The SFFaudio Podcast #255 – The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers; read by Mark Turetsky. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 25 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Mark Turetsky!
Talked about on today’s show:
The King Of Yellow, 1895, novelette, the connections between the stories, Cynthia, the coda, The Mask, Paris, the lethal chamber (a suicide booth), the Fates, revision of judgement, questioning the reader’s sanity, The Yellow Sign, Hildred Castaigne, the future setting (or lack thereof), the statue of Garibaldi (at Washington Square Park), the Carcosa Mythos, weird tales, weird romances, New York City, Mr. Wilde, Hawberk, Dr. Archer, the geography of Washington Square, the elevated train, a subway entrance (as a death chamber), the Wikipedia entry, Futurama (and New New York), a bohemian place, NYU, why is everything militarized?, what’s with the jingle of metal?, the expansion of the American Empire, “citation needed”, dragoons, hussars, lancers, the Prussian style, New Jersey, the texture of the fantasy future, a courtly atmosphere, colouring psychosis, a Napoleonic fascist sate, the meta-fictional nature of The King In Yellow, the Cthulhu Mythos vs. the Yellow Mythos, a surrealist existential nightmare, a fall from a horse, “he’s in the biscuit box”, it’s not horror, weird fiction, Ambrose Bierce, Science Fiction, science, the pinnacle of technology is a dreadnaught, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, Copernicus, Ptolemy, Galileo, the Moons of Jupiter, we’re living in a paradigm, a time of scientific flux, modern atomic theory (and The Mask), H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism, Steve Job and the “reality distortion field“, a social reality, Mr. Wilde’s career is the ability to distort social reality, “Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon”, Charlemagne, George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.“, Emperor Norton, California, Ambrose Bierce, “A sure sign of a genius is that all of the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”, the Hawberk (aka the Duke of Avonshire), the Metropolitan Museum, why does Louis visit Hildred?, the lethal chamber is central to the action, under the thrall of the Yellow Sign, Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant, insanity and isolation, how is Hildred employed?, how Schizophrenia works, going along with the delusion, what is the significance of the cat?, the crisis comes when the cousin has to move, the crush on Constance, the anti-story nature of the work, the unreliable narrator (not Mark!), “suspension of disbelief”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and the old romantic poets), a reaction against science, are the ships real?, aren’t the ships and cavalry set up as a Chekov’s Gun that will go off?, internal inconsistencies, how old are the characters?, Hildred vs. Louis, the statue of General Sheridan, Académie Julian, artists and prostitutes and models, The Mask by Robert W. Chambers, what photography did to painting, impressionism, disruptive ideas, the homunculus, the missing fingers, the damaged ears, Mr. Wilde’s manuscript is the story we’re reading!, is the Chamber is a reference to Chambers himself?, The Street Of The First Shell by Robert W. Chambers, the siege of Paris (during the Franco-Prussian War), Two Fishers by Guy de Maupassant, the Benedict (80 Washington Square East), HBO’s True Detective and the connections to The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, detecting reality (and identity), the purple ears vs. pink ears, how does repairing reputations work?, Hildred’s reputation, a Strangers On A Train-esque clearing house for murder, Scandal (we haven’t seen it), Osgood Oswald Vance, crouching, who killed Mr. Wilde?, the cat did it!, the cat must be symbolic, Oscar Wilde and The Yellow Book, a web of fantasies, “folie à deux”, ‘don’t make fun of crazy people because their folly lasts longer than our own’, we don’t have perfect access to reality, WWI, a social reality vs. a harsh physical reality of artillery, madman vs. a fool, craziness vs. folly, Omar Khayyám, Act 1, Act 2 will make you insane, densely packed with world and incidence, revolutionary science, speculation, no Shyamalan twists please, Cohle and Hart, precedents for a twelve year gap, Battlestar Galactica, Vikings, Rome, Lost, it won’t be a happy ending, suicide is hugely important in both stories, ‘death is not the end’, back to the cat, The Street Of The Four Winds by Robert W. Chambers, cats, dark magic, evil omens, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, No mask?, Stefan Rudnicki talking about The King In Yellow, the “pallid mask”, is it a skull?, Boris, the face in the fates, the bird on the statue, a jigsaw puzzle, “the long arm of The King In Yellow reaches forward and backward in time and space”, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, is Mr. Wilde real at all?, a very readable book, stylistically it’s surprising modern, the artisty milieu, a freshness, “beware of The King In Yellow“.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – The Anticipator by Morley Roberts; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (17 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon!
Talked about in this episode: Story “found through a route obscure and lonely” via Arthur C. Clarke’s A Recursion in Metastories; H.G. Wells; story anthologized in time travel collection; Morley Roberts popular in The Strand magazine right alongside H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle; a story about the writer’s life; serialized fiction in the Victorian era; Victorian writers crossed genres more frequently; ornate, flowery writing style; invoking the ancestors and collective race memory; names in the story; ESP; main character is a drug addict “of the Holmesian school”; metafiction; William Williamson; semiautomatic writing; writing, sleep, and the subconscious; fiction as an escape; recursion in the story; The Food of the Gods (both the novel by H.F. Wells and the short story by Arthur C. Clarke); variations in writerly productivity; The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells; Philip K. Dick’s frenetic drug-fueled writing schedule; modern books are less thought-provoking and don’t age well; The Land of the Ironclads by H.G. Wells; the metaphor of gemstones as writing and the importance of metaphor in general; Mr. Jim Moon debunks the “cult of personality”; Stephen King’s Danse Macabre: “talent is like a knife”; Jesse thinks NaNoWriMo is a bad idea; Ted Chiang; Harlan Ellison’s as-yet-unpublished third volume of Dangerous Visions.
And check out the wonderful two-page doodle of the story by the amazing Samantha Wikan, it’s below!
Talked about on this episode:
Posted by Jesse Willis
This collection of “excerpts” from Childhood’s End (TC164) was published on LP in 1979. It was recorded in Sri Lanka by Arthur C. Clarke himself.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / interspecies slavery / telepathic FTL spaceships / galactic colonizing / Philosoraptors / science fiction / space / aliens /
2457 AD. The longest space voyage in history has begun: 230 light years from a ravaged Earth to the pristine star system of New Eden — a beacon of hope following the Doom Star days. Aboard the ship are human colonizers, the Space Navy, fierce “Monitors” once bred to fight Cyborgs, and four “Specials” — humans with psionic abilities, capable of ripping holes in space to jump vast distances. But one Special has his own agenda and when an alien presence makes an offer he can’t refuse, the entire mission takes a deadly turn. Cyrus Gant, a former Dust-dealing gang member from Earth’s subterranean slums, is onto the renegade Special. And while his psi powers aren’t as strong as he might like, Cyrus’s street smarts more than make up for this seeming disadvantage. This will be crucial, because as the ship makes the final, frightening leap toward New Eden, Cyrus is everyone’s last hope for survival.
Alien Honor is Vaughn Heppner’s opening book in the Fenris series, which is set in 2457 AD. Humans are using telepaths to power FTL (faster-than-light) spaceships. The majority of the book focuses on Cyrus Gant, a gritty gang boss who was plucked out of the slums and trained in a special program for the development of telepathic humans. Earth sends a colonizing ship 230 light years to the New Eden star system with hope for a new beginning. Of course, things go horribly wrong and we encounter dinosaurs in space posing as philosopher-kings, as one does when venturing into space.
Vaughn Heppner is ambitious. SF is a genre known for tackling issues of social inequality set against an alien backdrop as a means of providing alternative perspective. We encounter interspecies slavery, telepath typecasting, and military stereotypes reinforcing the old misguided mantra of stronger=bigger=better. Unfortunately, Heppner’s near continual use of contemporary language/slang became an increasing source of irritation. The story is set over four hundred years in our future, yet Heppner has characters dropping insults like “prick” and “bastards.” Anytime I stumbled across characters using present-day language and contemporary idioms, it yanked me out of Heppner’s world.
Jeff Cummings narrates the audiobook and does a fair job. As a reader, he never becomes bigger than the story. There were times when I felt his delivery was overdramatic and slower in pace than I am accustomed to, but this is minor.
Personally, I felt things picked up nicely when the dinosaurs came on the scene. I mean come on, space Velociraptor cast as philosopher-king. You know what that means, right? Philosoraptor, YEAH-BABY!!!
And yes, I’m a proud owner of a Philosoraptor t-shirt.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Ender’s Game Alive
By Orson Scott Card; Performed by a full cast
Publisher: Skyboat Media
7 hours 24 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / science fiction / childhood / aliens
Sometimes you hear about something and can’t wait to get your hands on it because you want to experience it, to touch it, see it, whatever. You have expectations and hope like mad that in the end, you won’t be disappointed.
for me, the new audio drama adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game fits the above description perfectly. The fact that Card wrote the script himself only made the anticipation worse because the bar went higher. It was raised further when I found out who was producing it: the folks at Skyboat Media. To find out whether or not they succeeded, the end result, (enemy’s gate), is down.
An important note for Ender’s Game fans, I am going to be limiting my scope to the book when reviewing this audio play. For the purposes of this review, the film does not exist. I want to tackle that challenge under its own merits. Any references to it will be made in passing if at all. With that said, our gate is open; on with the review.
The setup: a young boy at the age of six is taken from his home to attend a school for brilliant minds; to turn the “little dorklings” into soldiers and commanders because there is a war going on. This is the third such conflict with this alien race and our protagonist (unknown to him at the onset), is being groomed to be the commander that leads the entire fleet, hopefully, with good results. If not, the human race is doomed.
Our story follows Andrew Wiggin (nicknamed “Ender” by his sister) from the very beginning of his journey; even before that when the decision is made by his parents to have him with the full knowledge that this goes against the population policy in place.
“No more thirds.”
Of course, because this is the international fleet (I.F.) making the request; the rules are bent. All they have to do is sign on the dotted line and fill out the forms. If they don’t, genetic material will be seized and used until the right child is born and sent to battle school; a space station that prepares its students for lives spent as part of the fleet.
Ender’s parents are a special case because their first two children , Peter and Valentine, are geniuses. Why the first wasn’t chosen for the school, (as explained by the commander in charge), is because the kid is plum psycho. Why the sister isn’t picked is because she’d break under actual battle pressure when real losses come her way. And thus the fleet wants the parents to give it another go or else. This is the world Ender is born in. He’s at a disadvantage from the start. The running theme is, “Let’s see how ender handles it.”
The audio play does a great job of setting the appropriate pieces on the chessboard and letting the game play out. The story to tell is Ender’s story. Where it deviates from the book is the fleshing out of the interactions between the staff observing his progress. This is a necessary change since the book mostly takes place from Ender’s mind and point of view. This may seem like The Cabin in the Woods kind of gimmick but it is an important evolution in the way the story is being told. The play has to present things from a different angle and come to the same conclusions; adjusting things as needed to fit the plot’s progression.
the second major deviation is the focus on the other Wiggin children subplot. There are hints to it but it is treated almost as an afterthought. The reasoning for this change is sound; political debates and research would only drag down the story and make the listening experience tedious in places.
All in all, the major plot points of the novel are hit home like a well-aimed shot. There are subtle clues to other works that have been written since Ender’s Game came out in 1985. There are adjustments to some scenes to give the audio play a different feel than just a retreading of the original story step for step. This gives us something a little unexpected and fresh as we take the 7 hour, 24 minute journey.
If you have listened to the audio book of Ender’s Game, several of the casting choices will be no surprise. You hear a particular person’s voice and feel a sense of familiarity that makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Each character is brought to life. You know them, understand them, will not always agree with them or the decisions they make, but can listen to these portrayals and feel like you are the proverbial fly on the wall throughout the story. And when you listen to a scene as heart-felt as when Ender breaks down before his next assignment to command school, you really connect with the emotions in the room. This is how good storytelling becomes great by simply allowing the actors to raise the bar by their performances. The scenes before build up to a moment that is devastating in its impact.
The sound design and score never distract from the dialogue. And for the most part, the editing of the words spoken is top notch. Occasionally, you will hear the hum of the studio where lines were being recorded. If this issue were a constant refrain, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the play as much. As it stands, I only noticed such things myself when listening to the play a second time. That just shows you how engaging the whole packages when listening to it. Even though I noticed these issues, I wasn’t distracted.
At the end of the original audio book, Orson Scott Card said that it was the definitive way to experience his novel. With Ender’s Game Alive, that statement may (and should) be revised. It is a masterful work of audio fiction. Of course, this is in part to the source material. But the transformation from novel to audio play is not an easy undertaking. Orson Scott Card’s background in theatre shines through in this presentation; letting the dialogue drive the story forward. The many actors take on the roles and bring them to life. You won’t mind when adults are playing children. You just want to hear where the story goes. Aside for the minor audio issues, (studio hum in a couple scenes which I won’t spoil here and the inconsistent panning of characters when talking to each other), the production is definitely a recommended listen if you are a fan of Ender’s Game. I give it five out of five toon leaders; that’s one victory ritual.
Posted by Allen Sale
Minds Of Terminus is a new audio drama podcast that seems inspired by a number of recent novels (Kiln People, Saturn’s Children). Here’s the elevator pitch:
“In the world of Terminus, technology has advanced beyond contemporary understanding or explanation. Nanotechnology is at its peak, common and ubiquitous. The fields of Artificial Intelligence and Nanorobotics have matured, and swarm intelligences maintain roads, buildings, monitor traffic, collect advertising data, nurse the sick… the applications are nearly endless. It has even become possible for a human being to upload their intelligence and personality into an artificial neural matrix. These copies, however, aren’t seen in the way that a modern-day trans-humanist from our time might regard them. For example, no one regards these mind uploads as a way to attain immortality of any kind. The original lives on, after all, and the copy is regarded as… something other than human.
Applying advanced neuroscience, these uploaded personalities can be pruned and teased into any number of purpose-built, utilitarian shapes and designs, and this has become the preferred way to program the robotic helpers used every day in all walks of life, from heavy industrial machines to nannies.
Then one day, all of the humans are gone. The streets are quiet. The AIs begin waking up, but their masters have left them. Who and what are they, when all of the humans are gone? Are they all just bad copies of dead humans?”
Episode 1 |MP3| – Approx. 27 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Posted by Jesse Willis