The SFFaudio Podcast #393 – Ex Oblivione by H.P. Lovecraft, read by the great Wayne June. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (5 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Jim Moon)
Talked about on today’s show:
the pronunciation, Athenae, not from Weird Tales, a prose poem vs. a story, flash fiction, it does everything, the big elephant, it avoids all the things people decry Lovecraft for, the pure experience, pure Dreamlands Lovecraft, living in the outrage culture, it is much better to be dead than it is to be alive, drug use, reflections, new colours, From Beyond, The Colour Out Of Space, beyond the colours we know, The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath, a little dreamquest, no cat, Zakarion, King Kuranes, Basil Elton, The White Ship, big themes, tentacled monsters, sanity-blasting, nihilism, transcendence and revelation, wonder and awe, a compression, a packet of seeds, The Gardens Of Yin and The Window, gateways and passages, a distillation,
Some of the dream-sages wrote gorgeously of the wonders beyond the irrepassable gate, but others told of horror and disappointment. I knew not which to believe, yet longed more and more to cross forever into the unknown land; for doubt and secrecy are the lure of lures, and no new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace. So when I learned of the drug which would unlock the gate and drive me through, I resolved to take it when next I awaked.
opiate, poppy seed cookies, Wayne June, The Crawling Chaos, the decay and pain of disease, seeking non-existence in unconsciousness, Hypnos, breaking through the barrier, horrible and wonderful, duality of perception,
But as they pierced the stone, a rush of air
Burst from the alien voids that yawned beyond.
They fled—but I peered through and found unrolled
All the wild worlds of which my dreams had told.
I’m out of here!, The Shadows Over Innsmouth, this is AMAZING!, the horrible as transcendent, not-quite apotheosis, transfiguration, a counter-point to the insignificance of humanity, stepping beyond, The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany, the wild world of his dreams,
There were great steppes, and rocky table-lands
Stretching half-limitless in starlit night,
With alien campfires shedding feeble light
On beasts with tinkling bells, in shaggy bands.
Far to the south the plain sloped low and wide
To a dark zigzag line of wall that lay
Like a huge python of some primal day
Which endless time had chilled and petrified.
Minnesota, the Sawtooth Mountains,
I shivered oddly in the cold, thin air,
And wondered where I was and how I came,
When a cloaked form against a campfire’s glare
Rose and approached, and called me by my name.
Staring at that dead face beneath the hood,
I ceased to hope—because I understood.
giving Death a high-five, The Gardens of Yin
Beyond that wall, whose ancient masonry
Reached almost to the sky in moss-thick towers,
There would be terraced gardens, rich with flowers,
And flutter of bird and butterfly and bee.
There would be walks, and bridges arching over
Warm lotos-pools reflecting temple eaves,
And cherry-trees with delicate boughs and leaves
Against a pink sky where the herons hover.
the gorgeous garden,
All would be there, for had not old dreams flung
Open the gate to that stone-lanterned maze
Where drowsy streams spin out their winding ways,
Trailed by green vines from bending branches hung?
I hurried—but when the wall rose, grim and great,
I found there was no longer any gate.
a retelling of earlier voyages, Jack Vance, Planet Of Adventure, The Dying Earth, strange vistas, lush imagery, opening up perceptions, the grey sameness of ordinary existence, consuming all the senses, rich or decadent description, baroque, gorgeously saturated prose, The Moon Moth, a maginfied orientalist, operatic, fantasies of exotic lands, arabesques, sarabandes and curlicues of hashish smoke, Clark Ashton Smith, William Morris, Tolkienized, pipeweed and beer, that connection to Dunsany, Idle Days On The Yann,
When the last days were upon me, and the ugly trifles of existence began to drive me to madness like the small drops of water that torturers let fall ceaselessly upon one spot of their victim’s body, I loved the irradiate refuge of sleep. In my dreams I found a little of the beauty I had vainly sought in life, and wandered through old gardens and enchanted woods.
Once when the wind was soft and scented I heard the south calling, and sailed endlessly and languorously under strange stars.
Once when the gentle rain fell I glided in a barge down a sunless stream under the earth till I reached another world of purple twilight, iridescent arbours, and undying roses.
