The SFFaudio Podcast #581 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Silver Key by H.P. Lovecraft

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #581 – The Silver Key by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Martin Reyto (for Legamus.eu). This is an unabridged reading of the short story (34 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Marissa VU, and Mr Jim Moon

Talked about on today’s show:
Weird Tales, January 1929, The Silver Key, a cameo by a bearded Gnorri, a cameo appearance, with The Silver Key on the mind, a whole theory, symmetry, flying vehicle, each of the wings represents an aspect of human existence, left on the dreaming room floor, Jesse had not read it, some theories from the conscious world, dream theories, a chronology, up for debate, 1919, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, The Dream-Quest Of Randolph Carter, cyclical element, a time loop, a time travel story, changes his life for the better, a better life, go with it, carter on the second loop, E. Hoffmann Price’s suggested sequel, living concurrently, a sequel, violently disliked by readers, which story was the most popular, no mention, willing to think it was a bad story, the HPLHs podcast episode, Kenneth Hite, a lot like a lot of other Lovecraft stories, The Tomb, outright references, the Great Cypress Swamp, who is the narrator of this story?, now it is agreed, the narrator is a friend of his, another dreamer, I shall ask him when I see him, a certain dream city, there are twists of time and space, the narrator himself is a dreamer, a mysterious Indian swami, a conclave of interested parties, an elderly eccentric of Rhode Island, Ward Phillips, still alive in another dimension, reigned as king, living a dream while you’re reading it, a personal crisis story, super sad, he’s become disenchanted with reality, disenchanted with his dreamworld, he’s philosophizing in fiction, the idea of a man whose pretending to act like he fits into a society, trapped in the is role, well meaning philosophers, I had this amazing dream, let’s get some Freud going here, maybe they know what theyre talking about, stamping out his imagination, he puts away his childish things, don’t be silly, a cultural shift to modernism, Clark Ashton Smith, fashions abruptly changed in the 1920s, esoteric and opulent prose, a brutalist style, poems about the automobile, we don’t have time for fairy glades and flights of fancy, early cubism, we need a tonne of grey and it ought’nt look like anything, a man out of time, after WWI, devoted to science, the over-extension of science to snuff out imagination, even knowing science takes away the beauty of it, science vs. fantasy, in stark contrast, two sides to Lovecraft, the dreamquest stuff and deep time and space, they’re doing so correctly, we’re fooling ourselves, the grinding of the wheel (grinds slow but fine), the depths of space and the depths of time, the womb-like dreamlike childhood innocence, reading his poetry, trying to reconcile the two, is Leslie S. Klinger going to do a third book?, where did this all come from?, its beautiful, a weird connection between the softness of the moss and the harsh reality of the gears, novels of the normal of the mainstream, well received by the empty herd?, a mimicing of the mimetic fiction, burning his manuscripts, his relationship with Weird Tales, Farnsworth Wright, give us your favourties, the more controversial shit you put into a show the more comments you get, disliked or not understood?, take your frogmen, Wright had a chip on his shoulder, The Loved Dead, Julia Morgan recorded one, the drawings Clark Ashton Smith did, a lot more sex in his stories…, The Evil Dead (1981), a guy on twitter (Bobby Derie), a disdain for the flesh, Case from Neuromancer, meat that gets you into cyberspace, playing PUBG, how funny Lovecraft is, Reading, Short And Deep, The Dream, Maurice Winter Moe, masturbation scenes, Unda; Or The Bride Of The Sea, if you go to YouTube, Jonathan Swift, very mocking poems, she gets out the chamber pot, smells and sounds, Strephon And Chloe, such cleanliness from brow to heel, no noisome whiffs, to make maid’s water, what poetic strains, he’s got stuff, remember that Swift is a minister, Hymen, Strephon had long perplexed his brains, to keep them sweet, the narrator intruding, the nymphs may smell it, can such a deity endure, lighting shot from Chloe’s eyes, forbid your daughters guzzling beer, in evil plight, what causes wind, think what evils must ensue, carminative and diuretic, fortune still assist the bold, even lambs fly the butcher, incredibly raunchy, a 1731 wedding toast, Strephon and Celia, The Lady’s Dressing Room, the kind of humour Lovecraft appreciates, not nice but funny, turning his own mockery on himself, how shallow, those pompous ideas, far less worthy of respect, some deep dark sad stuff, hitting us right where we live, in this way he became a kind of humorous, holy shit, in the first days of his bondage, the gentle churchly faith, only on closer view, the owlish gravity of sordid truth,

