The SFFaudio Podcast #120

August 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #120 – Scott, Jesse and Tamahome talk to Allan Kaster, the editor of the new audiobook collection The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction 3.

Talked about on today’s show:
Infinivox, post-singularity, Mars, talking animals, emperors, will the post-singularity fiction subgenre be over by 2040?, Charles Stross, Gardner Dozois, post singularity is the magic of Science Fiction, Robert Reed, Under The Moons Of Venus by Damien Broderick, talking dogs, “I didn’t like it in a Science Fiction way”, detective fiction, insanity and crazy people, The Emperor Of Mars by Allen M. Steele, a tribute to martian fiction, the Asimov’s reader’s Award, Emperor Norton of the United States, Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF are now available in the Kindle store, ebooks (and emags) with ads, Harlan Ellison, Gene Wolfe, Stephen King, Flowers For Algernon, Subterranean Online, Lightspeed magazine, Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain by Yoon Ha Lee, Clarkesworld, The Things by Peter Watts, Elegy For A Young Elk by Hannu Rajaniemi, the Science Fiction boom is here, Fantasy, a blossoming of novellas, PS Publishing, Subterranean Press, novellas make for an excellent idea delivery mechanism, Prime Books, The Year’s Best Science Fiction And Fantasy 2011, Ted Chiang’s The Lifecycle Of Software Objects, Stories Of Your Life and Other Stories by Ted Chiang, Infinivox will have a new collection of Science Fiction novellas in the fall: The Year’s Top Short SF Novels, The Things by Peter Watts (read by Kate Baker), The Emperor Of Mars was on Tony Smith’s StarShip Sofa (read by Quartershare author Nathan Lowell), John Carpenter’s The Thing movie vs. John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There?, Howard Hawks, re-working Science Fiction’s legacy fiction in new stories, the stinger comes from sympathizing with a horrible monster, communion, the Shirley Jackson award, Re-Crossing The Styx by Ian R. MacLeod, Scott likes Noir, Double Indemnity, zombies, “even though they’re dead they need entertainment”, The Love Boat, Tom Dheere, he always gets the Science Fiction vocab pronunciation right, Eight Miles by Sean McMullen, Australia, the best story in Analog last year (was Eight Miles), steampunk, is steampunk SF?, steampunk-ish, an Asian cover, Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain by Yoon Ha Lee is ornate and literary SF (and kind of Ted Chiang-like), there’s a logic going on, The Shipmaker by Alliette de Bodard, Nicola Barber, Larry Niven’s Star Trek episode (The Slaver Weapon), Kzinti are in the Star Trek universe, we need another good Science Fiction (TV) series, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown, Neil Gaiman, Doctor Who, Babylon 5 was our last best hope for SF on TV, A Letter From The Emperor by Steve Rasnic Tem, fun with mind-wiping, emotional stingers, Adrift by Scott D. Danielson, emotional vs. intellectual SF, bureaucracy doesn’t end, there are lots of lost packets between planets, it derives its power from the characters rather than from the intellectual points, intellectual stimulation vs. emotional stimulation, Elegy For A Young Elk by Hannu Rajaniemi, consciousness-uploading, it’s comic book like, a bit like Dan Simmons, Alone by Robert Reed, the prolific Robert Reed, God-Like Machines edited by Jonathan Strahan, Alastair Reynolds’s Troika is in there too, A History Of Terraforming by Robert Reed, Dead Man’s Run by Robert Reed, Marrow by Robert Reed, an old-fashioned Science Fiction story writer, SFBRP #008 Luke’s review of Marrow, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Starship Vectors edited by Allan Kaster, SFSignal’s review of Starship Vectors, The Shipmaker by Alliette de Bodard, The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey, mutant children are shipped off into the universe to fall in love with their crews, giving birth to a cyborg, Shipmaker reminded Tam of Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler, was dramatized on 2000X, how do you read/listen to anthologies?, is there any chance of doing a year’s top ten 1961? 1965?, how about the top ten of the 1960s?, Charles Stross, A Colder War by Charles Stross |READ OUR REVIEW|, Lobsters by Charles Stross |READ OUR REVIEW|, Accelerando by Charles Stross, “Please Alan, fulfill my hopes and dreams.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal by Robert E. Howard

July 14, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

If you’re looking to add a Robert E. Howard story to your reading library, but don’t want to get started down the Conan path, look no farther than The Fire Of Asshurbanipal. It was the cover story for the December 1936 issue of Weird Tales!

