A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou
Hosts ELISHA SESSIONS and MARK SINKER and their astounding guests burrow insensibly into the pulp and avant-garde science fiction of 1935-1975 each week until November.
Broadcast on London’s Resonance FM 104.4 on TUESDAYS at 10PM, all the episodes—from both series—are collected here, with links to material referenced in the shows. You can listen to them individually, or subscribe to the podcast by clicking one of the following buttons (hint: iTunes users should click on the iTunes button).
- Oct. 28, 2008: Arthur C. Clarke – “The Forgotten Enemy”
We end our second series where we started the first: in bleak snow and ice, facing an implacable foe. This time it’s an ice-bound London, and our hero tunes into a crackly radio set, wondering if he’s the last man alive, and realising how much he missed the good old Home Service. Michael Williams, an astrophysicist, tells your Slugs about cosmic dust and the Heaviside Layer, among other astonishingly real phenomena, and it was a treat to have him on the show. It was a treat doing it, too, for these past two months. We hope you’ve enjoyed listening to it.
Sir Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud, written in 1957. Hoyle’s the guy who came up with the phrase “Big Bang”!
A beautiful online exhibition of some of the artwork on the covers of New Worlds magazine in the 1940s and 1950s
- Oct. 21, 2008: Ursula Le Guin – “Things”
We almost weren’t going to do this story, but it worked its way in somehow and wouldn’t leave. You may notice something of a significant bump up in sound quality, thanks to Nick at Resonance doing our engineering for us and also because we weren’t in Mark’s kitchen with a DJ mixer.
- Oct. 14, 2008: Thomas M. Disch – “The Squirrel Cage”
It didn’t occur to your gentle correspondents until taping this show that they’d never actually seen a squirrel in a cage before. Unlike, say, hamsters. But that’s why we have guests – they briefly adjust our blinders to let in a bit more light. There’s not a lot of light in the story, though. Trappedness and futility are on tap here so dive in at your own risk. Background sound effects in the discussion section are provided courtesy of Mark’s boiler.
An introduction to pogonophores from the University of California Museum of Paleontology
Disch’s posthumous collection of new stories, The Wall of America
John Searle’s Chinese Room hypothesis
- Oct. 7, 2008: Brian Aldiss – “All the World’s Tears”
The people and culture described in this 1957 short story by Brian Aldiss are human, but they don’t really act like it. Except for maybe the self-destructive part. Evolutionary psychology and anthropology (I think I’ve got that right) play a part here as Bex Levene joins the Slugs to talk about it.
- Sep. 30, 2008: Arsen Darnay – “Such Is Fate”
It’s fitting that this story about a cryonic dim-bulb is brought to you by hosts both struggling with something called a “cold”, but our special guest cuts through the phlegm of FM with aplomb. Arsen Darnay isn’t a name you’ll likely know, but we like this story a lot. Neitzche, Washington Irving, and indie all get shout-outs as we trace the amplitude of a certain fictional civilisation’s rise and fall – and rise again.
Ted Williams’ frozen head has a myspace page
- Sep. 23, 2008: Samuel R. Delany -
“Aye, and Gomorrah”
This is the closing story of Dangerous Visions, the feather-ruffling 1967 compendium of what became known as “new wave” science fiction. It’s a simple story about people who don’t know what they want, but they know how to get it.
Graham Sleight reviews this story and the rest of Samuel R. Delany’s short fiction.
C.M. Kornbluth’s 1952 “The Altar at Midnight” gains an unavoidable subtext..
Low ebb for solar wind increases radiation danger for astronauts
- Sep. 16, 2008: J.G. Ballard – “Track 12″
Introducing this story in the magazine pictured at right, editor Ted Carnell says (admiringly or befuddled?) that “we are closer to the subject in fact rather than theory.” The subject is “microsonics” – what does a cell sound like when it divides? That question, among others, gets batted above a patio table as two rivals drink scotch and try to keep an eye on each other.
- Sep. 9, 2008: Robert Sheckley – “Zirn Left Unguarded, The Jenghik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerley Dead”
We return with this impudently sprawling story from Robert Sheckley, written in 1972. It’s got swords, vast space battles and God’s receptionist. Peter Baran joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss it, and Elisha reads the story for you at the front of the programme.