In the first days of his bondage he had turned to the gentle churchly faith endeared to him by the naive trust of his fathers, for thence stretched mystic avenues which seemed to promise escape from life. Only on closer view did he mark the starved fancy and beauty, the stale and prosy triteness, and the owlish gravity and grotesque claims of solid truth which reigned boresomely and overwhelmingly among most of its professors; or feel to the full the awkwardness with which it sought to keep alive as literal fact the outgrown fears and guesses of a primal race confronting the unknown. It wearied Carter to see how solemnly people tried to make earthly reality out of old myths which every step of their boasted science confuted, and this misplaced seriousness killed the attachment he might have kept for the ancient creeds had they been content to offer the sonorous rites and emotional outlets in their true guise of ethereal fantasy.

making me very sad, Celephaïs, Lord Dunsany, they’re real tied together, why this so painful, he’s doing a Philip K. Dick, he’s writing about himself, strongly autobiographical, hanging out with dryads,

Once in his ascent Randolph crossed a rushing stream whose falls a little way off sang runic incantations to the lurking fauns and aegipans and dryads.

what’s so painful about this story, making himself whole again, finds this key, he returns to childhood, its even worse, we’re happy at the end of Celephaïs, because its so real, it’s traumatic, Ask Lovecraft, some of you have asked me about The Silver Key, my grandfather Whipple had a key, a silver key wrapped in a parchment, what does this key open?, that really gets the basis behind this, this key only locks the place where the key is locked, the key is a way to get into the imagination and childhood, the wisdom of children, Kids Say The Darndest Things, “Biden’s kinda creepy”, his cousin, the very mundane things, an odd gift of prophecy, the connection between science fiction and the imagination, Day Million, exercising his imagination in a disciplined and an undisciplined way, sorta subtle so not loved, a sad circular story, the silver key gives you the power to do again, memories altered accordingly, you better appreciate what you have now, take it all in, you wont get to got there again, sit you down wisdom, living in nostalgia is super sad, pathetic, given that opportunity could anyone resist it?, how exiting things are when you’re a kid, there’s no way you could go back, nostalgia is a mistake, a push pull, experiences we want to re-embrace, New Zealand, I’m so depressed, it only goes one way, projecting into the future, if you want to live today you should spend all your time studying history, the CORONA virus, studying the SARS epidemic, studying vs. living in the past, noticing people tweeting dreams, go with the lava flow, Mom, tweeting dreams, kids today who are not under the vice of the church, they do have a big hat, surrounded by people who say you fantasy stories are garbage, write about people getting divorced and drinking less, where these stories are living, how much smell came into this, smell is super-associated with memory and nostalgia, I can still smell Hawaii, thinking about that photo, what you do more and more as time goes by, only the adults are capturing that, the massive innocence, the loss of innocence, so sad, Jim was 50 last year, a museum piece, I’m not going to be stuffy and crusty, fidget spinners, I remember when all that was fields, the world you grew up with is gone, WWI was this big hinge point, disillusioned with science, where is the hope?, William Blake accused Isaac Newton unweaving the rainbow, how wonderful it is to make something up, it IS magic, Alan Moore, magic is the original art, this story vs something I watched on the news, all just delusion, why not create new fantasies, its all kind of the same shit, getting mastery, BBS (bulletin board systems), getting all that equipment together (today), not a Yithian thing, his acceptance of the changing nature, fidget spinners are not cool, Paul does fidget, the disgust in Jesse’s voice, not making it better, the amaranthine wine from Atlantis that you drink and get depressed, reading the Statement Of Randolph Carter, based on the opposite, you need to study more math, he slams hard truths, the key is the only real thing in the universe, the proseyness of life, as middle age hardened upon him, why shouldn’t you spend all your time in the VR machine, matted hair, spending time in the meat space, my friends!, some sort of sadness there, talking about the darkness is comforting, being in a creative space, a solace from someone long dead, racism in this, his family his namesake, not everything about Lovecraft is based on race, that fear and horror of race is tied up with the meatspace and not the dreamworld, Pickman transformed into a ghoul, Jim’s show on The Shadow Over Innsmouth, trying on the mask of the monster for yourself, if you’re a vampire you can stay up all night, Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice, still painting I see, stupid human, God’s real I’ll take you to his house!, a hysterial way, that humour that fun and delight in the strange and the weird, never happier than when he’s found a new author, when he’s sharing it, a real fan, what’s that giant essay for?, Supernatural Horror In Literature, his literary inspirations, the horror of dark monsters, by god they’re amazing, a flip-flop in Fungi From Yuggoth, Lovecraft criticism down the wrong path, looking at his bookshelf, he wrote horror fiction because he was a horror fan, some liquid he’s going to kill himself, Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family, She by H. Rider Haggard, Horace Baboon Holly, the handsomest man in Europe, just go with it, the Scopes monkey trial, a monkey’s grandchild, its a science story, a tension between a love of science and its acknowledgements about its reality around us and this imaginative space that’s all about art (and almost commerce), no algorithm or formula for a good story, writing to a formula, I think I see a formula, a pastiche or unworkable, finding their own voice and formulas, such a scientist, science is good for explaining this amount of reality, perception of beauty, a meaning in and of itself, appreciating it in and of itself, a far more interesting story than Jim first took it for, rethinking how you think about Lovecraft, shake the de Camp off, Robert E. Howard, remove the traditional blinkers, he’s a thinker on the page, calling him a horror writer is very limiting, writing about philosophy, spinning up scenarios, not easily classifiable, almost no tentacles, how poetic the lines are, that jarring bit of dialogue, Randy!, Howie!, the phonetics, dunt and wold, haint she tuld you, mooning around in that snake den, tea-parties with dryads, like a tea ceremony, the Alexa device, this is really big Jesse, it’s all proprietary, Six Or Seven Sentence Stories, little silly stories are really fun, half the delight of Jesse’s life, a dangerous pig with pants, weird vocab words, somehow you can make them connect, the connections are very deep within, its reflected, a Chinese myth, there’s a story there, he has not chained his fortune to some marketplace, where’s Lord Of The Rings II?, a polite gentleman, trying to chase the market, the purity there is unbelievable, The Black Diamonds by Clark Ashton Smith, arabian knights, fistfights and swordfights, a delight, saw raw and pure, unashamed, not a good book, so entertaining, harness this imagination, inside a sturcture like a poem, revels in the language and the words and the construction, that same unadulterated pure imagination fantasy, he hasn’t been shamed out of it, the documentary The Emperor Of Dreams, Hippocampus Press.

