The SFFaudio Podcast #505 – READALONG: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

December 24, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #505 – Jesse, Maissa Bessada, and Julie Davis talk about The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Talked about on today’s show:
1894, not a novel, not a collection in the normal sense, Kipling wrote the whole thing for his daughter, a book of children’s stories, died at six years old, when Kipling left India, the Just So Stories, an inscribed edition, the opposite of a sad book, sad or not sad, wonderful or interesting, the law of the jungle, it’s not all Mowgli stories, a natural progression, the first story about the white seal, interacting with men Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Her Majesty’s Servants, distressing, suffering, war, circling back, that’s just life, finding Shangri La, he lead his people to the promised land, his friend’s skin is missing, hard-hearted, beast of burden, the perspective Kipling sympathized with, the lower ranks, the simple working guys, stead in battle, Jesse’s not very quick with the “themes” in the book, obedience, finding your place in society, a template for the Baden Powell scouts, interaction with nature as a system, all these animals are for us to eat, an exemplar, how many tendrils have grown through to our modern day society, Kim, how influential the book is, the Great Game, Tim Powers’ Declare, religious power in the desert, in the background, Hathi Trust, its from this book, (if there is a) God’s work, preserving the ephemera of 19th and 20th century magazines, a scraper, such a good resource, big systems don’t operate for human beings, wow of course, elephants never forget, and they’re wise, you cannot not remember it, Tantor.com, the elephant from Tarzan Of The Apes, the Indian word for elephant, from 0 to 6, relearn all the things that he learned, low-lifes, lesser-down, class stuff, when Mowgli goes to town, Edgar Rice Burroughs, wow, that’d make a good story, Tarzan is Mowgli’s story in Africa, a series of lessons, Tarzan is pure fantasy, a tiger in Africa, colonialism, a fable, a fantasy, not writing from experience, no sympathy and fellow feeling, no existential crisis, lynching, a justified revenge, the scene with the white seal, Mowgli is no king, lessons to learn, that amazing idea, I don’t know where everything came from, a huge splash, the ripples are reaching us today, why is this thing continuing?, that’s why its a book, half the stories aren’t even in the jungle, the law of the jungle, bringing human values into the jungle and taking jungle values out of the jungle, when Dick is on my back, the bullocks: “here’s all we know”, how would they interact with each other, the Emir of Afghanistan, are the beasts as wise as the men?, thus is it done, sucked into the Bollywood musical experience, Lagaan (2001), the desire of the little guy to get out from under, here’s how the British were able to conquer, they obey as men do, Animal Farm, a Mr. Spock haircut, one more author, Jack London, H.G. Wells, stealing from a great, The Call Of The Wild and White Fang, Buck did not read the newspapers, the error of his arrogance, shanghaied!, the most amazing story, Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe, you don’t know what pain is, the pain of the animals, Mowgli’s parenthood, a picture of Kim, all the writers who write really well, the story of Kipling as a boy, taking aspects of his own life and magnifying them, Christopher Nolan’s movie, you monster!, what is true and what is love?, an innate sense, the irony, such a deep love of humanity, the mother wolf, melancholy, the potential of man, super-modern, there’s no distance between me, William Morris, Thomas Mallory, the dosts, distancing grammar, if Riki-Tiki-Tavi was written today, intimate and close, a light and fun one, snake deaths, so evil, they’re good (to eat), just following their natures, this is my job, the perfect look at man and creature together, each following their own natures, his business in life was to fight and eat snakes, being nuzzled in a bag, why people like to hang out with puppies and kittens, he has a place, verandah, tiny little dogs, handbag dogs, a different kind of love, dogs domesticated people, wheat also domesticated people, fruit trees domesticated human, cows and chickens, being on a dog’s level, co-existing, Toomai Of The Elephants, complete domestication, we are witness to the majesty of animals, Elephant Boy (1937), the radio drama, distancing vs. intimate, he writes good, another strain, Cat People (1942), Val Lewton’s The Bagheeta, that’s crazy, The Body Snatcher (1945), I Walked With A Zombie (1943), The Black Bagheela by Bassett Morgan, The Island Of Doctor Moreau, Frankenstein, important and interesting, Extra Credits, Cordwainer Smith, Jerome K. Jerome, The Idler, Vermont, influencing Heinlein, Citizen Of The Galaxy, Stranger In A Strange Land, Virginia Heinlein suggested Heinlein write the Jungle Book except with a boy raised by Martians, H.G. Wells, Charles Stross, Saturn’s Children, a hidden history behind the books were really like, working on something true, working through the ideas, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline, fully illustrated, modern kid’s books (also for adults) that are fully illustrated, a tribute, people who dislike Kipling, “it would be a poor sort of world if one were only able to read authors who expressed points of view that one agreed with entirely. It would be a bland sort of world if we could not spend time with people who thought differently, and who saw the world from a different place.”, too problematic, let’s just read this book, do the life story’s of the authors matter?, O. Henry, The Gift Of The Magi, a criminal fraudster, rewarded and moral to be a fiction writer, Roman Polanski, Chinatown (1974), Arthur Conan Doyle, being modest about your claims about being a super-genius, foolishly doubling down on the ridiculous, Theodore Roosevelt, sometimes we’re just stupid about things, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, fascinated and hopeful, it humanizes them, a troubling trend, don’t watch the news, seeing a whole life, people being thin-skinned, Facebook or Twitter, performative, Logan Paul, famous for nothing, in the 1920s the way these kind of people got attention is they climbed up to the top of a flagpole, reality TV stars, in anticipation of reading The Graveyard Book, A Fine And Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, written at age 19, in fantasy circles, Julianne Kutzendorf, working from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, a hidden history of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Juliane Kunzendorf, a Rudyard Kipling poem entitled M.I., the influences known or unknown, poetry, exploding with connections, giant spiderwebs, Saki aka H.H. Munro, Sredni Vashtar, twisted, is Jesse crazy?, reincarnation, an otter, a little brown servant boy, a very Indian concept, an alternative Kipling, charged by a cow, a hedgehog, Rumer Godden, going native, fraternizing with everybody, common experience and childhood, Anne Of Green Gables, Craftlit, H.H. Munro story entitled The Storyteller,

An aunt is travelling by train with her two nieces and a nephew. The children are inquisitive and mischievous. A bachelor is also travelling in the same compartment. The aunt starts telling a moralistic story, but is unable to satisfy the children’s curiosity. The bachelor butts in and tells a story in which a “good” person ends up being devoured by a wolf, to the children’s delight. The bachelor is amused by the thought that in the future the children will embarrass their guardian by begging to be told “an improper story.”

the aunt is an exemplar of a certain kind of person, the short term, bad governorship, being sensitive to the needs of the people you are in charge of, inverting the aunt’s story, horribly good, what a great story!, this story could have happened, managing children, a teaching story, thinking about yourself as an audience.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #466 – READALONG: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

March 26, 2018 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #466 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa, talk about Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Talked about on today’s show:
clones, doppelgangers, eidolons, 2014, the 2018 movie, gifting the book, Finch, City Of Saints And Madmen, new weirdness, The New Weird, The Weird, appreciating the book, appreciating the movie, understanding why people talk about the book and the movie the way they do, justifying their ratings, framing it wrong, the Wikipedia entry, The New Yorker, Area X as a hyperobject, Paul would know, big dumb object, Ringworld, Rama, going into it and experiencing it, the original and the interpretation, what?!!?, better experienced as audiobook, the cool thing about the audio version (it is ephemeral), you can’t skip or skim sex scenes, a dream like quality to the words, pronunciation, how things read on the page, The Man Who Japed, juveniles = Juvenal(s), fucking with the reader by changing the text in a kind of fungal growth, experimental, fairly successful, not easily digestible, the book is a manifestation of Area X itself, screwing with the readers’ heads, Alex Garland, seeing the movie first and then reading the book, Blade Runner: 2049, the theater experience, the painful trauma of childbirth, Sunshine, a science fiction movie that doesn’t care about science at all, Ex Machina, nuking the sun back into starting?, the metaphor for Sunshine, not a good idea for a movie, Solar Crisis (1990), Hard Sun, doing good things with bad ideas, not a perfect movie, interpretation, we can’t do that, narrator, from an internal point of view, a kind of version, inspired by, the book is all about words, no big piles of documents to read, The Man In the High Castle show, pointing to something without saying what it is, an art film for a mainstream audience, Andrei Tarkovsky, expectations, characters with names, outside of Area X, setting expectations, imagine its a different expedition, the tower the tunnel, Steen, what do you remember about it?, it’s “this kind of book”, no proper nouns in the whole book, signposts on your journey, taking down all the signposts, a sign there’s no signposts, an initial “S”, Ghostbird, Area 51, a word you use in place of a word, Operation Overlord, H-Hour, D-Day, designed to prevent you from knowing, in the mode, shift gears, losing your spot, so dreamlike, hypnotic, hypnosis, as a trope, hypnosis was huge in Science Fiction for decades, not a Science Fiction book, who likes this book, literary fiction, very lit-fic, horror elements, weird fiction, a reworking of The Willows, inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, Supernatural Horror In Literature, something more than secret murder and bloody bones, a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer unknown forces, the assaults of chaos and the demons of unplumbed space, an attack on the fixed laws of nature, a wrinkle in reality, what’s it like to experience that, if you squint a little bit, a metaphor for the scientific process, scientists, AR-15 or M-16s, a nod back to the book, everybody has one, the same uniform, a military expedition but twisted in a certain sense, the second and third books, cancer as a motivation, the disintegrating marriage, having an affair, pathetic and sad, set a little bit into the future, any evidence that it is set into the future, everything in the book is completely without specificity, he went through it with a comb and took away information, the word Lovecraft loves to use “certain”, a great adjective, the pig creature is a bear in the movie, Vietnam War upside down and inside out, the biologist is in love with the swimming pool, the characters in the film are cannon fodder, the conversation in the boat, taking away the centrality of character, a framing story, Benedict Wong, the tie-up scene, her fingerprints are moving, a lift from The Thing (1982), paranoia and suspicion, really bullshit, they’re all on Xanax, passion about biology and ecosystems, we only see the Xanaxed version on the characters in the film, we don’t see what the love, sympathy isn’t enough, evoking place, the black pine forest, a derelict lighthouse, untroubled landscape, Florida or the Georgia coast, filmed in England, cool ideas, Southern Reach, SR, an institution, two things that don’t tell you what they are, the same time zone, a lack of specificity,

“After leaving Vienna, and long before you come to Budapest, the Danube enters a region of singular loneliness and desolation, where its waters spread away on all sides regardless of a main channel, and the country becomes a swamp for miles upon miles, covered by a vast sea of low willow-bushes. On the big maps this deserted area is painted in a fluffy blue, growing fainter in color as it leaves the banks, and across it may be seen in large straggling letters the word Sumpfe, meaning marshes.”

the crawler, the thing without the name, the Swede, the narrator’s name, as if he is in the room, utterly transformed, just that, I am not returning home,

“See,” he said quietly, “the victim that made our escape possible!”

And when I peered across his shoulder I saw that his stick rested on the body of a man. He turned it over. It was the corpse of a peasant, and the face was hidden in the sand. Clearly the man had been drowned, but a few hours before, and his body must have been swept down upon our island somewhere about the hour of the dawn—at the very time the fit had passed.

“We must give it a decent burial, you know.”

“I suppose so,” I replied. I shuddered a little in spite of myself, for there was something about the appearance of that poor drowned man that turned me cold.

The Swede glanced up sharply at me, an undecipherable expression on his face, and began clambering down the bank. I followed him more leisurely. The current, I noticed, had torn away much of the clothing from the body, so that the neck and part of the chest lay bare.

Halfway down the bank my companion suddenly stopped and held up his hand in warning; but either my foot slipped, or I had gained too much momentum to bring myself quickly to a halt, for I bumped into him and sent him forward with a sort of leap to save himself. We tumbled together on to the hard sand so that our feet splashed into the water. And, before anything could be done, we had collided a little heavily against the corpse.

The Swede uttered a sharp cry. And I sprang back as if I had been shot.

At the moment we touched the body there rose from its surface the loud sound of humming—the sound of several hummings—which passed with a vast commotion as of winged things in the air about us and disappeared upwards into the sky, growing fainter and fainter till they finally ceased in the distance. It was exactly as though we had disturbed some living yet invisible creatures at work.

My companion clutched me, and I think I clutched him, but before either of us had time properly to recover from the unexpected shock, we saw that a movement of the current was turning the corpse round so that it became released from the grip of the willow roots. A moment later it had turned completely over, the dead face uppermost, staring at the sky. It lay on the edge of the main stream. In another moment it would be swept away.

The Swede started to save it, shouting again something I did not catch about a “proper burial”—and then abruptly dropped upon his knees on the sand and covered his eyes with his hands. I was beside him in an instant.

I saw what he had seen.

For just as the body swung round to the current the face and the exposed chest turned full towards us, and showed plainly how the skin and flesh were indented with small hollows, beautifully formed, and exactly similar in shape and kind to the sand-funnels that we had found all over the island.

“Their mark!” I heard my companion mutter under his breath. “Their awful mark!”

And when I turned my eyes again from his ghastly face to the river, the current had done its work, and the body had been swept away into mid-stream and was already beyond our reach and almost out of sight, turning over and over on the waves like an otter.

all the evidence is gone, the explanation in the movie is as much The Colour Out Of Space as it is the novel Annihilation, 12 expeditions, the shimmer is gone, possibilities, the asteroid, something extraterrestrial struck the lighthouse, the “S” word, he’s not her husband, he’s the duplicate, the shimmer in the eyes, more subtle, the thing he’s doing, a comet, meteorite, dwarf planets and planets, Ceres, a meteorite vs. comet, the object is white, aiming at something, the earth is a giant egg and the comet is a sperm, a tunnel and tower, slipping into Eric Rabkin mode, designed to be seen in the unconsciousness (if not the consciousnesses), a tunnel and a tower, becoming a being, fungus all over the walls is white, cell division, an egg developing into a person, cancer, ovarian cancer, the all women cast!, what is it like to have a being growing inside of you that is a mutation of you, the childless relationship, off to fight in Pakistan again, reunited, the happy ending is a new beginning, isn’t pregnancy scary, the real immortality cells can have, cancer vs. a baby, kinds of immortality, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the film works at what it’s doing, the movie is a prism for the book, a very filmic version of the book, it couldn’t be an audio drama, very very very metaphorical, a comic book version, in the backgrounds, Alex Garland’s story, the words scrawled in the tower/tunnel,

“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruit—and the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.”

dreamlike biblical word salad, going to that church, its just weird, negative reviews of the book, you’re never going to get an explanation, very meta, the narration is unreliable, or the universe is unreliable, she’s in a coma, none of this is happening, The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath, Providence, seeing sexuality in everything, Rapunzel is only a sex story, hair growth like plant growth, a retelling of the Garden of Eden, underneath a lot of stuff is sex, about the cosmic, makes Jesse sad, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, a big stream of white cats up to the Moon, a sex dream, once you start looking, what it makes us different from rocks, the formation of rocks, we can’t compare ourselves to electrons, not mammal sex, why that weird world salad sentence, a tunnel, spiraling, a helix, just words, words are magic in the same way that genes are magic, let’s write some words, what does it mean?, certain coding, creating and casting a spell, speech-writing, amino acids into creatures who build and use firetrucks, this is literally Marissa’s job, where the spell is breaking, a piece of tape, seeing the book as a text in reference to texts and weird fiction, the word “thing”, that’s why the word shows up in so many weird fiction stories, uncanny horror, between fantasy and science fiction, body horror, Re-Animator, coming back to life as parts, seeing those fruiting bodies on the dead corpses, let’s take some samples, guts fall out, the more Marissa learns about biology the more grossed out she gets, designed to, very very movie, intestines, fear, scary gross out scene, Aliens (1986), the perfect film movie for what it is, taking certain aspects of Alien and amps them up, Terminator 2 is a remake of Terminator, Hudson becomes the hero, switching over to science mode, horror mode, you’re allowed to switch around as much as you want, why so many love it and hate it, contamination story, pregnancy story, creeping dread, taking all that potential out, taking it as it is, watch the movies first, preferring the text, reading the subtitles, as a film the characters are Xanaxed humans, placing themselves in our reality, are you polishing your Pashtun?, grounding, the Southern Reach is a metaphor for the continual war on terror?, 17 years in, he should have made it a real art film, unrelatable, are we all 12 years old?, being talked down to, people on CNN, everything that isn’t set in the shimmer hurts the film, the environmental disaster, a military screw up, Stephen King (The Mist), angry at the movie, a slow creeping dread, so disappointing, the plants that look like people, the twinned dears with flower antlers, very excellent language, the hints about the journals, this is all in a journal, that’s the moment they knew the most, are they losing information, we start with more information, if you re-edited the film, we all lost time, this is the afterlife, this is dream state, if I was religious I would read everything that way, the pool, the pond, tower tunnel, how her husband was traumatized by something in childhood and it was a film, the shownotes for the Altered Carbon show, how memory works, how important childhood memory is for laying your personality down, what memories are even real, that was a different person, the crisis actor thing, misremembered, .005% error margin, interrupting an attempted murder, strangling and cover in blood, missing limbs, the screaming thing in the bushes, self-reinforcing, the spiral of words, in 10 or 20 years, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, an agency in dysfunction, Kafkaesque, so mundane, The Castle, in second person, sudden jarring cries, dripping out, the, the movie poster’s tagline “fear what’s inside”, psychological head-space fear, flowers sprouting from her arms, the better parts of the film, filmic explanation, the anthropologist in the tunnel/tower, the psychologist, did she lie?, that’s a story, the story doesn’t make sense as a straight up story, hypnosis as used in Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, very science fictional, The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, [Jesse has already done a show on it], a decent movie and an even more interesting book, Marissa wants Jesse to read the sequels, a marketing gimmick, readings for podcasts, revisiting as a concept, three big pieces of a puzzle, what’s wrong with the word “spoiler” is the word has the opposite meaning (for Jesse), knowing more makes Jesse more interested, the lady goes off in a boat (maybe), and leave her journal behind (maybe), it would be much better as a found footage movie shot on videotape, shaky-cam, The Ritual (2017), four guys go out for a hike in the woods, a psychological haunting that happens, not being able to act, the psychology works amazingly better, Norse mythology, a hike movie (!) Marissa’s in!, Swedish mountains, we’ve been completely destroyed, why is called Annihilation?, special pleading, “nihil” means nothing and “a” means not – annihilation is a nothing of a nothing, titles are important, the trigger word, The Slithering Shadow by Robert A. Howard, something to talk about over beers, having something to do is really important in a world with no meaning, Jesse has nothing in common with his students, the only thing we really share is the text, before and after class, having that ritual of three interesting things, Matchstick Men, there’s no heaven, try to get through it until the cancer comes, less Xanax more coffee, The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson, a becalment, do you have any food, a ship covered in fungus, an island covered in fungus, eating the fungus, becoming the fungus, the pool body,

