LibriVox: Pygmalion’s Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum

SFFaudio Online Audio

Pygmalion’s Spectacles was first published in 1935 in the aptly named Wonder Stories magazine. Four years after it’s first publication it was reprinted in Startling Stories as a “classic” and it was placed in their “Scientifiction Hall Of Fame.” It was reprinted again in Fantastic Story magazine in the Spring 1955 issue. Three magazine publications is a rare occurrence for any SF story. So, what makes this story special?

Well, this tale of utopia, immortality, and romance, is also, most probably, the very first story to feature the concept of virtual reality.

Here’s the description from the Wikipedia entry:

A comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality was published in 1935 in the short story Pygmalion’s Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum. In the story, the main character, Dan Burke, meets an elfin professor, Albert Ludwig, who has invented a pair of goggles which enable “a movie that gives one sight and sound […] taste, smell, and touch. […] You are in the story, you speak to the shadows (characters) and they reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it.”

And though the ideas may be pioneering, the plot of Pygmalion’s Spectacles is very similar to Fitz-James O’Brien’s The Diamond Lens, itself an excellent SF tale. The tone of their respective endings differs, but their plot, in which a man falls in love with an intangible woman, is straight out of the Greek mythology that Weinbaum alludes to. And they both use science, rather than magic to get to their respective endings.

There is, I should also point out, a LibriVox |MP3| recording of the Metamorphoses by Ovid, a 2,000 year old poem featuring the myth of Pygmalion.

Pygmalion's Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Here is a |PDF| made from the Pygmalion’s Spectacles publication in Fantastic Story. And here are two LibriVox versions (my advice, go for the first one):

LibriVoxPygmalion’s Spectacles
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 43 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 13,2009
He put on the glasses and fell in love with a dream… First published in Wonder Stories, June 1935.

LibriVoxPygmalion’s Spectacles
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Chrystal Layton
1 |MP3| – Approx. 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 17, 2007
He put on the glasses and fell in love with a dream… First published in Wonder Stories, June 1935.

Pygmalion’s Spectacles illustration by Lumen Winter (from Wonder Stories, June 1935):
Pygmalion's Spectacles -  illustration by Lumen Winter

Pygmalion’s Spectacles illustration by Virgil Finlay (from Fantastic Story Magazine, Spring 1955):
Pygmalion's Spectacles - illustration by Virgil Finlay

Painting of Pygmalion and the statue by Jean-Baptiste Regnault:
Jean-Baptiste Regnault - Pygmalion

[Thanks to Tim at The Drama Pod for the reminder]

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBC: As It Happens: Moonlight by Guy de Maupassant (as read by Alan Maitland)

SFFaudio Online Audio

Here’s a sweet find from the CBC Digital Archives! It’s Alan Maitland, perhaps you know him as “Front Porch Al”, reading Moonlight (aka In The Moonlight) by Guy de Maupassant.

It was first broadcast on CBC Radio’s As It Happens on August 2, 1993.

The tale of a misogynist priest, the Abbé Marignan, who is ruled purely by reason, but whose view of life and love is influenced by the magic and splendour of moonlight.

And, I’m pleased to offer a different translation of the same story in |PDF| form.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Just Another Perfect Day by John Varley

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Just Another Perfect Day by John VarleyJust Another Perfect Day
By John Varley; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
34 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Lightspeed Magazine
Published: 2011
Themes: / Science Fiction / Memory / Aliens / Love / New York /

Stefan Rudnicki expertly narrates this story, which is perfectly suited for audio. John Varley wrote the story in the form of a letter (or letters) to the main character from the main character, who can only remember his life up to a certain point. Since a lot of time has passed since that point, and a lot of things have happened, he needs to be told what’s going on every single morning. These letters do the job.

Varley, of course, is amazing. In the space of this short story he explores not only the concept that this character is in essence a new person every single day, but also what it means to those who love him and those who find his difference especially meaningful. Varley originally published this story in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, June 1989. It’s a great one.

I continue to admire what John Joseph Adams and Prime Books are doing with Lightspeed Magazine. From the audio perspective, I greatly appreciate the professional quality of this podcast. This is an excellent story, the narration is wonderful, and the audio is professional. As good as it gets!