Hugh Rankin illustration for The Silver Key by H.P. Lovecraft
Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #465 – READALONG: Dune (Book I of III) by Frank Herbert

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #465 – Jesse, Paul, Scott, Marissa, Matthew Sanborn Smith, Will, and Bryan talk about Dune: Book I “Dune” by Frank Herbert aka the first third of Dune.

Talked about on today’s show:
1965, serialized in Analog 1963, 1964, 15 years old, start the training early, mentat training, Bene Gesserit training, a trope, the crowning trope of a certain kind of science fiction, we are the universal super-being, fans are slans, it turns you into an asshole, peak podcast, a lot of drugs, the truthsayer drug, #thedrugsofdune, a drug book influenced by a drugee, rachag, coffee, the cranberry coloured stain of the sapho juice, mentats is a drug in the Fallout games, Nefud squatted, semuta, trance drugs, call on Doctor Yeuh, a wakeshot, sleeping drugs, ups and downs, poisons, the gom jabbar, inspiration, mushroom collecting, some science, Joe Rogan’s mushroom guy, psilocybin, pretty obvious, mushroomy, ecological science fiction, the creatures, part plant and part animal, the spice is worm poop, the network of how everything is interconnected, why it is so different from every other book, Philip K. Dick, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, a technology of the self, a drug of choice, meditation practices, how embodied the training Paul is doing, a very Joe Rogan book, body training, he is Joe Rogan, consciousness expansion, a prophecy laid down for him, a nice book about a mother and son going on a camping trip in the desert, wherever Paul goes, trite and facile, when Paul was 14/15, he has the same name as me, a mentat duke, save it for the next podcast, the first book of the first book of Dune, and baby sister in the womb, up to the point where Paul is crying for his daddy, high on spice beer, Florida, reading while travelling intensifies the reading experience, Tuscon, Idaho, the belly of a sandworm, walking around L.A., wasting water, get the squeezings, water discipline, what makes Dune so amazing, ecological novel, A Game Of Thrones before A Game Of Thrones, read it, read it, read it, an electro-static charged novel, pushing fifty, Dune Messiah, sparse, elegant, The Dune Encyclopedia, thoughtful and oblique, think harder and reflect, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, Arthur C. Clarke, a deep book, preparing for six years, sand dune migration in Oregon, comparative religion, psychology, twenty years, his genetic unconsciousness, a lot of poetry, Gurney Halleck, Dune World, try a Caladanian daughter, dense layer of referential, a second order approximation, a reaction to WWII and WWI, in different directions, Muslim history, resource politics, the ecological movement, decolonization politics, Orientalism by Edward W. Said, Napoleon, Lawrence Of Arabia turned on its head, exploiting the exotic, Misionaria Protectiva, a naked power grab, pretty subtle, intertwining change and stagnation, stress and response, the prison planet, galactic messiah, Arnold J. Toynbee, Chinese Gordon, Karthoum, the Mahdi, distributing information, a small film book of a small sandworm, a propaganda system, three great tutors for his sun, his mom is his yoga instructor, Thufir for math, Gurney for fighting, less internet than it should be, educating Paul, the Anderson/Herbert prequels, mentats are their YouTube, the Harkonen veil, basic facts, the Imperial Ecologist and Planetologist, the spacing guild, an information bottleneck, weather satellites, this information thing, the effect of a messiah on a society, the structure around a messianic leader, reflecting on the casualties of Paul’s jihad, unbelievers all, information transfer, Bene Gesserit fake news, accusing Russia, propaganda, this is a good duke, stories transfer (not YouTube videos), no rocketry, background ecology, door seals, meditation and the Arrakis version of chakras, a sense of pedagogy, a re-imagination of space-opera, Paul and Feyd are both students, formal and informal teachers, are you catching this?, loving relationship, one is the twisted and one is the pure, the policy and the curriculum, training up an aristocracy, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, the medieval space opera, Star Wars, why it works for bad reasons, monoplocies, CHOAM, autocracies, a dream of Jesuits, House Corrino, the terrible crime of stagnation, cybernetics, the great mind, Game Of Thrones type tactics, a thoughtful parody, a retro universe, an intervention in the history of Science Fiction, your magna carta, family atomics, kanly, reading this novel after 1990, reading it in the 1980s, an appendix show?, the banquet scene, such a faithful adaptation of a novel, Dr Yueh’s droopy mustache, it’s not about what you film, the emotional undercurrent above the table, players roles, chess pieces, a microscopic view of the macroscopic greatness of this book, Ted Chiang’s Understand, picking up all these things, Paul gets an insult, Liet Kynes’ ally, this is why Jesse doesn’t like going to dinner parties, the most important scene in the book?, what a lot of novels are afraid to do, head-hopping, what they’re thinking, how they’re plotting, the power of Herbert, an unpaid-off plot thread, the