The SFFaudio Podcast #405 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven
Talked about on today’s show:
Speaker to Canadians, off the rails, doing a sequel, 1980 follow up to the 1970 novel, was this a good idea?, seeing the Ringworld one more time, fun, Larry Niven was having a lot of fun with it, retcon (retroactive continuity), Teela’s luck, maybe Paul is completely wrong, bad bad Teela Brown, her boytoy, because reasons, becoming a protector, where the luck problem comes in, the fight between Teela, Chmee and Wu is fabulous, luck is directing all these people, re-re-reinterpretation, happily ever after and sequels don’t play nice, luck as a genetically programmable trait is complete bullshit, that’s what’s going to happen, if you’re going to do a sequel…, waiting for Teela to show up, The Ringworld Throne, Louis becomes a protector, take each book on its own, she’s protecting all of the lucky people who are coming after her, cooler in a couple of ways, why Louis had needed to be a droud addict (a wire-head), he was bored in the first book, he’s an addict in the second, a little flashback to the visit of the gardens of the patriarch, “call me Chmee”, the Kzin patriarch’s version of the Smithsonian, happy all the time and hating his life, he can’t have cheese anymore, no more skinjobs or sleeping plates, caught up by the A.R.M., when Louis quits the droud, the only thing that saves him, a brilliant plotter, making choices, having free will (or not), Teela has to double-think her way, he’s the center of his own Ringworld (as an addict) then it flips, the addiction withdrawal was too easy, gorging on tree-of-life, that’s why sequels are a problem, really good writers use up their characters, that’s what makes The Postman Always Rings Twice so great, there aren’t endless sequels to great books, by the end of Moby Dick only one character is still alive, this whole book is retconning, here’s what’s wrong with the Ringworld!, that’s the game in Hard SF, the game he was playing was too big for him (Larry Niven), incorporating criticism, we were wrong about this…, this is a science heavy book, Prill was a liar, the spill mountains, the unclimbable rim mountains became volcanoes (kind of), how terrible this world is, the scrith covered place, we are very lucky to be on an actively-geological plant, we’re lucky to have metal, Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer, an asteroid crash that Mark Twain finds, it’s harder to boil things without metal, a ceramics and alcohol based high-technology, fiddling with the facts of the first book, Paul is more annoyed about the Teela brown transformation, Teela becomes both the hero and the villain kind of, maybe we should have read Protector first, the Pak and the Pak protectors, big science, World Of The Ptavvs, a recap of the premise of Protector, two main characters, unwanted and unexpected uplift, are there any women in there?, Protectors are sexless, talking about the sex in The Ringworld Engineers, rishathra, the Babylon 5 episode with rishathra, the two librarian Wendy and Peter, tell me about the mating practices, we make records (anthropological pornography), Jesse defends Larry Niven again, Wu the silent sexual ambassador, if Louis Wu was a female character…, where’s the same sex rishathra?, an obvious method of birth control, too much of that again, projecting what heterosexual males, I gotta get me a harem, mating uncontrollably, venereal disease is a real problem in our world, no mosquitoes, no venereal disease, the logic behind the sexual practices, the grass eaters, the cow and bull people, how cattle work, the sexual practices of wolves, the going on vacation thing, the terms the field scientists used: sneaky fuckers, another double-think, the lone guy in SF willing to do stuff with this, Bloodchild by Octavia Butler, a real reproductive phenomenon, male pregnancy, sympathizing with everyone, males are easily replaced, they way we love our pets, the way he says females should be docile, the third sex of puppeteer, the way females are regarded, he’s a dude from the 1970s whose not trying to be sensitive, some books are male or female, more appealing to males, Niven is so good at thinking, the Wheels Within Wheels chapter, I’m saving this world, when Louis cuts up the hyperdrive, “Come, let us reason together” where is that line from?, the book of Isaiah, God talking to man, playing the god gambit, he turns the tables on the Hindmost, aye aye captain, the Bandersnatchi of Jinx is from Jabberwocky by Louis Carol, Wunderland, the Alice In Wonderland theme from Ringworld, the Peter Pan theme, Louis Wu is Peter Pan (the boy who will never grow up), following Louis out the window into Neverland (of the ship), The Man-Kzin Wars books, why is Speaker’s name Chmee, Smee, tag in the dark, Smee is the bosun to Captain Hook, that’s really clever, turning lead to fuel, the alchemy of the planet, a wild goose chase, the 5% 95% trick, it’s legit!, a strong sense of