Jerry Kenney of WYSO (Yellow Springs, Ohio) contacted me back in Novmeber 2010. He wanted me to check out their latest radio drama, a historical biography piece entitled Dangerous Women. He described it like this:
“[Dangerous Women is] the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the early suffragettes [in the United States]. While not technically sci-fi or fantasy, it is the ‘Spirit’ of Stanton who drives the play forward. I also see that you list “history” among your listening pleasures. We are a public radio station in Yellow Springs, Ohio and produced the play with a local theatre group. This is our third project and I’d be interested in any feed back you might have. We aired the program locally last week and have had a good response from listeners. Links to our other historical dramas can be found there as well. Again, any feedback you have would be most welcome.”
And here’s my feedback:
Dangerous Women‘s sweeping rendering is both an informative summary of the reasons for women’s suffrage and the story of how the laws regarding it came to be. I can’t imagine that the U.S. congress and senate would ever approve such an amendment today – let alone a three-fourths of fifty states!
The script is uniformly excellent, being both a well organized historical lesson and compelling biography. The production, likewise, is seamless and solid. Much of the acting feels rather stiff, but none of it actually undermines the production. As to the history itself, I was surprised by the many parallels between the Canadian and British suffrage movements, with which I was already familiar. Perhaps women’s suffrage, the world over, can only be like this – opposed by men (and some women), something gradually achieved – and not the end point of making gender equality.
If you’re interested in historical drama, Dangerous Women is a great place to start!
By Kay Reimers; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: October 21, 2010 This original work by Yellow Springs playwright Kay Reimers, concerns the beginning and end of the nearly century long struggle to give women the right to vote. The play begins in 1920, during a special election held by the Tennessee state legislature to ratify the 19th amendment. In the tense hours leading up to the vote, as Reimers tells the story, the spirit of the first suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, reflects on the events of her life and struggle, which led to the first formal demand for women’s suffrage in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York. Giving women the right to vote was considered a threat to the established order and women were considered “dangerous” even to suggest it.
Miriam Eckenrode as Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Howard Shook as Henry Stanton
Doug Hinkley as Judge Cady
Marcia Nowak as Susan B. Anthony
Directed by Dan Davis
Produced by Jerry Kenney
In researching for another post, on an obscure Science Fiction radio drama called SF’68, I discovered a cool website about a South African radio station called “Springbok Radio” and one of its other programmes: The Challenge Of Space!
Here’spart of their description of The Challenge Of Space:
“Sponsored by Carling Black Label Beer, this series examined man’s early ventures into space. The space race of the 1950’s and 1960’s spawned this series, especially the Apollo missions to the moon in the late 1960’s. … recorded at the AFS Studios in Johannesburg… Many of the stories were dramatisations of true events and also included futuristic tales of space exploration of the future.”
Reading that, I was excited to hear the only extant episode, the second one broadcast, which is about Wernher von Braun!
After hearing the episode I am reminded of one of the few movies I’ve been waiting more than a decade to see, a 1960 biographical film about von Braun called I Aim At The Stars. I was convinced it sounded like a fun film when one comedian pointed out that it should have been subtitled “But Sometimes I Hit London.” Have a listen to My Destiny, The Stars.
The Challenge Of Space – My Destiny, The Stars
By June Dixon; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 28 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: Springbok Radio
Broadcast: May 26, 1969 Cast:
Donald Monat as Charles B. Ryan
After hearing this episode I am reminded of one of the few movies I’ve been waiting more than a decade to see, a 1960 biographical film about von Braun called I Aim At The Stars. I was convinced it sounded like a fun film when one satirist noted that I Aim At The Stars should be subtitled “But Sometimes I Hit London.”
I cannot wholeheartedly recommend you listen to this biography of Mary Shelley. There’s far too much surmising and a great deal too much imagining what Mary Shelley’s life was like for my taste. And while it’s true that we probably know a great deal more about Mary Shelley’s life now, than her biographer knew at the time of the writing, Mrs. Shelley feels as if it was written as a writing assignment, rather than a work of keen interest. Further, the author, Lucy Madox Rossetti, takes it upon herself to do a kind of literary criticism of Shelley’s fiction in the biography! I find it rather catty, and given even my limited understanding of the subject (Mary Shelley), I suspect Rossetti it is badly informed. Take this bit, written about Shelley’s The Last Man, as a for instance:
To give an adequate idea of genius with all its charm, and yet with its human imperfections, was beyond Mary’s power. Adrian, the son of kings, the aristocratic republican, is the weakest part, and one cannot help being struck by Mary Shelley’s preference for the aristocrat over the plebeian. In fact, Mary’s idea of a republic still needed kings’ sons by their good manners to grace it, while, at the same time, the king’s son had to be transmuted into an ideal Shelley. This strange confusion of ideas allowed for, and the fact that over half a century of perhaps the earth’s most rapid period of progress has passed, the imaginative qualities are still remarkable in Mary. Balloons, then dreamed of, were attained; but naturally the steam-engine and other wonders of science, now achieved, were unknown to Mary. When the plague breaks out she has scope for her fancy, and she certainly adds vivid pictures of horror and pathos to a subject which has been handled by masters of thought at different periods.
It’s writing like that makes you wonder why she bothered writing the book at all. And Lucy Madox Rossetti is just plain wrong about some of it. Thomas Newcomen, the father of the atmospheric engine (steam-engine) created his apparatus almost a century before Mary Shelley was even born.
One saving grace, if this audiobook has one, are the capsule synopses of Shelley’s many novels and stories. They are actually rather handy!
But, to the biography, the fact remains this is the only public domain biography of Mary Shelley yet available on LibriVox. Until a better one appears we will have to make do with…
By Lucy Madox Rossetti; Read by various 29 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 6 Hours 44 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: October 13, 2010 Mrs. Shelley is a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, author of Frankenstein and other works, wife of Percy Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who penned The Vindication of the Rights of Women, and daughter of William Godwin, a philosopher and novelist. The life of this woman, who at nineteen wrote a story that has become a part of everyday culture, is its own story to tell. The author, Lucy Madox Brown Rossetti, was the daughter of the artist Ford Madox Brown and the wife of William Michael Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures Of A Hollywood Geek
By Olivia Munn and Mac Montandon; Read by Olivia Munn
4 CDs – Approx. 5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Puiblisher: Macmillian Audio
Published: July 2010
Themes: / Autobiography / Sexuality / Oklahoma / California / Japan / Robots / Zombies / Pie /
Today’s hottest geek and host of G4’s Attack Of The Show dishes her unique brand of humor of on everything from Star Wars, gadgets, and her love of banana cream pie. Olivia Munn is an actress, comedian and television host, best known for being the face of the G4 network. She also occasionally likes to get dressed up as Wonder Woman. SUCK IT WONDER WOMAN is her paean to Geeks everywhere. Using her trademark humor in essays like THOUGHTS ABOUT MY FIRST AGENT’S GIRLFRIEND’S VAGINA she skewers what it’s like to live in Hollywood. In “SEX: WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOURSELF HAVE MORE OF IT” she frankly gets down to the business of getting it on. In “WHAT TO DO WHEN THE ROBOTS INVADE (YES, WHEN!),” Olivia offers valuable information on… what to do when the robots invade! And just when you thought she couldn’t get any more Geeky, she can. This book also includes an Olivia Munn timeline of great moments in Geek history and her answers to the Unofficial Geek FAQ. Is it any wonder that Olivia Munn is quickly becoming the most powerful Geek on the planet? SUCK IT WONDER WOMAN is a humorous look at geeks, gadgets, Hollywood, and huge heapings of banana cream pie.
When this audiobook arrived I didn’t recognize the author or what exactly it was. I’d seen Attack Of The Show, and at least one of the episodes of The Daily Show in which she appeared, but something dimly pinged and I decided to give it a listen. Maybe part of it is that I’ve been a sucker for biographical audiobooks since I first stumbled across Michael Caine’s amazing reading of his autobiography What’s It All About?. Since then I’d read maybe a half dozen more. I’m sad to say most were only marginally interesting, but they never sucked, and I’ve found you can learn a hell of a lot about history by hearing about individual lives. The only biography that’s come as close to recreating that first experience was perhaps, rather strangely, a Blackstone Audio version of The Most Dangerous Man In America: Scenes From The Life Of Benjamin Franklin by Catherine Drinker Bowen. Weird huh? Yeah, Michael Caine and Benjamin Franklin have very little in common, other than being male and speakers of English. What they do share, however, is a kind of an ineffable interestingness. Caine’s story was full of a bewildering matter-of-factness, performed by the actor himself, and offered dozens of surprises and a whole lifetime’s worth of experience in the movies in less than three hours. Franklin, that auto-didactic man of letters, inventor, humorist and well … you’ll just have to go listen to the audiobook yourself … was completely and utterly amazing. Olivia Munn, and her book Suck It Wonder Woman are, on the other hand, entirely and completely effable. And by that I don’t only mean that there’s a lot of potty mouth in this audiobook.
Suck It Wonder Womanis potty mouthed and full of dirty stories about crazy people in Hollywood. There are also brief chapters on seemingly random, hip-sounding dos and don’ts. I’m not sure why these bits were added in. The audiobook works best when operating in the more serious storytelling sections. Munn’s description of herself as a child are fun and retrospectively insightful. One chapter, relating her relationship with her grandparents, is highly poigniant. That isn’t fluff. But not all of these stories are all that serious either. Her relating meetings with celebrities (named and unnamed) are surprising and frightening. And while the generalities of Munn’s life story, so far, aren’t particularly unique, she has some fun tales to tell. Munn makes for quite a sympathetic figure in all of the specifics of her life. And, her almost puppy-like eagerness to tell you about it, with her narration, is very endearing. When she relates her sadnesses, you are truly disheartened. But, as Munn reminds us, we can’t be too downcast, there’s always pie.
If there’s one public domain novel I don’t mind seeing endless re-releases and re-recordings of it’s this one…
The Call Of The Wild
By Jack London; Read by Jeff Daniels
CDs – Approx. 3 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: May 25, 2010
Sample |MP3| Jack London’s The Call Of The Wild was written in 1903, but Buck’s gripping adventure makes for a thrilling listen on audio more than 100 years after it was first published. This gripping story follows the adventures of the loyal dog Buck, who is stolen from his comfortable family home and forced into the harsh life of an Alaskan sled dog. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey that ends with his becoming the legendary leader of a wolf pack.
Now this should be interesting…
Wolf: The Lives of Jack London
By James L. Haley; Read by Bronson Pinchot
10 CDs or 1 Mp3-CD – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: May 25, 2010
ISBN: 9781441758965 (cd), 9781441758972 (mp3-cd) Jack London was born a working-class, fatherless San Franciscan in 1876. In his youth, he was a boundlessly energetic adventurer on the bustling west coast—by and by playing the role of hobo, sailor, and oyster pirate. From his vantage point at the margins of Gilded Age America, he witnessed such iniquity and abuses that he became a life long socialist and advocate for reform. His adventures in the American wilderness and underworld informed his fiction, and his writing came to captivate the nation as it defined his era. Within his own short lifetime, London became the most popular, and bestselling, author of his generation. By adulthood he had matured into the iconic American author of such still-universally loved books as The Call Of The Wild, White Fang, and Sea Wolf, but in spite of his success, he was at war with himself. The highest-paid writer in America, he was constantly broke. Famous as he was for conjuring the brutality of nature in story after story and novel after novel, upon the actual deaths of his favorite animals he would dissolve into helpless tears. Sick, angry, and disillusioned, after a short, breathless life, he passed away at age forty, but he left behind him a glorious literary legacy. Award-winning author James L. Haley explores the forgotten Jack London—a man bristling with ideas, whose passion for social justice roared until the day he died. In Wolf, Haley returns Jack London to his proper place in the American pantheon, resurrecting the author of White Fang in his full fire and glory.
