The SFFaudio Podcast #450 – READALONG: Declare by Tim Powers

December 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #450 – Jesse, Scott, Paul Weimer, and Fred Himebaugh, talk about Declare by Tim Powers

Talked about in today’s show:
Learned Hand’s Brow, Fredösphere, 2001, a supernatural spy novel, historical, a secret history of the Cold War, the author’s note from the end, Kim Philby, The Fourth Man, a paranoid squint view of history, “real truth”, On Stranger Tides, more piratical, this way of writing, a sequel?, Last Call, Expiration Day, Earthquake Weather, The Stress Of Her Regard, The Anubis Gates, supernatural adventure stories, very loooong, Kim by Rudyard Kipling, a novelette length epilogue, the last 15%, Scott’s favourite part, alone in a Memphis hotel room, the spy stuff, the final Ararat trip, Paul needs to go up a mountain, the two halves of the same souls, bouncing around the timeline, re-activation, up to confront God, how it was written, the blender artistic method, composition, writing a novel, should be between, where is that number written?, anything over 100,000 words would feel long (except in Fantasy), an 80 page James M. Cain novel, not novel material, what Jesse does for fun, filling in the pieces with supernatural theory, a different bent than Philip K. Dick, Valis, quoting C.S. Lewis, accidentally told the truth, the kind of conversations that they had are exactly where the material this book comes from, A Maze Of Death by Philip K. Dick, Gnostic theories about what’s really behind the veil, really behind the motivations, Philip K. Dick can’t even get through a book without undermining his own theory (unlike Powers), some evil power has blinded us to the truth, a conspiracy against us, escape into the truth Bishop Berkeley, a Gnostic leaner, Fred is reserving the right, dinosaur bones are a distraction, Gnostic vs. ignorant, theme parks for that, Gnostic theme parks, Paul is resolutely materialist, this mundane world, role playing games, this is a fake world, Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, driving to the Courts of Chaos, fantasy literature, spooky stuff, when you pick this flower the princess in the kingdom next door will die, activated, being hungry doesn’t mean we have bread, the bread in the book, miming eating bread that tastes like dust (the Barmecide Feast scene), the meat, an alternate way to god, almost an totalitarian world, how we feel about Kim Philby, how can anybody escape from the reality behind this world?, he’s not killing God he’s confronting an angel, striking against the higher powers, what the Russians are doing, the atheists in the story believe that the fallen angels of Ararat are the sources of all our Biblical theology, interpreting the agenda of Hale’s handlers, by destroying these powers, overthrowing the whole monotheistic paradigm, Andrew Hale, two layers, countries and people, to escape the judgement of God, very Lovecraftian, alien in mindset and morality, Philip K. Dick’s Upon The Dull Earth, profoundly interesting, bloodthirsty angels, Oregon, it ends in a horror, The Odyssey, lambs blood, On Stranger Tides, what the mystery was, the wireless telegraphy, the circles, that’s interesting!, the djinn and how they operate, they pick up what’s around them and use that, very cool, using a crowd, Abdul Alhazred, a Gnostic version of reality, a secret history, visibly torn apart by an invisible force, a subverted reading…, the crowd tears him apart, reading in-, the same feeling, random doubling?, beyond the double agents, Philby’s secret ability to double himself (bodily), the ark and the dark ark, Galactic Pot-Healer, the Glimmung and the Dark (or Black) Glimmung, Joe Fernwright, an evil cathedral, Joe Fernwright’s skeletal double, why this book is long, this is the novel you must read first, a subverted idea, I’m not going to think about this, Jesse thought that maybe one of the Hales we’re seeing is a different one, when he sees himself beaten up by the police, so subtle?, a bridge too far, taking the twinning thing a step beyond, an unreadable mess, a TV adaptation, could you do a TV series adaptation that wasn’t 400 episodes long, a Netflix series, The Sandbaggers, would anyone watch it?, the Publishers Weekly review, should you stock your shelves with this book?, genre bender, the audience for this is science fiction people, what it really is, Guillermo del Toro, Hellboy, The Devil’s Dictum by Fred Himebaugh, an audiboook?, a