pathos, every character we’ve met on the Ringworld will die, would you kill everyone you’ve ever met to save 95% of the population?, empathizing with the sunflowers, is life for a year for everyone better?, it could be triple-think, talking about motivation, why do anything, what’s the point of anything, caring for the breeders, protecting her own vs. others, very interesting stuff, Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto, helicopter parenting, you can’t tell me my son’s grades are low, teacher motivation, knuckling under, lowering standards and grade inflation, the Business and Computer Science departments, everyone gets As, only Philosophy was holding out (when Jesse was at university), the mother protecting the young, the bear mother attacks threats to the cub, Free Range Kids, the perception of the threat level is higher, the craziness that happens when the mothering instinct is in charge, imagine Grandma with the powers of Rambo, why Teela is such a fearsome adversary (even when she’s playing to lose), the closest in any other science fiction is in the Banquet Scene in Dune, super-geniuses plotting how to murder each other, literally a role playing game style adventure, totally an RPG player move, where The Ringworld Role Playing Game came from, an nobody noticed he was talking into his hand, layers of fun, two poems,
I. The Book
The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.
I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.
I held the book beneath my coat, at pains
To hide the thing from sight in such a place;
Hurrying through the ancient harbor lanes
With often-turning head and nervous pace.
Dull, furtive windows in old tottering brick
Peered at me oddly as I hastened by,
And thinking what they sheltered, I grew sick
For a redeeming glimpse of clean blue sky.
No one had seen me take the thing—but still
A blank laugh echoed in my whirling head,
And I could guess what nighted worlds of ill
Lurked in that volume I had coveted.
The way grew strange—the walls alike and madding—
And far behind me, unseen feet were padding.
the first two sonnets from the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, some books of elder lore, the audiobook irony, the problems of not having an audiobook version, the connection between finding the old books that reveal the truth about the world (only the machine people know the secret), the cult of knowledge, the paperback cover of Protector, surrounded by ancient tomes, great books make you super-smart, hitting that hard, page 128,
Something leaped from the crest of the next hill over. Green light speared it in midair, and held while the thing flamed and died. So much for Chmeee’s spacesuit. But a flight of hand-sized missiles flew toward the base of the green laser beam. Half a dozen white flashes from behind the rise, and the snap! of lightning striking close, showed that Chmeee had succeeded in turning puppeteer-made batteries into bombs.
Teela was close, and she was using a laser. And if she was circling the pond, just beyond the crest… Louis adjusted his position.
Chmeee’s burnt suit had fallen too slowly. A protector would know it was empty. Cthulhu and Allah! How could anyone fight a lucky protector?
calling on one fictional god and one semi-fictional god, calling on other gods, this is Niven playing a game with us, I like this game, gender does really change peoples minds, seeds and fields to plant, that has consequences in thinking, what do men want?, if you look at history, Genghis had a huge harem, the practice of polygamy, viking practices, is it patriarchy, he’s working it out in this Ringworld scenario, providing grandmotherly wisdom and veteran warriors, a generic love, another plot going on, the Earth is great and Ringworld sucks, Ringworld is a Garden of Eden, all the predators are on one island too far away from the rest of the ringworld, this is the story of the Fall, what is the thing that turns you into a Protector and something hard, the tree-of life root, who do we need right now, climate change, we’re so busy pulling the world apart Bussard ramscoops, Ringworld Engineers as an analogy for Earth, we need some smart bad-ass, monstrous, Justin Trudeau’s not going to solve it and neither will Trump, somebody around here needs to eat some Tree-Of Life Root, there were two trees in Eden, the tree of immortality, longevity vs. fertility, banishment, the fall of the cities, the Puppeteers with their snaky heads did this, they have beautiful voices too, a retcon Paul could accept, interpolating,
The smell of tree-of-life was in Louis’s nose and in his brain. It was not like the wire. Current was sufficient unto itself an experience that demanded nothing further to make it perfect. The smell of tree-of-life was ecstasy, but it sparked a raging hunger. Louis knew what tree-of-life was now. It had glossy dark-green leaves and roots like a sweet potato, and it was all around him, and the taste — something in his brain remembered the taste of Paradise.
