complained of an awful pain on its third floor, said that in general it
was fed up, though, life was beautiful but men were such beasts and how sorry they’d all
be when it was dead and gone. Then it asked for pen and paper. Trurl sighed with relief,
switched it off and went to bed.
Men are such beasts but we’ll be sad when they’re gone, the paperbook, kudos to narrator Scott Aiello, satire of something, Mandrillion the Greatest, ruler of the Multitudians, the perfect advisor, fantasy with Science Fiction language, lawyer soup, Escape Pod, Peter Swirski, A Stanislaw Lem Reader, reviews, people who review Lem, Lem = genius, sitting in awe, “Imagine a mixture of Borges, Calvino, Saint-Exupéry, Pynchon, Douglas Adams, Samuel Beckett, L. Frank Baum, Dr. Seuss, Lewis Caroll, and perhaps a little Philip K. Dick. That’s what this is like, sort of.”, complete impatience with reading “another one of these or another one of those”, A Perfect Vacuum, a big show-off, the ideas per story quotient, Gene Wolfe, Jorge Luis Borges, meta, overwhelming wordplay, digressions aplenty, format and rules, classic Hard SF, the hyperdrive handwaviumed away, all of language is handwavium, Sodium stars with an N, we think when we’ve named something we’ve understood it, make sense out of nonsense, stardust into toilet seats:
Feeling dismay rather
than disappointment at this neglect, I immediately sat down and wrote The Scourge of
Reason, two volumes, in which I showed that each civilization may choose one of two
roads to travel, that is, either fret itself to death, or pet itself to death. And in the course
of doing one or the other, it eats its way into the Universe, turning cinders and flinders of
stars into toilet seats, pegs, gears, cigarette holders and pillowcases, and it does this
because, unable to fathom the Universe, it seeks to change that Fathomlessness into
Something Fathomable, and will not stop until the nebulae and planets have been
processed to cradles, chamber pots and bombs, all in the name of Sublime
Order, for only a Universe with pavement, plumbing, labels and catalogues is, in its sight, acceptable
and wholly respectable.
the are no rules in The Cyberiad, owookiee’s 1 star review of The Cyberiad, a Droopy cartoon as directed by Tex Avery, The Perfect Imitation adapted, saggy biologicals, Daniel Mróz’ illustrations, Tobias Buckell’s blog post about The Fate Of Today’s Book Bloggers, the way Luke Burrage reviews books, a constructed object vs. a piece of art, conversations between writers, how books should be talked about, the SFSignal new releases posts, zombie novels, you’re reading the books wrong, you should read by author, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, Philip K. Dick, George R.R. Martin, Fred Himebaugh (@Fredosphere), Twitter fight!, looking for reasons not to read books, Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert, if a book sucks you usually stop reading that author entirely, Neal Stephenson, positive that tell you nothing about why it’s good, wandering through the woods eating rocks and bark, moods, Star Wars fans, get meta, reviewing novels vs. short stories, in the context, negative reviews tell you a lot more about a book than positive reviews, this book has too much science, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, panspermia and ancient astronauts, the finite and the infinite, iTunes U, characters on Battlestar Galactica are always confronted the question “what is human?”, synthesis, the enemy is the ally, the enemy is indistinguishable from one’s self, a space fable, Caprica,
Sumerian Aramaic Sanskrit and Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Firefly, a gift of kindness, Porco Rosso, Hayao Miyazaki, what is IT Tam?
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Edward M. Lerner; Read by Grover Gardner
Length: 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Themes: / Science! / satellites / engineers / NASA / terrorists / oil / energy / space / thriller /
The SFFaudio crew pegged me to read this book because the description says that one of the main characters is a NASA engineer. I always think it’s funny when people specify “NASA” engineer. It’s like on TV shows when you see people working near the space shuttle, they’re all wearing NASA hats. Nobody does that. The description could just as easily said “aerospace engineer” and the meaning would be the same…but less sexy, somehow. I admit, I was weary of reading this one at first. My experience with people who write about “NASA engineers” is that they have no idea what they’re talking about excepting cursory research. I’m happy to report that Edward M. Lerner does know what he’s talking about with regards to the space and satellite stuff (looking at his bio, it’s no surprise). That said, I went into this thinking it was going to be a science fiction book. It’s much more a mystery/thriller with science fiction elements. It’s as much “science fiction” as Daemon is (which is to say, not much).
