The SFFaudio Podcast #703 – Call Him Nemesis by Donald E. Westlake; read by Chris Pyle
This unabridged reading of the story (54 minutes) is followed by a discussion of it.
Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, and Evan Lampe.
Talked about on today’s show:
Worlds Of If, September 1961, programmatical problem, H.L. Gold, art, a juvenile delinquent rumble scene, early 50s, a strange story, a juvenile like Heinlein, so much Westlake in it, advanced stuff, the man with the handkerchief mask, the perfect stranger, Miss English, the girls in the gilded teller cages, dozing, savings account (again), the bank robbers are exactly the same, triplets, little Eddy, that kid from the bank, a transitive property in the writing, what makes the story longer than it probably should be, one of the cops doesn’t get it, why (maybe) it was better for Donald Westlake to leave science fiction, essentially science fiction, except for the fantasy element, The Scorpion!, a comic book superhero origin story, J. Jonah Jameson’s pov, a super-hero’s early exploits, Batman (1989), a scientific investigation, curlicues, letters to the newspapers, kid language, warn the citizens, bad doer’s begone, your printer informs on you, sending messages to IBM, sneakily (and sincerely), your printer, the editorial introduction, we never get the word nemesis in the story, a vigilante story, Westlake plays fair, Stephen King ten times, Stephen King was heavily influenced by this man, George Stark in The Dark Half, Richard Bachman, he probably read this story, Carrie, Firestarter, nobody noticed that in all these years, imposing control, Charlie McGee, psychic potty training, serve us, education, a maturation, a better story than this, he’ll grow out of it, he will beleive he has lost his power, too much into this idea, jumping to the supernatural, super-science, very 50s, more fantastic than Galaxy, Fantastic, genre conventions, what genre something is, where’s Francis Stevens, William Hope Hodgson, more fruitless, SFFaudio.com, what to call it, far out of genre, if you fix your criteria, interesting cases, Spider-Man is not a science fiction story it’s a super-science story, the origin vs. focus, Francis Steven’s 1904 super-hero story, he even gets a super-hero story, no swords, no magic, worrying about the category is important, a science fiction story, a star or a planet named Nemesis, New York, juvenile delinquent gangs, Westlakeisms, whatever Stephen King genre is, a very broad thing called fantasy, dragons and wizards and swords, the characters are having a genre struggle, genre savvy, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, wrong genre savvy, hard SF does not work down here, it had been fantasy from the beginning, migrating through genres, the frosted window, Scorp old boy, Tonto, Kemosabe, radioactive scorpion?, the issue with super-hero stories, the opening promise, superhero origin stories, Batman learns kung-fu, now I’m Spider-Man, a promise and no delivery on that promise, the 50 best fantasy books of all time, an Esquire article, nice list, thanks, is that all we have for this story?, surprised by what the story was, pyrokinesis, fun reading, fluffy and frothy, all surface and no tension, teams up with police, a Halloween costume, his powers don’t match that of a scorpion, change your name, Invincible, an amusing problem, what do I call myself, a weird strange deep dive, Marvel Puzzle Quest, has the bends, Namor, Mr. Fantastic, crystal bends light, Aquaman is DC, the gang names, Scarlet somethings, generic gang names, Jesse has still not seen The Warriors (1979), Xenophon, Scarlet Raiders and The Challengers, a bunch of teenager, the Golden Avengers, the Warriors, such a strange phenomenon, kids don’t join gangs anymore, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, switchblades, fuck mom and dead let’s go out and fight, the parents were away so much, kids sleeping in the factories, dad was off in Italy, mom was in the airplane factory, helicopter parenting, slinging drugs, a Westside Story vibe, Graham Greene’s The Destructors, ride the buses for free, not paying, I screwed the man, let’s destroy his house, kids who desperately need something to do, city hall people logic, skateboard parks, midnight basketball, slingin weed, idle hands are the devil’s playthings, no zip-guns, from the parents, dad’s WWII service automatic, the word is even funny, the fuzz, fantasy, strange reality, Harlan Ellison’s juvenile delinquent books, on brand for him, scrappy, Rowdy Roddy Piper, short and small, an aggression, cuttingness, a fantasy of our own reality, comic books, Batman and Superman, superhero comics in his closet, a much darker path, Batman’s let’s make em gritty vs. Batman campy (Adam West), a lady who calls herself Catwoman, Joker (2019) is like Taxi Driver (1976), a more realistic depiction, mild-mannered taxi driver by day, The Wild Wild West, a companion Desilu show to Star Trek, trick gun, assassinating politicians, living in his own fantasy world, “I’m Justice”, it could have gone really dark, placating the kid, fuck all of you, the tone is humorous, Westlakeian mode, coins, a god’s eye POV, a jokey tone, some phrase, a psychic expert kept on hand, just in case, The X-Files, Fox Mulder, immediately ridiculous, Fluorocarbons Are Here To Stay!, the logic of the story and the point Westlake is making, an indestructible material, a giant football stadium, weird properties, immiscible liquids, it’s sinister, government being, Courtney Brown at Emory University, a weird guy, remote viewing, satellites are expensive, do their domes contain nukes, psi-shit, at what point do you learn that, more like Watchmen than The Comedian, used for assassinating people, Philip K. Dick is useful for us, mutants, The Golden Man, post-human in every way, Tony Stark changes, Peter Parker is always the same guy, a moment of growth, when Stacy dies, a fundamental break, Dr. Manhattan, we can’t even think the same way, a relatable story, Watchmen has all of them, the owl man, half Batman and half Ironman, Rorschach, Silk Specter, all the horrible things going on in Olympic training [and Hollywood’s casting couch], it cannot but go sour, Green Goblins, as a kid, useful as a kid, ultimately this goes nowhere, a reflection on reality, whoever made that movie, a modern Taxi Driver, Suicide Squad, Wonderwoman, for children, giving them to adults, Black Widow (2021), The Americans [TV series], Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021), forgettable light entertainment, not brain food, is that all there is?, evolving characters over time, Thor’s arc, getting fat, played for laughs, Demon in a Bottle, Iron Man in the 1980s, alcoholism, Secret Wars, note on the same page, spectacle, kick the butt, very Lovecraftian, Dr. Strange, Fu-Manchu, a gigantic red flag, a licensing issue, a drama fest, accusation, a Fu Manchu podcast, growing my long fingernails, daughter of Fu Manchu, a dragon instead of a train, furry faceless creature, Ben Kingsley, retcon, Brandon Sanderson, french fry fiction, french fry movies, poutine fiction, Vladimir Poutine, cancelling poutine, Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky, people rounded up and murdered dachshunds during WWI, slapping a sticker on their body, salisbury steak, hey listeners you’re real fucking dumb, how stupid do you gotta be, NPC face, blowing Jesse’s mind, hamburger prepared like a steak, put some pickles on it, superhero origin stories in Stephen King fiction, one of King’s tropes, freeing themselves from confinement, the Dark Tower, Everything’s Eventual, finally liberated, our best man: Ted Chiang, Understand, Braniac or Lex Luthor, Limitless (2011), the transformation process, he becomes post-human, a science fiction canon includes two Ted Chiang collections, crazy, he’s so good, I hope he’s writing, Ian Tregillis, magicians vs. superheroes, a creepy antagonist, WWII, when Captain America starts, the super-heroes counteract each other, Red Skull or whatever, nullify themselves out, compatible with history, punching out Hitler, Red Guardian, the communist answer to Captain America, he’s a communist in the 1960s, found family, fake family, real family, when Red Guardian thought of communism, under the Comics Code [Authority], if Will was here, played for comedy, boisterous brawler, done with superheroes, T.C. from Magnum dusting his hands gif, pornographic materials, searching lockers, they found some, surprising to see it be mentioned, Westlake is such a strange guy, he doesn’t gloat or show off, stop showing off, just make the story better, let’s have fun, not his best story, the idea is sort of poo, mom told me, a super-hero origin story thought through, The Avengers didn’t start until 1963, teaming people up, dark hair and good looks of a TV or movie girl, 30 minute TV show, The X-Men starts in 1963, another pen name we don’t know about, Edwin West, Strange Affair, Sin Street, a fallen minister, Bob Bristow, all a man needs is money, a giant pearl necklace, beds 25 cents, a really awesome cover, a beautiful painted cover, a drop of ink in a sea of toner, every paperback had a crackerjack cover, now people go to Amazon, flipping it over, what lists are for, it will be successful if people buy the books from the list, the worst part about it is shilling for Amazon, sleep well, Evan.
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