Apr 08

A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou – Episode 2

Proven By Science + Slug of Time Podcast + The Brown Wedge11 comments • 1,377 views

Tom Ewing joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air”, written in 1951. It’s a short story about a kid, some rugs, and an Earth so cold that helium crawls. Will it crawl onto YOU? Elisha reads from the story in case you haven’t.

Next week: Isaac Asimov – “Segregationist”.


  1. 1
    . on 9 Apr 2008 #

    This story is great, I remember reading it at school.


  2. 2
    jeff w on 9 Apr 2008 #

    What was the show on Resonance after you? It was another round table chat affair involving at least one guy with a North American accent. I dozed off* towards the end of A Slug and woke up in the middle of this other show. I was highly confused for a good ten minutes.

    *forgive me, I have a cold and was v. tired

  3. 3
    CarsmileSteve on 9 Apr 2008 #

    it was ben watson and “bob dobbs”:

    “Bob Dobbs is the figurehead of The Church Of The SubGenius, in this exclusive late night show the person who claims to be Bob Dobbs chews the fat with Ben Watson about Frank, James, Marshall and those that croak from beyond the grave…. and no he doesn’t discuss The Church”.

    the show before was Julia Davis and Jessica Hines as well…

  4. 4
    Jack Fear on 9 Apr 2008 #

    Another excellent episode, guys. Thank you!

    BTW: a pousse café is a fancy-pants cocktail made up of layered liqueurs that float one atop the other without mixing. You would drink it after dinner, and it would “push [down] the coffee.”

  5. 5
    Pete on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Yep, really enjoyable show again, though I always pictured this story taking place in an Allied Carpet’s showroom, the rugs being so central to the plot!

    And good editing of chatbits Eli, the stings probably helped the flow. The discussion did not get on to post-apocalyptic novels in general – and the post-apocalyptic being the route from sci-fi back into fantasy (HELLOW GENE WOLFE!), and indeed hello Cormac’s Road too!

  6. 6
    Tom on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Yeah I didn’t mention The Road cos I haven’t actually read it – and I didn’t know if anyone else there had either, so I didn’t want to say “It’s a bit like The Road isn’t it – well so I hear” and Eli and Mark saying yes so we hear too.

    The thing about pail of air compared to pretty much any other post-ap novel/story I can think of (Road included) is how static it is: they generally involve epic journeys, which APOA also does but the journey is only seen from the point of its destination.

  7. 7

    not mentioning gene wolfe = FEATURE NOT BUG

  8. 8
    Jack Fear on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Sinker: I was just about to fire off an indignant reply to your comment, but as I think about it, you’re probably right – although not for the reasons you think you are. I love love love Gene Wolfe, but he’s such a one-off – such a singular figure in terms of how he approaches SF and how he conceives of what it is and what it does – that trying to trace his “place” in science fiction (even when he himself provides a roadmap, as he does in some of his essays) is only going to lead down unprofitable tangents. He is of SF but not in it, might be one way to put it.

  9. 9
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 10 Apr 2008 #

    i didn’t really HAVE a reason once you get past the irresistable open-goal joke :(

  10. 10
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 10 Apr 2008 #

    a more serious reason: i suppose in a way eli and i are very much angling, as the project behind slugs, to defend the short story as the basic unit of a certain era’s expressive value — which will inevitably leave us looking leerily at the “trilogy of triologies” types: nothing wrong with long books in long rows, maybe, BUT we want to dig a bit into what got lost

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    Tom on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Wolfe was famous for his short stories and novellas before his big long books – “The Fifth Head Of Cerberus” (which I think was a short story before it was expanded), “The Island Of Doctor Death And Other Stories” etc. (And actually Book Of The New Sun has a bunch of short stories nested inside it though I don’t think any of them are much good as standalones). If you wanted to do a New Wave series he’s got some good candidates.

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