Review of Hollywood Fantasies: Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Hollywood FantasiesHollywood Fantasies – Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town
By Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, John Jakes, David Morrell, Michael Reaves, David Schow, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg and Henry Slesar; Read by Susan Anspach, David Birney, Harlan Ellison, Jamie Farr, Laini Kazan, Steve Kmetko, Harley Jane Kozak, Favid Madden and John Rubinstein
4 cassettes – Approx 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1997 – hardcopy out of print (available for download at Audible)
ISBN: 0787109460
Themes: Fantasy / Hollywood / Movies / Television / Westerns / Witchcraft / Virtual Reality / Magic /

Learn the truth behind the mask of Hollywood in these ten bizarre tales of dreams and dream weavers, movies and movie-makers, by some of the most respected fantasy writers of our time.

This disappointing collection has a few redeeming tales, but few must-listen gems. The majority of the stories feel like filler – many feature tacked on twist endings that are less than stellar. Apparently Harlan Ellison’s reading of his own story, “Laugh Track,” has been modified in the performance – with the addition of a few lines here and there – if anybody’s gonna mess with a story it best be the author. The cover art is utilitarian but colorful, packaging for this audiobook is however very poor, most examples of these 4 cassette plastic cases with cardboard covers have become unbound as the glue holding the two together was not up to its task. Another minor annoyance, the mislabeling of cassette 4, Ed Gorman’s story “Gunslinger” is said to run through all of side 7 and onto 8, when it is the reverse. “Dead Image” starts on side 7 and runs through all of side 8.

Stories Included:

“The Never-Ending Western Movie” by Robert Sheckley
Jamie Farr’s gruff cowboy voice successfully narrates this 1976 short story, which posits an alternate world in which the old-fashioned movie serial westerns and reality television have merged. This is hard enough on the actors, who now have to do their own stunts, but when the prop guns fire real bullets acting scared isn’t too tough.

“One For The Horrors” by David Schow
A run-down movie theater shows prints of lost movie masterpieces like The Man Who Would Be King starring Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable? The only thing that could top that is what’s playing tomorrow night! This one really is fantasy! Strictly for film connoisseurs – it held my interest but could have exited the stage a little more interestingly. Author David Schow must have done some fascinatingly fun research for this one. Reader Steve Kmetko works some magic of his own in the theater of the ear.

“The Man Who Wanted To Be In The Movies” by John Jakes
George wants to be in movies, so he visits his local licensed witch to cast a spell that’ll do the job. Harley Jane Kozak, the narrator, is fine – but the story itself is absolutely pointless and uninteresting.

“Laugh Track” by Harlan Ellison
Have you ever wondered where the laugh tracks from television sitcoms come from? Meet Wally Modisett, the Phantom Sweetener. Originally appearing in “Weird Tales” Magazine in 1984, this overly lengthy tale is almost made up for in part by Ellison’s enthusiastic performance, told in first person.

“Reality Unlimited’ by Robert Silverberg
Virtual Reality movies. Neat idea, but that’s all it is, the idea is there but the story is M.I.A.. When this tale was written in 1957 it might have had some point to it, today it’s barely a curiosity. A disappointing story by the usually reliable Silverberg. But on the other hand Susan Anspach reading of it was fine.

“The Movie People” by Robert Bloch
Movie extras have been in Hollywood films since the silent era, but just because they have no lines doesn’t mean we can’t read between them. Adequate and with a modicum of originality this tale would have benefited from a few more drafts before publication – it wanted to be a better story. John Rubenstein takes his time with the telling – a laconic voice that doesn’t detract from the story.

“Werewind” by Michael Reaves
A serial killer and a lonely howling wind may be connected. The only question is how. Marginally listenable, Michael Reaves’ story isn’t predictable, but neither is it comprehensible. It feels like a refugee from a Danielle Steele novelization of A Nightmare on Elm Street – and that doesn’t make any sense to me either! David Madden’s reading is far better than this short deserves.

“The Movie Makers” by Henry Slesar
Henry Slesar’s ode to 1950’s science fiction b-movies succeeds – in disappointing the same way those bad movies do – minus the cheesy special visual effect. The twist ending is also predictable. Lainie Kazan’s serviceable reading is adequate to the story’s requirements – though consider the predominant male characterization a female narrator is a questionable choice.

“Gunslinger” by Ed Gorman
In the early Twentieth century cowboys were heading away from the range and towards Hollywood, where they’d take on roles in the burgeoning western film frenzy. One man however is has a score to settle with one of these cowboys turned film actors, and its gonna be real bullets that’ll fly. “Gunslinger is illogically placed in this collection – it is not fantasy. It is set in Hollywood, but isn’t particularly fanciful. David Birney doesn’t have much to do here, but neither does he fail to achieve what’s required – to tell the story.

“Dead Image” by David Morrell
A thinly veiled tale about movie rebel James Dean, that asks the question: If Dean had a second chance at life would he do things any different? This very interesting tale depends upon a listener’s knowledge of James Dean’s life and death – also neat was the appearance of a Dennis Hopper type. Morrell’s tale isn’t likely to be turned into a film itself, but it’s full of neat ruminations on destiny and fame. Jamie Farr’s deep voice makes a second, and very welcome, appearance in this collection. He’s becoming one of my favorite celebrity narrators.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Voice from the Edge Vol 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Voice from the Edge Vol 1 by Harlan EllisonThe Voice from the Edge Vol 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
By Harlan Ellison; Read by Harlan Ellison
5 CD’s – 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2002
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Short Stories / Artificial Intelligence / Time / Demons /

This is a collection of Harlan Ellison’s best (well… most popular) stories. The most oft-reprinted tales are here, among them: “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “‘Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Ticktockman”, “Paladin of the Lost Hour”, and “A Boy and His Dog”. The stories are read by the author, who himself is a first-rate reader, lending an infectious energy to every story in the collection.

I personally know of no other author’s stories with which to compare Harlan Ellison’s. He’s arguably the finest writer of short fiction on the planet, building stories of great impact in such a short space. In “‘Repent, Harlequin'”, he gives us a parable of society’s dependence on the clock, making schedules look ridiculous enough to make one wonder what the heck we’re all doing. And this was written in the 1960’s! In “Paladin of the Lost Hour”, a man is given responsibility over the world’s last hour. The characters in “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” are trapped by a malevolent computer. These are great stories, every one. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.

Stories included in the collection: “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “Laugh Track”, “Grail”, “‘Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Ticktockman”, The Very Last Day of a Good Woman”, “Paladin of the Lost Hour”, “The Time of the Eye”, “The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke”, and “A Boy and His Dog”.

Review of 2000X: Tales of the Next Millenia

Another for my list of favorites… almost done!

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audio Drama - 2000X2000X: Tales of the Next Millennia
Hollywood Theater of the Ear
Executive Producers – Andy Trudeau and Stefan Rudnicki
Project Director / Producer-Director – Yuri Rasovsky
Hosted by Harlan Ellison

2000X aired on National Public Radio in 1999 and 2000. It’s a diverse series of 46 dramatized science fiction stories from authors like Robert A. Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, C.L. Moore, Robert Sheckley, Connie Willis, and Octavia Butler, just to name a few. This is audio drama at it’s highest quality – both the scripts and the performances are as good as I’ve heard.

I’ve got two favorites in the series:

By His Bootstraps
From a story by Robert A. Heinlein
Adapted, Produced, and Directed by Yuri Rasovsky
Mixed by Richard Fairbanks
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Cordis Heard, Kascia Marciniak, and Ira Burton
Themes: / Time Travel / Paradox / Far Future /

This production won the Ohio State Award in 1982, and was included later in the 2000x series. It’s a fine dramatization of the story of time travel from one of the masters of the genre, performed by Richard Dreyfuss. It twists and turns back on itself in a brilliantly paradoxical manner. The production is fascinating to hear, as the stereo levels are managed to provide separation between the characters, which gets pretty complicated during the story. This one is best in stereo, while wearing headphones.

“Repent, Harlequin,” said the Ticktockman
Based on the story by Harlan Ellison
Dramatized, Produced, and Directed by Yuri Rasovsky
Recorded and Mixed by Warren Dewey
Starring Robin Williams, Harlan Ellison, Stefan Rudnicki, Arte Johnson, James Otis, Scott Brick, Hamilton Camp, Laura Kellogg, Melinda Peterson, and Phil Proctor

This is a fine way to experience Harlan Ellison’s classic story. It’s introduced and narrated by an enthusiastic Harlan Ellison. Robin Williams is perfect as the Harlequin, and Stefan Rudnicki’s voice makes the Ticktockman positively ominous. It’s an audio treat, full of sound, energy, and humor.

For a play list of all the productions in the series, click here. The 2000X homepage is here. And don’t forget to support your local public radio station!

2000X is currently available is two ways. First, Fantasic Audio has published a collection of some of the shows on cassette. It includes Repent, Harlequin and By His Bootstraps along with several others.

Second, the shows are available individually from Audible.com.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Audible.com is publishing some excellent science f…

SFFaudio News

Audible.com is publishing some excellent science fiction and fantasy on audio. Earlier this year, they put out three collections: The Best of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 2002, The Best of Analog Science Fiction Magazine 2002, and The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine 2002. I reviewed all three titles for SF Site and enjoyed them all. My clear favorite, though, was the Fantasy and Science Fiction collection, so I was very pleased to see them follow up with two more titles: The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, January-February 2003 and The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, March-April 2003. The stories are all unabridged, and each collection runs five to six hours.

Over the past two or three years, I’ve experienced a growing appreciation for short-form science fiction on audio. Unabridged novella and novellette length stories make the finest audiobooks, in my opinion, and there is a lot of good science fiction and fantasy out there at that length that has yet to be recorded. I’ve got a copy of The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, January-February 2003 and have listened to the first story, called “Anomalous Structures of My Dreams” by M. Shayne Bell. M. Shayne Bell is an intensely emotional writer. All of his stories I’ve read to date have been memorable – he really makes me feel. His website is here. It hasn’t been updated for a long while, but you can read “Lock Down”, one of his best. The site also has his essay A Defense of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is worth a read.

There are five other stories in the The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, January-February 2003 collection:

“Vandoise and the Bone Monster” by Alex Irvine

“Grey Star” by Albert E. Cowdrey

“Old Virginia” by Laird Barron

“The Seasons of the Ansarac” by Ursula K. Le Guin

“Reach” by Sheila Finch

(Readers include Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir)

There are also six stories in the The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, March-April 2003 collection:

“The Resurrections of Fortunato” by John Morressy

“Decanting Oblivion” by Lawrence C. Connolly

“Shutdown/Retrovival” by Aaron A. Reed

“Hunger: A Confession” by Dale Bailey

“The Lightning Bug Wars” by Gary Shockley

“Seeing is Believing” by Paul Di Filippo

(Readers include Harlan Ellison and Gabrielle de Cuir)

I’ll revisit these once I get them heard… but I hope they continue to produce these titles. Current science fiction and fantasy audio by great writers, right there for the grabbing.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson