New Releases – Vintage SF – Frederik Pohl, Robert Bloch, Leigh Brackett and more

New Releases

Wow! Five Great New Titles from Wonder Audio!

This Crowded EarthThis Crowded Earth and Other Stories
By Robert Bloch; Read by William Coon
6hr, 39 min.- [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009Available at Audible & iTunes

Life changes on Earth when the population tips the scales at over X billion people. Harry lives in a single room without a window and hates the commutrain ride, which is like the black hole of Calcutta on wheels. If he can get his private car out of commugarage, he might be able to get to work on time. If only it wasn’t for his headaches….

Also included are the stories “The Old College Try”, “Black Bargain”, “Founding Fathers”, and “A Good Imagination”.

WolfbaneWolfbane
By Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
5hr, 34min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

Available at Audible & iTunes

“A work of sheer, exuberant imagination.” (Arthur C. Clarke)

The Earth has forcibly been taken from its orbit. It began with an extra-terrestrial pyramid on top of Mt. Everest. And then a “runaway planet” took the Earth as its binary. And now harsh generations have passed since the inhabitants last saw the light of their sun, Sol.

Society has grown rigid. The meek lambs have inherited the Earth, even if it’s a very poor Earth, indeed. It’s a hard world for all. But Glenn Tropile is no lamb, and if his citizens finds out he’s a wolf, it will be the wolf that goes to slaughter.

Four Sided Triangle The Four-Sided Triangle
By William F. Temple; Read by Tim Rowe
53min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

Joan Leeton was certainly a lovely girl. A perfect girl for an English scientist to fall in love with. Unfortunately for Will Fredericks and Bill Josephs that’s exactly what happened, to both of them – and to the same girl too, Joan! But they were no ordinary scientists, and they created the most marvelous invention. A device that could perfectly replicate anything. But could it replicate a lovely girl named Joan Leeton? Could they create a love triangle with four people?

A classic story from Science Fiction’s Golden Age. First published in Amazing Stories in 1939.

The Vanishing Venusians The Vanishing Venusians
By Leigh Brackett; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
1hr 20min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

Matt Harker and his people have journeyed for far too long. They’re a rag-tag group of Earthmen and Venusians floating on the Sea of Morning Opals… floating without a home and with very little hope, victimized by hostile natives, burning fevers, bad soil, and bad luck.

When land is sighted, Harker makes the decision to scale the mountainous terrain in the dim hopes of finding a new home. With two companions, he ascends to encounter unknown malevolent alien beings. Harker thought he’d be lucky to find a habitable land – but now he thinks he will be lucky to just survive!

Plague of Pythons Plague of Pythons
By Frederik Pohl; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
4hrs 9min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

The pythons had entered into Mankind. No man knew at what moment he might be possessed! On Christmas, the world’s freedom died. Every man, woman and child lay in the grip of fear, for no one knew at what moment his nearest friend or a casual stranger might suddenly be possessed by some brutal mind… and begin to murder and destroy.

For Chandler it was worse than for most. He was both victim and executioner. He had suffered himself, and he had committed a violent crime while under the strange domination. Accused of hoaxing, he was driven from his home. He wandered the world and found it smashed like a spoiled child’s plaything. Now Chandler was in the very presence of the destroyers! But what could one person do against such power? The power of gods!

Did you know you can get either of these titles, as well as any other Wonder Audio title for just $7.49? Just sign up at Audible.com/WonderAudio

Posted by The Time Traveler of the Time Traveler Show

The SFFaudio Podcast #026

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #026 – Jesse and Scott argue about how long books should be, talk about audiobooks, audio panels, Audible’s new audio format (higher quality). We also ask the questions:

“If Stephen King was your dad and reading you a bedtime story, would you ever get to sleep?” and “Why does Epic Fantasy have to be so long?”

Talked about on today’s show:
Science Fiction Symposium @ BYU, Writing Excuses podcast, Brandon Sanderson, I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, The Immortals by Tracy Hickman, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame Vol. 1, Elantris |READ OUR REVIEW|, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., David Farland, Eric James Stone, James Dashner, Orson Scott Card, Audible’s new Enhanced Audio Format, Blackstone Audio‘s forthcomings: new Harlan Ellison (and old), Stir Of Echoes by Richard Matheson, Passage by Connie Willis, Bellwether by Connie Willis, CBC Radio Between The Covers, Wake by Robert J. Sawyer, Battlestar Galactica, the Story Speiler podcast, And All The Earth A Grave by C.C. MacApp, The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill |2 FREE STORIES|, Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, On Writing by Stephen King, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit by Lawrence Block, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle |READ OUR REVIEW|, Escape From Hell, Wikipedia is full of spoilers, Exit Door Leads In by Philip K. Dick [is full of swearing], The Most Brilliant Sci-Fi Mind on Any Planet: Philip K. Dick |PDF|, Starship Rebel by Mike Resnick |READ OUR REVIEW|, and a 5 sound review of Babylon 5, A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin, Wild Cards would make good audio, HBO’s True Blood, is it all ‘too much conversation, not enough sword?’

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Here Today …Gone to Tomorrow edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Here Today ... Gone TomorrowHere Today …Gone Tomorrow (Asimov’s All Time Favorite Time Travel Stories)
Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg; Read by various
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dercum Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 1556562586 [out of print]
Themes: /Science Fiction /Time travel /Anthology /

Stories: “Try and Change the Past” by Fritz Leiber, read by Bill Fantini; “A Loint of Paw” by Isaac Asimov, read by Bill Fantini; “The Long Remembering” by Poul Anderson, read by Nelson Runger; “There Is A Wolf In My Time Machine” by Larry Niven, read by Bill Fantini; “The Light Of Other Days” by Bob Shaw, read by Nelson Runger; “The Kings Wishes” by Robert Sheckley, read by Nelson Runger; “The Little Black Bag” by C.M. Kornbluth, read by Ann Wilcox.

Old school. That’s what this collection of time travel stories is, with all the blessings and baggage that implies. The stories concern mainly white men, with women appearing mostly as henpecking baffles for their claustrophobic concerns, and, in general, the voices presenting the stories are brusque and hairy-chested, like those from a third grade filmstrip on pool safety (and if that simile has any resonance for you, then I think you appreciate what I mean by “old school”). A female voice does narrate C.M. Kornbluth’s “The Little Black Bag”, but the story is so piquant with elitism and misogyny, it might as well be read by a Victorian-era Harvard College president.

The cover claims the stories were hand selected by Isaac Asimov from his own personal library, and the photo shows the great one with his trademark facial fur and engaging grin in front of a tall shelf packed with his own works.* Happily, his own works do appear in this collection, but only in the delightful – a word to describe almost anything Asimov uttered aloud – introduction he delivers himself, and the brief, forgettable story “A Loint Of Paw” which he does not.

The list of authors is impressive. The stories, however, while enjoyable, are neither essential nor groundbreaking. The best of them, and the only one to offer even a glimpse of the wistful ache that is the primary motivation for the idea of time travel, is Bob Shaw’s “The Light Of Other Days.” I was caught off guard after the relatively bland intellectual exercises of the forgoing stories because this one starts out looking similarly simple and heartless, yet builds to a subtle and profoundly moving finish.

As a whole, this is a decent collection, but not one I’d risk any injury rushing out to acquire. If it falls in your lap, or if you are a rabid fan of old school SF, I’d give it a listen. Otherwise, I think you could easily find something more satisfying to fill your ears with.

[editor’s note – the cover depicted above does not match Kurt’s description. Kurt’s scan of his copy of this audiobook was not available at the time of this post]

Posted by Kurt Dietz

The Zombie Astronaut has The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

Online Audio

MP3 webzine - Zombie AstronautSFFaudio reader, Willie, points out that, Zombie Astronaut, one of our favorite mp3 webzines, is still alive and kicking (in an undead and orbiting sort of way). In fact in the latest issue of ZA there’s a two part classic radio drama of Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s famous novel The Space Merchants (aka Gravy Planet). This biting satire, that now so closely resembles our world, is set in a future in which the advertisers and ad execs run the world. Their problem, how do you sell people on colonizing Venus, a planet with no breathable air, no water and that’s hideously hot? Tune in and find out with… Part 1 |MP3| & Part 2 |MP3|. Thanks for the reminder Willie!

Review of The Greatest Horror Stories of the 20th Century

Horror Audiobooks - The Greatest Horror StoriesThe Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century
Edited by Martin Greenberg; Read by Various Readers
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787117234
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Curses / Telepathy / Childhood / Demons /

“Featuring some of the masters of the genre, past and present, The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century are as remarkable for their literary value as for their scream factor. Whether you are a passionate horror lover or a devotee in the making, you will find much to entertain. Listen for screams as ancient and unspeakable evil meets the modern psyche.”

Judicious use of musical cues are the only enhancement to these horror stories. Twelve horrific short stories, to be sure, but are they truly the greatest of the 20th century? Read on, MacDuff….

“The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner
Read by Michael Gross
A creepy Lovecraftian tale that almost could have been written by H.P. Lovecraft himself. It was first published in Weird Tales’ March 1936 issue. A worthy addition to the list of The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century list and Michael Gross does a good job with it. And by the way, the R.O.U.S.’s probably don’t really exist.

“Calling Card” by Ramsey Campbell
Read by Juliet Mills
First published in 1982, Ramsey Campbell’s entry in this anthology is more confusing than scary. Juliet Mills is fine but she couldn’t help unravel what we’re supposed to be afraid of. Something about a nice old lady and her mailman delivering a 60-year-old Christmas card?

“Something Had To Be Done” by David Drake
Read by John Aprea
First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1975 issue, this is an excellent Vietnam War era is a freakshow of the ‘coming home in a bodybag story’. It combines the friendly fire and frag stories of that war with the accelerating fear of the supernatural – the tension builds until the closing moment – very similar in tone and quality to Robert R. McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. Reader John Aprea does good work with good material!

“The Viaduct” by Brian Lumley
Read by Roger Rees
“The Viaduct” is a Stephen King-ish tale without the supernatural element – two boys make an enemy of another and come to a sticky end. This is the longest tale in the collection, overly long in my estimation. I was amazed how little content this story has, especially for its length, none of the characters are sympathetic and by the end I was almost rooting for them all to be killed- just as long as it was done soon. Ineffectual because of its length and exploitative and I don’t mean that as an insult, it plays, if it plays at all, on fear without telling us anything about ourselves or anything else. On the other hand Roger Rees’ reading was just fine. “The Viaduct” is in my opinion not up to the standards of some of the stories in this collection.

“Smoke Ghost” by Fritz Leiber
Read by Beverly Garland
An early Fritz Leiber yarn, “Smoke Ghost” posits what a ghost from an urban industrial society would be like, as opposed rattling chains, old bed sheets and creaky haunted houses of the pre-industrial age. Frighteningly well written and very well read. First published in Unknown Magazine’s October 1941 issue.

“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg
Read by William Atherton
William Atherton did a very nice reading of this Hugo Award nominated and Nebula winning short story (1969). “Passengers” is more SF than horror but it is 100% worthy of inclusion. It is about the uninvited guests who wouldn’t leave. These evil aliens have invaded the Earth telepathically and at unpredictable times, seize control of a human mind and force a person to do… things(!). Society has adjusted, but not every individual person will go along with all the conventions humanity has adopted to deal with the “Passengers”. Silverberg’s story examines a relatively small SF theme, stories involving involuntary control of one’s body… think the character of Molly in Neuromancer or the Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s short story Sitting Around the Pool, Soaking Up Some Rays or Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters – it is a horror story because it speaks to such a violation of one’s body. Also interesting is the counterfactual raised by the premise – illustrating how difficult it is to determine exactly where the boundary line between free-will and determinism lies.

“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner
Read by Patrick MacNee
Set in 1942, “Sticks” is a World Fantasy Award nominated story (1974) that is decidedly Lovecraftian in content and execution. Think Blair Witch Project meets pulp magazine illustrations and you’ll get the idea. Narrator Patrick MacNee does fine work with it too. With all this inspired by Lovecraft storytelling I only wish they’d included some of H.P.’s original prose, but in lieu of that “Sticks” is a good substitute.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” by Robert Bloch
Read by Robert Forster
First published in Weird Tales’ July 1943 issue “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” is actually a better story than it reads now. What seems a mite cliched today was quite fresh in 1943 and this tale was one of the earliest works of fiction to use ‘the ripper redjack’ – something that is relatively common today. Some narrators have a voice that grabs you and won’t let go, Robert Forster is one of them, his range is good, he does a great English accent on this one too – but its his cadence and his gravelly voice that pull me into his orbit every time. Well read and a good yarn.

“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury
Read by Alyssa Bresnahan
Alyssa Bresnahan, professional full time narrator and AudioFile Magazine Golden Voice, does a very good reading of Bradbury’s short story. “The Small Assassin” is about a young couple and their first child; everything would be okay if only the newborn would only accept the world outside the womb. Horror as parenthood – who’d of thunk it? Newly minted parents probably. This tale was previously recorded by Ray Bradbury himself by pioneering audiobooks publisher Caedmon.

“The Words Of Guru” by C.M. Kornbluth
Read by Susan Anspach
Originally published under Kornbluth’s “Kenneth Falconer” pseudonym, in Stirring Science Stories’ June 1941 issue. Well regarded despite its pulpy exposition, “The Words Of Guru” is a genre-crosser full of cosmic demonism and full-tilt weirdness that comes to a thundering crash just minutes after it starts.

“Casting The Runes” by M.R. James
Read by David Warner
I was quite lost listening to this one. I couldn’t tell who was speaking much of the time, this has to do with the fact that many of the characters aren’t given names and the fact that the way this tale was written it would flow far easier on the printed page than it does aurally. In the paper version some names are blanked out (as if censored), David Warner does his best to fill in these gaps which are unreproducable in audio, but ultimately his efforts are unsuccessful. Magic and curses. First published in 1911!

“Coin Of The Realm” by Charles L. Grant
Read by Louise Sorel
Reminiscent in theme of Neil Gaiman’s style of urban fantasy, “Coin Of The Realm” is an interesting tale of the employees of a toll booth on a lonely highway who occasionally collect some very odd coins from the drivers on their road. First published in a 1981 Arkham House collection entitled Tales from the Nightside.

Posted by Jesse Willis