(Image courtesy Katherine Sanderson)
Text of Sheckley’s Bad Medicine (Martian pscyhology)
And also of his The Prize Of Peril (which Pete says is basically the original version of “Running Man” by Steven King, where death turns into a reality show)
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- May 20, 2008: Howard Schoenfeld – “Build Up Logically”
In our concluding episode Kat Stevens returns to Resonance FM to discuss, among other things, this bizarre jazz-age story from the bohemian New York of 1950, which contains possibly the best time machine joke ever made. Elisha attempts an audio translation of it, and Mark does that thing that he does so well.
Schoenfeld’s posse of old codgers who meet in Washington Square, beneath a statue of Garibaldi; via that other great source of city stories, The NY Times Metro section
Discussion of Episode 8 on I Love Books
- May 13, 2008: Frank Herbert – “The Tactful Saboteur”
Ken Hollings joins our intrepid duo to talk about Frank Herbert’s short story about a government which has an entire agency dedicated to putting a spanner in its own works. There’s also a species of shapeshifting beings whose sexuality may take the entire hour to explain. Elisha reads from the story.
A look at the technology of chair-dogs
Destroy All Monsters by Ken Hollings
Strange Attractor journal and press
Discussion of Episode 7 on I Love Books
- May 6, 2008: Ray Bradbury – “A Sound of Thunder”
We return with this stone-cold 1952 time-travel classic, which has provided readymade get-out clauses for stumped Doctor Who script writers ever since. Al Ewing joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss it, and Elisha reads the story in case you haven’t.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Morning on the Wissahiccon, from 1844
Text of Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian”, from 1951
The Novikov self-consistency principle, via Wikipedia
Discussion of Episode 6 on I Love Books
- April 29, 2008: Donald Wandrei – “The Red Brain”
Dave Queen joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to prod “The Red Brain”, a bizarre 1927 short story by Donald Wandrei about a race of pulsating thought-lobes who find themselves the last beings alive in the entire universe.
A tribute to Wandrei on the occasion of the centennial of his birth on April 20, 1908
Wandrei’s Arkham House publishing company, started as a way to publish H.P. Lovecraft’s books and still going unutterably strong!
Correspondence for sale between HPL and DW (if you’re into that kind of thing)
Discussion of Episode 5 on I Love Books
- April 22, 2008: Donald Malcolm – “Beyond the Reach of Storms”
Martin Skidmore joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss the first honest space-travel story of the series, and the first truly obscure find. Opinions are already divided on this one, so get your hands on Lambda I and Other Stories if you can and see for yourself. Elisha, as always, reads selected passages at the front of the programme.
An explanation of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Samuel Delaney’s Babel 17 as described by Wikipedia
Lambda I on Amazon (11 copies left at time of writing)
Discussion of Episode 4 on I Love Books
- April 15, 2008: Isaac Asimov – “Segregationist”
Alan Trewartha joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss “Segregationist”, one of Isaac Asimov’s famous robot stories from 1967. Music includes “Nobody Loves a Computer Because a Computer Does Not Dance”, by Computer, the French disco group. Once again, Elisha reads from the story in case you haven’t.
The Turing Test, as explained at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Are Humans Giving Robots Too Much Power? at the Onion News Network
Discussion of Episode 3 on I Love Books
- April 8, 2008: Fritz Leiber – “A Pail of Air”
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.
Recipes for pousse café sent in by Jack Fear
The Frozen Earth: Binary Scattering Events and the Fate of the Solar System, abstract of a 1999 academic paper by Gregory Laughlin and Fred C Adams
Fritz Leiber’s original story from 1951
Discussion of Episode 2 on I Love Books
- April 1, 2008: John W. Campbell – “Who Goes There”
Sarah Clarke joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There”, a 1938 science fiction novella about ice-bound scientists confronted with an alien who can become them. Elisha reads from the book in case you haven’t.
Fecund Horror by Noah Berlatsky at The Gay Utopia.
Antarctic scientists review The Thing at Big Dead Place.
Photo history of the South Pole station as populated by various beardies from 1974 to the present.
John W. Campbell’s original story from 1938
Discussion of The Thing on I Love Everything
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