Review of The Fisherwoman’s Daughter by Ursula K. Le Guin; R…

SFFaudio Review

The Fisherwoman's DaughterThe Fisherwoman’s Daughter
By Ursula K. Le Guin; Read by Melissa Stewart
63 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: AssistiveMedia.org
Published: 2004
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Writing / Motherhood / Feminism /

Ursula K. Le Guin’s wide ranging article for The New York Times Book Review is now available to be heard, for free, on the excellent AssistiveMedia.org
website. Melissa Stewart’s straight reading is good, though she stumbles here and there over a word. The real meat of this piece comes with Le Guin’s insightful commentary on the history of female authorship. It covers everything from Virginia Woolf to Louisa May Alcott. Le Guin even discusses her own work. Check it out.

REALAUDIO LINK: http://www.assistivemedia.org/amrams/FishermansDaughter.ram

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Tower Of The Elephant and The Frost Giant’s Daughter

Fantasy Audio Drama - Conan by Robert E. HowardRobert E. Howard’s Conan – The Tower Of The Elephant & The Frost Giant’s Daughter
Adapted by Roy Thomas & Alan B. Goldstein; Performed by a FULL CAST
33 1/3 RPM LP – Approx. 46 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMATIZATION]
Publisher: Moondance Productions
Published: 1975
Themes: / Fantasy / Aliens / Battle / Mythology / Gods /

Alan B. Goldstein had a dream, to bring the Robert E. Howard 1930s pulp magazine hero, Conan The Cimmerian, to audio. In 1974 he contacted Glenn Lord, agent for Howard’s literary estate and proposed a radio series based on Conan. Permission was granted and a pilot was adapted from one of Howard’s shortest Conan tales – “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”. After the pilot was completed, Goldstein brought it to Marvel Comics editor Roy Thomas. Thomas loved it and expressed an interest in contributing to the project. So together, with Alan B. Goldstein working as producer and Roy Thomas scripting, they decided that a second Conan audio adventure should be made.

Actors Owen McGee and Paul Falzone were again hired to reprise their roles as “The Narrator” and “Conan” respectively. And thus was born the second audio dramatization “The Tower Of The Elephant”. Unfortunately their vision of a Conan radio series was dashed. By the late 1970s, radio dramas were virtually dead. Only these two stories were ever adapted for the aborted Conan radio series. But Goldstein would go on to produce at least one more Conan record – but that, my Hyborian friends, is another story.

Side One – “The Tower Of The Elephant” – 27 Minutes 29 Seconds
Conan is in Zamoria’s City Of Thieves, Arenjun, where in a local tavern he overhears a boastful kidnapper. Before dispatching the cur Conan discovers the whereabouts of The Tower of the Elephant and of the fabled jewel rumored to be secured within it. Soon after Conan is at that bejeweled tower, determined to rob it of it’s jewel – but he has much to contend with – he must surpass another thief, ravenous lions and a giant spider. And what he finds in the tower’s interior is like nothing else in this age undreamed of. Howard’s prose is frothy, wondrous and direct. The performances here are letter perfect and the power of the original short story is successfully translated.

Side Two – “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” – 17 Minutes 41 Seconds
This, the shorter of the two dramatizations, again takes its stylistic cues from Howard’s pulp roots; nearly every word of this adaptation is taken directly from the original text itself. “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” is set in the high mountains that border Vanaheim and Aesgard where Conan has just fought a fierce battle, lying exhausted and near death on the battlefield, a near-naked woman suddenly visits him. Her voluptuous body re-ignites his will to live but when she mocks him, he chases her for seeming endless leagues across the snow-covered mountains. Conan finds it strange that she does not seem to feel the cold that chills his bones, dressed as she is shouldn’t she be frostbitten? Of course it is all a trap, this “woman” is no mortal, she’s lead Conan to her two massively dangerous looking “brothers”. The performances and narration paint a vivid mental film full of both preternatural storytelling and mythological virtue. Structured more as an incident than a plotted adventure the layered mythology of Howard’s invented Hyborian world casts a spell upon the listener. We feel Conan’s weariness and we follow along hotly in his footsteps as he’s tempted by that fleet-footed Valkyrie. It all has a dream like quality and it’s juicily full of pulpy goodness. I truly wish Alan B. Goldstein had got his dream and these two audio adventures had become the first two episodes in the Conan radio series.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audio Drama - Neil GaimanTwo Plays For Voices
By Neil Gaiman; Performed by two Full Casts
2 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio / Seeing Ear Theater
Published: 2002
ISBN: 0060012560
Themes: / Fantasy / Angels / Vampires / Fairy Tales /

Stories included:
Snow Glass Apples
Once upon a time there lived a young princess with skin as white as snow, with hair as black as coal, with lips as red as blood. Most people think they know what happens to this young unfortunate girl. Most people are wrong. Tony-award winning actress Bebe Neuwirth stars as a wise Queen who wants nothing more than to reign over her kingdom peacefully but is forced to match wits with an inhuman child who has an unnatural taste for blood.

