The SFFaudio Podcast #345 – READALONG: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

November 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #345 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Bryan Alexander, and Professor Eric S. Rabkin talk about the Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon.

Talked about on today’s show:
1937, Jesse has a radical thesis, is this book a true story?, I’m not really happy I just think that I am, Alice In Acidland, drugs, what do we mean by true?, arachnoids and ikthyoids, a summary of Last And First Men, the unnamed narrator, astral projection, the contents of this book, not history but a personal experience (of imagination), standing on a hill, an interesting fantasia, considering the size of the universe, Star Trek with Nazi costumes is possible and perhaps even inevitable, The Truman Show, the nature of infinity, an Italian who would be perfectly happy to use the word true about this book, “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark.”, bitterness, Dante Alighieri, a lyric poem, Olaf Stapledon was a philosopher, a blazing panoply, an image of the rose, OS, “One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill.”, an abiding faith, the original meaning of comedy, comedies end in marriage, sitcoms, both narrators acknowledge their psychological state, an exponential rhythm, overhead obscurities in flight, a Doppler shift, the other Earth, Valtu, a composite character, planets – > solar systems -> galaxies, a fractal experience, an encompassing wisdom, marriage as a small atom of community, spirit inhabited rock, a World War I novel, 1986, Eric taught Star Maker to Bryan, memories imbricated upon each other, the preface, Stapledon was an ambulance driver in WWI, looming WWII, militarism, seeing the sunny side of a ruined planet, Merseyside, too smashed up to really be alive, a 1930s novel, fascism vs. communism, how to organize the self and society, a secular myth, a shock to civilization, the cycle of mechanization, terrible mutations, the onset of the tank, a sense of horror, WWI and WWII as two different episodes, the Spanish Civil War, shaking off colonialism, materialistic industrialization, the only wait out is an act of faith, how can we not think of the Star Maker as a monster, “struck dumb with shame”, limitations of the audio medium, Bryan’s keyboard, C.S. Lewis, why C.S. Lewis didn’t like Star Maker, a Lewis-nemesis, crusades, the Great War on Terror (2 decades old), mindless religious violence, anticipations of subsequent Science Fiction, The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, two 20th century philosophies, Freud and Marx, neurosis and sublimation, genitals with sense organs, radio pornography, the feelies from Brave New World, crisis of labour, ideologies as philosophical artifacts, not Dave Singer, separated by space and time, supplementary parentheses, adduction of Christianity, three linked universes, playing for the souls of the creatures, a timeless heaven and a timeless hell, Earth, Mars, and Venus in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, suffering for the redemption of the Earth, explicitly not a Christian view, C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy as a response to a paragraph in Star Maker, all the Christs of all the worlds, “a basket of Christs”, this is Arthur C. Clarke, a tour of Science Fiction in the future, this is The Mote In God’s Eye, The High Crusade, the novel itself is a universe, cosmos vs. universe, Jesse’s theory about the Game Of Thrones universe in the TV show, what Clarke does this in slight watercolours Stapledon paints in bold oils on a massive canvas, Arthur C. Clarke’s life changing moment, copying out the scales of magnitude, Bryan’s son, encapsulating, it is Stapledon, Dante is Dante in The Divine Comedy, The Divine Comedy as political revenge, Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno, Stapledon is not a punishment guy, when Lovecraft looks out of the universe…, when Stapledon looks at the same vista he’s not as melancholy about it, The Cats Of Ulthar, contemporaries, philosophical horror, long distance psychology, like Poe, fairy tales, handling fears, we get to feel, this is an education effort, quite special, a genre issue, the roller-coaster moment, looking at the vocabulary, eldritch and ichor, lucidity, feeling, the etymology of the word “vermin”,

I reflected that not one of the visible features of this celestial and
living gem revealed the presence of man. Displayed before me, though
invisible, were some of the most congested centers of human population.
There below me lay huge industrial regions, blackening the air with
smoke. Yet all this thronging life and humanly momentous enterprise had
made no mark whatever on the features of the planet. From this high
look-out the Earth would have appeared no different before the dawn of
man. No visiting angel, or explorer from another planet, could have
guessed that this bland orb teemed with vermin, with world-mastering,
self-torturing, incipiently angelic beasts.

the stellar wars, too lucid for more tribal patterns, sympsychic partnership, angelic vermin, more real than all the stars, like two close trees grown together, difference can be strength, the Orson Welles radio version of The War Of The Worlds, versus the Martians our differences don’t make a hill’s worth of difference, The Lord Of The Rings, looking for the Ents and the Entwives, there are Ents in Star Maker, the holy sex transmission that never got off, the ships worlds,

It was a strange experience to enter the mind of an intelligent ship to
see the foam circling under one’s own nose as the vessel plunged through
the waves, to taste the bitter or delicious currents streaming past
one’s flanks, to feel the pressure of air on the sails as one beat up
against the breeze, to hear beneath the water-line the rush and murmur
of distant shoals of fishes, and indeed actually to hear the
sea-bottom’s configuration by means of the echoes that it cast up to the
under-water ears. It was strange and terrifying to be caught in a
hurricane, to feel the masts straining and the sails threatening to
split, while the hull was battered by the small but furious waves of
that massive planet. It was strange, too, to watch other great living
ships, as they plowed their way, heeled over, adjusted the set of their
yellow or russet sails to the wind’s variations; and very strange it was
to realize that these were not man-made objects but themselves conscious
and purposeful.