And once I walked through a golden valley that led to shadowy groves and ruins, and ended in a mighty wall green with antique vines, and pierced by a little gate of bronze.
temples, not sunken temples, what happened to the temples?, almost Robert E. Howardy, The Circular Ruins by Jorge Luis Borges, Lovecraft was reading a lot of Schopenhauer,
I knew that all sights and glories were at an end; for in that new realm was neither land nor sea, but only the white void of unpeopled and illimitable space. And happier than I had ever dared hoped to be, I dissolved again into that native infinity of crystal oblivion from which the daemon Life had called me for one brief and desolate hour.
very Platonic, called forth by Life, Socrates, ahh, yes I remember fire, the trauma of childbirth wipes your memory, opium, mind blown, ever to wise to ever have been born in the waking world, Waking Life, Philip K. Dick, now I remember, native infinity, everything goes back to that Platonic realm, The Dreamquest Of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson, if you’re born in the dream world…, Jesse gets to the dreamland by a route obscure and lonely, the Zoog wood touches the waking world, Paul’s role playing game, Dante and stories of the underworld, a one way passage, the official entrance, passing bodily into the underworld, a gem of a story, poppy seeds that flourish and grow, to round table it, is the end positive or negative?, the closing of a circle, eastern philosophy, definitely positive, he just overdosed on a drug in real life, in your dissolved state, this is not Heaven (Garden of Yinn style), looking at it from the outside, staying in bed too long, symptoms of depression, the reason for his voyage, the ugly trifles of existence,
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
Talked about on today’s show:
aka The Babylonian Lottery, 1941, 1962, The Library Of Babel, baffling mystifying, blurring and seeping, The Garden Of Forking Paths, the framing story, the context, he’s leaving, in this “statement”, missing fingers, a rented cloak, a tattoo of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, fleeing the city, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime Of The Ancient Mariner meets Forrest Gump, abomination and criminal, the sacred disorder of our lives, an affection for the company, Solar Lottery is a similar Philip K. Dick novel, company vs. corporation, like everyone in Babylonia…, that’s a lot of proconsuls, metaphorical, metonymies for the high and the low, Dark City, those Borgesian moments, deliberate inaccuracies, the hand changed hands, Borgesian translations, The Pit And The Pendulum, a story without hop with Hope as the title, not having firm ground on any detail solidifies the Borgesian effect, Labyrinths, the company’s communications, a mask factory, trash and kipple, Thomas Ligotti, one of the heresies, lottery is a myth we tell ourselves to make sense of chance, The Red Tower, an authentic madman, sacrifices, priest or sorcerer, Kabbalist magic, the mysterious assassination, where’s A?, he’s B, he turned into a god!, deified, a god of Chance, Heliogabalus, Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick, an autistic boy, they’re reading the same books, omnivorous readers, reincarnation, thinking through reincarnation, Jesse’s weird theory, I’m Napoleon, more than just wish-fulfillment, what if we are living in a universe in which there is only one soul, the Platonic references, no need to follow the laws of time, John Rawls’ the Veil Of Ignorance, it’s a lottery in essence, a rich European healthy body, what we would want for other people is what we would want for ourselves, justice, if we take it as literally true…, we can’t see all of his body, waiting for Charon to show up in his boat, a perfect story for the middle of the twentieth century, the least inequality, the most inappropriate story for the twenty-first century, a radical document, when is this taking place, after Elagabalus but before the fall of Babylon?, the barbers, the mythology, to omit -> to interpolate -> to change, making a curved line between points, this is the symbolic scheme, infinite draws, all that is necessary is that time is infinitely divisible, one of those Xeno stories…, an infinitely divisible strawberry pie?, something tricky going on here, the company’s origins as a religious explanation for fate, as noted on the Wikipedia entry, Qaphqa (Kafka), The Castle, a sacred latrine -> it’s a holy shit -> it’s a pisser, mask factories, the messages come from the kipple, the sacred lions, scribbles on the ruined walls of the mask factory, thicker layers, the tease of Plato, we’re still in the