Review of Hunting For Robin Hood by Seth Feldman

Fantasy Audiobooks - Robin HoodHunting For Robin Hood
By Seth Feldman; with readings by Penelope Reed Doob
and Barry MacGregor
1 CD – Approx 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: CBC AUDIO Published: 2003
ISBN: 0660189143
Themes: / Non-Fiction / History / Mythology / Fantasy / Magic / England /

“Ballads, plays and movies tell of Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. But did he really exist? Seth Feldman cavorts with a merry band of scholars searching for the still elusive outlaw.”

Hunting For Robin Hood was first produced for broadcast on CBC Radio’s long running Ideas program. Ideas has been the standard-bearer for the intellectual and scholarly radio programming for decades. One would be hard pressed in Canada, or anywhere else in the English speaking world to find a consistently more enlightening program presenting scholarly lectures and documentaries in the fields of sociology, culture, arts, geopolitics, history, biography, science, technology or the humanities in a more accessible or entertaining way. If Ideas hasn’t covered it at some point, it probably doesn’t matter. With the wide commercial release of this and other CBC Audio CDs and cassettes the ephemeral radio broadcasts are preserved, marking the beginning of some of the very best audio non-fiction programs previously available only through costly direct order from the CBC. I’ve been an avid listener to Ideas since the 1980s. The program runs weeknights between 9PM and 10PM throughout most of Canada.

Hunting For Robin Hood interviews several Robin Hood scholars who trace the origins of the popular English hero. They touch on his roots in the “Green Man” mythology, something which ties Robin Hood to the fantasy realm, why he’s such a popular hero, his outlaw mystique, and even his ties to Morris dancing! Other surprising revelations include Maid Marian’s roots as a fertility goddess and the scattered origins of the rogues’ gallery of Robin Hood villains. Production values and sound quality are of course absolutely top notch, and the CD comes in an attractive DVD style Amaray case. Highly recommended to Robin Hood fans.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Interview with Allan Kaster May 20th 2005 Here’s …

SFFaudio Interview

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Allan Kaster Interview - InfinivoxInterview with Allan Kaster
May 20th 2005

Here’s an exclusive interview with the creative mind behind Infinivox. Allan Kaster explains how his small press study guide company Audiotext has managed to produce so many GREAT SCIENCE FICTION STORIES that really and truly are great!

JESSE: When I first googled “Allan Kaster” I didn’t come up with much beyond Audiotext and Infinivox links – except for one mention of you attending a Science Fiction convention held in Texas. You also have eBay listings of the Infinivox titles, but does that small google footprint mean are you not fully on the net? Or are you just a private person?

ALLAN: I’m not really net savvy so I’m not certain what you mean by not fully on the net. When it comes to the net, I feel rather like a caveman practicing dentistry on his best friend. It’s kind of messy and always painful. However, I do know that Audiotext has a web site at http://www.audiotexttapes.net. AudioText is incorporated but might best be classified as a small or independent “press”.

JESSE: Hah! I think what I meant by ‘not fully on the net’ was it is hard to find out much about you online. Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, your interests?

Science Fiction Audiobooks - A Walk in the Sun by Geoffrey LandisALLAN: I’m a baseball-loving, guitar-playing, science fiction fan that happens to be a native Texan that can’t get enough Mexican food. I’m fortunate to have a loving wife and two teenage kids. By training, I’m an anaerobic microbiologist.

JESSE: Neat! Have you read Greg Bear’s Blood Music? Not being a microbiologist myself I don’t know how implausible it was but I was blown away by both the novel and the short story.

ALLAN: I’ve read the short story but not the novel. The short story is a must-read classic.

JESSE: I agree with you. Dove audio did a nice recording of the short story and Recorded Books did a unabridged recording of the novel. I’m fond of both.

ALLAN: About Blood Music, it’s hard for me to visualize intelligence in bacteria as they basically have a life span of 20 minutes. They’re also pretty small … much smaller than a flash drive. But nanotechnology is going to change a lot of things.

JESSE: No doubt. No Doubt… I was telling Scott, my partner here at SFFAUDIO, that if I was forced to pick just one small audiobook publisher from which I would listen to audiobooks I would pick Infinivox. There just isn’t a bad title in your catalogue and there are several I’d classify as the absolute top. How did you come to choose the different authors and stories?

ALLAN: Thank you for your very kind comments. The credit belongs to the studio engineers and actors that create these productions and the authors that pen the stories. While I try to get a mix of authors that represent the mix of viewpoints and styles available in science fiction, I tend to choose stories rather than authors. While there’s no set formula, I select stories that have resonated with me in some fashion after reading them. A story that made me say, “WOW,” or made me feel good inside.

