I often listen to audiobooks when I'm falling asleep, and my favorite go-to for these is Librivox, the incredible collection of volunteer-read public-domain texts (I used to buy a lot of Audible titles, but the fact that they use DRM even when publishers and authors beg them not to has meant that I no longer use the service). Last night, I stumbled on Phil Chenevert's reading of the Robert E Howard classic "The Queen of the Black Coast," one of the great Conan stories, available on Project Gutenberg, in the anthology The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword and Sorcery Hero of All Time!, and in a smashing graphic novel adaptation by Brian Wood (!).
This is the Ur-stuff, the sword-and-sorcery material that turned me into a stone Conan freak when I was 12 years old. It's all mighty thews and straining jaws and blood-drenched swords -- and pirates and sinuous dances and so on. Chenevert gives a great reading of the material, sounding like the voice that I heard in my head when I was falling in love with that stuff. I was reminded of the revelation I experienced when I read John Clute's marvellous Robert E Howard book, that the young Howard used to shout the words aloud as he typed them, in his small-town Texas home, while his mother lay dying of TB in the bedroom above him; and the fact that Howard wrote all this incredible material between the age of 22 and 29 (he killed himself at 29, after his mother finally died). The idea of a 22-year-old Howard producing this amazing, mythic stuff makes it all the cooler.
Queen of the Black Coast by Robert E. Howard
As I mentioned in my March Locus column, I'm celebrating the tenth anniversary of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by planning a prequel volume. As part of that planning, I'm going to read aloud the entire text of that first book into my podcast, making notes on the book as I go. Here's part one.
Mastering by John Taylor Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."
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Yesterday, I reviewed Daniel Kraus's spectacular and terrifying horror novel Scowler. It turns out that Random House Audio has produced an audiobook version read by Kirby Heyborne (who also reads the audio edition of Little Brother), and they sell it as a DRM-free CDs direct from their site (a welcome alternative to Audible/iTunes, which requires DRM for audiobooks even when the publisher and writer object).
Read the rest
This week on my podcast
, I've posted a reading
) from Homeland
, the sequel to Little Brother
, which will be published on February 5 -- that's one week from tomorrow!
Further to yesterday's post about the availablity of a DRM-free, EULA-free MP3 download for the audiobook of Little Brother, I'm pleased to announce that I'm also selling the audiobook for my new novel Pirate Cinema. As with the Little Brother audio, this is a professionally voiced, unabridged audiobook from Random House Audio. This one is read by the rather fabulous Bruce Mann.
The reason I'm selling this direct from my site is that the largest retail channels for audiobooks -- iTunes and Audible -- refuse to carry audiobooks without DRM and onerous license-agreements. I don't want to lock you into anyone's platform, and I don't want to take away any of the rights you get under copyright law. So I've taken matters into my own hands, offering the book directly, in a fair, straightforward, simple way. I'm immensely grateful to Random House for backing me in my fight against DRM, and for sacrificing the revenue they'd get from iTunes/Audible in order to leave me with my principles intact.
Pirate Cinema Audiobook
Thanks to the kind folks at Random House Audio, I'm now able to offer direct downloads of the unabridged audiobook of Little Brother, read by Kirby Heyborne. The download is DRM-free, and comes with no EULA -- in other words, the only terms binding your use of it are: "Don't violate copyright law." It's $20, cheap!
Little Brother Audiobook
A reader writes, "Librivox [ed: a trove of free, volunteer-read audio adaptations of public domain books] has released the audio version of Tono-Bungay the classic semi-autobiographical novel by H. G. Wells." From Wikipedia:
Tono-Bungay is a realist semi-autobiographical novel. It is narrated by George Ponderevo, a science student who is drafted in to help with the promotion of Tono-Bungay, a harmful stimulant disguised as a miraculous cure-all, the creation of his uncle Edward. The quack remedy Tono-Bungay seems to have been based upon the patent medicines Carter's Little Liver Pills and Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People.... As the tonic prospers, George experiences a swift rise in social status, elevating him to riches and opportunities that he had never imagined, nor indeed desired. The novel displays Edward's social climbing satirically, and also George's discomfort at rising in social class. The hero's personal life is narrated with unusual frankness for an Edwardian novel.... The empire eventually overextends itself and then collapses. George tries unsuccessfully to save his uncle and eventually ends up designing battleships for the highest bidder. (Summary from Wikipedia)
Having enjoyed the hell out of Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson's long-overdue essay collection, I thought I'd try it on audiobook for a second pass (I really like to do this when I finish a book feeling like there's more there than I could absorb in a single reading). I was happy to see that Tantor Media had produced an unabridged, DRM-free MP3CD of the book, and they were kind enough to send me a review copy. I dragged the files off the CD and onto my phone and listened to the book for the next few days as I made my way from daycare to office to lunch to office to daycare (home to daycare/daycare to home were spent conversing with the kid, of course). At 5.3 hours, this is a pretty quick audiobook, and the narrator, Robertson Dean does a very good job on the essays, which are a treat to have as spoken word (especially the couple that are actually transcripts of speeches).
The MP3CD is advertised as "iPod-ready" and indeed, the single disc (shipped in a DVD-style bookshelf case) has an orderly, well-named set of MP3 files on it. This was awfully nice, though a little more care could have been taken with the filenames and metadata. Some files had curly-quotes in them that rendered in my OS as â€™ and such; the reader's name had been put in the "artist" field of the ID3 tags, which meant that the files were misfiled; there was no cover-art in the ID3 tags. None of these are grave mistakes, and indeed, it's a treat to get an audiobook whose MP3s have any metadata or sensible filenames, but if you're going to go "iPod-ready" then it wouldn't hurt to iron out these small bugs.
Meanwhile, listening to these essays and experiencing them for a second time was quite exciting, as there were connections I'd missed, some of which will form the basis for some upcoming columns (I have two due this week!). A thoroughly recommended experience.
Distrust That Particular Flavor [MP3 Audio, Unabridged]