Fred podcast?, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, those English thinkers, really good writing, how much Powers knows about stuff, oh good!, it almost hurts the novel, he isn’t killing his darlings quite enough, how the Bedouins sit on the camel’s saddle, its okay to have one character who has read really widely (but when you have three or four people), when Jesse found out about Otto Skorzeny, I will not violate any known historical fact, the NSA, Davinci’s Demons had new world parrots in Italian streets prior to Columbus, why this book holds up as well as it does, a two-edged sword, historically consistent, infodumps, taken to see Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in the hands of any other author, utterly brilliant, an insight into Theodora’s character, he’s ‘deep state’, silently assuming, a tension-filled (and hilarious) scene, not many authors who are thinking that hard, worth the cost of admission, going through a writing workshop, Fred bows before the greatness of Tim Powers, when writers do the critiquing, he took something that should have been crap and turned it into something, a bit too neat, we get THE goods on what’s going on, not enough room for Jesse(‘s theorizing), the suspicions have to fit the facts, conspiracy thinking but with constant undermining, I don’t know where we stand, room for mystery, God doesn’t actually show up, Hale as a rebirth of Jesus, Stillman head of Christ, blue eyes, his mysterious father, someone compares Hale to T.E. Lawrence, a ghost, ambiguity, making the Soviets seem competent, what are these purges about, wrapping up all the threads, what was going on in Las Vegas in the 1950s, Tim Powers doing Tim Powers, card games, playing for immortality, when Powers does real life research has to pay-off in a book, as for my own books, last time we did an interview, an apparent inconsistency, Earthquake Weather, under in a tarp in the back yard, Three Days To Never, Hide Me Among The Graves, Dave Robeson, The Projecting Project Pulp Podcast (episode 14), not merely a drug-addled mystic, insight into PKD’s personality, the MP3s are all available, San Fransisco, how he phrases things, John Le Carré, it’ll be fun writing set in the 1960s, Philby’s father, appeared to have a private army, I thought “that’s fun”, 1,001 Nights, wouldn’t that be cool, a very self-conscious writer, the plan forms itself out of the materials he discovers, forcing it together doesn’t work, the pages push away from themselves, I have 14 hours left!, 22 hours, the 1940s setting, the meat and potatoes of the book, three books in one, “Ok, Mr Tim Powers…”, dudes!, Ararat loomed over the whole novel, double a normal genre novel, occult writers, friction and stickiness at the same time, magic?, it had to be this long (except for bits), so perfectly marbled, no other author Fred admires more, Roman Catholic, studiously avoid inserting, a fascinating statement, two skeptics, assumed by the novel, distinguished from the rest of society, a lot of the answers, an Egyptian ankh, experience redemption a specifically Catholic way, heretic heathen people, dogma, wiggle room, Raymond Chandler, why everyone is drinking all the time, he experience the Catholic church, you can feel it, if you read it carefully, just fallen angels, you can interpret this the way you want, maybe Fred knows too much about Tim Powers, which side he’s on, to a Catholic audience, not preachy, Satan passes through a pizza parlour on the way to Hell, The Way Down The Hill, not be judged, hoping for a big Elena section, an honest broker, the Spanish Civil War, being in Paris, being a spy, walking down the street, what does this mean, the borderlands of the supernatural, the scenes in Paris are the most enjoyable part of the book, 1941, they didn’t have a snow that year, the weather is influencing the, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, working backwards, a brilliant sense better than so much more than the usual, Jesse likes the a 21st century novel?, he enjoys it too much, a Tim Powers move, a signature move, in syncopation, a magical trick, I wouldn’t wear this belt, the bare feet radiating heat, they stole the ideas from that book, Pirates Of The Caribbean, it would make a really good audio drama, a conspiratorial narrator, flying over the pyramids, a pyramid of sandbags, we don’t doubt it, the Soviet airplane, we’re spending it on other things comrade, so much time researching, when does he sleep?

Declare by Tim Powers

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #139 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Pyramid Of Amirah by James Patrick Kelly

December 19, 2011 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #139 – The Pyramid Of Amirah by James Patrick Kelly, read by James Patrick Kelly. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (16 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Tamahome, and James Patrick Kelly himself). Here’s the ETEXT.

Talked about on today’s show:
Call him Jim!, James Patrick Kelly’s FREE READS podcast, “a gift story”, PBS, Mayan temples, ancient Mayan empire, Copán (Honduras), “time passes”, “2,000 words of nothing happening and 200 words of everything changes”, is it Science Fiction or Fantasy?, David G. Hartwell, Katherine Cramer Year’s Best Fantasy 3, 3D TV, the Earstone is the iPod Nano’s successor, Catholicism, religion, it’s a Horror story, sacrificial victims who volunteer, is Amirah hallucinating?, David Hume on miracles, take a miracle and make it a recipe, Memphis (Egypt), is religion a fantasy?, what is slipstream?, proto-slipstream, “Kelly Link is a goddess”, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, cognitive dissonance, slipstream encourages cognitive dissonance, “for every religion there is an equal and opposite religion”, “making the familiar strange and the strange familiar”, horror, comedy, Fantasy, The Lord Of The Rings, Science Fiction, Nine Billion Names Of God by Arthur C. Clarke, The Crawling Chaos, James Patrick Kelly doesn’t fully understand The Pyramid Of Amirah, is the Dalai Lama happy?, stay in your god tombs, The Girl Detective, Karen Joy Fowler, Carol Emshwiller, Franz Kafka, readers are happier when they’re really really surprised, most readers don’t re-reread stories, slipstream is a balcony on the house of fiction, behind the push of science is the turbulence of religion and the fantastic, Bruce Sterling, Ted Chiang is slipstream?, J.R.R. Tolkien, some short stories are Rorschach tests, Bruce Coville’s Full Cast Audio, Robert A. Heinlein’s juvenile novels, the love hate relationship with Heinlein, Heinlein’s villains are all straw men, Starship Troopers, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Heinlein’s sexy mother, Heinlein’s late career needed editing, Stranger In A Strange Land, stories in dialogue with other stories, Think Like A Dinosaur is in dialogue with The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin (and the controversy about it), The New York Review Of Science Fiction, not all problems are institutional problems (you are going to die), institutional facts vs. brute facts, John W. Campbell, was Campbell a terrible editor?, “all stories must have telepathy”, the story that must not be named (in Galaxy SF April 1975), Jim Baen, religious Science Fiction, Death Therapy by James Patrick Kelly, Terry Carr, The Best Science Fiction of the Year #8, collaborations, John Kessel, Jonathan Lethem, Robert Frazier, ISFDB, The Omega Egg, Mike Resnick, Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka, Tachyon Publications, The Secret History Of Science Fiction, The Drowned Giant by J.G. Ballard, The Lottery Of Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges, Max Brod, Joe Hill, Heart Shaped Box, You Will Hear The Locust Sing by Joe Hill, T.C. Boyle, Michael Chabon, Carter Scholz, Don DeLillo, Lucius Shepard, The Nine Billion Names Of God by Carter Scholz, A Recursion In Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke, post-cyberpunk stories, what is post-cyberpunk?, Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, Cheap Truth, the way technology changes the way we are, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, a new cyberpunk anthology is in the works, is there pre-cyberpunk?, Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick isn’t really cyberpunky, steampunk has a vision, what is the ethos of a steampunk story?, alternate history, goggles and zeppelins vs. computer hacking and mirror-shades, Pavane by Keith Roberts, William Gibson, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Bernardo’s House is an iconically Jim Kelly short story, Isaac Asimov, robots, a post-cyberpunk character, a prim and proper sex doll, There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury, Mary Robinette Kowal, puppets, a stage adaptation of There Will Come Soft Rains.

A Recursion In Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke (Galaxy SF, October 1966 - Page 78)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #095

February 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #095 – Jesse talks with Professor Eric S. Rabkin about an alternate history novel: SS-GB by Len Deighton.

Talked about on today’s show:
alternate history, Luke Burrage, “if it leaves a lasting impression that says something about its artistic character”, why write alternate history, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, historical fiction, 1941 vs. 1978, what is the relationship between Science Fiction and detective fiction, tales of ratiocination, Fatherland by Robert Harris, the Fatherland TV movie, BBC audio drama, Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, what would it be like under Nazi rule?, utopia vs. dystopia, fantasy, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Karl Marx, “alternate history does what Science Fiction does without pretending to set it in a logical future – it sets it in a logical past”, racism, bureaucracy in 1978 London, Michael Caine, Operation Sea Lion, why did Len Deighton set SS-GB in 1941?, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, are historical forces inevitable?, fate and destiny in alternate history, the great man vs. social forces, Adolph Hitler, Alexander The Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Behold The Man by Michael Moorcock, Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp, the individual vs. the community, Douglas Archer, if there was a just war it was WWII, the Holocaust, collecting militaria, Spain’s fascist dictatorship, the tale of the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, John le Carré, Agatha Christie, complicated vs. simple (le Carré vs. Christie), fathers and sons, historical fiction, The Battle Of Britain, Inside The Third Reich by Albert Speer, Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, when you’re helping the bad guys aren’t you one of them?, King George VI is a MacGuffin, The King’s Speech, Mackenzie King, police are the most cynical people in the world, the role of ambiguity in fiction, Channel Islands, every fiction is alternate history, is history a collection of things that happened or is it forces and rules?, The Sun Also Rise by Ernest Hemingway, The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, Startide Rising by David Brin |READ OUR REVIEW|, uplift, The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, disarming puns, Arma virumque cano, “I can’t imagine anyone smarter than me”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Remains Of The Day, Pavane by Keith Roberts, Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, Inglourious Basterds vs. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Most Powerful Idea In The World by William Rosen, steam engines (and atmospheric engines).

