The SFFaudio Podcast #334 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

September 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #334 – The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; read by Fred Heimbaugh. This is an unabridged reading of the story (50 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Fred.

Talked about on today’s show:
The Pioneer, March 1843, a Hawthorne Poe fest, contemporaries, The Scarlet Letter, a quote by Poe about Hawthorne, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, well known?, why this story Fred?, he’s obsessed with sin, sociopaths, trigger warnings, neurosis, shame, luck, shaped by sin, a mark upon the family, subconscious Freudian messages, Commentary Magazine, Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature by Gary Saul Morson, textual density, vocab, Lovecraft poems, Fungi From Yuggoth poems, harbours, kids are now shuttled between school the home and the mall, ranting against Hawthorne, The House Of The Seven Gables, revolutions in 20th century literature, Ernest Hemingway, the show don’t tell revolution, Hawthorne is the telling-est teller who ever telled, the right attitude toward sin, the two facedness of people, Hawthorne is attacking late stage decadent Puritanism, a homosexual vibe, what is the lesson?, science reaches too far?, Gothic horror, the evil wizard or the mad scientist, science as the channel to unlimited power, elixirs, potions, not even futuristic, Georgiana, Aminadab?, where is this story set?, Aylmer’s castle, Aylmer’s wealth, a compartmentalized life, from the third person POV, the host narration, obsession, the left side, the sinister side, she’s been marked, in the dream, chemical means, pre-Darwin, “I’ve got these old books”, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a natural philosopher, science vs. alchemy vs. magic, Isaac Newton, almost as if he was Ben Franklin, electricity, many suitors, Aylmer’s wooing, is Aylmer gaslighting Georgiana?, she’s reading, a Medieval heroine, a character of of Greek mythology, is a sex-change story?, is this a boob-job story?, envy, the tips of two small fingers, she’s compared to a marble statue, small pox scars, Marilyn Monroe‘s beauty mark, does positioning matter?, Supernatural Horror And Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, a meditation on obsession, many uninteresting analysis, so little action, beyond the sexual interpretation, Hawthorne doesn’t seem all that prudish, how far can you go in purist of perfection in a fallen world, a mark of original sin, wanting knowledge (of good and evil?), the sin of disobedience, Frankenstein and Aylmer are reading the same books, the process of creating a man in Frankenstein, the lightning bolt, Luigi Galvani, grave-robbing, Paracelsus, the gold thing is your way of getting funding, when writing a grant…, this might lead to a cure for cancer(!), alchemy as a religion, The Cask Of Amontillado, Eric S. Rabkin, “the niter, it grows”, Montresor or Fortunato, niter, growing human shaped things inside of bottles, poisons, psychology and the occult, the difference between alchemy and science is openness, the Royal Society, Harry Potter’s school, there have to be muggles, magically oblivious, J.K. Rowling, natural greed, the ethic of sharing knowledge, France’s version of the Royal Society, like the obsession with “open source” or the “public domain”, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, sooo lifelike, sooo beautifully painted, Gothic horror, the evil mad scientist is destroyed by the power he unleashes, The Portrait Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the ending, what is Hawthorne saying?, was Aylmer’s attempt doomed from the beginning?, Jesse’s mom, one of the most important powers of a teacher, she has “THE VOICE”, Muad’dib (Paul Atredies), Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, a profound revelation, philosophy and critical thinking, vitamins are bullshit, fish oil woke Fred’s brain, North America has the world’s most expensive urine, religion wants you to take it on authority, bronze age holy texts, religion as book club where you only ever read one book (or just listen to a guy who did), cynicism or wisdom, loyalty to the organized religion of your family, inherited religions, fundamentalist belief systems, the narcissism of small differences, splintering, revolting revolutionaries, purity of doctrine, young earth creationists, Catholicism as an almost ethnicity (an identity), Hawthorne as a stopgap between H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley, the murky origins of Science Fiction, Dante, Lucifer frozen in the ice, a Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein’s obsession is with defeating death, too in love with science, Hawthorne’s message is like: “don’t drink too much”, Greek symposia, what really happened at a Greek symposium, “write drunk and edit sober”, The Odyssey, mixing water with wine, getting plastered is a sign on unmanning, the Greek obsession was with finding the moderation between too little and too much, what was Hephzibah’s sin?, her sin is being too worried about sin, “you will eat blood”, public shaming is a little much, be moderate with your casting of sin, John Wesley, a healthy functioning society, wealth corruption, falling into decadence, the protestant work ethic is kicking-in, Guggenheim, ransoming the grandchild, leaving it all to art, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Fred’s all time favourite Science Fiction novel: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, how do we raise the next generation?, a supercharged Kindle, matter compilers, Star Trek‘s replicator, eating green sludge, window panes made out of pure diamond, handmade hipsters, how you raise the next generation in a wealthy society, we are unimaginably wealthy, are Japan’s young people uninterested in sex?, Richard Dawkins on Twitter, The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, Gothic-y, Science-y, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, a great inventor, Neoterics, he’s stealing their ideas, the ultimate mad scientist story, following in the tradition, somatoypes, ectomorph (Aylmer), mesomorph (Aminidab), endomorph (Jesse), it’s a scam!, Hillary Clinton, the Ronald Reagans of the world, this is astrology, people think that once you’ve got a word for something you understand it, wearing the mask long enough…, IQ tests, quantification, any time we think we understand the most complex thing in the universe…, there really is a subconscious, tweeting dreams, psychology, the book club with only one book in it, The Great Courses (The Teaching Company), Eric S. Rabkin, survey courses, kooky specializations, the best way to learn, the perennial student, taught not to learn, philosophy of art, credentialism, Jesse can guess the exact words in a student’s vocabulary, guess your weight or age, how Jesse gets work, gaming credentialism, no high school diploma, a contempt for institutionalized learning, a play-by-the-rules personality, grade inflation, what did Mussolini do?, intimidation vs. cultivation, give the students the experience of reading, reading as a meeting of minds, defending a dissertation, essays, we’re obsessed with essays (for the wrong reason), ohhh spoilers!, the big problem with almost any media, “I don’t want to spoil it for you.”, testing is easier, a kind of objectivity, don’t blame the actors for shitty Hollywood movies, status is society, education as the cultivation of minds, there aren’t enough people who are willing to rebel!

