Jack Ward of the Sonic Society podcast has just informed me of some terrible news (read Jack’s tribute here). Humanity’s friend, Bill Hollweg, of Miles, Texas and BrokenSea Audio Productions, is dead.
I do not know the details of his death, I heard he’d taken his own life, but I do know that whatever he died of it must really have been that his heart was far too big.
To say that Bill was a generous man is to be uncharitable with words. Bill was a champion of that which is best in life, with a voice like a gravel pit and a pen like a sage.
I had far too few meetings with him, and he was a better friend to me than I deserved. I suspect I am not alone in this.
I first found Bill’s work on the web, about a decade ago, and as happens, we soon became, as he put it “amigos.”
His enthusiasm was contagious.
I last heard from in December in a brief comment consisting mostly of an oath to Crom that I “rock” – but the truth is it was Bill who rocked, and I swear it by Crom.
Bill well knew that there was no use in calling on the gods, for they care little for men. They merely laugh and send down dooms, if they even hear. But though Crom is grim and loveless, he gave one boon to Bill, at birth Crom breathed power to strive and create into Bill’s soul.
I, as just one of his chroniclers, do not have the complete picture, but I do know that to live life as Bill did is a goal worthy of any man.
As lovers of the works of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs how could Bill and I not have become the fastest of friends?
But Bill could surprise me. In one of our last exchanges he told me that he was thinking he needed to “re-read Moby Dick for the zillionth time!” I had, at the time read it only twice.
But truly this is not a tragedy. In fact, it all makes a grim kind of sense. Bill had been a sailor, and like Steve Costigan a fighter. A true veteran, and then a steely warrior, laughing in the face of rent-seeking vampires of cultural suppression. And now, like John Carter, though his body is here, his spirit has left the Earth for more adventurous climes. Call him Ishmael.
My friend, Bill Hollweg, has posted the first episode of his new original Science Fiction audio drama series 2109: Black Sun Rising. Produced for BrokenSea Audio Productions, the show makes extensive use of the stereo format (so be sure to use headphones or widely spaced speakers while listening). Also present are a many allusive character names, a plethora of familiar voice actors, and a teensy bit of harsh language.
Here’s the 2109: Black Sun Rising – Episode 1 |MP3|
Julie Hoverson’s long running and prolific anthology podcast, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, features original and adapted “strange stories.” Since it began back in 2009 I’ve pretty much ignored it completely. This is pretty odd considering that Hoverson’s output rivals that of the mighty Bill Hollweg and that she’s been doing something I’m always boosting (adapting public domain Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror). To be fair though, I had heard a couple of shows, most recently Snafu, but every time I’d listened to a 19 Nocturne show I’d come away with nothing to say. It took a recent email from Hoverson to get me to write something. Hoverson pointed out her new adaptation of Phillips Barbee’s The Leech. That title stirred a vague memory, then piqued my interest greatly, as I recalled that Phillips Barbee was actually the great Robert Sheckley!
When it was first published, in the December 1952 issue of Galaxy magazine, The Leech was credited to “Phillips Barbee” – a one-off pseudonym, presumably it was only used at all because there were two Sheckley stories running in that issue. All subsequent publications have credited The Leech to Sheckley alone.
As one of the first ever Sheckley stories to be published, The Leech is interesting in itself. But as a kind of precursor to The Blob – which itself has an ancestor of sorts in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space (which Hoverson has also read) it is even more interesting. The trope of a knowledgeable professor character investigating a dangerous object from space would be picked up for the 1953 BBC serial The Quatermass Experiment. In structure, however, The Leech more closely resembles the 1959 Manly Wade Wellman novel Giants From Eternity (look for a review of that soon). And it also bears some small resemblance to John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes there? (and thus the movies The Thing and The Thing From Another World). Even Dean Koontz’s Phantoms |READ OUR REVIEW| has some sort of ancestry or parallel in The Leech. In short this is a kind of a subgenre’s subgenre that I don’t know the name of.
As for Hoverson’s adaptation of The Leech, it’s pretty darned slick, with good acting and sound effects. There’s even a theremin! It’s also fairly faithful to Sheckley’s story going with the humor, using much of the dialogue, the setting and the period. But, as with most audio drama, Hoverson’s script completely disposes with the third person omniscient narration, opting instead for to give the alien a voice – or voices in this case (the Leech seems to be performed as a kind of hive mind). This choice leaves the ending more open to interpretation than does the original text. The Leech is one of the best amateur audio drama adaptations of a public domain story yet! Highly recommended.
19 Nocturne Boulevard – The Leech
Adapted by Julie Hoverson; From the story by Robert Sheckley; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 40 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: 19 Nocturne Boulevard
Podcast: February 23, 2011 Classic era science fiction about a very odd visitor from outer space.The Leech was first published in the December 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.
Professor Michaels … Grant Baciocco
Frank Connors … Bryan Hendrickson
Mrs. Jones … Kimberly Poole
Sheriff Flynn … Glen Hallstrom
General O’Donnell … Chuck Burke
Allenson, scientist … Cary Ayers
Moriarty, physicist … Eleiece Krawiec
Brigadier-General … H. Keith Lyons
Driver … Cary Ayers
Soldier1 … John Carroll
Soldier2 … Lothar Tuppan
Pilot … Mark Olson
The Leech … Suzanne Dunn, Will Watt, James Sedgwick, Julie Hoverson
Music by misterscott99
Editing and Sound: Julie Hoverson
Cover Design: Brett Coulstock
By Robert Sheckley; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 40 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: November 28, 2010
Etext: Gutenberg.org A visitor should be fed, but this one could eat you out of house and home … literally! From Galaxy Science Fiction December 1952.
