Talked about on today’s show:
1988, a children’s book (sort of), Galactic Pot-Healer, a favourite, re-reading, do full of gold, Dwight L. Glimmung, Joe Fernright, in a box behind a furnace on Pleasant Hill Road, minor mistakes, where were Joe’s quarters (for Mr. Job), the toilet tank, in an asbestos bag behind the radiator, the Mexicans, an alternate theory the mistakes are actually clues, Jesse’s theory about the SS man in The Man In The high Castle, just to the left and behind my furnace, close enough, parallel structure, placement disparity, conscious or unconscious inconsistencies, Robert J. Sawyer’s theoretical bulletin board, the description of the wub, organically flowing truth, Glimmung is a water deity (sort of), writing by channeling, discrete boxes, the coins represent opportunity to escape, the rhetorizer, a hoop of fire and a hoop of water with a little girl in the center, Glimmung forces change, connecting unintended dots, when Philip K. Dick reads his own books, a little divine, Dick enjoyed writing these books, amplification across multiverses, a wonderful weird jungle, a thicket of bamboo shoots with, the Philip K. Dick fan page, “my best book” (one of his worst books), nothing can be said for it, very minor, The Zap Gun, wrrgh, The Exegesis, a psychotic episode, scraped the bottom of the barrel, paisley shawl, the Jungian archetype, The Cosmic Puppets, Tim Powers, he just “winged it”, one of his very best books, James Triptree, Jr., one of the best last lines, “The pot was awful.”, debates about the ending, a funny ending, an uplifting book, healing the world through weed, drugs, it isn’t about drugs, pots and cups, vessels, stoic philosophy, don’t have a favourite cup, when drinking tea, a double-walled glass tea cup, if your wife dies…, everything dies, you shouldn’t feel sad when your cup is broken, pots can never be healed, the technology that is his livelihood, a plastic world, the jewelry in The Man In The High Castle, making something new vs. fixing or replicating old things, Pay For The Printer, a fabulous ending, writing order, an unsaleable book, what else you got?, structural similarities, Pot-Healer has boobs, a boobless kid’s book, Mali Yoyez is humanoid, a spray on blouse, smashing the keyboard, so Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick’s Tinder profile, favorite colour: reg, Reg the water man, it would make a marvelous animated feature, Nick Podehl narrated the audiobook wonderfully, the parent’s names, the nervous father, the stable mother, no mental illness yet, cats have introversion of their minds, a calm and pleasant version of The Mosquito Coast, an actual story of emigration, New Zealanders and Canadians leave their backwaters, California is not the place people emigrate from, Dick’s childhood, flying out west, living in a condo (conapt) that doesn’t allow pets, is there another reason to emigrate?, how the two books tie together, cats and dogs and parakeets, Miss Juth, airplane/spaceship, Ploughman’s Planet, what’s driving Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, a cool psychological drive, reading it straight up, Nick’s dad’s job parallels Joe Fernwright’s cubicle job, playing the game, no job satisfaction, an assembly line of jobs, Earth societies in both books are very specific dystopias, nobody gets as much work as they want or need, growing his own food, cultivating his own garden, another theory about books, how much work goes into the backstory (Dune and The Lord Of The Rings and Galactic Pot-Healer), Pay For The Printer is Marissa’s new favourite Philip K. Dick short story, Fallout, the printers are helping humanity, pop-up toasters, making your own tools again, Americans with their canned good, Displaced Persons, that’s your life as a kid, precious objects as disposable objects, that’s how you are as a kid, when little kids go to the cupboard and pull out food, a lack of understanding of where things come from, in the end the Printers cannot even print themselves, super-tragic, Printers are like really friendly shoggoths, A Maze Of Death, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, friendly aliens from Mars, Martian Time-Slip, Farmer In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, make the American west out in space, natives, the spittles, the U.N., Canadian history and USA history, land grants, Pot-Healer is the adult version of Nick And The Glimmung, the puddinged Glimmung echoes the Black Glimmung, malign Glimmung vs. ambivalent Glimmung (ultimately good), Palmer Eldritch as an evil god, malign Glimmung, wurjes and wubs and spittles, the Book Of The Calends is the same book as One Summer Day, so connected, one day Philip K. Dick one way about something and the next day…, God is good and God is malign, seeing Galatic Pot-Healer in the context of Nick And The Glimmung, little kids handle darkness better than adults, Tony And The Beetles, insectoid aliens, a robot dog, imagine you’re a Japanese kid going to school in California in 1940, told for the child’s perspective, The Father-Thing, a horror story for children, horror movie trauma