The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne - modified John Collier's "Laboratory", 1895

The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne - illustration by Lisa K. Weber

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #240 – READALONG: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

November 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #240 – Jesse, Scott, Julie Davis, and Bryan Alexander discuss Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Talked about on today’s show:
The 1818 edition versus the 1831 edition, the half-made up prologue, Leaves Of Grass, are there any body changes?, “the corpus”, Downpour.com’s version with Simon Templeman, Anthony Heald, Stefan Rudnicki, Frankenstein vs. the monster, creature, wretch, demon, insect, incoherent with rage, face to face, moving on, the fainting hero or heroine, swooning, Lovecraftian fainting, cosmic horror, Herbert West: Re-Animator, Young Frankenstein, Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James, becoming god, why are we reading a book by a teenager from almost 200 years ago, Edinborough, the broken reader, Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, etymology, Paradise Lost, Gulliver’s Travels, Percy Shelley, William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Caliban, The Tempest, Science!, hey I’m killing your family and stuff, Spirits!, Russia, the Arctic, Prospero, Caliban the dogsbody, Sycorax, the pre-science world to the science world, Christopher Marlowe, “I’ll burn my books!”, the education of young Victor, religious swearing, Brian Aldiss, spark, the electrical element, Galvani and the frog’s legs, more chemical (than electrical), the Romantics, the heart of the the book, “the modern Prometheus”, nature, the North Pole, Siberia, Things As They Are; Or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Godwin, berries and nuts, vegetarianism, the bringing of fire, The Wonderstick (the coming of the bow) “spooky action at a distance”, fire as technology, Eric S. Rabkin, fire -> knowledge -> enlightenment, the blasted oak, the family tree destroyed, this mortal clay, body stealing, Burke and Hare (are a lot of fun), ‘there are some things man was not meant to know’, a motherless monster, Young Frankenstein, what’s so cool about Young Frankenstein is that it solves the problems caused by previous movie adaptations, “Hey there handsome”, is the creature really hideous?, “a very Jewish movie”, “this is a boy that the world will love”, community, Victor had no Igor, Eyegor, or Fritz, well formed, euphemisms, dull yellow eye, proportionate limbs, is he veiny?, black and flowing hear, a pearly whiteness, a feminist novel, a misogynist fantasy, the framing narrative, males behaving badly, Gothic, gender coding, the curse of the Frankensteins, Frau Blücher, the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Frankenstein, The Revolt Of Islam by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Justine (and the lack of justice she receives), Anne Rice, “I’m never going to sleep again”, the path of evil, Victor had a temper, the abnormal brain (Abbie someone), a “blank slate”, Henry Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein retcons the book and the 1931 movie (and the Hammer movies), Froderick Frankenstein, Boris Karloff, Transylvania Station, The Body Snatcher, Robert Louis Stevenson, The Black Cat (1934), Bela Lugosi, a movie from a parallel dimension, the perfect romantic character, the “noble savage” and the “blank slate”, flowery language and obfuscation, a baby story, that’s Science Fiction right there, an eight foot baby, how do we detect the world, what is light?, a blind man given sight, sphere vs. pyramid, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an urbane monster, the ideal syllabus, Mary Shelley is showing the