The SFFaudio Podcast #316 – The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick; read by Mike Vendetti. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 15 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Paul, and Mike.
Talked about on today’s show:
1954, The God Who Runs, bad titles, Next, Homo Aureus, The Man In The high Castle (TV series), hashtag marketing, an episode of The Twilight Zone, the film adaptation, Knowing, a working train-wreck, the main character has no sapience, autism, the diner scene, not just an exposition scene, the fake salesman, a lady with 8 boobs, shades of Total Recall, he’s looking for Jews, the secret police, the DCA are the secret police, the locals protect the mutant, Philip K. Dick:
“Here I am saying that mutants are dangerous to us ordinaries, a view which John W. Campbell, Jr. deplored. We were supposed to view them as our leaders. But I always felt uneasy as to how they would view us. I mean, maybe they wouldn’t want to lead us. Maybe from their super-evolved lofty level we wouldn’t seem worth leading. Anyhow, even if they agreed to lead us, I felt uneasy as where we would wind up going. It might have something to do with buildings marked SHOWERS but which really weren’t.”
what we did to the neanderthals, this is super X-Men, the John W. Campbell mutants vs. the Philip K. Dick mutants, House Of M, for those who are not Tamahome…, Spider-Man trying to “pass” as a mutant, the Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, to the beginnings of the superhuman genre, the origins of Superman, powerful superheroes are going to save us, Astounding -> Analog, John W. Campbell was obsesses with psychic powers being a science, mutation as evolution up, Slan by A.E. van Vogt, “fans are slans”, a lot of stuff going on, looking into the future, this so isn’t a movie, they just put a golden tint on the film-stock for Next, single word titles, Audible ratings, a story that is repulsive to everybody, we are the monsters, Audible’s return policy, Mike grew up in the Cold War era, Mutual Assured Destruction, no real external threat anymore, the Soviets have their own DCA, all the “deves” are getting “euthed”, Cris Johnson is the character’s name in the book and the movie, Dick was really interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the atomic war caused all these mutations, the diner scene again, they’re everywhere!, the Johnson family seem to love Cris, he’s got the James Bond gene, women can’t resist, the unfaithful wives (and husbands), the crappy Wikipedia summary, can they sterilize everybody, they know this is the end, Cris can never be outmaneuvered, the whole last 40 minutes of Next didn’t happen, the movie does a good job of illustrating how Cris’ super-power would work, Groundhog Day, computer save gaming, because Cris can’t talk…, how we interact with NPCs in computer games is how Cris is interacting with everyone around him, we’re all sort of trapped like that, marketing it as a X-Men or superhero type story, imaging a dollhouse and all the different possibilities he could do, Philip K. Dick is Mr. Innovative, a chilling world that’s pretty much like ours, a very ’50s feel in terms of the country and random energy shields, the X-Men explanation for mutation (atomic bomb testing), The Crawlers by Philip K. Dick, the golden man is beautiful and the crawlers are ugly, the crawlers have their own agenda, they are not seen as human, Harlan Ellison, a mutant psionic, The Skull by Philip K. Dick, “we met the enemy and he is us”, the mutant theme has dried up in SF, Deus Irae, an armless and legless hero, Tibor McMasters, a huge sense of pathos, “how come people are such assholes”, The Turning Wheel by Philip K. Dick, White Man’s Burden, what if we would have lost the war (WWII)?, Cañon City, Colorado, Mike is the man in The Man In The high Castle again, Nazis vs. Imperial Japan, the American occupation of Japan, Two Dooms by C.M. Kornbluth, occultist, even more surreal than Dick, we’re number 1 and their number 10, the werewolves (post-war German resistance against occupation), going to the movies, after the atom bomb, you never saw the Hollywood movie where the Americans invade Russia (the reverse of Red Dawn), the ridiculous premise behind the remake of Red Dawn, North Korea, auto-immune disease, the acronym-itis that sinks the ship, government conspiracies, aliens, Mexicans are aliens?, what?, what would happen if the Americans left California, don’t spread that rumor, Pacific Edge, the California drought, Washington and Oregon, archetypical Dick, A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, to quote Solaris, Dick is wise, if humans go on as Cris Johnson, this is why people are upset that their kids are autistic, he is in a sense “superior”, ok you say you want a superior being… how do you like that John W. Campbell, he’s a golden god, the Steve McQueen of mutants, a swelling torrent of sheer force!, are they having sex?, cigarettes as symbols, explicit sex, a seduction, is she going to be the mother of dragons?, Genghis Khan style, Cris is unique (for now), dumb feral cubs, dominant or recessive, there is no hope, it won’t be us, grinning wryly, In The Mouth Of Madness, every species can smell its distinction, man will be a myth, one perfectly adapted animal, more of a threat to the men than it is to the women, Species, a female golden man, that’s why you have the mutants with the eight breasts, what do you think of that? what do ya make of this?, a litter of kids needs eight arms, turning people into animals, rats, subhumans, what do ya make of that?, he’s covered in fur, how does he put on pants?, he’s like a peacock, Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp, why peahens choose peacocks with the longest tails, peahens want their male offspring to be attractive to peahens, they’re going to breed us out of business, The Turning Wheel (again), racism, H.P. Lovecraft, it’s an act!, there are mutants all around them, he’s one thing in the restaurant he’s another to the cop, a super-secret agency that everybody knows about and talks about, every family is hiding a mutant, FBI agents infiltrating anarchists groups, ATF Operation Fearless, Kafka by way of Dick, the NRA, welcome to America, Anita, sexism, nobody is clean in this fight, Cris ruins the horseshoe game (by way of saying goodbye?), a repulsive attractive powerful story, Cris’ mom, Cris’ dad, how could this story have been adapted otherwise, a stupid plot, why do the French want to blow up Los Angeles?, the movie is a train-wreck and yet…, Juliane Moore’s character is a monster, she’s driven, strapped to the Clockwork Orange chair watching CNN, that’s burying the lead, the two minute rule, he’s got no past, you have to have a past to decide what you’re going to do in the future, his present is our future, the movie has lots of problems, what was the “next” card, domestic rendition, there are people, don’t ask this question, Cris doesn’t need to speak because speaking is for planning, he’s just an animal, you have to have a past to plan.
The SFFaudio Podcast #274 – Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Gildart Jackson (this audiobook comes to us courtesy of Blackstone Audio’s Eldritch Tales). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (28 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Samantha Wikan
Talked about on today’s show:
The story was also published as Arthur Jermyn and The White Ape, Weird Tales, 1921, The Wolverine, the 1980s, “that’s not a big deal”, “our more enlightened times”, Lovecraft’s letter to Weird Tales, Rhodesia, “the Dark Continent”, “our brothers and sister in the jungle”, racism, Allan Quatermain, telegraphing the twist, is Lovecraft making a joke?, a more horrific reading, no Elder Gods, no Dreamlands, atavism and degeneration, great grandmother was a gorilla, miscegenation, bestiality, Dagon, Shadow Over Innsmouth, atavism, losing sanity points, Sir Wade Jermyn (African explorer with a “Portuguese wife” -> Philip Jermyn (a very agile sailor) -> Robert Jermyn (an anthropologist) -> Nevil Jermyn (runs off with a dancer) – > Alfred Jermyn (joins the circus) -> Arthur Jermyn (the poet scholar), Lovecraft became despondent when his family had to leave their home, Lovecraft’s mom said he was “exceedingly ugly”, Lovecraft’s father (died in an asylum), a tainted heritage, fear of degeneration, the ape goddess, diluting the noble bloodline, Arthur was the most unattractive one that was allowed out of the bedroom, Nevil’s siblings, a music hall singer of “unknown origin”, a lack of respect for the lower classes, below or above one’s station, a common sailor, the gamekeeper’s daughter, Winesburg, Ohio, Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for The Martian Chronicles, who is telling this story?, “demoniacal hints”, oppressive science, a future echo to Pickman’s Model, squamous eldritch adjectives, a gentleman in a club, “the gorilla boxing match death”, a smoking jacket holding court, clubman tales, Lord Dunsany, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, Isaac Asimov’s The Black Widowers Club, Supernatural (1977 BBC TV series), “the club of the damned”, blood freezingly funny, “really ugly or unconventionally beautiful”, Arthur’s life story is quite sad, we really empathize with Arthur Jermyn, Victorian society, aren’t we all Arthur?, a lot of people probably don’t like the idea we are related to apes, maybe we should reject it even though its true, Douglas Adams “Earthmen are not proud of their ancestors and never invite them around to dinner”, digital watches, the ape city, hybrids, what of the other side?, S.T. Joshi’s reading, “that last clause is critical”, the white apes as the missing link, “the entire white race”, the only explanation, miscegenation assumes certain things, eugenics, “he married that ape”, “he made an honest ape of her”, the illustration from Weird Tales, how pretty was she?, the community’s contempt, judgements from a group of racist assholes, “that being said I’d rather be a poet than a sailor”, the butler, the servants, the black nanny, “the aged Soames”, the 1993 comic book adaptation by Stephen Phillip Jones, the visitor named “Seaton”, the only one who survives is Alfred, the adaptation goes off on this weird tangent -> The Terror Of Blue John Gap (first published in 1910), Samuel Seaton is in both stories (The Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family and The Terror Of Blue John Gap, She by H. Rider Haggard, a more realistic version of that story, Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the lost city of Opar (a lost colony of Atlantis), the John Carter books, this story is underrated, the humour and the pathos, not going into purple overdrive, the Jorkens tales, dry British wit, take off the Cthulhu blinkers, Jesse would like Mr Jim Moon to read aloud The Terror Of The Blue John Gap, Blue John (the mineral), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “obviously its insane”, Heart Of Darkness , Henry Morton Stanley, Dr. Livingston, Penny Dreadful is a mash-up of late 19th century horror fiction, Timothy Dalton plays a kind of Allan Quatermain kind of character, Mina Harker, demon possession, “raping their way across Africa”, the Grand Tour, “sending sons to the colonies for hunting, drinking, and whoring”, Sir Wade is the White God, the Congolese natives’ stories are all true, what’s in the box?, two statues?, a subterranean ocean, a fish man?, “I’m your great grandfather boy”, the Spawn of Cthulhu, “Deep Ones can mate with any species”, when we read Lovecraft we do a disservice to force connections to the Cthulhu Mythos, presenting it as a theory, “the locket!”, “what’s in the locket?”, the locket was empty, they threw the locket in a well, interpretations, stopping the spread vs. just being horrified, putting them over the percentage, “they had to make it not be”, having an ancestor delivered to your door, “Sir Wade collected things one wouldn’t ordinarily collect”, what did he bring back?, tending away from the Cthulhu Mythos, Cthulhu plushie, Lovecraft would never have said: “Sanity points?! Great idea!”, The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft (and it’s black museum), Lovecraft used the Necronomicon as “a backdrop and a reference and a flavour”, appreciating the stories as stories, it’s touching!
SFFaudio’s 7th Anniversary World Tour continues – we’ll have you know that no hotel rooms have been trashed to date. But there’s still time…
“The Eternal Wall”
By Raymond Z. Gallun; Read by Gregg Margarite
26 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Evolution / Time /
This story was published in November, 1942 in Amazing Stories magazine. It’s the first story by Raymond Z. Gallun that I’ve read. I was happy to come across it, since I recently ordered the Del Rey The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun paperback. Love those books.
“The Eternal Wall” is not included in that collection, which raises my expectations of the stories that were included, because this is a very good story. It starts with a guy driving a car quickly down the road. He’s late for a date with his girlfriend, so he pushes it too far and ends up flying off a cliff into deep alkali-rich water. Now pick up the story a few million years later. Humans have long since left the Earth, and the next phase of evolution has resulted in a race of prairie dog-like intelligent creatures that find a mummified body at an archaeological dig. Their technology is great, so they figure out how to re-animate the well-preserved body.
The end of the story didn’t ring true to me, but it contained the point of the story, or at least the reason the story was titled “The Eternal Wall”. The wall is time – the main character can’t go back in time, and the new intelligent life on Earth, despite their advanced technology, can’t do it either. It can easily be seen as a response to the time travel stories that permeated science fiction in the 40’s – a dose of scientific realism, perhaps?
But it’s not the view of time presented in the story that doesn’t ring true – it’s the reaction of the man after being re-animated. Oh, the drama! I wanted to slap him.
Gregg Margarite performs the story, hysterical re-animated man and all, and I’ll be looking for more from him. Thanks to Gregg, and thanks to Librivox for making it available!
The August 20th 2009 episode of Hi-Sci-Fi (a podcast radio show out of CJSF 90.1FM in Burnaby, British Columbia) features a very interesting interview with the author of The Unselfish Gene Sez host Irma Arkus:
“This week we have one of my new favorite authors, Robert Burns, who not only has the touch for the undead, but writes most beautiful adventure sci-fi pulp I’ve read in a long, long time. And together with Burns, we bring you his new novel, The Unselfish Gene.
The premise of the novel is genuinely un-boring: colonists on moon are the last of humans as we know it, because the rest of the Earth’s populous has been affected by a Zombie virus.
But that is only where the fun starts, as moon colonists seem to suffer from endless complications and health issues of their own: they are not the best choice for human propagation due to long-term radiation exposure, and mental illnesses, including clinical depression, are quite common.
Worst of all, they are the only and best candidates for survival of humanity, because they have the runaway vehicle: Anita, an Orion-like ship, propelled by nuclear-bombs, is a way out, as Earth also faces a run-in with a comet.
The premise of the novel simply spells disaster, which is AWESOME.”
In the interview Irma gushes over the cool illustrations.
The interview proper starts at about 22 minutes in |MP3|.
By Lincoln Child; Read by Scott Brick
9 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: February 2009
Themes: / Horror / Thriller / Techno-thriller / Science / Biology / Evolution / Paleoecology / Alaska / Ice / Ice Road Trucking /
Four hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle lies Alaska’s Federal Wilderness Zone, one of the most remote places on Earth. But for paleoecologist Evan Marshall and a small group of fellow scientists, an expedition to the Zone represents the opportunity of a lifetime to study the effects of global warming. The expedition changes suddenly, however, with an astonishing find. On a routine exploration of a glacial ice cave, the group discovers an enormous ancient animal encased in solid ice. The media conglomerate sponsoring their research immediately intervenes and arranges the ultimate spectacle—the animal will be cut from the ice, thawed, and revealed live on television. Despite dire warnings of a local Native American village, and the scientific concerns of Marshall and his team, the “docudrama” plows ahead—until the scientists make one more horrifying discovery. The beast is no regular specimen…it may be an ancient killing machine. And they may be wrong in presuming it dead.
Lincoln child begins Terminal Freeze by quoting all but the last couple sentences of THIS. It’s not exactly a scholarly article, more of a “fun science facts” story. But like Child there are plenty of other folks willing to proffer their own answers to this “mystery.” AboveTopSecret.com (a forum devoted to “conspiracies, UFO’s, paranormal, secret societies, political scandals, new world order, terrorism”) and AnswersInGenesis.org (a site about Young Earth creationism and a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis) both have explanations for the seemingly flash frozen mammoth that fit into other “theories.” If Child’s solution to the mystery, this novel, wasn’t presented as fiction it’d be just as ridiculous.
So, this isn’t really a Science Fiction novel. At first I had a hard time figuring out what it was. I clued in about the time I started hearing the scientists protags talking about something called “the Callisto Effect” – it sounded like utter bunk – so I looked it up. Yup it is bunk, it’s a fictional theory first invented for the Lincon Child/Douglas Preston novel The Relic (which got turned into a pretty good horror movie). The Callisto Effect is a Child/Preston invention, a kind of a fictional spin-off of the saltation hypothesis. As one other reviewer of this book noted the Callisto Effect can be summed up like this:
“…when a species becomes too numerous or starts to lose evolutionary vigor a monstrous superpredator suddenly appears and kills until it can kill no more.”
So ya, like I was saying, there are scientists in Terminal Freeze, and they talk about pseudo-scientific ideas, but this is just window dressing for the plot of a monster hunt.
We might think of the “techno-thriller” as a kind of a modern gothic novel. Even as far back as the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne, were setting their “fantastic tales in the remaining unexplored regions of the world. By the early 20th the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, and John W. Campbell only had one unexplored continent: Antarctica. The same would be true for a modern audience but now that even Antarctica has been laregly de-mystified we’re having to place our monster horror stories in inaccessible caves and hidden military bases (at least that’s the route Terminal Freeze takes).
The story is rather drawn out, with a number of blandish stock characters brought in seemingly only to be picked off one by one (which surpringly both does and doesn’t happen). The scientists, none of whom are particularly interesting, end up working with a local native, who was also co-incidentally a former soldier at Fear Base, and also a former junior scientist there, and also a co-discoverer of the original monster (back in the 1950s). Given those credentials you’d think then that he’d be absolutely instrumental in solving the mystery of what the frozen monster is and how it escaped. But no, he just gives a highly ineffectual and unrealistically cryptic warning (at the beginning of the novel) is promptly ignored – shuffles off the stage only to be brought back later, like Chekhov’s gun, jumbling around a bag of religious artifacts – which do nothing. Apparently the gun on the mantle was just a prop. Child added in an absolutely unnecessary batch of TV documentary people. The only reason I can think they’re there for is that it’d make for some good visuals should they make a movie of this novel. They’re all there when the monster in the ice escapes from the mysteriously melted ice. And of course their there when people start dying grizzly deaths as they wander off alone. But they don’t do much with those cameras and they end up leaving before the end.
After finishing the novel I was kind of interested in finding out if any of the locations in this novel were real. In the book there is a mountain called “Mount Fear,” a glacier called “Fear Glacier,” and a “Fear Base” (a D.E.W. Line style military facility). It turns out that they all don’t really exist, they are all made up.
One thing I did like about the novel was the discussion about the different types of ice. When the scientist are sitting around trying to explain how the creature in the ice escaped they briefly discuss different ways water crystallizes into ice, how these different types of ice are formed, and their differing properties. This briefly re-invigorates the mystery – but it is ultimately thrown away – discarded and replaced with a less than satisfactory explanation.
Scott Brick, who probably reads more books than any other audiobook narrator working today, does his best with what he’s given. The baddies come off badish, the heroes come off goodish, the monster comes off monsterish. The most interesting portion of the novel is actually a bit, almost completely tangential to the monster plot when an “ice road trucker” has to drive the survivors to safety. Brick works hard to make the cracking of the ice and the freezing cold compelling. And that’s the part of the novel is more believable.