The SFFaudio Podcast #355 – Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Paul Weimer talk about The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft
Talked about on today’s show:
novel or novella, would Lovecraft have published it had he lived longer?, left in a drawer, a first draft, smoothing out, an amazing talent, a fascinating fun world, The Wizard Of Oz, a tour of Lovecraft’s material, not the place to start with Lovecraft, no existential bleakness, surprisingly gentle, even Nyarlathotep is kind of nice, more adventurous, extended into nonsense, marshaling armies, Conan’s messing about is strictly small potatoes, a gregarious jolly man, a sense of fun, poems about Frank Belknap Long’s cat, more lucidity than you expect, the ghouls, the Fungi From Yuggoth cycle, three travelers who’d previously visited the dreamland, one must be the unnamed narrator of The Crawling Chaos, King Kuranes, the narrator of Hypnos, the smoking cosmic gun, The Other Gods, the priest, The Strange High House In The Mist, a night-gaunt, the mythos was largely invented by fans, the nexus point, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, is the graveyard in the Dreamlands?, other ways to get to the Dreamlands, ghoul tunnels, the ghouls are quite friendly, Warren is dead!, the enchanted wood, the Vaults Of Zin, the realm of the Gugs, The Divine Comedy, The Cats Of Ulthar, lots of cats from Ulthar, almost an anime style plot, hilarious, whimsical, swarming cats, unlocking, context, Dunsananian, Polaris, the Land Of Lomar, ahead of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Paul’s own RPG Dreamlands, slavers, fighting the Moon Men, surprisingly visual, Celephaïs and The White ship, much mining, the Moon wine, lava gatherers, chalcedony mining, Mr. Merchant, Nyarlathotep is the wizard (and the wicked witch), Sauron, Azathoth does the gnawing, Carter’s passivity, Carter’s activity, Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, an explorer’s adventure, the hound is Belloq, Bryan Alexander, not a horror book, more comedy than horror, the Nigh-Gaunts sound scary but their major power is tickling, Lovecraft has a wicked dry sense of humour, playing with a caricature of himself, based on his own nightmares, squirming feelings, “there’s more of gravy than of the grave about you”, Marley’s ghost, a bit of undigested beef, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the HPLHS’ A Solstice Carol, adapting three Lovecraft stories by way of Dickens, The Festival, Pickman’s Model, The Outsider, it all connects up, Richard Upton Pickman, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, this grand tapestry, Jim’s ball of wax, The Thing On The Doorstep, a shoggoth in those pits, Night-Gaunts (the poem), not seeing the whimsical side of it, a gamer style fashion, in Deities & Demigods, that was all bullshit, Michael Moorcock’s Elric, flying on the night-winds with the ghouls, an internal Lovecraftian world, maps, the map from the Call Of Cthulhu‘s Dreamland Supplements, Sandy Petersen, Jason Thompson’s Dreamlands map, The Green Meadow, the Vaults Of Yin, the Gardens of Zin, how do they get to the Moon on this map?, straight on until morning…, dream logic supplies an endless supply of water, how much is personal and how much is external?, Carter’s Sunset City (Kadath), the gods of earth have abandoned it for Kadath, cosmic horrors, the Games of Divinity, Fungi From Yuggoth, Homecoming (Sonnet V), our experience of reading Lovecraft, Recognition, the book is the key,
The day had come again, when as a child
I saw—just once—that hollow of old oaks,
Grey with a ground-mist that enfolds and chokes
The slinking shapes which madness has defiled.
It was the same—an herbage rank and wild
Clings round an altar whose carved sign invokes
That Nameless One to whom a thousand smokes
Rose, aeons gone, from unclean towers up-piled.
I saw the body spread on that dank stone,
And knew those things which feasted were not men;
I knew this strange, grey world was not my own,
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids—and then
The body shrieked at me with a dead cry,
And all too late I knew that it was I!
, the next poem
The daemon said that he would take me home
To the pale, shadowy land I half recalled
As a high place of stair and terrace, walled
With marble balustrades that sky-winds comb,
While miles below a maze of dome on dome
And tower on tower beside a sea lies sprawled.