JESSE: They all pretty much strike me the same way – these arent just a random cross section of Science Fiction stories… Do you listen to audiobooks or do you just make them? What do you like? Who do you like? Narrators? Authors? Particular audiobooks? Which format (Mp3, CD, cassette)?

ALLAN: I listen to poetry, business, science, and mainstream fiction and nonfiction audiobooks, as well as science fiction whenever possible. Format isn’t a big issue for me but I probably lean toward the CD. I’m really fond of some of the sci-fi audiobooks I happened to find many years ago when I first started to listen to them. Sunset’s Productions “Chronicles of Amber” series (Roger Zelazny narrating) is an awesome set of audiobooks. Dercum Audio’s short fiction sci-fi titles are wonderful. I really like their Murray Leinster and Poul Anderson collections. Durkin Hayes Publishing came out with a Paperback Audio series that included sci-fi titles written by Clifford Simak, Roger Zelazny, Ray Bradbury, and Pat Murphy that are nice. At one time Brilliance Corporation had an interesting short fiction series called Stellar Audio with stories by the likes of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg, and Frederick Pohl. And I like the HG Wells titles that Commuter’s Library has produced.

JESSE:
You’ve got excellent taste sir! You’ve picked all the best publishers of short science fiction stories in my humble opinion. And Sunset Productions’ Zelazny titles are probably the most sought after fantasy audiobooks in existence! I’m going to have to shell out for one some day!

ALLAN: Do you have any idea what became of Sunset Productions or Dercum Audio?

JESSE: Scott knows at least a little more about Sunset
Productions than I do, but I do know that Americana Audiobooks has some of the rights and/or masters for the Zelazny titles, but what they release are all abridgements. Dercum Audio seems to have completely disappeared. I purchased a few titles from them in the mid 1990s. Perhaps they went with a whimper. Amazon.com shows a listing for one audiobook from them as current as March 2004 but I suspect that is a typographical error…. When did you come up with the idea of publishing the GREAT SCIENCE FICTION STORIES series?

ALLAN: Audiotext is primarily a science study guide publisher. Study guide sales are seasonal. So AudioText wanted to fill in the slow sales seasons with a line that was not so seasonal. I’ve been reading sci-fi since I was a kid and thought that a line of sci-fi titles could fit the bill. And so I was able to sell my partners on Infinivox.

JESSE: That makes sense. Tell me something about your narrators. Amy Bruce has this amazing emotional range, she’s truly gifted in being able to bring out the affective impact of a story to the listener. Pat Bottino, who reads among other things, Rammer by Larry Niven, is possibly my favorite – his narration has the funny little quaver – its very cool. Theo Moffet has a strong vocal presence, and is again someone I’ve never heard before – where did you get all these great narrators?

ALLAN: We’re fortunate that Houston has a vibrant theatrical community. That’s where I found Amy Bruce and Theo Moffet. They were both stage actors. Just before going into the studio, Amy would go through a peculiar body stretch and vocal routine that I’ve never seen any other actor do. Once she got behind the mic she was mostly definitely “in the zone.” The emotional punch Amy provides in “Cilia-of-Gold” makes it one of my favorite titles of ours. But to fully appreciate her talent listen to all the voices she performs in “The Shobies’ Story.” As for Theo, well, she most definitely had the voice, intonation, and attitude that a story like “Beggars in Spain” required. I think she pulled it off magnificently. I had heard Pat Bottino narrate a Larry Niven novel and thought he’d done an excellent job. So I sought him out originally to read only “Rammer.” He did such an incredible job with that title that I asked him to do a few others for us. “Under Siege” is probably my favorite by him.

JESSE:
Okay now I’m going to have to find that Larry Niven novel. What was it called?

ALLAN: It might have been The Integral Trees.

JESSE: Oh that’s right, I had entirely forgotten about that one. I’ll have to listen to it again. I’m loving the new CD reissues by the way – tell me a little about them – the sound is phenomenal! Have you considered MP3 CDs or MP3 downloads? Are the longer than 80 minute Infinivox audiobooks going to be issued on 2 CD sets? If so I’d like to place an order.

ALLAN: The CD re-issues have been along time in coming. We’re trying to catch up with the changes technology has brought about. I think CD downloads are definitely in our future but I couldn’t tell you when. Most of our titles less than 80 minutes are out on CD. We’re planning to cut out some of the intro and ending music to “Guest of Honor” and “Hollywood Kremlin” so that they’ll fit on a single CD. The titles that can’t be cut down to 80 minutes we’re hoping to re-issue as 2 CD sets by the end of the year.

