The SFFaudio Podcast #352 – TOPIC: Doors, Gates, and Portals (and Rubicons)

January 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #352 – Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Prof. Eric S. Rabkin talk about doors, gates, and portals (and rubicons)

Talked about on today’s show:
thinking about doors, individual phenomena, a phenomenological way, white and purity, water, Edmund Husserl, an intensional act of consciousness, the conquistadors, when did WWII happen?, what kind of a phenomenon is a door?, doors are artificial, Narcissus and the lake, a boundary, passages for the whole body, windows, two-way passages, quicksand, horizontal movement, four qualities, the story of Oedipus, the riddle of the Sphinx, man -> mankind, the founding myth of Western culture, Aristotle, from one world to another, Eric in his professorial mode, the word world, were = man, the age of Man, in the world of…, the social domain that human beings create for themselves, prisons, doors as phenomena are artificial boundaries between two different worlds, social changes from one side of a door to another, doors as a phenomenon represent changes from consciously defined worlds, outdoors vs. indoors, inside and outside the gingerbread house, the morning thesis, the idea for this show, windows as opposed to doors, The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany, wanting to turn windows into doors, a rich example, sliding doors vs. sliding windows, in Science Fiction…, Robert A. Heinlein, defining the writing style of Science Fiction, the ideal Science Fiction sentence, Beyond This Horizon, “The door dilated and a voice from within said ‘Come in Felix.'”, wasting energy, one little change makes it a Science Fiction world, Heinlein invented the word “slideway”, Friday, from the reader’s armchair world it the fantastic world, folklore, liminality, crossing rivers, wandering into the forest, a wild world with gods and monsters, agrarian rural society -> industrial living, the wardrobe, The Door In The Wall, The Gable Window by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, Dreams In The Witch-house, a locked-room mystery, The Secret Garden, a Wellsian door in the wall, what’s behind the door could be anything, mythical monsters, vampires need your permission to cross your threshold, Dracula comes in through the window, defying gravity and the phenomenology of windows, an instant subliminal marker, ho ho ho, Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, the lore of changelings, leaving the house by the chimney, Little Red Riding Hood, “dispatched by typical female means” (cooking), Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, Alice is fantasizing before she leaves the bank of the river, the river side is a liminal domain, dazing, daisies, crossings, protective imagination, opening the door for a sequel, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, a girl named Door, London’s underclass, being homeless is living outdoors, a hunter named Hunter, Door’s father is Lord Portico, a door back into Heaven, another rich text, worlds within worlds, the word hinge, ideas hinge upon something, stiles aren’t like doors, stiles don’t have hinges, lichgates and side doors to churches, the dead enter the church through a different door than the living, The Superstitious Man’s Tale by Thomas Hardy, shades of everybody, fourteen saints, a holiday in Germany, the blood of a sacrificial lamb, Exodus, keeping death from the door, all saints day, Jack-O-Lanterns scare off the returning dead, nature, walking through a gate, spirits pass through, how do gates function in keeping out the spirits of the dead, gates as territorial boundaries, “you come in through here”, the laws of territoriality, a keeper of the gate, the gate is the cover of the book, the door is what we cross “Once upon a time…”, “the second page of the first paragraph of a famous book”, why round?, why the exact center?, why green?, Eric’s eyes are green, The Door In The Wall has a green door, magic doors are often green, The Magic Door The Green Door (aka The Little Green Door) by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, horrible and messy and smelly, fundamental jokes in the Shrek series, Shrek is green too, kids love farts, About Time (2013), Domhnall Gleeson going through doors, “doors are amazing”, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, the Chinese Scholar’s garden at Snug Harbour cultural center, moon gates, gates post signs, gates offer viewpoints, from The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe:

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh—but smile no more.