cave, the Allegory Of The Cave, if it’s not a cabal… (kabbal?), it must be the lottery, were all a part of the secret cabal, the Paranoia RPG, trust the computer, trust the company, Jim’s punishment and Jesse’s reward, a spy LARP, the intertwined nature, I have throttled the sacred bulls, declared invisible for a year, based on a Robert Silverberg story, no matter what happens he gets executed, a universal solvent, application to the modern day scientific view, random chains of cause and effect, science as a conspiracy theory, god playing dice, medium sized objects are subject to physical laws, the ghosts and shadows of quantum mechanics, an expert in Anglo Saxon, studying Norwegian history as one does, some hidden premise, reminiscent of Olaf Stapledon, was To See The Invisible Man by Robert Silverberg inspired by this story?, like Lovecraft family Borges’ family had a huge library, of these executors…, enriched torture, a Swiftian character, the last sentence as a thesis statement, what’s the worse horror, the lottery as a consolation religion, think about that in 1941.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1960 novel, 1956 novella, the Goddreads reviews, Reddit, re-listening, very visual, John Mcclane at the end of Die Hard, conference room scenes, vague characters, awesome ideas, three Philip K. Dick stories that could have inspired The Terminator movies, no time travel, Doctor Futurity, Skynet, the drones (the hammers), UAV style drones vs. terminators, drone technology, there were drones in WWII, remote controlled bombers [ex. Operation Aphrodite], almost nothing “invented in SF” was actually invented in SF, infiltrators, Jesse has become a Terminator geek, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Screamers (adapted from Second Variety by Philip K. Dick), two battling computers, humans as pawns, both computers are in the same building!, proxies, the Internet is missing, Vulcan 3 is building the Internet, Skynet’s drones, Skynet doesn’t have central control, when Vulcan 3 is controlled, Vulcan 3 as a baby, creepy, at the periphery of the plot, the education sub-theme, a little red headed girl, being raised by a terminator, such a fanny show, the movies are recycling scene and catchphrases, at the school, a non-conformist school, Philip K. Dick’s kid is in school, regular school crushes creativity, meritocracy, nepotism, an unfinished thought, cronyism, technocratic government, getting through by hard work, was he an A.I. controlled by Vulcan 3, “hey the system works!”, sociological ideas, how un-Dickian this novel is, a relatively straightforward mystery, no weird obsessions (like with infidelity), the obligatory black haired girl, the president of the world comes into the world takes a little girl out of school and takes her home?, WTF?, the teacher’s okay with this?, the classroom, the concentration camp in Atlanta is a psychology camp, the conformist world in A Wrinkle In Time, Marissa learns Science Fiction, a planet of complete conformism, “you let them play an unstructured game?”, stifling of independent thought and creativity, why was the teacher killed?, reading Lolita, secretly reading forbidden books, is Philip K. Dick improving the books when he re-writes them (consensus is NO), two cults, a cult of reason and rationality, why is that rebellion group called the “Healers”, like alternative medicine, the worship of the computer, Greys, blue collars against the white collars, “we shouldn’t undervalue people just because their skills are in their hands and in their fingers”, vaxxers vs. the anti-vaxxers, back to Dr. Futurity, Vulcan 2 in the novella, piecing Vulcan 2 back together like a damaged hard-drive, the data is recovered aurally, listening to the broken thoughts of Vulcan 2, not just white noise in between the broken sentences, a groaning of ghosts, psychology, weird and interesting, absolutely NOT what anyone else does in Science Fiction, the Butlerian Jihad, because… Skynet, nobody says actually technology is really quite useful, 43% of the Earth’s resources?, the paragraph, maintaining the computer, the “lesser order of human needs”, some sort of metaphor 43 percent of calories go to the brain?, a biological parallel, making the decisions, making the policy, a subtle allusion to Plato, the greys the technician class are “guardians”, denying a brain data (big mistake), The Just City by Jo Walton, Athena sets up Plato’s Republic, automatons for physical labour, seeing the connections, The Republic, Socrates, like the old Atlanteans, the Gold the Silver and the Bronze (ditch diggers and truck drivers), the Silver (the police, functionaries, tax-collectors), the Gold (the