Neil Gaiman audio roundup

OnlineAudio

If you start looking around the net for Neil Gaiman audio you’ll be hard pressed not to find it. The quantity is overwhelming in fact. Most of it consists of interviews, most from relatively mainstream media sources. But the guy gets podcast interviews like nobody’s business too. The MP3 files listed below are by no means the newest nor most exclusive but they are all good and they’re new links for us…

NeilGaiman.net / DreamHaven BooksFirst, from the DreamHaven Books and NeilGaiman.net bookstore we’ve got three ultra-short “sample” (but unabridged) MP3s:

Poetry: “Instructions” |MP3| from Speaking In Tongues.
The liner notes for this one reads: “This is a poem about what to do if you find yourself in a Fairy Tale. It is guaranteed to work. If you find yourself in a Fairy Tale, and, despite following these instructions to the letter, you are eaten by wolves or lost, never to be seen again, the publisher will refund the cost of this CD.”

A Christmas card (a very short story): “Nicholas Was” |MP3| from Warning: Contains Language.
Gaiman sez of it: “This is a Christmas card. Exactly a hundred words long (102, including the title).”

Poetry: “A Writer’s Prayer” |MP3| from Telling Tales.
Gaiman describe it as “…written shortly before I began American Gods. I knew the first two verses when I began it, and the conclusion was there when I reached it. This is why I love writing.”

Zombie AstronautNext up, the always reliable Zombie Astronaut has a bit of Neil Gaiman poetry: “The Day The Saucer Came” |MP3|.

And also, from the same moulderingly cosmic source, this recent radio drama gem…

Anansi Boys
Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC World Service / World Drama
Broadcast: Nov 17th 2007
God is dead. Meet the kids. When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie.” Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed — before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.

And from another site entirely comes…

Authors On Tour PodcastCheck out this 2006 “authors on tour” piece |MP3| of Neil Gaiman speaking to a receptive audience at The Tattered Cover bookstore. Gaiman reads from Anansi Boys tells stories and answers questions about the comic book, book, audiobook and movie businesses.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

SFFaudio Review

The Raven by Edgar Allan PoeThe Raven
By Edgar Allan Poe, Read by Bill Mills
MP3 file – 19 min. [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: REB Audio books
Published: 2005
Themes: / Horror / Poetry / Mourning / Depression

“Once upon a midnight dreary,
While I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore…”
— A.E. Poe, The Raven

That’s how the poem begins, drawing a pall of melancholy over us with its first syllables. This audio book, however, takes a little more time getting there. As if reflecting the distance from this mood we might be starting, the first tones are of bouncy pop music as the company and title are introduced. Then comes Bill Mills’ voice, warm, and rich as hickory smoke, leading us down into darkness with a brief, stylish bio of the author.

When the first line finally arrives, I have to admit, I cringe for just a second. The slow, broken delivery—scattering audible periods where the text shows, at most, commas—has just a whiff of Shatner-reading-Lucy-in-Sky-with-Diamonds over-interpretation. But that passes in an instant, and I find myself discovering new wonders in nearly every spoken line of a poem I’ve read probably a hundred times. I have a tendency to dismiss rhymed poetry as lightweight, as my brain usually prefers humming the tune to learning the meaning behind the words, but Mills’ reading is a perfect foil for that. He treads a careful path between chanting the regular meter and disregarding it entirely, cleverly emphasizing the story the words tell while still respecting their poetry. What he presents is a tale of a man just tumbling off the edge of hope into a free fall of depression, a man who speaks the name of his lost love into the darkness outside his soul only to have the darkness reply with morbid hopelessness.

The one thing marring this production is the background track. Behind the serious lead vocals vamps a cartoon ghoul-band of horror excess: Howling wind, howling wolves, crackling thunder, soaring choirs, and crashing orchestras. It isn’t destructive, but it is ridiculous. That said, this is still an excellent recording. I highly recommend following Mr. Mills down this twilit path, no matter how many times you think you’ve seen it before.

Posted by Kurt Dietz

Review of Nightmares on Congress Street Part IV

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - Nightmares on Congress Street 4Nightmares on Congress Street Part IV
by Various, performed by the Rocky Coast Radio Theatre
1 MP3-CD – 2 Hours 35 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390069
Themes: / Horror / Poetry / Zombies / Poe / Cremation /

“Nightmares on Congress Street” is a radio show that has been broadcast each Halloween Eve since 2001. This is “Part IV” because it’s a recording of the 4th annual broadcast. It’s not “Part IV” in the sense that you need to run out and find parts I-III before listening to this one. As far as I know, they aren’t available. The shows are recorded by a group of theatrical professionals from the Portland, ME area, and are broadcast on Maine Public Radio.

