The SFFaudio Podcast #052

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #052 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Science Fiction author and YELLOW PERIL scholar William F. Wu.

Talked about on today’s show:
Isaac Asimov, the “Robots In Time” series, the “Robot City” series, The Twilight Zone (1985), Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium by William F. Wu, Allan Brennert, Prisoners Of Gravity, Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Amazing Stories, Harlan Ellison, the best adaptation of Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans In American Fiction 1850-1940 by William F. Wu, University Of Michigan, Eric S. Rabkin, invasion stories, San Fransisco, The Battle Of Wabash by Lorelle, Dr. Fu Manchu, 19th century, Chinese immigration to the USA, immigration, Blazing Saddles (1974), The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, Charlie Chan, Sax Rohmer, comics, Marvel, DC Comics, Charlton Comics, Asians characters in comics, anglicizing Chinese names, David Lo Pan, Sui Sin Far (aka Edith Eaton), the co-evolution of Sax Rohmer and Dr. Fu Manchu, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, the best episode of Doctor Who episode ever: The Talons Of Weng Chiang, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China, James Hong, Hong On The Range by William F. Wu, San Diego, ComiCon, Mister Ron, Peter Sellers, The Fiendish Plot Of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980), Christopher Lee, The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965), Master Of Kung-Fu, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Captain America, Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon, Doug Moench, Starlog, the Marvel “no prize”, Julius Schwartz

Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium as adapted for an episode of The Twilight Zone (1985) Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Prisoners Of Gravity – Workshops/Clarion Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #051 – TOPIC: THE YELLOW PERIL

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #051 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Luke Burrage and Professor Eric S. Rabkin to discuss THE YELLOW PERIL.

Talked about on today’s show:
The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer (aka The Mysterious Dr. Fu-Manchu) – available via Tantor Media, fix-up novel, hypnosis, Sherlock Holmes, the yellow peril incarnate, the yellow peril as the hordes of asia, the Chinese Exclusion Act (USA), Chinese Immigration Act, 1923 (Canada), Tamerlane (the scourge of god), The Yellow Peril by M.P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel, racism, WWI, colonialism, Burma, Thuggees, Boxer Rebellion, genius, The Talons Of Weng Chiang, if you read it as Fu-Manchu being the hero you may like the story more, mad scientist, Faust, Paradise Lost by John Milton, Robur-Le-Conquérant by Jules Verne (aka Robur-The-Conqueror aka The Clipper of the Clouds), The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, The White Man’s Burden by Rudyard Kipling, colonialism, The Invisible Man, the other colored other, The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore, Hawley Griffin (The Invisible Man), Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, Mina Murray (from Dracula by Bram Stoker), English 418/549: GRAPHIC NARRATIVE (Winter 2010), The Invisible Man shows I and II, If I Ran The Zoo by Dr. Seuss, Jonah And The Whale, Suess’ anti-Japanese propaganda during WWII, Japanese internment during WWII in USA and Canada, Aryan, India, Nazi Germany, The Thule Society, Sri Lanka, racial stereotypes, Marco Polo, Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, gender and skin color, blondness, Karamaneh (the love interest in The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu), femme fatale, Black Widow (1987), miscegenation, the Chinese hordes vs. the insidious Japanese, War With The Newts by Karel Čapek, Japan, LibriVox.org, Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein, beauty as goodness (in fairy tales), King Kong, Last And First Men by Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, The Iliad by Homer, The Old Testament, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame edited by Robert Silverberg, Arena by Fredric Brown, Plato, the red scare, Jack London, The Lathe Of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin, Arslan by M.J. Engh, Chung Kuo by David Windgrove, selective memory, polarized memory, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Encounter With Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh, Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World’s Prosperity Depends on It by Zachary Karabell, Firefly, Limehouse, London, Detroit, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|, alternate history, SS-GB by Len Deighton, Fatherland by Robert Harris, Gorky Park, North Korea, the North Korea embassy in East Berlin.

The Yellow Peril

The Fiendish Plot Of Fu-Manchu (Thanks Gregg!):

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #050 – READALONG: The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #050 – Jesse and Scott discuss The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James.

Talked about on today’s show:
An excerpt from the lecture: Masterpieces Of The Imaginative Mind (Lecture 6: H.G. Wells: We Are All Talking Animals) by Professor Eric S. Rabkin, James thought novels ‘must explore an individual’s psychology’ but H.G. Wells asserted novels ‘must explore the great social forces that shape all of us.’, The Teaching Company, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, Blackstone Audio’s version, PaperbackSwap.com, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast show on The Invisible Man and More Invisible Men, LibriVox.org, LibriVox’s FREE version of The Turn Of The Screw, Stephanie Beacham, War Of The Worlds, The Time Machine, Donald E. Westlake, John Irving, James Lee Burke, Pat Conroy, literary fiction, ambiguity, deliberate ambiguity, the framing sequence, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, outlining the plot, country estates, England, governesses, orphans, corruption and contamination, ghosts, Christmas, Why is it called The Turn Of The Screw?, Is this a double ghost story?, if the governess is crazy doesn’t that make the story pointless? sexism, solitary decisions may not be wise, what happens to Miles? The Innocents (1961), sexuality, James called The Turn Of The Screw “a shameless potboiler”, adaptations and interpretations, The Turn Of The Screw (2009), The Others (2001), Marlon Brando’s prequel The Nightcomers (1971), Thomas Kuhn, incommensurable literary paradigms?, Margaret Atwood, literary Science Fiction, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Handmaid’s Tale, governess stories, tutors, teachers, surrogate parents, William Makepeace Thackeray‘s Vanity Fair, Johdi May, The Turn Of The Screw (1999), is the governess an unreliable narrator?, The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Mystery and Science Fiction are very closely aligned, tales of ratiocination, Edgar Allan Poe, The Turn Of The Screw in comics, Pocket Classics, Oscar Wilde, The Importance Of Being Earnest, Jesse’s Pick Of The Week: The Innocents, Blackadder II, Scott’s Pick Of The Week: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow as read by Martin Jarvis, RadioArchive.cc, The Turn Of The Screw BBC radio drama, Saturday Night Theatre.

The opening of The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James – Pocket Classics edition (ISBN: 0883017393):

Pocket Classics - The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James (ISBN: 0883017598)
The Turn Of The Screw - illustration by Lynd Ward
The Turn Of The Screw - illustration by Lynd Ward

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Doctor Ox’s Experiment by Jules Verne

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxHere’s a new audiobook from LibriVox that I am eager to hear. Eric S. Rabkin, who we had as a guest on the SFFaudio Podcast last year, had some fascinating insights about this story in his Teaching Company lecture series Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature’s Most Fantastic Works. The narrator for the LibriVox audiobook version is Alan Winterrowd. He’s a blogger and podcaster (he started the Penny Dreadful Podcasts in March 2009).

LIBRIVOX - Dr. Ox's Experiment by Jules VerneDoctor Ox’s Experiment
By Jules Verne; Read by Alan Winterrowd
5 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 13 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 24, 2010
An early, light-hearted short story, published in 1872 by Jules Verne. It takes place in the Flemish town of Quiquendone, where life moves at an extraordinarily tranquil pace. Doctor Ox has offered to light the town with a new gas, but actually has other plans in place.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/3562

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Elli and David Lawrence]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Invisible Man by H.G. WellsThe Invisible Man
By H.G. Wells; Read by James Adams
5 CDs – Approx. 5.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433277528
Themes: / Science Fiction / Invisibility / Chemistry / Biology / Crime / 19th Century / Sussex / Morality / Personal Responsibility /

On a freezing February day, a stranger emerges from out of the gray to request a room at a local provincial inn. Who is this out-of-season traveler? More confounding is the thick mask of bandages obscuring his face. Why does he disguise himself in this manner and keep himself hidden away in his room? Aroused by trepidation and curiosity, the local villagers bring it upon themselves to find the answers. What they discover is a man trapped in a terror of his own creation, and a chilling reflection of the unsolvable mysteries of their own souls.

While nobody could really deny H.G. Wells was an amazing and talented Science Fiction author I think we can all agree that some of his fictions are superior to others. Among those that are not superior is The Invisible Man. This is not from any serious defect in the novel’s writing. Indeed, I cannot see anything that H.G. Wells has really done badly or that he could have done better. So, if it couldn’t have been done better then why isn’t it better? I think the problem stems from two interrelated factors: One is a serious technical gripe, something in the book and unavoidable, and the other being the smallness of that idea. Taken together they make it difficult to fully engage with. What holds back The Invisible Man from an utter perfection is at the weak premise at the very core of the novel, invisibility. Invisibility is both impossible and small. I’ve expanded on its impossibility in another essay. Its smallness is a problem I will tackle here.

Invisibility is a long standing meme in human culture: Plato describes invisibility in the legend of The Ring Of Gyges, Tolkien used a similarly endowed ring in The Lord Of The Rings, and even modern scientific versions of invisibility (the invisible-like camouflage in Predator) are still with us. The problem is invisibility isn’t a story, its barely a half of an idea in terms of ideas – its a place to take a story, but it isn’t a very fruitful one. I felt the same way when I read Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man |READ OUR REVIEW|READ OUR REVIEW|. I though: “A man shrinking, that’s new!” It was new and completely unfruitful. See the fallout from the idea of a man shirking inexorably towards nothingness is a feeling of emptiness. The man shrinks, the world gets bigger. A man shrinks, everyday objects become like mountains and house pets like dragons. Its interesting, to be sure, but it isn’t a story. Like invisibility, no amount of hand-waving can make the explanation scientifically plausible. Unlike, the The Incredible Shrinking Man however I can still recommend The Invisible Man – Wells is the master of Science Fiction. In The Invisible Man he takes a fatally flawed concept, invisibility, and writes the shit out of it. When Griffin, the scientist and anti-hero of the title goes about explaining his methodological reasoning in a Socratic dialogue, he is fully persuasive. Check this passage out:

“Phew!” said Kemp. “That’s odd! But still I don’t see quite … I can understand that thereby you could spoil a valuable stone, but personal invisibility is a far cry.”

“Precisely,” said Griffin. “But consider, visibility depends on the action of the visible bodies on light. Either a body absorbs light, or it reflects or refracts it, or does all these things. If it neither reflects nor refracts nor absorbs light, it cannot of itself be visible. You see an opaque red box, for instance, because the colour absorbs some of the light and reflects the rest, all the red part of the light, to you. If it did not absorb any particular part of the light, but reflected it all, then it would be a shining white box. Silver! A diamond box would neither absorb much of the light nor reflect much from the general surface, but just here and there where the surfaces were favourable the light would be reflected and refracted, so that you would get a brilliant appearance of flashing reflections and translucencies—a sort of skeleton of light. A glass box would not be so brilliant, not so clearly visible, as a diamond box, because there would be less refraction and reflection. See that? From certain points of view you would see quite clearly through it. Some kinds of glass would be more visible than others, a box of flint glass would be brighter than a box of ordinary window glass. A box of very thin common glass would be hard to see in a bad light, because it would absorb hardly any light and refract and reflect very little. And if you put a sheet of common white glass in water, still more if you put it in some denser liquid than water, it would vanish almost altogether, because light passing from water to glass is only slightly refracted or reflected or indeed affected in any way. It is almost as invisible as a jet of coal gas or hydrogen is in air. And for precisely the same reason!”

“Yes,” said Kemp, “that is pretty plain sailing.”

So, I’m of two minds on The Invisible Man. It derives its heart from a weak concept – and like the phlogiston theory of combustion it is discredited, and undeserving of serious consideration. Despite all this I still find myself willing to recommend you read the novella. The psychological rigor that Wells brings to the novel makes The Invisible Man quite possibly the first and last straight Science Fiction story worthy of our attentions.

Narrator James Adams is a capable reader, he reads the third person perspective text with what sounds like an authentic English accent. The clam-shell style case, for the library CD edition that I received, features a bit of fading text on the cover, a design inspired by the invisibility of the title. Unfortunately this makes the details hard to make out in anything other than a bright light environment. Blackstone Audio has four other formats available too: Cassette, MP3-CD, digital download (via Audible.com) and playaway (a kind of disposable MP3 player that can only play one book). Given the widespread availability of The Invisible Man by other audiobook publishers I’d like to have seen some value added materials, perhaps a specially commisioned introduction by Professor Eric Rabkin and or an afterward by Professor Michael D.C. Drout.

One thing I like about paperbooks that rarely (if ever) gets included in an audiobook is a map. Maps are fun and informative. One of the funnest paperback series ever was the old Dell Mapbacks. Here’s the Map from the back of Dell’s edition of The Invisible Man:

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells - A Dell Book (MAPBACK)

Posted by Jesse Willis