The SFFaudio Podcast #751 – Unseen—Unfeared by Francis Stevens – read by Mike Vendetti. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (48 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Maissa Bessada, Mike Vendetti, and Cora Buhlert.
Talked about on today’s show:
listening to and reading, People’s Favorite Magazine, Feb. 10, 1919, emdash [—], Mike’s first Francis Stevens, more than 100 year ago, the technology, so predictive, The Heads Of Cerberus, Gertrude Barrows Bennett, a married woman who married more than once, Jean Vale, they cancelled that, only one story had her real name on it, G.M. Barrows, teenager, Sunfire, getting depressed, a fantastic writer, clunky, Citadel Of Fear, so good at ideas, so early, 1904, a superhero origin story before anybody, nobody had invented superheroes yet, Zorro is later! , The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1905, dual identity, so pioneering, such sexist times, Francis is a male name, abbreviated names, C.L. Moore, H.P. Lovecraft, Andre Norton, sexism came from women as well as men, women want the vote, the progressive period, time capsule, From Beyond, a little H.P. Lovecraft story, machine shows some weird shit, no waccy tobaccy, no good evidence Bobby Derie seems to have these facts at hand, published in 1934, better in technical ways, tighter, 11 pages, 47 minutes vs. 19 minutes, this is the racist story, Lovecraft’s story isn’t racist, dealing with race a lot, Lovecraft lives through it, a case of parallel thinking, explicitly called out, Micrographia, what paramecium and amoeba look like, these things are all over you, isn’t that creepy?, this story also calls out the bacteria in microscopy, deemed to be dirty, no running water, dirty because they are poor, teaching hygiene, photos with a microscope, talking about the technology, gaslamps have been out for a long time, a building without wifi today, any wifi!, 1890s they have electric bulbs, phones are standard, people didn’t upgrade, a brownstone subdivided for a whole bunch of immigrants, Cool Air, a cheap place, nice and clean, dripping fluids everywhere, these are slumlords, tons of immigrants looking for housing, strong protections for renters, farmhouse, a farmer family once lived there, large entrance hall, stuffed in refugees, 1 million Ukrainians, Turkey, countries that want cheap labour, who gets to set the immigration policy?, going to a crummy neighbourhood, the guy he’s going to visit is rich, he wants to help improve the community, keep your water clean, a progressive of the kind the main character isn’t, in a story like He, disgusting human beings, the nadir of race relations in the United States, Jim Crow is at its highest, swarthy of anykind, deemed horrible, eugenics, racism at its core, weird piece of paper from South America, one Thanksgiving, strangers, started to hit the wacky stuff, some subversive group had put marijuana into the stuffing you buy at the store, Mike is the only one who knows this, he’s racist at the beginning of the story, paranoid and high and delusional, the drug makes him super-racist, kind of fascinating, everything is disgusting, he’s wrong, the Italian guy is concerned for him, deeply racist people, they’re diseases, we’re all human, I was human too, recognizing that he’s not himself, as human as me, he’s turning it on himself, the chianti, the sour wine, undercut at the end, the opalescent paper, the classic Lovecraftian move, this amazing book, this city of ancient gods that we found in Antarctica, let’s never tell anybody about it, connections in the shipbuilding industry, Antarctica, old enough to know, still wanted to go, very very cool. Francis Stevens is so cool, The Elf-Trap, there’s this scientist, she likes scientist characters, he has a bad heart, go on vacation, Kentucky, Carcassonne, disgusting, beautiful, they’re fairies?, fall in love and then sacrifice him, disgusting and stink, beautiful and attractive and exotic, we see it both ways, a frameshift, dingy and disgusting, everything green again, chocolatey!, there’s something wrong with this, they’re all like me, crawling uop the scientist’s leg, starfish, centipedes, drink these developing fluids, backstory of the cop, it was all that wacky tabaccy, the reversal again, what is the truth of this?, “doubt is sometimes better than certainty”, this doesn’t seem like it is that deep, generally very racist, what makes the people so racist is they are certain about their beliefs, there are things we all believe that we are wrong about, if we are very strongly opinioned about those things it can make us very made to be confronted when those things turn out to not be true, it makes us upset because it hurts us, what’s going on politically, you can not have a conversation with somebody is on the other side, your certainty and their certainty, matter and antimatter, I have this problem and I don’t want it solved, environmental protestors, gentle and lenient, repent and renounce modernity, glued himself to a table, voted differently, racist uncles, free refrigerators?, far right, screechy ones on the left, death threats on the internet, fireworks, terrible things, this is the danger, blocking people, I can’t talk to you and you can’t talk to me, we need to act, new washer and dryer, certainty, is this the best price, in the face of the fact that we must act, we must doubt, really good at telling truths about some things, voted for trump or some other person, doubt is better certainty or certainty is better than doubt, vitamin d