the mouth as a door for voice and wisdom (and later a gate for flies and maggots), orifices, doors are artificial, eyes as windows, windows as natural, calm water as a window, the night sky as a window into the universe, window = wind and eye, a metaphor switching meaning, a heart is like a pump and a pump is like a heart, Babylon 5, star-gates, the Twilight Zone show inside Futurama: The Scary Door, Fredric Brown: “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. there was a knock on the door.”, William F. Nolan’s the door problem, a seventy-foot bug, the imagination trumps revelation, film, Shiley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House (in the book and the film), banging vs. knocking, the unopened door, the end of The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, The Psychoanalysis Of Fire by Gaston Bachelard, “fire: fine servant, horrible master”, poor little rich boys, the ultimate irony: Arbeit Macht Frei, an open gate, the phenomena interpenetrate, Rubicon (lost and found), The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, “h amount of fuel will not power an EDS with a mass of m plus x”, uni-directional time travel as a kind of rubicon, Julius Caesar’s crossing, Alea iacta est (“The die is cast”), suicide, Jean Paul Sartre, Rip van Winkle, rubicons are natural, driving in Los Angeles county, counties and shires divided by rivers, the mouth as a (mostly) one way door into the body, Protector by Larry Niven, the tree of life root is a one way door (a rubicon), The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, The Ring, the River Styx, ancient heroes and gods crossing back and forth across the river Styx, biological machines, Jesus Christ’s tomb door, a locked room mystery, doubting Thomas, The Cold Equations as a demarcation between materialist SF and all other kinds, rejecting the premise of the story, two kinds of laws, “Marilyn willingly walks into the airlock and is ejected into space.”, myth vs. hard Science Fiction vs. soft Science Fiction, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, a few examples in literature, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, seven gates to Hell in Pennsylvania, Hell, Michigan, Audie Murphy’s To Hell And Back, a rubicon as an irrevocable choice, The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, Will cutting portals to other realms, “the ability to create portal given to someone on the cusp of puberty”, age 21 (given the key to the door), Key to the city, garter -> gate, barbicans, walled homes in the northern Mediterranean, doors within doors, protected by the laws of the city, the freedom of the city given to military units, Janus -> January, a two faced god and the god of doors, the doors to the temple of Janus are closed, open cities, Brussels, the locking of doors, growing up in New York you’re never fully at peace, living in Strawberry Point, Iowa, wifi open vs. wifi encrypted, wardriving, keeping the door open, the subspecies, dutch-doors, squeaky hinges, a door that opens up, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh, “falling backwards into a world in which a consciousness extends infinitely in all directions”, “the phenomenology changes the epistemology”, ontological differences, The Star Rover by Jack London, a portal to other places and times via astral projection, even in confinement one can find ways out, The Demolished Man The Stars My Destination, Hypnos by H.P. Lovecraft, the restriction of the coffin of the body, jaunting, The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Twilight Zone episode The Hunt, a country bumpkin -> a rural American, all dogs go to heaven, gatekeepers and doorkeepers, porter, the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, wine drinkers and beer drinkers, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, was anything down that hatch on Lost?

Beyond This Horizon - Astounding Science Fiction April 1942 - illustration by Hubert Rogers

Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #338 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

October 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #338 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Paul talk about new releases and recent arrivals (audiobooks, books, and comics).

Talked about on today’s show:
Aftermath: Star Wars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens) by Chuck Wendig, read by Marc Thompson, not a curse fest, the crawl, grief, The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, one star reviews, diversity up down left and sideways, a pink lightsaber, a rainbow lightsaber, Timothy Zahn, sounds like Star Wars names, Heirs Of Empire by Evan Currie, read by Deric McNish, Brilliance Audio, it sounds like a Stars Wars book (but isn’t), a 47 North Novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick, read by Luke Daniels, drugs!, sounds trippy, re-reading Philip K. Dick (for The SFFaudio Podcast), different assumptions, by the inventor of Science Fiction… In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells, read by Walter Covell, the salvation of the human race, cynical then preachy, The Star by H.G. Wells, The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1906, The World Set Free, The Sea Lady by H.G. Wells (a mermaid in Edwardian society), Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, a comedic bicycling novel, military SF, David Weber, The Child by Keith F. Goodnight, read by Nick Podehl, Tam’s macho voice, Adam Christopher’s The Burning Dark, Event Horizon, hyperspace as a Hellraiser universe, this all goes back to H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond, drugs plus radar shadowing, a terrific adaptation The Banshee Chapter, the 1980s adaptation of From Beyond, fear of the dark in a lighted world, The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G. Nuttall, read by Lauren Ezzo, the youngest captain in naval (future) history, what is 47 North? it’s Amazon’s publishing house, synergy, PlayStation has it’s own TV show (based on a comic book called Powers), an Honor Harrington novel with the serial numbers filed off, fantasy (non epic), Locke And Key by Joe Hill, adapted by Elaine Lee and Frederick Greenhalgh, audio drama, AudioComics, 13.5 hour audio drama, Gabriel Rodriguez, Paul needs to get Welcome To Lovecraft, horror, dark fantasy, hyper-imaginative, Joe Hill looks and writes like his dad (Stephen King), kids in a creepy situation, the manipulation of power, more fantasy elements, the origins of the keys at Key House, back stories, Fred Greenhalgh as a champion of field recorded audio drama, a film production unit without cameras, listening with headphones, this could be the star of something really amazing, the business model, word-of-mouth then the long tail?, Elaine Lee’s Starstruck, William Dufris, epic fantasy, Twelve Kings In Sharakhai (Song of Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu, read by Sarah Coomes, Paul is a fan of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s writing, “his best novel yet”, it is impossible to promote books you aren’t enthusiastic about, “the ones that sing to the song in your blood”, Paul is a long term epic fantasy fan, true confessions, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy as a lifestyle choice, Kate Elliot, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher; read by Euan Morton, Penguin Audio, urban fantasy, airships!, a new steampunk secondary world, beautiful endpapers and maps Priscilla Spencer, books in the middle of series: Darken the Stars (Kricket #3) by Amy A. Bartol, read by Kate Rudd, The Ciphers of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Kate Rudd, Unholy War (The Moontide Quartet #3) by David Hair, read by Nick Podehl, Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Sue Pitkin, Jenny’s favourite section “dystopia, unrest, destruction, apocalypse”, an interesting theory about zombies and dystopias, it fits in with the Christian end times, Revelations and rapture theology, the 1950s optimism, we’re not in Star Trek times anymore, 2 Walking Dead TV series and Z Nation, zombies never die, The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood, read by Cassandra Campbell and Mark Deakins, an economic and social collapse, the “Positron Project”, what is the point of the premise?, allegory not SF?, an Asimovian word, she doesn’t really care about the consequences of science, people who are interested in science, Ted Chiang, what if…, doesn’t that mean XYZ?, let her write her books, paranormal romance, Dark Ghost (Dark Saga #28) by Christine Feehan, read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross, a bounty hunter, a vampire slayer, a geologist, fairy tales, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty­-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie, read by Robert G. Slade, history and folklore, “the time of the strangenesses”, a djinn­­, 1,001 nights (two years, eight months, and twenty­-eight nights), a Nobel Prize for Literature, a print book, Joy To The Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction For The Holidays, a mix of mystery and speculative fiction and Christmas, Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, G. Clemans, upcoming authors, Andy Weir, that’s how the young people are reading, get of Tam’s lawn, House Of M, Marvel Comics, why is Thor a girl now?, Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, annoying-off people(?), the $1 floppy deals, Free Comic Book Day, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is fun and fabulous, her squirrel sidekick, a silver age happy go lucky superhero in our cynical grim age, she’s got squirrel blood!, writing comics for kids, Genosha, kids Squirrel Girl cosplaying looks fun, making your own costume, Princess Leia (Marvel Comics/Star Wars), there’s something wrong with Princess Leia, Disney is making so much more product than Lucas, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrow’s Providence (Avatar comics), Neonomicon, when will the first Providence trade come out, what Moore is doing and saying with Providence, an examination and meditation on H.P. Lovecraft stories, Providence doesn’t seem to have a very important plot, Herbert West’s equivalent, if you are deeply involved in Lovecraft…, if you don’t know Lovecraft can you still enjoy Providence?, the turns!, not merely visually shocking, The Dunwich Horror, a trans-dimensional invisible character, Moore is wrestling with Lovecraft, Watchmen, Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade’s Crossed Plus One Hundred, “124C41+”, “Return Of The King”, “Glory Road”, “A Canticle For Leibowitz”, “Tyger, Tyger”, “Foundation and Empire”, the difference between crossed zombies and regular zombies, the Crossed series, Alan Moore is about thinking deeply about things, evolution, “the big surprise of 2008”, bone piles, the change of language, AFAWK, Moore has reconstructed English in the way of A Clockwork Orange or Anathem, zombies as a fear of death, zombies as a fear of loss of individual volition and personality, a fear of Alzheimer’s, we don’t talk about death, The Walking Dead Volume 12 (hardcover), everybody’s infected, no matter what happens you become a zombie, zombies as a non-scary version of momento mori, Brian K. Vaughn and Steve Skroce’s We Stand On Guard, the invasion of Canada by the United States, the only time Canada has ever been invaded was by the United States, reading for writers not for artists, the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series, The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, DART The Horror At Red Hook, a straight up adaptation of The Horror At Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft, DART Dagon: War Of Worlds, Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, imagine War Of The Worlds not from Space but from beneath, X-COM: UFO DEFENSE, X-COM: Terror From The Deep, aliens at the bottom of the ocean, the Orson Welles style War Of The Worlds, mapping out all of Lovecraft’s squiddy watery fears, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Call Of Cthulhu, “I love that!”, attention to detail, if it says it in the story they take it seriously, The Whisperer In Darkness, Infocom games included props, H.P. Lovecraft The Spirit Of Revision Lovecraft’s Letters To Zealia Brown Reed Bishop, David Michelinie and Brett Blevins’ The Bozz Chronicles, originally from Epic Comics, a 19th century Sherlock Holmes alien mashup, lots of nudity, The New Mutants artist, Dover Publications, a 200 page trade-paperback for $20, a feel of the new Doctor Who, Madame Vastra, what if Sherlock Holmes was not Sherlock Holmes, Fred Saberhagen’s Bezerker story, Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula novels, Conan Red Sonja, a lack of attention to details, 1980s sensibilities vs. 20teens sensibilities.