Once more, he told me, I would stand enthralled
On those old heights, and hear the far-off foam.
All this he promised, and through sunset’s gate
He swept me, past the lapping lakes of flame,
And red-gold thrones of gods without a name
Who shriek in fear at some impending fate.
Then a black gulf with sea-sounds in the night:
“Here was your home,” he mocked, “when you had sight!”
then we get The Lamp, Zaman’s Hill, The Port, The Courtyard, XX. Night-Gaunts, XXI. Nyarlathotep, XXII. Azathoth, XXV. St. Toad’s, seeking after visions, XVI. The Window, I.N.G. Culbard’s adaptation of The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath, this is a poem as well, word choices for assonance and alliterative sound, very aural, a pleasure to listen to, meant to be read aloud, Carter looks a lot like Lovecraft (in I.N.G. Culbard’s adaptation, Jason Thompson’s adaptation of The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath, from Dunsany and Poe, it all goes back to Poe with his Dream-land poem, Ulalume, The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe,
by Edgar Allan Poe
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE—Out of TIME.
Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters—lone and dead,—
Their still waters—still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.
By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains—near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the grey woods,—by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy,—
There the traveller meets, aghast,
Sheeted Memories of the Past—
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by—
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven.
For the heart whose woes are legion
’T is a peaceful, soothing region—
For the spirit that walks in shadow
’T is—oh, ’t is an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not—dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fring’d lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.
the double negative, seeing the mysteries of the dreamlands with the eyes unclosed, protean quality, an evolution of that Dream-Land, the seed that took root in Lovecraft’s mind, pools with lolling lilies, Eldorado, a prodigious dreamer, Tweeting dreams, “I’m prodigious dreamer.”, keeping a dream diary, deeper and more vivid, a dream New York City, Jesse recounts dream of swimming through the streets, a sea-monster, rafts, tables, wonderful wonderful comic books, it is very difficult to read books in dreams, #nightmare, forgetting that he is dreaming, close to waking, dreams while dreaming, Dennis Quaid, Dreamscape (1984), if we can just get the internet of dreams working, awesome and amazing, Waking Life (2001), dreams as prison, Curanes story is in the middle, Curanes has trained a bunch of locals to act English, totally Wizard Of Oz, the magic of three, The Crawling Chaos by H.P Lovecraft and Winifred Virginia Jackson, some sort of plague, opium, he’s inside his own head and walks into the Dreamlands, all cities of amber and chalcedony, deserted cities, amazing imagery, inside baseball, once you’re deep into the trenches…, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has the same kind of ghouls, the way ghouls get their names (the first person they eat), maybe Pickman got eaten by a ghoul (retcon), meeps or glibbers, planning the assault on Kadath.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #303 – READALONG: The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe
Talked about on today’s show:
1838, Poe’s only completed novel, Paul’s Poe years, The Tell-Tale Heart, a macabre sort of phase, Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny, fix-ups, Premature Burial, Ms. Found In A Bottle, The Oblong Box, The Gold Bug, secret codes, Poe is old and public domain and not particularly racist, The Pit And The Pendulum, the Poe theme, the death of a beautiful woman is conspicuous by her absence, the meta-commentary, Tristram Shandy, The Cask Of Amontillado, a dog named Tyger (burning bright?), William Blake, Jules Verne, An Antarctic Mystery, Ms. Found In A Copper Cylinder, Antarctica, “Ms. Found In A…”, “it was begun to have been serialized”, fake stories as true stories, Captain Cook’s Antarctic expeditions, “a labyrinth of lumber”, how to load a ship, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Washington Irving, SF as a generally American phenomenon, a slow creep