The SFFaudio Podcast #692 – Things As They Are; Or, The Adventures Of Caleb Williams by William Godwin – read by Bev J Stevens, for LibriVox. This is a complete and unabridged reading of novel (16 hours 37 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Evan Lampe, and Bryan Alexander
Talked about on today’s show:
1794, consistently mentioned, extensive shownotes, 2013, “The Modern Prometheus” or Frankenstein, Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown, 9 years of hint, The Star King by Jack Vance, favourite novel or favourite book?, sportsball human named Caleb Williams, Oklahoma Sooners, an evil plan to make us stupider, where everybody lives, how tall or how much money does Caleb Williams make, Google sponsoring Worldcon, the connection to Frankenstein, four people, woho would the first family of British letters (but their politics is too upsetting), anarchist political philosophy, Political Justice by William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, The Last Man, Percy Shelly, one of the greatest poets of all time, their politics are so uncomfortable, vegetarian scary feminist, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, The Stress Of Her Regard, neutered their reputations, Percy Shelly as a nature poet, a rich and exciting book, the sentences are long, a cat just climbed on Bryan, better on the page, a really fun book, written in reverse, Dickens wrote a note to Poe to that effect, the fun stuff, very John Buchan-y, escape, Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, crime novel, a thriller novel, chase and escape, one man against the state, a detective story, Hamlet, curiosity, a classic tragedy, a Jacobean revenge tragedy, all those modalities, a gothic layer, a doppelganger story, weird tweets, Arthur Mervyn by Charles Brockden Brown, tasting Godwin, teaching a course on those four writers would be a dream course, Women’s Studies/History, connecting these writers with the French Revolution, The Rights Of Man by Thomas Paine, trying not to think about the 1790s, The Making Of The British Working Class by E.P. Thompson, 1810-1815, Ireland was invaded by France in 1797, the nine years war, its not popular, going against what the British like to think about themselves, practicing colonialism on their neighbour, the Easter Rising, WWI, rebellion and mutiny in the British Navy, a continental story, Napoleon, republic is a good idea, incendiary, The REVOLUTIONS Podcast, Queen Victoria’s guillotine nightmares, echoes in Political Justice, this is all messed up, our reliance on hierarchy and authority, the alternate ending (the bleak one), insane in prison, dire notes, true happiness lies in being like a stone (a grave stone), all caps and exclamation marks, literally radical stuff, alternate takes, a shirt nobody with recognize, correct or semi-correct, hot take, a woman fleeing a castle, a thinly veiled reboot, landlord lord boss, the mother in the attic or the kid in the trunk, a homoerotic or homosocial relationship, a classic heterosexual triangle, the young bride and the evil spouse, everybody is corrupted by the villain, local criminal gangs are corrupted, Mrs. Radcliffe, an anarchist book, so tame and so subtle, his starting position is internal, I have to chop of my understanding, things as they are maybe aint so great, set in Naziland, uts okay to kill Hitler, but not okay to say the British power system is corrupt, don’t steal from everybody, the preface being to risque for the publisher, zero out of ten, very hard to read, that person’s not getting it, old books are different from the style we have today, modes and trends and styles of fiction, too trusting, transformed, resigned, meta-ness, escaping into books, becoming a publisher of books, hiding as a Jew, copying their manners, that’s really cool, a way of escaping the godlike detective agency, every man’s hand is against him, a series of veils being lifted, Jews live in a ghetto, trigger, there’s a lot of torture in this book, what’s my duty, what’s my responsibility, denied light and heat, ruffians, manacled, hounded, living you misery, he can’t seem to flee, emigrate, get away from this nutty landlord, not the best plan, a relatively honest person, stealing money, the worst blackguard in all of England, a literary reflection, Tony Blair is getting another knighthood and Julian Assange is being extradited for treason to a country he is not a citizen of, an avatar for how people should act, joins the criminal gang, a cop and a criminal, a thief taker and a thief, you can be moral within yourself and not worry about the laws, or you can worry about what the laws are and bend to the will of liege lords and masters, we see this lesson again and again, an old guy with a ruddy face and white of lock, oh you’re the guy who insulted that leige lord, Ferdinando Falkland, held in such high regard, he can do no wrong, celebrities, people who own the means of communications, worldcon photography sessions, putting money into speech and putting thoughts into people’s heads, regrounding ourselves by making individual foundations, to throw you off the scent, an all in good fun game, he’s had a revolution within himself, he can’t steal, writing and selling your ideas for whatever meager living that gives you is the way, The Castle Of Otranto, what do you do next?, the novel is about consciousness raising, the next step, education, women are reading these stupid books [Jane Austen], universal compulsory education, The Future Trends Forum, climate change, unhappy cats, think better/act better, the solution is more education, Taiwan and China, the answer to social problems is always education (and never guillotines), we are severely educating the population, education is the solution to a lot of these things, the product of it [education], the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels, more unions, assassinations (propaganda of the deed), a one man army, How To Blow Up A Pipeline by Andreas Malm, all bets are off, extreme measures, Lenin’s war communism, “how things could be” (the sequel), it can’t be institutional, there’s something wrong with institutions at their heart, the justice system is beyond redemption, education is the answer but not institutional education, an 18th century version of The Wire, everyone is in the game, ennui, hate the game not the player, a rebuke, marriage, married largely for show, for her reputation, “Mary Junior”, stupid medical care, a lethal idea, which title do you use?, into the 18th century, a classic plot, lords, Bryan had his students play a role playing game about the Luddite rebellion, I get to be the bailiff, I got the cudgel, a Stanford experiment gone wrong, built into a hero, noble, smart, cultured, trying to stop a fire, 18th century life, why its so sad that Falkland becomes a villain, Justine gets in legal trouble because of the monster’s actions [in Frankenstein], reading it backwards, theatre of calamity, tyranny, is a tyrant a bad ruler or an illiterate rulers?, Declaration Of Independence language, William Blake’s America: A Prophecy, Edmund Burke, execrated my name, reputation, pulp fiction horror thing, writing is embarrassing, Anne Radcliffe, I didn’t write this I found it in a weird monastery in Italy, every praragraph sets up bit by bit, like a table of contents, post script:
Why should my reflections perpetually centre upon myself?—self, an overweening regard to which has been the source of my errors! Falkland, I will think only of thee, and from that thought will draw ever-fresh nourishment for my sorrows! One generous, one disinterested tear I will consecrate to thy ashes! A nobler spirit lived not among the sons of men. Thy intellectual powers were truly sublime, and thy bosom burned with a god-like ambition. But of what use are talents and sentiments in the corrupt wilderness of human society? It is a rank and rotten soil, from which every finer shrub draws poison as it grows. All that, in a happier field and a purer air, would expand into virtue and germinate into usefulness, is thus concerted into henbane and deadly nightshade.
insight through a dream:
Dreamt I had to attend a faculty meeting because I was unaware of what we were going to do about the people sent to troll us during the final examination. We’d be moving the university off planet – but the dimbulbs and corporate flacks were people too and they didn’t seem to get they were going to die. The low tier adult children were around now, but what would happen when we moved off planet? They were not assigned seats, at least not yet, and nobody seemed to be looking out for their interests. When I finally got to speak [on] this issue the chair did a silent scream in response. Which was utterly understandable. [there] was still hope their respective senders, two corporations, a small island nation, and a religious organization might send a budget for them prior to launch. I was still worried. On my way out of the meeting one of their number was making a mess and two others doing acts of public indecency (which would be more acceptable if they grokked the gravity of their existential plight). With nothing yet resolved I walked by then into the maker building where the maker collective was busily winding down their own far less formal meeting. I toured their facility and saw and recognized the results of several projects I’d seen them create and toured their funky display space – which had recently been updated – and talked with one of my favourite creators – who was not as popular as many others in the collective, but who was well respected for the seriousness with which he advanced the state of the humour arts. Still shook from the prospect of seeing people left behind I went to the on campus pizza place. What were we gonna do?”
the way this book is positioned is the anti-deplorables condemnation, a revolutionary czar, he wants nobody to be hung for anything, moral crimes, legal crimes, the reason they’re bad, that’s the way they were made, we need to fix things, not writing people off, all the good people are on my side, we need to make this a personal choice, a personal revolution, trying to drag all the people who are reading the book, what its like to be punished for doing no wrong, always making it personal, having revelations of how things are given to him, when she gets arrested, it would be better for me not to have done anything, not a guillotine book, lets think on this thing together, come together and be friends, bound up in his reputation, your focusing on the wrong part, it isn’t about with a name its character with a personality, how to be in the world, a precursor to a utopian novel, The Fugitive, Les Misérables [by Victor Hugo], The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, I have No Mouth And I Must Scream [by Harlan Ellison], fear of embarrassment, Ghislaine Maxwell trial, Jeffrey Epstein, Prince Andrew, we just can’t allow this, what we are as beings, growing literacy, rumour opinion, face and losing face, the doppleganger idea, dopplegangers are almost always lethal, reading the doppleganger’s story from the other side, I now have no character I wish to vindicate, a half told and mangled tale, he’s done, he’s William Wilson [Edgar Allan Poe], the Jane Austen comedy of manners, Jeremy Bentham, panopticon, Volume 3 Chapter 6, extreme verbal violence:
I now took it for granted that I was once more in the power of Mr. Falkland; and the idea was insupportably mortifying and oppressive to my imagination. Escape from his pursuit, freedom from his tyranny, were objects upon which my whole soul was bent. Could no human ingenuity and exertion effect them? Did his power reach through all space, and his eye penetrate every concealment? Was he like that mysterious being, to protect us from whose fierce revenge mountains and hills, we are told, might fall on us in vain? No idea is more heart-sickening and tremendous than this.
is he God?, lyrical, keep being revealed the conspiracy, literally true of the world, outside Julian Assange’s prison, cars full of cops, CIA literally plotting to assassinate him, they were embarrassed, make an example, the CIA was laughing at the State Department, agents all over the British isles, had you stepped on a ship there, a broken figure, barely alive, very convincing, I don’t want to be a Falkland, only a personal political solution, we have to call things as they are as we see them, we lie, we obfuscate, we do it for profit, playmobil Scooby Doo TIKI, tropical trees, a guy wearing a mask, Scooby Doo is very gothic, voodoo, you can’t use that because someone would be upset, Lego Magical Caravan is not cultural appropriation,
LEGO “Magical Caravan” is not cultural appropriation because the vardo wagon and bender tent complete with crystal ball is all euphemismed away so as to be simply a “magical caravan” with no cultural specificity, you see
The horse-drawn caravan is brimming with traditional features, such as cute latticework shutters and an old-fashioned lantern. The roof is side-hinged to allow kids to explore the living quarters. Inside they’ll find a bed, a kitchen with a stove and…
a table they can eat around. They can then care for the horse or play with the owl. In the tent is a crystal ball. Controlled by a twisting function, it spins to reveal Mia’s future. Kids can choose whether it lands on a sad face or a happy face or simply let fate decide”
a gypsy wagon, I wanna see the names so I have knowledge, whitewashed or anonymized, this attractive concept, they can’t name it for what it is, sail back dinosaur, Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard, there are black people on the boat, Belit’s commanding non-blacks makes it non-problematic, not allowing speech to be said, by making nobody unhappy we’re making everybody happy <- is the theory, objecting things to showing things as they are, arrested for a crime he didn't commit, everybody is corrupt all the way up and all the way down, here I am I can be no other (and he disappears), I was told this was an anarchist book, where's the anarchism?, revolution from within, but it didn't work, William Morris and his crew, 100 years later, a similar expression, long, his wallpaper becomes popular, the Stickley furniture, craftsman’s houses, Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher, there’s no escape, acts of terror get people’s attention, unintended effects, drone attacks, The Ministry Of The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, kidnap people from Davos and make them watch powerpoints, a panic over beef, killings and property damage, killing the Czar is the big success, Alexander Berkman blasting Henry Clay Frick, Falkland’s power is too big, Caleb is a cool guy, a chameleon, a publisher, a criminal, a personal assistant, too much, its overwhelming, justice might grind out the occasional victory, Ferdinando Falkland, when he flips out, he goes insane, detested, if it were in my power, things are not so bad as you imagine, range, genteel country squire, fits of insanity, Byronic villain hero, 18th century hero to romantic villain, literary merit, dramatist personae, more useful in a paperback, Arcadian, old hag, housekeeper, 2020s, the role of women in books and what it says about the character of the writer of the book, the bad guy in the band, stab him with a clever, demonically strong, bewildered, how to be, how to respond to the world as it is, more wild less educated, cooking and cleaning and making a person like her, experience not unlike this, avoid being physically injured, some violent person, how do we deal, she informs, going to bring down the gang, they should reform, Caleb Williams mirror without formal education, their own rustic knowledge, vernacular intuition, somehow subverted by the system, eaten the propaganda, all the encounters he has are focused on teaching us something, pedagogical or exploratory, it doesn’t have any answers, News From Nowhere, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, how bad patriarchy is, how much, Britain is the last country to figure out that novels exist, very realistic, about class, Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, Evan’s escape, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, probing and sketching, Pamela, views and sketches of British life, clear dystopia, where it could have gone, broke a whole bunch of ground, good book, making apologies, they’re doing stuff very differently than the way we would do it, the conscience of the king, who am I supposed to root for here everyone is terrible, Caleb you idiot, I can explain, good character writing, the double has to be the double, the biggest objection (a Louisiana thing), it was just the one murder, who hasn’t?, Quantum Of Nightmares by Charles Stross, Caleb as victim of broadsheet cancel culture, penny dreadfuls, the meta-stuff, writing about the things that he knows, a book he finds is The Adventures Of Caleb Williams, sent to Cancelvania, resonance today, so disreputable you can’t listen to anything he says, acts of public indecency, does Williams lie?, putting on an accent isn’t lying, taking alternate or no name as a writer, what lying, or does anything really immoral?, an excuse, saving his masters papers, his one sin, he broke into it, his job is to save those papers, his motivation was wrong, close to the line, a confession, he breaks into it, guilty of the opposite of lying (too honest), pressing him, as an ancestor to detective fiction, social awkward detectives (Holmes and Nero Wolfe), if Caleb had an Archie Goodwin, a Law & Order series, Asperger’s detective with his minder, Tyrell and Falkland, why are they obsessing over me, turning a good person to evil, an orphan, broke, almost homeless, feeling guilty, in contrast to the bitter hag, a Buddhist enlightened figure, we could all go that way, the captain is kindly, cruel to animals!, they don’t live under the law, snitch, the appeal to outer authority is a shit move, physical violence in the school yard, the relationship kids have to principals, teachers and parents, prison guards and wardens, the logic works, knuckling to their authority, anarchistic at its heart, why he doesn’t want to inform, Falkland stands in for the state, he’s a justice of the peace, the stand in for institutions, penetrating society, Philip K. Dick, the black iron prison of our institutions, perverted loyalty, to do a false accusation, strongly infers, repress and control, you will never leave my service, What Happens After Nora Leaves Home?, The Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, dead or a prostitute, gothic romances from the 1960s, women with great hair fleeing a house with a high lit window at night, Caleba Williams, a pregnant prostitute, just find a suitable marriage, test the character of your potential husband, the end of Wall-E (2008), Down And Out In The Year 2000 by Kim Stanley Robinson, suffering cyberpunks in Washington, D.C., the author made the fire,
My mind was already raised to its utmost pitch. In a window-seat of the room lay a number of chisels and other carpenter’s tools. I know not what infatuation instantaneously seized me. The idea was too powerful to be resisted. I forgot the business upon which I came, the employment of the servants, and the urgency of general danger. I should have done the same if the flames that seemed to extend as they proceeded, and already surmounted the house, had reached this very apartment. I snatched a tool suitable for the purpose, threw myself upon the ground, and applied with eagerness to a magazine which inclosed all for which my heart panted. After two or three efforts, in which the energy of uncontrollable passion was added to my bodily strength, the fastenings gave way, the trunk opened, and all that I sought was at once within my reach.
then a gun is pointed to his head, a Bluebeard story, sins are not in thought, this is the excuse I’ve needed, take the things to safety, he was a scrivener, at every opportunity to lie he does not, lying to the F.B.I. is illegal, the only thing we shouldn’t do to mom and dad, computer game logic, handy tools, fire, a repetition, fire scenes become drama is heightened up, Eric S. Rabkin, Psychoanalysis Of Fire by Gaston Bachelard, fire is literally illumination, symbolically too, Saul becomes Paul because of light, the MacGuffin opened up for us to see, an action movie, Pulp Fiction (1994), the Blade Runner link, tyranny, death to tyrants, autocratic or illicit or illegal rulers, Oedipus Tyrannus by Sophocles, he solves the crime, the detective being the criminal, Shutter Island (2010), the guilty party, setting up an axe throwing station, Vermont roots to D.C., gleefully splitting, bloody handed, more walking the streets with a bloody axe, a plague doctor mask, happy new year!