The SFFaudio Podcast #409 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan

February 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #409 – The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan, read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 5 minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Paul)

Talked about on today’s show:
1910, obsession, kinda gross, fundamentally based on racism, Jewishness, troublesome, H.P. Lovecraft, a racist filter, horror as fear of the other, the same intellectual climate, racial theory, a sensitivity alarm bell, scare not offend, on the cusp, an off note, Sax Rohmer, yellow peril, Fu Manchu is the hero, the Escape audio drama adaptation, Harlan Ellison, Red Hook territory, uncomfortably of its time, its about race, his friend’s changing disposition, the Saxon Mother vs. the “strong wine of the east”, that logic is still in force, 1/64th Cherokee, if this was set in the highlands…, natural peace, a benevolent supernatural force, white hat vs. black hat, the theme of colonialism vs. race and heredity, imperialism, two-fisted adventure vs. poetry and philosophy and pathos, the landscape, the skyline, the love that Lawson has is reflected by Buchan himself

At midday it cleared, and the afternoon was a pageant of pure colour. The wind sank to a low breeze; the sun lit the infinite green spaces, and kindled the wet forest to a jewelled coronal. Lawson gaspingly admired it all, as he cantered bareheaded up a bracken-clad slope. ‘God’s country,’ he said twenty times. ‘I’ve found it.’ Take a piece of Sussex downland; put a stream in every hollow and a patch of wood; and at the edge, where the cliffs at home would fall to the sea, put a cloak of forest muffling the scarp and dropping thousands of feet to the blue plains. Take the diamond air of the Gornergrat, and the riot of colour which you get by a West Highland lochside in late September. Put flowers everywhere, the things we grow in hothouses, geraniums like sun-shades and arums like trumpets. That will give you a notion of the countryside we were in. I began to see that after all it was out of the common.

beautiful writing, the sensual description of Lawson,

Being a fair man, he was gloriously tanned, and there was a clear line at his shirt-collar to mark the limits of his sunburn. I had first known him years ago, when he was a broker’s clerk working on half-commission. Then he had gone to South Africa, and soon I heard he was a partner in a mining house which was doing wonders with some gold areas in the North. The next step was his return to London as the new millionaire — young, good-looking, wholesome in mind and body, and much sought after by the mothers of marriageable girls. We played polo together, and hunted a little in the season, but there were signs that he did not propose to become a conventional English gentleman. He refused to buy a place in the country, though half the Homes of England were at his disposal. He was a very busy man, he declared, and had not time to be a squire.

a bromance at the least, homoeroticism, nudity or flannels, naked on the veldt, the gorgeousness of the writing, T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, a miniseries on Cecil Rhodes, the empire builder, Rhodesia, like Rhodes Lawson made his money in mining, Buchan knew Rhodes, a giant country estate, Buchan is the name of the unnamed narrator in the audio drama adaptation, biographies, First World War Hidden History blog,, at the center of spying and propaganda, Lord Tweedsmuir, use in a role playing game, Kim Philby, the old boy network, the revolving door policy, no longer conspiracy, no longer tin-foil hat territory, rewarded with the Governorship of Canada, nobility by appointment, “gone to the wall”, with the riff-raff and the hoi-poloi, “gone to seed”, a pun, the fertile and lush garden, the flower of his youth, a railroad from South Africa to Egypt, nursemaided by Rhodes, illness,

Then we went to work to cut down the trees. The slim stems were an easy task to a good woodman, and one after another they toppled to the ground. And meantime, as I watched, I became conscious of a strange emotion.

It was as if some one were pleading with me. A gentle voice, not threatening, but pleading — something too fine for the sensual ear, but touching inner chords of the spirit. So tenuous it was and distant that I could think of no personality behind it. Rather it was the viewless, bodiless grace of this delectable vale, some old exquisite divinity of the groves. There was the heart of all sorrow in it, and the soul of all loveliness. It seemed a woman’s voice, some lost lady who had brought nothing but goodness unrepaid to the world. And what the voice told me was, that I was destroying her last shelter.

