Reading, Short And Deep #356
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Gates Of Nineveh by Robert E. Howard
Here’s a link to a PDF of the poem.
The Gates Of Nineveh was first published in Weird Tales, July 1928
Talked about on today’s show:
The Magic Goes Away, more Barnes than Niven?, collaborations, Burning Mountain, The Moon Bowl by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn, the bowlverse is unapproved, the book title, that’s a good title!, some adventure on the high seas, maritime book, Scott was not fond, a homage or a throwback to old sword and sorcery, not a lot there, Scott soft take, Niven has never grown past 12 years old, Paul was sadly underwhelmed, distasteful politics, a chore to get through, a lack of…, neat ideas, explorations of the consequences, the decline and fall of the magic empire, except for the stealing from the future, undercooked, Trish: it felt “like competent fan fiction”, all these tensions, a hacky ending for everyone, noir is the opposite of fan fiction, kill Captain Kirk in the first scene and say he’s dead forever, not expecting that much, the last or the most recent in a long series, doesn’t have the magic of the earlier books, the opening dedication: To my copious array of cousins, Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard, hey cousins, we all inherited a fortune, Niven’s contribution, not Niven heavy, Street Lethal, Lion’s Blood, Zulu Heart, alternate history, the black plague, slaves from Europe to Africa, interesting ideas, smooth competently written vs. Greg Bear, Donald Westlake or Lawrence Block, good plotting good characterization, everybody has a negative take except for…, second or third order implication, “this fantasy is not hard enough!”, up to the point they arrive in Shrike, other than stuff happening, the Scott rule was co-opted from Jesse, what Jesse has done to Scott, A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin, Scott has successfully pointed at something, a stuff happening book, there’s a lot of them, sub-series, a fix-up, The Burning City, 1969 – 1980, The Golden Road, chronologically closest to our own time, human sacrifice, necromancy, Atlantis sank, pockets of manna, just the setting, oh the sea!, manna in the ocean, more interesting than some random fantasy, treat magic as a science, phlogiston theory, bad science theories, is it rocks or is it space?, is it in material or position?, Roger Zelazny, meteorite bombardment, the magic sword is a meteoric iron sword, what about the ocean?, the water cycle, continental shelves and island, what makes a book good, participate in the book, some writers are bad at telling stories, thus he crossed the room, let the imagination get going, participating in the world, maybe that…, more of a stuff happens book, The Seascape Tattoo 2, revisiting a familiar idea, relatively short, the character jokes, all the cringey elements, the Larry Nivenisms, things that will get you canceled, Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex, 12 year old Niven vs. Neutron Star Niven, what is there was a way for us to trust each other wink wink, Niven on the phone: hey what if…, the princess tries to rescue herself, a Barnes thing, Ever After (1998), Paul signed up for the wrong book, a little bit Niven like: when the barmaid has a pivot waist, flexible women, pliable women, nipples didn’t go sprung, the relationship between Aros and his pseudo-mom and pseudo-dad, Eros vs. Aros, so decisively, did they chop it off?, somebody had to die, back to the kingdom, find the woman, abrupt?, a pretty bad Andre Norton novel Star Hunter, a kid gets kidnapped and brainwashed, the fake heir, an old trope, waaaay better, too rushed, the relationship between the wizard and Aros, cozy in the end, the end of Dagon (2001), it fits his arc, the sea-peoples, the end of Star Wars (1977) everybody gets a medal, Chewie: hey where’s my medal?, the robots just get a nice polish, Jade, she’s not his mom?, he has a story, he’s Azteca, his tattoos and his scars, who am i without my scars?, who are you without your trauma?, the horror of dementia, in practicing for his role, he becomes his role, those connections are potential real vs. the fake grift, bicycles, cannon, pistol, characterization, a Larry Niven fantasy world potentials are much greater, the Lord Of The Rings series just set in Middle Earth, the estate is not the caretaker, these are the rules, this is the premise, caves, tanks, a good plot idea, pretty interesting, oh, this is that!, Aros is the Conan figure, The Scarlet Citadel and Hour Of The Dragon, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Fritz Leiber, a conman team, the wizard trainee, that’s cute, as analogs, some Robert E. Howard names in here: the bad lady/man wizard, Belit, through Conan’s eyes, a river that has bad stuff coming out of it, the mer-folk, the octopeople, an octopus showing a face on its body, effluent from a factory, coal tar, a deliberate plan or just an externality from capitalism, the poisoned river, poison sounds bad, the boxing match sailor, Dorgan the first mate, the nephew of the captain, kinda dumb, that’s a Dennis Dorgan, presented with possibilities, fun?, the Red Nun the Red Priestess in A Game Of Thrones?, a nun costume, nuns are just Halloween costumes, a Rolodex full of nuns, binders full of nuns, not a complete waste of time, its about philosophy, King Kull, almost no action, how do I exist?, is this solipsism, there are forces in the world that want you to obey, what happens at the end of every Conan episode, the anomaly, he goes into a wizard house and there’s a monkey in there, monkeys shouldn’t get too uppity, its anti-Dungeons & Dragons, Age Of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, it’s the things, new armor, new mount, set dressing, the exercise of philosophy, how to be, analyzing books, a hero’s arc, find a home, Conan is completely unreal, trying to live like Conan is impossible, even Grizzly Adams had a bear, you must live in some sort of community, Conan would never be a tax-collector, thief, reiver, tax-collector?, referencing The Burning City, tax-farming, the traditional way of tax collection, corruption that’s out in public, if this is our Conan figure, he’s against civilization, top down telling people how to be, how the Conan stories work, Conan fan fiction about King Conan, The Hour Of The Dragon, the Eisenhower/JFK figure, FDR, a less dead Julius Caesar or JFK, How To Become A Tyrant, a Zenda situation, possibilities were amazing, a found family story, the hint was enough, when Aros feels this, Kasha, quite interesting, the battle sequences with the grubs, the politics of the city were interesting, the kids on the street, a puppet king, continuing to play dumb, pivoting hips, every character has something going, Jesse was kinda impress, a fantasy with a plot, entertaining’s not enough, engaging, an appetizer vs. a full meal, this all works on its own, all new characters, a nice balance, Not Long Before the End, a magic user and a swordsman team up, if you’re going to do a TV show do this book, graphic and cinematic, Magic Goes Away as an art film, steampunk show, they have the technology, if you’re going to steal go right to the source, a Turner And Hooch tv series, a different way of telling stories, ok as a novel, much better (as a potential) with the same material, to call it entertaining is an insult, paddleball, its a thing people do, grokking a great book, returning to the status quo, what TV fundamentally understands, Blindspot, how you get to season 7 of Prison Break, NCIS, CSI, we’re solving mysteries with tech, Locard’s principle, Tom Hanks and a dog, you can fail upward very easily in Hollywood, spending time in Larry Niven’s playground, the Road of Kings, we did Dream Park and found it wanting, pre-holodeck, Westworld (1973).
Talked about on today’s show:
Lawful Good, a novella, 1953, 1961, Appendix N, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, garish sky, the alignment stuff in D&D, the axes on the alignment, true neutral, lawful, neutral, chaotic, cosmic battle, all the problems Jesse had with Dungeons & Dragons, its ideology, a war between the baddies and the goodies, the lawful forces and the forces of discord, implying our reality, mapped as evil, our swanmaid, lots of grey, the framing story, playing the lawful good role in both worlds, hence he’s a paladin, everybody has to pick an alignment, neutral evil thief and a lawful good paladin, deliciously great roleplay, sticks in their mud, a good role player takes that to heart, character drama, flexible morals, against the enemy of his god, an impediment to the adventure and the swashbuckling vs. character dramas, so codified, the rules are there to be discarded, the rules are there to help you, the one true way, a meta-game, applying it to human beings, Captain America is Lawful Good, Spiderman is just plain good, everything is way more complicated than that, the nine different possibilities, Odo in the top left hand corner, Gul Dukat in the bottom right hand corner, Quark is neutral good, what constitutes these things, a grievance against Gary Gygax, this whole matter of France mythology, Charlemagne, Anthony Boucher’s introduction, “the possible and the impossible”, science fantasy, Groff Conklin, Great Folk Epic, The Vault Of Time, H. Rider Haggard, The Incomplete Enchanter, Fletcher Pratt, L. Sprague De Camp, Roland, travel between worlds, taking from Matters, martial paladin focused, a different kind of heroism, riddles, the outer narrator, not that great a book, a grab bag of different adventures, the order of the episodes, the creatures in the woods, a bear, a lion, an owl, material to furnish, very cozy, bookending the story, Edgar Rice Burroughs, later serialized in F&SF: Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein, a dwarf and a lady princess, transported to a fairy realm, more playfully comic, not a humour piece, the portal aspect, a museum in England, more of a satire, a fantasy romp, does Jesse just not like fantasy?, unstructured, romping around, referencing, Graustark, another Zenda ripoff, playing around, a quest, The Wizard Of Oz, he stole that too, a crossover episode, more time with the Dane bicycling around Europe, WWII adventures, chaos vs. law, a force for law in all the worlds, he had saved Niels Bohr, the audiobook, Bronson Pinchot, a slog via text, Huckleberry Finn, accents in the text, Danish accent?, the drift, an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, the dumb Scandinavian, pumps you up like McBain, read more H. Rider Haggard, Eric Brighteyes, the point of the story, a straightforward muscleman, the ladies think he’s very sexy, be a sophisticate, ElvenQuest, one of the these fantasy authors, eight book in the series, contempt for his audience, the “chosen one”, his dog is transformed into a human, all about the stereotypes, the fantasy enchanted forest with a silly name, the trolls work the same in both ways, about the tropes, the evil point of view, he’s got your eyes, the ur version of that, if you make it a comedy…, humorous but not a comedy, Stephen Mangan, the Dirk Gently TV show, problematic stuff?, the Swanmaiden, cat-fighting, every D&D player, troll regeneration, Tolkien’s trolls in The Hobbit, entertaining, the Wild Hunt, fatalistic pessimism, elegiac, The Broken Sword, contemplative vs. upbeat, things to notice, Bertrand Russell, Logical Positivism, this is a real guys, this is real guys, most things in philosophy are massive failures, history is the study of failures, reaching in a way that Dunsany doesn’t, going Catholic in the end, he’s picking a team, Christianity is a true religion, assuming medieval role, team order, he believes in beer, kind of all over, crafting vs. spinning, Tolkien vs. Anderson, crafted vs. a product of craft, a Poul Anderson Planet Stories story, going in to fight chaos, the length?, the werewolf and the witch and the nixie, collecting a crew, the dwarf just shows up, the Muslim knight, Papillon, no payoff, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, a satire, the analog for Papillon, mental energy, maybe mind was transferred into the body of another guy, what is the explanation?, magic, interesting, not just a secondary world fantasy, not enough to justify anything, why do I need this entrance into this world?, a payoff in a meta-way, konking, Guardians Of The Flame by Joel Rosenberg, the opening sequence and the first episode of the Dungeons And Dragons cartoon, I know spells I guess, hey look there’s Tiamat, a lost Scandinavian epic, writing in that vein, the meta-setup, quasi-science, a grab bag of different ideas, Vancian magic, Jeffro Johnson’s Appendix N, finally the explanation, the ideology of alignment, if we impose this on the system, Darth Vader is Lawful Evil, Jabba is Chaotic Evil, Anakin as a kid is Neutral?, can kids have alignment?, age of maturity age of reason, suddenly I’m neutral evil, something wrong with this system, Hoger?, name conveniently placed on the saddle, saddlebag stuff, not the most law-abiding type, the outer-narrator’s explanation, God has provided, the “balance” of the Force, like magic, implying the universe comes up with that, a meta-flaw, as soon as Obi Wan Kenobi spins up a bunch of lies, Ming the Merciless, a roguish guy, neutral good, when Obi Wan was lying to you he was doing it for a good reason, Yoda on Dagobah, Zen koans, don’t go into that cave, don’t save your friends, that stuff was stupid, tear it all down, abandoning the alignment system is so meta, we need it to to have a film, a conflict of good vs. evil is replaced by a conflict with the alignment system itself, broken from the beginning, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are thieves, neutral at best, Paul’s range of alignment only includes good and neutral, are there people who you want to spend time with who play lawful evil?, tear it all down, for NPCs, if we go to Ivanhoe, the restoration of law, fighting an evil law makes you chaotic, confine the alignment system to lawyers offices, the Duke boys on The Dukes Of Hazzard, Boss Hogg is evil but lawful, want to steal Daisy Duke’s cutoffs, the top of their car is evil, what knights really are, they’re samurais, very egoistic, the heraldic crest, all very fun, villain means serf, taking the sides of the elites, ultimately there’s something wrong, fantasy is dangerous, God brought him his horse, hence his conversion to Catholicism, when God gives Jesse a horse he’ll have to convert to Catholicism, the super-fantasy element, the escapist element, what he was doing in his own life was interesting enough, finding a way back, looking through Grimoires, shouted out in The Number Of The Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, a podcast we recorded seven months ago, The Pursuit Of the Pankera, giant problems, way longer, all science fiction and fantasy is in it, they 666 worlds, parallel universes, more time on Barsoom, more time in Oz, E.E. Doc Smith’s Galactic Patrol, not your best intro to Heinlein, go with Glory Road or Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, the book that broke Paul, Star Ship, Tau Zero, Sargasso Of Lost Starships, Flight To Forever, Brain Wave, The High Crusade, a fun idea story that’s not too long, Virgin Planet, terrorbirds, The Golden Slave, Lord Of A Thousand Suns, Out Of The Iron Womb, Swordsman Of Lost Terra, Tiger By The Tail, stuck into Thieves’ World, Inside Earth by Poul Anderson.
Talked about on today’s show:
the Evan, the Lampe, just the one name?, get into someone else’s body, 1957, Paul’s suggestion, why did we settle on this one?, 1956, Planet Of Adventure, The Star King, Appendix N by Jeffro Johnson, the magic use that’s not religious magic use, the Dying Earth, set in the USA?, the counties, Malthusian crisis, Soylent Green, Stand On Zanzibar, consumers vs. producers, exploitation, the bosses take it all, Make Room Make Room, “The Conscience Of The King”, Star Trek, the (birth control) pill, Paul Erlich, the Green Revolution, Japan, cohorts, The Mote In God’s Eye, we’re worried we’re rabbits and then we’re worried we’re pandas, a real news story, perverse incentives, perverse understanding of reality, not worrying about their old age, a social safety net, fertility rates, standard of living, baby factories, birth control shots, (in)fertility in Zimbabwe, Harry Harrison, Robert Bloch, repression and expansion, the age of chaos, The Crack In Space by Philip K. Dick, finding the frontier, escaping a limited population, really this is all artificial, a retitling as Clarges, serious problems, spinning up a society, really into masks, The Moon Moth, masked societies, a good metaphor, Borges is all about the labyrinth, a murder mystery, a lot going on in a short book, the core exploration of the psychology, the five strata, gleigs?, brood, wedge, errant, amaranth, a false reality, the last city, the whole planet is available, why are they overpopulated, Glade?, he’s set it up wrong, a false premise, fashion, the conservatism of societies, dystopia, Billennium, The Space Merchants, the idea of slope, a free enterprise system, the Star Enterprise, “Critical Care” (episode of Star Trek: Voyager), the hypospray, The Shadow, a medical patented object, oil injection accidents, needle shots, medical stuff, psychiatry, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, the hospital, the carnival, an analogy for our world, an elite class, extra good education at Yale vs. the poors, nobody is living forever, empathizing with a clone of themselves, empathize with humanity as a whole, something of a classic, win or overturn the system, overtake or knock over, the Demon Princes novels, revenge, Gavin Waylock, The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, disrupting society by taking the rules really seriously, the actuarium, the accounting system, an unsustainable system, life extension by medical care, the allocator, slope and wedge, emergency care for people at the bottom, John Hopkins for those at the top, tooth implants, hairplugs, if this was a Brave New World story, John Savage, the outcast society as a threat, the carnival is the safety valve, another Star Trek episode, The Purge, carousel in Logan’s Run, lives of decadence, the assassins, the same world, the Sandman is the assassin, an exploration of a dystopia coded as a utopia, when Jesse goes to a job, what gives slope?, a group of elites who give their kids money and jobs, Hunter Biden, does he actually have slope?, or is the system rigged?, how many papers he’s written, a group of people doing their job perfectly, if you’re looking for corruption that’s where it is, kind of like capitalism, Monopoly, capitalism defenders (rising tide lifts all boats), a gripe with planned economies, slightly conservative, not pro-communism, he’s making his own world, he’s not talking about us, what deserves slope, a talented accordion player won’t give you slope (Weird Al Yankovic), Evan’s not earning slope, Michio Kaku, a string theorist, popular science futurism, a way to make money, string theory is not science (because it is not testable), drilling down its bullshit, he’s just absolutely wrong, does he get slope?, did this guy have slope?, we are told innovation is always happening, great tech, the reactions, the witherers and the weirds, Jesse’s seen them on twitter, herbivore men in Japan, I never saw him I hate that guy, just playing games, I got my waifu pillow, Magnus Panvidya is a witherer, a famous boogaloo boi, a national security threat, ironic proud boys, no ideology, we don’t like the way things are, our goal, are you communists?, what unites us is objecting to the system, imagine future capitalism, ports, what are the ports for?, they don’t have anything, what makes you a witherer and not a weird, I put on an ironic voice, getting paid poorly, just trying to live in a world they never made, recreated our reality, the beatniks, science fiction fans, cosplayers, Jesse is not trying to get external slope, the vision of history looking back, PHDs, degrees of difficulty, ladder climbing, on the rowing machine on the stationary bike, an 1980s movie, Bright Lights, Big City (1988), the insane asylum, symptom, maybe I’ll be an assassin, not reflective of actual progress, not curing patients, treatment coefficient, social credit in China vs. Social Credit in Canada (and what Heinlein was talking about), debts are more brutal in China, business loans, Conrad Black aka Lord Black of Black Harbour, he’s rich so his criminality doesn’t matter, Lavoisier and Hooke and Einstein and Huxley, definitely earned slope, literally cloning themselves, what we all should say, Robert J. Sawyer, in just a few years we’re going to have the bio-medical technology will prevent us from ever dying, live forever as a robot, we are all mortal creatures and will die, a non-infinite supply of life, this system is bullshit, live well during the time you have, go off into the wilderness, back to the land movements, a lot of people stayed, carnival is a vacation, Jesse doesn’t take vacations, the literary interpretations of carnival, Mikhail Bakhtin, carnival theory, the Venetian Masquerade, putting the mask on, performative transgressivism, the Masonic Lodges, costume, the fez, the apron, all cultures have this, the setup and the interest of the book, a tension that leads to the climax, 2,000 amaranth get elevated, Bonfire Of The Vanities, when Captain Picard puts on his speedos, that is his carnival, everyone wants to wear the uniform, Troi and Barkley, when Captain Janeway is on the holodeck with her holographic boyfriend, recreation, on vacation on an actual planet vs. cosplaying on the holodeck, Risan sex workers, Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle, clothes making you a different person, the lab coat makes you a scientist, you become the Star Trek Communist, a shining suit of armor, putting on a personality, why people change their names, a new identity, the Douggie Fresh story, more of the sacraments, jealousy is a sin, a legitimate response by children, choosing your own name, Miami Vice, interacting with our identity, a Superman costume, changing your gender, your haircut, these are all weirds, upturn reality vs. a response to a reality I don’t like, one is not personal, Gavin Waylock (Warlock), Gulliver Of Mars, amaranth is unfading, why did he do it?, she recognized him for what he was, his reading on her, very clever, playfulness, I went to the carnival to blow off some steam, the sex worker recognized me now I have to destroy her, he was hiding as a carnival barker, playing possum, going to party, hey guy do you want to party?, a euphemism, revelry masking escape, maybe all Vance is like this?, we don’t see his thoughts, the way he did it, not a Jesse book, not a book of ideas, a lot of fun, the weird economy, no offense, a fancy dinner book vs. a popcorn book, Sin Hellcat was fun, The Stainless Steel Rat, a slippery space con man, SF stuff, on the edge, set on Earth, Robert Jordan epics, secondary world fantasy, getting what the author is spinning up, no criticism of our reality, Tolkien is not about our world, a criticism of war and industrialization, he’s working on his own shit, an elaborate backstory, a mild mannered Hobbit, a tapestry, the class system, Mister Frodo, a mimicing, let’s get out of our world, such a complex system mirrors our society, bringing democracy to the world, people who can’t afford housing get tattoos, he’s not doing us, really fun and interesting, the world is amazing, too big of a world, he loved to world build, a generation starship, geography, the Lyonesse novels, a decadent society?, a barbarian invasion, what Lovecraft would do, Robert E. Howard would have a lot to say, a thesis, everything is decadent is a Vancianism, not sustainable, a catalyst, scholars in Finland or whatever, a bunch of references to the Dying Earth books, the Baktinian lens, this desire to put on masks, to be equal (if just pretend), a safety valve, the Zelazny title, Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon, you don’t own your own body any more, ultra capitalist future, people at the bottom who never apply for brood, only 20 years, the incentive is not that great, our Jacinth, a martin is an animal, she has most of my memories, Glarks!, if not on the tenure track, its publish or perish (literally perish), Bryan Alexander, looking at the future of post-secondary education, the future is very grim, queen sacrifice, we exist in a system where if you’re an adjunct professor you get paid minimum with a title, a bluechek and no pay, automatically suggested for followers, the system is not what it once was, prominent counterexamples, Harvard’s infinite money supply, people at the back of the (academic train): “c’mon run you can make it”, the student loan boost was another scam, these losers?, sitting around after getting their PHD and drinking beer in their house, we need a historian, thirty years down the road, a whole stint in Ghana, hiring the college guys, draft dodgers from the 70s still working the university mines, we lost a lot by whatever we did to fuck up the universities, a Bryan question, not all administration, money has been shifted towards administration, the factory workers not getting paid, well meaning but useless, more instruction and books, a good library and good professors, top 50 or top 100 schools, this doesn’t tell you much, who makes these assessments, they just look at the ranking, go to a warm university, instruction will always suffer, put your lectures on YouTube, tier 1 sports, corporatization of universities, you paid a fucking lot of money to be exposed to Schopenhauer, going into massive debt, university was basically free, jobs were plentiful and paid well, a house and a car, somewhere between 1900 and 1979 they made universities a priority and everybody got an education, a dying clown show, more like carnies, the most innovative technologies, the House of Truth, the Hall Of Revelation, kill frogs, try to steal rings from people, we never got to see inside the one he was shilling for, the House of Life, really good with names and words, the flavour, wordplay, how people rank books, one of those great old paperbacks from the 50s 60s and 80s, wow that was really interesting, dogs vs. gems, his third novel, how many stars out of the the entire galaxy?, 1 star taken off because no kissing.