The SFFaudio Podcast #406 – READALONG: Our Friends From Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick

January 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #406 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Marissa talk about Our Friends From Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick

Talked about on today’s show:
if this book is anything to go by, personal drama, bottom quarter, pre-A Maze Of Death book, protagonist, world dictator, his woman for a girl, an Earth dictator, a real Trump, aliens, prohibition of alcohol, easy access to drugs, a throwback, the ending, Jesse really liked this book, a Philip K. Dick book, a tire re-groover, illegal and immoral, The Man In The High Castle, ersatz carving of reality, fun themes, so emotional, more emotionally interesting, for poignancy, so good at feeling things, such a loser, the age of consent in Canada, everything in this book actually happened, subtle, the wife and son are literary abandoned, the details of the world, the Philip K. Dick fans page, the what is reality is missing, quotidian, debating philosophy, the PKDS issue 19, Frolix 5 9, prolix, frolicking, The Three Body Problem, are you ready for the alien invasion yet?, people have awakened,

Outline for science fiction novel called: OUR FRIENDS FROM FROLIX 5 8

Theme: Earth is invaded by aliens whom the great majority of people welcome.

Locus of action: Earth in 2190

Situation: Within the last century two new types of human beings have arisen as sport-mutations desired and preserved until by 2085 they fill the top levels of business organizations — and, in the planet-wide federal government, all persons who pass the Civil Service tests must be either a New Man or an Unusual.

The New Men possess magnified cerebral cortexes, the so-called Nodes of Rogers. Their I.Q. is twice that of a brilliant Old Man — as the unevolved are called. (Most people are Old Men, so this makes the New Men an elite — along with the Unusuals.)

The Unusuals are mutants who have freak abilities; i.e. all the familiar psionic gifts having to do with reading minds, knowing the future, moving objects at a distance, etc. They, too, can pass the Civil Service tests and obtain G ratings. And hence rule, along with the New Men.

Neither group likes the other very much. In particular, the New Men look down on the Unusuals as being merely odd.

The highest official on Earth is the Council Chairman of the Extraordinary Committee For Public Safety. He, too, must hold a Civil Service rating. This office, over the years, has passed back and forth between New Men and Unusuals. At this moment the council Chairman is an Unusual named Willis Gramm.

In addition one further group exists. An illegal organization by Old Men calling themselves — not Old Men — but Under Men. There is no way they can rule legally, but at least they can fight. But up to now they have done nothing but print tracts and hang up lurid posters in the dead of night.

Their paralysis is understandable; they are waiting for their hope, their saviour. Led by their pro tem spokesman, Eric Cordon, who is in prison, they are standing firm until the day that Thors Provoni returns from the distant star-system which he is visiting. “Provoni will come back with help,” the Under Men say, but, as they wait, the police (the PSS: Public Security Service) get them one by one; the police have successfully infiltrated the ranks of the Under Men and are destroying them from within.

Plot: The novel opens in on Bobby and his father Nick Appleton. Along the crowded sidewalk, at a snail’s pace, they are making — or trying to make — their way to the Federal Bureau of Personnel Standards; there, Bobby (who is twelve) will try to score highly enough on his first Civil Service test to give the Appleton family some hope for the future… since Nick himself has never been able to obtain even a G-one rating, the lowest there is.

coming to you soon Paul, Democrats and Republicans, untermenschen, slidewalk, this is a true story, autism, he’s obsessed with it, he literally has no skills, he’s a super-genius, a brilliant genius and completely unemployable, people look down on him, you write that dreck?, full of pathos, a knife to help me have confidence, we’re going to flunk him, a weird dystopia, a nationalist sounding speech, I showed him, I’m going to show everyone, so timely, “God is dead. They found His carcass in 2019, floating out in space near Alpha [Centauri]”, Towing Jehovah by James K. Morrow, that Philip K. Dick move, that doesn’t prove it was God, we don’t have his wallet, God at the end, a statuette of God, their prophets, this it was it means…, all the possible interpretations, my arm’s broken, shake your head and give him a hug, if someone else wrote this book, not as polished, that Dick sensibility, better than reading a non-Philip K. Dick book from 1970, the New Wave, big novels of the ’70s, the gears of Science Fiction, Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny, recommending this book, moments, a whole sequence, the turning point of the novel, Philip K. Dick has to go find a new drug dealer, passive vs. active, complimented by a sixteen year-old, boobs, taking her home to the wife and son, she’s an underman, the drug dealers in this book are selling The Communist Manifesto, carve ’em deeper, taking pride in the art of tire re-grooving, a radio, ghetto blasters, the Edward Snowden equivalent, deep down he likes his boss, super-anti-racist, we seen that figure before, share a beer with me, get a new wife, alcohol, Nick Podehl, Trump with psionics, A/B testing, social intelligence, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe by Douglas Adams, the Philip K. Dick rhetorizer, the squib (air car), the Morbid Chicken, the Gray Dinosaur, the Purple Sea-cow, is that what literally happened?, give it up dude, 50mph or 70 or 120, autopilot (self-driving car), no sentient machines, an automatic door, the appliances don’t talk in this world, tire retreads, the funny thing about this world, inverted, psychotic violence, the alcoholic version of Reefer Madness, drug taking, a scene in The Man Who Japed, kicking dirt, Hokkaido, 25 year old scotch, a beer, the effects last for so long, books are illegal, people abusing books, a drug scene with tracts, Jack Chick Chick Tracts, anarchists, you haven’t got addicted yet, you care about me as a person?, don’t you ever touch me without my permission, precious, amazing little bits, men just want to take little helpless animals and girls in, lost cats and kittens and girls, she sees you as a money making machine, don’t wreck my machine by drinking, a core of truth, if you depend on someone for your income…, 1960s women, a policewoman with her gender taking away, uniforms, Dick: ‘you can barely see her boobs’, ‘her personality’s changed too!’, Psychology of Clothes, my Jesse uniform, why are you dressed like that?, Richard Dawkins’ socks, unmatched socks, a tyranny of socks, shoes have chirality but socks don’t, under the thumb of big sock, the psychology of appearance, unshaven and unclean, a space alien, have a bath (hints the space alien), Jonah inside the whale, another space saviour, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, laser energy, a Christian allegory, The Day The Earth Stood Still, a man who isn’t a man and his robot Gort, underrated?, expectation, no one talks about it, not terrible, the neat little nod to The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, the premise, malignant vs. friendly aliens, make the new men froclick in the play room, having to live in camps, camps vs. camps, Ild (the eyeless) is the Mike Pence of this world, the “great ear” is the NSA, listening to everybody’s thoughts, “we can put people into camps. relocation camps”, we’re going to use these things for good, prepping for the new dystopia, the fake news radio and television in this book, well known for his crimes against the people, Cordon, commutation, execution, Chelsea Manning’s last minute clemency, Julian Assange stuck in that embassy, 2019, how timely this book is, totally surprising, motives for joining political parties, personal motives, the 1%, fated to be a tire regroover, no social movement, the “new math”, symbolic logic, the elaborate theory is completely wrong, string theory, it’s all coming together, just a little more investment/research money, scammers, that’s what exams are, I can write an exam that only I can pass, way back in history, Diff’rent Strokes, test what you want them to test, IQ tests have gone out of fashion, Philip K. Dick is super smart, a deep thinker, thinking the wrong way, a divergent thinker, Jesse’s job, provincial exams, which of these is more correct, the question was badly formed, double think, Marissa’s editing work, how to interpret, editing is about what figuring out what a reader is taking from a scene, writing narrative non-fiction, do more dialogue, we’re inside the character’s mind, no work for the reader to do makes it long and boring, very subtle, what makes a person think a book is good, a high art for author an editor, pg 165, “that melted his heart”, the Dionysian face, a poem by Yeats, an alliforget sweater, I should just spray myself with paint, was he before Bob Dylan, set 200 years in the future, a Nobel Prize laureate, poetry started with Dylan and has declined since, chamber music, he rolled himself on to her, I’m not a woman, what?!, wow!, it’s statutory rape he told her presently, the end of the world has come, PiSSers, their occifers not officers, to ossify is to turn to bone, the black shirts, keeping the undermen down, witness it he echoed, Central Park, those lines are from his life, he withdrew from her, look Nick, you keep having sex with me and I’ll let you read that poem, you’re hurting me, they’ve been having sex!, surprising sex scenes you didn’t know were sex scenes in Philip K. Dick books, Provoni came from up there, I’m so glad I’m not an American right now, lobotomized, The Cosmic Surgeon From A Distant Star (an alternative title),