stillsuit’s manufacturer’s daughter, who put her into play?, in light of later events…, George Guidall’s is the best audiobook version, how proof against modern times, “roles for women” and “mansplaining”, strictly defined, maybe we’re being double out-thought, from the eyes of other characters, false information, when Yueh gives himself away, the distraction we see in him, unreliable head-hopper, the narrator makes us like Paul, the epigraphs, you have a traitor amongst you, we know pretty much everything, the tension comes from elsewhere, who the father of Jessica was, the only surprise, so awesome, spoilers are not the important thing, who the hidden murderer is doesn’t matter, not Yueh, inconceivable to break imperial conditioning, B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism, a towering achievement of world-building, a classic suspense story, Ken Schneyer, Princess Irulan is a propagandist, the opening, inside the propaganda machine, Hart To Hart, predestination as storytelling technique, Agamemnon by Aeschylus, two great houses, a knowing walk into doom, a reversal of the hero’s journey, a romance, the seeds of tragedy are being sown, remixes of contemporary and historical events, Gom Jabbar as a pun on Kareem Abdul Jabbar? [or is the jabbar derived directly from the Arabic for coercion or force?], the “Lansdraad”, the Hanseatic League, whipping all these things together, Tolkien, very Shakespearean, the soliloquy, Piter De Vries, watching Dune under the effect of edibles, watch the David Lynch movies first!, Starlog, a fascinating movie and book, The Twilight Zone Magazine, the reader creates the world for themselves, how an ornithopter works, Jodorowsky’s Dune, sparking off your imagination, Eric S. Rabkin’s “transformed language”, dragons, worm = wyrm, the epithets, silky and effeminate, the Harkonnen sexuality vs. the Atredies’ kanly manliness, the Baron’s an awesome villain, appetites, plans within plans, surrounded by weak terrible characters, don’t waste this sexy lady, whoever seduced the Baron in his youth, the greatest villains, Night At The Museum, to enhance the horror of the Harkonens, a love of a certain kind of efficiency and morality, trying to get revenge, the unexpected, “Russian hacking”, the internet research agency, it’s a bot, billionaires know each other, foolish and stupid thinking, seeing the inner workings of people’s minds, subtle body cues and motivational signals, we are trained by Herbert, the “my dead wife excuse”, when did Yueh flip, for murder?, securing his seed for another bloodline?, a text for analyzing reality, James Risen‘s debate with Glenn Greenwald, we’re becoming the Kwisatz Haderach while we’re reading it, priming for skepticism, the weirding way, Bene Gesserit kung fu, the voice is real, “the teacher voice”, the “parent voice”, The Wire, Stilgar spits on the table, the book is sneaky and devilish, a science of pain, living your life in a pain amplifier, similar to LSD and hallucinogens, layers going on underneath, collective unconscious, everything is interconnected, Jungian racial memory, the Reverend Gaius Helen Mohiam, Siân Phillips, you treat her as a common serving wench?, sequel and prequel books, Hellhole by Kevin J. Anderson, Seleucus Secundus, Sardukar, mining ideas, marrying soft and hard science fiction, Dune as a fat fantasy novel, noble houses, sword fights, magical powers, a fantasy book with science fiction discipline, science fiction tools, anthropology, Black Panther, a scientific ecology, no sense of the fantastic, The Stars My Destination, cold eyed realpolitik, political science, Michael Moorcock’s Starship Stormtroopers, what makes Mordor evil, when Gurney becomes to old, a moral difference, the evil is real, wanting to have the scenes, the road goes ever on, but what are the healing properties of that tree?, a walking tour of England, the greatest connection to fantasy is with how the Kwisatz Haderach works, a cool insane idea, the Mass Effect games, space magic, “everything’s connected man, I can travel to the stars!”, “I can read your mind, man!”, when Paul has a dream of Chani, the waking dream, Muad’dib, drunken Duncan Idaho, Altered Carbon, brain chemistry, advanced mental training to appreciate your dreams, lucid dreaming, pure fantasy, working against the Missionaria Protectiva, never mind about Elijah!, actual nuns took Scott away, the zeitgeist of science fiction in the 1960s, The Nine Billion Names Of God by Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven’s indestructible hulls, Philip K. Dick, Athena visiting Telemachus, the metaphor for a bowstring being drawn and released, the Butlerian Jihad, human machines and our magic and engineering, focused consciousness, the animal and the human, love and duty, fantasy strips away choice, Frodo, a fantasy of international relations, Tolkien wants to leave the world, those orcs, ultimately killable, tools for dealing with the world, take walks and smoke pipes, a training manual, it’s all coming together, points of realization, “wow, my mind blown!”, the morality and humanity of your parents, Dune World (the Analog serialization), the heroes are wiped out, the trap is sprung, when Gandalf is killed, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, great relief, traipsing through Farmer Maggot’s mushroom fields.

