Commentary: Make your own Public Domain Audiobook or Podcast Novel: Win A Prize

November 11, 2006
Filed under: Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

Meta SFFaudio - SFFaudio Challenge - Make audiobook win an audiobookThe SFFaudio Challenge – # 1

What do you do if you have a good voice and want to record something Speculative Fiction related but don’t have any ideas on what to record?

I have a suggestion!

At SFFaudio our first and best love is UNABRIDGED Science Fiction audiobooks. The good news is there are a large number of public domain Science Fiction or Fantasy novels that have yet to be read aloud. You needn’t bother with fancy sound effects. There’s no need for incidental music. In fact most audiobook listeners prefer their listening to be without these frills. All you’ll need is a microphone and a nice quiet room. This is the way traditional audiobooks have been recorded for nearly thirty years. But even with all those years of recording there are still DOZENS and DOZENS of name-author novels and stories available for your narration. These will be exclusive recordings!

With all the hype about Creative Commons of late you may have forgotten or maybe you never realized that there is so much in the public domain still to be recorded. In researching the complete fiction audiography of Cory Doctorow I came across no fewer than three versions of Cory’s Down And Out In the Magic Kingdom audiobook. That is probably two times to many – especially when you consider that so many public domain titles are still languishing unrecorded!

Now it isn’t like everyone has forgotten about the public domain. Admittedly, there are a few people recording public domain SF & F – like our very own Time Traveler for instance. His Time Traveler Show has a classic Science Fiction short story in nearly every podcast. There’s also Maureen O’Brien, of Maria Lectrix, who has recorded novels like Little Fuzzy and Dawn Of Flame. We’re also fond of the folks at Voices In The Dark who have recorded a number of Lovecraft’s tales. And no discussion of public domain could forget LibriVox. LibriVox is doing good work, but they aren’t, for my tastes, doing enough that is close enough to the modern era. They do stuff like Burroughs, Shelley, Twain, London and Wells, in other words, a lot of stuff that traditional audiobook publishers have already done at one time or another. There are already versions of The Time Machine and Dracula and many, many other relatively familiar novels from dozens of different professional vendors. I think it is about time more people to start doing some SF or Fantasy that isn’t from the early 20th century or prior, or if it is, make sure at least that hasn’t been recorded commercially previously. To that end I’ve compiled a short list of potentially do-able novels. Check these puppies out:

COMPLETED TITLES:

The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND RELEASED (Completed December 17th 2006 by Mark Nelson – 1st title to complete) |RELEASE DETAILS|

Badge Of Infamy by Lester Del Rey |Gutenberg Project|
THIS TITLE HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND RELEASED (Completed January 14th 2007 by Steven H. Wilson – 2nd title to complete) |RELEASE DETAILS|

The Cosmic Computer (AKA Junkyard Planet) by H. Beam Piper |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND RELEASED (Completed January 15th 2006 by Mark Nelson – 3rd title to complete) |RELEASE DETAILS|

The Answer by H. Beam Piper |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED AND WILL SOON BE RELEASED (Completed January 22nd 2007 by Mark Nelson – 4th title to complete) |RELEASE DETAILS|

Plague Ship by Andre Norton |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND RELEASED (Completed March 2007 by Mark Nelson – 5th title to complete) |RELEASE DETAILS|

Star Surgeon by Alan Nourse |Manybooks.net|THIS TITLE HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND RELEASED (Completed June 15th 2007 by Scott Farquhar – 6th title to complete) |RELEASE DETAILS|

REMOVED FROM THE CHALLENGE:


Triplanetary by E.E. Doc Smith |Manybooks.net|
This title has been COMMERCIALLY RELEASED by Books In Motion.

The Black Star Passes by John W. Campbell |Manybooks.net|

|THIS TITLE IS COMPLETE (Completed by Scott D. Farquhar)|RELEASE DETAILS|

CLAIMED TITLES:

The Sky Is Falling by Lester Del Rey |Gutenberg Project|
THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED (Claimed by Jeffery Tillotson)

Operation: Outer Space by Murray Leinster |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED AND MAY BE IN PRODUCTION (Claimed by Daniel)

City At World’s End by Edmond Hamilton |Manybooks.net|THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED (Claimed by James Kocher)

The Defiant Agents by Andre Norton |Manybooks.net|THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED AND SHOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE END OF SUMMER 2007 (Claimed by Cindy Woods)

The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley |Manybooks.net| THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED AND SHOULD BE COMPLETED BY AUGUST 2007 (Claimed by Christie Nowak)

A Strange Manuscript Found In A Copper Cylindner by James De Mille |Manybooks.net| This 19th century title hasn’t been audiobooked even by a commercial audiobook company.THIS TITLE IS IN PROGRESS (Claimed by Robert A. Graff)

The Skylark Of Space by E.E. Doc Smith |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE IS IN PROGRESS (Claimed by Mark P. Steele)

The Defiant Agents by Andre Norton |Manybooks.net|THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED AND SHOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE END OF SUMMER 2007 (Claimed by Cindy Woods)

The Secret Of The Ninth Planet by Donald A. Wollheim |Manybooks.net|
THIS TITLE IS CLAIMED (Claimed by Cliff Charles)

AVAILABLE TITLES:

This World Is Taboo by Murray Leinster |Manybooks.net| (Manybooks.net has a computer generated audiobook, but of course such a reading sucks compared to a human being)

Warlord Of Kor by Terry Gene Carr |Manybooks.net| *There is now a multiple-reader version available from LibriVox, but someone wanting to do a single voice reading is still invited to do so).

The Galaxy Primes by E.E. Doc Smith |Manybooks.net|

This is just a smattering of what exists in the public domain. You could turn any one of these into a complete podcast novel or an amateur unabridged audiobook. You could even turn them into copyrighted audiobooks should you so desire – and even try selling them. Your voicing of a public domain book is eminently copyrightable. Podiobooks.com has started hosting Librivox titles, if you do a good job with your reading I think you’d have a good chance of getting your files hosted with Podiobooks – and maybe even get some donations too! If that still doesn’t quite do it for you read on…

As an incentive, I will offer a BRAND NEW unabridged audiobook to the first person to complete and release an unabridged reading (in a single human voice) of one of the novels on this list above. As the first person to complete this challenge you’ll need to notify me by email and verify to me the existence and availability of these files. As a winner you’ll receive your choice of one of the following Blackstone Audio audiobooks:

Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick
This audiobook has been won by Mark Nelson for his completion of The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer

Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
This audiobook has been won by Steven H. Wilson for his completion of Badge Of Infamy
by Lester del Rey

Animal Farm by George Orwell
This audiobook has been won by Mark Nelson for his completion of The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper

If you have any questions about the contest, or anything written above let me know and I’ll add details. SFFaudio wants you to make audiobooks!

** UPDATE ** Nov 13th 2006 @ 1PM

Nate Peterson has written in asking:

“How do I get started? What equipment do I need and what software? What format do you want?”

Here are some answers Nate:

1. Choose a title from the list above. You’ll probably want to print out at least one copy of it. Read through the novel, make sure it is something you’ll want to record.

2. Get yourself a microphone. I hear USB mics work quite well but many amateur narrators get good use out of cheaper equipment.

3. Audacity is some good freeware that many people starting out using. It is relatively versatile and the learning curve isn’t too high. You’ll probably also want to grab an MP3 LAME encoder so you can export your files into the MP3 format. HERE is a link on how to do that.

4. MP3 format is the preferred standard, but it isn’t required to fulfill the contest. Details on what bit-rate, etc, should be worked out in advance, LibriVox and Podiobooks.com both have resources that can help you choose (more on that below).

5. There is a terrific resource available at Podiobooks.com. Their authoring guidelines (a PDF file) will give you a good general outline of what standards and practices will help you to make a better audiobook. Also, LibriVox has a number of experienced amateur narrators in their forums from which you can draw expertise. They have also created a wiki that will answer many technical questions.

** UPDATE ** Nov 16th 2006 @ 9:30PM

Banshee points out that…

“Manybooks.net apparently has the wrong version of some of those books which Gutenberg is going to post, but hasn’t posted yet. For example, the version of The Skylark of Space on manybooks.net is the book version, which is still under copyright. The public domain version is the magazine version, which they have over at durendal.org. Since Smith extensively revised Skylark, that’s a problem you can’t just sweep under the rug.”

Thanks for pointing that out Banshee. Yikes! If someone has already started recording a copyrighted version of one of these novels listed at Manybooks.net they will still be eligible for the prize (but they will still have to prove they recorded the entire novel), they will obviously however not be able to release the audiobook in any sort of commercial capacity. If this turns out to be the case the entrant who recorded a public domain version will still get a prize. I will award two prizes (of your choice) – one to the ‘mistaken copyrighted’ entrant, one to the public domain entrant. Nobody will be cheated for an error of ‘was it copyrighted or public domain?’ Sound fair?

** UPDATE ** Dec 19th 2006 @ 11:38PM

Three titles have been claimed! One has already been completed, another is set to release and one is set to begin recording. Nice work folks!

** UPDATE ** Dec 22nd 2006 @ 11:30PM

Four titles have been claimed. One has completed, another is set to release and two others are going to begin recording soon. Cool!

** UPDATE ** Jan 8th 2007 @ 2:10PM

Seven titles have been claimed. One has been completed and released, another has been completed and is being podcast! More updates as they come.

** UPDATE ** Jan 21st 2007 @ 12:10AM

Eight titles have been claimed. Three have been completed and released! All three of the prize audiobooks have been won. I’m still not sure what prizes will be offered to those challengers who are still striving to complete their claimed titles. Suggestions are welcomed.

** UPDATE ** Jan 22nd 2007 @ 8:48PM

Only 9 titles remain unclaimed! I’ve pulled Triplanetary by E.E. “Doc” Smith from the list because it has actually been commercially released already. The Answer by H. Beam Piper will be appearing in an H. Beam Piper short story collection.

** UPDATE ** March 30th 2007 @ 11:17PM

Only 7 titles remain unclaimed! This is so awesome.

** UPDATE ** May 16th 2007 @ 8:25AM

A mere 6 titles remain unclaimed! Nice work folks!

** UPDATE ** July 16th 2008 @ 4:53PM
7 titles have been completed, and only 4 titles are left to be claimed.


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