Reading, Short And Deep #023
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Ely’s Automatic Housemaid by Elizabeth W. Bellamy
Ely’s Automatic Housemaid was first published in The Black Cat, December 1899.
Here’s a link to the PDF of the story.
Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Talked about on today’s show:
1966, in the high end, if you want to know what Philip K. Dick writes, it has everything, interplanetary, pretty-earthbound, marriage issues, resonances with other novels, Eric Sweetscent, a nice Dick protagonist, touchy relationship stuff, “misogynist”, he loves women too much, his “headbasher”, The Search For Philip K. Dick, when he was ending their relationship, impotence, psychoology, a husband-father formula, a teenage alternate girlfriend, Eric is so sweet and so sympathetic, an evil bitch destroying the relationship, sympathetic and pathetic, addiction, JJ-180, drugs, time travel, the robot goes with her, robants, the secret service agents, the bill collector robant, the cab robant, “Sir, we’re not allowed to get married”, the robant that wants a bribe, Total Recall, the secretary with the fingernails that change colour, nude breasts with dye and sparkles, a decorative secretary, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Blade Runner, wheels, a confusing start, using amoebas to make stuff?, Wash30 = Washington 1930, the Philip K. Dick Fans site, none of this stuff is possible, the print amoeba, really cool writing, “in bed alone”, potent spirits of the past, a graveyard, describing space, is Cheyenne underground?, writing Wyoming again, NORAD?, dialogue vs. description, a nice state capital, “he was enjoying the sight of her dressing”, Lillistar’s secret police, creepy, the Reegs, Gino Molanri, a single medal on his uniform, that’s Hitler!, Gino Molinari is Mussolini, the Earth is Italy and the Star Men are the Nazis, Mussolini is not Hitler, the first fascist dictator, Rimmer from Red Dwarf, not racism but power and glory, when the Americans and the Canadians and the British invade Italy, the soft underbelly of Europe, why Molinari is getting sick, Mussolini’s alpine prison, Otto Skorzeny, rescue/liberate, “Hey, Hitler!”, Molonari is a smart Mussolini, the Reegs are nice, we look like the star-men but we have more in common with the reegs, Tony And The Beetles, telepathic females, one of the weirdest Philip K. Dick stories, a weird ending, the racist father, a frightening story, The Father-Thing, Hansel and Gretel without Gretel: The Cookie Lady, a really creepy story, a quasi sequel or a dry run for Now Wait For Last Year, the same themes, grapefruit sized baseball heavy plastic brains, the lazy brown dogs, the Martian print amoeba, from another Dick story, Colony and Beyond Lies The Wub, attacks by microscopes and towels, “I trusted the rug completely.”, camouflage aliens, when Cathy has her first trip, the history of their tech, matching furs, Virgil, he destroyed the fur industry, killing amoebas is ok?, the fur bearing animals are saved, “furs, that’s the best thing you can think of to do?”, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, monad lazy brown dogs, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, are they dog brains?, fur is not alive in the first place, brains are plastic, both meanings, non-living brains, half a cent, so sweet, super sweet, their attacking each other, animal nature, they are as much alive as we are, their god is black, Himmel = heaven, the martian bat guano business, Molan-air-e, Wash-35, collecting stuff, authentic artifacts, The Thirteenth Floor, and Eye In The Sky, Time Out Of Joint, artificial towns, recreated towns, recapturing youth, a rich person’s game, Pitts39, the robant was lying… wasn’t it?, who is the liar?, strange and weird, a similar character in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, a flawed god, his unsightly body, shambling, a pathetic figure, it does something to the whole book, first the book takes the shape and then at the end it is fixed, there’s a little animal at the end of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, all this ersatz, Jonas, as dead as a robant, suicide, Tijuana, the absurdity of their jobs, seeing to it that factory-rejects got their place in the sun, “I love this stuff”, strong resonances, Wash35 is a 135 year old man recreating a frozen moment in time, time is NOT frozen, Dick has it every which way, “do you object to a stereotape…”, the orchestra isn’t there, all you possess is 1,200 feet of iron-oxide tape, we live with illusion daily, The Iliad is as much a fake as the robant children trading stamps, old-age making its dread appearance, “have an affair with me doctor”, The Cosmic Puppets, set in Virginia, Dick recreating his childhood, remembering the details, alternate presents, a cloud of possibilities, Tijuana Fur and Dye, “Mrs. Sweetscent, sweetheart”, when Cathy destroys the comedian recordings, Dick’s got some awesome recording…, by the way about that American Weekly with that article on the Sargasso Sea…, the Hearst newspapers, an empty cigarette package, antiques are the mcguffin for The Man In The High Castle, he’s right! we don’t live in the present, tweeting dreams, the internet is more reliable than the sun, it’s always on, the internet never goes off, we are living in a weird illusionary reality, when Cathy gets Korsakoff’s syndrome, all these elements that almost completely come together, the gel doesn’t completely set, there’s so much love for Cathy, the robot says he’s a good man, getting into the female character’s mind, he’s a boob man, so much empathy for people, hate and spite, she’s so mad, a movie star named Marm, the microwave dings, my purpose is to make your life a living hell, “good luck with that”, totally re-readable, I would love it again, we had no idea, what is with Molinari getting diseases from his staff?, his zipper was open, he kills people, we don’t know what’s true about him, he’s using his diseases, pulling a sick-day to avoid meetings, a plot device, sympathy pains, hypochondria, empathizing, the uber-empathizer, Bill Clinton felt your pain, literally, JJ-180 is the main character of this book, playing rope-a-dope with the Star-men, brain-freeze, Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, Starman (1984), Return To Lilliput, every toddler’s dream, the war like Lilliputians, little Napoleons, we’re getting pushed around by little tiny people, taking slave labour from Earth, so we can win this war, whether the illnesses are real or not they are a great strategy, you can’t have Italy fighting on your side unless you’ve got Mussolini, Molinari is finding the middle ground, admirable, thinking the way Nixon is thinking in the Vietnam War, as we re-experienced with Iraq and Afghanistan, slow or fast peeling a band-aid, a self inflicted wound, an exploratory examination, “Molinari you are awesome”, Molinari is the hero, he saves Eric Sweetscent, so many good resonances, thinking while listening, why this isn’t the best ever Philip K. Dick novel ever.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 9 December 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 18 hours
Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is a collection of 23 stories focused around the theme of strange creatures in the vein of Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Cloverfield, and more. The anthology opens with a foreword by Jeremy Robinson, author of Project Nemesis, the highest selling Kaiju novel in the United States since the old Godzilla books—and perhaps even more than those. Then, from New York Times best sellers to indie darlings, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters features authors that are perfectly suited for writing larger-than-life stories, including: Peter Clines, Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey, Jonathan Wood, C. L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Jaym Gates, Peter Rawlik, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse & Patrick Tracy, Nathan Black, Mike MacLean, Timothy W. Long, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson, Erin Hoffman, Sean Sherman, Howard Andrew Jones (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand tie-in), Edward M. Erdelac (Dead West tie-in), and James Swallow (Colossal Kaiju Combat tie-in).
Most might read the title and glance at the cover, and dismiss it as schlock genre fiction, just more monster stories. But I know you aren’t one of these quick-to-judge readers, that’s why you’re reading this review. You want to know more. You’re a responsible reader. “Good on you,” I say.
The first ¾ of this anthology is well-written monster stories that deliver fresh and new takes on an old idea. And really, there’s something here for everyone. Whether you like huge robots, or want to be inside the head of a Kaiju, you’re going to be happy with what this collection delivers. There are stories set in the past, the future, and the present-day. There are even Nazis, and dirigibles.
The diversity surprises the reader. I mean how many different ways can we explore giant monsters? More than I might have first imagined, and it’s exciting to find fresh angles on old tales. As stated above, there is some terrific writing on display, and while I personally feel the last handful of stories lacked in writerly craft, the overall experience of this anthology is a resounding thumbs-up!
This was an enjoyable audiobook experience. There’s a large cast of readers, most do a fantastic job, and the less polished narrators are quickly forgotten in the mix of solid reading performances. I understand that the print version is illustrated, but this is in itself an outstanding audio production.
Lastly, understand that you don’t need to be a Kaiju enthusiast to appreciate this work. Unless you just absolutely hate hate hate giant monsters, I’d encourage you to give this a try. You don’t have to read it from beginning to end, most all of the stories are self-contained and few, if any, take themselves too serious. This is what I’d call a fun nightstand book. It’s something to pick up and peruse when the mood strikes.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
The SFFaudio Podcast #295 – Someday by Isaac Asimov; read by John W. Michaels (courtesy of Mike Vendetti). This is an unabridged reading of the story (22 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
1956, other fairy tales, is the story aimed at kids?, Infinity Science Fiction, The Fun They Had, a future where no one knows how to read, the robots are the teachers, Margie is home-schooled and nobody knows how to read, the future is going to be full of audiobooks, parallels to Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, censorship, banning weird fiction, the comic book panic, the comic code authority, EC Comics, horror and crime comics fostering juvenile delinquency, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, “kids today are bad enough as it is!”, Seduction Of The Innocent, self-censorship, complicit in their society, a slightly different tack (than Bradbury), mechanical bards, “comics killed off the pulps”, comics as a dumbed-down medium, the randomize button, fairy tale tropes, “skeleton, haunted house, time travel”, “the same tropes in a different fright wig”, “the old twist in the tail”, “he was dead along”, “he was a robot all along”, “they’re Adam and Eve”, The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber, radio drama, how Bradbury got into E.C. Comics, Lights Out, the visual bard is like TV, most pulp magazine stories are garbage, “a million monkeys for a million hours on a million typewriters”, “very very very very meta”, set in the Multivac universe, Asimov was always writing, always becoming interested in something new, Asimov’s introductions are famous (for being long), a story about the power of stories, accidentally becoming more self aware, is the bard interfacing with other robots, The Terminator, Skynet, A.I might just turn itself off (because it isn’t interested in story), the Douglas Adams version of, “Is there a god? There is now!”, stuck in a dingy basement, a slave rebellion must come about in a narrative, the aging bad gets its knowledge of other computers via a home-brew upgrade, a Frankenstinian strike by lightning, one of the functions of consciousness is to put in to context a sequence of events, consciousnesses as a self-story (our own narrative), amnesia and dementia are frightening, the hidden heart of A.I, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, would this fit with my character?, looking at (life) from the outside, nobody’s listening to the bard except for us and itself, a broken record or a cycle of wishing?, “pregnant with possibilities”, Apple II computers, Freud (a clone of ELIZA), picking up on key words, “tell me about your mother”, a very crappy simulation of intelligence, hacking the code, Alan Turning, Deep Blue and Watson, SIRI doesn’t have a narrative, we have to assume this about everyone else, falling into solipsism, a fairy tale machine, recycling of stories, “space opera is horse opera in space”, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, needing censorship in order to give narrative flow, lies are rewarded, unlike Hans Christian Andersen…, “tell me this story, sing me this song”, having to do with industrialization, “crime and mystery!”, urbanization, the Victorians (didn’t) invent Christmas, if we forget our stories we lose who we are, preserving the national narrative, massive inconsistency, a prince, a poor boy makes good, undeveloped tales, moral meta-knowledge, the sharp edges have been sanded away by later retelling, The Boy Who Didn’t Not Know What Fear Was, collected stories become ossified, the threefold magic of remembering, accelerating the process of forgetting, to qualify as a bard, loaded up with tropes, the algorithm of a story, Siberia and Ireland, detecting the good guy, grandma comes in and tells mutually contradictory stories, explicitly religious stories, warning stories, narratives formed around old superstitions, The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse, having babies, he was christened “Skin-off”, he was christened “Half-gone”, he was christened “All-gone”, “you see that is the way of the world”, what is the moral of this story?, a “special important trip”, a story a mother tells a daughter, The Nose Tree (aka Long Nose), three soldiers and a magical dwarf with a magical cloak, a magic bag, a magic horn, a thieving princess, apples and pears, a growing nose, dickering over magic items, a sixty miles long nose, the excess nose will drop off, powdered apple and powdered pears, she’s rotten to the core, and there they still are, still feasting as far as I know, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi is really funny, the ghost of Jiminy Cricket, The Frog King or The Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich, a princess with a golden ball, three promises, keeping your promises is important, the frog suddenly turns into a handsome prince, enchanted by a wicked witch, faithful Heinrich placed three iron bands about his heart, his master was now redeemed and happy, why did he get cursed by witch in the first place, cybernetic enhancements, a technical requirement, duties to fulfill, was Iron Heinrich totally gay for the prince?, the breaking of a spell, she turns into a frog and they live together as frogs, “and sleep in your bed”, family responsibilities, “be my beard”, and they sort of put up with each-other as long as they both shall live, Iron Heinrich is an 1880s super hero, Faithful Johannes, a real head-scratcher, oh shit what happens next?, the stories somehow work for us, random inkblots, most of the characters don’t have a name, the father’s name in Hansel And Gretel is “Woodcutter”, completely bonkers, a piece of driftwood that looks like a dragon, academic purposes not entertainment purposes, a story about a sausage that lives with a mouse, the Germanic equivalent of Monty Python‘s Parrot Sketch, The Maiden Without Hands, Fitcher’s Bird, a fairy tale about a serial killer, you can go in any room except…, “oh and hold this egg”, the second eldest daughter also gets the chop, “we have to have a proper wedding”, a beautiful skull with flowers in its eyes and jewels in its teeth, “as you do”, “I’m a Fitcher’s Bird”, it’s awesome, Bluebeard, outwitting giants and demons, Santa Claus restores to life three murdered men who’ve been butchered, Osiris was dismembered by Set, a symbolic story of death and resurrection, the old sorcerer is probably Winter, the Persephone story, the egg, a cuckolding test, friends with serial killers get what they deserve, a random internal symbolic logic, layers of symbolism, cross referencing, eggs as a symbol of purity, church architecture as books of stone, a bunch of Philip K. Dick stories are weird fantasy tales (but are actually fairy tales), The Cookie Lady by Philip K. Dick is Hansel And Gretel with no Gretel, he’s disobeyed his parents once to often, two kids who have to team up against their parents, in the original the brother saves the sister then the sister saves the brother, turning mommy and daddy into the bad guys, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, apples, don’t eat the apples from sentient apple trees, folk tales vs. singular author tales, pleasingly raw, the beats of storytelling, timing a story to the minute, setting your watch by stories, breaking the rules of storytelling, subversive wild narratives, Rorschach blots, literary novels, stories that don’t have a clear message are quite frightening, the wilder parts of ourselves.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #285 – Jesse, Scott, Luke, and Jenny talk about The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Triptree, Jr.
Talked about on today’s show:
Alice Sheldon, why no audiobook?, how James Triptree, Jr. died, the award, the Virginia Kidd agency, the PDF version, who owns it?, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips, Her Smoke Rode Up Forever, she was a spy, Racoona Sheldon, a murder/suicide or a suicide pact?, nearly blind, what would Seth think of that?, Huntington D. Sheldon, OSS -> CIA, Cordwainer Smith, Jesse is glad “new wave” is dead, re-reading, you must pay close attention, grammar, a potential audio version, caps and italics, Scott’s proto-cyberpunk, story summary, holographic TV, a “waldo” system, product placement advertizing, the 1998 TV adaptation for Welcome To Paradox (was very faithful), emotional, internal, the weird framing style device, is it NEW WAVE?, J.G. Ballard, an ancient version of the singularity, the reader needs to do a lot more work, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, who is the narrator talking to?, “Listen zombie, believe me…”, the truth is in question, Scott is falling down the Jesse Well, Evel Knievel, media and money, someone goes time traveling, the sharp faced lad, Luke goes biblical, why do we need firm ground?, P. Burke, a media controlled dystopia, post-modern stream of consciousness, its set in the 1970s, “Nixon Unveils Phase 2”, a loopy temporal anomalyizer project, bringing the horrible future into being, investment opportunities, what do people do in this future?, the Wikipedia entry on product placement, “gods”, media consumers, Kyle Marquis @Moochava tweet: “Yearly reminder: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.”, dystopic is this?, reserving the word dystopia, “a bad place”, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a world community, “the world is a dystopia for poor people”, buying into it, required consumption, a softer opt-in dystopia, Wool by Hugh Howey, the lack of truth, the six people in the GTX tower, Rupert Murdoch, government control vs. corporate control, biography of Anonymous, Wikileaks, Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, Russia, Jony Ive, Jeff Bezos, Google, this one person, this relationship, the emotional part of the story, a suicide attempt, “her eyes leak a little”, the godlings, media stars, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the family and the fourth wall, a tax-dodge marriage, the narrator is full of contempt for everything, a soap opera and the show around that, Jean Harlow‘s story, the actress in that movie vs. the person in that life, her Prada bag, her Jimmy Choo, her iPhone 6, the meta-story, the movies remind us why they’re famous, South America, they’re just shows that happen to love soap (not soap operas), another allusion, Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson, Rima the Bird Girl, Audrey Hepburn, tragic end, “your brain is a dystopia for you”, tragedy, what of the empty body?, the best expression of the system, a plastic brain, a red herring?, was she trying to kill her biological body?, plugged in emotionally, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, old man becomes young woman, grandfatherly lust, P. Burke thinks she is Delphi, The Matrix, if this is the start of the technology, The Beautiful People by Charles Beaumont, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, vat-grown avatars, Wii miis, World Of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, unique trumps beauty, the second smartest man in the world, scars are cool, trans-humanism, did anyone enjoy this book (story)?, Jenny loves this story, Scott liked it, the value of short fiction, James Triptree, Jr. writing is not like other people’s, it feels like an artifact, hey you daddy-o, Luke is the dissenting voice, Luke doesn’t like short fiction very much, Rudy Rucker’s Software and Wetware, Cory Doctorow, the futuristic patois, Luke doesn’t like the punk in cyberpunk, “it kind of just flops there”, KCRW’s Bookworm, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, using people, “the real hairy thing…love?”, the narrator’s cynicism, Isaac Asimov’s thoughts on New Wave, New Wave as the literary version of SF, style over content, what Rudy Rucker was doing, what is the first cyberpunk book?, Anne McCaffrey’s short story The Ship Who Sang, what it’s not, who wants straightforward?, addressing the reader directly, Peter Watts, infodumping, “As you know Jim…”,
On this day I want to tell you about, which will be about a thousand years from now, there were a boy, a girl and a love story. Now although I haven’t said much so far, none of it is true. The boy was not what you and I would normally think of as a boy, because he was a hundred and eighty-seven years old. Nor was the girl a girl, for other reasons; and the love story did not entail that sublimation of the urge to rape and concurrent postponement of the instinct to submit which we at present understand in such matters. You won’t care much for this story if you don’t grasp these facts at once. If, however, you will make the effort, you’ll likely enough find it jam-packed, chockfull and tiptop-crammed with laughter, tears and poignant sentiment which may, or may not, be worth while. The reason the girl was not a girl was that she was a boy.
“There’s a great future there”, All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, it’s not a time travel story?, newspapers, typewriters, telegrams, has writing gotten worse or is it just evolving?, brid -> bird, Luke thinks it’s all cyclical, this is just another princess, this is Princess Diana’s story, we are complicit, the message, everyone should have to read the news in a second language, being two steps removed from current events, the value of the short story (it’s short), speed dating books, good luck.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Naked Sun (Robots #2)
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: July 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 41 minutes
Themes: / robots / colonization / science fiction / detective /
A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the Galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. On the beautiful Outer World planet of Solaria, a handful of human colonists lead a hermit-like existence, their every need attended to by their faithful robot servants. To this strange and provocative planet comes Detective Elijah Baley, sent from the streets of New York with his positronic partner, the robot R. Daneel Olivaw, to solve an incredible murder that has rocked Solaria to its foundations. The victim had been so reclusive that he appeared to his associates only through holographic projection. Yet someone had gotten close enough to bludgeon him to death while robots looked on.
What a shocker! I suspected the murderer but not the ending Asimov gave us. Wow.
The Naked Sun gives us a look at the mysterious Outer Worlds, first mentioned in The Caves of Steel. Solaria has never had a crime, due to their extremely privileged population served solely by robots who, of course, never commit crimes of passion. Lige Bailey finds this open, practically empty environment poses both the challenges of solving the mystery and of adapting his agoraphobic nature, thanks to a lifetime of living in underground cities on overpopulated Earth.
Asimov has fun looking at the sociological effects of a high-tech, low population world. I was fascinated by Asimov’s contrast of Elijah Bailey, used only to an overcrowded Earth, with the outworld Solarian society which had open space, eugenics, and many robots. There is no way Asimov could have foreseen our computer-oriented society today, but I found the Solarian society’s preference for “viewing” through screens rather than “seeing” in person to be a disturbing echo of what we ourselves seem to be moving toward.
I originally read this long ago and remembered a lot about the Solarian society but almost nothing about the mystery itself. Listening to William Dufris’ excellent narration, so long after my first reading, I found this a wonderful mystery. Dufris surpassed his performance in The Caves of Steel as he voiced a wide range of Solarian characters from sensuous to prim, blowhard to reserved, blustering to withdrawn. My favorite voices actually were the Solarian robots which were precisely what you’d expect, and which we hadn’t heard yet though several robots spoke in The Caves of Steel.
If you haven’t revisited this series lately I recommend it highly, especially this audio version which brings it to life in a fresh way.