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

Review of The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente

March 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John, #2)The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John #2)
By Catherynne M. Valente, Read by Ralph Lister
9 hours 18 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
ISBN: 1597802034
Themes: / Fantasy / Creatures / Monks / Quest / Immortality / War / Crusades / Parenting

Publisher Summary: When the mysterious daughter of Prester John appears on the doorstep of her father’s palace, she brings with her news of war in the West–the Crusades have begun, and the bodies of the faithful are washing up on the shores of Pentexore. Three narratives intertwine to tell the tale of the beginning of the end of the world: a younger, angrier Hagia, the blemmye-wife of John and Queen of Pentexore, who takes up arms with the rest of her nation to fight a war they barely understand, Vyala, a lion-philosopher entrusted with the care of the deformed and prophetic royal princess, and another John, John Mandeville, who in his many travels discovers the land of Pentexore–on the other side of the diamond wall meant to keep demons and monsters at bay.

These three voices weave a story of death, faith, beauty, and power, dancing in the margins of true history, illuminating a place that never was.

To fully appreciate this book, it is essential to first read The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John #1), because The Folded World starts off right where the last book left off. The mythology of this trilogy is thick, and the second book builds nicely on what is developed in the first.  Where in The Habitation of the Blessed, the reader is introduced to all the fantastical creatures and the ways of the new lands, The Folded World digs deeper into the stories of some of the characters.  Although Prester John himself has lived with his blemmye wife for some time, he is still experiencing life as an outsider as he tries to put his own religion through the filters of the various beings he encounters.

It doesn’t help that the Crusades are going on, and the armies are getting closer.  Prester John doesn’t exactly fit in with his old life the way he used to.  This conflict is central to the development of the overarching story that I’m sure will continue in book #3.

While The Folded World lacked the breathtaking impact of the first book, probably just because the overall world was familiar to me, the same elements that I loved are present here – beautiful writing, a detailed mythical place with its own history and stories, and the clash between worlds.  There is one more book planned in this series, with the release date tentatively set for November 2012.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente

October 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Habitation of the Blessed
By Catherynne M. Valente, Read by Ralph Lister
11 hours 10 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2010
ISBN: 1441870245
Themes: / Fantasy / Creatures / Monks / Quest / Immortality /

Publisher description: This is the story of a place that never was: the kingdom of Prester John, the utopia described by an anonymous, twelfth-century document which captured the imagination of the medieval world and drove hundreds of lost souls to seek out its secrets, inspiring explorers, missionaries, and kings for centuries. But what if it were all true? What if there was such a place, and a poor, broken priest once stumbled past its borders, discovering, not a Christian paradise, but a country where everything is possible, immortality is easily had, and the Western world is nothing but a dim and distant dream? Brother Hiob of Luzerne, on missionary work in the Himalayan wilderness on the eve of the eighteenth century, discovers a village guarding a miraculous tree whose branches sprout books instead of fruit. These strange books chronicle the history of the kingdom of Prester John, and Hiob becomes obsessed with the tales they tell. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these living volumes, revealing the life of a priest named John, and his rise to power in this country of impossible richness. John’s tale weaves together with the confessions of his wife Hagia, a blemmye — a headless creature who carried her face on her chest — as well as the tender, jeweled nursery stories of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family.

Full disclosure – I am an unrestrained, shameless fan of Catherynne M. Valente.  She ranks among my top three favorite authors, Palimpsest being my favorite novel, and I have read practically everything she has written.  The only exceptions are Labyrinth, her first novel which she has made available for free online, Deathless, and some of her short stories.  Valente’s prose is beautiful, and her knowledge of mythology and the classics is apparent in every story.  Some of her earlier works read more like poetry.

The Habitation of the Blessed is the first book in a trilogy called Dirge for Prester John.  The next book will be out before the end of the year, and the third is set to be published in 2012.  It is based on the medieval legend of Prester John, and Catherynne Valente has created a website called PresterJohnOnline where you can read more.  Check out this video demonstrating the medieval legend as acted out by action figures (also created by Valente).

Of all of Valente’s works, this reminds me of The Orphan’s Tales, the way there are multiple stories that are loosely connected in an overarching narrative.  But somehow, it is much more intricate, and I was drawn in by this tree of books that is encountered early on by Brother Hiob of Lucerne.  The interweaving stories in the book come from this tree, but they may act more like fruit than paper.

“This tree bore neither apples nor plums, but books, where fruit should sprout. The bark of its great trunk shone the color of parchment; its leaves a glossy vibrant red, as if it had drunk up all the colors of the long plain through its roots. In clusters and alone, books of all shapes hung among the pointed leaves, their covers obscenely bright and shining, swollen as peaches, gold and green, and cerulean, their pages thick as though with juice, their silver ribbon marks fluttering in the spiced wind.”

My imagination was captured in that moment, and it only got better.  The creatures in this book are bizarre and enchanting, and stretch the limitations of the reader alongside Brother Hiob. It is impossible not to start longing for the imaginary landscape of Pentexore, and I look forward to the future books in this world.

Ralph Lister also does a wonderful job with the audio, and the subtle differences in voices help the listener know where one is within the story.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

LibriVox: Mr. Wicker’s Window by Carley Dawson

August 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxHere’s the promotional description for a gorgeous juvenile, fantasy, pirate, time travel, airship novel (all this and less than 59,000 words). It’s public domain and from 1952. It’s called Mister Wicker’s Window:

When twelve-year-old Chris entered Mr. Wicker’s shop to inquire about a job for his friend, something about old Mr. Wicker forced him to take the job himself. Chris found himself the pupil of Mr. Wicker, not the old man he first saw, but a powerful man in his forties—a magician. Chris learned how to turn himself into a fish, a bird, a fly, and with a magic rope he learned to make a boat or even an elephant.

Chris had been chosen to sail to China on a mysterious mission. Long before he sailed, Chris met the enemies who would try and stop him—evil Claggett Chew, the dandy Osterbridge Hawsey, the treacherous old beggar Simon Gosler. With a Nubian boy Chris brought to life with magic, he set out on his hazardous voyage.

Carley Dawson writes beautifully, combining fact and fantasy with skill. Her characters are lifelike and vivid, and the plot of this, her first book, is fantastically exciting and exceptionally outstanding. With power and imagination Lynd Ward has illustrated the book with over eighty drawings in two colors.

It was precisely those drawings that drew me in!

Art from MR. VICKER'S WINDOW

Art from MR. VICKER'S WINDOW

Art from MR. VICKER'S WINDOW

Art from MR. VICKER'S WINDOW

Lynd Ward, the artist, drew dozens of gorgeous illustrations just like the ones above. They kind of remind me of Darwyn Cooke and, oddly, Doctor Seuss. Every single one of them accompanies the Gutenberg etext edition. After seeing them I was absolutely compelled to seek out the audiobook. I badly wanted someone to read me the story, if only so I could spend that much more time staring at the gorgeous images. I looked on LibriVox, and achieved a double success.

But… the first version, recorded in 2009 is a multi-reader relay-style edition (SIGH). And, Arthur Piantadosi, the narrator on Version 2 of LibriVox’s public domain audiobook, is not my ideal reader either. His recording is a little hollow sounding (oh well), he stumbles over words (not good) and he makes the occasional sound effect (ARGGGH!!).

We can’t have this. No we can’t.

This sounds like a job for WILLIAM COON!

Until Bill, you can take your pick…

LIBRIVOX - Mr. Wicker's Window by Carley DawsonMr. Wicker’s Window
By Carley Dawson; Read by various
36 Zipped MP3 Files – Approx. 5 Hours 53 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 10, 2009
Ebook: Gutenberg.org
Printable CD Booklet: |PDF|
When twelve-year-old Chris entered Mr. Wicker’s shop to inquire about a job for his friend, something about old Mr. Wicker forced him to take the job himself. Chris found himself the pupil of Mr. Wicker, not the old man he first saw, but a powerful man in his forties–a magician. Chris learned how to turn himself into a fish, a bird, a fly, and with a magic rope he learned to make a boat or even an elephant. Chris had been chosen to sail to China on a mysterious mission. Long before he sailed, Chris met the enemies who would try and stop him–evil Claggett Chew, the dandy Osterbridge Hawsey, the treacherous old beggar Simon Gosler. With a Nubian boy Chris brought to life with magic, he set out on his hazardous voyage.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/mr-wickers-window-by-carley-dawson.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

LIBRIVOX - Mr. Wicker's Window by Carley DawsonMr. Wicker’s Window (VERSION 2)
By Carley Dawson; Read by Arthur Piantadosi
36 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 5 Hours 49 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: March 2, 2010
Ebook: Gutenberg.org
Printable CD Booklet: |PDF|
When Christopher Mason walked into Mr. Wicker’s antique shop, he had no idea he would soon be embarking on a marvellous journey to China to find a wonderful tree made of jewels. He had no idea that Mr. Wicker was a magician and could travel through time. And that the tree was sought by others, not least among them the murderous Claggett Chew, a merchant in port and a pirate on the high seas, who also had knowledge of magic. But before Chris succeeded in quest, he would know of all these things and more. And of Mr. Wicker’s friends, the sailor Ned Cilley, Becky Boozer, and the African boy Amos, changed from wood to flesh. And Christopher Mason would never be same, after.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/4062

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Patti Cunningham, Diana Majlinger, J.M. Smallheer and Annise]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir review of No Score by Lawrence Block

May 20, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

Aural Noir: Review

CHIVERS - No Score by Lawrence BlockSFFaudio EssentialNo Score (book #1 in the Chip Harrison series)
By Lawrence Block; Read by Gregory Gorton
6 Cassettes – Approx. 5 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Chivers Audio
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0792722620
Themes: / Crime / Sex / Quest / Pornography / Chicago /

It is a mystery why a street-smart young man like Chip Harrison has to resort to elaborate plans to attract a young woman like Francine. But someone turns Chip’s dream into a nightmare of danger. Chip has to act fast and furiously in a sizzling and suspenseful adventure that only Edgar Award-winning Lawrence Block could have written. Chip Harrison rightfully takes his place beside Block’s best known characters.

Seventeen year old Chip Harrison is a virgin. Francine, the narcissistic sexpot sitting on his bed, is two years older than Chip. All that stands between Chip and Francine is a tight yellow sweater and a green plaid skirt. Chip’s been preparing for this situation for a while now. He’s read all the right books, practiced all his moves on other girls, and now it’s all actually going to happen! And then, just as the deed is about to be done, a man with a gun walks in and shoots poor Chip! That’s chapter one. In chapter two Chip fills in some details about what happened before that – he’s an orphan, the son of a pair of con-parents. With no funds in the bank and not enough game on the basketball court. Poor Chip was kicked out of his prep school just a couple of months shy of graduation! Now, with little more than the clothes on his back, Chip Harrison has to meet and lay the girl of his dreams – the question is, will he get to do it? Or will he die trying?

Yep, that’s it! The whole novel is basically one kid’s quest to make it with a beautiful girl, almost any beautiful girl will do. As such, No Score probably the slimmest connection to mystery and crime of any book I’ve ever reviewed for SFFaudio. Later novels in the Chip Harrison series actually are genuine mysteries (they are all parody/homages to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries in fact). Though later books in the series are more properly mystery novels, like No Score they all share Chip’s enthusiasm and all the juvenile charm he brings to the telling. Lawrence Block is probably my favourite writer of first person perspective fiction. His sentences are chock full of wry humor and quick wit. When you pair his terrific writing with a capable narrator the results are explosively good. This is just such a novel and just such a pairing. While there’s not more than one or two actual jokes in No Score the laughs are all out loud and come every few minutes. I sure wish narrator Gregory Gorton was still recording audiobooks. He is a terrific performer with a wide range. In No Score he performs as Chip, a chipper and horny young man, Gregor, a fortyish immigrant from an unnamed Balkan country, and several sexy women in a terrific falsetto.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Nova Star Hunters

December 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Nova Star HuntersRik O’Neill, from Nova Star Hunters, sez:

Hi Jesse,

I came across your site today and am having a read through now! I wanted to let you know about a show I’ve been producing – the show is called ‘Nova Star Hunters.’ I’d love to get your thoughts on it. My inspiration in creating the show were the Saturday morning cartoons I watched as a kid (Transformers, He-Man!) Where a paper-thin plot provides an excuse for action. My idea was to create a similarly ‘fun show’ but with characters who go on a journey and have some depth.

Here is my response:

“Hi Rik,

First let me say your name is spelled very coolly. If I were ever to name one of my hypothetical children ‘Rick’ I’d drop that lame ‘C’ too. Rik. It looks cool, it sounds cool.

I too enjoyed the 1980s Transformers cartoon, but I’m afraid I thought He-Man was complete crap.

Re: Nova Star Hunters. Just from the title it even sounds like a 1980s TV show. I can almost picture a Dirk Benedict-like hero in a shiny tin-foil spacesuit.

After listening to the first episode I would almost guess Nova Star Hunters was more inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy or Red Dwarf than from Transformers. Here are my thoughts:

-I like the idea of an actor creating a character voice by pinching her nose. That’s fun stuff! And a talking cat, that sounds like a cat – nice one.

-The title song is also fun, very 80s.

-Many audio dramatists seem to think having an omniscient narrator is a big no-no. It may be unfashionable, but I like what you’ve done with it!

-The first episode produced about five full laugh out louds, several broad smiles, and about two-dozen smirks. That’s a very good score.

To sum up, I think you’ve a good chance of achieving your goal. I’m posting this to SFFaudio now.”

Podcast feed:
http://feeds2.feedburner.com/novastarhunters

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

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