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #082

November 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #082 – Jesse talks with Gregg Margarite and Trent Reynolds about the BBC Audiobooks America and Hard Case Crime novel Memory by Donald E. Westlake.

Talked about on today’s show:
Iambik Audio, LibriVox, The Violent World Of Parker, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, The Ax by Donald E. Westlake, The Hook, crime writers who murder each other, the state of the U.S. economy, The Hot Rock, Charles Ardai, this isn’t a normal Donald Westlake book, 18 different dramatic situations, merciless forces, realistic brain damage, amnesia vs. Korsakoff’s syndrome, memory and personality, selfishness, ego, id, superego, cognitive psychotherapy: “flooding“, the philosophy amnesia, Catholicism, if you can’t remember your sins are you a sinner?, New York vs. Jeffords, the big city vs. the small town, acting vs. manual labour, lining-up the archetypes, the predatory agent, the first incarnation of Paul Cole vs. the second incarnation of Paul Cole, “and a lull”, scumbag vs. operator, the square of shiny metal, Westlake’s “Nephew books”, “I’m not a criminal but I have and uncle who is.”, the theme of the book: “people are selfish”, persistent unwanted thoughts, “he’s the surrogate son”, that “mumford” speech, they shrug into their coats and hug themselves, life as narrative, Momento, people would have said Momento is inspired by Memory, noir vs. hard-boiled, “What’s my name?!”, is the main character in a coma?, Nebraska, Iowa, “the mechanics of this novel are not fully understood until the end”, “life is noir hidden by fluffy clouds and puppies”, the Rara-Avis Yahoo! Group, Otto Penzler, there are no happy endings, Jim Thompson, James M. Cain, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, the Glen Orbik cover art for Memory, blindsight, neurological memory problems vs. psychological memory problems, suppressed vs. repressed memories, Oedipus never repressed his memories, Hard Case Crime cover art, Witness To Myself by Seymour Shubin, iambik audio, “desire is the appendix of emotions”, that Westlake smoothness, sowing paranoia, the opposite of paranoia (is pronoia), social groupings, this book made me want to clean my apartment, Westlake’s intellectualism, The Cutie by Donald E. Westlake |READ OUR REVIEW|, Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value Of Work by Matthew Crawford, the condemned man in the mirror, the painfully uncomfortable scenes of Memory, actors must let go to inhabit their characters, the audiobook version of Memory, kudos to Stephen R. Thorne’s narration, straight narration, Neil Gaiman as a narrator, bleak vs. hopeless, the department of narrative and physics, what do you see in the abyss?, “it’s not a who-dun-it, it’s an i-did-it?”

BBC AUDIOBOOKS AMERICA - Memory by Donald E. Westlake

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Vampire$ by John Steakley

June 13, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - Vampire$ by John SteakleySFFaudio EssentialVampire$
By John Steakley; Read by Tom Weiner
10 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2010
ISBN: 1441727213
Themes: / Horror / Vampires / Religion / Catholicism / Mercenaries /

Suppose there really were vampires. Dark, stalking, destroying. They’d have to be killed, wouldn’t they? Of course they would. But what kind of fools would try to make a living at it? In best-selling author John Steakley’s vampire classic, one tightly knit band of brothers devotes itself to hunting down the monsters that infest the modern world—for a price. An exciting blend of horror and western genres, Vampire$ is a twenty-first-century Ghostbusters with an edge.

I first found out about John Steakley when watching John Carpenter’s Vampire$. The on screen accreditation didn’t mean much then. I figured that what goodness was found in that movie came from Carpenter. And that’s largely true. Their rather different in plot, or at least in the way the plot plots out. Its clear that John Steakey’s novel served more as the inspiration than a blueprint for the movie. The novel feels much richer, much wider, and also much more personal, than Carpenter’s version.