October 2015 - Recent Arrivals

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Galaxy Trilogy Volume 2 – A Collection of Tales from the Early Days of Science Fiction

May 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

A Galaxy Trilogy, Vol. 2A Galaxy Trilogy, Vol. 2 – A Collection of Tales from the Early Days of Science Fiction
By David Osborne, E.L. Arch, and Manly Banister; Read by Tom Weiner
11 CDs – Approx. 13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433291081
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / First Contact / Politics / Cold War / Russia / Washington, D.C. / Colorado / Amnesia / Prophecy / Sociology / Iowa / Teleportation /

Back in the 1950s at the dawn of science fiction, writers were turning out wildly imaginative stories for the pulp magazines. Robert Silverberg, writing as David Osborne, estimates he wrote over a million words in one year. Here are three more exciting stories from those heady days from the pioneers of science fiction.

Discs 1 – 3: Aliens From Space by David Osborne (Robert Silverberg)

First published in 1958, under a pseudonym, this Robert Silverberg short novel is set in a fascinatingly futuristic 1989. It is in a period of relative peace on Earth since the recent collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. With this new détente in the offing only an outside influence could disrupt the path to global harmony. And that is exactly what happens when an alien spacecraft lands in an Iowa cornfield. It seems that these aliens have been watching Earth for millennia, and now we are on the cusp of ‘regular interplanetary travel’ these alien beings wish Earth to accept their hand/tentacle in friendship. This aid would be especially needed too as it seems there is another alien species out there in the galaxy – one which would likely destroy the Earth, and all humans, given half a chance. A team of diplomats and scientists from around the world is quickly assembled to negotiate a treaty and alliance. Among them is Professor Brewster, a prominent scientist of psychosociology. He thinks the aliens are hiding something. But could it just be their very alienness? He points out the advanced technology they offer comes with its own problem; receiving technology from an technologically advanced civilization doesn’t advance the recipient’s own culture – it merely makes the culture dependent upon the giver’s civilization. But is that a small cost compared with annihilation?

