The SFFaudio Podcast #579 – The Spy In The Elevator by Donald E. Westlake; read by Winston Tharp (for LibriVox.org). This is an unabridged reading of the short story (38 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa Bessada
Talked about on today’s show:
Galaxy, October 1961, a very good issue, Cordwainer Smith, Frederik Pohl, Fritz Leiber, Frank Herbert, Robert Bloch, Jack Sharkey, Willy Ley, a lot of engineering and planning, I love Westlake’s writing so much, reach out and kiss you, the first paragraph, that put the roof on the city, Eric S. Rabkin, “transformed language”, transforming an idiom for a science fiction setting, the opposite of Poe or Lovecraft, ornate, dense, oblique, frothy, characterization, perfect voice for it, he was dangerously insane, including my date with my girl, a post-apocalyptic dystopia that ends on a very sour note (for the reader), a nice trick he pulled, he gets over it very easily, cleavage girls, contract marriages, no-p (no progeny), p and not p, natural deductive and axiomatic logic, math for sentences and paragraphs, useless and yet…, an underlying current that’s rather deep, Philip K. Dick, The Penultimate Truth, The Defenders, leadies vs. ore-sleds, a retelling of the myth of the cave from Plato’s Republic, a metaphor for having conversations with people, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the mentality of the people, The Ax by Donald Westlake, a very funny sad scary book, very political, it wouldn’t have felt political at the time, artifacts, the massive trope or overpopulation, arcology, a condo, the projects, the justification for why would be reading a crime novel, he quit science fiction, Xero (magazine), very true of most science fiction writers, Joe Haldeman cant make a living at it, a sad reality of the industry, solid ideas, from a very different angle, Wool by Hugh Howey, mainstream science fiction with this wonderful aspect, Robert Sheckley, he’s poking fun at everything all along the way, delights in enjoying how ridiculous life is, makes kids enjoy science fiction, a great infodump on page 183, it flows just beautiful, a nation 200 hundred stories high, occasional spies, external dangerous lurking at the back of our minds, the ungentlemanly gentleman’s war, irony and humour, treated to such flowy goodness, the whole story’s greatness, you could make this as a student film, three or four actors, so good, an efficeny of science fiction, a real shame he quit science fiction, Doctor Killybilly, William = strength and protector, why did they do this?, our judo flipping instructor, where the outside is unknown and secretly not bad, Logan’s Run, the Fallout games, High-Rise by J.G. Ballard, The Luckiest Man In Denv by C.M. Kornbluth, why are the Russian oligarchs so much work than the Bloomberg oligarchs, can it be explained, circular, imaginary enemies, WWI (the ignoble nobleman’s war), The Westlake Review blog, WWII (the racial non-racial war), WWIII (the ungentlemanly gentleman’s war), tactical nuclear weapons, MacArthur, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, good strategy, your focus narrows, situational awareness, tunnel vision, engaged with a twitter thread, this happens to countries (not just people), they found his car, the army men, kind of incompetent, aiming the elevator at the army, starve-em-out, Edmund Rice, the right focus, his apartment is falling apart, the window doesn’t work, his single egg, rationing, chicory coffee, he cant imagine a different life, at the bottom of the apartment building, slag, it dumping of their ore car slag, piling up, if this goes on they will be buried, Idiocracy (2006), Javelin missiles sent to Ukraine, attacking Trump from the right (instead of the left), making more nukes?, if we have WWIII it will be stupid, howitzer line of sight nukes, they did it on purpose, somebody is lying, West End Games’ RPG Paranoia, it’s cool to think about, page 193, terror, horror, dizziness, do you see that green?, the power of suggestion, agoraphobia, The Caves Of Steel, his girlfriend, so obsessively worried about punctuality, PTSD, ore-sleds are just like people?, they have so little, they focus on the tiniest things, get Jesse hiking more, kidnap victims, Stockholm Syndrome for a whole nation, he’s like Canada, the sky isn’t falling, he’s a humanitarian, a dangerous criminal, an illegal immigrant, he puts us in the situation right with the guy, page 179, that horrible egg, gaspingly transparent window, its better to look inward, a whimsical approach, a romantic approach, I can’t live without you at the moment, will you be provisionally mine?, I’m going to be needing a wife for at least a year or two, I moved like a whirlwind, that was wrestling, that was judo, that was karate, he just killed the guy who was trying to help him, Paul plugs a book: Mazes Of Power by Juliette Wade, And All The Earth A Grave by C.C. MacApp, three extra zeros, advertising for coffins, a prospector wanders out of the New Mexican desert, humans are complete asses, under the roof, she refused at length and descriptively, any number of girls, I was a hero, they even gave me a medal, not licensed for progeny, this is our reality, living in bubbles, elaborate defenses, that’s what this is really good at, what’s going in the sixties, what its for, its about the psychology of our own human silliness, delightfully frothy, that first giant step, man got a hotfoot, he ran back with the tale between his legs, Neil Armstrong, images of flame, page 189, you’ve crawled into your caves, a well appointed cave, Outside, the same thing, always the same stupidity, the long slow painful creep of progress, a lot longer than it took to go right back into the cave again, how