CBC Radio One’s pop culture media show Definitely …

SFFaudio Online Audio

CBC Radio One‘s pop culture media show Definitely Not the Opera has just done a delightful and lighthearted interview with Robert J. Sawyer. Here’s the link: DNTO Oct 18th 2003.

And

CBC Radio One‘s science program Quirks & Quarks has also archived a panel discussion of interest, it was first broadcast March 9, 2002 and is called First Contact: What If E.T. Calls US?

Here are the links:

| Listen to MP3 of Part 1 | Listen to MP3 of Part 2 |

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Alien Voices: The Invisible Man

Science Fiction Audio Drama - Alien Voices The Invisible ManAlien Voices: The Invisible Man
By H.G. Wells; Performed by John de Lancie, Leonard Nimoy and a full cast
2 Cassettes or 2 CDs – Approx. 114 minutes [UNABRIDGED DRAMATIZATION]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 067158104X (Cassette); 0671581058 (CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Invisibility / Fantasy / Star Trek / Classic / Philosophy /

One of Science Fiction’s seminal works is The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. It’s premise is intriguing. What would it be like to be hidden from view? At first, there would be the advantage of watching others without being noticed. But, what would you do when the novelty wore off and the invisibility didn’t? Would you become a prisoner of your own freedom? Or perhaps a madman bent on enslaving others?The novel was written in 1897 when the world believed that science could cure all ills, but as we will glean from the story of The Invisible Man, the achievements of the human mind are worthless without a human soul to guide them. Come with us now, as Alien Voices explores the tragic life of a young scientist who seemed to be on the threshold of a brilliant future and something quite unexpected happens.

This loose adaptation of H.G. WellsThe Invisible Man is quite…fascinating. It has been adapted in the style of an old time radio drama, the majority of the plot is there, but it has been compressed and massaged to fit the actors and sensibilities of the Alien Voices team. Alien Voices formed in 1996 to create multi-media works of science fiction and fantasy, drawing upon the copyright expired classics and the languishing resources of the Star Trek alumni. Its three founding members are actor/director Leonard Nimoy, actor/director/writer John de Lancie, and writer/producer Nat Segaloff. de Lancie and Nimoy headline the dramas, in this case playing the title character and his university professor respectively. The rest of the cast is rounded out by: Susan Bay, Richard Doyle, Robert Ellenstein, Jerry Hardin, Marnie Mosiman, Kate Mulgrew, Ethan Phillips, Dwight Schultz and Nana Visitor.

This production is very good, the sound effects, voice talent and music are all very well done. The script is quite different from the original novel, but those modifications are very well done. The packaging is merely adequate, a traditional cd jewel case, a cardboard box and some quickie photoshop art. But most conspicuous by its absence is a cast and character list. The cast is named at the end of the program, but we are never told which actor is playing which character. It is easy to tell Ethan Phillips and Nana Visitor, but its hard to identify many of the others. Of the other actors the only one who sounded at all familiar was one who sounded like Mark Twain. A little investigation, and I determined that it was likely Jerry Hardin who played Twain in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s two part episode Time’s Arrow!

The story itself has been modified and compressed, most of the original Wells’ version of The Invisible Man remains in this production. H.G. Wells is best remembered for The War Of The Worlds, which itself was adapted very early on by Mercury Theater and Orson Welles. That adaptation and a later film version had a  lasting impact upon popular culture, making the idea of “alien invasion” almost synonymous science fiction, at least to the majority who don’t read it. But science fiction isn’t always about the future, or about space travel, or aliens invading the Earth. Sometimes it is subtler, and in the case of The Invisible Man, it proves itself deeply rooted in philosophy.