of fantastic elements, full-blown surrealism, the drinking, on the Grampus, dressing like a ghost, another phantom in white, “Mr. Pym is not available”, a genuine narrative, missing islands, a metaphor for alcoholism, sailing in a storm, half-sunk/drunk, echoes, the plague ship, the Penguin, echoes, all these lies, a note from the Wikipedia entry, fictional analogues for real events, autobiographical drinking, The Lighthouse by Edgar Allan Poe (a fragment), “I expected to inherit some money”, money problems, “he’s pouring his troubles into this manuscript”, this is Poe’s version of Dude, Where’s My Car?, an unreliable narrator, an excellent story, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, albatrosses, thematic similarities, they eat many birds, “an unmentionable thought”, subsequent cannibalism, the same ghost ship as in Rime?, Antarctic spirits, H.P. Lovecraft, the subtitle:
Comprising the Details of Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on Board the American Brig Grampus, on Her Way to the South Seas, in the Month of June, 1827. With an Account of the Recapture of the Vessel by the Survivers; Their Shipwreck and Subsequent Horrible Sufferings from Famine; Their Deliverance by Means of the British Schooner Jane Guy; the Brief Cruise of this Latter Vessel in the Atlantic Ocean; Her Capture, and the Massacre of Her Crew Among a Group of Islands in the Eighty-Fourth Parallel of Southern Latitude; Together with the Incredible Adventures and Discoveries Still Farther South to Which That Distressing Calamity Gave Rise.
who wrote the subtitle?, they didn’t have the concept of spoilers, the opposite of a spoiler, The Savage Land (Marvel Universe), Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot, a hollow earth theory, this is a Science Fiction book in a strange sense, what’s with the multi-layered coloured water?, the strange creatures, the creature’s corpse in the white waters, is Australia a place?, At The Mountains Of Madness, why Poe is not in outer space, basically these Antarctic people are aliens, this is very Stanley G. Weinbaum (A Martian Odyssey), Michael Moorcock’s Seas Of Fate, H. Rider Haggard, duplicitous natives in the black land, what will be in the white lands?, a heavily read book (in the 19th century), The House Of The Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, when Lovecraft describes it…, haunted by the architecture of homes, Lovecraft’s description of Pym:
“In the Narrative of A. Gordon Pym the voyagers reach first a strange south polar land of murderous savages where nothing is white and where vast rocky ravines have the form of titanic Egyptian letters spelling terrible primal arcana of earth; and thereafter a still more mysterious realm where everything is white, and where shrouded giants and snowy-plumed birds guard a cryptic cataract of mist which empties from immeasurable celestial heights into a torrid milky sea.”
pouring into the hollow Earth?, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, At The Earth’s Core, Kublah Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, leaving the ending open to the reader, how will he get back to Nantucket?, the names A. Gordon Pym and E. Allan Poe, framing devices, The Turn Of The Screw, a framing device gives the reader an extra distance, The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, Robert Silverberg’s The Secret Sharer, the southern polar bear, “Tekeli-li, tekeli-li.” the face of an open book, downy feathers, what does it mean?, whiteness, philological scrutiny, “white-phobic”, the audiobook narration, copyright, a total Poe thing to do, Poe loved cryptography, Poe would be writing in Elvish, a font nerd, hanging out with Charles Stross and Alan Moore, can you imagine Poe at a Worldcon?, a drunkard’s story, shoplifting at The Innsmouth Bookshop, Fungi From Yuggoth XV: Antarktos:
Deep in my dream the great bird whispered queerly
Of the black cone amid the polar waste;
Pushing above the ice-sheet lone and drearly,
By storm-crazed aeons battered and defaced.
Hither no living earth-shapes take their courses,
And only pale auroras and faint suns
Glow on that pitted rock, whose primal sources
Are guessed at dimly by the Elder Ones.
If men should glimpse it, they would merely wonder
What tricky mound of Nature’s build they spied;
But the bird told of vaster parts, that under
The mile-deep ice-shroud crouch and brood and bide.
God help the dreamer whose mad visions shew
Those dead eyes set in crystal gulfs below!
the black cone, the primal sources, Lovecraft quoting himself, that shrouded white figure, “Tekeli-li don’t kill the albatross”, Lemuria, Thule, the novel as a journey, how do you return from the surreal?, what happened to Tyger?, they ate him!, Dirk Peters (so manly he has two penises), Tyger’s collar, someone was going to drown the dog, poor Tyger, a horrendously awful horrifying experience, when Paul Theroux visited Jorge Luis Borges he read him The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket, Borges thought Pym was Poe’s greatest work, the interest in the meta, strange runes, Lovecraft was a teetotaler, deep into madness (not drunken madness), genetic disease or confronting reality, The Call of Cthulhu, dreams, a fever dream?, forgetting, a change in tenses, the missing two or three final chapters, Xeno’s paradox, a Mercator map, and Greenland, is that all racism?, “a nautical negro”, Toni Morrison, the black cook, don’t go into a tiny box-canyon with natives of any colour, scrupulously honest, earlier bushwhacked voyagers, going piratical?, going whaling?, the mutiny, Mr. Starbuck, why is Pym stowing away in the first place?, the captain that ran them down was drunk, boating skills, Treasure Island, Augustus’ father, the inexplicable weevils, “taking liberally from the spirits”, this narrative is full of holes, a free sea voyage, Pym is a teenager, everybody has a boat on Nantucket, an adventure of a lifetime, Pym is “not available”, Jeremiah N. Reynolds, Poe’s last word was “Reynolds”, a possibly apocryphal story, Mocha Dick, the long conversation of conversation of Science Fiction, Moby Dick is in dialogue with Pym and Mocha Dick, bibliographic archaeology, The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, in a dinghy, considering cannibalism, drawing straws, “and dropped like stones”, did their bones dropped likes stones?, the narrator becomes more and more unreliable, dis-masted, a teetotaler who drinks only coffee.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1981, to a professor of Slavic languages, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, the “First Age”, Hyperborea, At The Mountains Of Madness, The Mound, high fantasy, monstrous survivals, “two-fisted mighty thewed”, meeting the monster, this is not Lovecraft anymore, “big speeches very evil”, the movie, HBO, the sword is a laser beam?, that thing from Krull?, like Skeletor but less impressive, D’Spayre (Marvel Comics), “I expected you to come in evening-wear”, “He’s not Hitler”, WWII, can you use evil to fight evil, Cuza, shades of grey, chancellorship, “are you with the forces of good?”, a pretty amazing book, the Adversary Cycle, The Tomb, the “Repairman Jack” cycle, Equalizer-style, ancient Hindu mythology, deeply interested in its subject, re-reads, “written with the energy and verve and economy of a pulp novel all the themes, and character and depth of a literary novel”, Protecting Project Pulp, yellow peril, “I’ve heard Lovecraft was good for sales”, Conan The Barbarian (1982), Thulsa Doom, red hair and olive skin, a mystery novel, making assumptions, is Glen a Templar?, “What’s in the box?”, Portugal, Spain, Wales, a little map, not a castle, not a keep, built backwards, go kill Hitler, The Salem’s Lot route, a mute Nosferatu, the seduction of Cuza, Glen is a morally ambiguous character, Magda is the main character, the resonance of the title, Rasalom, Hitler, Molosar, the SS dude (Kaempffer), Woermann, moving the date 1941 to 1942, in 1941 there really is no hope (as opposed to 1942), Twitter, which evil is worse?, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Condor Legion, the German anti-fascist legion, “you collaborate with anti Wallachians?”, punch-ups, Germany back on its feet, dissension in the ranks, The Psychology Of Power, George W. Bush, Obama was reading Team Of Rivals, torturing folks but not prosecuting folks, John’s second book, The Beast Within by Edward Levy, The Shining by Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Cuza uses the manuscripts as a red herring, you can’t destroy knowledge, when Jesse was less sophisticated, somebody’s got to be the publisher that published Mein Kampff, Dianetics, maybe you’re not as committed to the cause?, letting the adults slide, the Hitler Youth was mandatory, excuses might have been deadly, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, school children were terrifying, Nineteen-Eighty Four, informing on mommy and daddy, The Cultural Revolution, Die Brucke (aka