enlightened, the philosophers), Vulcan 3 is the Gold, the T-class (experts and specialists), these books are all being suppressed (due to copyright), a pretty good title, Hammer shaped robots?, Vulcan (aka Hephaestus), the ancient Greeks and Romans, Hephaestus built a robot for Athena, the Greeks were really into automata, metal beings, the Talos of Crete, Vulcan as the wizard of metal, a Philip K. Dick conference lecture, when the Greeks thought of gods they thought of A.I. (sort of), these atoms over here have desires, intelligence in non-living things, a little bit under cooked, what about Vulcan 1?, or does it?, maybe Vulcan 1 is hiding, in a degenerate state, Deus Irae and The Last C., tactical nukes, a lot of weakness but it makes up for it, a bit of paranoia, that’s usually what causes the problem, self-preservation, when Saddam Hussein is threatened, the emotional computer, pleading only as a human could do, “We can come to an arrangement!”, shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a microcosmic version of Vulcan’s Hammer, several Star Trek episodes, The Ultimate Computer, Star Trek as a metaphor for American foreign policy, The Apple, they kill the computer that regulates their society, they killed the snake but…, vegetarians are now hunting, put some controls on this, as a metaphor for society, a rebellion against pain in the body, the mind as the government, living in a post-WWIII world, WarGames, the Russians had a battle computer called “The Dead Hand“, a dead-man’s trigger, WWIII was looming in 1956 and 1960, so good even though its not that good, Dick loves blue collar workers, Father Fields, making something out of the air-conditioner, a dropped thread, a completely weird metaphor, The Borderlands series, Scooter, a technopath, The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick, “he fixed things”, a great tagline, “I don’t got Philip K. Dick for action”, living in a disposable society, everything is disposable, is there a TV-repair shop left in North America?, modern cars, only 5.5 hours, zoning out, cool predictions, the paranoid artificial intelligence, Sam Harris and Joe Rogan, caging an A.I., setting up honey-traps, Jesse thinks that’s not going to be the issue, Neuromancer all A.I.’s have digital shotguns strapped to their heads, “the smartest man in the world”, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, worries, better as a metaphor than as a prediction, we shouldn’t be unconcerned, Colossus: The Forbin Project, it isn’t 1s and 0s on a screen, seeing inside a burned diary, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, Mike the computer (aka Mycroft Homles), what’s missing from Vulcan’s 3‘s life is a friend, kids want to know, I think you guys are liars if…, kids are going to get into everything and that’s not a bad thing, more information is better, Vulcan 2’s decision, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, you are totally welcome to prosper if you are willing and able to play a certain kind of game, the push-back is caused by the masses rejecting stability, the adventurer class, “more concerned with gain than with stability”, the phrases: “life is cheap”, big gambles, the Netflix series Narcos, communist guerrillas living in the jungle, if you are living in a corrupt society you get a lot of gamblers, the striking opening scene, “can’t you get a better picture?”, they all wear the uniform of their class, another theme, destroying stability, going back to entropy, it is kind of Philip K. Dickian after-all, undercooked or maybe overcooked, the same with Time Pawn, this is my worst book, Dean Koontz’s 1973 novel of Demon Seed has a rapey robot computer, with the rewrite of Demon Seed Koontz has mellowed out, writing for the market, even after his death, Puttering About In A Small World by Philip K. Dick, everything’s always better with a robot wife.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
On the comparative merits of the book, movie, and the BBC audio drama; the similarity between the audio drama and the film; Ian Hom as Frodo in the audio drama (elder Bilbo in the film) and Michael Hordern as Gandalf; Rob Inglis’s superb audiobook narration and singing; poetry and singing as a reflection of Tolkien’s mythological influence; Kenneth Morris’s influence on Tolkien; The Silmarillion and the creation of Middle Earth; The Tolkien Professor and Michael Drout as resources for further Tolkien scholarship; Jesse’s first encounter with The Hobbit; the birth of Jesse’s fascination with audiobooks; the depth of Tolkien’s world-building and lack of depth in fantasy successors; Aragorn is unsung hero; on how the audio helped Jenny get a handle on the series; Seth’s regular reading of the novels; Maissa has questions as a new reader; the cliffhanger ending of Book I; on the making of the rings; the ring as an analogy to modern technological addiction; Steve Jobs as Sauron; Maissa envisions true palm technology and Jesse envisions a real technological ring; Doctor Who; Socrates, Gyges, and a ring of invisibility, how much agency does the Ring have?; religious subtext; more on the ring’s agency; “more than one power at work”; on how Tolkien had to retcon The Hobbit; Tolkien’s letters and his attention to detail; Frank Herbert’s similar world building process in Dune; on Middle Earth’s historical depth; the cats of Queen Berúthiel; Farmer Maggot vs. the Black Rider; hobbits make the story relatable; Gandalf as rabble-rousing priest and prophet (Moses, Jeremiah); “birthday presents” and the circularity of the tale; “The Conspiracy Unmasked” and the power of friendship; the untold tale of Fredegar Bolger; on the faults of hobbits; parallels with modern military conflicts; economics in the books (or lack thereof); the varieties of goodness and evil; the Prancing Pony has free wi-fi; a time of transition and the Elves’ pilgrimage to the Gray Havens; on Gollum’s possession of the ring; Tom Bombadil as unexplained phenomenon; Jesse wants a Tom Bombadil Bed and Breakfast; on the importance of Frodo’s encounter with the Barrow White; Tolkien could have written weird fiction; Sam’s selfless sacrifices; Tolkien’s impact on our real lives; we are all Butterburs wanting to be Sams; Sam learning his letters; class differences in the Shire, Hobbiton as Downton Abbey; “the road goes ever on”; does Sauron have corporeal existence?; no Harry Potter style set pieces in favor of a much more organic feel; Jesse tells us the definition of scrumping; Tolkien’s descriptions of nature; on Tolkien and fantasy tropes; influence on Dungeons and Dragons; Bombadillo cadence; comparisons with contemporary writing of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series and Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories; Tolkien’s preference for allegory over history; the power of words in Tolkien and its parallel with Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea; on the novel’s slow opening; on the film’s simplification of plot and characters, Merry and Pippin in the film are Dumb and Dumber; if Gandalf can make fireworks, why are there no guns in Middle Earth?; for a wizard, Gandalf doesn’t do much magic; (who let the dogs out?); Tolkien and World War I; on Gandalf’s refusal to take the ring; on the etymology of wraith and the origin of the ring wraiths; more on Plato and Socrates’s Ring of Gyges parable; Gollum’s fascination with roots and beginnings; Aragorn’s healing power (foreshadowing!); giving the ring to the wrong person is “like giving a machine gun to a baby”; Saruman twisted by even the idea of the ring; Maissa is a prescient reader.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #258 – Jesse, Seth, and Maissa discuss The Star Rover (aka The Jacket) by Jack London.
Talked about on today’s show:
titled The Jacket in the UK; astral projection; what about alien past lives; the primordial ooze; the book is a laundry list of Jack London’s interests; structure resembles television flashbacks; knuckle-rap Morse Code; The Count of Monte Cristo; Seth recounts his own past-life story; Jesse and Maissa debate plausibility of reincarnation; Plato and the Land of the Forms; “little death” means something else in French; Ragnar Lodbrok based on Norse Mythology; anachronism; Korean history and turtle ships; Jesse attempts to use the Napoleon Complex to debunk reincarnation; everyman (and everywoman); does reincarnation extend beyond humanity?; “there’s only one soul”; Lucretius, star dust, and the recovery of scrolls from Herculaneum; “souls are totally bogus”; past lives as a metaphor for reading widely; prevalence of the number 40; hallucination; Jack London on surfing; multilingual reference as an indicator of fame; prison reform; interrogation, torture, and Guantanamo Bay; loosely adapted in 2005 film The Jacket; the 1923 silent film adaptation is sadly lost; comparing and contrasting with The Iron Heel; T.C. Boyle’s The Relive Box in The New Yorker; Until the End of the World, a film about reliving dreams; on cultivating sleep; frame narrative; sexism; historical basis for character names; H.P. Lovecraft, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the creative power of dreams; confabulation; Total Recall; “faith in the lordship of my mind”; the odd importance of tobacco; The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells.
Posted by Jesse Willis