The SFFaudio Podcast #537 – READALONG: The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #537 – Jesse, Maissa Bessada, and Evan Lampe talk about The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Talked about on today’s show:
London Magazine, 1912, Sunday Magazine, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, 1912 book publication, why hasn’t this been a movie?, totally epic, very filmic, no comic book?, it would be a great comic, the big splash, the reveal, he hasn’t seen a human being in three years, the comic book format reveal, one of Jack London’s best, the first time, not the newest theme, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, The Strength Of The Strong, about the same thing, civilization and how civilizations evolve, The Iron Heel, this managed ordered world, an optimistic narrative, the story is fairly brutal, how the socialist thinking was obsessed with planning and order, social darwinism, rude barbarism?, his greatest?, drama, Martin Eden, John Barleycorn, The Call Of The Wild, he can’t get away from dogs, the dog goes into full atavistic mode, recapitulated, an unwashed barbarian, barbarian grandchildren, taking this story as it is, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, more optimistic, the essential character of this story, end of the world and post apocalyptic stories, endless zombies, a zombie apocalypse with no zombies, fighting off the harsh reality of what its like to go from running water toilet paper hot and cold running ice cream to living off the scraps of the old world, hasn’t seen soap in 60 years, Costco, 500 survivors in the whole world, a lot got burned, the last survivors genre, SCIENCE FICTION doubly, set 100 years from when it is written (2013) and then another 60 years beyond that, so rich in ideas, the future of American from 1912 and in a future far past it, a double critique, inspired by, The Walking Dead is not about class (and little about race), each a race unto themselves, the Aryan sweep is coming again, it did feel white, all about class, on the side of the downtrodden race, humans as basically very terrible, way scarier than a zombie story, zombies as a metaphor, the hordes of people you don’t know, a divisive horror, us and them, killing zombies as a fun thing to do, shambly and slow, not a science fiction story, Jesse’s niece did a course, its about class, so relevant again, the Chauffeur and Vesta van Warden, the luxury airships that the ultra-rich have, we took all the food and left a little bit for our slaves, you don’t understand Hoo-hoo, “slaves”, oh my god, Professor James/John Howard Smith, what’s happening in the states of 1912, a hardening and separating of the classes, medieval or 19th century England, he’s from the upper class, he has three servants, a housekeeper a cook and a chambermaid, at the bottom of the ultra-rich, every inspired by story never talks about class, Buck was a king brought low and turned into a slave, the same thesis, Chauffeur beats his wife, she’s a goddess, that she should be brought so low, an unreliable narrator who is super-reliable, he makes himself so pathetic, nested narrative, he makes himself look bad, everything that happened is what was happening, a super-hard thesis, lets spend time in this universe and see what meaning we, the good the bad and the worst and the best have gone to their eternal rest, the collie dogs are now wolves, that overcoming, back to brute beast, really interesting and fascinating to think about, obsessing with education, trying teach how to count to a billion, so Science Fiction, the courage and heroism of the bacteriologists, WWI imagery, in awe of the education, chapter 6, a day-labourer, the greatest prize next to Vesta, the crude illiterate getting the upper-class woman, huge gaps, not a culture of mass education, Jack London imagined the early 21st century with the working class uneducated, technocratic culture, millions of engineers, not as pessimistic, this is going to happen again, no good thoughts about humanity’s potential, red history, the red plague is people on Earth, population pressure, oozing slowly across to colonize the East, the gunpowder will come, I’m gonna git Granser this gunpowder stuff, the death stick, someday I’ll be boss over the whole bunch of you, the juju magic of the witch-doctor, poor Edwin is gonna be just like his grandpa, he didn’t survive by his book-learning, nothing he did could fix anything, those two automatics (pistols), the only reason he survives is because he’s a human (who can open doors and cans), nothing in his education as literature professor, Terry Nation’s Survivors, The Daleks as an examination of the human future after a future nuclear war, the exact plot of the Scarlet Plague (without the zooming forward), UK “public schools”, we’re all doomed, I don’t know how to smelt, plastic is made out of oil, ‘I have three batteries left. If I don’t find anymore I’ll be deaf.’, part of the education process, take in a profound piece of information and passing it on, the oral tradition, the big thing this story is all about, trying to teach the grandchildren something of value, there are ways of counting what’s beyond your fingers, they’re goat-hearders, is Edwin the smartest?, he’s the most like his grandfather, a medicine man, brute force, a very bleak vision, an English professor, The Sea Wolf, The Iron Heel, social progress is possible, Herbert Spencer, not a good society, obsession with food, post scarcity, civilization has to suppress, a Freudian aspect, training animals, a universe good, something every eater understands, dogs are food motivated, the bear and the wolves, goats, no longer a man of books, carrying coins, carrying teeth, sex and food, Vesta should’ve been mine by rights, he doesn’t stop him, you could never do this in a Hollywood film, save her and himself, he too their child to wife?, Bertha was a hash-slinger (but a good woman-though!), a Lady is a Chauffeur squaw, the opening and the closing, the surf grew suddenly louder, huge sea-lions, he can smell the food cooking, mussels!, he’s all gums now, crying, an empty-crab shell, so happy, his emotional range, really dottering, a beautiful sad story, the old geezer gets more long-winded every day, a small herd of wild horses, a beautiful stallion, horses, the mountain lions, close at hand, the sea-lions bellowing, fought and loved, there’s no victory here, just survival, just other animals, there’s a beauty, there’s a harshness, Earth is coming back, we can have it all year, all the toothsome delicacies are back, the Cliff-House restaurant, what is money?, those little marks don’t mean nothing, in 10,000 years, warning against the medicine men, that’s religion, agriculture, who controls that surplus?, primitive religion, thugs, not the civilization he wants, he predicted Trump!, he predicted Bush, the Board of Magnates, Vesta’s husband, lords of life (and death), stuck-up, some other place to live, sleep in a tree, no person is strong enough, stuck in these systems, kind to the old man, Granser’s going to get to it, his only value is as a storyteller, it won’t be his dayjob, if only a physicist or a chemist had survived, he’s a reliable narrator who is wrong about stuff, conflating food with money, shopping at the organic expensive farmer’s markets, Whole Foods, the poors can’t afford Whole Foods, not amongst the poors, chapter 4, the dean of faculty, full of airships, flying machines, one brave fellow, 300 miles per hour in an aircraft, radio, social systems, the brute reality of nature, the Yukon, what’s so powerful, those prehistorical romances are not just the past, black deaths, we are going to need the skills we don’t have, living off the corpse of the old world, you can’t just trust that Mother Nature is kind, a city is like a giant pampered baby, cuddled and coddled by all the servants going into and out of it, the beauty of nature taking over California again, the monorail, railroad tracks being taken over by tree roots, Life After People, we lost contact with each other, a very slim portion of this future society, teenagers and younger, tending the goats is a job for young boys, the mens’ job is yelling at women and young boys, a reverence for muscles (and punching people), as brown as a berry, a pair of gimlets, an endless series of messages from the outside world, a whole sequence like that in The Call Of The Wild, the coddling of man, the king of the slaves as a dog, as a wolf he’s utterly free but is dependent on his body being strong, doing something that few others do, the boys are the babysitters, thirty years ago people wanted to hear what he had to say, why do you call it Scarlet rather than Red, The Masque Of The Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe, Bliss Carman:

A Vagabond Song

THERE is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

George Sterling, A Wine Of Wizardry, mentioned in London’s biography, poet rich guy, I couldn’t save him, rebelling slaves, the grave tree, toothsome delicacy, fire, how it eats up everybody and turns it to dust, 1914 airplanes, the airships of the rich, Paul talks about the ultra rich bunkers in New Zealand, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, when the economy collapses he’ll have a bolt-hole, the rich all flee to Hawaii in their dirigibles, it went with them and it preceded them, that’s the one that married the baby, the wilds of British Columbia, Mount Shasta, so much to be explored, incredibly visual, really good at writing nature, full of ideas, a crackerjack book, Vesta is a metaphor for the whole thing, as good as you can get for a girl, drowned by her drunken husband for no reason at all, boiling fish chowder in a covered pot, parasol, the destinies of millions such as he she carried in her pink white hand, her private dirigible, to her!, a leper, ascertain the creature’s name, what the plague did to the world, the most brutal of low class uneducated horrors can be masters over a goddess, goddess of the hearth now has to tend the hearth, too small for a class system, just about strength, you’re my wife because I’m stronger, Evan can’t agree with London’s pessimism, Murray Bookchin, imposing on nature the reflections on our own society, domesticating the goats, division of labour, our ability to make cultures, why we can’t have good things, that’s our culture, human nature vs. culture, from first nature (sexual desire) vs. secondary (marriage), Eskimos, transformed nature, what people were saying about paleolithic, right back to where we are, printing presses and newspapers, the end goal, besides printing presses, not a teleology, goat-herders and hunters and trappers, mussels and crabs, started life as an oyster pirate, specialization is what he’s aiming at, the radio drama adaptation, a 2 hour book into a 29 minute show, dropping the framing sequence, hearing the plague is very familiar, The Walking Dead, The Day Of The Triffids, 28 Days Later, the aftermath 60 years later, they’ve run out of bullets and gasoline, the comics, allowing that progression to happen, how does the zombie system work, how do you have a society, join there society (a movie night!), a world that doesn’t exist, born into a world without movies, when all the movie bulbs have burnt out, ya, whatever grandpa, people are mean (and horrible), repression in 2013, a tweet with a guillotine was too radical, all the slaves he’s been repressing are going to come for him, optimistic stories of this ilk, Stephen King’s The Stand is essentially optimistic, the bad guy is the state, good vs. evil, both states suck, the triumph of solidarity, acculturated to states and authority, cultures are cooperative, in a dog eat dog world, calling our friends, exploitation within the system, battered husbands and battered wives, its not me its the corporation you work for, bad guys and good guys, The Day Of The Triffids ending, base instinct is love not hate, we need to recenter, a extremely pessimistic work, David Graeber’s book on debt, barter isn’t the first economy, social debt, everybody knows I gave you this are you going to be that guy that didn’t give it back?, my son loves your daughter, barter is from people used to exchange, the police as the barrier between you and the criminal, going back to hierarchy, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman has fantastic accounting, I made dinner yesterday, bankruptcy, so interesting to think about The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, utopian/dystopian future, forced mental audit, the ultimate invasive, good writing at the end, 24 hours, Evan read it for me!, Ayn Rand took over the U.S. government, “personal responsibility”, capitalism is eating individual human beings from birth!

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London - Famous Fantastic Mysteries

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London - Famous Fantastic Mysteries

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London - Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #529 – READALONG: Typee by Herman Melville

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #529 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Evan Lampe talk about Typee by Herman Melville

Talked about on today’s show:
a peep at Polynesian life, 1846, in which the protagonist is eaten, the island itself is non-fiction, Paul’s theory, Melville wanted to talk about the non-fictional aspects, how horrible western society was treating the islanders, this is not right, his most popular book (in Melville’s life), drawn from life, no one liked his imaginative stuff, the introduction, it proved to be popular on board ship, doth he protest too much?, the appendix, what the French are doing, what’s going to happen?, Evan’s first three podcasts episodes, his time amongst the cannibals, improved style (not improved microphone), writing scripts, 200 episodes, starting with the Lovecraftian element, the South Seas as a place where the Deep Ones made a deal, Dagon, biographies of Melville, lifestyle, wealthy families in decline, Edgar Allan Poe, a genetic East Coast elite white guys, a history of whaling, a literary genetic connection, Chapter 21, one day in returning…, Stonehenge, the druids, peculiar construction, so profound is the shade, he doesn’t believe the natives built these constructions, divine origins, an extinct and forgotten race, musing at the pyramid of Cheops, built upon massive stone foundations, the burying grounds, the race has deteriorated, habitual indolence, incontestable marks of great age, under the direction of Monu, dedicated to the immortal wooden idols, are there stone foundations all over the Marquesas?, this is a book about labour, Pierre and Confidence Man, Herman Melville Wants You To Quit Your Job, Bartleby, The Scrivener, one of the last places colonized by humans, a metaphor?, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, the white Sphinx is a symbol for us, it baffles us, deep time, a post scarcity society, Hawaii, ravaged by colonialism, breadfruit, the mom, no resentment, profiting from previous generations, universal basic income, young people like tattoos!, colonial gaze, work is going on, not the work we’re used to, alien, salmon runs in the Pacific North West of North America, how much of this story is true?, only there for four weeks vs. four months, why do they want to keep Tomo?, endo vs. exo eating, cannibalism is real, the parallels between the beginning and the middle, Melville is so funny, a delight to read, the lack of food on the ship, poor Pedro the one rooster who ends up in a coffin under the Captain’s vest, all the French ships, taboo, Tomo and Toby, fleeing servitude, fleeing their tribe, deserters, why don’t they want them to flee?, no lack of food, pig and breadfruit and coconut, a long history of indigenous history taking in runaway slaves, John Jewitt, Maquinna, Nootka Sound, the Mourning Wars, Iroquois, you are now uncle Joe (who died), the same phenomenon, all the attention he gets, seen in relief, character list, bathe his body, a local celebrity, in a post scarcity environment, novelty and celebrity, social capital, I know Wayne June!, flee my tribe, all his fears of being cooked, Moby-Dick, Queequeg, selling his heads, essentially married, a delight, Fayaway, tattoos, do your face, in the tribe, becoming one of them, he can never go back, hilarious, a blank canvas, they’re not going to eat him, pantomime, the valley of the Hapars, they’ll eat you, they can’t be trusted, maybe that was Toby, an equivalent of Toby, endocannibals, preserving the spirit and the flesh, the cracker and the wine, she Jesse fear Paul, transubstantiation, concretized, perpetuated dogma, an innate sense of the value of humans, preserving your relationship to your loved ones, a beautiful thing, had the captain kept on his journey, the raft of the Medusa, what happened to the other guys?, The Island Of Doctor Moreau, the narrator ate one of the survivors of the shipwreck, cannibal sailors, Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger In A Strange Land, a sacrament, Mike broth, journeys in the Pacific, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Chapter 26, the descriptive chapter titles, the marriage system on Nuku Hiva, popping the question, tedious courtships are unknown, a very tender age, a frolic of the affections, of graver years, as harmonious as so many turtles, supplementary husbands, no wife has less than two husbands, the matrimonial yoke, Marissa VU, 1970s, the roots of Science Fiction, a Silverberg story, a month-wife, what gender relations will be like when you get down the road from birth control, if you don’t like your husband…, a house-raising, this Garden of Eden, a fucking warship, thinking long and hard, as soon as the missionaries come, prostitution, a metaphor for transition, corrupted and twisted, the missionary gaze, the material reality of colonialism, the mosquitoes, flies, not utter heaven, it probably gets hot, a foil for European sexuality, Denis Diderot’s The Supplement For The Voyage Of Bougainville, French and Tahitan societies, women are not considered property, 1780s, those Enlightenment people, Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead, no property transfer, the slaving system, exogamy, no formal manumission, fix the guns, make the pop-guns, a novelty, an exciting item, the humans have great value in themselves, what’s really going on there, roving feet, greener grasses everywhere, Omoo, his name is Typee, taken to the court of a Polynesian princess, I’ll just be your dude, white people hanging out, behold the glorious result, Christian worship, Honolulu, draught horses, evangelizing beasts of burden, your money, you in your salons, Christianize the Pacific, not doing any good, you’re doing wrong here, the devestation of the pacific, what’s about to happen, six French warships, claim it for the Republic, Liberty, enslave and make an empire, middle 1840s, Empire’s on the books now, The White Pacific: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas After the Civil War Paperback by Gerald Horne, the sea-otter fur trade, claims to have eaten Captain Cook’s big toe, white people parties, the flavour of Captain Cook’s toe, the full barrel, a great adventurer, what a shame, fantasize about writing, Magellan killed by the Filipinos and Cook killed by the Hawaiians, Captain George Vancouver, a feat of imposture, medieval relics, the effect of this book, the heads, The Red One by Jack London, the ancient astronauts idea, New Guinea, oral cultures, flexible stories, losing the knowledge of what was known, but gaining value, Bros. Grimm, ossified or concretized, creepy pastas, taking away the sharp edges, Tangled 2, Frozen 2, Moana (2016), for kids, if you’re interested in the frontier, how do the women get anywhere, an arbitrary tabu, [Jesse was thinking of a story entitled The Victim from Space by Robert Sheckley] Robert Silverberg’s Worlds of Wonder, Science Fiction 101, the narrator’s from Earth, giant paws, second pulse of migration, The Monsters by Robert Sheckley, Don’t Forget To Kill Your Wife by Robert Silverberg, a satire of conventions, Colony by Philip K. Dick, I Trusted The Rug Completely by Robert Silverberg, the Pacific is the vastness of space, an alien culture, as alien as anything we’ve ever seen (that’s sentient), first contact, Beyond Lies The Wub, Martian go-birds, the consequences of eating wub, rocket ships and technology, the ideas that are being explored, The Bones Of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan, the vastness of time and space, King Kamehameha, this nice tourist place, The Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii, a cursed idol, Uncle Tom’s Planet, one thing we know about science fiction writers (they were readers at one time), James P. Crow by Philip K. Dick, dealing with the past in their own stories, as close to Philip K. Dick as you can find, a pretty weird guy, how many stages the rocket has, just a guy who likes writing and likes ideas, not as obsessed with boobs, the sociology of what’s going on in a culture, Bring Me The Head Of Prince Charming, Roger Zelazny, Human Man’s Burden, The Native Problem, distant seas of talking, one of Evan’s favourite passages, climate change, China, Taiwan, not having a job is a humiliating state, make peace with consumption, a lot of moralism, anxiety about consumption, have fewer people, abolish the suburbs, Chapter 31, the girls again, dressing their fair and abundant locks, bathing five times a day, coconut oil, hair gel, the wages of living in this kind of world, not even a podcast even, or writing a book, or writing music, what will we do when we don’t have work?, the Puritan work-ethic, the Green New Deal, people need a job, people need meaningful work, a lot of nail salons, pet stores, pet waxing, no bookstores, a little puppy time, what kids want to do, some girls just don’t go outside, a local dude who wanted to look really fair, Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1957, restless blue-grey seas, a secret desire to be dead, a woman who loves truly and well, I’m through wasting my time, the sin against her father, the most precious thing a woman can give a man (a painful death), the ethos you’ve stepped into, long-pig (human meat), a Warner Bros. cartoon, the volcano god, Strange Eden by Philip K. Dick, Circe, transforming men into animals, why pigs?, the point of that story, other animals mentioned, lions, big cats, wolves, Brent is served meat and bread, is Circe turning men into pigs so she could eat them?, tastes like pork, Silverlock by John Myers Myers, what would have happened to Odysseus?, a fox, trickster, working out his own ideas, such a weird story, a fantasy with a science fiction setting, Piper In The Woods by Philip K. Dick, it could never work as an Electric Dreams episode, Evan is obsessed with work, maybe its a very Melville story, indigenous person, something very appealing about this, that colonial gaze, academic-y terms, Orientalism by Edward W. Said, witches, forming covens, In Thessaly by Clark Ashton Smith, The Golden Ass, transformation into animals, from the 2nd Century, inset tales, Scheherazade, Chaucer, story with the story, Borges, we’re lucky to live in such times, Evan needs to escape work, guaranteed basic income, too hung up on work, rich people bore Evan, Evan’s students resist it, sailor in a land full of Typees, in Marseilles the men are just sitting around drinking coffee all day, the labour movement, 8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what we will, working three jobs, she’s not bragging, the fundamental disconnect, industry, economy, hard work, saving, the more moral meaning, these have to be abolished, a cultural revolution, back in China, picking on the Buddhist monks, post scarcity communism, the clock and the time discipline, knights fighting snails, The Myth of the Machine by Lewis Mumford.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Midas Plague by Frederik Pohl

SFFaudio Online Audio

“the curse of want gives way to the curse of plenty”
-Frederik Pohl, in the anthology Nightmare Age

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, as a part of “The Shape of Things to Come” season in 1991 (a series of plays looking at the future) The Midas Plague was adapted from the acclaimed novella by Frederik Pohl.

Now, thanks to the terrific service RadioArchive.cc you can experience this positively smirk inducing satire of a consumer society flipped on it’s head.

Here’s my description of the premise:

Morey Fry lives in a post-scarcity world where cheap production has made commodities, consumer goods, and food ubiquitous. The “poor” are forced to spend their lives in a constant state of frantic consumption, continually upgrading their devices, clothes, jewelry, and appliances. But “poor” Morey can only wear-out his shirts so fast, and taking double cream in his coffee is giving a sick feeling. Meanwhile a black market in counterfeit ration book stamps flourishes, yet Morey is an honest man. When poverty stricken Morey marries a “rich” girl from the right side of the tracks they move into his well appointed mansion. There, the efficient household staff of robot butlers, valets, maids, cooks, and footmen foist endless consumer goods upon them both at a furious rate, something that upsets Morey’s new “wealthy” spouse – after all she’s is accustomed to a certain luxurious lifestyle.

The Midas Plague, illustrated by Emsh - from Galaxy, April 1954

BBC Radio 4RadioArchives.ccThe Midas Plague
Adapted by Mark Power from the story by Frederik Pohl; Performed by a full cast
1 MP3 (via TORRENT) – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: September 4, 1991

Directed by Alec Reid

Cast:
Morrey Fry – Michael Drew
Cheri Fry – Diane White
Howland – Alan Covenay
Judge Elon – Eric Allen
Grace Elon – Caroline Hunt
Semmelweiss – Nick Chivers
Newman – Nick Chivers
Fairless – Clarence Smith
Sam – Clarence Smith
Wally – Richard Pearce
Blaine – Richard Pearce
Tanaquil – Catherine Neal
Wainwright – Fraser Kerr
Henry, the Robot – Geoffrey Collins
Profirio – Geoffrey Collins

More illustrations from the publication in Galaxy, April 1954:
The Midas Plague, illustrated by Emsh - from Galaxy, April 1954
The Midas Plague, illustrated by Emsh - from Galaxy, April 1954

The Midas Plague can also be found in…
Ballantine Books - Nightmare Age edited by Frederik Pohl

and…
The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, Volume II, B

Posted by Jesse Willis