The SFFaudio Podcast #270 – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; performed by Sir Richard Burton with John Neville and Robert Hardy. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the poem (28 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon!
The audio for today’s episode comes to us courtesy of Resonance FM.
Talked about on today’s show:
The ballad form and rhyme scheme; transposing poem to Gilligan’s Island theme; poem’s opaque writing style; Romanticism’s links to modern science fiction and fantasy; Coleridge’s primary imagination; Tolkien’s sub-creation; Virgil Finlay’s art; Gustave Doré’s art; the poem’s influence on Poe and Lovecraft; Mariner as a bridge between old folklore ballads and new gothic literature; poem influenced buy medieval sea and travel tales; nature as a fantasy playground of experience; William Wordsworth’s influence on the poem; Stephen Gill’s biography of Wordsworth; Shakespeare in Love and the creative process; the special effects of Coleridge’s rhyme; “what the hell are those sea snakes?”; eels; the Sargasso Sea; the concept of Purgatory; a Salvation story injected with Pagan themes; Poe’s “imp of the perverse” as in his Black Cat; the frame narrative as morality tale; ghost ship à la Pirates of the Caribbean; the Flying Dutchman; Captain Kirk; the geography of the mariner’s voyage; search for the Northwest Passage; Aurora Australis; St. Elmo’s Fire; The Tempest; Charles Dickens’s “genius of the winter weather”; H.P. Lovecraft’s antarctic literature; parallel to Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle; William Wordsworth’s We Are Seven; the natural and supernatural poems in Lyrical Ballads; Coleridge’s opium habit; Romantic poets as rock stars; intensity of Coleridge’s writing; comparing Wordsworth and Coleridge to Lennon and McCartney; the hermit as Tom Bombadil?, a wise man in retreat; hermit as crazy homeless dude; readers’ response to the poem; Blakeian progression from innocence to experience; Longinus; Kubla Khan; the H.G. Wellspring.
The SFFaudio Podcast #102 – Scott, Jesse and Tamahome talk about new audiobook, book, and comic book releases.
Talked about on today’s show: The Infinite Worlds Of H.G. Wells, Sherlock Holmes, Memory by Donald E. Westlake, Hard Case Crime, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, nihilism, SFSignal’s 122 books that bring Scott to tears, All The Lives He Led by Frederik Pohl (a semi-nihilistic novel), Yellowstone, “half minus negative zero”, A Matter Of Time by Glen Cook, The Black Company, Abel One by Ben Bova, blood and flesh and shirtless, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, BoingBoing, Russian Ark, Enigmatic Plot vs. Enigmatic Pilot, Enclave (aka Razorland) by Ann Aguirre, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Scorch Trials, The Hunger Games, Hunt The Space Witch and Other Stories by Robert Silverberg, WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer, Starstruck, Blair Butler, “Geoff Boucher’s Los Angeles Times Hero Complex ‘Get Your Cape On’ pick of the week”, The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, Macmillan Audio, Audible.com, Brilliance Audio, Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman, Lawrence Block, O. Henry-ish, “I see no reason to buy through iTunes” (vs. Audible.com), Limitless (aka The Dark Fields) by Alan Glynn, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flowers For Algernon, Understand by Ted Chiang, acquiring a whole bag of pills, “smart people are neat”, Tantor Media, History Is Wrong by Erich von Däniken, Jesse becomes momentarily depressed, The Guns Of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, John Lee, the John Cleaver series, have world events have sped because of modern technology?, Libya, Tripoli, “The Graveyard Of Empires”, “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores Tripoli”, NPR, A History Of The World In Six Glasses by Tom Standage, beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, cola, the Today In Canadian History podcast, the Canadian Navy, I Don’t Want To Kill You by Dan Wells, I Am Not A Serial Killer, “normally I don’t do this”, Dexter, the Writing Excuses podcast, Homeward Bound by Harry Turtledove, alternate history, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Grover Gardner, Eric S. Rabkin, George Orwell’s 1984, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Dufris, binary fission, Tantor Media is very innovative in including ebooks with their audiobooks, we need a new demarcation to desperate urban fantasy romance from SF, “conspiracy and ignorance based books”, The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, Tales From A Thousand Nights And The Night (aka 1,001 Nights!) translated by Richard Burton, The Thousand Nights And A Night is the first fix-up novel, Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, South America, Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, Atlantis And Other Places by Harry Turtledove, Slave To Sensation shouldn’t be a science fiction novel, Orson Scott’s Card Intergalactic Medicine Show, Rejiggering The Thingamajig by Eric James Stone on Escape Pod #277, body-swapping, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, gender-swapping, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, Heinlein’s old theme: “naked people talking to each other”, Heinlein likes to examine social preconceptions and social prejudices, “not a Heinlein classic but still classic Heinlein”, Eifelheim, Luke Burrage, Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce, George Washington riding a dinosaur, The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, contemporary with Tolkien (rather than derivative of Tolkien), Michael Moorcock, Eric Birghteyes by H. Rider Haggard, Bronson Pinchot, The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, anthropomorphic fiction, quasi-Science Fiction, quasi-Fantasy, Coyotes In The House by Elmore Leonard |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Call Of The Wild by Jack London, We Three by Grant Morrison, Transmetropolitain, Warren Ellis, Tama’s pet peeve in comics is silent panels, Audible Frontiers, The Death Of Grass by John Christopher, The Tripods, The Sam Gunn Omnibus, The Steel Remains, Cliffs Notes are now available as audiobooks, Brave New World, The Spiral Path by Lisa Paitz Spindler, Eat Prey Love by Kerrelyn Sparks, William Coon’s Eloquent Voice titles, Andre Norton’s The Time Traders, Gilgamesh The King by Robert Silverberg |READ OUR REVIEW|, Philip K. Dick, Henry James, Anton Chekov, Paul of Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth.comThe Whisperer In Wax, wax cylinder tech, Embedded by Dan Abnett, SFSignal.com.
By Stephen King; Read by Kathy Bates
8 CDs – 9 hours – [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2009 (reissue from 1996)
Themes: / Horror / Possession / Small town / Spirits / God / Writers /
I had high hopes for Stephen King’s Desperation (small band of people held captive in a demon-haunted mining town, breaking loose to battle possessed corpses, scorpions, and wolves—what’s not to like?), but alas, it failed to deliver on its intriguing premise. I’d give it an above average 3 ½ out of 5 stars. It contains some interesting ideas and is worth a read, but is not in the class of King’s best works.
Desperation contains some effective action sequences and the usual dollop of King-ian gross-out horror scenes, though there’s little actual frightening stuff in here. The book walks a hazy middle ground between a straight-up horror story and an examination of the nature of faith and the personage of God, and at least (for me) never really succeeds with either objective.
The basic problem I had with Desperation is that it contains no memorable or even particularly likeable personalities. The closest we get to a main character is John Edward Marinville, a pretty obvious stand-in for King himself (Johnny is a graying popular writer and member of the Baby Boomer generation whose career is starting to flag, and embarks on a cross-country motorcycle trip to attempt to find inspiration for his next novel. Which is apparently identical to how King arrived at the idea for Desperation). But after his introduction Johnny gets placed on the back burner as King juggles a bunch of other introductions, and we don’t learn what makes him tick until the book is nearly through.
I will give King some benefit of the doubt as the Penguin audio book I listened to for this review was abridged, and King’s original text is cruelly slashed. It’s apparent that some character development was left on the Penguin cutting room floor. The audio version is (somewhat) saved by narrator Kathy Bates of Misery fame, who does a fine job as the reader.
The rest of the characters are your standard cast of interchangables, save for David Carver, an 11-year-old boy who is able to communicate directly with God. King was certainly ambitious with Desperation: Like he did with The Stand, King inserts God directly into this book. He also spends some time exploring the nature of God through David’s struggle to reconcile a being that is supposedly all-knowing and all good, but is also cruel and demands borderline unbearable sacrifices of his worshipers here on earth. In the cruelest act of all, King writes, sometimes God lets His broken and suffering people live.
Opposing our band of heroes is the demon Tak, an evil spirit penned up in a 19th century mine—the China Pit—located on the outskirts of the small, secluded town of Desperation, Nevada. Tak is freed when a modern-day mining company accidentally unearths the ancient shaft. There’s an old legend in Desperation that a group of Chinese miners were buried alive in the mine after the shaft caved in, and the white miners outside sealed them in, alive, after deciding a rescue was too risky. In another weakness of the book, it’s not apparent whether the Chinese had stumbled onto Tak, or whether he was summoned by the curses of the dying, vengeful workers trapped inside.
Tak has the ability to inhabit the bodies of his victims, and he uses his hosts to embark on a murderous rampage that wipes out nearly the entire population of Desperation. Last of all Tak takes possession of Collie Entragian, the hulking town sheriff, and using his body and his cruiser rides up and down Highway 50 snaring unwitting hostages one by one.
Entragian/Tak locks his hostages in the Desperation town jail for use as human hosts (demon-possessed bodies wear out rather quickly and gruesomely, we learn). But spurred on by a vision from God, David manages to squirm through the bars of his cell and free the group. The rest of the book follows David as he accepts God’s command to defeat Tak. But first he has to overcome the group’s skepticism of God and his own shaken faith, which is cruelly tested again and again.
The middle of the book is a rather uninspired, drawn-out sequence of the group holed up in Desperation’s movie theatre. The book ends in a final showdown at the China Pit as the survivors attempt to seal the shaft. I wanted to see more of the inside of the mine, which seemed to have lots of potential as a set-piece, but the book ends rather abruptly.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a scene in which Johnny/King shouts out, “God forgive me, I hate critics!” before detonating a cache of explosives. I have to believe that King wrote the scene with a big grin on his face, and I certainly got a laugh out of it, even though I’m likely among the critics for which King has little use.
Nightmares on Congress Street – Part 5 By Rocky Coast Radio Theatre; Performed by a Full Cast 2 CD’s – 2 hours [AUDIO DRAMA] Publisher: Rocky Coast Radio Theatre Published: 2005 Themes: / Horror / Science Fiction / Murder / Government / Spirits /
Here’s another top-notch title from Rocky Coast Radio Theatre out of Maine. It contains seven dramatized horror tales:
The Demon of the Gibbet by Fitz-James O’Brien A horror poem, very nicely rendered.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, adapted by Patrick Bradley A modern adaptation of Poe’s classic story. Nightmares on Congress Street, Part IV contained Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado” presented traditionally – this one is also excellent, but the script updates the story to a modern setting.
Retroactive Anti-Terror by Alex Irvine, adapted by William Dufris This science fiction story portrays a different type of horror – a future where people are prosecuted for what they might do. Alex Irvine’s original story appeared in Salon.com in 2004. The story makes a clear political statement which people from all viewpoints would benefit from hearing.
Much A-Zoo About Nothing written and performed by Michael Duffy A humorous song in which a guy goes to a zoo and encounters “ten green men with super suits on”.
The Wind by Ray Bradbury, adapted by William Dufris It starts when Alan calls Herb on the phone obviously very nervous. After a little prodding by Herb, Alan reveals that it’s the wind he’s so worried about, and the tense story takes off from there. Bradbury probably has more stories available as audio drama than any other author, and this wonderful adaptation has me hunting for more.
The Door Below by Hugh B. Cave, adapted by William Dufris Another good horror story that takes place mostly in a lighthouse… ghosts, anyone?
The Statement of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft, adapted by William Dufris This is my favorite of the collection. Dufris and crew perfectly capture the creepy horror of Lovecraft’s original story.
Nightmares on Congress Street V is the second title I’ve heard from Rocky Coast, and I’m convinced that they are one of the top current producers of audio drama. With first-rate acting, the careful placing of sound effects, very good music, and fantastic scripts, these stories capture and hold tight. I can’t recommend this title highly enough for fans of audio drama and horror.