Robert J. Sawyer talks Big Ideas

SFFaudio Online Audio

Big Ideas - A TVO PodcastTV Ontario, the channel that brought us Prisoners Of Gravity is now podcasting the audio track from its terrific lecture show Big Ideas. The most recent broadcast and podcast features SF author Robert J. Sawyer expounding on the virtues of Science Fiction (and the original Star Trek) and the vices of Star Wars. Have a listen |MP3| to his 40 minute lecture and be blown away! RJS’ analysis is solid, and his delivery is absolutely Shatnerian. Also under the microscope are the film of Planet Of The Apes and novelist Michael Crichton. Here’s the official description:

“Author Robert J. Sawyer explains how Hollywood’s approach to science fiction, starting with George Lucas’s Star Wars, has dulled the edge that made science fiction such a pertinent film genre. Sawyer disects the problematic aspects of the original Star Wars film and shows how science fiction books continue to tackle difficult issues while their big screen counterparts take the easy road of big explosions and small ideas.”

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Posted by Jesse Willis

A serialized novel, blog and podcast: The Hole by Aaron Ross Powell

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Hole by Aaron Ross PowellAaron Ross Powell is blogging and podcasting his post-apocalyptic novel. Aaron sez:

“The book grew out of an idea I had while reading Under the Banner of Heaven, a book about Mormon history. So I suppose it’s, in a sense, a Mormon apocalypse story. I originally intended it as a long-ish short story, but it grew on me until I figured it’d work best as a novel. Doing it in blog posts was mostly meant as a motivational tool. I’d written half of another novel some time ago, but I had a difficult time making myself actually sit down and write. Writing online, in the open, meant that I’d have an audience waiting for each new piece, making me kind of obligated to produce. And that’s worked terrifically. The response has been far larger and enthusiastic than I could’ve ever expected, so I imagine I’ll keep with this method after The Hole‘s finished and I start on my next novel.”

After hearing that I asked Aaron about the connection between his other website Symbolic Order (a non-fiction site) and The Hole. Here’s what he said:

“I’d never thought much about the connection between the two, though I suppose it’s there. Symbolic Order was launched in 2000, I believe, with my good friend, Trevor Burrus — who’s now a fellow student of mine at the University of Denver’s law school. It was mainly meant to serve as an outlet for our non-fiction writings and essays, and so the topics addressed have drifted over time as our interests change. Recently, this has meant a lot of religious articles, since both Trevor and I are fascinated by the topic. This interest lead me to grab Krakauer’s book [Under The Banner Of Heaven] when I saw it on the CD rack at the library. I listened to it and was hooked on Mormonism, primarily because of the opportunity that particular faith yields to study a major religion’s formation at a time when the events were substantially documented — as clearly isn’t the case with standard Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. I kind of just had a “what if…” idea while reading one of the accounts of Joseph Smith’s finding/forging of the Book of Mormon and decided to run with it. That’s actually the part of the novel I’m most concerned about: I think the idea is pretty neat and I’m excited to get those plot points exposed, but I’m going to have to work hard to make it believable. I’m optimistic, but we’ll have to see. — At the broader level, from a non-believer’s perspective, religion is science fiction and it is fantasy. A god leads his chosen people on bloody battles throughout the realm. A merchant discovers pseudo-magical powers and becomes a great monarch. The secret history of America is exposed in ancient and hidden texts. The only difference is that, with religion, people believe it. That’s why I think of someone like Smith as a fantasist in the same vein as, say, Lovecraft. They’re imagining mythos and exploring their implications. Except that Smith ended up with millions of followers who think his vision will lead them to immortal bliss. It’s an odd relation, literary fantasy and religion, and one I haven’t thought much about. Now that you’ve drawn it to my attention, I’ll have to do so. Maybe my next piece of Symbolic Order…”

Right now, only the first five parts, of the existing fifty-two blogged ones, have been podcast. They are extremely short, but powerful, and remind me of the opening chapter of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.

Subscribe to the podcast via this feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Yorker Fiction Podcast: Jorge Luis Borges’s The Gospel According to Mark

SFFaudio Online Audio

At first blush this Borges story may not appear SFFaudio related, it certainly isn’t Science Fiction or Fantasy, it isn’t set in the future, doesn’t have any magic or legendary creatures – but I’m firmly in the camp that it is still relevant to us – we cover horror too you know. But still, this isn’t the “boogeyman-under-the-bed-with-a-sweetmeats-fetish” horror – it’s moral horror, the “oh the humanity” horror – the kind of horror that fills both Kurtz and Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness. Listen up folks because The Gospel According To Mark (first published in The New Yorker on October 23, 1971) is read by travel writer extraordinare Paul Theroux! And be sure to listen for Theroux’s ruminations, with The New Yorker’s fiction editor Deborah Treisman, on Borges and the tale itself – it’s found at the end of the story…

Fiction (from the New Yorker) PodcastThe Gospel According To Mark
By Jorge Luis Borges; Read by Paul Theroux
1 |MP3| Approx. 22 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Fiction (a New yorker Podcast)
Podcast: October 15th 2007
Espinosa, a medical student, discovers that traditional religious ideals overcome the morality of human beings.

You can subscribe to the podcast via this url:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

SFFaudio Review

Eifelheim by Michael FlynnEifelheim
By Michael Flynn; Read by Anthony Heald
2 MP3-CDs – 17.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1433206129
Themes: / Science Fiction / Philosophy / Religion / Catholicism / Aliens / Physics / First Contact / Black Death /

“Eifelheim” is a novel that’s not in a hurry. It’s a multiple course meal that offers helpings of philosophy, science, and religion at a leisurely pace that’s refreshing in today’s hurry-up climate. It was also a Hugo nominee for Best Novel of 2007.

The novel takes place in two times. In “Now”, two live-in scientists discuss and compare their findings on seemingly different subjects. One of them is investigating the absence of people in Eifelheim, a German town whose population disappeared during the 14th century. According to calculations of population patterns, this is a mathematical anomaly. The other scientist, a physicist, is trying to figure out why the speed of light is slowing down. That these two things are related is part of the story.

In the 14th century, a parish priest named Father Deitrich, who is dealing with the beginnings of the Black Death in his area, experiences first contact with an alien race that appears in his town of Eifelheim. Father Deitrich is a smart, compassionate priest, and, as he considers the aliens God’s children, he befriends them and cares for them as he can.

The focus occasionally switches back to the two scientists from “now”, who have conversations that shed light on the happenings in Eifelheim in the past. The main charm of this novel for me was the realistic portrayal of this honorable priest, and his culture. It portrays a medieval religion that was considered the source of all knowledge, and as such, the priest’s logical reasoning makes for compelling listening. To readers who enjoy philosophy and speculative science, and the history of both, it would be hard to find a modern novel more interesting.

Author Michael Flynn provides historical and physics notes at the end of the novel, and thanks should go out to Blackstone Audio for including them here in the audiobook. Narrator Anthony Heald does a tremendous job with the narration. He’s an excellent match with the material, handling accents and characters with unobtrusive skill. Choices he made with the alien voices were particularly effective.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Voyagers by Ben Bova

 SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Voyagers by Ben BovaVoyagers
By Ben Bova; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
12 CDs -13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Sample: Click here
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0786167424
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien Contact / Space Program / Politics / Religion /

Voyagers is a superior first contact novel. It was originally published in 1981, but it holds up extremely well, especially since our space program has not changed all that much in the past 26 years. But the novel’s setting is the now that was then, which means the United States and USSR are the two superpowers and the only two countries with space programs.

The book starts off in a similar way to Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. An alien craft has been detected, and it’s in the solar system. Those in the know have no clue what the ship wants – are the aliens hostile or friendly? What does this mean for humanity?

From there the story takes a tack similar to another Clarke novel – 2010: Odyssey Two, but Clarke’s book was published a year after Bova’s. The United States and the USSR decide to cooperate rather than fight. The underlings (i.e. the folks doing the actual work) are ready and willing to do so, but the politicians spend their time pulling the other way. Other internal arguments include everything from “when should we tell the public” to “who gets to go”.

Throughout the novel, Bova takes the time to look around at the world’s reaction as they are informed. Rumors fly and some factions of humanity take action based on those rumors. In short, Bova gives us a fascinating and plausible account of the world’s reaction to first contact. Widespread panic? Don’t think so.

All of this builds up to a truly powerful conclusion. The final two CDs of this audiobook contain the most affecting first contact narrative I’ve ever heard or read. I couldn’t help but to play them both again immediately upon finishing, and I’ve resolved myself to keeping them on my iPod indefinitely so that I’m sure to have them with me next time I find myself in a quiet moment under a starry sky.

Stefan Rudnicki continues to impress with this narration, in which he performs many different voices with many different accents, all effective. Though Bova’s story is Clarke-like, there is much more to work with in the character department than in Clarke’s stories, and this allows Rudnicki the opportunity to shine. Also effective in the audiobook are the chapter breaks, each of which is read by a different narrator and each of which contain thought-provoking stuff, from quotes of real-life scientists to news stories that are part of the fiction. I greatly appreciate this kind of thing in an audiobook because it provides a true break as effective as a new chapter in text. All too often, audiobooks don’t create this break for the listener, resulting in a few moments of disorientation as the listener mentally moves to a new setting and/or POV. No such problem here – the prominent breaks are much appreciated.

AUDIBLE Sponsored Conversation with Orson Scott Card, Stefan Rudnicki and Ben Bova

Online Audio has posted a new FREE audio interview/conversation between audiobook narrator Stefan Rudnicki and SF authors Orson Scott Card and Ben Bova. The talk is predominately about the role and value of audiobooks in the greater reading environment. Also covered is Card’s love of audiobooks (he’s a big big fan), Bova’s role in the creation of the Ender franchise and place of religion is science and Science Fiction. You can get the audio for it right HERE (but of course you’ll need to have an audible account).

Audible also tells us that: “Bova’s new book, The Aftermath (Book Four of The Asteroid Wars), is now available in audio at Audible.” That’s one of the many titles produced by Rudnicki for Audio Renaissance. OSC’s next “Ender” novel, A War of Gifts, will be released through Audio Renaissance and Audble October 30th 2007.