Links:
Just Another Perfect Day by John Varley
Direct Link to the |MP3|

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #118 – READALONG: Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #118 – Scott, Jesse and Tamahome talk about Philip K. Dick’s wonderful novelette Upon The Dull Earth (available in Blackstone Audio’s The Selected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume 2)

Talked about on today’s show:
Beyond Fantasy Fiction, the prolific Philip K. Dick, Galaxy Magazine, H.L. Gold, is Upon The Dull Earth Fantasy or Science Fiction, suburban romance?, rural romance, Jesse loves the setting, cedars, angels, The Odyssey, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, Jesse’s terrible Philip K. Dick impersonation, a wooden faucet?, a one way ladder to another plane, using your coffin as a cocoon, “Rick, I cut myself.”, Rick is responsible for her death, is Rick in hell?, Silvia is a sick chick, shortly after Silvia’s incineration, blood from a New Jersey abattoir, Upon The Dull Earth would be perfect for the A Good Story Is Hard To Find podcast, God has moved on up, HE is capitalized, she’s Fantasy, he’s Science Fiction, she’s elf-like, he’s machine-like, iron and spirits don’t mix, ridding one’s self of civilization, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle |READ OUR REVIEW|, uisge beatha mean “the water of life” (or whisky), is Silvia depressed?, YA, valkyries, insects, The Hanging Man had insects too, witch vs. saint, remember Prometheus and the fire?, ripples from the event, kraals of white skinned young women, is this all going on in Rick’s head, Rick picks up a hitchhiker to use him as a guinea pig, “you’re crowding me man”, going into the underworld to get back your dead girlfriend, when someone dies you mourn your loss, Plato (and Aristophanes’) story about the mythological division of male from female (The Symposium), “we were meant to be together”, “you complete me” and similar cliches, what happens at the end?, Fair Game by Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick stories often have a roadside cafe scene and a gas station scene, “like the doves in a John Woo movie”, where does the title of Upon The Dull Earth come from?, she was merely playing at death, disturbed spirits thirsty for blood, the natural of order of things has been violated, William Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act 4, Scene 2, the character name Sylvia comes from the play, but sylvan means “of the wood”, is she a fairy?, HBO’s True Blood, Icarus, the Wikipedia entry for Upon The Dull Earth, the many mentions of clay, Wonder Woman came from clay, Batman: False Faces by Brian K. Vaughn, J. Michael Straczynski, the Golem, Ted Chiang’s Seventy-Two Letters, The Adventures Of Cavalier And Clay by Michael Chabon, capricious (adj.) Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior, religion, Steven H Silver’s review of Seventy-Two Letters (and Stories Of Your Life And Other Stories), FREE TED CHIANG!, Saint Bernadette, Philip K. Dick really cares about the way the story is told, we never see inside a character’s mind, the authorial view, is Dick popular in for movies for this reason?, it’s grotesque!, she filled the Silex, “We’re all going to have wings!”, “We won’t be worms anymore”, Silvia’s looking for an abusive relationship, Blackstone Audio, the audiobook, Upon The Dull Earth is best read aloud, Tama didn’t know how fantastical Dick was, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, its a Noir Horror Science Fiction Fantasy story, anime, Berserk, Project A-Ko, Princess Mononoke, I only understand Japanese movies made by Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, “I can barely understand the people wearing a Storm Trooper costumes”, Jesse needs some accessible anime, Spirited Away, what are the background assumptions in anime, Cowboy Beebop intro, Luke’s review of Solaris on SFBRP, Erik S. Rabkin, Just Imagine is a crazy musical with plenty of background assumptions (like prohibition), Hey Want To Watch A Movie? podcast, is there an MST3K podcast?, Tam was thinking of the non-podcast Rifftrax.com, readalong vs. watchalong, The Thing, The Thing From Another World, The Thing (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger, The Amazing Spider-Man, comic books vs. Hollywood, The Avengers will be written and directed by Joss Whedon, swastikas are banned in Germany, it’s a case of it’s time to end the podcast.

Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick - BEYOND FANTASY FICTION #9 (November 1954) illustrations by Rene Vidmer

Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick - BEYOND FANTASY FICTION #9 (November 1954) illustrations by Rene Vidmer

Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick - BEYOND FANTASY FICTION #9 (November 1954) illustrations by Rene Vidmer

Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick - BEYOND FANTASY FICTION #9 (November 1954) illustrations by Rene Vidmer

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe

SFFaudio Review

Blood Groove by Alex BledsoeBlood Groove
By Alex Bledsoe; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
7 CDs – Approx. 8.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433243880
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Vampires / Revenge / Love / 1970s / 1910s / Memphis / Wales /

When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, he must adapt quickly if he is to survive. Hoping to learn how his kind copes with this bizarre new era, Zginski tracks down a nest of teenage vampires, who have little knowledge of their true nature, having learned most of what they know from movies like Blacula. Forming an uneasy alliance with the young vampires, Zginski begins to teach them the truth about their powers. They must learn quickly for there’s a new drug on the street created to specifically target and destroy vampires. As Zginski and his allies track the drug to its source, they may unwittingly be stepping into a trap that can destroy them all.

The vampire is the Mr. Potato Head of Fantasy fiction. It’s an old and worn out monster, fully mythologized with more than 100 interchangeable preternatural powers and weaknesses from which to assemble a fully customized vampire. For what might be a complete list of them check out the terrific website TVTropes.org. It cites a wonderfully cynical list of vampire tropes under the title: “Our Vampires Are Different.” So then the question is: If there is nothing really new under the sunless skies of vampire fiction why do we pick up them up? It’s a good question and one worth pondering. I picked up Blood Groove in large part because of the title. I liked the pun, figuring it referred to a blood groove (or fuller) on a sword and/or the idea of groovy 1970s vampires and/or the dado in a forensic pathologist’s slab. And before I picked up Blood Groove I noticed other Bledsoe books (probably a pun to be made there too) had cute titles like: The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly.

Alex Bledsoe doesn’t give any new power to the vampire that he hasn’t had before, but he does add a new figurative kryptonite (like sunlight and garlic and crosses) to the mix. In fact, it’s creation and dissemination is central to the plot of Blood Groove. Along the way we also get an historical setting (1975), a virtual tour of parts of Memphis, Tennessee, some trivia about Elvis Presley and a relatively unpredictable story.

One of the elements that surprised me was not knowing who the protagonist of Blood Groove was. The vampires seemed the focus, and yet there was almost nothing that could make them sympathetic in a heroic or anti-heroic way. We’d meet one, he’d be killed, and then I thought “Okay…and?” but the story wouldn’t explain – which was a nice move actually. So for a good chunk of the novel the characters, all well fleshed out, appeared in scenes, died or were killed, only to be replaced by new characters with new agendas and new back-stories. The period shifted too. First we are in 1975 Memphis, then 1915 Wales. Eventually it settles down and we’re given fresh references, almost devotionals actually, to two early 1970s movies Blacula and Vanishing Point. As with many an urban fantasy novel these days there’s a mixing up of sex and love. Blood Groove doesn’t feel particularly paranormal romancy – but it’s probably not too far from the edges of curve.

Narrator Stefan Rudnicki gives voice to about a dozen characters of mixed gender, ethnicity and accent. Most obviously the East European vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski has a suitably Bela Lugosi type accent. As with every Rudnicki read audiobook I’ve heard his rich voiced narration in Blood Groove is always in service to the text. One reviewer on Amazon.com put it well: “[Reading Blood Groove] was like eating a brownie with nuts when you don’t like the nuts.”

The trailer for Vanishing Point:

The trailer for Blacula:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Eros, Philia, Agape by Rachel Swirsky

SFFaudio Review

Yet another story in SFFaudio’s 7th Anniversary Exposition of Excellent Stories! Step right up…

Science Fiction Audiobook - Eros, Philia, Agape by Rachel SwirskyEros, Philia, Agape
By Rachel Swirsky; Read by Rachel Swirsky
1 Hour 12 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tor.com (Tor Story Podcast #013)
Published: 2010
Themes: / Science Fiction / Love / Robots / Divorce / Children / Relationships /

Adriana shrugged. “They’re all beautiful, right?”

“We’ll need specifications.”

“I don’t have specifications.”

The salesman frowned anxiously. He shifted his weight as if it could help him regain his metaphorical footing. Adriana took pity. She dug through her purse.

“There,” she said, placing a snapshot of her father on one of the display tables. “Make it look nothing like him.”

I’ve been really lucky this month. I’ve listened to thirteen stories, and they’ve all been winners. This one may be the best of the lot!

Adriana goes through with the purchase in that scene above – she buys herself a robot husband named Lucian. She then has a baby named Rose. Though Rose has none of Lucian’s DNA (he has none to give, of course), this is a family. The decision to purchase a robot whose body is made to order and whose personality can be molded to fit does not prevent relationship problems, though. It introduces different ones.

You can probably tell from just that short section that Adriana is a character with a lot of internal conflict. I immediately cared about her, and Lucian, and little Rose. This is a wonderful story that I’ll be reading again.

You can grab the story |HERE|

Or subscribe to the Tor Story Podcast at this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/TorDotStories

Enjoy!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson