New Releases – Vintage SF – Frederik Pohl, Robert Bloch, Leigh Brackett and more

New Releases

Wow! Five Great New Titles from Wonder Audio!

This Crowded EarthThis Crowded Earth and Other Stories
By Robert Bloch; Read by William Coon
6hr, 39 min.- [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009Available at Audible & iTunes

Life changes on Earth when the population tips the scales at over X billion people. Harry lives in a single room without a window and hates the commutrain ride, which is like the black hole of Calcutta on wheels. If he can get his private car out of commugarage, he might be able to get to work on time. If only it wasn’t for his headaches….

Also included are the stories “The Old College Try”, “Black Bargain”, “Founding Fathers”, and “A Good Imagination”.

WolfbaneWolfbane
By Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
5hr, 34min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

Available at Audible & iTunes

“A work of sheer, exuberant imagination.” (Arthur C. Clarke)

The Earth has forcibly been taken from its orbit. It began with an extra-terrestrial pyramid on top of Mt. Everest. And then a “runaway planet” took the Earth as its binary. And now harsh generations have passed since the inhabitants last saw the light of their sun, Sol.

Society has grown rigid. The meek lambs have inherited the Earth, even if it’s a very poor Earth, indeed. It’s a hard world for all. But Glenn Tropile is no lamb, and if his citizens finds out he’s a wolf, it will be the wolf that goes to slaughter.

Four Sided Triangle The Four-Sided Triangle
By William F. Temple; Read by Tim Rowe
53min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

Joan Leeton was certainly a lovely girl. A perfect girl for an English scientist to fall in love with. Unfortunately for Will Fredericks and Bill Josephs that’s exactly what happened, to both of them – and to the same girl too, Joan! But they were no ordinary scientists, and they created the most marvelous invention. A device that could perfectly replicate anything. But could it replicate a lovely girl named Joan Leeton? Could they create a love triangle with four people?

A classic story from Science Fiction’s Golden Age. First published in Amazing Stories in 1939.

The Vanishing Venusians The Vanishing Venusians
By Leigh Brackett; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
1hr 20min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

Matt Harker and his people have journeyed for far too long. They’re a rag-tag group of Earthmen and Venusians floating on the Sea of Morning Opals… floating without a home and with very little hope, victimized by hostile natives, burning fevers, bad soil, and bad luck.

When land is sighted, Harker makes the decision to scale the mountainous terrain in the dim hopes of finding a new home. With two companions, he ascends to encounter unknown malevolent alien beings. Harker thought he’d be lucky to find a habitable land – but now he thinks he will be lucky to just survive!

Plague of Pythons Plague of Pythons
By Frederik Pohl; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
4hrs 9min – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2009

The pythons had entered into Mankind. No man knew at what moment he might be possessed! On Christmas, the world’s freedom died. Every man, woman and child lay in the grip of fear, for no one knew at what moment his nearest friend or a casual stranger might suddenly be possessed by some brutal mind… and begin to murder and destroy.

For Chandler it was worse than for most. He was both victim and executioner. He had suffered himself, and he had committed a violent crime while under the strange domination. Accused of hoaxing, he was driven from his home. He wandered the world and found it smashed like a spoiled child’s plaything. Now Chandler was in the very presence of the destroyers! But what could one person do against such power? The power of gods!

Did you know you can get either of these titles, as well as any other Wonder Audio title for just $7.49? Just sign up at Audible.com/WonderAudio

Posted by The Time Traveler of the Time Traveler Show

LibirVox: This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxLibriVox is really picking up the pace of audiobook production. Happily, more and more of these free public domain audiobooks being released have a single narrator. This latest audioboo is a title listed in our 3rd Annual SFFaudio Challenge, it’s a cool short novel by the legendary Robert Bloch – that makes it’s narrator, Gregg Margarite, eligible for a prize! Wanna prize Gregg?

