The SFFaudio Podcast #363 – READALONG: The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #363 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein.

Talked about on today’s show:
1951, the really annoying way Heinlein does things, Paul’s main Heinlein phase (in the late 1980s), when Paul was ten, Time Enough For Love, Expanded Universe, the basic parts of a Heinlein novel (in terms of characters), the Heinleinian triad, the young talented protagonist, the older wise crotchety man, and the red headed woman character, who The Man In The High Castle was, when Dick writes a novel…, when Heinlein writes a novel…, methamphetamine is 100% non-habit forming (?!), Jesse is uncomfortable with surety, Heinlein exudes surety from every pore of his body, orbital mechanics, what women want, Bruce Jenner’s gender switch, Heinlein’s politics, black people, women should be raised up in society, homophobia, Mary’s super-power is gaydar, homosexuality, asexuality, marriage, men and women are identical, “of course husband”, the alien is the husband, the structure, the final chapter, in case the mission to Titan fails, message in a bottle storytelling, first person perspective, surety undercuts it, has Dick ever written in first person?, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Hanging Stranger, identical paranoia, how much he hates the Soviets, Heinlein was rabidly anti-communist, in the commissar’s office, WorldCon, God help us all, he was right but…, imagine if this novel is a metaphor for communism, the Second Red Scare, Soviet and Chinese communism, WWWII, Manhattan crater and Washington crater, projecting brawn, getting tanks to North America, the evil of the puppet master aliens, orgies on TV is bad, also gladiatorial combat, they kill cats!, no effect on Soviet Russia, hygiene, scabies and lice, parasitism, cranked up to 13, Saddam Hussein, U.S. politics, if it were re-written today…, core fears, 24 was that, looking at the structure, avenging the cats and dogs, a master of the craft, Luke Burrage, that is good writing, so different from Philip K. Dick’s books, a straight line vs. how did I get here, all the sins that Time Enough For Love, naked people standing around in cushioned apartments talking about legal matters regarding the decanting of babies while a cat walks into the room, get passed the cat, Pirate the cat, casual nudity, Eric S. Rabkin, making it absolutely necessary that the society go nudist (and never go back), Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp, combs, even in Heinlein’s kids books, in their dome homes the heat is cranked up, was Heinlein a nudist?, Hollywood, downhill after The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, I Will Fear No Evil, an old white guy living in the body of a young black woman, the US Navy, hate and love for the military, this weird guy from Missouri writes his consciousness into his books, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Friday, rape, when Heinlein talks about rape…, an artificial person, an inferiority complex, a fascinating society, the movie of The Puppet Masters, the fun stuff, the cat, the alien was kissing, being devoured by a woman, Eric Thal opens his mouth whenever possible, Sam, Mary, why does everyone hate this movie so much, Donald Sutherland, Keith David is always fun, unlike every X-Files this was competent, yeah look it’s a fake, the slugs are really smart, were they smart?, the sequence where Sam first gets a slug on his back is one of the best bits of Science Fiction, its almost as if he doesn’t know, more insidious and more scary, tying it all together, helicopter vs. skycar, Heinlein loves incest, they do juice you up, the addiction metaphor, had Dick developed it…, an Olympic athlete, what’s undercooked, who is in charge of their own minds, choices under some conditions but not under others, if we all had slugs on our backs…, getting married to Mary, love of a good woman ends addiction, black and white, Joe Cinidella is actually Italian until he becomes a Nazi, a flipped switch, turning on the waterworks, operating as a slug, Glory Road, set in fairlyand, Nebraska, all about the contract, an ambivalent relationship with marriage and law, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, alpha husbands and beta wives, primae noctis, you get into their psychology, really weird people, WWII and methamphetamines, go pills, tempus fugit, chasing the cat, is Heinlein challenging us?, Star Trek: Operation: Annihilate (aka Planet of the Pancakes), Maissa Bessada, resetting the show at the end of the episode, another point of Vulcan physiology, Kirk’s brother is named “Sam”, Mary is the vessel for world piece, Heinlein sued the makers of The Brain Eaters, Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s no money until the Ferengi show up, Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of the post scarcity economy, maybe women did act that way in the 1950s, a sequel in which Mary is saved from her marriage, 1980s tropes, sex scenes, Mission Impossible movies, developing out of taboos, the PG-13 effect, “they’re boffing, ok”, Alien, giant penis monster, Aliens, James Cameron’s problems with Harlan Ellison and The Terminator, The Outer Limits, The Brain Eaters, lifting things out of literary SF, Avatar is very good lifting, redoes the the first movie and the first, Luc Besson, The Professional, adding a baby doesn’t make things better, Ellen Ripley, the corporate military mission, Newt (from Aliens) is Mary (from The Puppet Masters), garbage bunk vs. good orbital mechanics, feral child, the structure is the same, spacesuit -> fighting suit, ejecting from the ship -> ejecting from the planet, a powerful story, Alien 3, Paul fulminates, the nine day fever (Venusian Jungle Fever), encephalitis, The Puppet Masters is a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds, here’s how I would do it, H.G. Wells was a cynical asshole, monstrous, liars, jerks, and racists, our CIA operatives know what they’re doing, the NSA, “you just killed a guy for no reason”, it isn’t uncaring wisdom that save humanity it’s man’s ingenuity, root em out and kill em all, it’s the end of Starship Troopers, the Elves of Titan, Independence Day aliens, Welcome to Earth scene, Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Willy Wonka-style, a space alien cop (the Mother Thing), “who lives like that?”, if Heinlein had had a kid, the serial was slightly rewritten by Horace Gold, the unexpurgated version, 1980s movie style, a hook-up with an anonymous blonde from a bar, the trope for James Bond, Virginia Heinlein, Stranger In A Strange Land, it is not better, weird names, Biblical names, Mary’s real name, Sam’s real name is Elihu, in the Book of Job, Elihu’s big speech