Weird Tales December 1936 - The Fire Of Asshurbanipal by Robert E. Howard

WEIRD TALES The Fire Of Asshurbanipal - illustration by J. Allen St. John

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal was sold posthumously to Weird Tales by Howard’s father, then the only surviving member of Howard’s immediate family. The story features a pair of adventurers. One is an American, named Steve Clarney, and the other is an Afghan named Yar Ali. They make a fun pair.

Eric Wilkerson‘s depiction of Clarney, for the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game, makes Clarney look like Indiana Jones (minus the whip), and that’s not wholly wrong. But Clarney isn’t an archaeologist, though he and Yar Ali are treasure hunters, and the period and setting is pretty close.

Eric Wilkerson's depiction of Steve Clarney

It is available in print as a part of easily the Ballantine Del Rey collection called The Horror Stories Of Robert E. Howard (ISBN: 0345490207); there was also a pair of deluxe releases by Subterranean Press. And most importantly there is a wonderful professionally narrated audiobook edition available from Tantor Media (it’s read by the talented Robertson Dean):

Horror Audiobook - The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard by Robert E. HowardThe Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Robertson Dean
2 MP3-CDs – Approx. 24 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
ISBN:
Sample |MP3|

The paper editions feature two stunning images from the story by Greg Staples.

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal as illustrated by Greg Staples

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal art by Greg Staples

Interestingly, a different version of the same novelette, The Fire of Asshurbanipal, was published in more recent times as a straight adventure story (same characters but minus the supernatural elements). That fantasy-free version and can be found in another Ballantine Del-Rey collection entitled El Borak And Other Desert Adventures (ISBN: 034550545X).

El Borak And Other Desert Adventures

And that one includes wondrous illustrations by the master of comic book covers Tim Bradstreet.

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal illustration by Tim Bradstreet

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal illustration by Tim Bradstreet

And the version available on Gutenberg Australia’s website is, of course, the original Weird Tales version, complete with references to the Necronomicon, Yog-Sothoth and other sundry Cthulhu mythos details. And that’s the version which has recently been podcast by FNH’s Cthulhu Podcast.

Cthulhu PodcastThe Fire of Asshurbanipal
By Robert E. Howard; Read by FNH
2 MP3 files – Approx. 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Cthulhu Podcast
Podcast: June 2011
|ETEXT|
First published in the December 1936 issue of Weird Tales.
Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3|

I think I first read this story about twenty-five years ago, and remembered it as a gripping adventure yarn with a fairly strong Lovecraftian feel. I picked it up second hand, in a used bookstore in a handsomely covered collection of ‘weird’ Howard stories called Wolfshead (ISBN: 055312353X). In that 1979 book, there is an excellent introduction by Robert Bloch in which he argues that the “stylistic excesses” found in Howard’s stories, like The Fire Of Asshurbanipal, can be “easily excused” because within Howard’s writing “lurks a dark poetry, and the timeless truth of dreams.”

That still sounds right to me. The Fire Of Asshurbanipal is exciting, happily and ornately adjectival, and carries about with it a heft that most adventure fiction can’t really come close to matching. Listening to this podcast edition I’ll admit it possesses a raw power that I still appreciate even today, much later in life. What jars most, of course, is the prominent position given to race, the reliance on instinctual knowledge, and the repeated use of jungle cat metaphors (which feel particularly out of place in the Arabian desert setting).

Over on the Black Gate blog Ryan Harvey argues that The Fire Of Asshurbanipal is cut from the same cloth as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. I agree.

If you’re looking for more stories like The Fire Of Asshurbanipal I highly recommend another novelette, of more recent vintage, that follows in the tradition very well – That’d be Charles Ardai’s Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye (available in audio as a part of the Audio Realms audiobook Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear |READ OUR REVIEW| and as an |ETEXT|).

For those who are more comics inclined, check out Joseph Remy’s 40 page webcomic adaptation of The Fire Of Asshurbanipal which begins |HERE|.

And in case you were wondering, the Asshurbanipal of the title was a 7th century BC Neo-Assyrian king famed for the creation of the Library of Ashurbanipal which held among its collection the Epic Of Gilgamesh. It is reported that Alexander the Great, upon seeing the great library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, was himself inspired to create his own library and that one became perhaps the most famous library of all.

Detail from the Paul Lehr’s cover for Wolfshead:

Wolfshead cover illustration by Paul Lehr

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: Where are all the Ted Chiang audiobooks?

June 24, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

Ted Chiang (portrait by Arturo Villarrubia)

Ted Chiang, perhaps the greatest living Science Fiction writer, has very little of his excellent fiction (a dozen stories, novellettes and novellas) available in the audio format. That is a bitter, bitter shame. It is my hope this post will help change that.

Lamentably, no Ted Chiang audiobooks have ever been commercially released. There are, however, several podcast sources for readings and the BBC commissioned an unabridged recording of Understand (which has been occasionally rebroadcast).

Below is a chart detailing all of Ted Chiang’s published fiction.

Audio (YES/NO):Title:Original Publication:MP3: – Audio Publisher:Notes:

NoTower Of Babylon – Omni, November 1990 – novelette
_______________

NoDivision By ZeroFull Spectrum 3 (1991) – short story

_______________

YesUnderstand – Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, August 1991 – BBC Radio 7 – occasionally rebroadcast on BBCR7, read by Rashan Stone, novelette

_______________

NoStory Of Your LifeStarlight 2, (1998) – novella

_______________

NoThe Evolution Of Human Science (aka Catching Crumbs From The Table) – Nature, June 1, 2000 – short story

_______________

NoSeventy-Two LettersVanishing Acts (2000) – novella

_______________

YesHell Is The Absence Of GodStarlight 3 (2001) – |MP3| – Podcastle – read by James Trimarco, bad sound quality, novelette

_______________

NoLiking What You See: A DocumentaryStories of Your Life and Others (2002) – novelette

_______________

YesWhat’s Expected Of Us – Nature, July 5, 2005 – |MP3| – StarShip Sofa – read by Julie Davis, short story

_______________

YesThe Merchant And The Alchemist’s Gate – Subterranean Press (2007) – StarShip Sofa – |MP3| – read by J.J. Campanella, novelette

_______________

YesExhalationEclipse 2, 2008 – |MP3| or |MP3| – StarShip Sofa / Escape Pod – read by Ray Sizemore, short story

_______________

NoThe Lifecycle of Software Objects – Subterranean Press (2010) – novella

_______________

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #108

May 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #108 – Jesse talks with Trent Reynolds (of The Violent World Of Parker blog) about Donald E. Westlake’s Hard Case Crime novel 361 (available as an audiobook from BBC Audiobooks America).

Talked about on today’s show:
Richard Stark, the meaning of the title “361“, Roget’s Thesaurus entry #361, “killer’s don’t run around with a thesaurus”, Hard Case Crime, The Hunter, George Washington Bridge, New York, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books blog‘s review of 361, Westlake and the USAF, Backflash, Westlake loves theatre people, actors, Hollywood, “dangerous and scary”, Stark had fans in prison, Parker vs. Dortmunder, The Man With The Getaway Face, revenge, stoic vs. existential, our podcast on Memory by Donald E. Westlake, Gregg Margarite, finding purpose in the purposeless world,

“Yeah. All right, this is what I’ve been thinking. To begin with, every man has to have either a home or a purpose. Do you see that? Either a place to be or something to do. Without one or the other, a man goes nuts. Or he loses his manhood, like a hobo. Or he drinks or kills himself or something else. It doesn’t matter, It’s just that everybody has to have one or the other.”

drinking, “there’s no one more pissed off than this guy”, “the drifter mentality”, how Westlake handles supporting characters, the lawyer’s secretary, the cowardly private detective, honesty vs. duplicity, hardboiled vs. noir, House Of Lords (whiskey), get a job at Walmart vs. take over the mob, Florida, Bill’s suicide, going on a drunk, identity, solider vs. airman, he’s not his father’s son, he’s not his brother’s brother, Charles Ardai, the absence of women, the Hard Case Crime cover (by Richard B. Farrell), Lawrence Block, “A Sound Of Distant Drums” is a long running literary joke, Westlake characters generally read paperbacks, Paul Kavanagh novels, Not Comin’ Home To You, Such Men Are Dangerous, a purposeless ex-military guy living on a deserted island in the Florida Keys, The Green Eagle Score, The Black Ice Score, The Blackbird, Grofield, University Of Chicago Press editions with introductions by Lawrence Block, Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr’s “Burglar” books, murder mystery vs. identity mystery, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams, The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, did Westlake mature out of Parker?, Flashfire, Jason Statham as Parker, Payback, The Hunter, The Man With The Getaway Face, The Mourner, The Score, Two Much, Cops And Robbers by Donald Westlake, the way Westlake paints characters, The Hot Rock, humorous writing, the competent Parker vs. the hapless (bad luck) Dortmunder, Robert Redford, What’s The Worst That Could Happen, The Comedy Is Finished, Donald E. Westlake: an annotated bibliography by David Bratman, coffee, Idi Amin, sadly there is no biography of Donald E. Westlake, Matthew Scudder’s drinking problem, Eight Million Ways To Die, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit: A Manual For Fiction Writers, Lawrence Block should write a Parker book, race-walking, LawrenceBlock.com, Dan Simmons, Garry Disher, Hard Case, “361 is as hard-boiled as fiction comes”, Jim Thompson, The Jugger, Stephen King’s Misery is a spiritual successor to The Jugger, the pragmatism of celebrity/writer privacy, wheelbarrows full of books, too much of a good thing: “too many fans can interfere with your operation”, receiving unsolicited books, advanced reading copies, “it really clarifies your understanding of what your purpose is if you are confronted by a barrage of things that aren’t your purpose”, book tours do two things: sell books and reward the readers, Sheldon Lord, Lawrence Block’s sleaze books are coming to ebook, Random House, Lynn Monroe, Hellcats And Honey Girls, Subterranean Press, Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Triumph Of Evil, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, A Drop Of The Hard Stuff, Getting Off by Lawrence Block (Jill Emerson).

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The God Engines by John Scalzi

March 24, 2011 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The God Engines by John ScalziThe God Engines
By John Scalzi; Read by Christopher Lane
3 CDs – Approx. 3 Hours 15 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: December 2010
ISBN: 9781441890795
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Religion / Galactic Civilization / Space Travel / War /

Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this — and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It’s what he doesn’t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put — and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely… Author John Scalzi has ascended to the top ranks of modern science fiction with the best-selling, Hugo-nominated novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. Now he tries his hand at fantasy, with a dark and different novella that takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling. Say your prayers… and behold The God Engines.

The God Engines is the strongest John Scalzi audiobook since Old Man’s War |READ OUR REVIEW|. It provokes thought, flies off in an unexpected direction and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The setting is in an unnamed galaxy, at an unknown time. But space travel, interstellar communication, and bodily healing aren’t technological developments. Instead, they are derived from a rigorous faith in actual, existing gods! These gods are so real, so embodied, that there is one in the center of each starship. It lies their enslaved, guarded and harnessed so as to achieve the ends to which they are put. Command over these powerful beings is achieved by a combination of torture and reward. Their masters are human beings, members of a religion with their own completely manifested god. Their purpose is to war with other religions, enslave new gods and bring more human beings to the worship of their own god. It is an unending holy war, in a fully realized universe, and it works.

I like to see the examination of an interesting idea, without an endless parade of pointless activity to dilute its core of goodness. We have that in this book. There’s something very neat about the running of what is essentially the starship Enterprise on faith. To hear that an officer is changing his prayers to adjust what’s showing up on the viewscreen – that’s something definitely worth seeing. Scalzi’s universe is run on prayer, faith, and relgious belief. It’s a kind of realization of what religions always claim, but shown to be actually functioning in a replicable manner. It’s theology as physics. The whole story feels like it comes from the same place J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 came from. Where Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End came from. There’s an indisputable space opera with Lovecraft vibe to it, but unlike so much space opera, the thinking just isn’t mushy and placative. In fact, there was nary a moment where I wasn’t completely engaged with this made up Fantasy/SF tale. The storytelling is expertly intertwined with a careful exposition of the universe’s rules. This works to fully enrich the ideation without coming off as merely a writer going through a checklist. I’d love to see Scalzi, or any other SF writer, write a dozen more books just like this – take a break from the series universe, and write some more idea based SF. Take a simple little premise or vignette, throw in a few characters and have them explore the concomitant interestingness of that idea. The God Engines does exactly that. It shows, very simply what SF storytelling is supposed to look like. This audiobook stands well, on its own, though I could easily imagine it as one half of an old Ace Double. This is very good work. Well done Mr. Scalzi.

Narrator Christopher Lane has about five major characters to play with. The captain is commanding and thoughtful. The second in command is calm and loyal. The ship’s high priest (who also acts as a kind of political commissar) is jealous but clever. The one female role, a rook (which is kind of a cross between a ship’s whore and a priestess), is wise and womanly. But it’s the unnamed god’s voice that is the real standout. Lane’s god is tortured, twisted and devious. It is a very precise performance, one that allows for the sympathy Scalzi was aiming at. The art for the cover comes from Vincent Chong‘s illustration of the Subterranean Press edition.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #096

February 21, 2011 by · 8 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #096 – Scott and Jesse talk about recently arrived audiobooks as well as Y: The Last Man, James Tiptree Jr., Isaac Asimov, what author estates want and more!

Talked about on today’s show:
Kage Baker, Subterranean Press, Blackstone Audio, In The Garden Of Iden by Kage Baker, Captive Market by Philip K. Dick, Janan Raouf, Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, Barret Whitener, telepathy, Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, Malcolm Hillgartner, Heinlein’s first and last novel, Spider Robinson, Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Macmillan Audio, Death Cloud: Sherlock Holmes The Legend Begins by Andrew Lane, Dan Wyman, “endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate” = who cares, Poul Anderson on Sherlock Holmes, Laird of Muck, disabled protagonists, The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty, The Lighthouse War, MG (middle grade) vs. YA, Gerard Doyle, Christopher Paolini, The Gods Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, William Dufris, viscous plant men, does Deja Thoris lay eggs?, Dynamite Entertainment‘s Warlord Of Mars, Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg, Majipoor Chronicles, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Stonefather by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, Emily Janice Card, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Lost Gate, The Last Airbender, R.L. Stine, Timescape by, Darkside by Tom Becker |READ OUR REVIEW|, Bolinda Audio, London, Neil Gaiman-esque, The Graveyard Book, Venus by Ben Bova |READ OUR REVIEW|, Fantastic Audio, Jupiter, Nova Science Now, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Europa, Ganymede, A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Brilliance Audio, The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey, dragons, elves, Odalisque by Neal Stephenson, Alan Moore loves allusions, The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Honor Harrington, Honor Among Enemies by David Weber, manticore, pirates!, what’s up with all the mix-and-match creatures in the Middle East?, On Blazing Wings by L. Ron Hubbard, mercenaries, SFsite.com often reviews the L. Ron Hubbard Stories From The Golden Age, the paperbooks problem, The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, Anne Perry, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, 8th century, Baghdad, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, the Fantasy Book Critic blog review, unpronounceable character names, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick was inspired by the Odyssey, Beyond Lies The Wub, Strange Eden, Scott didn’t like Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan, Gulliver’s Travels, the problem of transitory pop-culture references, The Tyrrany Of Talented Readers, Scalped, Bertrand Russell, Pride Of Baghdad, anthropomorphic fiction, James Tiptree Jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Masters Of Horror: The Screwfly Solution, Dove Audio, Isaac Asimov, author estates, Escape Pod #100, Nightfall, Tantor Media, Robots Of Dawn, Audible.com has plenty of Arthur C. Clarke, Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes, mystery, Science Fiction, On Stranger Tides, Brain Wave, PaperbackSwap, Del Rey art in the ’70s and ’80s was awesome, Scott’s Picasa gallery of book covers, Tom Weiner, Jesse has a terrible memory, our Oath Of Fealty readalong, the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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