The Little Black Bag is a highly regarded C.M. Kornbluth novelette. It was undeniably influential and popular. It won the 2001 Retro-Hugo Award for “Best Novelette” (of 1951), was voted the 13th best all-time short science fiction story (in a 1971 Analog Science Fact & Fiction poll), and was anthologized in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964. Philip K. Dick himself seems to have read it (he had a 1964 short story entitled The Little Black Box).
In his introduction to The Best of C.M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, a friend and frequent collaborator of Kornbluth’s, states that The Marching Morons (see SFFaudio Podcast #112) is a direct sequel to The Little Black Bag. The titular bag is a time-traveled artifact from a future in which the majority of the population is genetically stupid and must be supported by a minority of geniuses who masquerade as assistants to the morons. Thus the bag of the title is filled with self-driven instruments enabling even a complete moron to act as a highly competent doctor.
Three television adaptations of The Little Black Bag have been made: Tales of Tomorrow (1952), Out Of The Unknown (1969), and Night Gallery (1970).
Myself, I think The Little Black Bag is both too well regarded and too popular. It’s popularity suggests that many readers think of themselves as one of the geniuses surrounded by morons. And its being regarded as highly as it is by those geniuses makes me think they are rather stupider than they think.
I invite you to come to your own conclusions.
Escape Pod #429 Little Black Bag
by C.M. Kornbluth; Read by Mat Weller
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 16 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Escape Pod
Podcast: January 5, 2014
First published in Astounding, July 1950
Here’s a |PDF| made from it’s original publication.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show: a vintage podcast with Scott, R.I.P. RadioArchive.cc, Radio Downloader app, audio drama, Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X is full of sound, it’s like Ruby, Richmond Smokes a Joint, The Cleansed, are movies the most respected art form?, Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization by Alexander Irvine, postmodernism, Death of the Author by Roland Barthes, The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 4 edited by Ellen Datlow, Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop, a group of crows is murder, Night Watch #2 and #3 by Sergei Lukyanenko, the Night Watch series discussed on A Good Story Is Hard To Find #57 podcast, “a three volume novel“, Dickens serial novels, Blood Oranges by Kathleen Tierney, what Michael Jackson says at the end of songs, The Line by J. D. Horn, Jenny is studying Turkish, Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull, kids at schools love him, Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett, regular narrators for series, The Companions (The Sundering #1, Legend of Drizzt #24, Forgotten Realms) by R. A. Salvatore, Dungeons and Dragons, many Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Jesse read them!, what is your D&D Alignment??, vs the Ultima eight virtues, “he’s got cool eyes”, Magic’s Promise by Mercedes Lackey, William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher, purists won’t like it, more alignment talk, Z 2135 (Z 2134 #2) by David Wright and Sean Platt, Fractured by D.J. Molles, Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, The Rift by Bob Mayer, The Runestone Incident by Neve Maslakovic, To Honor You Call Us by H. Paul Honsinger, The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson (a folklorist!), The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson, Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, who was on Geek’s Guide #106, can’t find it in my local bookstore, was serialized in Analog, His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth, Pickman’s Model by Lovecraft, guess who had that made?, H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine‘s missing chapter, The True Detective was inspired by The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, Galveston: A Novel by Nic Pizzolatto (creator of True Detective), Words Of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson is longer than all of C.M. Kornbluth’s work, Terpkristin gave it five stars on Goodreads, Luke’s alignment, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga comic with the Lying Cat, Mask Of The Red Panda graphic novel, it’s an audio drama podcast too at Decoder Ring Theatre, Julie’s alignment, Martians Go Home by Frederic Brown, Screaming Mimi and Honeymoon In Hell as well, The Frightened Fish (Doc Savage) from radioarchives.com, Doc Savage is a comic from Dynamite too, “hair is like a helmet”, Haldeman’s Forever Peace, Work Done For Hire, Haldeman’s quote about “write what you know”, Haldeman’s Star Trek novels, Jesse thinks he’s f’ing awesome, Seth likes Neal Stephenson, Project Hieroglyph, Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW trilogy, in the optimistic axis, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill (and original film)
Posted by Tamahome
Talked about on today’s show:
Jenny is not an economist, a Heinlein vibe, God Emperor Of Dune, The first half of this book is talk, a terrible novel but an interesting book, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, the distancing narrators, 700 years into the future, the audience is for seven hundred years in the future (or is that six hundred), prizefighting, grub = food, the purpose of the footnotes, The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells, Avis Everhard, alternate history, Michael Bishop, an underground book, an underground society, that Buck Rogers stuff, Armageddon—2419 AD by Philip Francis Nowlan, exchanging socialism for the Yellow Peril, Asgard, Seoul, set in the year 419 B.O.M. (Brotherhood of Men), A Thousand Deaths by Jack London, The Island Of Doctor Moreau, predictions, war with Germany, a surprise attack on December 4th, William Randolph Hearst, war economy as a solution to national surplus, Trotsky’s letter to Jack London, London had good reason to be a socialist, work conditions and natural disasters, a chaotic time, Jackson’s arm, race vs. class, Jack London’s racism, The Heathen by Jack London, the dog stories, class consciousness, grinding out the middle class between the 1% and the people of the abyss, The Shadow And The Flash by Jack London, manly overachievers, oligarchy doesn’t use race to divide people, do you want you fruit to be picked or not?, Japanese segregation in California classrooms, Canadian politics, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Steinbeck, ‘temporarily