Stars End S3E26

“It is from this Point On, Earth Itself that is the True World of the Podcast.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it is said, “always get their man.”  I haven’t checked, but I’m confident that’s been updated.  “Always get their human” might not work perfectly in the context of Asimov’s Robot Novels, so let’s settle on “always get the perpetrator.”  A perpetrator could be an animal, vegetable, or mineral.

In Elijah Baley’s time, millennia in the future, it isn’t clear whether New York City has grown to include parts of Canada but it isn’t likely.  If it had, Lije would have been part of this same tradition.  And yet, as we’ve noticed, Lije hardly ever “gets” the guilty party.  Usually, he has figured out who it is, but the actual “getting” part never actually happens.  It’s like watching an episode of Law & Order where the latter half kinda goes off the rails.  As we approach the denouement of The Robots of Dawn we have to ask… will Lije finally have an unqualified win?

You want to know!  You need to know! We know!  And we talk about it!  Let’s go!

And in one week… Episode 50!

Stars End S3E25

“The Law Wisely Considers a Podcast an Incompetent Witness”

Happy New Year!  Today, 2 January, is National Science Fiction Day here in the States, and not coincidentally, the birthday of Dr. Asimov, aka the great explainer, aka the Great and Glorious Az.  Happy Birthday, Issac!

It’s also National Buffet Day and World Introvert Day.  Make of that what you will.

Thus, today we’re dropping a special episode of the Stars End Podcast, our first musical episode!  Well, kinda.  There’s a bit at the end where we talk about music and songs that would be apropos to the real action, where we discuss Chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16 of The Robots of Dawn.  Don’t worry, none of us sing.

So, head on out to Golden Corral, find yourself a nice quiet corner away from the humans and read about R. Daneel and R. Giskard.  Then join us back here for our musical episode.  Or, just listen to the episode. That’s cool too.

For our part, we’re recording another episode this evening, each safely in our own space, securely separated by state and/or national boundaries.  This one’s a very special episode; it’s our 50th and we’ve got something different planned for the milestone!  Stay Tuned!

But first, episode #48.

And as a bonus, you can find our soundtrack to The Robots of Dawn on our website, StarsEndPodcast.com.  Let’s go!

That, of course, can never be complete unless we can find someone to record (The Robots Want to Wear My) Red Shoes for us.

Stars End S3E24

“Do Not For Your Own Sake Test the Force of Our Podcast”

In a departure from our recent episodes, we have breaking news!  Well… probably!  The Midgard Times tells us that Apple TV+’s Foundation has been renewed for a third season.  No word yet on when season two will premiere, but there’s more information that you’ll need to listen to learn!

Who is The Midgard Times and how did they manage to scoop the competition for this vital information?  We don’t really know!  We can tell you though that if you’re looking between hard-hitting journalism like “Muspelheim in Danger of Freezing Over” and “Troll Literacy Rate Rises to 3%” it isn’t there.

You need to go to… hang on, it was here a minute ago… give me a second… here!  It’s this The Midgard Times, which appears to be a subsidiary of moviesr.net. That reminds us of nothing so much as a vanity license plate that… isn’t quite what the car’s owner really wanted.

And what of the news from Svartalfheim? Gesundheit!

Aside from this, we revisit “Mirror Image” and, of course, we continue our discussion of The Robots of Dawn. This time, it’s chapters 10, 11, and 12 in which we wrap up the interview of Vasilia and get the entirety of Baley’s conversation with Gremionois. Also, Baley goes to the bathroom and has lunch! Without this, no Asimov novel would be complete.

Meanwhile, we’ll always be at StarsEndPodcast.com and StarsEndPodcast.WordPress.com but not at StarsEnd.anything because we don’t know what those are either. We think there are squatters.

Stars End S3E23

“There is Not Really Much Use in Cross-Examining a Podcast”

Cross-examinations are a staple of teevee.  On Law and Order, there is a plethora of great scenes where Jack McCoy presses the defendant until they break and inadvertently provide irrefutable evidence against themselves.

Lije Baley wants us to believe there is no benefit to cross-examining a robot, but teevee and Captain James T. Kirk argue against this.  Consider this scene from “The Ultimate Computer,” restored to the intended version that was prevented by copyright issues.  Ironic because Star Trek walks right up to the border of the ground Asimov covered in The Naked Sun in this one.

M5: This unit is the ultimate achievement in computer evolution. It will replace man so that man may achieve. Man must not risk death in space or other dangerous occupations. This unit must survive so man may be protected.

SPOCK: Captain, attack force almost within phaser range.

KIRK: There were many men aboard those ships. They were murdered. Must you survive by murder?

M5: This unit cannot murder.

KIRK: Why?

M5: Murder is contrary to the First Law of Robotics.

KIRK: But you have murdered. Scan the starship Excalibur, which you destroyed. Is there life aboard?

M5: No life.

KIRK: Because you murdered it. What is the penalty for murder?

M5: Death.

KIRK: And how will you pay for your acts of murder?

M5: This unit must die.  (It disconnects itself from the power feed in Engineering and goes dark.)

KIRK: M-5?

CHEKOV: Sir, deflector shields have dropped.

SULU: All phaser power is gone, sir.

SPOCK: M-5 is leaving itself open to attack. The machine is ignoring the Third Law to atone for its violation of the First Law.

The Ultimate Computer, Star Trek S2E24

So, despite Baley’s repeated assertions to the contrary, Kirk shows us it can be productive to cross-examine a robot, perhaps even forcing a mental freeze-out.

“Mental freeze-out!” you might exclaim!  “Dr. Han Fastolfe says that’s practically impossible!”  I suggest we ask Captain Kirk about that too.

But let’s think about this together as we discuss chapters 7, 8, and 9 of The Robots of Dawn.  It’s a monument to cross-examination and interrogation.  And not just of robots.  We talk about it, you can join us!  Let’s go!

The scene from “The Ultimate Computer” was taken from Chrissie’s Transcripts Site. (and then shamelessly edited).

Stars End S3E22

“There is Something to be Said About a Podcast That Makes One Smile”

This is the city, Eos, Aurora.   It’s the city of the dawn on the planet of the dawn.  It’s the largest and most important city on the oldest and most important Spacer World.  Mostly, good things happen in Eos, the Robotics Institute is in Eos as is the planetary government.  Sometimes bad things happen; things that require a lot of discussion.  Was the victim even alive?  Was this even a crime?  Questions that need answers.  When that happens, I go to work.  I carry a badge.

Friday, October 30.  It was windy in Eos.  We were working the day watch out of the roboticide division.  Our host is Han Fastolfe.  My partner’s Daneel Olivaw.  My name is Baley.

Join us as we get into the meat of The Robots of Dawn.  Baley starts to learn the details of the case, and Fastolfe performs some experiments on Baley.  Plus the return of an old friend, the wackiest trip to the lavatory in all of the Asimov canon, and the Great and Glorious Az tries his hand at writing romance.  As always, you’ve read it, we talk about it, and fun will be had.

Stars End S3E21

“The Podcast Has a Notoriously Short Memory”

Obligatory Star Trek reference loading…

Do you know what a “teaser” is? You probably do, but just in case I’ll tell you anyway.

A teaser is the bit of a teevee episode that precedes the opening. Nothing much happens in a teaser except to set up the action and hopefully grab your attention. A wedding on the Enterprise is interrupted by a red alert. A landing party beams down to Cestus III to find the outpost destroyed. Chekov screams in terror because he’s been startled by an inexplicably elderly couple. You get the idea.

And boy, does the Great and Glorious Az have a teaser for you! A quick 126 pages of astral viewing, etymology, rhetoric, and a description of a government official that made Joseph’s wife, Joanne, groan in faux outrage. That’s the first three chapters of The Robots of Dawn and not a whole hell of a lot happens.

We talk about it, you listen to us. A splendid time will be had by all. Hopefully.

Also, a spoiler warning. If you’re new to the podcast and haven’t finished the novel yet, you might want to read ahead before listening to the episode. Or not. It’s up to you.

Stars End S3E20

“A Small Podcast Yet to the Humans Involved Astonishingly Large”

We didn’t set out to do it, but we did it.

What, you might ask?  We’ve created an episode that’s an excellent jumping-on point for anyone who’s been itching to try the podcast, but doesn’t know where to start.

How?  Well to start with, we’re talking about a short story.  You don’t need to read the books or watch the shows we talk about to enjoy the podcast, but we certainly understand if want to!  We’re talking about “Mirror Image” from Robot Visions, in which Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw help to solve a dispute between two mathematicians.  It’s about 19 pages long, a comfortable, digestible chunk.

And?  And we have guests!  Episodes are better with guests and we’re joined by two charming mathematicians, Coleen and Charlie Jacobson, long-time science fiction readers and friends of Joseph from Elmira College.  They’ll help us decide if the off-screen mathematicians are true-to-life!  On a personal note, if you remember Joseph from EC you might enjoy hearing from half of what he calls, the “Mathematics Faculty Classic” that existed from 2012 to 2014.

So, if you’re a regular listener, settle in for another excellent episode.  If you’re new to the podcast, buckle up!  You’re in for a fun ride!  Let’s go!

Two notes on the Featured Image: The background is some board work from 2016 when Joseph taught Geometry from Charlie’s notes. In the foreground are two images of Paul Erdös, one at age 20 and one much later in his life, drawn by LeUyen Pham from The Boy Who Loved Math. Erdös is famous for being one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time and for having a multitude of collaborators.

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E19

“We Must Teach Ourselves to Face the Podcast”

I learned something today.

Did you know that when Elements are named to honor cities the Latin names for the cities are used rather than the common names? The funny thing is that this is true even if the city has no Latin name. This is how we get the name for holmium, which is named after Stockholm or rather after “Holmia” which is the Latin name for Stockholm that the chemist made up.

This is from the essay “Names! Names! Names!” by the good doctor. It’s all about naming elements and, although I haven’t quite finished it yet, I’m pretty sure it covers all hundred or so that were known at the time.

If you’re curious, here are the names of the other elements

The essay appeared in the December 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, the very same issue as our final installment of The Naked Sun. This led John W. Campbell to declare Asimov a “two-headed author.” Isaac’s predilection for non-fiction was starting to show.

Being trained as a chemist, Asimov gives us a ton of Asenion names to enjoy in this final section! There’s GlaDIEah Delmarre, Klorissa Cantero, Jothan Leebig, Corwin Attlebish, and Anselmo Quemot. And who could forget Benzadril Copperbottom? In this final section, which corresponds to chapters 13 to 18 in the book, Baley survives the assassination attempt, gets his portrait done, almost strolls to his death, and solves the case! Of course, we talk about it all. Join us for the setting of The Naked Sun!

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E18

“There is no Podcast Without a Podcaster”

First British Edition Cover

You know what? Solaria is weird.

Looking back over our podcast, it turns out that a lot of Asimov’s work is weird. Solaria may not be Mycogen-weird, but it’s pretty weird.

Last time we were introduced to the extreme isolation of Solarians and the preponderance of robots. Those were weird. And that seeing vs. viewing thing? That was weird too.

This time? Murder attempts where only Asenion robots are present? Weird. Fetuses grown in vats? Weird. Child farming? Weird. A plot to make the entire Galaxy like Solaria? Weird. And there’s lots more!

So, what do we learn this time? Solaria is weird. But don’t take my word for it, listen to the episode and you can see for yourself! Let’s go!

Simultaneously published at…

Next Time on Stars End

Last Sunday we recorded our latest episode as we continued to bask in The Naked Sun.

In this episode, we talk about the middle section of Asimov’s novel as published in the November 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

That corresponds to chapters 7 through 12 in the book.

There’s less hype this time except for the presence of part one in the October issue; Part two was not mentioned in Campbell’s Things to Come and wasn’t on the issue’s cover. Who is James H. Schmitz by the way? I don’t know!

But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened in this installment!

We see the aftermath of the assassination attempt of Hannis Gruer and learn what constitutes “sociology” on Solaria. We meet Gruer’s stand-in as Head of Security and watch as Baley gets to go walkabout across the planet. We also learn an uncomfortable amount about Solarian childrearing and witness a second, seemingly impossible assassination attempt on this world so filled with three-laws robots!

Here’s John W. Campbell’s blurb that precedes this installment!

Second of Three Parts. Lije Baley was investigating a murder. Usually, an alibi proves physical impossibility; on robot-dominated Solaria, a different question arose. Is a robot’s conditioning “physical” or “psychological” impossibility? And is there any such thing as “psychological impossibility”? And if it exists for robots, does it for humans…?

Astounding Science Fiction November 1956

The illustrations this time are again by H. R. Van Dongen.

The available scans were not great, but I cleaned up the images as much as possible. If I keep this up, I may need to learn a lot more about that process.

Season 3, Episode 19: coming soon to anywhere the finest podcasts are sold!

Resources

  • Asimov, Isaac. “The Naked Sun, part 2” Astounding Science Fiction, November 1956, pp. 96-151.
  • Asimov, Isaac. The Naked Sun, ©1956, 1957, 1983, Bantum Spectra

Simultaneously published at…