Made by makers…
Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World
By Mark Frauenfelder; Read by Kirby Heyborne
7 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: June 07, 2010
ISBN: 9781400117819 (cd), 9781400167814 (mp3-cd) From his unique vantage point as editor in chief of Make magazine, the hub of the newly invigorated do-it-yourself (DIY) movement, Mark Frauenfelder takes listeners on an inspiring and surprising tour of the vibrant world of DIY. The Internet has brought together large communities of people who share ideas, tips, and blueprints for making everything from unmanned aerial vehicles to pedal-powered iPhone chargers to an automatic cat feeder jury-rigged from a VCR. DIY is a direct reflection of our basic human desire to invent and improve, long suppressed by the availability of cheap, mass-produced products that have drowned us in bland convenience and cultivated our most wasteful habits. Frauenfelder spent a year trying a variety of offbeat projects, such as keeping chickens and bees, tricking out his espresso machine, whittling wooden spoons, making guitars out of cigar boxes, and doing citizen science with his daughters in the garage. His whole family found that DIY helped them take control of their lives, offering a path that was simple, direct, and clear. Working with their hands and minds helped them feel more engaged with the world around them.
Frauenfelder reveals how DIY is changing our culture for the better. He profiles fascinating “alpha makers” leading various DIY movements and grills them for their best tips and insights. Beginning his journey with hands as smooth as those of a typical geek, Frauenfelder offers a unique perspective on how earning a few calluses can be far more rewarding and satisfying than another trip to the mall.
I always bet on the man with the bigger mustache…
Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin—the Eastern Front, 1941-1945
By John Mosier; Read by Michael Prichard
10 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 12.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: June 15, 2010
ISBN: 9781400117369 (cd), 9781400167364 (mp3-cd) John Mosier presents a revisionist retelling of the war on the Eastern Front. Although the Eastern Front was the biggest and most important theater in World War II, it is not well known in the United States, as no American troops participated in the fighting. Yet historians agree that this is where the decisive battles of the war were fought. The conventional wisdom about the Eastern Front is that Hitler was mad to think he could defeat the USSR because of its vast size and population, and that the Battle of Stalingrad marked the turning point of the war. Neither statement is accurate, says Mosier; Hitler came very close to winning outright. Mosier’s history of the Eastern Front will generate considerable controversy both because of his unconventional arguments and because he criticizes historians who have accepted Soviet facts and interpretations. Mosier argues that Soviet accounts are utterly untrustworthy and that accounts relying on them are fantasies. Deathride argues that the war in the East was Hitler’s to lose, that Stalin was in grave jeopardy from the outset of the war, and that it was the Allied victories in North Africa and consequent threat to Italy that forced Hitler to change his plans and saved Stalin from near-certain defeat. Stalin’s only real triumph was in creating a legend of victory.
We’ve talked about it on the podcast, and here it is…
By Alastair Reynolds; Read by John Lee
15 Audio CDs or 2 MP3-CDs – Approx. 19.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Publisher: June 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781400117116(cd), 9781400167111 (mp3-cd) Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different—and rigidly enforced—level of technology. Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon’s world is wrenched apart one more time. If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint’s base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever imagine. But there is far more at stake than just Quillon’s own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police but by the very nature of reality—and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability.
