Review of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out Of Time

SFFaudio Review

HPLHS - Dark Adventure Radio Theatre - H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Out Of Time SFFaudio EssentialDark Adventure Radio Theatre: H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out Of Time
Adapted from the novella by H.P. Lovecraft; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 77 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: HPLHS
Published: October 27, 2009
Themes: / Horror / Science Fiction / Aliens / Consciousness Swapping /

It their line of faux Old Time Radio shows the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has also adapted the old master’s The Shadow out of Time. After the slightly disappointing At the Mountains of Madness and the great Dunwich Horror we now look the The Shadow Out Of Time – not quite what I would have expected for an audio drama treatment.

As usual you can get the audio both as a download and in the physical CD form, the latter is enhanced with certain goodies. The HPLHS started off as a supplier of props for Lovecraftian role-playing games (both pen-and-paper, and live action). This CD is no exception and so you can find a cutout from the fictitious Arkham Advertiser printed on real newspaper paper, a sealed Marconigram (a telegram), torn pages from a psychological journal detailing the case of Nathaniel Peaslee, and finally a very well made faux facsimile page from the infamous “Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten“. The latter being in absolutely perfect German. Not that you will actually need any of these things but they are fun to look add and just add to the impression that this is a quality product.

HPLHS - The Shadow Out Of Time - Ephemera

But what about the audio?

The story tells of Nathaniel Peaslee, Professor of Political Economics whose mind gets exchanged by an alien entity from the Great Rave of Yith who are time travelers from earth’s distant past. The strange behavior of the entity in his body alienates Peaslee from his family and friends, and he becomes a celebrity patient among psychologists.

When the real Peaslee is being sent back into his body with no memories of his experience he is shocked to find his life in shambles and is soon confronted with nightmarish visions of his life as a captive of the Yithians. Eventually he becomes involved in an archeological dig in Australia that is about to uncover the remnants of the ancient pre-human city along with the Yithian arch-enemies that still dwell there.

Lovecraft’s usual topic, of showing the insignificance of human kind in light of some alien being or race who could eradicate it in the blink of an eye, is emphasized by the fact that even these powerful beings can be overcome by some more powerful than they are.

Let’s face it, you don’t read an individual Lovecraft story for the action or suspense. It’s more the joy of unveiling the cosmology that connects most of his literary works. The Shadow Out Of Time is no exception, if anything it is an even more than typical example. I mean it starts with an alien hijacking a professor of *Political Economics* of all things! (Dear students of Economics, this is nothing personal but you must admit that the discipline does not quite come to mind as the starter for a horror story of cosmic dimensions) A sizable part of the story consists one massive infodump detailing the culture and society of the Great Race of Yith. In it Lovecraft even goes so far as to classify the economic and political system (I can see a pattern evolving) of the Yithians, which he dubs some form of “socialist fascism”. All of this is delivered in the form of a letter to Peaslee’s son and the world at large.

Not an easy thing to turn into an audio drama.

However, the HPLHS managed surprisingly well to create a more dynamic form of presentation. First of all, when the story starts on the ship bringing Peaslee home from Australia the audio drama introduces the ship’s doctor as a counterfoil so that Peaslee can actually tell his story to someone. Peaslee’s research into the lost years of his amnesia during which his hijacker traveled the world in search of arcane knowledge is made more vivid through a conversation with a Swedish librarian, and so are the flashbacks into his incarceration in Earth’s distant past together with fellow prisoners from other ages and places. These diversions from the original story all serve to liven up the dramaturgy without changing the essence of Lovecraft’s Shadow Out Of Time.

As usual, the production and voice acting are great, especially considering that this is not an entirely professional production. The HPLHS are hobbyists who, in spite of the love and attention to detail they pour into their products, have not lost their sense of humour. Thus, The Shadow Out Of Time is the first Lovecraft adaptation to my knowledge which features product placement (Fleurs de Lys anyone?). It is not least this tongue-in-cheek humour that helps to turn an slightly stuffy tale of pre-historical kidnapping with cosmic, nay, titanic dimensions into an enjoyable audio drama. Highly recommended.