The Bridge), Volkssturm, MG-42, April 27th, 1945, Doctor Who, Beau Geste, Magneto (Marvel Comics), J. Michael Straczynski, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Vorlons and the Shadows, Chaos and Order, put these old gods to bed, maybe I can finally die, appeasement, Glaeken returns, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a retelling of Dracula and Salem’s Lot, more gloopy gloppy blood, John Carpenter’s The Thing, this book has zombies, traditional zombies, the rats, the muddy boots, the fingers, the reversal, Molosar sounds like a mid-dark age wizard or Romanian lord, Rasalom sounds like a Doctor Who character or Absalom, Mordred, Woermann -> War Man, Kempffer -> fighter, Magda -> Mary Magdalene, Cuza -> count, Glen -> valley, Glaeken -> Glaaki (Ramsey Campbell), the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, The Courtyard, Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Aklo,
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead –
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
the headless corpse, “leave my house”, shaping Cuza, we get tricked, there’s something you’ve both overlooked, “Draculian harmonics”, old Slavonic, he can’t be both ignorant and knowledgeable, psychological warfare, Molasar is so much smarter, Cuza is super-manipulative, double bluff, the Dracula mystique, Molasar has to be telepathic, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Woermann mentions having seen a pirated version of Nosferatu, Molasar was aware of Cuza’s previous visits, he’s had a lot of time to think, bad dreams, he’s not interested in crumbs, the Popes forgot about it, the battery for the enchantment of the keep, the evil events begin on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), the birds as a barometer of evil, no sequel possible, a blue winged bid with a beak full of straw, Moroi, Highlander, Highlander II (the worst movie ever made), “that’s the quickening McLeod”, a Spanish Egyptian with a Scottish accent, where did Highlander come from?, magic swords drinking power, a katana for cutting wasabi, 1980s movies came out of nowhere (seemingly), Elric (Michael Moorcock), Highlander: The Series, The Red One by Jack London, collecting heads, headless soldiers are unthinking soldiers, puppets of dark sorcery, vampires have the power to heal?, True Blood, did Cuza get the illness as a part of Molasar’s long game?
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #277 – The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany; read by John Feaster. This is an unabridged reading of the story (11 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and John Feaster.
Today’s podcast is sponsored by Downcast, a terrific podcast app for iPhone and iPad.
Talked about on today’s show:
Saturday Review, February 4th, 1911, the secret story behind of all of modern fantasy, do you listen to podcasts?, our SPONSOR: Downcast, an app for iPhone and iPad, small size, big impact, location based downloading, a super-customized experience, audio drama, The Red Panda Adventures, Decoder Ring Theater, Downcast allows you to lock episodes, the key to understanding, the beginning of binge-watching, Sidney Sime, The Book Of Wonder by Lord Dunsany, its criminal that Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, a new podcast idea, Appendix N: Inspirational And Educational Reading, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, take up this mantle, Gary Gygax, Dunsany’s last champion, Poul Anderson, John Bellairs, Leigh Brackett, Frederic Brown, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, August Derleth, Lord Dunsany, Philip Jose Farmer, Gardner Fox, Robert E. Howard, Sterling Lanier, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Michael Moorcock, Andre Norton, Andrew J. Offutt, Fletcher Pratt, Fred Saberhagen, Margaret St. Clair, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Vance, Stanley Weinbaum, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, let’s understand it, S.T. Joshi, “the death of wonder”, bullshit, the inaccessibility of our fantasies, did the Arabic man see Golden Dragon City?, wouldn’t we see something different?, “the magi”, the Scheherazade salesman, its about writing fantasy, its about reading fantasy, reading life and real life, getting addicted to Game Of Thrones, it seems like it is about television, serial fiction, the August days are growing shorter, winter is coming, George R.R. Martin, prose poems, deft brushstrokes, a more devastating fairy tale, is the window a metaphor within that world, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, the