The SFFaudio Podcast #550 – READALONG: A World Of Talent by Philip K. Dick

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #550 – Jesse, Evan Lampe, and Terence Blake talk about A World Of Talent by Philip K. Dick

Talked about on today’s show:
Galaxy, October 1954, MASTERPIECE!, copyright stuff, really angry, starts off really well, an autistic son wandering around his own house, no humour, big noodle, candy from out of nowhere, fighting between a husband and a wife, novel-like, 42 pages, mutant stories, Psi-Man Heal My Child, The Golden Man, the mutant is something that we should fear and will replace humanity, The Crawlers, aborted fetuses, a mundane threat, cruelty, the wife is so difficult, Terence’s first read, full of interesting ideas, John W. Campbell’s editorial note about The Legion Of Time, the stories are the mutants, a big mutation, small mutations vs. big mutations, Galaxy mutated away from the John W. Campbell model, Philip K. Dick was diagnosing the nazi side of John W. Campbell, the naive idea of the superman, we read it as creatures, Slan as the perfect example, this is the future, no one can write about the future of man without talking about PSI, this isn’t science, the beginning of the movie Ghostbusters, a buxom young lady, parapsychology, there’s no evidence for it, its all bullshit, the X-Men, such a good allegory, Slan is a terrible allegory, John W. Campbell was a fucking idiot, a chauvinist, broken ideas, the Dean drive and Dianetics, we the readers of science fiction , Isaac Asimov’s Super Quiz, excluding the sports and movies, Jesse is a super-genius, if Slan is not science fiction as an imagination of thwat the future is…, a metaphor, taking it more seriously, homo superior, Deadpool (2016), H.L Gold wrote under the name Campbell in Astounding, stodginess, analyzing Dick’s own psychology, mental disability, games, another theme, its in the art, the big chess piece, a pretty damn terrific ending, what’s going to happen next?, in the context of Philip K. Dick’s life, marriage problems, should we put him in a special school?, the way the whole story opens and closes, as an autism story, Martian Time-Slip, Earth is thinking of eradicating all the mutants and post humans on Mars, murdering all the kids, the plots are very different but the background is similar, the global intrigue vs. the personal, getting his wife back, his son turned into a god, Adjustment Team, most people won’t notice, one of the futures will go the right away, a lot of arrows could point to this story, Avengers: Endgame, Infinity War, looks at all the different futures, picking and choosing of timelines, she’s alive in all the other timelines, a distant and arbitrary god (with a dad), it doesn’t help poor Big Noodle, an allegorical aspect, just naive, stupid, we don’t know what Philip K. Dick’s image of revolution was, an element of resistance, drug dealers as a resistance to the state, Our Friends From Frolix-8, The Simulacra, The World Jones Made, seizing hold of the means of production and the power apparatus, the meta-humans, the Maoist idea, creating the new means of production, toying with both ideas, Fairchild’s vision, a multicultural prosperous society, genetic purity, post-colonial struggles, a Hindu-Muslim secular state, ethno-nationalist movements, anti-colonial stuff, theme: Earth is invaded by aliens who the majority of people welcome, mut = mutants, norms = people without psi-powers, precogs, anticipating bickering, a funny situation, the kid’s acting weird, “try to hold an objective orientation”, people as blotches of colour and a cacophony of noise, a philosophical objective orientation, blobs spread out in spacetime, a very clunky robotic speech, War-Game, The Game-Players Of Titan, games are serious, if that true…, acting like a god, giving money from the bank in monopoly, if games are serious…, games as a model for reality, cheating is acting as a god, Small Town, disgruntled husband, I don’t like all these casinos as an bars, a really interesting theme that goes all his stuff, Cosmic Puppets, the one with the Bevatron, Eye In The Sky, I don’t like to think about sex so now nobody has genitals, there was a revolution against a king in England, the outside perspective on the American Revolution, fast forward a couple hundred years and there’s another country in Europe, this repressive government IS John W. Campbell, all mutants are positive mutants, Impostor, if you were in the room long enough with John W. Campbell and you had your ideas totally marshalled, I have a new way of solving my own mental problems, of course!, all the things we did with physics we’re now going to do with the mind!, If, I don’t have a problem with mutants (because my own son is a mutant), I need to think about it, he goes both ways on mutants, the pretend supermen in Nazi Germany, imagine what the real supermen could do, Amazon Prime’s The Boys, dickish humans, the