Now, having read this audiobook after John Steakley’s other novel, Armor |READ OUR REVIEW|, I’ve come to the conclusion that Steakley has a pattern or two. First up there’s the name thing. Two names are recycled from Armor (even though they aren’t the same characters). Felix, the gunslinger (and ex-drug trafficker) has an important role in Vampire$. Jack Crow, the lead vampire hunter, is arguably the main protagonist. Armor, which is set maybe a thousand years in the future, has two characters with those exact names too, and they play similar importance in the plot. This is a novel full of twists and turns that even a fan of the movie based on the novel can be surprised by Similarwise, the emotional impact is the primacy of the novel’s power. Sure, this novel has maybe a few innovations I’ve never read before:

1. God is real AND vampires are too.
2. A team of mercenaries, with pure hearts, are taking cash for cleaning up vampire infested towns.
3. The anti-vamp mercs are in league with the Pope and the Vatican, who know and support their efforts.

Narrator Tom Weiner gets to play a fairly wide range of characters. On top of the brooding Felix and the unstoppable Jack Crow he’s got a compassionate pope, an irate Texas sheriff, and a bloodsucking vampire (or two) too.

This is a case where a good movie was based on an very good novel and a good novel got made into a great audiobook. Vampire$ is an emotionally impactive audiobook that surprises with its innovate approach to an old foe: those old evil vampires fucks that you gotta love, and Jack Crow’s gotta hate.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Case Of Conscience by James Blish

January 29, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Audible Frontiers - A Case of Conscience by James BlishSFFaudio EssentialA Case Of Conscience
By James Blish; Read by Jay Snyder
Audible Download – 7 Hours 55 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: November 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Religion / Catholicism / Aliens / Biology / Evolution /

Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man – a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics…until he is sent to Lithia. There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief. Confronted with a profound scientific riddle and ethical quandary, Father Ruiz-Sanchez soon finds himself torn between the teachings of his faith, the teachings of his science, and the inner promptings of his humanity. There is only one solution: He must accept an ancient and unforgivable heresy -and risk the futures of both worlds…

A Peruvian priest is a strange enough protagonist for Science Fiction. Add in an essentially bloodless tale of alien human interaction, a token female, and a bowlful of Catholicism on every page, the fact that it’s clearly inspired, at least in part, by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, and what you get is a classic SF novel? Yup! A Case Of Conscience is not quite the greatest SF novel of its era, but it holds up quite well. Blish put a good deal of thought into the original novella, and that pays off mid way through the novel (which is really two novellas put-together). The first half of the book is set on Lithia, a recently discovered alien planet teeming with unusual alien life. Lithia and its intelligent inhabitants are being considered for full human contact. There, judging the planet, are Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez a Jesuit biologist, Cleaver, a physicist, Michelis, a chemist, and Agronski, a geologist. Curiously Father Ramon seems to have strong reasons for opposing the opening of Litihia despite the fact that he has befriended one of the intelligent aliens. The fact that the Lithians seem to have an ideal society free of crime, conflict, ignorance and want also seems to worry Ramon. It all comes down to one question: Do the Lithians have souls? Despite his suspicions about the answer, the priest seems to only hold a deep affection for the Lithians.

I was highly impressed with the revelations that Ruiz-Sanchez (and Blish) give for it all. This is excellent idea driven SF. Blish seems to have taken the idea of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) very much to heart in writing the novel. These are/were the priests that were trained to take on the hardest tasks confronting the Catholic church. Blish has done them proud. But, that’s not the end of it. The turning point of the novel comes when the humans leave Lithia carrying with them a fertilized egg of one of the Litihians, an alien child to be raised on Earth and learn the ways of humans. This is where the second half of the novel begins. Earth is a “shelter society” (everyone lives in massive underground fallout shelters – you can see how it was written in the 1950s). There we follow our protagonist, a few other folks including the requisite token female named “Louella” (but called “Lou”) and the alien baby-cum-juvenile alien (who acts rather unlike his species normally does back on Lithia). Highlights here come when Ruiz-Sanchez is requested for a Papal audience! Again, some clever revelations occur in this second half, though they are generally weaker than the first. But, all together, and with the ending quite well done as it is, it’s very solid.

Included in the audiobook edition is the six page appendix, which is a ‘special preliminary report on the planet Lithia’ by Ruiz-Sanchez. As far as I can tell the narrator, Jay Snyder, has completely followed Blish’s own pronunciation guide for the book (which is not actually included in the audiobook). I’ve done a little comparing of the written text in the paperbook with the way Snyder says the alien names in the audiobook. It all sounds pretty accurate to me. Kudos to Audible Frontiers for carefully audiobooking this Hugo Award novel (and Retro Hugo Award winning novella). A Case Of Conscience is an SF classic!

Posted by Jesse Willis

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