Audio science fiction revisited

Browsed some more at SFFaudio and at once I discovered a couple of veritable jewels. Like A House-boat on the Styx by John Kendrick Bangs, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood and finally a real classic: The Castle of Otranto by good old Horace Walpole.

A House-boat on the Styx is described as a forerunner of Philip José Farmer's Riverworld-series - which simply cannot be bad. The American John Kendrick Bangs used to be something of a big name around the turn of the previous century; today he's pretty much forgotten. As chance would have it I do actually have a book by him on my shelves: R. Holmes & Co (1906) as a delightful re-issue by Otto Penzler Books. R. Holmes is none other than Raffles Holmes, the son of Sherlock and the grandson of the famous amateur cracksman A.J. Raffles of whom Doyle's brother-in-law E.W. Hornung wrote several splendid short stories. Well, in Bangs' book it turns out that Holmes, not at all surprisingly, set out to capture the gentleman thief Raffles and in the process, quite surprisingly indeed, fell in love with Raffles' daughter (!), and then married her. The result of said marriage being Raffles Holmes. Who, again not surprisingly, is a detective but also a bit of a rogue - first breaking into a house and then the next morning presenting his services as a detective to the master of the house. Now there's a man who likes his bread buttered on both sides if ever there was one! Or maybe it's just a plain case of schizophrenia.

Algernon Blackwood is an esteemed classic. Not a big name, but revered by those in the know. And a fascinating fellow he seems to have been: born in 1869 he was at one time or another, among other things, a journalist, a farmer, a hotel owner, a mystic, an actor, a spy, a world-traveller, a playwright, and a reader of ghost stories on the radio (or maybe one ought to use the more correct term for the thirties: "on the wireless"?). He's most famous for John Silence, the psychic detective (created a bit before Hope Hodgson came up with his Carnacki) but wrote a bunch of other stuff as well, all of it basically about weird and supernatural thingies. Can't say I've read much Blackwood, just the occasional stray short story. Looking forward to this one.

And finally an old favourite: Horace Walpole. Not the greatest novel of all time, not even a good one; still The Castle of Otranto is an incredibly influential work as it pretty much laid down the foundations of the whole Gothic movement. This is the stone upon which is built so very much. And taken with cum grano salis it's a heap of fun. One really can't ignore Walpole and Otranto. Simply impossible.

All of the aforementioned podcasts are by LibriVox. Now I don't know a lot about LibriVox but they do seem to do a lot of readings of stuff that's in the public domain. And do it for free. They puts it up on the web and you, the avid fan of the superior podcast, simply loads it down on yer computer or MP3-player - no money whatsoever changing hands. None. More power to them, say I. Keep up the good work.

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