Incidentally, I’ve now put up a ROBERT BLOCH author’s page, where you can find more Bloch on audio, and I’ve added a 1-click subscribe version to our LibriVox + SFFaudio = Instant iTunes Audiobook page too.

LibriVox Science Fiction - This Crowded Earth by Robert BlochThis Crowded Earth
By Robert Bloch; Read by Gregg Margarite
12 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 3 Hours 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: March 05, 2009
Robert Bloch (1917 – 1994) was a prolific writer in many genres. As a young man he was encouraged by his mentor H. P. Lovecraft, and was a close friend of Stanley G. Weinbaum. He also wrote many screenplays including Hitchcock’s Psycho, and scripts for the original Star Trek. He received the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and he is a past president of the Mystery Writers of America. Published in Amazing Stories in 1958, This Crowded Earth is a thriller set on an overpopulated Earth of the future.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/this-crowded-earth-by-robert-bloch.xml

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Fix: Rocket Science 1958 – 1959

SFFaudio News

The Fix - Short Fiction ReviewPosted on February 1 at The Fix: Short Fiction Review is the latest Rocket Science column, which covers 1958 – 1959. The stories covered: “Or All the Seas with Oysters” by Avram Davidson, “The Big Front Yard” by Clifford Simak, and “That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch.
 
 
“Or All the Seas with Oysters” by Avram Davidson – No audio version known.

“The Big Front Yard” by Clifford D. Simak – No audio version known.

“That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch – Included in Gravely, Alternate World Recordings, 1976, read by Robert Bloch.
 
 
While I’m in 1958 and 1959, I should mention that the Hugo Winning novels from those years have both been published by Audible Frontiers:

1958 Best Novel or Novelette:
The Big Time
By Fritz Leiber; Read by Suzanne Toren
Audible Download – 4 hours 42 mins – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2008
 
 
 

Audible Frontiers - A Case of Conscience by James BlishSFFaudio Essential1959 Best Novel:
A Case Of Conscience
By James Blish; Read by Jay Snyder
Audible Download – 7 Hours 55 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: November 2008
|READ OUR REVIEW|
 
Also worth mentioning, but not audio related, is that I got my latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the mail yesterday, and in that issue is a reprint of “That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch. Great story!
 
Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Middle Woman by Orson Scott Card

SFFaudio Review

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show Audio Bonus - Middle WomanMiddle Woman
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
1 MP3 File – 9 Minutes 57 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show
Published: March 2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Fable / Dragons / 3 Wishes /Immortality /

This is the second “Audio Bonus” from Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show online magazine, the plan appears to be to offer one bonus MP3 story per issue. Cool!

Orson Scott Card’s short fiction is connected to people in ways that other speculative fiction often isn’t. Realistic character psychology always takes the lead over scenarios, but his scenarios always test his characters’ psychologies – it makes for a special completeness rarely found in Speculative Fiction. Combine this with a refinement of prose, where every word is perfectly placed, and you get a little piece of magic in every OSC story. In this case, “Middle Woman” is a fable style fiction, another variation of that old saw “the three wishes”. Originally published under OSC’s pseudonym “Byron Walley”, it takes the idea of moderation, something almost always absent from fables, and runs with it. It reminded me of a kinder, gentler version of Robert Bloch’s classic That Hellbound Train. Interestingly, it also offers a more restive solution to W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw. The setting is Eastern, and given the “middle” of the title I suspect it is working in the ‘middle kingdom’ style of storytelling. Whether I’m right about that or not you’ll have to check it out yourself to decide.

Quite short, only 9 minutes, this is ably read by Mary Robinette Kowal who manipulates her voice in all the right ways to lend classic fairy tale reading to this modern fable. In addition to being a terrific narrator, Kowal is a professional puppeteer who also moonlights as speculative fiction author. “Middle Woman” is the Audio Bonus found in Issue Two of the online magazine Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

DISCLAIMER: Mary Robinette Kowal, when not reading stories aloud is an SFFaudio reviewer.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Greatest Horror Stories of the 20th Century

Horror Audiobooks - The Greatest Horror StoriesThe Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century
Edited by Martin Greenberg; Read by Various Readers
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787117234
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Curses / Telepathy / Childhood / Demons /

“Featuring some of the masters of the genre, past and present, The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century are as remarkable for their literary value as for their scream factor. Whether you are a passionate horror lover or a devotee in the making, you will find much to entertain. Listen for screams as ancient and unspeakable evil meets the modern psyche.”

Judicious use of musical cues are the only enhancement to these horror stories. Twelve horrific short stories, to be sure, but are they truly the greatest of the 20th century? Read on, MacDuff….

“The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner
Read by Michael Gross
A creepy Lovecraftian tale that almost could have been written by H.P. Lovecraft himself. It was first published in Weird Tales’ March 1936 issue. A worthy addition to the list of The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century list and Michael Gross does a good job with it. And by the way, the R.O.U.S.’s probably don’t really exist.

“Calling Card” by Ramsey Campbell
Read by Juliet Mills
First published in 1982, Ramsey Campbell’s entry in this anthology is more confusing than scary. Juliet Mills is fine but she couldn’t help unravel what we’re supposed to be afraid of. Something about a nice old lady and her mailman delivering a 60-year-old Christmas card?

“Something Had To Be Done” by David Drake
Read by John Aprea
First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1975 issue, this is an excellent Vietnam War era is a freakshow of the ‘coming home in a bodybag story’. It combines the friendly fire and frag stories of that war with the accelerating fear of the supernatural – the tension builds until the closing moment – very similar in tone and quality to Robert R. McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. Reader John Aprea does good work with good material!

“The Viaduct” by Brian Lumley
Read by Roger Rees
“The Viaduct” is a Stephen King-ish tale without the supernatural element – two boys make an enemy of another and come to a sticky end. This is the longest tale in the collection, overly long in my estimation. I was amazed how little content this story has, especially for its length, none of the characters are sympathetic and by the end I was almost rooting for them all to be killed- just as long as it was done soon. Ineffectual because of its length and exploitative and I don’t mean that as an insult, it plays, if it plays at all, on fear without telling us anything about ourselves or anything else. On the other hand Roger Rees’ reading was just fine. “The Viaduct” is in my opinion not up to the standards of some of the stories in this collection.

“Smoke Ghost” by Fritz Leiber
Read by Beverly Garland
An early Fritz Leiber yarn, “Smoke Ghost” posits what a ghost from an urban industrial society would be like, as opposed rattling chains, old bed sheets and creaky haunted houses of the pre-industrial age. Frighteningly well written and very well read. First published in Unknown Magazine’s October 1941 issue.

“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg
Read by William Atherton
William Atherton did a very nice reading of this Hugo Award nominated and Nebula winning short story (1969). “Passengers” is more SF than horror but it is 100% worthy of inclusion. It is about the uninvited guests who wouldn’t leave. These evil aliens have invaded the Earth telepathically and at unpredictable times, seize control of a human mind and force a person to do… things(!). Society has adjusted, but not every individual person will go along with all the conventions humanity has adopted to deal with the “Passengers”. Silverberg’s story examines a relatively small SF theme, stories involving involuntary control of one’s body… think the character of Molly in Neuromancer or the Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s short story Sitting Around the Pool, Soaking Up Some Rays or Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters – it is a horror story because it speaks to such a violation of one’s body. Also interesting is the counterfactual raised by the premise – illustrating how difficult it is to determine exactly where the boundary line between free-will and determinism lies.

“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner
Read by Patrick MacNee
Set in 1942, “Sticks” is a World Fantasy Award nominated story (1974) that is decidedly Lovecraftian in content and execution. Think Blair Witch Project meets pulp magazine illustrations and you’ll get the idea. Narrator Patrick MacNee does fine work with it too. With all this inspired by Lovecraft storytelling I only wish they’d included some of H.P.’s original prose, but in lieu of that “Sticks” is a good substitute.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” by Robert Bloch
Read by Robert Forster
First published in Weird Tales’ July 1943 issue “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” is actually a better story than it reads now. What seems a mite cliched today was quite fresh in 1943 and this tale was one of the earliest works of fiction to use ‘the ripper redjack’ – something that is relatively common today. Some narrators have a voice that grabs you and won’t let go, Robert Forster is one of them, his range is good, he does a great English accent on this one too – but its his cadence and his gravelly voice that pull me into his orbit every time. Well read and a good yarn.

“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury
Read by Alyssa Bresnahan
Alyssa Bresnahan, professional full time narrator and AudioFile Magazine Golden Voice, does a very good reading of Bradbury’s short story. “The Small Assassin” is about a young couple and their first child; everything would be okay if only the newborn would only accept the world outside the womb. Horror as parenthood – who’d of thunk it? Newly minted parents probably. This tale was previously recorded by Ray Bradbury himself by pioneering audiobooks publisher Caedmon.

“The Words Of Guru” by C.M. Kornbluth
Read by Susan Anspach
Originally published under Kornbluth’s “Kenneth Falconer” pseudonym, in Stirring Science Stories’ June 1941 issue. Well regarded despite its pulpy exposition, “The Words Of Guru” is a genre-crosser full of cosmic demonism and full-tilt weirdness that comes to a thundering crash just minutes after it starts.

“Casting The Runes” by M.R. James
Read by David Warner
I was quite lost listening to this one. I couldn’t tell who was speaking much of the time, this has to do with the fact that many of the characters aren’t given names and the fact that the way this tale was written it would flow far easier on the printed page than it does aurally. In the paper version some names are blanked out (as if censored), David Warner does his best to fill in these gaps which are unreproducable in audio, but ultimately his efforts are unsuccessful. Magic and curses. First published in 1911!

“Coin Of The Realm” by Charles L. Grant
Read by Louise Sorel
Reminiscent in theme of Neil Gaiman’s style of urban fantasy, “Coin Of The Realm” is an interesting tale of the employees of a toll booth on a lonely highway who occasionally collect some very odd coins from the drivers on their road. First published in a 1981 Arkham House collection entitled Tales from the Nightside.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Hollywood Fantasies: Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Hollywood FantasiesHollywood Fantasies – Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town
By Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, John Jakes, David Morrell, Michael Reaves, David Schow, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg and Henry Slesar; Read by Susan Anspach, David Birney, Harlan Ellison, Jamie Farr, Laini Kazan, Steve Kmetko, Harley Jane Kozak, Favid Madden and John Rubinstein
4 cassettes – Approx 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1997 – hardcopy out of print (available for download at Audible)
ISBN: 0787109460
Themes: Fantasy / Hollywood / Movies / Television / Westerns / Witchcraft / Virtual Reality / Magic /

Learn the truth behind the mask of Hollywood in these ten bizarre tales of dreams and dream weavers, movies and movie-makers, by some of the most respected fantasy writers of our time.

This disappointing collection has a few redeeming tales, but few must-listen gems. The majority of the stories feel like filler – many feature tacked on twist endings that are less than stellar. Apparently Harlan Ellison’s reading of his own story, “Laugh Track,” has been modified in the performance – with the addition of a few lines here and there – if anybody’s gonna mess with a story it best be the author. The cover art is utilitarian but colorful, packaging for this audiobook is however very poor, most examples of these 4 cassette plastic cases with cardboard covers have become unbound as the glue holding the two together was not up to its task. Another minor annoyance, the mislabeling of cassette 4, Ed Gorman’s story “Gunslinger” is said to run through all of side 7 and onto 8, when it is the reverse. “Dead Image” starts on side 7 and runs through all of side 8.

Stories Included:

“The Never-Ending Western Movie” by Robert Sheckley
Jamie Farr’s gruff cowboy voice successfully narrates this 1976 short story, which posits an alternate world in which the old-fashioned movie serial westerns and reality television have merged. This is hard enough on the actors, who now have to do their own stunts, but when the prop guns fire real bullets acting scared isn’t too tough.

“One For The Horrors” by David Schow
A run-down movie theater shows prints of lost movie masterpieces like The Man Who Would Be King starring Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable? The only thing that could top that is what’s playing tomorrow night! This one really is fantasy! Strictly for film connoisseurs – it held my interest but could have exited the stage a little more interestingly. Author David Schow must have done some fascinatingly fun research for this one. Reader Steve Kmetko works some magic of his own in the theater of the ear.

“The Man Who Wanted To Be In The Movies” by John Jakes
George wants to be in movies, so he visits his local licensed witch to cast a spell that’ll do the job. Harley Jane Kozak, the narrator, is fine – but the story itself is absolutely pointless and uninteresting.

“Laugh Track” by Harlan Ellison
Have you ever wondered where the laugh tracks from television sitcoms come from? Meet Wally Modisett, the Phantom Sweetener. Originally appearing in “Weird Tales” Magazine in 1984, this overly lengthy tale is almost made up for in part by Ellison’s enthusiastic performance, told in first person.

“Reality Unlimited’ by Robert Silverberg
Virtual Reality movies. Neat idea, but that’s all it is, the idea is there but the story is M.I.A.. When this tale was written in 1957 it might have had some point to it, today it’s barely a curiosity. A disappointing story by the usually reliable Silverberg. But on the other hand Susan Anspach reading of it was fine.

“The Movie People” by Robert Bloch
Movie extras have been in Hollywood films since the silent era, but just because they have no lines doesn’t mean we can’t read between them. Adequate and with a modicum of originality this tale would have benefited from a few more drafts before publication – it wanted to be a better story. John Rubenstein takes his time with the telling – a laconic voice that doesn’t detract from the story.

“Werewind” by Michael Reaves
A serial killer and a lonely howling wind may be connected. The only question is how. Marginally listenable, Michael Reaves’ story isn’t predictable, but neither is it comprehensible. It feels like a refugee from a Danielle Steele novelization of A Nightmare on Elm Street – and that doesn’t make any sense to me either! David Madden’s reading is far better than this short deserves.

“The Movie Makers” by Henry Slesar
Henry Slesar’s ode to 1950’s science fiction b-movies succeeds – in disappointing the same way those bad movies do – minus the cheesy special visual effect. The twist ending is also predictable. Lainie Kazan’s serviceable reading is adequate to the story’s requirements – though consider the predominant male characterization a female narrator is a questionable choice.

“Gunslinger” by Ed Gorman
In the early Twentieth century cowboys were heading away from the range and towards Hollywood, where they’d take on roles in the burgeoning western film frenzy. One man however is has a score to settle with one of these cowboys turned film actors, and its gonna be real bullets that’ll fly. “Gunslinger is illogically placed in this collection – it is not fantasy. It is set in Hollywood, but isn’t particularly fanciful. David Birney doesn’t have much to do here, but neither does he fail to achieve what’s required – to tell the story.

“Dead Image” by David Morrell
A thinly veiled tale about movie rebel James Dean, that asks the question: If Dean had a second chance at life would he do things any different? This very interesting tale depends upon a listener’s knowledge of James Dean’s life and death – also neat was the appearance of a Dennis Hopper type. Morrell’s tale isn’t likely to be turned into a film itself, but it’s full of neat ruminations on destiny and fame. Jamie Farr’s deep voice makes a second, and very welcome, appearance in this collection. He’s becoming one of my favorite celebrity narrators.

Posted by Jesse Willis