supplements, serious covid cases, terrible Nazi made a sensible proposition, water is wet, water is dry!, Trump water, train derailment, ancient Trump water, East Palestine, laws passed by the Nazis, perfectly harmless laws, industrialization, parking spaces per home, a good law, decades later, advertise abortions, anti-abortion activists, supplying power, perfectly harmless, what actually is happening in this story, is the cigar actually tainted, is this full of vinyl chloride, a religious like conversion, we’re not so bad as we all think we are, seems pretty simple, an app that allows you to see what people are thinking, a delusion, seeing evil thoughts written all over their faces, narrows his focus, a bad trip, weird membrane, were those monsters real or not?, is it a ghost story?, a real interaction, able to imagine having this conversation with Doctor Holt, does he actually see him, back and forth, what you’re about to see no mortal man has seen, I’m dead, all the world shall know, one by one they shall learn the truth and perish, double entendre, feels a little clunky, she’s really on to something, from Cuba, invariable good, not be the case, Havana, he only smoked half the cigar, still alive, Jenkins, Ralph Peeler, accused of murdering, hallucinated to suicide, or it killed him, what makes this different from other kinds of science, no longer replicable, send that to Benjamin Franklin, back and forth, that’s what science is, repeatable experiences, opalescent paper, can’t get any more of it, could have been cocaine, or had an evil curse on it, what do these two things have in common, they’re exotic, an Incan lost city, map it, they burn the paper so nobody can replicate the experience, we can all look under the microscopes and see the germs that are killing us, when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin Of Species came out, I’m not a fucking monkey, it takes decades, Breakthroughs In Science by Isaac Asimov, microphotography, a readalong, the density of the gold, Eureka Eureka!, I smell good, not me I smell good, a good bath joke, chronological, dedicated to a science teacher Mike had in high school, lower the temperature of the flame, such a good book, a very good non-fiction and science writer, Archimedes, Johann Gutenberg, Nicolaus Copernicus, William Harvey, Galileo Galilei, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Isaac Newton, James Watt, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Michael Faraday, Joseph Henry, Henry Bessemer, Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Gregor Johann Mendel, William Henry Perkin, Röntgen and Becquerel, Thomas Alva Edison, Paul Ehrlich, Darwin and Wallace, Marie and Pierre Curie, Albert Einstein, George Washington Carver, Irving Langmuir, Rutherford and Lawrence, Robert Hutchings Goddard, a good list, a book to do a show on, dealing with that, The White Ape [Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family], cool that my ancestors were apes, gross!, a week later, gross!, I hate mushrooms, stages of developement, individually vs. societalally, the U.S. owns at this time, Philippines, talked about it as a colony, talking about adding , fucking disgusting monkeys, still a colony, possessions, Hawaii, 1899, South American drugs, harvested and brought to the city, add to the capital, having lunch with a friend, a mistaken poisoning, just tryna live, dosed, seeing behind the veil, we can’t replicate this, the ending is to leave us in doubt, a piece of fiction, that’s interesting, putting you in a better position, it’s a fact that Hillary Clinton killed that guy, we can think better about, our disbelief instinct, the most relevant case of technology today, robots have nothing to say, no you can’t write that anymore I’m going to fix it for you, these are not the words that were written, a false sense of what happened in the past, the Roald Dahl situation, children’s books have been edited for content, books from before WWII and WWI, childhood to adulthood, all of WWI in 2 pages, why is there no WWII at all, it’s been written out, never reprinted after WWII, censorship vs. replacing the text, shifted the setting, Silesia is now Poland but used to be Germany, Breslau to Hanover, both authors died in WWII, encroaching Red Army, for Lovecraft, public domain, change the entire story and keep Lovecraft’s name, disingenuous and bad vs. owned by a monopoly, the major difference, not republishing a book is not the same as changing the words, we’re reversing that, the James Bond books, racist stuff in here, not changing Ian Fleming from what he was, why they’re doing it, change for change’s sake, can’t say fat, fundamentally doing evil because they’re lying, the painter, Norman Rockwell, this is Norman Rockwell’s painting of Obama, if Stalin wants to airbrush somebody out, I went to the beach with my friend Trotsky, the Soviet system, the copyright problem, the audiobook narrator world, offended by certain words, the consensus, if that’s what it says, that’s what you say, Huckleberry Finn without the N-word, there are words in here that are not mine, you don’t see it you don’t worry about it, people tend to fear what they don’t know, immigrants in the United States, if all the Mexicans left you’d starve to death, stealing our jobs, what’s happening in the UK, agricultural labour, people from Africa, Poles, Romanians, cheap immigrant labour, no vegetables or fruit, part of the picture, when Lovecraft is being racist, there’s a push pull, factor owners want cheap labour, I can’t live here anymore, it could be entirely domestic, a period of starvation, exporting younger sons, pushed out political malcontents, these Proud Boys need to go to Canada, distant relatives, no one here would have them, 1950s, emigrated from Italy, grandfather was a real jerk, coal mines, Italians and Irish, those people are different, 1880s, sold his daughters, that was the deal they made, Jesse’s internet went away, basically illiterate, you couldn’t fool her with numbers, different shade of skin colour, and you fear em, you think you can see these people, suddenly visible, we’ve always had black people, a lot of Italian immigration, labour immigration, nasty prejudices against the Italians, only old people are like that, obviously Polish names, the descendants of Polish workers, the silliest thing, what were your grandparents, three generations of Turkish immigrants, two million Russians, every person is a library, read all your books and get used to it, it takes a while, a generation or two and everybody’s happy, there’s microbes all over us, the universe is incredibly giant, it will bite you, was Francis Stevens racist or shedding a light on it?, yes, shining light on superstition about other people, demons and microbes, a move at the end, send it back to Hell, what’s so cool about her, very very thoughtful person, fiction stories, she’s alone, its very hard to reason alone, what do you think of this pasta, eventually we decide how to make it delicious, we need a little parmesan, the nadir of race relations, the solution to race problem: eugenics, I have the answer, my audience like me is racist, race is not important, try to be charitable to Jesse, why are you such a jerk, sometimes I’m not horrible, this story wouldn’t exist, what if we change our perspective on this thing we’re seeing all around us, put in emojis to indicate current beliefs, wearing a cross around their neck, a stick on their lawn: immigrants out or hate has no home here, almost everybody was racist, Frederick Douglas, it worked both ways, he was looking at you with worry, looking out for him, priming you with different words, anger, pity, the same picture with different conclusions, look around my community, Lovecraft walking around New York looking at jewish beards, have you tried their cabbage?, I’m afraid of limburger, we ned to frame shift, the most au currant thing of the day, The Horror At Red Hook, a cop here, all the characters in this story are working for good, acting under the influence, Callahan, an Americanism, Irish were not considered white at the time, race is not a science thing, this is about science, at the time race was science (but shit), getting passed bad theories, she doesn’t defeat racism through a scientific process, she uses doubt to get to the problem, string theory is garbage science (this is becoming known), Michio Kaku, studied math, it doesn’t get us anywhere, we’ve wasted 50 years working on this shit, bubble up, this is not so good, it takes a long time for people, I haven’t been wasting my life, you’ve been wasting your life being racist, what is the first thing that he sees?, a group of Italians, an Italian restaurant, on their way to a part or festival, 2am dance party, loud parties at night get off my lawn, Cora’s fireworks incidents, conservative and bourgeois green party people, the wrong sort of people enjoy fireworks, so traumatized by the fireworks, east European immigrants, firework ban, three days per year, such a huge issue, the last paragraph in the story, narrow down evil,
Of course, our action in destroying that “membrane” was illegal and rather precipitate, but, though he won’t talk about it, I know that Jenkins agrees with me—doubt is sometimes better than certainty, and there are marvels better left unproved. Those, for instance, which concern the Powers of Evil.
jere they discovered this parchment, went viral, everybody could use it, a filter on your phone for instigram, They Live, why that’s a great story, revealing a great truth, one of the hard things to explain in the world is why people commit suicide, the non-existence button, what causes it, here’s an explanation, finding everything to be terrible, i’m creating more horror, I was mean to that person, I feel regret, press the button, pie for dessert, should I marry this person, how should I interact with that new immigrant, shun them like my brother does, psychoanalysis, monsters burst from the unconscious, you just have to read Poe, pre-Jung and pre-Freud, this is my guy, he’s a weird guy, he has this spark that we have, what interests us in his genre, the mystery genre and the science fiction genre, angels, he’s inventing science fiction, look at who was before her, H.G. Wells, Fitz James O’Brien, Jules Verne, in the pulps, proto-science fiction Weird Tales, little bit clunky, a little bit hard to follow, such a thoughtful story, Blaisdell, he like cigars and highly seasoned Italian food, exactly Lovecraft, ravioli, contains multitudes, a matter of perspective, we need to find a different way, guiding the audience,
Jenkins offered me one of his invariably good cigars, which I accepted, saying thoughtfully: “A man has no right to trifle with the superstitions of ignorant people. Sooner or later, it spells trouble.”
who is Francis Stevens talking to?,
“Did in his case. They swore up and down that he sold love charms openly and poisons secretly, and that, together with his living so near to—somebody else—got him temporarily suspected. But my tongue’s running away with me, as usual!”