vs. textual horror, horror filled rick-rolls, Hansel And Gretel is a horror story, also a true story, children being cooked in ovens, Roald Dahl stories, Roald Dahl is a Philip K. Dick style writer, cocooned children and mushroomy plants, set in the period in which it was written, Glimmung is a very positive Cthulhu, Glimmung came from a cold star, manifested by increments, when Nick sees the Nick-thing, giving back Horace (the cat), does Horace know which Nick is which?, what we know about father-things, Horace vs. Horus, Egyptian cat-god, named after Horace Gold (like a shut-in cat), one of PKD’s cats was named Magnificat, adventures together, made out of bamboo, a sense of rightness, primeval or primordial fears, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, the world of Ploughman’s Planet is like H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, wurjes and night-gaunts, a map of Ploughman’s Planets, “Magnificent City”, Glimmung’s Mark, Nick’s father, predicted in One Summer Day, “inhabited”, and then he saw the Nick-thing, he felt terror, a wistful wan smile, the two trobes, “Safety City and so it was.”, equally happy?, the Glimmung was replicated and Nick was replicated, stabbing himself with his own spear, the spear gives him a wound that can never heal, the Spear of Longinus, the stigmata that can never be healed, the pottery with a cartoon on it, what does this black fish represent?, the Exalted RPG, the Broken-Winged Crane, infected by the book, books that write and rewrite themselves, having to deal with false and true prophecy, predetermination vs. free will, struggling to overcome, acting like a lawyer, wiggle-room despite predestination, playing the odds and obeying what we’re told, when Joe confronts the Willis robot, Julie and Rose Davis, if you think the world is material then you do have an existential difficulty, how do you deal with per-scripted, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, does fiction change us?, horoscopes and psychic shops, fiery Scorpios, waking up shy or undefeated, personality as clothing, being sympathetic towards even the idiots, driving around town, aggressive driving, trying to project into the minds of others, this feeble god that is totally manipulating all the actors, the book of Calends is manipulating too, One Summer Day is such an interesting and weird title, high YA vs. middle grade tone, the book’s tone is YA but there is a lot of heavy material, a shitty criticism, being told the definition of things, high level vocab words, Despairity City (or Disparity City), you bring yourself to a book, which book do you like better?, not a fair question, under-complex, an idyll that came and went, the world in Nick And The Glimmung, thinking about way more things, The Thing (1982), Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers, the most serious issue there is: what is the point of existence given their is no point, hopeful in its philosophy, in struggling for something, “undercooked”, we’re at the turning point, taking old stories and recycling elements into new ones, using Ploughman’s Planet and Glimmung and the structure to make Galactic Pot-Healer, a choice, Joe Fernwright and another Lord Running Clam, an alien buddy who gives you life advice and gets you girlfriends, out of the depths of despair, Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, the frontier as a safety valve, space and other planets as the new frontier, escape for those who are willing to escape dysfunction in society, a terrible seduction technique, farming Antarctica in 20years, not in a Fluke Pit, actively creating instead of just consuming, an elaborate April Fools day joke, society for the transplantation of polar bears to Antarctica, a big April’s fool joke on myself, playing games to distract ourselves from living our lives (Fallout 4 and Battlefield 4), viewing cat gifs on the internet is not a life, getting used to anything, why is Jesse going insane, Honest Constricting-path, Some Like It Hot = Arithmetical Temperatures Are Preferred, to pass the goddamned time of day, Domicile Stockyard = Home Depot, mindfulness meditation time = playing computer games.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1964, not exactly a fix-up, this novel’s DNA, The Defenders, The Mold Of Yancy, The Unreconstructed M, the next draft, the main character’s problem was Dick’s problem, an idea, another Yance-woman, a sausage fest, did you’re arm fall off again?, “the well-informed dead rat romped under the tongue-tied pink log”, a new ACE or Ballantine book, more cohesive and clearer, all ideas are undercooked, the Wikipedia summary, The Defenders feels like junk, but translated to the novel… a sequel to The Defenders, The Mold Of Yancy is excellent, reading The Mold Of Yancy helps you understand The Penultimate Truth, conapts with wall to wall wub-fur carpeting, artiforgs (artificial organs), Yancy in the novel vs. the short story, a syndicate, a quasi-corporatist government short, the Kardashians and Gwyneth Paltrow, set on Callisto, a totalitarian government, letting in spies, his spidey-sense, he’s