long people had without useful technologies, the cave is a metaphor for your set of beliefs, cut out the information coming from the outside, he wants to eat the fake news, he’s blocking people on twitter, you’re cancelled, cancer culture, once you start blocking…, he thinks what he hears in the building, what the army tells them, radiation proof cars, why should we?, don’t you ever wanna look at that guy’s voting record?, cutting off, dis-empowering yourself, you’re walking into the slaughterhouse, don’t listen to him, feels like there’s very little here, just another science fiction story, substantial power, if it were novel length, that experience, The Defenders is the same story from another point of view, City Of Endless Night by Milo Hastings, eggs, don’t shill for Instant Pot until they sponsor the podcast, the free range ones, orange yolks, you can taste the difference, a sad thought, that’s your allotment, the staircase, using the staircase is a transgressive act, do you need a stairway in a mausoleum, by 2000 everybody lived in projects, his grandparents?, three generations?, distorted stories, the history lesson, the old folks home, genetically unsuitable, what makes him unsuitable?, do you want to breed smarter people, suggested by the story but not in the story, we see two of them, the number of actors you need: two guys and a lady who comes in on skype, a tight dystopia, E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, co-opted, Westlake was a Manhattanite, New York as a horizontal arcology, the El or the subway, you can walk three blocks, rush hour, you have ruined my life, the spy is a little more reliable, bad for you, a monster behind that dumpster, the big Donald Westlake hits, The Risk Profession, LibriVox, space insurance, the two sides of Westlake, oh man, situational jokeyness, the Dortmunder books, The Hook, Memory, Charles Ardai, Christa Faust’s Money Shot, like Kill Bill, Hard Case Crime, at least sixty novels, Anarchaos, a very slim volume, so many good books, Somebody Owes Me Money, a crime syndicate, wherever he takes you on a journey, still fun, he still makes it work somehow, so funny with his characterization, Greg Bear is the opposite of Donald Westlake, we build the whole thing, you don’t leave him for a second, the way Shakespeare was gifted, a massive loss for Science Fiction, Smoke, endlessly silly ideas beautifully demonstrated, how many movies are made out of Westlake’s stuff, foreign homages, 41 credits as a writer, The Hot Rock, The Grifters, Payback, Jimmy The Kid, Diff’rent Strokes, A Slight Case Of Murder, James Cromwell as the detective, Cops And Robbers, Point Blank, Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, he’s king of like Stephen King, Stephen King loves Westlake, Richard Bachman is named after Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Magnum, P.I., a crisp clear writer, Lawrence Block, fifteen years of great reading.
Talked about on today’s show:
1908, sequels, 500 short stories, The House Party At Smoky Island, Weird Tales, Canada, the show is always being made, a running joke, the only thing we know how to produce, Little House On The Prairie, so much drama!, every time she learns to do something…, relatively violence free, emotional scarred, deep consequences, carrot, all this baggage, just that carpet bag, her imagination, her red hair, horrible manners, how’d you like…, Anne’s temper, a similar setup, Marilla tells her own stories, she’s nothing otherwise, the new Netflix adaptation, Anne With An E, CBC, within 5 minutes…, PTSD, Anne being beaten by the previous family, you could read it that way, the take in 2019, each reiteration brings something different (something present within the society too it), in the next generation she’ll be a mentally ill child, her character vs her upbringing, Julie was being too modern, cruel self-revelation, 1935, along with Clark Ashton Smith and Seabury Quinn, a quaint little ghost story, riding on her coattails, famous in her lifetime, Charles Dickens level famous, documentaries, tourists to Prince Edward Island, made beautiful, the romance of Anne, her describing and renaming, the reason the Japanese want to go there, the Germans want to come to British Columbia and Alberta for the mountains, still a legacy of tourists from 100 years ago, the level of impact, how can Jesse ignore it?, there’s no SF in this but there’s plenty of F, The Blue Castle, my chest is hurting, heart problems, you can tell it was written by the same person, take that everybody, banned for featuring an unwed mother, undressing religious hypocrisy, sold out in Poland, countries grabbing on, unusual circumstances, flouting all the conventions, being taught to live within the conventions, worth a read, Muskoka, why is this such a popular book, it’s charming, why has it lived so long?, a first girl power book, Katniss’ predecessor, the ridgepole, outside of her time for what a girl might or could do, a girl book, Jesse’s cousin, seeing oneself in the book, what is it that happens in the story, we are introduced to the place, she’s from Nova Scotia, suff to look at -> all dialogue, Anne talking continuously, vs. Olaf Stapledon, is she a pioneer, or the opposite of a pioneer, what we’re seeing in Anne is L.M. Montgomery, the main character is a writer and an imagine-er, you don’t have to have red hair to like Anne, celebrating imagination and the plucky spirit, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, she’s counter revolutionary, she’s entering an institutionalized world, not the frontier epoch, a sadder story, educate the imagination out, oh my god, is this for real, “imagin” continuous until the last few chapters, 177 times, she is creating the entire description of reality, the cherry tree, wouldn’t it be romantic to sleep in the cherry tree, Matthew has even less imagination than Marilla, we are the viewpoint characters, unrestricted and uncontrolled, all within the context of NOT rebelling, she’s the opposite of a rebel or a revolutionary or a pioneer, the book is pioneering, she grows up to be the school teacher, she grows up to be a church goer, she could have, she aint for women’s liberation, a girl ought to take the religion of her mother and the politics of her father, she hasn’t gotten in to trouble for so long, she might become the school teacher who inspired them, clearly she’s going to marry Gilbert someday, in family, community, and friends, in getting older, imagination of a child vs. institutionalization, the moment Evan felt saddest is when Anne stopped doing the story club, the testing is more important, Evan teaches in China, whatever imagination they’ve ever had the institution has beat out of them, collectively we’ve lost a lot, Evan gets all the conformists, Jesse gets all the rejects, the Canadian school system vs. the Chinese school system, Chinese kids taking Mandarin in Canadian schools, that’s what happens to everybody, robotics with LEGO, LEGO Logo for Apple IIe, there’s something changed within me, insanely imaginative, the more rigorous you are in having to meet expectation, recite and regurgitate and pass the test, giving up and muddling through, the opposite of the frontier, the Philip K. Dick stories, new grounds to start a new life in, he goes into the space and he goes into the future, how many natives are mentioned in this story?, zero, rural farming, a setting for this girl and the imagination, she really was that girl in every sense, whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry, later writings and love life, Montogmery wrote extensively about her infatuations, per-obsessing, this is a girl thing, now that you’ve stepped on my trap i’m going to spring it, Conan the Barbarian is the male equivalent of Anne Of Green Gables, the poetry of Robert E. Howard is incredibly beautiful, The Faithful by Lester del Rey, dogs don’t have thumbs, the new children of men, story idea vs. terrible writing, Hungor Beowulf The Forty-First, a monkey named Ptolemy, this ambiguous and strange character, trying to write stories for Conan, a new Anne Of Green Gables cover with Anne with blonde hair, in the 1970s they gave Conan had a mustache and people were not having it, in July of 2019 they used the word “ass” twice, a word Howard would never have used, mighty thews, Conan is “The Cimmerian”, we never meet another Cimmerian, a stranger from outside dropped into plots, he’s the variable man, he’s thing that makes the thing happen as it does, Anne is conforming to the society, Conan comes into a society and fucks it up, how many times did people say this girl is special, Jesse is comparing the wrong things, she’s Tom Sawyer but she’s not Huck Finn, Tom’s going to end up a lawyer, for boys the going out and adventuring things and breaking things and being badass, Anne’s always doing it within that community, Anne doesn’t sail off into the western sunset, The Storytelling Animal, story is what defines us as human beings, we think in stories, the teacher was determined that there were no gender differences, and its not universal, not every girl is an Anne, she wanted to divorce and be a good life, interestingly documented, I can’t believe I’m married to this doofus who wont read books, depressed for different reasons, the Rape of Belgium, the images put into her head, go to fight the evil that is the Germans, the meat-grinder that is WWI, he’s not reading the newspaper, she raises the Russian flag over the house, she’s blind to the fact that this is propaganda, her imagination, tempering down her imagination, a restriction, Marilla’s so soft, when she loses the broach, showing Marilla’s internal conversation, here are the conventions, how do I deal with this, we thought Rachel Lynd was a monster (at first), a woman who’s a bit mouthy (but a good person), helping change the people around her, this is how we live, this is not a fantasy novel its about a girl with a fantastic imagination, Pippi Longstocking, help Diana cultivate her imagination, Marilla and Matthew have their imagination expanded, maybe we could keep her, rein it in or let it go, the haunted wood quote:
“Nobody,” confessed Anne. “Diana and I just imagined the wood was haunted. All the places around here are so–so–commonplace. We just got this up for our own amusement. We began it in April. A haunted wood is so very romantic, Marilla. We chose the spruce grove because it’s so gloomy. Oh, we have imagined the most harrowing things. There’s a white lady walks along the brook just about this time of the night and wrings her hands and utters wailing cries. She appears when there is to be a death in the family. And the ghost of a little murdered child haunts the corner up by Idlewild; it creeps up behind you and lays its cold fingers on your hand–so. Oh, Marilla, it gives me a shudder to think of it. And there’s a headless man stalks up and down the path and skeletons glower at you between the boughs. Oh, Marilla, I wouldn’t go through the Haunted Wood after dark now for anything. I’d be sure that white things would reach out from behind the trees and grab me.”
“Did ever anyone hear the like!” ejaculated Marilla, who had listened in dumb amazement. “Anne Shirley, do you mean to tell me you believe all that wicked nonsense of your own imagination?”
“Not believe exactly,” faltered Anne. “At least, I don’t believe it in daylight. But after dark, Marilla, it’s different. That is when ghosts walk.”
Stephen King, It, the reason kids are attracted to this monster is because they have imagination, if Stephen King was your dad, adults are afraid of the mortgage and kids are afraid of the vampire and the werewolf, Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, in this house there are many keys, the Head Key, a key of imagination a key of memory, the explanation, a gothic house with many gables, expanding battery issues, only the kids can see that the keys are there, as soon as you age out you forget that all these events happened, Welcome To Lovecraft, Joe Hill gets what his father was trying to say, getting to the imagination, we don’t know why Conan left Cimmeria, huge mistake, just wrong, you’ve misunderstood, she cuts off all her hair and she buys a blond wig, she romanticizes her hair, deeply in touch with the desires and interests with girls, dresses and sleeves didn’t and don’t interest Maissa, it has more than just typical person, she’s an absolute character, what happened to Marilla, they’re brother and sister?, why didn’t they have any children, they’re barren, siblings?!, it wouldn’t change very much, why are this brother and sister living together alone, set in the 1870s, settled in the 1840?, Montgomery was raised in P.E.I. by her grandparents, she came from away, there isn’t a lot of sexy time with Matthew and Marilla, courting never came to Matthew, Marilla did what Anne did: spurn a boy and never forgive him, great characters, Diana’s there and we get some sense of her, the boy living in Anne’s house gets almost no attention, why is the boy not important, they must have an outhouse (because its not romantic), there are just some things we don’t talk about, choosing what to focus on, the pies that tasted bad, the pigtails incident, the dresses with the poofy shoulders, all sorts of stuff happening that she doesn’t focus on, finding the way for how Anne ended up there, the blame is so diffused, the right age, the book takes place over about five years, it feels right, a perfect novel, there’s not a note off, read all the Dragonlance novels, all the Green Knowe novels, all the Nancy Drews, all the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew is like Anne Shirley, she goes to somebody’s house and makes sandwiches, investigate, her dad gave her a car, very conformy, her friend George, more like ambrosia, Jesse’s grandmother, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pilgrim’s Progress, Heather at CraftLit podcast, what do you do for your family or her community, the storytelling element, the prayer, yours truly, Anne Shirley, we feel the rightness of that, experience nature as “the flash” while walking in nature, her own innate religion, the fairies, the dryad bubble, she doesn’t know what a dryad is, a natural spirit searcher, Psalm 19, the heavens are telling the glory of God, without saying a word they cry out who made them, the various ways you can experience this, she’s a churchgoing woman but she gets a lot of headaches, she has the opposite of PTSD, if trends continue, Cordelia Montmorency, Anne of Shirley is her deadname, she HAS beautiful auburn locks, so many freckles, don’t remind me of what I actually have, “hey! you’re bald!”, please call me Cordelia, you don’t get any guff if you’re a Steve or a Gary, I’m making myself over, there is a restraint on the kind of fantasy that’s available to you, she makes a huge mistake without having any kind of check on it, she has children because that’s what girls do, her imagination gives her ideas about what is or what could be, the original Lucy was a crazy girl with this vivid imagination, being who she was, maybe Marilla is a much wiser person, she should be so thankful, when I have a child I’m naming her Genevieve, I’m naming my son Solomon Kane, Julianne, that’s low class, Maissa changed her name, do something about this, Maissa went through school as Lisa, Jagmeet Singh’s book, his parents were immigrants from the Punjab (India), Jimmy, the sense you should conform, making interest out of whatever it is that’s different, Anne is proactive, Anne doesn’t take guff, she’s defensive, she has trauma in her past, there’s no formal adoption, go to the orphanage and get a slave, the literal orphan was L.M. Montgomery, she’s an outsider and also not, red headed not even stepchild, a very strange kind of family, she’s a commodity at first, girls raised to taking care of children, there’s still no consent involved, under that same system, we’re going to keep you, fear of abandonment, is Little Orphan Annie a satire, Daddy Warbucks, an Evan comic strip, inspired by the formula Ann orphan stories, Ann is a plain name, raven haired locks, confident and capable when outside of the school room, I misjudged you, the different psychologies of men and women and dolls and spaceships, dolls and spaceships, lets play houses, lets play, boys like to chase girls and girls like to be chased, gothic romance covers, a house or a castle with a high window with, women with great hair running away from castles, this legacy, women leaving the home and becoming another family, baked into culture and genes, tapping into something, one of the things they take at school is physical culture, tied with eugenics, the revival of the Olympics, a movement afoot, there’s this legacy, culture response to what came before, corsets, if there’s no other reason to read it it is a cultural artifact, preserves and apple blossoms and influenza, not a realistic orphan, unwanted babies, her orphaning is dignified, the romance of this story, a Dickensian story, the two previous families, being raised by hand, why Anne would have been so grateful, there’s something about this [that’s] The Wizard Of Oz, best of all was coming home, there’s no place like home, the teacher laughs at all the wrong times,
“I wrote it last Monday evening. It’s called ‘The Jealous Rival; or In Death Not Divided.’ I read it to Marilla and she said it was stuff and nonsense. Then I read it to Matthew and he said it was fine. That is the kind of critic I like. It’s a sad, sweet story. I just cried like a child while I was writing it. It’s about two beautiful maidens called Cordelia Montmorency and Geraldine Seymour who lived in the same village and were devotedly attached to each other. Cordelia was a regal brunette with a coronet of midnight hair and duskly flashing eyes. Geraldine was a queenly blonde with hair like spun gold and velvety purple eyes.”
“I never saw anybody with purple eyes,” said Diana dubiously.
“Neither did I. I just imagined them. I wanted something out of the common. Geraldine had an alabaster brow too. I’ve found out what an alabaster brow is. That is one of the advantages of being thirteen. You know so much more than you did when you were only twelve.”
I’m keeping my thoughts for myself now, the biography of H.P. Lovecraft show, he had a detective agency and a fort, letting you imagination lie fallow for a while, she won the award, you can’t only do one thing, not just the writing, my fallow time, Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations In Crisis by Jared Diamond, parallels between nations and individuals, let your brain figure it out, worrying, should you worry over it, you just fixed your own doorhandle, you’ve got through this crisis before, are there any better parents than Marilla and Matthew?, her job is to raise her and his job is to appreciate her, chocolate sweeties, parsimonious, when Anne’s learning to bake, that penny pinchingness, there was three dresses, there are legitimate economic concerns that are baked into this story, taking on a girl is an extravagance, if this was a pure fantasy, girl power!, why has she got that sword?, crossbows are simple, its all a certain kind of unreal fantasy, they did live there and there was this, going to New Zealand to see Middle Earth, they needed to rebuild it, the uncle pulled down the house because too many visitors were coming to see it, the C.L. Moore Jirel of Jory stories, The Black God’s Kiss, she uses a kiss to kill him, a lady’s weapon, Henry Kuttner, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Napoleonic war with Dragons, Charles Ardai, the dragon demands a virgin, Mark Twain’s friendship with Dorothy Quick, Agatha Christie, there’s a whole other world of writing that has nothing to do with J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas Adams, a daddy-daughter relationship, he’s a sympathetic character, the dad is the doting father and the mom is the strict one, a huge commitment, aloof mom, that’s a different book, do you think Anne is the idealized Lucy?, she really had no where to go, isn’t Huckleberry Finn a fantasy novel?, the novel is great, it’s just not revolutionary, is it a fantasy novel?, there’s a limit to its “girl power” aspect, the opposite of a radical novel, she was the standout character in the town, he’s got to have his own story in real life, where are his parents?, go to the Yukon and find gold, he IS Jack London for all we know, a good book.
The SFFaudio Podcast #217 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, and Marrisa VU talk about audiobook NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.
Talked about on today’s podcast: Hammer Chillers, Mr. Jim Moon, British audio drama horror anthology, Hammer Films, Janette Winterson, Paul Magrs, Stephen Gallagher, the official physical list, spaceship sci-fi, Honor Harrington, David Weber, Audible.com, Horatio Hornblower in space, broadsides and pirates, gravity propulsion, Steve Gibson, a telepathic treecat, Lois McMaster Bujold, Luke Burrage (The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast), David Drake, S.M. Stirling, 90% of Lois McMaster Bujold’s sales are audiobooks, Sword & Laser, a girl writer, Prisoners Of Gravity, religion, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin isn’t Tolkien deep, secondary world, The Curse Of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, Blackstone Audio, Paladin Of Souls, Miles Vorkosigan, low magic vs. high magic, high fantasy, Westeros world vs. Harry Potter world, the Red Wedding (and the historical inspiration), the guest host relationship, John Scalzi, Redshirts, Agent To The Stars, The Human Division, The Ghost Brigades, Old Man’s War, William Dufris, Wil Wheaton as a narrator (is great at 2x speed), snarky comedic Scalzi stories, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Kirby Heyborne, Fuzzy Nation, Andrew L., Starforce Series, Mark Boyette, military SF, Legend: Area 51 by Bob Meyer, Eric G. Dove, traditional fantasy, epic fantasy, conservative fantasy, elves princes quests, fewer tattoos more swords, Elizabeth Moon, Graphic Audio, truck drivers, comic books, westerns, post-apocalyptic gun porn, Paladin’s Legacy, Limits Of Power, elves, simultaneous release, Vatta’s War, horses in space, The Deed Of Paksenarrion, Red Sonja, non-beach armor, Elizabeth Moon was a marine, sounds pretty hot, Any Other Name, the split-world series, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, The Assassination Of Orange, Terpkristin’s review of The Mongoliad Book 1, The Garden Of Stones by Mark T. Barnes, books are too long!, books are not edited!, cut it down, self-contained books, find the good amongst the long and the series, Oberon’s Dreams by Aaron Pogue, Taming Fire, Oklahoma, urban fantasy, Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig, Adam Christopher, blah blah blah quote quote quote, “Wow I’ve never read anything like this before!, a head like a wrecking-ball, cool artwork, Lovecraft sounds like the book of Jeremiah, Net Galley, a Chuck Wendig children’s book, Under The Empyrean Sky, The Rats In The Walls, “two amorphous idiot flute players”, Old Testament Lovecraft, Emperor Mollusc Vs. The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez, lucky Bryce, Legion by Brandon Sanderson, we have sooo many reviewers!, Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep, Jill Kismet, Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow, Nice Girls Don’t Bite Their Neighbors, a vampire child, B.V. Larson, The Bone Triangle, Hemlock Grove (the Netflix series), True Blood, Arrested Development, House Of Cards, House Of Lies, The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, Angry Robot, the Angry Robot Army, a complete list, Peter Kline, in the style of Lost, The Lost Room by Fitz James-O’Brien, Myst, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Joyland by Stephen King, Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai, HCC-013, Haven, The Colorado Kid, setting not action, mapbacks, Iain M. Banks died, the Culture series, Inversions, Player Of Games, Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry by David Robertson and Bill Breen, Downpour.com, At The Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Edward Herrmann, Antarctica, Miskatonic University, The Gilmore Girls, M*A*S*H, 30 Rock, The Shambling Guide To New York City by Mur Lafferty, New York, great cover!, Spoken Freely … Going Public in Shorts, Philip K. Dick, Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Turetsky, Xe Sands, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, a time-traveling serial killer, Chicago, Jenny’s Reading Envy blog, fantasy character names, Ringworld by Larry Niven, Louis Wu, The Shift Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey, The Wool Series (aka The Silo Series) by Hugh Howey, a zombie plague of Hugh Howey readers, why is there no audiobook for Fair Coin by E.C. Myers?, The Monkey’s Paw, YA, Check Wendig on YA, what is a “fair coin“, rifling through baggage, dos-à-dos, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Odd And The Frost Giants, The Wolves In The Walls, Audible’s free Neil Gaiman story, Cold Colors, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar, Audible download history and Amazon’s Kindle 1984, the world is Big Brother these days, George Orwell, dystopia, BLOPE: A Story Of Segregation, Plastic Surgery, And Religion Gone Wrong By Sean Benham, The Hunger Games, Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle, alternate history, Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., William Dufris, what podcasts are you listening to?, Sword & Laser, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Sword & Laser‘s interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, ex-Geek & Sundry, Kim Stanley Robinson, KCRW Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, Writing Excuses, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, the Savage Lovecast, WTF with Mark Maron, depressed but optimistic, Maron, Point Of Inquiry, Daniel Dennet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, S.T. Joshi, how do you become a Think Tank, a weird civil society thing, Star Ship Sofa’s SofaCON, Peter Watts, Protecting Project Pulp, Tales To Terrify, Crime City Central, the District Of Wonders network, Larry Santoro, Fred Himebaugh (@Fredosphere),
Beyond the valleys, green and grand,
Peek the frightened eyes of the weak colossal Stan,
the giant boy of infant lands.
Stan grasps with Herculean hands the pinnacle peaks,
Clutching feebly with avalanche force.
It’s azure bulky hides his enormous and titanic hulk
From the frightening lights of the big small city.
Stan’s fantastic feet,
Like ocean liners parked in port.
His colossal thighs,
Like thunderous engines resting silently for a storm to come.
His tremendous teeth like hoary skyscrapers shaking in an earthquake,
like a heavenly metropolis quivering beneath a troubled brow,
above a wet Red Sea of silent tongue.
Stan, insecure in his cyclopean mass,
Feels fear for his future beyond the warm chill range of the bowl-like hills
That house his home and heart.
Stan fears a fall filled with
Of mockery and shame.
How could city slick students stand Stan’s pine scented skin?
His dew dropped pits dripping down in rivulets turned to rivers!
And what does a giant know of school and scholarship?
What can mere tests, of paper and pen, say
For the poor and friendless figure who quakes and sighs
Behind the too small mountain looming high over
A big small city to which young Stan has never been?
SFSqueeCast, vague positivity, Charles Tan, SFFaudio could use more positivity, Hypnobobs, Batman, weird fiction, Peter Cushing, The Gorgon, Christopher Lee.
Talked about on today’s show:
Is The Comedy Is Finished going to be the last Donald E. Westlake novel to be published?, Memory (and our discussion of it), Charles Ardai, Max Allan Collins, Mickey Spillane, getting paid is a priority for professional writers, the 1970s, Honeydew, USO tours, Bob Hope, the audiobook experience, Peter Berkrot’s narration of the audiobook of The Comedy Is Finished, Koo Davis, Bob Hope as Red Skelton vs. Bob Hope as Gene Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ricky Gervais, Koo Davis narrates his own POV in the present everyday tense sense, “Westlake is the master of sentence by sentence writing”, “in the moment”, “the god-damned Vietnam thing”, “the real Americans”, the redemption, healing vs. moving on, Ronald Reagan, “new normal”, “the Carter malaise” and “festering wounds”, Larry, Peter, Mark has daddy issues, Joyce, the Dortmunder gang if they were all psychotic, “doing a Westlake”, why do Koo’s boys not look like him?, the role of a father, the mirror scene, “genetics don’t matter in fiction”, fatherhood as a choice, leave the messages to Western Union, character arcs, Lindsey, A Sound Of Distant Drums, radio drama, “there are round characters and there are flat characters”, “oh this is a Westlake”, “Charo has become a bitter old woman”, “a romantic writer”, succinct description, taking plots from real life, The Score, “he can heist anything”, The Mourner, The Stepfather, “that’s pretty much how these work”, three Dortmunder ideas, Kahawa should be an audiobook, California, Burbank, Santa Barbara, Elizabeth Taylor’s biography, Under An English Heaven should be an audiobook too, Anguilla, an option has been taken out on Kahawa, the new Parker movie, Stephen King’s filmography vs. Donald Westlake’s filmography, The Hot Rock, Cops And Robbers (1973), The Split (based on The Seventh), Payback, Les Alexander, The Outfit, City Of Industry, The Sour Lemon Score, Made In U.S.A., the Criterion Collection, it’s Clint Eastwood with internal monologue, a Dortmunder TV series, The Limey, Terence Stamp, Idi Amin, Uganda, “the coffee train”, Enough, Ordo, A Slight Case Of Murder, A Travesty, it’s very hard to be a Westlake expert, the sound a girl makes when you’re kissing her, “it’s just a weird name”, Bob Hope was a knight!, Conrad Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, Westlake’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, Westlake’s renunciation of SF, Anarchaos by Curt Clark, “Rolf Malone is a precursor to Parker”, Theodore Bikel (the fiddler in The Fiddler On The Roof), The Risk Profession, Nackles (is great for kids!), The Twilight Zone, Harlan Ellison’s screenplay for Nackles, the Starship Hopeful series (available on DonaldWestlake.com), Lawrence Block’s fantasy story, SF is very allegorical (and that’s not Westlake), Humans, Westlake’s Smoke vs. Wells’ The Invisible Man, “and everybody’s an asshole”, “everybody one way or another is a jerkoff”, “Joyce goes crazy in the most wonderful way”, a survivor of Chernobyl, “is God really an asshole?”, “angels are assholes”, Milton’s Paradise Lost, The Sacred Monster, Get Real, ridicule in print, Money For Nothing, Westlake never lectured, interior thoughts that are so revealing about the shallowness of a character’s nature, Washington, D.C., “moving up the ladder”, “what does Ginger want?”, “it’s fun to play with fire”, “I’ve got to have something”, did Don hate rock and roll?, he liked classical and atonal jazz, “damn hippie”, 99% of politics is pointless, talking to death, Jimmy The Kid (a Parker novel inside of a Dortmunder novel), kidnapping, Help I Am Being Held Prisoner, Patty Hearst, Gangway, Brian Garfield, Spider Robinson’s Dortmunder homage, Lawrence Block, The Sour Lemon Score, Dashiell Hammett, Piers Anthony, Poul Anderson, Robert A. Heinlein, shiny spaceships, don’t read by genre, read by author, the genre label, Jim Thompson, The Grifters, Trent’s beef with Angelica Huston, a period piece, Paul had a problem with John Cusack, J.T. Walsh, Pat Hingle, Annette Bening, “I’ll never look at a bag of oranges the same way”, Donald Westlake: NYC Personified, The Violent World Of Parker website, Nick Jones, Westlake’s bibliography at DonaldWestlake.com.
If you’re looking to add a Robert E. Howard story to your reading library, but don’t want to get started down the Conan path, look no farther than The Fire Of Asshurbanipal. It was the cover story for the December 1936 issue of Weird Tales!
The Fire Of Asshurbanipal was sold posthumously to Weird Tales by Howard’s father, then the only surviving member of Howard’s immediate family. The story features a pair of adventurers. One is an American, named Steve Clarney, and the other is an Afghan named Yar Ali. They make a fun pair.
Eric Wilkerson‘s depiction of Clarney, for the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game, makes Clarney look like Indiana Jones (minus the whip), and that’s not wholly wrong. But Clarney isn’t an archaeologist, though he and Yar Ali are treasure hunters, and the period and setting is pretty close.
It is available in print as a part of easily the Ballantine Del Rey collection called The Horror Stories Of Robert E. Howard (ISBN: 0345490207); there was also a pair of deluxe releases by Subterranean Press. And most importantly there is a wonderful professionally narrated audiobook edition available from Tantor Media (it’s read by the talented Robertson Dean):
The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Robertson Dean
2 MP3-CDs – Approx. 24 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
The paper editions feature two stunning images from the story by Greg Staples.
Interestingly, a different version of the same novelette, The Fire of Asshurbanipal, was published in more recent times as a straight adventure story (same characters but minus the supernatural elements). That fantasy-free version and can be found in another Ballantine Del-Rey collection entitled El Borak And Other Desert Adventures (ISBN: 034550545X).
And that one includes wondrous illustrations by the master of comic book covers Tim Bradstreet.
And the version available on Gutenberg Australia’s website is, of course, the original Weird Tales version, complete with references to the Necronomicon, Yog-Sothoth and other sundry Cthulhu mythos details. And that’s the version which has recently been podcast by FNH’s Cthulhu Podcast.
The Fire of Asshurbanipal
By Robert E. Howard; Read by FNH
2 MP3 files – Approx. 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Cthulhu Podcast
Podcast: June 2011
First published in the December 1936 issue of Weird Tales.
Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3|
I think I first read this story about twenty-five years ago, and remembered it as a gripping adventure yarn with a fairly strong Lovecraftian feel. I picked it up second hand, in a used bookstore in a handsomely covered collection of ‘weird’ Howard stories called Wolfshead (ISBN: 055312353X). In that 1979 book, there is an excellent introduction by Robert Bloch in which he argues that the “stylistic excesses” found in Howard’s stories, like The Fire Of Asshurbanipal, can be “easily excused” because within Howard’s writing “lurks a dark poetry, and the timeless truth of dreams.”
That still sounds right to me. The Fire Of Asshurbanipal is exciting, happily and ornately adjectival, and carries about with it a heft that most adventure fiction can’t really come close to matching. Listening to this podcast edition I’ll admit it possesses a raw power that I still appreciate even today, much later in life. What jars most, of course, is the prominent position given to race, the reliance on instinctual knowledge, and the repeated use of jungle cat metaphors (which feel particularly out of place in the Arabian desert setting).
Over on the Black Gate blog Ryan Harvey argues that The Fire Of Asshurbanipal is cut from the same cloth as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. I agree.
If you’re looking for more stories like The Fire Of Asshurbanipal I highly recommend another novelette, of more recent vintage, that follows in the tradition very well – That’d be Charles Ardai’s Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye (available in audio as a part of the Audio Realms audiobook Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear |READ OUR REVIEW| and as an |ETEXT|).
For those who are more comics inclined, check out Joseph Remy’s 40 page webcomic adaptation of The Fire Of Asshurbanipal which begins |HERE|.
And in case you were wondering, the Asshurbanipal of the title was a 7th century BC Neo-Assyrian king famed for the creation of the Library of Ashurbanipal which held among its collection the Epic Of Gilgamesh. It is reported that Alexander the Great, upon seeing the great library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, was himself inspired to create his own library and that one became perhaps the most famous library of all.
Talked about on today’s show:
Richard Stark, the meaning of the title “361“, Roget’s Thesaurus entry #361, “killer’s don’t run around with a thesaurus”, Hard Case Crime, The Hunter, George Washington Bridge, New York, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books blog‘s review of 361, Westlake and the USAF, Backflash, Westlake loves theatre people, actors, Hollywood, “dangerous and scary”, Stark had fans in prison, Parker vs. Dortmunder, The Man With The Getaway Face, revenge, stoic vs. existential, our podcast on Memory by Donald E. Westlake, Gregg Margarite, finding purpose in the purposeless world,
“Yeah. All right, this is what I’ve been thinking. To begin with, every man has to have either a home or a purpose. Do you see that? Either a place to be or something to do. Without one or the other, a man goes nuts. Or he loses his manhood, like a hobo. Or he drinks or kills himself or something else. It doesn’t matter, It’s just that everybody has to have one or the other.”
drinking, “there’s no one more pissed off than this guy”, “the drifter mentality”, how Westlake handles supporting characters, the lawyer’s secretary, the cowardly private detective, honesty vs. duplicity, hardboiled vs. noir, House Of Lords (whiskey), get a job at Walmart vs. take over the mob, Florida, Bill’s suicide, going on a drunk, identity, solider vs. airman, he’s not his father’s son, he’s not his brother’s brother, Charles Ardai, the absence of women, the Hard Case Crime cover (by Richard B. Farrell), Lawrence Block, “A Sound Of Distant Drums” is a long running literary joke, Westlake characters generally read paperbacks, Paul Kavanagh novels, Not Comin’ Home To You, Such Men Are Dangerous, a purposeless ex-military guy living on a deserted island in the Florida Keys, The Green Eagle Score, The Black Ice Score, The Blackbird, Grofield, University Of Chicago Press editions with introductions by Lawrence Block, Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr’s “Burglar” books, murder mystery vs. identity mystery, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams, The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, did Westlake mature out of Parker?, Flashfire, Jason Statham as Parker, Payback, The Hunter, The Man With The Getaway Face, The Mourner, The Score, Two Much, Cops And Robbers by Donald Westlake, the way Westlake paints characters, The Hot Rock, humorous writing, the competent Parker vs. the hapless (bad luck) Dortmunder, Robert Redford, What’s The Worst That Could Happen, The Comedy Is Finished, Donald E. Westlake: an annotated bibliography by David Bratman, coffee, Idi Amin, sadly there is no biography of Donald E. Westlake, Matthew Scudder’s drinking problem, Eight Million Ways To Die, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit: A Manual For Fiction Writers, Lawrence Block should write a Parker book, race-walking, LawrenceBlock.com, Dan Simmons, Garry Disher, Hard Case, “361 is as hard-boiled as fiction comes”, Jim Thompson, The Jugger, Stephen King’s Misery is a spiritual successor to The Jugger, the pragmatism of celebrity/writer privacy, wheelbarrows full of books, too much of a good thing: “too many fans can interfere with your operation”, receiving unsolicited books, advanced reading copies, “it really clarifies your understanding of what your purpose is if you are confronted by a barrage of things that aren’t your purpose”, book tours do two things: sell books and reward the readers, Sheldon Lord, Lawrence Block’s sleaze books are coming to ebook, Random House, Lynn Monroe, Hellcats And Honey Girls, Subterranean Press, Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Triumph Of Evil, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, A Drop Of The Hard Stuff, Getting Off by Lawrence Block (Jill Emerson).