The SFFaudio Podcast #540 – READALONG: Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi and Mauro Marchesi

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #540 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Marissa VU, and Evan Lampe talk about the NBM Graphic Novel Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi and Mauro Marchesi.

Talked about on today’s show:
NBM Graphic Novel, we gotta do this, H.P. Lovecraft, as fascinating as, Evan was disappointed, it’s not Philip K. Dick’s stories, major things missing, the meeting with Ridley Scott, I have my reservations, Dick’s opposition, understanding and insight, who is the audience?, if you know the Easter Eggs…, who is it for?, documentaries about Philip K. Dick, somethin trippy, the visualization of Point Reyes, happy little Philip K. Dick with his science fiction magazines, the chronology, the flashforward, seeing the buildings, the architecture, we’re the audience for the book, so much missing, could it be improved by making it a lot longer?, an outline of events, a primer, a skeleton, the Thoreau one!, being in nature and being self-sufficient, you learn everything about Beethoven, [The Value Of Giving: The Story Of Beethoven by Ann Donegan Johnson and Steve Pileggi], an outline of Marie Curie, [The Value Of Learning: The Story Of Marie Curie by Ann Donegan Johnson and Steve Pileggi], Einstein For Beginners, Marx For Beginners, handing Lovecraft stuff to little kids, Philip K. Dick has teenage ideas, Jesse appreciating seeing the spaces, a secret, really well done, Jacen Burrows, the architecture, a real sense of the neighbourhoods, him at his typewriter, so cool, the very first page, pages unnumbered, December 1981, showing up at some airport with a new girlfriend, Evan is more worried about the script, in the screening room, everytime you turn the page there’s a black ceiling, the last page, March 2, 1982, a model of the neighbourhood, I think Ursula (K. Le Guin) was right, Small Town, living in a set, The Days of Perky Pat, that zoom out, then it’s the world!, every ceiling is black, attention to comics paneling, he was in town when Jesse was conceived, Willis, the skylights look like windows, something you can do in film or comics that you can’t do in a text biography, white, the Platonic thing he’s always thinking about, January 26, 1929, Phil, white space, the symbol for the platonic realm, that white page, outside with Mr. Tagomi, the graphic narrative, the colour, really beautiful, that whole posture and expression, they’re calling my name, Meemaw hiding in the bathroom, footnotes, quotation marks, exact dates, details, no androids, why isn’t there a spider in the mug?, three stigmatic, the same syndrome, focusing on Dick’s late stuff, stealing his mom’s pills, spray, big references vs. smaller stuff, Ubik, Exegesis, she would know he had a lot of wives, 18 year old Tessa sitting on his lap, drawn to the wordless panels, the dialogue was on the nose, stilted, engage and interpret, a little dry, outside of Art Music, better than a photograph, and yet, no TV repair, too short, more of what we’re getting?, Vince, the driving lessons from the FBI agent, you would have some questions, did this happen?, Solar Lottery, that’s a metaphor for his trying to get respectable, the New Statesman, H.G. Wells’ legacy, Tono-Bungay, dissing H.G. Wells was a bad writer, Philip K. Dick was a bad writer, clunky, The Variable Man,

even before the term “SCIENCE FICTION” existed the elites were shitting on SCIENCE FICTION and the people who read it (and the guy who basically invented it)

