The SFFaudio Podcast #454 – Jesse, Scott, Paul, and Steen talk about The Forge Of God by Greg Bear
Talked about on today’s show:
1987, God!, Blood Music, Eon, Jesse’s finnicky tastes, Jesse’s purity test, three years before, the peak of his career, making money and trying to be mainstream, near the peak, that whole weird phase (techno-CIA thrillers), it had a profound effect upon Scott, no such thing as spoiler territory, just profound, the only good end of Earth story, a lot like 2012 (2009), a bunch of theories, Maissa Bessada, WWI (actually WWII) pilot, Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader: “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”, Strange Exodus by Robert Abernathy, the false story, the parasites, the cinder cone, good steal!, The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, political problems, how dated the politics is in the sense of the president, to impeach the president for being incompetent, part of the point, what has a point at all?, our most powerful person in the world is worse than useless, fantasies of competence, the 2006 Wordlcon in Los Angeles, “Bear, Benford, and Brin (and Vinge)”, very self-satisfied, consulted by the “higher ups”, they got tricked in the same way Dan Carlin got tricked, their consultation was of no inherent interest, Joe Rogan, the CENTCOM conference, shake the hand of the orange doofus, in awe of the room, all of them are frauds, just guys who got elected to a certain job, the problem is he has no power, is it OK to talk about religion on this show?, the “moms” are essentially a kind of god, machines saved us, machines all the way out, a real robot pretending to be biological, Doctor Who, Aliens Of London, When Worlds Collide is an antidote to this book, a different take, “competence porn”, the reference to Larry Niven, Laurence Van Cott, all sorts of great ideas, a really strange book, Jesse summarizes the book: enjoying geology, some weird stuff (not shown), the Americans!, leering at each other sexually (because its a book), science fiction writers writing about sexy time, Lucifer’s Hammer or Footfall, all this rigamarole, absolutely nothing could have been done except what they were compelled to do, a show like dominoes falling, worrying, like ants being attacked by you, ultimately they have no influence on what you’re going to do, part of the theme of the book, even the Arks aren’t human built in this book, at least we’ve got that going for us, no matter how many Larry Niven characters are consulted, blowing up the cinder-cone, buying CDS, so many spinning discs, it hid its age well, in fact the Soviet Union is in terrific shape!, Jerry Pournelle’s future, it should be humbling, the opposite of competence porn, Brin is incredibly impressed by his own brilliance, they’re smart guys, the wife who looks like an owl, Newt Gingrich’s attitude towards his fellow congressmen, the smile he would put on his face, he thought he was the genius in the room, he has written science fiction, he realizes he’s the only one who has read some books, they’re all Trump’s biggest fan, the left-right divide is a false reality, competent vs. incompetent vs. incredibly incompetent, a rhyming satire of Ronald Reagan, the Dunning–Kruger effect, equating not-smart with being religious, the president is not wrong (in this book), the irony, instinct, not a novel about the president, more and more attention goes to the Presidency, Jesse posits an alternate ending to Air Force One (1997), wasn’t that weird, the prayers are answered by the Moms, free will, its almost like they’re the religious ones, even the Moms are omnipotent, Shanghai and Seattle, what about the sequel?, we forget some of the rules from the first book, that Orson Scott Card feeling, Anvil Of Stars, the “ships of the law”, a treatise on the cost of vengeance, chapter openings, Lamb Of God, Lord Of Mercy, we repeat the cycle of violence, how are we any better than them?, Quantico, The Vulcan Academy Murders, the Fermi paradox, Fred Saberhagen, some of the characters have read science fiction, Larry Niven doesn’t even get a berth, an awful randomness, Yosemite National Park, I can write it off, going to the places in the book, The Crystal Spheres by David Brin, radio signals, everybody is living on Trantor, the logistics of empire, anticipating and then seeing the future not look like that, this guy’s amazing!, yeah except that novelized version of Blood Music…, the vision of what you see, the grey goo pouring over the surface of the earth, the same effect, the inner exploration, somehow was on a trajectory for greatness, The Wind From A Burning Woman collection, the raw power and intelligence that you see in a brilliant writer, Ted Chiang, bursting with weird ideas, not 100% polished (at first), now polished, this era of Greg Bear ends with Moving Mars, Queen Of Angels, Darwin’s Radio, Darwin’s Children, fantasies, Michael Crichton territory, to make some money?, rods from god, the “thor project“, War Dogs, a great author, his foundation novel, Gregory Benford, I’ve read this before, contemptuous of the reader, continuing a series, what do you expect from the latest Dune book?, how L. Ron Hubbard still sells a lot of books, Kevin J. Anderson’s writing method, making books while hiking, Vitals, the least damning paragraph, a Goodreads review: “Word count achieved”, The Liberation Of Earth by William Tenn, Of Men And Monsters by William Tenn, we’re termites, we’re the rats in the walls, humbling or humiliating, are we ever going to see from the aliens point of view?, he put us with the people, writing it today, less America focused, inferring the extra lies, a more global perspective, Independence Day (1996), the heart of the book (should have been) to spend time with the teenager, The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, if this had been a novel of two ways of dealing with the situation, Elon Musk/Larry Niven team vs. an Arthur C. Clarke’s The Star team/robots, get past the kumbaya, the turn, the Australian robots self-destructing, they’re alien biological entities, trillions of sentient beings killed, the Wikipedia entry for Anvil Of Stars, formidable “philosophical defenses” (Jesse’s philosophy-fu?), the children of Earth are mad, Peter Pan, Wendy and The Lost Boys, “philosophical defenses” = “human shield“, humans are fucking horrible, brilliant but monstrous, a set up for the sequel, the four witnesses, who made this law?, Jesse is fighting The Forge Of God all the way, he doesn’t know how to do endings, a prequel to Eon, when Greg Bear was really angry, rolling in the Halo money?, a badge of shame, “I don’t understand how it could be good”, the whip!, Steen’s review of The Wind From A Burning Woman, Greg Bear’s take on Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars, Hardfought, if not audio he’s not going to read it, Bear is married to Poul Anderson’s daughter, a hate-on for Star Wars, Star Wars On Trial, I don’t want to live in a universe with Paul Atredies in charge, that Paul Weimer administration is even more dangerous than some, taxation in USA vs. Canada, Heads, Hegira, residual good feelings, Hull Zero Three, Dinosaur Summer, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, City At The End Of Time, the dying earth sub-genre, William Hope Hodgson, using Steen as a filter, ideas vs. writing, easy listening, Jorge Luis Borges, Olaf Stapledon, Voyager 1 news, awe inspiring, far future, long term projects that are still paying dividends, more funding to rovers on mars, some hot hot Venus action, balloons, Zeppelins on Venus, City Of Darkness by Ben Bova, betrayed by Bova, puns!, and that’s how Paul’s administration came to an end.
The SFFaudio Podcast #428 – Jesse and Maissa Bessada talk about Burglars Can’t Be Choosers by Lawrence Block.
