The SFFaudio Podcast #142 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG – Accessory Before The Fact by Algernon Blackwood

January 9, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #142 – Accessory Before The Fact by Algernon Blackwood, read by Gregg Margarite. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (16 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Tamahome, and Gregg Margarite).

Talked about on today’s show:
Accessory Before The Fact was published in 1911, Jesse doesn’t understand this story, Wilkie Collins, ethereal planes are the hook (rather than the detail), Gilligan and The Skipper vs. Laurel and Hardu vs. Harold and Kumar, “this is not a time-slip story”, “this is a precognative story”, paranoia, “spirtitualized”, Germanophobia, WWI, bigotry on display, L. Frank Baum’s racism, Teutonic invasion, how many characters are in this story (4 or 3)?, peeling away the layers, déjà vu, see/feel the future, quantum theory, is time a superimposition onto real reality?, slipstream, fantasy, should we dismiss this story?, Ten Minute Short Stories, adventure, Accessory Before The Fact is at the genesis of all this, an accountant on vacation, “what do you do when you have one of these events and you can’t prove it”?, The Moment Of Decision by Stanley Ellin, 13 More Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do On TV edited by Alfred Hitchcock, An Occurance At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, time is an illusion, “time is a serious problem…”

Accessory Before The Fact by Algernon Blackwood - illustration by Bob Harvey

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 13 More Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do On TV

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe

November 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Blood Groove by Alex BledsoeBlood Groove
By Alex Bledsoe; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
7 CDs – Approx. 8.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433243880
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Vampires / Revenge / Love / 1970s / 1910s / Memphis / Wales /

When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, he must adapt quickly if he is to survive. Hoping to learn how his kind copes with this bizarre new era, Zginski tracks down a nest of teenage vampires, who have little knowledge of their true nature, having learned most of what they know from movies like Blacula. Forming an uneasy alliance with the young vampires, Zginski begins to teach them the truth about their powers. They must learn quickly for there’s a new drug on the street created to specifically target and destroy vampires. As Zginski and his allies track the drug to its source, they may unwittingly be stepping into a trap that can destroy them all.

The vampire is the Mr. Potato Head of Fantasy fiction. It’s an old and worn out monster, fully mythologized with more than 100 interchangeable preternatural powers and weaknesses from which to assemble a fully customized vampire. For what might be a complete list of them check out the terrific website TVTropes.org. It cites a wonderfully cynical list of vampire tropes under the title: “Our Vampires Are Different.” So then the question is: If there is nothing really new under the sunless skies of vampire fiction why do we pick up them up? It’s a good question and one worth pondering. I picked up Blood Groove in large part because of the title. I liked the pun, figuring it referred to a blood groove (or fuller) on a sword and/or the idea of groovy 1970s vampires and/or the dado in a forensic pathologist’s slab. And before I picked up Blood Groove I noticed other Bledsoe books (probably a pun to be made there too) had cute titles like: The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly.

Alex Bledsoe doesn’t give any new power to the vampire that he hasn’t had before, but he does add a new figurative kryptonite (like sunlight and garlic and crosses) to the mix. In fact, it’s creation and dissemination is central to the plot of Blood Groove. Along the way we also get an historical setting (1975), a virtual tour of parts of Memphis, Tennessee, some trivia about Elvis Presley and a relatively unpredictable story.

One of the elements that surprised me was not knowing who the protagonist of Blood Groove was. The vampires seemed the focus, and yet there was almost nothing that could make them sympathetic in a heroic or anti-heroic way. We’d meet one, he’d be killed, and then I thought “Okay…and?” but the story wouldn’t explain – which was a nice move actually. So for a good chunk of the novel the characters, all well fleshed out, appeared in scenes, died or were killed, only to be replaced by new characters with new agendas and new back-stories. The period shifted too. First we are in 1975 Memphis, then 1915 Wales. Eventually it settles down and we’re given fresh references, almost devotionals actually, to two early 1970s movies Blacula and Vanishing Point. As with many an urban fantasy novel these days there’s a mixing up of sex and love. Blood Groove doesn’t feel particularly paranormal romancy – but it’s probably not too far from the edges of curve.

Narrator Stefan Rudnicki gives voice to about a dozen characters of mixed gender, ethnicity and accent. Most obviously the East European vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski has a suitably Bela Lugosi type accent. As with every Rudnicki read audiobook I’ve heard his rich voiced narration in Blood Groove is always in service to the text. One reviewer on Amazon.com put it well: “[Reading Blood Groove] was like eating a brownie with nuts when you don’t like the nuts.”

