The SFFaudio Podcast #164 – READALONG: The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #164 – Jesse, Wayne June and Mirko Stauch talk about The House On the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.

Talked about on today’s show:
Wayne undersold the novel, it’s shockingly interesting, you can really see the influence on Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, blasphemous hybrid anomalies, “a classic of the first water”, the framing sequence, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, description of sense experience, the best you can expect from the universe is indifference, cosmic horror, Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, Last And First Men, reading in translation, Chad Pfifer, the readalong concept, getting into the book, Under The Knife by H.G. Wells, the swine beasts, the sister – “she knows he’s fucking nuts”, there’s a lot of going to bed in this book, a very relatable character, Arthur C. Clarke, one of the finest works of Science Fiction ever written, marking the transition from Gothic horror to cosmic horror, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the cover art, the Corben comic book cover, the town (or street) that can’t be found, it’s a kind of haunted house story, compression of time, Einsteinian relativity, Pepper is dead and dust, Brian Stableford, Camille Flammarion, The Night Lands by William Hope Hodgson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Percival Lowell, S.T. Joshi, parallel development, authors write cosmic horror in cosmic horror time, astronomy,

“In the future, when the end of things will arrive on this earth, the event will then pass completely unperceived in the universe. The stars will continue to shine after the extinction of our sun, as they already shone before our existence.”

Enlightenment thinking and the decline of religion – tying your own shoes for eternity, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, you can’t love anything in this universe, the jade house in the arena, mythological creatures, Kalpas (is Sanskrit for aeons), it’s meta, before this book we’re living in a world run by God and after this book were living in a post God world, deep time, the recluse, are the swine people are the villagers, what book is the recluse reading?, two incommensurable realities, Messrs Tonnison and Berreggnog, haunting, Clarke’s third law, Poltergeist, the door inward, the start as poets but they don’t end that way, the unnamed lover (let’s call her Lenore), The Crawling Chaos (SFFaudio Podcast #138), The Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allan Poe, The House Of Usher, Roger Caillois: “The fantastic is always a break in the acknowledged order, an irruption of the inadmissible within the changeless everyday legality” (from Au Coeur Du Fantastique), reading old literature, C.S. Lewis, a passion for commas, a gripping book (while the character’s mind wanders), a pregnant book.

Ed Emshwiller painting for The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

Vertigo Richard Corben -The House On The Borderland

William Hope Hodgson's The House On The Borderland

The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson - illustration by Ian Miller

Freeway Press - The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson - dustjacket

The House On The Borderland - illustration by Peter Manesis

PANTHER - The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

SFFaudio Review

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Big Time by Fritz LeiberThe Big Time
By Fritz Leiber; Read by Suzanne Toren
4 CDs – Approx. 5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: August 2010
ISBN: 9781441875129
Sample: |MP3|
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Locked Room Mystery / Time Travel / Sex / Aliens / War / History /

Have you ever worried about your memory because it doesn’t seem to recall exactly the same past from one day to the next? Have you ever thought you might be changing because of forces beyond your control? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, then you’ve had hints of the Change War. It’s been going on for a billion years and it’ll last another billion or so. Up and down the timeline, the two sides – “Spiders” and “Snakes” – battle endlessly to change the future and the past. Our lives, our memories, are their battleground. And in the midst of the war is the Place, outside space and time, where Greta Forzane and the other Entertainers provide solace and R and R for tired time warriors. The Big Time was first published in two two issues of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, March and April 1958.

When I finish reading an old Science Fiction novel like this one I pick-up my copy of The Dictionary Of Science Fiction Places (by Brian Stableford) and see if there’s an entry for it. There is one for The Big Time. It’s listed under “Place, The” on pages 238 and 239. Here are a couple of descriptive passages therefrom:

“[The Place is a] safe haven established outside the cosmos while infinity and eternity were undergoing the continual upheavals of the Change War, in order to serve as a Recuperation Station for soldiers fighting on the side of the Spiders against the Snakes. Its female staff were officially categorized as Entertainers and quite rightly thought of their work as nursing rather than whoredom.”


“The Place was midway in size and atmosphere between a fair-sized nightclub and a cramped Zeppelin hangar.”

As other reviewers have pointed out this is essentially a stage play, and as such, the stage for The Big Time is “The Place.” Now given that it won a Hugo Award, for the Best Novel of 1958, I’m kind of surprised how lightweight and compact The Big Time is. The entirety of the action takes place in just the one location and over a very short period of time. Adding to the oddness, it’s narrated in first person, by a resident/worker in what is essentially an quasi-bar-brothel (or bawdy house) for military personnel. That’s actually a very good thing in terms of storytelling as The Big Time is actually a locked room mystery tale, a mutiny and a variation on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter. The whole book is chock-full of allusions, historical details and notable quotations (one for each chapter in fact). The plot doesn’t really get rolling until about half-way through, at which point you’ve learned nearly enough to play along with the mystery aspect. I liked how it was resolved, and found that the process had me both suitably and appropriately buffaloed with it’s many Agatha Christie-style red-herrings.

There’s a nice description of this novel’s uniqueness on the Wikipedia entry: “The Big Time is a vast, cosmic back story, hidden behind a claustrophobic front story with only a few characters.” That’s it precisely. Now to the question I turned over and over in my mind after hearing it. “Is The Big Time a classic for the ages?” Upon long consideration I’m thinking that it is not. It is a good story, but it’s nowhere near that vaunted class of SF greatness. The idea of time travelers fighting a war across time and space isn’t a particularly original or interesting. And it isn’t an idea that is thoroughly exhausted in this story. But, for what this story is, and how it’s done, The Big Time is definitely worth reading if you’re in a mood for a locked room tale.

I’m sad to report a couple of minor blemishes mar this otherwise excellently produced audiobook version. First there’s the music. Each disc in the CD set ends and begins with music that absolutely does not fit the novel’s atmosphere. This problem may be entirely avoided by getting the original Audible Frontiers version, or perhaps mostly (or completely) eliminated with the MP3-CD edition.

Second, more serious, and entirely unavoidable, there is a lyrical song in the text, which I will reproduce to illustrate the problem. This comes at the end of Chapter 3:

Standing in the Doorway just outside of space,
Winds of Change blow ’round you but don’t touch your face;
You smile as you whisper tenderly,
“Please cross to me, Recuperee;
The operation’s over, come in and close the Door.”

Given the number of references I got, this one must be Fritz Leiber’s nod to the immortal Lili Marleen. But Suzanne Toren, who is otherwise absolutely fantastic, doesn’t use Lilli Marlene as the melody. And that is a small, but very real shame.

By the way, here are three of several cool Virgil Finlay illustrations from the original Galaxy publication:

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber - Illustrated by Virgil Finlay

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber - Illustrated by Virgil Finlay

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber - Illustrated by Virgil Finlay

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Readalong: a reminder

SFFaudio News

SFFaudio MetaAs I mentioned last Thursday an upcoming SFFaudio podcast, scheduled for an April 26 release, will be on the topic of Robert Sheckley’s novel The Status Civilization.

If you’re like me, you like doing the homework you’ve assigned yourself, so you’re probably furiously riffling through the pages of any and all SF reference books that you can get your grubby mitts on.

The Dictionary Of Science Fiction Places by Brian StablefordHere’s a relevant passage from one of my reference books, a sketched briefing on the planet Omega, and the city of Tetrahyde. These are the setting of The Status Civilization:

OMEGA – An EARTH -clone prison planet patrolled by guardships armed with, beam-weapons, which were programmed to annihilate anything rising above an altitude of five hundred feet. Its only city was Tetrahyde, located on a narrow peninsula whose landward side was bounded by a high stone wall.

Tetrahyde’s largest building was the Arena, site of the annual gladiatorial games. The Mutant Quarter – which was nasty and dangerous even by Omegan standards – was virtually a city within the city.

Prisoners deported to Omega were stripped of their specific memories but left with the knowledge that they had somehow proved themselves incapable of following the rules of civilized society. In consequence, they established a society of their own whose customs and mores were formed in frank opposition to those whose violation had resulted in their condemnation.

This rigidly stratified society relegated new arrivals to the bottom rank, below established Residents, who were themselves inferior to Free Citizens and Privileged Classes. Order was strictly and sternly maintained by armed Free Citizens known as Quaestors but rapid social advancement was available to those who demonstrated their prowess as killers.

Omega’s established religion was Satanism and its legal establishment was the Kangaroo Court, which administered Trials by Ordeal as well as handing down arbitrary judgments. Pleasure-seekers, ever-careful to avoid prosecution for non-addiction to drugs patronised the Dream Shop, the Euphoriatorium and the vacation resort at the Lake of Clouds, whose Satyr’s Grotto hosted an orgy every Saturday night. Average life-expectancy in Tetrahyde was about three years- a figure whose low value was maintained by such institutions as Hunt Day as well as the Lottery and the Games- but remained in spite of all its best efforts merely a distorted mirror image of the society that had spawned it.

(The Status Civilization, Robert Sheckley. 1960; Omega was also one of the alternative names of COLMAR; other locations harboring calculatedly oppositional cultures include TRANAI, Satirev (see VERITAS) and WALPURGIS III.)

-From The Dictionary Of Science Fiction Places by Brian Stableford (page 222)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #032


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #032 – Jesse and Scott are ramifying and missling things as they talk about recently arrived and newly released audiobooks. We’ve got fists the size of baked hams in this episode so we say crazy things like:

“Soccer is cool!” – “The great thing about Laserdiscs…”

“Tele-Vision. It’s a Science Fiction-sounding word” – “…stupid Morlocks!”

We’re also asking the deep questions like: “Is there anybody more exciting than Robert Silverberg?” Indeed, it’s our most Reganesque show.

Talked about on today’s show:
Blackstone Audio, Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer, The Quitaglio Ascension, End Of An Era, Golden Fleece, CERN, Flash Forward (TV series), The 4400, WWW: Wake, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet by Richard Matheson, Infinivox, The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction edited by Alan Kaster, The Twilight Zone, William Shatner, John Lithgow, Where There’s A Will by Richard Matheson and Richard Christian Matheson, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Codex, B>Wahammer: Slayer Of The Storm God by , Warhammer: 40,000: Heart Of Rage by James Swallow, Danielson Kid (age 14), Major League Soccer, soccer, Audible Frontiers, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer, Footfall, The Stand by Stephen King, post-apocalypse, Timothy Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler, Fledgling, BBC Audiobooks America, 2000X: Bloodchild, Brilliance Audio, Moonrise by Ben Bova, the Grand Tour novels, Omni magazine, Analog, The Precipice, The Rock Rats, The Silent War The Aftermath, the Asteroid Wars sub-series, releasing digitally on Audible before hardcopy, the MP3-CD format is the best, VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, BluRay, digital copies, Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem, Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick, The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the Retrieval Artist series, what is noir?, detective fiction, Young Adult fiction, The Cambridge Companion Science Fiction, Brian Stableford, Gary K. Wolfe, Kathryn Cramer, Andy Duncan, Ken MacLeod, The Oxford Dictionary Of Science Fiction, neural (adj), visi-screen (noun), visi-plate (noun), ansible (noun), Kerguelen (proper noun), mind-meld (verb), mind-meld (noun), Recorded Books, Bimbo’s Of The Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb |READ OUR REVIEW|!

Posted by Jesse Willis

ClonePod offers Jim C. Hines and Brian Stableford

SFFaudio Online Audio

Clone Pod Podcast - ClonePod.orgClonePod, as we mentioned recently, is a new short fiction podcast that has modeled itself on the successful Escape Pod model. Hosted by middle schoolers the stories are geared towards that audience, filling a niche that has been only rarely serviced. Evidence for their commitment to entertainment comes from their latest two shows which take two tales from two pro-writers with established audiences….

First up is Brian Stableford’s The Poisoned Chalice, which originally appeared in the 2006 anthology Fantasy Gone Wrong. The idea behind which was to take “traditional fantasy premises and color them ironic.”

The Poisoned Chalice by Brian Stableford
The Poisoned Chalice
By Brian Stableford; Read by Bruce McDonald
1 |MP3| – Approx. 42 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: ClonePod
Podcast: February 10th 2008
“WORLD’S EDGE 4 MILES” said the relevant arm of the signpost. At least, that’s what it said now. The 4 replaced a scratched-out 5, which had replaced a scratched-out six, and so on to 10. There had been other numbers before that, but someone had repainted the sign some years ago to make way for a new set….

Sez Jim C. Hines on his blog:

“If you’re looking for something to put you in a goblin mood, head on over to the new Podcasting site ClonePod. My story “Goblin Hunter” is the latest release, showing how Jig met his faithful fire-spider Smudge. “Goblin Hunter” was originally published as “Goblin Hero” in Bash Down the Door And Slice Open the Badguy [an anthology of humorous sword and sorcery). (I named the story and sold it before settling on the title for the second goblin book. So the story has now been renamed.) They’ve got a fun illustration of Ropak the goblin, too.”

Goblin Hunter by Jim C. Hines
Goblin Hunter
By Jim C. Hines; Read by Bruce McDonald
1 |MP3| – Approx. 29 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: ClonePod
Podcast: February 28th 2008
Jig had muck duty again. His shoulder ached from hauling the muck pot around as he scooped gobs of green sludge into shallow indentations in the stone floor. So far, he had made it through his duties without splashing himself. Even the unlit muck blistered skin in a matter of seconds. When burning, the yellow and green flames were almost impossible to extinguish, which was why the goblins used the stuff in the first place. Unlike most muck-workers, Jig had survived several years with his skin and lungs intact.

Check it out via their podcast feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis