The SFFaudio Podcast #255 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers

March 10, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #255 – The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers; read by Mark Turetsky. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 25 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Mark Turetsky!

Talked about on today’s show:
The King Of Yellow, 1895, novelette, the connections between the stories, Cynthia, the coda, The Mask, Paris, the lethal chamber (a suicide booth), the Fates, revision of judgement, questioning the reader’s sanity, The Yellow Sign, Hildred Castaigne, the future setting (or lack thereof), the statue of Garibaldi (at Washington Square Park), the Carcosa Mythos, weird tales, weird romances, New York City, Mr. Wilde, Hawberk, Dr. Archer, the geography of Washington Square, the elevated train, a subway entrance (as a death chamber), the Wikipedia entry, Futurama (and New New York), a bohemian place, NYU, why is everything militarized?, what’s with the jingle of metal?, the expansion of the American Empire, “citation needed”, dragoons, hussars, lancers, the Prussian style, New Jersey, the texture of the fantasy future, a courtly atmosphere, colouring psychosis, a Napoleonic fascist sate, the meta-fictional nature of The King In Yellow, the Cthulhu Mythos vs. the Yellow Mythos, a surrealist existential nightmare, a fall from a horse, “he’s in the biscuit box”, it’s not horror, weird fiction, Ambrose Bierce, Science Fiction, science, the pinnacle of technology is a dreadnaught, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, Copernicus, Ptolemy, Galileo, the Moons of Jupiter, we’re living in a paradigm, a time of scientific flux, modern atomic theory (and The Mask), H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism, Steve Job and the “reality distortion field“, a social reality, Mr. Wilde’s career is the ability to distort social reality, “Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon”, Charlemagne, George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.“, Emperor Norton, California, Ambrose Bierce, “A sure sign of a genius is that all of the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”, the Hawberk (aka the Duke of Avonshire), the Metropolitan Museum, why does Louis visit Hildred?, the lethal chamber is central to the action, under the thrall of the Yellow Sign, Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant, insanity and isolation, how is Hildred employed?, how Schizophrenia works, going along with the delusion, what is the significance of the cat?, the crisis comes when the cousin has to move, the crush on Constance, the anti-story nature of the work, the unreliable narrator (not Mark!), “suspension of disbelief”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and the old romantic poets), a reaction against science, are the ships real?, aren’t the ships and cavalry set up as a Chekov’s Gun that will go off?, internal inconsistencies, how old are the characters?, Hildred vs. Louis, the statue of General Sheridan, Académie Julian, artists and prostitutes and models, The Mask by Robert W. Chambers, what photography did to painting, impressionism, disruptive ideas, the homunculus, the missing fingers, the damaged ears, Mr. Wilde’s manuscript is the story we’re reading!, is the Chamber is a reference to Chambers himself?, The Street Of The First Shell by Robert W. Chambers, the siege of Paris (during the Franco-Prussian War), Two Fishers by Guy de Maupassant, the Benedict (80 Washington Square East), HBO’s True Detective and the connections to The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, detecting reality (and identity), the purple ears vs. pink ears, how does repairing reputations work?, Hildred’s reputation, a Strangers On A Train-esque clearing house for murder, Scandal (we haven’t seen it), Osgood Oswald Vance, crouching, who killed Mr. Wilde?, the cat did it!, the cat must be symbolic, Oscar Wilde and The Yellow Book, a web of fantasies, “folie à deux”, ‘don’t make fun of crazy people because their folly lasts longer than our own’, we don’t have perfect access to reality, WWI, a social reality vs. a harsh physical reality of artillery, madman vs. a fool, craziness vs. folly, Omar Khayyám, Act 1, Act 2 will make you insane, densely packed with world and incidence, revolutionary science, speculation, no Shyamalan twists please, Cohle and Hart, precedents for a twelve year gap, Battlestar Galactica, Vikings, Rome, Lost, it won’t be a happy ending, suicide is hugely important in both stories, ‘death is not the end’, back to the cat, The Street Of The Four Winds by Robert W. Chambers, cats, dark magic, evil omens, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, No mask?, Stefan Rudnicki talking about The King In Yellow, the “pallid mask”, is it a skull?, Boris, the face in the fates, the bird on the statue, a jigsaw puzzle, “the long arm of The King In Yellow reaches forward and backward in time and space”, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, is Mr. Wilde real at all?, a very readable book, stylistically it’s surprising modern, the artisty milieu, a freshness, “beware of The King In Yellow“.

The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers - illustration by Tucker Sherry

In The Académie Julien In Paris by Marie Bashkirtseff

The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers - WORD CLOUD

Washington Square, New York - The King In Yellow

A review of The King In Yellow from Godey's Magazine, June 1895

The Lethal Chamber from PROVIDENCE by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

ACE - The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers - Signed by Kurtz

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Anticipator by Morley Roberts

March 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – The Anticipator by Morley Roberts; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (17 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon!

Talked about in this episode: Story “found through a route obscure and lonely” via Arthur C. Clarke’s A Recursion in Metastories; H.G. Wells; story anthologized in time travel collection; Morley Roberts popular in The Strand magazine right alongside H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle; a story about the writer’s life; serialized fiction in the Victorian era; Victorian writers crossed genres more frequently; ornate, flowery writing style; invoking the ancestors and collective race memory; names in the story; ESP; main character is a drug addict “of the Holmesian school”; metafiction; William Williamson; semiautomatic writing; writing, sleep, and the subconscious; fiction as an escape; recursion in the story; The Food of the Gods (both the novel by H.F. Wells and the short story by Arthur C. Clarke); variations in writerly productivity; The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells; Philip K. Dick’s frenetic drug-fueled writing schedule; modern books are less thought-provoking and don’t age well; The Land of the Ironclads by H.G. Wells; the metaphor of gemstones as writing and the importance of metaphor in general; Mr. Jim Moon debunks the “cult of personality”; Stephen King’s Danse Macabre: “talent is like a knife”; Jesse thinks NaNoWriMo is a bad idea; Ted Chiang; Harlan Ellison’s as-yet-unpublished third volume of Dangerous Visions.

And check out the wonderful two-page doodle of the story by the amazing Samantha Wikan, it’s below!

Talked about on this episode:

A Recursion Of Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke

The Anticipator by Morley Roberts- illustrated by Samantha Wikan

The Anticipator by Morley Roberts- illustrated by Samantha Wikan

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

October 6, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cover of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan; Read by Ari Fliakos
Audible Download – 7 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / mystery / technology / cerebral / singularity / metafiction

Every once in a blue moon, a completely off-the-radar book comes zooming in out of left field and smacks you upside the head. I love books about books and bookstores and bibliophiles, so even reading the title was like swallowing a long, curved, gleaming fishhook. The tagline yanked the hook up into my soft palate and began reeling me in:

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life – mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore.

The story is told from the perspective of down-on-the-heel design school graduate Clay Jannon, who lands a graveyard shift gig at the titular bookstore. Mr. Penumbra is an archetypically mysterious bookstore. Jannon soon discovers that the bookstore is merely a front for a lending library catering to a strange cult-like group of readers. Unable to contain his curiosity despite warnings from the proprietor, Clay investigates, aided in his quest by his artistic roommate, his Silicon Valley love interest, and a host of other quirky and likeable characters.

I know what you’re thinking: mysterious books, ancient cults, and a quest for eternal life–sounds like a Dan Brown novel. Not so! Where Brown’s prose is ponderous, even pompous, Sloan’s writing is equal parts wit and vigor. It often reads like early Neal Stephenson or, at its best, a timeless Neil Gaiman. Many superficial elements bear a resemblance to Brown’s work, but in the end this is a Brownian novel for true geeks. Brown’s wild, far-fetched car chases through Paris streets are replaced by equally far-fetched but far more satisfying night-time raids into a secret library with a DIY book scanner and an epic set piece data visualization scrum which takes place at Google headquarters. The novel explores areas as esoteric and diverse as typography, cloud computing, and archaeology. The real engine driving most modern mystery thrillers is action, but ideas fuel Mr. Penumbra.

