BBC Radio 4: In Our Time: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time with Melvyn BraggThe latest BBC Radio 4 In Our Time podcast, dated December 22, 2011, is a discussion of Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe. Did you know that the novel was originally published pseudonymously? Or that Defoe wasn’t actually born with the name Defoe, but rather “Foe”? (he added the “De”). As usual In Our Time‘s podcast is a quick solid introduction to a fascinating topic. Here’s the official description:

“Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. Published in 1719, it was an immediate success and is considered the classic adventure story – the sailor stranded on a desert island who learns to tame the environment and the native population. Robinson Crusoe has been interpreted in myriad ways, from colonial fable to religious instruction manual to capitalist tract, yet it is perhaps best known today as a children’s story. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Karen O’Brien, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education at the University of Birmingham; Judith Hawley, Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London and Bob Owens, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the Open University.”


Podcast feed:

Thank you very much British taxpayers!

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4 Extra: Seven Blake’s 7 RADIO DRAMAS to air

December 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

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BBC Radio 4 ExtraBBC Radio 4 Extra (the station formerly known as BBC Radio 7) will be airing the excellent Blake’s 7 series of prequel adventures over four consecutive Saturdays starting on Xmas eve. From the Blake’s 7 blog:

The BBC Radio 4 Extra season includes the premiere of ESCAPE VELOCITY on Saturday 24 December at 18:00hrs. Featuring ZOË TAPPER, JASON MERRELLS and TRACY-ANN OBERMAN, ESCAPE VELOCITY is scripted by award-winning writer/novelist, James Swallow. Other audio drama premieres included FLAG AND FLAME, written by Marc Platt, and POINT OF NO RETURN, also written by James Swallow.

BLAKE’S 7: THE EARLY YEARS is a thrilling new prequel series of audio stories that explores the origins of key BLAKE’S 7 characters before they met rebel leader Roj Blake, taking you back to where the seeds of rebellion against the Federation really began.

These re-imagined BLAKE’S 7 audio adventures have been described by news-stand magazine SciFiNow as “… a bold and revitalising addition to the Blake’s 7 story” and by as “morally complex, deeply noir.”

The audio dramas feature well-known names including COLIN SALMON (Doctor Who), KEELEY HAWES (Ashes To Ashes), BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH (Sherlock), GEOFFREY PALMER (As Time Goes By), MICHAEL COCHRANE (Sharpe) and ALISTAIR LOCK as Zen.

Here are the broadcast dates and (U.K.) times:SFFaudio Essential

Escape Velocity – Saturday 24th December, 2011 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Point Of No Return – Saturday 31st December, 2011 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Eye Of The Machine – Saturday 31st December, 2011 at 18:30 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Flag And Flame – Saturday 7th January, 2012 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Blood And Earth – Saturday 7th January, 2012 at 18:30 |READ OUR REVIEW|
The Dust Run – Saturday 14th January, 2012 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
The Trial – Saturday 14th January, 2012 at 18:30 |READ OUR REVIEW|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5)

December 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Blake's 7 The Early Years - Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5)SFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5)
By Simon Guerrier; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 70 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Productions
Published: November 30, 2009
ISBN: 9781906577087
Themes: / Science Fiction / Galactic Empire / Dystopia /

The Dust Run – Jenna Stannis has grown up as a spacer, where the normal rules don’t apply. No school, no police, no public imperatives – that’s still all to come. But the situation on Earth is changing and the effects are slowly being felt throughout the Vega system. It’s going to mean trouble for a brash boy called Townsend – who Jenna doesn’t fancy at all. Soon Jenna and Townsend are competing in the Dust Run – racing shuttles through an asteroid field without using computers, making the complex calculations in their heads. It’s dangerous, fool-hardy and really good fun. But they’re playing for the highest of stakes…

The Trial – The election is going to change everything. A man called Roj Blake promises the voters new hope, an end to years of corruption. There are those who can’t let him be heard. But Jenna Stannis is determined to get his message out to the colonies. It’s been years since the Dust Run, and Jenna’s a changed woman. She’s left the Vega system far behind, using her exceptional piloting skills to carve out a life as a smuggler. Blake’s message could earn her a fortune – or cost her, her life.

This is the final two stories in the first Blake’s 7 The Early Years series. First up is The Dust Run. It starts with a framing story in which we see the cruelty of the Earth Federation up close. Under torture Jenna, a young woman, reveals everything about her truant past. Then, in the story proper, we meet her as a charming teen. She comes from an underemployed spacer family, has just a few friends but none of them are particularly trustworthy. For fun Jenna likes piloting shuttles at high speed through a region of space filled with a heavy concentration of particulates. It’s precisely her lightheartedness that sets Jenna up for a fall.

The Trial also uses the framing device but skips ahead in time to the events which lead to Jenna’s incarceration. The problem is that her interrogator also claims to be acting as her advocate! If Jenna is to have any chance of avoiding imprisonment on Cygnus Alpha she’ll have to shade the truth. This episode reminded me of the other great Orwellian episodes of serial SF (like Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Chain of Command” – in which Picard is tortured and Babylon 5‘s “Intersections In Real Time” – in which Sheridan is tortured). The darkness of Jenna Stannis’ Federation universe is equally Orwellian, but, as I’ve mentioned in other reviews of this series it has more than a touch of Brave New World in it too. This new Blake’s 7 series, like it’s TV predecessor, is an intelligent Science Fiction series that masquerades as consumable pop-culture “sci-fi”.

Carrie Dobro, who played a charismatic alien thief in the Babylon 5: A Call To Arms TV-movie and on the prematurely canceled Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade, stars as Jenna Stannis. Dobro has a star-level magnetism in both these productions. She’s sure of herself, a devious and clever power seeker, never fully in control, always seeking it, but at heart a sympathetic survivor. Simon Guerrier and Carrie Dobro have created a worthy back-story for Jenna Stannis. Highly recommended!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity

December 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

B7 PRODUCTIONS - Blake's 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape VelocitySFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity (Volume 2.1)
By James Swallow; Directed by Andrew Mark Sewell; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 1 Hour [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Productions
Published: April 26, 2010
ISBN: 978190657709
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artificial Intelligence / Cloning / War / Aliens /

Based on Terry Nation’s seminal 70s science fiction TV series, The Early Years is a prequel series of audio stories that explores the origins of key Blake’s 7 characters prior to them meeting rebel leader Roj Blake. This latest entry to the ever-expanding series takes a new twist, concentrating on a character that doesn’t breathe or have any parents, the synthetic intelligence known only as Zen. When Roj Blake first stepped on board the mysterious, derelict alien spaceship Liberator, his every movement was monitored by the ship’s controlling intelligence, Zen Luckily, Blake and his rebel crew managed to gain the ‘confidence’ of this creation from an alien world and so he was able to use the Liberator in their quest for justice against the Federation. But the origins of Zen have remained a mystery, until now. What terrible catastrophe left the Liberator drifting and shattered? What drove the ship’s intelligence to murder its original crew? What dark secrets lie at the heart of this alien machine? And are Blake and his crew really safe on board the Liberator?

Often, you’ll want to know somebody’s back-story, and then later, when you actually get it – in a prequel story – you’ll find that it is far, far, far less interesting than whatever was going on in your imagination. For me, the years between 1980 and 1999 were ones filled with near-reverence for a fascinating character, the ultimate baddie: Darth Vader. But no amount of apologetics can possibly remove the sickly saccharine story of a nine-year-old Darth Vader filled with “a high concentration” of midichlorians. Yuck. And yet “prequel” is not always a dirty word. I don’t feel that way about The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and likewise the Blake’s 7 prequel stories (1.1 |READ OUR REVIEW|, v.1.2 & 1.3 |READ OUR REVIEW|, 1.4 |READ OUR REVIEW|). By far the most mysterious character in the original TV series was Zen, the artificial intelligence. Zen was pretty closed-circuit about its past, not revealing much over the two years it appeared in the series (1978 – 1980). In life Zen “projected a dour, non-committal personality” and would “reply to certain questions with the phrase ‘That information is not available.'” This left left open the possibility that Zen was hiding secrets or “secretly executing its own agenda.” In this magnificent audio drama we are given a genuinely interesting explanation as to why Zen was so very melancholic, why the ship was found crew-less, seemingly abandoned and drifting near Cygnus Alpha.

Zen: Escape Velocity clearly reveals the frightening truth about all of Zen’s character quirks and its cryptic answers from the TV series. But it also shows more. Back in 2008 I reviewed the Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures boxed set |READ OUR REVIEW| – the first three episodes of the new B7 audio drama series. One detail found within that review was that Zen was, unlike the original series, suicidal at the time of its discovery. Listening to Zen: Escape Velocity you will discovery exactly why that was so.

Six actors, Zoë Tapper, Jason Merrells, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Alastair Lock, Sam Woodward and Pamela Banks play different members of the original crew of the Liberator (back when it was still called “Deep Space Vehicle 2” and when Zen was called “SHIP-MIND”). The story, told by a careful cross-cutting backwards and forwards in time, shows the original crew welcoming their new PILOT, Zoë Tapper, aboard DSV2. Strangely, she is having memory problems and needs shepherding by the ship’s doctor. As the crew takes its positions and readies themselves for battle, we learn about their fascinating society. This is wonderful social Science Fiction like nothing exactly I’ve read or seen or heard before!

Zen (SHIP-MIND) only used the first-person, singular personal pronoun (“I”) once on the television series – it is used multiple times in this production. Zoë Tapper (who appeared in another Terry Nation re-imagined series) and Jason Merrells (playing the doctor), are the central sympathetic heroes of Zen: Escape Velocity. Alastair Lock, who also acts as a post-producer, musician and sound effects man for the CD, portrays SHIP-MIND (Zen). Sounds are rich, deep and best experienced in a quiet room. The stereo effect and a good set-of headphones,as I used, will bring an immense visual experience that belies the fifty-six minute running time. A five minute “Bonus Music Track” (original to this episode) rounds out the disc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Tantor Media: FREE AUDIOBOOKS: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and Favorite Stories Of Christmas Past

December 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Tantor MediaThe great Tantor Media is offering two FREE audiobook downloads right now!

The audiobooks are…

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (read by David Case) |HERE|


Favorite Stories Of Christmas Past read by Renée Raudman and Alan Sklar |HERE|
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
The Story of Christmas by Nora A. Smith
A Country Christmas by Louisa May Alcott
An Empty Purse by Sarah Orne Jewett
The Bachelor’s Christmas by Robert Grant
The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen
The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus by Francis Church
The Festival of St. Nicholas by Mary Mapes Dodge
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Two Free Audiobooks from Tantor

All you need to do to get both of these audiobooks immediately is either have, or set up, an account with Tantor Media (which is FREE).

The files themselves are zipped MP3s and come with companion ebooks (they’re PDF files that are unlocked and DRM-FREE). The audiobooks will after checkout be immediately downloadable, but will also be stored in your account, under the “My bookshelf” section, for future download.

Here’s what my checkout looked like just a few minutes ago:

TANTOR MEDIA Offers Gulliver's Travels and Favorite Stories Of Christmas Past as FREE DOWNLOADS

I’m listening now. Thanks Tantor!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #139 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Pyramid Of Amirah by James Patrick Kelly

December 19, 2011 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #139 – The Pyramid Of Amirah by James Patrick Kelly, read by James Patrick Kelly. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (16 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse, Tamahome, and James Patrick Kelly himself). Here’s the ETEXT.

Talked about on today’s show:
Call him Jim!, James Patrick Kelly’s FREE READS podcast, “a gift story”, PBS, Mayan temples, ancient Mayan empire, Copán (Honduras), “time passes”, “2,000 words of nothing happening and 200 words of everything changes”, is it Science Fiction or Fantasy?, David G. Hartwell, Katherine Cramer Year’s Best Fantasy 3, 3D TV, the Earstone is the iPod Nano’s successor, Catholicism, religion, it’s a Horror story, sacrificial victims who volunteer, is Amirah hallucinating?, David Hume on miracles, take a miracle and make it a recipe, Memphis (Egypt), is religion a fantasy?, what is slipstream?, proto-slipstream, “Kelly Link is a goddess”, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, cognitive dissonance, slipstream encourages cognitive dissonance, “for every religion there is an equal and opposite religion”, “making the familiar strange and the strange familiar”, horror, comedy, Fantasy, The Lord Of The Rings, Science Fiction, Nine Billion Names Of God by Arthur C. Clarke, The Crawling Chaos, James Patrick Kelly doesn’t fully understand The Pyramid Of Amirah, is the Dalai Lama happy?, stay in your god tombs, The Girl Detective, Karen Joy Fowler, Carol Emshwiller, Franz Kafka, readers are happier when they’re really really surprised, most readers don’t re-reread stories, slipstream is a balcony on the house of fiction, behind the push of science is the turbulence of religion and the fantastic, Bruce Sterling, Ted Chiang is slipstream?, J.R.R. Tolkien, some short stories are Rorschach tests, Bruce Coville’s Full Cast Audio, Robert A. Heinlein’s juvenile novels, the love hate relationship with Heinlein, Heinlein’s villains are all straw men, Starship Troopers, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Heinlein’s sexy mother, Heinlein’s late career needed editing, Stranger In A Strange Land, stories in dialogue with other stories, Think Like A Dinosaur is in dialogue with The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin (and the controversy about it), The New York Review Of Science Fiction, not all problems are institutional problems (you are going to die), institutional facts vs. brute facts, John W. Campbell, was Campbell a terrible editor?, “all stories must have telepathy”, the story that must not be named (in Galaxy SF April 1975), Jim Baen, religious Science Fiction, Death Therapy by James Patrick Kelly, Terry Carr, The Best Science Fiction of the Year #8, collaborations, John Kessel, Jonathan Lethem, Robert Frazier, ISFDB, The Omega Egg, Mike Resnick, Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka, Tachyon Publications, The Secret History Of Science Fiction, The Drowned Giant by J.G. Ballard, The Lottery Of Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges, Max Brod, Joe Hill, Heart Shaped Box, You Will Hear The Locust Sing by Joe Hill, T.C. Boyle, Michael Chabon, Carter Scholz, Don DeLillo, Lucius Shepard, The Nine Billion Names Of God by Carter Scholz, A Recursion In Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke, post-cyberpunk stories, what is post-cyberpunk?, Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, Cheap Truth, the way technology changes the way we are, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, a new cyberpunk anthology is in the works, is there pre-cyberpunk?, Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick isn’t really cyberpunky, steampunk has a vision, what is the ethos of a steampunk story?, alternate history, goggles and zeppelins vs. computer hacking and mirror-shades, Pavane by Keith Roberts, William Gibson, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Bernardo’s House is an iconically Jim Kelly short story, Isaac Asimov, robots, a post-cyberpunk character, a prim and proper sex doll, There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury, Mary Robinette Kowal, puppets, a stage adaptation of There Will Come Soft Rains.

A Recursion In Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke (Galaxy SF, October 1966 - Page 78)

Posted by Jesse Willis

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