The SFFaudio Podcast #649 – The Ideal by Stanley G. Weinbaum; read by Gregg Margarite. This is an unabridged reading of the story (37 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Tony De Simone
Talked about on today’s show:
Star Trek Wars podcast, Tony’s pick, Pygmallion’s Spectacles, Weinbaum, Gregg Margarite, thematic resonances, interestingly similar, three Professor Van Manderpootz, big lib goggles, a little dated, male female relations, of its time, a strong male gaze, in the context of this story, he uses his gaze to create the ideal woman, an absolute cad, out for girls, not empathetic, defeated by reading the story, the girl puts her face in the oven, her male ideal, the uncle in Pygmallion’s Spectacles, Albert Ludwig, another European scientist type, inflated ego and opinion, Gregg had great taste in Science Fiction, like Wayne June, reads like a robot, straight narration vs. performance narration, Mark Twain, treating it like a serious hobby, Acoustic Pulp (Gregg Margarite’s blog listing his recordings), a really great idea man, a tradition, Philip K. Dick has a Van Manderpootz style character, scolded and cajoled, Doc Brown from Back To The Future, Doc Labyrinth, The Short Happy Life Of The Brown Oxford, from this tradition, a fine and upstanding tradition, philosophical stuff, the middle one, Worlds Of If, Dixon Wells, how things might have happened differently, the Mirror Universe, the subjunctivisor, stand alone but in sequence, the perfect woman, she married the pilot, how the male gaze is done by the female, the secretary through the eyes of the janitor, you notice it is fun, its incredibly deep, a magazine named after, What IF…, If This Goes On…, projecting into the future, from 2014-2015, the great stock market crash of 2009, a lot of smoking, incredible output, the perfect, John Rawls veil of ignorance, a good happy and non painful life, its ridiculous, three new particles, really early technobabble (in service), Plato and The Republic, we all want justice, what is justice?, doing right to your friends and doing harm to your enemies, to be virtuous in all actions, where learning comes from, our reality is a shittier version of the perfect, the trauma of childbirth gave you amnesia, learning is actually remembering, what makes a chair a chair is we know it from the ideal of the chair, why we recognize things, instinctual fears, the perfect house, Poe wrote a whole essay about the perfect room, psychons, that hairstyle is more attractive, big hair and shoulder pads, Miami Vice, generated by the things exposed to in youth, active in advertizing from 25 years ago, Somewhere In Time (1980), Jack Finney is sooo nostalgic, Midnight In Paris (2011), nostalgia as a receding window, Ray Bradbury is sooo nostalgic, an idealization of a perfect time in the past, Halloween, he lives there, he dwells there, a place where he was, how he was, only if you believe in this idea of the perfect, an exploration and a ridiculing of the perfect, anything after 1899 was uninteresting, movies from the 1970s vs. stories from the 1970s, the perfect girl, her costume, cuirasses are back in fashion, body armor and shorts, standard from 1930s magazines, Return Of The Jedi, Leia’s costume is 1930s brass braziers, a male Jabba gaze, long sensuous hair tentacles, what makes Star Wars work so well is its coming out and a harkening back, the serials and the pulps, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, wearing swords and cuirasses, flying vehicles and Ming the Merciless, an inconsequential comedy piece, there is this perfect woman out there for me, a new reality, very subtle, an examination of the phenomenon and a dismissal of it, an element of Van Manderpootz, he tells us he’s smart, his wiseness is not as high as his smartness, taking the robot apart, his plan went afoul, the cover of Wonder Stories, its in the story (just not the focus), they idealized it, a guy sticking his head into a cannon, people with TV heads, robosaurus, if he had built it it would have been a disaster, the ideal predator for an urban jungle, the tradition going back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the message of Frankenstein is if you’re going to have kids don’t abandon them, embracing the and, the most discussed one, 1. there are some things man was not meant to know!, 2. playing God is wrong, connected to making babies, God is making babies, creating Hell on Earth, instead of living peacefully in heaven forever, adaptations (the movies), hubris, show off his intelligence, of that ilk, driven to defeat death, a creature that is immortal, the creature punishes him, if you get a dog don’t abuse it, rejected by society, our hero is a little bit too ditzy, he’s not committed (even to showing up on time), so distraught he starts showing up to work on time, oh I know that girl, her second husband (she’s had seven), an object of massive desire, brilliant as he is, he makes a good uncle, the relationship between Doc Brown and Marty McFly, the circular loop, it doesn’t make sense to look at as a Heinleinian loop, Predestination (2014) and All You Zombies, the avuncular uncle, Doc I need more power, the same comedic relationship, getting in bed with the Libyans, the same story a different phenomenon, public domain heroes, John R. Peirce’s The Higher Things, Harry Harrison, romances, I I Dixon Wells, Heloise And Alebard, from the medieval time period, a missed opportunity, a very Star Trek thing to do: Newton, Hawking, Tpau of Vulcan, the