A friend of mine pointed out that Greg Bear’s 1987 novel The Forge Of God has a similar premise. There are many terrific ideas in the gloriously short novel. Aliens From Space is a kind of cold war apologue, a prisoner’s dilemma situation. Wrong action invites destruction or at the very least, great loss. In a way the Brewster character reminded me of Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germs And Steel fame). Diamond and Brewster, by asking interesting questions, find interesting answers.

Discs 4 – 7: The Man With Three Eyes by E.L. Arch (Rachel Cosgrove Payes)

The Man With Three Eyes is not a terrific Science Fiction novel. But, it is a fair meta-Science Fictional story. It works well as a quasi-period piece/alien invasion story/Agatha Christie-style mystery. It’s set in 1967 New York, more specifically in Greenwich Village. It’s protagonist, I won’t call him a hero, is an Irishman, Dan Gorman. He works as a Science Fiction magazine illustrator and lives in Mrs. Mumble’s boardinghouse. That’s the central location for the plot, as it’s a virtual United Nations of ethnically diverse characters. There’s an Afghan, a German, a Mohawk, a Welshman, an Eskimo (not an Inuit), an Ethiopian, and a refugee from Hong Kong. They all seem to get along pretty well until Dan accidentally places himself in the middle of an alien espionage ring operating out of a dead drop joke shop. There, he picks up a “third eye” and takes it to a party to impress a girl. It doesn’t work like he expects (but then I can’t imagine it’d work at all), and instead acts like the titular object in H.G. Wells’ short story The Crystal Egg (giving the user a vision of aliens on another planet). Dan then leaves the party and looses the eye in his own apartment. The next two thirds of the novel feature everyone hunting for it.

Sound confusing? It is, at least a bit. I found myself wondering how fast E.L. Arch had written The Man With Three Eyes Or if he had written it on a bet. But, like I said, I think it kind of works anyway. It’s not really a good Science Fiction story, but it ain’t a bad story and can probably tell you a lot about how Science Fiction stories were written in the mid 1960s New York. It felt quite a bit like what I imagine time travel to Greenwich Village in the 1960s would feel like.

Discs 8 – 11: Conquest Of Earth by Manly Banister

The aliens came to earth more than two ice ages ago. Now, under millenia of domination by these invaders, one Man amongst a small cadre of six Men with mental powers, elite combat training and a deep education in all things human, can manoeuver to throw off the chains that have sapped Earth of most of its precious resource, water.

Like the Bene Gesserit from Frank Herbert’s Dune, Manly Banister has created a far future quasi-planetary romance with and especially compelling depiction of what it would mean to be trained to detect and interpret every nuance of human physiology. In fact this whole short novel is like a pocket version of Dune – what with all the quasi-religious/scientific ideas, the overlords, the secret societies and the deserty planet-ness. Conquest of Earth may have more ideas per hour as any other audiobook I’ve listened to in the last decade. When Kor Danay (aka the Scarlet Sage) graduates from his training he begins a quick journey across Earth that leads to scenes of assassination, disguise, mind reading and later an unusual trip off-world with a quickly romanced wife named, get this, Soma! One reviewer called the plot “aimless” and “desultory” and I can see that. The whole story feels disjointed in a way that cannot really be understated. Kor has many abilities the set him apart from other people, and even his fellow “Men.” First up, he has the ability to speed up the molecules of his body so as to, from his perspective, stop time! This trope, by the way, was probably first proposed in the The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells, and later by Star Trek in an episode called “Wink Of An Eye.” One lengthy later sequence features another quasi-Star Trek fore-echo too, namely in “The Paradise Syndrome.“ Did I mention that Kor also has a ”Divisible Mind” which may be the key to defeating the enemy Trisz? He does!

In terms of the style of writing, well, there is a nice soliloquized-style explanation of why the Trisz should not be thought of as actually evil despite being insidious energy beings or a being who rule (or rules) the Earth with an iron fist. There is a lot of other zany stuff going on in this novel: teleportation, trickery, a prophetic computer, and a dose of amnesia (for good measure). I will admit Conquest Of Earth comes off as if it was plotted by a mish-mash of meth’d up aliens in order to win a stream of consciousness contest, but somehow it really didn’t seem to bother me. And, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it had won.

