The SFFaudio Podcast #149 – TOPIC: METAPHOR in Science Fiction and Fantasy

February 27, 2012 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #149 – Jesse, Luke Burrage, and Professor Eric S. Rabkin talk about METAPHOR in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Talked about on today’s show:
Science Fiction and Fantasy sort of undercut the scholastic meaning of metaphor, my friend Bill, metaphors come in two parts – the vehicle and the tenor, giants vs. ogres, denuding the metaphor, Aldebaran 6 has astonishingly beautiful humanoids, unknown vehicles deliver us, The Monsters by Robert Sheckley, The War Of The Worlds, a Tolkienesque task, A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay, Dark Universe by Ron Goulart, Plato’s cave, blindness, dead metaphors, the Burning Bush, Saul vs. Paul, a sound idea, Germanic grounds for divorce, Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein, 1984 by George Orwell, “the clock stuck thirteen”, constructing meaning, William Shakespeare, awful as in creating awe, Moses and Mount Sinai, “shining like the sun”, a sun god, Sampson, hairy like the sun, bald like the moon, Genesis, “you may look upon my hindparts”, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, unconscious metaphors, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, wretch, catwomen from Venus, voluptuous sex objects, building up the vocabulary, Halting State by Charles Stross, Neuromancer‘s opening line, text adventure, Enoch lived 365 years (the sun god), The Tower Of Babel by Ted Chiang, comparing the constructed worlds of video games with the constructed worlds of Science Fiction, Battlefield 2, a meta-metaphor for understanding what Science Fiction does for understanding our world, hamartia needs range finding, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, “any fool can see”, a system of metaphors for the characters and the reader provides meta-uses, metaphor means “carry across”, Greek moving vans are called metaphore, the Morlocks are the workers, the Eloi are the owners, the Time Traveler is the manager, Get That Rat Off My Face by Luke Burrage, Science Fiction as thought experiment, Michael Crichton, deus ex machina, The War With The Newts by Karel Čapek, Finnegan’s Wake, experimental novels, Germinal by Émile Zola, Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, allusion vs. metaphor, Sampson vs. Goliath, Luke and Eric prime each other, is Science Fiction useful?, should SF be useful?, Science Fiction and Personal Philosophy (SFBRP #100), reading only the Bible, The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, the hard lesson namely: “sometimes you’re just fucked”, Star Trek II, cannibalism, Eric objects, the physical world vs. unconditional love, NASA staff need to read The Cold Equations, Steve Jobs (and his reality distortion field), a world full of things other than minds, smart by accident, Apollo 13, give the astronauts poetry, the title itself crystallizes the meaning, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a parametric center, how do we maintain individuality in the face of fascism?, the vehicle/tenor heuristic, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nick Carraway, the car is the parametric central of The Great Gatsby, martian vampires, Apollo 1 disaster, Velcro and oxygen, “a failure of imagination”, learning from the past, the metaphor falls and leaves behind a lesson about reality.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #112 – AUDIOBOOK: The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth

June 13, 2011 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #112 – a complete and unabridged reading of The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth. It is wonderfully narrated for us by William Coon of Eloquent Voice.

The Marching Morons is a Science Fiction novella written by Cyril M. Kornbluth, originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction’s April 1951 issue. It has been famously anthologized in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two (B).

The story is set hundreds of years in the future: the date is 7-B-936. Its protagonist is John Barlow, a man from the past put into suspended animation by a freak accident involving a dental drill and anesthesia. He is revived in a dystopic future where the dysgenic breeding of humans has, in combination with intelligent people not having many children, overwhelmingly populated the world with morons. An elite few non-idiots must work slavishly to keep the world productive. Barlow, who was a shrewd con man in his day, has a solution to sell to the elite.

In his introduction to The Best Of C.M. Kornbluth Frederik Pohl explains some of the inspiration to The Marching Morons. Apparently the work was written after Pohl suggested that Kornbluth write a follow-up story to The Little Black Bag (a classic Kornbluth short story). In contrast to the “little black bag” arriving in the past from the future, Kornbluth wanted to write about a man arriving in the future from the past. To explain sending a man to the future, Kornbluth borrowed from David Butler’s Just Imagine (1930) science fiction film in which a man is struck by lightning, trapped in suspended animation, and reanimated in the future.”

The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth - illustrated by Don Sibley

The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth - illustrated by Don Sibley

Posted by Jesse Willis

A conversation between Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley

November 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Archive.org has a wonderful 90 minute English language conversation between two famous German rocket scientists!

Check it out |MP3|

A historic conversation between German rocket scientists Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley. Highlights include the development of the German rocket programs during WWII, and the space program in the 1950’s. Recorded June 9th and 23rd, 1959, in New York City and Redstone Arsenal, Huntstville, Alabama.

Indeed hearing Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley talk is very cool.

Ley and von Braun talk about:
old school days in Germany, Hermann Oberth‘s influential book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (“By Rocket Into Interplanetary Space“), Fritz Lang movie Woman In The Moon, rocketry and rockets from the V-2 to the Saturn rocket family, geosynchronous satellites, the Mercury project, space stations, weather satellites, the Van Allen radiation belt, the role of humans in space, sending men around the Moon, the logistics of photographing and visiting Venus and Mars, space probes, a “semi-philosophical question about Man’s rights in space”, theological objections (and blessings), the compatibility between religion and science, Blaise Pascal, extraterrestrial life, vegetation on Mars, smart aliens, Arthur C. Clarke’s first law.

As you can see it is very historic!

Wernher von Braun (left) and Willy Ley (right)

I won’t say much more about the fascinating Wernher von Braun as I recently posted a biographical radio dramatization about him. But I will point out that Willy Ley is pretty damn amazing. Ley was an avid reader of Science Fiction, contributed science articles to Astounding Stories and Galaxy Magazine and was a member of the Trap Door Spiders – there is a wonderful Wikipedia entry about him to explore HERE.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

April 26, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

RECORDED BOOKS - Saturn's Children by Charles StrossSaturn’s Children
By Charles Stross; Read by Bianca Amato
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781440750113, 9781440750106
Themes: / Science Fiction / Androids / Robots / Sex / Slavery / Identity / Venus / Mars / Mercury / Eris /

The Hugo Award-winning author of numerous best-sellers, Charles Stross crafts tales that push the limits of the genre. In Saturn’s Children, Freya is an obsolete android concubine in a society where humans haven’t existed for hundreds of years. A rigid caste system keeps the Aristos, a vindictive group of humanoids, well in control of the lower, slave-chipped classes. So when Freya offends one particularly nasty Aristo, she’s forced to take a dangerous courier job off-planet.

This novel’s title comes from the myth that Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture and harvest), ate his children at birth for fear of them usurping him. Its an apt starting point for a tale about robots More interesting is that Saturn’s Children opens with a reading of Asimov’s three laws of robotics

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

…and then informs us that there are no humans left alive. There is, however, a whole solar system full of robots, all willing and able to obey all three laws. So what happened to all those humans? The novel is the answer to that question.

Saturn’s Children is told from the point of view of Freya Nakamichi-47 a gynoid (that’s a female android). She was activated (born) long after the last human had died. Freya, despite never having met one, still longs for her lost love (any human). Indeed, even the mere thought a human being makes her sexually excited. This is because, as a self described grande horizontale, Freya’s destiny was to be a sexual companion to any human that owned her. Now, without a master, she finds work where and when she can. But after a nasty run-in with an Aristo, a wealthy robot that owns other robots (called Arbiters), Freya will take any work that gets her off planet. Soon she’s employed by Jeeves, a masculine android who is more like her in shape and purpose than most robots. Freya’s first assignment is to transport a bio-engineered package across the solar system. But the pink police (a kind of anti biological proliferation organization), and another, more shadowy, organization are determined to stop her. Along the way Freya visits Cinnabar (a city on rails) that’s perpetually in Mercury’s shadow, drawing power from the temperature difference between Mercury’s light and dark sides), has sex with a rocket ship and grows some new hair.

Freya does a whole lot more than that too. She has a lot more sex for one. But beyond the sex there is some more fully cerebral stimulation going on in Saturn’s Children. The idea of a post-human solar system is an interesting one, and Stross plays with it quite effectively. This is a theme that I think hasn’t been done often enough in SF. The closest novel, in scope, if not in tone, is perhaps Clifford D. Simak’s City (in which intelligent dogs and robots have inherited a humanless Earth). This humanless solar system is, as I mentioned, quite vividly explored, with floating cities (like Bespin’s Cloud City) on Venus, waste heated bio-labs on the frozen dwarf planet of Eris, and a truly frightening description of what’s happened to poor old Earth. Stross has quite a lot of fun playing with the world he’s created here, naming a city Heinleingrad, naming a robot butler character after P.G. Wodehouse’s famous “gentleman’s personal gentleman.” It all mostly works with Saturn’s Children seeming to take most of its inspiration though from Heinlein’s novel Friday. Both novels feature artificial female persons as secret couriers, both tell their own stories, both secrete their smuggled cargos in their abdomens. Later on in Saturn’s Children there is some playing with the ideas promulgated in Heinlein’s 1970 novel I Will Fear No Evil. And, identity, in a world where brain data, and brain states, are easily and quickly copyable, isn’t as simple as it is with us meatbags. On the whole I enjoyed Saturn’s Children and found it full of interestingness. It was as most novels are these days, too long, and in need of a critical editor. The worst sin here is that the ending is rather weak, and features an afterword that leaves open the possibility of a sequel or seven.

Narrator Bianca Amato, a South African accented “ALIEN OF EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY” (according to her resume), mispronounces a couple of the more obscure words but the general gist of her reading is highly competent. It helps a whole lot that Freya’s story is told in first person. I’m not sure what the present tense adds to the narrative other than being a little noticeable and not particularly harmful. Also, as I mentioned in a recent podcast, the Recorded Books cover art is boring, whereas the Ace Books paperbook edition is fabulous!

Check out the dust jacket from the paperbook edition:

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross - The PAPERBOOK's Dustjacket

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Podkayne Of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

April 1, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

[Jesse’s Note: This is a first time review from one of my students. Rose sat down with a tattered old paperback copy of Podkayne Of Mars and a brand new Blackstone Audio CD audiobook of Podkayne Of Mars for a readalong – the result was this terrific review – Thanks Rose!]

Fantasy Audiobook - Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. HeinleinSFFaudio EssentialPodkayne of Mars
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Emily Janice Card
5 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 1433251612
Themes: / Science Fiction / Adventure / Reproduction / Politics / Family / Gambling / Venus / Mars /

From the author of Friday and Rocketship Galileo comes this classic tale featuring the grand master of science fiction’s most remarkable heroine. Podkayne Fries, a smart and determined maid of Mars, has just one goal in life: to become the first female starship pilot and rise through the ranks to command deep-space explorations. So when she is offered a chance to join her diplomatic uncle on an interstellar journey to distant Earth via Venus, it’s a dream come true—even if her only experience with diplomacy is handling her brilliant but pesky younger brother, Clark. But she’s about to learn some things about war and peace because Uncle Tom, the ambassador plenipotentiary from Mars to the Three Planets Conference, is traveling not quite incognito enough, and certain parties will stop at nothing to sabotage negotiations between the three worlds….

This is the first Robert A. Heinlein audiobook, or Heinlein book, and my first audiobook that I have ever read. I also hadn’t read any Science Fiction before. This was mostly because I thought Science Fiction was just fiction that was “beyond reality,” so I wasn’t really interested in it. However, after reading and listening to Podkayne Of Mars, I found myself considering reading another. Heinlein’s idea, that to freeze babies and decant them whenever the parents want, is fascinating. Since many women are busy with their work and have no time to take care of their babies, I think this practice and technology may come true in the future. One issue for me was I didn’t really like Clark at first. He acts brusquely, seemed selfish and didn’t seem to care about his family. I was, therefore, impressed by Clark when he decided to become more responsible and caring.

Emily Janice Card, daughter of Orson Scott Card, narrated Podkayne Of Mars. Card narrates the whole 176 page story all as Poddy, except seven pages from the end when Clark, her younger brother, takes over. I think Card’s voicing of Poddy was in-sync with a sentimental, skeptical, and ambitious young teen. It made me feel as if Poddy was reading her own story. However, Card’s voicing of Clark wasn’t as harmonious. Probably, this was because she is female. Compared to 1979 paperback edition, Poddy on this cover doesn’t really look like Poddy. Poddy looks quite cynical. I much prefer the 1979 edition because there Poddy looks more of a sentimentalist.

Posted by Rose [장미]

The Dimension X and X-Minus One of William Tenn

February 12, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Here is a complete listing of all the William Tenn stories from both Dimension X and X-Minus One. Child’s Play doesn’t have any actual children in it, instead it is much more like a Philip K. Dick plot played for humor. Venus Is A Man’s World, on the other hand, features children protagonists. It’s a curious remnant of its era, a satire on gender equality. It also has a fun bit about naming your kids after Canadian provinces. The Discovery Of Mornial Matheway is a humorous time travel story with a clever wrinkle, mining the same material as Michael Moorcock’s Behold The Man and Robert A. Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps.

Dimension X was an NBC radio program broadcast from 1950 to 1951 in the USA. One episode was based on a story by William Tenn. The same script would be re-recorded four years later for X-Minus One.

Dimension XDimension X – Child’s Play
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 24 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: June 21, 1951
Provider: Archive.org
Sam Weber used to be a meek little man. But then one day he received a “Build-A-Man” kit from 100 years in the future – that changed a whole lot. First published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1947.

X-Minus One was a half-hour science fiction radio series broadcast from 1955 to 1958 on NBC Radio stations in the USA. William Tenn had three of his stories picked out and turned into radio dramatizations.

X Minus 1X-Minus One – Child’s Play
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 23 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: October 20, 1955
Provider: Archive.org
Sam Weber used to be a meek little man. But then one day he received a “Build-A-Man” kit from 100 years in the future – that changed a whole lot. First published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1947.

X Minus 1X-Minus One – Venus Is A Man’s World
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by Arthur Small; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 22 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: February 6, 1957
Provider: Archive.org
War has severely decimated the Earth’s male population. Females now make all the rules men are subservient to women. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951.

X Minus 1X-Minus One – The Discovery Of Mornial Matheway
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by Ernest Kinoy; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: April 17, 1957
Provider: Archive.org
A time traveler from the future returns to the era of Morniel Mathaway, the greatest artist in history only to discovere that Mathaway is completely talentless. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1955.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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