Reading, Short And Deep #061
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Plato’s Dream by Voltaire
Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.
Plato’s Dream was first published in 1756.
Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Reading, Short And Deep #013
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss the Dog And The Horse by Voltaire.
The Dog And The Horse was first published as a part of the novel, Zadig, or The Book of Fate, in 1747.
Here’s a link to the PDF of the story.
Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa continue their journey through The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien with a discussion of Book III “The Treason of Isengard” (aka the first half of The Two Towers).
Talked about on today’s show:
Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes instead of six volumes due to paper shortages; surprise, Jesse prefers shorter volumes; Ayn Rand’s thick books, and thin books like Anthem; pocket editions of The Hobbit; small books make us feel like giant Alice in Wonder characters; The Two Towers is the shortest volume, though Return of the King is bulked up by appendices; as a first-time reader, Maissa appreciated the quick pacing; Anthony Boucher’s review claims the volume makes “inordinate demands” on readers; overwhelming back history; the difference of reading review and reading for pleasure; reading at Shadowfax speed!; “hope is in speed”; the poetry of Tolkien’s prose; Anglo-Saxon influence on alliteration in Rohan speech; the beauty of Tolkien’s descriptions; Gimli’s descriptions of the caves; the illegitimate heirs of Tolkien can’t compete with Tolkien’s command of language; the Orcs as comic relief; three factions of Orcs set against the three races of runners; Legolas and Gimli working through their differences; evil by definition does not make alliances; Saruman’s cloak of many colors as a symbol of evil; the Orcs’ lack of coöperation; who is the wandering old man in the hat?; the contrast between the Orc draught and Ent draught, similar to Gandalf’s flask of Miruvor in Book II; the persistent symbolism of waters and drinking in this volume; similarities between Rohan and Anglo Saxon culture; linguistic parallels between the speech of the Rohirrim and Old English; “sister-daughter” and different familial relations in Rohan; the emerging importance of Éowyn; the underpopulation of Middle Earth; parallels between the Third Age of Middle Earth and Europe after the “fall” of Rome; Gondor = Rome to some Tolkien scholars; Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon on World War I; the influence of World War I on Tolkien’s writing; flood and trench imagery of Orthanc recalls the devastation of World War I; Middle Earth (and the modern world) is in a time of transition; conversation with Éomer about the persistence of legends; “not we, but those who come after, will make the legends of our time”; people tend not to recognize they’re in a time of transition; Jesse deftly defines “Flotsam and Jetsam” for us and ties them into the book’s backward-looking and forward-looking symbolism; Tolkien’s love of etymology; action like the Ents’ storming of Isengard happens off-stage; Agatha Christie style foreshadowing with Longbottom Leaf; we don’t really care about Helm’s Deep; “Aragorn joined Éomer in the van”; horrible tree puns; Old Forest as the Fangorn of the West; we’re pretty sure the Entwives are hanging out there; the Elves are less interesting than Ents because the Elves are too perfect; the Elves talked the Ents into wakefulness; Shadowfax’s race of horses can understand the speech of men; the pre-speech age of human beings and Koko the gorilla; the Rangers are the detectives of Middle Earth; Voltaire’s Zadie and Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin from The Murders in the Rue Morgue; debate about existence of evidence for the Entwines–stay tuned to the next volume!; finding the Entwives = Mission Impossible (cue theme); the growth (in many ways) of Merry and Pippin; Gandalf’s foresight in allowing them to join the Fellowship; “they are the pebbles that began the avalanche of the Ents’ rising”; the three runners sped 220 kilometers in four days; it proved fortuitous that Pippin found the Palantir; the Palantir is FaceTime with Sauron; Merry and Pippin were key to Boromir’s redemption; return of the black swans–and the eagle!; Ariel in The Tempest by Shakespeare does all the work for Prospero, just like the eagles; Gandalf actually performs magic in “The Voice of Saruman” chapter; the voice in Dune; Gandalf takes over the council of wizards; the blue wizards aren’t present because they’re too “swear-y”; the recurring importance of choice; Tolkien is always on the side of free will; Aragorn’s decision not to follow Frodo; Palantir are the “seven stones” of Gondor’s flag; the Palantir is neither good nor evil; Palantir symbolizes communication of superpowers between the world wars, and the iconic red phone; The Victorian Internet by Tom Standee: the telegraph is the best thing since sliced bread; the lazy visual shortcuts that the movie takes with the Palantir and with Saruman’s influence on Théoden; The Man Who Never Was; meanwhile, Sam and Frodo are slogging through; the inevitable breaking of the Fellowship; the four elements in Gandalf’s death and resurrection; more Lovecraftian weirdness in the bowels of Middle Earth; Gandalf has changed; Norse worm gnawing at the roots of the World Tree; Treebeard as shepherd of the trees; “boom, boom, dahrar!; Net names tell the whole story of things; Freebeard’s bed isn’t for sleeping; Shakespeare’s disappointment at Shakespeare’s sleight-of-hand with the trees of Birnam Wood not actually coming to life in Macbeth; “fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane” almost perfectly echoed in The Two Towers; nobody does Elves better than Tolkien; the joy Tolkien must have had writing about trees.