Sometimes we saw two of the living ships fighting, tearing at one
another’s sails with snake-like tentacles, stabbing at one another’s
soft “decks” with metal knives, or at a distance firing at one another
with cannon. Bewildering and delightful it was to feel in the presence
of a slim female clipper the longing for contact, and to carry out with
her on the high seas the tacking and yawing, the piratical pursuit and
overhauling, the delicate, fleeting caress of tentacles, which formed
the love-play of this race. Strange, to come up alongside, close-hauled,
grapple her to one’s flank, and board her with sexual invasion. It was
charming, too, to see a mother ship attended by her children. I should
mention, by the way, that at birth the young were launched from the
mother’s decks like little boats, one from the port side, one from the
starboard. Thenceforth they were suckled at her flanks. In play they
swam about her like ducklings, or spread their immature sails. In rough
weather and for long voyaging they were taken aboard. At the time of our
visit natural sails were beginning to be aided by a power unit and
propeller which were fixed to the stern.

nothing like this in Science Fiction, Lloyd Abbey’s The Last Whales, an elegiac book, another sub-genre of Kindle based pornography, much of William Wordsworth’s poetry is admired too simply, Eric reads Lines Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, the houses with windows like sleeping eyes, watching the lives of dreams, the houses are sleeping not the people within them, the smokeless air, lying still, what makes the beauty, The World Is Too Much With Us, a cry for God, Fungi From Yuggoth (IX): The Courtyard by H.P. Lovecraft:

It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.

The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead—
And not a corpse had either hands or head!

deemed unfit, body horror, Robert E. Howard, M.R. James, ever more capacious mentalities, being taught by groups, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Inner Light, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant as a horrible version of this, Passengers by Robert Silverberg, Boneland by Jeffrey Thomas, from a microscopic perspective, these things pass, bodyless timelords, a swarm of locusts, eugenics, Chapter 9, cultural and eugenical means, The King In Yellow (The Repairer Of Reputations) by Robert W. Chambers, the lethal chamber, Futurama, Providence, Alan Moore, criticism of Moore, turning everything Lovecraft hates into love, Last And First Men was a bestseller in 1930, the fifth generation, the Martian hive-mind, what is the moral ideal that Stapledon hopes that we move toward?, individuality in community, a literary allusion, a race on Venus, from epoch to epoch, that scaling thing again, the problem with fascism, fasces, is this a Darwinian book?, parasitism, symbiosis, evolution, Marx dedicated Capital to Darwin, getting rid of Harper, mutual aid, The World, the Flesh & the Devil by J.D. Bernal, astronomy, Peter Kropotkin (Mutual Aid: A Factor Of Evolution), mutual slaughter, profit in fraternization with the enemy, like Rod Serling The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, gentleness as a religion, the entangled bank (in Origin Of Species), functional stability arising out of local possibilities of violence, virtue in the creator is not the same of virtue in the creature, a third position, the sense experience of a star, in the center of this paragraph, free will and determinism are compatible, always bigger, a selfless star, the normal voluntary motor activity of a star, if you empty your ego and just feel others, perfect selflessness allows entrance into perfect community, getting your karma clean, dark matter, the science is pretty damn good, the key word is “lucid”, the vast emptiness enables the insight into the stars, rubies lay behind me, the sky’s familiar diamonds, all possible light, watch Steven Universe, ageless like Star Maker, the tag cloud, world and worlds, Oswald Spengler, growth -> change -> decay, the myth at the end, the course of empire paintings, The Decline Of The West, Arnold J. Toynbee, future histories, we could see if we were lucid, a great Götterdämmerung moment, the Russian civil war, The White Goddess, The Golden Bough, subsequent Science Fiction, for those who haven’t yet read the book…, the most disliked and most liked book, what kind of a novel is this?, an epic poem crossed with a lyric poem, erroneous expectations, feel better about your fishwife and your step children, back to Lovecraft, a writer of ideas, Odd John and Sirius are more like regular novels, Jack London’s Star Rover, more swords fewer wives, Frank Herbert, God Emperor Of Dune, when you frame it that way…, Accelerando by Charles Stross, full time IT professionals writing SF, Ted Chiang and Cory Doctorow, Ted Chiang can do anything, lapidary, Jorges Luis Borges wrote an introduction for Star Marker, A Story Between Jest and Earnest, Love and Discord.

Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Posted by Jesse Willis

It’s A Good Life by Jerome Bixby

October 1, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

It's A Good Life by Jerome Bixby

It's A Good Life by Jerome Bixby - illustration by Quinn

It's A Good Life by Jerome Bixby - illustration by Quinn

It’s A Good Life is a 1953 short story by Jerome Bixby. Set in the small town that used to be in Ohio. It’s entire population loves and fears three year old Anthony Fremont. Anthony is omnipotent.

This story has been adapted several times by The Twilight Zone. The original series did a very faithful adaptation, a sequel episode, “It’s Still A Good Life“, featured a grown-up Anthony and his daughter. There was also an adaptation within Twilight Zone: The Movie. Even The Twilight Zone radio drama series adapted it.

Here’s the audiobook, as podcast in two parts on Rick Jackson’s The Time Traveler Show (along with an interview with the narrator, William Dufris).

The Time Traveler Show PodcastIt’s A Good Life
By Jerome Bixby; Read by William Dufris
Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| – Approx. 2 Hours 4 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: The Time Traveler Show
Podcast: August 2006
Anthony Fremont can go anywhere he wants, he can read thoughts, he can project sensory information, he can create, he can destroy, he can mold reality, he can kill. Anthony Fremont is three years old. First published in Star Science Fiction Stories No.2.

Podcast feed:

Here’s a |PDF| made from the publication in Science Fantasy, #16, 1955.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Chaser by John Collier

March 18, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Chaser by John Collier

John Collier’s modern fairy tale, The Chaser, was adapted as an episode of the first season of the original The Twilight Zone. And now the story has just been narrated for Tom Elliot’s The Twilight Zone Podcast.

The Twilight Zone PodcastThe Chaser
By John Collier; Read by Danny Davis
1 |MP3| – Approx. 11 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: The Twilight Zone Podcast
Podcast: March 18, 2013
Alan, a lovelorn man, desperate for the object of his affections to return them, visits a queer chemist for a solution. First published in The New Yorker, December 28, 1940.

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Here is a |PDF| of the story, and here is another |PDF|.

And here’s The Twilight Zone adaptation:

The story also inspired a Tales From The Crypt story, in issue 25:

Tales From The Crypt #25

That, in turn, was adapted for the television series, using the same name:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Steel by Richard Matheson (from Steel And Other Stories)

July 12, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Steel And Other Stories by Richard MathesonSteel And Other Stories – Steel
By Richard Matheson; Read by Scott Brick
Approx. 59 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2011
ISBN: 1455112127
Themes: / Science Fiction / Boxing / Robots /

Steel, a novelette, was first published in the May 1956 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
The editorial introduction preceding it described Steel as a “tale of strength and endurance” and as “a science fiction sports story so realistic, simple and powerful that it should prove moving even to sports-loathing readers who have never let a boxing bout darken their television screens.” The story would just a few years later, in a 1963 adaptation as an episode of the Twilight Zone brighten the living rooms of many. And, in 2011 it would inspire the big budget movie Real Steel. So, how does the original novellete, stand up to repeated blows of history?

Pretty well. If you like Matheson’s writing Steel is definitely worth hearing. This story captures in a relatively short space the oddity, the kind of quirk that Matheson seems forever working on. It’s something I’ve noticed in practically every story by Matheson that I’ve read. His main characters always seem to want to make a human connection with strangers, and in their efforts to do so always fail – and always for the same reason. In their desire to be heard, and be understood, they always disregard the needs and desires of those strangers. I’ve never seen a writer tackle anthing like this, over and over, like Matheson always seems to. Let’s tale Steel as our example. One of the two main characters, Paul, goes to great lengths to get engage an uninterested stranger in a conversation about the exploits of his dilapidated robot boxer. That the stranger, who doesn’t know anything about boxing, doesn’t care about boxing, and has never even heard of Paul’s robot, is obviously completely uninterested in what Paul is saying. This doesn’t seem to occur to Paul. It’s as if Paul’s own need to reach out and be heard – to be something – is greater than the interests of the stranger – whatevber those interests might be. It’s not so much a Science Fiction issue as it is an existential one. It’s almost as if Matheson is using his fiction to try to find a way to navigate around a massive blind spot in human relations. Like in his novel The Incredible Shrinking Man Matheson has the plot of Steel be a manifestation of a character’s internal difficulties.

Scott Brick narrates this bare bones dialogue driven story. I’m often ambivalent about Brick’s narrations. Sometimes he works for me, sometimes he doesn’t – and I think I’ve finally realized why. Brick is excellent at delivering emotion. But if the emotion is from a third person perspective it comes across as too operatic. But, if the story is told in first person perspective then it work well. In Steel there are basically only two voices – Paul’s and Kelly’s. And when Brick voices either one I can’t readily enough distinguish difference between them. Yet when a story is told in first person Brick’s narration really works. Take this sample |MP3| from Nelson DeMille’s The Lion’s Game (which is first person perspective). And now compare it with this |MP3| from Steel.

I came away feeling somewhat unsatisfied with Steel. It’s not that the story is uninteresting, or unoriginal, Steel is both original and interesting. Kelly and Paul are a pair of boxing enthusiasts – and I’m more of an enthusiast of ideas. There’s just not enough intellectual heft to their journey. I think The Twilight Zone adaptation, penned by Matheson himself and starring Lee Marvin, does the story better mostly because it’s a lot quicker too it. The movie version is hardly an adaptation, being much more of a family father and son traditional conservative values tale than an existential exploration. None of versions of the story did what I wanted them to do, namely get into the robot’s POV. The fact that none of the adaptations treat the robot as anything other than an external manifestation of their root interests is kind of depressing. But then again, I don’t go to Matheson for uplifting, I like his depressing ideas.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Elegy by Charles Beaumont

April 6, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Elegy - ILLUSTRATION from  Imagination, February, 1953
Elegy by Charles Beaumont

Elegy, by Charles Beaumont, is available over on and that means it’s in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. This short story, by the legendary Charles Beaumont, was adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone. That’s how I found it, and that’s why it was produced as an audiobook for Tom Elliot’s The Twilight Zone Podcast. But before I detail that let me first offer you this handy |PDF| version.

Here’s the audiobook:

The Twilight Zone PodcastElegy
By Charles Beaumont; Read by Jim Moon
1 |MP3| – Approx. 43 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: The Twilight Zone Podcast
Podcast: June 27, 2011
It was an impossible situation: an asteroid in space where no asteroid should have been—with a city that could only have existed back on Earth! First published in Imagination, February 1953.

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

And here’s The Twilight Zone adaptation:

And here‘s Tom Elliot’s podcast review of the TZ adaptation |MP3|.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #154 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

April 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
By Ambrose Bierce
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #154 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome, Mirko and David Stifel talk about An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce (read by Bob Neufeld for LibriVox).

Talked about on today’s show:
The Devil’s Dictionary, comic irony, an American classic, German drama, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Sleep No More, Nelson Almstead, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, civil war stories, quantum mechanics, The Damned Thing, the genres: horror, ghost, “weird”, “weird war”, “dream”, or SUSPENSE, alternate reality, why is An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge so popular with high-school English teachers?, time perception, not-SF, “the man who was engaged in being hanged”, passivity, “go for it hands”, “a dream story”, David used to have out of body dreams, “stream of consciousness”, subjectivity, Henry James, the radio drama adaptations (Escape, Suspense, CBS Radio Mystery Theater),

“Each year thousands of short stories roll out from a multitude of typewriter, march across the pages of our magazines toward well deserved oblivion. Few are memorable, fewer still are classics. They pass the time and are forgotten even before the paper on which they are written is reduced to black ash. But occasionally a story is written that is a true classic, an unforgettable tale.”

astral projection, H.P. Lovecraft, Accessory Before The Fact by Algernon Blackwood, near death experience, Bierce’s headwound, Sigmund Freud, A Dream Play by August Strindberg, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, the driftwood, the slowdown of time, it’s a mystery story, a million blades of grass, infinite detail and infinite depth, Isaac Asimov, The Turn Of The Screw, The Twilight Zone version (which was a French short film), what’s with the corporal?, of the body, a hidden pun or joke, it was a setup, a great suspicion of death or dying, the kicking legs = running, unconscious insight result in surprise and relief, the tongue, wish fulfillment, the suspicion begins, naturalistic interpretation, Igor (Son Of Frankenstein), the history of hangings, botched hangings, popping heads, Hang ‘Em High, Braveheart, can it be truly spoiled?, war,

“Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.”

constitutional rights, the Alfred Hitchcock Presents adaptation, The Twilight Zone short film version, HuffDuffer, CBS Radio Mystery Theater adaptation, “it’s best read”, an audio drama adaptation, impressionism, mapping back, additional scenes, a water moccasin, narration, is it a miracle that the rope breaks, a heavenly Eden like land, gates, Sergei Bondarchuk’s War And Peace, Leo Tolstoy, altered state, (The Crawling Chaos), sex choking, speculative fiction, life passing before you, the telescoping of time, remembering the classics, 100,000 high school teachers, one of the most podcast short stories, O. Henry stories are cute, an existential story, “trapped in a world he never made”, an exegesis.

From Eerie Magazine #23

Posted by Jesse Willis

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