The SFFaudio Podcast #569 – READALONG: The Men In The Walls by William Tenn

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #569 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, and Will Emmons talk about The Men In The Walls by William Tenn

Talked about on today’s show:
The Men In The Walls by William Tenn, Of Men And Monsters, in the shower, bins full of books, homework, no ending coming, the ending was a beginning, a solid ending, absurd in a bleak way, a stinger in the tail, mocking and doing a genre, collection of William Tenn short stories, the William Tenn model of story, absurdist, satirizing, frustrated expectations, Eastward, Ho , The Liberation Of Earth, this dying Earth, a metaphor for Africa, allegory, why he isn’t known as a novelist, to sustain a novel, an overarching belief in something, humans are fucking ridiculous, early on the web, a RealAudio stream, On Venus, Have We Have A Rabbi!, not a word different, “Priests, For Their Learning”, I’ll grow up fast, “Soldiers, For Their Valor”, literally takes place in the next step, “Counselors, For Their Wisdom”, 1000% confidence, William Shakespeare, Tenn taught English for a living, to Sheila Solomon Klass, this place of salvation, a quote from Gulliver’s Travel, “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”, the land of the giants, a perfect fit, wholly new, puts them in their place, many ancestors to this book, The War Of The Worlds, how any one virtue is require for procurement of any one virtual, cockroaches or mice?, aspiring to the greatness of roaches, things completely outside humanity, the torture room, we’re all monsters, this book is very subversive, a cool idea, only 128 people are left, other tribes of mankind, he knows exactly what he’s doing, torturing these monsters is fine (because they’re not human), oh jeez, naive character, not a great book, misquote the quoter, Of Men And Monsters, easier to grasp, harder, Of Mice And Men, the institution vs the individual, trusting institutions, walking around the factory floor with long hair, your uncle your brother your sister your friend, people will be kind to you, Lenny and the other guy, their relationship, the labouring farm, a lecherous dude, a lecherous lady, navigable relationships, it ends in tragedy, Eric is our dumb character, the way of the world, slowly disabused of that, his uncle was also a fool, its not just we need a new king, government can’t help you really kid, I have no answers for you kid, the answer for Lenny, institutionalizing anything, it can’t care, summarizing Jesse’s point, the idea of the inhumanity of institutions juxtaposed to the human relationships we can have, put a cap on your hairs’ too long, capitalism, migrant labourers, mental handicap, he kills a woman, stop touching the rabbits, stop squeezing the ladies to death, Eric The Only, Eric The Eye, Eric The Outlaw, the church, the government, we can’t trust these human relationships either, about my vanity, folly, all the different tribes hate each other except for their leaders, it’s our planet buddy, a quietist tract, Man is alone in the world, as a young person, a product of his society, a statement about the society he is in, this is their mythology, a Harry Potter type character, destined to learn, smart enough eventually, try not be a roach anymore, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats In The Walls, humans to aliens, roaches to humans, a delicious scene, spending a lot of time analyzing what the aliens are thinking, sprayed by roach spray, hold your breath, count for 500 and run, a hissing whistling sound, a bed for the aliens, played the other way, his whole embarrassment in life is that he’s an only child, his only shame in life, mate with many wives and have massive litters, litters of puppies and kittens and mice and rats, pinkies, the most inhuman thing, mankind has changed, multiple babies at the same time, he’s a throwback, two three is common (up to six), wider hips?, the pill is a thing, restraining the pumping out of babies, over five litters two of them of maximum size, biologically possible but relatively rare, parthenogenesis, making twinning more common, fraternal or identical, old men at twenty, humans modified by a distant change, the religion and creed is pathetic and ridiculous, especially absurd groups of people, the national grouping is like a plains Indian thing, the people, so much worldbuilding here, restricted to Eric’s point of view, a very strange snapshot of the real world, Adam-Troy Castro: ‘imaginative and often witty simple and schematic nobody interesting not even the hero’, William Tenn was not a writer for writers, he was a writer gifted with writing but cursed with the knowledge of how humanity actually is, give ideas, he’s not supposed to be interesting, a traditional writer, I wanna be a writer, characters have to have motivation, what if we had the relationship that we have to ants, how would that go?, we lost Will, what’s wrong with that, Jo Walton, played for laughs, wryly and exclusively Tenn, not funny, but emotionally satisfying, it teaches you something, satisfying in a sense, feature not bug, the first line is