75: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Show Notes

Intro 00:07 (anniversaries of sorts) // Synopsis 05:06 // Themes 19:02 // Motives // Tools 24:14 (language, media, propaganda, surveillance, revisionism, war) // Other Reading 38:52 // George Floyd // Dystopia as aesthetic // confusing Dystopia and Post-Apocalypse // Dystopocalypse

Other book references:

The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe
The Watchtowers from The Voices of Time by J G Ballard
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Children of Morrow by H M Hoover
Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Cylinder Three” and “Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders // “Take Off and Shoot a Zero” from Stunt Island // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

74: Days by James Lovegrove

Intro 00:07 // Synopsis 02:50 // Commentary 15:20 // The Outside (what kind of a world has gigastores?) 15:28 // Manufactured cultures (zaibatsus and phyles) 16:26 // Grant Morrison (intelligent cities and corporations as planetary contagion) 16:48 // City as organism 17:20 // (autocracy) 18:36 // (microcosm) 19:01 // (visitors) 19:41 // (spaces) 24:26 // (scenes) 29:16 // (pacing) 32:43 // (rise and fall) 33:52 // Extra 34:42 // High Rise by J G Ballard 34:51 // The Hope by James Lovegrove 39:14

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

73: The Squares of the City by John Brunner

The Squares Of The City by John Brunner

Show Notes

Intro 00:07 // Synopsis 04:16 // Commentary 15:05 // Further Reading 21:35

Links

The City Shaped and The City Assembled by Spiro Kostov

City by P.D. Smith

The City Accelerated, a city building tool by Ralph Lovegrove

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders // “Take off and shoot a Zero” from Stunt Island // “I don’t know where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Episode 66: The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

Show Notes

Plot and Setting 01:18 (viral learning, accelerated childhood, photosynthesis, viral augmented reality, living history, communism, living history, viral empaths) // Themes 15:04 (utopia and distopia, invading thoughts in the gestalt, J G Ballard, Anne Leckie, the bigger picture, Big Questions, Cyberpunk cheats death, constrained by time, death and transcendence, editing the soul) // The Roleplaying Bit 29:38 (two experience tracks, Brexit, countdown to apocalypse, local and global collapse, the Village)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “But enough about me Bill Paxton” from Direct to Video // “Cylinder four” from Cylinders // “I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Episode 65: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Show Notes

Synopsis 02:19 // Themes 06:51 // activism // corporate totalitarianism // biotech // Roleplaying 19:11 // corporate dystopia // cyberprep // PbtA and Urban Shadows (storms/fronts) // the contract // dual advancement tracks // “Village fiction” (The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “But enough about me Bill Paxton” from Direct to Video // “Cylinder four” from Cylinders // “I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Episode 61: King in Yellow coda

This is a companion to and additional content that didn’t make into Episode 60.

The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

Show Notes

Plot and Setting 01:56 // Themes and Images 07:10 (False Documents, vectors, Tommy Westphall, Dollhouse, Snow Crash, Marvel Boy, The Invisibles, Kult, Hellraiser) // The RPG bit 19:23 (Freeform Games, Carcosan Bingo)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear // “Cylinder One”, “Cylinder Six” and “Cylinder Eight” from Cylinders // “Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless

Episode 60: The King in Yellow with Scott Dorward

The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

With Scott Dorward from the Good Friends of Jackson Elias! Visit their site for their ongoing series on the King in Yellow.

Show Notes

defining cosmic horror 04:30 // gothic horror 07:50 // everything is delusion 09:50 // gothic motifs (question for Matt Sanderson) 13:20 // cosmic horror without Lovecraft 15:07 // house on the borderlands 16:54 // what would Sandy Petersen’s KiY look like? 21:05 // 1980s game design and Dallas 27:43 // Pelgrane’s Yellow King (Hillfolk vs Gumshoe) 34:55 // investigative horror 36:25 // consent 38:04 // Hellraiser comics and damned by crossword 39:11 // memes 50:58 // cosmology 53:44 // the stars are gods 55:37 // Shakespeare’s King in Yellow 58:20 // Clive Barker’s living city-gods 1:00:17 // uncaring vs. moralistic gods 1:02:10 // Scott’s dream team of fan writers (Karl Edward Wagner, Robert Aickman, Clive Barker, Brett Easton Ellis, Ramsay Campbell, Nathan Ballingrud) 1:03:44