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle

December 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Poison BeltThe Poison Belt
By Arthur Conan Doyle; Read by Gildart Jackson
Publisher: Dreamscape Audiobooks
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 24 minutes

Themes: / apocalypse / poison / science fiction /

Publisher summary:

What would you do if you had discovered that the planet was about to be engulfed in a belt of poisonous “ether” from outer space? Professor Challenger invites a hand-picked crew of adventurers and scientists to his home outside London, which has been fortified with several hours’ worth of oxygen. Challenger & Co. assemble in front of a picture window to witness the end of all life on the planet. As birds plummet from the sky, trains crash, and men and women topple over before their horrified gaze, they debate everything from the possibilities of the universe to the “abysses that lie upon either side of our material existence.”

I like Sherlock Holmes but I am much fonder of Arthur Conan Doyle’s other fiction. He was a skilled teller of “weird tales” and I have heard he was proudest of his historical fiction which I really enjoy. The Poison Belt is the second in a series of fantasy and science fiction novels featuring the brilliant and overpowering Professor Challenger.  It functions very well as a stand alone novel.

Having assembled a newsman, big game huntsman, and another scientist to explore South America in their first adventure, The Lost World, it is only logical that Challenger would call upon the same group for this scientific emergency. Professor Challenger puzzles them when he asks each to bring along a cylinder of oxygen. They are well acquainted with Challenger’s eccentricities but little do they suspect that he anticipates an apocalyptic event.

I’d say more but I think reading the whole description would have ruined my astonishment and interest in the story as it unfolded in this superb audiobook. In fact, having grabbed this review book solely based on my enjoyment of The Lost World, I hadn’t read the description at all. I was stunned to find this was such an apocalyptic novel. It is really well written and thought through. I was frequently surprised as various events occurred because I simply hadn’t thought through the consequences of an apocalypse in 1913 England.

Part of the enjoyment of The Poison Belt comes from the adventurers’ interactions. Doyle is very good at inserting humor, often through the two scientists’ bickering over conclusions, and at other times in hunter Lord John’s casual comments as in this instance when Challenger has asked the group to look at an amoeba through a microscope.

Lord John was prepared to take him on trust.

“I’m not troublin’ my head whether he’s alive or dead,” said he. “We don’t so much as know each other by sight, so why should I take it to heart? I don’t suppose he’s worryin’ himself over the state of OUR health.”

I laughed at this, and Challenger looked in my direction with his coldest and most supercilious stare. It was a most petrifying experience.

“The flippancy of the half-educated is more obstructive to science than the obtuseness of the ignorant,” said he. “If Lord John Roxton would condescend—-”

“My dear George, don’t be so peppery,” said his wife, with her hand on the black mane that drooped over the microscope. “What can it matter whether the amoeba is alive or not?”

“It matters a great deal,” said Challenger gruffly.

“Well, let’s hear about it,” said Lord John with a good-humoured smile. “We may as well talk about that as anything else. If you think I’ve been too off-hand with the thing, or hurt its feelin’s in any way, I’ll apologize.”

Part of the humor comes across thanks to the excellent narration by actor Gildart Jackson. As is often the case with actors, his reading is rife with expressive accents, subtle nuances, and changes of pace. This isn’t a very long book and goes along at a rattling pace. I was hooked from the beginning.

I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed an audiobook more and I hope that Dreamscape is considering more of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fiction for the future.

Posted by Julie D.