In the interest of full disclosure, it’s probably worth mentioning that I am currently employed by a company that (among other things) designs and builds satellites, both for the government and the commercial sector. I currently work on the commercial side of things and have never worked on a NASA contract. There are definite holes and inaccuracies with the science and engineering in this book. But most people won’t recognize them, and they don’t impact the overall enjoyment of the story.
That disclaimer done with, Energized was pretty entertaining. Set in the near-future United States, the world has gone through a “crude-tastrophe” and the price of oil has skyrocketed to the tune of $20+/gallon to fill up a car. There is a fixed market, controlled mostly by Russian interests, for oil, so naturally the US explores alternate energy sources. Unfortunately, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s virtually impossible to produce enough energy via alternate sources overnight. NASA has been working on a large-scale satellite that can beam solar energy to earth from space.
The first third of the book (maybe closer to the first half) deals with the public (and private sector) reactions to this kind of a satellite and introduces the reader (listener?) to the concept and its risks. Admittedly, this section could have been shorter without sacrificing much of the story; it did seem to drag on a bit.
The second section of the book introduces the “thriller” aspect. As anybody in the aerospace industry is aware, the stuff built “for the powers of good” in/for space can usually be used to do evil. Sure enough, terrorists find a way to take over the satellite and use its harnessed energy to destroy ground-based and air-based targets. As is typical for thrillers, there are some good guys in the area, capable of stopping the terrorists. In this case it’s Marcus Judson, NASA engineer, one of the lead consultants for the power satellite project, along with some of his colleagues. Yet again, this section seemed overly long and drawn out.
However, the length of the first two sections may only seem long in relation to the final section–the part where the final “battle” occurs and either good or evil triumphs. This part felt a bit rushed, comparatively. In retrospect, I think it was probably the right length and that the other two parts were just a bit too long. I won’t spoil it for you, but the final “battle” involves maneuvering (literally and metaphorically) on the ground and on the 2 mile-on-a-side power satellite. It stretches the belief but still left me interested and wanting to listen to see what happened next.
As I stated previously, the book was enjoyable. It was a bit far-fetched but not so far-fetched as to be completely unbelievable. The science fiction elements are there and create an atypical setting for most mystery/thriller type books, and I’d recommend this to anybody that enjoys the mystery/thriller genre.
Grover Gardner is one of my favorite narrators and he shines in this type of book. He also narrates the Andy Carpenter books, another mystery/thriller series, so it feels natural for him to read Energized. The only “weirdness” I had is that the Andy Carpenter books have a character named Marcus as well, so hearing of two very different “Marcus” characters read by the same narrator was a bit jarring at times.
All in all, this is a popcorn-type book, easily consumed and digested. It does have its flaws (with the technical side of things as well as story length), but they’re not so big as to ruin the fun. If you’re in the market for a hard science fiction book with far-reaching themes, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a thriller with science fiction elements, you’ll probably enjoy Energized well enough.
Review by terpkristin.
