The SFFaudio Podcast #299 – READALONG: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

January 12, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #299 – Jesse and Julie Davis talk about Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

Talked about on today’s show:
North ANGER! Abbey, this is a comedy, parody and meta-gothic novel, The Mysteries Of Udolpho, an inversion, Jane Austen is hilarious, The Jane Austen Book Club (the movie), documentaries, “its very meta”, her first (and almost) last novel, the advertizement from the authoress, fashions of literature and clothing, Tilney and Thorpe, the price of everything, a braggart, going afoul, a terrible sketch,
A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, And the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz, don’t just believe what everybody teaches you, desperate characters, Pride And Prejudice, letting you think, going along, women are supposed to be passive, a woman’s only right is to refuse, railroaded by stronger personalities, “…born to be an heroine”, a mundane life, Catherine is living her life in the third person as a Gothic romance heroine, 1,000 alarming presentiments, romance subverted, The Mysteries Of Udolpho as a less realistic and hyped up version of Northanger Abbey, the labyrinth is society not Mrs. Radcliffe’s Apennines, Emma, Mrs. Allen, it’s just not done, Isabelle’s master list of Gothic Novels, “there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for someone who isn’t my friend”, an open conversation, “I wish we knew someone here”, she’s 15, true to human nature, the arch narrator, hands and heads in the proper number to go around for all the children, Frederick, I’ve broken with my father, just like in a Gothic novel, the (BBC) audio drama of The Mysteries Of Udolpho, “you should really try Ursula K. Le Guin”, absolutely horrid!, the black wardrobe!, a character sketch (illustrated below), “She seized, with an unsteady hand, the precious manuscript, for half a glance sufficed to ascertain written characters; and while she acknowledged with awful sensations…”, a washing bill!, Eleanor, everything is explained, the volumes, a rushed ending?, the mysterious messenger, Henry’s true character, reining in your own imagination, Washington Irving’s The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, he’s spooking himself, the description of the birds, the slaves, New York, giving facts and making comments, we are doing a lot of the colouring, the one thing we know about readers is that they read, the reading process, the black veil <-is from The Mysteries Of Udolpho, The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a very funny (as in curious) story, Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole, supernatural elements, the refinements, the timelessness, Phyllis Whitney, Mrs. Radcliffe, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, what went wrong?, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, The Devil To Pay, Sir Walter Scott, H.P. Lovecraft, Georgette Heyer, Northanger Abbey as a modern novel by Val McDermid, a YA novel, Fahrenheit 451, serving as a feeder, everybody is reading these trashy novels, an impassioned defense of the novel, you can’t live your life as if it was a novel, two movie adaptions, the 2007 ITV production, plot shorthand, Lord Byron, something terrible coming out of London, two tombstones and a lantern on the frontispiece, all of Jane Austen’s books have soldiers in them, a timeless focus on the people, when Julie met Jenny, these are characters not plots, sitting at the piano, The Many Lovers of Jane Austen, a Texas convention, with Klingons and Kirks, WWI, cigarettes and something to read, Mansfield Park, Mrs. Allen but with an edge, Juliet Stevenson as a narrator, 170 books read (in 2014), reading speed, a stumbling savourer, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, solitary reading vs. group reading, trains boost reading, “drawing room reading like singing, piano playing, and card”, scandalous reading, reading out loud, David Timson’s Dickens narrations, dramatic readings, Dickens invented the audiobook, Charles Dickens And The Great Theatre Of The World by Simon Callow, Elizabeth Klett’s reading of Carmilla, oh my!,

I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

“Who? What? Your love? Well, that’s super”, he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters,

“…and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution.”

surrounded by children, they all have to tucked in, they’re genteel, it was wet that day, a good introduction to Jane Austen.

Northanger Abbey - Marvel Comics Adaptation

Catherine Morland - Character Sketches (1892)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #290 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

November 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #290 – The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving; read by Chip (for LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and John Feaster.

Talked about on today’s show:
1820 (1819), the idea behind the story, Celtic folklore, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, the Wild Hunt, Geoffrey Crayon, Popular Tales Of The Germans, Volksmärchen der Deutschenby Karl Musäus, racing to a bridged, a shattered gourd, Sir Walter Scott, “the wizard of the north”, Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns, headless ghosts, Anne Boleyn, headless horses!, jack-o’-lantern, is this a Halloween story or a Thanksgiving story?, 1834, the word “coconut” (head and soul), the South Pacific, breadfruit, The Red One by Jack London, the shattered pumpkin becomes carved into a Jack-O-Lantern, Brom Bones, meta-textual inference, Washington Irving is buried in Sleepy Hollow, NY, a Hessian artilleryman, a sleepy forgotten area, Rip Van Winkle, the Dutch of New York are like the Irish of the British empire, a Connecticut Yankee teacher, sleep, bustling New York City, Tarrytown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irving’s loving description of the landscape is like Lovecraft’s loving description of architecture, the jokey Washington Irving, Guests From Gibbet Island by Washington Irving, pirates, Pluto, “nod, wink, and giggle”, a comedy with a great sense of mood, the many birds, Crane, pudding in their bellies, the Van Tassel larder, a low yield version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, an excellent ragù, an exquisitely painted portrait, Jeff Goldblum playing Ichabod Crane, the dilating abilities of an anaconda, the full orchards, the rooster with his wives, The House Of The Seven Gables, “the world’s first Scooby Doo ending”, Brom Bones is a colossal prick, anti-intellectual, having read several books all the way through, Cotton Mather, the labour of headwork, headlessness, a practical joke, the post-script, the moral (if it has one or if it needs one), The Cask Of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, a deathbed confession, family portraits or a mirror, “in pace requiescat”, alternate endings, the 1999 movie adaptation with Johnny Depp, “Rip van Kolchak”, beheading an embryo, the imagery, Christopher Lee, Marvel Comics adaptations, Ghost Rider, a goblin, J.R.R. Tolkien, distinguishing between goblins and orcs, interchangeable terms, Scrooge, FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY – Headless Horsemen, a whip made of a human spine, the Comics Code Authority, Morbius: The LIVING Vampire, the gaffers at von Tassel’s quilting frolic, an old brower, the Wild Hunt (again), rivers marking town boundaries, “liminal areas”, “a marvelously gruesome book”, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber, vampires can’t cross running water, a Dukes of Hazzard crossover, the Disney/Bing Crosby cartoon, The Wind in the Willows, The Partially Examined Life (talking the American philosophers), walking while reading a book vs. walking while reading a phone, van Ripper, Gunpowder (the horse), anti-intellectual vs. hyper-competence, Sleepy Hollow as a vision of America (as opposed to Europe), William James, Henry James, young and different, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, the American Revolutionary War, NYC vs. NY State, Irving regretting the American revolution, Lovecraft’s nostalgia, a very American story, “the world’s turned upside down!”, Ivanhoe, enbosomed in the mountains, a debunking, Frank L. Baum’s new creations for an American fantasy, Kansas, the tin woodsman’s chopping, a cyborg version of the Ship of Theseus, written for little children, the heart is more important than the brains, Brom Bones as the hero, Ichabod mucks-in, haunted tulip tree, Major Andre, an unselfconscious hero, corporal punishment, Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, a wise-schoolmaster, spare the rod and spoil the child, “six of the best when they were ten”, dancing around the issue, squishing, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, “if this were the middle ages and he were a viking…”, Sons Of Anarchy vs. Vikings, bearded vengeance, ichthyology, von Ripper, von Brunt, von Tassel, von Brunt Colonel Ichabod Crane, The Castle Of Indolence by James Thomson, Gothic credentials, autumn, the sleepy hollow boys, Twin Peaks and the Bookhouse boys, the good old boys, more references to NASCAR, Brom Bones as an archetype, the Sleepy Hollow TV show, we can’t CGI our way out of bad writing, “Alan Moore-esque”, “nice, self-contained, and pretty much done”, Katrina as a master manipulator, singing lessons, it’s been haunted forever (maybe 30 years), belief in hauntings vs. belief in ghosts, a haunted green shag carpet, the stain, something was dragging itself on the ground, “The Stone Tape” hypothesis, “creeped by some creepy creepness”, a bad place, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, poltergeist activity, Brom Bonesey, the 1790 setting, a haunted beach?, Center Lake, a hat sodden with blood, a headless borrower, a local Jimmy Hoffa, folklore becomes enmeshed, why does she settle for Brom Bones?, “a man of great parts”, Shakespeare: “Ale promoteth the desire but taketh away all performance”, Diogenes: “If only I could alleviate my hunger by rubbing my belly”

Supernatural Thrillers - The Headless Horseman Rides Again
The Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow - Word Cloud
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow - "What Fearful Shapes And Shadows Beset His Path" (1899)
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving - illustration by Jason Juta

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #268 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells

June 9, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The New Accelerator by H. G. WellsTheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #268 – The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (40 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon!

