Author of the Month – Harlan Ellison

Harlan EllisonWe’re going to try something new this month at SFFaudio. On May 6, Harlan Ellison will be receiving the SFWA Grand Master award at the Nebula Award Banquet in Phoenix. Besides the multiple awards he’s received for his writing, he’s an Audie award-winning narrator who reads both his own material and material written by others, including stories by Ursula K. Le Guin and Ben Bova. He’s the host of the finest modern SF audio drama series 2000X. He’s even got a couple of live albums.

SFFaudio will focus on all this audio work as we name Harlan Ellison our first Author of the Month!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of “Run for the Stars” by Harlan Ellison

Science Fiction Audiobook - Run for the Stars by Harlan EllisonRun for the Stars
By Harlan Ellison; Read by Harlan Ellison
3 CD’s – 122 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: ReQuest Audiobooks
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1933299533
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien invasion / Drugs / Insurgency /

It was recently announced that Harlan Ellison will be named an SFWA Grand Master at the Nebula Awards Weekend in May. Regular readers of this website should know that I’m thrilled with the decision, as Ellison is easily one of my favorite writers. He also happens to be one of my favorite narrators. His audiobooks are insistent, as if he is vocally grabbing your shoulders to make sure you have his full attention.

Ellison to me is Ellison – he’s his own genre. He takes his main character and dangles him so far in the wind that the reader can’t possibly imagine him coming back. Yet he does come back, but is invariably damaged along the way. It’s painful to hear, how we treat each other. Very difficult to look at. But Ellison shows it to us, even here in his early work.

“Run for the Stars” is the story of a man named Benno Tallant, a drug addict who finds himself in a position to fight back against the Kyben, an occupying alien race. Unlike most alien invasion stories, this is happening to a colony that is not so friendly to Earth, which is the aliens’ next stop. Tallant fights not only the aliens, but his fellow humans. And himself – the reader is never certain that he wants to save the Earth, or himself for that matter.

The audiobook also includes some commentary from Ellison about the origins of the story, and how it got published. Commentary like this in an audiobook really enhances its value in my eyes. I enjoyed it as much as I did the story itself.

“Run for the Stars” is a fabulous listen – the first title we’ve reviewed from ReQuest Audio. In the hopper are two other ReQuest titles – “Eye for Eye” by Orson Scott Card and “Tales from Nightscape” by David Morrell. You can find their website here. I hope to hear much more from them in the future.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

New Releases: A Century of Science Fiction, an unabridged narrat…

New Releases

A Century of Science Fiction, an unabridged narrated history of science fiction film and television, Request Audiobooks
This looks interesting… from the description: “Here are the details of some of the most well known science fiction films and television series ever created: A Trip To The Moon, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The War of The Worlds, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Aliens, Star Wars, Star Trek, and many more. Listen to the recapitulations of sci-fi voyages from the men and women who realized these fantasies. With interviews and sound bites from their films, William Shatner, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephen Spielberg, and Kevin Costner, along with Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, Raquel Welch, Orson Welles, just to name a few, speak of their excursions into strange, new worlds…”

Eye for Eye by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged, Request Audiobooks
Here’s an audio version of Orson Scott Card’s Hugo Award-winning novella Eye for Eye.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, read by Christopher Hurt, Unabridged, Blackstone Audio
Ray Bradbury’s classic novel about a fireman whose job it is to burn books. Click here for an audio sample.

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, read by John Lee, Unabridged, Random House Audio
Book 4 in the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series by George R.R. Martin. Been waiting for this one… It’s also available at Books on Tape in library binding. Yay! Listen to excerpt oneListen to excerpt two.

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, read by Jonathan Kent, Unabridged, Tantor Media
A classic H.G. Wells novel from Tantor Media, the fine folks who brought us Edgar Rice Burroughs on audio.

King Kong by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged, Blackstone Audio
This is a novelization of the original King Kong script, and includes commentary by Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Catherine Asaro, Jack Williamson, and Marc Zicree. Click here for an audio sample.

March Upcountry by David Weber and John Ringo, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged, Blackstone Audio
A novel by two masters of military SF – click here for an audio sample.

Master of Dragons by Margaret Weis, read by Suzanne Toren, Unabridged, Audio Renaissance
This is the third novel in a trilogy written by Margaret Weis, who is half of the Weis-Hickman team that wrote many popular epic fantasy novels in the Dragonlance series. Click here for an audio sample.

Run for the Stars by Harlan Ellison, read by the Author, Unabridged, Request Audiobooks
A new (to audio) story by Harlan Ellison. That alone makes it a must-have!

Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno, read by Jonathan Davis, Abridged, Random House Audio
Star Wars! I continue to be impressed with the richness of the Star Wars line of audio novels. Jonathan Davis is the perfect reader, and the production quality is first rate.

The Unnameable: Four Tales by H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft, Read by David Cade, with music by Paolo Barzini, Unabridged, Tales of Orpheus
Contains: “The Book”, “The Music of Erich Zann”, “The Cats of Ulthar”, and “The Unnameable”

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, read by Maxwell Caulfield, Unabridged, Request Audiobooks
The original War of the Worlds novel.

And from Escape Pod in the past month:
“The Death Trap of Dr. Nefario” by Benjamin Rosenbaum, read by Chris Miller with Stephen Eley
“The Great Old Pumpkin” by John Aegard, read by Stephen Eley
“Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw” by Jeffrey R. DeRego, read by Jonathan Sullivan
“The Ludes” by Lisa M. Bradley, read by Stephen Eley
“Mount Dragon” by Vera Nazarian, read by Stephen Eley

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Thanks to SFFAudio reader Esther for a couple of a…

SFFaudio News

Thanks to SFFAudio reader Esther for a couple of additions to the Hugo Award Winners on Audio page:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinFor 1970 Best Novel Winner The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin we added this audio version:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, abridged and read by the author, Waldentapes (Warner Audio), Abridged, 1985, ISBN: 068132774X

A Boy and His Dog by Harlan EllisonAnd for 1966 Short Fiction Winner “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” we added this audio version:
“A Boy & His Dog” & “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison, read by the author, Unabridged, ISBN: 0681327774, Waldentapes (Warner Audio), 1985

Thanks very much, Esther!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Voice from the Edge Vol. 1: I Have No Mouth a…

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Voice from the EdgeThe 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 stories]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1574535374
Themes: / Science Fiction / Collection / Series / Post-Apocalypse /Artificial intelligence / Utopia / Dystopia / Magic Realism / Love / Hell /

There are two basic reasons to invest in a short story collection by a single author. The first is to experience first hand the stylistic, thematic, and technical contributions the author has made to his genre and to literature in general; the second is to sample the dynamic range the author covers, to gauge the extent of his palette.

This audio book delivers the first in spades. With Harlan Ellison’s friendly, yet curmudgeonly introduction, we are thrust immediately into the gritty, rawness he helped bring to science fiction. Such stories as the harrowing, lurid, complex title story, the gleefully offensive misogyny and sociopathy of “A Boy and His Dog”, the pop-cultural, pejorative ranting of “Laugh Track”, and the sophomoric sexual preoccupation of “The Very Last Day of a Good Woman” clearly delineate the dark, adult-oriented themes he introduced, as well as his predilection for unlikable anti-heroes who often leave us feeling a bit less comfortable about ourselves. And on such material, his distinctive narrative style shines. He curses with conviction, and his voice handles guilt, revenge, and damnation with seeming familiarity.

In the overall story choice, we also have a remarkable demonstration of the range of Ellison’s writing. Compare the patient, redemptive power of “Paladin of the Lost Hour” to any of the stories mentioned above, and you’ll see what I mean. Throw in the sly, haunted twist of “The Time of the Eye”, the overwrought post-modernism and tedious beatnik vamping in “’Repent Harlequin!’ said the Tick-Tock Man”, the sublime, hellish search for love in “Grail”, and the puzzling juxtaposition of the truly horrific and the trivial in “The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke”, and you cover quite a swath of not only the science-fiction spectrum, but the fiction spectrum in general.

Unfortunately, the use of a single narrator for all these stories blurs their uniqueness, especially since that narrator is Harlan Ellison. His delivery style can be enjoyable, but it is so raw, so exaggerated and so pervasive that it tends to flatten the relief of the work itself. I can’t say that I question the wisdom of having Ellison narrate, for on any single story his voice adds the confident insight that only an author can bring to his own work. But this is a collection, and the diverse stories deserve a wider range of vocal performance to truly showcase their differences. My advice is to make the best of this paradox by taking the collection slowly. The quality of the material, the exceptionally crisp sound and the fine, user-friendly packaging make this an audio book you should not miss, just make sure to pace yourself.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

NPR’s Weekend Edition did a little piece on the tu…

SFFaudio News

NPR Weekend EditionNPR’s Weekend Edition did a little piece on the tumultuous history of the adaption of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot with comments from those who think the film is a disappointment, like SF authors Geoffrey Landis and Harlan Ellison, and from the film’s supporters, including Asimov’s widow Janet Jeppson and the film’s director Alex Proyas.

Click here for the show.

NPR has also posted a couple of neat sound clips by Harlan Ellison, one on his unfilmed screenplay of I, Robot and the other on why it didn’t get made.

Posted by Jesse Willis