Even readers like me who prefer fantasy to future tales will find something to like here, since the bibliographic mystery ultimately hinges on a trilogy of fictitious epic fantasy novels, The Dragon Song Chronicles. To say more would spoil the plot, but suffice it to say that even the most die-hard D&D player wouldn’t put down the book wholly disappointed. In one scene, the protagonist obtains a recording of the trilogy read by the author on cassette tape, and, in a nice touch that mirrors the novel’s preoccupation with metafiction, Macmillan Audio renders those particular passages in scfratchy, low-quality audio read by a narrator who stepped right out of the 1980s.

And speaking of narration, Ari Fliakos does a fine job with Mr. Penumbra. The novel is rife with obscure terminology drawing from a diverse wealth of linguistic sources, yet Fliakos makes few if any slips. His youthfully exuberent Clay and his tremulously throaty Mr. Penumbra fit the characters perfectly, as do the voices he selects for most of the other characters. A part of me wishes that Jonathan Davis had narrated this novel, since it then would have felt almost like a more upbeat Snow Crash. But that’s only wishful thinking on my part and not at all fair to Mr. Fliakos. A bad performance could have ruined this otherwise outstanding novel, but his performance does it justice.

The book isn’t perfect. The plot, while engaging, is fairly predictable and formulaic at times. I often found myself easily predicting the next twist. As so often happens in these novels, the romance didn’t quite come off as natural to me, although one could make a strong argument that Sloan intentionally made the love interest ambiguous. These are minor quibbles, however. If anything in this review strikes you as remotely interesting, you should read this book. You won’t regret it.

Posted by Seth

The SFFaudio Podcast #097 – READALONG: The Garden Of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges and Fair Game by Philip K. Dick

February 28, 2011 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #097 – Scott and Jesse talk with Luke Burrage about about two short stories: The Garden Of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges |ETEXT| and Fair Game by Philip K. Dick |ETEXT|. The audiobook edition of The Garden Of Forking Paths can be found in the Penguin Audio audiobook Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions.

Talked about on today’s show:
The virtues of short stories, metafiction, Fair Game by Philip K. Dick, If magazine, Anthony Boucher, The Garden Of Forking Paths, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, espionage, fantasy, alternate history, WWI, “start the scene as close to the action as possible”, labyrinth, recursion, the Wikipedia entry on The Garden Of Forking Paths, choose your own adventure, parallel worlds, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft, “The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts’ui Pên conceived it.”, why doesn’t Luke review short stories on SFBRP?, Eifelheim by Michael Flynn |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Merchant And The Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang, Gene Wolfe, The Book Of The New Sun, Labyrinths: Selected Stories And Other Writings by Jorge Louis Borges, A Solar Labyrinth by Gene Wolfe, “dense as in wonderfully deep”, Penguin Audio, Collected Fictions by Jorge Louis Borges, how are Fair Game and The Garden Of Forking Paths connected?, “how you read a story matters to your understanding of a story”, Professor Anthony Douglas, “An immense eye gazed into the room, studying him.”, The Twilight Zone, “The damn thing was looking at me. It was me it was studying.” Douglas’s voice rose hysterically. “How do you think I feel — scrutinized by an eye as big as a piano! My God, if I weren’t so well integrated, I’d be out of my mind!”, Colorado, “we are the face in the sky staring down at this paper”, physics, the observer effect, the wave function collapses, Schrödinger’s cat,

“What is Doug? About the best nuclear physicist in the world. Working on top-secret projects in nuclear fission. Advanced research. The Government is underwriting everything Bryant College is doing because Douglas is here.”

“So?”

“They want him because of his ability. Because he knows things. Because of their size-relationship to this universe, they can subject our lives to as careful a scrutiny as we maintain in the biology labs of — well, of a culture of Sarcina Pulmonum. But that doesn’t mean they’re culturally advanced over us.”

“Of course!” Pete Berg exclaimed. “They want Doug for his knowledge. They want to pirate him off and make use of his mind for their own cultures.”

“Parasites!” Jean gasped. “They must have always depended on us. Don’t you see? Men in the past who have disappeared, spirited off by these creatures.” She shivered. “They probably regard us as some sort of testing ground, where techniques and knowledge are painfully developed — for their benefit.”

big brother, 1984, “money and sex and food”, To Serve Man by Damon Knight, Fredric Brown, Space by James A. Michener, Apollo 18, payoff first – ironic twist next, Dick vs. Borges, is Dick cynical?, mountains and religion, the atmosphere is an ocean of air around the Earth, “Colorado is the shallows in the Earth.”, what does ample mean?, science fiction, “Ts’ui Pên was a brilliant novelist, but he was also a man of letters who doubtless did not consider himself a mere novelist.”, is Dick taking the piss?, high-minded Science Fiction, what is the significance of the title Fair Game?, this is not a podcast for people aren’t going to read the books, “I think Philip K. Dick bases all of his stories on his own life.”, Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick, Luke’s novels, is Luke as clever as PKD and Borges?

Dick:

Borges:

Burrage:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water by Kelly Link

August 3, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Science Fiction Audiobook - Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water by Kelly LinkMost of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water
By Kelly Link; Read by Alex Wilson
FREE MP3 Download – Click here for link to file at www.spokenalex.org
– 27 minutes, 20 seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: http://www.spokenalex.org/
Published: 2005
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien Invasion / New York / Metafiction / Writing /

Jak calls me with the first line of a story. Most of my friends are two-thirds water, he says, and I say that this doesn’t surprise me. He says, no, that this is the first line. There’s a Philip K. Dick novel, I tell him, that has a first line like that, but not exactly and I can’t remember the name of the novel. I am listening to him while I clean out my father’s refrigerator. The name of the Philip K. Dick novel is Confessions of a Crap Artist, I tell Jak. What novel, he says.

Another FREE tale from author Kelly Link’s short story collection Stranger Things Happen. Link is a Nebula, World Fantasy, and James Tiptree Jr. Award-winning author. Her urbane speculative fiction always compares well to Nalo Hopkinson and Walter Mosley – but Link takes that post-modern mentality, rotates it 90 degrees, and adds more of a sense of play. I’m ambivalent about metafiction, which this most certainly is. Sometimes it works wonderfully, but it’s harder with short stories, as they tend to be fairly crowded with concepts already. Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water comes away decently. Narrator Alexander Wilson reads well, but since the narrative voice is that of a female this is not the
perfect match of voice to story. Still, how can I complain when the reading is letter perfect and the price is 100% FREE! Downloadable here.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Nine Billion Names Of God by Carter Scholz

January 13, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Agony Column - The Nine Billion Names of GodThe Nine Billion Names Of God
By Carter Scholz; Read by Carter Scholz
RealAudio Download LINK
13 Minutes 40 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: The Agony Column
Published: 2003
Themes: / Science Fiction / Metafiction / Plagarism /

Rick Kleffel’s “Agony Column”(http://trashotron.com/agony/) is the source for this unabridged reading of author Carter Scholz dadistic tale of a science fiction publishing. Sholz’s “The Nine Billion Names of God” is a truly odd experimental meta-science-fiction short story about an author named “Carter Sholz” who has submitted a word for word copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous short story to the editor of Novus Science Fiction Magazine in hopes of publication. This story – of that story – recounts the epistolary letters between the unbelieving editor, who of course rejects the story, and the obtuse author who insists that that although his story may be identical in every way to Clarke’s, it is, in fact, distinct. Subsequent revisions and resubmissions of the exact same story – letter unchanged – by Scholz makes for an amusing jape. Though to laugh it off as all merely a joke would be to ignore the quasi-profound ending – which itself parallels Clarke’s eponymous tale. By the way, it is not nearly as confusing as it sounds. Carter Scholz, though not a professional narrator, reads his story with aptitude. One must wonder however given his predilection for embellishment who exactly is reading the story….?

Posted by Jesse Willis

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