Review of Earthbound by Richard Matheson

SFFaudio Review

Blackstone Audio - Earthbound by Richard MathesonEarthbound
By Richard Matheson; Read by Bronson Pinchot
6 CDs – Approx. 6.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: September 2010
ISBN: 1441756886
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Gothic Horror / Haunted House / Ghosts / Succubi / Marriage / Sex /

David and Ellen Cooper came to the lonely beach-side cottage in hopes of rekindling their troubled marriage. Yet they are not alone on their second honeymoon. Marianna, a beautiful and enigmatic stranger, comes to visit David whenever Ellen is away. Who is Marianna, and where has she come from? Even as he succumbs to her seductive charms, David realizes that Marianna is far more than a threat to his marriage, for her secrets lie deep in the past and beyond the grave. And her unholy desires endanger the life and soul of everyone she touches.

TV writer David Cooper is trying to revitalize his shaky marriage by returning with his wife to their original honeymoon location. While the Coopers do end up in the same sea-side resort, they find their original digs are unavailable and have to stay in a disused beach cottage. There, every time Ellen steps out, or goes to sleep, a sexy woman named Marianna appears and quickly seduces David. She fucks him harder than he’s ever been fucked and that’s the entirety of Earthbound‘s simple setup. The plot from there is but a dance between David’s realization of it and his doing something.

There are essentially four characters in Earthbound. Approximately ninety-five percent of the novel is set within the confines of the haunted cottage. It’s all told in a tight third person, over the shoulder perspective. We get the thoughts of David’s mind in elaborate detail and hear the other two characters exclusively from his POV. It becomes immediately clear to the reader that Marianna is not only a ghost but also a quasi-succubus. Matheson never actually names the marriage-ruining ghost as a sexual vampire, instead the characters only describe Marianna as simply the ghost of a depraved woman. It takes nearly a half-dozen sex sessions with the vitality draining Marianna, and several visits from a helpful neighbor (who lives just up the beach) to point this out to David. It then takes several more for him to actually believe what he’s being told and experiencing. David wants to believe he’s just been cheating on his wife with a mysterious stranger – but the evidence he’s been presented with is fairly convincing. In the meantime David gets into several, what I would call, disappointment swaps with Ellen, they go out to dinner once and have some unsatisfying sex. About half way through the book I began expecting that Ellen’s many convenient absences would be explained by her being haunted by an incubus – I was wrong on that score.

I don’t think this book is really all that horrible. The storytelling flows quite smoothly and likely achieves the purpose intended. Unfortunately it carries no lasting impression. Being a confirmed bachelor, I guess I just don’t want to read about people fixing their marriages at haunted seaside cottages. And, as for it being one of the gothic novels of psychology, I far prefer the depths of ambiguity in Henry James’ The Turn Of The Screw to the shallows of Earthbound. This is the fourth Matheson novel I’ve read, the first being I Am Legend |READ OUR REVIEW| and the second being The Incredible Shrinking Man |READ OUR REVIEW|. Like the former, Earthbound lacks the one thing I really cared about: a haunting message to go with its competent psychological character study. Like the second, The Incredible Shrinking Man, I came away from Earthbound thinking it was absolutely the kind of book I never need read again, a story premise with a character who was too wrapped up in his own psychology for me to care what was happening to him. I guess I just want some ideas to go with my characters and not to simply see them interacting or responding to a set of unusual circumstances. Earthbound, therefore, is most similar to the third Matheson novel I read, A Stir Of Echoes |READ OUR REVIEW|. If you liked A Stir Of Echoes I suspect you will enjoy Earthbound. Myself, I can only recommend the earth-shatteringly good I Am Legend and Matheson’s truly amazing short story Born Of Man And Woman.

Speaking of short stories, when Earthbound was first published (by Playboy Paperbacks in 1982) Richard Matheson used a pseudonym, “Logan Swanson.” Reading around the internet, I got the impression that he’d balked at some editorial changes in the Playboy Paperbacks edition – and so declined to have his real name put on the cover. But, the story is probably a little more complicated than that. After doing some more digging I noted that one Amazon reviewer had this to say: “…not a lot of people realize this, but this book started out as a short story written very early in Matheson’s career.” Noting that the succubi in fiction article on Wikipedia includes one Matheson story, called The Likeness Of Julie. I dug up my copy of Shock II (it’s also collected in Hot Blood: Tales Of Erotic Horror) and read it. The Likeness Of Julie, which is just 9 or 10 pages, has a bit more of a punch than Earthbound, and is clearly the predecessor to a novelized re-working. Interestingly, it too was first published “as written by Logan Swanson” in a 1962 anthology called Alone By Night. And the pseudonym there was not likely due to a protest, but rather the fact that there was another story by Matheson in the collection. In any case, this Blackstone Audio edition uses the author’s full text version of Earthbound.

