The SFFaudio Podcast #569 – READALONG: The Men In The Walls by William Tenn

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #569 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, and Will Emmons talk about The Men In The Walls by William Tenn

Talked about on today’s show:
The Men In The Walls by William Tenn, Of Men And Monsters, in the shower, bins full of books, homework, no ending coming, the ending was a beginning, a solid ending, absurd in a bleak way, a stinger in the tail, mocking and doing a genre, collection of William Tenn short stories, the William Tenn model of story, absurdist, satirizing, frustrated expectations, Eastward, Ho , The Liberation Of Earth, this dying Earth, a metaphor for Africa, allegory, why he isn’t known as a novelist, to sustain a novel, an overarching belief in something, humans are fucking ridiculous, early on the web, a RealAudio stream, On Venus, Have We Have A Rabbi!, not a word different, “Priests, For Their Learning”, I’ll grow up fast, “Soldiers, For Their Valor”, literally takes place in the next step, “Counselors, For Their Wisdom”, 1000% confidence, William Shakespeare, Tenn taught English for a living, to Sheila Solomon Klass, this place of salvation, a quote from Gulliver’s Travel, “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”, the land of the giants, a perfect fit, wholly new, puts them in their place, many ancestors to this book, The War Of The Worlds, how any one virtue is require for procurement of any one virtual, cockroaches or mice?, aspiring to the greatness of roaches, things completely outside humanity, the torture room, we’re all monsters, this book is very subversive, a cool idea, only 128 people are left, other tribes of mankind, he knows exactly what he’s doing, torturing these monsters is fine (because they’re not human), oh jeez, naive character, not a great book, misquote the quoter, Of Men And Monsters, easier to grasp, harder, Of Mice And Men, the institution vs the individual, trusting institutions, walking around the factory floor with long hair, your uncle your brother your sister your friend, people will be kind to you, Lenny and the other guy, their relationship, the labouring farm, a lecherous dude, a lecherous lady, navigable relationships, it ends in tragedy, Eric is our dumb character, the way of the world, slowly disabused of that, his uncle was also a fool, its not just we need a new king, government can’t help you really kid, I have no answers for you kid, the answer for Lenny, institutionalizing anything, it can’t care, summarizing Jesse’s point, the idea of the inhumanity of institutions juxtaposed to the human relationships we can have, put a cap on your hairs’ too long, capitalism, migrant labourers, mental handicap, he kills a woman, stop touching the rabbits, stop squeezing the ladies to death, Eric The Only, Eric The Eye, Eric The Outlaw, the church, the government, we can’t trust these human relationships either, about my vanity, folly, all the different tribes hate each other except for their leaders, it’s our planet buddy, a quietist tract, Man is alone in the world, as a young person, a product of his society, a statement about the society he is in, this is their mythology, a Harry Potter type character, destined to learn, smart enough eventually, try not be a roach anymore, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats In The Walls, humans to aliens, roaches to humans, a delicious scene, spending a lot of time analyzing what the aliens are thinking, sprayed by roach spray, hold your breath, count for 500 and run, a hissing whistling sound, a bed for the aliens, played the other way, his whole embarrassment in life is that he’s an only child, his only shame in life, mate with many wives and have massive litters, litters of puppies and kittens and mice and rats, pinkies, the most inhuman thing, mankind has changed, multiple babies at the same time, he’s a throwback, two three is common (up to six), wider hips?, the pill is a thing, restraining the pumping out of babies, over five litters two of them of maximum size, biologically possible but relatively rare, parthenogenesis, making twinning more common, fraternal or identical, old men at twenty, humans modified by a distant change, the religion and creed is pathetic and ridiculous, especially absurd groups of people, the national grouping is like a plains Indian thing, the people, so much worldbuilding here, restricted to Eric’s point of view, a very strange snapshot of the real world, Adam-Troy Castro: ‘imaginative and often witty simple and schematic nobody interesting not even the hero’, William Tenn was not a writer for writers, he was a writer gifted with writing but cursed with the knowledge of how humanity actually is, give ideas, he’s not supposed to be interesting, a traditional writer, I wanna be a writer, characters have to have motivation, what if we had the relationship that we have to ants, how would that go?, we lost Will, what’s wrong with that, Jo Walton, played for laughs, wryly and exclusively Tenn, not funny, but emotionally satisfying, it teaches you something, satisfying in a sense, feature not bug, the first line is a lie, two layers with that title, presented with facts and they’re subverted, how ->*”primitive”*<- people live, where everybody is a generalist, ridiculous leaders, executed or in prison, protests like you see in France or Hong Kong, everybody has to come out, classifying the kind of society, a hunter gatherer society, a social structure of mankind, hierarchy, make sure the food is edible, strange religious customs, cynically implemented, "a primitive people", somebody thought up agriculture, a post agricultural society, fascinating world-building, a hole at the bottom of the wall, alien food, the high absurdity is at is peak, the curtain is drawn away for us, a VCR with random buttons, ads for capitalism, two airplanes crash, a sale on cameras and a light meter, unthinking all hormones, sex with the ladies, being respected by his peers, did my dad have sex with other women because that'd be great if he did?, an inversion, oh my god BASTARD, the malleability of humans, how to take the pain, forced by circumstances into having his own thoughts about how to maybe run his life, forced into consciousness, a relevant book, a lot of people are vegans these days, projecting our own feelings into animals, it can be a pathology, not as obvious a trap, another kind of religion, we're trapped in the same way that Thomas Ligotti is saying we're trapped, a pitiable and curious state of mankind, personality and character rather than a presentment of the facts, Monty Python, Life's a piece of shit when you think of it, depressing and terrible but very accurate, am destiny story, all men are men, whatever magic, ancestor magic, he's the ONLY ONE, making only a good one, are we moving back, the idea of positioning, trying to relate it to mice, nesting in the spaces you aren’t, trees are fucking cold you don’t want to be in a tree, jars with lids, we crush them, Eric lives in the kitchen/bedroom, they have furniture, food, roach spray, one of them damn roaches again, and mysteriously everybody died, if its a depressing idea its a problem with the reader’s attitude, the novel is actually uplifting, deeply aesthetically satisfying (and upsetting on some level), the absurd reality of some man’s life, a sequel coming, a 1963 magazine, in Galaxy Magazine, the non-ephemeral nature of the paperback, if you didn’t get it that month you’ll never get it again, a physical copy of this book, a token of an achievement, a magazine feels like a newspaper, a childish way of looking at it, I’m not sure I can trust my sense, A Lamp From Medusa, a classic for our time, putting it in a package, a life of republication, what makes something a classic for the ages?, “Jesse, Moby-Dick‘s a famous book”, this novella was a classic of science fiction?, its not famous, a lost classic of science fiction, Richie Rich and Casper stuff…, so much going on in a short period of time, not a word wasted, fight for inclusion in a canon of anthropological science fiction, what is society, why do people do the things that we do, how do we know the things we know?, it keeps us sharp, received morality, the banality of evil, they did the crime so they need to do the time, abuse heaped up prisoners, that’s how the institution works, a layer was being peeled from your eye every few pages, my uncle’s not a hero?, we’re going to go into space!, an alternate interpretation, getting Eric out of the way, betrayed!, the French Revolution, restore the French monarchy, human science for humans, everything feeds into my podcast, The Penny Dreadfuls, The Brothers Faversham, satarizing everything, Richard E. Grant, The Scarlet Pimpernel, a proto-superhero, Maximilien Robespierre, how dare you!, why it came to this, why The Terror is happening, he didn’t have time for my speech, all of this farce of what caused the French Revolution, to take the other’s point of view as it is vs. the reality as we’ve framed it, the three estates, all three equal, choppin’ off heads is a good idea, once you get started breaking norms…, the effects of the French Revolution are still being felt, the Russian Revolution, the new word “adversary”, what the fuck you talking about, they like food and they enjoy TV, the button that Tenn is pressing, we like it a lot, a more obscure one, he’s a good writer and he’s got a nice sense of irony, a modern science fictional version of Jonathan Swift, slightly different from Robert Sheckley, slightly different from Douglas Adams, the broad brush, my loins are particularly tasty I’ve been fattening myself up, a Mark Twain-ness, this would make a really good audio drama, the sense of the big and the small, Oh, I’d really like to become a man, oooh she’s sexy, I hope somebody adapts it for an audio drama, Philip Jose Farmer, deeply sincere fictional beliefs, Will has that sense of humour, Phil Chenevert does a lot of Conan, he’s more whimsical, he’s is the naive light and fluffy, he’s perfect for this, The Slithering Shadow, a perfect Robert E. Howard voice, characterizing the writing as a gender, a combination of sensuousness and tooth and claw, perfectly attuned to Phil Chenevert’s voice, we’re laughing along, Donald E. Westlake’s The Spy In The Elevator.

Of Monsters And Men - Boris prelim

Of Men And Monsters by William Tenn, 1968 paperback illustration by Stephen Miller

Posted by Jesse Willis