The SFFaudio Podcast #629 – Rastignac The Devil by Philip José Farmer – read by Gregg Margarite for LibriVox. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 Hour 58 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Will Emmons, and Trish E. Matson.
Talked about on today’s show:
Fantastic Universe, May 1954, no illustrations, a French publication, big long mustache, lion statue, a spirit coming out of the lion, all metaphorical, or a particular satire, an elaborate joke, would make a great cartoon, Fords and Renaults with feet, my Renaut is tired, interesting and imaginative, only for students of the genre, not a good entry point, unlikeable characters, exploring ideas in a jokey way, a satire of a certain thing, a little piece of history, 19th century French adventure literature, The Three Musketeers, making fun of or having fun with, the playful joking, more exploration, particular institutions, Jesse is not an expert on the French Revolution, pre-revolutionary France, the three institutions, political points, non-political points, the last three paragraphs, bad news for Trish and Will, Skin, a substitute for a conscience, Candide by Voltaire, the old evil of alcohol, they plunged into the whirlpool, the discussion philosophical, front loading the infodump, this is a novel but I can’t sell it as a novel, Christopher Paul Carey, this is in the public domain, not happy with it, enough material, more material than The Green Odyssey, a stock for a soup, The Lovers, 1952, the parent of the bug-woman, New Gaul, the Beautiful Land, why there’s so much material here, the Israeli Confederation, what makes the story work, her stuff is in Hebrew, true history that was corrupted devolved knowledge, just another interesting , The Lovers (the 58 page), A Woman A Day, Moth And Rust, World Of Tiers, Barsoom on one level, ancient Greece, Doc Savage, Tarzan, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, always exploring some sort of cool idea, how to knit it together, an interesting book, not fully grasped, The Three Musketeers, he says what he means, the skins were our consciences, the French Revolution is happening at the end of this story, I’ve got quite a gloss on that, specifically a Science Fiction story, changelings, a lot of metaphor happening, fairy tale, eating meat turns you violent, unshakeable belief, the openings, after the editorial introduction, Rastignac had no Skin., reading aloud in your inner mind, having no skin and being happy, deep underground, very very very playful, why are you telling us all this, pulling the rug out from under you every sentence, wordplay, see what the consequences of that are, the King’s Muckateers, three prison escapes is illegal, a chronic stiff neck, his philosophy of violence, an attack on the church, an embrace of the church, what happened to the Church of England, gay priests, atheist priests, we’re all on the same team, Anglican equivalents in Canada, when will the NDP be neo-liberally corrupt, just give it time, everything becomes corrupt and then there’s a revolution, the blood drinking, a metaphor, eternal life through drinking blood, Catholics, not eating meat is common in religions, not made explicit enough, Jesse doubts he’s not smart enough, watching Spaceballs and never having seen Star Wars, Blazing Saddles vs. Men In Tights, Jesse feels like Worf in Sherwood Forest, I am not a merry man, a canon of these kinds of stories, not good at limiting himself to one thing, The Other Log Of Phileas Fogg, just read it as an amusing little jaunt, planetary romance, generations later, different planet, the downed spaceman, a promise unfulfilled, with the six ships in the sky orbiting, why six?, that number is to refer to something, what’s happening in France today, why their culture is so heavily effected, how long a legacy, wash over, a dutch standup, something wrong with the text, ebook editions, Despoilers Of The Golden Empire by Randall Garrett, a spaceborn retelling of the conquest of Mexico, Star Trek, they’re obviously inferior, thus died Francisco Pizarro, there’s no such thing as spoiling it, Frank Kelly Freas, they didn’t believe in spoilers back then, we cant even tell them apart, it writes itself, a good science fiction metaphor gets behind your defenses in a way direct assaults can’t, that’s a metaphor, what is the philosophy of violence, lenient government that allows underground cells, literally laissez-faire, what’s true, free speech vs. actually killing people vs. overthrowing institutions, fish not meat, his buddy, Ssassaror, the changeling thing, residential schools, there’s no exchange, a kind of critique of religion, a Voltaire like character, revialed, exiled and revered, something very basic, daring to be a revolutionary, a free speech system, rejecting the church, rejecting the skin, its a vampire, acting like a parent, a superego, alcohol, in vino veritas, he’s got a skinful, glimpses of light, pre-revolutionary France, powerful church, distant king, nobody’s the good guy, Jesse doesn’t get it, Lusine, husband trying to abandon his native wife, he’s attracted to her because he’s repulsed by her, irredeemable, a conversation that absolved her of her sins, supporting her father, Rastignac’s approval, she’s deranged throughout the entire story, Jesse doesn’t even get the title, cognac, we don’t feel alcoholism, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat, perfectly, special attention, its actually a satire of temperance, the long legacy of temperance, teetotaling, much better understood, on the head of a keg of alcohol, not an accident, best understood through the light of his excuse, he blames it all on alcohol, a real phenomenon, who’s responsible?, AA, the higher power is attached to your body, created by the government and tended by scientists, is alcohol the devil, Balzac uses Rastignac in a number of stories, a letter that’s me talking about…, perfectly enjoyable on its own, the car chase, infodump vs. action, the jump button, an elite car, Renault because its funny, he’s just playin, people who are in cultures, eternal things, everything is cultural, mutable, a linguistic expert…,
Everybody knew the Church had been outlawed a long time ago because it opposed the use of the Skins and certain other practices that went along with it. So, no sooner had that been done than the Ssassarors, anxious to establish their check-and-balance system, had made arrangements through the Minister of Ill-Will to give the Church unofficial legal recognizance.
who are they, do they have to be anyone?, the Minister of Ill-Will, accuracy in naming?, the containment strategy, if you want to go to Oxford you have to become an Anglican, dilutes the meaning, religious whackjobiness, a more honest system, the government persecutor, Ministry of War, in our self-deluded society, the Ministry of Defense, the War Department, truth in the naming, we won’t launch any aggressive wars, unk-unks, Secretary of Defense, sec-def, just going to the meeting is the corruption, we end up where we are, a news report about all the wars, it just doesn’t happen anymore, isn’t that interesting, an interesting point he’s making, Jesse feels it but doesn’t fully grok it, Jesse wishes there was a podcast that could totally explain it, Will is still trying to grok it, LibriVox, Heel, it needs to be brought to the surface, Easter eggs, a narrative you can enjoy, a bit of fun, this should be longer vs. this should be shorter, almost none of it goes deeper, an amazing dystopian device, biology, an amazing novel, a trilogy or a series, wrong skin, half skin, linked to all the other skins, its brilliant, its your culture, how that even happened, getting that idea into the SF arena, you have to wear this parasite, that he never calls it out like a parasite, interesting effects, biological adjustment, Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild, “Rastignac was sure… something”, it is definitely something, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, amazing scenes, building up a world, he doesn’t have a good explanation, he’s a seat of his pants guy, a core reveal, a Philip K. Dick short story, an amazing thing (and then there’s nothing), everybody dies and wakes up in Riverworld, a metaphor for being born on Earth, Hermann Goering, Mark Twain, this caveman dude, Richard Burton, no satisfactory reveal, genes wanna make more genes is not narratively interesting (it is narratively sad), free floating as true (even though it was false), how many Riverworld books, offered him too much money so he wrote book 5, what the point, ethical aliens, reach enlightenment and join this oversoul, hints, The Dark Design, a pointless war, a point about war, the blimp woman, the only queer character in any Philip Jose Farmer story, has dated Jack London before, secret truth, this book has no point, the ending of Rastignac is really good, so condensed, it needed to be way longer, curlicues and ornate spins, interesting vs. amazing, what people say about The Lovers, everyone looks like a sphinx and is a hermaphrodite, 1950s, 1960s, Joe Lansdale, Farmer’s electric brain, had Farmer submitted a script to Star Trek, a fanzine article, every week you got to a new planet (unless there’s a space anomaly), the planet of the counting coup black people, the plains Indians and the Moors, how do you deal with a culture that’s different, the presenting of a weird culture, because of his electric brain, the angst driving Farmer’s writing, he’s wearing the skin, I’ve been a god this whole time, The Rebels Unthawed, The Shadow Of Space, if you go really fast you gain mass, bigger than the universe, Sketches Among The Ruins Of My Mind, Farmerphile, issue 9, gems within,
Rastignac became brisk. He said, “We go to your castle, Giant. We use your smithy to put sharp points on our swords, points to slide through a man’s body from front to back. Don’t pale! That is what we must do. And then we pick up your goose that lays the golden eggs, for we must have money if we are to act efficiently. After that, we buy—or steal—a boat and we go to wherever the Earthman is held captive. And we rescue him. “And then?” said Lusine, her eyes shining with emotion.
“What you do then will be up to you. But I am going to leave this planet and voyage with the Earthman to other worlds.”
Silence. Then Mapfarity said, “Why leave here?”
“Because there is no hope for this land. Nobody will give up his Skin. Le Beau Pays is doomed to a lotus-life. And that is not for me.”
Archambaud jerked a thumb at the Amphib girl. “What about her people?”
“They may win, the water-people. What’s the difference? It will be just the exchange of one Skin for another. Before I heard of the landing of the Earthman I was going to fight no matter what the cost to me or inevitable defeat. But not now.”
Mapfarity’s rumble was angry. “Ah, Jean-Jacques, this is not my comrade talking. Are you sure you haven’t swallowed your Skin? You talk as if you were inside-out. What is the matter with your brain? Can’t you see that it will indeed make a difference if the Amphibs get the upper hand? Can’t you see who is making the Amphibs behave the way they have been?”
Rastignac urged the Renault towards the rose-colored lacy castle high upon a hill. The vehicle trotted tiredly along the rough and narrow forest path.
Philip K. Dick fun stuff, this is a scene from something that’s been re-imagined, this is an adventure story, a noisy car, dense and foggy, a very peaceful planet, stealing of babies is fine, because they don’t have alcohol?, a whole lot of levels, wanna mess up your life go to the bar and get in a barfight, liberté, égalité, fraternité, why is the Earth woman in this story?, a common plot element, it doesn’t need to be here, it doesn’t add anything to the story, that leads to a way off, spark a revolution, a chinwag about stuff, he started a riot, a promise of more alcohol?, where’s the evidence for that?, that would just be amazing, how to accept the skins, a classic of science fiction (in terms of ideas), adopt our ways, a YA Farmer book, super-rich and yet not satisfactory, a psychedelic art comic or cartoon art style, re-imagine it, very visual, without any piece of art to guide us, a LEGO line, very appealing to children of all ages, epees, rapiers, a coach Renault with a working jump button, a rosy coloured lacy castle, the underground cell set, the greatest LEGO movie ever, LEGO New Gaul, with so many good ideas, alas, but still, Trish would like to recommend a complete inversion of this story, Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, becoming uninhabitable, centuries later…, live cooperatively and save the planet, these people are crazy they’re bad they’re obviously inferior and you need to leave”, on Audible, standalone, generally a recommendation, people are paying attention to this story, The Blasphemers, Phil is really neurotic about religion, semi-autobiographical reflections about things, have the children going to church, Phil’s lifelong battle with predestination and Hell (being traumatizing), trying to find a way to relate, Farmer almost became a Scientologist, you have to leave your wife, Sufi stuff, an extended metaphor for some aspect of Sufism, semi-podcasting life, be interesting, be interested, he’s writing stuff for sale but that’s only half of the reason he’s writing it, he was always working on something, working on your philosophical ideas, ambivalent about religion, fascinated and always searching, uniquely American, specifically intensified in American life, religious freedom, fractalization of churches, some weird religion is starting up, Falun Gong, New York, propaganda newspaper, the counter arm of the anti-Chinese government.
Talked about on today’s show:
1970, many people have a problem with this book, issues, classic big dumb object, the book hasn’t changed, oh bad, with live in very sensitive times, political correctness, totally unacceptable jokes, ‘Teela was one of the few women crying doesn’t make ugly’, “so I don’t rape Nessus”, joking and laughing, regaining confidence, is Teela a damsel in distress?, a hole in the Ringworld, luck, she isn’t saved by a man, a trope subverted, Candide, blind faith, rising up, worldbuilding, jaded spacer, quasi-murderous kzin, cowardly Nessus, N-Space, an author plot device, not so cool, Prill, Ascension, Jesse begins apologizing for Larry Niven’s, breaking Paul’s bubble with a fan favourite: Firefly, a lot of sex, defined as a concubine, 40 people on the ship, overly sensitizes, picks at people’s mind, every woman has a tasp within her if she knows how to use it, where are the vampires and ghouls, The Ringworld Engineers, he’s a wirehead, drugs, retesting, a stimulating environment, puppeteer is puppeteer, where’s the outrage over the puppeteer immorality, looking at the book the wrong way, if that’s your takeaway from that scene, let it go, non-sentience and the non-sentient females, Louis Wu’s freezer family, sentient is an interesting world, Philosophical zombies, Westworld!, Ex Machina, man creator creating a woman for sex, addressing a real thing, hard facts that people don’t like to think or talk about, differences between the genders, not being shy, gender switch Louis and Teela’s genders, non-reproductive sex, the intersection between reproduction and sex and gender, a biological fact, why do we go to the puppeteer world, motivated by breeding licenses, he has a beautiful woman’s voice(s), horror acts, I’m going to murder you, when you live in a society that has solved all the gender problems…, as a plot device, the whole book is “spoiled” on the cover and the back, it’s very interesting and let’s explore, in order to have a reason there have to be a series of coincidences, a treatise on fate and destiny, exploring through the story, she just needs to meet a man?, do you have any free will, the puppet strings of fate, the god gambit, she’s going to be alive for 20,000 years, Teela becomes a “protector”, retconing, Protector by Larry Niven, a 1 to 1 scale map of the Earth, Mars, after the Halo generation, trouble picturing it, a true fact, bigger than our imagination, the orbit of the Earth around the sun, did the Lying Bastard make the Fist Of God, the comet defense system, the shadow square wires, Earth has natural mechanisms for keeping itself in balance, there’s no maintenance crew for the Ringworld, laser taboo, Ringworld is so inconceivably big and the whole is not very big in comparison, plug the hole, the center cannot hold, things fall apart, entropy, the sunflower problem, ecology, the ring foundation material being exposed, no real geological activity, preventing the seas from being silted, all the systems that are needed to be maintained, good job Earth!, the Aral Sea, the Earth society, the homogenization of the world, Beirut looks like Budapest, Munich resembles Cairo, transfer booths and stepping discs vs. Skype, a global culture, people in other countries can be in the same room, the lucky ones, every number in South America, Louis is a big mix, Larry Niven is hilarious, Louis Wu and his Motley Crew, French and Chinese, a chrome yellow mandarin, so racist?, just a fashion, Teela was blue, globalism happens, google translate, the Larry Niven’s flashcrowd stories, not the Organlegger stories, not Known Space, flash zombie mobs, revolutions, 2000+ veterans heading to Standing Rock, North Dakota, not through the mainstream media, a slow motion flash mob, thinking about technology the way Larry Niven does, Mission Of Gravity by Hal Clement, how are fly-cycles powered?, concepts or technologies from Ringworld, Neutron Star, Beowulf Shaeffer, my greatest hits of technology ideas, the Ansible (an anagram for Lesbian), Orson Scott Card, General Products Hull, anti-matter, Slaver stasis field, World Of Ptavvs, selecting for luck, a stupid (smart) idea, we don’t have a complete picture of reality, they’re using a different theory, manipulating probabilities, the Scarlet Witch and Gambit, there is no actual book from god, running a crazy (interesting) experiment with an infinite amount of puppeteers, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, sex solving all problems, Babylon 5, bonobo references, sexing your ways out of problems, obsessed by sex, anyone alive has someone in their family interested in sex, a science fan, something to think about, when did Isaac Asimov become interested in sex?, a good thing, the problems with it are so negligible, the fans of Ringworld are insanely interested in it, browbeaten into writing the sequels, a natural school learned from, booster-spice is straight out of Dune, ragweed, the Chaosium Ringworld RPG, Teela brown is well educated, bundled in with the luck, does having experience pain help with empathy?, the Ringworld foundation material, the way Douglas Adams explains how big space is doesn’t give you the same sense, this thing is really, really big, a barbarian swordsperson on a quest, he’s Don Quixote and she’s Sancho Panza, super-funny, “he stopped having sex with me when he found out about you”, almost every culture has done that in most of human history, a collapsed civilization, he knows magic, people barter with people, he’s honourable, stupid honour, she’d be ruining him, keep him the noble idiot that he is, wandering the Ringworld forever, that’s why there is a game about this world, Stellaris, the puppeteer world, leaf-eaters for lunch, “my love”, sexism is based on the distinguishment between male and female, races aren’t real, genders are real, French-ness, epicanthic folds, the end of racism, we all speak Interworld, there goes Firefly again, Joss Whedon, this is why you should pillory Niven: Wu travels the wrong direction for his birthday, “endlessly teased”, the Earth spinning the wrong direction, Niven has tapped into something amazing with Ringworld, a TV adaptation, how to depict the Ringworld on screen, mostly conversations about technical problems and possible solutions, that’s so interesting, the cloud over the city, it looks like a cloud?, that variable sword, Jesse does the voices, Louis the mediator, a xenophile, cool!, real racism, that’s racist!, Speaker’s viewpoint, Nessus’s character is brilliant, [“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”], Meskalanites as Yankee traders, the same story (in structure), what antlers are for, they’re cowards (cautious), they always attacked before they were ready, masterful foreign policy, sock-puppets, it’s both, the Outsiders, slave and food out of everybody, 350 pages, The Wizard Of Oz plot, Maissa’s theory: Teela is Dorothy, the Puppeteer is the Cowardly Lion, Sunflowers instead of Poppies, Louis is Dorothy, Teela as the Tin-Man, Prill as the Wizard, a road trip, it kind of looks like The Wizard Of Oz, Speaker as Tony the Tiger, anachronisms, when you make a kizinti laugh that’s going to be your last joke, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Starfleet Battles, drone warfare, an Enterprise made out of General Products hulls, a BDO, a BDO capper, invented and solved in one book, Gregory Benford, Bowl Of Heaven, Jesse engineer’s a dyson’s sphere without artificial gravity (using Ringworld tech), The Smoke Ring and The Integral Trees, low-tech characters lack a scientific education, Rammer is not known space story, a horrible dystopia, the corpsicles, sticking it to the man, A World Out Of Time, always weird sexual things, totally forgivable, setting Samuel DeLany aside, biological differences in the genders create biological imperatives, women seem to like to take care of babies that come out of their bodies, why do you think that is?, snakes don’t take care of their babies, a biological reason, snakelets take care of themselves, men seem to find women scarce and women seem to find men plentiful, these are facts, that’s what people do, recreation and reproduction, birth control technology has fundamentally changed human relations, walking around in bags, repressed technology, Jesse is going to get into trouble, protecting the make libido, horror stories, a culture of repression, from a biological stance, Beyond The Door by Philip K. Dick, changelings, Rapunzel, Prof. Eric S. Rabkin, this totally a sex story, women always know who their children are and men don’t, the motivation behind horrible, men spread genetic material without cost but for women it is highly costly, the cuckoo, feeding baby birds is physically high cost, divorce in the age of social safety net, charged words, in defense of poor Larry Niven, sexist, colouring the re-reading, trapped in the police jail, flying the Improbable, put a ring around it, a fundamental disregard for women, a lessering of women, little low affect Hal Clements, he’s a man, books written by women, good books, an exercise in making characters, being unable to fully model, a callousness, plot movers to opposed to people, Prill is at a disadvantage, if you’ve been worshiped for a long time, non-violation of the Prime Directive, violated many times, Speaker as a male god, it doesn’t count on Ringworld, very worldist!, vampires and hominids, the lack of diversity, human speciation on the Ringworld in The Ringworld Engineers, bribed with Boston lettuce, less diamond so chaff, mining metaphors, one-and-done-it.