Commentary: Where are all the Ted Chiang audiobooks?

SFFaudio Commentary

Ted Chiang (portrait by Arturo Villarrubia)

Ted Chiang, perhaps the greatest living Science Fiction writer, has very little of his excellent fiction (a dozen stories, novellettes and novellas) available in the audio format. That is a bitter, bitter shame. It is my hope this post will help change that.

Lamentably, no Ted Chiang audiobooks have ever been commercially released. There are, however, several podcast sources for readings and the BBC commissioned an unabridged recording of Understand (which has been occasionally rebroadcast).

Below is a chart detailing all of Ted Chiang’s published fiction.

Audio (YES/NO):Title:Original Publication:MP3: – Audio Publisher:Notes:

NoTower Of Babylon – Omni, November 1990 – novelette
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NoDivision By ZeroFull Spectrum 3 (1991) – short story

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YesUnderstand – Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, August 1991 – BBC Radio 7 – occasionally rebroadcast on BBCR7, read by Rashan Stone, novelette

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NoStory Of Your LifeStarlight 2, (1998) – novella

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NoThe Evolution Of Human Science (aka Catching Crumbs From The Table) – Nature, June 1, 2000 – short story

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NoSeventy-Two LettersVanishing Acts (2000) – novella

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YesHell Is The Absence Of GodStarlight 3 (2001) – |MP3| – Podcastle – read by James Trimarco, bad sound quality, novelette

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NoLiking What You See: A DocumentaryStories of Your Life and Others (2002) – novelette

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YesWhat’s Expected Of Us – Nature, July 5, 2005 – |MP3| – StarShip Sofa – read by Julie Davis, short story

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YesThe Merchant And The Alchemist’s Gate – Subterranean Press (2007) – StarShip Sofa – |MP3| – read by J.J. Campanella, novelette

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YesExhalationEclipse 2, 2008 – |MP3| or |MP3| – StarShip Sofa / Escape Pod – read by Ray Sizemore, short story

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NoThe Lifecycle of Software Objects – Subterranean Press (2010) – novella

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Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #108

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #108 – Jesse talks with Trent Reynolds (of The Violent World Of Parker blog) about Donald E. Westlake’s Hard Case Crime novel 361 (available as an audiobook from BBC Audiobooks America).

Talked about on today’s show:
Richard Stark, the meaning of the title “361“, Roget’s Thesaurus entry #361, “killer’s don’t run around with a thesaurus”, Hard Case Crime, The Hunter, George Washington Bridge, New York, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books blog‘s review of 361, Westlake and the USAF, Backflash, Westlake loves theatre people, actors, Hollywood, “dangerous and scary”, Stark had fans in prison, Parker vs. Dortmunder, The Man With The Getaway Face, revenge, stoic vs. existential, our podcast on Memory by Donald E. Westlake, Gregg Margarite, finding purpose in the purposeless world,

“Yeah. All right, this is what I’ve been thinking. To begin with, every man has to have either a home or a purpose. Do you see that? Either a place to be or something to do. Without one or the other, a man goes nuts. Or he loses his manhood, like a hobo. Or he drinks or kills himself or something else. It doesn’t matter, It’s just that everybody has to have one or the other.”

drinking, “there’s no one more pissed off than this guy”, “the drifter mentality”, how Westlake handles supporting characters, the lawyer’s secretary, the cowardly private detective, honesty vs. duplicity, hardboiled vs. noir, House Of Lords (whiskey), get a job at Walmart vs. take over the mob, Florida, Bill’s suicide, going on a drunk, identity, solider vs. airman, he’s not his father’s son, he’s not his brother’s brother, Charles Ardai, the absence of women, the Hard Case Crime cover (by Richard B. Farrell), Lawrence Block, “A Sound Of Distant Drums” is a long running literary joke, Westlake characters generally read paperbacks, Paul Kavanagh novels, Not Comin’ Home To You, Such Men Are Dangerous, a purposeless ex-military guy living on a deserted island in the Florida Keys, The Green Eagle Score, The Black Ice Score, The Blackbird, Grofield, University Of Chicago Press editions with introductions by Lawrence Block, Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr’s “Burglar” books, murder mystery vs. identity mystery, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams, The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, did Westlake mature out of Parker?, Flashfire, Jason Statham as Parker, Payback, The Hunter, The Man With The Getaway Face, The Mourner, The Score, Two Much, Cops And Robbers by Donald Westlake, the way Westlake paints characters, The Hot Rock, humorous writing, the competent Parker vs. the hapless (bad luck) Dortmunder, Robert Redford, What’s The Worst That Could Happen, The Comedy Is Finished, Donald E. Westlake: an annotated bibliography by David Bratman, coffee, Idi Amin, sadly there is no biography of Donald E. Westlake, Matthew Scudder’s drinking problem, Eight Million Ways To Die, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit: A Manual For Fiction Writers, Lawrence Block should write a Parker book, race-walking, LawrenceBlock.com, Dan Simmons, Garry Disher, Hard Case, “361 is as hard-boiled as fiction comes”, Jim Thompson, The Jugger, Stephen King’s Misery is a spiritual successor to The Jugger, the pragmatism of celebrity/writer privacy, wheelbarrows full of books, too much of a good thing: “too many fans can interfere with your operation”, receiving unsolicited books, advanced reading copies, “it really clarifies your understanding of what your purpose is if you are confronted by a barrage of things that aren’t your purpose”, book tours do two things: sell books and reward the readers, Sheldon Lord, Lawrence Block’s sleaze books are coming to ebook, Random House, Lynn Monroe, Hellcats And Honey Girls, Subterranean Press, Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Triumph Of Evil, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, A Drop Of The Hard Stuff, Getting Off by Lawrence Block (Jill Emerson).

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The God Engines by John Scalzi

SFFaudio Review

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The God Engines by John ScalziThe God Engines
By John Scalzi; Read by Christopher Lane
3 CDs – Approx. 3 Hours 15 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: December 2010
ISBN: 9781441890795
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Religion / Galactic Civilization / Space Travel / War /

Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this — and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It’s what he doesn’t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put — and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely… Author John Scalzi has ascended to the top ranks of modern science fiction with the best-selling, Hugo-nominated novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. Now he tries his hand at fantasy, with a dark and different novella that takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling. Say your prayers… and behold The God Engines.

The God Engines is the strongest John Scalzi audiobook since Old Man’s War |READ OUR REVIEW|. It provokes thought, flies off in an unexpected direction and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The setting is in an unnamed galaxy, at an unknown time. But space travel, interstellar communication, and bodily healing aren’t technological developments. Instead, they are derived from a rigorous faith in actual, existing gods! These gods are so real, so embodied, that there is one in the center of each starship. It lies their enslaved, guarded and harnessed so as to achieve the ends to which they are put. Command over these powerful beings is achieved by a combination of torture and reward. Their masters are human beings, members of a religion with their own completely manifested god. Their purpose is to war with other religions, enslave new gods and bring more human beings to the worship of their own god. It is an unending holy war, in a fully realized universe, and it works.

I like to see the examination of an interesting idea, without an endless parade of pointless activity to dilute its core of goodness. We have that in this book. There’s something very neat about the running of what is essentially the starship Enterprise on faith. To hear that an officer is changing his prayers to adjust what’s showing up on the viewscreen – that’s something definitely worth seeing. Scalzi’s universe is run on prayer, faith, and relgious belief. It’s a kind of realization of what religions always claim, but shown to be actually functioning in a replicable manner. It’s theology as physics. The whole story feels like it comes from the same place J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 came from. Where Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End came from. There’s an indisputable space opera with Lovecraft vibe to it, but unlike so much space opera, the thinking just isn’t mushy and placative. In fact, there was nary a moment where I wasn’t completely engaged with this made up Fantasy/SF tale. The storytelling is expertly intertwined with a careful exposition of the universe’s rules. This works to fully enrich the ideation without coming off as merely a writer going through a checklist. I’d love to see Scalzi, or any other SF writer, write a dozen more books just like this – take a break from the series universe, and write some more idea based SF. Take a simple little premise or vignette, throw in a few characters and have them explore the concomitant interestingness of that idea. The God Engines does exactly that. It shows, very simply what SF storytelling is supposed to look like. This audiobook stands well, on its own, though I could easily imagine it as one half of an old Ace Double. This is very good work. Well done Mr. Scalzi.

Narrator Christopher Lane has about five major characters to play with. The captain is commanding and thoughtful. The second in command is calm and loyal. The ship’s high priest (who also acts as a kind of political commissar) is jealous but clever. The one female role, a rook (which is kind of a cross between a ship’s whore and a priestess), is wise and womanly. But it’s the unnamed god’s voice that is the real standout. Lane’s god is tortured, twisted and devious. It is a very precise performance, one that allows for the sympathy Scalzi was aiming at. The art for the cover comes from Vincent Chong‘s illustration of the Subterranean Press edition.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #096

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #096 – Scott and Jesse talk about recently arrived audiobooks as well as Y: The Last Man, James Tiptree Jr., Isaac Asimov, what author estates want and more!

Talked about on today’s show:
Kage Baker, Subterranean Press, Blackstone Audio, In The Garden Of Iden by Kage Baker, Captive Market by Philip K. Dick, Janan Raouf, Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, Barret Whitener, telepathy, Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, Malcolm Hillgartner, Heinlein’s first and last novel, Spider Robinson, Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Macmillan Audio, Death Cloud: Sherlock Holmes The Legend Begins by Andrew Lane, Dan Wyman, “endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate” = who cares, Poul Anderson on Sherlock Holmes, Laird of Muck, disabled protagonists, The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty, The Lighthouse War, MG (middle grade) vs. YA, Gerard Doyle, Christopher Paolini, The Gods Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, William Dufris, viscous plant men, does Deja Thoris lay eggs?, Dynamite Entertainment‘s Warlord Of Mars, Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg, Majipoor Chronicles, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Stonefather by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, Emily Janice Card, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Lost Gate, The Last Airbender, R.L. Stine, Timescape by, Darkside by Tom Becker |READ OUR REVIEW|, Bolinda Audio, London, Neil Gaiman-esque, The Graveyard Book, Venus by Ben Bova |READ OUR REVIEW|, Fantastic Audio, Jupiter, Nova Science Now, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Europa, Ganymede, A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Brilliance Audio, The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey, dragons, elves, Odalisque by Neal Stephenson, Alan Moore loves allusions, The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Honor Harrington, Honor Among Enemies by David Weber, manticore, pirates!, what’s up with all the mix-and-match creatures in the Middle East?, On Blazing Wings by L. Ron Hubbard, mercenaries, SFsite.com often reviews the L. Ron Hubbard Stories From The Golden Age, the paperbooks problem, The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, Anne Perry, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, 8th century, Baghdad, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, the Fantasy Book Critic blog review, unpronounceable character names, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick was inspired by the Odyssey, Beyond Lies The Wub, Strange Eden, Scott didn’t like Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan, Gulliver’s Travels, the problem of transitory pop-culture references, The Tyrrany Of Talented Readers, Scalped, Bertrand Russell, Pride Of Baghdad, anthropomorphic fiction, James Tiptree Jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Masters Of Horror: The Screwfly Solution, Dove Audio, Isaac Asimov, author estates, Escape Pod #100, Nightfall, Tantor Media, Robots Of Dawn, Audible.com has plenty of Arthur C. Clarke, Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes, mystery, Science Fiction, On Stranger Tides, Brain Wave, PaperbackSwap, Del Rey art in the ’70s and ’80s was awesome, Scott’s Picasa gallery of book covers, Tom Weiner, Jesse has a terrible memory, our Oath Of Fealty readalong, the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #074

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #074 – Jesse and Scott talk about the recently arrived audiobooks with assistance and commentary by Luke Burrage

