The SFFaudio Podcast #178 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #178 – An unabridged reading of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (32 minutes, read for LibriVox by Michelle Sullivan) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny Colvin, and Julie Hoverson.

Talked about on today’s show:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman vs. Charlotte Perkins Stetson, wall-paper vs. wallpaper, a seminal work of feminist fiction, a ghost story, a psychological horror story, the Wikipedia entry for The Yellow Wallpaper, Alan Ryan, “quite apart from its origins [it] is one of the finest, and strongest, tales of horror ever written. It may be a ghost story. Worse yet, it may not.” postpartum depression, “the rest cure”, phosphates vs. phosphites, condescending husbands, infantilization of women, superstitions, is she dangerous?, is she only pretending to go insane or is she actually mad?, will reading The Yellow Wallpaper drive you to insanity?, an androcentric society, Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, Life by Emily Dickinson

MUCH madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

Jenny is the husband’s sister (or mistress?), “gymnasium or prison, she doesn’t know she’s living in a short story”, does the family think she’s crazy a the story’s start?, biting the bed is a bit suspicious, barred windows, suicide, has she forgotten that she’s the wrecked the wallpaper to begin with, a haunted house vs. a haunted woman, is the supernatural only within minds?, Julie goes crazy without something to read, first time motherhood can be a struggle, duplicity, crazy people are known to make unreasonable requests, “why is the cork on the fork?”, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, what’s the rope for?, “all persons need work”, counting the holes, are women moral by default?, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, utopia, “everything is both beautiful and practical”, the eighteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution (prohibition), the husband faints (and so she wins?), creeping vs. crawling, the creepiest ending, smooch vs. smudge, neurasthenia, William James (brother of Henry James), “Americanitis”, the fashion of being sick, hypochondria as a fad, the “fresh air” movement, Kellogg’s cereal 9and other patented medicines), a yogurt colonic, mental illness is shameful in Asia, mental illness vs. oppression, an absolutely unreliable narrator, Stockholm syndrome style thinking, “You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well under way in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you.” worrying a tooth, tooth loss as an adult is horrific, as a kid it’s fun, why are we rewarded by the tooth-fairy?, is the tooth-fairy universal?, was chronic fatigue syndrome a fad?, fame is popular, Münchausen’s syndrome (the disease of faking a disease), take up a hobby!, distinguishing genuine from real, syndrome (symptoms that occur together) vs. disease (dis-ease), “which is worse…”, how to look at doctors, Tam’s doctor is nicer than House, M.D., witch doctors, non-invasive cures, gallium, Vitamin C, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, Julie Hoverson’s reading of The Yellow Wallpaper, the unnamed narrator (let’s call her Julie), “what’s with the plantain leaf?”, a modern version of The Yellow Wallpaper would be set at fat camp (is that The Biggest Loser), starts off, Flowers In The Attic by V.C. Andrews, arsenic doughnuts (are not Münchausen syndrome by proxy), The Awakening by Kate Chopin, civilizing influence, bathing!, “men know what side their sex is buttered on”, In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl, Changeling (screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski), what is your Yellow Wallpaper?, fiction is Jesse’s wallpaper, ‘tv, videogames, comics … none of these make you crazy’, heroin chic, Julie has many yellow papers, Tam’s yellow wallpaper is the bookstore, Sebastian Junger vs. J.G. Ballard, 1920s, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, posing gowns, identical wigs, Jenny’s yellow wallpaper is dreams, The Evil Clergyman (aka The Wicked Clergyman) by H.P. Lovecraft, nice wallpaper, authorial self-interpretations, Eric S. Rabkin, re-reading as an adult something you read as a kid, The Prince Of Morning Bells by Nancy Kress, The Portrait Of A Lady by Henry James, The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, old time radio comedies, should you read fiction from the beginning? Start with Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer?, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Jonathan Swift, Peter F. Hamilton, E.E. ‘doc’ Smith, Mastermind Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Ad for The Yellow Wall Paper from 1910

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - illustration by J.K. Potter

Sebastian Junger vs. J.G.  Ballard

Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper - illustrated by Hyperphagia

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Elvenquest AUDIO DRAMA

SFFaudio Review

Elvenquest featuring Stephen Mangan with Darren Boyd, Sophie Winkleman, Alistair McGowan, and Kevin EldonElvenquest
Written by: Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto
Cast: Stephen Mangan, Alistair McGowan, Sophie Winkleman, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Dave Lamb. Also featuring Chris Pavlo, Carrie Quinlan, Lizzy Watts, and Clare Willie.
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Released: 3 August 2009
Publisher: AudioGO

Synopsis: Sam is a fantasy novelist who is whisked off to a Tolkien-style parallel universe by a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess, and a feisty dwarf called Dean. Why? Because Sam’s dog is the Chosen One who is destined to save “Lower Earth” from the evil Lord Darkness.

Three words: Fun. Fun. Fun.

A smartly written script and a great cast make for a wonderfully hilarious send-up of the fantasy quest story and of fantasy novels in general.

Writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto hit all the right notes: the Chosen One, a prophecy, elves, dwarves, warrior maidens, demons, goblins, trolls, unicorns, deadly traps and puzzles, and colonic irrigations, to name a few. Imagine Lord of the Rings as written by Douglas Adams, Mel Brooks, and the Monty Python troupe and you get the picture.

Most importantly–the cast. The cast, I think, really nails the script with excellent performances and crackerjack comic timing.

Stephen Mangan as Sam Porter seems to be, at times, channeling Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and it works. Sam, like Arthur, is out of his depth in Lower Earth and is simply trying to fit in.

Alistair McGowan plays Lord Darkness like a mixture of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder. He’s even got a Blackadder-like delivery and intonation.

Vidar the Elf Lord isn’t the brightest crayon in the box but makes up for it by being gung-ho and bombastic and Darren Boyd captures that beautifully. He sounds like he’s having too much fun declaiming and waxing rhapsodic.

Dave Lamb, as Amis the Dog/the Chosen One, is canine exuberance personified. Sophie Winkleman is superb as Penthiselea the Warrior Princess, lending the right touch of kick-ass chick with a sword, as well as being the voice of grounded reason for the others and, in many cases, the straight man–er, woman.

As Dean the Dwarf and Kreech the evil sidekick, Kevin Eldon manages to portray seemingly polar opposite characters who happen to share a “love” for violence. Dean wants to dash into battle at every opportunity while Kreech wants to unleash the goblin hordes on the questers.

The one thing that irked me while listening was the laugh track. I didn’t think it needed to be there and, at first, was distracting. But I got used to it enough that it “faded” into the background.

According to this site, the show was recorded in front of a live audience. Explains the track.

But I still think it’s unnecessary.

Other than that, this is a top-of-the-line production and I highly recommend it. Especially if you love comedy and fantasy. And comedic fantasy.

Posted by Abner Senires

TEDxUCDavis – Michael Saler – History and Imaginary Worlds

SFFaudio News

Professor Michael Saler, of UC Davis, suggested I check out his talk about “History and Imaginary Worlds” which he gave at a TEDx at UC Davis.

Saler’s talk reminded me of something Dave Barry said.

He said he wanted to get an Amtrak jersey made, like one of those football or hockey style oversized jerseys. He wanted to get an Amtrak logo emblazoned on the front of it, and have two little ones put onto the shoulders. He wanted to have “GUNN” stitched on to the back of it (David Gunn was the president of Amtrak at the time). He wanted to walk around in public wearing it, and quote statistics about how many miles of track Amtrak had laid down, and to tell everyone how many passengers it delivered in it’s 2003 “season.”

I guess he thought that a lot folks might think it strange if a grown man walked around wearing a costume of one of his heroes. He didn’t want any of those normal sports fans to think he was strange.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #166 – TOPIC: SFF FORMS (Short Story, Novella, Novellete, Novel, Fix-up, Trilogy, World)

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #166 – Jesse, Luke Burrage, and Eric S. Rabkin discuss, at length, the SFF FORMS (Short Story, Novella, Novellete, Novel, Fix-up, Trilogy, World). Here’s the premise:

Science Fiction Forms: Short Story, Novella, Fix-Up, Novel, Trilogy, and World. Respectively, they might be exemplified thus: Short Story (“Mars Is Heaven!“), Novella (“Flowers for Algernon“), Fix-Up (The Martian Chronicles, which contains a revised version of “Mars Is Heaven!” or The Seedling Stars, Accelerando, and Beggars In Spain, all of which began as novellas), Novel (originals, like 1984, and derivatives like Flowers for Algernon or Varley’s novel Millennium coming from his short story “Air Raid“), Trilogy (original Foundation series), World (the ultimate Foundation world or Heinlein’s Future History [shared with others] or Banks’s Culture or LeGuin’s Hainish series [created just for the authors, but let’s not forget about fan fiction]). What are the special challenges and rewards in reading and writing in these diverse forms? What special challenges or rewards attend on reusing material in another form? Is the formal plasticity of SF unique among literary genres?

Talked about on today’s show:
Eric’s suggestion, literature with a capital “L”, The Dead by James Joyce, The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, Luke’s Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, the format, the themes, the variability of short story form, the feghoot, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, Accelerando, Stories Of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang, The Tower Of Babel, stripped away vs. embellished to the nth degree, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Understand by Ted Chiang, The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat, fantasy, the unexplicit story, valid reactions, the etymology of “text”, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, a persuasive existential journey, The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, San Fransisco, short stories as objects of frivolity or training, the brilliance of an idea is not always enough, a novel can act as a community to an individual, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury vs. The Fireman by Ray Bradbury, is the novel inherently more participatory than a short story?, the failure of technology vs. the power of nature, The Masque Of The Red Death, teaching Science Fiction with short stories and novels, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame (Volume 1), the composite novel, Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, A.E. van Vogt, the fix-up, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Accelerando by Charles Stross, Lobsters by Charles Stross, the cat changes function, “an intellectual framework”, Robert A. Heinlein’s future history, the composite novel, Isaac Asimov, future history vs. psychohistory, Michael Moorcock, I, Robot, Robbie, the three laws, Stephen Byerly and Susan Calvin, unAsimovian assumptions, the full dose of SF, Reason, The Evitable Conflict, is Stephen Byerly a robot or a man?, the Mérode Altarpiece (a medieval iconographic trope), art history, Luke doesn’t think Asimov is that clever, R. Daneel Olivaw, the three laws are fairytale laws, positronic brains are positive, the three laws are for people (not just robots), The Bicentennial Man, Asimov’s powers, Asimov’s business acumen, Brandon Sanderson, shared worlds, gods, Mormonism, Daniel Clowes, The Death Ray, Elantris, “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell, reading The Martian Chronicles backwards, Luke’s fiction, Alastair Reynolds, Sherlock Holmes, Baker Street Irregulars, whodunit ain’t the attraction, The Adventure Of The Speckled Band, a matter of cutting, A Clockwork Orange, it’s better without the extra chapter, the commercial effect (or the effect of commercialism), popular literature, the flabby novel, Robert J. Sawyer, Hominids, Calculating God, William Shakespeare, The Royal Ontario Museum, horse evolution, God needs a starship!?, where to find a paleontologist, “a hundred pages of nothing happening”, a circular argument, writing to the story’s demands, Kevin J. Anderson, commercial constraints shouldn’t be points of pride, the thickness of books, The Lord Of The Rings, does more succinct = more better?, novellas are novels with threads missing?, The Hobbit, the ambition of the author, Luke is rejecting the basic premise, The Stand by Stephen King, is it a better story short or long?, changes and updates and additional material, don’t let Asimov near a typewriter unless you want something written, Against The Fall Of Night by Arthur C. Clarke, The City And The Stars, expanding everything, Monster Story, “it came to me in a dream”, Minding Tomorrow, Nightfall (the short story) vs. Nightfall (the novel), “it’s a lot like a perfectly nice novel that eventually becomes a masterpiece”, The Lion of Comarre, it’s not a commercial podcast, a civil rowdiness, Eric’s Coursera course: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, rechunking, forums, essays, 18,000 registered students, University of Michigan, only the competitors are qualified to judge the competitors, a history of the U.S. Civil War, Luke’s kitchen, grades, “there is no absolute abstract grade for anything”, Science Fiction and Politics (Courtney Brown), the governor of a steam engine, Luke confuses two professors, “yes, by golly, that was a very good thing of it’s kind”, The Odyssey by Homer, a foundational classic, The Bible, the Benjamin Franklin bible, there should be an SFBRP review of The Odyssey, Luke’s Matthew Mark Luke Skywalker, Star Wars, Joseph Campbell, time for coffee!

The Mérode Altarpiece

Startling Stories, November 1948 - Against The Fall Of Night by Arthur C. Clarke

Against The Fall Of Night by Arthur C. Clarke (page 11 of Startling Stories, November 1948)

Against The Fall Of Night by Arthur C. Clarke (page 12 and 13 of Startling Stories, November 1948)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #160 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Red Nails by Robert E. Howard

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #160 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Brian Murphy (of The Silver Key and Black Gate) talk about Red Nails by Robert E. Howard (read by Gregg Margarite for LibriVox). The audiobook runs 3 Hours 21 minutes and the discussion begins after that.

Talked about on today’s show:
Comics, the comic adaptation of Red Nails, Conan Saga, Savage Tales, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, Storyteller, Wolverine, the REH Comics Yahoo! Group, Beyond The Black River, Tower Of The Elephant, Karl Edward Wagner, Queen Of The Black Coast, grimness, pirates, torture, lesbianism, happy endings, “so much for that decades old gang war”, it’s Red Nails is like a Tom Baker Doctor Who serial, haunted city, a feud culture, Tolkemec’s laser, “if it bleeds we can kill it”, Conan the chauvinist, Valeria kicks ass, is the story told from Valeria’s POV?, it begins like a mystery, the “dragon” is a dinosaur (sort of), Techotl, writer shorthand, Star Trek (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield), Techotl is Gollum-like, Red Nails as a gang war, why didn’t they all get rickets and starve, Howard was the original locavore, a roofed city vs. a domed city, Hatfields vs. McCoys, the black pillar of vengeance, ConanRedNails.com, HBO can do no wrong, copyright vs. trademark, Dark Horse’s Chronicles Of Conan #4, colour and colouring, Howard as a stylist, Book X of The Odyssey, The Land of the Lotus Eaters, The Dark Man: The Journal Of Robert E. Howard Studies, using digital copies to research (control-f), Aztec, Toltecs, cannibalism, Jack London, Harold Lamb, William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, sword and sorcery, horror, The Black Stone, Worms Of The Earth by Robert E. Howard, Tantor Media’s tantalizing collection Bran Mak Morn: The Last King, condemn Howard’s racism praise his writing, Orson Scott Card, Al Harron of The Blog That Time Forgot, Apparition In The Prize Ring by Robert E. Howard, Ace Jessel, Solomon Kane, what will we do after?, just an average weekend with laser beams, the gonzo ending of Red Nails, BrokenSea’s The Queen Of The Black Coast audio drama, Bill Hollweg, legal trouble, Sherlock Holmes, Disney’s John Carter vs. Dynamite Entertainment‘s Warlord Of Mars.

Red Nails - interior fold out art by Ken Kelly

Red Nails - Ending - art by Barry Windsor-Smith

Red Nails by Robert E. Howard

Red Nails illustration by Margaret Brundage from Weird Tales, July 1936

Red Nails illustration by Harold S. De Lay from Weird Tales, July 1936

Red Nails illustration by Harold S. De Lay from Weird Tales, August September 1936

Red Nails illustration by Harold S. De Lay from Weird Tales, October 1936

Red Nails by Robert E. Howard - illustration by George Barr

Red Nails - illustration by George Barr

George Barr ILLUSTRATION for Red Nails

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy Audiobooks - Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. TolkienLetters From Father Christmas
By J. R. R. Tolkien; Read by Sir Derek Jacobi, John Moffat and Christian Rodska
2 cassettes – 120 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0618087842
Themes: / Fantasy / Christmas /

“Can you imagine writing to Father Christmas and actually getting a reply? For over twenty years, the children of J.R.R. Tolkien received letters from the North Pole – from Father Christmas himself! They told wonderful stories, of mischief and disaster, adventures and battles. Now, for the first time, these letters are brought to life on tape.”

While most of Tolkien’s work was published to great acclaim by ‘Tolkien the fantasy author’ or even ‘Tolkien professor of linguistics’, Letters From Father Christmas was never intended for publication at all, it was simply a collection of letters written over a twenty year period by ‘Tolkien the father’ to his own children. This makes it all the more special. There is no refinement of theme, or distinguishment of plot. Only the fanciful adventures of Father Christmas (that’s Santa Claus for most people) and the other residents of the North Pole. Sir Derek Jacobi along with John Moffat and Christian Rodska read the letters by performing in the voices of the letter writers. Accented with jingling bells in between letters. This is a skillfully adapted audiobook that transmutes the words of the original letters into audio gold. Unfortunately the letters also had wonderful colour illustrations referred to in the letters themselves. I’ve seen them – they were drawn and coloured by Tolkien himself, beautiful and funny images that can’t be adapted to audio. This is a case where the paperbook actually has something over a perfect audiobook translation of a paperbook. Harper Audio should have included a companion insert or something. But for those who already own a copy Letters From Father Christmas makes for perfect listening on the days leading up to Christmas!

Posted by Jesse Willis