like Ronald Regan, a fireside chat, Dick’s analysis of our North American society is dead on, war is bad but just wars have to be fought, cats are definitely better than dogs, political correctness, media pushing (or pulling) society in different directions, a perfect fit, a nice welding, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, worried about the overseer, strap on your vault suit, he’s a companion, a NPC, leadies are Mister Handies, the robot companions, Hugh Howey’s whole career, the same premise and ideas as Wool, ant tanks, vaults (and silos), WWIII, The Game-Players Of Titan, neo-fuedalism, squabbling fiefdoms, the MegaVac computer echoes Vulcan II or III, Isaac Asimov’s MultiVac, the plot with Brose and Lantano, re-purposing people across stories, the leadies are slaves, a good Goodreads review, the 1% and the 99%, labouring under delusion, a damn fine analysis, the scandal of the day, obedience, Paul is a history fan, a Roman society, Sulla and Pompey, the triumvirates, private armies, the land grant system is very Roman, proto-feudal (or manorial), Cheyenne is nuked again, Estes Park, Colorado, Philip K. Dick has to throw everything into the crockpot, Pretty Blue Fox, Lincoln Apartments, the Tom Mix tank, 290 movies, Tom Mix had five wives, Philip K. Dick dressed like a movie cowboy, clear evidence you’re living in a Philip K. Dick world, ask me about Plato, The Defenders and The Penultimate Truth are modeled after Plato’s the Myth of the Cave, gin and tonic vs. beer, Dog Stories Monthly vs. the Journal Of Psychological Review, a gestalt, the art of Hieronymus Bosch, everything should be about challenging and questioning, Critical Thinking should be the only class in high-school, nothing can be challenged, no critical thinking, all Yancy’s beliefs are insipid, as close as possible to no beliefs, apolitical (without a viewpoint), William Tenn, Null-P, Dick was really influenced by A.E. van Vogt, “wow, my god!”, a preference for Kriegsspiel, a cosmic wrestling match, The Cosmic Puppets, a nice six hour game of Kriegsspiel, Bach’s art of the fugue, subdued by the plot, troweling it down a bit, The Unreconstructed M stuff, fun to read, a time traveling Cherokee warrior who walked in from another Dick story, Time Pawn, Dr. Futurity, fake artifacts of a fake alien invasion, it gells as a novel, a really good speech about a squirrel, an actual living squirrel, there’s no little scurrying creature at the end, a questionable bow,
However, Adams figures out Lantano was behind the deaths as part of his plot to bring down Brose. In desperation and fear, he joins up with St. James, who discovered a cache of artificial organs, and flees into the Tom Mix tank with him. They discover that Lantano was ultimately successful but contemplate that the biggest lie is yet to come.
that’s the ending and discovery of The Defenders, meeting the quota, they don’t let you out when you don’t meet the quota, there’s no reward and punishment, appreciating The Defenders, in Plato’s The Republic, PKD knows all about Plato (and The Odyssey), the Allegory Of the Cave,
Plato begins by asking Glaucon to imagine a cave where people have been imprisoned from childhood. These prisoners are chained so that their legs and necks are fixed, forcing them to gaze at the wall in front of them and not look around at the cave, each other, or themselves. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway with a low wall, behind which people walk carrying objects or puppets “of men and other living things”. The people walk behind the wall so their bodies do not cast shadows for the prisoners to see, but the objects they carry do (“just as puppet showmen have screens in front of them at which they work their puppets”. The prisoners cannot see any of this behind them and are only able to see the shadows cast upon the cave wall in front of them. The sounds of the people talking echo off the shadowed wall, and the prisoners falsely believe these sounds come from the shadows. Socrates suggests that the shadows constitute reality for the prisoners because they have never seen anything else; they do not realize that what they see are shadows of objects in front of a fire, much less that these objects are inspired by real living things outside the cave
fake destruction of San Fransisco, false reconstructions, Stalin with Roosevelt speaking Russian at the White House, 1984 by George Orwell,
Plato then supposes that one prisoner is freed, being forced to turn and see the fire. The light would hurt his eyes and make it hard for him to see the objects that are casting the shadows. If he is told that what he saw before was not real but instead that the objects he is now struggling to see are, he would not believe it. In his pain, Plato continues, the freed prisoner would turn away and run back to what he can see and is accustomed to, that is the shadows of the carried objects. He writes “…it would hurt his eyes, and he would escape by turning away to the things which he was able to look at, and these he would believe to be clearer than what was being shown to him.”