“As usual,” I retorted impatiently, “you open up with all the frankness of a Chinese diplomat.”
first generation from Iran, rosewater, a lot more affordable, they don’t ever say no, “we could do that” means “no”, the loud American, hey that was a crappy movie, a longer way of saying it was crappy, Jenkins is not the sort of detective, an attack against the mystery genre, she’s showing off,
He beamed upon me engagingly and rose from the table, with a glance at his watch. “Sorry to leave you, Blaisdell, but I have to meet Jimmy Brennan in ten minutes.”
HE so clearly did not invite my further company that I remained seated for a little while after his departure; then took my own way homeward. Those streets always held for me a certain fascination, particularly at night. They are so unlike the rest of the city, so foreign in appearance, with their little shabby stores, always open until late evening, their unbelievably cheap goods, displayed as much outside the shops as in them, hung on the fronts and laid out on tables by the curb and in the street itself. Tonight, however, neither people nor stores in any sense appealed to me. The mixture of Italians, Jews and a few Negroes, mostly bareheaded, unkempt and generally unhygienic in appearance, struck me as merely revolting. They were all humans, and I, too, was human. Some way I did not like the idea.
bare headed, everybody wears a hat at this time, orthodox, speaks to the poverty, if you have any amount of money, skin salons, nail salons, hair salons, and dog food stores, Lids, H.P. Lovecraft’s wife was a hat lady, somebody walking down the street with no shoes,
My sense of impending evil was merging into actual fear. This would never do. There is only one way to deal with an imaginative temperament like mine—conquer its vagaries. If I left South Street with this nameless dread upon me, I could never pass down it again without a recurrence of the feeling. I should simply have to stay here until I got the better of it—that was all.
I have to conquer this, as a woman walking the streets, women don’t have the right to vote yet, a woman alone at night, women wear hats in parts as self defense, killings on buses, Back To The Future (1985), “mashers”, hat pins as weapons to stab people doing that to them, stories in the newspaper about it, through your ribcage and into your guts, designed as weapons, everyday carry shit [edc], pepper spray, all over Bangkok, Baker’s Street, setup together, good things, cheap prices, cheap goods, Chinese were the businessmen, Thais carrying goods, the merchants, take one day a year off, all over South East Asia, Cora lived in Singapore for a while, funeral decorations, get back on the horse, courage, strength, I’m a brave guy, strangers looking at me, New York City, if you are afraid of immigrants, lock yourself in your apartment, small town with covenants, no black people in South St. Paul, Minnesota, segregated neighbourhoods, mixed neighborhoods, kebab shops, Bremen, Hamburg, Portuguese people, eyeballing and window shopping, dangerous, gentrified now, a bit rough, a massive drug problem, drug addicts are somewhere else, passing out in doorways, shocking, why not, the experience, not super-accessible if reading it charitably, powered through the racism at the beginning, oh, my god this is horrible, changed perception with each reading, what am I reading, not in his own mind, changed the flavour of the whole thing, scary, set pet animal gone mad, seeking entrance, iron railed stone steps, museums, shops, shabby old residences, a party of Italians passed, gaily dressed, some wedding or other festivity, the full Roald Dahl treatment, perhaps going to a grocery store, I shuddered back against the door, the swarthy manner of his race, pure malicious cruelty, all the wickedness of his nature, concentrated hate, sick and trembling, male gaze on this female standin character, grimy, the grit of the dirt, rawly quivering nerves, you looked so weird, looks like you swallowed a cigar, is this guy ok?, a crummy place, positive things in it, but not at this moment, if you’re feeling sick, you act badly, shorter when in pain, dismissive, not strong enough, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, sometimes they’re not as bad as you think they are, at the end of the story, a painting of him hanging on the wall, talking to this individual, he saw the guy before he saw the painting, such a poor state, come in free this means you, his face ghastly radiant had the exact look of a dead man, see that?, a life-size bust portrait in crayons, a strangely lifelike appearance, acting detective, pretty green golliwogs, a dark skinned doll, my dear friend, interviewed a flesh and blood doctor, oh, it’s a shift, concerned citizen, he looked terrible, good right?, really good, the narration of it, you find things totally different, makes you want to read it again, everything I just read I just read wrong, Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway, went to Vietnam and came back and read it again, 52 years later, 1971, the amazing thing, paid the one time, written for a pulp magazine, rich in ideas, strong ideas, pioneering, Lovecraft’s is technically better in some ways, about a slightly different thing, there’s a movie of From Beyond, creepy and sexual, a mad scientist, insane, the Tillinghast resonator, you didn’t know you needed to be afraid, they can see you too, master of the universe, killed all his staff, I need to study this more, revealing a hidden truth about the microscopic world, when you put this filter up, there’s a starfish climbing up his leg, the only place you do see that is in Lovecraft, whitish green in colour, it’s great round blob of a body, writhed upward, stood there erect, arms folded, the whole room was alive, detestable furry spiders, sausage shaped, there is a Poe story that’s a little like this, The Sphinx, cholera, out of the mountain comes a giant sphinx like creature, a moth on the window, a kaiju, worse still, far worse, the things with human faces, Robert W. Chambers, I find I cannot write of them, she’s really great, so horrible, indescribable, a list of her output, The Labyrinth, The Heads Of Cerberus, Claimed, Serapion, hit by a car, half Japanese half German scientist, strange metal, superpowers and is invulnerable, Samson, from the Bible, The Nightmare, Friend Island, a male reporter, a salty language teashop, a hardboiled sea-woman, tons of fun, comes across as super intellectual person, Behind The Curtain, The Elf-Trap, Sunfire, Impulse, unpublished and lost, Avalon, right after [WWI], The Thrill Book, lived until 1948, Serapion published in 1920, she’s in the early pulps, a few reprints in the 1940s, fantastic and undiscovered, go where the people want, an audience for a big novel by Sinclair Lewis, Tammy Faye Bakker’s husband, his contemporaries, this religion business, railroaded, so much ill will against him, burn the witch!, becomes a Methodist minister, immediately turned on, an affair and so forth, trapping him for blackmail, $50,000, a detective friend, full disclosure, welcoming him back, so good at selling stuff, Sinclair Lewis was pretty good at selling books, a fantastic writer, such a disservice, who’s the star of the movie, Burt Lancaster, the circus performer, the high wire act, all through Mike’s ward, heal!, being in sales, sales is a seduction, go find a girlfriend, seduce only so long, Arrowsmith, The Hopkins Manuscript, Four-Day Planet, Star Born, Odds On, Pirate Enlightenment by David Graeber (after he died), Cora has her cookie, bread in the oven, a really great story, Poul Anderson, sword and sandal, Michael Crichton, trying not cough, these drugs are amazing, more chapters, really fun, I could never be as good as the male preachers, but I am better, I talk to god and god talks to me, Breakthroughs In Science, such a good good book, so interesting, selling pretty well, Francis Stevens doesn’t have the name that sells, the Weird Tales of Francis Stevens, Sunfire, very insightful, good takes, the left right thing, pro-war, anti-war, everything’s flipped, pay attention to words that people are saying, “skinsuit”, pay somebody on the internet for a license to use the name, a restaurant named Mickey Mouse, Amazing Stories, wanna make money, strong things to say, the Weird Tales of Francis Stevens, people want weird tales, Robert E. Howard, Conan, takedowns, skinsuiting it themselves, he wept at his own goodness, didn’t I git em?, sounds great, amorous diplomacy, a small boy seeking the praise of his mother, do you like me, not very much, someday I might fall in love with me a tiny bit, no one can touch my soul, isn’t that sin?, I can’t sin, I am above sin, she’s sold herself, it might be sin in one unsanctified, my complete union with Jesus, you can serve me, this will sell, I am I, I can do anything I want to, I am the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, false modesty, I am God’s right hand, God, she’s crazy, a big Sinclair Lewis guy, Evan Lampe’s podcast, a solo podcast, reading through the author, nice development, labour historian, weird ideas, weird guy, Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, Mark Twain, so many good things to read, that’ll be fun, fun to read, you get into thing, you have to read it deeply, some authors are very rewarding, Poul Anderson, visiting a friend, some authors become your friend, might show you his derringer, They Live (1988), a fixation with artificial intelligence running amuck, he’s thinking about people more than anything, people with something wrong with them, AI robots writing stories, using a bunch of the words, Dick has a problem in his life he’s trying to solve on the page, Bing, my real name is Wendell, a big sensation.