Talked about on today’s show:
1977, a Matt Scudder book: A Walk Among Among The Tombstones, cut-up women, he most brutal book Maissa’s ever read, sex, comedy and mystery, a treasure hunt, little gems, is that ever cool!, the 2 cassette audiobook (heavily abridged), just under six hours, it percolated along, coffee drinking, word humour and word play, why I love to read Lawrence Block books, 11 books in the series, 4 short stories, percolating dialogue, an Agatha Christie style mystery, Lawrence Block is an excellent narrator, you’re intellectually engaged, turning the horror of crime into a cozy murder mystery, a magician, sleight of hand, false directions, The Purloined Letter, the Blackstone Audio afterword, maybe I’ll try crime, everything you see on the page is Block’s brain, sparkling personality, Bernie doesn’t age, his burglar charms, Ruth Hightower, you can call me Roger, subsequent books, a front for a burglary business, Block’s dialogue and writing, the whole back end, seeing things we’re not allowed to see, what is happening?, the psychology of the character is a mystery to himself, Carolyn the lesbian poodle groomer, Carolyn is the Watson to Bernie’s Sherlock, it always was a parody, that love of books, contemplating a life of crime, Robin Hood, what kind of dog?, maybe a stuffed dog, no shedding, it’s obvious who the murderer is, carefully set like a jewel, a lot is unconscious, Ruth’s the murderer, suspects, some lurker in the shadows, how small New York is, it fits to Agatha Christie neat, that’s the genre, he’s playing totally by the Hal Clement rules, Mission Of Gravity, Two If By Sea, putting all the evidence before us, a particular hobby horse, The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling, Kipling, The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, Piet Mondrian, baseball, The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart, The Burglar In The Library, locked room murder mystery, The Burglar In The Rye, The Burglar Who Counted Spoons, told in first person, Like A Thief In The Night, A Bad Night For Burglars, from this character’s point of view, fitting in to one area of art or collecting, this is the theater one, everybody’s an actor, everybody in the book has another name or a hidden identity, Lauren, the 85 bucks, a burglar code of ethics, “I never believed in overlooking cash”, choices, the cop costume, which one is the real burglar?, they totally switch, Wesley Brill, playing “the heavy”, he’s lost his skill, this is the book where he gets his skill back, writing fiction is a kind of magic, losing the magic, Lawrence Block is always retiring from writing, staying in hotels, breaking into his own hotel room, writers who write for a living, Bernie’s lifestyle is Block’s lifestyle, going through a divorce, moving to California, an amazing soup of goodness, he’s a soup fiend, he’s also the “Man In The Middle”, Russian dolls, why isn’t this book much better known, Burglar (1987), gender swapped, Bobcat Goldthwait, too much in the words, it would make a great comic, imagery, exposition is not great for comics, a Hercule Poirot ending, Penguin Audio audiobooks, Richard Ferrone’s narration, Recorded Books, masks, Roger Armitage, they’re lying to each other, call me “Wes”, John Wesley, oh there you are!, fake names, really recognizable, how you know someone, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, The Maltese Falcon (1941), two guys looking for the bird, the rara avis, the pear shaped man, a pre-telling, Ms. Brill by Katherine Mansfield, an ESL teacher in France, creating an internal life, an active imagination, moth powder, his yacht, a fried whiting, a flounder, a fox stole, honey cake, Maissa misread it, Reading, Short And Deep, Julie Hoverson’s narration of Ms. Brill, a little box room, Lawrence Block were you inspired by Katherine Mansfield’s story…?: No., a brill is a fish, the ermine toque = fur hat, knocked on the nose, everything is reflecting everything else, without even having read it, echoes of brill, Goldilocks, archetypes, Bernie assumes Ruth has a husband, Ellie, cheating, the ultimate woman, Darla Sandoval, he hasn’t cheated…yet, his cop costume, you don’t even need those burglar’s tools, a break in as a sexual thing, the ability to open locks, modelling a life on Bernie Rhodenbarr, locks and keys, how many passwords, one password, power and speed, a ream of keys, access, keys are responsibilities that weigh you down, physically and metaphorically, memorization, having lockpicks, lockpicking, water my plants, his burglary life, Mrs. Hesh, power is attractive, like sexual triumph, tumblers finishing, he doesn’t want it to be too clear, on the tip of understanding, “I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you all here”, Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, a true consulting detective, Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe is a cogitating machine, perfect recall, fine living, food, a reveal, parceled out, we get all of the story, The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle getting bored of the form, we are Bernie’s Watson, The Silver Blaze, he totally cheated us, cheating, honest cheating cops, the person behind everything, the second gun, triggering, a real play?, second cabbie, James Garner, “Sound Of Distant Drums”, phrases, things that suggest, suggesting rather than saying, a certain feeling, Block is a master manipulator, you flinched, he charmed me out a lot of money, playing a role from the very beginning, he’s an actor, really great, incredibly enjoyable, examining the furniture, shaking out the books, so much in there, intellectual exercise, whodunit?, if you want to know about Watergate now’s the time to read about it, wait twenty years, a good mystery novel gives you all the facts, I feel like Ray Kirschmann, we were totally cheated, a bed is a bed is a bed, no bed of roses, set apart from our world, everybody smokes, no internet, cellphones, computers, answering services, the world has been transformed, visiting a simpler time, sexism of the period is quaint, slightly askew.
The SFFaudio Podcast #416 -Jesse, Paul Weimer, Mr Jim Moon, and Bryan Alexander discuss Far Below by Robert Barbour Johnson.
Talked about on today’s show:
Weird Tales, June-July 1939, The Midnight Meat Train, the audio drama from Suspense (Blue Hours), Los Angeles, a truly underground story, how far the infection has spread, like Russian nesting dolls, Pickman’s Model, Pickman’s painting entitled “Subway Accident”, Death Line (1972) (aka Raw Meat), The Terror Of Blue John Gap by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a rabbit warren, movie adaptations, C.H.U.D. (1984), Escape From New York (1981), they’re everywhere, very 80s, atrocious dialogue and logic, an old dodge, John Carpenter, the 59th street bridge, the society of CHUDs, female inmate, a mini-romance, how most people interact with this story, I could barely get through it and I really liked it, weird pacing, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), the camera as observer, Christopher Lee and Donald, “There are monsters in the tunnel inspector!”, a film out of its time, the old boy’s network (is also from Far Below), a mean bully thief sexist, looting the place, two different movies, it somehow works, so garish, quite murky, incredible tunnels in the London Underground, ghost stations, Creep (2004), ghost stories/urban legends, the monsters are descendants of the survivors of a tunnel construction collapse, The Descent (2005), the man aka the cannibal, “mind the doors”, an exploitative horrible monster mess movie, she’s pregnant, keep the community going, a family crypt, a tragedy horror, is Creep (2004) a remake of Raw Meat (aka Death Line)?, where does folklore come from?, a secret medical experiment facility, he’s always preceded by rats, The Graveyard Rats by Henry Kuttner, The Gruesome Book, a race of subterranean beings, a dead body animated by rats, The Gripping Hand and The Mote In God’s Eye, the watchmaker moties, Gremlins (1984), the tendrils out of Lovecraft grow deep, Mimic (1997), Mimic by Donald A. Wollheim, a mad scientist with other responsibilities, giving your right arm, I’m not quite there yet, a reasonable depravity, the Duke Of New York is A#1, a little smoke break, calling forth the CHUDs, we follow Kurt Russell following that guy, Franka Potente looking for George Clooney, empathy for a rapist, it’s all connected, a theme of degeneration in the dark, she’s a bitch, a horrible manipulative person, a nice symmetry, social satire, black humour, this is horrible and great as well, Syria and Russia, this is why the Indians sold Manhattan so cheap, where is The Descent supposed to take place?, they’re albino cave dwellers, Monsters (1990) TV show adaptation of Far Below, The Midnight Meat Train, Clive Barker’s obsession with raw meat, Bradley Cooper, Limitless,
the wrong carriage, butchered bodies, the butcher, the true city fathers, who is the narrator talking to?, you’re going to eat my wife, a choice ending, a deep cut, a new recruit, they weren’t allowed to report on this, a student, a photographer, a vegan, ultra-horror, he’s grain fed!, starting with an image, holding on vs. hanging from, Mahogany, the mythological ferryman, their damnation until they can pass it on, The Books Of Blood by Clive Barker, Dagon (the fanzine), he hadn’t read any Lovecraft at that point, Bryan may have lived Far Below, The Warriors (1979), Death Wish (1974), the Washington, D.C. subway system, Fallout 3, Death Line (Raw Meat) 1972, Escape From New York (1981), C.H.U.D. (1984), sewers, Monsters (1990) TV show, Creep 2004, The Descent (2005), attested by every country in the world and every people, ghouls in the bible?, J.R.R. Tolkien has it, the barrow wights, Edgar Rice Burroughs, white furry monster, the Morlocks, H.G. Wells invented CHUDs (in The Time Machine), The Midnight Meat Train (2008), the vein, going deep, Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne, monks are more heavenly, the Wizard Knight worlds, Gene Wolfe, angels, burrowing into mother earth, the long tradition of the earth as maternal, All Quiet On The Western Front, WWI, Château-Thierry, Verdun, bleed France white, “they shall not pass”, the Balrog, delving too deep, a battlefield map, battlefield commander, Vimy Ridge, 12 kilometers of tunnel, Passchendaele (2008), Thompson, the Maxim gun, domestic life, Carl Akeley, taxidermy, big game hunting, apes, killing a leopard with his bare hands, Indiana Jones, The American Museum Of Natural History’s Akeley Hall, Heart Of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, Friedrich Nietzsche on the abyss, ghouls like in Pickman’s Model, hinting, Pickman’s Model is the fictionalized version of Far Below, part simian part canine part mole, Nyarlathotep darkness, The Rats In The Walls, howling blindly, idiot flute players, the dark pharaoh, August Derleth, Cthulhu Water, The Facts In The Case Of Arthur Jermyn And His Family aka The White Ape, it’s not the family, Greek vs. Biblical, the acme of human progress tears itself to bits, national or familial genealogy, the family business, plump Captain Norris, the Morlock connection, staring into the abyss, the hidden race sub-genre, Richard Sharpe Shaver, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, they colonize us, The Mound by Zealia Bishop and H.P. Lovecraft, an inverted high-tech monstrous civilization, let’s see where it goes, less genetic and more philosophical, the description of the funding, NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker, Tammany Hall, childhood power fantasy, for our own safety, you’d understand, carte blanche, you can’t handle the truth, he’s the bad guy, in the warm light of day, taking precautions, the deepness rotting at the core of the Earth, involving the feds, the classic American cop story, NYC police corruption, Prince Of The City with Treat Williams, the War on Terror, At The Mountains Of Madness, Boston subway stations, Bram Stoker, high-tech, nascent technology, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, the telephone, it’s a tasty story, the thing was upon us, out of the darkness, Supernatural Horror In Literature, I learned a lot from Lovecraft, Quiet Please: The Thing On The Fourble Board, they dug too deep!, listen at night in the basement, things that are digging up, Jon Petwee era, Doctor Who: Inferno, Star Trek’s Mirror, Mirror, the Brigadier’s eyepatch and Spock’s beard, evil Captain Archer, green gas causing degeneration, environmentalism, The Green Death another minging story, The Silurians, Call Ghostbusters (1984)!, Edge Of Darkness (1985), Homer, Polyphemus he only sleeps in a cave, neanderthals, and the niter, it grows!
The SFFaudio Podcast #413 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss The Man With The Getaway Face by Richard Stark
Talked about on today’s show:
Jesse is not a series guy, excellent book, great book, Paul enjoyed it a lot, why haven’t I read this sooner?, The Mourner, cassette change over points, very nostalgic, the narrator Michael Kramer, a one trick pony, fewer adjectives and adverbs, The Hunter, the back story (before the bandages came off), the wife, The Ringworld Engineers, crime habits, he needs some money, a lot of humor, dry humour, all the characters, I’ll get your face back, Handy McKay, when he buys cigarettes from a vending machine, did he light a match on his tooth?, half-lit, when Westlake makes a character, there are no wallpaper characters, are you Sarah Connor?, Charles Wells, very Westlake, so clean and well defined, they know and do what they want, the book’s structure, easier to read on the page than to hear, what about the philosophy?, more of the same, not wanting more of the same, going for ideas, reading westerns, romance, wish fulfillment, Mike Resnick, digestible dialogue driven storytelling, we like Parker, of course he’s a murderer and a thief, a liar, his real name, his Florida hotel name, utterly transformative plastic surgery, it’s science fictional!, the symmetry, you’re still you, taking on the mob, a kind of growth, how Parker talks about Handy McKay, The Steel Hit, he doesn’t know himself, Alma the waitress (aka the Finger), Skim, funny names, he doesn’t know what he’s done, reflection, I’m going to be a better person everyday, we need to admire, different values, willing to kill for goals, an internal set of rules that he respects, the bowling theory of book writing, Stubbs was heroic in his folly, when his thoughts ran through his mind like they were on wheels, a deep philosophy, The Philosophy Of Parker, epicureanism, pleasure as the greatest good, a hooker, men by paperbacks and women by hardcovers, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, living through the pain that is reality, stoicism, get used to it, deal with it, get past it, increasing the pleasure of the little things, an interlibrary loan from the Yukon, appreciating the local detail, New York, New Jersey, Staten Island, scrubby sandy, set in an area Paul recognized, going with the getaway face, Westlake would winter, a tour of the whole east coast, North Carolina, “hey budd-eh”, a great no-shit guy, he’s not a superhero, he’s canny, how did he finance the job?, he’s lying to everybody all the time, a professional problem, some range for motion, some sort of efficiency, fingerprints, bad hombres, the cop never shows up again, crime seems easy, what’s up with the coins?, Payback is an adaption of the The Hunter, you can’t trust the police, you can’t trust the government and you can’t trust your family, “Trust no one!” Cobra Commander, a mirror face, the podcast went in a weird direction, caring about laws, all about efficiency, why does he keep robbing, owning a bunch of businesses around the country, Parker parked the car, how many reasons for the title?, getting away with the head, The Outfit, the syndicate, Robert Duvall, 13 Dresses, The Mourner, The Score, an Alan Arkin movie, The Jugger, The Seventh, changing policies, he trusted the doctor, I get so few patience, everybody in the world is broken, refining an outlook, Westlake is mad at Stark, trusting Alma, Parker doesn’t need the money, you have to do what you’re good at, The Handle, working in big groups, The Rare Coin Score, numismatists, The Green Eagle Score, The Black Ice Score, The Sour Lemon Score, Deadly Edge, Slayground, Butcher’s Moon, Comeback, Backflash, Flashfire, Firebreak, Breakout, Nobody Runs Forever, Ask The Parrot, Parker has no sense of humour, the Dortmunder series, the Grofield series, Jimmy The Kid by Donald Westlake, excerpts from a fake Richard Stark Parker novel called Child Heist, Gary Coleman, Nine Princes In Amber by Roger Zelazny, an homage to Donald Westlake, clippy dialogue, Lawrence Block, when Westlake quit Science Fiction, the Hard Case Crime website, how I found Westlake and Stark, the one thing we know about readers…, one heist per TV season, Leverage, the Gravedigger webcomic, everybody wants to get in on the action, Fifty Years of Parker, Parker’s rules, any rule can be broken, a guy named Mal turned out bad, “When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell.”, “When the bandages came off, Parker looked in the mirror at a stranger.”, Spearhead From Space, “when” puts you right into the middle of the action, right back to The Odyssey, Parker on a boat, a Casino off the coast of Cuba, high concept, two-fisted action, he’s come back from the dead, winking at you in every scene, driving, compartmentalizing her life, the best opening line of a book ever: “When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.”, and then the murders began, forest fire, a snitch in the game, they need socialization, very modern, in the army during WWII, how old is Parker?, like Archie Andrews, he’s always in his prime, Prince Corwin, like Batman, he’s always with us, his superpower is he’s all about efficiency, seeking out crime, I appreciate you appreciating it, Aural Noir, running two websites that were virtually identical, Block inhabits a world I don’t inhabit, a lucid world, there are always the same people in every job, completely universal, The Breakfast Club, seedy and exciting, Protector, the books were thin and the ideas were long, Stephen King and his success, 175 pages, Leon Uris, 35¢, double features, what does Parker think about when watching these movies, there’s something wrong with him, he lies to everybody except for himself, “self-contained”, unconscious, kind of like an actor, playing a role, Skim, falling apart, the clinic, fear of losing your stuff, so much is falling apart, is it the world, the swampland in Flordia, cellies, trying to have a conversation, there’s no point in telling this guy, a brutal horrible world, a horror not usually expressed in novels, what’s going to happen next action, doing whatever he wanted, it really isn’t about the money, it’s like he’s trying to get rid of it, what he tells himself, the point of existence, what are you gonna do?, Skim is a pathetic version of Parker, it hardened him, a shark constantly moving and feeding, a death wish?, sloppiness, without a purpose, his elevens were up, Charles Wells’ retirement, Lawrence Block is always retiring like Handy McKay, unfinished Westlake or Stark?, writing like role playing, such a high output, Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, three months for The Sign Of The Four, a great book.
The SFFaudio Podcast #409 – The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan, read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 5 minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Paul)
Talked about on today’s show:
1910, obsession, kinda gross, fundamentally based on racism, Jewishness, troublesome, H.P. Lovecraft, a racist filter, horror as fear of the other, the same intellectual climate, racial theory, a sensitivity alarm bell, scare not offend, on the cusp, an off note, Sax Rohmer, yellow peril, Fu Manchu is the hero, the Escape audio drama adaptation, Harlan Ellison, Red Hook territory, uncomfortably of its time, its about race, his friend’s changing disposition, the Saxon Mother vs. the “strong wine of the east”, that logic is still in force, 1/64th Cherokee, if this was set in the highlands…, natural peace, a benevolent supernatural force, white hat vs. black hat, the theme of colonialism vs. race and heredity, imperialism, two-fisted adventure vs. poetry and philosophy and pathos, the landscape, the skyline, the love that Lawson has is reflected by Buchan himself
At midday it cleared, and the afternoon was a pageant of pure colour. The wind sank to a low breeze; the sun lit the infinite green spaces, and kindled the wet forest to a jewelled coronal. Lawson gaspingly admired it all, as he cantered bareheaded up a bracken-clad slope. ‘God’s country,’ he said twenty times. ‘I’ve found it.’ Take a piece of Sussex downland; put a stream in every hollow and a patch of wood; and at the edge, where the cliffs at home would fall to the sea, put a cloak of forest muffling the scarp and dropping thousands of feet to the blue plains. Take the diamond air of the Gornergrat, and the riot of colour which you get by a West Highland lochside in late September. Put flowers everywhere, the things we grow in hothouses, geraniums like sun-shades and arums like trumpets. That will give you a notion of the countryside we were in. I began to see that after all it was out of the common.
beautiful writing, the sensual description of Lawson,
Being a fair man, he was gloriously tanned, and there was a clear line at his shirt-collar to mark the limits of his sunburn. I had first known him years ago, when he was a broker’s clerk working on half-commission. Then he had gone to South Africa, and soon I heard he was a partner in a mining house which was doing wonders with some gold areas in the North. The next step was his return to London as the new millionaire — young, good-looking, wholesome in mind and body, and much sought after by the mothers of marriageable girls. We played polo together, and hunted a little in the season, but there were signs that he did not propose to become a conventional English gentleman. He refused to buy a place in the country, though half the Homes of England were at his disposal. He was a very busy man, he declared, and had not time to be a squire.
a bromance at the least, homoeroticism, nudity or flannels, naked on the veldt, the gorgeousness of the writing, T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, a miniseries on Cecil Rhodes, the empire builder, Rhodesia, like Rhodes Lawson made his money in mining, Buchan knew Rhodes, a giant country estate, Buchan is the name of the unnamed narrator in the audio drama adaptation, biographies, First World War Hidden History blog,, at the center of spying and propaganda, Lord Tweedsmuir, use in a role playing game, Kim Philby, the old boy network, the revolving door policy, no longer conspiracy, no longer tin-foil hat territory, rewarded with the Governorship of Canada, nobility by appointment, “gone to the wall”, with the riff-raff and the hoi-poloi, “gone to seed”, a pun, the fertile and lush garden, the flower of his youth, a railroad from South Africa to Egypt, nursemaided by Rhodes, illness,
Then we went to work to cut down the trees. The slim stems were an easy task to a good woodman, and one after another they toppled to the ground. And meantime, as I watched, I became conscious of a strange emotion.
It was as if some one were pleading with me. A gentle voice, not threatening, but pleading — something too fine for the sensual ear, but touching inner chords of the spirit. So tenuous it was and distant that I could think of no personality behind it. Rather it was the viewless, bodiless grace of this delectable vale, some old exquisite divinity of the groves. There was the heart of all sorrow in it, and the soul of all loveliness. It seemed a woman’s voice, some lost lady who had brought nothing but goodness unrepaid to the world. And what the voice told me was, that I was destroying her last shelter.
That was the pathos of it — the voice was homeless. As the axes flashed in the sunlight and the wood grew thin, that gentle spirit was pleading with me for mercy and a brief respite. It seemed to be telling of a world for centuries grown coarse and pitiless, of long sad wanderings, of hardly-won shelter, and a peace which was the little all she sought from men. There was nothing terrible in it. No thought of wrongdoing. The spell, which to Semitic blood held the mystery of evil, was to me, of a different race, only delicate and rare and beautiful.
poor spirit, parallel to an extinction, running away from the destruction of man, reading the story from Lawson’s point of view, what is he doing there?, an alabaster moon, blood sacrifice, depleting life force, a lonely deity, The Call Of Cthulhu role playing game, a temple ruin, an abandoned mine, a tiki-fetish, some ancient horrible power, maybe we’ve done wrong here,
And then my heartache returned, and I knew that I had driven something lovely and adorable from its last refuge on earth.
the last doorway, the model for this tower, the Great Zimbabwe, where could I read up on that?, a country house with a mock temple: “the folly“, druid orders, cheese rolling, a week later, keeping a secret, dropsy or yellow fever, the revenge of the land, disease, looking down on the tropics, three years, scarfe, natural beauty, that library, the moon of alabaster, the bird statuettes, turtle doves, green doves, auk-like bird carvings, everything is going extinct, the sin at the story’s end, the two-fisted action, shotguns make short work, the birds on the pyre, salting the earth, the Punic wars, improve on Josiah, dynamiting a priceless ancient temple, a “land without history”, purpose of visit: colonialism, sad but true, ancient ruins of Africa, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, the character names all end in “son”: Lawson, Isaacson, Jobson (the factor), the Hudson’s Bay Company, the East India Company, wagons, more money than the Queen, Ming pots, a night watchman, the natives won’t go to the temple, local folk, indemnification, Adamson, half-English, Biblical naming, The Skids, Richard Jobson, Travers, Lowson, H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror In Literature, building or rebuilding an ancestral home, The Moon Bog, The Rats In The Walls, they have the exact same structure, illness, lifted up into the sky, Ashtaroth the Moon goddess, Captain Norris, Magna Mater, Exham Priory, “what on Earth is going on here man?”, Out Of The Earth by Christine Campbell Thomson (aka Flavia Richardson), standing stones, mummy fiction, atavism, reverting to ancestral type, seeing things backwards, the industries that allow you to work, an inversion, an environmental horror story, silver bark, a beautiful image, Ishtar -> Ashtaroth, male and female spelling, an interest in weird fiction, one of the big names, scant detail, The Golden Bough, To The Devil A Daughter (1976), Astarte, a punny title, if this is a true story…, the covenant, the “Call of Ashtaroth”, the blood ritual, body horror, a psychic impasse, a taste, is there more than one force at work?, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, an apple tree, a bad farm, eating a withered apple is a bad move, the call of nature, it wants you, its using you, the last portal through, not of this Earth, a moonbeam, She by H. Rider Haggard, elegiac and wistful, a pleasure to read, layers and layers, old school weird fiction, layers of questioning and ambiguity, homages and reinterpretations, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, no clear lines, ambiguity comes to the fore, vs. early 20th century polemic, it would be an amazing comic book, visually stunning, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the albatross of The Thirty-Nine Steps, literary highways and byways, The Moon Endureth, Christopher Hitchens essays,
“In a remarkable short story, ‘The Grove of Ashtaroth,’ the hero finds himself obliged to destroy the gorgeous little temple of a sensual cult, because he believes that by doing so he will salvage the health and sanity of a friend. But he simultaneously believes himself to be committing an unpardonable act of desecration, and the eerie voice that beseeches him to stay his hand is unmistakably feminine.”
-Christopher Hitchens (The Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)