Episode 4.02: Excession by Iain M. Banks

Rhi and Paul join Ralph to talk about Iain M. Banks’ Excession and The Culture. Post-scarcity, intelligent starships, body modification and first contact.

Show Notes

Excession (and other Culture novels) by Iain M. Banks

Rhiannon Lassiter, Paul Mitchener and Ralph Lovegrove

  • Overview of The Culture 00:50
  • Synopsis of Excession 05:40
  • Themes 12:05
    • Diverging human cultures
    • What do utopians do with their free time?
    • Benevolent interference in other civilisations
    • The edge of ascension
    • Contact and Special Circumstances
    • Sex positive
    • Transhumanism before it was famous
    • Death
  • Aside:The Player of Games 32:50
  • RPGs 38:30
    • Mindjammer by Sarah Newton
    • Flotsam (Josh Fox, based on Dream Askew by Avery Alder)
    • Microscope and Kingdom by Ben Robbins
    • Dramasystem by Robin D. Laws
  • First Contact scenarios 48:05
    • Event Horizon
    • Unto Leviathan by Richard Paul Russo
    • Eon by Greg Bear
    • 2001 and 2010
    • The Fifth Element

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 217: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

In our last episode of the season Ralph, Liz and Josh struggle to communicate over Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17.

Show Notes

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Elizabeth Lovegrove, Josh Fox and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:45 // Jo Walton’s review 04:30 // Themes 05:10 // The Dead on tape 08:00 // Translation and Memory 12:40 // Hyperspace 14:25 // Non-binary life partners 15:45 // Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis 24:00 // Sleeper agents 28:35 // Gaming by hypnosis 30:25 // Faceless invaders 34:15 // RPG bit — Josh 37:55 // Liz (Grunting, Dialect RPGs) 39:00 // Ralph 44:40 // Last bits 52:20

Book References

Since we mentioned several titles in this episode, here’s our mini bibliography.

The Babel-17 wiki page lists other works that were influenced by this book including Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Ted Chiang’s Story Of Your Life (made into the film Arrival).

Finally, here’s Jo Walton’s review of Babel-17.

Game Notes

Five Conversational Hypnosis Tools For MCs by Pete Kautz.

Grunting is a free RPG by Jen Spencer.

Dialect is a game about how language dies. It’s post-Kickstarter (but I guess you can pre-order it).

We mentioned Night Witches (yes, AGAIN).

Ralph has started his Dramasystem/OSR mashup anyway (yeah, DEAL WITH IT JOSH). It’s called StormHack. Mini SRD here.

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 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 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 2.01: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

In this episode Liz, Mo and Ralph dive into Grass by Sheri S. Tepper.

This is the first of two episodes on Tepper, whose death in 2016 was pretty much overshadowed by more prominent celebs and/or politics.

Show Notes

Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

Mo Holkar, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:30 // Comment starts 08:00 // “Puzzle Planets” 13:30 // The History Problem 18:00 // Liz’s game 19:45 // Mo’s game 22:00 // Ralph’s game 25:20

Other “Puzzle Planet” Books

  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • Dune by Frank Herbert

For another treatment of Grass and its literary and historical roots, see this article (infinityplus)

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

Xmas Episode 02: Our Picks

We pitch 7 books for future consideration.

Show Notes

Mo Holkar, Josh Fox, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

The books:

  • Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  • No Good Men Among The Living by Anand Gopal
  • Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer
  • The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
  • The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

Mo’s bit (Vonnegut) 00:40 // Josh’s bit (Gopal, Sawyer) 08:10 // Liz’ bit (Chambers, Austen) 17:50 // Ralph’s bit (Stapledon, Barker) 25:30

Other Stuff

The Chaucer Twitter Feed

M. John Harrison’s essay on the Great Clomping Foot of Nerdism from Warren Ellis’ blog (original can be found via Wayback Machine)

Music credits

“I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” both from Thoughtless by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 05: Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

This episode Mo and Ralph leap into the very far future of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun quartet.

Show Notes

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Mo Holkar and Ralph Lovegrove

Book starts at 01:20, games around 12:15

Games

GURPS New Sun by Michael Andre-Driussi (Steve Jackson Games) // Chronicles of Future Earth by Sarah Newton

Other

Lexicon Urthus by Michael Andre-Driussi

Music

“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)