the literary books, important books about divorces, did he think it was really important – or did he want to change class, pettiness in spending time in his actual life, feeling ambivalent, totally could have happened, maybe that stuff is good, subtle things going on, a scriptural problem, how to solve it, the excitement on Philip K. Dick’s face, the latest issue, A.E. Van Vogt, my kingdom, Return To Lilliput, Gustav Mahler, social anxiety, the judgement of the friend, the average person, appreciating it on a visual level, Jason Eckhardt’s illustrations and the framing device, a show, a stageplay, more information about Lovecraft’s life than we do about Philip K. Dick, our job isn’t to market the book, the Lovecraft biography was densely packed, his interactions with other people, internalization of events, a giant metal face in the sky, these two pages work incredibly well, the lines on the road, a modern setting, running to the shack, the connection, going to visit the father, a real incident, the ex-wife and the kid, Harlan Ellison, these things gotta be explained, who knows what Dangerous Vision is?, Riders Of The Purple Wage and Aye And Gomorrah, fan service, mutual success destroyed, how many scenes when he sits on the couch, sitting at the desk, we just don’t know (about his dad), this isn’t even fan service its just facts, a spit-take, a meet cute, it’s a fact we know about his life, the visualizations of the physical spaces, we don’t know the colour of the couch (unless its a plot point), the visual element, not one of us!, maybe Paul is the audience for this book, his personal life, the general outline, filling in those facts, an interesting visual language, Philip K. Dick’s house, google street view, the post-script, the big shock, stubbled face, standing in the glory of the his 1952-4 publications, The World She Wanted, Science Fiction Quarterly, Jack Vance and Isaac Asimov, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, a real hotel, Out In The Garden, ah ha ha haw, the idea that Sir Francis Drake got as far as these places, Dr. Futurity, time travel, that kind of detail, a little spike of “wow! that’s amazing!”, hey I’ve read your stuff, I guess we have to do that, going out to that shack is terrific, wives leaving him, a lot from Anne’s biography, a lot of letters, how funny he is isn’t in here, this is not a comedy it’s a tragedy, a little bit to self oriented, about his internal stuff, going to a Chinese restaurant, a 1949 store, the weirdnesses’ of H.P. Lovecraft, abbreviations, the snob in Jesse, what’s going on with his mom, yo?, a homosexual hangup, why is his dad absent, because you’re weak, like who?, is his dad gay?, a hidden biography, absent from this book, fatherless, surrounded by women, as a WWI veteran he had a gas-mask that might have frightened Philip K. Dick and sent his mind going, what the authors think the people care about, a good contribution if they could have nailed the later weirdness, those Valis novels, a set of ideas he was playing with, a bit opaque, Philip K. Dick wearing a cowboy suit, a lot of lying in that bed, that focus on the end, lying in bed dying of colon cancer, regular nightwalks, the value of seeing what those houses look like, Steen went to Philip K. Dick’s gravesite, why is he buried in Colorado?, an incident in Vancouver, his whole life is California, two trips to France, Ghost World (2001), Daniel Clowes style, the same kind of lifestyle, hanging out in the suburbs, about some weirdos hanging out, older men and younger women, a slice of the Ghost World comics, Steve Buscemi, that California aesthetic, a vibe that’s different, it’s its own thing, beautiful images, Cleo storming in, a few months later, Cleo what are you doing here?, you promised you’d bring me the car title, going to workshops for him, she’s walking toward the house, a green glow around her head, Jesse reads a lot of comics, if the art is terrible, a very delicate balance, a really good audiobook narrator cannot save a bad book, a number of problems, audience expectation, you should pick it up, you’re welcome!, Evan appreciates the daughters in this, the gun, visiting him in the hospital, when Nancy leaves him, the estate, they’re frauds, everybody is an asshole at some point in their lives, the portrait of a highly complicated man, friendly and difficult, he’s got his demons, I was sexually molested as a child, he might be wrong, that phenomenon, the McMartin trial, Tessa Dick’s YouTube channel, your eyes are closed to your son’s birth defect, to the doctor immediately, I’m in shock, I can’t even drive, this sort of thing is not a sign of divine revelation, bad recollection, Jesse’s recollection about who exactly he’d punched in the face, magic thinking of the horoscope kind, here’s another incident of that, delusions becoming reality, either he infected her or she infected them, a Folie à deux, [Heavenly Creatures 1994] Misadjustment by Philip K. Dick, the trials and tribulations of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, now when what we talk about what Chelsea Manning was doing, she was doing this when she was in the army, they all agree, when we all agree, weird dontcha think?, furry costumes, I’m really a fox, just really weird, a weird guy and a person who isn’t an immune, anti-creativity, the thing kids have that we lose when we grow up, so late in the day, falling out of the immersion, Paul makes a very meta move, a richer character for a life, on the couch a lot, what’s so fascinating about him, how his friends perceived him, tension and conflict, not consistent in real life, really cool, hairy back, that hairy monster, a good book.

Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi and Mauro Marchesi

NBM Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography (art from the back cover)

Posted by Jesse Willis

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 #330 – READALONG: Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #330 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick.