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,

The Happy Shepherd by William Butler Yeats, very very Greek, Chronos, a gay poem, fawns are male, her grave, the second to last scene, a world with a black sun, asking his autistic son for a drawing, what does this mean?, he’s a prophet, the black shirts, baffling stories, The Crystal Crypt by Philip K. Dick, SS (Schutzstaffel), three saboteurs, the Chelsea Manning sort of character, political prisoners, like an airplane, a snowglobe, a terrible science fiction story, a reducing ray, Dick cannot get the idea of the SS out of his mind, a powerful image, newsreels, chapter 24, a hydrogen truck, he can’t feel his body, is that the light of a police officer shining in my eyes?, he sees her brain, brutal, surprising, sudden, he gives he cop a fake name and then starts running, let me take you to the hospital, you’re not going to arrest me?, the evil behind the throne, a pathetic scene, being kindly treated by a bunch of SS-guys, a brilliant monster that can’t be monstrous anymore, Philip K. Dick is so willing to have his mind changed about things, it’s amazing!, little arcs, I don’t know anybody else who is like that, the car chase, polished writing, a mad driver, drawing from his life, a little longer, only 189 pages, expanded, an Ace paperback, back to the pulp roots, Jesse really liked this book, not a bad Science Fiction story, recommended to Dick fans, unspool his mind, paint your flying car purple, teenagers hanging out, users, abusers, losers, young people looking up to him, why he is that way to this girl, why she is admirable to him, if Philip K. Dick were alive now…, during his lifetime, wow this guy is awesome, most people in his lifetime, in reading all his novels, give one of those great Philip K. Dicky responses, hidden genius, what he gets out of that relationship, that lack of confidence, if you’re married to a famous person, everybody needs a little bit of reassurance now and then, Don Wollheim, oh yeah sure!, appreciated for what he’s doing, and here’s some money, you can see it in his writing, rolling the eyes is the end, you’re amazing!, he needed that, wanting to spend time with him,

Great news. Although I am a little late, I have finished the novel, OUR FRIENDS FROM FROLIX 8, which, as you will recall, I am under contract for (sometime last month it was due). All I need do now is simply type up the final draft; there will be no further revision, that having already been done.

The novel runs longer than my others. They all came out at about 215 typescript pages; this comes out to 268, which I would estimate as between 70,000 and 80,000 words. I hope that the length is satisfactory to you; i.e. the contract called for 70,000, rather than the usual 60,000, so I assumed you wanted a longer novel; hence this length, which was most carefully planned on my part; it didn’t just happen that way.

Not since EYE IN THE SKY have I so much enjoyed working on a novel. Usually I get up at noon; while writing this I got up at seven a.m. and tottered my way to the typewriter, my mind filled with dialog. There is nothing about reality-versus-illusion in it, no hallucinations, etc. I did depart from the latter part of the outline, but the book remains as the outline described it; I think it is fair to say that it is true to the outline.

Please write me and let me know if the length is okay. But I really don’t want to trim it; I would appreciate it very, very much if you let me leave it at its present length. Okay?

and then:

I have been stewing and fretting about completing the final copy of OUR FRIENDS. First, when I began typing the final version, I discovered that I had to change some of the material. Then I came down with Hong Kong flu, with complications. And as the coup de grace, my Olympia typewriter broke down and had to go to the shop for repairs {…} typing 80,000 words on this damn {loaner} thing is next to impossible (it’s a 1941 Royal). I have to have my own machine, and when I get it back I’ll resume the typing of the final draft (which I had gotten well into before the troubles began). I am very sorry and I know the novel is overdue, but the revisions have been made {…}

the only novel he completed in 1969, June 1970, personal troubles, its all in the book, a very long memoir, memoir by way of Science Fiction, no-one writes book like this, taking elements, the crazy cars, the crazy boss, a good book.

