The SFFaudio Podcast #408 – READALONG: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

February 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #408 – Jesse, Paul, Marissa, and Maissa discuss Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Talked about on today’s show:
1982, the last readable Heinlein novel, head-shaking, one of the most awkward books, transgender stuff, a New York times article, I Will Fear No Evil, body swap, an old man in a young woman’s body, Predestination (2014), All You Zombies, sex-change and time travel, another example of a Heinlein character getting a sex-change, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, even the computer is gender fluid, Podkayne Of Mars, Heinlein is the man in Science Fiction who really believes in women, the spring of 1991, re-reading experience, characters who defy human emotion and reality, made of human DNA, the Pinocchio story, focusing on the overbuilding, not just sex but odd sex, anti-male homosexuality but he likes lesbianism, a whiff of – but no sex on screen, Red Thursday, there’s a rape at the beginning and she marries her rapist at the end, it needs an editor, losing track of plotting, he let me pee, he’s a nice rapist, it makes sense!, Stranger In A Strange Land, what do we do about it?, horrible Heinlein thoughts, a lot of “doxy” training, an enhanced person vs. an artificial person, increased sexuality bred into them?, Dr. Baldwin engineered her, Gulf by Robert A. Heinlein, supermen, Olympia, late Heinlein is giving up on what early Heinlein wrote, travel reading, line marriages and serial marriages, making families, Christchurch, Winnipeg, Heinlein went to a swingers party and said “let’s do this all the time”, seeing a person’s mind over time, a plotless meandering travelogue/memoir, so many coincidences, that just happened to happen?, from set-piece to set piece, Bellingham, the AP guy never comes back, Chekhov’s gun that turns out to be a red herring, it wasn’t serialized for Playboy but should have been, sex for sex-sake, he’s got the 1997 World Wide Web in this book, Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game did forums, A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge, Hathitrust, terminals vs. PCs, kittens, cats, how many breakfasts, hungry the whole time, that “triggered” me, Jesse explains this book, Canada, California, Las Vegas, New Zealand, Australia, credit cards, she takes his Diner’s Club card, clothing, Heinlein went on a cruise, transient ischemic attack (TIA), Grumbles From The Grave, lots of eating, good food, cruise ship food, movies, cruise-like, sitting at the captain’s table, Heinlein being respected, touring the United States, crazy governments, “long pig” = human pig, rich “slitch”, playing psychoanalyst, the Earth is doomed, Heinlein is obsessed with the frontier, Time Enough For Love, the frontier hypothesis, racism you wouldn’t notice, law and order in peaceful British Canada, the remainders of the US, the Bear Flag Republic of California, the Free State of Las Vegas, Vicksburg, the Chicago Imperium includes Minnesota, getting Paul’s revolution on, everybody is Amish now, driving draft horses, semi-ballistic skyport, the world’s best batteries: shipstones, Ayn Rand, a libertarian streak, the Galt’s Gulch approach to patents, an unresolved plot point, an internal revolt, they own everything, making an argument, an analogy for the oil industry, s-groups, freeing women up to work, Friday can run 30 km per hour, rolling around on the floor with kittens and babies, housewives, the lesbian couple-ship with Goldie, tension between roles of women, all those contradictions, why is Friday sterile, childless Heinleins, write what you want, Heinlein as a gold bug, making America great again by tearing down the wall between the USA and Mexico, pushing gold hard, politeness is society, no flame wars on Heinlein’s internet, paperbooks vs. ebooks, Google book scans, nobody knew about the internet, the pay internet, the pay web, SOPA and PIPA, a free and open internet, Friday‘s enthusiasm for the web was realistic, I can learn everything, you have no excuse today for not knowing everything, know what you don’t know and don’t talk about it, learning about the world by reading Heinlein novels, the word “knave”, The Queen of Hearts, claques, stylites, particularism, secessionist California, Texas, a balkanized USA, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, alternate dimensions, the Rapture,

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he’d steal no more.