Full Cast List:
Bebe Neuwirth as the Queen ; Martin Carey as the Huntsman; Mark Evans as the Prince; Merwin Goldsmith as the Lord of the Fair; J.R. Horne as the Archbishop & Friar; Alissa Hunnicutt as the Maidservant; Randy Maggiore as a Soldier; Kate Simses as the Princess; Nick Wyman as the King

Murder Mysteries
In this mystery noir set in heaven’s City of Angels before the fall, the first crime has been committed. It is an awful one. While the angelic hosts labor to create the world and its workings, one of their number is mysteriously slain by one of their own. Raguel, Angel of Vengeance, is mandated by Lucifer to discover both motive and murderer in this holy dominion that had so recently known no sin. Golden Globe award winning Brian Dennehy stars as Vengeance.

Full Cast List:
Brian Dennehy as Raguel ; Anne Bobby as Tink’s Friend; Christopher Burns as Saraquael ; Thom Christopher as Lucifer ; Ed Dennehy as Zephkiel ; Michael Emerson as Narrator ; Traci Godfrey as Tinkerbell Richmond ; Evan Pappas as Phanuel

I find audio dramatizations to be generally inferior to straight unabridged readings. There are certainly exceptions; it is just my personal general experience. But every once in a while an exception is so forcefully good, so sweet and so right, it makes me question my general preference in total. And no audio drama thus far has shaken this conviction better than these two “plays for voices”.

I of course heard them both back when they first turned up on the Seeing Ear Theater website, and I was blown away then. I told everyone to go check it out, and I still send people to the site every now and then, but after hearing them on crystal clear CD I’ve decided that even though the website is free, the CD set is the preferred way to listen. The sound is exquisite, the packaging elegantly designed, and when they do decide to remove the wonderful collection of audio dramatizations that makes up the Seeing Ear Theater website collection I’d be kicking myself for not owning a hard copy of both of these amazing dramatizations. I should also note that like much of Neil Gaiman’s adult fantasy, both of these stories feature explicit sexual scenes.

So what makes this collection so great? Well, Gaiman’s unique storytelling gift has something to do with it – probably most to do with it if truth be told. But where Gaiman’s writing leaves off the adaptors pick up with the same skill level – and fail to spoil it.

My main complaint with audio dramatizations in general is that they tend to be “improvements” of the text rather than adaptations. Countless stories have been ruined by incautious adaptors who failed to respect, and in many cases even understand, the story they are adapting. This is most emphatically not the case with these two dramas. The cast and crew of both have achieved that same level of artisanship as Neil Gaiman himself. The casting is brilliant! Bebe Neuwirth, who most people would recognize from her film and television work, is a stage trained actress with two Tony awards to her credit. I can think of no one better than she for the role of the unfairly maligned queen in Snow Glass Apples. In Murder Mysteries, a bit more of an ensemble piece, two actors stand out as achieving similar greatness. Brian Dennehy in the lead role, and Michael Emmerson as the British accented narrator. But in lauding all three of these perfectly cast actors I must be careful to note that several uniformly talented players in their own right support them. Their parts may be small but they do them exceedingly well.

Much praise also must be given to sound designer John Colluci, who had a hand in nearly every Seeing Ear Theater production. The music, foley work and stereo effects are perfect. And of course the producer and director of both these dramatizations, Brian Smith deserves the highest praise. Without him neither would have been possible. Everything has come together in both these productions. There was not one small disappointment, not a single minor flaw, not one awkward moment. Two Plays For Voices is flawless, flawless, flawless.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The CBC Radio One program Sunday Showcase will be …

SFFaudio News

Science Fiction Radio Drama - CBC Radio OneThe CBC Radio One program Sunday Showcase will be broadcasting the L.A. Theater works radio dramatization of Orson Welles’ version of H.G Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds on Sunday April 17 2005 at 10:00 p.m.. It will then be rebroadcast the next night on CBC Radio Two at 9:00 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC Radio Two. Listeners outside of Canada can tune in via the RealAudio broadcasts. This was released as an audiobook as well back in 1997 (ISBN: 0807235628).

The Official Sunday Showcase announcement reads:
“From Welles’ original script, the quantum leap of the end of the world! This new LA Theatreworks production stars Star Trek actors Leonard Nimoy, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner. The War of the Worlds was produced in the USA by Susan Albert Lowenberg for LA Theatre Works.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Robert J. Sawyer dropped a few more hints about th…

SFFaudio News

Science Fiction Audio Drama - CBC EmanationsRobert J. Sawyer dropped a few more hints about the new CBC Radio One Science Fiction anothology radio drama series Emanations:

“Michael Lennick and I had a meeting at the CBC Broadcasting Centre to go over the second draft of our SF radio-drama pilot with the people Michael likes to refer to as “the boys downtown.” The script will be produced on March 17; our series is an anthology of standalone SF radio dramas with the overall title Emanations. The pilot script, “Birth,” deals with the accidental emergence of sentience among exploratory robots on Mars.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

An update to our December 2004 announcement. CITY…

SFFaudio News

Science Fiction Audio - JMSAn update to our December 2004 announcement. CITY OF DREAMS creator and writing-machine J. Michael Straczynski has confirmed he’ll be in Toronto this month (Feb. 2005) co-directing “The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al” for eventual broadcast on CBC Radio One. Our Torontonian readers are asked to be on the lookout for this man:

He will likely be armed with either a typwriter, computer keyboard or possibly a pen and paper and should be considered a very prolific Science Fiction author. If you spot him, be courteous, polite and send us a photo!

Posted by Jesse Willis