The SFFaudio Podcast #405 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven
Talked about on today’s show:
Speaker to Canadians, off the rails, doing a sequel, 1980 follow up to the 1970 novel, was this a good idea?, seeing the Ringworld one more time, fun, Larry Niven was having a lot of fun with it, retcon (retroactive continuity), Teela’s luck, maybe Paul is completely wrong, bad bad Teela Brown, her boytoy, because reasons, becoming a protector, where the luck problem comes in, the fight between Teela, Chmee and Wu is fabulous, luck is directing all these people, re-re-reinterpretation, happily ever after and sequels don’t play nice, luck as a genetically programmable trait is complete bullshit, that’s what’s going to happen, if you’re going to do a sequel…, waiting for Teela to show up, The Ringworld Throne, Louis becomes a protector, take each book on its own, she’s protecting all of the lucky people who are coming after her, cooler in a couple of ways, why Louis had needed to be a droud addict (a wire-head), he was bored in the first book, he’s an addict in the second, a little flashback to the visit of the gardens of the patriarch, “call me Chmee”, the Kzin patriarch’s version of the Smithsonian, happy all the time and hating his life, he can’t have cheese anymore, no more skinjobs or sleeping plates, caught up by the A.R.M., when Louis quits the droud, the only thing that saves him, a brilliant plotter, making choices, having free will (or not), Teela has to double-think her way, he’s the center of his own Ringworld (as an addict) then it flips, the addiction withdrawal was too easy, gorging on tree-of-life, that’s why sequels are a problem, really good writers use up their characters, that’s what makes The Postman Always Rings Twice so great, there aren’t endless sequels to great books, by the end of Moby Dick only one character is still alive, this whole book is retconning, here’s what’s wrong with the Ringworld!, that’s the game in Hard SF, the game he was playing was too big for him (Larry Niven), incorporating criticism, we were wrong about this…, this is a science heavy book, Prill was a liar, the spill mountains, the unclimbable rim mountains became volcanoes (kind of), how terrible this world is, the scrith covered place, we are very lucky to be on an actively-geological plant, we’re lucky to have metal, Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer, an asteroid crash that Mark Twain finds, it’s harder to boil things without metal, a ceramics and alcohol based high-technology, fiddling with the facts of the first book, Paul is more annoyed about the Teela brown transformation, Teela becomes both the hero and the villain kind of, maybe we should have read Protector first, the Pak and the Pak protectors, big science, World Of The Ptavvs, a recap of the premise of Protector, two main characters, unwanted and unexpected uplift, are there any women in there?, Protectors are sexless, talking about the sex in The Ringworld Engineers, rishathra, the Babylon 5 episode with rishathra, the two librarian Wendy and Peter, tell me about the mating practices, we make records (anthropological pornography), Jesse defends Larry Niven again, Wu the silent sexual ambassador, if Louis Wu was a female character…, where’s the same sex rishathra?, an obvious method of birth control, too much of that again, projecting what heterosexual males, I gotta get me a harem, mating uncontrollably, venereal disease is a real problem in our world, no mosquitoes, no venereal disease, the logic behind the sexual practices, the grass eaters, the cow and bull people, how cattle work, the sexual practices of wolves, the going on vacation thing, the terms the field scientists used: sneaky fuckers, another double-think, the lone guy in SF willing to do stuff with this, Bloodchild by Octavia Butler, a real reproductive phenomenon, male pregnancy, sympathizing with everyone, males are easily replaced, they way we love our pets, the way he says females should be docile, the third sex of puppeteer, the way females are regarded, he’s a dude from the 1970s whose not trying to be sensitive, some books are male or female, more appealing to males, Niven is so good at thinking, the Wheels Within Wheels chapter, I’m saving this world, when Louis cuts up the hyperdrive, “Come, let us reason together” where is that line from?, the book of Isaiah, God talking to man, playing the god gambit, he turns the tables on the Hindmost, aye aye captain, the Bandersnatchi of Jinx is from Jabberwocky by Louis Carol, Wunderland, the Alice In Wonderland theme from Ringworld, the Peter Pan theme, Louis Wu is Peter Pan (the boy who will never grow up), following Louis out the window into Neverland (of the ship), The Man-Kzin Wars books, why is Speaker’s name Chmee, Smee, tag in the dark, Smee is the bosun to Captain Hook, that’s really clever, turning lead to fuel, the alchemy of the planet, a wild goose chase, the 5% 95% trick, it’s legit!, a strong sense of pathos, every character we’ve met on the Ringworld will die, would you kill everyone you’ve ever met to save 95% of the population?, empathizing with the sunflowers, is life for a year for everyone better?, it could be triple-think, talking about motivation, why do anything, what’s the point of anything, caring for the breeders, protecting her own vs. others, very interesting stuff, Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto, helicopter parenting, you can’t tell me my son’s grades are low, teacher motivation, knuckling under, lowering standards and grade inflation, the Business and Computer Science departments, everyone gets As, only Philosophy was holding out (when Jesse was at university), the mother protecting the young, the bear mother attacks threats to the cub, Free Range Kids, the perception of the threat level is higher, the craziness that happens when the mothering instinct is in charge, imagine Grandma with the powers of Rambo, why Teela is such a fearsome adversary (even when she’s playing to lose), the closest in any other science fiction is in the Banquet Scene in Dune, super-geniuses plotting how to murder each other, literally a role playing game style adventure, totally an RPG player move, where The Ringworld Role Playing Game came from, an nobody noticed he was talking into his hand, layers of fun, two poems,
I. The Book
The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.
I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.
I held the book beneath my coat, at pains
To hide the thing from sight in such a place;
Hurrying through the ancient harbor lanes
With often-turning head and nervous pace.
Dull, furtive windows in old tottering brick
Peered at me oddly as I hastened by,
And thinking what they sheltered, I grew sick
For a redeeming glimpse of clean blue sky.
No one had seen me take the thing—but still
A blank laugh echoed in my whirling head,
And I could guess what nighted worlds of ill
Lurked in that volume I had coveted.
The way grew strange—the walls alike and madding—
And far behind me, unseen feet were padding.
the first two sonnets from the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, some books of elder lore, the audiobook irony, the problems of not having an audiobook version, the connection between finding the old books that reveal the truth about the world (only the machine people know the secret), the cult of knowledge, the paperback cover of Protector, surrounded by ancient tomes, great books make you super-smart, hitting that hard, page 128,
Something leaped from the crest of the next hill over. Green light speared it in midair, and held while the thing flamed and died. So much for Chmeee’s spacesuit. But a flight of hand-sized missiles flew toward the base of the green laser beam. Half a dozen white flashes from behind the rise, and the snap! of lightning striking close, showed that Chmeee had succeeded in turning puppeteer-made batteries into bombs.
Teela was close, and she was using a laser. And if she was circling the pond, just beyond the crest… Louis adjusted his position.
Chmeee’s burnt suit had fallen too slowly. A protector would know it was empty. Cthulhu and Allah! How could anyone fight a lucky protector?
calling on one fictional god and one semi-fictional god, calling on other gods, this is Niven playing a game with us, I like this game, gender does really change peoples minds, seeds and fields to plant, that has consequences in thinking, what do men want?, if you look at history, Genghis had a huge harem, the practice of polygamy, viking practices, is it patriarchy, he’s working it out in this Ringworld scenario, providing grandmotherly wisdom and veteran warriors, a generic love, another plot going on, the Earth is great and Ringworld sucks, Ringworld is a Garden of Eden, all the predators are on one island too far away from the rest of the ringworld, this is the story of the Fall, what is the thing that turns you into a Protector and something hard, the tree-of life root, who do we need right now, climate change, we’re so busy pulling the world apart Bussard ramscoops, Ringworld Engineers as an analogy for Earth, we need some smart bad-ass, monstrous, Justin Trudeau’s not going to solve it and neither will Trump, somebody around here needs to eat some Tree-Of Life Root, there were two trees in Eden, the tree of immortality, longevity vs. fertility, banishment, the fall of the cities, the Puppeteers with their snaky heads did this, they have beautiful voices too, a retcon Paul could accept, interpolating,
The smell of tree-of-life was in Louis’s nose and in his brain. It was not like the wire. Current was sufficient unto itself an experience that demanded nothing further to make it perfect. The smell of tree-of-life was ecstasy, but it sparked a raging hunger. Louis knew what tree-of-life was now. It had glossy dark-green leaves and roots like a sweet potato, and it was all around him, and the taste — something in his brain remembered the taste of Paradise.
panspermia is bullshit, Chariots Of The Gods?, the plot of Battlestar Galactica, thallium oxide, the Bible is a true story … we’ve forgotten, damn that’s good!, still doing good work, adding another ring, who were the first people, the two librarians, they get on an Ark, was Teela one of Louis’ descendants? (dating the great great granddaughter), not Heinlein level incest, if you think incest in Science Fiction that’s Heinlein, male SF writers, set pieces, I love the vampires, undercutting Prill’s one skill, vampire perfume, everything on the map of Mars, they have a gas laser, the taboo against lasers went away, I love the ghouls, keeping it in the family, the ghouls are the secret rulers of the Ringworld, non-sentient male and female, free-will vs. choice, he’s sexy, pheromones for humans, animal free will vs. animal free will, insects that get killed in mating, we were all in that state at some point, all the ideas Niven is playing with, all those ridiculous RPG-like events (the sunflowers and the water condensers), looking for ways to create meaning, a really smart book (and also a trashy sequel), stealing stuff for RPGs, dreaming about protectors, one of Niven’s big ideas, where did all the protectors go?, a question for The Ringworld Throne, making a whole bunch of people soft, nature finds a way, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the hanging people are kind of like the moties, the audiobook narrator didn’t do the Puppeteer contralto, we miss Nessus, the Hindmost is a dick, the tree-of-life virus, where did they go?, Niven didn’t know (in this book), another kind of addiction, their booster spice or their current addiction, a symbiotic virus, who is running the show?, more than Human (or Pak), powerful ideas and powerful characters powerfully motivated, not a wholehearted endorsement.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1970, many people have a problem with this book, issues, classic big dumb object, the book hasn’t changed, oh bad, with live in very sensitive times, political correctness, totally unacceptable jokes, ‘Teela was one of the few women crying doesn’t make ugly’, “so I don’t rape Nessus”, joking and laughing, regaining confidence, is Teela a damsel in distress?, a hole in the Ringworld, luck, she isn’t saved by a man, a trope subverted, Candide, blind faith, rising up, worldbuilding, jaded spacer, quasi-murderous kzin, cowardly Nessus, N-Space, an author plot device, not so cool, Prill, Ascension, Jesse begins apologizing for Larry Niven’s, breaking Paul’s bubble with a fan favourite: Firefly, a lot of sex, defined as a concubine, 40 people on the ship, overly sensitizes, picks at people’s mind, every woman has a tasp within her if she knows how to use it, where are the vampires and ghouls, The Ringworld Engineers, he’s a wirehead, drugs, retesting, a stimulating environment, puppeteer is puppeteer, where’s the outrage over the puppeteer immorality, looking at the book the wrong way, if that’s your takeaway from that scene, let it go, non-sentience and the non-sentient females, Louis Wu’s freezer family, sentient is an interesting world, Philosophical zombies, Westworld!, Ex Machina, man creator creating a woman for sex, addressing a real thing, hard facts that people don’t like to think or talk about, differences between the genders, not being shy, gender switch Louis and Teela’s genders, non-reproductive sex, the intersection between reproduction and sex and gender, a biological fact, why do we go to the puppeteer world, motivated by breeding licenses, he has a beautiful woman’s voice(s), horror acts, I’m going to murder you, when you live in a society that has solved all the gender problems…, as a plot device, the whole book is “spoiled” on the cover and the back, it’s very interesting and let’s explore, in order to have a reason there have to be a series of coincidences, a treatise on fate and destiny, exploring through the story, she just needs to meet a man?, do you have any free will, the puppet strings of fate, the god gambit, she’s going to be alive for 20,000 years, Teela becomes a “protector”, retconing, Protector by Larry Niven, a 1 to 1 scale map of the Earth, Mars, after the Halo generation, trouble picturing it, a true fact, bigger than our imagination, the orbit of the Earth around the sun, did the Lying Bastard make the Fist Of God, the comet defense system, the shadow square wires, Earth has natural mechanisms for keeping itself in balance, there’s no maintenance crew for the Ringworld, laser taboo, Ringworld is so inconceivably big and the whole is not very big in comparison, plug the hole, the center cannot hold, things fall apart, entropy, the sunflower problem, ecology, the ring foundation material being exposed, no real geological activity, preventing the seas from being silted, all the systems that are needed to be maintained, good job Earth!, the Aral Sea, the Earth society, the homogenization of the world, Beirut looks like Budapest, Munich resembles Cairo, transfer booths and stepping discs vs. Skype, a global culture, people in other countries can be in the same room, the lucky ones, every number in South America, Louis is a big mix, Larry Niven is hilarious, Louis Wu and his Motley Crew, French and Chinese, a chrome yellow mandarin, so racist?, just a fashion, Teela was blue, globalism happens, google translate, the Larry Niven’s flashcrowd stories, not the Organlegger stories, not Known Space, flash zombie mobs, revolutions, 2000+ veterans heading to Standing Rock, North Dakota, not through the mainstream media, a slow motion flash mob, thinking about technology the way Larry Niven does, Mission Of Gravity by Hal Clement, how are fly-cycles powered?, concepts or technologies from Ringworld, Neutron Star, Beowulf Shaeffer, my greatest hits of technology ideas, the Ansible (an anagram for Lesbian), Orson Scott Card, General Products Hull, anti-matter, Slaver stasis field, World Of Ptavvs, selecting for luck, a stupid (smart) idea, we don’t have a complete picture of reality, they’re using a different theory, manipulating probabilities, the Scarlet Witch and Gambit, there is no actual book from god, running a crazy (interesting) experiment with an infinite amount of puppeteers, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, sex solving all problems, Babylon 5, bonobo references, sexing your ways out of problems, obsessed by sex, anyone alive has someone in their family interested in sex, a science fan, something to think about, when did Isaac Asimov become interested in sex?, a good thing, the problems with it are so negligible, the fans of Ringworld are insanely interested in it, browbeaten into writing the sequels, a natural school learned from, booster-spice is straight out of Dune, ragweed, the Chaosium Ringworld RPG, Teela brown is well educated, bundled in with the luck, does having experience pain help with empathy?, the Ringworld foundation material, the way Douglas Adams explains how big space is doesn’t give you the same sense, this thing is really, really big, a barbarian swordsperson on a quest, he’s Don Quixote and she’s Sancho Panza, super-funny, “he stopped having sex with me when he found out about you”, almost every culture has done that in most of human history, a collapsed civilization, he knows magic, people barter with people, he’s honourable, stupid honour, she’d be ruining him, keep him the noble idiot that he is, wandering the Ringworld forever, that’s why there is a game about this world, Stellaris, the puppeteer world, leaf-eaters for lunch, “my love”, sexism is based on the distinguishment between male and female, races aren’t real, genders are real, French-ness, epicanthic folds, the end of racism, we all speak Interworld, there goes Firefly again, Joss Whedon, this is why you should pillory Niven: Wu travels the wrong direction for his birthday, “endlessly teased”, the Earth spinning the wrong direction, Niven has tapped into something amazing with Ringworld, a TV adaptation, how to depict the Ringworld on screen, mostly conversations about technical problems and possible solutions, that’s so interesting, the cloud over the city, it looks like a cloud?, that variable sword, Jesse does the voices, Louis the mediator, a xenophile, cool!, real racism, that’s racist!, Speaker’s viewpoint, Nessus’s character is brilliant, [“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”], Meskalanites as Yankee traders, the same story (in structure), what antlers are for, they’re cowards (cautious), they always attacked before they were ready, masterful foreign policy, sock-puppets, it’s both, the Outsiders, slave and food out of everybody, 350 pages, The Wizard Of Oz plot, Maissa’s theory: Teela is Dorothy, the Puppeteer is the Cowardly Lion, Sunflowers instead of Poppies, Louis is Dorothy, Teela as the Tin-Man, Prill as the Wizard, a road trip, it kind of looks like The Wizard Of Oz, Speaker as Tony the Tiger, anachronisms, when you make a kizinti laugh that’s going to be your last joke, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Starfleet Battles, drone warfare, an Enterprise made out of General Products hulls, a BDO, a BDO capper, invented and solved in one book, Gregory Benford, Bowl Of Heaven, Jesse engineer’s a dyson’s sphere without artificial gravity (using Ringworld tech), The Smoke Ring and The Integral Trees, low-tech characters lack a scientific education, Rammer is not known space story, a horrible dystopia, the corpsicles, sticking it to the man, A World Out Of Time, always weird sexual things, totally forgivable, setting Samuel DeLany aside, biological differences in the genders create biological imperatives, women seem to like to take care of babies that come out of their bodies, why do you think that is?, snakes don’t take care of their babies, a biological reason, snakelets take care of themselves, men seem to find women scarce and women seem to find men plentiful, these are facts, that’s what people do, recreation and reproduction, birth control technology has fundamentally changed human relations, walking around in bags, repressed technology, Jesse is going to get into trouble, protecting the make libido, horror stories, a culture of repression, from a biological stance, Beyond The Door by Philip K. Dick, changelings, Rapunzel, Prof. Eric S. Rabkin, this totally a sex story, women always know who their children are and men don’t, the motivation behind horrible, men spread genetic material without cost but for women it is highly costly, the cuckoo, feeding baby birds is physically high cost, divorce in the age of social safety net, charged words, in defense of poor Larry Niven, sexist, colouring the re-reading, trapped in the police jail, flying the Improbable, put a ring around it, a fundamental disregard for women, a lessering of women, little low affect Hal Clements, he’s a man, books written by women, good books, an exercise in making characters, being unable to fully model, a callousness, plot movers to opposed to people, Prill is at a disadvantage, if you’ve been worshiped for a long time, non-violation of the Prime Directive, violated many times, Speaker as a male god, it doesn’t count on Ringworld, very worldist!, vampires and hominids, the lack of diversity, human speciation on the Ringworld in The Ringworld Engineers, bribed with Boston lettuce, less diamond so chaff, mining metaphors, one-and-done-it.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1988, a children’s book (sort of), Galactic Pot-Healer, a favourite, re-reading, do full of gold, Dwight L. Glimmung, Joe Fernright, in a box behind a furnace on Pleasant Hill Road, minor mistakes, where were Joe’s quarters (for Mr. Job), the toilet tank, in an asbestos bag behind the radiator, the Mexicans, an alternate theory the mistakes are actually clues, Jesse’s theory about the SS man in The Man In The high Castle, just to the left and behind my furnace, close enough, parallel structure, placement disparity, conscious or unconscious inconsistencies, Robert J. Sawyer’s theoretical bulletin board, the description of the wub, organically flowing truth, Glimmung is a water deity (sort of), writing by channeling, discrete boxes, the coins represent opportunity to escape, the rhetorizer, a hoop of fire and a hoop of water with a little girl in the center, Glimmung forces change, connecting unintended dots, when Philip K. Dick reads his own books, a little divine, Dick enjoyed writing these books, amplification across multiverses, a wonderful weird jungle, a thicket of bamboo shoots with, the Philip K. Dick fan page, “my best book” (one of his worst books), nothing can be said for it, very minor, The Zap Gun, wrrgh, The Exegesis, a psychotic episode, scraped the bottom of the barrel, paisley shawl, the Jungian archetype, The Cosmic Puppets, Tim Powers, he just “winged it”, one of his very best books, James Triptree, Jr., one of the best last lines, “The pot was awful.”, debates about the ending, a funny ending, an uplifting book, healing the world through weed, drugs, it isn’t about drugs, pots and cups, vessels, stoic philosophy, don’t have a favourite cup, when drinking tea, a double-walled glass tea cup, if your wife dies…, everything dies, you shouldn’t feel sad when your cup is broken, pots can never be healed, the technology that is his livelihood, a plastic world, the jewelry in The Man In The High Castle, making something new vs. fixing or replicating old things, Pay For The Printer, a fabulous ending, writing order, an unsaleable book, what else you got?, structural similarities, Pot-Healer has boobs, a boobless kid’s book, Mali Yoyez is humanoid, a spray on blouse, smashing the keyboard, so Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick’s Tinder profile, favorite colour: reg, Reg the water man, it would make a marvelous animated feature, Nick Podehl narrated the audiobook wonderfully, the parent’s names, the nervous father, the stable mother, no mental illness yet, cats have introversion of their minds, a calm and pleasant version of The Mosquito Coast, an actual story of emigration, New Zealanders and Canadians leave their backwaters, California is not the place people emigrate from, Dick’s childhood, flying out west, living in a condo (conapt) that doesn’t allow pets, is there another reason to emigrate?, how the two books tie together, cats and dogs and parakeets, Miss Juth, airplane/spaceship, Ploughman’s Planet, what’s driving Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, a cool psychological drive, reading it straight up, Nick’s dad’s job parallels Joe Fernwright’s cubicle job, playing the game, no job satisfaction, an assembly line of jobs, Earth societies in both books are very specific dystopias, nobody gets as much work as they want or need, growing his own food, cultivating his own garden, another theory about books, how much work goes into the backstory (Dune and The Lord Of The Rings and Galactic Pot-Healer), Pay For The Printer is Marissa’s new favourite Philip K. Dick short story, Fallout, the printers are helping humanity, pop-up toasters, making your own tools again, Americans with their canned good, Displaced Persons, that’s your life as a kid, precious objects as disposable objects, that’s how you are as a kid, when little kids go to the cupboard and pull out food, a lack of understanding of where things come from, in the end the Printers cannot even print themselves, super-tragic, Printers are like really friendly shoggoths, A Maze Of Death, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, friendly aliens from Mars, Martian Time-Slip, Farmer In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, make the American west out in space, natives, the spittles, the U.N., Canadian history and USA history, land grants, Pot-Healer is the adult version of Nick And The Glimmung, the puddinged Glimmung echoes the Black Glimmung, malign Glimmung vs. ambivalent Glimmung (ultimately good), Palmer Eldritch as an evil god, malign Glimmung, wurjes and wubs and spittles, the Book Of The Calends is the same book as One Summer Day, so connected, one day Philip K. Dick one way about something and the next day…, God is good and God is malign, seeing Galatic Pot-Healer in the context of Nick And The Glimmung, little kids handle darkness better than adults, Tony And The Beetles, insectoid aliens, a robot dog, imagine you’re a Japanese kid going to school in California in 1940, told for the child’s perspective, The Father-Thing, a horror story for children, horror movie trauma vs. textual horror, horror filled rick-rolls, Hansel And Gretel is a horror story, also a true story, children being cooked in ovens, Roald Dahl stories, Roald Dahl is a Philip K. Dick style writer, cocooned children and mushroomy plants, set in the period in which it was written, Glimmung is a very positive Cthulhu, Glimmung came from a cold star, manifested by increments, when Nick sees the Nick-thing, giving back Horace (the cat), does Horace know which Nick is which?, what we know about father-things, Horace vs. Horus, Egyptian cat-god, named after Horace Gold (like a shut-in cat), one of PKD’s cats was named Magnificat, adventures together, made out of bamboo, a sense of rightness, primeval or primordial fears, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, the world of Ploughman’s Planet is like H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, wurjes and night-gaunts, a map of Ploughman’s Planets, “Magnificent City”, Glimmung’s Mark, Nick’s father, predicted in One Summer Day, “inhabited”, and then he saw the Nick-thing, he felt terror, a wistful wan smile, the two trobes, “Safety City and so it was.”, equally happy?, the Glimmung was replicated and Nick was replicated, stabbing himself with his own spear, the spear gives him a wound that can never heal, the Spear of Longinus, the stigmata that can never be healed, the pottery with a cartoon on it, what does this black fish represent?, the Exalted RPG, the Broken-Winged Crane, infected by the book, books that write and rewrite themselves, having to deal with false and true prophecy, predetermination vs. free will, struggling to overcome, acting like a lawyer, wiggle-room despite predestination, playing the odds and obeying what we’re told, when Joe confronts the Willis robot, Julie and Rose Davis, if you think the world is material then you do have an existential difficulty, how do you deal with per-scripted, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, does fiction change us?, horoscopes and psychic shops, fiery Scorpios, waking up shy or undefeated, personality as clothing, being sympathetic towards even the idiots, driving around town, aggressive driving, trying to project into the minds of others, this feeble god that is totally manipulating all the actors, the book of Calends is manipulating too, One Summer Day is such an interesting and weird title, high YA vs. middle grade tone, the book’s tone is YA but there is a lot of heavy material, a shitty criticism, being told the definition of things, high level vocab words, Despairity City (or Disparity City), you bring yourself to a book, which book do you like better?, not a fair question, under-complex, an idyll that came and went, the world in Nick And The Glimmung, thinking about way more things, The Thing (1982), Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers, the most serious issue there is: what is the point of existence given their is no point, hopeful in its philosophy, in struggling for something, “undercooked”, we’re at the turning point, taking old stories and recycling elements into new ones, using Ploughman’s Planet and Glimmung and the structure to make Galactic Pot-Healer, a choice, Joe Fernwright and another Lord Running Clam, an alien buddy who gives you life advice and gets you girlfriends, out of the depths of despair, Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, the frontier as a safety valve, space and other planets as the new frontier, escape for those who are willing to escape dysfunction in society, a terrible seduction technique, farming Antarctica in 20years, not in a Fluke Pit, actively creating instead of just consuming, an elaborate April Fools day joke, society for the transplantation of polar bears to Antarctica, a big April’s fool joke on myself, playing games to distract ourselves from living our lives (Fallout 4 and Battlefield 4), viewing cat gifs on the internet is not a life, getting used to anything, why is Jesse going insane, Honest Constricting-path, Some Like It Hot = Arithmetical Temperatures Are Preferred, to pass the goddamned time of day, Domicile Stockyard = Home Depot, mindfulness meditation time = playing computer games.
Posted by Jesse Willis
“‘It was history, honorable Mr. Smith, our knowledge of history that defeated him,’ said the Japanese archaeologist, reverting to the ancient politeness of his race.”
-A.E. van Vogt’s Black Destroyer (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939)
Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) takes inspiration from a number of sources. The oldest direct literary allusion is to Joseph Conrad’s 1904 novel Nostromo. Nostromo, beside being the book’s title, is also the name of the novel’s protagonist and the name of the ship in Alien. Conrad’s novel is set in a fictional South American nation of Costaguana and in it’s seaport town of Sulaco, the name of the ship in Aliens.
In the novel Nostromo is an Italian seaman, a trusty capataz de los cargadores, a hyper-competent, but resentful, head longshoreman, and an employee of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (perhaps hence forth to be named either “the company” or Weyland-Yutani). Having settled in the seaside town “Sulaco” he has established himself as an the indispensable man.
The crew of the Nostromo, in Alien, act much more like longshoremen than they do sailors – though I note that they are more commonly referred to as long haul trucker types*. But, given all the union shop talk, the bonuses, and all the loading and unloading equipment all over their ship (all those chains hanging down, remember?) and also Ripley’s later work with power loaders in the sequel, Aliens, the comparison to longshoremen is more apt. Moreover, the ship in Alien is named “Nostromo” and is a commercial mining ship.
James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) is mostly inspired by Alien (1979), having approximately the same recipe and relationship that Terminator 2 (1991) has to The Terminator (1984), yet Cameron still acknowledges the inspiration of Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, Starship Troopers (firrst published as “Starship Solider“). And, you can totally see it – what with the “combat drops” and the “bug hunts” and the power armor (powered exoskeletons).
Finally, and I posted about this back in 2012, there is a massive inspiration for the alien of Alien coming from a 1939 novelette by A.E. van Vogt, Black Destroyer. That story is told from the perspective of the intelligent alien animal. Here’s the art for it from the original publication:
More on Black Destroyer can be found here:
Newest to me, and perhaps least known [thanks to Chris for the pointer], is the fact that A.E. van Vogt’s second story in Astounding (December 1939), also influenced Alien. The story is entitled, Discord In Scarlet.
Again the cover story, Discord In Scarlet featured another alien horror attacking a crew of humans, but this one doesn’t so much look like the alien from Aliens as it does act like it – specifically it has the ability to plant its eggs in men for reproductive purposes. I’ve highlighted a gruesome passage here:
Also evocative, is the interior art for the story, two of the illustrations use some colour (rather rare for Astounding):
Both Black Destroyer and Discord In Scarlet were incorporated, with some revisions, into van Vogt’s fix-up novel The Voyage Of The Space Beagle.
Posted by Jesse Willis
*there is a D-grade movie called Space Truckers
Talked about on today’s show:
1951, the really annoying way Heinlein does things, Paul’s main Heinlein phase (in the late 1980s), when Paul was ten, Time Enough For Love, Expanded Universe, the basic parts of a Heinlein novel (in terms of characters), the Heinleinian triad, the young talented protagonist, the older wise crotchety man, and the red headed woman character, who The Man In The High Castle was, when Dick writes a novel…, when Heinlein writes a novel…, methamphetamine is 100% non-habit forming (?!), Jesse is uncomfortable with surety, Heinlein exudes surety from every pore of his body, orbital mechanics, what women want, Bruce Jenner’s gender switch, Heinlein’s politics, black people, women should be raised up in society, homophobia, Mary’s super-power is gaydar, homosexuality, asexuality, marriage, men and women are identical, “of course husband”, the alien is the husband, the structure, the final chapter, in case the mission to Titan fails, message in a bottle storytelling, first person perspective, surety undercuts it, has Dick ever written in first person?, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Hanging Stranger, identical paranoia, how much he hates the Soviets, Heinlein was rabidly anti-communist, in the commissar’s office, WorldCon, God help us all, he was right but…, imagine if this novel is a metaphor for communism, the Second Red Scare, Soviet and Chinese communism, WWWII, Manhattan crater and Washington crater, projecting brawn, getting tanks to North America, the evil of the puppet master aliens, orgies on TV is bad, also gladiatorial combat, they kill cats!, no effect on Soviet Russia, hygiene, scabies and lice, parasitism, cranked up to 13, Saddam Hussein, U.S. politics, if it were re-written today…, core fears, 24 was that, looking at the structure, avenging the cats and dogs, a master of the craft, Luke Burrage, that is good writing, so different from Philip K. Dick’s books, a straight line vs. how did I get here, all the sins that Time Enough For Love, naked people standing around in cushioned apartments talking about legal matters regarding the decanting of babies while a cat walks into the room, get passed the cat, Pirate the cat, casual nudity, Eric S. Rabkin, making it absolutely necessary that the society go nudist (and never go back), Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp, combs, even in Heinlein’s kids books, in their dome homes the heat is cranked up, was Heinlein a nudist?, Hollywood, downhill after The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, I Will Fear No Evil, an old white guy living in the body of a young black woman, the US Navy, hate and love for the military, this weird guy from Missouri writes his consciousness into his books, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Friday, rape, when Heinlein talks about rape…, an artificial person, an inferiority complex, a fascinating society, the movie of The Puppet Masters, the fun stuff, the cat, the alien was kissing, being devoured by a woman, Eric Thal opens his mouth whenever possible, Sam, Mary, why does everyone hate this movie so much, Donald Sutherland, Keith David is always fun, unlike every X-Files this was competent, yeah look it’s a fake, the slugs are really smart, were they smart?, the sequence where Sam first gets a slug on his back is one of the best bits of Science Fiction, its almost as if he doesn’t know, more insidious and more scary, tying it all together, helicopter vs. skycar, Heinlein loves incest, they do juice you up, the addiction metaphor, had Dick developed it…, an Olympic athlete, what’s undercooked, who is in charge of their own minds, choices under some conditions but not under others, if we all had slugs on our backs…, getting married to Mary, love of a good woman ends addiction, black and white, Joe Cinidella is actually Italian until he becomes a Nazi, a flipped switch, turning on the waterworks, operating as a slug, Glory Road, set in fairlyand, Nebraska, all about the contract, an ambivalent relationship with marriage and law, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, alpha husbands and beta wives, primae noctis, you get into their psychology, really weird people, WWII and methamphetamines, go pills, tempus fugit, chasing the cat, is Heinlein challenging us?, Star Trek: Operation: Annihilate (aka Planet of the Pancakes), Maissa Bessada, resetting the show at the end of the episode, another point of Vulcan physiology, Kirk’s brother is named “Sam”, Mary is the vessel for world piece, Heinlein sued the makers of The Brain Eaters, Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s no money until the Ferengi show up, Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of the post scarcity economy, maybe women did act that way in the 1950s, a sequel in which Mary is saved from her marriage, 1980s tropes, sex scenes, Mission Impossible movies, developing out of taboos, the PG-13 effect, “they’re boffing, ok”, Alien, giant penis monster, Aliens, James Cameron’s problems with Harlan Ellison and The Terminator, The Outer Limits, The Brain Eaters, lifting things out of literary SF, Avatar is very good lifting, redoes the the first movie and the first, Luc Besson, The Professional, adding a baby doesn’t make things better, Ellen Ripley, the corporate military mission, Newt (from Aliens) is Mary (from The Puppet Masters), garbage bunk vs. good orbital mechanics, feral child, the structure is the same, spacesuit -> fighting suit, ejecting from the ship -> ejecting from the planet, a powerful story, Alien 3, Paul fulminates, the nine day fever (Venusian Jungle Fever), encephalitis, The Puppet Masters is a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, here’s how I would do it, H.G. Wells was a cynical asshole, monstrous, liars, jerks, and racists, our CIA operatives know what they’re doing, the NSA, “you just killed a guy for no reason”, it isn’t uncaring wisdom that save humanity it’s man’s ingenuity, root em out and kill em all, it’s the end of Starship Troopers, the Elves of Titan, Independence Day aliens, Welcome to Earth scene, Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Willy Wonka-style, a space alien cop (the Mother Thing), “who lives like that?”, if Heinlein had had a kid, the serial was slightly rewritten by Horace Gold, the unexpurgated version, 1980s movie style, a hook-up with an anonymous blonde from a bar, the trope for James Bond, Virginia Heinlein, Stranger In A Strange Land, it is not better, weird names, Biblical names, Mary’s real name, Sam’s real name is Elihu, in the Book of Job, Elihu’s big speech
Elihu states that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, for moral betterment and warning, and to elicit greater trust and dependence on a merciful, compassionate God in the midst of adversity.
putting us on the right path, x is so bad that we have to put all our trust in…., our precious bodily fluids, if Heinlein were alive today…, Ray Bradbury, the NSA, anarchism, Mary’s backstory, the Whitmanites, an explicit mention of the Doukhobors, Heinlein just likes nudity, Heinlein likes his women to older or a lot younger, physically young but actually older, a young secretary with an old man’s brain, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, lots of surgeries or whatever, shrugging it off, a different experience than back in the day, you must read ancient authors, for another podcast, you don’t know SFF if you don’t read…, shame at not reading The War Of The Worlds, can you find Heinlein books at new bookstores?, Alfred Bester is great but he wrote two books, genre defining or pioneering, well-written idea SF, almost no science, a bit of politics, marriage, you don’t know SFF if you havent read a Heinlein novel, a long discussion for another time.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Ace Books F-251, December 12th, 1963, The Man In The High Castle, nominations, a worthy follow-up?, a high bar, somehow I ended up in a taxi with no memory of how I got there, whaaah?, bluff (the game), the landed class of a depopulated earth, Monopoly, Candlyland, Liar’s Dice, the game of Life, dice, cards, spins, their powers of imagination, just so ridiculous, Marissa really liked it, a short story by Dick, Jupiter, test the game on the kids, there’s something to this, the way we conceive of how Philip K. Dick wrote his novels, we know almost everything about H.P. Lovecraft, but Dick was a talker not a letter writer, one aspect of Dick’s life, the game aspect, sitting around playing Monopoly is an obsessive horrible experience, egomania, weirdly emphatic, very philosophical, if Monopoly was a real thing… (and it kind of is), it has very little to do with skill, lots of luck, Peter Garden had a rough night and got into an argument with his car, the car scenes, the cars are some of the most realized characters in the book, the elevator spills its guts, simulated personalities, doors and elevators and cars, the Rushmore effect, a kettle that reports on you, how the rushmore circuit got installed in everything, the Talky Toaster episode of Red Dwarf, AI circuits, Mork & Mindy, Pocatello, Idaho, Berkley, California, New Mexico, the plot, Earth has been subjugated by the Vugs, nuclear war, immortality, bindmen, the Titanians, that’s not the plot, the Earth-Titan War, sterilizing most of the earth, factions of Vugs, are the Vugs trying to live on Earth, living like humans, a lot of telepaths, The Pirates Of Penzance, Mr. Tagomi’s lin: “Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream”, the key for Dick to doing that cool thing, Pete Garden’s visit to Titan, they change the reality of what’s on Pete’s card, Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, Joe Schilling, that little hint, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, a really cool cipher, please tell me if I’m human or not, psionics, telepathy, had Dick taken it even farther, Dick and his characters are on speed in this book, checklist of Dick themes, homeopapes, boobs, marital infidelity, the men are the major players, are they trading property and women?, the reason I have to get divorced…, having a baby is national news, somebody in Ontario had a baby, why is their syndicate called “pretty blue fox?”, NATO-style call codes, ham radio enthusiasts, PBF, two or three books back, robot brains on little carts (the Lazy Dogs), childish, Now Wait For Last Year, Dick is teaching his kids, children’s culture that we forget when we are adults, if I was to pop out a baby next year, distraction techniques, maybe as a social dating thing, another glimpse into Dick’s life, a playful book, character names, a couple named Angst, a guy named Calomine, Lucky Luckman, Mr. Gains, a cop named Hawthorne, sin (Nathaniel Hawthorne), the Vugs had initials, E.B. Black, E.G., a clue for us, a moderate vug, a very soft occupation, interpolation of the vugs into Earth’s society, the U.S. occupation of Japan after WWII, okay, I guess we’re playing the game, a way to encourage humans to keep breeding, the depopulated earth, that record store in New Mexico, a village sort of feel to the novel, in other novels, his core set (of characters), a haunted landscape, Peter Garden, Pete as a symbol for infidelity, importing a wife in for him, she bites the rabbit paper, a little more kosher, Garden, a story, a very short story by Dick called Out In The Garden, a wife and her duck, a duck in a suitcase, grocery shopping and getting her hair done, Sir Francis the drake, a poem by Yates, Leda And The Swan, Zeus turns into a swan and rapes a woman, a poem about sexual assault, Helen of Troy, a fantasy story about a woman who has had a relationship with her duck, a guy is cuckolded by a duck, Dick is always worried about his wife cheating on him, Sylvia, name puns, not even probable, Freya, the goddess of fertility, Carol, Pat McLean, an eight year old sought after by a 200 year old man, that crazy big bender, gotta go take all the drugs (like it is his job), the ending fake out with the drugs, getting precog abilities when taking meth, double blind (or double bluff?), a cold war metaphor, like poker with even more random elements, Solar Lottery, pairing books, different cultured futures, what is destiny and fate?, a completely legitimate way to go, instead of a meritocracy or a democracy, let’s just magnify this out a bit, well, that marriage didn’t work out, Eye In The Sky, a group in the same way, Inception, whose dream is it this time?, a clique of people you spend time with, it’s about Dick’s personal life, social dynamics, intruding on things, the outsider vs. the insider, Dick divorces his wife Sally but that’s okay because John likes her and…, Sally brings his new boyfriend in from the east coast, success, the pseudopodia robot cleaner, riper and ready for potential citizens, the non-bindmen, how did that happen?, now you can have all the property in California, the Jack Gaughan cover, what’s going on?, a stack of deeds, there’s not enough detail to reconstruct this game in reality, Jesse says “undercooked” a lot, the human squares, rolling is spinning (maybe), I hate Monoply (but I really do hate it), it fascinates us, a brilliant horrible strategy, controlling the housing supply, brilliant and evil, everything to do with Monopoly is horrible, the origin story of Monopoly (the Landlords Game), showing the evils of capitalism, trusts roll-in, he stole the game, her idea is thrown out and the rules she lays out in Monopoly actually occur, the ironies of Life, a horrible game, it happens within the family, you can see it coming, it’s crushing, what are the vugs playing for?, playing for a life on Earth, what Luckman’s doing, the vugs got so entranced with the game they created that they are subsumed by it, crass to gain power (instead of playing it for a lark), he’s trying to crush the kids, I don’t wanna play that game, Jesse’s housing costs are because of how others are playing the game of life, they’re playing the game wrong, live read books then later die (there’s no winning), a way to spend a rainy afternoon with your kids, the psionic talents, telekinesis, telepathy, precognition, Pat gets a bit of the precog’s point of view, the precogs could be wrong, finally methamphetamine does a good thing, all the layers of deception, it was kind of exciting and leavened with dollops of humour, Max the passive-aggressive car, driving Joe down the bumpy street, so many good scenes, a little bit of Ubik, it’s in our future, a lot of technology talking to characters, coming up soon, AG-Chemi from The Simulacra, like a parallel world, if you take the rules of any one Dick novel…, using JJ-180, I love Philip K. Dick’s mind, The Cosmic Puppets, Peter and Mary, he re-uses names, one could very easily, a Philip K. Dictionary, the checklist, he’s such a fnool, The War With The Fnools, the wonderful thing about a book like this, unofficial Harry Potter encyclopedias and concordances, unlike Lovecraft, S.T. Joshi, Robert M. Price, the Journal Of Philip K. Dick studies, how many of the stories use the name Pete or Peter, homeopapes and autofacs, the rabbit paper, there’s a story called Autofac, we’d buy the heck out of that book, do it as a blog put it together as a book.
Posted by Jesse Willis