Much has been said about Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game from 1985 and there is still much to discuss. Of course there is much more than the ‘Oh, the titular game was real!’ ending. This ending may appear to be a very cheap solution to the reader today. But despite this, the novel’s implications are still delivering up-to-date topics for us to discuss. When the game was manipulated by the military and the kids had been hoodwinked into committing genocide against the Buggers – we can ask ‘what does that say about grown-ups manipulating kids in general?’ Orson Scott Card’s novel remains a classic SF because it constructs ideas within us.
To me this novel is a very particular story and after a long hiatus in the SF field I wanted to go back to the roots of my usual reading habits which used to be SF, Fantasy and Horror. I listened to the episodes of The SFFaudio Podcast and the name Orson Scott Card was sprinkled in here and there. In Cologne I went into an English bookstore named “Fine Tea and Books,” run by a very friendly guy named Christopher Potter – he also happens to be a Conan fan expert in recommending SF. He told me to read Orson Scott Card’s novel “Ender’s game” and so I did and I was immediately immersed into it.
Then I heard about a German audio drama, exclusively published by Audible. And then too I heard of an English language version. Orson Scott Card himself wrote the script for the show and it was translated into German by Andrea Wilhelm. A very experienced director of the audio drama, Balthasar von Weymarn (also well regarded as producer of the audiodrama company “Interplanar”). In addition von Weymarn is head of the Mythological RoundTable® Charter Berlin der Joseph Campbell® Foundation, and a screenwriter who no doubt knows his stuff.
Together with audio technican Jochen Simmendinger, von Weymarn had to coordinate 101 voice actors, including 40 child and teen voice actors at a recording studio in Berlin. The deadline was very tight because the German audio drama had to be released simultaneously with the start of the movie adaptatoion. The pressure was high but Baltashar von Weymarn loves challenges as he said “A challenge makes it fun.”
Von Weynarm is into the story and knows the novel well. A good director does not only consult the script, but researches much about the author and the cicrumstances around which the novel was written. Von Weynarm knows it all, he wonders why kids are trained that way, what kind of government rules Earth, and he goes deep into the story itself. And this hard thinking shows up in the production. The director’s interpretation of the audiodrama script, as well as of the novel, drives his imagination, evokes mind pictures that von Weynarm is able to explain to his actors. Perhaps every director has to work that way. However, Balthasar von Weynarm had to do it with 40 young and 61 adult actors, each one had to fulfil her or his part and the director had to explain how it all had to be done. This is an amazing achievement.
Due to the fact that the script was written by Orson Scott Card himself the director’s interpretation has it’s limits. But von Weynarm’s production maximizes the script’s power. There is no narrator. All “off-screen” information is given to us via comments by spectators of certain scenes. These spectators observe actions that are happening somewhere else and then anallyze these action right away. This is the issue director and his ensemble can show action. All that can be explained through the voice is well done. Music is also used, but shows up more between the scenes. And so as to fuel the listener’s imagination there are also addedsound effects, created by sound designer Tommi Schneefuss. Schneefuss does a terrific job because the sound effects are not intrusive nor too disturbing. They fit into the setting.
A special issue must have been the casting of the kid actors especially because there were strict specifications by the author. The central character Ender was played by 12-year-old Arne Kapfer. And because his mother was cast for this audio drama he was asked to join the cast. This is a tricky part in all audio drama productions, von Weynarm reports, because boys at that age can suddenly have their voice change. Arne Kapfer though is a pro himself, and brings in five years worth of experience as TV commercial actor. And at home his parents have their own recording studio. It was great to hear the development of Ender was transported through Arne Kapfer’s voice. His slight intonations toward sarcasm, in particular scenes in the Battle School, were very well performed. Kapfer brought in a lot of talent – though voice acting is only a hobby as he has career aspirations toward geology.
The producer of the audio drama is the Lauscherlounge company that works together with most of the best voice artists in Germany – many of whom t apper in “Ender’s Game.” Take for example one of my all-time-favourite voice actors Udo Schenk, who played Colonel Graff. Schenk is the voiceover artist for Garry Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, David Morrissey, Ray Liotta and many more. Timmo Niesner for Chamrajnagar (who dubs Elijah Wood), and Erich Rauker as Mazer Rackham (artist for Will Patton). Their talents form a neat audio drama that is both enjoyable and the very essence of the novel. Does this audiodrama replace the book? No, but it enlarges the listener’s understanding of the novel and it’s a whole lot of fun to hear. The seven hours pass almost too quickly.
Until recently the book itself was long out of print in Germany but because of the movie it was re-published in the general SF section of the Heyne Verlag and not marked out as a YA book.
Posted by Mirko
Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X
(Brad Lansky, Episode 1)
1 hour 16 minutes – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Themes: / Audio Drama / Science Fiction / artificial intelligence / Space Travel / cybernetics / aliens /
It’s difficult to believe that Protophonic is ten years old. I know it is because there’s a notice on their website that says so, and, in celebration, they are giving away this remake of the first installment of the Brad Lansky series for free – for a short time. I urge you to go check it out.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. At Protophonic, the sound is the thing. Each track Protophonic produces is a rich soundscape that needs to be enjoyed using a pair of good headphones. I also recommend that you give it your full attention – turn everything off, and let this audio work magic.
As each track starts, the sound sets the scene. More than once, I was surprised by the images in my mind. How easily they appeared in reaction to the sound, and how vivid the scenes were in my imagination. Much to the credit of Protophonic, no time at all is spent in dialogue establishing the setting. Actors never say things like, “My, just look at this blue spaceport!” The rich audio in cooperation with my imagination provided the setting. Indeed, Protophonic has trusted the listener with more than a typical audio drama would, and I found it an exhilarating experience. I enjoy the feeling of collaboration, and I like knowing that my mental picture of this story is sure to be different from another listener’s. It’s also wonderful that the story both depends on and works with whatever the listener brings to the table.