David Osborne is an acknowledged pseudonym of Robert Silverberg. E.L. Arch was a pseudonym of Rachel Cosgrove Payes (being an anagram of her first name: “Rachel”). But it is entirely unclear to me who Manly Banister is or was. There is some discussion of the improbably named Manly Banister HERE, but no Wikipedia article currently exists on this person. Even the narrator name, Tom Weiner, is an alias.

Narrator Tom Weiner’s voice lends depth and presence to the three novels – he adds an appropriate alien lisp to some of the alien speakers, plays around with accents and delivers it all a gravitas and seriousness that doesnt mock this fun material. Listening to A Galaxy Trilogy Volume 2 felt very rewarding!

A minor issue with this collection includes the distinct lack of markings on the discs. 11 CDs are in the set, with three short novels, but none of them is marked with which novels are on which discs. On the other hand, all three novels begin at the beginning of a CD.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir Review of the Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

March 19, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Edited by John Joseph Adams; Read by Simon Vance and Anne Flosnik, John Joseph Adams (uncredited)
18 CDs – 22 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2010
ISBN: 1441839070
Themes: / Mystery / Crime / Alternate History / Science Fiction / Horror / 19th Century / London /

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This famous Sherlock Holmes quote is the impetus which drives this intelligent, inventive, and at times irreverent compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories written in the last few decades. As John Joseph Adams explains in his introduction, his aim in compiling these stories is to explore the uneasy peace between the cold clear logic of the deerstalker-wearing, pipe-smoking detective and the unanswered, perhaps unanswerable mysteries which continue to thwart human investigation to this very day. While many of the stories miss the mark of this goal entirely, the collection as a whole succeeds in pushing Holmes in new directions while staying true to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’s original work.

The stories in this collection fall into one of three categories. First, there are the traditional mysteries. These are stories that, with but slight alteration, might easily have found a home among Conan Doyle’s own work. The best of these tales expand upon characters or cases mentioned in the original œuvre only in passing. Mrs. Hudson’s Case by Laurie R. King, for instance, features Holmes’s protégé Mary Russell as its protagonist and reveals the character of Holmes’s long-suffering landlady. Edward D. Hoch’s A Scandal In Montreal, meanwhile, reunites Sherlock Holmes with his sometime nemesis Irene Adler. As a whole, however, this category fits rather uneasily into the collection because, by and large, there is little in the way of “the improbable” in any of these stories. All are well-written and most are engaging; they simply miss the point.

The second category I would call historical, or pseudo-historical. In most respect these stories are similar to those of the first category, with one redeeming addition: Sherlock Holmes crosses paths with historical figures from the Victorian era. Stephen Baxter’s The Adventure of the Inertial Adventure sees our detective join forces with author of scientific romances H.G. Wells, while Tony Pi’s Dynamics Of A Hanging brings mathematician Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) into the Holmesian world. The highlight of this grouping, though, is The Adventure Of The Field Theorem by Vonda N. McIntyre, in which Sherlock Holmes investigates crop circles at the behest of none other than Arthur Conan Doyle.

The last category throws Sherlock Holmes–and let’s not forget Doctor Watson, through whose eyes we see most of these tales unfold–into genres as wide-ranging as alternate history, horror, and science fiction. Subjectively, I liked these stories best because they fall into genres which I most commonly read. Objectively, these stories succeed because they deliver on the promise of “improbable adventures.” The collection opens with a chilling tale by horror master Tim Lebbon, which unlike most Holmes stories is never intellectually resolved. The Singular Habits Of Wasps by Geoffrey A. Landis, perhaps my favorite story in the collection, puts a fascinating otherworldly spin on the mysterious murders of Jack the Ripper. Robert J. Sawyer’s closing story, You See But You Do Not Observe, pits Holmes’s intellect against the fermi paradox concerning extraterrestrial life. The collection is worth the price of admission for these entries alone.