iceberg approach, A Pale Light In The Black by K.B. Wagers, the only music is Star Trek is jazz, classical, and Klingon opera, Dixon Hill, the ideal romance, Marty McFly isn’t that interested in science, Sophie Wenzel Ellis, tragic romances, the real answer, Creatures Of The Light by Sophie Wenzel Ellis, a eugenicist, pile on pile on pile on pile on, extra stuff at the beginning, Aucassin and Nicolette, auggh gasoline!, fixed eyes or fixed cameras, phone camera AI, categorizing and tagging, blinders and a mirror, what does this heterosexual young man see?, dating dancers, what other people thought was the perfect woman, nothing about her brain, Weinbaum is very wise, it feels so easy but it is super deep, Dawn Of Flame, a plague in the 2020s, The Black Flame, Kentucky, Black Margo, conquering the world for good, as very poignant piece vs. clinical and cute, wise, wistful, our naive hero, he’s literally teaching us, he taught so many people what science fiction could be, read more Weinbaum, he wrote a lot for a guy who didn’t live very long, Ray Bradbury is genuine and enthusiastic, love and reverence for poetry and prose, the least political writer, cars and trains, The Pedestrian, Fahrenheit 451 seems very political, book burning vs. the danger of television, a magic way to get to Mars, never learned to live (living in Los Angeles) is pretty weird, The Small Assassin, the image of a homicidal baby, Pet Semetary by Stephen King, revealing truths, making the wisdom go down very easy, a jerk vs. a ditz, he could literally destroy the planet, killing machines, the robot is probably named after Isaac Newton, a Jew, Ray Bradbury’s obsessions are kind of what people wanted, that small town vibe, a nice way of thinking of reality, Disney’s Up is too nostalgic for Jesse, noir fiction, hard SF, hard boiled, well written and easy to take in, A Martian Odyssey, a Star Trek bridge crew, each alien is different, silicon based lifeforms, how a bird would think, H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, they’re comprehensible, based in threes, vampires, what would happen to people as we evolved, taking in your food through your skin, grey aliens.
The SFFaudio Podcast #334 – The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; read by Fred Heimbaugh. This is an unabridged reading of the story (50 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Fred.
Talked about on today’s show:
The Pioneer, March 1843, a Hawthorne Poe fest, contemporaries, The Scarlet Letter, a quote by Poe about Hawthorne, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, well known?, why this story Fred?, he’s obsessed with sin, sociopaths, trigger warnings, neurosis, shame, luck, shaped by sin, a mark upon the family, subconscious Freudian messages, Commentary Magazine, Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature by Gary Saul Morson, textual density, vocab, Lovecraft poems, Fungi From Yuggoth poems, harbours, kids are now shuttled between school the home and the mall, ranting against Hawthorne, The House Of The Seven Gables, revolutions in 20th century literature, Ernest Hemingway, the show don’t tell revolution, Hawthorne is the telling-est teller who ever telled, the right attitude toward sin, the two facedness of people, Hawthorne is attacking late stage decadent Puritanism, a homosexual vibe, what is the lesson?, science reaches too far?, Gothic horror, the evil wizard or the mad scientist, science as the channel to unlimited power, elixirs, potions, not even futuristic, Georgiana, Aminadab?, where is this story set?, Aylmer’s castle, Aylmer’s wealth, a compartmentalized life, from the third person POV, the host narration, obsession, the left side, the sinister side, she’s been marked, in the dream, chemical means, pre-Darwin, “I’ve got these old books”, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a natural philosopher, science vs. alchemy vs. magic, Isaac Newton, almost as if he was Ben Franklin, electricity, many suitors, Aylmer’s wooing, is Aylmer gaslighting Georgiana?, she’s reading, a Medieval heroine, a character of of Greek mythology, is a sex-change story?, is this a boob-job story?, envy, the tips of two small fingers, she’s compared to a marble statue, small pox scars, Marilyn Monroe‘s beauty mark, does positioning matter?, Supernatural Horror And Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, a meditation on obsession, many uninteresting analysis, so little action, beyond the sexual interpretation, Hawthorne doesn’t seem all that prudish, how far can you go in purist of perfection in a fallen world, a mark of original sin, wanting knowledge (of good and evil?), the sin of disobedience, Frankenstein and Aylmer are reading the same books, the process of creating a man in Frankenstein, the lightning bolt, Luigi Galvani, grave-robbing, Paracelsus, the gold thing is your way of getting funding, when writing a grant…, this might lead to a cure for cancer(!), alchemy as a religion, The Cask Of Amontillado, Eric S. Rabkin, “the niter, it grows”, Montresor or Fortunato, niter, growing human shaped things inside of bottles, poisons, psychology and the occult, the difference between alchemy and science is openness, the Royal Society, Harry Potter’s school, there have to be muggles, magically oblivious, J.K. Rowling, natural greed, the ethic of sharing knowledge, France’s version of the Royal Society, like the obsession with “open source” or the “public domain”, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, sooo lifelike, sooo beautifully painted, Gothic horror, the evil mad scientist is destroyed by the power he unleashes, The Portrait Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the ending, what is Hawthorne saying?, was Aylmer’s attempt doomed from the beginning?, Jesse’s mom, one of the most important powers of a teacher, she has “THE VOICE”, Muad’dib (Paul Atredies), Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, a profound revelation, philosophy and critical thinking, vitamins are bullshit, fish oil woke Fred’s brain, North America has the world’s most expensive urine, religion wants you to take it on authority, bronze age holy texts, religion as book club where you only ever read one book (or just listen to a guy who did), cynicism or wisdom, loyalty to the organized religion of your family, inherited religions, fundamentalist belief systems, the narcissism of small differences, splintering, revolting revolutionaries, purity of doctrine, young earth creationists, Catholicism as an almost ethnicity (an identity), Hawthorne as a stopgap between H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley, the murky origins of Science Fiction, Dante, Lucifer frozen in the ice, a Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein’s obsession is with defeating death, too in love with science, Hawthorne’s message is like: “don’t drink too much”, Greek symposia, what really happened at a Greek symposium, “write drunk and edit sober”, The Odyssey, mixing water with wine, getting plastered is a sign on unmanning, the Greek obsession was with finding the moderation between too little and too much, what was Hephzibah’s sin?, her sin is being too worried about sin, “you will eat blood”, public shaming is a little much, be moderate with your casting of sin, John Wesley, a healthy functioning society, wealth corruption, falling into decadence, the protestant work ethic is kicking-in, Guggenheim, ransoming the grandchild, leaving it all to art, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Fred’s all time favourite Science Fiction novel: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, how do we raise the next generation?, a supercharged Kindle, matter compilers, Star Trek‘s replicator, eating green sludge, window panes made out of pure diamond, handmade hipsters, how you raise the next generation in a wealthy society, we are unimaginably wealthy, are Japan’s young people uninterested in sex?, Richard Dawkins on Twitter, The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, Gothic-y, Science-y, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, a great inventor, Neoterics, he’s stealing their ideas, the ultimate mad scientist story, following in the tradition, somatoypes, ectomorph (Aylmer), mesomorph (Aminidab), endomorph (Jesse), it’s a scam!, Hillary Clinton, the Ronald Reagans of the world, this is astrology, people think that once you’ve got a word for something you understand it, wearing the mask long enough…, IQ tests, quantification, any time we think we understand the most complex thing in the universe…, there really is a subconscious, tweeting dreams, psychology, the book club with only one book in it, The Great Courses (The Teaching Company), Eric S. Rabkin, survey courses, kooky specializations, the best way to learn, the perennial student, taught not to learn, philosophy of art, credentialism, Jesse can guess the exact words in a student’s vocabulary, guess your weight or age, how Jesse gets work, gaming credentialism, no high school diploma, a contempt for institutionalized learning, a play-by-the-rules personality, grade inflation, what did Mussolini do?, intimidation vs. cultivation, give the students the experience of reading, reading as a meeting of minds, defending a dissertation, essays, we’re obsessed with essays (for the wrong reason), ohhh spoilers!, the big problem with almost any media, “I don’t want to spoil it for you.”, testing is easier, a kind of objectivity, don’t blame the actors for shitty Hollywood movies, status is society, education as the cultivation of minds, there aren’t enough people who are willing to rebel!
“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.”
– David Hume (Of The Standard Of Taste)
We tend to forget. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series seemed fresh and original when it came out a couple years ago. But that’s because we’d forgotten about Charles Beaumont and The Beautiful People. Westerfeld wrote four novels exploring territory that Charles Beaumont pioneered. It’s short story that packs a helluva punch. Imagine a world when everyone around you says that you are ugly, that you’re fat. that you’re unhealthy, that you’re self image is completely wrong, and most importantly that you’ve got to change because social position will be completely untenable.
Now imagine that world – our world – just a few years in the future. A world in which everyone wears a mask on all the days before and after October 31st.
The Beautiful People has stuff to say about beauty and ugliness, the proper place of women, the value of book reading, as wells as the passing fads of sleeping and eating.
The Beautiful People
By Charles Beaumont; Read by Julie Davis
1 |MP3| – Approx. 47 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Forgotten Classics
Podcast: October 2011
|ETEXT| Mary was a misfit. She didn’t want to be beautiful. And she wasted time doing mad things—like eating and sleeping. First published in the September 1952 issue of If Worlds of Science Fiction.