Elihu states that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, for moral betterment and warning, and to elicit greater trust and dependence on a merciful, compassionate God in the midst of adversity.

putting us on the right path, x is so bad that we have to put all our trust in…., our precious bodily fluids, if Heinlein were alive today…, Ray Bradbury, the NSA, anarchism, Mary’s backstory, the Whitmanites, an explicit mention of the Doukhobors, Heinlein just likes nudity, Heinlein likes his women to older or a lot younger, physically young but actually older, a young secretary with an old man’s brain, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, lots of surgeries or whatever, shrugging it off, a different experience than back in the day, you must read ancient authors, for another podcast, you don’t know SFF if you don’t read…, shame at not reading The War Of The Worlds, can you find Heinlein books at new bookstores?, Alfred Bester is great but he wrote two books, genre defining or pioneering, well-written idea SF, almost no science, a bit of politics, marriage, you don’t know SFF if you havent read a Heinlein novel, a long discussion for another time.

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
Galaxy - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein - illustration by Don Sibley
PAN Science Fiction - The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein
The Puppet Masters - MOVIE
The Puppet Masters - Illustration by Barclay Shaw

Posted by Jesse Willis

ABC Radio National: The Philosopher’s Zone – conciousness, sensation and BLINDSIGHT

SFFaudio Online Audio

ABC Radio National - The Philosopher’s ZonePeter Watts‘ novel Blindsight (the audiobook for which is available from Recorded Books) takes its title from a phenomenon, of the same name, first observed by philosopher and psychologist Nicholas Humphrey. Humphrey is the guest on an episode of my favourite Australian podcast The Philosopher’s Zone. Here’s the description:

You are in a darkened lecture hall looking at a patch of red projected onto a screen in front of you. What’s involved in “seeing red”? This week, we meet the philosopher and psychologist Nicholas Humphrey who uses the phenomenon of seeing red as way into the mystery of consciousness.

If you think the phenomena of consciousness is interesting and wonder whether dogs think about themselves then have a listen |MP3|

Podcast feed:

http://abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/pze.xml

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #049

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #049 – Jesse and Scott talk about recent arrivals, new releases, audiobooks, podcasts and plenty more!

Talked about on today’s show:
SFFaudio.com is 7 years old, So I Married An Axe Murder, San Fransisco, California, Alcatraz, recent arrivals, Brilliance Audio, military SF, Fearless: The Lost Fleet Book 2 by Jack Campbell, space opera, Gene Roddenberry‘s Andromeda, Buck Rogers, Live Free or Die: book 1 in the Troy Rising series by John Ringo, Paperback Digital, Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane |READ OUR REVIEW|, John Ringo can give his books away and sell books too, Time’s Eye: A Time Odyssey Book 1 by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, it’s not a sequel it’s an “othrquel“, time is orthogonal to space (in relativity theory), Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, benevolent aliens, malevolent aliens, H.P. Lovecraft, The Eternal Wall by Raymond Z. Gallun, LibriVox, Gregg Margarite, time travel, Blackstone Audio, Identity Theft by Robert J. Sawyer, Mars, consciousness uploading/downloading, Treason by Orson Scott Card, A Planet Called Treason by Orson Scott Card, Stefan Rudnicki, Spider Robinson, Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson |READ OUR REVIEW|, copyright, copyfight, the philosophy of art, The Graveyard Book |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Harry Potter, The Dark Is Rising, A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, ripping off Heinlein is legit when you are Spider Robinson, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, new releases, Wonder Audio, The Men Return & Worlds Of Origin by Jack Vance, Brilliance Audio, The Songs Of Dying Earth: Stories In Honor Of Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, The Book Of The New Sun by Gene Wolfe, David D. Levine, Tk’Tk’Tk’ by David D. Levine, The Moon Moth by Jack Vance |READ OUR REVIEW|, Suldrun’s Garden, The Green Pearl, Madouc by Jack Vance, Swimming Kangaroo Books, Need For Magic by Joseph Swope, BBC Audiobooks America, Great Classic Science Fiction: Eight Unabridged Stories, Forgotten Classics podcast talks James Gunn’s The Road To Science Fiction series, paperback book bags, A Game Of Thrones coming to HBO, A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin |READ OUR REVIEW|, Roy Dotrice, John Lee, Shogun (the TV miniseries), FlashForward, Stephen King’s Storm Of The Century, 1408, Scott’s Pick Of The Week: Steve, The First by Matt Watts |READ OUR REVIEW|, @ the CBC store, radio drama, post apocalypse, humor, Canadia: 2056 |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Jesse’s Pick Of The Week: The Chronicles Of Solomon Kane, Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Robert E. Howard, The Iliad, Ralph Macchio, Red Shadows by Robert E. Howard, religion, Solomon Kane, The Punisher.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

SFFaudio Review

WWW: Wake by Robert J. SawyerWWW: Wake
By Robert J. Sawyer; Read by Jessica Almasy, Jennifer Van Dyck, A. C. Fellner, Marc Vietor, and Robert J. Sawyer
Audible Download – 12 hours 13 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2009
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artificial Intelligence / Cyberpunk / Cybernetic Implants / Technothriller / Consciousness /

I don’t normally inject personal anecdotes or experiences into my reviews. It just isn’t my style. In the case of WWW: Wake, however, I simply can’t resist. I’m legally blind, and Robert J. Sawyer’s latest novel concerns itself with ways of seeing, in both the purely physical sense and in more metaphorical ways. It tells the story of 15-year-old blind math genius Caitlin Decter, whose family has just relocated from Austin, Texas to Waterloo, Ontario. She receives an email from a scientist in Tokyo who believes he can restore her sight by means of a behind-the-eye implant linked via Bluetooth to a pocket-sized transmitter and decoder which the ever-witty Decter dubs her “Eye-Pod”. Instead of seeing the real world, Caitlin initially sees only a kaleidoscope of criss-crossing lines and circles transposed on a flashing checkerboard of seemingly random lights. After some initial puzzlement, researchers determine that Decter is actually seeing the inner workings of the World Wide Web.

This premise is already intriguing enough, but add to it a nascent consciousness growing inside the raw data transmitted through cyberspace, and you have the makings of a great technothriller. Fortunately, Sawyer’s writing doesn’t fall victim to many of the clichéd tropes of that genre. There’s very little in the way of the sensationalism of films like Lawnmower Man or Ghost In The Machine. Instead, Sawyer explores the philosophical implications of a growing, learning artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, of course, Caitlin Decter must come to grips with her new “web sight”, as she calls it, in addition to facing the normal teenage challenges of adjusting to a new high school.

WWW: Wake strikes a good balance between the cerebral and the emotional. The novel stops just short of qualifying as “hard science fiction”, but it also, as I said, shies away from becoming a popcorn thriller. Decter is a complex and ultimately likable character. She’s a brilliant mathematician–in the online world she goes by the alias Calculass–and she’s confident in her mental prowess, but at the same time she faces the insecurities caused by her blindness in addition to the standard turbulence of adolescence. The supporting cast of characters in Caitlin’s life are just as three-dimensional. Her mother is loving and generous, while her father, a theoretical physicist, is well-meaning but emotionally distant. The interactions and conflicts between the characters are subtly portrayed, lending WWW: Wake a sense of realism despite the bizarre goings-on behind Caitlin’s eyes.

Is Caitlin’s blindness realistic? This is where my own personal experience comes into play. I’ve been legally blind since birth, although since I have some residual vision the comparison isn’t exact. Even so, it’s evident to me that Robert J. Sawyer has done his homework in this regard. Caitlin’s life is replete with all the trappings associated with blind life: white canes (which I just traded in for my first guide dog), text-to-speech screen-reading software, and braille displays. More importantly, Sawyer understands how the world is conceived and constructed for those of us with either no vision or limited vision. This becomes apparent as Caitlin’s sight changes throughout the novel in interesting ways, and as she struggles to pin names and concepts to the new visual stimuli that are firing down her optic nerves.

The Audible Frontiers production of Wake is stellar in its production value. As the voice of Caitlin Decter, Jessica Almasy does most of the heavy lifting, and her performance shines. Sound and voice is especially important in the world view of a character who, through much of the novel, lacks any kind of visual stimuli, and Almasy deftly handles these complex nuances. Of course, Decter is also a precocious and spunky teenage girl, and Almasy rises to the challenge of matching Decter’s dynamic character. The other narrators also do an excellent job, and Sawyer himself even lends his voice to occasional passages.

The book’s one weakness lies in its plotting. Along with Caitlin’s story and the development of the “web consciousness”, two other storylines weave in and out of the novel. While they’re interesting in their own right, they never come to a satisfying conclusion and never intersect in a meaningful way with the main story. I understand that Wake is merely the first in the WWW trilogy of novels, and that Sawyer will likely resolve them in upcoming volumes. Still, an author as talented as Sawyer should be able to bring these narrative threads to enough of a climax to maintain the novel’s cohesion.

Minor structural shortcomings aside, WWW: Wake is both an emotionally satisfying story of a blind girl coming to grips with ways of seeing, and an intellectually stimulating examination of technology and consciousness. Along with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash,Wake presents a unique perspective on information technology. I eagerly await its sequels Watch and Wonder.

Update: I didn’t realize this at the time, but apparently I wrote this review on the birthday of Annie Sullivan, who taught the deaf-blind Hellen Keller how to communicate with the world. Sullivan is a strong symbolic and thematic presence in Wake. Coincidence, or fate?

Posted by Seth Wilson