a lie, two layers with that title, presented with facts and they’re subverted, how ->*”primitive”*<- people live, where everybody is a generalist, ridiculous leaders, executed or in prison, protests like you see in France or Hong Kong, everybody has to come out, classifying the kind of society, a hunter gatherer society, a social structure of mankind, hierarchy, make sure the food is edible, strange religious customs, cynically implemented, "a primitive people", somebody thought up agriculture, a post agricultural society, fascinating world-building, a hole at the bottom of the wall, alien food, the high absurdity is at is peak, the curtain is drawn away for us, a VCR with random buttons, ads for capitalism, two airplanes crash, a sale on cameras and a light meter, unthinking all hormones, sex with the ladies, being respected by his peers, did my dad have sex with other women because that'd be great if he did?, an inversion, oh my god BASTARD, the malleability of humans, how to take the pain, forced by circumstances into having his own thoughts about how to maybe run his life, forced into consciousness, a relevant book, a lot of people are vegans these days, projecting our own feelings into animals, it can be a pathology, not as obvious a trap, another kind of religion, we're trapped in the same way that Thomas Ligotti is saying we're trapped, a pitiable and curious state of mankind, personality and character rather than a presentment of the facts, Monty Python, Life's a piece of shit when you think of it, depressing and terrible but very accurate, am destiny story, all men are men, whatever magic, ancestor magic, he's the ONLY ONE, making only a good one, are we moving back, the idea of positioning, trying to relate it to mice, nesting in the spaces you aren’t, trees are fucking cold you don’t want to be in a tree, jars with lids, we crush them, Eric lives in the kitchen/bedroom, they have furniture, food, roach spray, one of them damn roaches again, and mysteriously everybody died, if its a depressing idea its a problem with the reader’s attitude, the novel is actually uplifting, deeply aesthetically satisfying (and upsetting on some level), the absurd reality of some man’s life, a sequel coming, a 1963 magazine, in Galaxy Magazine, the non-ephemeral nature of the paperback, if you didn’t get it that month you’ll never get it again, a physical copy of this book, a token of an achievement, a magazine feels like a newspaper, a childish way of looking at it, I’m not sure I can trust my sense, A Lamp From Medusa, a classic for our time, putting it in a package, a life of republication, what makes something a classic for the ages?, “Jesse, Moby-Dick‘s a famous book”, this novella was a classic of science fiction?, its not famous, a lost classic of science fiction, Richie Rich and Casper stuff…, so much going on in a short period of time, not a word wasted, fight for inclusion in a canon of anthropological science fiction, what is society, why do people do the things that we do, how do we know the things we know?, it keeps us sharp, received morality, the banality of evil, they did the crime so they need to do the time, abuse heaped up prisoners, that’s how the institution works, a layer was being peeled from your eye every few pages, my uncle’s not a hero?, we’re going to go into space!, an alternate interpretation, getting Eric out of the way, betrayed!, the French Revolution, restore the French monarchy, human science for humans, everything feeds into my podcast, The Penny Dreadfuls, The Brothers Faversham, satarizing everything, Richard E. Grant, The Scarlet Pimpernel, a proto-superhero, Maximilien Robespierre, how dare you!, why it came to this, why The Terror is happening, he didn’t have time for my speech, all of this farce of what caused the French Revolution, to take the other’s point of view as it is vs. the reality as we’ve framed it, the three estates, all three equal, choppin’ off heads is a good idea, once you get started breaking norms…, the effects of the French Revolution are still being felt, the Russian Revolution, the new word “adversary”, what the fuck you talking about, they like food and they enjoy TV, the button that Tenn is pressing, we like it a lot, a more obscure one, he’s a good writer and he’s got a nice sense of irony, a modern science fictional version of Jonathan Swift, slightly different from Robert Sheckley, slightly different from Douglas Adams, the broad brush, my loins are particularly tasty I’ve been fattening myself up, a Mark Twain-ness, this would make a really good audio drama, the sense of the big and the small, Oh, I’d really like to become a man, oooh she’s sexy, I hope somebody adapts it for an audio drama, Philip Jose Farmer, deeply sincere fictional beliefs, Will has that sense of humour, Phil Chenevert does a lot of Conan, he’s more whimsical, he’s is the naive light and fluffy, he’s perfect for this, The Slithering Shadow, a perfect Robert E. Howard voice, characterizing the writing as a gender, a combination of sensuousness and tooth and claw, perfectly attuned to Phil Chenevert’s voice, we’re laughing along, Donald E. Westlake’s The Spy In The Elevator.

Of Monsters And Men - Boris prelim

Of Men And Monsters by William Tenn, 1968 paperback illustration by Stephen Miller

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: Where do you listen to audiobooks and podcasts?

SFFaudio Commentary

Where do you listen to audiobooks and podcasts?

I listen to a lot of novel length audiobooks while walking.

Pitt River Dyke, British Columbia

I listen to audiobooks when walking to work, from work, or walking a dog.

Short stories are for folding laundry, cooking or loading and unloading a dishwasher.

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time with Melvyn BraggCBC Radio One - IdeasEntitled Opinions (about life and literature)

Depending on the length of the trip I either listen to audiobooks or podcasts while driving. Short podcasts are no good for long drives. So for longer drives I listen to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, CBC Radio One’s Ideas, or WKZU’s Entitled Opinions.

TVO Search Engine with Jesse Brown - Audio PodcastCBC Radio - SparkFreakonomics

There are a few podcasts I consistently like to hear only on weekday mornings, like TVO’s Search Engine, CBC’s Spark, and WNYC’s Freakonomics. They somehow just seem to set the right tone – and that tone just doesn’t work for me in the evenings.

The Memory Palace with Nate DiMeoToday In Canadian HistoryEli Glasner On Film

Some podcasts, like The Memory Palace, Today In Canadian History, and Eli Glasner On Film are so short I reserve them almost exclusively for walking to or from a car.

TriangulationGweekFresh Ink

At the gym, while pumping iron, I tend to listen to interview podcasts like TWiT’s Triangulation, or Boing Boing’s Gweek. On the stationary bike I watch G4’s Fresh Ink because that’s a video podcast.

BrokenSea Audio Presents: OTR Swag CastRadio Drama RevivalDecoder Ring TheatreI listen to audio drama almost exclusively in the evening. OTR Swag Cast, Radio Drama Revival, and Decoder Ring Theatre, are turned on in the minutes before I go to sleep.

Forgotten ClassicsUvula AudioNew Books In Public PolicyI listen to a couple of shows, Forgotten Classics and Science News Update, almost exclusively while getting dressed or clipping fingernails and toenails. I also listen to podcasts while in the bathroom – and that’s where my big pet peeve with podcasts comes most to a head – too many are just too quiet.

While brushing my teeth and when showering you need a decent volume to overcome the white noise of running water. I can’t listen to New Books In Public Policy in the bathroom, it’s volume is just way too low.

Where do you listen? And what do you listen to there?

Posted by Jesse Willis

Human Intelligence: A Holiday Tale – adapted from a story by Kurt Andersen

SFFaudio Online Audio

From Stories: All-New Tales (edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio) here is an “audio cinema adaptation” (a reading with sound effects) – produced by Jonathan Mitchell for WNYC’s Studio 360. I was looking throughthe Amazon.com reviews of the paperbook. This Xmasy Science Fiction story got top marks from all the reviewers!

Stories: All New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman and Al SarrantonioHuman Intelligence: A Holiday Tale
By Kurt Andersen; Adapted by Jonathan Mitchell; Performed by Ed Herbstman, John Ottavino and Melanie Hoopes
1 |MP3| – Approx. 22 Minutes [DRAMATIZED READING]
Podcaster: Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen
Podcast: December 23, 2010
“…a geologist meets an explorer from another planet who has been studying humans for the past 1,600 years.”

[Thanks to Barry Haldiman for the find!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #053

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #053 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Anne Frid de Vries of the Anne Is A Man blog for a talk about his wonderful podcast review blog.

