From Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski come…

SFFaudio News

CBC Radio OneFrom Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski comes a new limited series The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al to be broadcast on CBC Radio One. Straczynski, says that it is an 80-minute audio drama (made up of 20 five minute episodes) and will be produced and co-directed in Toronto by himself. He describes it as “comedy/action, very noir, with a supernatural bent.” This sounds great to me I’m a big fan of his short lived anthology series City Of Dreams produced for Seeing Ear Theater. The series is scheduled to air in 5 five-minute segments weekdays for four weeks, with half hour recaps on the weekend (presumably collecting that week’s broadcasts). The scripts have been completed so casting and production are sure to start soon. Straczynski suggests it will be syndicated worldwide, “to the BBC and elsewhere,” and he assures us it will be released on CD “down the road”. We’ll let you know when we know more about airdates.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Dead Until Dark By Charlaine Harris

SFFaudio Review

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark
By Charlaine Harris; Read by Christine Marshall & William Dufris
1 MP3-CD – 10 Hours 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390018
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Mystery / Romance / Vampires / Telepathy /

Roadhouse waitress Sookie Stackhouse has a problem: she can read minds. And who wants to go on a date with a guy when you can’t get near him without seeing the images of yourself flitting through his head. It was just easier to stay home and watch TV. Until the night she got a bottle of beer for a new customer and found one man whose mind was a blank wall to her. What difference did it make that he was a vampire?

Dead Until Dark is the first book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mystery series.

Told in the first person through our viewpoint character Sookie Stackhouse, we get a slice of life story small town southern USA. The only difference is that’s part horror, part fantasy and part mystery. The horror element comes in with the vampires.

Sookie, our southern belle viewpoint character, lives in a pretty normal world with her grandmother in an old house. She waitresses at the local bar. There are just a few things that make Sookie different from thousands of real life women like her. She’s “disabled” with telepathy and has been since childhood. Oh and vampires not only exist but are quite common. You see, vampires, in this otherwise normal world have ‘come out of the coffin’ as it were, and thanks to new federal legislation are to be treated as regular human people with rights and responsibilities under the law. It’s now illegal to kill vampires, either by staking them or draining them for their healing blood. And of course they’re not allowed to attack humans and this is all possible thanks to the new artificial blood products designed to keep them alive. But not everything is in equilibrium in this world, a few human “fangbangers” slavishly worship the vampires and some vampires want to keep their old status and be outlaws. So when “Bill,” a civil war veteran, returns to his home town and wanders in to Sookie’s bar the community isn’t exactly ecstatic – but they figure if he’s willing to “mainstream” they’ll let him be, for now. But soon old family feuds and carpetbagger Vampires stir up trouble for Bill and Sookie both. And when poor young women all over town end up murdered all eyes turn to the vampires and those who sleep with them.

I really enjoyed this novel; Charlaine Harris made a brilliant decision to tell this story first person through Sookie’s eyes. Sookie is a bright, fun character who loves the life she leads – even if she is a little lonely. Every other character in the book stands up too. The mystery elements start slowly and the plot creeps up on you. What I liked best is the originality, vampires and telepaths are nothing new, but the way Harris puts it all together is fresh and fun. I don’t know if I’d continue enjoying the characters in their further adventures, but I enjoyed the heck out of them in this one. I should also mention there is one historical celebrity, never mentioned by name, who turns up in a minor role, that performance alone made the novel worthwhile. It’s hilarious. One heck of a lot of the enjoyment came from the masterful performances by lead reader Christine Marshall. Her southern belle voice is so just much fun, she truly inhabits the role like no other reader I could imagine. But she didn’t do it all alone; she’s assisted by veteran reader, the always enjoyable William Dufris. Dufris shows an even broader range than I’ve ever heard from him before. You’d swear there were half a dozen male actors reading his lines. Sound quality is as good as anything I’ve heard on mp3, this is high bit-rate easy access fun listening in a slick package. Recording levels are high and Paperback Digital has their own introductory music. Track spacing is also good. Together they do an absolutely marvelous job in performing Harris’s sparkling prose. I’d venture to say this is the best novel yet from newly minted audiobook publisher Paperback Digital.