Bronson Pinchot, has been recording up a storm for Blackstone Audio of late (there are currently 44 titles with him as a narrator). For Earthbound he does little extraordinary other than voicing three females, two carnal women and one ethereal succubus. Surprisingly, he doesn’t have to stretch very much for in this small scale novel; he pretty much makes himself invisible in the text. I’d like to see him tackle some more meaty material.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: The History and Fiction of Invisibility

SFFaudio Commentary


SFFaudio MetaAfter three recent podcasts (two for SFBRP, one for the SFFaudio Podcast) I’ve prepared a listening list of the topic of INVISIBILITY. Invisibility is, I argue, ultimately not a scientific phenomenon but rather a literary one. When we use the word “visible” we are referring to something that is either seen or see-able. I can say something is more (or less) visible than something else and be correct. This concept of gradations of visibility is quite legitimate, and doesn’t often lead to any conceptual difficulty. But, we also have a tradition of negating concepts that we think we understand well – and then expecting that negation to exist too.

For instance. First consider the concept of pressure. Then consider these two sentences:

“This bottle is pressurized.” <-(Looks ok) "That bottle is unpressurized.” <-(Looks ok) Now consider the concept of visibility. And consider two more sentences: "This feather is visible." <-(Looks ok) "That feather is invisible.” <-(Looks... no wait! It's not ok.) So what's the difference between these two concepts and their respective negations? First, there is the problem of a conceptual equivocation in the concepts. The adjectives "pressurized" and "unpressurized" actually refer to the contents (or lack thereof) in the bottle, and not the bottle itself. Whereas in the second pair the adjectives “visible” and “invisible” refer only to the feather.

No matter, as you might be thinking, is 100% transparent. This is not completely obvious. Air seems invisible to us, but in reality even air isn’t actually 100% transparent. One strange, if incomplete, definition of MATTER might be “that which cannot be invisible.” Invisibility, therefore, can be only properly attributed to the absence of something. A perfect vacuum would be perfectly transparent, but as you are probably now realizing a vacuum is not actually a thing. It is the absence of anything.

To be sure there can be, and certainly are: unseen feathers (a black feather in an unoccupied cave), feathers that are hidden (behind something else), or even a feather that is camouflaged to look like something else. And that is the extent of feathers and their non-visibleness. The only further kind of feather we could imagine that is actually invisible must therefore be a wholly fictional feather.

So when we say things like “a glass cup is invisible in water” we can only be speaking metaphorically.

What we really mean is that the glass cup is hidden from us, it is camouflaged. This kind of invisibility is no more persuasive than saying a large city is invisible to a blind man. The city is of course visible, it is just not visible to him. And likewise the cup is visible, just not to our eyes in that medium. So the question then becomes, is it ever conceivably possible to make a man non-visible in the medium of air?

And that’s when we come to my answer.

Only in fiction.

The best expression of this is probably in the movie Mystery Men (1999). Wherein the Invisible Boy is “able to turn invisible, but only when no one is looking at him.”

So here finally, in chronological order of imagination, are just a few of the many uses of the fictional concept of invisibility:

LIBRIVOX - The Republic by PlatoThe Ring Of Gyges (extracted from Book II Part I of The Republic)
By Plato; Read by Sibella Denton
1 |MP3| – Approx. 31 Minutes [PHILOSOPHY]
Published: February 22, 2009
Gyges, a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia, discovers a gold ring that can make him invisible. It, along with his covetous nature are the means by which he murdered the King and won the affection of the Queen.
Written 360 B.C..

The Weird CircleWhat Was It?
Based on a story by Fitz-James O’Brien; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: Syndicated to radio stations including
Broadcast: October 10, 1943
The story upon which this radio play was based was first published in 1859. The Weird Circle was a 1940s half hour radio drama series that ran 78 episodes in syndication from 1943 to 1945 in the USA.

LibriVox - The Invisible Man by H.G. WellsThe Invisible Man
By H.G. Wells; Read by Alex Foster
13 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 4 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2006
The Invisible Man (1897) is one of the most famous science fiction novels of all time. Written by H.G. Wells (1866-1946), it tells the story of a scientist who discovers the secret of invisibility and uses it on himself. The story begins as the Invisible Man, with a bandaged face and a heavy coat and gloves, takes a train to lodge in a country inn whilst he tries to discover the antidote and make himself visible again. The book inspired several films and is notable for its vivid descriptions of the invisible man–no mean feat, given that you can’t see him!

Podcast Feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

LibriVox - Miss Pim's Camouflage by Lady StanleyMiss Pim’s Camouflage
By Lady Stanley; Read by Grant Hurlock
31 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 7 Hours 49 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: September 28, 2009
Mid-WWI, staid Englishwoman Miss Perdita Pim suffers a sunstroke gardening and gains the power of invisibility. She becomes a super-secret agent, going behind German lines, sometimes visible, sometimes not, witnessing atrocities & gleaning valuable war information

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Have a really visible day folks!

More Feathers

Posted by Jesse Willis

Forgotten Classics: The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle

SFFaudio Online Audio

Forgotten ClassicsMy good buddy, Julie D. of the Forgotten Classics podcast, has just started narrating a new novel! Julie recently completed a lengthy unabridged reading of Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This time, instead of going for Christian allegory, Julie is narrating a lesser known 20th century novel with some SFF content. After hearing the first two chapters I’m definitely looking forward to hearing the rest. Even though I’d not read the book before I have seen the 1944 movie adaptation.

Forgotten Classics - The Uninvited by Dorothy MacardleThe Uninvited
By Dorothy Macardle; Read by Julie D.
12 MP3s – Approx. 15 Hours 44 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Forgotten Classics
Podcast: November – February 2009
Escaping from the confines of wartime London, brother and sister Roddy and Pamela are looking for a house on the west coast of England. There they find a neglected Georgian house with a bucolic seaside setting and a lovely southern exposure. Seized by fit of covetousness, Pamela insists they pool their resources and purchase the house.

Here’s the first two chapters |MP3| to get the rest I recommend you subscribe to the Forgotten Classics podcast feed:

Here are the first 10 minutes of the movie:

There have also been two radio dramatizations: August 28, 1944 for Ford Theatre with Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Betty Field (which looks like it isn’t online) and also a November 18, 1949 broadcast of Screen Director’s Playhouse with Ray Milland, Alma Laughton and Mary Shipp |MP3|.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Nightfall: The Room by Michael McCabe

Horror Audiobooks - The RoomNightfall: The Room
By Michael McCabe; Performed by a Full Cast
1 Cassette – 55 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes
Published: 1996
ISBN: 057943687959
Themes: / Horror / Ghosts / Haunted House /

It was late one night. I mean really late – two-something in the morning late. My eyes opened, I got up for some water, a bathroom break, then back to bed. A minute or so later, I knew that I wasn’t going to get back to sleep quickly, so I got back up to find something to listen to. I found my cassette Walkman, into which I placed Nightfall: The Room. A half an hour later, I was listening for strange noises and thinking that it was awfully dark in the bedroom, for The Room is one heck of a fine ghost story.

In the story, a widow named Ameila Watts explains to a man that several people have stayed in the “yellow room” in her house, but they’ve gone mad in the attempt, because the room is haunted. She offers the man 1000 pounds to attempt it himself, and because he’s a man who does not believe in the supernatural and needs the money, he accepts. What follows is an excellent example of audio drama done right. A first-rate scary production.

On the flip side of the cassette is a story called “Maid’s Bell” by Edith Wharton. Also well-produced, “Maid’s Bell” is the story of the experience of a woman who is hired to be a maid in a mansion. One of the other maids tells her that the previous women who have held the job left quite abruptly, and the mystery unfolds from there.

The best resource I know of if you want to know more about Nightfall, the CBC Radio series of which this is a part, try Nightfall-25. Many of these were published in single cassette editions by Durkin Hayes – they are out of print, but many can be found on eBay. Publishers: A Best-Of collection from these wonderful shows would be very welcome.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson