BBCR4 + RA.CC: Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon RADIO DRAMA

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4RadioArchives.ccSome stories adapt better than others. I think a straight narration of an audiobook of Daniel Keyes’ novelette of Flowers For Algernon would be an easy and natural way to experience most of the story’s power. Sadly, that’s still yet to happen.

The original story, of course, makes great use of spelling mistakes which could not fully be illustrated in any audiobook narration, but a straight single voiced reading of the story still provides the main thrust of the tale’s dramatic technique; we get the grammar of the main character, his account of what his doctors ask of him, and we get what his”friends” think of him.

The film and television versions that I’ve seen have, with video’s visually orientation, have all eliminated much of the very valuable power inherent in the epistolary.

Indeed, as editor James Gunn puts it in his introductory essay to Flowers For Algernon, found in The Road To Science Fiction #4 – From Here To Forever, “Part of the appeal of the story is the comparison of the reader’s knowledge to Charlie’s, and the ability to see more in Charlie’s reports than he knows is there.” Once you actually get out of Charlie’s head you lose his perspective and lose the unreliable narration.

So I was thinking about all of this as I was downloading a 1991 BBC Radio dramatization, via torrent, from RadioArchive.cc.

I was pretty skeptical of any radio dramatization’s ability to convey the story’s full power. Now though, after listening, I’ve come away convinced that it retains much of its power, and offers up a very innovative use of the aural medium. It is actually quite a tricky balance but it totally worked in the way it is put together.

Bert Coules, who adapted the novelette had this to say:

“In 1991 the BBC asked me to suggest some SF material for a short season. I drew them up a list and at the same time put in a claim to do Flowers, which I think is a tremendous story: it completed knocked me out when I first read it as a kid. I was delighted when I got the commission.”

In Flowers For Algernon the central character keeps a diary – in fact, the entire story consists of his diary entries. I changed the diary into a series of audio recordings made on a personal tape machine, and interspersed them with dramatised scenes which are mentioned or implied in Daniel Keyes’ original but which don’t actually appear in the story at all. When you’re writing new material like that, the challenge of course is to keep it consistent with the stuff that does come more or less straight from the book.

Flowers posed a particular problem: if you’ve read the story you’ll know that Charlie Gordon, the central character, goes through some huge changes which are brilliantly depicted by the way his diary entries are written: as he develops, so does his spelling, grammar and punctuation. I had to find a spoken way of reflecting the same journey.”

I believe he’s done a fantastic job with it.

Incidentally, the other plays in that series included: Brave New World, Kaleidoscope, The Midas Plague, The Chrysalids, Space Ache, Who Goes There? and Tiger! Tiger!.

So, like I was saying, if you haven’t read the original novelette, I recommend you experience the story that way, as a piece of text, first. If you have read it, then I heartily recommend you try the audio drama. It’s a wonderful adaptation with excellent acting and a highly innovative use of the microphone.

Flowers For Algernon by Daniel KeyesFlowers For Algernon
Adapted from the novelette by Daniel Keyes; Dramatized by Bert Coules; Performed by a full cast
Approx. 59 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: September 5, 1991
Source: RadioArchive.cc
The play featured as part of a series of forward-looking productions collectively named “The shape of things to come.” Tom Courtenay stars as the intellectually challenged Charlie, who as part of an experiment is offered a “cure” for his low IQ…..First published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’s April 1959 issue.

Cast:
Tom Courtenay ………………… Charlie
Algernon …………………….. Himself
Joanna Myers …………….. Miss Kinnian
Barrie Cookson …………….. Dr Strauss
Ronald Herdman ………………. Dr Nemur
Clarence Smith ………………….. Bert
Nigel Carrington …………. Joe/Donnegan
Auriol Smith ………….. Mrs Flynn/Ellen
Alan Barker …………. Frank/Sherrinford

Adapted by Bert Coules

Produced by Matthew Walters

Recorded Books produced an unabridged edition of the novelized expansion of the story:

RECORDED BOOKS - Flowers For Algernon by Daniel KeyesFlowers For Algernon
By Daniel Keyes; Read by Jeff Woodman
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 1998
ISBN: 9781402550348
Charlie Gordon knows that he isn’t very bright. At 32, he mops floors in a bakery and earns just enough to get by. Three evenings a week, he studies at a center for mentally challenged adults. But all of this is about to change for Charlie. As part of a daring experiment, doctors are going to perform surgery on Charlie’s brain. They hope the operation and special medication will increase his intelligence, just as it has for the laboratory mouse, Algernon. Meanwhile, each day Charlie keeps a diary of what is happening to him. This is his poignant record of the startling changes in his mind and his life. Flowers for Algernon was first published as a short story, but soon received wide acclaim as it appeared in anthologies, as a television special, and as an award-winning motion picture, Charly. In its final, expanded form, this haunting story won the Nebula Award for the Best Novel of the Year. Through Jeff Woodman’s narration, it now becomes an unforgettable audio experience.

As mentioned earlier there have been four major video adaptations of Flowers For Algernon (three television movies and on theatrical film): Des Fleurs Pour Algernon (a 2006 French TV movie), Flowers For Algernon (a U.S. TV movie from 2000), Charly (a U.S. theatrical release from 1968) and a live broadcast teleplay that aired as a part of The United States Steel Hour in 1961 (it was titled The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon).

Des Fleurs Pour Algernon

And I’m afraid there was also a frightening looking musical theater version:

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #113

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #113 – Jesse and Eric S. Rabkin talk about Stupidity and Intelligence in Science Fiction (and Fantasy).

Talked about on today’s show:
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse, Fantasia, Christopher Marlowe‘s The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, Brothers Grimm Clever Hans (the fairy tale), Clever Hans (the horse), War With The Newts by Karel Čapek, Excerpt from (Book Two – Up the Ladder of Civilisation), trephination, “there are some things man was not meant to know”, evil science and evil scientists, R.U.R., Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Frankenstein is an egotist whereas the creature wants community, Chapter 11 of Frankenstein, intellect vs. empathy, “One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought.”, the ideology of intelligence is suspect, Gulliver’s Travels, Laputa, philosophers, The Clouds by Aristophanes, “head in the clouds”, BBC Radio dramatization of Lysistrata, The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, “the big bang”, telepathy, Gregg Margarite, “Genius in not a biological phenomenon.”, “stupid people can have smart babies and smart people can have stupid babies”, eugenics, sterilization programs, “we know so little about what we mean by intelligence”, “we breed against the outliers”, “If I see further than others it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants”, Sir Isaac Newton, Newton vs. Leibniz, Darwin vs. Wallace vs. Darwin’s grandfather, Robert A. Heinlein, “steam engine time”, Columbus and the egg, humans (persons) can compound our intelligence, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Charly, “we shouldn’t define humanity by our intelligence”, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, flowers from Weena, “fundamental humanity has to do with emotion and not intelligence”, He, She and It by Marge Piercy, programming a robot with stories, Yod is a robot-like golem, “it was immoral to create a conscious weapon”, The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, Eric is the world’s least reliable critic of The Doomsday Book, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, philosophy of science, the meaning of weapon, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, tool vs. weapon, “we have one mad scientist after another”, Gojira!, Ozymandias, Watchmen, Understand by Ted Chiang, “talking to babies”, “if everyone in the world around you is an idiot…what kind of relationship can you have with the world”, His Masters Voice by Stanisław Lem, Hogarth is an incredibly intelligence person, Edgar Allan Poe, Audible Frontier’s Solaris: The Definite Edition, The Futurological Congress, Isaac Asimov, Eric puts on his professorial hat, nous, the etymology of the word “intelligence”, Asimov reads between the lines for you, the etymology of the word “stupid”, what’s with the word “sentient” in Science Fiction?, Beyond Lies The Wub by Philip K. Dick, ansible, “sentience is the bag that we put all our coding for equally human”, was Larry Niven the prime promulgator of the SF version of “sentience”?, The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, “words are a map on the world”, The Time Machine, evolution and the clash of the classes, Wells respects the intelligence of his readers, Morlocks vs. Eloi, the King James version of the Bible, “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani“, Hugo Gernsback, Amazing Stories, “whizz bang sensofwunda”, The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells, “the warp drive is not important”, “the ansible is not important”, “we are all time travelers”, “in Wells’ greatest works he leaves some part of the story open”, “but whether this was a reprieve for us or them only time will tell”, Experiment In Autobiography by H.G. Wells, The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain”, Friedrich Schiller, reporters became cynical now they just go see what’s happening on Facebook, The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth is public domain, much of Kornbluth is PD because he died so young, The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth, Idiocracy, stupid people have lots of (stupid) babies (?), what’s wrong with The Marching Morons?, PLENTY!, “The Marching Chinese”, Thomas Robert Malthus, eugenics and dysgenics, what ties do genetics and intelligence have?, a very high fraction of American presidents have been left handed, immigrant groups produce terrific comedians, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, storing up ideas for my “word hoard”.

The Marching Chinese

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #100

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #100 – Scott and Jesse talked to John Joseph Adams about his careers as editor, anthologist, and audio fan

Talked about on today’s show:

Wastelands anthology, Book Of Cthulhu canceled, John’s reviews for Audible, Lightspeed Magazine, Joe Haldeman, More Than the Sum of His Parts, I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You, Cats in Victory, Fantasy Magazine, The Dog King, flat fee vs sharing royalties, Locus magazine stats retracted, internet vs print market, Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy #32 discussion – can’t read scifi in the future, David Barr Kirtley, Fantastic Fiction at KGB, Word Wars, The Living Dead anthology, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, George R.R. Martin, Brian Dunning the Skeptoid, The Tolkien Professor, The Improbable Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes on audio [Our Review], hard to get all the audio rights, The Living Dead 2 audiobook almost happened, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, is that John’s picture at lightspeedmagazine.com?, good news — she said yes, swearing is ok, Odyssey writer workshop, Aggie Con, too many writing podcasts?, Jesse doesn’t want to be a writer, reading slush (unsolicited manuscripts), can’t edit yourself, the output of Isaac Asimov, Wastelands modeled after Beyond Armageddon, “anthologies don’t sell”, Brave New Worlds, how about utopian?, role of editor, Passengers by Robert Silverberg, Daemon Knight, to listen to your editor or not, John W. Campbell, The Cold Equations, Flowers For Algernon, Daniel Keyes ignored suggestion, does novel editing still exist?, novels are getting fatter, I Am Number FourJames Frey’s Fiction Factory (James Patterson?), wrong lessons from George Lucas, purpose of scifi?, Harlan Ellison ® is registered, Ben Bova, The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells, Ted Chiang, scifi for schools?, Twilight as homework?, Ray Bradbury, The Pedestrian

Posted by Tamahome

The SFFaudio Podcast #073

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #073 – Jesse talks with Luke Burrage and Gregg Margarite about the Audible Frontiers/Brilliance Audio audiobook of Earth Abides by George R. Stewart!