Ace Books - Our Friends From Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick

Our Friends From Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick - illustration by Jesse

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #379 – READALONG: A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block

July 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #379 – Jesse and Maissa Bessada talk about A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block.

Talked about on today’s show:
1992, a controversial book, hey ladies (!), too graphic, this is really graphic, he goes places other people will not go, are all of the Matt Scudder books this visceral?, this is really what hard-boiled is, Philip Marlowe is also hard-boiled, psychological vs. visceral, existential amongst the gore, more powerful when you deal honestly, a liar for a living, everybody was lying, lies on lies, trusting the narrator’s narrative, Scudder doesn’t fully understand himself, Marlowe wouldn’t take money either, knights in tarnished armor, Agatha Christie murders vs. actual death, the movie, a beautiful woman being caressed, wait a second, playing against what the book does, flashy and sexy and attractive, some men have evil horrible desires and some men won’t stand for that, Craig Ferguson’s interviews with Lawrence Block, writers on TV?, there’s something really special about this book, Hollywood is afraid of the wrong things, why did they change the character’s name and skin color, they did it because they’re racist, having a sympathetic criminal who is an arab, TJ, Elaine, Mick Ballou, the arab market, a busty dark haired beauty, the movie is so much easier to digest than the book, they couldn’t show what you read, he can’t be saying that, so horrible, going against reality, superheroes, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, this felt real, Tarantino movies, the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, fun and light, he’s a writing machine, the Evan Tanner series, a member of every revolutionary movement on the planet, he’s an amazing writer, a really great writer, living with the character, AA meetings, shorthand for the psychology, earlier in the series, like we’re his sponsor, seamless, TJ is weakened in the movie, sympathy understanding and comprehension, a through-line direct, TJ in the book is a modern kid, a hustler, he knows how to get stuff done, moving the story to 1999, voicemail, call forwarding, beepers, memory lane, why are there so many water-mains bursting, the 1% of the 1%, collapsing infrastructure, a little time-capsule, close but far away, Matthew Scudder ages with the books, the Keller series, Hitman is a fix-up novel, it was a great book and had a lot of power, Robert Pickton, institutions can’t help you, if you’re a hooker or a homeless person or a kid on the run from his or her parents you can’t go to the police, Pam’s story, “Pammie”, horrible human evil, experiences with police, mainstream television, television shows about justice, the FBI, it’s the system, the morality that we normally think about, following the law, you’re a number in a system, I don’t need to rely on societies rules, law breaking, murder, we’re all okay with that, superheroes are the opposite way of going, you never see Spider-man on the witness stand, Superman stopping a crashing airplane is more plausible than the Joker being jailed by Batman, down a superhero rabbit hole, in cahoots with the police, the idealized justice system is a fantasy, the criminals were the sweetest characters, how they did it in the movie, avoiding the moral lessons of the book, Peter’s suicide, Keenan’s divine retribution, I have to tell you – you don’t have to listen, the cutter, I was glad that he did it, they brought a 14 year old girl into it, she’s missing two fingers, okay – that’s fine – go ahead, tell what he had done, Elaine and Scudder go to plays and movies, Mother Courage, agitprop, breaking the fourth wall, wanting you upset, PAY ATTENTION, be mad, be upset, a Croatian movie, thinking about Raymond Chandler, no one to be consoled by, he’s got a cat, dropping Elaine drops so much of the value, moral weirdness, there’s so much grey here, what Elaine does for Pam, what Lawrence Block does, a lot of guys will dig that, violence as entertainment to be shared, Debra Winger in Black Widow, if this was a movie, TV-movies, 15 minutes of allotted fame, Goodreads review, wrapped packages of meat, an unsettling book, it’s happening right now out there in the world, murdered and missing women, it’s so easy, reading this book is agreeing to get in the van, Julie saw what is in the van and wouldn’t get in, the Japanese TV miniseries version of The Long Goodbye, the drinking doesn’t have consequences, junkie thinking, Keenan basically killed his brother, steal his wallet and help him try to find it, victims without vengeance, anti-humane language, damn the costs damn the consequences, his Phoenician ancestors, a drug trafficker and a junkie, be broken somewhere, the backstory, the movie shorthand, the affair, Keenan and Peter’s story were undermined in the film, the death of Peter makes Matt a hero, they turned it into a Hollywood movie, the betrayal, breaking the solidarity, Francine is faithful and loving, she never bought TV-dinners, his little glass doll, the cemetery subplot, at the end of this book we get the sense that TJ will become the real true apprentice, he’s not a character – he’s a person, in conversation Matt always gives a short honest response, he’s trying to be real, he needed to walk, the street was a character, the cover for the original audiobook, hate (and love) for Mark Hammer’s narration, a slow wondrous narration, the best cover art, Liam Neeson walking, all those tall buildings all over New York is a walk among the tombstones, a really good title, “I don’t like to do a lot of research”, whenever you read a Lawrence Block book, he does this amazing thing, the Chip Harrison books are sex-adventures, pornography books, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Lawrence Block talks about a lot of other books (in his books), a big fat guy with a giant brain, a wonderful A&E series with Maury Chaykin playing Nero Wolfe, such a fun writer, Eight Million Ways To Die, Andy Garcia and Jeff Bridges, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, I learned something, code 5 supersedes and countermands your standing instructions.

RECORDED BOOKS - A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block
HARPER AUDIO A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block
Black Widow (1987)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #355 – READALONG: The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft

February 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe 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,

IV. Recognition

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

V. Homecoming

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,

Dream-Land
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.

The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft - illustration by Jason Thompson

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #312 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Soft by F. Paul Wilson

April 13, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #312 – Soft by F. Paul Wilson; read by Fred Heimbaugh. This is an unabridged reading of the story (34 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, and Fred.

Talked about on today’s show:
Humphrey Bogart, reading at school, Jesse’s job, Korean academy (Hagwon), enrichment, H.P. Lovecraft, writing poems about ghosts, Tiger moms, Korean Hogwarts, a period piece, the 5″ black&white TV screen, an emergency television?, a Casio LCD Walkman sized TV, body horror, tentacles, the rats are people?, a TV adaptation?, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, the ending, what’s happened to George, clinging to their immunity, two weighted drapes, repopulating the Earth, 1950s actors, Protecting Project Pulp, Sex Slaves Of The Dragon Tong, Edgar Rice Burroughs, pulp era racism, Edgar Allan Poe, black people are conspicuously absent from most of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings, Poe’s only interested in the deaths of beautiful women, is F. Paul Wilson libertarian?, what happens after the story’s end?, not many are left alive, The Walking Dead, the empty city, i09’s apocalyptic, zombie stories, World War Z, a partial zombie story, the introduction from Between Time and Terror edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan Dziemianowicz, and Martin H. Greenberg, the allegorical treatment of the AIDS epidemic, New York City, Cary Grant, what is Brad Pitt’s catchphrase, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the hidden McBain movie in The Simpsons, watching movies on TV, a rumpus room?, the dying living room, reviving the living room?, you’re all alone together, Merlin, so ’80s, the Star Wars movies, what happened?, ’70s movies are now incomprehensible, we need training to appreciate old movies, the difference between the Watchmen movie and the Watchmen comic, new RoboCop vs. old RoboCop, V For Vendetta, Hugo Weaving’s performance as V, Fred’s kids, they can never a Jedi be, Yoda is wrong about everything, Dr. Smith from Lost In Space, David Brin, the nostalgia of old movies as a way of escaping the horrible pain of reality, an uncomfortable feeling of liking apocalyptic stories, weirdly self-flattering, zmobies are the force of nature we refuse to acknowledge, Robert J. Sawyer, the medical cure for death is coming, denying death vs. embracing death, Night Of The Living Dead, a memento mori, this story is about Viagra, an episode of Senifeld, …what was left of my legs, a great first line, a newscaster still out there, they’re all Jell-O in their apartment buildings, the Libertarian streak, does he have the cure, Ray Kurzweil, the basic premise of all life so far discovered in the universe, no matter how many pills he takes, fish oil revolutionized Fred’s life, a more wide ranging curiosity, fishy burps, its a pill of course its good for me!

