Audio science fiction

I just discovered a rather splendid web site. Wasn't looking, simply stumbled on it by sheer serendipity. Well anyway, the site is called SFFaudio (http://www.sffaudio.com/) and the name of the site pretty well explains itself. First thing I did was to download a few select goodies: Rude Mechanicals (a novel by Kage Baker, of whom I have never heard but couldn't resist such a delightfully Shakespearean title), Dawn of Flame by Stanley Weinbaum (a novel by this classic author that is completely unknown to me - and when I consult my trusted Encyclopedia of Science Fiction I discover, to my great shame, that it isn't a novel at all but in fact a collection of short stories) and a speech held by Robert Silverberg at the 1970 WorldCon. These will go on my Walkman post haste. Well at once I've worked through a couple of operas and oratorios by current favourite Händel, anyway.

The nice thing about the site is that there's more than just readings of short stories and novels - there is also fact. Like the aforementioned Silverberg speech. And interviews and suchlike. And what seems to be a literary talk show. Even a spot of science. Haven't been through it all yet, it's all such a recent find, so I don't quite know what there is. But it's all pretty exciting.

What there might be more of, however, is good solid radio plays. An audio book is all right, at times it's just what the doctor ordered, but really the play's the thing. Of course it's understandable that audio books dominate the market, it's so much cheaper just to have one person read a text than do a full sized production with a full sized cast of actors. But think how relatively inexpensive a medium the radio is for doing a grandiose science fiction epic. It can take place anywhere in the universe (or indeed inside someones mind), the epoch may be whichever, it may cut freely from one epoch to another with no extra cost or effort, the settings can be as big as you like - as big as you can think of. Or as small. The effects needed don't cost more than those needed in a sordid kitchen-sink drama, well not that much more. The only limit is the imagination of the author and those of the director and the sound enginee

And a science fiction radio play is really so much more effective than a film because the listener creates the visions for himself, sees the pictures in his own mind. And it is always quite impossible for anyone to create on screen anything as impressive as the pictures seen in one's mind. No matter how well it's done. You can't beat mental images, it just can't be done. An example? Well, think of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Full of ideas, incredible, zany, outrageous ideas. Put them on a silver screen (or TV) and it all becomes, well, pedestrian. You simply can't pin down his ideas as easily as that, they become heavy as lead and no longer are they either interesting or funny.

No doubt, when i delve a little deeper in the superb treasure chest that is SFFaudio, I will come across many a marvellous radio play, contemporary productions as well as old classics. Of this I am convinced.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bangs is a pretty indifferent and insignificant writer, but funny in his own little way. A good subject for an audio book as he isn't too demanding and there is no plot at all.