mundane mutant, Captive Market, instead of stopping a nuclear war, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, his mechanical computer shrink, figuring out the next fashion, Galactic Pot-Healer, Tim seeing the Others, more different from humans than the mutants are, reading Frank Herbert after Dune Messiah, God Emperor Of Dune, artificial intelligences, anticipated in the Dick story, favourizing the creation of anti-PSI talents, short circuiting each other, blur or block psionic powers, Dune was published in Astounding, everything that Campbell was looking for, it’s all mushrooms, maybe he didn’t like yoga, Alfred Bester, Babylon 5‘s PSI-CORP, Philip K. Dick’s PSI-CORP, surveillance capitalism, the corporations that supply the CIA and the NSA are actually running things, you don’t see the machinations or the hands, how all of this works, the plot stuff vs. the personal story, doing some exploration, John W. Campbell set the table in this totally unscientific idea, maybe we’re defining these terms too strongly, Jesse is a precog (just not a very good one), how we dominate the world, that’s the insurance industry, Foundation by Isaac Asimov is precognition on a macroeconomic scale, China’s on the rise, China’s massive population and old infrastructure, reading history, if you think about it that way (especially the way we define it), hard to falsify, studying parapsychology, if you don’t really understand how science really works, Karl Popper, Khunian normal science, Popperian revolutionary science, philosophy of science, spiritual stuff, how to deal with the pain of reality, a philosophical fiction writer, there’s no science in this story at all, birth defects, just evolution, the new men, the evolution of human intelligence, there not on spice, Mentats, Numen = numinous?, the opening is really well written, Jesse reads the opening, this is what we previewed half an hour ago, a lot of weird smells, corpsman, I don’t fully trust the corps, at age 20 something happens, Progeny, military camp/residential school, it comes up again and again, norm and psi-guests, an objective narrator, Philip K. Dick style, in the melee, nothing existed there, robots everywhere, is this a key party?, why is that line in there?, sour like spoiled milk, The Father-Thing situation, this sets up so much for what goes on later, the left and the right, the beginning and the end of the timeline, its a stranger’s home, wander around looking for something interesting, a ghost, no wonder he acts so weird, to give pleasure to Evan (anti-pleasure), VALIS is the anti-surveillance society, Ubik, the witch in this story, he gives her a token, the bedroom’s not occupied yet, now she’s mad at him, you’re not supposed to bring them home, there’s literally some cheating going on, what kind of party is this an analogy for, Clans Of The Alphane Moon, a bunch of patients of a psychiatrist conspiring to rebel against their doctor, a wife-swapping world, let’s talk about Big Noodle for a minute, a picture on page 21 of the PDF, Jesse thought he had no bones, the power of telekinesis and teleportation, is that why he’s a big blob?, you can predict the future (because you write science fiction), an allegory of the defense department, he literally is the defense department, the way he talks, Eisenhower’s farewell address, he was president from 1953 to 1961, The Hood Maker episode of Electric Dreams, Jesse talking to Julie Davis, shuts down and collapses the whole thing, “Imagine if the ants are talking about me!”, Jesse recapitulates the plot of Expendable, his whole world collapses, Misadjustment, the women just block it, the opposite of Tessa (Kleo), BoingBoing.net’s motto is “Happy Mutants”, homo superior, meta-humans, post-humans, meta-beings, a time traveler, All You Zombies, Predestination (2014), The Big Time by Fritz Leiber, Alfred Korzybski’s animals are space binders and humans are time binders, possibility binders (science fiction), a feminist equivalent, Charlie Jane Anders’ Six Months Three Days, you see I was right, gaslighting as reality bending, Francis Fukuyama, thinking about his theory on autism, two theories, open to all sense data, seeing other aspects that we can’t see, they’re not stupid just cognitively different, how they will be when they’re dead, she’s gonna be dead soon, the skull beneath the face, momento mori, a totemic limitation, he’s always talking about the “tomb world”, people die, what’s next?, why stories can be beautiful like that, Philip K. Dick can make a random crappy story really good, but in real life…, the mundane allegory, with an act of will you can make a difference, by an act of creativity you can inject at some moments anti-entropy, acting like Cornell West, is this even a science fiction story, meta-fantasy exploration of philosophical ideas and bullshit science fiction ideas, the very end of Martian Time-Slip, the significance of the return, closure,