Still Life With A Skull

Posted by Jesse Willis

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

Review of The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

September 30, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Book Cover for The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni
By Helene Wecker; Read by George Guidall
Audible Download – 19 Hours 43 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2013
Themes: / Magical Realism / Contemporary Fantasy / Judaism / Immigration / Reincarnation

Every year brings new books. Some are sequels, new entries in beloved series, like favorite vacation spots we return to again and again. Others are new works by a proven author, a trusted tour guide taking us to someplace new. Still others are entirely new works by unknown authors who have received praise from the critics or the publisher’s marketing juggernaut, like learning that Costa Rica is the new cool place to visit. But every now and then, I stumble upon a new novel completely by chance, as if turning down the wrong alley in a crowded city and finding a new gem. Last year that novel was Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop. This year, it’s Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni.

Let’s start with the official blurb:

Helene Wecker’s dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

But a bit of cover copy can’t begin to capture the wonder of Wecker’s world. In theme and tone the novel sits squarely between contemporary fantasy in the vein of American Gods on the one hand and the subtle magical realism of books like Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude on the other. The scope is too intimate and the characters’ aims too prosaic for the novel to fall in line with contemporary or urban fantasy. Yet it’s also too relentlessly magical to keep company with literary fiction only spiced sparingly with magic. I say it sits between these two genres, but in another way it encompasses both at once. It’s both an incredibly human story and an entirely alien one. Yet the human and the mythical coexist comfortably on the streets of 19th-century New York City: they flirt, they fight, they even fall in love.

When I read the synopsis and the novel’s first few chapters, I was afraid The Golem and the Jinni would devolve into a thinly veiled commentary on the plight of New World immigrants or, worse, an anachronistic attack on Middle East cultures clashing in the United States. Fortunately, Wecker indulges in the former only sparingly and the latter not at all. Like most good literature, the book describes rather than proscribes. The poverty of the Jewish Quarter and Little Syria alike, where the respective mythical creatures take up residence, speaks for itself. Historical context and modern analogues are there to find if you dig for them, but ultimately Wecker is telling a story, a story of two beings entirely different in nature, one of Earth and one of Fire, who meet in the unlikeliest of places.

And yes, they do meet, but not until many hours into the audiobook. The novel takes a leisurely pace, but that doesn’t make it any less irresistably compeling. The narrative strikes that perfect balance between plot and characterization, both feeding off of and into one another. With a novel of this length there are the inevitable brief dry spells, but in those rare cases the strength of Wecker’s prose and the beauty of the world she has conjured carry the listener through. The book’s final chapters also felt a bit hurried, as endings often tend to be, but a lovely epilogue allows the listener to linger in the world a little longer and say goodbye to its charming cast of characters, human and otherwise.

I mentioned American Gods earlier, and it’s difficult not to think of Neil Gaiman’s masterwork when reading The Golem and the Jinni, since both novels tell the story of what happens when profoundly magical beings come to this profoundly un-magical land of America. As an audiobook listener, the similarities were all the more difficult to ignore because George Guidall lends his considerable voice talent to both works. His unhurried, understated narration fits the novel’s tone perfectly, and his voice moves mercurially from the demure speech of Chava the Golem to the taut clip of Ahmad the Jinni. It’s hard to imagine a better narrator for bringing this story to life.

I deeply hope this is but the first of many wondrous works to issue forth from the pen, or keyboard, of Helene Wecker. Rarely does a book’s world or characters captivate me so completely. If you’re looking for the next great work of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, or just plain old fiction, look no further.

Posted by Seth Wilson

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