JESSE: Infinivox does use a bit more music than almost any audiobook publisher I can think of – even a bit more maybe than say Dercum Audio (which had some great music as well). But it always seems to come in at the appropriate time and assist the storytelling. For example the the drumming used to suggest the passage of time in Connie Willis’ Cibola. As long as the cuts don’t effect the production too much I’m for it. The CD sound quality is truly awesome. I look forward to the rest being released!

ALLAN: We’ve just finished re-mastering Guest Of Honor on CD!!!

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Tales of Kirinyaga by Mike ResnickJESSE: Great! As soon as it’s ready for publication let me be the first customer. That’s one of my favorite stories from Infinivox.

JESSE: Was “Bwana (Tales of Kirinyaga #3) By Michael D. Resnick; Read Pat Bottino ISBN: 1884612296”, released? I saw it listed on Amazon.com. But I haven’t found a copy.

ALLAN: “Bwana” was never released.

JESSE: Any word as to when all the other stories in Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga series will come out? Is that still a possibility? What about “House of Bones” by Robert Silverberg”?

ALLAN: Our plans for the Kirinyaga series are on hiatus. I love this series. Most of Mike’s short fiction is simply brilliant. But I really need to get with Mike before picking up this series again. I’m just starting to look for a narrator for “House of Bones” and with a little luck Infinivox will be releasing this title before the start of summer.

JESSE: I look forward to it. Silverberg is a natural choice for you guys, he’s written some terrific short fiction, and some excellent novels. Have you heard George Guidall’s reading of A Hero Of The Empire? It is terrific!

ALLAN: I’ve read the entire ROMA ETERNA series but haven’t listened to the audio version of A Hero of the Empire yet. The whole series deserves to be on audio.

JESSE: For someone so prolific and often so good Silverberg is woefully underrepresetned on audio. A Hero Of
The Empire
is available as an audible.com exclusive by the way.

JESSE: Your audiobook company covers themes like Space Opera, Comedy, Time Travel, Biotechnology, Alternate History, Hard SF, and more. This is not typical, many small presses stick to just one author or one arena (like The Reader’s Chair and all the Lois McMaster Bujold titles). The only single unifying theme I can find with Infinivox is that they are all really good. What was your thinking on this? How did you pick the stories?

ALLAN: Science fiction is not just robot stories, or first contact stories, or time-travel stories, or hard science fiction. It’s all of the above and more. In order to name our series “Great Science Fiction Stories,” I felt that we had to choose stories that represented a cross section of the sub-genres in the field. And I hoped to choose stories that, rather than diminish with time, might actually grow in stature over the years.

JESSE:
I think they will. I’m a big fan of short fiction, short stories, novellas, novelettes. But again that isn’t the mainstream. How did you come to focus on stories of that length?

ALLAN: For the most part, I favor short fiction over novels. The best short fiction has a certain underlying lilt to it that most novels can’t hope to accomplish. Likewise, short fiction has an intensity and immediacy that’s difficult for most novels to match. And as a practical matter, I felt that it was necessary to get experience with short fiction before attempting longer works, both from a technological sense and in a marketing sense.

JESSE: So do you think you might do some short novels as well some day? Almost all my favorite novels are under 300 pages.

ALLAN: I can think of several novels I’d like to record. We’re just not ready now. But it’s something down the road.

JESSE: May that road be a short one.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Greatest Horror Stories of the 20th Century

Horror Audiobooks - The Greatest Horror StoriesThe Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century
Edited by Martin Greenberg; Read by Various Readers
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787117234
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Curses / Telepathy / Childhood / Demons /

“Featuring some of the masters of the genre, past and present, The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century are as remarkable for their literary value as for their scream factor. Whether you are a passionate horror lover or a devotee in the making, you will find much to entertain. Listen for screams as ancient and unspeakable evil meets the modern psyche.”

Judicious use of musical cues are the only enhancement to these horror stories. Twelve horrific short stories, to be sure, but are they truly the greatest of the 20th century? Read on, MacDuff….

“The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner
Read by Michael Gross
A creepy Lovecraftian tale that almost could have been written by H.P. Lovecraft himself. It was first published in Weird Tales’ March 1936 issue. A worthy addition to the list of The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century list and Michael Gross does a good job with it. And by the way, the R.O.U.S.’s probably don’t really exist.

