Review of Not from Space

Science Fiction Audio Drama - Not From SpaceNot From Space
Produced by Borgus
2 CDs – 108 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Borgus
Published: 2002
ISBN: None
Themes: / Science Fiction / Satire / Radio / Greed /

We join Earth during the year 2000. The economic boom, advanced technology is prospering, and everyone is focused on… themselves.
Not From Space Introduction

Not from Space is not your typical fare. Uniqueness in audio is something I haven’t come across in a long while, and here it is. With that said, I’ve got the task here of telling you what Not From Space is, and I can’t think of a way to describe it without making it sound like so many other radio shows. But here goes: Not From Space tells the story of alien invasion entirely through newscasts. Sounds pretty common, eh? Told you.

But again, Not From Space is not your typical fare. At the very beginning, for example, is a brilliant piece of satire as talk show hosts announce that Bill Gates is going to give away computers to “foreigners”, then take calls from people that are really upset about it. I’ve heard enough talk radio to be able say that this bit really hit home, from the encouragement of the hosts to the logic of the callers. And that’s what makes Not From Space so atypical – it is full of pieces that hit home.

The entire story is told through the news radio station. There is no traditional dialogue between characters, just news told to listeners. Jeffrey Bays, in a talk about the show which is included at the end of the production, says that the show is meant to be listened to in the background, much like a real radio station would be. There are so many interesting moments that popped out as I listened, and the more I listen, the more things I notice.

The show was produced in a unique manner as well. It was entirely created on the internet using a world-wide cast of 15 voice actors trading MP3 files. It sounds wonderful – a very accurate simulation of a radio station, right down to the commercials, which in this case are a pleasure to hear.

Borgus has captured the feel of an American talk radio station to tell a story with a point. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to listening again.

Not From Space will be heard on XM Satellite Radio’s Sonic Theater, Channel 163 this Halloween weekend:
-Saturday October 29 at 9am/9pm (US-Eastern)
-Monday October 31 at 5am, 1pm, and 9pm (US-Eastern)

You can also get a copy on audio CD from Borgus.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey

Science Fiction Audiobooks - To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey by Cory DoctorowTo Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey©
By Cory Doctorow; Read by Cory Doctorow
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD – 23 Minutes 37 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2001
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Humor / Satire /

Billy Bailey was the finest heel the sixth grade had ever seen — a true artisan who kept his brand pure and unsullied, picking and managing his strategic alliances with the utmost care and acumen. He’d dumped BanginBumpin Fireworks (a division of The Shanghai Novelty Company, Ltd.) in the _fourth_ grade, fer chrissakes. Their ladyfingers were too small to bother with; their M-80s were so big that you’d have to be a lunatic to go near them.

First published in Interzone, To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey© is set in a world in which advertising has taken over every institution. This dystopic tale is a fun little story. Billy Bailey® is a 6th grader, who’s something like a smarter Dennis The Menace®, but that’s probably selling Billy short. Dennis The Menace® is just a fictional character. In this REAL world, REAL people are by far the more profitable brands. If you’re a 6th grade boy in elementary school, you want to wear Billy’s© shoes, drink what Billy© drinks and say what Billy© says. Billy Bailey® is at the top of the brand list. Everything Billy Bailey© does is predicated on what he thinks will most benefit his brand. The Billy© brand is all about playing the rake, the prankster who always beats the authority figure, which in this case is Billy’s school principal. But when Billy® gets tarred with a pathetic M-80 down the toilet prank in his Pepsi Elementary© girls bathroom, Billy® must fire his agent and come up with a whole new corporate strategy – he better re-brand his image if he wants to keep his sponsors.

Doctorow does this as a plain reading. I don’t expect all authors to be gifted readers – that’s why they pay the professional narrators – but that isn’t the problem. The problem here is with the recording. It isn’t terrific. It sounds as if was cobbled together from more than one recording. Apparently it was recorded using the built-in microphone on his iBook©, but in the multiple sessions it took to record it must have been at different distances from the mic, because the sound is inconsistent. You can also hear the pages as they turn, and what sounds like a squeaking computer chair with other occasional background noises. Despite this, it’s more than worth the money – it is after all completely FREE!

Doctorow’s story is interesting and original. It tackles the invasion of capitalism into children’s lives, and does it with a biting satire. See, even in our world, a corporation has only corporate legal responsibilities and no moral ones. Seeing as corporations have all the legal status of persons in our capitalist society it is no small wonder that people might come to think of themselves as corporations. Heck, our celebrities really are corporations! This is a very sad world. Everyone uses catchphrases to define their personal “brand”, and everyone is jockeying for sponsors. Morality has been completely subverted by marketing. Those who are successfully marketed are good and those that aren’t…. well, they aren’t even worth thinking about – just has-beens or never-will-bes.

On Cory Doctorow’s website he says he’s planning to read all of his stories and release them as free downloadable MP3s. This is a wonderful idea, and I’ll be sure to listen in however he does it, but maybe he should take a page from James Patrick Kelly’s FREE READS website and consider recording in a professional studio. Apparently it costs about $200 per session, but the sound quality and consistency in one makes the recording archive quality. Kelly’s stuff is free too, but he does ask for PayPal donations.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi! by William Tenn

On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi!
By William Tenn; read by William Tenn
56 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: WNYC Radio [“Spinning On Air” with host David Garland].
Themes: / Science Fiction / Satire / Humor / Jews / Religion / Venus /

“Milchik, the TV repairman, speaks for all Jews on Venus and in the Universe.”

William Tenn (aka Philip Klass), gets the royal treatment he so well deserves on David Garland’s WNYC radio show. Remarkably well prepared, Garland teases out some delightful and informative anecdotes and stories from Tenn, it makes for a riveting interview. Garland has also seen fit to gift us with a delectable reading of one of Tenn’s stories read by the author himself!

William Tenn’s stories always have the same effect on me, as the story progresses a smile grows wider and wider across my face. On Venus, We Have A Rabbi! is laugh out loud funny. Perhaps knowledge of Jewish history would be helpful, I don’t know, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. And thankfully unlike another WNYC reading, this novelette is free of music, Tenn’s hilarious reading of his own story is almost perfect. He stumbles only once over one word, but otherwise he reads his tale like a professional narrator.

I sure hope Garland keeps up the great programming. Radio like this makes me wish I lived in New York.

Posted by Jesse Willis