Paperback Digital hired artist Jason B. Parker to do the cover art for each of their novel releases. When I first saw them I wasn’t too impressed with Parker’s covers, but the more I see the more I like them. Either he’s getting better or my tastes are changing! I’ve here reviewed the mp3-cd version this is audiobook, it is also available via download from both Fictionwise.com and the Paperback Digital website. Hardcopies (mp3-cds) come in DVD style cases with insert paper covers, CD-Roms come with disc art. Downloads are slightly less expensive but nearly as easy to load onto an mp3 player. A must listen for any fantasy fan who’s happy to have a little romance thrown in.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Death Match By Lincoln Child

SFF Audio Review

Death Match by Lincoln ChildDeath Match
By Lincoln Child; Read by Barrett Whitener
10 Cassettes – Approx 15 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0786128119
Themes: / Science Fiction / Technothriller / Mystery / Computers / Artificial Intelligence / Love /

What was it, exactly, she found so intimidating about the Thorpes? The fact they didn’t seem to need her friendship? They were well educated, but Maureen had her own cum laude degree in English. They had lots of money, but so did half the neighborhood. Maybe it was how perfect they seemed together, how ideally suited to each other. It was almost uncanny. That one time they’d come over, Maureen had noticed how they unconsciously held hands; how they frequently completed each other’s sentences; how they’d shared countless glances that, though brief, seemed pregnant with meaning. “Disgustingly happy” was how Maureen’s husband termed them, but Maureen didn’t think it disgusting at all. In fact, she’d found herself feeling envious.

From the title you might guess that Death Match is a novel set in the world of first person shooter computer games, and while that isn’t a bad idea in itself, this one has a premise even more unusual. Frankly, I’m amazed that no one else came up with this tale before now. It is so fundamental a science fiction idea – and so obviously possible in the near future, if not now – that it should have been explored in science fiction long before this. The premise goes something like… “What if you could use advanced computer technology and deep psychological testing to create a computer avatar of your own psyche – and then, using high speed data matching, run millions of pair bonding scenarios with other people’s avatars?” The purpose is to find the perfect match for a REAL life together. Once the two avatars are matched, each person associated with that avatar is given each other’s real life phone number and the knowledge that they are already perfectly matched! But this core idea isn’t on center stage, instead this is a mystery novel that reads like a technothriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton’s recent novels.

Christopher Lash, an ex-FBI forensic psychologist is hired by Eden Incorporated, the worlds premier couple matching service, to solve a mysterious double suicide of one of the company’s customers, the first “supercouple” created by avatar matching. To do the job properly Lash is familiarized with Eden’s patented software, going through the process of avatar creation himself, and then begins his “psychological autopsy” of the couple, which involves investigating what could have caused the world’s happiest couple to kill themselves. Just as his investigation gets into full swing – another couple dies! This can only mean that either something is wrong with Eden’s process or someone is murdering the world’s happiest people!

A few years ago I realized that eventually computer technology will solve a big pile of interesting problems. For instance, isn’t it a shame that Sean Connery couldn’t have done all of the James Bond films? Well, with computer technology it will be possible…. current celebrities and dead ones too will someday be reanimated, and recast in new movies. Imagine Humphrey Bogart paired with Harrison Ford for The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre: The Next Generation(hey it might be good). We’re practically ready to do it with their physical images now, the big hurdle is voice mimicry – computer software is still very primitive when it comes to recreating someone’s voice. But mark my words it’ll happen… But I’d never thought of Lincoln Child’s use for computer technology, though it’s an obvious one, and certainly one that is starting to be developed. Websites like www.hotornot.com are using both physical images and keywords to match couples. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the traditional matchmakers of old – and willy-nilly dating (like we have now) are going to be subsumed by computer matches that will find the best possible spouse given our personalities?