“Calling Card” by Ramsey Campbell
Read by Juliet Mills
First published in 1982, Ramsey Campbell’s entry in this anthology is more confusing than scary. Juliet Mills is fine but she couldn’t help unravel what we’re supposed to be afraid of. Something about a nice old lady and her mailman delivering a 60-year-old Christmas card?

“Something Had To Be Done” by David Drake
Read by John Aprea
First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1975 issue, this is an excellent Vietnam War era is a freakshow of the ‘coming home in a bodybag story’. It combines the friendly fire and frag stories of that war with the accelerating fear of the supernatural – the tension builds until the closing moment – very similar in tone and quality to Robert R. McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. Reader John Aprea does good work with good material!

“The Viaduct” by Brian Lumley
Read by Roger Rees
“The Viaduct” is a Stephen King-ish tale without the supernatural element – two boys make an enemy of another and come to a sticky end. This is the longest tale in the collection, overly long in my estimation. I was amazed how little content this story has, especially for its length, none of the characters are sympathetic and by the end I was almost rooting for them all to be killed- just as long as it was done soon. Ineffectual because of its length and exploitative and I don’t mean that as an insult, it plays, if it plays at all, on fear without telling us anything about ourselves or anything else. On the other hand Roger Rees’ reading was just fine. “The Viaduct” is in my opinion not up to the standards of some of the stories in this collection.

“Smoke Ghost” by Fritz Leiber
Read by Beverly Garland
An early Fritz Leiber yarn, “Smoke Ghost” posits what a ghost from an urban industrial society would be like, as opposed rattling chains, old bed sheets and creaky haunted houses of the pre-industrial age. Frighteningly well written and very well read. First published in Unknown Magazine’s October 1941 issue.

“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg
Read by William Atherton
William Atherton did a very nice reading of this Hugo Award nominated and Nebula winning short story (1969). “Passengers” is more SF than horror but it is 100% worthy of inclusion. It is about the uninvited guests who wouldn’t leave. These evil aliens have invaded the Earth telepathically and at unpredictable times, seize control of a human mind and force a person to do… things(!). Society has adjusted, but not every individual person will go along with all the conventions humanity has adopted to deal with the “Passengers”. Silverberg’s story examines a relatively small SF theme, stories involving involuntary control of one’s body… think the character of Molly in Neuromancer or the Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s short story Sitting Around the Pool, Soaking Up Some Rays or Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters – it is a horror story because it speaks to such a violation of one’s body. Also interesting is the counterfactual raised by the premise – illustrating how difficult it is to determine exactly where the boundary line between free-will and determinism lies.

“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner
Read by Patrick MacNee
Set in 1942, “Sticks” is a World Fantasy Award nominated story (1974) that is decidedly Lovecraftian in content and execution. Think Blair Witch Project meets pulp magazine illustrations and you’ll get the idea. Narrator Patrick MacNee does fine work with it too. With all this inspired by Lovecraft storytelling I only wish they’d included some of H.P.’s original prose, but in lieu of that “Sticks” is a good substitute.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” by Robert Bloch
Read by Robert Forster
First published in Weird Tales’ July 1943 issue “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” is actually a better story than it reads now. What seems a mite cliched today was quite fresh in 1943 and this tale was one of the earliest works of fiction to use ‘the ripper redjack’ – something that is relatively common today. Some narrators have a voice that grabs you and won’t let go, Robert Forster is one of them, his range is good, he does a great English accent on this one too – but its his cadence and his gravelly voice that pull me into his orbit every time. Well read and a good yarn.

“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury
Read by Alyssa Bresnahan
Alyssa Bresnahan, professional full time narrator and AudioFile Magazine Golden Voice, does a very good reading of Bradbury’s short story. “The Small Assassin” is about a young couple and their first child; everything would be okay if only the newborn would only accept the world outside the womb. Horror as parenthood – who’d of thunk it? Newly minted parents probably. This tale was previously recorded by Ray Bradbury himself by pioneering audiobooks publisher Caedmon.

“The Words Of Guru” by C.M. Kornbluth
Read by Susan Anspach
Originally published under Kornbluth’s “Kenneth Falconer” pseudonym, in Stirring Science Stories’ June 1941 issue. Well regarded despite its pulpy exposition, “The Words Of Guru” is a genre-crosser full of cosmic demonism and full-tilt weirdness that comes to a thundering crash just minutes after it starts.

“Casting The Runes” by M.R. James
Read by David Warner
I was quite lost listening to this one. I couldn’t tell who was speaking much of the time, this has to do with the fact that many of the characters aren’t given names and the fact that the way this tale was written it would flow far easier on the printed page than it does aurally. In the paper version some names are blanked out (as if censored), David Warner does his best to fill in these gaps which are unreproducable in audio, but ultimately his efforts are unsuccessful. Magic and curses. First published in 1911!

“Coin Of The Realm” by Charles L. Grant
Read by Louise Sorel
Reminiscent in theme of Neil Gaiman’s style of urban fantasy, “Coin Of The Realm” is an interesting tale of the employees of a toll booth on a lonely highway who occasionally collect some very odd coins from the drivers on their road. First published in a 1981 Arkham House collection entitled Tales from the Nightside.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Everybody’s talking about podcasting these days, e…

SFFaudio News

Everybody’s talking about podcasting these days, either that or starting their own and then talking about it. We’ve collected some resources for the Science Fiction and Fantasy audio fan who is finally ready for the MP3 experimentation to begin…

The Dragon Page
A long running Arizona radio show has transitioned from mere frequency and amplitude modulations to the exciting world of Podcasting! But in a disturbing turn it has started to multiply at a truly alarming rate! The Dragon Page has spawned three, count em three, podcasts and a number of spin-off serial novels. Will they become the Walmart of SF & F podcasting? Tune in and see…

Cover to Cover
A podcast with a literary science fiction and fantasy bent, authors are interviewed frequently, hosted by Michael R. Mennenga and Evo Terra.
http://dragonpage.com/

Slice of Sci Fi
A podcast with a spec fic media and Star Trek bent, hosted by Michael R. Mennenga and Evo Terra.
http://www.sliceofscifi.com/

Wingin’ It
Two bent SF & F geeks, Michael R. Mennenga and Evo Terra, podcasting without a net.
http://dragonpage.com/

Evo Terra came up with the term, “Podiobooks”, for serially podcast audiobooks and he’s built a site showcasing four spec fic novels that are doing just that, the first three were associated with The Dragon Page prior to the the creation of the Podiobooks site, but they’ve generously included a fourth independent author’s “podiobook” there too:

MOREVI: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana
Tee Morris and Lisa Lee’s paperbook novel Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana gets serially podcast with Tee Morris reading and engineering.
http://www.teemorris.com/podcast

Earthcore, Scott Sigler’s geology and mining centered novel is being serially podcast. It plays out like a technothriller in the vein of a Lincoln Child novel only far, far angrier. Sigler reads it himself.
http://www.scottsigler.net/earthcore/

The Pocket and the Pendant, Mark Jeffrey’s young adult fantasy novel being serially podcast.
http://markjeffrey.typepad.com/

Tom Corven is a tale being written and read by Paul Story. Story (a pseudonym) originally hails from Scotland but he’s writing it in Split, Croatia and podcasting it serially from a cybercafe there.
http://www.dreamwords.com/TomCorven.htm

Rev Up Review
British blogger and SF author Paul Jenkins’ new podcast sounds very promising indeed. His second podcast carefully surveys what’s available in the speculative fiction podcast field and what of it is worth listening to. He’s also reading his short story “The Journey of Jonathan Cave”, but part one starts with his first “experimental” podcast so be sure to check that one out first.
http://www.rev-up-review.co.uk/

The Seanachai
Thanks to Paul S. Jenkins for finding this one. The Seanachai is a “weekly(ish)” podcast of dramatic storytelling and commentary by Patrick E. McLean.
Funny fantasy so far!
http://www.goodwordsrightorder.com/

Nuketown Radio Active
Speculative fiction reviews from “a geek dad”. Includes movie, book, game, comic book, web site and podcasts reviews.
http://www.nuketown.com/music/archive.php?type=74

The Comic Geeks
A podcast about comic books, toys, memorabilia, science fiction and more.
http://www.thecomicgeeks.com/

SFSite.com Podcasts
MP3 reviews of audiobooks!
http://www.sfsite.com/depts/podcast.xml

Matamea Rising
“A fictional serialized radio show”. Despite that description this radio style serial actually exists!
http://www.matamea.org/podcast/

“Next, I Hem a Cyclic Door”
A project using “podcasting”, comic book panels and video to tell an episodic science-fiction story across different mediums. A collaboration between comic book artist Tim Dedman and Code Owl Productions founder Gabriel Walsh. Dedman and Walsh exchange scripts and execute each other’s idea.
http://www.codeowl.com/nextihemacyclicdoor/

Have we missed a podcast? Let us know!

Posted by Jesse Willis