New Release – Mr. Spaceship by Philip K. Dick, read by Rudnicki

November 29, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: New Releases 

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Mr SpaceshipMr. Spaceship
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
72 min.- [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Published: 2008

The war continues as a stalemate. The Yucconae, an alien race, are living organisms that can traverse outer space. The Earth’s drone rockets do not have a chance against the flexibility of a living organisms.

Working in a military research facility, Kramer comes up with a system of installing a man’s brain as the central processor of a rocket. Since a pilot could not withstand the pressures of deep space flight, a willing sacrifice will need to be made. Kramer’s ex-wife, Dolores, remembers an old professor, Professor Thomas, that she and Kramer had attended in college. Professor Thomas is near the end of his lifespan. His mind is still agile, and it is agreed that it is his mind that will go into the rocket. The plan is for the brain to be alive but not conscious inside the rocket.

But things don’t go as they should as some last minute modification allows Professor Thomas to return to consciousness and fully control the ship. And it’s not in the Professor’s plans to be a pawn to the Earth’s military. 

Available at Audible and iTunes.

 Posted by The Time Traveler of the Time Traveler Show

Review of The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

November 29, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Halloween Tree (audio drama) by Ray BradburyThe Halloween Tree
By Ray Bradbury; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs – 2 hours – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781433232145
Themes: / Fantasy / Halloween / Death / Religion / Time Travel / Witchcraft / Paganism /
What is Halloween? How did it start? Where, why, what for? Witches, cats, mummy dust, haunts… it’s all there in the country from which no one returns. Would you dive into the dark ocean, boys? Would you fly in the dark sky?

This review may be a little out of season, but it was with relatively recent memories of carving jack-o’lanterns and taking my costumed children out to trick-or-treat that I listened to The Colonial Radio Players dramatized adaptation of The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. This neat little tale is ostensibly for children and young adults, but it contains an illuminating look into the origins of Halloween as well as an honest exploration of our own cultural view of death, that greatest of all mysteries.

The Halloween Tree opens with eight young boys gathered together on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. A ninth boy, Pipkin, is notably absent from the group, and when he finally emerges from his house it’s apparent something is terribly wrong: He’s pale, moving gingerly, and clutching at a lancing pain his side. But the call of Halloween is too strong and he joins his friends. Later we learn that Pipkin is suffering from an acute bout of appendicitis.

The boys decide to go trick-or-treating at a haunted house, and there they encounter the ghostly, skeletal, white-haired Mr. Moundshroud. Moundshroud takes the boys to see The Halloween Tree. En route they have to cross a deep ravine, which proves to be a metaphor for the Valley of Death, and Pipkin fails to reach the other side. When the boys call to him, his pumpkin light goes out and he vanishes from sight.

Moundshroud offers to take the boys on a dreamlike trip back through time in order to save Pipkin. Along the way he reveals the origins of Halloween and its association with death. The boys travel back to ancient Egypt and view that culture’s reverence of the dead, including its great pyramid-tombs, mummies, and the worship of the sun god Osiris, murdered each night by his jealous brother only to rise again the next morning. They are whisked away to pre-Christian Europe and encounter the cowled, scythe-wielding Samhain, the druidic god of death from which Halloween derives its origins.

The boys witness the extinction of the druids and their religion at the hands of the murdering Romans, whose polytheistic approach to religion is itself eradicated by the coming of Christ. “Now the Christians come and cut the Romans down—new altars, boys, new incense, new names,” Moundshroud says. Here I’ll mention that The Halloween Tree includes a subversive view of Christianity, as the boys witness the persecution of innocent witches in the dark ages in the name of Christ.

The boys’ journey continues to 16th century Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral and finally to Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebration. Their strange, dreamlike trip not only reveals the origins of Halloween, but also illuminates our own view of death here in the United States—cemeteries are lonely, cold places, and when someone dies we turn our attention to moving on and forgetting, rather than remembering and honoring our deceased loved ones. When contrasted with Bradbury’s bright description of The Day of the Dead, our cultural reaction to death seems stunted and sad in comparison:

By every grave was a woman kneeling to place gardenias, or azaleas, or marigolds, in a frame upon the stone. By every grave knelt a daughter, who was lighting a new candle, or lighting a candle that had just blown out. By every grave was a quiet boy, with bright brown eyes, and in one hand a small papier-mâché funeral parade, glued to a shingle, and in the other hand a papier-mâché skeleton head, which rattled with rice or nuts inside.

Halloween, this odd, out-of-place holiday that has persisted through the ages, and remains with us now as a night to beg for candy in a costume, is revealed as an ancient ritual denoting the end of the harvest season and the onset of cold winter, of night, and of death. Its origins trace back thousands of years and span multiple cultures. “Four thousand years ago, one hundred years ago, this year, one place or time, but the celebration’s all the same—the Feast of Samhain, the Time of the Dead Ones, All Souls, All Saints, the Day of the Dead, El Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows, Halloween,” Bradbury writes.

In the end the boys are presented with a difficult choice to bring Pipkin back from the dead, one that involves a paganistic sacrifice to the dark gods. I won’t spoil the ending. But there’s a great line where one of the boys asks Moundshroud, “Will we ever stop being afraid of the night and death?” Moundshroud (who may be death himself, or the spirit of Halloween) replies reassuringly, “When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and death himself will die.”

I had a few minor quibbles with the presentation of the story. The Colonial Radio Theatre presentation at times relies too heavily on unnecessary sound effects and crashing music that threatened to overwhelm the story, although the voice of Moundshroud, Jerry Robbins, was excellent, as were the production values. The tale also contained a bit more whimsy (a giant kite that whisks the boys back through time, etc.) than I typically like, but Bradbury is such a gifted, poetic writer that it mostly works.

Death may be our greatest mystery, but Bradbury is not afraid to look into its cold, impenetrable depths in search for meaning. The Halloween Tree illuminates the subject with a ghostly pumpkin candle whose light remained with me long after the tale was over, which is one sure mark of a good book.

Posted by Brian Murphy

StarShipSofa Interviews Richard K Morgan

November 29, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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StarShipSofa interviews Richard K Morgan

On the StarShipSofa this week host Tony C Smith is joined by one of the hottest SF/Fantasy writers working today. Join Tony deep in the Sofa’s Engine Room, as he talks to Richard K Morgan. Listen to the full show here mp3

Subscribe to the podcast via this feed:

http://www.starshipsofa.com/rss

Posted by Tony C. Smith

Maria Lectrix Podcast: The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake

November 28, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Maureen O’Brien, of the prolific Maria Lectrix podcast, has wrapped up her reading of Donald E. Westlake’s The Risk Profession. This tale was originally published in the March 1961 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. It was later collected in Tomorrow’s Crimes (a collection of Science Fiction by Westlake). I’m a big fan of all of Westlake’s writing, he’s prolific, and he never disappoints. Here’s the intro teaser for this solid tale…

The men who did dangerous work had a special kind of insurance policy. But when somebody wanted to collect on that policy, the claims investigator suddenly became a member of …

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Risk Profession by Donald E. WestlakeThe Risk Profession
By Donald E. Westlake; Read by Maureen O’Brien
4 MP3 Files – Approx. 1 Hour 24 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Maria Lectrix
Podcast: November 2008
Provider: Archive.org
In space, you still need insurance investigators. And anywhere there’s people, there’s fraud, theft, and murder. Donald E. Westlake is famous for his mysteries and thrillers. In this 1961 story, he shows us a future that’s got a little sense of wonder and a lot of human nature.
Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3| Part 4 |MP3|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Queen Of The Black Coast adapted from the story by Robert E. Howard

November 27, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Broken Sea Audio Productions AUDIO DRAMA - Queen Of The Black Coast based on the story by Robert E. Howard (original art by John Bucema and Ernie Chan)Queen Of The Black Coast
Based on the story by Robert E Howard; Performed by a full cast
7 MP3s – Approx. 3 Hours 30 Mintues [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Broken Sea’s Hyborean Sagas
Podcast: June 2008 to December 2008
Themes: / Fantasy / Piracy / Magic / Noir /

Okay so the cover art for this one isn’t official, not in the slightest. But, since I’m making it for my own collection I thought I’d share with you. The original art came from my personal copy of issue 100 of Marvel Comics’ Conan The Barbarian. It was rendered by John Buscema and Ernie Chan as the final instalment of the Belit story, which had run since issue 58. Those Marvel comics are what got me into the original Robert E. Howard stories to begin with. And, Queen Of The Black Coast is my favourite Conan story. And, now this is my favourite amateur audio drama.

Bill Hollweg, who spearheaded this project, has faithfully adapted Howard’s original narrative. There are changes, but not too many, and when they exist it’s to make it work as an audio drama. This is the tale that gave Conan his gigantic melancholies. It’s a noir fantasy, rich and powerful, pulpy and inspiring. Conan, a northern barbarian, is on the run from the law and hops aboard an outbound ship. Soon after he’s fighting off pirates, and next becoming one himself. Meeting the Belit, the “queen” of the black coast, he begins a passionate romance with the rash and selfish pirate queen. Their adventures together, his loyalty, and her lust for treasure, lead them up a poisoned river, and ultimately to their doom. It’s bloody wonderful.

The audio tapestry is as rich as any amateur audio production ever recorded – with sound effects and music, narration and acting, all at the top of its form. But, the show wasn’t an instant hit with me. Stevie Farnaby’s Conan turned me off at first. His voice just wasn’t right. Episode 1’s acting, where we first hear his raspy growl, was cartoonish, too brutish, not right. But as episode 2 rolled in, and episode 3 rolled on, and episode 4 became 5, and 6 became 7, I came to the conclusion that Stevie Farnaby is the voice of Conan and I was wrong about what Conan sounded like. I’d been voicing him in my head for about 25 years, he didn’t sound like Stevie Farnaby’s Conan. Other fine work includes the narrator Ralph Walters. He’s the voice of the Zombie Astronaut and about a dozen other characters on the Freqency Of Fear podcast. He’s quite a vocal chameleon and does excellent work here. Other actors include director Bill Hollweg himself, voicing much of Belit’s crew, and Charlene Harris as the titular queen. One thing to remember going into this folks, none of the actors were in the same room when this was recorded. They did their lines in a quiet room with no feedback. This is a huge problem in amateur audio drama – the acting can often feel stiff – I’m happy to say this rarely happens in QotBC. Highly recommend listening for fans of Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3| Part 4 |MP3|
Part 5 |MP3| Part 6 |MP3| Part 7 |MP3|

Podcast feed:

http://brokensea.com/hyboreansagas/?feed=podcast

Posted by Jesse Willis

StarShipSofa’s Aural Delights: China Miéville’s ‘Tis The Season +MORE

November 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

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It’s CHRISTMAS!

And… to celebrate this fine time, the StarShipSofa has decked herself out in holly, tinsel and mistletoe. This week sees her Christmas Special and what better way to enjoy this festive season with some grand and festive stories, all accompanied by a great looking cove by science fiction artist Skeet Scienski.

Click here to listen to the full Aural Delights No 56 China Miéville mp3

Editorial: Tony C Smith

Flash Fiction: A Christmas Tale by Davis Kopaska-Merkel

Flash Fiction: Robowassailing by Allen Steele

Fact: Sofa Art by Skeet

Main Fiction: ‘Tis The Season by China Miéville

Narrators: Diane Severson, MCL, Amy H Sturgis  

Subscribe to the podcast via this feed:

http://www.starshipsofa.com/rss

Posted by Tony C. Smith

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