Those who examine science fiction closely will see a profound connection between science and philosophy. In the case of The Invisible Man, Wells started to explore what would be necessary for invisibility to work, (for it to be rooted in science and not merely magic), AND to explore the consequences of invisibility actually working. But Wells himself was drawing upon resources of an even earlier time. In the philosopher Plato’s famous book The Republic (itself a work of proto-science fiction), we are introduced to Gyges, a shepherd who finds a magic ring which can turn him invisible. Gyges soon discovers that he can act unjustly without anyone knowing. For Plato this was a story to make us think about what being just and injust really is. For Wells and Alien Voices it is more about telling a good story. But a little philosophy does manage to sneak into the plot; For the Invisible Man, invisibility is power, and possessing that power he can do a great many things, like get revenge. But revenge is hindered by a few stumbling blocks, first he has to go out naked, his clothing isn’t invisible so he can’t wear it. He can’t eat or smoke or walk in dusty areas, all of those things make him visible. Also he can’t carry anything, so if he steals money (he can’t earn it), it appears to float about of its own accord, making people chase after him! It is almost as bad as king Midas’s dilemma, like Midas, The Invisible Man got his wish but it isn’t quite working out for him. Dust and moisture make his body visible in a ghostly way. His footprints appear in the dirt and snow. Oh yes and the small matter that the accumulated effect of these things has driven him to the edge of madness.

I liked the story, but I was constantly reminded of one glaring problem not mentioned in production. Wouldn’t an invisible man also be blind? If his corneas are absolutely transparent and his retinas are absolutely transparent, how would light be turned into mental images? The answer…. they wouldn’t be! An invisible man would be blind! For us to see the world a fraction of the light that hits our retina must be absorbed into our rods and cones, our corneas must focus the light. This issue made the whole story so implausible, in my mind it made me question whether this was science fiction at all! Thankfully I got over it. And have come to realize that even if it is flawed by this oversight, at least it demonstrates that philosophical fiction like all good science fiction is able to make us think out problems that don’t seem obvious at first. Who’d have thought invisibility would require blindness? Not me, at least not before listening to Alien Voices: The Invisible Man.

Airing on BBC7’s wonderful program The 7th Dim…

SFFaudio Online Audio

Airing on BBC7‘s wonderful program The 7th Dimension:

The Fall Of The House Of Usher

[Episode 1 of 2, rptd at midnight]

By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Sean Barratt

STREAMING AUDIO – Approx. 30 Minutes – Stereo – [UNABRIDGED]

Airs: Thu 25 Sep, 18:00 – 18:30 GMT, (Repeats Friday, 26 Sep, 00:00 – 00:30 GMT)

Poe’s chilling short story about a family’s descent into madness.

The Fall Of The House Of Usher

[Episode 2 of 2, rptd at midnight]

By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Sean Barratt

STREAMING AUDIO – Approx. 30 Minutes – Stereo – [UNABRIDGED]

Airs: Fri 26 Sep, 18:00 – 18:30 GMT, (Repeats Sat 27 Sep 00:00 – 00:30GMT)

Poe’s chilling short story about a family’s descent into madness.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Andromeda Strain by Michael CrichtonThe Andromeda Strain
By Michael Crichton; Read by Chris Noth
2 Cassettes – 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 1993
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Disease / Disaster / Scientist / Medical /

A top secret research satellite falls to Earth near a small town in Arizona. Hours later a recovery team discovers that something  has killed off the town’s entire population except for an old man and a new-born baby, statistically the most likely age groups to succumb to any normal disease. In anticipation of such an event a team of microbiologists assembles in a top-secret, underground laboratory in the Nevada desert. This laboratory was designed to handle an accidental introduction of virulent organisms into Earth’s atmosphere and ecological systems. The team begins to study the survivors and the “toxic” satellite and discovers several black/green patches of deadly bacteria that they have code-named: The Andromeda Strain.

First Published in 1969, The Andromeda Strain is one of Crichton’s best science fiction tales and a terrific scientific mystery story! As the microbiology team races against the clock, trying to figure out the toxic effect of the alien infection, the US government contemplates a nuclear cauterization of the infected crash site. But when The Andromeda Strain mutates it begins to eat through plastic lab suits and rubber gaskets protecting the scientists and the population from escaping toxins. Its a real thriller of a story, and was successfully turned into a great feature film directed by Crichton himself.

This fine novel is only available as an abridgement, and this is unfortunate. The missing portions actually improve the novel to a very large degree because the novel is written in the style of a non-fiction report of events. The original text includes, images, citations, timelines and references, their absence is a disservice to the remaining story. Chris Noth, most famous for his role on the NBC television series Law And Order, reads with a rich and compelling voice. But Noth does merely a satisfactory reading, he makes good attempts with the scientific jargon replete throughout the novel, but they are often mispronounced. Added to this is his lack of range for the voices. Given more audiobook experience Noth will probably become a good reader, in this audiobook however, his performance is merely satisfactory. All in all well worth a listen, but I sincerely hope an unabridged edition is released.

Review of Science Fiction: The Literature of the Technological Imagination by Eric S. Rabkin

Audio Lectures Review

Non-fiction - Science Fiction: The Literature of the Technological Imagination by Eric RabkinScience Fiction: The Literature of the Technological Imagination
By Eric S. Rabkin; Read by Eric S. Rabkin
8 cassettes – 4 hours (8 half-hour lectures) [LECTURES]
Publisher: The Teaching Company
Published: 1999
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Science Fiction / Pulp / Hard SF / Cyberpunk / Utopia / Dystopia /

This one is a little different than our usual fiction reviews. Science Fiction: The Literature of the Technological Imagination is a non-fiction series of lectures about the origins, history, and influence of science fiction. Think of it as Science Fiction 101 and you’ll get the idea. As a course it fulfills the promise of its title, breaking down the origins and the meanings within in science fiction literature. Professor Rabkin is a talented lecturer. Though obviously scripted, his naturalistic lectures are thoroughly engaging. The lectures explore the history of science fiction back to its origins in Plato’s Republic, then steadily marches all the way to William Gibson’s Neuromancer. These lectures offer genuinely interesting insight, I learned something interesting in each and every lecture! Rabkin discusses the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, examines the pulp phenomena of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and gives examples of what makes hard SF “hard”. He looks at the social, technological, and literary forces that influenced the genre’s authors, and in doing so tells an entertaining story – the story of science fiction! In short, it’s a fascinating listen. I just wish that Rabkin would offer Science Fiction 201 next semester! Each half hour lecture could have easily been expanded into 2 hours.

The lectures are titled:

Lecture 1: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Emergence of Science Fiction
Lecture 2: Jules Verne and the Popular Passion for Science
Lecture 3: H.G. Wells and Science Fiction Parables of Social Criticism
Lecture 4: Pulp Culture, World War II, and the Ascendancy of American Science Fiction
Lecture 5: And the Winner Is…Robert A. Heinlein
Lecture 6: Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, and the Expansion of Science Fiction
Lecture 7: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Modern Science Fiction Film
Lecture 8: New Wave, Cyberpunk, and Our Science Fiction World

BBC Radio is probably most famous in Science Ficti…

BBC Radio is probably most famous in Science Fiction and Fantasy circles for its production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. But SF&F audio fans outside the U.K. will be pleased to discover that the BBC is available online through streaming media! You’ll need a RealPlayer Plug-in or a Windows Media Player Plug-in to listen. BBC Radio 7 is your best station, it broadcasts 2 hours of science fiction and fantasy every day in two time slots entitled “The 7th Dimension“. Currently being broadcast are BBC produced programs like Earthsearch, Blake’s 7 and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

Here’s that link:

Other BBC Radio stations do occasional Science Fiction and Fantasy broadcasts as well. Most notably among these infrequent broadcasts would be BBC 4. Here is a link:

Finally, those who remember Doctor Who from television will be excited to learn that the BBC has started to produce some Doctor Who Audio adventures.

Here are the links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/realtime/index.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/shada/

Another good source for fans of public radio around the world is here: http://www.publicradiofan.com/.

Posted by Jesse Willis