Death Cloud is the first in a series of novels in which Sherlock Holmes is re-imagined as “a brilliant, troubled and engaging teenager”…
Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud
By Andrew Lane; Read by Dan Stevens
3 CDs – Approx. 3 Hours [ABRIDGED?]
Publisher: Pan Macmillian Audio
Published: June 2010
ISBN: 9780230745124 The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer’s son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education – the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India, and his mother mysteriously ‘unwell’, Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins a summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption and a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent…
Selections from Dreamsongs Volume 1: Fan Fiction and Sci-Fi from Martin’s Early Years
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Claudia Black, Mark Bramhall, Scott Brick, Roy Dotrice, Kim Mai Guest, Kirby Heyborne, and Adrian Paul
12 CDs; 15 hours; [UNABRIDGED SELECTIONS]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Fantasy / Short Stories / Biography /
Audiobooks have evolved over the past few years in a number of ways. CD’s are now the norm, cassettes used to be. Many more titles are being made into audiobooks. But still, even though audiobooks are a distinct medium, they still haven’t taken the inevitable step away from print. This audiobook, which is quite excellent, is a good example of what I mean. Though this is a collection of short stories, nowhere, on the inside or outside of the packaging, does it list the Table of Contents. This kind of thing has audiobook listeners looking for the print version of the book for this information. It’s as if audiobooks are being made as an augmentation of their print counterparts. Surely, they should be created stand-alone. Information, like the Table of Contents of a short story collection, should not only be included, but it should be visible before purchase.
Still, like I said, this audiobook is excellent. It’s the first of three collections that contain selections from the three Dreamsongs books that collect George R.R. Martin’s short fiction. This Volume covers the early years of Martin’s career, from his fan fiction publications through his first sales to his first awards.
As interesting as the included stories are the biographical introductions to each section that are read by George R.R. Martin himself. These introductions are lengthy, though I would have enjoyed even more of them. He talks about his first writings, his first sale, his first nominations, and his first Hugo, for “A Song of Lya”. It’s a candid overview of a writer’s life, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as I enjoyed similar details in Stephen King’s On Writing.
A Four Color Fanboy, read by George R.R. Martin
“Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark”, read by Adrian Paul
“The Fortress”, read by Mark Bramhall
“And Death His Legacy”, read by Scott Brick
This section contains stories that Martin wrote for fanzines. If you want to read a villain’s monologue as written by George R.R. Martin, look no further than “Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark”, which is a “hero meets demon prince” story. Adrian Paul gives the story an uplifting dramatic reading.
The Filthy Pro, read by George R.R. Martin
“The Hero”, read by Roy Dotrice
“The Exit to San Breta”, read by Scott Brick
“The Second Kind of Loneliness”, read by Mark Bramhall
“With Morning Comes Mistfall”, read by Claudia Black
Roy Dotrice should read all of George R.R. Martin’s fiction. He’s just got this gravel quality that seems to match so many of Martin’s heroes. In “The Hero”, Martin’s first story sale, which Dotrice reads, a future soldier who has finished his tour of duty decides not to re-enlist, and to request passage to Earth, as was promised when he signed on. Dotrice manages to make the soldier even more believable.
The Light of Distant Stars, read by George R.R. Martin
“A Song for Lya”, read by Mark Bramhall
“The Tower of Ashes”, read by Kirby Heyborne
“And Seven Times Never Kill Man”, read by Roy Dotrice
“The Stone City”, read by Adrian Paul
“Bitterblooms”, read by Kim Mai Guest
“The Way of Cross and Dragon”, read by Roy Dotrice
And here we see Martin at near full-strength. “A Song for Lya”, read by Mark Bramhall, is the centerpiece of this volume as far as I’m concerned. It won Martin his first Hugo, and is a moving story about a couple who arrives at a planet to investigate the influence of the indigenous alien religion on humans. “The Way of Cross and Dragon” again deals with religion, but this time in a form that closely resembles the Catholic Church.
Audible.com has all three volumes of Dreamsongs available now. Not only can you buy each volume, but they’ve also allowed you to purchase the individual sections of the books, each introduced by the author. Wonderful stuff!