The SFFaudio Podcast #314 – READALONG: Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson

April 27, 2015 by · 1 Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #314 – Jesse, Jenny, and Paul talk about Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Talked about on today’s show:
1990, what was it about this book…, nothing much happens, utopia, utopian novels generally don’t exist, Brave New World, conflict, the only death in the book, if it was a literary novel, Ramona’s thighs, almost a perfect novel, “constructed”, softball, batting a thousand, light symbolism, Tom in Switzerland, so much to think about during the lazy days, a magical transformation, fascinatingly insightful, what human beings are trying to do all the time, “that’s the novel I wanted to read”, a tryptic, The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, three Californias growing out of the 1980s, cyberpunk, Orange County, TSA, the water situation, Chinatown, machinations, evil corporations, KSR is a really smart guy, a genuine world, comparing to Heinlein’s bad guys, conflict (or lack thereof), why theater is fun, wrestling!, softball, his Mars books, baseball as a metaphor, small ball, a small ball utopia, the October of his own utopia, what are utopia, an almost meta-SF novel, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, “must redefine utopia … the process of making a better world … struggle forever”, 2065, a bigger theater, fewer baseball diamonds, starting from scratch won’t work, there’s a lot of work to be done, an underpopulated world, how we got there, emigration to Space, the understated Mars landing, the drought in California, climate change (global warming), Antarctica, Worldcon 2006, Anaheim, Luke Burrage’s review of The Gold Coast, he’s sophisticated, Shaman, the four shamanic elements: air/earth/fire/water, sooo well constructed, the mask party, great magic bullshit, not The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Prisoners Of Gravity, Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman, tackling a really substantial subject, an almost bullet-proof approach, the economy doesn’t work and the geology doesn’t work (in The Lord Of The Rings), the housing situation, Viking style or Haida style, its all fashion, the defining look of how any utopia can work, the economic model, socialism, Stephen Harper, [Kim Stanley Robinson] has thought of everything, the black banks, some sort of federal system?, the New Oregon Trail?, a local government utopia, it’s a certain kind of communism, Alfredo, labour taxation, another junction box, there’s still money but nobody is talking about it, the scene at the fire, the community is the fire department, no police, what do you do with criminals?, exile, Amish communities exist at the sufferance of the surrounding state, they’ve got Skype/Facetime, we have to not hate our brothers around the world, sister cities, delegations, Paul takes exception, Minneapolis, magnifying certain aspects (and shrinking others), the Greens have had there day, what’s going to happen, where’s the public library?, an ebb and flow, drag racing, Oscar’s interests, neighbors invading is the only possible hole, an ecological society, an ecology of local systems, by not competing in the way that some can compete you’re going to get crushed, if the utopia is unstable…, Kevin as the catalyst, small solutions, a feel good message, the Athenian polis approach to community, who started that fire?, the evil mustachio thing, if we asked KSR, he’s earned that, A Short Sharp Shock, the kerosene … who did it?, a happy death, let’s spend some time here, When Tam asked: “Does it get less boring?”, going back to work, how to deal with reality, moderation in all things including moderation, smoking, Kim Stanley Robinson is incredibly wise, a very wise book, relationship stigmas have been done away with, casual but not disposable, no ideology, take out the thing that you like, whatever system they seem to have…, the inevitable swinging of a pendulum, Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars (aka Against The Fall Of Night), frozen in time with a focus on art, Nineteen-Eighty Four and Brave New World are forever dystopias, “interpenetration”, a metal ceramic material, Oscar’s hike, going for walks, reality entering a body, we are a part of our environment, a religious moment, the mask party, as a motif word, every part of the community interacts, they live inside each others’ homes, a great scene of Alfredo and Kevin working shoulder to shoulder, Rattlesnake Hill is a symbol for Kevin, that’s no human nature, Jenny’s visits to former utopian society, the Shaker village in Kentucky, New Harmony, Indiana, we’re living in a utopia, how many times have you guys run for city council, campaigning is not fun, trying to convince people door to door is a horrible job, maybe its time, it IS what he’s saying, a bitter pill, KSR’s bio, Jesse’s mom, tons of meetings, we tried to go to a movie theater, the inertia of a city council is less, “turning the ship”, Jenny’s really good example, Greencastle, Indiana, no discrimination if you do business with the city, Our Angry Earth by Frederik Pohl and Isaac Asimov, get organized, maybe that sense of mobility is the problem, love the place you’re at, utopia is not a destination it’s an activity, The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond, staying where you were born, it goes both ways, Ted Cruz, subversive groups, Anonymous, different strategies, Last Week Tonight, Jon Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, dick pics, high-minded people are all sold, does this program have your dick pick?, you need a comedian, LIBERTY!, go with the dick pic.

Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Dust by Joan Frances Turner

February 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

PENGUIN AUDIO - Dust by Joan Frances TurnerDust
By Joan Frances Turner; Read by Eva Amurri
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours 57 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: September 02, 2010
ISBN: 9780142428535
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Zombies / Disease / Death / Resentment / Indiana /

Nine years ago, Jessie had a family. Now, she has a gang. Nine years ago, Jessie was a vegetarian. Now, she eats very fresh meat. Nine years ago, Jessie was in a car crash and died. Nine years ago, Jessie was human. Now, she’s not. After she was buried, Jessie awoke and tore through the earth to arise, reborn, as a zombie. Jessie’s gang is the Fly-by-Nights. She loves the ancient, skeletal Florian and his memories of time gone by. She’s in love with Joe, a maggot-infested corpse. They fight, hunt, dance together as one—something humans can never understand. There are dark places humans have learned to avoid, lest they run into the zombie gangs. But now, Jessie and the Fly-by-Nights have seen new creatures in the woods—things not human and not zombie. A strange new illness has flamed up out of nowhere, causing the undeads to become more alive and the living to exist on the brink of death. As bits and pieces of the truth fall around Jessie, like the flesh off her bones, she’ll have to choose between looking away or staring down the madness—and hanging onto everything she has come to know as life…

Here’s my take on Dust: Jessie is full of resentment, having died young in a car accident. Besides dying Jessie lost an arm and Jessie turned zombie. When Jessie was alive Jessie was a vegan – but now in Jessie’s undead form – Jessie works with a gang of bitter former humans (don’t call them zombies) that eat free range and organic animals like squirrels, possum and deer. Jessie and her associates communicate telepathically (because their mouths don’t make speech very well anymore). The undead very frequently address Jessie by her first name, which is Jessie. Jessie has many indignant conversations with her fellow embittered undead. They often punctuate their sentences with kicks, shoves and punches that break each other’s bones and dislodge sloughing off flesh. This is to be expected for Jessie. Despite these seemingly acrimonious interactions Jessie seems to love and respect her spiteful companions. They all share Jessie’s disdain for the un-undead (living people). Jessie and her surly companions have a hard life, having to deal with maggots, bloating and living out of doors all-year round. Then, after we understand Jessie well enough, Jessie’s living brother turns up, he’s interested in making peace with Jessie. But, Jessie isn’t having any of it. Jessie thinks he’s just a stupid “hoo” (that’s what Jessie and her friends call living humans). Jessie’s brother has a story to tell, but Jessie isn’t really willing to hear it. Next, a disease starts plaguing some of Jessie’s companions. Jessie thinks this is bad, but typical. Jessie also discovers something bad is happening to the stupid hoos. Jessie thinks that is what they get for being stupid hoos. But then the bad thing that hurts Jessie’s friends is something that turns the undead into less-rotty versions of themselves Jessie is angry. Jessie resents that her severed arm regrows. Jessie doesn’t want to look like a stupid hoo. The disease makes Jessie and everyone, even the stupid hoos, very hungry. That is bad, for Jessie, but deserving for the stupid hoos. The end (for Jesse).

You may be able to tell that I intensely disliked this novel. It was well written, with clear exposition, and it has clearly delineated story. Unfortunately Dust taught me nothing except that a clear exposition of the disagreeable does not improve it much. If you’re not teaching me anything, at least make the book fun. My dislike of Dust also stems from the fact that it posits multiple gimmes (a singular central conceit which may remain unexamined). Dust lets the reader assume nothing, the ground-rules aren’t fixed, and new rules are seemingly arbitrarily added on every tenth page. This means I, as a reader, cannot participate in the world of the book as much as sit back and observe what the author does with it. That is not fun. Based on the clarity of Dust I expect that Joan Frances Turner is capable of writing a fine novel, one that explores something more fruitful than resentment (which I will admit is a way to go with a zombie story told from the perspective of a zombie). But the zombie novel, as a phenomenon, may also be the problem. It may be time for people to stop writing stories from the perspective of a zombie. From my perspective Dust puts the final nail in the coffin of zombie stories told from the zombie’s perspective.

The audiobook of Dust does not contain the handy map that’s in the paperbook’s endpapers. Turner herself writes on her blog saying “the geography of the book is so vital to the story.” As to the narrator, typically when a narrator isn’t doing it for me I start looking for notable defects – asking myself “what is it that specifically bugs me about the narration?” Often this delivers some sort of gripe, like bad word pronunciation, an unconvincing accent or improper emphasis in important passages. I thought I spotted one badly pronounced word (“onerous”), but as it turns out, at least according to the Dictionary.com pronunciation guide, it is I who had been pronouncing “onerous” wrong! That said, Eva Amurri’s narration still doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure why. Other reviewers have praised her performance.

Here is the paperbook’s map (as illustrated by Claudia Carlson and designed by Tiffany Estreicher):

DUST by Joan Frances Turner MAP

Posted by Jesse Willis