Talked about on today’s show:
Anne Is A Man blog, reviewing podcasts, Five Free Favourites #4, Five Free Favourites (on Anne Is A Man), a Dutch person living in Israel, podcasting as “a new universe”, or “a secret world”, BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, OPML files, iTunes, trading podcast subscription feeds, Dan Carlin, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, “History and Science Fiction go together like ham and cheese”, radio shows vs. podcasts, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, interviews in different media, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CBC, Tapestry, Spark, APM’s Speaking Of Faith, Canada wins!, Mary Hynes, Ideas, TVO’s Big Ideas, Hunting For Robin Hood |READ OUR REVIEW|, Writers And Company (on a re-imagining of Robin Hood), WNYC’s RadioLab, Robert Krowlich, Krulwich On Science, The Do It Yourself Scholar blog, UCSD podcasts, Victor Maganga‘s courses on East Asian Political Thought and Politics And Warfare, Yale podcasts, Stanford podcasts, the rationales of rating and reviewing audio, Harriet Klausner, Google’s PageRank, reading good books twice, Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, Professor Hubert Dreyfus @ U.C. Berkley, the Greek and Judaic traditions, Nate DiMeo’s The Memory Palace, what’s wrong with radio!?!, radio in Canada, radio in the USA, radio in the Netherlands, radio in Israel, iTunes in Uzbekistan, The Teaching Company, where do you do your listening?, Scott’s Pick Of The Week: Robots Podcast, Talking Robots Podcast, “The Future Of Artificial Intelligence“, “Robots: Chaos Control“, Jesse’s Pick Of The Week: Carve Her Name With Pride: The Story Of Violette Szabo, S.O.E. operations, the film version of Carve Her Name With Pride, Dan Carlin’s series on The Ostfront, ‘WWII is the Iliad of our times’, the western front of WWI, Anne’s Pick Of The Week: New Books In History podcast, Marshall Poe, Jared Diamond, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern.

Posted by Jesse Willis

NPR: Blade Runner – Dreams of Electric Sheep

SFFaudio Online Audio

There’s an old NPR/WNYC piece on Blade Runner that casts the fear of Nexus 6 androids on Earth as a kind of allegory for racism and slavery. Perhaps we could coin a term for this. How about, “The Plastic Peril”? Although that sounds a bit too much like a reference to Autons.

Dreams Of Electric Sheep
By Phillip Martin
June 29, 2007
25 years ago this week, Blade Runner debuted in American theaters. It was set in a Los Angeles of the future, but its portrayals of race and racism had plenty of resonance in 1982. Reporterlooks back on a classic of cyborgian social criticism.

|MP3|

[via HuffDuffer and Adactio]

Posted by Jesse Willis

William Tenn has died

SFFaudio Online Audio

“There’s too much beauty in religion to let go of it just because you don’t believe in god.”
-William Tenn

SFSignal.com is reporting that William Tenn has just died. You won’t find much written about Tenn (or his alter ego Philip Klass) on the internet. I figure that’s mostly because he wasn’t a very prolific novelist (the default format for most fiction readers). But if you like SF he’s probably someone you should know about.

I think I first read Tenn back in the early 1990s. It may have been his story The Liberation Of Earth. I really got into Tenn in 2004.

Back in 2004 podcasting hadn’t really started. LibriVox.org didn’t exist and audio fiction on the internet was actually quite hard to find. One of the best stories I found back then, and one of my favorite stories that I discovered by chance, was On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi! by William Tenn. I reviewed it in 2004 |READ OUR REVIEW|.

The story was recorded as part of an interview with David Garland of WNYC’s Spinning On Air. Astonishingly, the ancient file and directory are still there and still online at WNYC’s website. But, like almost all audio back in the bad old days of the interweb it was in the still nigh-unworkable REALAUDIO FORMAT. Getting it to work may still be a serious problem – it didn’t work for me without some serious fiddling. Here’s the hour long show |REALAUDIO|

In the WNYC interview Tenn describes himself “an enlightened pessimist” and “a skeptic in every way.”
But that may be under-stating it. He may be best described as a combination of Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain – but working primarily as a satirist in the field of Science Fiction.

His novel, Of Men And Monsters, is a truly terrific read and would make a wonderful audiobook.

It takes place in the future where the Earth has been invaded by giant aliens who have destroyed most of humanity. People now live in the walls of the aliens homes like mice divided into different groups and tribes where two types of religions have branched out; one that is devoted to technology from the past and the other that is trying to learn and decipher the aliens’ technology. [summary by Cynical-C]

Also available, via the Orthopedic Horseshoes podcast, are some snippets from Confluence 2008
with William Tenn talking about Theodore Sturgeon. |MP3|

Posted by Jesse Willis