The SFFaudio Podcast #173 – A Thousand Deaths by Jack London, read by Julie Hoverson (of 19 Nocturne Boulevard). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (29 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, Julie Hoverson, and Matthew Sanborn Smith
Talked about on today’s show:
Jack London’s first professional sale, “the hirsute fruit”, the LibriVox version, is the protagonist supposed to be female?, “I don’t know what’s real”, a disintegrated Saint Bernard, a Freudian story, The Island Of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, vivisection on a South Pacific Island, a mad scientist, oedipal literature, London’s own life, H.P. Lovecraft, re-animation, archaic language, Frankenstein, a well educated sailor with an interest in science, obliquely obtuse, The Call Of The Wild, peregrinating, “overly smarty-pantsy”, is it all a dream?, a conscious death, horror, drowned sailors owe their revivers, Poultrygeist, the catalyst event, “an amoral scumbag”, Phineas Gage, blowing smoke up the near drowned, the disintegration door, Doctor Manhattan, Fallout: New Vegas, the disintegration ray, dis-integrate, anti-gravity, electrolysis, synthetic clothing, “animal charcoal”, The Shadow And The Flash is Jack London’s take on The Invisible Man, not just dogs and boats, London’s Polynesian stories, sink the Farallones, San Francisco, suspended animation, chest tampering, death vs. approaching death, drowning vs. poisoning, exploring the boundaries of death, Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe, zombies, coffin bells, meteor insurance, “I brought you in [to this world] and I can take you back out”, Bill Cosby, Jack London’s writing voice, action³, verb heavy vibrancy, a raging socialist, is it interesting or is it good?, lockjaw, psychological damage, the ending is ambiguous, a dilettante and a wastrel, do deaths mature you?, an inversion of the prodigal son, what would Eric S. Rabkin say about this story?, time travel, early Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe -> Fitz-James O’Brien -> Lord Dunsany -> William Hope Hodgson -> Ambrose Bierce, “gonzo”, “where do your ideas come from?”, There’s a Crapp For That, picturemypoo.com, eww, Flatliners, spiritualism vs. materialism, ghosts, patents, olympics, Julie Hoverson’s copyright, patent and trademarks podcast?, shotgun shelled powered battering ram, Julie Hoverson is incredibly busy, thanks Julie!, Jonathan Davis, “don’t surprise the actors”,
Posted by Jesse Willis
One of the earliest detectives in history, or at least the history of literature, is Zadig. Zadig is the main character of Voltaire’s philosophical novel Zadig; Or The Book Of Fate – An Oriental History. I stumbled across it’s existence while reading an old issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in which one chapter was featured under the title The Dog And The Horse. The brief editorial introduction, and some further researches on my own, assert that Zadig in this chapter may have been the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s C. August Dupin!
I can sort of see it too, for The Dog And The Horse shows a kind of giant first step in an evolutionary process of the detective – seeing his marriage turn sour Zadig turns to the study of nature for his joy. A kind of passionate interest in the world is necessary for both the scientific detective and the more Sherlockian sort of detective.
The story is damn funny too.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Here’s a rather timely re-post, one based on a post prompted back in 2006 by an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. Professor Esther M. Hu, pointed me towards this reading of an Arthur C. Clarke classic, one read by Clarke himself!
Listening to it again today, and thinking about the significance of science and history of such an event, and the related event happening today, I found Clarke’s reading of The Transit Of Earth to be an incredibly moving experience.
Since then I’ve noticed that there was an introduction written for it too, which appeared in the May 1984 issue of Omni. It’s rather timely, considering that Clarke mentions today’s transit of Venus (which will be the last until 2117):
Here is that issue of Omni in the |CBR| format.
The Transit Of Earth
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by Arthur C. Clarke
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Product #: TC-1566
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, and its author Stephen Greenblatt, are the subject of the latest CBC Ideas podcast. The Swerve is the story of the recovery of a lost epic Roman poem, by Titus Lucretius Carus, titled On The Nature Of Things – Greenblat makes the case for it being a work that changed the world, made it modern, by bringing ancient philosophy into an age ready for enlightenment. It’s an absolutely fascinating discussion. Host Paul Kennedy, as usual, shows that Canadian tax dollars can be used incredibly well when put in the right hands.
The poem in question is available as a LibriVox audiobook HERE.
And The Swerve: How the World Became Modern is available from Recorded Books (narrated by Edoardo Ballerini).
Here’s the book’s description:
Renowned historian Stephen Greenblatt’s works shoot to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. With The Swerve, Greenblatt transports listeners to the dawn of the Renaissance and chronicles the life of an intrepid book lover who rescued the Roman philosophical text On the Nature Of Things from certain oblivion.
Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late 30s took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic by Lucretius – a beautiful poem containing the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.
The copying and translation of this ancient book – the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age – fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare, and even Thomas Jefferson.
Here’s the |MP3|
Podcast feed: http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/includes/ideas.xml
Posted by Jesse Willis