writing lies and having your son believe the lies, Hollywood,
Plato continues: “suppose…that someone should drag him…by force, up the rough ascent, the steep way up, and never stop until he could drag him out into the light of the sun.” The prisoner would be angry and in pain, and this would only worsen when the radiant light of the sun overwhelms his eyes and blinds him. The sunlight is representative of the new reality and knowledge that the freed prisoner is experiencing. Slowly, his eyes adjust to the light of the sun. First he can only see shadows. Gradually he can see the reflections of people and things in water and then later see the people and things themselves. Eventually he is able to look at the stars and moon at night until finally he can look upon the sun itself. Only after he can look straight at the sun “is he able to reason about it” and what it is.
a sign of madness,
Plato continues, saying that the freed prisoner would think that the real world was superior to the world he experienced in the cave; “he would bless himself for the change, and pity [the other prisoners]” and would want to bring his fellow cave dwellers out of the cave and into the sunlight. The returning prisoner, whose eyes have become acclimated to the light of the sun, would be blind when he re-enters the cave, just as he was when he was first exposed to the sun. The prisoners, according to Socrates, would infer from the returning man’s blindness that the journey out of the cave had harmed him and that they should not undertake a similar journey. Socrates concludes that the prisoners, if they were able, would therefore reach out and kill anyone who attempted to drag them out of the cave.
other levels, the fake journal entries, the time scoop, in the geological strata, a critical thinking story, what makes us believe the Earth is as old as it is is evidence, pointing in the direction of a Truth, a little bit paranoid, Philip K. Dick has a whole story about it, an evidence laying assassin robot, questioning the science, then you have a Philip K. Dick story, Vulcan’s Hammer, a real theme he’s struggling with, don’t get into conversations with strangers, you’re a human being … I guess, it’s great to be in a country where you don’t understand the language, an afterword by Thomas Disch, a downhill racer of a writer,
If Dick had stopped to think (but that’s something a downhill racer can’t do), he might have realized that there was an essential dramatic disparity between the two stories he was trying to weld together. The Yancy part of the plot generated a story about dirty tricks in high places, a genre for which Dick possesses little flair (compare le Carré and his better imitators), while that element of the story that all readers remember, after the lapse of however many years, is the notion of the human race imprisoned in underground factories because they’ve been tricked into believing that a nuclear war has destroyed the world. It’s an extraordinarily resonant idea. One thinks of the dwellers in Plato’s cave who know nothing of the reality but the shadows cast on the wall; of the similar destiny of Wells’s Morlocks; of the prisoners in Beethoven’s Fidelio; and of ourselves, living in the shadows of a nuclear threat that is only bearable by pretending that it does not exist. To have recognized that our situation is a kind of madness (“What, me worry?” sang the Titanic’s passengers) has not helped us toward a solution, for our situation with respect to the bomb is not much different in 1983 than it was in 1964. And for that reason The Penultimate Truth, for all its flaws, remains a book that can speak to the terror that is the bedrock of our social order.
plotting the distance away from a nuclear target in order to survive, a nuclear wasteland in every movie, an insipid Kardashianism seems to have taken over, we seem to have gotten worse, the fading away of the nuclear threat, the 99% accepting the 1%, breaking free from the cave seems impossible, the internet is our Yancy, like the same things on Facebook, we all have the same opinions, political correctness is like fascism except you can’t use that word, John Wayne day backlash (because he was apparently super-racist), Donald Trump is a power word, he’s willing to say whatever he wants to say, you have to come to that, arguing with the racism, Hieronymus Bosch are loveley, the Kriegsspiel argument, everyone should struggle with this, a dictate from on high or social mimesis, walking by the lottery counter, there’s no way to fix that, think about it, don’t just think the right thing because its the right thing, the re-writing rooms, the proles kind of ignore the prole-feed, the tankies who don’t know, the meek inheriting the Earth, maybe we aren’t meek enough, sprawling demesnes, the human condition, a good book, pulling the veil or reality aside, back to the shadows, from The Republic, the leadies are the leaden weights, the armies of the 1%, how much do you need to be educated, is it for gold or for lead?, Mr. Dick you did something with it, a downhill skier of a writer, add The Mold Of Yancy, he’s such a great idea man, he really engages with the situation, Souvenir by Philip K. Dick, The Defenders is improved upon reflection,
The wonder is how often Dick was able to produce work of real interest and wit in these marathons of typewriting. For readers who read at a pace proportioned to his speed of writing (as most sf fans learn to do, or else cease being fans), the dull patches disappear into a haze of white powder as they careen down the slopes of the narrative. It is the ideas they are after, and Dick always provides more than a sufficiency of these.
Disch knew what Dick was all about, the longer novelettes, he has to pay the bills, too much plot, not enough story, welding together three stories, what was your process, MAN!?, Marissa attended a conference with a bunch of Dick wives and lovers, how much is reflected in what Marissa heard?, how much he loved everyone, feeling betrayed and angry, how funny he is, playing tricks on people, I love that Dick is seemingly incapable of being self-concious about what he loves, Roog, can you pick a subject that is less cosmic in scope, passionate about weird little things, watching a pilot for a new Science Fiction show, Colony (TV show), domesticity, “yeah, I’m out”, sympathy for the characters, overlaying crappily manipulative music, engaging with them in a real way, that dog was a real dog named Snooper, Jonathan Lethem, so good at self-examination, he’s the anti-facsist, he’s wise as well as crazy, he’s blind but he’s glimpsed greater truths, gnosticism, his fallout stories, we will miss them, you should be reading these PKD books, our listeners aren’t watching the Kardashians, are they?
Posted by Jesse Willis
Reading, Short And Deep #015
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Mirrors Of Tuzun Thune by Robert E. Howard.
The Mirrors Of Tuzun Thune was first published in Weird Tales, September 1929.
Here’s a link to the PDF of the story.
Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
The SFFaudio Podcast #334 – The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; read by Fred Heimbaugh. This is an unabridged reading of the story (50 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Fred.
Talked about on today’s show:
The Pioneer, March 1843, a Hawthorne Poe fest, contemporaries, The Scarlet Letter, a quote by Poe about Hawthorne, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, well known?, why this story Fred?, he’s obsessed with sin, sociopaths, trigger warnings, neurosis, shame, luck, shaped by sin, a mark upon the family, subconscious Freudian messages, Commentary Magazine, Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature by Gary Saul Morson, textual density, vocab, Lovecraft poems, Fungi From Yuggoth poems, harbours, kids are now shuttled between school the home and the mall, ranting against Hawthorne, The House Of The Seven Gables, revolutions in 20th century literature, Ernest Hemingway, the show don’t tell revolution, Hawthorne is the telling-est teller who ever telled, the right attitude toward sin, the two facedness of people, Hawthorne is attacking late stage decadent Puritanism, a homosexual vibe, what is the lesson?, science reaches too far?, Gothic horror, the evil wizard or the mad scientist, science as the channel to unlimited power, elixirs, potions, not even futuristic, Georgiana, Aminadab?, where is this story set?, Aylmer’s castle, Aylmer’s wealth, a compartmentalized life, from the third person POV, the host narration, obsession, the left side, the sinister side, she’s been marked, in the dream, chemical means, pre-Darwin, “I’ve got these old books”, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a natural philosopher, science vs. alchemy vs. magic, Isaac Newton, almost as if he was Ben Franklin, electricity, many suitors, Aylmer’s wooing, is Aylmer gaslighting Georgiana?, she’s reading, a Medieval heroine, a character of of Greek mythology, is a sex-change story?, is this a boob-job story?, envy, the tips of two small fingers, she’s compared to a marble statue, small pox scars, Marilyn Monroe‘s beauty mark, does positioning matter?, Supernatural Horror And Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, a meditation on obsession, many uninteresting analysis, so little action, beyond the sexual interpretation, Hawthorne doesn’t seem all that prudish, how far can you go in purist of perfection in a fallen world, a mark of original sin, wanting knowledge (of good and evil?), the sin of disobedience, Frankenstein and Aylmer are reading the same books, the process of creating a man in Frankenstein, the lightning bolt, Luigi Galvani, grave-robbing, Paracelsus, the gold thing is your way of getting funding, when writing a grant…, this might lead to a cure for cancer(!), alchemy as a religion, The Cask Of Amontillado, Eric S. Rabkin, “the niter, it grows”, Montresor or Fortunato, niter, growing human shaped things inside of bottles, poisons, psychology and the occult, the difference between alchemy and science is openness, the Royal Society, Harry Potter’s school, there have to be muggles, magically oblivious, J.K. Rowling, natural greed, the ethic of sharing knowledge, France’s version of the Royal Society, like the obsession with “open source” or the “public domain”, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, sooo lifelike, sooo beautifully painted, Gothic horror, the evil mad scientist is destroyed by the power he unleashes, The Portrait Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the ending, what is Hawthorne saying?, was Aylmer’s attempt doomed from the beginning?, Jesse’s mom, one of the most important powers of a teacher, she has “THE VOICE”, Muad’dib (Paul Atredies), Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, a profound revelation, philosophy and critical thinking, vitamins are bullshit, fish oil woke Fred’s brain, North America has the world’s most expensive urine, religion wants you to take it on authority, bronze age holy texts, religion as book club where you only ever read one book (or just listen to a guy who did), cynicism or wisdom, loyalty to the organized religion of your family, inherited religions, fundamentalist belief systems, the narcissism of small differences, splintering, revolting revolutionaries, purity of doctrine, young earth creationists, Catholicism as an almost ethnicity (an identity), Hawthorne as a stopgap between H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley, the murky origins of Science Fiction, Dante, Lucifer frozen in the ice, a Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein’s obsession is with defeating death, too in love with science, Hawthorne’s message is like: “don’t drink too much”, Greek symposia, what really happened at a Greek symposium, “write drunk and edit sober”, The Odyssey, mixing water with wine, getting plastered is a sign on unmanning, the Greek obsession was with finding the moderation between too little and too much, what was Hephzibah’s sin?, her sin is being too worried about sin, “you will eat blood”, public shaming is a little much, be moderate with your casting of sin, John Wesley, a healthy functioning society, wealth corruption, falling into decadence, the protestant work ethic is kicking-in, Guggenheim, ransoming the grandchild, leaving it all to art, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Fred’s all time favourite Science Fiction novel: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, how do we raise the next generation?, a supercharged Kindle, matter compilers, Star Trek‘s replicator, eating green sludge, window panes made out of pure diamond, handmade hipsters, how you raise the next generation in a wealthy society, we are unimaginably wealthy, are Japan’s young people uninterested in sex?, Richard Dawkins on Twitter, The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, Gothic-y, Science-y, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, a great inventor, Neoterics, he’s stealing their ideas, the ultimate mad scientist story, following in the tradition, somatoypes, ectomorph (Aylmer), mesomorph (Aminidab), endomorph (Jesse), it’s a scam!, Hillary Clinton, the Ronald Reagans of the world, this is astrology, people think that once you’ve got a word for something you understand it, wearing the mask long enough…, IQ tests, quantification, any time we think we understand the most complex thing in the universe…, there really is a subconscious, tweeting dreams, psychology, the book club with only one book in it, The Great Courses (The Teaching Company), Eric S. Rabkin, survey courses, kooky specializations, the best way to learn, the perennial student, taught not to learn, philosophy of art, credentialism, Jesse can guess the exact words in a student’s vocabulary, guess your weight or age, how Jesse gets work, gaming credentialism, no high school diploma, a contempt for institutionalized learning, a play-by-the-rules personality, grade inflation, what did Mussolini do?, intimidation vs. cultivation, give the students the experience of reading, reading as a meeting of minds, defending a dissertation, essays, we’re obsessed with essays (for the wrong reason), ohhh spoilers!, the big problem with almost any media, “I don’t want to spoil it for you.”, testing is easier, a kind of objectivity, don’t blame the actors for shitty Hollywood movies, status is society, education as the cultivation of minds, there aren’t enough people who are willing to rebel!
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Scarlet Plague
By Jack London; Read by Drew Ariana
Approx. 2 Hours 13 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dreamscape Audio
Published: August 20, 2013
Themes: / Science Fiction / San Francisco / Plague / Post-Apocalypse / Disease / Philosophy / Politics / Class Conflict /
The year is 2013 and plague has struck. Not a wannabe killer like SARS or the Spanish flu, but a tsunami type devastation that swallows every living thing, check that, every person, in its path. Its nickname is the red death because at its arrival the first thing that happens to the infected person is they start sporting a red face – like a beacon for everyone else around them to – RUN. The next thing that happens is they die. Well a little more goes on in between, numb feet, numb hands, a heart so numb it stops. All within an hour, or a few hours if the person is lucky/unlucky enough to have it drag out that long. Then for fun what’s left of the numbed, red faced, ex-person, immediately starts decomposing, falling apart before the eyes of anyone still around to witness it, practically shooting decomposing germs into the air like a plant shooting its spores. There are two classes of people, the ultra rich and everyone else. As the ultra rich jump into their airships to get as far away as possible, they just carry death with them – first class. Everyone else simply falls down and dies where they are. The devastation’s full name is Scarlet Plague. Sixty years into the future when the very few last contenders of what was once the mighty human race hear tell about it, they can’t even decipher what scarlet means because language (like life) has degraded to the point of only holding on to what’s necessary. Scarlet is red. Counting only needs to go as high a ten. The squiggles on money and books are meaningless, but that’s of no consequence because neither books nor money are in use anyway. Apologies, I’m getting ahead of myself. About 160 years ahead.
The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, published in 1912 is about the plague that will strike 100 years from his time, told from a perspective 60 years hence by the last man alive who’s ever seen an airship or read a book. 2013, a hundred years into the future for Jack London, is today and yesterday, this week. Hearing this story now, is like what it was to read (or re-read) 1984 in 1984. Sort of surreal. Interestingly 1984 is a year that was mentioned in the story of the plague. Did George Orwell choose that year with a tip of his hat? Probably. I’ve heard George was a fan.
Back to Jack. What did he get right? What did he miss? Commercial airships? Instant wireless communication? Check, check. About 8 billion people planet wide? Check. The ultra rich and everyone else, hmmm, not that far off the mark, probably pretty close considering he was most likely exaggerating a little to make a point. The work didn’t actually feel like science fiction, it felt contemporary, the section that describes this part of the century anyway. Like his projection to 2073 started from here, not from a century ago. Because the today part of the story is so right, it makes the rest of the story worse.
Not worse as in it’s a bad story. It’s an excellent, superbly imagined, tangible story. Worse in regards to how Mr. London judged the human condition. 60 years from now, 160 years from when the book was written, James Howard Smith or Grandsir, is telling his three grandsons the story of the plague. A story that was in great demand 20 or 30 years before, is quickly becoming lost – now of passing interest to two of the boys, and of real interest to only one. For one thing Grandsir’s sentences are way too complicated, especially when he goes off into his memories and starts speaking as he used to do when he was professor of English literature at Stanford. Speech has become staccato and minimalist, the niceties of language having died off with everyone that had time for that sort of thing. The other problem is the things Grandsir talks about make no sense to the boys. Cities, cars travelling by air, exchanging things with money, wasting time with written markings, all of it is so outside of what the boys know it might as well be make believe. The ramblings of a deranged, lost, old mind. With an estimated world population of less than 500, life has become a question of survival. If you want to eat then you have to go out and kill yourself some dinner. Grandsir calls his grandsons savages. When he was a boy (one of his constant refrains) there were those who gathered food and those who ordered its gathering. His progeny has been reduced to food gatherers. Interestingly Grandsir’s still got them gathering food for him. Old habits die hard I guess.
So why was this professor of classical literature spared to help re-forge humanity? No reason. One in every few million just didn’t get red faced. Maybe death momentarily blinked as it passed them by or got distracted by the particularly amusing scene of the mountains of bodies piling up at its feet. A couple of feeble minded, the very richest most splendid woman in America, a violent, vile, wife beating chauffer who made himself her husband, our friend the professor – just a few random cards in the deck. Life’s like that. You build your magnificent cities, you spend your time creating art and pondering the great questions, and life responds by carelessly wiping itself out. Careless in that it doesn’t quite finish the job. But no matter, because life will make its way forward again.
And now we come to the worst part of the story. It’s not the plague and what happens in the aftermath. The author makes it clear that ultimately, in the long run, humanity will rally back. They’ll rebuild and create again. The worst part is what Mr. Jack London sees after that.
Drew Ariana who read the story in this recording did a good job. My only issue was the character voice he assumed for Grandsir. I didn’t have a problem with the voice, the problem was, so much of the story was told using this voice it became a little distracting. Otherwise, an easy, pleasant listen.
By the end of the book, awash in dystopia, I was seeing a little red. Too delightful not to share, here’s a little red (or Scarlet) for you. “All man’s toil upon the planet was just so much foam. He domesticated the serviceable animals, destroyed the hostile ones, and cleared the land of its hostile vegetation and then he passed and the primordial flood of hostile life rolled back again, sweeping his handy work away.”
Posted by Maissa Bessada
The SFFaudio Podcast #234 – Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant; read by Mark Turetsky. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (39 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mark Turetsky, and Professor Chris Coski of Ohio University.
Talked about on today’s show:
One of the last Guy de Maupassant stories, fantasy podcasts, what genre is this story?, the mysterious, the macabre, the morbid, do we buy the narrator’s story?, Am I Insane? by Guy de Maupassant, the events that happen are insane, a horror story?, a satire of Gothic horror, it is a ridiculous premise, a mental institution, is he lying?, is he deluded?, the servants, very thorough thieves, the title, Maupassant is intentionally ambiguous, there’s always a grain of the opposite, a syphilitic brain crafts a masterful short story, is it a true-ish story?, Maupassant was kind of a loner, boating among other things, Maupassant liked his solitude, touring all the European cities, THE SIGN OF DEATH PRECEDES STRANGE EVENTS, “several hours”, if the furniture is taking the place of other people…, affection for objects, The Golden Braid (aka The Tress Of Hair), falling in love with an object, the writing desk and its contents, where did the writing desk go?, his letters his papers, his personal history is now gone, deracinate , visiting new places, the history of his heart, the photographs, his emotional life, the furniture is the mental faculties, the house is him,
“Then I suddenly discerned, on the threshold of my door, an armchair, my large reading easy-chair, which set off waddling [LIKE A DUCK]. It went away through my garden. Others followed it, those of my drawing-room, then my sofas, dragging themselves along like [CROCODILES] on their short paws; then all my chairs, bounding like [GOATS], and the little foot-stools, hopping like [RABBITS].”
his desk is like a wife who’s trying to run away, the repeated refrains, “imagine my feelings”, you stop being the reader and become a participant, the revolver, marauders, the doors are alive too, Rouen, his arms were there, gun nuts, the presentiments, the river Robec, the black nauseous waters, the second hotel scene mirrors the first, is the hotel an asylum, you found your mental faculties, he checks himself in (to the hotel and the asylum), are you a private gentleman?, is the asylum is a prison?, the fat bald little yellow bearded man from Rouen with a head like a moon, grammatically it doesn’t make sense, ambiguity, THE MOON, the witch’s sabbath crescent, the play “beautiful music and fairy life drama”, he’s had a spell cast on him, “a serious accident would certainly take place”, a paralytic stroke, the sound from outside his body, a humming, trains passing, clocks, marching multitudes, “the big one”, the crescendo, “Signad” in Swedish means “designed”, Sigurd, the ring cycle, dwarves, fantasy and reality mixing, were the cops playing along?, “this house communicates with it’s neighbors”, very weird, Jesse’s tweeted dream explanation: “Dreamt an explanation for WHO KNOWS? By Guy de Maupassant – the furniture was deleted, & their dissolution was confabulated.”, not a psychological interpretation, an ontological interpretation, accidentally deleting something, SimCity, ctrl-z, not a useful miracle, an incompetent higher power, “My god, my god”, “Merciful heaven”, no grudge against, Who knows?, God knows!, a murderous schoolteacher, Revenge by Guy de Maupassant, a higher power that deletes, the short story is the only form that can be perfect, there’s something perfect, any lacuna, “a missing section of text”, the oxymoron, rude gentleness, an unbalanced situation, the insane sanity or the sane insanity, the widow Bidoin,
“He ordinarily passes his evenings at the house of a female neighbor, who is also a furniture broker, a queer sort of sorceress, the widow Bidoin”
is she married to the bald man, that Disney movie, maybe it isn’t a perfect short story, etymological searches, the tour of Africa, Sicily, Normandy, “where there hover no vague hauntings”, the missing night, a different sort of desert, Fear by Guy de Maupassant, “I had a presentiment in Africa”, “the sun dissipates it like a fog”, fear vs. panic, the spiritual gnawing of northern cultures, The Inn by Guy de Maupassant, H.P. Lovecraft, “God is dead but he never really was alive. The universe is real but we’re alone in it. Looking up at the starry night we are pointless, alone, with nothingness behind us, nothingness ahead of us, and its horrible.” he goes crazy because he’s alone, in the tumult of the crowd (with it’s light pollution), “there’s a shop for that down the street”, very very very small and unimportant, Lovecraft made it a monster, Eric S. Rabkin, light as the symbol for knowledge, inside the interesting chest cavity, a cosmic vastness and emptiness in which we are lost, solitude, Rouen, Rotomagus (round market or round plain) – but the word magus, J.R.R. Tolkien’s dwarves, great craftsmen, is the man from Roen really God?, yesterday I was in a private asylum, three months, a descent into madness, is there no lacuna in the inflexible sequence of his observations, a lacuna in which the end took place.
Posted by Jesse Willis