We are better off not being able to look ahead, she said to herself. Thank God we can’t see.

a vision and a return, what parents of autistic kids are worried about, pretty traumatizing.

A World Of Talent by Philip K. Dick

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #316 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #316 – The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick; read by Mike Vendetti. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 15 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Paul, and Mike.

Talked about on today’s show:
1954, The God Who Runs, bad titles, Next, Homo Aureus, The Man In The high Castle (TV series), hashtag marketing, an episode of The Twilight Zone, the film adaptation, Knowing, a working train-wreck, the main character has no sapience, autism, the diner scene, not just an exposition scene, the fake salesman, a lady with 8 boobs, shades of Total Recall, he’s looking for Jews, the secret police, the DCA are the secret police, the locals protect the mutant, Philip K. Dick:

“Here I am saying that mutants are dangerous to us ordinaries, a view which John W. Campbell, Jr. deplored. We were supposed to view them as our leaders. But I always felt uneasy as to how they would view us. I mean, maybe they wouldn’t want to lead us. Maybe from their super-evolved lofty level we wouldn’t seem worth leading. Anyhow, even if they agreed to lead us, I felt uneasy as where we would wind up going. It might have something to do with buildings marked SHOWERS but which really weren’t.”

what we did to the neanderthals, this is super X-Men, the John W. Campbell mutants vs. the Philip K. Dick mutants, House Of M, for those who are not Tamahome…, Spider-Man trying to “pass” as a mutant, the Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, to the beginnings of the superhuman genre, the origins of Superman, powerful superheroes are going to save us, Astounding -> Analog, John W. Campbell was obsesses with psychic powers being a science, mutation as evolution up, Slan by A.E. van Vogt, “fans are slans”, a lot of stuff going on, looking into the future, this so isn’t a movie, they just put a golden tint on the film-stock for Next, single word titles, Audible ratings, a story that is repulsive to everybody, we are the monsters, Audible’s return policy, Mike grew up in the Cold War era, Mutual Assured Destruction, no real external threat anymore, the Soviets have their own DCA, all the “deves” are getting “euthed”, Cris Johnson is the character’s name in the book and the movie, Dick was really interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the atomic war caused all these mutations, the diner scene again, they’re everywhere!, the Johnson family seem to love Cris, he’s got the James Bond gene, women can’t resist, the unfaithful wives (and husbands), the crappy Wikipedia summary, can they sterilize everybody, they know this is the end, Cris can never be outmaneuvered, the whole last 40 minutes of Next didn’t happen, the movie does a good job of illustrating how Cris’ super-power would work, Groundhog Day, computer save gaming, because Cris can’t talk…, how we interact with NPCs in computer games is how Cris is interacting with everyone around him, we’re all sort of trapped like that, marketing it as a X-Men or superhero type story, imaging a dollhouse and all the different possibilities he could do, Philip K. Dick is Mr. Innovative, a chilling world that’s pretty much like ours, a very ’50s feel in terms of the country and random energy shields, the X-Men explanation for mutation (atomic bomb testing), The Crawlers by Philip K. Dick, the golden man is beautiful and the crawlers are ugly, the crawlers have their own agenda, they are not seen as human, Harlan Ellison, a mutant psionic, The Skull by Philip K. Dick, “we met the enemy and he is us”, the mutant theme has dried up in SF, Deus Irae, an armless and legless hero, Tibor McMasters, a huge sense of pathos, “how come people are such assholes”, The Turning Wheel by Philip K. Dick, White Man’s Burden, what if we would have lost the war (WWII)?, Cañon City, Colorado, Mike is the man in The Man In The high Castle again, Nazis vs. Imperial Japan, the American occupation of Japan, Two Dooms by C.M. Kornbluth, occultist, even more surreal than Dick, we’re number 1 and their number 10, the werewolves (post-war German resistance against occupation), going to the movies, after the atom bomb, you never saw the Hollywood movie where the Americans invade Russia (the reverse of Red Dawn), the ridiculous premise behind the remake of Red Dawn, North Korea, auto-immune disease, the acronym-itis that sinks the ship, government conspiracies, aliens, Mexicans are aliens?, what?, what would happen if the Americans left California, don’t spread that rumor, Pacific Edge, the California drought, Washington and Oregon, archetypical Dick, A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, to quote Solaris, Dick is wise, if humans go on as Cris Johnson, this is why people are upset that their kids are autistic, he is in a sense “superior”, ok you say you want a superior being… how do you like that John W. Campbell, he’s a golden god, the Steve McQueen of mutants, a swelling torrent of sheer force!, are they having sex?, cigarettes as symbols, explicit sex, a seduction, is she going to be the mother of dragons?, Genghis Khan style, Cris is unique (for now), dumb feral cubs, dominant or recessive, there is no hope, it won’t be us, grinning wryly, In The Mouth Of Madness, every species can smell its distinction, man will be a myth, one perfectly adapted animal, more of a threat to the men than it is to the women, Species, a female golden man, that’s why you have the mutants with the eight breasts, what do you think of that? what do ya make of this?, a litter of kids needs eight arms, turning people into animals, rats, subhumans, what do ya make of that?, he’s covered in fur, how does he put on pants?, he’s like a peacock, Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp, why peahens choose peacocks with the longest tails, peahens want their male offspring to be attractive to peahens, they’re going to breed us out of business, The Turning Wheel (again), racism, H.P. Lovecraft, it’s an act!, there are mutants all around them, he’s one thing in the restaurant he’s another to the cop, a super-secret agency that everybody knows about and talks about, every family is hiding a mutant, FBI agents infiltrating anarchists groups, ATF Operation Fearless, Kafka by way of Dick, the NRA, welcome to America, Anita, sexism, nobody is clean in this fight, Cris ruins the horseshoe game (by way of saying goodbye?), a repulsive attractive powerful story, Cris’ mom, Cris’ dad, how could this story have been adapted otherwise, a stupid plot, why do the French want to blow up Los Angeles?, the movie is a train-wreck and yet…, Juliane Moore’s character is a monster, she’s driven, strapped to the Clockwork Orange chair watching CNN, that’s burying the lead, the two minute rule, he’s got no past, you have to have a past to decide what you’re going to do in the future, his present is our future, the movie has lots of problems, what was the “next” card, domestic rendition, there are people, don’t ask this question, Cris doesn’t need to speak because speaking is for planning, he’s just an animal, you have to have a past to plan.

The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick - Illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas

Posted by Jesse Willis

Future Tense: Richard Matheson’s Born Of Man And Woman

SFFaudio Online Audio

Richard Matheson’s first published story, Born Of Man And Woman, is a powerful three page Science Fiction Horror tale written in the form of a diary. An uneducated and abused child, our protagonist, is kept chained in the basement by his or her parents, he or she has never been outdoors or upstairs. It’s a thoughtful tragic masterpiece.

Though I take the title as an allusion to a line in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth it also, I think, adds a layer of depth to the story’s sketch.

Born Of Man And Woman by Richard Matheson from Fantasy & Science Fiction, Summer 1950


Future TenseFuture Tense – Born Of Man And Woman
Adapted from the story by Richard Matheson; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 10 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: WMUK Special Projects
Broadcaster: May 30, 1974
Provider: SciFi Friday
First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Summer 1950.

External |PDF|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Universe adapted from the story by Robert A. Heinlein [RADIO DRAMA]

SFFaudio Online Audio

I bet most folks think that the closest Robert A. Heinlein came to tackling the topic of religion was Stranger In A Strange Land. But I think that novel has got too much other stuff going on in it. To get a better idea, check out his terrific 1941 short story Universe (later combined with another short story for the fix-up novel entitled Orphans Of The Sky).

Astounding, May 1941 - Universe by Robert A. Heinlein

The people of Universe live under an oppressive theocracy, with the death penalty given for heretical ideas. In the script for the radio dramatizations one character describes it as a society of “regimented slaves.”

Universe offers many, many sparky ideas – all of which are centered around religion and cosmology.

When asked about heaven the main character says this:

“The peasants believe [in] it literally but many of the younger scientists, like myself, know that it is figurative, symbolic.”

Turns that he’s wrong, that the foundations of his religion are based in a real history, that his god was once alive, and that the belief he scoffs at (and others kill in the name of), are based facts about their universe. It’s absolutely thought provoking soft sf bounded by a hard SF that only someone like Robert A. Heinlein could pull off.

And, unlike the original short story, which is rather hopeful, the end of the radio dramatization is deeply noir.

Dimension XDimension X – Universe
Adapted by George Lefferts; Adapted from the story by Robert A. Heinlein; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC
Broadcast: November 26, 1950
Provider: Archive.org

X-Minus OneX-Minus One – Universe
Adapted by George Lefferts; Adapted from the story by Robert A. Heinlein; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 28 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC
Broadcast: May 15, 1955
Provider: Archive.org

Illustrations of strong>Universe by Hubert Rogers and Charles Schneeman from the May 1941 of Astounding:
Universe by Robert A. Heinlein - illustrated by Hubert Rogers
Universe by Robert A. Heinlein - illustrated by Hubert Rogers
Universe by Robert A. Heinlein - illustrated by Hubert Rogers
Universe by Robert A. Heinlein  illustrated by Charles Schneeman
Universe by Robert A. Heinlein - illustrated by Hubert Rogers

[Thanks to Bill Hollweg and Bob!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Releases: Six NEW Philip K. Dick Audiobooks

New Releases

Brilliance Audio has released five new Philip K. Dick audiobooks, none ever audiobooked before, all novels, all available now!

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Divine Invasion by Philip K. DickThe Divine Invasion
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Dick Hill
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814497
God is not dead: he has merely been exiled to an extraterrestrial planet. And it is on this planet that God meets Herb Asher and persuades him to help retake Earth from the demonic Belial. Featuring virtual reality, parallel worlds, and interstellar travel, The Divine Invasion blends philosophy and adventure in a way few authors can achieve. As the middle novel of Dick’s VALIS trilogy, The Divine Invasion plays a pivotal role in answering the questions raised by the first novel, expanding that world while exploring just how much anyone can really know — even God himself.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - Lies, Inc. by Philip K. DickLies, Inc.
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Luke Daniels
6 CDs – Approx. 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814381
When catastrophic overpopulation threatens Earth, one company offers to teleport citizens to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious émigrés. But there is one problem: the teleportation machine works in only one direction. When Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that some of the footage of happy settlers may have been faked, he sets out on an eighteen-year journey to see if anyone wants to come back. Lies, Inc. is one of Philip K. Dick’s final novels, which he expanded from his novella The Unteleported Man shortly before his death. In its examination of totalitarianism, reality, and hallucination, it encompasses everything that Dick’s fans love about his oeuvre.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K. DickNow Wait For Last Year
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Luke Daniels
7 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814428
Earth is trapped in the crossfire of an unwinnable war between two alien civilizations. Its leader is perpetually on the verge of death. And on top of that, a new drug has just entered circulation — a drug that haphazardly sends its users traveling through time. In an attempt to escape his doomed marriage, Dr. Eric Sweetscent becomes caught up in all of it. But he has questions: Is Earth on the right side of the war? Is he supposed to heal Earth’s leader or keep him sick? And can he change the harrowing future that the drug has shown him?

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Simulacra by Philip K. DickThe Simulacra
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Dick Hill
7 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814541
On a ravaged Earth, fate and circumstances bring together a disparate group of characters, including a fascist with dreams of a coup, a composer who plays his instrument with his mind, a First Lady who calls all the shots, and the world’s last practicing therapist. And they all must contend with an underclass that is beginning to ask a few too many questions, aided by a man called Loony Luke and his very persuasive pet alien. In classic Philip K. Dick fashion, The Simulacra combines time travel, psychotherapy, telekinesis, androids, and Neanderthal-like mutants to create a rousing, mind-bending story where there are conspiracies within conspiracies and nothing is ever what it seems.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer by Philip K. DickThe Transmigration of Timothy Archer
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Joyce Bean
7 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814558
The final book in Philip K. Dick’s VALIS trilogy, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer brings the author’s search for the identity and nature of God to a close. The novel follows Bishop Timothy Archer as he travels to Israel, ostensibly to examine ancient scrolls bearing the words of Christ. But more importantly, this leads him to examine the decisions he made during his life and how they may have contributed to the suicides of his mistress and son. This introspective book is one of Dick’s most philosophical and literary, delving into the mysteries of religion and of faith itself. As one of Dick’s final works, it also provides unique insight into the mind of a genius, whose work was still in the process of maturing at the time of his death.

Each of the above is currently available through Audible.com too.They’ve also got Dick’s non-fiction/memoir that’s been called “The Exegesis.” This comes as a kind of a surprise, even though we knew the paperbook was coming, this thing is massive, even edited, and may make for some very strange road trips. Here it is:

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Exegesis Of Philip K. Dick edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan LethemThe Exegesis Of Philip K. Dick
Edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem; Read by Fred Stella
36 CDs – 44 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 7, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814626
Based on thousands of pages of typed and handwritten notes, journal entries, letters, and story sketches, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is the magnificent and imaginative final work of an author who dedicated his life to questioning the nature of reality and perception, the malleability of space and time, and the relationship between the human and the divine. Edited and introduced by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, this is the definitive presentation of Dick’s brilliant, and epic, work. In the Exegesis, Dick documents his eight-year attempt to fathom what he called “2-3-74,” a postmodern visionary experience of the entire universe “transformed into information.” In entries that sometimes ran to hundreds of pages, in a freewheeling voice that ranges through personal confession, esoteric scholarship, dream accounts, and fictional fugues, Dick tried to write his way into the heart of a cosmic mystery that tested his powers of imagination and invention to the limit. This volume, the culmination of many years of transcription and archival research, has been annotated by the editors and by a unique group of writers and scholars chosen to offer a range of views into one of the most improbable and mind-altering manuscripts ever brought to light.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th Century

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th CenturyThe Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th Century
By various; Read by various
4 Cassettes – 6 Hours [Unabridged]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787116807
Themes: / Science Fiction / Magical Realism / Aliens / Time Travel / Parallel Worlds / Space Travel / Mutation / Nuclear Winter /

What would a long time SF fan consider a collection called The Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th Century when none of the stories would make his top ten list, and some aren’t even SF? In this case, I consider it a very good collection of stories. If anything, this seems a collection of well-read and written, but randomly chosen, speculative fiction stories.

Clearly intended to present a wide variety of “Science Fiction,” this audio-anthology has neither theme nor consistency but it doesn’t need them. The stories, with only two exceptions, are quite entertaining. They are all extremely well read, my quibble with a poor attempt at an accent notwithstanding, ranging from Harlan Ellison’s wonderfully passionate reading of his story to Nana Visitor’s aesthetically perfect interpretation of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

Each story is briefly commented on below.

“Jeffty Is Five”
By Harlan Ellison; Read by Harlan Ellison
Reality is distorted around a boy who doesn’t age. This is Magical Realism, not SF, but an amazing story nonetheless. Ellison’s response to the bitter cynicism of modernity will tear at the core of your soul unless A) you’re very young or B) you don’t have a soul. The best story in the collection.

“Twilight”
By John W. Campbell; Read by Richard McGonagle
A good early SF story but not quite great. It feels a bit to much like Wells’ The Time Machine, but it entertaining enough. A retelling of a time traveler’s visit to the twilight of humanity.

“The Ones Who Walk Away Fom Omelas”
By Ursula K. Le Guin; Read by Nana Visitor
Virtually everyone knows this Fantasy, again not SF, story. It has all the strengths and weakness of Le Guin’s writing, amazing authorial voice and great storytelling, but a strong tendency to be overly didactic to the point of sanctimoniousness. Still as with most of her stories, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.

“Bears Discover Fire”
By Terry Bisson; Read by Arte Johnson
Bears start using fire in an otherwise normal Kentucky. This Magical Realism, not an SF. This story was the only one that bored me. It also had my only, relatively minor, reading complaint. The reader’s Kentucky accent is a bit off and sounds a bit condescending.

“The Crystal Spheres”
By David Brin; Read by Alexander Siddig
A very interesting, though highly implausible, story about a universe in which all stars are encircled by invisible, impenetrable, crystal spheres.

“That Only a Mother”
By Judith Merril; Read by Terry Farrell
Due to radiation poisoning, a baby is born mentally gifted but physically impaired. A disturbing, unpleasant story that is only marginally SF.

“Allamagoosa”
By Eric Frank Russell; Read by James A. Watson
Wonderful over-the-top humor. This story of a spaceship facing an inspection while missing an offog, an item no one knows what is, is a gem.

“Tangents”
By Greg Bear; Read by Melissa Manchester.
A boy can see into the the fourth physical dimension and a scientist helps him play music for the beings there. Interesting enough, but forgettable.

“The Nine Billion Names of God”
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by Alexander Siddig
Tibetan monks have a computer print out all the names possible names of God with the intent of fulfilling the purpose of creation. Good enough but not even Clarke’s best short story.

“Huddling Place”
By Clifford D. Simak; Read by David Ackroyd
In a future with robots and space travel agoraphobia has become a serious threat. This story would have been just acceptable filler except for the fact that in this story from 1944, Simak predicts the internet, though he describes it in terms of a television with knobs.

“Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Diner”
By Lawrence Watt Evans; Read by Wil Wheaton
A fun, interesting take on the the idea of parallel universes. Certainly an enjoyable story.

“Fermi And Frost”
By Frederik Pohl; Read by Denise Crosby
Icelanders face the prospects of nuclear winter in the post-apocalyptic tale. A good downbeat story to balance some of the lighthearted stories.

Conclusion: This is a very good anthology. It definitely isn’t a collection of the best stories, but it may be the best collection of stories available. Highly recommended.

I started reviewing this collection on the expectation that it was out of print and I would have to recommend Amazon or eBay as a source of a used cassette copy. So imagine my surprise when a mere day after finishing it, I hear an Audible.com ad for it on Pseudopod. So, it is easily available for those interested.

Posted by David Tackett