This first Brad Lansky production opens with a Ship AI (called Echolocator) telling co-pilot Dieter Rothman news of a distress call. Dieter and Captain Sandy Larkin meet at the main control console to discuss the situation, and things get tense quickly. Soon after, at Shanghai Spaceport, Brad Lansky and co-pilot Alex John meet with Zara, a life-form scientist, who tells them that Sandy Larkin is missing. Lansky and John immediately start searching. What follows includes alien life, artificial intelligences, cybernetic persons, and space travel.
In short: Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X is a very enjoyable work of science fiction, highly recommended for superior audio presentation. This is a remake of the first installment, and there are currently four other episodes to enjoy. The last two (episodes 4 and 5) are winners of the Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year.
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Henry Slesar was one of the most prolific scripters for the late-1970s early-1980s CBS Radio Mystery Theater. But before his career in radio drama Slesar was an author of Science Fiction. Like Alfred Bester, who also wrote for CBSRMT, Slesar was in the habit of recycling his earlier stories for the hour long anthology series (even though the show calimed to have such episodes written “especially for the Mystery Theater”). One such episode is A God Named Smith. It was first published in Amazing Stories, July 1957. And precisely 20 years later it was an episode of one of the last old time radio dramas.
CBSRMT #0658 – A God Named Smith
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: June 2, 1977
A young child prodigy creates an entire planet of his own, intending it to be a better world than earth. He finds volunteers to populate it, and establishes himself as a god.
And here’s a |PDF| of the original story.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Anthony Hope’s 1894 novel, The Prisoner Of Zenda, gave rise to a craze for a new sub-genre of romance novels – the “Ruritanian romance” – so called after the fictional European country in which the titular “prisoner” is found. The novel’s plot, in which a visitor from England travels to a fictional European nation and, via an unbelievably convenient coincidence, becomes it’s king, was so popular that it’s echoes were felt well into the 20th century.
The 1933 Marx Brothers film, Duck Soup, takes it’s plot from the Ruritanian romances (it’s set in the country of “Freedonia”), Robert A. Heinlein’s 1956 novel, Double Star, borrows the Zenda plot and takes it to Mars, and the 1988 movie Richard Dreyfuss comedy, Moon Over Parador, places an actor in the role and places the action in a fictional South American country.
This brings us to one of my favourite OTR style radio shows – The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which had a 1977 adaptation of The Prisoner Of Zenda – this shouldn’t have surprised me as CBSRMT had an adaptation for practically everything (the show ran 1,399 episodes). While their version gives short shrift to many of the novel’s subtleties the 46 minute running time allows for an entertaining, if break-neck, presentation of the story’s highlights.
CBSRMT #0639 – The Prisoner Of Zenda
By Robert Newman; Adapted from the novel by Anthony Hope; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 46 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Brodcaster: CBS Radio
Broadcast: April 22, 1977
The coronation of a new king is disrupted when the king’s brother drugs him. A distant relative who closely resembles the king steps in to take his place at the coronation.
Posted by Jesse Willis
A new release from Angelo Panetta and the good folks at the Radio Repertory Company of America!
If you like your action with a hint of humor and a soupçon of sex, then “Richmond Smokes a Joint” will make you stand up and cheer. Bursting forth from the popular “Anne Manx” series, that felonious firebrand, Jean Richmond (Patricia Tallman, “Babylon 5″, “Night of the Living Dead 1990″) is back, and taking the spotlight in her own cosmically wild adventure!
L. Sid Knee (Kris Holden-Ried, “The Tudors”, “Lost Girl”) has a secret. He knows the location of the mythical Sacred Plate of Marange. When he approaches Richmond’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend Herm (Jerry Robbins, “Powder River”, “Beacon Hill”) about obtaining the plate, the treacherous trio take-off on an intergalactic free-for-all filled with colorful crewmen, mysterious murders, dangerous double-crosses, and mommy talk.
Through its memorable characters, immersive sound design, and an original score, “Richmond Smokes a Joint” zips you from a secret safe to the caverns of Marange… where not even Richmond’s considerable wiles and cunning might be enough to make her come out alive and on top. So, strap yourself in for a dizzying science-fiction adventure so clever, even the title itself is a double entendre!
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Nearly 10 years I began reporting that J. Michael Straczynski had been asked to write a radio drama for CBC Radio One. Later, we learned that Cynthia Dale had been cast in the title role. And still later that the show was in production. And it was indeed recorded. But it never aired. Over the years the campaign to get it aired plodded along – but without any success. Then a couple years ago word of a comics version came about. Now, after the comics version is actually out (the first issue was dated February 2014) I am stunned to report that there is indeed now a new audio drama available.
As you can see above, a QR code (and the regular http:// address) are given in the latter pages of the first issue of the comic.
I should point out that this is an entirely NEW recording (not the one Canadian taxpayers paid for but never heard) and we don’t know yet if the remaining 3/4 of the story will be produced for audio.
The Adventures of Apocalypse Al – Issue #1
By J. Michael Straczynski; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
When a mysterious figure gets his hands on the Book of Keys, whose secrets can cause the destruction of the world, Allison Carter is the only one who can stop him. Her journey takes her through a world populated by zombie cops, machinegun toting imps, techno-wizards, closet trolls, demonic theme parks, other dimensions, Ultimate Darkness, and an undead ex-boyfriend.
Produced By: Patricia Tallman
Patricia Tallman as Allison Carter
Robin Atkin Downes
Sound Effects Editor/Designer: Robin Atkin Downes
[Thanks also to Q Buckley!]
Posted by Jesse Willis