yellow robes, mood and temperament, what would Oprah see?, a soap opera, silent pictures, the constellations, The Crystal Egg by H.G. Wells, science fiction, Jesse’s pet theory on the opening credit sequence of Game Of Thrones, the four houses, dragons and bears, orrery, Ptolemy vs. Copernicus, epicycles, orbital clockworks, Ringworld by Larry Niven, the inside of a Dyson sphere, Westeros, a fish-eye lens, a D&D style hex system, the mechanistic unplaying of the plot, it’s not a half-assed Tolkien, HBO, a metaphor for The Wonderful Window, maybe it’s a bowl?, a fantastically wealthy Lannister home?, that guy’s based on The Kingpin, credit sequence, Dexter‘s morning routine, murdering coffee, “oh my god it’s over”, envisioning greater lives, some guy in Golden Dragon city is looking through a window at 1911 London, Lion City (London), make it WWI, the zeppelin terror, had it been written a few years later would we not assume the red bear as Communist Russia, escape to the secondary world, beaten down into the proper shape for Business, capital “B” business, “a touch of romance”, daydreaming, a frock coat, a bookstore, “emporium”, Walmart as a soul crushing emporium, howling newsboys, the birds in the belfries, “the seven”, analogues for priests and nuns, dragons the most evocative fantasy animal, a silver field, what prompts the destruction of Golden Dragon city, Darkon (2006), LARPers, interesting, good, and sad, fantasy lives on the weekend, a cardboard factory, typical American upper-lower class jobs, religion, plunking away god-dollars, the popular conception of D&D, video games, Elvis’ hips, KISS, better jobs, Detroit in ruins, work, podcasts to stave off the rats gnawing, John’s gaming group, soul crushing and beautiful, Edward Plunkett, H.G. Wells, toy soldiers, the start of modern war-gaming, empire, “this dang story”, 14th century Hungary, Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, names, Friend, Spork, Carmilla (is a savory name), carnstein (flesh-stone), Mergin and Chater -> margin and cheater?, a used bookstore business is not one designed to make money (precisely), Chapters, the artificial love of books, the way Scrooge would run his business, the one room apartment, “tea-things”, we ended on a happy note, fantasy and escapism, there’s not much else past The Silmarillion, Elmore Leonard, Jack L. Chalker‘s last unpublished book, old-fashioned TV watching (no recording), “this window goes nowhere”, Mr. Sladden’s destruction of the window is better than had it been broken by someone else, the scent of mysterious spices, a breath of Golden Dragon City.
Posted by Jesse Willis
A Discourse in Steel
By Paul S. Kemp; Read by Nick Podehl
10 hours 11 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
Themes: / sword and sorcery / magic / adventure / fantasy city
My first encounter with the sword-and-sorcery genre came when I discovered Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, neatly packaged into audiobooks at Audible with introductions from no less a figure than Neil Gaiman. How could I refuse? While Leiber’s world-building was top-notch, though, I found fault with his lack of any real character development. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Seth, characters in a sword-and-sorcery novel aren’t supposed to be developed! While I agree in principle that the genre is supposed to thrive on antiheroes like Michael Moorcock’s Elric, there’s a vast difference between making an intentional authorial decision not to develop characters, or to develop them in an unconventional way, and simply neglecting the care and feeding of a protagonist. Of this I found Leiber guilty. So I set the genre aside in hopes of finding a specimen more suited to my predilections.
Enter Paul S. Kemp’s Nix and Egil series. The eponymous heroes (it’s almost impossible to call them antiheroes) are, respectively, a sprightly little man of craft and cunning from the slums of Dur Follin, and a hulking, hammer-wielding priest of Ebenor, the momentary God. At first glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking this pair for Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, or, perhaps if you squint, Terry Pratchett’s Bravd and the Weasel. But where Leiber’s adventurers are often gray as the Mouser’s name, Kemp’s likable rogues flash and sparkle like a colored prism, reflecting and refracting their personae as the wheel of the story turns. And speaking of the city of Dur Follin, its twisting alleys, Low Bazaar, taverns, and guild houses are every bit as well-realized as Leiber’s Lankhmar.