panspermia is bullshit, Chariots Of The Gods?, the plot of Battlestar Galactica, thallium oxide, the Bible is a true story … we’ve forgotten, damn that’s good!, still doing good work, adding another ring, who were the first people, the two librarians, they get on an Ark, was Teela one of Louis’ descendants? (dating the great great granddaughter), not Heinlein level incest, if you think incest in Science Fiction that’s Heinlein, male SF writers, set pieces, I love the vampires, undercutting Prill’s one skill, vampire perfume, everything on the map of Mars, they have a gas laser, the taboo against lasers went away, I love the ghouls, keeping it in the family, the ghouls are the secret rulers of the Ringworld, non-sentient male and female, free-will vs. choice, he’s sexy, pheromones for humans, animal free will vs. animal free will, insects that get killed in mating, we were all in that state at some point, all the ideas Niven is playing with, all those ridiculous RPG-like events (the sunflowers and the water condensers), looking for ways to create meaning, a really smart book (and also a trashy sequel), stealing stuff for RPGs, dreaming about protectors, one of Niven’s big ideas, where did all the protectors go?, a question for The Ringworld Throne, making a whole bunch of people soft, nature finds a way, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the hanging people are kind of like the moties, the audiobook narrator didn’t do the Puppeteer contralto, we miss Nessus, the Hindmost is a dick, the tree-of-life virus, where did they go?, Niven didn’t know (in this book), another kind of addiction, their booster spice or their current addiction, a symbiotic virus, who is running the show?, more than Human (or Pak), powerful ideas and powerful characters powerfully motivated, not a wholehearted endorsement.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #388 – From Beyond by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Martin Reyto courtesy of Legamus. This is an unabridged reading of the short story (19 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Mr Jim Moon.
Fantasy Fan, this story has to be visualized, the 1986 movie, the baroque language does not work on film, comedy gore and sex instead of adjectives, scary looking, a golden age of practical special effects, fantastic horror is the pinnacle of going nuts, Stuart Gordon, the servants all left three days ago, piles of clothes, The Hounds Of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long, Trail Of Cthulhu, the Hypnogoria podcast, Netflix’s Stranger Things, Ubbo-Sathla by Clark Ashton Smith, dilettante occultist, perceiving space time as a dimension, seeing beyond the veil, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, more cosmic than a Narnian wardrobe, levels of reality co-terminus with out own, cyclopean temples, The Horror From The Heights by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a huge beaked terror, hooked onto, Robert Hooke (rival of Newton), Micrographia, 1665, all the living things all over your body and that permeate reality but were previously unseen, Antonie Leeuwenhoek grinding your own lenses, creatures from beyond, there’s nothing that doesn’t have living creatures all over it, the stage of childhood, no amount of cleaning will ever let you escape these creatures, gut flora, scrubbing clean the world, a nightmare, Tillinghast’s monologues, look through this telescope look through this microscope,
Foremost among the living objects were inky, jellyfish monstrosities which flabbily quivered in harmony with the vibrations from the machine. They were present in loathsome profusion, and I saw to my horror that they overlapped; that they were semi-fluid and capable of passing through one another and through what we know as solids. these things were never still, but seemed ever floating about with some malignant purpose. Sometimes they appeared to devour one another, the attacker launching itself at its victim and instantly obliterating the latter from sight. Shudderingly I felt that I knew what had obliterated the unfortunate servants, and could not exclude the things from my mind as I strove to observe other properties of the newly visible world that lies unseen around us.
not only can we see these things they can see us, ignorance as protection, The Silence (Doctor Who), the size of the Earth in relation to the size of the universe, washing the dishes, incommensurate, Tillinghast a mad scientist,
We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with a wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the sense we have. I have always believed that such strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I believe I have found a way to break down the barriers….I believe I have found a way to break down the barriers. I am not joking. Within twenty-four hours that machine near the table will generate waves acting on unrecognized sense-organs that exist in us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges. Those waves will open up to us many vistas unknown to man, and several unknown to anything we consider organic life. We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight. We shall see these things, and other things which no breathing creature has yet seen. We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation.”
peering to the “bottom of creation” unicellular life, deep into space and back into time, an analogy for the product of science, despair, a 17th century gentleman, an anglophile, From Beyond or The Hound Of Tindalos have jobs, this story is talking about something real, Banshee Chapter, down the rabbit hole, drugs created by the CIA, that’s a real fucked up story, Lovecraftian and Dickian, an acid trip, effecting dreams, “a bronze gate”, a drug instead of a machine, equally an adaptation of The Hounds Of Tindalos, attuned, pineal gland as a radio transmitter, the “numbers stations” radio queue, one of the strangest true things in our world today, a TV repair shop, the NSA, the electrical circuit brought her dissolution, two guys sitting in a room talking about philosophy, The Render Of Veils by Ramsey Campbell, Daolath, shifting planes and shapes, They Live and Eight O’Clock In The Morning, Tillinghast glasses, the political version of From Beyond, having the veil lifted (fantasy), using glasses or a telescope or a microscope or a drug (science fiction), the fantasy version, patient 11, clairvoyance, The Mist by Stephen King, once unleashed, Tillinghast thinks he is the master of the universe he has created, Hypnos by H.P. Lovecraft, fleeting a demon from the demon star (Algol), the distorted face of Tillinghast in the glowing constellation of our galaxy, passing beyond, being consumed, a very rich little short story, shooting the machine, destroying the window, death by apoplexy, apoplexy is for men, hysteria is for women, neglecting the body, met pets are not pretty, aesthetic standards are very different, disintegration, “trembling, eh?”, “they are coming, curse you look, it’s just over your left shoulder!”, is Tillinghast dead?, was it a hallucination?, what happened to the murdered servant’s bodies?, reader beware, we’re not safe, Banshee Chapter is an even more faithful adaptation than From Beyond (1986), their own predatory ecosystem, master or victim?, existential horror, the great world outside is dark and horrible, insanity shattering, sleep well at night.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Good Morning, Midnight
By Lily Brooks-Dalton; Narrated by John H. Mayer and Hillary Huber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 9 August 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 39 minutes
Themes: / post-apocalypse / apocalypse / arctic / astronaut / science / literary /
At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.
As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.
The premise is appealing. I have a fondness for cold and hard distant landscapes. The arctic and space is ripe and powerful for story. Lily Brooks-Dalton writes a strong opening and a heck of an ending. It is a successful ending as it turns me inward. I am still thinking about… well, no spoilers.
I felt Sullivan’s narrative thread was stronger and better written. As character, she is more round and engaging than Augustine, at least for me. Most of my complaints are founded in my own study of writing and story, and may not be fair or interesting to the general reader. As characters go, Augustine was a disappointment, but Sullivan and her crewmates more than compensated. As noted, I felt the beginning and ending was especially well crafted, but the middle seemed to lag, and the writing here didn’t feel as refined. This leads me to my biggest bug, and this is pacing. I felt that too much of this story was back on its heels, and while this certainly can be metaphor to mirror an inward introspective sense of self and life and universe, at times this slowness pulled me from story. I also would have appreciated a deeper excavation of setting.
This has two narrators, one for each story thread. John H. Mayer handles Augustine’s portion, and Hillary Huber takes care of Sullivan’s. I usually dislike more than one narrator, as I feel it runs the risk of getting in the way of what is being read, but this was handled quite nice, and I have no real complaints about the decision to use two readers. Both Mayer and Huber were pleasing and I found each voice suited the character. My only issue came with Huber’s accents. There is a South African, Russian, and an American Midwest accent that are rendered a tad dramatic. I think we can agree that this is a small thing, but it still kind of bugged me, and pulled me out of the moment.
