The SFFaudio Podcast #056 – READALONG: The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley

April 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #056 – Jesse and Scott talk with Rick Jackson, Gregg Margarite, Jerry Stearns and Julie Davis about Robert Sheckley’s The Status Civilization!

Talked about on today’s show:
Wonder Publishing Group (Wonder Audio and Wonder Ebooks), LibriVox.org, Acoustic Pulp, Sound Affects, Great Northern Audio Theatre, Doctor Who, The Prisoner, Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer, deep Science Fiction, Deathworld by Harry Harrison, The Space Merchants (aka Gravy Planet) by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, Preferred Risk by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey, Gladiator At Law by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake, a religion based on evil, satire, Friedrich Nietzsche‘s “master-slave morality,” good and evil, David Hume‘, the naturalistic fallacy, cognitive dissonance, original sin (aka atavistic guilt), Skulking Permit by Robert Sheckley, Breaking Point by James Gunn |READ OUR REVIEW|, psychology, society, robots, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, utopia, dystopia, libertarianism, rebellion, “a benign evil,” narrating audiobooks, Mark Douglas Nelson, This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch, Deathworld 2 by Harry Harrison, Watchbird by Robert Sheckley, Second Variety by Philip K. Dick, Tunnel Under The World by Frederik Pohl, Bellona Times, X-Minus One, Mark Time , Yuri Rasovsky, Raymond Z. Gallun, Bing, Seeing Ear Theatre, Orson And The Alien, The SFFaudio Challenge, turning modern public domain books into audio drama, Night Of The Cooters by Howard Waldrop, Jack J. Ward, The Sonic Society, Brian Price, Alfred Bester‘s review of The Status Civilization (from The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, December 1960), the naming of “Tetrahyde”, a readalong on The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, the “amazing” audio drama version from BBC Tiger Tiger, The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Frederik Pohl’s review of The Status Civilization (from January 1961 issue of Worlds Of If), the competition between the LibriVox and the commercial versions of audiobooks, Plato’s Cave, precognition, John W. Campbell, skrenning, scrying, Icelandic cook books!

The Status Civilzation (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilzation (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilzation (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilization (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilization (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley
Signet - The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5 by H.P. Lovecraft

August 1, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobooks - The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 5: Haunter Of The Dark, The Thing On The Doorstep, The Lurking Fear
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Wayne June
3 CDs – 3 Hours 20 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: April 2006
ISBN: 9781897304259
Themes: / Horror / Science Fiction / Collection / Heredity / Supernatural /

I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the dark planets roll without aim–
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge or luster or name.
–HP Lovecraft, “The Haunter of the Dark”

Seminal horror author H.P. Lovecraft may have a loyal following, but he also gets a lot of flak for his style–which some describe as overly archaic and distractingly adjective-laced–or by those who approach his short stories looking for a scare, but leave disappointed that he’s not frightening enough.

I think both points have some validity though largely I don’t agree with them. I love Lovecraft’s style, mainly because it’s so darn unique: All it takes is one or two sentences and you know exactly who you’re reading. It also perfectly fits the atmospheric, slow-to-build horror for which he’s known. As for the second criticism, Lovecraft really doesn’t scare me, either. You’re not going to get nasty shocks out of his stories, though I would describe them as occasionally unsettling: He can deliver a good chill and at times evoke strong feelings of dread.

But people who pick up Lovecraft for simple scares are missing the boat. Think of him instead as a dark spinner of stories set in a detailed and grotesque universe of his own creation, a world of dark cults, evil tomes, ancient curses, and formless, tentacled monsters from space. His subject material is just plain cool. Also, Lovecraft has the ability to draw you effortlessly back in time. Born in 1890, Lovecraft set his stories in the 1920s and 30s, when America was a bit wilder and stranger than the place we know today, a country of deeper woods and darker mountains and strange phenomena that science had not explained away.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the heck out of The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 5, an audiobook read by Wayne June. The 3 CD set contains three Lovecraft short stories: “The Lurking Fear,” “Haunter of the Dark,” and “The Thing on the Doorstep.” I’ve read quite a bit of Lovecraft, but this was the first time I’ve ever had his tales read to me, and it was a very enjoyable, immersive experience.

All three stories are excellent. “Haunter of the Dark” tells the story of Robert Blake, a horror writer/artist who becomes obsessed over a far off, decrepit church spire spied from his rented studio window. Blake’s investigation reveals the place to be an abandoned, ruined church once used by a dark cult, and now inhabited by something far, far worse.

The best of the three tales is probably “The Thing on the Doorstep,” which features full-blown Lovecraftian goodness. The tale is set in the famous, fictional town of Arkham, and involves Arkham University, the Necronomicon and other assorted monstrous tomes, a strange intermingled race of men and fish-like deep ones, mind control, a descent into an unholy pit “where the black realm begins and the watcher guards the gate,” and much, much more. Although I’ve never read a Lovecraft biography (a fact I hope to rectify soon), I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the author and Edward Derby, the protagonist and victim of the tale. I would imagine that essayists looking to peer inside Lovecraft’s mind have veritable a goldmine to draw from in “The Thing on the Doorstep.”

“The Lurking Fear” is the most straightforward horror tale of the three and explores one of Lovecraft’s recurrent themes, that of cursed blood and hereditary corruption. Here an investigator of the supernatural looks into a strange massacre in the mountainous Catskills region of New York, where a deserted mansion holds the key to an unspoken horror living beneath the earth. The terrors he uncovers leave him a gibbering wreck at stories’ end, a common fate for Lovecraft’s narrators.

Reader Wayne June deserves a lot of praise for delivering the stories with a smoky, menacing, baritone voice perfectly suited to the tales. My only criticism is that I wanted to hear him scream the line, Kamog! Kamog! — The pit of the shoggoths–Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young! in “The Thing on the Doorstep,” but he chose to deliver it with a half-whispered shout. But it’s probably for the best, I guess, as hearing such unutterable phrases spoken aloud may have fractured my sanity, or worse, stirred Something That Should Not Be from its uneasy sleep.

Posted by Brian Murphy

Review of The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 4 by H.P. Lovecraft

August 17, 2006 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

Horror Audiobooks - The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 4 - The Rats In The Walls, The Shunned House, The Music Of Eric ZahnThe Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 4: The Rats In The Walls, The Shunned House, The Music Of Eric Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Wayne June
3 CDs – 2 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1897304242
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Music / Atavistic Guilt / Cannibalism / Mushrooms /

Curse you, Thornton, I’ll teach you to faint at what my family do! … ‘Sblood, thou stinkard, I’ll learn ye how to gust … wolde ye swynke me thilke wys?… Magna Mater! Magna Mater!… Atys… Dia ad aghaidh’s ad aodaun… agus bas dunarch ort! Dhonas ‘s dholas ort, agus leat-sa!… Ungl unl… rrlh … chchch…

This collection from Audio Realms is the fourth in a series, and the second to be reviewed. There are three CDs and three complete and unabridged stories here, first published between 1922 and 1937. The tales are archaically constructed. If you sat down and try to read one of the paragraph-long sentences that Lovecraft wrote you’d probably begin to wonder why it actually works. Then if you considered that this is the guy who makes curious genealogists or amateur historians the center of his horror stories it becomes almost baffling how he manages to keep our attention at all. There is no doubt though: Lovecraft has our attention. I think I am on safe ground in calling him, at the very least, one of the true giants of Horror fiction. Here are three stories that will prove it…

The Rats In The Walls
The Delapore family, late of Massachusetts, has returned to its ancestral family estate in rural England. Their genealogical and historical research reveals that their ancestors have maintained a strange atavistic responsibility to the land and the ruin upon which their keep was built. Woe be to the friendly neighbors of the long-away Delapores, for the Delapore blood runs thick in their veins and loudly thrums with ancestral duty, as loudly perhaps as the “venimous slithering of ravenous rats in the walls.”

The Shunned House
The house of this story is reported to have been based on a couple of real houses that Lovecraft actually visited. One in particular in Providence, RI at #135 Benefit Street, as in the story, is supposed to be the main inspiration. This story also uses local Providence folklore and history for added depth, but I suspect that if even one fifth of the rest of this story were true we’d have to nuke Rhode Island from orbit, just to be sure. I think some people consider this to be one of Lovecraft’s lesser tales but this one really got me. I am probably a bit more mycophobic than your average person, though. If you don’t like mushrooms, or if you’re even a little afraid of them, listen to this one with the lights on.

The Music Of Eric Zann
One of the most frequently adapted of Lovecraftian tales. The narrator, a near-vagrant, recalls a fellow lodger of a mouldering lodging house in a mysterious French city. Erich Zann is being stalked by a nameless horror that comes to him at night. Only the eerie music he produced was not nearly as haunting as horror that chased him. First published in 1922, still powerful.

SFFaudio Essential narrator Wayne June is back! His grave rumbling voice and his letter perfect pacing makes each of these three tales a shuddersome experience. But I do have a one problem with this entry in the terrific Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft series. It isn’t the production; these CDs sound awesome. Wayne June’s reading of these three stories is absolutely definitive. His unaccompanied performance is utterly chilling – this series truly must be heard. It isn’t the packaging that is the problem, with original art by Allen K. The images on this series are reminiscent of the art found within the pages of the pulps in which these stories were first published. No, my problem isn’t with any of these things. My problem is with choice to censor a couple of lines of the text in The Rats In The Walls. It makes me want to cry. Maybe Lovecraft was indeed being a racist when he wrote the offending words (in naming Delacore’s cat “Nigger-man”), but I’m a purist. Instead of calling Delacore’s cat “Nigger-man” Audio Realms has changed it to “Blackman.” If the text is good enough to be republished year after year ought we not preserve it as it stands, racism and all? True horror is by its very nature transgressive, but I want all the horror in my life to be in fiction. A cannibalistic incestuous serial murderer of homeless children is scary in fiction but as long as its fiction I’m up for it. Keep all the racist crazy-talk in the fiction, I say, because that is where it all belongs.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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