Star Trek: The Opportunity

SFFaudio Commentary

Science Fiction Audiobook - Star Trek Vulcan's Soul Vol. 1Simon and Schuster Audio has been publishing Star Trek audiobooks regularly since the late 1980’s. The most recent audiobook in the series (Vulcan’s Soul, Vol. 1 by Sherman and Shwartz) was published in 2004. This loosely coincides with the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise. Has Star Trek finished its run on audio?

I mention all this because it seems to me that they are missing an opportunity. And because I like the darn things. Since me liking them is not enough of an incentive for them to make these audiobooks, let’s discuss what I view as the missed opportunity.

A quick perusal of the Star Trek wing in the local bookstore shows that Pocket Books has started publishing a series about the crew of the U.S.S. Titan, which is the ship that Riker and Troi were headed for at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. With nothing at all happening on the screen for Star Trek, it seems to me that picking up this series of novels, applying the excellent production standards of the previous Star Trek audiobooks… well, they’d be the only show in town, so to speak. Why not produce them while there is no other place to get Star Trek?

Now, I have to assume that the Titan novels are good stories. I haven’t read them, but that would be an obvious prerequisite. I sure hope they are. But just as obvious to me is that a series like that on audio has an excellent chance of success because of a few reasons. First, there is no Star Trek on the screen, yet the buzz of film number 11 is keeping the series on the mind of fans. Second, if film number 11 actually ends up being a prequel, the appetite for Trek’s other incarnations will increase, but will not be satisfied. And third, a Titan series with Riker commanding is something that Star Trek fans would LOVE to see, yet the chances of that actually coming together on the screen is slim. Enter audio, stage left, to fill this desire.

How about it, Simon and Schuster?

Click here for SFFaudio’s Star Trek page.

Commentary: King Kong’s Special Features

King Kong Special Features Disc 5Blackstone Audiobooks‘ release of King Kong, from way back in 2005 (read our review of it HERE) is something I’ve just now finally got my grubby mits on. I was especially excited to get a hold of it because of last disc in the 5 CD set – it contains the “special features” – and they are, quite possibly, the most special of features ever to have been added to an unabridged audiobook. The narrator/producer, Stefan Rudnicki, has tracked down some of the biggest names in Science Fiction and Fantasy Fiction and asked them to give their opinions of the original King Kong. The resultant disc is some of the most interesting and insightful film commentary I’ve ever heard. The creators of the Peter Jackson King Kong DVD were utter fools not to have hired Rudnicki to produce just this sort of material for the bonus features. Not only does “disc 5” give fond memories of an absolutely iconic fantasy film, it also dispenses deeply insightful criticism and sharp commentary from those who were influenced by the film. There are even some funny related real-life stories. Harlan Ellison, for example, talks about his overwhelming need to watch the original film whenever it airs on TV – as well as his hatred for remakes of ‘perfect movies’ in general. Stop-motion animation god Ray Harryhausen steps in to talk of how the original character of Kong became the tipping point for his amazing life’s work. And Orson Scott Card boldy dismisses the original film as irrelevant to his life and work. Indeed this is perhaps the finest collection of commentary on Kong ever collected – and that it could be recorded in the commentators’ own words, and in their own voices (except for Williamson) makes this a true treasure for the ages. Kudos to Blackstone Audiobooks, they could have just cashed in on the Kong-kraze but instead they kicked it up a notch, creating something worthy of its own page in the first printing of The Encycolpedia Galactica (publication date 2362).

Well played Blackstone, truly well played.

Jesse Willis

Commentary: Back in 1947

SFFaudio Commentary

Back in 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists first informed the world what time it was on the “Doomsday Clock“. Since then, the minute hand of that clock has moved forward and back to reflect the subjective level of nuclear danger and the state of global security. I suggest we SF & F fans institute another clock, one for which we can easily see the subjective coolness of the times in which we are living. When Sci Fiction closes it’s doors the “uncoolness clock” hand sweeps 5 minutes towards Midnight, when Charles Stross writes another awesome story it sweeps the clock’s hand back a minute. Everybody on board with the idea?

Good. Now I have a candidate for sweeping the hand back a minute. Here’s the argument:

We should sweep the hand of the “uncoolness clock” back for reason of Escape Pod. Escape Pod is our favorite Science Fiction Podcast Magazine. It’s been scoring coup after coup in the game of audio Science Fiction coolness at least once a week for more than six months and without fail. And it’s really starting to get popular. Just look at the evidence:

1. Escape Pod got mentioned in the February 2006 issue of the venerable Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine (along with SFFaudio and TellTaleWeekly). Very Cool!

2. E-Pod got a post a few months back – with BoingBoing being the single most popular blog on the internet – the furtive attention of which has crashed many a server due to the mass of click-throughs. Way Cool!

3. Just two weeks ago Escape Pod podcast a Scott Sigler short story entitled Hero. Significant in that Sigler is the only podcast novelist so far with two podiobooks available (EarthCore and Ancestor) both of which encroach on a five digit subscribership. Damn cool!

4. And finally, we come to today’s instalment of Escape Pod, a short story, by maverick Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow entitled Craphound. Keener cool!

That’s four cool reasons why Escape Pod is worthy of sweeping the “uncoolness clock” back a minute from midnight. But perhaps the best reason is E-Pod’s quality, there’s never been a bad story on Escape Pod, with more than 40 tales under the whimisical editorial hand of Steve Eley that’s really saying something. Oh ya and it’s 100% FREE!

So what I’m saying is nuclear annihilation may still loom over us all but I’m telling you thing’s are still really cool in the Science Fiction department. You cool with that?

posted by Jesse Willis

Hi, all – Scott here. I was recently asked what p…

SFFaudio Commentary

Hi, all – Scott here. I was recently asked what podcast feeds I subscribe to. The answer sounded like a good post, so here it is – I’ll twist Jesse’s arm for his subscribed list, too.

Dragon Page – Cover to Cover
Dragon Page – Wingin’ It
Michael and Evo’s Slice of Sci Fi

Evo Terra and Michael R. Mennenga host all three of these shows, which are easily the most professional science fiction-related podcasts out there. Cover to Cover features author interviews and book news, Slice of Sci Fi focuses mainly on television and films, and Wingin’ It is 100% format free!

The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas
Only two podcasts in, and this is my favorite podcast. The ninjas are Summer Brooks and Joe Murphy, and they talk “old-school” SF and Fantasy. The first show was about Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, and the second featured Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Looks like Zelazny’s Lord of Light is next. Summer and Joe can also be heard on some of the The Dragon Page broadcasts.

Escape Pod
Stephen Eley has really put together something special here. Escape Pod is an excellent audio science fiction magazine with high quality stories that sound great. I enjoy Eley’s introductions as well, which have ranged from “Go see Serenity” sermons to discussions of copyright. He makes me chuckle often, and I’m pretty sure it’s on purpose.

Aaron Macom hosts this show, which is really just him talking about whatever the heck he feels like talking about. Most of the time, his topics relate to science fiction media, but his forays into other subjects are just as interesting.

Treks in SciFi
Rich Dostie (Rico) talks Star Trek – mostly. I was happy to find this podcast because I am a Trek fan and this is the closest thing to a Star Trek-only podcast that I’ve found. Rico highlights an episode of Trek in each podcast, and talks about collectibles and other related stuff. The Literary Works of Cory Doctorow
This is Cory Doctorow, reading his own work wherever he happens to be. Great stuff.

The fine folks at ZBS are podcasting Ruby 1 – I urge you to check it out if you’ve never heard it. Every day, this feed delivers the next short segment of Ruby 1. As I understand it, it was originally broadcast in these short segments on NPR.

And that’s it! I listen to these on my PC (if I’m sitting there) or on my Palm Zire 31, which features an excellent MP3 player. (That reminds me – I’ve been meaning to prepare a post on listening devices.) Last week, I dropped a few podcasts because I simply am out of time. I still have audiobooks to listen to, ya know? Thanks to all of the above for podcasting.

I use iPodder (Juice Receiver) to download all these shows.

Download Juice, the cross-platform podcast receiver

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Commentary: Very Bad Deaths


Science Fiction Audio - Very Bad Deaths by Spider RobinsonScott originally reviewed Very Bad Deaths in May – click here to see it. I finished it myself and wanted to comment:

I finally got a chance to listen to this one! I had a smile tattooed on my face while I listened to Spider spin his SF web. I knew I would be interested to hear this one especially because it is set in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, where I live and it is chock full of local details. But after hearing it, and realizing that most people who don’t live in BC probably couldn’t care less about the setting what I really wanted to talk about is something a lot of listeners/readers might have missed that they should care about. Spider Robinson wrote this novel as homage to Crime Writers Of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block. Most SF readers probably don’t know who Block is but they should. Block is a prolific and talented author working in the crime genre. In VBD Robinson uses many turns of phrase that are ones Block uses almost unconsciously in his many stories. Other giveaways include the theme of a horrifically understandable serial killer and a deep and abiding love of coffee. Robinson has done this sort of thing before – his novel Callahan’s Con was an homage to Block’s contemporary – fellow Crime Writers Of America Grandmaster Donald Westlake and Callahan’s Key was inspired by the writings of Robert A. Heinlein. Another neat feature of Very Bad Deaths is that it contains the only reference in fiction to the philosophical writings of Daniel Dennett that I know of – he also manages to tie Dennett’s concepts into the book’s plot.

Spider is currently “collaborating” with Heinlein on a novel titled Variable Star, I hope Blackstone Audio acquires the audio rights to that one and that they get Spider to narrate! Oh and a sequel to Very Bad Deaths is also in the works.

Renting audiobooks

SFFaudio Commentary

Renting audiobooks is a cost-effective way of getting your hands on some very good stuff. How does it work? With the companies listed here, you select a book or two that is sent to you in a self-addressed stamped box. Usually you keep the book for 30 days, after which you put the book back in the box, tape it closed, then drop it in a mailbox.

Blackstone Audio
Science Fiction Audiobooks - Blackstone AudioBlackstone Audio has been building a fantastic science fiction and fantasy collection. Their narrators are generally good. Some of their latest include Spider Robinson’s Callahan books and Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy. They also carry titles by Catherine Asaro, Charles Sheffield, Robert Silverberg, and Lois McMaster Bujold. They also produce MP3-CD versions of much of their catalog, which makes purchasing the titles outright very attractive.

Recorded Books, Inc.
Science Fiction Audiobooks - Recorded BooksRecorded Books has the biggest collection of high quality science fiction and fantasy titles out there. Their narrators are just excellent, and include Frank Muller, George Guidall, Rob Inglis, and Richard Ferrone, among many others. To name a few titles: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, several Robert A. Heinlein titles, Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the TalentsDoomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis are also here. Their rental plan now includes a Netflix-style option – for $30/month you can have as many titles as you can hear.

Simply Audiobooks
Science Fiction Audiobooks  - Simply Audiobooks
Simply Audiobooks has taken the Netflix model and applied it to audiobooks. Unlike the two options above, who with just a few exceptions rent only their own titles, Simply Audiobooks has a very nice Science Fiction and Fantasy selection from publishers across the spectrum. They currently charge $19.95 per month for unlimited rentals, and they invite you to try it out FREE.

And last, don’t forget to check out your local library. Many libraries are building fine audiobook collections in response to patron requests.

NOTE: Books on Tape no longer rents audiobooks.