WARNING: This review is a bit of an aberration, it’s a bit more gonzo. It was written this way out of necessity and it is thus perhaps only suitable for those who… ‘heard he was dead.’
Escape From New York
Based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Nick Castle; Adapted by Bill Hollweg; Performed by a full cast
5 MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 15 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: BrokenSea Audio Productions
Podcast: April 2009 – March 2010
Themes: / Crime / Dystopia / Science Fiction / Alternate History / WWIII / Prison / Horror / New York /
In the year 1988 the crime rate in the United States rises 400%. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. The prison’s name: New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, Manhattan Island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners, and the worlds they have made. The year now… 1997.
In the opening crawl (detailed above) we are given a world rife with Science Fiction glory. Escape From New York has a premise full of promise. It is a story pregnant with possibilities – nearly all of which are fulfilled. Escape From New York, my friends, is both a powerful satire of our times and a powerful cinematic experience movie. Now, thanks to the creative love and attention by fans at BrokenSea Audio Productions it is a wondrous audio drama made by fans for fans.
Now hang with me on this. I hope I don’t end up seeming like a crazed french film critic, arguing for the superiority of the second Star Wars trilogy (The Phantom Menace et. al) over the original Star Wars and Empire. Take that first statistic: “the crime rate in the United States rises 400%” – how would that be possible? It certainly wouldn’t match any conventional trend or shift in population growth. Might it then be categorized under some sort of Freakonomics-style explanation? Maybe. But, I think we could argue, quite convincingly, that the only way to increase the crime rate 400% overnight would be to make a whole lot more human behaviors crimes. Disrespecting authority, sharing files with friends, or as the trailer for Escape From L.A. puts it “No talking, no smoking, no littering, no red meat, no freedom of religion. And remember all marriages must be approved by the Department of Health.” So, the world of Escape From New York is really fun. But a world is not enough. You need a plot and a set of characters. As to the latter…
The anti-hero takes many forms but I have a special fondness for Snake Plisken. As in an IMDB grendelkhan says:
“Snake Plissken is the classic anti-hero, ala Clint Eastwood’s Man-with-no-name. Plissken is an ex-soldier turned criminal, recruited/blackmailed into rescuing a hostage president from the prison of New York City. Plissken is a walking ball of anger and a survival machine.”
Indeed, a survival machine who’s been betrayed, lied to shat on by his own government – and he’s got a cool eye-patch, a reverse tramp stamp of a cobra, and a gravelly voice. He is a great character.
“But what of his motivation?” You ask.
Plisken, call him Snake, lives in a parallel universe – a USA run like a fun-house-lensed double craptoberfest of moral hypocrisy. If you’ve seen the movie Escape From New York, you’re seeing the 1980 zeitgeist of Manhattan as the epitome of ghettoic urban decay. This fear, that your neighbors are out to get you, the horror that politicians so often rely upon, works great in movies (and in the opening credits to The Equalizer). But this isn’t only a horror story. The prison genre is one of my favorites (check out Animal Factory). Like westerns, these genre stories have a certain set of conventions or constraints that make a story told within those constraints far more satisfying. But neither is Escape From New York just a prison story. For it
is also a quest story, a revenge story, an all out action adventure. There are MacGuffins galore for Plisken to chase after: First up is a world peace conference that is about to end in disaster lest a certain audio cassette is retrieved, then there’s a kidnapped President Of The United States to be rescued, and of course there’s a jet glider (don’t think too hard about that one) as their only escape, but to top it all off there’s a pair of ticking time-bombs in Snake’s body! That’s not just motivation, that’s entertainment folks!
Snake, now motivated, has enough-knock-down-drag-out adventures in the course of just less than 24 hours, so as to numb any thoughy you had about suspending any disbelief. Or as Samuel Taylor Coleridge argued: “[if a writer could infuse a] human interest and a semblance of truth [into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative].” If you look at it another way this is the original 24, but with a hard-assed biker veteran saving the USA instead of a Kiefer Sutherland. In the course of just over 2 hours Bill Hollweg and the folks at BSAP have created a faithful and loving tribute to one of 1981’s best movies.
The Adventure Hear podcast’s and its host Jamie Monroe goal is to “share and expand the exciting world of Audio Drama and Audio Books.” Each episode brings you a new or classic audio drama or audiobook. Also on tap are reviews, interviews, news, commentary and a “unique behind the scenes look at what goes into producing audio drama and audio books.” Have a look at their first half-dozen shows listed below…
Episode 6: An interview with Bill Hollweg creator of Grog & Gryphon and a chapter of Mur Lafferty‘s podiobook Heaven|MP3|
A couple of notes:
#1. If you’ve already heard the Come Let Me Whisper podiobook be sure to listen to second episode show just to hear what the host thinks about “What’s Wrong With Audio Drama Today.” Then head back in time to read my thoughts on that same topic (our most controversial post of 2006).
#2. If you’re unsure where to start with the above shows, I recommend Episode 5 which features the first episode of – Grog & Gryphon. It’s not just the name of a show, its also the name of the tavern located out on the edge of the civilized lands. Listeners are invited to grab a tankard of ale, sit back and listen to heroic tales of yore. Plus, it has a crackerjack opening song by the soon-to-be-massive Brobdingnagian Bards!
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