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

Dune World - illustration by John Schoenherr

CAEDMON - Dune Banquet Scene - art by Kelly Freas

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Elvenquest AUDIO DRAMA

SFFaudio Review

Elvenquest featuring Stephen Mangan with Darren Boyd, Sophie Winkleman, Alistair McGowan, and Kevin EldonElvenquest
Written by: Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto
Cast: Stephen Mangan, Alistair McGowan, Sophie Winkleman, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Dave Lamb. Also featuring Chris Pavlo, Carrie Quinlan, Lizzy Watts, and Clare Willie.
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Released: 3 August 2009
Publisher: AudioGO

Synopsis: Sam is a fantasy novelist who is whisked off to a Tolkien-style parallel universe by a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess, and a feisty dwarf called Dean. Why? Because Sam’s dog is the Chosen One who is destined to save “Lower Earth” from the evil Lord Darkness.

Three words: Fun. Fun. Fun.

A smartly written script and a great cast make for a wonderfully hilarious send-up of the fantasy quest story and of fantasy novels in general.

Writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto hit all the right notes: the Chosen One, a prophecy, elves, dwarves, warrior maidens, demons, goblins, trolls, unicorns, deadly traps and puzzles, and colonic irrigations, to name a few. Imagine Lord of the Rings as written by Douglas Adams, Mel Brooks, and the Monty Python troupe and you get the picture.

Most importantly–the cast. The cast, I think, really nails the script with excellent performances and crackerjack comic timing.

Stephen Mangan as Sam Porter seems to be, at times, channeling Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and it works. Sam, like Arthur, is out of his depth in Lower Earth and is simply trying to fit in.

