The SFFaudio Podcast #553 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Elf-Trap by Francis Stevens

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #543 – The Elf Trap by Francis Stevens; read by Josh Roseman.

This unabridged reading of the story (51 minutes) comes to us from the Protecting Project Pulp podcast is followed by a discussion of it.

Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Marissa VU, Terence Blake and Fred Heimbaugh

Talked about on today’s show:
Argosy, July 5, 1919, Fantastic Novels, Virgil Finlay, elvish or trappy, a fizzy wine, the colour of the wine is golden, yellow, gold, fin de sicile, The King In Yellow, the 1890s is yellow, the Yellow Peril, Yellow Journalism, the Gilded Age, yellow road, yellow mud, white robe, honeysuckle, very image based, the blue of her scarf, her brother is Elfo?, the invitation, white and silver, signifies for the opening and the closing scenes, the effect of the nested narratives, an outer outer outer narrator (Francis Stevens), old wives’ tales, recrudescence, related by a well known specialist in nervous diseases, the doubling or tripling, Dr. Locke?, prescription for me?, Wharton is the inner narrator, Theron Tademus, a listener, a comedy?, why don’t you read this to me?, Locke is a fool!, I don’t need to hear any more of this, the best part is coming up, a sex story, pretty chaste, two roads diverged, the negro caretaker, a yellow track and the other goes to Carcassonne, a Carolina mountain road, a confusion in his own mind, the gypsy camp vs. the artist’s camp, a tripling of reality, two Reading, Short And Deep podcast, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, The Rutted Road by H.P. Lovecraft, a very sly and sneaking poem, written for a friend, walking tours of England, the power of a poem, everybody has Fred’s take, everybody else doesn’t understand it, being playful, close to the message of The Elf Trap, he met death (or something), his physical form is destroyed, very Lovecraftian in the non-tentacled way, Celephaïs, The White Ship, happy or sad ending?, happy in the way people joining a cult are happy, evil or good or other, categories that can truly escape the good evil polarities, a valedictorian speech, I took the harder path, me looking down my nose at the snobs, career choices, very meta, more gloomy, Terence has heard the podcast on it, La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats, 1820, Marissa is excluded, a gender queer fluid, they’re elves, that line from Aliens (1986) about Arcturian poontang, John Waterhouse, an interesting name, the best social interaction he’s ever had, so striking how, racist sounding, a bit of a dick, ripe for the picking, science vs. romanticism, he’s a microscopist (a cytologist), setting you up, life and feeling and warmth, science is basically a dead bug pinned to a card with a latin inscription underneath it, the limitations and the ugliness, the blindness of his scientific vision, the simplest interpretation, there’s a trap, the iron trap vs. the silver trap, it can re-get ya, a community, crafts (vs arts), a bit of fun, bringing an easel on a manhunt, hilarious, he could have been taken away by either group, the “rural ruins” kick (#ruralruins on Twitter), old wooden barns, collapsing barns, the appeal of melancholy ruins, now is the time to start photographing them, Southern Michigan, ex-urban, cornfield, the southern exposure, Minnesota, a going native story?, if Evan were here…, Typee by Herman Melville, beautiful clean, the white ivory flute, tending his disgusting grandmother, clean beautiful people, pretty colours, he needs somebody to break him out of his crabbed world of scientific examination, his passion for science, a tension, a fit of pique, she’s racist, terrible relationship, you’ve got to stay with me forever, that yellow dog, cur, mutt, mongrel, wearing the elf-glasses, a silver bell, everything that’s inviting him in is yellow, everything turns to gold instead of yellow, honey wild and manna dew, roots aren’t sweet, root beer tastes like medicine, it tastes like Chinese medicine, the etymology of drug, Buckley’s Mixture, relish sweet, this switch, everything that’s horrible becomes wonderful, he doesn’t have thought in his head, uh huh, and how much can you sell it for?, there’s something fundamentally wrong in his life, his Doctor’s name, how important names are, John Locke has the most beautiful signature, freshwater goldfish, dysteria, out of the loop, he almost escapes, his racism, their skin is whiter, he sees them in this white way, science sobers him, he’s very unwell, there’s something unwell in science at this time, mongrelizing, everybody’s suffering from Russia-gate-ism, how many rubles did you get paid?, here’s Nazism in 1919, racial theories and breeding programs, it was in the water and everybody was drinking the Kool-Aid, Irish travelers, the black servant, the airy fairy artist community, the sheriff with a posse, if Mr Jim Moon was here, midsummer, a nightwalk, a misreading, a morning walk, up all night, instead of through telescopes he’s looking through microscopes, Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, Pygmalion’s Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum, Wonder Stories, June 1935, Galatea, The King In Yellow story that’s the opposite, Robert W. Chambers, The Elf King, belle epoch Paris, Virgil Finlay, he put on the glasses and fell in love with a dream, A Martian Odyssey, Fitz James O’Brien, The Diamond Lens, super-racism, The Atlantic (1858), the best microscope ever, falls in love with a little tiny lady, SCIENCE!, “Dysteria ciliata. Dysterius giganticus”, his love for the microscopic world, what the painter sees, seeing things as generalities on the surface vs. details in the lens, clumsiness, largeness, the anvil, Tolkien elves, frills and paisley, the blending of crafts and arts, William Morris, The King Of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, a reaction against science, poems about butterflies, you can love science AND poetry, William Blake, double vision, Auguries Of Innocence by William Blake, behind that is a veil, a hidden life of their own, Theron learns double vision, the elves inside the gypsies, a whole world, there Elva is blind, twofold vision, monsters that want eat him and liberators who want to free him, what does he bring to the table?, culture and community, 37 year old professor, infertility, outsiders, his charismatic attitude?, he brings novelty, something fresh and different, an Elva shaped hole, time is different for her, telepathically grooming Wharton, soulless, he’s lost his soul, big clumsy hulking brutes, an outsider without a soul, indeterminate, maybe they trapped him because he was trappable, is she a Scientologist, Projecting Project Pulp, Mech Muse, too early in podcasting?, more audiobooks, if Fred follows through, Unseen, Unfeared by Francis Stevens, spiritual themes, blogs are good but suppressed by Google, Tellers Of Weird Tales, Terence E. Hanley, death dealing shells, light over darkness, dark fantasy, a 21st century and academic conceit, one of the simplest of Stevens stories, built like a puzzle box, relativity, analytic cubism, where lies reality, a happy ending?, a pleasant reading experience, could have been written only by a woman, a deeper meaning in the man’s name, Jesse’s theory, Theron Tademus, tall?, hunter?, animal, tadpole, mouse, tall tailed mouse, mousetrap, she’s playing with it, pointing, the hunter and the hunted, not necessarily a happy ending, we praise thee oh god, he trusts science, he trusts her, he loses his last name in her world, they need some tall genes, one good name was good enough for one good person, a coordinate system, binomial nomenclature, Carcosa?, fantasy engaging with science fiction, Brigadoon, he has never danced or loved, beyond the veil, the deeper reality of the spirit, love and art triumph over materialism, the sky blue scarf, you’re all alike, you love is for gold (or freedom), she enslaves people, saved from science, his red notebook, looking at flowers in the forest with your girlfriend, beckoning him, driving Jesse mad, Carcassonne is a famous tourist trap, a medieval walled town, the tabletop game, it’s a trap, traps can be beautiful, a Florida based Star Wars Disney park, $40 light-saber, the rural ruins of Star Wars, tourist ruins, dinosaur ruins, South Dakota, Rapid City, north of Mount Rushmore, the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is in Kentucky, about as rural-ruiny as it can get, did she go there?, is this a true story, Carcassonne post office, a train stop maybe, America is filled with failed towns, Carcassonne Road, Carcassonne Community center, trampoline and a pool, an unincorporated village, if you squint and take off your classes, once every hundred years, if you’re Blakeian enough you can see it, there’s a guy who saw things differently, angels in the fields with the workers, something pagan about Elva, the Cathars, Kingsport, took the train into Asheville, something happened, I want to believe, Thousand Sticks, Mount Blackmore, American flag, Google Maps was magic, guess where in the world, the signage is in Spanish, we have magical powers our parents didn’t have, in the per-internet age, the state library in the capital of West Virginia, wait for the internet, lost and suppressed by google, if you know the address (the magic word) you can find it on the WayBackmachine, Protecting Project Pulp, Friend Island, a male reporter, women control the world, the grim and gritty sea-side tea house, an old sailoress, the only ships are trading ships or peace ships, shipwrecked on a man on an island and the island is female, Mother Nature is angry, funny on purpose, we need a president, Margaret Thatcher wasn’t that good, Hillary Clinton, policies and intentions matter, what is he basing that on?, hello Keats, much more arguable, male gazing, if you read it as a subversive ending, femme fatale, Black Widow (1987), Bound (1996), if it were written by, squamous squalid, not enough degeneration, love of place, very subtle, entertaining, so well put together, this story is cool, all that nesting of reality, it doesn’t tell you this is what happened, something artificial about the outer narrator, why do you need these characters, Edith Wharton, to make it seem more journalistic, framing stuff, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, about 60% is framing (and its all front framed), a turreted room, armorial trophies and portraits, falling in love with a portrait, there’s no outer frame, all set-up, Jesse cant remember the name of Henry James, The Others (2001), The Turn Of The Screw, take it as journals like Lovecraft, My name is Jervas Dudley, framing as throat clearing, imagine this was true, we’ve been trained, The House On the Borderlands by William Hope Hodgson, Rene Girard, triangular desire, scapegoats, mimetic desire, taking on the object of desire of someone else, aggression, Trump, Peter Thiel, advertising and Facebook, this is how their manipulating, writing about advertising, they use it all day long, I wanna be like them, BMW ads, projecting yourself into the vehicle, “ultimate driving machine”, the object of desire, we keep changing sympathies, I have a story to tell, he had a story to tell, he tells it to another guy, lampshading, who are we sympathizing with, that complication, perspectivizing through, filtering through, Rashomon effect, three visions of the dog, The Blair Witch Project, Scooby Doo, the whole point is the Gothic explique, gothic time!,

THE chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe.

Jesse’s amazing news, The Garden Of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges, change the trend, if they’re so impatient, if you don’t hook them in the first paragraph they’re going to walk, the perception in publishing, a whole bunch of readers who liove the slow build, the publishers are enforcing that rule, its anti-science fiction, Inconstant Moon a line only written by Larry Niven (or Jerry Pournelle), that ending line, Footfall, the humans are more conquery and tankie, giant elephants, The Tower Of The Elephant by Robert E. Howard, an adulteration, why are we being told this, changing microscope magnifications, micrometer, a blurry chaos becomes crystal clear, The Outer Limits, Fitz James O’Brien’s The Wondersmith, How I Overcame My Gravity, What Was It?, a haunted boarding house, smoking opium in the backyard, an invisible creature, plaster of Paris, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant.

The Elf-Trap by Francis Stevens - Illustrated by Virgil Finlay

Kingdom Come State Park near Carcassonne, Kentucky

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 009

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxWith 9 volumes of short stories now out there’s no doubt there’s a plethora of SF listening available over on LibriVox.org. I love these collections, they have a good variety and not too much repetition …. oh wait, I take that last part back. It’s the constant repetition that is impairing these collections. LibriVoxateers, please stop recording Kurt Vonnegut’s 2BR02B. Otherwise, keep up the great work!

Sounding good in this collection are Jerome Lawson’s reading of The Cosmic Express and the quick humor of Frederic Brown’s Earthmen Bearing Gifts. The standout though is Irving E. Cox’s Impact. It is a tale about a deserter from an interstellar trading ship who causes the ship’s captain no end of troubles. It’s a cool old story despite the wretchedly old-fashioned woman teacher character (she’s jealous, blackmailing and shrewish).

LibriVox - Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 009Short Science Fiction Collection Vol. 009
By various; Read by various
10 Zipped MP3s or Podcast – Approx. 4 Hours 25 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20th 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 and technology. This is a reader-selected collection of short stories that entered the US public domain when their copyright was not renewed.

LibriVox - 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 2BR02B
By Kurt Vonnegut; Read by smokemonkey
1 |MP3| – Approx. 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Previous FREE MP3 versions of this story are HERE, HERE, and HERE and HERE. You can stop recording this very mediocre story now people.

LibriVox Science Fiction - The Cosmic Express by Jack WilliamsonThe Cosmic Express
By Jack Williamson; Read by Jerome Lawsen
1 |MP3| – Approx. 26 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20, 2009
Originally published in Amazing Stories in November 1930, later reprinted in the December 1961 Amazing Stories. Unfortunately this reading excludes the 1961 introduction to the tale by Sam Moskowitz. You can read that HERE.

The Day Time Stopped Moving
By Bradner Buckner; Read by Tom Weiss
1 |MP3| – Approx. 43 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

LIBRIVOX Science Fiction - Earthmen Bearing Gifts by Frederic BrownEarthmen Bearing Gifts
By Fredric Brown; Read by Alan Winterrowd
1 |MP3| – Approx. 6 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20, 2009
First published in the June 1960 issue of Galaxy magazine. “Mars had gifts to offer and Earth had much in return—if delivery could be arranged!” Another reading is available HERE.

LibriVox Science Fiction - Impact by Irving E. CoxImpact
By Irving E. Cox; Read by Tom Weiss
1 |MP3| – Approx. 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20, 2009
From Amazing Science Fiction Stories, January 1960. They were languorous, anarchic, shameless in their pleasures . . . were they lower than man . . . or higher?

Longevity
By Therese Windser; Read by Betsie Bush
1 |MP3| – Approx. 4 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
From Amazing Science Fiction Stories May 1960. A morality tale—1960 style.

LibriVox Science Fiction Short Story - The Measure Of A Man by Randall Garrett The Measure of a Man
By Randall Garrett; Read by Barbara King Gardner
1 |MP3| – Approx. 25 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20, 2009
From April 1960 Astounding Science Fiction magazine. “What is desirable is not always necessary, while that which is necessary may be most undesirable. Perhaps the measure of a man is the ability to tell one from the other … and act on it.” Another version is available HERE.

LibriVox Science Fiction - No Moving Parts by Murray F. YacoNo Moving Parts
By Murray F. Yaco; Read by Tom Weiss
1 |MP3| – Approx. 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20th 2009
From Amazing Stories May 1960. We call them trouble-shooters. They called ’em Gypsies. Either way, they were hep to that whole bit about….

LibriVox Science Fiction - The Nothing Equation by Tom GodwinThe Nothing Equation
By Tom Godwin; Read by Daniele F.
1 |MP3| – Approx. 22 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20th 2009
From Amazing Stories December 1957. The space ships were miracles of power and precision; the men who manned them, rich in endurance and courage. Every detail had been checked and double checked; every detail except—

LibriVox Science Fiction - The Stoker And The Stars by Algis BudrysThe Stoker and the Stars
By Algis Budrys; Read by Jason Mills
1 |MP3| – Approx. 25 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 20th 2009
From Astounding Science Fiction February 1959. When you’ve had your ears pinned back in a bowknot, it’s sometimes hard to remember that an intelligent people has no respect for a whipped enemy … but does for a fairly beaten enemy.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/short-science-fiction-collection-vol-009.xml

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Thinner by Stephen King

SFFaudio Review

Thinner by Stephen KingThinner
By Stephen King; Read by Joe Mantegna
9 CDs – 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2009 (reissue from 1984)
ISBN: 9780143143901
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Gypsies / Curses / Magic /

I put off reading Stephen King’s Thinner for the better part of two decades. The dust jacket description—lawyer runs down gypsy and is cursed to become, well, thinner—seemed like a decent short story stretched out into a novel. The premise just didn’t grab me.

As it turns out, my fears proved ill-founded. Thinner is an entertaining little novel that is, at its heart, about big concepts, including guilt, the dangers of not accepting responsibility for one’s actions, and the ruinous, generation-spanning cycle of destruction wrought by revenge. Thinner is positively short by King standards (about 300 pages), moves quickly, and contains a couple nasty little shocks that keep you on your toes and leave you feeling unsettled.

I’ve stated before that Stephen King was, in his early career, batting very nearly 1.000 as a writer. If you take a look at his work from 1973’s Carrie through 1987’s Misery and The Eyes of the Dragon, King was consistently great. I submit that The Tommyknockers (1988), written at the height of his drug and alcohol problems, was the first true misstep in King’s career. Now that I’ve finally read Thinner (released in 1984), I find that my rule holds true. It’s a fine book from King’s classic period.

Thinner tells the story of Billy Halleck, an overweight lawyer who gets distracted while driving home (his wife is giving him a handjob) and accidentally runs down an old gypsy woman crossing the street. Halleck avoids what should have a manslaughter conviction because the judge is an old golfing buddy and lets him off the hook. But Halleck can’t escape the scales of justice. The ancient father of Halleck’s victim curses Halleck by laying a scaly finger upon him and uttering the single word, “thinner.”

In the coming weeks, Halleck’s weight begins to drop alarmingly. When the doctors rule out cancer, Halleck realizes that the gypsy’s curse has taken root. The rest of the novel features Halleck chasing down the gypsies to get the curse lifted as his weight plunges from a high of 252 pounds to half that.

King has the problem of trying to convince the reader that a steadily weakening lawyer from a wealthy Connecticut suburb is capable of exerting enough pressure on a stubborn gypsy clan to lift the curse. He neatly sidesteps this problem by introducing the character of Richie “The Hammer” Ginelli, a minor mafia boss and a former client of Halleck’s. Ginelli assists Halleck by lending his unique and persuasive “services” learned in the hard-knock school of organized crime.

There’s a lot to recommend in Thinner. Taduz Lemke, the old gypsy with the power to curse, is a wonderful character, an ancient soul (over 100 years old) from the old world, the last of the Magyar chiefs. Although he’s initially unlikeable, King renders Lemke and the rest of his gypsy clan sympathetic. Though they are dirty and uneducated, and routinely skirt (and cross) the boundaries of the law, the gypsies are treated with open hostility from the hypocritical communities that they visit. Men like Halleck view the gypsies as an unwelcome disease in their safe and pure suburban communities, which are actually corrupt at the core with their unequal systems of justice, “old boy” networks, and inherent prejudices. When Halleck claims that Lemke’s daughter is equally at fault for the accident, since she didn’t look before crossing the street, he shows his unwillingness to accept responsibility for his own actions. Worse, Halleck took advantage of an unfair system of justice and never had to pay for his (and his wife’s) carelessness. Lemke’s curse is a painful lesson in admitting one’s guilt: “There is no push, white man from town,” Lemke says, again and again throughout the story. “No push.”

If you’re a Generation X-er you’ll appreciate the 1980’s time machine that is Thinner. In it you’ll find references to Apples and TRS-80s, Thunderbirds and Novas. Halleck’s family physician casually blows cocaine during a checkup and it doesn’t seem out of place here, given the period. Halleck’s daughter is mentioned as playing a year long game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Thinner contains very little horror until the end and is more accurately classified as a thriller, which may be why King adopted his (unsuccessful) pseudonym Richard Bachman during the book’s initial release. In Thinner, King was attempting something a bit outside his reputation as a horror author.

Veteran actor Joe Mantegna provides the narration for Thinner and he is magnificent, particularly in his portrayal of Ginelli (no surprise here, given that Mantegna has appeared in various gangster films). I’ve previously railed against the inclusion of music in audio books, but this version by Penguin makes excellent use of it, in particular its use of a chilling, off-putting theme whenever the gypsies—or Halleck’s alarmingly plunging weight—are mentioned.

Posted by Brian Murphy