GeekBlips: TV that inspires

SFFaudio News

Geek Blips Robyn Lass, the editor of asked me to contribute to a “blogger opinion” article, kind of a mind meld like post (of the kind regularly does). Here’s the question she asked:

“If you could have the ability/gadgetry of your favorite science fiction TV or Movie character and join them – in their world – on one of their adventures, who would it be and why?”

Yeah. So, I wasn’t sure I could answer the question. Join their adventures? That’s not me exactly. But, there was something there. I thought about it for a few hours. Then, I finally wrote this:

A few years ago there was a pirate broadcast called Prisoners Of Gravity that would regularly interrupt a lame TV Ontario nature show called Second Nature. Lasting just under a half hour, it was hosted by a crazy Canadian who had strapped a rocket to the roof of his Camaro, launched himself into space and then crashed into an orbiting satellite. From there, in his high castle, Commander Rick (aka Rick Green) lived, surrounded by the things he’d brought with him: computers, comics and lots of paperback books.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, a shadowy crew of SF fans would rove the bookstores and Science Fiction conventions recording interviews with the creators of SF and Fantasy. They’d take the interviews with writers like Robert J. Sawyer, Alan Moore, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis, and upload them all to Commander Rick in the satellite. From there Rick would record these interviews onto audio cassettes and keep them for use in his live broadcasts. He would also make use of the telephone and satellite video feeds that he had access to in order to record live interviews with his guests during the show. The programs were compiled and broadcast with the help of a mute, but highly intelligent, computer named NanCy. Topics discussed were different every episode,with individual shows on censorship, superheroes, humor, religion, fairy tales, Mars, cyberpunk, war, overpopulation, sex and much, much more.

The series aired 139 episodes over a five years mission – it is rumored that Commander Rick died (having perhaps run out of food) – but it is also rumored that he returned to earth – since then NanCY has managed just a very few transmissions in the form of reruns. There was no better news magazine program that explored SF, Fantasy, Horror and comics and their various themes and ideas.

I’ve been thinking it would be really great to strap a few solid rocket boosters to the roof of my own car and do my own show. In the meantime I’ve been bidding on ebay for used spacesuits. One day I may win one.

You can see the original article |HERE|. You’ll find a few other peoples’ answers too.

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 013

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVox Here’s another recent collection from the good people at I’ve made a few notes on just a few of these tales. Feel free to add your own as comments (we all should do more of that).

So here are those notes: My listening of Faithfully Yours was slightly distracted, but from what I heard it was a pretty good tale. I’m going to have to listen to it one more time to come to any final judgments about it. Unfortunately many mispronunciations mar Blair Buckland’s reading of The Invaders – but, the story still works – it would make a great tale to re-record. The Next Logical Step, by Ben Bova, is a very solid cold war piece that feels rather more modern than its 1962 vintage would normally suggest. It has an almost cyberpunk feel with its VR computer equipment – and the ending is absolutely rock solid. It has a great title too!

LibriVox - Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 013Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 013
By various; Read by various
10 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 4 Hours 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
Science fiction (abbreviated SF or sci-fi with varying punctuation and case) is a broad genre of fiction that often involves sociological and technical speculations based on current or future science or technology. This is a reader-selected collection of short stories, first published between 1951 – 1962, that entered the US public domain when their copyright was not renewed.

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LibriVox - Faithfully Yours by Lou TabakowFaithfully Yours
By Lou Tabakow; Read Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 40 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
If it’s too impossibly difficult to track down and recapture an escaped criminal … there’s a worse thing one might do…
From “Astounding Science Fiction” December 1955.

LibriVox - The Golden Judge by Nathaniel GordonThe Golden Judge
By Nathaniel Gordon; Read by Hollis Hanover
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
A suggestion and a highly intriguing one–on how to settle the problems that involve face-saving among nations! From Astounding Science Fiction December 1955.

LibriVox - The Invaders by Benjamin FerrisThe Invaders
By Benjamin Ferris; Read by Blair Buckland
1 |MP3| – Approx. 34 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
Magic—there’s no such thing. But the crops were beginning to grow backwards… From Weird Tales March 1951.

LibriVox - Moment Of Truth by Basil WellsMoment Of Truth
By Basil Wells; Read by Betsie Bush
1 |MP3| – Approx. 10 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
“Basil Wells, who lives in Pennsylvania, has been doing research concerning life in the area during the period prior to and following the War of 1812. Here he turns to a different problem—the adjustment demanded of a pioneer woman, not in those days but Tomorrow—on Mars.” From Fantastic Universe December 1957.

LibriVox - The Next Logical Step by Ben BovaThe Next Logical Step
By Ben Bova; Read by Bill Ruhsam
1 |MP3| – Approx. 14 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
Ordinarily the military least wants to have the others know the final details of their war plans. But, logically, there would be times— From Analog Science Fact & Fiction May 1962.

LibriVox - Pandemic by J.F. BonePandemic
By J.F. Bone; Read by Hollis Hanover
1 |MP3| – Approx. 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
Generally, human beings don’t do totally useless things consistently and widely. So—maybe there is something to it—
From Analog Science Fact and Science Fiction February 1962.

LibriVox - The Perfectionists by Arnold CastleThe Perfectionists
By Arnold Castle; Read by Betsie Bush
1 |MP3| – Approx. 32 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
Is there something wrong with you? Do you fail to fit in with your group? Nervous, anxious, ill-at-ease? Happy about it? Lucky you! From Amazing Science Fiction Stories January 1960.

LibriVox - Reluctant Genius by Henry SlesarReluctant Genius
By Henry Slesar; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 6 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
It is said that Life crawled up from the slime of the sea-bottoms and became Man because of inherent greatness bred into him before the dawn of time. But perhaps this urge was not as formless as we think. From Amazing Stories January 1957.

LibriVox - Tight Squeeze by Dean IngTight Squeeze
By Dean Ing; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
He knew the theory of repairing the gizmo all right. He had that nicely taped. But there was the little matter of threading a wire through a too-small hole while under zero-g, and working in a spacesuit! From Astounding Science Fiction February 1955.

LibriVox - We Didn't Do Anything Wrong, Hardly by Roger KuykendallWe Didn’t Do Anything Wrong, Hardly
By Roger Kuykendall; Read by Betsie Bush
1 |MP3| – Approx. 11 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 24, 2009
After all—they only borrowed it a little while, just to fix it— From Astounding Science Fiction May 1959.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Daemon by Daniel Suarez

SFFaudio Review

Daemon by Daniel SuarezDaemon
By Daniel Suarez; Read by  Jeff Gurner
Audible Download – approx. 16 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
Published: 2009
Themes: / Science Fiction / Cyberpunk / Techno-Thriller / Virtual Reality / Online Gaming / Politics /

Daemon‘s success as a self-published novel that crossed over to attain mainstream success is a testament to its cultural relevance, especially among the technorati. Suarez, who moonlights (sunlights?) as a systems analyst, promoted the novel to the movers and shakers in the technology community, Its positive reception even among this tech-savvy elite suggests that Daemon has its finger on the pulse of technological developments and their implications for politics and culture.

Daemon opens with the death of game developer Matthew Sobol, acclaimed developer of multiplayer games such as first-person shooter Over the Rhine and RPG The Gate, which bears a strong resemblance to World Of Warcraft. Some successful entrepreneurs leave money to their kids when they die, others give it all away to charity. Not Sobol. His legacy is the book’s eponymous daemon, a background process which through distributed computing has spread itself across the net and continues to carry out the developer’s will through a series of intricate commands. The capabilities of this daemon, and Sobol’s talent as a developer of artificial intelligence, become apparent when the police raid Sobol’s mansion in Thousand Oaks, California, and find themselves outclassed by a network of elaborate automated booby-traps, including an almost-sentient Humvee.

The novel pans cinematically between several characters who, in one way or another, become embroiled in the daemon’s plot, which ultimately proves to be global in scale. Dramatis personae include police detectives, government agents, a gamer, a laid-off fashion reporter, a white-hat hacker, ad a convict. It’s not clear from the outset whether these characters will become heroes or villains as the story progresses, and even when battle lines are more firmly drawn most of them still defy simple caricature, exhibiting complex motives and emotions.

The real show-stopper, of course, is the daemon itself, who possesses a high degree of intelligence and resourcefulness despite residing in lines of code. The novel’s conceit still demands the willing suspension of disbelief, but the concept and the technical specifics are so finely conceived and executed that the reader is left with a small but nagging suspicion that somewhere, sometime in a future that may be all too near, Daemon could become a reality. Suarez achieves this feat by investigating the wider political, economic, and social implications of a self-aware autonomous computer system.

The living Matthew Sobol embedded many elements of his daemon into his multiplayer games, and several characters venture into these online worlds in search of clues. These scenes are among the strongest in the book, and they carry favorable resonances with both the Metaverse in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and the simulator in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Like the virtual reality elements in these novels, the online gaming sequences in Daemon succeed because they maintain a strong causal relationship to events in the “real” world.

The action battle sequences in Daemon are high-octane, and like all good action sequences they manage to incorporate the book’s themes rather than standing as mere set pieces. For the most part, the protagonists are fighting against computer-controlled contraptions. Nevertheless, I felt that these ultimately visceral and superficial scenes occupy too much space in the novel, and detract from the book’s otherwise deep and intellectually stimulating themes. Paramount Pictures has optioned the movie rights for Daemon, and I shudder to think that the cultural significance of this novel may be boiled away, leaving only two hours of car chases.

The pacing of Daemon also leaves something to be desired. Suarez has revealed that a sequel is in the works, and the book’s cliffhanger ending promises an exciting continuation to the story. Lots of loose ends also remain dangling free, mostly in the arc of character development. The novel’s ending was certainly climactic, but it somehow failed to provide satisfactory closure. As I’ve said in other reviews, even books in a multi-volume series need to retain a high level of internal cohesion.

Jef Gurner’s narration for Daemon is spot-on. His performance is varied enough that each character’s unique identity extends into the aural sphere. Through some tricks of distortion, Penguin Audio has turned the dialogue of the daemon itself into a performance worthy of classic cinematic computerized villains.

Fans of cyberpunk in particular should consider Daemon essential reading, but any science fiction fan looking for an intriguing and visionary techno-thriller should add this audiobook to their summer reading list. The novel’s fascinating themes make it worth slogging through some scenes of gratuitous violence and tugging in vein on a few loose plot threads. Daemon is an impressive debut novel by Daniel Suarez, hopefully presaging an illustrious writing career.

Posted by Seth Wilson

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

Sci-Phi Show interviews Rudy Rucker

Jason Rennie’s The Sci Phi Show, has has an exclusive podcast interview with Rudy Rucker. You may recall that The Sci Phi Show ran a short Rucker story called Panpsychism Proved a while back. Jason talks to Rudy about the “singularity”, the philosophical idea of panpsychism (the idea that the entirety of the universe is “mind”), quantum physics, cyberpunk, his novels and his philosophy on book distribution. Have a listen |MP3| or subscribe to The Sci Phi Show’s podcast feed:

William Gibson’s Burning Chrome to air on BBC7

Online Audio

BBC 7's The 7th DimensionBBC7‘s Yes it is a re-run, but what a re-run it is! The 7th Dimension slot has aired Burning Chrome at least a couple times previously. The first time was way back in 2003. I’ve heard this Gibson story more than once now, and it is a terrific listen. First published in Omni magazine back in 1982 it tells the story of professional hackers trying to pull off a big heist. One line from this story — “…the street finds its own uses for things” — has become a widely-quoted aphorism.

BBC7 The 7th Dimension - Burning Chrome by William GibsonBurning Chrome
By William Gibson; Read by Adam Sims
2 Parts – [UNABRIDGED]
BROADCASTER: BBC 7 / The 7th Dimension
BROADCAST: Oct. 18th & 19th (Thursday and Friday) @ 6.30pm and 12.30am (UK Time)
Set in the world of cyberspace and computer hacking. Bobby Quine and Automatic Jack are trying to figure out a way of pulling off the one big score that will make them rich. But industrial espionage is a dangerous business, especially when they decide to rip off Chrome, the most ruthless figure in the local mob subsidiary.