Simon Vance carries the bulk of the narration, with Anne Flosnik reading only a few stories featuring female protagonists. Flosnik performs solidly in her few appearances. Simon Vance’s portrayal of Holmes and Watson is spot-on; the former speaks with a whip-sharp voice, while the latter lumbers along in a more lugubrious manner. He falls short only when narrating the few “New World” characters who figure in the stories, but these cases are uncommon and Vance’s accent isn’t off by much. John Joseph Adams himself narrates the collection’s introduction, as well as introductory passages to each story.

Whether you’re a fan of mystery, history, or something further afield, chances are high you’ll find something to sate your appetite in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’ll venture out on a limb and say that visitors to this site will likely be most interested in the tales of speculative fiction. I assure you, in particular, that you’ll not be disappointed.

Posted by Seth Wilson

The SFFaudio Podcast #048

February 15, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #048 – Jesse and Scott talk about new and old audiobooks, great audio and radio drama, upcoming stage plays, and old movies.

Talked about on today’s show:
Oblique references to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, recent arrivals, Full Cast Audio, Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev, Worldcon 2006, theater people, Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice as stage play, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Hachette Audio, Black Hills by Dan Simmons, mining history for fiction, Drood by Dan Simmons, Little Big Horn, The Terror by Dan Simmons, The Fall Of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, the SFFaudio Yahoo! Group, “do you relisten to audiobooks?”, Canadia 2056 by Matt Watts (now available in the iTunes music store), Steve The First, Steve The Second, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, The Futurist by James P. Othmer, Tantor Media, William Dufris, PaperBackSwap.com, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, Blackstone Audio, H.G. Wells vs. Henry James, Julie Davis’ Forgotten Classics podcast, a ghost story, The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle, The Others (2001), Henry James’ other novels, who’s fiction is more relevant?, new releases, Fang by James Patterson, the Maximum Ride series, vampires, Calfkiller Old Time Radio, getting into HuffDuffer.com, Calfkiller OTR’s HuffDuffer, BBC Radio’s Saturday Night Theatre, a BBC radio drama version of A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Louis Lamour, Mickey Spillane, The Twilight Zone, social networking your audio, Jesse’s HuffDuffer, Radio Drama Revival’s 3rd anniversary, Buried In Falling Sand (is “very Philip K. Dickian”), God Of The Razor based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale |READ OUR REVIEW|, Great Northern Audio Theatre‘s Dialogue With Martian Trombone, William Tenn’s death, Frederick Pohl on William Tenn’s Child’s Play, Child’s Play is available |HERE|, talking time travel with middle graders, podcast feed, current listens, Killing Floor by Lee Child |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin |READ OUR REVIEW|, virtual reality, worst novel since Startide Rising by David Brin |READ OUR REVIEW| , Sunrise Alley by Catherine Asaro (it is terrible so far), Kurt Dietz’s review of The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro |READ OUR REVIEW|, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Scott’s Pick Of The Week: Groundhog Day (1993), a timeless classic disguised as a comedy, Jesse’s Pick Of The Week: The Valley Of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was ripping his stories from the19th century’s headlines, the framing story device, Brilliance Audio, The Improbable Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Tantor MediaDid you read our post about how to get FREE SWAG from Tantor Media? If you did you know Tantor Media is actually delivering on its promise of a FREE AUDIOBOOK for feedback about their new website!

And now I’ve got the physical proof in hand!

After I checked out out their improved website I left some feedback (I actually suggested they start a podcast) and waited two weeks for my audiobook’s delivery. I picked it up at the PO Box yesterday. Two weeks isn’t too shabby for a delivery to Canada.

If you haven’t already go on over to Tantor Media, check out their new website, and get your own FREE audiobook by mail!

TANTOR MEDIA - The Time Machine by H.G. WellsThe Time Machine
By H.G. Wells; Read by Scott Brick
4 CDs – Approx. 3 Hours 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1400100771

They’ve also got their February 2010 catalogue available in a downloadable |PDF|!

Posted by Jesse Willis

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