Pod episode 3: Wonderful Cake

This episode of the David Raffin podcast begins with an homage to the golden age radio show Escape!

Then a story about a trip filled with false fronts. But I must warn you, should you seek to emulate the trail, the poison gas has since been removed from those roadside pup tents. It was for the best. It was a terrible tourist draw.

(By the way, and this has nothing to do with the podcast episode so where better to place the observation but right here, I recently read George Orwell’s Such, Such Were The Joys and in this remembrance of British boarding schools he always refers to children as “it.” Was this the parlance of the day– that all children are gender neutral until they reach a specified age?)

Back to the podcast.
I close with Questions About Cake, a serious discussion of the history of sweets and death.

 

Full Shatner on Shatner Action

516uDz7F9iL I wrote this review of Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk in 2009 and I stand by it. Perhaps even more so now than ever before.

Jeff Burk’s Shatnerquake is the finest story ever told containing multiple William Shatners. Lesser authors have been shackled before now with writing only one role for Shatner. This is understandable, in the field of television and film, for logistical reasons. However, this has never been the case in the literary realm and Burk has led the way here with both great panache and bloodletting.

Unsatisfied with a single Shatner, Burk here provides a wall of Shatners. A smorgasbord of Shatners. Indeed, every possible variation of Shatner is set upon onlookers, each other, and the reader. No one is safe, let alone Shatner.

While some people have, in the past, mocked Shatner, deriding his skill as a thespian, song stylist, or margarine spokesman, Burk has shown that the problem has never been one of too much Shatner, rather too little. Free of casting limitations the literary form allows for full Shatner on Shatner action. At last Shatner is presented on a level playing field, where characters are of the same caliber.

With Shatnerquake, Burk has solved the Shatner dilema, which has plagued man since 1951, and he shall be remembered forever for this.

Denny Crane!

Flowers for Algernon

flowers-for-algernon-book

Author Daniel Keyes died last year. He wrote the masterpiece Flowers for Algernon which was first published as a short story in 1959 and later expanded into a novel.

Flowers for Algernon was part of the new wave of psychological science fiction, its story slightly set in the future and eschewing rockets and other planets  instead giving readers an epistolary story presented as the journal of a man with an IQ of 68 before and after an operation to increase his intelligence by three hundred percent.

The book is on the American Library Association’s list of 100 most challenged books, wherein librarians track the efforts of non-readers to prevent children from reading. Labeling the book as “filthy and immoral” is, in fact, a high recommendation, especially to teenagers.

It was required reading when I was in the seventh grade, to the consternation of one classmate who was angry that “They want to make me read a book written by someone who can’t spell.”

The book is actually about self realization and loss.

An interesting note about the story: it was written for Galaxy magazine, but the author refused to change the ending so it appeared instead in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. When revised into a novel it was rejected by many publishers, again because the author refused to change the ending. It has never been out of print since publication.

Over at the podcast Escape Pod, they have an episode featuring a reading of the original 1959 short story. (link)

 

I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

He was a prolific short story writer. In the fifties and sixties his work was featured in many of the science fiction magazines of the day (and there were more of them then.) Sheckly was witty. He could write a hell of a story about an alien who burned down orphanages on many planets.

I have all of his old short story collections. Some of them are tattered. One of my favorites, Shards of Space, is the most tattered. It is almost split in two. It came that way. The lady at the used bookstore, years ago, said, “I’m only going to charge you a quarter for this, but I won’t buy it back.” As if I would trade back a Sheckley collection.

While a master of the short story he did write a small number of novels. They tend to be episodic in nature, novels that are really groups of short stories with the same characters. Novels such as Journey Beyond Tomorrow aka The Journey of Joenes. This is a great novel presented as the biblical text of a religion in the future which follows the life of Joenes, who travels the world before and after WWIII. Intermixed is ancient myth. There is also political commentary about McCarthyism, the book was written in the late 50s.

For a time he lived not 50 miles from me and I regret that I did not go see him. My friend Richard F. Yates was also a fan and Sheckley was mostly forgotten as an author by then in the US. He was considered a master of the golden age abroad and died while in Russia speaking about his work in 2005.

A number of his stories that appeared in Galaxy magazine were adapted for radio and appeared as episodes of X Minus One. Here is the episode The Native Problem. (By the way, the ebook of The Status Civilization is free.)

Rubber

I cannot recommend to you highly enough the film Rubber. The world does not have enough metafictional absurdist films about tyres.  Not nearly enough.

Rubber is a film about a tyre named Robert who rolls around making things explode while an audience watches. I need tell you no more of this story. That should be enough to pique your interest. If it isn’t, then this is not the film for you.