heck off, Paradise Lost, The Sorrows Of Young Werther, suicide, Lives Of The Noble Greeks And Romans by Plutarch, Ruins Of Empires by Constantin-François de Volney, Frankenstein’s lab notes, Safie, the Ottoman Empire, Turkey as a proxy for European society, Olaf Stapledon, the hapless fate of the aboriginals of North America, Shelley’s hanging out with radicals, an anti-American dream, three years after the fall of Napoleon, Lord Byron, dreams, “how are we living with each other?”, Prometheus Unbound, The Last Man, Prometheus should be our hero, Harlan Ellison, Walton, Bryan’s dissertation was on Frankenstein, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket, At The Mountain Of Madness, Star Trek, doppelgangers, doubles all the way down, perfectly symmetrical, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, Melmoth The Wanderer by Charles Maturin, The Saragossa Manuscript by Count Jan Potocki, the fire and ice, “in the cottage we are the monster”, lookism, when they see the monster, “as a lion rends the antelope”, Blade Runner‘s ending, all those murders, a child having a temper-tantrum, where you gonna get that wood?, standing on an ice-floe, Dante’s Inferno and the final circle of hell, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Bryan reads Frankenstein every year, teaching Frankenstein in high-school, a perfect ending, is the monster still out there?, Edison’s 1910 film adaptation of Frankenstein (it’s 10 minutes), imagine Tesla adapting Frankenstein, a shameless self-promoter, “Victory Frankenstein fucked with Mother Nature, and She bore him a strong son”, ‘there are some things that man was not meant to know’, Walton wants to find the source of the pole’s magnetism, “it’s not just loving your family – it’s also loving your fellow being”, “if you make a mistake – own up”, Walton learns from the story, Young Frankenstein, it’s an ethics book, mad scientists, a Kennedy son, Moby Dick, C.L.R. James, a ship as a microcosm of society, “I smell readalong!”, Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski, “the kids loved Uncle ‘Dolf”, “charisma leaking out all over the place”, charisma and beauty, a bear doesn’t understand charisma, real-life parallels, what is the function of Henry Clerval in the book, is he us?, a homoerotic reading, Percy and Bryon go hiking, it’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, World’s End, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Elizabeth’s provenance and the weird relationship with her cousin/brother/owner Victor, a subterranean psychodrama, Victor’s wild dream in which Elizabeth dies and then turns into his mom, grave worms, a maternal figure and a corpse.

Theodor von Holst - Frankenstein

Frankenstein - illustration (possibly by Ernie Chan)

Frankenstein

FRANKENSTEIN - The Bride Of The Monster - illustration by Mike Ploog

FRANKENSTEIN - illustration by Dino Castrillo

These Books Make Me Feel...

LEGOized Frankenstein

The Creation Of Frankenstein's Creature - illustrated by Jesse

Posted by Jesse Willis

Assorted new LibriVox Science Fiction short stories

September 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxHere are three short Science Fiction stories with a humorous bent. They’re taken from a new LibriVox audiobook called Coffee Break Collection 001. Book coordinator Bellona Times sez:

“This is a collection of short (15 minute or less readings) stories suitable for a coffee break at work or a short commuter ride. Emphasis for this collection is Humor in various genres — fiction and non-fiction.”

Beyond Pandora has been recorded previously (for the Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 014) – it’s an SF story that tries hard to make a scary medical problem funny. I’m not sure that it succeeds with the humour, but it might be a fruitful line of medical inquiry anyway.