Talked about on today’s show:
Time Pawn by Philip K. Dick, 1960, The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth, Science Fiction Hall Of Fame: Volume 1, The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, Idiocracy, if smart people don’t have babies…, a kind of Heinleinian authority, a little grey case, his bag is missing, grey vs. black, a doctor from the past visiting a future society, medicine as a crime, interfering with euthanasia, another weird interesting post nuclear war world, primitive or advanced?, we don’t talk about death, reflecting our world back at us, youth culture, worshiping youth, movie heroes used to be old men, Logan’s Run, Nolan’s world, what is the appeal of that world?, a culture will run things for you if you don’t think a lot, the Ancient Egyptian culture of death, you will live your life in your death, the soulcube, immortality through the species itself, The City And The Stars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, nobody wants to see that, kids are stupid, the wisdom of the grandmothers, the Vietnam War, genetic stupidity, Language For Time Travelers by L. Sprague de Camp, Stargate, Astounding, an editorial note for Time Pawn, the right to live, ruthless euthanasia, time travel, Dr. Jim Parsons, the character is a time pawn, the second arrow, an inevitability, to ensure their own existence, deterministic, the standard classic scene, being careened, the auditorium at the first Beatles concert is only filled with time travelers, Dick’s take on time travel, familiar stars. not familiar? why aren’t they familiar, figuring out the future of the character as he’s writing it, “huh, that’s weird”, completely unpredictable vs. completely predictable, van Vogtian, Paul employs a railroad metaphor, Sir Francis Drake, line by line rewrites, from New York to San Fransisco, matter to mine, Time Pawn vs. Dr. Futurity, glittering vs. illuminated, darting like silver fish, no aircars?, nobody is going to be reading Time Pawn anytime soon, “the chamber was a blaze of light…dead gods waiting to return”, a rushed novel?, what’d you do with all that?, standard Dick tropes: a wife shuffled to the side, missing the wife less in Dr. Futurity, the description of the women is much lengthier, always heaving breasts, there’s no questioning of reality, no surveillance, less questioning, an uncharacteristically straightforward story, it feels like all the other Ace Doubles, in the mode of reading SF, all the tropes are assumed, Margaret Atwood, Michael Crichton, going through the evolution to understand the SF tropes: Wells -> Gernsback -> the 60s, three a week, that’s all we need to know, airbags everywhere, flame retardant spray, toxic chemicals vs. being on fire, we live in a screwed up culture, mercury poisoning, asbestos, guide beams, the google car, GPS, if there was a solar flare…, Aftermath, a Charles Sheffield novel, old infrastructure could save us, Cuba, Alpha Centauri goes supernova, the Three Hoarsemen podcast, steam-punk without the steam is just punk, Pastwatch: The Redemption Of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, a monster, the Columbian exchange, Dick has just read about Sir Francis Drake, Drake’s voyage, he’s famous for making Queen Elizabeth I a big pile of money, Expo 86, the Golden Hind, Drake’s landing point, Oregon, Vancouver Island, Nova Albion, Albion, British Columbia, albino, a weird figure to fixate on, Cortez, Pissaro, The Mask Of The Sun by Fred Saberhagen, caught in the machinations of time traveling empires, more bushwhacking, Daniel Abraham, the way they talk in this future society, it keeps not working, his presence eventually changes their society, starting that whole tribe, the scene with the arrow, a predestination paradox, those stone markers, “I’ll get around to it”, that whole planet is covered in markers, the way Dick ended it, leaving it loose, why Time Pawn is so much of a better title, he feels he is the chess master after a certain point, the extended spaceship to Mars scene, the robot computer with a rat brain, such a creepy scene, “I wonder what’s going to happen”, if the character doesn’t want to get on track, what’s that about?, what are those guns for?, Shupos?, always people confronting him, make remarks about the women, this is NOT a book written by committee, don’t read this as your first Dick, more fodder for your feed.

Time Pawn by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Virgil Finlay

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Ed Valigursky

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Harry Borgman

Docteur Futur by Philip K. Dick

Dr Futurity by Philip K. Dick (Methuen)

Dr Futurity by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Chris Moore

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick (Berkley)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

SFFaudio Review

DREAMSCAPE AUDIOBOOKS - The Scarlet Plague by Jack LondonThe Scarlet Plague
By Jack London; Read by Drew Ariana
Approx. 2 Hours 13 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dreamscape Audio
Published: August 20, 2013
Themes: / Science Fiction / San Francisco / Plague / Post-Apocalypse / Disease / Philosophy / Politics / Class Conflict /

The year is 2013 and plague has struck. Not a wannabe killer like SARS or the Spanish flu, but a tsunami type devastation that swallows every living thing, check that, every person, in its path. Its nickname is the red death because at its arrival the first thing that happens to the infected person is they start sporting a red face – like a beacon for everyone else around them to – RUN. The next thing that happens is they die. Well a little more goes on in between, numb feet, numb hands, a heart so numb it stops. All within an hour, or a few hours if the person is lucky/unlucky enough to have it drag out that long. Then for fun what’s left of the numbed, red faced, ex-person, immediately starts decomposing, falling apart before the eyes of anyone still around to witness it, practically shooting decomposing germs into the air like a plant shooting its spores. There are two classes of people, the ultra rich and everyone else. As the ultra rich jump into their airships to get as far away as possible, they just carry death with them – first class. Everyone else simply falls down and dies where they are. The devastation’s full name is Scarlet Plague. Sixty years into the future when the very few last contenders of what was once the mighty human race hear tell about it, they can’t even decipher what scarlet means because language (like life) has degraded to the point of only holding on to what’s necessary. Scarlet is red. Counting only needs to go as high a ten. The squiggles on money and books are meaningless, but that’s of no consequence because neither books nor money are in use anyway. Apologies, I’m getting ahead of myself. About 160 years ahead.

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, published in 1912 is about the plague that will strike 100 years from his time, told from a perspective 60 years hence by the last man alive who’s ever seen an airship or read a book. 2013, a hundred years into the future for Jack London, is today and yesterday, this week. Hearing this story now, is like what it was to read (or re-read) 1984 in 1984. Sort of surreal. Interestingly 1984 is a year that was mentioned in the story of the plague. Did George Orwell choose that year with a tip of his hat? Probably. I’ve heard George was a fan.

Back to Jack. What did he get right? What did he miss? Commercial airships? Instant wireless communication? Check, check. About 8 billion people planet wide? Check. The ultra rich and everyone else, hmmm, not that far off the mark, probably pretty close considering he was most likely exaggerating a little to make a point. The work didn’t actually feel like science fiction, it felt contemporary, the section that describes this part of the century anyway. Like his projection to 2073 started from here, not from a century ago. Because the today part of the story is so right, it makes the rest of the story worse.

Not worse as in it’s a bad story. It’s an excellent, superbly imagined, tangible story. Worse in regards to how Mr. London judged the human condition. 60 years from now, 160 years from when the book was written, James Howard Smith or Grandsir, is telling his three grandsons the story of the plague. A story that was in great demand 20 or 30 years before, is quickly becoming lost – now of passing interest to two of the boys, and of real interest to only one. For one thing Grandsir’s sentences are way too complicated, especially when he goes off into his memories and starts speaking as he used to do when he was professor of English literature at Stanford. Speech has become staccato and minimalist, the niceties of language having died off with everyone that had time for that sort of thing. The other problem is the things Grandsir talks about make no sense to the boys. Cities, cars travelling by air, exchanging things with money, wasting time with written markings, all of it is so outside of what the boys know it might as well be make believe. The ramblings of a deranged, lost, old mind. With an estimated world population of less than 500, life has become a question of survival. If you want to eat then you have to go out and kill yourself some dinner. Grandsir calls his grandsons savages. When he was a boy (one of his constant refrains) there were those who gathered food and those who ordered its gathering. His progeny has been reduced to food gatherers. Interestingly Grandsir’s still got them gathering food for him. Old habits die hard I guess.

So why was this professor of classical literature spared to help re-forge humanity? No reason. One in every few million just didn’t get red faced. Maybe death momentarily blinked as it passed them by or got distracted by the particularly amusing scene of the mountains of bodies piling up at its feet. A couple of feeble minded, the very richest most splendid woman in America, a violent, vile, wife beating chauffer who made himself her husband, our friend the professor – just a few random cards in the deck. Life’s like that. You build your magnificent cities, you spend your time creating art and pondering the great questions, and life responds by carelessly wiping itself out. Careless in that it doesn’t quite finish the job. But no matter, because life will make its way forward again.

And now we come to the worst part of the story. It’s not the plague and what happens in the aftermath. The author makes it clear that ultimately, in the long run, humanity will rally back. They’ll rebuild and create again. The worst part is what Mr. Jack London sees after that.

Drew Ariana who read the story in this recording did a good job. My only issue was the character voice he assumed for Grandsir. I didn’t have a problem with the voice, the problem was, so much of the story was told using this voice it became a little distracting. Otherwise, an easy, pleasant listen.

By the end of the book, awash in dystopia, I was seeing a little red. Too delightful not to share, here’s a little red (or Scarlet) for you. “All man’s toil upon the planet was just so much foam. He domesticated the serviceable animals, destroyed the hostile ones, and cleared the land of its hostile vegetation and then he passed and the primordial flood of hostile life rolled back again, sweeping his handy work away.”

Posted by Maissa Bessada

The SFFaudio Podcast #231

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #231 – Jesse and Luke Burrage (from the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast) talk to audiobook narrator Simon Vance.

Talked about on today’s show:
Jonathan Davis, Pat Fraley, Scott Brick is the Brad Pitt of audiobooks and Simon Vance is the George Clooney of audiobooks, how Simon Vance got started, reel to reel tape recorder, Winnie The Pooh, BBC Radio 4, 1980s, Brighton, RNIB, Grover Gardner, George Guidall, The Book At Bedtime, Margaret Thatcher, California, San Francisco, Christian and devotional audiobooks, “we sound more intelligent (but we’re not)”, Stieg Larsson, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Audiofile Magazine, Earphone Awards, England, Sweden, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the apprenticeship, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, a classic dystopia, Thirteen (aka Black Man), The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands, artfulness and in-artfulness of narration, Doctor Who, overwhelming music -> overwhelming emotion, The Lord Of The Rings, the good narrators do the unexpected, “boo”, Dune by Frank Herbert (the full-cast audiobook), Goodreads.com, Simon Prebble, V For Vendetta by Steve Moore, the comic + the movie + Simon Vance = great audiboook, Natalie Portman was awesome, Stephen Rea, most novelizations are terrible, Hugo Weaving, James Bond, Ian Fleming, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio, the Green Knowe books, Listen And Live, Kate Fleming, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, a complicated book, a second chance, The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast review of The Prestige (episode #177), the movie of The Prestige, a final trick, one of the best Science Fiction movies of the last ten years, a thinking man’s book (and movie), The Illusionist, stage magic vs. CGI magic, The Magic Circle, Left for Dead: The Untold Story Of The Tragic 1979 Fastnet Race by Nick Ward and Sinead O’Brien, survival, Antarctica, fiction vs. non-fiction, a cabinet of heads, WWII, the Patrick O’Brian books (the Aubrey–Maturin series), Master And Commander, the incomplete book 21, Robert Hardy and Tim Piggot-Smith, what SFF Simon Vance book should we check out?, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, The Exodus Towers, The Plague Forge, zombie apocalypse, aliens, “good honest adventure”, Pan Books Of Horror, c, Rama, Rama II, The Man In The High Castle, Philip K. Dick, Mark Twain, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, a PDF listing Simon Vance’s audiobooks, out of print audiobooks, Audible.com, Christopher Priest’s other audiobooks are done by other audiobook narrators, Peter Ganim, Robert J. Sawyer, The Player Of Games by Iain M. Banks, rights issues, keep your audiobooks.

V For Vendetta read by Simon Vance

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan - read by Simon Vance

Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan - read by Simon Vance

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #225 – AUDIOBOOK: The Iron Heel by Jack London

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #225 – The Iron Heel by Jack London, read by Matt Soar.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (8 Hours 9 Minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.org. The Iron Heel was first published in 1907.

The Iron Heel by Jack London

Posted by Jesse Willis