Posted by Carsten Schmitt

The Galactic Suburbia podcast vs. The SFSignal Podcast

SFFaudio Online Audio

Galactic SuburbiaGalactic Suburbia is a podcast out of Australia that’s hosted by Alisa, Tansy and Alex. They’re three women from Perth, Hobart and Melbourne respectively. Alisa contacted me after hearing my comment, that I’m always looking for new podcasts on SF Signal Podcast Episode 70. She wrote:

I noticed that not very many women podcasts, nor podcasts aimed at or interesting to women, came up in discussion. I thought I might let you know about the Galactic Suburbia Podcast, of which I am a member of the audio team. We are a group of women talking about SF publishing and news, with a feminist lean. I am particularly proud of one of our recent episodes which was a tribute to the late Joanna Russ [episode 36] The Spoilerific Book Club: Joanna Russ

I’m not a fiction writer, don’t have any interest in publishing or the publishing business, but I found some value there. One story in particular in Episode 36, about Samuel R. Delany and his wife Marilyn Hacker (and their pockets) was absolutely masterful. Unlike SFSignal’s podcast, which is short, Galactic Suburbia is a long format discussion podcast, with shows regularly running near the two hour mark.

In their latest show, Episode 38, they talk about SFSignal Mind Meld titled: “What’s The Importance of ‘The Russ Pledge’ For Science Fiction Today?” and Alisa makes the argument that there’s a gender bias at SFSignal. Later, she brings up the specific SFSignal Episode #70, the one I was in, and … well … here’s a clip of both segments (first from SFSignal, then from Galactic Suburbia) back to back |MP3|. Here are the full files for both:

SFSignal #70 |MP3|
Galactic Suburbia #38 |MP3|

Podcast feed:

http://web.me.com/aifinch/TPP/Galactic_Suburbia/rss.xml

iTunes feed:

itpc://web.me.com/aifinch/TPP/Galactic_Suburbia/rss.xml

Episodes not in the feeds are available HERE.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #110 – READALONG: Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #110 – Scott and Jesse talk with Julie Davis about the Audible Frontiers audiobook Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes.

Talked about on today’s show:
Scott’s virtual velvet lounge (has a jazz band), Dream Park, Jerry Pournelle, Stefan Rudnicki, Scott ranked it 3/5 stars on GoodReads.com, zombies, cargo cult, murder mystery, World Of Warcraft, LARPing, the wikipedia entry for Dream Park, The Barsoom Project, Seventh Victim by Robert Sheckley, Dungeons And Dragons, The California Voodoo Game, Dream Park is much more interesting than DisneyWorld, Niven novels have robotic personal interactions, misogyny, The Mote In God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne |READ OUR REVIEW|, the murder provides a plot, California, holographic technology, H.P. Lovecraft, Alex Griffin, “The South Seas Treasure Game”, cementing relationships through gaming, Zork, “open mailbox”, Infocom, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Baldur’s Gate, Tolkien-derived adventure play, the least interesting part of Dungeons & Dragons is the mechanics, too many players (characters), Call of Cthulhu (role-playing game), pen and paper RPGs can be incredibly immersive, consensual hallucination, William Gibson, Community‘s spoof of Dungeons and Dragons, The IT Crowd, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, avoid the “Dunwich Building”, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, RPG mechanics can get in the way of RPG storytelling, reality game shows, The Amazing Race, 1980s Dungeons & Dragons hysteria, Mazes And Monsters, comic book hysteria, video game hysteria, StarCraftas a lifestyle, The Guild, the Afterword of Dream Park is missing from the audiobook, Papua New Guinea, Inuit mythology, Mars, has time been kind to Dream Park?, Audible Frontiers, “this is weakest Larry Niven book I’ve ever read”, The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III by William Dear, Columbine by Dave Cullen |READ OUR REVIEW|, psychopath, the problem of psychopathy, parental responsibility, The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, Minority Report, gesture control, the Spruce Goose, The Aviator, Martin Scorsese, WWII, HBO’s The Pacific, World War II in HD, the Battle of Saipan, HBO’s Band Of Brothers, Australia, Chicago, Museum Of Science And Industry, submarines, San Francisco, Get Lamp, Helvetica (a documentary on a font), Futura, Gothic doesn’t look gothic in Helvetica, narrators are like the fonts of audiobooks,

ACE BOOKS - Dream Park by Larry Niven And Steve Barnes

ACE BOOKS - TPB - Dream Park by Larry Niven

ACE BOOKS - Dream Park by Larry Niven - Interior Illustrations

Steve Barnes Signature in DREAM PARK

Dream Park Spine

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Darkside by Tom Becker

SFFaudio Review

Darkside by Tom BeckerDarkside
By Tom Becker; Read by Colin Moody
6 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Bolinda Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781921415340
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Crime / London / Werewolves / Vampires / Magic / Kidnapping / Evil / Jack The Ripper /
Your home’s been attacked. Your dad’s in an asylum. You’re running for your life. And there’s nowhere to hide.

You’ve stumbled on the city’s greatest secret: Darkside. Incredibly dangerous and unimaginably exciting. Darkside is ruled by Jack the Ripper’s children – a place where nightmares walk the streets. You think you’re in trouble now, but your problems have just begun…

I usually do a fair mount of research about the books I plan to read. Before I pick one up I’ve usually either heard an author interview, read a review, discussed it with people who’ve already read it, or at least got a recommendation from an author whose work I already respect. But I also know these techniques aren’t a very good way to branch out beyond what’s already familiar to me, and so, every so often I just pick up a book, almost at random, and start reading. That’s what I did with Darkside by Tom Becker.

Maybe one of the initial appeals of Darkside, other than the terrific cover, was that it was from a publisher whose audiobooks I’d never heard before. Bolinda Audio is from Australia. And because of that it’s doing things a little differently. First off, it’s narrators are Australian. And second, they’ve got a lot of authors in their catalogue that I’ve never heard of. That’s cool!

Darkside is an interesting tale in itself. In terms of plot, it kind of falls halfway between two Neil Gaiman novels: Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book. It features Jonathan Starling, an unremarkable misfit fourteen-year-old with an ailing father and a deceased mother. He lives in London and is mostly taken care of by a kindly neighbor woman. Other than her, he’s nearly friendless and spends most days skipping-out of school and hanging out at one of the city’s many libraries. His father, an avid book collector himself, suffers some sort of recurring full body paralysis and perhaps it’s related to some of the books he collects. One day, right out in the open on a London street Jonathan is nearly kidnapped by a seemingly invisible giant and a woman with fluorescent hair. He quickly learns that London isn’t going to be safe for him anymore and so his father sends him away. He is to flee, for his own safety, into the arms of a protector. Jonathan takes with him a knife and a bullet. The knife is for protection from the kidnappers, and the bullet is for protection against his would-be protector, a mysterious old friend of his father’s, a man named Carnegie. Plot ensues.

Where the novel falls short is in comparison to the two Neil Gaiman novels I mentioned earlier. A hidden city within London isn’t really new. And neither is a young kid being protected by a paranormal monster-man. More importantly, Becker doesn’t have anywhere near the mastery of English fiction that Gaiman has. But that’s really not a fair comparison. For my money very few living English authors can compare favorably with Neil Gaiman. Apparently Darkside was written when Becker was just 25! When Gaiman was 25 he hadn’t written a single novel, comic, nor even Don’t Panic, his wonderful biography of Douglas Adams. As a result I think Darkside can stand pretty proudly on its own. It’s quickly paced, pretty fun and most of all it’s got a story that keeps your attention all the way through. Good job new guy.

Narrator Colin Moody, a talent stage trained actor, has an Australian accent, except when performing the dialogue of the characters. When in character Moody cowls him reading with various Londoner regionalisms. There are many sinister sounding villains in this novel and he voices all of them extremely well. If you’re a voracious reader looking for swiftly plotted urban fantasy novel (for the juvenile set), and you’ve already read both Neverwhere |READ OUR REVIEW| and The Graveyard Book |READ OUR REVIEW| do check out Darkside. Series fans will also be pleased to hear that four more Darkside novels follow this one, and that Bolinda has the “audio sequel forthcoming.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #046

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #046 – Jesse and Scott talk audiobooks, hard SF, current theatrical movies, Kenneth Oppel‘s Skybreaker and the new Gene Wolfe audiobooks at Audible.com! We also debut a new feature (boldly stolen from the late lamented Sofanauts Podcast). RIP.

Talked about on today’s show:
bananas, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, invisibility, humor, the Richard Stark novels are only funny to psychopaths, crime, Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You by Donald Westlake (Westlake’s open letter to Science Fiction on why he’s not writing SF anymore), Philip K. Dick’s interview on Hour 25, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books: A Blog About Vintage Soft Core Paperbacks, Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block, paperbackswap.com, The Ax and The Hook by Donald E. Westlake, The Engines Of God by Jack McDevitt, Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, aliens, xenoarcheology, terraforming, Tom Weiner, hard SF, 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke, exoplanets, social science fiction, soft SF, The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi, androids, first contact, Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, how to win any argument about modern SF: bring up Ted Chiang, The Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, Starship: Flagship by Mike Resnick, hero characters doing villainous things, Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Summer Of The Monkeys by Wilson Rawls, Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, hovercraft, Australia, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, marine biology, District 9, the MacGuffin in District 9 is stupid, Avatar, Sharlto Copley, Star Trek, Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, Full Cast Audio, audio drama, Science Fiction, alternate history, Fantasy, airships, pirates, lifting gasses, phrenology, Howard Hughes, Thomas Edison, Graphic Audio, Brandon Sanderson‘s Warbreaker, Elizabeth Moon‘s Serrano Legacy series, audio drama is for truckers!, Jesse’s pick of the week: William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer (1977), laserdiscs, the great thing about laserdiscs!, VHSrips!, The Wages Of Fear (1953), Scott’s Pick of the week: Gene Wolfe’s The Book Of The New Sun (a novel in four parts), narrated by Jonathan Davis, the SFFaudio Yahoo! Group, Audible.com, Blake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5), Carrie Dobro, Babylon 5: Crusade, the Blake’s 7 television series, Blake’s 7 is the best audio drama space opera series ever!, Brian AldissHelleconia series, Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, Best SF Stories of Brian W. Aldiss, the fix-up novel, Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin |READ OUR REVIEW|, Maps In A Mirror by Orson Scott Card, short stories turned into novels, Karen Makes Out (a short story), Out Of Sight (a novel) by Elmore Leonard, Out Of Sight (the film), Karen Sisco, Meatball Fulton‘s Ruby The Galactic Gumshoe, NPR, Recorded Books, The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross, what Jesse wants for his birthday: the complete fiction of Ted Chiang in audio, The Bishop’s Heir by Katherine Kurtz, the Deryni series, David Weber, series should end!

Posted by Jesse Willis

ABC Radio National: Wake In Fright by Kenneth Cook

SFFaudio Online Audio

ABC Radio National - Book ReadingSo Canada’s public radio book reading program Between The Covers is podcast. One whole channel (BBC Radio 4) for the U.K. is available through Radio Downloader subscription. So what about our friends in Australia? Are they making their shows available?

Yes, they sure aren’t!

ABC Radio National is still in bad shape podcasting wise. They’ve got their terrific non-fiction programs like The Philosopher’s Zone and All In The Mind pleasing everyone all over the world but their book reading program, called Book Reading, isn’t available except via 20th century tech called “streaming audio” (RealAudio or Windows Media). This is really bad.

I’ve said it before, and before and before and before, and most assuredly before – when oh when will ABC Radio National join the 21st century?

I bring this up because they’ve got a terrific sounding novel being broadcast right now:

Wake In Fright is an open-eyed nightmare played out under a scorching outback sun. On one level it’s a great, mad, hallucinatory yarn about landing yourself in the ultimate geographical cul-de-sac – a place without exit. But underneath its compulsively readable surface lurks another, even darker story; a sort of ‘bush existentialist’ tale about the nature of self-entrapment, and the way in which we are often the architects of our own worst dreams.

ABC Radio National - Wake In Fright by Kenneth CookWake In Fright
By Kenneth Cook; Read by Gabriel Andrews
15 Broadcasts – Approx. 3 Hours 45 Minutes [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: ABC Radio National / The Book Reading
Broadcast: 2006 / 2009
An open-eyed nightmare played out under a scorching outback sun, Wake in Fright is on one level a great, mad hallucinatory yarn about landing yourself in the ultimate geographical cul-de-sac, a place without exit. But underneath its compulsively readable surface lurks another, even darker story; a sort of ‘bush existentialist’ tale about the nature of self-entrapment, and the way in which we are often the architects of our own worst dreams.

Sounds great don’t it? Too bad almost no-one will listen to 3.75 hours of story sitting in front of their monitors.

Posted by Jesse Willis