This is a solid 3.5 out of 5, and I think if I weren’t so hyperaware of craft and story as story for story’s sake, I’d probably nail a 4 out of 5 on this book. In short, this is a fine book, and if you are at all interested by what this seems to be about, I think you’ll genuinely like it, a lot.
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
The SFFaudio Podcast #376 – Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa Bessada talk about Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne.
Talked about on today’s show:
title variations, they don’t go to the center of the Earth, Arne Saknussemm, Lit2Go, the Tim Curry narration, how did the paperwork get out of the Earth?, he was too specific, the knife, what happened to Arne Saknussemm?, barometer, manometer, dead servants, taciturn servants, would you like some bacon cooked on the lava (magma), overdosing on adaptations, comic adaptations, the 2008 Brendan Fraser version (3D movie), fluffy, the nephew-uncle dynamic, a page turner, adding a female expeditionary member, inspiration vs. adaptation, inspired by this book, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the same setup, irascible professors, going for a girl, a forerunner (a person who went before), Maplewhite vs. Saknussemm, dinosaurs, underground journey, subterranean, fun, huge science expositions, Around The World In Eighty Days, the Fantastic Voyages (or Journeys) series, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Five Weeks In A Balloon, Jules Verne wrote 66 novels!, one of the things he’s doing, visit every place in the world and characterize every nation, Germans and Icelanders and Danes, national personalities, everyone is a cartoon, “stereotype”, a crazy uncle, a light comedy, science vs. adventure, Verne takes us on tours, touring Copenhagen, vicarious travel, adventurous passion, not to poop all over this book, At The Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this book is missing a 12-foot giantess cave-girl girlfriend, standing on the ceiling of the basement, a vast hollow sphere, Pluto and Porcupine (the roman equivalent of Persephone), Jules Verne’s spelling of Edgar Allan Poe (he called him Edgard Allan Poe), referencing everything, The Sphinx In The Ice, Verne was Poe’s #1 fan, a beautiful tradition, The Green Girl by Jack Williamson, biological phases compared to geological phases, looking at the stars and the earth you’re looking backward in time, the science, the original french version of this book was in 1864, 10 years later the relationship with Germany is fundamentally different, the mechanistic world, 10 years made a hell of a difference, this is a very international book, the humor, I was in love with her, “you could say I adored her (if any such word exists in the German language)”, he’s right about us, Verne is very sly, just like the professor, languages, Verne’s dad tried to make him a lawyer, trying not to be provincial, Virgil and Homer and Shakespeare, “You monument to ignorance”, a zinger in every chapter, “great as it is that asylum is it is not big enough to contain all of Professor Lidenbrock’s madness”, you have no vision, “I care nothing about seeing magnificent spectacles”, a walking tour of Copenhagen, crawling up the stairs, Axel’s maturity (or lack thereof), the names, Henry vs. Axel, Lidenbrock vs. Hardwigg, the different translations [the Professor’s name is a pun], a secret history, the Saknussemm document becomes the Jules Verne novel in the 2008 movie, the 1959 movie makes the professor Scottish, translations and adaptations to make it more relevant for the audience, Gretchen -> Grauben -> Gretel, bad translations, learning about eiderdown and eiderdown hunters, stealing nest fluff, the science is pretty damn good, you can’t have an adventure to the center of the Earth if the Earth’s center is hot, EVIDENCE!, “everyone is laughing at me, here’s a pterodactyl”, “science is composed of errors, but errors that are right to make”, the ball-lightning, St. Elmo’s fire, the compass problems, almost realistic, Stromboli was Tolkien’s model for Mount Doom, we will not tell them how we actually got here, they said they were shipwrecked (and it is kind of true), dense with humour, history, architecture, an enduring classic, Hans was the opposite of the uncle, characters exchanging personalities, a process of maturation, an inveterate coward and then he craters, the seeds of what he will become, Axel will become like his uncles when he grows older, Verne shows a character’s worst and best sides, a giant fur covered creature pounding his chest -> it’s King Kong!, 16 foot giant bones