Talked about on today’s show:
1901, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, The Speckled Band, Swamp Adder, baboons, faulty sources, generous irregularities, Dracula by Bram Stoker, the science, the speed of sound, the effect of heat on fast moving objects, how do they communicate?, the sound of the band, Audacity, Edison cylinders, sloooowing doooowwn, “let it go a bit”, the effect of gravity, “let’s go out the window”, footprints in the flower bed, a giddiness?, a sketch of The Invisible Man, Gibberne, the dog, “you’ve dropped your hankie”, naughtiness -> alienated, Star Trek, Star Trek: Voyager, The Twilight Zone, The Ring Of Gyges, invisibility, The Lord Of The Rings, “a matter for the courts”, a story about methamphetamine, positive uses, what would a society with this drug widespread be like?, Victorian gentleman, dry whiskey (mescaline), opium, cannabis, Alice In Wonderland, pharmacy, a drug fearing society, writing under the influence, why a “new” accelerator, miracle cures, Coca-cola packed with cocaine, baby soothing tinctures packed full of heroin, radium condoms, a green potion, what’s the retarder for?, Ritalin, Focusyn, “become a glacier”, When The Sleeper Wakes, sleeping aids, amphetamines, WWII, chocolate bars laced with amphetamines, “go pills”, The Food Of The Gods by H.G. Wells, boomfood, Wells would have known the Invisible Man would be blind, how science effects people, a minister could dose his assistant, is Gibberne gibbering?, Gibberne looks like “Mephistopheles”, Griffin, sinful, Faust, burning in hell, Mephistophelean, the narrator as Wells, The Strand (late 1899), is the allusion to an actor dressed as Mephistopheles or Henry James?, Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle, everything is just clothing, “language is the garment of thought”, the effect of the retarder, a glacier like absence of alacrity, an entire revolution of civilized existence, the time garment of which Carlyle speaks, very-meta and existential, Diogenes Teufelsdröckh (god-born devil-dung), “we put on a new garment and that changes us”, clothing as a metaphor, the purpose of uniforms, dress-codes, signifiers, bowler hats, the chef’s hat, Daniel Ellsberg, wearing a suit to get arrested, the philosophy of violence, without knowing the allusion…, “just another of those dudes”, The Clock At The End by W.F. Harvey, being bound by time, a little story about drugs is very impactful, drugs and perception, as you age your perception of the passing of time speeds up, younger people doing their thing, ahhh yes more of the same, wisdom/cyncism of age, “no matter who you vote for the government always gets in”, things were slower in the old days, the time investment vs. a couple of clicks, phone addiction, screen addiction, he’s got a book addiction, “Mr Jim Moon is like Wikipedia with a beard”, a diary as an external hard-drive for your mind, the clothing of it, hand-mirrors, selfies, dead situations, Flappy Bird, screens as retarders and accelerators, new etiquette and new protocols, the effect of gin on the U.K., the effect of a new clothing or technology needs to work itself through the culture, tobacco, coffee, designer drugs, the backlash against comics, TV, videogames, simultaneous negative reaction, an immune reaction, the Freakonomics podcast, the temperance movement, alcohol as the safe drink (before tea and coffee), small beer (weak ale), a merry afternoon, was history so bloody in Europe because people were so pissed (drunk)?, drugs as technology, “when the robots come”, the robot in your kitchen is your dishwasher, the anti-coffee movement, “the devil’s cup”, when opium was cheaper than gin, opium -> morphine -> heroin -> methadone, health panics, Mormonism, the reason people take drugs, 12% of rats and bees have a predisposition to addiction, bee hives have bouncers, fermented apples, “its a fun little story about a cute little idea”, the mad scientist story, Dr Jekyll’s potion, new relevance for The New Accelerator, smart drugs, steroids, “among the chattering classes”, it’s all happening almost unnoticed, a new frontier of pharmacy.

The Strand Magazine 1901 - THE NEW ACCELERATOR by H.G. Wells
The Strand Magazine 1901 - THE NEW ACCELERATOR by H.G. Wells
The Strand Magazine 1901 - THE NEW ACCELERATOR by H.G. Wells
The Strand Magazine 1901 - THE NEW ACCELERATOR by H.G. Wells
The Strand Magazine 1901 - THE NEW ACCELERATOR by H.G. Wells
The Strand Magazine 1901 - THE NEW ACCELERATOR by H.G. Wells

The Strand Magazine 1899 had two candidates for Mephistopheles

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #230 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Red Room by H.G. Wells

September 16, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #230 – The Red Room by H.G. Wells, read by Simon Vance. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (24 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Luke Burrage, Bryan Alexander, and Simon Vance.

The Red Room (aka The Ghost Of Fear) was first published in The Idler, March 1896.

Talked about on today’s show:
Are there any supernatural elements in The Red Room?, what is the genre of this story?, Gothic Fiction, a deconstruction of the gothic, the ultimate psychological horror story, the apparatus of gothic horror, a psychoanalysis of horror, what we do to ourselves, we scare ourselves, the scary clothes horse, “as long as this house of sin endures”, what happened to the candles, Luke’s theory, what is the sin?, the old people, bad candles?, trick candles?, a Scooby Doo interpretation of the story?, coincidence, how reliable is the narrator?, the origins of the horror are in a fake scare, the changing description of the men, distorted and crouching, the man with the shade, shadow?, ghost?, a blue phial, a green shade, a story of generational transfer, the rising generation of science, the significance of the narrator’s age (28 years), what’s up with the gun?, an impossible sturdiness, the unknowableness of your own mind, the final word – or is it?, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, Eric S. Rabkin, an evil relationship, Ganymede with an eagle (Zeus), cup-bearer is a euphemism, does the Chinaman statuary represent the Yellow Peril?, clothing fashioned in dead brains, the generational interpretation, the grotesque, why not three norns?, the three disabilities, a tremendous tremor, 150% spillage, a mocking shadow, a pro-science story, fire = knowledge, the light of science, the return of ignorance with the return of darkness, why is the narrator there?, is this a Hound Of The Baskervilles situation, the previous tenant, the glass before the fire, the three mirrors, Mise en abyme, “your own choosing”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, what side in the public debate of new spiritualism, it felt modern to Luke, The Pit And The Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe, Dracula is a contemporary of The Red Room, the subterranean passage, Eric is a big Freudian, a meticulous forensic analytic description, this isn’t Mulder this is Scully, Simon Vance has voiced Dracula twice, Fangland (a modern 60 Minutes style retelling of Dracula), updates to Dracula, The Dracula Tapes, The Stone Tape (1972), byte by byte, Nigel Kneale, The Quatermass Experiment, Lorraine Castle, generic European castle, skeptics haunted by a ghost that isn’t a ghost, a modern Gothic horror story, is it the carbon monoxide coming off the fungus?, the stone as a medium, solid state recording, a scientific explanation, a Lovecraftian pre-human recording, it may not be need to be remade, Quentin Tarantino remakes bad movies as a good movies, haunted digital media, Alien, MOTHER is basically HAL, Demon Seed, the anti-Japaneses bias as a more modern Yellow Peril, the medium of the tale, the staircase, “it’s not there’s nothing there”, the good-time gal, the wrong interpretation, The Crawling Chaos by H.P. Lovecraft and Winifred V. Jackson, becoming lost in your own head, he brought the ghost into the room, spirits as ghosts, why is it a red room?, red in the flames, it’s like the grate is a prison, a slick tunnel to the red room, a womb like room, a beige room, Ash spurting sperm everywhere, a haunted castle in space, Alien as the opposite of Star Wars, the science hero angle, gothic explique, teasing out a Gothic reading, in medias res, Freudian spaces, on this night of all nights, its like their casting a spell, is he a journalist?, Simon thinks the narrator is the new owner, Christopher Priest, The Prestige, why Christopher Priest is not as popular as he should be, his head and his lips are bloody, a bashed face, The Door In The Wall by H.G. Wells, is the story open, Luke is skeptical about the openness and the double blooding, belying the begrudgement, the curious escape,”H.G. Wells is a genius writer”, The War Of The Worlds from the alien perspective, Little Wars, “a heavy blow at last upon my forehead”, an almost 2nd person POV shift, “global warming is a fake”, the haunted man not the haunted room, Gene Wolfe, gothic markers, Henry James, Boon, the judgements of history, Wells’ agenda, The Time Machine, The Chronic Argonauts, horrific jellyfish and rabbits, nameless characters, minimal information, the Wells-Wolfe connection, The Shadow Of The Torturer, the always unreliable narrator, Understanding Comics by Scott Mccloud, Hello Kitty, part of the appeal of the Twilight books is in how badly drawn Bella is, inviting blankness, Things To Come.

The Red Room by H.G. Wells

The Red Room by H.G. Wells

The Red Room Word Cloud

Understanding Comics - Amplification Through Simplification

The Red Room by H.G. Wells

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Jolly Corner by Henry James

August 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Jolly Corner by Henry James

I’ve edited together, cleaned up, and Levelated the 2009 solo LibriVox narration of Henry James’ 1908 novelette The Jolly Corner.

The Jolly Corner is a ghost story, said to be rivaled only by The Turn Of The Screw. Here is narrator Nicholas Clifford’s own description:

James’s protagonist, Spencer Brydon, is an American of 56, returned to New York after 33 years in Europe, where he has apparently accomplished little while living off his New York rentals. His friendship with Alice Staverton, and his engagement in the development of a property awaken him to the possibilities that might have been his, had he chosen a different course of life. The “ghost,” if that’s what it is, is that other self that might have been, and his confrontation with that self and its possibilities leads to a deeply unsettling, yet ambiguous, conclusion.

Having been downloaded more than 7,000 times there’s still only one review on Archive.org page – but it is a very positive review, writes Kydiana:

This is an intriguing and thought-provoking tale. On the surface a ghost story, it is really a story about the ghosts which haunt our own interiors. It poses deep existential questions–Who are we, really? Would we even recognize ourselves in a life in which in which we had made different choices? What does it mean to love someone regardless of how that person develops over the course of a lifetime? Well-read. Highly recommended.

|MP3| Approx. 95 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

And, made from a scan of the original magazine publication, here’s a handy 31 page |PDF| version.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Hammer Chillers – Series 1: The Box, The Fixation, and Spanish Ladies

June 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Hammer Chillers: Series One

Hammer Chillers – Series 1:SFFaudio Essential

Episode 1 – The Box
By Stephen Gallagher; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 7, 2013
The culmination of the Wainfleet Maritime College sea rescue and safety course is a session in The Box, an underwater helicopter escape simulator. The candidates are ex-navy or air force, and The Box should be an easy exercise for such experienced men. So why are the drop-outs gradually increasing in number? Men are seeing things when they’re submerged, and won’t talk about them when they come out… What is the secret of The Box?

Episode 2 – The Fixation
By Mark Morris; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 14, 2013
When Ian Hibbert witnesses a hoodie dumping a bin of rubbish outside his house, he decides enough is enough. He convenes a group of Darwell residents and sets out to clean up the estate, which has been falling to rack and ruin the past few years. But the Clean Up Darwell group are abused; his daughter is attacked; and finally, one of the committee members disappears. Ian discovers to his cost that someone – or something – doesn’t want him to clean up Darwell. But why?

Episode 3 – Spanish Ladies
By Paul Magrs; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 21, 2013
Phil doesn’t need a girlfriend, his overbearing Mummy tells him. His Mummy will look after him forever. She steams open his post, reads his diary and checks under his bed for mucky magazines. Suspecting that her shy, middle-aged son is seeing a lady, she employs her friend Renee from Friday night bingo to spy on him. But when Mummy discovers that it’s Renee herself who is carrying on with her darling boy, she exacts a terrible revenge…

In the annals of cinema, Hammer Film Productions are a legend, most famous for producing a string of classic horror movies from the mid ’50s until the late ’70s. They brought iconic characters like Professor Quatermass, Dracula, Baron Frankenstein and the Mummy to the screen and made Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee stars.

Hammer ceased film production in 1976 and after a couple of well remembered anthology TV series in the early ’80s – Hammer House of Horror (1980) and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984), the studio closed its doors. But much like their famous horror creations, they didn’t stay dead. Hammer came back from the grave in the 21st century with a string of new movies – Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011), Wakewood (2011) and the box office smash The Woman In Black (2012).

However the reborn Hammer hasn’t confined itself to making fine movies – in 2011 they launched a publishing arm, releasing new books by big names such as Jeanette Winterson and Tim Lebbon, and a series of novels that re-imagine their classic movies. Furthermore in January this year Hammer took to the stage with a new play adapting Henry James’ classic ghost story The Turn Of The Screw opening in the famous Almeida Theatre in London.

And now the legendary house of horrors is moving into the world of audio drama with the launch of Hammer Chillers, a series of 30 minute plays which are to be released as weekly downloads from the 7th June, with a complete series CD coming on July 26th. Much like their book imprint, Hammer have gathered together a fine roster for this foray into sonic terror, with established genre writers penning the scripts and plenty of familiar names from British TV and film in the casts.

First out of the gate is The Box (released 7th June) starring Con O’Neill, Alex Lowe and Zoe Lister. The titular device resides at the Wainfleet Maritime College and is used in training courses to simulate an underwater helicopter escape. However this routine exercise is regularly being failed by experienced personnel, leading course instructor Sean (Con O’Neil) to suspect that all is not right within the Box.

Scripted by accomplished novelist and screen writer Stephen Gallagher, The Box presents us with an eerie little mystery that pays off with a rather neat twist-in-the-tail. With a strong cast, excellent production values, and a simple but strong storyline, this is a wonderfully chilling opener for the series. It sets the bar high from the outset and rightly so to build audience loyalty with the rest of the series.

However as good as The Box is, it is comparative gentle compared to the following episodes. The second episode is The Fixation, written by Mark Morris, an author who has been turning out good solid horror novels that are highly entertaining for a good few years now. And The Fixation is quintessential terror Morris-style, taking us to a small English town where something isn’t quite right. Ian Hibbert is a somewhat fussy fellow who becomes increasingly irritated by the litter and trash that is cluttering his community, and vows to clean up his local area. However there is a more sinister reason for the ever growing piles of rubbish accumulating in Darnell than the general decline of society that Hibbert is so worried about.

Like much of Morris’s work, The Fixation reworks classic horror tropes into a contemporary English setting, creating intriguing and imaginative tales that reflect current society. This episode features some wonderful character work, with comic actor Miles Jupp delivering a great performance as the often petty Hibbert. However while Hibbert is in many ways a satire of an irritatingly over-zealous do-gooder, the strength of Morris’ script and Jupp’s performance, is that he and his family will have your sympathy as the horrors unfold. The Fixation is an excellent small town horror tale, chiming nicely with social issues we can relate to, but also using the medium of sound to fine creepy effect.

The third episode comes from Paul Magrs – another very well established author who’s written a very diverse range of books ranging from literary novels to mysteries to Doctor Who fiction. And Mr Magrs is no stranger to audio drama either having scripted several radio plays for the BBC and numerous Doctor Who audio adventures for Big Finish. And his past experience serves him well here in Spanish Ladies. It’s the twisted tale of an overbearing Mummy and her grown-up son Phil who isn’t so much still tied to her apron strings as positively ensnared in them.

For the most part, it plays out like an Alan Bennett piece, all sharply observed but slightly comic dialogue, but when the truly horrible Mummy, played to perfection by Jacqueline King, discovered that not so young Phil has found some romance, you know things are going to take a turn for the worse. Now the magic of good audio drama is painting pictures with words and sounds, and the medium is used to brilliantly hideous effect in Spanish Ladies. It’s pure horror dripping out the speakers!

Overall, it’s fair to say that Hammer Chillers certainly hit the mark and the production company Bafflegab have excelled themselves. They’ve delivered some top notch radio horror here. And aside from the quality scripts and performances, where this series really excels is the fact that they use the medium of sound so well in the stories, truly and fully embracing the audio medium to deliver the chills. Speaking as some one whose listened to a lot of horror radio past and present, with these first three episodes Hammer Chillers are well on the way to establishing themselves as a modern classic of audio horror.

Posted by Mr. Jim Moon

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