It’s rare that I hear something modern that captures the spirit of Halloween. Sure, there’s some scary stuff out there, and some funny scary stuff out there, but “Nightmares on Congress Street” really catches the fun spirit of Halloween. There are scares and laughs in good measure throughout, and you’d be hard-pressed to find better production quality anywhere.

Included here are six productions:

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
A mummified monkey’s paw seems to grant wishes, but, as always, a person should be careful what he wishes for.

The Cremation Of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service
The cover doesn’t list who does which part, but the actor who performed this horror poem was just fabulous. The poem tell the story of Sam McGee, who stumbles into the camp of a cowboy, and who asks that cowboy to make sure to cremate him if he dies.

The Cabin in the Woods by Clay T. Graybeal
A bunch of folks go to a cabin to spend some time, but doesn’t that plant outside look like someone we know? Ridiculous.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
One of the finest renditions of this Poe classic that I’ve ever heard.
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled –but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity.
And punish he does. Bravo to the actors on this one.

The Librarian by Rhonda Carlson
This piece is done by Rhonda Carlson, Rocky Coast Radio Theatre’s composer. Delightful mayhem, this one.

The Horror of Walker Point by Anthony S. Marino
This one is an excellent tale right out of George Romero’s playbook. It is performed in a kind of “War of the Worlds” style – regular programming is interrupted for important news about a chemical spill. As more and more people are affected by these chemicals, the newscasters bravely stay on the air.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production, and am eager to hear this year’s show!

You can get this title at Paperback Digital, Audible, and at Tantor.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Diabolic Playhouse by Roger Gregg

Crazy Dog Audio Theatre - Diabolic PlayhouseDiabolic Playhouse
Written, directed, and produced by Roger Gregg
1 MP3-CD – 6 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Crazy Dog Audio Theatre
Published: 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Pirates / Wild West / Magic / Ghosts / Dark Comedy / Video games / Poetry /

Where do I start with this? How about here: Crazy Dog’s Diabolic Playhouse is an absolute treasure for fans of audio drama. The scripts are smart, funny, and tightly written. The acting is believable, well-timed, and often hilarious. And it sounds terrific! Each drama included is one hour long, as opposed to the half-hour shows in Crazy Dog’s previous The Apocalypse of Bill Lizard, which allows the Diabolic Playhouse shows a depth that was hinted at in the shorter dramas. Roger Gregg has really stepped onto a different playing field with these productions, and I for one am eager to hear his next project, whatever it might be.

There are six audio dramas here:

Demons of the Deep
A saga of seductive serpents in the salty sea.
First up is “Demons of the Deep”, a farcical comedy that had me laughing out loud. The crew of the ocean-going vessel Sea Nymph head out to Rig 39, where not a survivor survived the evil that lurked. In a particularly hilarious scene, three men take the Detritus 3, a tiny sub, down into the deep. I’ll never again be in a cramped space with two other men without thinking of this scene… not that that occurs with any regularity.

The Irishman: Have Troll Will Travel
A fable of magic and firearms in the wicked wild west.
Another successful comedy in which an Irishman living in the Old West calls on the services of a magical troll whenever he finds trouble. One day, the troll is stolen, and off the Irishman goes to find it.

Bus 13B to Hell
A fantastical fable of desperate dreams and dark desires.
It was while listening to this one that I truly realized how great these dramas really are. The actors are brilliant (including guest Phil Proctor of Firesign Theatre) and the sound of it all showcases the storytelling power of audio drama. Cyril (as performed by Morgan Jones, who appears in all six of the productions) guides the story as memorable characters board Bus 13B, which breaks down. They end up at this place where the Accountant of the Universe shows up, and… are you getting all this?

Press 3
A dialectically demonic dream of constant repetition.
I’m still thinking about this one days later. It’s a moebius strip of a drama where a woman is having difficulty dealing with a totalitarian system. Consumerism, bureaucracy, and color-coded alert systems are all fodder for Gregg and his actors, who completely succeeded pulling me into this place only to make me realize that I already live there.

The Silver Tongued Devil
A documentary of poetry, pretension, and possession.
This entire piece is done like a radio documentary, NPR-style, complete with interviews of average people about the “Silver Tongued Devil”. The actors who did these segments were perfect! If I had listened to this on the radio without knowing that Crazy Dog had done it, I’d have thought it was news. Who is the “Silver Tongued Devil”? He’s an incredibly famous poet from Cork who has the god-like ability to make people swoon with his words. Again, the piece is multi-layered, achieving both hilarity and poignancy.

Gerry in the Dark Passage
A story of a virtual man who lost his virtual way.
Gerry is thirty-something, single, and works in a comic shop. Much to his girlfriend’s chagrin, he plays a lot of video games, often losing track of time. After accepting the challenge of a master gameplayer, Gerry starts losing much more than time in this powerful drama.

Diabolic Playhouse is a must-have collection from Crazy Dog Audio Theatre, who BBC Radio counted among the “most imaginative producers of radio drama in the English speaking world.” You can find this on Crazy Dog’s website, which is based in Ireland. If you are in the United States, you can pick it up at ZBS.

Remarkable!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Ice Is Singing By James Patrick Kelly

The Ice Is Singing
By James Patrick Kelly; Read By James Patrick Kelly
FREE DOWNLOAD – 12 Minutes MP3 (4.96MB) [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: www.jimkelly.net/pages/free_reads.htm
Published: April 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Modern / Poetry /

“The man in the ice is wearing a blue three-piece suit. He is facing up at you and the bright sky and his eyes are open. What does he see? Nothing. He’s dead, no? You look around the lake. None of the other skaters seem to realize that there’s a man frozen in the ice on Christmas Day. Someone could do a sit spin right on his nose, a triple lutz from his head to his black, tasseled loafers. Except nobody on the lake is that good a skater. Certainly not you.”

“The Ice Is Singing” was first published in Realms Of Fantasy magazine’s April 2003 issue. It’s told in the second person, making the protagonist “you”. This gives it a very “choose your own adventure” feel as do most second person narratives – the effect is like a cross between virtual reality and a rail shooter. Overall, it works very well with this one, which has a very good twist at the end, even if one an attentive listener may have seen coming. Production values and sound quality are great, with an exceptional musical accompaniment to Kelly’s excellent reading. As with all the James Kelly Free Reads stories “The Ice Is Singing” is essentially shareware. You can copy it for friends, email it, and even burn it to disc all for free. Kelly only asks that if you enjoy the story you consider donating to his PayPal account. And you really can’t ask for more than that. Well worth the listen!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Asimov Science Fiction Tales

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Science Fiction Tales by Isaac AsimovAsimov Science Fiction Tales
By Isaac Asimov; Read by Isaac Asimov
2 Cassettes – 117 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: 1985 – Out Of Print
ISBN: 0807234184
Themes: / Science Fiction / Poetry / Storytelling / Artificial Intelligence / Robots / Mathematics / Parallel Worlds /

Written and read by Isaac Asimov, Asimov Science Fiction Tales is a collection of four short stories and one poem, all from Asimov’s golden era, the 1950s. Though cover art is non-existent, the audiobook comes packaged in a heavy duty vinyl case that is extremely durable. This two cassette production from Listening Library is a repackaged selection of tales written and read by Asimov from the 1975 collection entitled Science Fiction Favorties: Isaac Asimov (ISBN 0807229288), which includes at least five other stories that are not included here.

Listening to Asimov Science Fiction Tales is like spending some quality time with the man himself. Asimov’s reading is informal. He introduces and comments on each of the tales both before and after the reading, placing them in context and revealing their origins. His comments are insightful and sometimes quite humourous. The stories themselves are some of his best, featuring familiar Asimov themes, some serious, others funny, all great listening.

Stories Included:
Introduction – Asimov extemperaneously expounds on the wonderfulness of good old fashioned reading.

I Just Make Them Up, See – A infamous Asimov limerick, this one attempts to answer the question “Where do you get the ideas for your stories?” It’s a silly poem and but it left me smiling.

Someday – The first of two stories in this collection that deals with “lost arts”. In a society that has forgotten the written word, two young boys upgrade an antique automated audiobook machine called a “bard” – giving it a new vocabulary so that it can tell modern stories. This is one of Asimov’s most perfectly constructed stories, a real winner.

The Feeling of Power – A far future society that has become completely dependent upon computers rediscovers the lost art of doing math by hand. Very clever and well concieved, this story has more to say about our own society than it did about the time in which it was written.

Satisfaction Guaranteed – Housewife Claire Belmont is startled to find her husband’s most recent aquistion, a human looking robot named “Tony”, is the latest gimmick in the ceaseless battle to keep up with the Joneses.

Living Space – The discovery of easy access to parallel universe Earths, ones where life never evolved, means that the ever expanding human population of the future needn’t worry about running out of living space. In fact, every family can have a whole planet to themselves! But some unforseen consequences of this discovery have got a few of the new homeowners worried. This is one of the best executed science fiction short stories ever written. Its premise entails a non-obvious problem that becomes clear only near the end of the tale. Highly recommended.