This retro recommendation was first podcast back in September 2006. Now twenty years old it’s still a great story and still available as a podcast episode via the still going Escape Pod podcast. Also interesting, that editorial introduction by then host Steve Eley is going to be valuable for future scholars of podcasting’s history. The attitude of gentle defensiveness of the medium and that of the then still not commonly listened to audiobook are telling of how much the world has changed.
When I’ve previously pointed to Barnaby In Exile I’ve written…
“Nicely comparable to Pat Murphy’s classic Rachel In Love. Which is about as high a compliment you can give to an SF story. Powerful listening, bring a hanky.”
And today I shall also point out the connections this story has to Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #266 – Jesse, Luke, and Juliane Kunzendorf discuss When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
Talked about on today’s show:
Julianne’s first SFFaudio Podcast, what do we call them?, readers and talkers, 1899/1910/1923, When The Sleeper Wakes, The Sleeper Wakes, The Sleeper Awakes, Blackstone Audio’s audiobook version, the serialization in The Graphic magazine, the 1910 preface, “an editorial elder brother”, going to the original sources, a forecast of technology, technological changes between the revisions, aeroplanes and aeropiles, the introduction to the 1923 edition, “fantasias of possibility”, “suppose these forces go on novel”, H.G. Wells thought the rich were evil geniuses (prior to meeting them), “rather foolish plungers”, “vulgar rather than wicked”, Ostrog, “a nightmare of capitalism triumphant”, capitalist/socialism (kind of like Japan), The Unincorporated Man is pretty much the same story, yay Marxism!?, when Graham wakes up, Chapter 7, there only audiobooks in the future, The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, The Madonna Of The Future by Henry James, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, phonetic spelling, an H.G. Wells way of writing, is it the nature of a serial, the reader transplanted into the year 2100, The War Of The Worlds, suicide, Isbister, Warming, Ostrog, Lincoln, “body fag is no cure for brain fag”, “while he was breaking his fast”, the language, lying in a crystal box, a passive character, establishing the genre, space elevators, Buck Rogers has the same premise, Idiocracy, Eine Billion Dollar by Andreas Eschbach, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, the importance of money, the gilded age, wealth disparity, the labour company, a dystopia along the lines of Brave New World, the Martian invasion, The Time Machine, is this the start of the Morlocks and the Eloi?, 1984 by George Orwell, the proles, the pleasure cities, distractions, the value of work beyond being paid, a class trap, what is Wells saying?, Wells’ ambivalence towards the proles, there are no more school examinations, is this a meritocracy?, technological dystopias (like 1984), social dystopias, Brave New World is a medical dystopia, genetic dystopias, knowing you live in a dystopia, North Korea, knowledge of other societies, the time before Big Brother, Julia, the Anti-Sex League, genetically dumbified, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, religious dystopia, advertizing Christianity, prosperity gospels, church revivals, advertising, the babel machines, movies and television, what will this culture do to the culture?, “people don’t read”, airplanes, heavier-than-air aircraft, smashing airplanes into other airplanes, aerial ramming, flying machine vs. aeroplane vs. airplane vs. aeropile, My First Aeorplane by H.G. Wells, rocketships, the pilot’s union, the look of the airplane, the clothing, Victorian age dresses, the church, hanging in the air, the Thames has run dry, megalopolis, the building material, the Eiffel Tower, steel, concrete, plastic, glass, carbon fiber, biotech, Pandora’s Star, a coral house, 3D printing, Ikea Hacks, print on demand houses, economics, factories and automation, The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein, The City And The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke, slide-walk, edamite, Ostrog, Ostrogoths, Lincoln, foment a revolution, race and racism, Senagalese, ostrog as “fortress”, a Serbian Orthodox Church, Ostrog will boss the show, “in bounds”, are these are revolutionary names?, Che Guevara, Abraham Lincoln’s freeing the slaves, thug force, Berlin, June 17th, 1953, the Berlin Wall, outside forces, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Gurkhas, “see we’re all friends”, smiling bright shiny teeth, “they are fine loyal brutes”, racism is in there but it is not the point of the book, The War Of The Worlds, a little hypocritical, we can’t see the issue, massive economic suppression, calculating boys, hypnotism, economic slavery, the wealth gap, the White Council, the blaring speakers, the media firehouse, talk radio, people wearing their headphones everywhere, podcasts, each one of those streams are newspapers, a newspaper for everybody, broadsheets vs. tabolids, your newspaper tells your class, daily free newspapers, Jack The Ripper, Melville Macnaghten, Michael Ostrog (thief and con-man), the symbolism of the aircraft, the three books, Helen is the Madonna of the future, it’s a joke, the novel’s end, ‘my Graham dies without certainty of victory or defeat’, ambiguous airplanes, “literally that’s his dream”, flying dreams, cliffs and high places, Isbister and Warming -> Lincoln and Ostrog, “its fun”, “in such a fall as this countless dreams have ended”, dream falling, the different endings, the future of that future, Olaf Stapledon’s The Last And First Men, many futures, Olaf Stapledon takes what Wells does a little farther, Graham as a Christ figure, risen from the dead… etc., in Graphic detail, full colour holographic Jesus, the empty tomb moment, allusions to other literature in the Bible, Arthur C. Clarke, the Son of Man, A Story Of The Days To Come, the emptying of the countryside, the enclosures, Scotland, Canada, Glasgow, Berlin, well more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities now, Among Others by Jo Walton, Wales, the merits of country living, the economic theory behind everything, access to internet, staring at the internet, services, live entertainment, “my choice of Christian girls was three girls”, poor Luke.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #166 – TOPIC: SFF FORMS (Short Story, Novella, Novellete, Novel, Fix-up, Trilogy, World)
Science Fiction Forms: Short Story, Novella, Fix-Up, Novel, Trilogy, and World. Respectively, they might be exemplified thus: Short Story (“Mars Is Heaven!“), Novella (“Flowers for Algernon“), Fix-Up (The Martian Chronicles, which contains a revised version of “Mars Is Heaven!” or The Seedling Stars, Accelerando, and Beggars In Spain, all of which began as novellas), Novel (originals, like 1984, and derivatives like Flowers for Algernon or Varley’s novel Millennium coming from his short story “Air Raid“), Trilogy (original Foundation series), World (the ultimate Foundation world or Heinlein’s Future History [shared with others] or Banks’s Culture or LeGuin’s Hainish series [created just for the authors, but let's not forget about fan fiction]). What are the special challenges and rewards in reading and writing in these diverse forms? What special challenges or rewards attend on reusing material in another form? Is the formal plasticity of SF unique among literary genres?
Talked about on today’s show:
Eric’s suggestion, literature with a capital “L”, The Dead by James Joyce, The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, Luke’s Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, the format, the themes, the variability of short story form, the feghoot, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, Accelerando, Stories Of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang, The Tower Of Babel, stripped away vs. embellished to the nth degree, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Understand by Ted Chiang, The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat, fantasy, the unexplicit story, valid reactions, the etymology of “text”, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, a persuasive existential journey, The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, San Fransisco, short stories as objects of frivolity or training, the brilliance of an idea is not always enough, a novel can act as a community to an individual, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury vs. The Fireman by Ray Bradbury, is the novel inherently more participatory than a short story?, the failure of technology vs. the power of nature, The Masque Of The Red Death, teaching Science Fiction with short stories and novels, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame (Volume 1), the composite novel, Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, A.E. van Vogt, the fix-up, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Accelerando by Charles Stross, Lobsters by Charles Stross, the cat changes function, “an intellectual framework”, Robert A. Heinlein’s future history, the composite novel, Isaac Asimov, future history vs. psychohistory, Michael Moorcock, I, Robot, Robbie, the three laws, Stephen Byerly and Susan Calvin, unAsimovian assumptions, the full dose of SF, Reason, The Evitable Conflict, is Stephen Byerly a robot or a man?, the Mérode Altarpiece (a medieval iconographic trope), art history, Luke doesn’t think Asimov is that clever, R. Daneel Olivaw, the three laws are fairytale laws, positronic brains are positive, the three laws are for people (not just robots), The Bicentennial Man, Asimov’s powers, Asimov’s business acumen, Brandon Sanderson, shared worlds, gods, Mormonism, Daniel Clowes, The Death Ray, Elantris, “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell, reading The Martian Chronicles backwards, Luke’s fiction, Alastair Reynolds, Sherlock Holmes, Baker Street Irregulars, whodunit ain’t the attraction, The Adventure Of The Speckled Band, a matter of cutting, A Clockwork Orange, it’s better without the extra chapter, the commercial effect (or the effect of commercialism), popular literature, the flabby novel, Robert J. Sawyer, Hominids, Calculating God, William Shakespeare, The Royal Ontario Museum, horse evolution, God needs a starship!?, where to find a paleontologist, “a hundred pages of nothing happening”, a circular argument, writing to the story’s demands, Kevin J. Anderson, commercial constraints shouldn’t be points of pride, the thickness of books, The Lord Of The Rings, does more succinct = more better?, novellas are novels with threads missing?, The Hobbit, the ambition of the author, Luke is rejecting the basic premise, The Stand by Stephen King, is it a better story short or long?, changes and updates and additional material, don’t let Asimov near a typewriter unless you want something written, Against The Fall Of Night by Arthur C. Clarke, The City And The Stars, expanding everything, Monster Story, “it came to me in a dream”, Minding Tomorrow, Nightfall (the short story) vs. Nightfall (the novel), “it’s a lot like a perfectly nice novel that eventually becomes a masterpiece”, The Lion of Comarre, it’s not a commercial podcast, a civil rowdiness, Eric’s Coursera course: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, rechunking, forums, essays, 18,000 registered students, University of Michigan, only the competitors are qualified to judge the competitors, a history of the U.S. Civil War, Luke’s kitchen, grades, “there is no absolute abstract grade for anything”, Science Fiction and Politics (Courtney Brown), the governor of a steam engine, Luke confuses two professors, “yes, by golly, that was a very good thing of it’s kind”, The Odyssey by Homer, a foundational classic, The Bible, the Benjamin Franklin bible, there should be an SFBRP review of The Odyssey, Luke’s Matthew Mark Luke Skywalker, Star Wars, Joseph Campbell, time for coffee!
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #155 – Jenny, Tamahome, and Jesse talk about the five Nebula 2011 nominated short stories for which there are audio versions.
Talked about on today’s show:
the Clarkesworld one was too quiet (by the way, we use Levelator), April Fools jokes fall out of date, The Cartographer Wasps And The Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu, Jenny’s favorite, it’s science and it’s fiction but is it science fiction?, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “nerdy mapmakers”, Ottoman Empire, Jenny is into language, ‘thrumming’, revolution, The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu, Tam was moved to tweet it, Jhumpa Lahiri and first generation Americans, do we need the fantastic part?, Mike Resnic-y, workshop stories, “he’s such a tool”, movie version?, Asian magic realism, the owl on Home Depot, Murakami, Jesse likes Leggos, childhood, Jesse please explain Mama, We Are Zhenya by Tom Crosshill, Tam sounds just like narrator Stefan Rudnicki, quantum mechanics, author’s blog post about the story, intellectual heft, it’s a five year old, Flowers For Algernon, head-eating clouds, Lost, YA novel about singularity, superpowers, and giant robots, author was a nuclear operator, Zhenya is everywhere, and now with a slightly older child — Movement by Nancy Fulda, we’ve read The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time |OUR READALONG|, “temporal autism”, we’ve also read Speed Of Dark |READ OUR REVIEW| so we are autism experts, or Asperger’s?, Daniel Tammet and prime numbers, “she doesn’t want new shoes”, father’s bug killer, (note: here I got E. Lily Yu mixed up with Yoon Ha Lee’s Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain from Sffaudio 120, here’s the full text and audio from Lightspeed), Her Husband’s Hands by Adam-Troy Castro, horror, SUPER CREEPY DO NOT WANT, the hyphen in the author’s name was originally a typo, Chiller Theater, war, The Hand with Michael Caine, Guy De Maupassant, House of Holes by Nicholson Baker, Bianca’s Hands by Theodore Sturgeon (podcasted by Spider Robinson), It by Sturgeon, some story about brains, eyes, and taste buds, Pruzy’s Pot (podcasted by Spider Robinson) has a monster under the toilet that does things, we make our Nebula picks and predictions, a moving story about ponies from last year, Kij Johnson, a story about sex with an alien, which story will be remembered in ten years? Toy Story III with immigrants, we will discuss Among Others by Jo Walton, sexy Welsh accent in the audiobook, Tam’s amazing Welsh accent, waiting for Jo’s series on Hugo-nominated novellas, get off my lawn with your books series’s!, how to find good stories/books, Christopher Priest’s amazing post, anything good after 1950?, Stories by Neil Gaiman and Alan Sarrantonio, The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains |READ OUR POST|, Joe Landsdale on novels
Posted by Tamahome
The SFFaudio Podcast #134 – READALONG: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The SFFaudio Podcast #134 – Jesse, Scott, Tamahome, Eric S. Rabkin, and Jenny talk about The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
Talked about on today’s show:
the upside-down dog cover, Jesse doesn’t like the cover, Eric finds hidden meaning in the cover, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is it mainstream or a mystery or YA?, Asperger’s or autism?, what is it like to be inside another person’s head?, generates tolerance, Elaine’s post on TED Talk: Elif Şafak on The Politics Of fiction, neurotypical characters, extraordinary abilities and extraordinary deficits, Constituting Christopher: Disability Theory And Mark Haddon’s by Vivienne Muller, Scott loves lists, the reader is ahead of the narrator, unreliable narrators, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, The Speed Of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, mystery vs. family drama, Oedipus, “Sophocles not Freud”, Christopher Robin, (Winnie The Pooh), “there is something naively wonderful going on”, information vs. meaning, who did it? vs. why did it get done?, moving from what to why, Eric found the book joyful and uplifting, at the end?, abusive vs. human vs. murderous, PETA would not be pleased, “sometimes people want to be stupid”, Occam’s Razor, “now I know what box they fit into”, Cinderella, the Grimm Brothers, Jesse loves the infodumps, the asides are a highlight, where is Siobhan?, the Recorded Books audiobook version has a great narrator (Jeff Woodman), prime numbered chapters, are the pictures necessary?, Orion (the hunter in the sky), the most common word in the book is ‘and’, “he’s adding things up”, “this is a very true book”, “lies expand infinitely in all directions”, what Science Fiction and mystery look for, “sometimes people want to be stupid”, prime numbers are like life, rationalism vs. empiricism, Christopher yearns for uniqueness, right triangles, the appendix (is not in the audiobook), the brown cow joke, unreliable narrator, Conan Doyle’s beliefs, information vs. understanding, Harriet The Spy, dude don’t stab people, “a tag cloud of the novel”, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., “Repent Harlequin!”, Said The Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison, sense of wonder, Toby the rat (Algernon), Uncle Toby, The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, the poet “does not number the streaks of the tulip 18th century”, The History of Rasselas by Samuel Johnson, Candide by Voltaire, books inside books, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, Jo Walton’s Among Others, the third season of Star Trek, art making reference to itself, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Star Trek‘s third season, Spectre Of The Gun, “we just need the skeleton to tell the story”, “most of the protagonists in Science Fiction novels don’t read Science Fiction”, Jenny’s review of Ready Player One, The Emperor Of Mars by Allen_Steele (audio link), standing the test of time, Jesse’s extended metaphor about winnowed books washing up on beaches 100 years later, Eric is reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, propaganda melodrama, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Light In August by William Faulkner, the humanizing influence, comparing The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time with The Speed Of Dark, the novel’s form shapes the novel market, Jesse thinks series hurt readers, wondering what’s going to happen next vs. what idea is being explored, the value of series, the train trip, the maths exam, “the walls are brown”, in Science Fiction metaphors are real, clarified butter and clarified mother, the word “murder”, Julie Davis’s reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Carrot Juice Is Murder by Arrogant Worms, the fairy tale that is Sherlock Holmes, is the father good?, a clarified father, Jesse was tricked into reading this book, Jenny likes Margaret Atwood’s trilogy, “get ‘im Jenny”, Oryx And Crake, H.G. Wells didn’t need any sequels!, sequel is as sequel does, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, The Godfather, the market rules, the world building is the point (for series and authors), Agatha Christie, The Tyranny Of The “Talented” Reader, The Wheel Of Time by Robert Jordan, has Neuromancer by William Gibson passed it’s prime? (tune in next week to find out), Home Is The Hunter by Henry Kuttner, Jesse looks to books to deliver on ideas (not to make time pass).
Posted by Tamahome
Some stories adapt better than others. I think a straight narration of an audiobook of Daniel Keyes’ novelette of Flowers For Algernon would be an easy and natural way to experience most of the story’s power. Sadly, that’s still yet to happen.
The original story, of course, makes great use of spelling mistakes which could not fully be illustrated in any audiobook narration, but a straight single voiced reading of the story still provides the main thrust of the tale’s dramatic technique; we get the grammar of the main character, his account of what his doctors ask of him, and we get what his”friends” think of him.
The film and television versions that I’ve seen have, with video’s visually orientation, have all eliminated much of the very valuable power inherent in the epistolary.
Indeed, as editor James Gunn puts it in his introductory essay to Flowers For Algernon, found in The Road To Science Fiction #4 – From Here To Forever, “Part of the appeal of the story is the comparison of the reader’s knowledge to Charlie’s, and the ability to see more in Charlie’s reports than he knows is there.” Once you actually get out of Charlie’s head you lose his perspective and lose the unreliable narration.
So I was thinking about all of this as I was downloading a 1991 BBC Radio dramatization, via torrent, from RadioArchive.cc.
I was pretty skeptical of any radio dramatization’s ability to convey the story’s full power. Now though, after listening, I’ve come away convinced that it retains much of its power, and offers up a very innovative use of the aural medium. It is actually quite a tricky balance but it totally worked in the way it is put together.
Bert Coules, who adapted the novelette had this to say:
“In 1991 the BBC asked me to suggest some SF material for a short season. I drew them up a list and at the same time put in a claim to do Flowers, which I think is a tremendous story: it completed knocked me out when I first read it as a kid. I was delighted when I got the commission.”
In Flowers For Algernon the central character keeps a diary – in fact, the entire story consists of his diary entries. I changed the diary into a series of audio recordings made on a personal tape machine, and interspersed them with dramatised scenes which are mentioned or implied in Daniel Keyes’ original but which don’t actually appear in the story at all. When you’re writing new material like that, the challenge of course is to keep it consistent with the stuff that does come more or less straight from the book.
Flowers posed a particular problem: if you’ve read the story you’ll know that Charlie Gordon, the central character, goes through some huge changes which are brilliantly depicted by the way his diary entries are written: as he develops, so does his spelling, grammar and punctuation. I had to find a spoken way of reflecting the same journey.”
I believe he’s done a fantastic job with it.
Incidentally, the other plays in that series included: Brave New World, Kaleidoscope, The Midas Plague, The Chrysalids, Space Ache, Who Goes There? and Tiger! Tiger!.
So, like I was saying, if you haven’t read the original novelette, I recommend you experience the story that way, as a piece of text, first. If you have read it, then I heartily recommend you try the audio drama. It’s a wonderful adaptation with excellent acting and a highly innovative use of the microphone.
Flowers For Algernon
Adapted from the novelette by Daniel Keyes; Dramatized by Bert Coules; Performed by a full cast
Approx. 59 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: September 5, 1991
The play featured as part of a series of forward-looking productions collectively named “The shape of things to come.” Tom Courtenay stars as the intellectually challenged Charlie, who as part of an experiment is offered a “cure” for his low IQ…..First published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’s April 1959 issue.
Tom Courtenay ………………… Charlie
Algernon …………………….. Himself
Joanna Myers …………….. Miss Kinnian
Barrie Cookson …………….. Dr Strauss
Ronald Herdman ………………. Dr Nemur
Clarence Smith ………………….. Bert
Nigel Carrington …………. Joe/Donnegan
Auriol Smith ………….. Mrs Flynn/Ellen
Alan Barker …………. Frank/Sherrinford
Adapted by Bert Coules
Produced by Matthew Walters
Recorded Books produced an unabridged edition of the novelized expansion of the story:
Flowers For Algernon
By Daniel Keyes; Read by Jeff Woodman
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Charlie Gordon knows that he isn’t very bright. At 32, he mops floors in a bakery and earns just enough to get by. Three evenings a week, he studies at a center for mentally challenged adults. But all of this is about to change for Charlie. As part of a daring experiment, doctors are going to perform surgery on Charlie’s brain. They hope the operation and special medication will increase his intelligence, just as it has for the laboratory mouse, Algernon. Meanwhile, each day Charlie keeps a diary of what is happening to him. This is his poignant record of the startling changes in his mind and his life. Flowers for Algernon was first published as a short story, but soon received wide acclaim as it appeared in anthologies, as a television special, and as an award-winning motion picture, Charly. In its final, expanded form, this haunting story won the Nebula Award for the Best Novel of the Year. Through Jeff Woodman’s narration, it now becomes an unforgettable audio experience.
As mentioned earlier there have been four major video adaptations of Flowers For Algernon (three television movies and on theatrical film): Des Fleurs Pour Algernon (a 2006 French TV movie), Flowers For Algernon (a U.S. TV movie from 2000), Charly (a U.S. theatrical release from 1968) and a live broadcast teleplay that aired as a part of The United States Steel Hour in 1961 (it was titled The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon).
And I’m afraid there was also a frightening looking musical theater version:
Posted by Jesse Willis