Graeme Dunlop brings his Australian accent to the reading of Hard Guy. This story too has been previously recorded (in Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 015). It’s a hitchhiker and road gangs story set on an atomic highway.

The all new (to audio) story in this collection is Poppa Needs Shorts. It’s a silly little story that trades on a peculiarity of the English language. But it also makes a very interesting point, namely that toddlers are actually practicing scientists! Sure, baby-proofing your house might make it safer for your baby, but it defeats many of the experiments that your tiny scientist can perform. It’s a very clever tale. Narrator Patti Cunningham does a nice job reading it too.

Analog September 1962Beyond Pandora
By Robert J. Martin; Read by msjodi777
1 |MP3| – Approx. 5 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: September 11, 2009
The ideal way to deal with a pest—any menace—is, of course, to make it useful to you… From Analog September 1962.


LibriVox - Hard Guy by H.B. CarletonHard Guy
By H.B. Carelton; Read by Graeme Dunlop
1 |MP3| – Approx. 7 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: September 11, 2009
There will be fine, glittering, streamlined automobiles in 2000 A.D. Possibly they will run themselves while the driver sits back with an old-fashioned in his hands. Perhaps they will carry folks down the highways at ninety miles an hour in perfect safety. But picking up a hitch-hiker will still be as dangerous as it is today. From Amazing Stories April 1956.

LibriVox - Poppa Needs Shorts by Walt Richmond and Leigh RichmondPoppa Needs Shorts
By Walt Richmond and Leigh Richmond; Read by Patti Cunningham
1 |MP3| – Approx. 13 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: September 11, 2009
Given valid data, you can reach completely wrong conclusions. But given a wrong conclusion, you can still get a right answer! From Analog Science Fact & Fiction January 1964.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Prestige by Christopher Priest

April 23, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Prestige by Christopher PriestThe Prestige
By Christopher Priest; Read by Simon Vance
10 CDs – 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0786168412
Themes: / Science Fiction / Magic / Magicians / 19th Century / Electricity / World Fantasy Award /

It’s difficult to say how long it’s been since I’ve been so enthralled with an audiobook as I was with this unabridged version of the World Fantasy Award-winning The Prestige. In very few words, the production was excellent. Simon Vance narrated, and since the story is primarily told through journal entries of the two main characters, he was basically called upon to portray these two dark, intricate magicians. He unreservedly succeeded – his performance was stellar. Because of his subtle care, the surprises of the novel were enhanced by his reading. And there are many surprises.

The main characters are late 19th century stage magicians (or “prestidigitators”, as they call themselves) named Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier. They perform in London, but at the height of each magician’s popularity, they tour America and Europe. But not together. No, these two guys are mortal enemies, out to better the other by whatever means necessary. Each one in turn performs a trick on stage that seems impossible to the other, and their personal quests are rooted in finding out how the other does it, and then to perform it better.

The novel is filled with fascinating detail about these magicians and their tricks. But even more interesting are the journals themselves. It becomes quickly apparent that the journal writers are not reliable. Christopher Priest was masterful in the way he made sure that the journal writers were speaking squarely from their own point of view, which was not always technically true; rather, like journal writers everywhere, they would write something about their own motives that justified events to themselves. The result is an intricate web that is slowly unraveled throughout the book. It’s an audiobook that merits a second listen; knowing what I know now, having finished, a second listen would reveal the breadcrumbs I missed along the way. I suspect I left several on the trail.

Also prominent is Priest’s portrayal of life in the 19th century. The values, the language, and the daily life of the characters all feel accurate, though I am no 19th century historian. The world’s reaction to the advent of electricity is a fascinating example. I couldn’t help but to think of modern parallels with the advent of the internet.

At first glance, this novel is fantasy. It even won the World Fantasy Award in 1996. But is this a fantasy novel? It really isn’t. Yes, there are magicians here, but they are stage magicians. As such, their tricks have perfectly reasonable explanations. Each of the main characters do specific remarkable things, but the reasons given for the way these things work are not magical, but scientific. More, I will not say, because this is a novel to be discovered for yourself, not to be read about. After I finished the book, I watched the recent film version. Be assured that there are enough major differences that a listen to this book will be a different (though similar) and very worthwhile experience – worthwhile enough to be the latest addition to SFFaudio’s Essential List.

Audio Sample: LINK

Posted by Scott D. Danielson