That was the pathos of it — the voice was homeless. As the axes flashed in the sunlight and the wood grew thin, that gentle spirit was pleading with me for mercy and a brief respite. It seemed to be telling of a world for centuries grown coarse and pitiless, of long sad wanderings, of hardly-won shelter, and a peace which was the little all she sought from men. There was nothing terrible in it. No thought of wrongdoing. The spell, which to Semitic blood held the mystery of evil, was to me, of a different race, only delicate and rare and beautiful.

poor spirit, parallel to an extinction, running away from the destruction of man, reading the story from Lawson’s point of view, what is he doing there?, an alabaster moon, blood sacrifice, depleting life force, a lonely deity, The Call Of Cthulhu role playing game, a temple ruin, an abandoned mine, a tiki-fetish, some ancient horrible power, maybe we’ve done wrong here,

And then my heartache returned, and I knew that I had driven something lovely and adorable from its last refuge on earth.

the last doorway, the model for this tower, the Great Zimbabwe, where could I read up on that?, a country house with a mock temple: “the folly“, druid orders, cheese rolling, a week later, keeping a secret, dropsy or yellow fever, the revenge of the land, disease, looking down on the tropics, three years, scarfe, natural beauty, that library, the moon of alabaster, the bird statuettes, turtle doves, green doves, auk-like bird carvings, everything is going extinct, the sin at the story’s end, the two-fisted action, shotguns make short work, the birds on the pyre, salting the earth, the Punic wars, improve on Josiah, dynamiting a priceless ancient temple, a “land without history”, purpose of visit: colonialism, sad but true, ancient ruins of Africa, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, the character names all end in “son”: Lawson, Isaacson, Jobson (the factor), the Hudson’s Bay Company, the East India Company, wagons, more money than the Queen, Ming pots, a night watchman, the natives won’t go to the temple, local folk, indemnification, Adamson, half-English, Biblical naming, The Skids, Richard Jobson, Travers, Lowson, H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror In Literature, building or rebuilding an ancestral home, The Moon Bog, The Rats In The Walls, they have the exact same structure, illness, lifted up into the sky, Ashtaroth the Moon goddess, Captain Norris, Magna Mater, Exham Priory, “what on Earth is going on here man?”, Out Of The Earth by Christine Campbell Thomson (aka Flavia Richardson), standing stones, mummy fiction, atavism, reverting to ancestral type, seeing things backwards, the industries that allow you to work, an inversion, an environmental horror story, silver bark, a beautiful image, Ishtar -> Ashtaroth, male and female spelling, an interest in weird fiction, one of the big names, scant detail, The Golden Bough, To The Devil A Daughter (1976), Astarte, a punny title, if this is a true story…, the covenant, the “Call of Ashtaroth”, the blood ritual, body horror, a psychic impasse, a taste, is there more than one force at work?, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, an apple tree, a bad farm, eating a withered apple is a bad move, the call of nature, it wants you, its using you, the last portal through, not of this Earth, a moonbeam, She by H. Rider Haggard, elegiac and wistful, a pleasure to read, layers and layers, old school weird fiction, layers of questioning and ambiguity, homages and reinterpretations, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, no clear lines, ambiguity comes to the fore, vs. early 20th century polemic, it would be an amazing comic book, visually stunning, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the albatross of The Thirty-Nine Steps, literary highways and byways, The Moon Endureth, Christopher Hitchens essays,

“In a remarkable short story, ‘The Grove of Ashtaroth,’ the hero finds himself obliged to destroy the gorgeous little temple of a sensual cult, because he believes that by doing so he will salvage the health and sanity of a friend. But he simultaneously believes himself to be committing an unpardonable act of desecration, and the eerie voice that beseeches him to stay his hand is unmistakably feminine.”

-Christopher Hitchens (The Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)

The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan illustrated by Jesse

Astarte

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

October 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxNow this is strange, I recommend you read this audiobook despite it having some pretty awful writing. I’ve never found myself rooting the the villain as much as with this book, a book in which the mostly off-screen antagonist outshines the on-screen protagonists. First published in 1913 the titular character of The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu (aka The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu) has come to epitomize a the embodiment of a socio-cultural meme known as THE YELLOW PERIL. The purported protagonists, Dr. Petrie and Sir Denis Nayland Smith, are a pair of casually racist assholes. They carry their ignorant colonial bully-boy tactics with them into every scene like a foul and infecting stench. Their agenda, to protect white supremacy at all costs, makes their foe’s vaguely villainous goals all the more palatable. But what is it that their enemy, Dr. Fu-Manchu, wants to do exactly? He is clearly ruthless. Is it simply world domination? Maybe. But even if that’s true, I can’t imagine he’d be as offensive as these two English assholes. When Fu Manchu does finally show up he seems more of a curious zoologist than an arch-fiend. It sounds bad, and it is, with bad writing for the most part, but it’s also very something iconic, and in that sense it is both important and worthwhile.

I think what Sax Rohmer did was write the novel, in earnest, from the heroes’ perspective – what time has done has has turned the heroes into villains and the villain into the hero.

We did couple of podcasts on this book and this subject earlier this year: The SFFaudio Podcast #051 and #052, and I’ve been thinking about the yellow peril again recently. After watching the glossily re-imagined Hawaii Five-O pilot (if you value your vaunted opinion of humanity’s as the paragon of animals stay far clear) I was reminded of the yellow peril’s turn in the original Hawaii Five-O TV series. It had a 13 episode arc that spanned from the first episode in 1968 to the final episode in 1980. That was good stuff. The racism that infects The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu had been replaced in the original Hawaii Five-O by a RED MENACE (guised as YELLOW PERIL). Since that last episode aired the USA has come a long way in the racism department, but bad writing, in books and television, will always be with us.

LibriVox - The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu by Sax RohmerThe Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu
By Sax Rohmer; Read by FNH
30 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 7 Hours 20 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: October 9, 2010
The first of the Fu-Manchu novels this story follows the two characters who are set against the machinations of the insidious doctor.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/3488

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Gesine and Leni!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Ian Fleming’s favourite novels (as a kid)

September 28, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James BondI’ve just started listening to Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond, a biography by Andrew Lycett, (available from Blackstone Audio). Here’s an interesting bit from early on:

“On Sunday evenings all the boys would gather in the hall of Durnford‘s [preparatory school] main building, a shabby 18th century manor house. Then, while her feet were tickled by some unfortunate child, Nell [the headmaster’s wife] would read them an adventure story. The general favourites were The Prisoner Of Zenda, Moonfleet and, towards the end of Ian’s time, Bulldog Drummond. Lawrence Irving, a pupil shortly before the Flemings, found that he ‘Never read those books again without hearing Nell’s tone and inflection.’ The same went for Ian, though he preferred the populist works of Sax Rohmer who opened up a more fantastic world with his yellow devil villain Doctor Fu Manchu.”

See that? There’s a nice direct connection between Dr. Fu Manchu and Doctor No. And, as I’m discovering by listening to Andy Minter’s reading of The Prisoner Of Zenda, you get a nice resonance between James Bond, playboy adventurer, and Rudolf Rassendyll, English gentleman.

In fact, as I’m writing this I’m very much enjoying The Prisoner Of Zenda, and am considering delving more deeply into the sub-genre it helped create: Ruritanian romance (a story set in a fictional country)

LIBRIVOX - The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony HopeThe Prisoner Of Zenda
By Anthony Hope; Read by Andy Minter
1 |M4B|, 22 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 5 Hours 42 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: December 16, 2006
The Prisoner of Zenda tells the story of Rudolf Rassendyll, an English gentleman on holiday in Ruritania, a country not a thousand miles from Bavaria. There, by reason of his resemblance to the King of Ruritania he becomes involved in saving the King’s Life and his Throne from the King’s dastardly brother and his allies. Woods, moated castles, pomp, swordplay, gallantry, villainy and a beautiful princess. What story could ask for more?

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/the-prisoner-of-zenda-by-anthony-hope.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

LIBRIVOX - Moonfleet by J. Meade FalknerMoonfleet
By J. Meade Falkner; Read by various readers
24 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 7 Hours 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: July 17, 2008
The novel is set in a fishing village in Dorset during the mid 18th century. The story concerns a 15 year old orphan boy, John Trenchard, who becomes friends with an older man who turns out to be the leader of a gang of smugglers. One night John chances on the smugglers’ store in the crypt beneath the church. He explores but hides behind a coffin when he hears voices. He finds a locket which contains a parchment, in the coffin belonging to Colonel Mohune. Unfortunately after the visitors leave, he finds himself trapped inside, and is only rescued two days later when two of the smugglers, Ratsey, the sexton and Elzevir Block, the innkeeper of the Why Not?, the local pub, investigate his disappearance. His aunt insists he leaves her house and Elzevir Block takes him in to live at the pub.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/moonfleet-by-j-meade-falkner.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Bulldog Drummond by Herman Cyril McNeile (1920), isn’t yet available as an audioboook on LibriVox, but it is available (unabridged) from Naxos Audiobooks |HERE|.

The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu (aka The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu) by Sax Rohmer (1913), is forthcoming on LibriVox, but is already commercially available through Tantor Media |HERE|.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #052

March 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #052 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Science Fiction author and YELLOW PERIL scholar William F. Wu.

Talked about on today’s show:
Isaac Asimov, the “Robots In Time” series, the “Robot City” series, The Twilight Zone (1985), Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium by William F. Wu, Allan Brennert, Prisoners Of Gravity, Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Amazing Stories, Harlan Ellison, the best adaptation of Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans In American Fiction 1850-1940 by William F. Wu, University Of Michigan, Eric S. Rabkin, invasion stories, San Fransisco, The Battle Of Wabash by Lorelle, Dr. Fu Manchu, 19th century, Chinese immigration to the USA, immigration, Blazing Saddles (1974), The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, Charlie Chan, Sax Rohmer, comics, Marvel, DC Comics, Charlton Comics, Asians characters in comics, anglicizing Chinese names, David Lo Pan, Sui Sin Far (aka Edith Eaton), the co-evolution of Sax Rohmer and Dr. Fu Manchu, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, the best episode of Doctor Who episode ever: The Talons Of Weng Chiang, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China, James Hong, Hong On The Range by William F. Wu, San Diego, ComiCon, Mister Ron, Peter Sellers, The Fiendish Plot Of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980), Christopher Lee, The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965), Master Of Kung-Fu, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Captain America, Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon, Doug Moench, Starlog, the Marvel “no prize”, Julius Schwartz

Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium as adapted for an episode of The Twilight Zone (1985) Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Prisoners Of Gravity – Workshops/Clarion Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer

June 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

Aural Noir: Online Audio

“A crime thriller with a voodoo twist, from the creator of Fu Manchu.”

Is this the first great summer audiobook from LibriVox? I think it may very well be. Just image listening to this tale in on a summer evening, a tall glass of cold beverage in hand, the sun setting, the bats flying out of their belfries. So cool.

LibriVox - Bat Wing by Sax RohmerBat Wing
By Sax Rohmer; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
12 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 9 Hours 14 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: June 12, 2009
Private detective Paul Harley investigates a mysterious case involving voodoo, vampirism, and macabre murder in the heart of London. The first book in the Paul Harley series, written by Sax Rohmer, author of The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. Originally published in 1921.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/bat-wing-by-sax-rohmer.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Beetle by Richard Marsh

April 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxa panel from The League Of Extraordinary GentlemenAttentive readers of Alan Moore’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen may have noted this panel…

…according to Jess Nevins, of The Fourth Rail, it depicts a “giant beetle in [a] vacuum tube.” and asserts that it

“is the Beetle, from Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897). In that novel, a shapechanging Egyptian princess, who can take the form of a giant, malign beetle, a beautiful androgyne, and an old woman or man, pursues a vendetta against a British M.P.”

Prior to the release of The Beetle as a LibriVox audiobook I hadn’t even heard of it. But a little online research indicates that The Beetle came out the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and initially outsold it! How did I not hear of this book before?

LibriVox Horror Audiobook - The Beetle by Richard MarshThe Beetle
By Richard Marsh; Read by various readers
48 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 11 Hours 56 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: April 24, 2009
A story about a mysterious oriental figure who pursues a British politician to London, where he wreaks havoc with his powers of hypnosis and shape-shifting, Marsh’s novel is of a piece with other sensational turn-of-the-century fictions such as Stoker’s Dracula, George du Maurier’s Trilby, and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels. Like Dracula and many of the sensation novels pioneered by Wilkie Collins and others in the 1860s, The Beetle is narrated from the perspectives of multiple characters, a technique used in many late nineteenth-century novels (those of Wilkie Collins and Stoker, for example) to create suspense.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/the-beetle-by-richard-marsh.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis