Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer is a 25 minute TV documentary produced by David L. Wolper in 1963. It includes a little dramatization of Dial Double Zero, a short story about the emergence of an artificial intelligence within the telephone system.
And it’s also available as a download |MP4|.
Posted by Jesse Willis
As you might be able to tell from the diverse yet vague range of themes listed above, 14 is a difficult book to classify or review. Much like The Matrix, you can’t really be told what 14 is; you simply have to experience it for yourself. The blurb–or perhaps the term log line would be more appropriate–reads:
There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s. Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends. Or the end of everything….
Aside from giving off a subtle Stephen King vibe, this synopsis doesn’t much help categorize the book either. And yet, in precisely the way book cover pitches are supposed to do, it offers just enough tantalizing hints to draw you in. If I had to pick a single overriding genre for the novel, I would choose mystery. There are indeed some strange goings-on in the Kavach Building, which houses the novel’s motley assortment of tenanets as well as the eponymous apartment number 14. Some of these things are creepy, hence the horror; some are paranormal, hence the science fiction. But ever driving the plot forward is protagonist Nate Tucker’s desire to get to the bottom of it all. The mystery theme is underscored by repeated, almost overdone, references to Scooby Doo. But in terms of literary and historical allusions Scooby and Shaggy are kept good company by the likes of Nikola Tesla and H. P. Lovecraft. Yes, the book is that weird.
What makes it all work and flow so smoothly is Clines’s knack for characterization. The listless protagonist Nate Tucker, the artist Xela with nudist tendencies, the Hindi hacker Veek, the hardcore Christian Andy, and virtually every other character, major or minor, are people whose stories are minor mysteries in their own right. When, pardon my French, shit gets weird, you’re always anchored by this (mostly) likable ensemble. Clines’s writing is also excellent. His background in Hollywood is evident in the novel’s setting and characters, and the third-person narration is likewise cinematic in pacing. It would be easy to see 14 adapted into a movie or, preferably, a miniseries. The novel excels, as a good mystery should, in dropping tantalizing plot hints, only to cut away to more chapters on characterization, spurring the reader to read on and find out what happens next. In the hands of less capable writers this technique can feel like a cheap trick, but fortunately Clines doesn’t overdo it.
The diverse cast of characters poses a potential challenge for narrator Ray Porter, from the feminine cadence of Veek’s Indian accent to the clipped, harried German accent of Oskar the building manager. Fortunately, Porter is mostly up to the task. He handles these characters, as well as a broad range of accents from our own continent, nearly flawlessly. With a few exceptions near the end, his narration manages to feel unobtrusive, almost as if there were no narrator at all and the listener is simply telepathically absorbing the words from the page. I don’t believe I’ve listened to Ray Porter’s work before, but I’ll certainly watch for him from now on.
The book puts a neat little bow on most mysteries, but there are still a few loose tendrils that could serve as springboards for another novel in the same universe. It really was difficult to say goodbye to the characters and the world. In his review for Fantasy Book Critic, Mihir Wanchoo draws several apt comparisons between 14 and the television series Lost. The resemblance is indeed strong. If you enjoy strong characterization and a whirlwind of genre-bending mysteries, you’ll probably love the hell out of 14. And–sorry J.J. Abrams et al.–Peter Clines actually knew where the plot was going.
Posted by Seth
We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – Season One
By Kc Waylan and Shane Salk; Performed by a full cast
12 CDs – Approx. 14.2 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Themes: / Horror / Zombies / Post-Apocalypse / Los Angeles /
This exciting audio drama is based on an immensely popular podcast that has received hundreds of positive reviews and has had over four million downloads—and counting.
Uneven and slightly amateurish, but also fun, mildly addictive and highly listenable, We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, the first season (Modern Myth Productions, LLC) should appeal to fans of the zombie/post-apocalyptic/survivalist genres.
Unlike most audiobooks, which typically feature a single narrator reading text in unadorned style, We’re Alive is an audio drama. It employs a large cast, incorporates a wide range of sound effects, and is scripted in a way that caters to the ear, emphasizing dialogue and interpersonal relationships over lengthy descriptive narrative. Our minds are left to fill in the gory details, and it works. It’s simultaneously fresh and retro, reminding me of what the old radio shows of yesteryear must have been like. We’re Alive was launched and remains an ongoing podcast (check it out HERE) but you can obtain the entire first two seasons from Blackstone Audio, Inc.
The storyline is about what you’d expect: A zombie apocalypse strikes without warning, quickly overwhelming most of the population. Three young Army reservists (Michael, Angel, and Saul) commandeer a humvee and seek out survivors in downtown Los Angeles. After rescuing a couple civilians they find an apartment building, clear it of zombies, and begin to fortify it, rigging it up with a generator and stocking up on food, water, and ammunition. More survivors eventually trickle in and/or are rescued by the group, including Burt, an aging Vietnam veteran who acts and sounds a lot like Clint Eastwood. Soon there’s a small but thriving community holed up in the apartment building.
We’re Alive has a few problems. I had a hard time distinguishing between some of the women. The men are generally given more agency and are more fully developed characters. There are some writing weaknesses, including characters that bicker and bitch over trifles and at times seem more concerned with saving face than staying alive. This creates plenty of distractions and gets the group in more trouble than it should, at first with zombies and later with a greedy, nasty group of human convicts (the “Mallers”). Also, a few of the characters’ skill-sets seem a bit too fortuitous (one of the women is a pro archer — rather convenient).
The story also uses zombies that break sharply with most undead traditions. Some have a rudimentary intelligence, at least one can talk and strategize, and at times they are directed by some unseen controlling force to capture and carry away their victims rather than consuming them. While I’m not a strict zombie purist, these traits lessen their scare factor and weakened them as a threat. Zombies are at their best when they’re relentless, merciless eating machines; take away that characteristic and they become caricatures. There’s even some species of large zombie monsters lurking in the background, though they’re not described well and it’s impossible at least through season one to determine if they’re a large zombified animal or a creature of pure fancy. In short, if you’re a zombie purist, or expecting undead in the Romero mold or new Dawn Of The Dead style, be prepared for a lot of “rule breaking.”
But We’re Alive also has plenty of good things going on, enough to give it my recommendation. Most of the characters grow on you and the voice acting is reasonably good. There are enough plot twists and turns to keep you guessing. There’s a hardly a dull moment—when not fighting the undead or the Mallers, the survivors are fighting amongst themselves, often chafing against Michael’s inflexible never-question-my-orders military style of leadership. Ex-lawyers and teachers find themselves growing vegetables on the rooftop, serving as quartermasters, or standing guard duty, with inevitable grousing and dereliction of duties. As the survivors’ supplies start to dwindle, they’re forced to take increasingly dangerous runs for food and ammo into the “hot zone” of zombie and looter-infested downtown L.A. There’s also a larger backstory about the hows and whys of the zombie outbreak that’s still unrevealed but will undoubtedly be a part of latter seasons.
While it lacks the moral/philosophical questions and hardcore grittiness of The Walking Dead, We’re Alive is nevertheless fun stuff and I’m looking forward to listening to season two.
Posted by Brian Murphy
CBC’s Day 6 blog has a lengthy, November 1985, interview Ray Bradbury (conducted by Vicky Gabereau for her self titled Gabereau show). This is a terrific long-form and ramblingly awesome interview – as Bradbury himself puts it, it’s a “discussion about ideas.”
In it Bradbury talks about:
Moving out to California as a kid, how he gets around Los Angeles, his appearance on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life, movies, directing vs. writing, Fahrenheit 451, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, James M. Cain, Norman Mailer, a discussion about ideas, bad male drivers, Blackstone the magician, Paris, France, the American Revolutionary War, architecture, Federico Fellini, Amarcord (1973), horror movies, The Fog Horn, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla, dinosaurs, Moby Dick, William Shakespeare, John Houston, The Carrot People, The Horror Of Dracula, Christopher Lee, The Omen, Diabolique, Jean Harlow, Burns and Allen, The Trojans and sporadically his then current novel Death Is A Lonely Business.
And here’s that appearance on You Bet Your Life (featuring Ray Bradbury in a crew cut):
Posted by Jesse Willis
There’s a fascinating article by Kurt Kuersteiner HERE titled “OTR: The Evil Influence Behind EC.” In it Kuersteiner maps some of the many stories swiped from radio drama series and turned into EC Comics.
It came to me at the perfect time too. I’ve just been getting into EC comics over the last few months. Having grown up under the censorship of the Comics Code Authority I didn’t really know what I was missing. Now though, reading these pre-code comics, I can now see that my intellectual growth had been greatly stunted.
I’d have been a far smarter person if I’d been able to buy and read comics like these as a kid.
My favourite such tale so far was published in the July/August 1953 issue of Weird Fantasy (issue number 20). It’s called The Automaton. At first it seemed to me like a mashup of a Philip K. Dick’s The Electric Ant, Alfred Bester’s Fondly Fahrenheit and George Orwell’s 1984. But looking at the chronology that can’t be what it is. First off Philip K. Dick was just getting started around then. And while he was a comics reader The Electric Ant wasn’t published until 1969.
And while by 1953 Bester had already been working in comics – he hadn’t yet written Fondly Fahrenheit. So the story is definitely Orwellian and very cool, and certainly like a couple of Dick and Bester tales that were yet to be written. But then again, maybe it was inspired by a radio drama that I’ve not heard yet. Anybody know of one like this?
As it stands The Automaton is set in the futuristic dystopian world of Los Angeles in 2009. Our protagonist is XT-751, a man recounting his story of being sent to a northern labour camp after a suicide attempt. Suicide is illegal in this world because the state owns every person from the cradle to the grave.
I actually have been thinking about The Automaton for months now. And after reading Kuersteiner’s article it somehow gelled into a post. It’s just been something I could’t quite shake. The story is not only extremely thought provoking, and still timely, but also extremely frightening. And maybe a lot of the rest of it is that it is about as far away from superhero comics as you can possibly get. Best of all it’s told in just seven pages – that’s a highly distilled story.
The only credit for The Automaton is for the artist, Joe Orlando, but maybe he wrote it too?
Posted by Jesse Willis
Coolness! Mike McDonough, the legendary producer of the famous BRADBURY 13 audio drama series, writes in to say:
A good friend of mine pointed me to your website. I’m glad to see there are others in the world like me, who LOVE audio, and think it is a perfect medium for telling stories. I’ve been fascinated with the power of audio since I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles.
I’m glad you liked “A Sound Of Thunder“. That’s one of my favorite Ray Bradbury stories, and certainly one of the most successful of the thirteen audio adaptations that I did in the series. Bradbury’s writing is so visual sometimes, it was just a natural for audio. By the way, the series is currently being broadcast on the BBC in England. Here is a link to their blog about the shows I did many years ago! The series is also lately available for download on iTunes for anyone who might be interested.
Keep up the good work on your website. It seems very well-done and comprehensive.
All My Best,
Indeed, check out the BBC Radio 4 Extra blog post that has some vintage photographs of the McDonough actually recording the programme! It makes a great compliment to Radio Drama Revival’s excellent interview with McDonough. And, of course, BBCR4X is presenting all 13 episodes weekly right now! Blackstone Audio has released the collection on CD, it is available through iTunes and Audible.com has it too!
Posted by Jesse Willis