Talked about on today’s show:
New York, “your whole life is a holiday”, The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Wheel Of Time series, “the entire world is imagined from the ground up”, Blackstone Audio, The Shadow Hunter by Pat Murphy, neanderthals, cave bear, “a little cave dude”, The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, shamanic or shamanistic, The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, Urban Fantasy Alert, City Of Ghosts by Stacia Kane, the Chess Putnam series, First Drop Of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost (Book 1 in the The Night Huntress World series), paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy, spade vs. Spade, vampires, by , southern Gothic, Flannery O’Connor with zombies, the full zombie vs. the half zombie vampire, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, The Walking Dead by , Being Human (tv show), Dark Shadows, Hawaii 50, V, Half Blood Of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston, Stephen King, noir urban fantasy?, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, Subterranean Press, Bronson Pinchot, pirates, magic, voodoo, Brilliance Audio, Bearers Of The Black Staff by Terry Brooks, Caviar by Theodore Sturgeon, Shannara, Audiofile Magazine, Connecting the Robots and Empire (Foundation) series, demon war, war dudes and siege engines, The Speed Of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, autism, Mary Robinette Kowal’s review of the Books On Tape edition of The Speed Of Dark |READ OUR REVIEW|, Luke’s idea for a paranormal romance set in the stone age, “urban cave fantasy”, Quicksilver by Neal Stephanson, audiobooks are being shaped to the length of an Audible credit, The Baroque Cycle, The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch |READ OUR REVIEW|, “it ends in Gibraltar”, Penguin Audio, Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, science fiction, Zero History by William Gibson, Max Headroom, Elmore Leonard, great writing is not enough, Michael May’s Adventure Blog article on back of the book copywriting, taking the risk of writing only the keywords, Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Finch by Jeff Vandermeer, StarShipSofa, weird fantasy vs. new weird, the George Zarr talk (The SFFaudio Podcast #071), Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot a BBC radio drama, “if you’re 14 years old and you’re listening to this…”, fantasy women, Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, Young Adult fiction, the The Ruins of Gorlan series, I Am Number Four, Battlestar Galactica, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, This Immortal by Roger Zelazny, Dune by Frank Herbert, Children Of Dune, Bad Blood by John Sanford, James Lee Burke, Santa Fe Edge by Stuart Woods, by Michael Kramer, the Richard Stark Parker books (Books On Tape), Ed Eagle vs. Eddie The Eagle, New Mexico, puzzling murder, false identity, lush and exclusive resorts, family, vegetarian, car, crash, human, not human, zombie, mystery, maggot infested corpse, brink of death, flesh off her bones, Dust by Joan Frances Turner, should be able to know it, OVERLORDS!, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, futuristic gadgetry, Snow Crash, Virtual Light by William Gibson, “the first really good augmented reality book”, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #058

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #058 – Jesse and Scott talk with John DeNardo from SFSignal.com about Science Fiction books, audiobooks, TV, movies and comics.

Talked about on today’s show:
SFSignal.com, Charles Tan (of the Bibliophile Stalker), books vs. movies, Blade Runner, SFSignal reviews audiobooks, the Warhammer 40K series, Infinivox, Aliens Rule edited by Allan Kaster, James Swallow, the Blake’s 7 audio dramas, Black Library, Dresden Files, Jim Butcher, WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, Mike Resnick’s Starship series, Orson Scott Card, Theodore Sturgeon, Alastair Reynolds, Hard SF, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton, Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, The Space Opera Renaissance edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, The New Space Opera 2 edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame – Volume One, Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, Tantor Media, steampunk, airships, Deep Navigation by Alastair Reynolds, NESFA Press, Subterranean Press, Phases Of The Moon by Robert Silverberg, “Book Cover Smackdown,” Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Gentlemen Of The Road by Michael Chabon, interior magazine art, The Lifecycle Of Software Objects by Ted Chiang, The Merchant And The Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang, The Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang, reviewing Science Fiction books, PC Gamer, the philosophy of reviewing, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, Star Trek, Doctor Who, deus ex machina, social Science Fiction, Fringe, Eureka, Paul Bishop, Bish’s Beat, Flashforward, Robert J. Sawyer’s episode, Luke Burrage, iO9: Good Character Development Includes The All-Important “F*@% Yeah” Moment, Terry Pratchett Explains Why Doctor Who Is Ludicrous, Frequency, CERN, HBO, True Blood, Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris |READ OUR REVIEW|, A Game Of Thrones, Ringworld as an audio drama or a miniseries, V, Shogun, “In the interest of full disclosure”, books received vs. books reviewed, the ethics of reviewing free books, Karen Burnham, Spiral Galaxy Reviewing Laboratory, paranormal romance, Lisa Paitz Spindler, Danger Gal, recent arrivals, The Unincorporated War by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, Brilliance Audio, Cory Doctorow, For The Win, Little Brother, Jesse’s Pick Of The Week: Logicomix: An Epic Search For Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Watchmen, Zeus: King Of The Gods by George O’Connor, Scott’s Pick Of The Week: The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, About A Boy, Fever Pitch, John’s Pick Of The Week: Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, We, Robots edited by Allan Kaster, The Complete Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale.

Posted by Jesse Willis