Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #411 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Marissa, Maissa and Bryan Alexander discuss The Chromium Fence by Philip K. Dick

Talked about on today’s show:
Imagination, Stories Of Science Fiction and Fantasy, July 1955, his most obscure story, a great random story, everything he touches is chromium, the robot, metallic, on the fence, the commute disk, the invisible safety rail, flying carpets, reading the newspaper, he completed the load, beautiful writing,

EARTH TILTED toward six o’clock, the work-day almost over. Commute discs rose in dense swarms and billowed away from the industrial zone toward the surrounding residential rings. Like nocturnal moths, the thick clouds of discs darkened the evening sky. Silent, weightless, they whisked their passengers toward home and waiting families, hot meals and bed.

the ground, Detroit, ashes and cinders, this is the bus guys, Speech Sounds by Octavia Butler, a post apocalyptic story, Butler like Dick had to take the bus a lot, I like philosophy and music, he’s invented the strip mall, the counselor (charlie), do all the other stores have robots in them too?, weird touches, a boy and a girl making love, from the 1950s, he’s a sexual man, on point for everything happening right now, basically conapts, beauty of clunkiness,

Through the thin walls of the bright little dining room came the echoing clink of other families eating, other conversations in progress. The tinny blare of tv sets. The purr of stoves and freezers and air conditioners and wall-heaters.

you can really feel the world, the Philip K. Dick rhetorizer, the disgusting beauty of bodies, the bullshit idea, the brother in law,

Across from Walsh his brother-in-law Carl was gulping down a second plateful of steaming food.

and then:

It was true. Walsh gazed unhappily past his son, into the days that lay ahead. He saw himself involved in endless wretched situations like the one today; sometimes it would be Naturalists who attacked him, and other times (like last week) it would be enraged Purists.

being contrary, arguing both sides, the Horney amendment and the Butte petition, having your sweat glands removied, teeth whitened, no balding for you sir, we’re going underground, smaller portions, relating to this story after living in Hollywood, two kinds of people, half want to be dirty and bald and fat, oh no!, the B-Ark from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, something of Socrates dying here, tearing up the get out of jail free card, cold beams, frozen and then reduced to basic mineral elements, thisis the kind of act they freeze you for, millions of cryo-units,

the analyst sat back and gave a low, soundless whistle. “That’s a felony, Don. They’ll freeze you for that; it’s a provision of the new Amendment.”

the robot psychologist, a suitcase called Dr. Smile, A. Lincoln, Simulacrum, horrible and awesome,

“Don,” it called heartily. “Come on in and sit down.”

He entered and wearily seated himself. “I thought maybe I could talk to you, Charley,” he said.

“Sure, Don.” The robot leaned forward to see the clock on its wide mahogany desk. “But, isn’t it dinner time?”

“Yes,” Walsh admitted. “I’m not hungry. Charley, you know what we were talking about last time… you remember what I was saying. You remember what’s been bothering me.”

“Sure, Don.” The robot settled back in its swivel chair, rested its almost-convincing elbows on the desk, and regarded its patient kindly. “How’s it been going, the last couple of days?”

“Not so good. Charley, I’ve go to do something. You can help me; you’re not biased.” He appealed to the quasi-human face of metal and plastic. “You can see this undistorted, Charley. How can I join one of the parties? All their slogans and propaganda, it seems so damn — silly. How the hell can I get excited about clean teeth and underarm odor? People kill each other over these trifles… it doesn’t make sense. There’s going to be suicidal civil war, if that Amendment passes, and I’m supposed to join one side or the other.”

Charley nodded. “I have the picture, Don.”

“Am I supposed to go out and knock some fellow over the head because he does or doesn’t smell? Some man I never saw before? I won’t do it. I refuse. Why can’t they let me alone? Why can’t I have my own opinions? Why do I have to get in on this — insanity?”

The analyst smiled tolerantly. “That’s a little harsh, Don. You’re out of phase with your society, you know. So the cultural climate and mores seem a trifle unconvincing to you. But this is your society; you have to live in it. You can’t withdraw.”