I rediscovered fantasy in my teens through reading David and Leigh Eddings’s mammoth epics. While I now recognize that much of their work was middling at best, I still admire their capacity to write charming, amusing, and at times poignant dialogue. Kemp has honed this particular skill to a keen edge. The playful, good-natured banter between the two unlikely companions will have you laughing out loud one moment and pondering the mysteries of life itself the next. Their friendship is deep and genuine in the way that so many fictitious friendships simply aren’t. Nix and Egil each have their own past, present, and (it is to be hoped) future. Their hopes, fears, and regrets are writ large in the story’s pages, and this emotional element propels A Discourse in Steel beyond the mark of mere adventure into territory that far too fantasy novels explore.
You’ll notice I’ve said nothing of the plot. This is partly because I cordially dislike plot regurgitations in reviews, but also because the plot is, in a sense, unimportant. I don’t mean to suggest the plot is bad. In fact, it’s well-paced, intricate for a novel of this length, and not without its little surprises. But one comes away from reading this book with a sense that the plot served mostly as a backdrop for exploring these two remarkable characters, like set decorations in a theater performance. Of course, if all this emotional and philosophical discussion makes your eyes glaze over, and you just want to read fun stories of swashbuckling adventure, fear not, A Discourse in Steel has them in spades, or hammers. As you can probably tell by now, I am more captivated by the character development, and sometimes felt the plot barged in on a real moment of heart, but I confess that most readers will find the novel’s plot and pacing perfectly measured.
The novel isn’t without its faults. Nix and Egil are masterfully developed, but the book’s other dramatic personae, with a couple no notable exceptions, lack that same fit and finish. The villains, in particular, come across as fairly one-dimensional, even though they get a lot of stage time. Rusilla and Merelda, the tale’s damsels in distress, fare slightly better, especially towards the end, but as the series title suggests, this is the Nix and Egil show. The novel also flags a bit once the plot maneuvers the characters out of the stress of Dur Follin, which as a city is complex enough to be a character in its own right. To paraphrase one of the characters, Nix and Egil seem to belong in Dur Follin, and watching them out of their element, like fish out of water, takes a moment’s adjustment. The book’s last fault, if you could call it that, is that it ends too soon, leaving several key questions unanswered, questions about Egil and Nix, questions about the city of Dur Follin, and questions about the wider world beyond.
The audiobook is narrated by Nick Podehl, who, to me at least, has become synonymous with epic fantasy in audio, thanks in no small part to his narration of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. His bag of vocal tricks just seem to be a natural fit for the genre. He is able to glide smoothly between Egil’s rumbling curses and Nix’s falchion-sharp witticisms, and during the action sequences his sense of timing is impeccable. Podehl is the narrator equivalent of what’s called in Hollywood a character actor. He lacks the star power and name recognition of a Simon Vance or a William Dufris, but if you’ve listened to many audiobooks recently, you’ve probably heard his voice. He certainly does justice to Kemp’s work.
A Discourse in Steel is the second Nix and Egil adventure, but it can be read on its own, though its predecessor, The Hammer and the Blade, is nearly as good. I’m grateful to the efforts of Paul S. Kemp and his creations Nix and Egil for showing me that the sword and sorcery genre can embody both style and substance. Maybe it’s time I revisit Leiber and the other S&S greats; maybe I’ll find they’re not as soulless as I thought.
Reviewed by Seth Wilson.
The SFFaudio Podcast #218 – Jesse, Luke Burrage, and David Stifel and John Feaster discuss the audiobook of The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (narrated by David Stifel) – you can get the free podcast of the audiobook HERE.
Talked about on today’s show:
This Burroughs Guy, The Caspak Series, Irwin Borges biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Blue Book magazine, The Lost U-Boat, the 1975 movie (The Land That Time Forgot), The People That Time Forgot, weird science ideas, evolution, this is how evolution works here (maybe?), tadpoles, the irony, Tarzan Of The Apes, dead baby ape, “And now this creature of my brain and hand had turned Frankenstein, bent upon pursuing me to my death.”, WWI Germans, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne, navigating an underground river with a u-boat, Yellowstone Park, lost continent, high tech, necessary irony, a classic story, Jurassic Park, a UNIX system, “Californians, as a rule are familiar with jiu-jitsu.”, casual racism, Japs vs. J.A.P.s, the Huns (the Bosch), the rape of Belgium, trouble with Germans in the 1920s, Tarzan The Untamed, “full German racism”, Greenland, “imaginative idiots”, the frame story, John Carter of Mars, the tides took a thermos from the Antarctic Indian Ocean to Greenland in the space of a year, very outlandish stories, sardonic humour, Luke on framing stories, werewolves, vampires, zombies, The Player, meta self-referential recursive, we never learn the protagonist’s name until the last chapter, Bowen, the Lafayette Escadrille, Earnest Hemingway, he’s no Tarzan, a techno-geek, a romantic flop, Crown Prince Nobbler aka Nobs (an Airedale), Tintin and Snowy, was Tintin gay?, strange lands, X-Men #10, The Savage Land (of Ka-Zar), fewer dinosaurs, Plesiosaur soup, Pterodactyls, Allosaurus attack, the farther north you go the farther you go in evolution, Ahm, Cro-Magnon man, Out Of Time’s Abyss, embryology, “we’ve all got gills at that point”, flowers, “it’s always below the surface”, “we are more developed from them <- is wrong", whaddya mean kinda racist??, "the black people are below the white people on this chart", H.P. Lovecraft, one could call it evil (but fun adventure), something else, action adventure story, refining your own oil, the hero must always find a dog and a girl and exactly what he needs, the damsel in distress is a bit wet, the movie commander is sympathetic, ape like monsters, Michael Moorcock, volcanic eruptions, Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts, shelling the fort on the way, evil bastards, shelling the lifeboats is wholly malice, soooo propaganda, Prussian honor, who was the bad guy in WWI?, proposed German peace terms if they had won WWI, domino theory, communism, let's head for Caspak, The Temple by H.P. Lovecraft, an incident blown out of proportion?, terror attacks vs. gun accidents, war crimes?, water-boarding, Otto Skorzeny, bombing dykes and dams (not a war-crime because we did it too), conducting operations while in enemy uniforms, Harry Turtledove’s alternate history, Benito Mussolini, real-life James Bond (was Austrian), Skorzeny’s smite, more Burroughs, The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “socially relevant fiction”, yellow peril looking dudes, quite adventurey but with interesting ideas, the pre-Socratics philosophers on spontaneous generation of life, spontaneous or parallel development, again with the weird women birthing practices, Marvel Comics, The Savage Land, Tarzana’s racial segregation, white supremacy, Glenn Beck’s planned community, racists believe in races, socially constructed, genetic racism?, the monkeysphere, H.G. Wells’ work, The War Of The Worlds, Burroughs’ heroic heroes vs. Wells’ horrible people, the sympathy is in us not the book, the artilleryman, a bit of a loon, the Zulu, the Martini rifle, one day one day!, Japan’s aspirations, we need some warships, we’ve got to control our own shit, navel vs. naval, it happened to Germany too, “too cold and full of penguin’s let’s take Poland instead”, The People That Time Forgot, Out Of Time’s Abyss, more Tarzan, how long does it take?, Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar, the Venus series, Jerry Schneider, Pirates Of Venus, invalid copyright renewals, more Mars please, Mastermind Of Mars, permission requires money, the bigger gorilla, Audible.com, Burroughsguy.com, re-writing for less racism, a blow by blow comparison, lynching, The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs (aka Beyond Thirty), perfidy, the lost continent is Europe, a black super-state!, 30 Longitude West, prejudices, vilontely pro-capitalist in the Ayn Rand sense, Burroughs loathed the labour movement, the Industrial Workers of the World are the real bad-guy, “women don’t really want to be equal to men”?, deep down atheists really believe in God?, the mystery will be unveiled.
Posted by Jesse Willis