Talked about on today’s show:
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, New York City, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the best post-apocalyptic novel, a lost classic, a calm method of exposition, a student of history, Isherwood Williams, very vivid and deeply imagined, how do you define Science Fiction?, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, philosophical nuts and bolts, the central crisis is left unexplained, the science in Earth Abides, “I understand people better after reading this book”, breeding cycles, Hard Biological Science Fiction, the disappearance of lice, overpopulation of the Earth, is it the author speaking or is it the main character?, ecology, there was no will to power, only a will to live, Baruch Spinoza, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, I can’t believe how long it took the guy to get to the library!, “how to render game”, “there’s lots of library love in this book”, “we’re not going to be the people that we were”, “the characters had to be ignorant out of laziness”, 1947, going to university, mediocrity is well loved, “why is dumb so cool?”, only people who are intelligent enough to ask the question…, does genius beget genius?, is intelligence particularly related to genetics?, nature/nurture, eugenics, is intelligence a particular interest rather than something in the brain?, superior interest vs. superior brainpower, Evie, finding the test, the IQ test, the observer’s position in the universe, “do you think what the government did to Alan Turing was wrong?”, the Apple logo inspired by Alan Turning’s suicide?, snopes.com, I knew I wanted to be friends with Gregg Margarite, LibriVox.org, the San Fransisco tribe, you cannot spoil this book, WWII, cargo cults, “would you ever be a member of a cargo cult?”, Montezuma and Quetzalcoatl, The Gods Must Be Crazy, religion, superstition, pinch your God, if God lived on earth people would break his windows, tribal sociological phenomena, the role of chiefs, the most interesting book about pinching I’ve ever read, “heartwarming pinching”, reading, despondence and acceptance, what does it really matter if humanity is dead?, The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, intellectual arguments vs. emotional arguments, it’s very rare to be emotionally affected (to tears) by a book, narrator Jonathan Davis, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, one of the best narrations that I’ve heard, Mike Resnick‘s Starship series, Star Wars, Connie Willis‘ introduction to Earth Abides, Deep Six by Jack McDevitt, “always skip over the introduction”, where does Isherwood’s name come from?, forgetting your own name, the character of Jack, I don’t read for characters, Isherwood thinks he’s an intellectual, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe, The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, “I would have taken out Electromechanical Engineering“, Emm and Ezra, Charlie, George (the carpenter/plumber), “even his dog (Princess)”, a friend’s quiz, people are not just what they know or what they read, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, “society is all the different bits and humanity is all the different bits”, adopting leaves as a currency, maybe the whole of Douglas Adams should be treated like a religious text, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is a book about itself, Doctor Who, the dish of the day, other themes in Earth Abides, racism in Lucifer’s Hammer, what race is Emma?, does it matter?, the last American, people who are racist are people talk about race, race is a sociological idea, race is something – but it is not science, “I don’t live the history”, “they need to have somebody who are below them on the ladder”, Fox News, ideological reasons for watching TV, Glenn Beck is Mormon, Mormons believe that the Constitution of the United States was “divinely inspired”, his country is part of his ideology, the reason Orson Scott Card hates gays is because of his belief system, newspapers still have an Astrology section, there is no hegemony in Earth Abides, individuals interacting with one another, “people abide”, are you born of another?, matriarchy vs. patriarchy, “Is it a talisman? a totem? It’s single jack!”, “the power to destroy and drive in a nail”, a genius accident, the word “jack” means “doer”, Jack Bauer, semiotics, Jesus freaks vs. religious freaks, separating the voice of the author from the voice of the main character, The Last Man On Earth, The Last Man On Earth Blog, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Life After People, George R. Stewart wrote a biography of Bret Harte, Harte is far more complex than Louis L’Amour, Oakland, Mark Twain, recording for LibriVox.org, 2BOR02B by Kurt Vonnegut, we all know that Science Fiction has been carrying this burden, iambik audio, recording a 600 page book on the road, $1000 microphone, The Secret Of Kralitz by Henry Kuttner, The Ego Machine by Henry Kuttner, the Del Rey “best of” books, The Best Of Jack Williamson, Frederick Pohl, Luke rates Earth Abides 4.5 out of 5 stars, “it’s good because it’s not very good in this way”, did it achieve what it set out to accomplish, The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, we are thoroughly impressed, Earth Abides is 13 CDs 15 Hours, time passing, the loss of reading, is literacy in and of itself a good?, giving the book away, separating technique from practical skills, bull dodging, Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison, Soylent Green, get Charlton Heston out of your head but keep Edward G. Robinson, The Omega Man, potential upcoming SFFaudio Readalongs, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle, Do Andoids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Valis, The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer and The Divine Invasion, Leo Tolstoy, the philosophy of art, “the only true art is folk art”, art is an abbreviation of the word artifact, a nuclear bomb is art to me, labor intensive art, venus figures, craft vs. art, I don’t think art has a place in this book?, I’m pretty sure something is going on about art in this book, I see similarities between petroglyphs and Pollock, maybe I was wrong, are we post structuralist, Duchamp, Aristotle’s Poetics, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, David Lynch’s Dune, Laurel and Hardy, Gilligan and the Skipper, Akira Kurosawa, George R. Stewart basically invented the disaster novel, Ordeal By Hunger by George R. Stewart (available from Blackstone Audio).

Posted by Jesse Willis

Rocket Science 1960 – 1962

SFFaudio News

The Fix - Short Fiction ReviewPosted on March 1 at The Fix: Short Fiction Review is the latest Rocket Science column, which covers 1960 – 1961.

Audio versions of Hugo winners from those years:
 
 
 
1960:
Short Fiction: “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
I couldn’t find an audio version of the novelette version, but the novel version (which later won a Nebula Award) is available from Recorded Books.

Novel: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
There are two versions of this – one from Blackstone Audio and one from Recorded Books. See Jesse’s review of both of them for the full scoop.
 
 
1961:
Short Fiction: “The Longest Voyage” by Poul Anderson
This one was included in a Dercum Press collection called No Truce with Kings. |SFFaudio Review|.

Novel: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Amazon lists an out-of-print version from Books on Tape, and Wisconsin Public Radio produced a 13 part audio drama for NPR, which you may be able to find.
 
 
1962:
Short Fiction: The “Hothouse” series by Brian W. Aldiss
I couldn’t find this one on audio.

Novel: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Blackstone Audio has an unabridged production, read by Christopher Hurt.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson