Reading, Short And Deep #023
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Ely’s Automatic Housemaid by Elizabeth W. Bellamy
Ely’s Automatic Housemaid was first published in The Black Cat, December 1899.
Here’s a link to the PDF of the story.
Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Talked about on today’s show:
1964, entertaining, gotta write this book, gotta take some drugs, more about his life than any other PKD books we’ve, when the slime mold gives him amphetamines, a mental breakdown, what the plot of the novel is, a bad scene out of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, World, such a Philip K. Dick moment, A Scanner Darkly, Alphane vs. Earth, off the shelf stuff, breasts every ten pages, a breast heavy book, nipple dilation, a scathing look, her nipples reduced, a breasty book, the Irish actress, the ending, an insane moon full of norms, it’s going to work out, she almost bites his ear off, the love potion, a joke, release some of the air out of your tires, of course crazy people aren’t stupid, the clans are not the pushovers Earth thinks they are, worst CIA ever, going from crisis to crisis, the original short story, Shell Game, pare = paranoid, parallels, the script mostly about his own life, this is his life, murder, a simulacra, a comedy, women as decoration, Philip K. Dick self-aware characters, mancis = psychopaths?, pares live in Adolphville, Hebophreniacs = Ghanditown?, ObComs (obsessive compulsives), Schizs = Joan DA’rc, DaVinci Heights, Hamlet Hamlet, William Shakespeare, Hamlet as a Philip K. Dick novel, a commentary-guy, To be or not to be is a Philip K. Dick line, some of the best writing, briefly described aliens, Lord Runningclam, things are going to work out, geniusly brilliant hilarious funny and touching, no second or third agenda, socially inept slime mold, Shut Up Slime Mold, Lord RC sent me over, a venusian moss, pretty damn hilarious, time travel, cops, taking too much speed, what happened to the cop girlfriend who can go back in time?, Omega-13 (Galaxy Quest reference), a 12 by 12 foot area, like a real cop, a tiny little gun, a Philip K. Dick buddy cop movie with Lord Running Clam, rotoscope style, a TV clown (not a news clown), Bunny Hentman’s spaceship, wub fur slippers, homeopapes, a sanitarium 3 light years away, just because you have a mental disorder does that mean you can’t have a life?, three pares together, what was happening in PKD’s life during the time of this book’s writing, Dick had his wife committed, wracked by guilt, I’m the crazy one, who’s the crazy one, taking speed, the wife not supporting him, earn more money, if I can write faster…, a good book with serious problems, so many good ideas that are underdeveloped, Red Canada is full of simulacra, our reality, as soon as they can get drones that can walk around with faces on them, they look and act like people, getting into the ideas it is offering, Daniel Magaboom, the cylon problem, different kinds of people, reflecting how the characters act, love potions, exploring the ideas of autonomy, Galatic Pot-Healer, messages via your toilet bowl, raising a sunken cathedral, Glimmung, trying to be optimistic, furthering the agenda of beings all across the galaxy, Lord Runningclam does a Groot from Guardians Of The Galaxy, RBX303 is the blind best friend of Bunny, charming lechery, Lions Bloodregal, Bunny is behind it all, it’s all a shell game, Chuck Rittersdorf, crappy plans, that’s what happens, I don’t know what the plot of this book is, Chuck, Paul can be in the dep camp (Cotton Mather Estates), poor guy, Bains another name in The Man In The High Castle, the Philip K. Dick fan page, one funny scene, designed to be a comedy, a formal occasion to which you must attend you act like a simulacra of yourself, new Doctor Who, Gangers (dopplegangers), Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein, who’s on the list?, the saint psychotics, powers, when you talk to schizs you get the sense that things are different in their world, regular logic doesn’t apply, exploring mental issues (and doing a comedy piece), the big Steve Jobs thing, the reality distortion field is a real thing, the laws of social dynamics, physical impossibilities vs. social impossibilities, with think things are stable but they are fundamentally unstable, hugging the homeless, social reality, inverting social relations is possible, sort of a fantasy book for a minute, a metaphor almost, a mess that you can think and enjoy, works for us.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Philip K. Dick’s first published novel, The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, the Psi-Corps, a solar empire, getting away with murder, raw power, a telpath’s guild is a logical consequence, a 1950s idea, Dune, the John Preston sub-plot, Prester John is middle age superhero fan fiction, Marco Polo, Robert Silverberg, “the cynicism of later Dick”, the quizmaster bodyguard plan, Dickian action sequences, the conclusion on Mars, Batavia, that’s the cover too, androids on the Moon, Ace Books, how do you explain the guy not in the space suit, the protagonist, Doctor Who, the culture, androids, surprisingly little info-dumping, minimax (game theory), there’s so much going on, loyalty oaths, corporate feudalism, cheap Chinese goods, fealty to corporations, Total Recall, Johnny Cab!, distinguishing between male and female, imagine how difficult it will be for robots to determine gender, an elegant solution, the world is amazing, The Golden Man, nuclear war, post nuclear war, Indonesia, Batavia, no mention of the USA at all, such an ambitious book, it gets better in the re-reads, everyone’s obsessed with good luck charms, a metaphor for the whole society, stifling progress, very The Man In The High Castle, The Price Is Right, sell more goods, increasing demand for supply, pacifying the population, what does the quizmaster actually do?, lingering through the subways, algae growing on the bathroom pipes, a literal channel, a metaphorical channel, Channel M, Ted Bentley, his favourite bedgirl agency, the McDonalds of prostitution, virgin’s milk and boiled owl spit, all of his psychological problems were solved for the day, bare breasted, quivering breasts, his interests coming to the fore, cheating may or may not be legal, cynicism, the public service, bio-chemical engineering, secretaries, a minimum quality of life for everyone, defeating corruption by subverting competition, power cards, p-cards, figuring out how the lottery actually works, The Library Of Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges, the lottery starts as something for the lower classes, an interplanetary society, it just so happens that this story is in the the public domain, the 1962 English publication of The Library Of Babylon, great minds think…, I’m not playing this game, defeating corruption, avoiding cynicism, a total inversion of meritocracy, how the assassin as an anti-corruption measure, corrupting the anti-corruption measure, crackpots in power, the cynicism of Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein, fatalism, am six year old wife, France, the premise of Glory Road, a sense of futility, SFF writers for and against the Vietnam War, International Science Fiction Magazine, a response to America 1950s, getting out of the system somehow, when do you not obey the law, so not full of philosophy, courtroom drama, Marissa needs to expand this book, “cluttered”, Dick’s later works are meditations, René Descartes, what the hell is the Flame Disc?, John Prester wrote four books, Prester is dead on Earth, Prester is dead in a bottle, what does 2 plus 2 equal?!, a buoy, Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, unanticipatable, keep cooking that idea, looking for the 10th planet, bedgirls working in the mines on Mars, work-camps, random punishments, very Borgesian, neo-colonialism, Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, Avatar, Desertion by Clifford D. Simak, just like in Avatar, him and his dog, escaping reality, A Princess OF Mars and Glory Road, let’s go live in this book, The Peripheral by William Gibson, time travel, computer simulations of historical characters, Socrates is a troll, Socrates trolls Francisco Pizarro, Keith Pellig has the bomb, another android with a bomb, Imposter by Philip K. Dick, Impostor, Astounding Science Fiction, it’s not terrible at all.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1968, science fiction by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner, abridged version, audiobook, repetition of theme, an introductory novel to Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick, jam packed with action, one long day, the fake police station, a classic Dick move, how many androids are there in this book?, movies, androids, legitimate slavery, Luba, minority, androids v. slaves, reality of humans, psychological tests, visuals, dialogic science fiction, Wilder Penfield, The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton, mood organ, existential humor, satire, artificial, unbelievable world, endless competition, goat glands, Sydney’s Catalog, the BBC Radio 4 audio drama by Jonathan Holloway & Kerry Shale, parallel characters, undercut truth, an animal theme, religious allusions, Mercer, Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan), lurker, detective story, lack of world descriptions, less striking scenes in the movie, Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick, tomb world, fraud corpses, Mercer v. Jesus, lack of introduction in the movie, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the maker, hope of freedom, androids as fiends, humans yet not humans, what is the definition of human?, the question, the title, empathy to androids, Deckard’s predictions, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, predestination, fake things, simulacra, electrically modified ecology, emotional drug, consumerism, The Days of Perky Pat by Philip K. Dick, Nanny by Philip K. Dick, the vale of reality, the cuckoo clock in Blade Runner, layered symbols, visualizing future technologies, Kayla Williams, unobvious connections, paranoia, suspicion of government, The Exit Door Leads In by Philip K. Dick, unimportance of religious reality, environmental awareness, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, dehumanization in war, androids = inverted human, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, television, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, 1984 by George Orwell, podcasting, Metropolis (Fritz Lang), Max Headroom, “Five Minutes Into the Future”, The Red Room by H.P. Lovecraft, haunted media.
Posted by Jesse Willis
We Can Build You
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Dan John Miller
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: August 14, 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours
Themes: / androids / healthcare / future / bureaucracy /
In this lyrical and moving novel, Philip K. Dick intertwines the story of a toxic love affair with one about sentient robots, and unflinchingly views it all through the prism of mental illness — which spares neither human nor robot. The end result is one of Dick’s most quietly powerful works.
When Louis Rosen’s electronic-organ company builds a pitch-perfect robotic replica of Abraham Lincoln, the firm is pulled into the orbit of a shady businessman, who is looking to use Lincoln for his own profit. Meanwhile, Rosen seeks Lincoln’s advice as he woos a woman incapable of understanding human emotions — someone who may be even more robotic than Lincoln’s replica.
Published in 1972, Dick uses the premise of a “future” (the book takes place in Dick’s imagined 1982) where programming is advanced enough to allow programming the appearance of sentience into androids to provide a treatise on mental health and mental healthcare.
In short, Louie Rosen and his partner Maury run a business making and selling electronic organs. One day, however, Maury decides to make an android of Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War. When he reveals it to Louie, he also reveals that his schizophrenic daughter, Priss, played a large role in developing the personality for it. The Stanton simulacrum is quite successful, and they make another, this time of Abraham Lincoln. They get the idea to pitch it to an investor, Barrows, to capitulate on Americans’ love for the Civil War (which at the time it was written, was nearing its centennial). Unfortunately, as Barrows and the crew spend more time with the Lincoln, they find that it is moody and seems manic. While this may be historically accurate, it could also be a projection of Priss’s beliefs about Lincoln into the programming. Where the Stanton android is personable, logical, and “normal,” the Lincoln is anything but. Eventually, Barrows decides to pass on the investment and instead make his own (which he will use as first settlers for a moon colony–an idea I would have preferred to read about). Priss ends up infatuated with Barrows and follows him back to Seattle. Louie, while talking to the Lincoln, seems to have also developed mental instability and runs to Seattle to bring Priss back. She shoots him down and he ends up committed. The story ends when Louie “gets over” his issues and is discharged to go about his normal life.
This was a book about ideas. Dick obviously had feelings about the state (and stigma) of mental health issues in the 60’s, both with regards to diagnosis and treatment. He almost seems to imply that we’re all mentally unstable/have our moments of instability…but he takes it to another level as to suggest that the state-run facilities do nothing to help people. Rather, the state-run facilities can actually make people worse.
In the end, this was a book of a lot of thoughts, not a lot of actions. There was a lot more dialogue an “thinking” than there was stuff actually happening; it was quite cerebral. This isn’t the kind of book I’m normally into…and in fact, as the book wore on, I found it hard to want to listen and hard to keep focused. I liked the idea of sentient androids, of “souls” built from research into real people…but it’s not for me. And probably not for everybody. But if you like “ideas” books, then it may be for you.
The narration itself was…interesting. Miller’s voice is somewhat flat, which can be good in an audiobook like this; he certainly didn’t try to project too much character into most of the voices. However, he did use different tones for female voices as compared to male voices. In that respect, it was somewhat grating; his female voice was almost pandering and was somewhat creepy. It made some “sexual” scenes between Priss and Louie extra-creepy. That said, it also helped to make me really believe that Priss was mentally ill…
It’s hard to believe, but this is the first PKD I’ve ever read. I’ve also never watched Bladerunner in its entirety. I don’t know if the rest of his stories are like this, so cerebral. If they are, I may skip them. I was lured in by the robots…and kind of turned off by everything else.
Review by terpkristin.
If you haven’t already started listening to The Red Panda Adventures you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Go back to the beginning and start with Season 1 (that’s HERE).
The Red Panda Adventures – Season 7
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2011 – July 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / War / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Androids / Espionage / Zombies / Magic / Aliens / Poetry / Astral Projection / Hypnosis / France / Germany / Berlin / Dinosaurs / Identity / Forgery / Romance /
The Red Panda Adventures is a comic book superhero series with a world, now in it’s seventh season, that is only comparable in scale to the entire Marvel or DC universes. But unlike either DC and Marvel, the Red Panda universe has all been written by one man, Greg Taylor. Because of that it has a consistency like the best seasons of Babylon 5.
The first episode of Season 7 follows right on the heels of last season’s final episode. In the season opener, From the Ashes, Kit Baxter gets a visit from the highest power in the land. And what with the Red Panda being presumed dead there’s only one thing to do – find a replacement for Canada’s greatest superhero. The government suggests that an unkillable machine, bent on vengeance, become the new Red Panda. And Kit, is fairly forced to accept the government’s choice. Now I won’t summarize any more of the plot. But, I will say this – Season 7 is a very different season than the previous six seasons.
What isn’t different is Taylor’s scripting. It’s still great, in fact its almost unbelievably great. Taylor has one of those highly distinctive writing styles, one that’s instantly recognizable – he’s like an Aaron Sorkin, a David Mamet, or an Ian Mackintosh. And with Taylor’s style comes a whole lot of substance too. He does incredible things with each half-hour script. Each standalone tale features a carefully measured combination of snappy repartee, genuine mystery, thrilling suspense, and clever action. And he does it all within a expanded universe so consistent so as to have become a kind of complete alternate history. His seven year series, and running, has created an image so vivid as to be completely realized. Taylor’s 1930s-1940s Toronto is far realer to me than any Gotham or Metropolis offered up in comics or movies. In fact to find anything comparable you’d have to go to the Springfield of The Simpsons!
Indeed, for the last seven years I’ve followed The Red Panda Adventures rather avidly and with each season I’ve become more engrossed in the show. The release of a new episode has become so inextricably linked to my listening habits so as to become like a good a visit from an old friend. It’s truly wonderful.
In my re-listening to the first eleven episodes of this Season 7 I picked up dozens and dozens of minor details in dialogue and plot that I’d missed the first time around. Take one point, early in the season, as an example – a character quotes the tagline of the CBS Radio series Suspense as a part of her dialogue.
How wonderful to find that!
And of course there are all the usual line echoes that we know from all past seasons (if you’re curious there’s a whole thread of Taylorisms over on AudioDramaTalk).
As for Season 7 as a whole, it has a sense of deep loss, very much in keeping with the times in which the story is set and the fallout from Season 6. Earlier I mentioned that Season 7 was unlike previous seasons, that’s because it features two overarching, and eventually intersecting, plots. The first, set in Toronto, deals with Kit Baxter, her new sidekick, her new job as associate editor of the Chronicle, and her developing pregnancy. The other plotline, set in Europe introduces us to a new character, a Lieutenant Flynn, a man in a deep denial, and his attempts to fight the Nazis behind their lines. It’s a radical change, and unforeseen change of pace, but not an unpleasant one.
The smaller scale stories from this season, like The Milk Run, work terrifically well too. As even the characters themselves will admit a plot about the forgery of rationing books doesn’t sound very dramatic next to the events unfolding in war torn France. But it’s a job that has to be done, and should be done, and done well it is. And that’s because the relatively harmless domestic crime of forgery is an important part of the story of WWII Toronto. The The Milk Run script tackles it in a way that makes it seem as if such a story could not not be told. In fact, this whole home-front end of the season’s story holds up very well next to the very dramatic later episodes.
One other such, The Case Of The Missing Muse, works very similairly. It’s a story in which we meet a super-villain, with a super-vocabulary, in a mystery that could have been set in any of the previous episodes. But what with the war time setting it of Season 7, and a new Red Panda running the show, it has a resolution that has its own unique wartime fit.
That replacement Red Panda, who in fact is a character from a previous season is still voiced by the wonderful Christopher Mott. The new Panda has a very different personality and temperament than our good friend August Fenwick. His goals as Red Panda are different, his methods are different, and it’s basically everything you like about when a hero regular superhero, from the comics gets, a replacement. It’s a new origins story – a fresh start – with all the promise that brings.
Some have argued that The Red Panda Adventures is really Kit Baxter’s story – and that certainly could be argued especially within the first arc of Season 7. Indeed, Kit Baxter, aka Flying Squirrel, does not get short shrift there. Besides her regular superhero duties, Kit’s also required to train the new Panda, fill in for the shattered Home Team (from last season) and somehow deal with the fact that her butler now knows she’s the Flying Squirrel! But that’s not all over at The Chronicle, the fictional Toronto newspaper that Kit works for, she, and we, get to visit with one of the best editor voices I’ve ever heard. Editor Pearly is your typical fatherly J. Jonah Jameson type caricature of an editor, but with a voice so crazily stressed out, a voice with lines so quickly delivered, you’ll barely understand a word he’s saying. It’s both fun and funny.
Then, just short of the midway point, a kind of focal transition takes place in between episodes 78 and 79, The Darkness Beyond and Flying Blind. The second arc begins slowly but soon ramps up. The aforementioned “Lieutenant Flynn”, and a team of commandos lead by one Captain Parker must escape from a Nazi stalag prison. Once achieved they spend much of the rest of the season either on the run or doing Special Operations Executive style missions in Nazi occupied France or in Berlin itself! And long time fans of the series will recognize the return of a certain Australian accented commando in one episode.
This new military aspect of the show is actually rather remarkable, being like a kind of Canadian version of WWII Captain America. It features a large male cast, allied soldiers, that act like something like a hybrid of the comics like Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos, and The Unknown Soldier. Indeed, in the final episode of Season 7, The Black Heart, the show even gives a nice tip of the hat towards the later Nick Fury (the one who’s an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.). That final season episode, incidentally, is set to be podcast later this month and features several other reveals, and dare I say reunions, which fans will be sure to love – I know I sure did. Suffice it to say, the Season 7 season-ender is definitely not a cliffhanger.
Here’s the podcast feed:
Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!
Posted by Jesse Willis