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

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