Commentary: The problem of Poe’s Pym

SFFaudio Commentary

LibriVoxEdgar Allan Poe’s only novel The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym was published in 1838. The unabridged audiobook is available commercially, but the LibriVox version has been stalled at 85% completion for too long. This multi-reader project has been in production for more than a year, and I’m eager to see it completed. I believe it is a crucial work of early Speculative Fiction. It was an influence on H. P. Lovecraft, and his At The Mountains Of Madness and even Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop’s 1977 Black As The Pit, From Pole to Pole is similarly descended from Pym.

The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym is crucial, not the least because I think a lot of us would like to hear some other related novels that were inspired to follow after it! For myself, one in particular stands out I’ve been hankering to hear is Jules Vernes’ The Sphinx Of The Ice Fields (AKA An Antarctic Mystery). This was Verne’s 1897 sequel to Poe’s Pym. I originally ran across this novel in relation to my fascination with sub-antarctic islands. One day, a few weeks back, I was doing my usual zoom and pan lunchtime tourism on Google Maps. That particular afternoon I spotted a cool little island called Île de la Possession (46°24′S 51°46′E), one of the extremely remote Îles Crozet,which is in a chain of tiny sub-antarctic islands owned by France. This one was particularly interesting looking as it was both volcanic and ice-free. There also happened to be a cool research station visible on the far East side of the island. In cross referencing the island with the images I was seeing on Google Maps I also spotted that they’d named its northern-most mountain “Monts Jules Verne!” It also has a rivers named “Moby Dick” and “Styx.” Now hearing all this you might think this is a real-life version of Vernes’ Mysterious Island, but in fact it has nothing to do with that novel’s made-up island, instead this very real island actually appears in Verne’s sequel to Pym, the novel The Sphinx Of The Ice Fields!

Îles Crozet

Now back to the business…. If you’re even half as excited about seeing the great lineage of Pym turned into audiobooks, please consider volunteering your voice to the project. There are only 4 chapters still unassigned and the majority of the other chapters are already completed.

One last thing, call it more inspiration: For an astoundingly-cool bibliography of Antarctic related fiction (from 1605 to the present day) have a look at Fauno Cordes’ “Tekeli-li” or Hollow Earth Lives: A Bibliography of Antarctic Fiction.

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