Walsh forced his hands to relax. “Here’s what I think. Any man who wants to smell should be allowed to smell. Any man who doesn’t want to smell should go and get his glands removed. What’s the matter with that?”

“Don, you’re avoiding the issue.” The robot’s voice was calm, dispassionate. “What you’re saying is that neither side is right. And that’s foolish, isn’t it? One side must be right.”

did we not hear this in 2016?, it was the news channels, Hey Don!, an intellectual virgin,

“I have a right to hold my own ideas.”

“No, Don,” the robot answered gently. “They’re not your ideas; you didn’t create them. You can’t turn them on and off when you feel like it. They operate through you… they’re conditionings deposited by your environment. What you believe is a reflection of certain social forces and pressures. In your case the two mutually-exclusive social trends have produced a sort of stalemate. You’re at war with yourself… you can’t decide which side to join because elements of both exist in you.” The robot nodded wisely. “But you’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got to resolve this conflict and act. You can’t remain a spectator… you’ve got to be a participant. Nobody can be a spectator to life… and this is life.”

at his own advice, this is life,

“You mean there’s no other world but this business about sweat and teeth and hair?”

the third option, prescient of his own fiction, that channel didn’t make any sense, wait a second she’s getting paid to say that!, the robot’s umblical, he controlling institutions of society (Fox News and MSNBC), so creepy, a freaky world, on the nose, about any two parties or topics, the life extension program, Chew-Z vs. Can-D, a reaction against consumerism,

“I wish they’d get it over with, once and for all,” Betty complained. “Was it always this way? I don’t remember always hearing about politics when I was a child.”

men uncomfortable in their bodies, the beautiful androids of Marissa’s neighborhood, an alien philosopher pig (Beyond Lies The Wub), flabby, a tuft of the rough hair, a tear rolled down the wub’s cheek and splashed on the floor, you’re fat!,

“They didn’t call it politics, back in those days. The industrialists hammered away at the people to buy and consume. It centered around this hair-sweat-teeth purity; the city people got it and developed an ideology around it.”

Betty set the table and brought in the dishes of food. “You mean the Purist political movement was deliberately started?”

“They didn’t realize what a hold it was getting on them. They didn’t know their children were growing up to take such things as underarm perspiration and white teeth and nice-looking hair as the most important things in the world. Things worth fighting and dying for. Things important enough to kill those who didn’t agree.”

“The Naturalists were country people?”

“People who lived outside the cities and weren’t conditioned by the stimuli.” Walsh shook his head irritably. “Incredible, that one man will kill another over trivialities. All through history men murdering each other over verbal nonsense, meaningless slogans instilled in them by somebody else — who sits back and benefits.”

big-endians and the little-endians, Babylon 5‘s Drazi, Green. Purple!, we all have this, eyebrow threading, every unit, a nail salon, a dental salon, a hair salon, the alcohol store, no bookstores, the dog’s cant smell bad either, waste excretion tubes, still suits Dune by Frank Herbert, Counter-Clock World, hairless future humans, transcending the body, hatred of the body, consciousness uploading, The Quiet American by Graham Greene, eating vitamin paste, so ridiculous, trying to sell this story, this is not a New Yorker story, a satire, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift,

The police spread efficiently into the room. Standing around the immobile Carl, they examined him briefly, then moved away. “No body odor,” the police sergeant disagreed. “No halitosis. Hair thick and well-groomed.” He signalled, and Carl obediently opened his mouth. “Teeth white, totally brushed. Nothing non-acceptable. No, this man is all right.”

WWII, torchlight rallies, 1984, the Anti-Sex League, I’m proud of my smell, untenable, re-education, dying for the right to not care, bound up with belief, “red hair and beer-swollen features”, a plutonium ring, depleted uranium, a sissy kissing purist (turning us all into women), putting on make-up, why? why are we doing this to ourselves, Axe Body Spray, high-heels were invented for men in the 18th century French courts, you’re lucky we’re on the internet, on behalf of society, Code Red, billowing scent clouds, bread and coffee, a fun story to teach to kids, what is the illustration supposed to mean?, is it supposed to be symbolic?, two giant arms, nothing that happens in the story, low stakes, of our reality, mimics so much of what you’re seeing in the media, you lib-tard, you cuck, you’re thallamicly oriented, the animals vs. the lilies, that’s the rhetoric, you call this a peaceful protest, windows smashed, great damage done, Can a robot think for a man?, rejecting the robots advice, not caring, playing within the rules of the society, what people don’t like about Trump, you can’t say it that way, his political incorrectness is what people find offensive, in this story, in our reality, on the purist side, the sound of people chewing, don’t chew in her presence, last thoughts?, Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, snarky vs. full horror, Vonnegut starts with horror and then goes tricky, a double take, such a funny story, how easy it is to completely brainwash people,

Walsh waved gratefully. “Thanks,” he called up. “I appreciate that.”

“Not at all,” the gray-haired man answered, cheerfully examining a broken tooth. His voice dwindled, as the disc gained altitude. “Always glad to help out a fellow…” The final words came drifting to Walsh’s ears. “… A fellow Purist.”

“I’m not!” Walsh shouted futilely. “I’m not a Purist and I’m not a Naturalist! You hear me?”

a total Dick move, Beyond The Door, do you think it was suicide?, I didn’t mean that…, but nobody heard him,

“I’m not,” Walsh repeated monotonously, as he sat at the dinner table spooning up creamed corn, potatoes, and rib steak.

Philip K. Dick food, what side is the mother on?, you can’t vote, a card carrying boot-stamping member, the left handed party and the right handed party, star-bellied Sneetches, Star Trek, endlessly fighting for all eternity.

The Chromium Fence by Philip K. Dick - pg. 86

The Chromium Fence by Philip K. Dick - illustration

Posted by Jesse Willis

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #056

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Here’s a link to a PDF of the poem.

Dulce Et Decorum Est was first published in Poems [by Wilfred Owen], 1920

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #410 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss Protector by Larry Niven

Talked about on today’s show:
1973, Galaxy, June 1967, The Adults by Larry Niven, Phssthpok, the name of the ship, the cherubim, Lion, Ox, Human, and Eagle, baby angels, beaked, going deeper, the seraphim, Cherubism

Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other.

the end

For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.

how the aliens are described, aliens, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, previous encounters with Larry Niven, channeling all sorts of things, what did Maissa think?, a softer spot for Larry Niven, not sexist at all, Larry Niven’s best book, an abrupt ending, incomplete pieces, more Kobold, the artificial planetoid, Eden II, the first paperback release of Protector, a donut shaped planet with a tibit (Tim Horton’s), the belly button of the donut, donut holes, a monster or a fairy, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, by all the Lords of Kobol, clicks, Battlestar Galactica, going Old Testament, going Mormon, a masterful novel, The Ringworld Engineers as a reprise of Protector, Ringworld as the light fun novel, the ending is so good, the horror, genocide, fighting for humanity, Roy Truesdale, tricking the nurses, fake cities, WWII, inflatable tanks, a page break, it seems only reasonable to novelize this report, that was fun, check the duplicate Stonehenge, the final three paragraphs, just behind this laser pulse, “I love you”, the novel is wrong, the Beowulf Shaeffer stories, Betrayer Of Worlds, Protector has enough space battle to kill actual space battle novel (barring crappy space opera space battles), space seeds, biological bullshit, a highly motivated character, deeply reasoned, a quasi relative, the opposite of X-Wings and Tie fighters banking in outer space, we love it anyway, exactly the opposite, cool vs. functional, steel jacketed, magnetic field, the thinking behind the space battles wipes out everyone (writer’s) abilities to write any more, a galactic chess game vs. high-stakes poker, sub-light relativistic space battles, positional effects, Rules Of Engagement (or maybe Master of Orion ?, C.S. Forester, broadsides in space, a Frederick Pohl editorial from 1963, Spacewar! (literally mentioned in this book), Asteroids, a right turn in space, that’s why Larry Niven’s the best, playing with the laws of physics and he doesn’t cheat, the Hal Clement essay, honest poker, the panspermia aspect, World Of Ptavvs, the slavers, Homo habilis from the stars, dna based, the Slavers did it, the Sea Statue, a dissertation of free will, two divergent visions of Creation, when god stays or leaves, no progress, still animals, the image of the Eye and the Garden of Eden, the Eye In The Sky, I can see you – I can see through bushes, no art, Brennan can see, a sense of whimsy, a fun character, was Brennan a fake?, Truesdale’s protector, motivation, take me to you leader, so playful, he is their leader, amazing, paying fees, Oldavai, Crete, still in the breeding stage, a good book, bunches of questions and points, building the Ringworld, a different library, an expedition to Earth, an expedition to star X, their achilles’ heel, Ringworld Engineers is all echoes, we needed this book, Alice as in Alice In Wonderland, she left pregnant, play in the fields, but do not touch…, tell her about the Bluebeard myth (aka The Castle Of Murder), an egg, a chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg, you do not want to open that door, you do not want to eat of those Trees, the solution to the mystery of the novel, everyone has been kidnapped is a descendant of Brennan, farming and cultivating descendants, Brennan monster is playful in his play, Vandervecken, making a myth he can enjoy, consciousness before being changed, the vampires get consciousness in Ringworld Engineers, does it help you to have whimsy, the jury is out, a message of despair, the Pak is coming, the Kzinti, The Mote In God’s Eye, hard lessons, genocide, moties, motivation by need, Brennan painting his spacesuit, biding his time, a medieval castle, progeny, deep down the point is art is good, if you’re smart enough there is very little free choice, Teela Brown’s luck, the same subject, the root is perpetuated by a virus, colonizing the pak, what is smartness except efficiency, crossing a continent, struggling with money, why do people want it, what is money anyway?, money is food, keeping your food safe with food, why does Trump need more money, operating as a logical creature it is to make his progeny better off, it worked for Genghis, inheritance, straight out the genes, what motivates people, biological determinism, everyone needs motivation, stop eating, grasping after fake visions of punishment (or reward), a “death wish”, like Phssthpok I’ve made all human children my beneficiaries, the Public Domain PDF Page, a hip street, channeling Frank Sinatra, taking photographs, not sanguine, Larry Niven’s own financial circumstances, writing SF for a long period of time, Greg Bear, Halo novels, Blood Music don’t put money on the table, Niven’s work is playful, the reason for Niven’s renown, making the piece the best piece it can be, Gregory Benford, Bowl Of Heaven, collaborations, there are no spoilers,

Larry Niven proves a point here. Most other authors would be tempted to tell a story of this magnitude in a trilogy consisting of thousands of pages. Niven does it in a little over 200 pages. Granted, he keeps the featuring cast down to only a few individuals. But still…
-Dirk Grobbelaar

Among Others by Jo Walton, all his human characters blur together, Walton has a point, psychoanalyzing, SF isn’t a costume drama, John W. Campbell’s challenge: write me an alien that thinks as well as a man but unlike a man, Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, Arrival, the story and the movie, Understand by Ted Chiang, Limitless (2011), and the rightly cancelled Limitless TV series, like the Minority Report TV show, from the sub-conscious to uplift and unconscious and conscious, Flowers For Algernon, flourishing and protected, seeing the manipulation happening, Sherlock Holmes, seeing the pattern no one else can see, intelligence, politics and the failures of politics, intelligence vs. manipulation, a smart person doesn’t gamble unless they know it isn’t a gamble, a war longer than the quagmire of the Vietnam War, all of that struggle, that’s the opposite of intelligence, Niven is right about intelligence and options, Brennan is not as bound, the golf course, did Brennan ever play the golf course that he built?, this would be good, having thought those through, how we see Brenna when he interacts with his Adam and Eve, he runs, the next thing that needs to be done, the efficiency we gain as adults, pretending to play dolls, the exigencies of adulthood, being a smart adult, I put away childish things, playing with LEGO, an angle to attack, LEGO as a awards, appreciating the enjoyment of play, having consciousness of his childhood, creations for a purpose, sharing vs. hoarding, pondering deep things, the mother vs. the father, Brennan’s modified suit with the Mother and Child, a savior figure, he’s the Madonna, their garden, playthings for the children, the Sol system is Brennan’s garden, have you noticed you haven’t had war?, exterminating the Martians, The Organleggers, capital crimes, China, the horror of rationality, organ transplantation, the RNA sequence, wiping your whole mind, the premise of Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck, Rammer by Larry Niven, A World Out Of Time, greater than human intelligence, we were manipulated into it, The Draco Tavern, playful comedic pieces, here’s a problem of science and here’s my solution, jokes, a whole subgenre of bar stories, The Callahan books by Spider Robinson, Lord Dunsany’s The Jorkens Stories, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, chirality, thalidomide, an iceberg, Known Space, just one of Niven’s playgrounds, Hard Fantasy, The Magic Goes Away, as you use magic you deplete a natural resource, magic carpet, a dead spot, and back in these days amoeba were the size of whales, that’s how little magic is left, a Niven disc, a sense of sadness, set in the time of Atlantis, The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak, Niven as an efficient writer, jarring transitions, needing an editor, better than Clement, sex, a vitality, the weather is a little to clement in Clement’s world, Harry Stubbs, revisiting Protector, given Tree Of Life now Paul would… stop eating? wiping out half of humanity for reasons known only to him… in the New World Order, remaining human, being a mom, maternal feelings, a screaming red thing that came out of your body, are Protectors more like moms than dads?, genderless, oh sweetie, killing off all the creatures that threaten her children, warlike, a mother wouldn’t do that, is Niven right?, if you’re smart enough are their fewer and fewer courses of action?, the Teela monster, pretty sure Niven was never a mom, fierce viking grandparents, no free will, different motivation and different results, why does Brennan wait to convert Truesdale, poor Brennan, too much talking baby-talk, gender as an honorific, Protector Mom (please don’t write this as a sequel), something really original, a creation so original it is like a dragon or an elf, seeing the cat vs. monkey you’ve always wanted, the super-strong hominid vs. the intelligent tiger, Speaker vs. Teela, as Douglas Adams put it “Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.”, we got our own stuff going, the Traveller universe, most excellent.

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Ballantine Books (1973) Protector by Larry Niven

Protector by Larry Niven - illustration by H.R. Von Dongen

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

Brilliance Audio - A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls
By Patrick Ness; Narrated by Jason Isaacs
4 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 23 September 2011

Tags: / YA / fantasy / monsters / nightmares / illness /

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…. This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.
Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

This book is inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd (4 February 1960 – 21 August 2007). Patrick Ness was granted the opportunity to explore these ideas, and soon ideas gave way to other ideas, which yielded this book. There’s a terrific interview that follows the audiobook reading wherein Ness discusses the writing process and challenges he faced in such an undertaking. Ness successfully sidesteps weighty sentiment and delivers emotional authenticity while allowing room for empathy, and it is for these reasons that this book resonates long after reading.

The writing is clean and the story is as deep and layered as you wish it to be. Don’t let the young protagonist fool you. This isn’t your generic YA plastic-wrap fantasy story packed with breathless bubblegum adventure and paint-by-number characters. There are monsters and there is loss. The emotion is real, and Ness allows enough room for empathy to turn, to circle like an unquiet animal that knows the end isn’t far. Couple this with genuine wisdom, and we have a story that demands attention, that successfully spans that artificial genre-based boundary to shake reader out their slumber.

Jason Isaacs narrates the audiobook, and conducts the follow-up interview with Patrick Ness at the book’s conclusion. Isaacs nails the reading. In my opinion the audiobook is flawless, and Isaacs never makes himself known to the listener, rather he is a conduit, something only the very best readers manage to pull off. Too many contemporary audiobook narrators perform the text when all they need to do is get out of the way and read. Thank you, Jason Isaacs.

Posted by Casey Hampton

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #055

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Désirée’s Baby by Kate Chopin

Here’s a link to a PDF of the poem.

Désirée’s Baby was first published in Vogue, January 14, 1893.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Podcast

The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #409 – The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan, read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 5 minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Paul)

Talked about on today’s show:
1910, obsession, kinda gross, fundamentally based on racism, Jewishness, troublesome, H.P. Lovecraft, a racist filter, horror as fear of the other, the same intellectual climate, racial theory, a sensitivity alarm bell, scare not offend, on the cusp, an off note, Sax Rohmer, yellow peril, Fu Manchu is the hero, the Escape audio drama adaptation, Harlan Ellison, Red Hook territory, uncomfortably of its time, its about race, his friend’s changing disposition, the Saxon Mother vs. the “strong wine of the east”, that logic is still in force, 1/64th Cherokee, if this was set in the highlands…, natural peace, a benevolent supernatural force, white hat vs. black hat, the theme of colonialism vs. race and heredity, imperialism, two-fisted adventure vs. poetry and philosophy and pathos, the landscape, the skyline, the love that Lawson has is reflected by Buchan himself

At midday it cleared, and the afternoon was a pageant of pure colour. The wind sank to a low breeze; the sun lit the infinite green spaces, and kindled the wet forest to a jewelled coronal. Lawson gaspingly admired it all, as he cantered bareheaded up a bracken-clad slope. ‘God’s country,’ he said twenty times. ‘I’ve found it.’ Take a piece of Sussex downland; put a stream in every hollow and a patch of wood; and at the edge, where the cliffs at home would fall to the sea, put a cloak of forest muffling the scarp and dropping thousands of feet to the blue plains. Take the diamond air of the Gornergrat, and the riot of colour which you get by a West Highland lochside in late September. Put flowers everywhere, the things we grow in hothouses, geraniums like sun-shades and arums like trumpets. That will give you a notion of the countryside we were in. I began to see that after all it was out of the common.

beautiful writing, the sensual description of Lawson,

Being a fair man, he was gloriously tanned, and there was a clear line at his shirt-collar to mark the limits of his sunburn. I had first known him years ago, when he was a broker’s clerk working on half-commission. Then he had gone to South Africa, and soon I heard he was a partner in a mining house which was doing wonders with some gold areas in the North. The next step was his return to London as the new millionaire — young, good-looking, wholesome in mind and body, and much sought after by the mothers of marriageable girls. We played polo together, and hunted a little in the season, but there were signs that he did not propose to become a conventional English gentleman. He refused to buy a place in the country, though half the Homes of England were at his disposal. He was a very busy man, he declared, and had not time to be a squire.

a bromance at the least, homoeroticism, nudity or flannels, naked on the veldt, the gorgeousness of the writing, T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, a miniseries on Cecil Rhodes, the empire builder, Rhodesia, like Rhodes Lawson made his money in mining, Buchan knew Rhodes, a giant country estate, Buchan is the name of the unnamed narrator in the audio drama adaptation, biographies, First World War Hidden History blog,, at the center of spying and propaganda, Lord Tweedsmuir, use in a role playing game, Kim Philby, the old boy network, the revolving door policy, no longer conspiracy, no longer tin-foil hat territory, rewarded with the Governorship of Canada, nobility by appointment, “gone to the wall”, with the riff-raff and the hoi-poloi, “gone to seed”, a pun, the fertile and lush garden, the flower of his youth, a railroad from South Africa to Egypt, nursemaided by Rhodes, illness,

Then we went to work to cut down the trees. The slim stems were an easy task to a good woodman, and one after another they toppled to the ground. And meantime, as I watched, I became conscious of a strange emotion.

It was as if some one were pleading with me. A gentle voice, not threatening, but pleading — something too fine for the sensual ear, but touching inner chords of the spirit. So tenuous it was and distant that I could think of no personality behind it. Rather it was the viewless, bodiless grace of this delectable vale, some old exquisite divinity of the groves. There was the heart of all sorrow in it, and the soul of all loveliness. It seemed a woman’s voice, some lost lady who had brought nothing but goodness unrepaid to the world. And what the voice told me was, that I was destroying her last shelter.

That was the pathos of it — the voice was homeless. As the axes flashed in the sunlight and the wood grew thin, that gentle spirit was pleading with me for mercy and a brief respite. It seemed to be telling of a world for centuries grown coarse and pitiless, of long sad wanderings, of hardly-won shelter, and a peace which was the little all she sought from men. There was nothing terrible in it. No thought of wrongdoing. The spell, which to Semitic blood held the mystery of evil, was to me, of a different race, only delicate and rare and beautiful.

poor spirit, parallel to an extinction, running away from the destruction of man, reading the story from Lawson’s point of view, what is he doing there?, an alabaster moon, blood sacrifice, depleting life force, a lonely deity, The Call Of Cthulhu role playing game, a temple ruin, an abandoned mine, a tiki-fetish, some ancient horrible power, maybe we’ve done wrong here,

And then my heartache returned, and I knew that I had driven something lovely and adorable from its last refuge on earth.

the last doorway, the model for this tower, the Great Zimbabwe, where could I read up on that?, a country house with a mock temple: “the folly“, druid orders, cheese rolling, a week later, keeping a secret, dropsy or yellow fever, the revenge of the land, disease, looking down on the tropics, three years, scarfe, natural beauty, that library, the moon of alabaster, the bird statuettes, turtle doves, green doves, auk-like bird carvings, everything is going extinct, the sin at the story’s end, the two-fisted action, shotguns make short work, the birds on the pyre, salting the earth, the Punic wars, improve on Josiah, dynamiting a priceless ancient temple, a “land without history”, purpose of visit: colonialism, sad but true, ancient ruins of Africa, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, the character names all end in “son”: Lawson, Isaacson, Jobson (the factor), the Hudson’s Bay Company, the East India Company, wagons, more money than the Queen, Ming pots, a night watchman, the natives won’t go to the temple, local folk, indemnification, Adamson, half-English, Biblical naming, The Skids, Richard Jobson, Travers, Lowson, H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror In Literature, building or rebuilding an ancestral home, The Moon Bog, The Rats In The Walls, they have the exact same structure, illness, lifted up into the sky, Ashtaroth the Moon goddess, Captain Norris, Magna Mater, Exham Priory, “what on Earth is going on here man?”, Out Of The Earth by Christine Campbell Thomson (aka Flavia Richardson), standing stones, mummy fiction, atavism, reverting to ancestral type, seeing things backwards, the industries that allow you to work, an inversion, an environmental horror story, silver bark, a beautiful image, Ishtar -> Ashtaroth, male and female spelling, an interest in weird fiction, one of the big names, scant detail, The Golden Bough, To The Devil A Daughter (1976), Astarte, a punny title, if this is a true story…, the covenant, the “Call of Ashtaroth”, the blood ritual, body horror, a psychic impasse, a taste, is there more than one force at work?, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, an apple tree, a bad farm, eating a withered apple is a bad move, the call of nature, it wants you, its using you, the last portal through, not of this Earth, a moonbeam, She by H. Rider Haggard, elegiac and wistful, a pleasure to read, layers and layers, old school weird fiction, layers of questioning and ambiguity, homages and reinterpretations, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, no clear lines, ambiguity comes to the fore, vs. early 20th century polemic, it would be an amazing comic book, visually stunning, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the albatross of The Thirty-Nine Steps, literary highways and byways, The Moon Endureth, Christopher Hitchens essays,

“In a remarkable short story, ‘The Grove of Ashtaroth,’ the hero finds himself obliged to destroy the gorgeous little temple of a sensual cult, because he believes that by doing so he will salvage the health and sanity of a friend. But he simultaneously believes himself to be committing an unpardonable act of desecration, and the eerie voice that beseeches him to stay his hand is unmistakably feminine.”

-Christopher Hitchens (The Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)

The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan illustrated by Jesse

Astarte

Posted by Jesse Willis

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