The trailer for Vanishing Point:

The trailer for Blacula:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

February 29, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Podcast Audio Book - The Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Metamorphosis
By Franz Kafka; Read by Alex Wilson
3 Zipped MP3, OGG or AAC files – 2 Hours 15 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: The Spoken Alexandria Project
Published: 2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Surreal / 1910s / Insects /

At first read, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a bizarre, almost nonsensical story. Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant bug of some sort. No explanation is given for how or why this metamorphosis occurred. Gregor himself seems more concerned with being late to a work assignment than the circumstances of his change.

As the novella progresses, The Metamorphosis becomes more about the unspoken negotiations inside a family as in who does what chores, who makes money for others, and who just gets in the way. When Gregor can no longer provide for the family’s needs, Gregor’s father changes from an invalid to a dedicated worker. Along the way, Greta converts from a loving sister to a young woman looking for suitors. The bizarre transformation of Gregor is not the most important transformation in the family, as evidenced by the final lines.

Alex Wilson, the founder of Spoken Alexandria, provides a understated, but compelling reading. The sound quality is top-notch, even when listening over headphones. The tone of voice is like someone waked in the middle of dream, lending an appropriate otherworldliness to the story of alienation.

Posted by Listener of the Free Listens blog

Review of Jeffrey Combs Reads H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West Re-Animator

March 7, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - Jeffrey Combs Read H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West Re-AnimatorJeffrey Combs Reads H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West Re-Animator
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Jeffrey Combs
1 CD – 72 Minutes [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Beyond-Books.com
Published: 1999
UPC: 619981033428
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Death / Immortality / Zombies / WWI / 1900s / 1910s / 1920s /

“Human it could not have been — it is not in man to make such sounds.”

The “Herbert West, Reanimator” serial is a cycle of six ghoulish tales inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. This audiobook is an abridged reading of that serial. We first meet the titular Herbert West as a third-year medical student attending New England’s Miskatonic University in 1904. We are introduced to West by an unnamed companion, a fellow student at M.U., who like a Watson to his Sherlock Holmes, narrates the adventures of his fascinating fiend friend. West is the inventor of an extraordinary reagent, one that when injected into the body of a recently deceased person, cause rudimentary living functions to return. West seeks to perfect his reagent, but in order to do this he must find freshly deceased bodies. The six seperate episodes recount the various grusome attempts by West and his bizzarely-loyal companion to do just this. One minor wrinkle, most of the subjects that undergo the “re-animation” process become violent, incommunicative and don’t typically and retain their ‘higher’ mental faculties.

Jeffrey Combs Reads H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West Re-Animator will make you become, like West, utterly fascinated by the desire to know what will happen in the next experiment. What will the dead have to say? Can death truly be conquered? As the unnamed narrator puts it – “I, myself, still held some curious notions about the traditional ‘soul’ of man, and felt an awe at the secrets that might be told by one returning from the dead.” The prose is rich, fast and pregnant with that special adjectival allure that only Lovecraft knew the formula for. Though it appears that Lovecraft himself was not overly-fond of this serial, it makes for a straightforward introduction to his work and I found it appealingly nefariousness.

The abridgement here is relatively minor, and even, I am surprised to say, forgiveable. It appears to have been done to try to smooth out the connectity of the six seperate stories that make up the entire Re-Animator cycle or possibly to make the entire set of tales fit onto just one CD. The original stories offered a recap of the previous instalment’s events, reading them back to back like this, it makes sense that those sections would be disposable. Either way, it is forgivable. Far more disheartening than the abridgement is the addition of sound effects. The sounds are intermittent, completely redundant and nearly ruin the atmosphere the text naturally generates in a reader. Horror stories, if they are well written, generate a mood by words alone. I’d like to say this is just a case of gilding the lily, but that makes it sounds like it was merely superfluous to add in sound effects, and I don’t want to say that. In fact it is far worse than that – the added effects will sometimes completely break the spell that Lovecraft’s words and Combs’ reading of them are weaving together – the sound effects bring the listener out of the story. This is a major flaw.

On the bright side, the reading itself is excellent. Jeffrey Combs is probably best known for his role as Herbert West in the Re-Animator films. You’d probably also recognize his voice and mannerisms from his supporting work. Were he better known I have no doubt he’d have many a stand-up comedian doing impersonations of his unique vocal cadance. Combs has been all over Science Fiction on TV, he even played two recurring characters on the same episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at one point! His reading is of course dead-on. He knows this material well and revels in the loquacious language of H.P. Lovecraft.

Recommended, but with reservations.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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