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

December 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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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

Review of Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe

November 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Blood Groove by Alex BledsoeBlood Groove
By Alex Bledsoe; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
7 CDs – Approx. 8.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433243880
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Vampires / Revenge / Love / 1970s / 1910s / Memphis / Wales /

When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, he must adapt quickly if he is to survive. Hoping to learn how his kind copes with this bizarre new era, Zginski tracks down a nest of teenage vampires, who have little knowledge of their true nature, having learned most of what they know from movies like Blacula. Forming an uneasy alliance with the young vampires, Zginski begins to teach them the truth about their powers. They must learn quickly for there’s a new drug on the street created to specifically target and destroy vampires. As Zginski and his allies track the drug to its source, they may unwittingly be stepping into a trap that can destroy them all.

The vampire is the Mr. Potato Head of Fantasy fiction. It’s an old and worn out monster, fully mythologized with more than 100 interchangeable preternatural powers and weaknesses from which to assemble a fully customized vampire. For what might be a complete list of them check out the terrific website TVTropes.org. It cites a wonderfully cynical list of vampire tropes under the title: “Our Vampires Are Different.” So then the question is: If there is nothing really new under the sunless skies of vampire fiction why do we pick up them up? It’s a good question and one worth pondering. I picked up Blood Groove in large part because of the title. I liked the pun, figuring it referred to a blood groove (or fuller) on a sword and/or the idea of groovy 1970s vampires and/or the dado in a forensic pathologist’s slab. And before I picked up Blood Groove I noticed other Bledsoe books (probably a pun to be made there too) had cute titles like: The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly.

Alex Bledsoe doesn’t give any new power to the vampire that he hasn’t had before, but he does add a new figurative kryptonite (like sunlight and garlic and crosses) to the mix. In fact, it’s creation and dissemination is central to the plot of Blood Groove. Along the way we also get an historical setting (1975), a virtual tour of parts of Memphis, Tennessee, some trivia about Elvis Presley and a relatively unpredictable story.

One of the elements that surprised me was not knowing who the protagonist of Blood Groove was. The vampires seemed the focus, and yet there was almost nothing that could make them sympathetic in a heroic or anti-heroic way. We’d meet one, he’d be killed, and then I thought “Okay…and?” but the story wouldn’t explain – which was a nice move actually. So for a good chunk of the novel the characters, all well fleshed out, appeared in scenes, died or were killed, only to be replaced by new characters with new agendas and new back-stories. The period shifted too. First we are in 1975 Memphis, then 1915 Wales. Eventually it settles down and we’re given fresh references, almost devotionals actually, to two early 1970s movies Blacula and Vanishing Point. As with many an urban fantasy novel these days there’s a mixing up of sex and love. Blood Groove doesn’t feel particularly paranormal romancy – but it’s probably not too far from the edges of curve.

Narrator Stefan Rudnicki gives voice to about a dozen characters of mixed gender, ethnicity and accent. Most obviously the East European vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski has a suitably Bela Lugosi type accent. As with every Rudnicki read audiobook I’ve heard his rich voiced narration in Blood Groove is always in service to the text. One reviewer on Amazon.com put it well: “[Reading Blood Groove] was like eating a brownie with nuts when you don’t like the nuts.”

The trailer for Vanishing Point:

The trailer for Blacula:

Posted by Jesse Willis