its so easy not to appreciate all we have, I pity all the fools, The Number Of The Beast, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gay Deceiver, there’s no way to fix this!, To Sail Beyond The Sunset, the thing he has about incest, Heinlein’s Future History, Philip K. Dick does the opposite, it all hangs together, someone is hanging himself in a closet, Heinlein’s periods, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, The Door Into Summer, Professor Eric S. Rabkin, walls dilate open, women: I kinda wanna be one, The Puppet Masters, a similar organization, a boss with a bunch of agents, the boss just dies, writing the novel with a pair of dice or the I Ching, weird coincidences, part of the story just falls away, the Dungeon Master, Friday as a pick-a-path book, on the whole we enjoyed it, the writing style, Hillary Huber was the narrator for Blackstone Audio version, a fun listen, I wouldn’t say that I liked it, fun in places, what is an artificial person, if you prick me do I not leak?, people born of three parents, a future person, GMO fruit vs. organic fruit, people have been fucking with fruit forever, Jesse expounds on apples, all apples for harvest are grafts, Maissa expounds on bananas, Paul expounds on corn, corn is in everything in the USA, you’re 80% corn, the enhanced talking dog, kobold miners, Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, the main character is a robot, no biological creatures, the illegitimate worries that Friday has are programmed into the main character of Saturn’s Children, a romp novel with everybody dead, straight out of Heinlein’s subconscious, Reading, Short & Deep, Who Can Replace A Man? by Brian Aldiss, Ian Tregillis’ Alchemy War novels, Spartacus, Botany Bay, there is a destiny that shapes our lives, an allusion to Hamlet

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

LISTEN FOR PLEASURE - Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Del Rey Ballantine - Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY - Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #041

November 9, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #041 – Jesse and Scott are joined by SF author Robert J. Sawyer to talk about his audiobooks, writing Science Fiction novels, and the TV show based on his novel FlashForward.

Talked about on today’s show:
FlashForward (the TV series), FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, Blackstone Audio, David S. Goyer, Marc Guggenheim, Jessika Borsiczky, Brannon Braga, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, does the TV show of FlashForward have a plan?, idea based SF, time travel, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells |READ OUR REVIEW|, differences between the television show and the novel versions of FlashForward, WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, Inconstant Moon by Larry Niven, philosophy in Science Fiction, Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, Jonathan Davis, Audible Frontiers, atheism and religion in SF, scientific institutions in Science Fiction, The Royal Ontario Museum, CERN, The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, science, Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, Launchpad Astronomy Workshop, Edward M. Lerner, Joe Haldeman, science literacy amongst Science Fiction authors, Karl Schroeder, Charles Stross, post-singularity SF, Clarke’s Third Law, NASA Ames Research Center, TRIUMF, Human Genome Project, Neanderthal Genome Project, military SF, S.M. Stirling, Harry Turtledove, alternate history, consciousness, aliens, spaceship, time travel, the WWW trilogy, Audible.com, Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer, Star Trek, alien aliens, Larry Niven, Niven’s aliens, Golden Fleece by Robert J. Sawyer, how did fantasy and Science Fiction get lumped together? Donald A. Wollheim, dinosaurs, artificial intelligence, genetics, time travel, the Internet, quantum physics, CBC Radio’s version of Rollback, Alessandro Juliani.

Jessika Borsiczky on adapting the novel of FlashForward to television:

Trailer for Sawyer’s WWW trilogy:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

June 18, 2008 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Little Brother by Cory DoctorowLittle BrotherSFFaudio Essential
By Cory Doctorow; Read by Kirby Heyborne
MP3 Download – 11 Hours, 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: May 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Terrorism / Philosophy / The Internet /

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works-and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

I rarely feel uncomfortable when reading a book. Cory Doctorow made me feel uncomfortable. I had a deep and growing unease as I listened to Little Brother. Talking about it with a friend, in between early chapters, I at first had a hard time pinning down exactly what was bothering me so much. But, after explaining what the book was about I suddenly realized what the one nagging issue was that was causing this growing unease: It was the villains. They were “all straw men” I told my friend, “not three-dimensional, or believable.” Their villainy “wasn’t realistic,” said I. But soon after that, in cataloging their various villainies, I realized that everything that was happening in the near future USA where Little Brother is set, was already actually happening in the United States (or its offshore territories). It was at that point when I realized that what I had at first been seeing as a poor choice on Doctorow’s part (making the villains one dimensional, completely unsympathetic, and therefore unrealistic) – was not valid. Doctorow is talking about the United States in the very same way George Orwell was talking about the Soviet Union in 1984, or Margaret Atwood, the world, in The Handmaid’s Tale. I can’t effectively argue that real world villainy is unrealistic. The villains of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are not unrealistic and neither are those of Little Brother. After I realized that, my attitude of dissatisfaction changed to one of alliance with the book. And the longer I’ve thought about it, the more I am convinced. This is a book that people, especially young people, should be reading. This is an important book. It addresses in a very accessible way, some of the very pressing issues confronting our new age.

Doctorow is both revolutionary and conservative. He wants to overthrow those who would shackle us to an old business model and preserve the long and honourable tradition of revolution. In the book, Marcus, the main character, has a couple of internet handles. The first, “w1n5t0n,” is a tip of the hat to the oppressed victim-protagonist of 1984, and the second is “Mikey.” That one’s a nod towards the proactive leader of the Luna revolution in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. I think Little Brother takes equal inspiration from both these masterworks of Science Fiction. That’s a strong recommendation in itself. Whether this will turn out to be a tenth as influential as either of those classics will turn on how much it resonates with you. This is a book I want people to read.

Another friend, who stopped listening to the book, said Little Brother was full of “infodumps”, and he has a point. It is full of infodumps. But, I think that term gets a bad rap. Science Fiction, as Cory Doctorow himself points out, has a long tradition of the infodump, and, since this is more than just a novel, it has to have a good share of technological and mathematical explanations. In my opinion, the way the novel is written, it doesn’t at all come off as particularly hard to take. Cory Doctorow, in fiction and in real life, is a clear and concise explicator of technologies. He comes up with terrific analogies that illustrate his points, and I therefore think the charge of excessive infodumping is like saying “her hair is too red,” it says more about your predilection for blondes or brunettes than about any particular red-head’s hair colour. Check out one of the infodumps from the book:

If you ever decide to do something as stupid as build an automatic terrorism detector, here’s a math lesson you need to learn first. It’s called “the paradox of the false positive,” and it’s a doozy.

Say you have a new disease, called Super-AIDS. Only one in a million people gets Super-AIDS. You develop a test for Super-AIDS that’s 99 percent accurate. I mean, 99 percent of the time, it gives the correct result — true if the subject is infected, and false if the subject is healthy. You give the test to a million people.

One in a million people have Super-AIDS. One in a hundred people that you test will generate a “false positive” — the test will say he has Super-AIDS even though he doesn’t. That’s what “99 percent accurate” means: one percent wrong.

What’s one percent of one million? 1,000,000/100 = 10,000

One in a million people has Super-AIDS. If you test a million random people, you’ll probably only find one case of real Super-AIDS. But your test won’t identify one person as having Super-AIDS. It will identify 10,000 people as having it. Your 99 percent accurate test will perform with 99.99 percent inaccuracy.

That’s the paradox of the false positive. When you try to find something really rare, your test’s accuracy has to match the rarity of the thing you’re looking for. If you’re trying to point at a single pixel on your screen, a sharp pencil is a good pointer: the pencil-tip is a lot smaller (more accurate) than the pixels. But a pencil-tip is no good at pointing at a single atom in your screen. For that, you need a pointer — a test — that’s one atom wide or less at the tip. This is the paradox of the false positive, and here’s how it applies to terrorism:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000 = 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent. That’s pretty rare all right. Now, say you’ve got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time. In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren’t anywhere close to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes. What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events — a person is a terrorist — with inaccurate systems.

That all struck a chord with me. I don’t live in The States, yet I know that at least some people down there are blindly accepting these “safety measures” as not only a necessary evil, but as at least somewhat effective. The last time I took an airplane in The States I overheard a conversation in which a woman was telling her family that the Transportation Security Administration’s confiscation of her own lip gloss was for her protection. And she wasn’t being ironic!

Narrator Kirby Heyborne comes from a theater, movie, and music background. His youthful voice captures Marcus and his friends in an effective straight reading. This is audiobook narration as it should be. Two interesting afterwords by people mentioned in the book and a detailed bibliography cap the novel. There is no hardcopy edition of this audiobook available, but a DRM-free MP3 download is. GET THAT HERE.

Posted by Jesse Willis