embarrassed millionaires’, the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, “the military-industrial complex”, Eugene Debs, why was The Iron Heel not more popular?, The Black Hundreds, Das Kapital, Marxian fan-fiction, ‘social evolution is exasperatingly slow’, sooo sad, Marx’s essay on Napoleon III, a Darwinian model, do we live under an oligarchy?, government regulation (anti-trust and child labour laws), why socialism didn’t take hold in the early 20th century USA, Larry Summers, the Chilean cover of The Iron Heel, Salvador Allende, a novel read by revolutionaries, Science Fiction within the novel, the aesthetic end, the role of religion, the God of the Oligarchs, mostly air with a little bit of vertebra, Chicago, religious revivals and the apocalypse, Azusa Street Revival, the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake, William Randolph Hearst, Patty Hearst, John Waters, Cecil B. Demented, personal charisma and bulletproof arguments, Everhard is a porn star name, Benjamin Franklin, London’s didactic reading, Marx’s surplus theory of value, economy is not a science, power wins, the French Revolution, the Commonwealth of England, George Orwell’s review of The Iron Heel, 1984 is in The Iron Heel, coincidental dates, London’s insight into fascism, too much love from the strong and not enough love for the weak, Eric S. Rabkin, unmanning, ‘designed to be crucified’, father figures are destroyed, the chapter titles, The Call Of The Wild, a powerful beast is unmanned, builds up and builds through interaction with others, a sated king, a dominant primordial beast, The Sea Wolf, reading London is like a shot of adrenalin to the heart, surplus value, colonialism, the machine breakers, the trusts did not advertize, consumerism, Paul Krugman, petty bourgeoisie, the genocide of Chicago, the Paris Commune, gothic wooing, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy, the education of the oligarchy,
“They, as a class, believed that they alone maintained civilization. It was their belief that if ever they weakened, the great beast would ingulf them and everything of beauty and wonder and joy and good in its cavernous and slime-dripping maw. Without them, anarchy would reign and humanity would drop backward into the primitive night out of which it had so painfully emerged.”
excusing colonialism, the white man’s burden, ignoring the starving masses, the Roman Empire, steampunk, Lloyd Blankfein “doing God’s work”, Margin Call, oppositional films, “The Social Network deeply hates Zuckerberg and the online world”, Nine Inch Nails, Michael Douglas, Wall Street, the cleaning lady, why isn’t The Iron Heel more generally appealing to SF readers?, British Space Opera vs. American Space Opera, Commune 2000 A.D. by Mack Reynolds, a broken utopia, job cash vs. job love, the social end of SF, the storytelling technique doesn’t attract, the unsuccessful revolution, Winston Smith’s diary, looking back when writing doesn’t have the same power, the Goldstein Book, brainwashing, the bomb in congress, spy and counterspy, Starship Troopers is a series of lectures punctuated by gunfire, Frank Herbert, “a raving genius”, doing Dune (and Dune Messiah), Chilton Books, the boot crushing the human face forever, the leaky suspense, a Norton critical edition, how to record The Iron Heel, the footnotes are problematic, a crazy wild marvelous book, WWI, WWII, Metropolis, armoured cars or tanks, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, a terrifying future found in a cave written on leaves, A Journal Of The Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, Idiocracy, The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, on Lenin’s deathbed he was read Jack London, The Cold Equations, To Build A Fire, The Empire Strikes Back,
“The cold of space smote the unprotected tip of the planet, and he, being on that unprotected tip, received the full force of the blow.”
cosmic and Lovecraftian, as snug as a Jedi in a hot tauntaun, Robert Sheckley, Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky.
Posted by Jesse Willis
A very good reading of one of H.G. Wells’ long neglected stories, In The Abyss, is now available from LibriVox. James Christopher narrates this pioneering tale of first contact with a submarine civilization and he does it with the skill that comes from more than five years of contributions to LibriVox!
Those who’ve read H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth will appreciate the Well’s description of what sounds like Deep Ones:
“Two large and protruding eyes projected from sockets in chameleon fashion, and it had a broad reptilian mouth with horny lips beneath its little nostrils. In the position of the ears were two huge gill-covers, and out of these floated a branching tree of coralline filaments, almost like the tree-like gills that very young rays and sharks possess. But the humanity of the face was not the most extraordinary thing about the creature. It was a biped; its almost globular body was poised on a tripod of two frog-like legs and a long, thick tail, and its fore limbs, which grotesquely caricatured the human hand, much as a frog’s do, carried a long shaft of bone, tipped with copper. The colour of the creature was variegated; its head, hands, and legs were purple; but its skin, which hung loosely upon it, even as clothes might do, was a phosphorescent grey.”
In The Abyss
By H.G. Wells; Read by James Christopher
1 |MP3| – Approx. 36 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: July 3, 2013
“To this he was being towed, as a balloon might be towed by men out of the open country into a town. He approached it very slowly, and very slowly the dim irradiation was gathered together into more definite shapes.” First published in Pearson’s Magazine, August 1, 1896.
Here’s an illustration from an early French translation:
Posted by Jesse Willis
Posted by Jesse Willis
I quite like this one. It makes a fit companion to The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Red Room by H.G. Wells.
The Ghosts begins as straightforward haunted house story, one coming out of the Gothic tradition. Our hero, a skeptic, is staying with his brother at an ancient baronial estate. There, he argues with his brother about the existence of ghosts, and what sorts of evidence for their existence would be acceptable. Then, in order to make his point, he proceeds to induce in himself a ghostly experience by means darkness, drugs, and deprivation.
Are the ghosts he sees real and if so, is his point proved?
Here’s an illustrated |PDF| made from the publication in The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories.
Posted by Jesse Willis