discovered, a skull the size of a Volkswagen, a moral panic, a real newspaper article, Jesse does an Icelandic accent, The Odyssey, like Professor Challenger, The Poison Belt, aliens, Hans has to get paid every Sunday, Icelandic life is hard, Icelanders are Eskimos without the benefits of being Eskimos, Master, Verne’s racism is a sympathetic racism, Conan Doyle’s internationalism is very different, Burroughs’s characterization, what Verne is doing is cool, I’m not usually the persons who says: “You know what this needs? More romance”, mineralogists, all good characterization, Conan Doyle’s cute cynicism, Burroughs’s hero characters find girls and have them lay some eggs, H. Rider Haggard’s lost worlds were in Africa, adventure types, She!, The People Of The Mist, a White Goddess among the Zulu people, this is sort of Vernianian: science, history, literature and reveling in that knowledge, The Mysterious Island, a parody meme -> Mysterious Island, Nellie Bly, pretending to be insane to see what life in an asylum is like, Librivox, what it’s like to live in Mexico, back when newspapers paid reporters to investigate things, BBC, gravity in the center of the Earth would pull you in every direction, BBC Radio 4: In Our Time on the Earth’s core, biology is taught wrong, there names are what they do, telling rocks apart at a glance, smell, sound, taste, rocks can be tested it with your body, on the final exam in geology they give you a tray full of rocks, the ferrous iron taste of the water, Hans brock water, flood that whole compartment (luckily it was the size of the Earth), draining the Mediterranean, Verne is the second most translated author in the world, looking at it from our perspective today, Ben Hur, Lew Wallace, do your own abridging.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #334 – The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; read by Fred Heimbaugh. This is an unabridged reading of the story (50 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Fred.
Talked about on today’s show:
The Pioneer, March 1843, a Hawthorne Poe fest, contemporaries, The Scarlet Letter, a quote by Poe about Hawthorne, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, well known?, why this story Fred?, he’s obsessed with sin, sociopaths, trigger warnings, neurosis, shame, luck, shaped by sin, a mark upon the family, subconscious Freudian messages, Commentary Magazine, Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature by Gary Saul Morson, textual density, vocab, Lovecraft poems, Fungi From Yuggoth poems, harbours, kids are now shuttled between school the home and the mall, ranting against Hawthorne, The House Of The Seven Gables, revolutions in 20th century literature, Ernest Hemingway, the show don’t tell revolution, Hawthorne is the telling-est teller who ever telled, the right attitude toward sin, the two facedness of people, Hawthorne is attacking late stage decadent Puritanism, a homosexual vibe, what is the lesson?, science reaches too far?, Gothic horror, the evil wizard or the mad scientist, science as the channel to unlimited power, elixirs, potions, not even futuristic, Georgiana, Aminadab?, where is this story set?, Aylmer’s castle, Aylmer’s wealth, a compartmentalized life, from the third person POV, the host narration, obsession, the left side, the sinister side, she’s been marked, in the dream, chemical means, pre-Darwin, “I’ve got these old books”, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a natural philosopher, science vs. alchemy vs. magic, Isaac Newton, almost as if he was Ben Franklin, electricity, many suitors, Aylmer’s wooing, is Aylmer gaslighting Georgiana?, she’s reading, a Medieval heroine, a character of of Greek mythology, is a sex-change story?, is this a boob-job story?, envy, the tips of two small fingers, she’s compared to a marble statue, small pox scars, Marilyn Monroe‘s beauty mark, does positioning matter?, Supernatural Horror And Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, a meditation on obsession, many uninteresting analysis, so little action, beyond the sexual interpretation, Hawthorne doesn’t seem all that prudish, how far can you go in purist of perfection in a fallen world, a mark of original sin, wanting knowledge (of good and evil?), the sin of disobedience, Frankenstein and Aylmer are reading the same books, the process of creating a man in Frankenstein, the lightning bolt, Luigi Galvani, grave-robbing, Paracelsus, the gold thing is your way of getting funding, when writing a grant…, this might lead to a cure for cancer(!), alchemy as a religion, The Cask Of Amontillado, Eric S. Rabkin, “the niter, it grows”, Montresor or Fortunato, niter, growing human shaped things inside of bottles, poisons, psychology and the occult, the difference between alchemy and science is openness, the Royal Society, Harry Potter’s school, there have to be muggles, magically oblivious, J.K. Rowling, natural greed, the ethic of sharing knowledge, France’s version of the Royal Society, like the obsession with “open source” or the “public domain”, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, sooo lifelike, sooo beautifully painted, Gothic horror, the evil mad scientist is destroyed by the power he unleashes, The Portrait Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the ending, what is Hawthorne saying?, was Aylmer’s attempt doomed from the beginning?, Jesse’s mom, one of the most important powers of a teacher, she has “THE VOICE”, Muad’dib (Paul Atredies), Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, a profound revelation, philosophy and critical thinking, vitamins are bullshit, fish oil woke Fred’s brain, North America has the world’s most expensive urine, religion wants you to take it on authority, bronze age holy texts, religion as book club where you only ever read one book (or just listen to a guy who did), cynicism or wisdom, loyalty to the organized religion of your family, inherited religions, fundamentalist belief systems, the narcissism of small differences, splintering, revolting revolutionaries, purity of doctrine, young earth creationists, Catholicism as an almost ethnicity (an identity), Hawthorne as a stopgap between H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley, the murky origins of Science Fiction, Dante, Lucifer frozen in the ice, a Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein’s obsession is with defeating death, too in love with science, Hawthorne’s message is like: “don’t drink too much”, Greek symposia, what really happened at a Greek symposium, “write drunk and edit sober”, The Odyssey, mixing water with wine, getting plastered is a sign on unmanning, the Greek obsession was with finding the moderation between too little and too much, what was Hephzibah’s sin?, her sin is being too worried about sin, “you will eat blood”, public shaming is a little much, be moderate with your casting of sin, John Wesley, a healthy functioning society, wealth corruption, falling into decadence, the protestant work ethic is kicking-in, Guggenheim, ransoming the grandchild, leaving it all to art, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Fred’s all time favourite Science Fiction novel: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, how do we raise the next generation?, a supercharged Kindle, matter compilers, Star Trek‘s replicator, eating green sludge, window panes made out of pure diamond, handmade hipsters, how you raise the next generation in a wealthy society, we are unimaginably wealthy, are Japan’s young people uninterested in sex?, Richard Dawkins on Twitter, The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, Gothic-y, Science-y, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, a great inventor, Neoterics, he’s stealing their ideas, the ultimate mad scientist story, following in the tradition, somatoypes, ectomorph (Aylmer), mesomorph (Aminidab), endomorph (Jesse), it’s a scam!, Hillary Clinton, the Ronald Reagans of the world, this is astrology, people think that once you’ve got a word for something you understand it, wearing the mask long enough…, IQ tests, quantification, any time we think we understand the most complex thing in the universe…, there really is a subconscious, tweeting dreams, psychology, the book club with only one book in it, The Great Courses (The Teaching Company), Eric S. Rabkin, survey courses, kooky specializations, the best way to learn, the perennial student, taught not to learn, philosophy of art, credentialism, Jesse can guess the exact words in a student’s vocabulary, guess your weight or age, how Jesse gets work, gaming credentialism, no high school diploma, a contempt for institutionalized learning, a play-by-the-rules personality, grade inflation, what did Mussolini do?, intimidation vs. cultivation, give the students the experience of reading, reading as a meeting of minds, defending a dissertation, essays, we’re obsessed with essays (for the wrong reason), ohhh spoilers!, the big problem with almost any media, “I don’t want to spoil it for you.”, testing is easier, a kind of objectivity, don’t blame the actors for shitty Hollywood movies, status is society, education as the cultivation of minds, there aren’t enough people who are willing to rebel!
Posted by Jesse Willis