Alistair McGowan plays Lord Darkness like a mixture of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder. He’s even got a Blackadder-like delivery and intonation.

Vidar the Elf Lord isn’t the brightest crayon in the box but makes up for it by being gung-ho and bombastic and Darren Boyd captures that beautifully. He sounds like he’s having too much fun declaiming and waxing rhapsodic.

Dave Lamb, as Amis the Dog/the Chosen One, is canine exuberance personified. Sophie Winkleman is superb as Penthiselea the Warrior Princess, lending the right touch of kick-ass chick with a sword, as well as being the voice of grounded reason for the others and, in many cases, the straight man–er, woman.

As Dean the Dwarf and Kreech the evil sidekick, Kevin Eldon manages to portray seemingly polar opposite characters who happen to share a “love” for violence. Dean wants to dash into battle at every opportunity while Kreech wants to unleash the goblin hordes on the questers.

The one thing that irked me while listening was the laugh track. I didn’t think it needed to be there and, at first, was distracting. But I got used to it enough that it “faded” into the background.

According to this site, the show was recorded in front of a live audience. Explains the track.

But I still think it’s unnecessary.

Other than that, this is a top-of-the-line production and I highly recommend it. Especially if you love comedy and fantasy. And comedic fantasy.

Posted by Abner Senires

Review of A Galaxy Trilogy Volume 2 – A Collection of Tales from the Early Days of Science Fiction

SFFaudio Review

A Galaxy Trilogy, Vol. 2A Galaxy Trilogy, Vol. 2 – A Collection of Tales from the Early Days of Science Fiction
By David Osborne, E.L. Arch, and Manly Banister; Read by Tom Weiner
11 CDs – Approx. 13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433291081
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / First Contact / Politics / Cold War / Russia / Washington, D.C. / Colorado / Amnesia / Prophecy / Sociology / Iowa / Teleportation /

Back in the 1950s at the dawn of science fiction, writers were turning out wildly imaginative stories for the pulp magazines. Robert Silverberg, writing as David Osborne, estimates he wrote over a million words in one year. Here are three more exciting stories from those heady days from the pioneers of science fiction.

Discs 1 – 3: Aliens From Space by David Osborne (Robert Silverberg)

First published in 1958, under a pseudonym, this Robert Silverberg short novel is set in a fascinatingly futuristic 1989. It is in a period of relative peace on Earth since the recent collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. With this new détente in the offing only an outside influence could disrupt the path to global harmony. And that is exactly what happens when an alien spacecraft lands in an Iowa cornfield. It seems that these aliens have been watching Earth for millennia, and now we are on the cusp of ‘regular interplanetary travel’ these alien beings wish Earth to accept their hand/tentacle in friendship. This aid would be especially needed too as it seems there is another alien species out there in the galaxy – one which would likely destroy the Earth, and all humans, given half a chance. A team of diplomats and scientists from around the world is quickly assembled to negotiate a treaty and alliance. Among them is Professor Brewster, a prominent scientist of psychosociology. He thinks the aliens are hiding something. But could it just be their very alienness? He points out the advanced technology they offer comes with its own problem; receiving technology from an technologically advanced civilization doesn’t advance the recipient’s own culture – it merely makes the culture dependent upon the giver’s civilization. But is that a small cost compared with annihilation?

A friend of mine pointed out that Greg Bear’s 1987 novel The Forge Of God has a similar premise. There are many terrific ideas in the gloriously short novel. Aliens From Space is a kind of cold war apologue, a prisoner’s dilemma situation. Wrong action invites destruction or at the very least, great loss. In a way the Brewster character reminded me of Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germs And Steel fame). Diamond and Brewster, by asking interesting questions, find interesting answers.

Discs 4 – 7: The Man With Three Eyes by E.L. Arch (Rachel Cosgrove Payes)

The Man With Three Eyes is not a terrific Science Fiction novel. But, it is a fair meta-Science Fictional story. It works well as a quasi-period piece/alien invasion story/Agatha Christie-style mystery. It’s set in 1967 New York, more specifically in Greenwich Village. It’s protagonist, I won’t call him a hero, is an Irishman, Dan Gorman. He works as a Science Fiction magazine illustrator and lives in Mrs. Mumble’s boardinghouse. That’s the central location for the plot, as it’s a virtual United Nations of ethnically diverse characters. There’s an Afghan, a German, a Mohawk, a Welshman, an Eskimo (not an Inuit), an Ethiopian, and a refugee from Hong Kong. They all seem to get along pretty well until Dan accidentally places himself in the middle of an alien espionage ring operating out of a dead drop joke shop. There, he picks up a “third eye” and takes it to a party to impress a girl. It doesn’t work like he expects (but then I can’t imagine it’d work at all), and instead acts like the titular object in H.G. Wells’ short story The Crystal Egg (giving the user a vision of aliens on another planet). Dan then leaves the party and looses the eye in his own apartment. The next two thirds of the novel feature everyone hunting for it.

Sound confusing? It is, at least a bit. I found myself wondering how fast E.L. Arch had written The Man With Three Eyes Or if he had written it on a bet. But, like I said, I think it kind of works anyway. It’s not really a good Science Fiction story, but it ain’t a bad story and can probably tell you a lot about how Science Fiction stories were written in the mid 1960s New York. It felt quite a bit like what I imagine time travel to Greenwich Village in the 1960s would feel like.

Discs 8 – 11: Conquest Of Earth by Manly Banister

The aliens came to earth more than two ice ages ago. Now, under millenia of domination by these invaders, one Man amongst a small cadre of six Men with mental powers, elite combat training and a deep education in all things human, can manoeuver to throw off the chains that have sapped Earth of most of its precious resource, water.

Like the Bene Gesserit from Frank Herbert’s Dune, Manly Banister has created a far future quasi-planetary romance with and especially compelling depiction of what it would mean to be trained to detect and interpret every nuance of human physiology. In fact this whole short novel is like a pocket version of Dune – what with all the quasi-religious/scientific ideas, the overlords, the secret societies and the deserty planet-ness. Conquest of Earth may have more ideas per hour as any other audiobook I’ve listened to in the last decade. When Kor Danay (aka the Scarlet Sage) graduates from his training he begins a quick journey across Earth that leads to scenes of assassination, disguise, mind reading and later an unusual trip off-world with a quickly romanced wife named, get this, Soma! One reviewer called the plot “aimless” and “desultory” and I can see that. The whole story feels disjointed in a way that cannot really be understated. Kor has many abilities the set him apart from other people, and even his fellow “Men.” First up, he has the ability to speed up the molecules of his body so as to, from his perspective, stop time! This trope, by the way, was probably first proposed in the The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells, and later by Star Trek in an episode called “Wink Of An Eye.” One lengthy later sequence features another quasi-Star Trek fore-echo too, namely in “The Paradise Syndrome.“ Did I mention that Kor also has a ”Divisible Mind” which may be the key to defeating the enemy Trisz? He does!

In terms of the style of writing, well, there is a nice soliloquized-style explanation of why the Trisz should not be thought of as actually evil despite being insidious energy beings or a being who rule (or rules) the Earth with an iron fist. There is a lot of other zany stuff going on in this novel: teleportation, trickery, a prophetic computer, and a dose of amnesia (for good measure). I will admit Conquest Of Earth comes off as if it was plotted by a mish-mash of meth’d up aliens in order to win a stream of consciousness contest, but somehow it really didn’t seem to bother me. And, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it had won.

David Osborne is an acknowledged pseudonym of Robert Silverberg. E.L. Arch was a pseudonym of Rachel Cosgrove Payes (being an anagram of her first name: “Rachel”). But it is entirely unclear to me who Manly Banister is or was. There is some discussion of the improbably named Manly Banister HERE, but no Wikipedia article currently exists on this person. Even the narrator name, Tom Weiner, is an alias.

Narrator Tom Weiner’s voice lends depth and presence to the three novels – he adds an appropriate alien lisp to some of the alien speakers, plays around with accents and delivers it all a gravitas and seriousness that doesnt mock this fun material. Listening to A Galaxy Trilogy Volume 2 felt very rewarding!

A minor issue with this collection includes the distinct lack of markings on the discs. 11 CDs are in the set, with three short novels, but none of them is marked with which novels are on which discs. On the other hand, all three novels begin at the beginning of a CD.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The World Set Free by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells Month

Science Fiction Audiobook - The World Set Free by H.G. WellsThe World Set Free
By H.G. Wells; Read by Shelly Frasier
1 MP3-CD or 6 CDs – Approx. 6.5 Hrs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1400150108 (MP3-CD); 1400100100(CDs)
/ Science Fiction / Atomic Power / Atomic Bombs / War / Utopia / Politics / Futurism / Prophecy / World State /

“Never before in the history of warfare had there been a continuing explosive; indeed, up to the middle of the twentieth century the only explosives known were combustibles whose explosiveness was due entirely to their instantaneousness; and these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them.”

The Father of Science Fiction first works are still among our classics. With excellent treatments of alien invasion (The War of the Worlds), space travel (First Men in the Moon), proto-genetic manipulation (The Island of Dr. Moreau), and of course time travel (The Time Machine). In his first decade of a writer he had written these classics as well as The Invisible Man, and The Food of the Gods, as many classic short stories.

Wells continued his writing career for another 40 years. Always remaining a popular author. So what happened to all these books he wrote? What happened to this iconoclast of SF? Why were his later works seldom reprinted and so hard to find? In his day, books like Tono-Bungay and Ann Veronica were huge critical and commercial successes. Thanks to Project Gutenberg and other public domain sites, his more obscure works are now obtainable. Much of his later work does not qualify as SF. But there are a number of his novels that deal with prophecies and future utopias and do qualify as SF.

The World Set Free was one of those future visions. Written and published upon the cusp of World War I, the novel proves that Wells had a gift for prophecy, although many of the details played out in a different way. In the novel the World War would not occur till 1956.

The main impetus of the novel is the advent of atomic power, both as a bomb and as a power source. The atomic bomb has many similarities to the actual bombs, including decaying radiation. Wells’ portrait of a World War would lead to numerous atomic bombs destroying civilization.

Wells had hoped from the ashes of a World War that nationalism would dissolve and a new world state would evolve. He portrays the World War in a horrific way. For one who saw the war as a way to a new world order, he does not handle the horrors of war with kid gloves.

Wells uses a narrative device that this book is written from a far utopian future. And from this far future perspective, it tells of the dark days of the war and then of the end of countries and the beginning of the world state. The tone is scholarly and leaves the listener/reader distanced from the characters.

I believe Wells started to see himself as an educator to the masses. That through his writing, both fiction and non-fiction, he could change the world. Sounds like a maniacal delusion, but he was an extremely popular writer. He was the equivalent to a rock star in terms of cultural popularity, but with the intellectual clout of an author. Unfortunately this didactic charge, he placed on himself, put storytelling subordinate to the message. Despite these flaws, the novel is filled with many thought provoking ideas.

Shelly Frasier narrates the novel. After an introduction, in which she speaks with an American accent, she switches to an English accent for the text of the novel. After getting use to this change, I found her accent and characterization quite good and she turns in a solid performance.

Review of Archibald MacLeish’s The Fall Of The City

SFFaudio Radio Drama Review

Science Fiction Radio Drama - The Fall Of The City by Archibald MacLeishThe Fall Of The City
Based on the script by Archibald MacLeish; Perfomed by a full cast
1 CD – 32 Minutes 11 Seconds [RADIO DRAMA]
Producer / Publisher: Willamette Radio Workshop / LodestoneCatalog.com
Produced / Published: 2004 / 2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Allegory / Prophecy / Utopia / Dystopia / Totalitarianism /

“- In a time like ours seemings and portents signify -“

What few of the pre-WWII fantasy radio dramas produced tended to be allegorical, The Fall Of The City is no different in that respect. This one however has a unique feature – it was written as an extended dramatized poem “verse for radio” as they called it. The original production starred the then ubiquitous Orson Welles and a number of other Hollywood stars. This is the modern re-recording of the original 1937 radio drama. The folks at Willamette Radio Workshop have put the results to CD, but it was actually broadcast on WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa, Florida in the fall of 2004. The production asks several questions appopriate for totalitarian times: ‘What freedom is worth?’ ‘What is freedom?’ And most importantly, “freedom from what?”

As Fall Of The City begins, a ghostly almost prophetic figure has appeared in city’s cemetary for three days running. When she finally speaks to the gathered mob she fortells the arrival of a conqueror, warning “The city of masterless men will take a master, there will be shouting then, blood after.” The citizenry, shocked that their advanced state may be under dire threat are agitated into a debate about the possible actions they might take to ensure their continued freedom. I found it an experience not unlike that of a staged Greek tragedy, thus it is all three high-browed, reflective and wise. To say more might be to reveal to much. What I can say without fear of spoiling the experience for you is that this is an artful production, sound design and music are beautifully rendered with voice acting in absolute top form. I’d be interested to hear if the team at Willamette will be taking on MacLeish’s 1938 follow up Air Raid another of his poetry dramas.

Posted by Jesse Willis