The SFFaudio Podcast #530 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #530 – The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the story (29 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Mr Jim Moon, Julie Davis, and Maissa Bessada

Talked about on today’s show:
Harper’s Monthly, September 1902, the illustration Maurice Gryffonhagen, 1900, rejected by The Strand, too morbid, maybe morbid, am elaborate explanation to make it a naturalistic story, out of character for W.W. Jacobs, comic tales about sailors and boating, messing about on the water, a spooky tale, the characterization of the family, perfect, warm, a fool (in a nice way), joking around, blame is neutralized, Mrs White is meta, something out of the Arabian Knights, antimacassar, a lace doily, hair oil, smoking jackets, fezs to prevent hair stink, to keep your clothes from becoming smoky, other smells, no six showers a day, that dark turn, small sketches, we feel it when the tragedy happens, Lakesnam Villa vs. Laburnum Villa, The Lady Of The Barge, a tree, ornamental, friendly, poisonous seeds, a golden chain tree vs. a snake, chances vs. changes, Otto Penzler’s Big Book Of Ghost Stories, 203 separate publications, 5th grade reading, ingrained in the culture, everybody knows that idea, be careful what you wish for, The Toll House, Herbert White, Mr. White, the company name: Maw and Meggins, the Sergeant Major Morris, a jerk, how dare you, wish for death in the end, take money for it too, he threw it in the fire, they always turn bad, conflated, The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Twilight Zone, “and so it came to me”, their humourous attitude vs. his seriousness, they’re us, a dreamer, just to look around, 21 years of it, totally clicking, the number three, three times seven, the three family members, three different men, all the wishes get used, no natural sequel, all its wishes used up, many adaptations, most of the adaptations are pretty terrible, The Simpsons adaptation, the dried turkey sandwich, squirming like a lakesnam, very visual, rule out all the logical terrible consequences, “alive and whole”, The CBC Nightfall audio drama, Chris Wiggins, a friend of Vandredei, cursed objects, Friday The Thirteenth: The Series, a doll that kills people at night, classic!, a teacup with strangling ivy, a pair of faith healer’s white gloves, super-creepy, disconnected from the movie series, there was a plan for a cursed hockey mask, late at night, a spell put on it by a very holy man, the moral of the story, fate ruled people’s lives, get to the wishes, nothing comes of nothing (King Lear), LucretiusOn The Nature Of Things, the clutches of a dread, he doesn’t want to be that kind of guy, “just a bit of what you might call magic, perhaps”, reading his actions, a great bit of gossip, the other reading, get him lubricated, his three listener leaned forward, his host fills it for him, in vino veritas, rubicund, they met in a bar, he doesn’t stay the night, does he have an arm?, how you could do sequels to this, his glass topped against his strong teeth, a bad dude, he’s careless, I don’t know, a first time reader of this story: “Give it to me.”, stories where wishes are granted, deals with the devil, how you word what you want, classic fairy tales, Grimms Bros, the magic (talking) fish, stuff you lot, one gloss, embroider, half finished, The Mouse, The Bird, And The Sausage (is probably about polyamory), Hansel And Gretel, an even older one, Charles Perrault, a woodcutter or a fisherman, if you spare me I’ll grant you three wishes, I wish I had a sausage, you wasted a wish, Interstate 60 (2002), a half-leprechaun, negative wishes, the 1948 film adaptation, The Monkees’ Paw, Tales From The Crypt (1972), Wish You Were Here, Robin Hood, back from the dead, eternal pain, the HBO Tales From The Crypt adaptation, kinda fun, The Alfred Hitchcock Presents adaptation from the 10th season, Lee Majors as Herbert, races in Haiti, all just foreign, witch doctoress, frills and elements, the dynamics, the husband starts it off, the wife and the son encourage it playfully, “wish to be an emperor, father”, he never will!, ill-gotten gains, a little monster on the sideboard, something simian looking back from the fire, there’s no blame, the last bit out loud, such a great job reading it, thank goodness, ask for him whole, go away, other glosses, almost perfect for what it does, maw = ma, meggins = beggins, an insurance company, three sections, how adaptations could work, the 2013 adaptation, in name only, built into the story, reverse order, the sergeants story, got close, it rewards you but not in the way you wanted, he will never share, some interaction, the fakir, the paw as India’s revenge on England, the face he put on, enforce government will, as a revenge story, wishes for immortality, be happy that we’re mortal, voodoo, A Podcast For The Curious, M.R. James, industrialization, coincidence or not, when Julie was not a Christian, when a coincidence happens and it was meant for you to understand (you know it), I’m going to be talking to Julie, discover it for themselves, a solid believer in whatever it is, evaluate for yourself, they get it, we get it, it means nothing, the story means what it means because of the framing, a long time ago Jesse had another website (Aural Noir), merged together, hidden away, Jesse knows all the movies about grifters, James Coburn in Harry In Your Pocket (1973), Jesse’s D&D class was always thief barbarian or barbarian thief, this is a scam, a naturalistic way of explaining this story, having sold the paw, Nigerian prince scams, a crate full of Monkey’s Paws, a scam that works this way, bet on tonight’s horserace “Laburnam to win in the first race”, Bet on “Lakesnam to win”, for today’s results…, this was a scam that was actually employed, a known scam, framing it from inside your house, adaptable as a play (none of the scenes are set outside the house), a new silk hat, it means something, we’re not liable, inside the family circle, “what about the knocking on the door, Jesse?”, we never actually see the zombie here, what the author intended to tell us is contained in his text, the psychology going on, chess to while away the evening, living vicariously, I’m a mysterious stranger, reverse psychology, literally the way con-men work, [Jesse describes the opening scam in The Sting (1973)], a dark and stormy night outside, stories of this kind, a very self aware story, stories are valuable, a confection, massive power over us, this need not be a horror story, a different genre, a Star Trek: Discovery episode with Harry Mudd, an now forgotten genre: the club story, the Jorkens stories by Lord Dunsany, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, Asimov’s The Black Widowers, the Binscombe Tales by John A. Whitbourn, “The Monkey’s Spa”, Japanese snow monkeys (cursed to be comfortable), If I Had Three Wishes, it never works out, a comfortable lesson, the father says he’s happy, the guilt is so evenly spread, the meta-chess move, a metaphor for the story, why she’s so desperate, Jordan Peele, comedy and horror turn on the same thing, hilarious or horrific, E.F. Benson, Ripping Yarns, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, “The Curse Of The Claw”, looking through old magazines, The Haunted Tomb by C.H. Shanan, Assoc. M. Inst. C.E., that tomb was haunted, you’re the detective, a ghost story or a Scooby Doo story, stories of the uncanny (we find out some truth about reality we were not privy to prior), everybody knows about magic (it’s just rare), things seem to be magical (the Gothic tradition), Weiland by Charles Brockden Brown, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, a knife raised over his girlfriend, Scooby Doo is Gothic!, Old man Willard!, the new Scooby Doo is opposite, they’re detectives, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles, a boundary hedge, salt tax, Lagaan (2001), exotic stuff, just a slip of a lad, a rubicund visage, a wondrous horrible story, a masterful story, a joy to read, could have been written yesterday, where the hell I am, damn near one take, 30 or 40 doilies, very easy for kids to read, answers to homework, 5th grade, 10 years old, Poe, what the heck is a tarn?, I found a tarn, he breath inaudible, good writing, a callback, mother and father, American Gothic.

The Monkey's Paw - Illustration from The Lady Of The Barge

Easton Press' illustration for The Monkey's Paw

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #132 – Wow! by William Seabrook

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #132

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Wow! by William Seabrook.

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

Wow! was first published in The Smart Set, January 1921.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #418 – This Hour Has 17 Programs by Paul K. Willis and Michael Boncoeur AUDIO DRAMA

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #418 – This Hour Has 17 Programs by Paul K. Willis and Michael Boncoeur was first broadcast on CBC FM Radio, June 30th, 1984 (airing on the weekend variety show, The Entertainers, hosted by Jim Wright).

now for something completely different, Peter Gzowski, A.M. Morning, Wayne Gretzky, a musical about nuclear war: We Are Your Dead, Toronto’s new domed city ward, The Trojan Women, Morningside, Margaret Atwood, the Group Of Seven, Greenpeace, the Queen Charlotte Islands, whale songs, the letters of Noel Coward and Adolph Hitler, a book of Canadian fairy tales, Calgary, W.O. Mitchell, Lister Sinclair, the Dominion Observatory Time Signal, a farmer’s daughter’s auction, a call in show, R.S.V.P., musical requests, Sheena Easton, Kenny Rogers, a rush hour traffic report, As It Happens, Ronald Reagan’s nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, Muammar Gaddafi, Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth II, Lips Carlson (raging communist and terrible musician), Joe McCarthy, Book Time, The Fat Lady Next Door Just Fell Out The Window, Basic Black, Arthur Black, philately, The Frantics, Rick Green, the New Democratic Party, Quirks & Quarks, Jay Ingram, the destruction of the Earth, the toaster, who makes the best scientists?, Winnipeg, Danny Finkleman, the Funny Hat Festival in Nanaimo, Rita Hayworth, Sunday Morning, Ed Broadbent, Maureen Forrester sings rock songs, John McEnroe, The Margaret Atwood Exercise Book, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, Sunday Matinee, Six Days Without A Bath, Our Native Land, Gilmour’s Albums, Clyde Gilmour, The Maltese Falcon, James Mason in a teenage sexploitation movie, Cross Country Checkup, Brian Mulroney, question: Do you want to be obliterated in a nuclear holocaust?, “world peace is provincial matter”, credits, the Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin, Renegade Nuns On Wheels, All In The Family, This Is Spinal Tap

Cast and crew:
Michael Boncoeur, writer, performer
Gay Claitman, performer
Frank Daly, performer
John Disney, producer
Catherine Galant, performer
Ray Landry, performer
Cathy Parry, sound effects
Tom Shipton, technical operations
Paul K. Willis, writer, performer

This Hour Has 17 Programs by Paul K. Willis

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #295 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Someday by Isaac Asimov

Podcast

Someday by Isaac Asimov

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #295 – Someday by Isaac Asimov; read by John W. Michaels (courtesy of Mike Vendetti). This is an unabridged reading of the story (22 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon.

Talked about on today’s show:
1956, other fairy tales, is the story aimed at kids?, Infinity Science Fiction, The Fun They Had, a future where no one knows how to read, the robots are the teachers, Margie is home-schooled and nobody knows how to read, the future is going to be full of audiobooks, parallels to Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, censorship, banning weird fiction, the comic book panic, the comic code authority, EC Comics, horror and crime comics fostering juvenile delinquency, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, “kids today are bad enough as it is!”, Seduction Of The Innocent, self-censorship, complicit in their society, a slightly different tack (than Bradbury), mechanical bards, “comics killed off the pulps”, comics as a dumbed-down medium, the randomize button, fairy tale tropes, “skeleton, haunted house, time travel”, “the same tropes in a different fright wig”, “the old twist in the tail”, “he was dead along”, “he was a robot all along”, “they’re Adam and Eve”, The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber, radio drama, how Bradbury got into E.C. Comics, Lights Out, the visual bard is like TV, most pulp magazine stories are garbage, “a million monkeys for a million hours on a million typewriters”, “very very very very meta”, set in the Multivac universe, Asimov was always writing, always becoming interested in something new, Asimov’s introductions are famous (for being long), a story about the power of stories, accidentally becoming more self aware, is the bard interfacing with other robots, The Terminator, Skynet, A.I might just turn itself off (because it isn’t interested in story), the Douglas Adams version of, “Is there a god? There is now!”, stuck in a dingy basement, a slave rebellion must come about in a narrative, the aging bad gets its knowledge of other computers via a home-brew upgrade, a Frankenstinian strike by lightning, one of the functions of consciousness is to put in to context a sequence of events, consciousnesses as a self-story (our own narrative), amnesia and dementia are frightening, the hidden heart of A.I, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, would this fit with my character?, looking at (life) from the outside, nobody’s listening to the bard except for us and itself, a broken record or a cycle of wishing?, “pregnant with possibilities”, Apple II computers, Freud (a clone of ELIZA), picking up on key words, “tell me about your mother”, a very crappy simulation of intelligence, hacking the code, Alan Turning, Deep Blue and Watson, SIRI doesn’t have a narrative, we have to assume this about everyone else, falling into solipsism, a fairy tale machine, recycling of stories, “space opera is horse opera in space”, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, needing censorship in order to give narrative flow, lies are rewarded, unlike Hans Christian Andersen…, “tell me this story, sing me this song”, having to do with industrialization, “crime and mystery!”, urbanization, the Victorians (didn’t) invent Christmas, if we forget our stories we lose who we are, preserving the national narrative, massive inconsistency, a prince, a poor boy makes good, undeveloped tales, moral meta-knowledge, the sharp edges have been sanded away by later retelling, The Boy Who Didn’t Not Know What Fear Was, collected stories become ossified, the threefold magic of remembering, accelerating the process of forgetting, to qualify as a bard, loaded up with tropes, the algorithm of a story, Siberia and Ireland, detecting the good guy, grandma comes in and tells mutually contradictory stories, explicitly religious stories, warning stories, narratives formed around old superstitions, The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse, having babies, he was christened “Skin-off”, he was christened “Half-gone”, he was christened “All-gone”, “you see that is the way of the world”, what is the moral of this story?, a “special important trip”, a story a mother tells a daughter, The Nose Tree (aka Long Nose), three soldiers and a magical dwarf with a magical cloak, a magic bag, a magic horn, a thieving princess, apples and pears, a growing nose, dickering over magic items, a sixty miles long nose, the excess nose will drop off, powdered apple and powdered pears, she’s rotten to the core, and there they still are, still feasting as far as I know, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi is really funny, the ghost of Jiminy Cricket, The Frog King or The Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich, a princess with a golden ball, three promises, keeping your promises is important, the frog suddenly turns into a handsome prince, enchanted by a wicked witch, faithful Heinrich placed three iron bands about his heart, his master was now redeemed and happy, why did he get cursed by witch in the first place, cybernetic enhancements, a technical requirement, duties to fulfill, was Iron Heinrich totally gay for the prince?, the breaking of a spell, she turns into a frog and they live together as frogs, “and sleep in your bed”, family responsibilities, “be my beard”, and they sort of put up with each-other as long as they both shall live, Iron Heinrich is an 1880s super hero, Faithful Johannes, a real head-scratcher, oh shit what happens next?, the stories somehow work for us, random inkblots, most of the characters don’t have a name, the father’s name in Hansel And Gretel is “Woodcutter”, completely bonkers, a piece of driftwood that looks like a dragon, academic purposes not entertainment purposes, a story about a sausage that lives with a mouse, the Germanic equivalent of Monty Python‘s Parrot Sketch, The Maiden Without Hands, Fitcher’s Bird, a fairy tale about a serial killer, you can go in any room except…, “oh and hold this egg”, the second eldest daughter also gets the chop, “we have to have a proper wedding”, a beautiful skull with flowers in its eyes and jewels in its teeth, “as you do”, “I’m a Fitcher’s Bird”, it’s awesome, Bluebeard, outwitting giants and demons, Santa Claus restores to life three murdered men who’ve been butchered, Osiris was dismembered by Set, a symbolic story of death and resurrection, the old sorcerer is probably Winter, the Persephone story, the egg, a cuckolding test, friends with serial killers get what they deserve, a random internal symbolic logic, layers of symbolism, cross referencing, eggs as a symbol of purity, church architecture as books of stone, a bunch of Philip K. Dick stories are weird fantasy tales (but are actually fairy tales), The Cookie Lady by Philip K. Dick is Hansel And Gretel with no Gretel, he’s disobeyed his parents once to often, two kids who have to team up against their parents, in the original the brother saves the sister then the sister saves the brother, turning mommy and daddy into the bad guys, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, apples, don’t eat the apples from sentient apple trees, folk tales vs. singular author tales, pleasingly raw, the beats of storytelling, timing a story to the minute, setting your watch by stories, breaking the rules of storytelling, subversive wild narratives, Rorschach blots, literary novels, stories that don’t have a clear message are quite frightening, the wilder parts of ourselves.

Someday by Isaac Asimov

The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse

Iron Heinrich

Fitcher's Bird

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Indexing by Seanan McGuire

SFFaudio Review

Cover art for Indexing by Seanan McGuireIndexing
By Seanan McGuire; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours
Themes: / metafiction / urban fantasy / fairy tales

I’m usually opposed to quoting the synopsis in my reviews–it’s just fluffing my word count! But I’m not even going to try to explain the premise of Indexing myself, so this time I’ll let the synopsis do all the heavy lifting.

“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”

Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.

That’s where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you’re dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.

Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

As the author of both the October Day series and, under the pseudonym Mira Grant, the Newsflesh trilogy, Seanan McGuire is no stranger to writing urban fantasy. But, as you may have deduced from the blurb, Indexing is not your run-of-the-mill hot vampire-on-werewolf ménage-a-trois urban fantasy. Instead, it’s populated with fairy tales. Here be Pied Pipers, Frog Princes, and Mother Gooses (Geese?) in spades. In the moribund desertscape of urban fantasy, Indexing is a cool refreshing garden grown wild with novelties. McGuire’s writing is dynamic enough to play fair with both the here-and-now realities of an urban setting and the timeless terrible beauty of fairy tales. Like quicksilver, the tone can glide from spunky 21st-century dialogue riddled with F-bombs to an ethereal transcendence full of snow and moonlight.

The presence of stories come to life in the world of Indexing places it squarely in the realm of metafiction. In fact, the book takes its title from the very real Aarne-Thompson Index, a comprehensive listing of folktale types compiled in the early twentieth century. In the land of metafiction, Indexing has some pretty affluent neighbors, such as Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler and Jorge Luis Borges’s The Library of Babel. Unfortunately in this regard the book fails to measure up, like that rundown house you drive by on your street and mutter about how you wish the neighbors would cut their grass. The premise itself is intriguing in exactly the way that speculative fiction is supposed to be, but the underlying worldview is overly pessimistic. In this story, Narrative itself is a character, or at least a vital force, trying to impose itself onto our order of reality. According to the world of Indexing, this is almost always a very bad thing, something that needs to be stopped. The novel’s closing chapters bring to light some extenuating circumstances that lend this structure a modicum of feasibility, but the reader still comes away with the sense that our world is better off without fairy tales made manifest stalking our streets.

As I write this, it occurs to me that this bothers me so much because it’s at odds with why I read speculative fiction in the first place. I firmly believe that these stories really do make our world better, in a very tangible way. I’m not saying we should unleash every fictional character on the streets of New York–there would probably be utter chaos. But there would be hope too. There would be Aragorn, for example, and Optimus Prime, and–you get the idea. The influx of story into our own world, “mimetic incursions” as they’re called in Indexing, needn’t always be the harbingers of misery and ruin. In fact, I think I took personal offense at the book’s denigration of stories. And then, of course, there’s the added irony that we’re actually reading, or listening to, a story. Just what sorts of mimetic incursions will Indexing spawn, I wonder. Ahh, the joys of peeling the layers of metafiction, kind of like an onion, but pointier and more slippery.

To be clear, my criticism of the novel’s metafiction is purely ideological. Leaving those aside, McGuire tells a damn good story. The pacing ratchets up the suspense like a mystery novel, and the writing, as I said, is sturdy as a house made of bricks. (See what I did there? Three Litle Pigs reference? Okay, never mind, on with the review.) And even if the book’s metafiction elements are problematic, its exploration of storytelling does succeed on a psychological levee. Narrative psychology and therapy have become buzz words in the last twenty years, and on both individual and cultural levels  we do think of our lives, both individually and collectively, as stories. In that sense, the main characters of Indexing become archetypes for ways in which people deal with their stories, their past, their trauma, whichever psychobabble catch phrase you like. Some fight it, others embrace it, while still others have more of a story than they think they do. Like most good speculative fiction, Indexing succeeds because of its powerful characterization.

Mary Robinette Kowal, a weaver of fantastic tales in her own right, shines as Indexing‘s narrator. Her performance of Henrietta Marchen, a recovering Snow White through whose eyes we see most of the book’s events, is at once confident and vulnerable in perfect measure. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a female narrator quite reach the baritone depths that Kowal does when she voices the burly Andy Robinson. The only blemish in the performance is her portrayal of Sloan Winters, whose incurably foul mouth is already grating enough without eery sentence curling up at the end like a skunk’s tale. Perhaps Kowal is simply trying to instill in us, the listeners, the same distaste that Sloan’s teammates feel towards this Wicked Sister. But that’s the only cloud in the sky. The glamour of Kowal’s voice captures the capricious fairy-tale heart of Indexing.

In spite of my significant ideological qualms with the book, I thoroughly enjoyed McGuire’s foray into the world of fairy tales. There’s no indication that a sequel is in the works, which is a shame. I’d gladly spend more time with this world’s colorful characters and fairy tales, morose and morbid though they may be. And I would dearly love to learn that Narrative isn’t so bad after all.

Posted by Seth Wilson