“Aragorn and Legolas went now with Eomer in the van.”
By Seth Wilson
Talked about in this episode:
1976, “hey it’s Zelazny”, Tibor and whatnot, “The Great C.“, waking from a gnostic dream of oblivion, “the book is opaque to say the least”, “on the pilg”, recommended for super Dick-fans who like religion, New Wave (basically shitty), Christianity, Ted White, the Sector General novels, mythology and religion, 80-85% Dick, post-apocalyptic story, the local A.I., the sacrifice of the Athenians to the Minotaur, like a Jeopardy game, heliocentricity vs. geocentricity, “Benford, Bear, and Brin’s new Foundation trilogy”, Hari Seldon in a chimpanzee body, The Best Of Gregory Benford, it’s a paycheck, “If you wanna read this piece of shit that’s fine … I’m getting paid.”, cynicism, looking for the truth behind things, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Tibor’s conversations, there’s no fixed ground, Dr. Bloodmoney, Or How We Got Along After The Bomb, the fallout from nuclear fallout, Utah, Denver, “where are they getting this coffee?”, the socio-economic underpinnings of this book are fantasy, The Man In The High Castle, is he really worried about his bottle?, Autofac, the consequences of automated production, an economic weapon a weapon of war, Gresham’s law, The Crawlers, incs = incompletes, the thalidomide baby phenomenon, Arthur C. Clarke, Of Withered Apples (and our podcast about it), the apple tree scene doesn’t pay-off, the dog, episodic feel, the parallel pilgrimage of Peter Sands, the guy with the face problem, devil from the sky, Lufteufel (from the German words “Luft,” meaning “air,” and “Teufel,” meaning “Devil”), the class of people who engage with believers but don’t believe themselves, if you go into churches…, if there is a point to this story, representation, no photos of Jesus, does it matter if we worship a false image?, drawing a symbol, “the novel is extremely gnostic”, Zelazny’s Amber series, Islam goes the opposite way, depictions of Muhammad, believers tend not to worry about such details, the Klingons, the gnostic gloss, “it works as what it is”, the miracle of the arms and legs, a vision of the Deus Irae, what’s going on with the cow?, she’s a holy cow, the authors say?, “the cow slept and dreamed – Tibor ruminated.”, mechanical arms only (no legs), the crucifixion in reverse, the endings, Lufteufel and his daughter, dissolution, he does partake in divinity, Dr. Abernathy, Luke Daniels, the ozone in the air, an Arthurian motif, the healing of the wound, The Last Defender Of Camelot, dedicated Stanley G. Weinbaum and The Martian Odyssey, connecting the books, The Martian Odyssey is important and interesting but not great, “a classic of the field”, the first Science Fiction to come out of the 1920s, mostly junk, aliens that are just alien, where it fits in the history of Science Fiction, PKD’s favourite author was A.E. van Vogt, changing things up every thousand words, a formative influence on both Dick and Zelazny?, Eric S. Rabkin, maybe they had coffee together, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., dung beetles, the lizards (Lizzies), the talking bird, “the little black boys”, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison, transformed by Am, another name for God or Popeye, evil turns into good, it’s all for the best, the philosophy behind Voltaire’s Candide, “it was good that we had a nuclear war”, the story of Noah, the ultimate Spring cleaning, religious people don’t tend to get stuck at that point, “maybe I’m wrong”, somebody is going to enjoy that sermon by Dr. Abernathy, the passing of good out of evil, internal arguments, “good” is not as strong as “evil”, a very clever sophistic argument that kind of works, a lot of German, allusions to other literature, and “the stars threw down their spears”, William Blake’s Tyger Tyger, a gnostic poem, the currency of half-forgotten poems, funerals and weddings call for the imagery and vocabulary of poetry, cultural tools for sealing social relationships, The Stars My Destination, what is gnosticism?, going out into a cave…, a vision quest, revelations, Jesus’ marriage, canonized gnosticism, religion as Jesus fan fiction, fan service, Galactic Pot Healer, a crisis of faith, a god needs help, a lack of editing, the meditation/drug thing, pastors can be grumpy without coffee and cigarettes, Abernathy is an asshole.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #220 – The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster; read by Elizabeth Klett (for LibriVox). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 13 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Professor Eric S. Rabkin, and Mr. Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
Novelette or novella, novellini?, E.M Forster wrote some Science Fiction?, genre boundaries, H.G. Wells, adventure, horror, The Time Machine, a critique of English society, dystopias, diegesis, a didactic approach, The War Of The Worlds, a bogus bifurcation of the body and the spirit (or the mind), ambiguous possibility, the “Machine” of the titles, Morlocks and Eloi, a reversal, a complement, prophetic vs. appropriate, looking through my blue plate, this book is the biggest existential critique of my lifestyle, it was lovely to meet Jim and Eric, a caricature and a critique, blackberry season, a swaddled lump of flesh, a curiously intrusive narrative technique, a fable, author backchat, in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien, lampshading, breaking the fourth wall, an aural phenomena, a fable, a parable, philosophical scenarios, Plato’s Myth Of The Cave, The Republic, Socrates, ontological imaginary equivalents, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, the narrator isn’t exactly human, “back chat”, man is not necessarily the measure of all things, empiricism vs. rationalism, the unanswerable questions of the stars, everyone is a lecturer in the future, “second hand ideas”, the French Revolution not as it was but as it might be in our society, Alexander The Great’s monstrous rampage through Asia, “the juice of the individual human experience”, we have many books, books as experience generators, Ion, J.R.R. Tolkien, “there is a muse”, the rhetor, aiming out of the subterranean, why are we obsessed with essays?, SAT style essays, a quasi-Aristotelian view of happiness, what does a happy horse look like?, fleet fleets make happy shipwrights, happiness verb, man is not an animal like the others, the body doesn’t matter, man is a mind, big fat babies, the wealthy vs. the working, the bloom of Victorian society (men in sheds), a satire of academia, the Logical Positivists, natural deductive logic, Mr. Jim Moon does a lot of research, rehashing, Terry Jones, Christopher Columbus, Nathaniel Hawthorne, an unexpected continent, the North-West Passage, telling powerful and relevant, the use of the word “idea”, “forms”, Rene Descartes, interpenetration, Orion, the hunter giant,” when you give a bad podcast do you ask for euthanasia afterwards?”, you’re not there for the characters, a very erudite story, Vashti (from the Book of Esther), Purim, the worst possible kind of mother, “the book”, unmechanical, religion, what is the machine exactly?, is the machine Capitalism? Google? Wikipedia? The Internet? Communism?, the beds only come in one size, the six sided cell, a hive society, command societies, totalitarianism, “machines are in the saddle and ride mankind”, the trains make us run on time, a network of machines is the Machine, a perfected machine disallows individuality, “In the dawn of the world our weakly must be exposed on Mount Taygetus”, the worship of Helios, Ancient Greece, the homeless don’t die, despite being set in the future this is a danger in human existence, a perfect social system (utopia), an inversion of the ancient Spartan technique, not to go against the Greek, an inversion of the Garden of Eden story, in real life, a very disturbing story, a hopeful ending, a white snout, sexual competition as in Dracula, have we learned our lesson?, a passion for connection, Wall-E, infantilized adults, vomitorium, Logan’s Run, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, an anti-romantic Eden, “they give me no ideas”, “metal blind”, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster invented Skype?, pneumatic tube, Paris, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, the business of Science Fiction isn’t technological prediction, a totalizing synergy, the blue slates, an Edwardian future, the machine religion, humans enslaved by their own social attitude, Cory Doctorow, the mending committee doesn’t know how to fix anything, personifying and deifying the machine, Voltaire’s “The better is the enemy of the good.”, Protagoras, the Sophists, a sophist editorial cartoon, give me money and pay attention to me, an incredibly weak story with spectacularly fruitful ideas, what does it mean to say “I read something and liked it?”, The City And The Stars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, its left to us to ponder some very deep questions, we’re not at The City And The Stars tech yet, the 1970s and the 1990s was the time for Brave New World, complementary drugs, the work and the context we read them in, recycling of knowledge and group consensus, exciting and relevant for our time, where and when we are when we first read something is important, Against The Fall Of Night, The Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Have Space-Suit, Will Travel, Little Brother, the civilized society and the outer savage, Dr. Eric & Mr. Moon.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
the premise, a Lovecraftian monster, malign desires upon the Earth, The Call Of The Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick, dead and not dead, city vs. cathedral, what if Cthulhu was a nice god?, Robert Sheckley, Voltairian style of comedic adventure, even the ending is a joke, super-depressing dystopian earths, “a machine-like” state of being, everyone in the book is suicidally depressed, the Glimmung, everyone is afraid of failure, I want you to map all the themes and the rising action, an existential book, the value and importance of work, the best pot-healer on Earth, failed marriage, “the game is so depressing”, clever but not uplifting, this is about our society (Twitter and podcasts), totally relevant for the internet age, Molly Yoyez, Richard Matheson’s repeated theme of the disconnection between people, “he you should listen to my podcast”, at least you can laugh, the last line of the book, the best of them, instead of just fixing or healing what is broken he is becoming a creator, “the pot was awful”, Philip K. Dick’s personal relationship with religion, history, church history, Roman history, wordplay, the meaning of “Mare Nostrum”, medicine of secret composition a placebo or patent medicine, to give them hope, agape, keritas, Happy Catholic, a body of Christ analogy, the power of Jesus, Christ stands empty handed, pointless existence, existential ennui or a disaffection with a lack of meaning in the universe (going back to Lovecraft), a symbolic version of deep time, a Jungian interpretation, the collective unconscious, is Joe Fernwright trying to find his soul?, his dead self, come to terms with death, “it’s your corpse”, “I have a box I’ve made”, it’s a coffin, distraction, the book title game, there are more allusions per square inch than other novels, Faust, albatrosses, “what Christ really was”, Willis the robot, unlimited power and unlimited knowledge, why does this cathedral need to be raised?, you love things that are stronger than you, forbidden love, “he felt apathy and there was nothing to be apathetic about”, incest, Amalita and Borel, God the creator, what is a cathedral essentially?, it is a church or THE Church, the bivalve character, the Book of the Calends, people being saved through work, “the robots are more alive (and human) than the people”, “the whole thing about robots”, ignoring your programming, Costco robots, “you can’t take pictures in here”, she could disregard the policy but she chooses not to, buckle your seat-belt, “whether you have a fate or not”, Willis doesn’t just do this roboting thing (he has aspirations to be a writer), thinking of other people not as people, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, LEGOing, WiFi vs. wireless, “be a human being for a minute”, programmed dreams, is the book prescient?, colostomy bag installation, it is inhumane not to be full of agape and keritas and worry for other people, the scene at the spaceport, THX-1138, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, “I gaze across the silence of the marshes”, the padre booth scene, Zen, “you have worked and not worked”, Puritan Ethic, Roman Catholic, Allah, Judaism, “a bowl of Martian fat-worm soup”, the dystopia of regulation and efficiency, friending and unfriending, if this is a book about religion…, pots are what he loves, why didn’t Joe break pots?, the spider in the cup, the little fisherman of the night, “the great fisherman of the night”, this is a book about doing not having done, aspiring and aspiration, busy work and the game, Snake by D.H. Lawrence, But even so, “from out the dark door of the secret earth”, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the bottle in the toilet tank, was there a giant snake down there?, the bones of a Black Glimmung, the bones looked like the bones of an Ark, come and be saved (a new Testament ark), beings in distress, the Glimmung is forcing their hands, “he loved us because we were alive”, Amalita means hard work, Calends -> Calendar, taxes, the ides of March, the allusions to Faust, Faustian-man striving upwards never satisfied, overcoming our bad-selves, reconcile yourself to death, overcome a fear of failure, the pot at the end of the world, “why didn’t you try something”, God in Genesis was very Faustian, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, co-creators with God, the swamp is the flooding of the perfect and the beautiful, Midnight In The Sunken Cathedral by Harlan Ellison, the fog-things of antiquity, infirm and senile, you can get a lot done on the telephone, Mr. Job and Mr. Lawyer, the robots are just as inhumane as the humans, the interplan corn and wheat bank, communism as absorbed into capitalism, crumbles as a unit of currency, Ploghman’s Planet, manifesting, the hovercraft, hello to you too, reading into it more, Julie wants to force Scott to read this book, poetry, Jesse reads The Raft Builders by Lord Dunsany, “hastily making rafts”, The Epic Of Gilgamesh, Robert Silverberg, other Philip K. Dick books, Philip K. Dick’s common book (The Exegesis), Galactic Pot-Healer is a piece of art, it was crafted, weaved, A Scanner Darkly, plots vs. ideas, having once thought to kill a senator, suicide, suicide by cop, upon re-reading, the use and abuse of drugs, ‘archaeologists will find him and know he was a misunderstood superman because he was holding a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead‘, nihilism, Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron, 2081, whack-job libertarian idea, the problem isn’t “the nanny state”, the inexplicably of Kurt Vonnegut’s popularity, the hopelessness of his books, triteness, Philip K. Dick’s deeper themes, Philip K. Dick’s simple short stories, “what is it that you find that’s better?”, the people are the pot = mind blown!, the cover art of Galactic Pot-Healer, how Glimmung manifests himself in the world is how Jesse imagines Julie, and Scott and Rose see God in the world, Glimmung has no concern for self-dignity, “Don’t lose faith. -G.”, this book is about depression, being out of work, suicide, “I have my own black dog I need to fight”, “I love this book”, “It is a great book.”
Posted by Jesse Willis