Radio Active #2: Conan, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and Nintendo DS

Radio Active PodcastRadio Active #2 includes an comparison between the upcoming (and sure to be awful XXX2 and the possibly hilarious movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s also got my thoughts on the Nintendo DS, including why I bought it, and why I prefer it to the Play Station Portable, and a review of Robert E. Howard’s The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, an anthology of Howard’s Conan short stories.

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I post new episodes of Radio Active every week or so. Comments–particularly audio comments–about the podcast are always welcome, and can be sent to (which should have more than enough space to handle any audio notes).

Show Notes

  • Nuketown Update
  • Nintendo DS
    • Why I got mine
      • I wanted something different. I have a PS2. I have a iPod. I didn’t need something that replicated what those things could already do. And no, I have absolutely no desire to re-purchase movies I already own in UMD format so I can watch them on a device I only get to use a few hours a week, if that.
      • I wanted something innovative. Whatever it’s faults, the Nintendo DS is at least trying something different — I’d rather have a new interface, and new games based on that interface, than the same old games I’ve been playing for the last five years … which seems to be what PSP is offering.
    • What I like
      • Small size: easily slippable into a coat pocket. At least a winter coat.
      • Dual screens: I like having the two screens, and the fact that its clam shell design protects both.
      • Good color, good graphics: Better than N64, but probably not as good as PSP, at least from what I’ve seen.
      • Excellent stereo sound
      • Touch Screen: the reason I bought it.
    • What I don’t like.
      • Lack of games: That pretty much sums up the overarching problem with the DS: not enough launch games.
  • Trailer Wars
  • Conan
    • Quote: “The Meaning of Life” — Conan the Barbarian
    • The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (book)
      • Buy from Amazon.
      • Author: Robert E. Howard
      • Publisher: Del Rey Books
      • Not at all what I was expecting. It has the muscle-bound, hulking Conan we’re all familiar with, but it also portrays his intelligent, crafty side. He’s not just some mindless barbarian; he’s a man with a code of values, and one who’s coming to understand — if not necessarily accept — civilization.
      • It also has a heavy dose of weirdness to it. As a contemporary and friend of H.P. Lovecraft, he incorporated some of Lovecraft’s alien mythos into his writing. As a result, magic is dark and terrible, and the horrors that lurk in the dark are something men can not stand to face. Unless, of course, they are Conan.
      • IMHO, fantasy (and even some sci-fi) owes as much to Howard as Tolkien, even if Tolkien’s in the limelight right now.
        • A Song of Fire and Ice: The dark and terrible magic, the shear alienness of the lost ages, are very reminiscent of Conan’s own mysteries.
        • Chronicles of Riddick: I didn’t make the connection in Pitch Black, but after seeing Chronicles of Riddick, it seems clear that Riddick is a futuristic Conan. He’s surely a brutal and dangerous barbarian, yet, like Conan, he turns out to have a code of honor buried deep beneath the chaos. And the end seen, with his conquered enemies bowing before him as he lounges on a throne, is like something taken directly from a Howard story.
        • Dungeons & Dragons: While people most often turn to Tolkien as a source of inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons, its clear that much of its hack’n’slash approach is taken from Conan, particularly with regards to fighters, barbarians, and rogues.
      • My Favorite Stories
        • The Tower of the Elephant
          • Conan as a young rogue, breaking into an archmage’s tower in search of loot and finding secrets both horrifying and wondrous.
        • The Queen of the Black Coast
          • Conan is captured by pirates, but being the charismatic rogue he is, he quickly becomes a trusted confident and lover of the ship’s female captain. Together they travel deep into a jungle on the Black Coast, where they find ancient and exceedingly dangerous ruins.
        • The Scarlet Citadel
          • A story with Conan as king, who is lured into a trap, captured, imprisoned, and must fight his way back to freedom.
      • Some of the short stories have overlapping themes and plots: Conan ventures into some unknown and mysterious land, nearly gets trapped by the horrors he finds there, then fights his way out. But it rarely gets old.
      • Written in the 1930s, it’s not surprising that Howard shares some of the prejudices of that time. While his own character is a noble savage, there is a tendency in his stories for those with increasingly dark skin to be more savage, and less noble. This reaches its pinnacle in The Vale of Lost Women which is simply noxious in its racism. In the other stories, Howard does a far better job of restraining his racist tendencies.
      • Loved the closing chapters of this book, which is like the book equivalent of DVD extras.
        • included Howard’s manuscripts, rough drafts of stories, and some essays on the histories of Hyboria. I’d love to see more of this sort of “primary sources” showing showing up in science fiction and fantasy anthologies.
        • Give me a book on Roger Zelazny’s Amber, with excerpts of his drafts of Nine Princes in Amber. Give me Isaac Asimov’s notes on the Foundation.
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