The idea of finding that special someone you were always destined to marry is alluring. Myself, Normally I’m someone who believes that the idea of finding your “one and only” is pure fantasy. Just given the sheer numbers of people we’ll never meet during our lifetimes it clearly can’t be that there is only one special someone in the world for everyone. But on the other hand Lincoln Child’s idea here might make that dream a reality. Because, not only does it allow you to select from every person alive, it also runs a lifetime’s worth of lives with each and every possible match in order to find the best match among all good matches. It truly would be heaven, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately we are not given the metaphysical run down on the consequences to this proposition, Lincoln Child’s novel isn’t deep, instead it is merely summer beach reading and ultimately unthoughtful. Myself I’d have much preferred a few fewer plot turns, I figured out whodunit quite early. An idea this good really deserves a truckload of metaphysical explorations: Whatever happened to the idea that marriage is about making an imperfect fit, fit anyway? Now that you mention it what makes people attracted to each other? What is love anyway? And hey, if we can brain map an avatar and run complete life scenarios using artificial intelligence in a computer do we have the right to delete that avatar? If computer programs can run our lives better than we can, what do we do with our time? Yikes! That last one has some truly scary implications.

Now perhaps I’m being to hard on this novel, its has some reasonably interesting discussions about artificial intelligence in it, it all makes sense, there are no leaps of logic and the characters, while a little flat, aren’t altogether unlikable. Child has obviously done some research and the including of such nuggets of detail are good, but I guess I just needed more fire and more thinking. The narrator, Barrett Whitener, does a nice job with the voices, but the essentially humorless nature of the novel doesn’t play to his strengths. Blackstone has used a slight variation on the original hardcover’s cover art, and as plain as it seems, that’s it there pictured above, it is an improvement over the bland layout used in the paper version. This is only Lincoln Child’s second novel written without his writing partner Douglas Preston. Together they wrote the novel The Relic, which was adapted into a decent horror movie of the same name. I can easily see Death Match being made into a TV movie, but honestly I don’t think it’d be one I’d set the VCR to record. Hopefully Child’s third solo novel will concentrate its focus on the science fiction elements rather than the technothriller/mainstream that he went for with this one.

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBC RADIO ONE’s – Between The Covers program will …

SFFaudio Online Audio

CBC Radio OneCBC RADIO ONE’s – Between The Covers program will be broadcasting the award winning author Kenneth Oppel’s latest novel “Airborn” (a wild adventure with some fantastic twists. AIRBORN is set in an alternate past, where air travel has followed the route of giant dirigibles rather than jet planes. The cabin boy of a luxury airship discovers a remarkable secret in the clouds high above the earth and must find a way to keep it – and his ship – out of the hands of unscrupulous men).

Read by Andrew Hachey.

This program will air Weekdays at 2:30pm and 10:40pm starting Wed. Nov. 17 2004 and concluding Fri. Dec.10 2004.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Nazi Eyes On Canada Produced by J. Frank Willis

Nazi Eyes on CanadaNazi Eyes On Canada
Produced by J. Frank Willis; Performed by a FULL CAST
2 Cassettes – Approx 2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Scenario Productions
Published: 2000
ISBN: 1894003136
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alternate History / World War II / Propaganda /

1942. From the West, from the East, the war draws near to Canadian shores. Canada is saying goodbye to her sons who are off to serve in all parts of the world. Taxes, the restrictions on unessential services, and the re-allocation of man power bring the war into the life of every Canadian. But Canadians are still living in relative luxury, and they still hold fast to the greatest of blessings – freedom. “Nazi Eyes on Canada” shows how all this would have changed in the Nazi lust for power on the North American continent had been fulfilled.

Nazi Eyes On Canada was a dramatized radio series produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC Radio) during Canada’s fourth year in World War II. Its purpose was not so much to entertain as to sell war bonds, the rationale being ‘if you buy war bonds you’ll prevent the Axis powers from winning the war as depicted in these dramatizations’. The series was inspired by a German publication (contemporary to the time) written by a Nazi spy who used the alias “Colin Ross”. Ross traveled throughout Canada in the 1930s assessing the military and industrial capacity of Canada for a Nazi think tank. The purpose was to investigate first-hand the strategic requirements for an eventual North American invasion. Based on Ross’ reports, Nazi Eyes On Canada depicts exactly what such a Nazi occupation by the Third Reich would mean for the average Canadian. Broadcast over five weeks, each week looked at a particular province under the heel of the fascist jackboot: Episode 1: Ontario, Episode 2: Alberta, Episode 3: New Brunswick, Episode 4: British Columbia and Episode 5: Saskatchewan. Scenario Productions has also included a speech by then Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King which serves as an introduction to the series.

This is one of the most unusual radio drama series I’ve ever heard. It puts big Hollywood stars, CBC staffers, and regular citizens together for each episode. CBC announcer Lorne Greene works with the likes of Helen Hayes, Quentin Reynolds, Vincent Price and Orson Welles! One factoid not mentioned in the liner notes of Scenario Productions’ two cassette version is that Orson Welles showed up late to the live broadcast of episode five. Welles had been at the rehearsal but at airtime he was nowhere to be found, so producer J. Frank Willis had to imitate Welles until he showed up during the third scene – something to listen for.

I found the series on the whole deeply disturbing. It was effectively scary and fascinating at the same time. But I have many reservations about it. Nazi Eyes On Canada is poorly written, jingoistic and commercial. The real life Canadian citizens (who get tell us their responses to the dramatization of their lives under Nazi occupation) read their lines woodenly. Much repetition is made with regards to the source material – to be expected I guess as they were originally broadcast a week apart. But the worst part of the experience was the blatant racism displayed during Episode 4. That episode is set in Vancouver, which in Colin Ross’ book would be given to Germany’s Axis ally the Empire of Japan, along with all lands west of the rocky mountains. So during Episode 4 we are invited to visit Vancouver under Imperial Japanese occupation. Unlike the Nazis who though are portrayed as thoroughly evil, the Japanese are painted evil by nature and are implied to be ‘a deceptive yellow race’. Such racist filth absolutely disgusted me.

But it wasn’t just this broadcast. During the time of the live airing of Nazi Eyes On Canada in 1942, widespread anti-Japanese sentiment in British Columbia led to internment of all Japanese males between the ages of 14 and 45. In 1942 Canada set up eight internment camps in the interior of British Columbia where over a nine month period 22,000 innocent Canadian Japanese were locked up for racist reasons. Make no mistake; it was racism pure and undiluted. German Canadians were not subjected to the same treatment.

So what exactly makes this science fiction?

Well for one thing Philip K. Dick’s excellent The Man in the High Castle uses the exact same premise and if that isn’t science fiction my name is J.R.R. Tolkien. The projection into the future as depicted in Nazi Eyes On Canada is an earmark of SF too. But most importantly this vintage radio drama series does what the greatest works of science fiction do; preventing the future. It’s a good thing so many Canadians bought war bonds, because expansionist fascism was defeated in no small part because of it. It is just too bad we didn’t have more science fiction dealing with racism before the Second World War. Science fiction isn’t a cure-all, but it is the vaccination against future horrors we can foresee. But you have to hear its message to be protected.

So keep listening and never forget.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Guy Gavriel Kay interview

OnlineAudio

http://www.brightweavings.com/ggkswords/cbc.htm”>HERE‘s an interesting 12 minute interview from March 2000 with fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay -the link is to a section of Kay’s offical website, but the interview was originally recorded for CBC Radio One. Topics covered in the interview include the blurring of boundaries between mainstream and fantasy fiction, and adapting novels into film.

Posted by Jesse Willis