Extra

The Brett Easton Ellis RPG character sheet

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear // “Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless

Perfidious Albion on Speed

If you’re British, or even if you aren’t, a good chunk of your news feed will have been swallowed by the Brexit pantomime, including hilarious exchanges like the one between Will Self and Mark Francois:

WS: Your problem… is since 2016 you don’t need to be a racist or anti-semite to vote for Brexit, it’s just that every racist and anti-semite in the country did. MF: I think that’s a slur on 17.4 million people and I think you should apologise on national television. I think that’s an outrageous thing to say WS: Well, you seem to find a lot of things outrageous MF: Are you saying that 17.4 million people are racist and bigots… WS: No, that’s not what I said MF: That’s pretty close to what you said WS: It’s not remotely close to what I said. You seem to be a bit exorcised, sir MF: Well, I’m offended WS: The politics of offence, eh? What I said was that every racist and anti-semite in the country, pretty much, probably voted for Brexit. MF: How can you know that? WS: I suspect it. MF: Well, I think you should apologise. WS: To who? Racists and anti-semites?

OK, pretty funny although the best comment on the showdown was by Sara Pascoe on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order saying (IIRC) “What you’re seeing there is a clash between two different kinds of alpha male”. Everyone should wind their neck in.

But this is Fictoplasm, so there’s going to be a fiction element — and that’s this piece by Will Self in the aftermath of his face-off, where he name-checks J G Ballard:

Perhaps the pivotal years were around middle of the noughties – at any rate, that’s when I went to speak to my friend and mentor JG Ballard about what would prove to be his final novel, Kingdom Come. Jim was as bluff and strange as ever – he had the manner of the RAF pilot he might have become if he’d completed his training, combined with the thousand-yard stare at what’s immediately to hand, which is the sure sign of a surrealist. He pointed out to me the flags flying in the front gardens along Old Charlton Road, the utterly bland suburban road in Shepperton (an utterly bland Surrey dormitory town), where he’d lived for 40 extremely odd years. For him, the flying of the Cross of St George was undoubtedly minatory: it had come about through a synergy between football fandom and the rise of ethnic nationalism; these were the years of the British National Party’s ascent to the giddy heights of the 2010 general election, when their candidates won over half a million votes. Reviewing Kingdom Come in the Guardian, Phil Baker succinctly noted “Ballard’s central idea is that consumerism slides into fascism when politics simply gives the punters what they want”. Well, Jim was always prescient – this was the writer who conceived of the celebrity car crash as a catalyst of collective hysteria a quarter-century before Diana Spencer was killed in the Pont de l’Alma underpass, and who also anticipated the baleful impacts of global warming as early as the late 1950s. Jim got that English nationalism was on the rise – and that under neo-liberal conditions favouring consumption over production, it was likely to become a vector for the most troubling aspects of the famously ‘tolerant’ English psyche.

Meanwhile, Mark Francois is providing meme-tastic soundbites like Perfidious Albion on Speed.

Perfidious Albion on Speed is too fussy a title to be Ballardian. In fact, Perfidious Albion is already the title of Sam Byers’ second novel, which didn’t start out as a Brexit novel but perhaps it evolved that way:

The honest truth is that it began in a much more speculative fashion. I did the bulk of the work on this book in 2015 and 2016, and while it’s true I continually adjusted for events such as Brexit, I think what really happened is that the world just caught up with me in surprising and disturbing ways, and so I accepted the idea that rather than continually reinventing things in order to be out in front of the phenomena I was depicting, I should anchor myself and play more with the ways in which the context of the book was evolving.

Here’s a video of the author:

Episode 55: Cocaine Nights by J G Ballard

Cocaine Nights by J G Ballard

Show Notes

Synopsis 01:15 // Themes 15:15 (three act structures, crossing boundaries, Futureworld and cultists) // Games 23:11 (Lag, spheres of comfort, trusting NPCs)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear // “Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless

Episode 303: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

We discuss Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Content warning: themes of abuse, rape and infertility.

Show Notes

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Becky Annison, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

  • Synopsis 2:00
  • Themes 13:50
    • Children of Men (PD James)
    • Apocalypse: scarcity
    • Dystopia: control of information
  • RPG bit 32:45
    • Rise and Fall
    • The Academics

Music Credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Special: Don’t Wake The Bear, Hare!

It’s one year since we released our first episode! We talk about the coming season 3, plus our son’s favourite book…

Show Notes

Liz and Ralph with some pre-Season 3 ramblings, plus Don’t Wake The Bear, Hare! by Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler

Season 3 ideas 02:10 // Synopsis 07:50 // Themes 09:45 // Liz’s game 14:50 // Dread 18:05 // Ralph’s game 18:55 // Before the Storm 21:55

Music credits

“Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 215: Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer

Ralph and Josh board Le Transperceneige a.k.a. the Snowpiercer.

Show Notes

Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, made into the film Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-Ho

Josh Fox and Ralph Lovegrove

Film Synopsis 00:45 // Graphic Novels 03:35 // Themes 08:05 // Oldboy 11:55 // The Hope by James Lovegrove 24:20 // The RPG bit (it’s Apocalpse World, innit) 26:00 // Wool by Hugh Howey 30:20 // Rise and Fall 37:00 // Last words 39:00 // Hollowpoint 39:25 // Actually these are the last words 39:30 // No, really, these are the last words 40:20 // The Bed Sitting Room and the London Underground (and Neverwhere) 40:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 213: Kiteworld by Keith Roberts

(see our previous episode)

Keith Roberts wrote nine groups of short stories, four of which are linked novellas. Kiteworld was published nearly 20 years after Pavane and bears more than a passing resemblance to the earlier collection, despite it’s post-apocalyptic setting.

Music credits

“Cylinder Four“ from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 212: Pavane by Keith Roberts

This episode is a collaboration between Fictoplasm and the Tabletop Roleplayer’s Book Club. Ralph discusses their April book choice, Keith Roberts’ alternate history Pavane with guests Ray Otus and Paul Mitchener.

Show Notes

Pavane by Keith Roberts

Paul Mitchener and Ray Otus with Ralph Lovegrove

Introducing the Tabletop Roleplayer’s Book Club 00:50 // Synopsis 02:00 // Comments 05:10 // Fairies 06:15 // Darkness and the economics of light 10:45 // Caught up in events 17:40 // Isolation 20:15 // Independence 29:00 // The RPG bit — Paul’s Game 35:20 // Ray’s ideas 36:20 // Callisto and De Profundis 36:45 // Itras By 38:40 // Apocryphal Chris’s idea 39:50 // Ralph’s Game 41:35 // Rise and Fall 41:50 // Microscope and Kingdom 42:05 // The Village 44:50 // Binary games 46:50 // Last words 49:00

Extra

See this infinityplus review and the comments on the Coda.

Tim Harford’s 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy includes this episode on The Lightbulb.

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 208: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Mo, Liz, Ralph and special guest Paul Mitchener discuss Ursula Le Guin’s magnificent The Dispossessed.

Show Notes

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paul Mitchener, Mo Holkar, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 01:40 // “The Hobbit, basically” 05:50 // Remarks 09:35 // Paul’s game (Hot War) 15:00 // Mo’s game (hacking Rise and Fall) 18:10 // Liz’s game (inc. Bite Me) 20:50 // Ralph’s game 25:00 // The Hainish Cycle 29:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode A.1: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

In this very special episode we decided the best way to treat Herman Melville’s classic was to go back to our analogue roots. We discuss open seas, confined spaces, love among the sailors, Ahab the Eternal Champion, and more.

To get your copy please send a stamped self-addressed envelope together with a 50p cheque or postal order to the address given at the end of the podcast.

Episode 206: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Ralph is joined by special guest Baz Stevens to discuss traction cities, airships and Municipal Darwinism in Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines.

Show Notes

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Ralph Lovegrove joined by Baz Stevens, one half of the Smart Party podcast

Synopsis 02:15 // Comments 06:15 // Slipstream 23:30 // Baz’s RPG ideas 27:40 // Moorcock’s Revenge of the Rose 28:00 // FAE and Spirit of the Century 28:25 // Castle Falkenstein 34:00 // Lace and Steel 34:45 // James Lovegrove’s The Hope 39:15 // Paranoia (as Brazil) 40:25 // Lost boys and Blades in the Dark 42:15 // Closing remarks 44:45

Enough About Me, Bill Paxton

Shortly after we recorded this episode Bill Paxton died on the 25th of February. Roleplayers will fondly remember his contributions to speculative genre films such as Aliens, Near Dark and Edge of Tomorrow.

Slipstream was a commercial and critical flop despite starring Paxton alongside Mark Hamill, Kitty Aldridge, Bob Peck, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham among others and directed by Star Wars collaborator Gary Kurtz. It’s not a great film. Perhaps if it had been made today with modern CGI and post-Fury Road sensibilities (a diverse cast, maybe) then the apocalyptic scope of the film would be realized.

RIP Bill Paxton.

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 204: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Becky, Ralph and special guest Tod Foley discuss the bizarre, creeping horror in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach series.

Show Notes

Annihilation (and sequels) by Jeff Vandermeer.

Ralph Lovegrove with Becky Annison and Tod Foley

Bronson Pinchot has a lovely voice 01:05 // Synopsis (and general conversation) 01:45 // RPG ideas start 07:40 // Man Against Fire (Black Mirror) 08:35 // Archipelago and Itras By 11:30 // Itras By 11:40 // Lots more RPG options from Tod 13:40 // Bleed 15:45 // De Profundis 19:40 // Hot War 32:20 // LARP 42:50

RPGs

We covered a lot of different games in this episode, so here they are in order of mention:

  • Archipelago
  • Itras By
  • Stalker RPG
  • Day Trippers
  • Cypher System
  • Dread
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • De Profundis
  • Hot War

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 202: The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

In this episode Becky, Liz and Ralph split off and explore the many lives of The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper.

Show Notes

The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

Becky Annison, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:33 // Comments 05:30 // RPGs, shared characters and concluding the game 11:30 // Becky’s RPG 20:30 // Liz’s RPG 25:30 // Ralph’s RPG and Blake’s 7 29:00 // Non-simultaneous travel and communication (and Ursula Le Guin) 38:00 // Other Tepper recommendations 40:10

(we namecheck Beyond the Wall and Traveller in this episode)

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 10: The Dream Archipelago by Christopher Priest

This episode Mo and Ralph drift around Christopher Priest’s Dream Archipelago.

Show Notes

The Affirmation, The Dream Archipelago, The Islanders and The Adjacent are novels and short stories by Christopher Priest

Speaking: Mo Holkar and Ralph Lovegrove

The Affirmation 01:00 // The Dream Archipelago 03:00 // The Equatorial Moment 05:05 // The Islanders 05:40 // The Adjacent 11:50 // Comments 13:25 // Mo’s Game 18:05 // Fugue and Alas Vegas 22:20 // Ralph’s Game 26:30

Ralph’s Beyond the Waves for Beyond the Wall is a work in progress. You can find the download here, where you’ll also find a guide to the bits missing from Fugue.

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

(chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

Episode 03: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

This episode we abandon hopes of getting the DVD player working again and embrace the apocalypse with Emily St John’s Station Eleven

Show Notes

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Ralph Lovegrove and Elizabeth Lovegrove

00:20 Synopsis // 06:40 Dystopia // 09:40 The Knowledge // 12:25 The Games

Games

Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker & Meguey Baker // Summerland by Greg Saunders // Other Dust by Sine Nomine Games // Unknown Armies by Greg Stolze & John Tynes

Other Things

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and the film adaptation

The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell

Music

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie “Cylinder 3” and “Cylinder 4” from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie (chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

“Gone” from Music for Podcasts 2 by Lee Rosevere (happy puppy records bandcamp free music archive)