Science Fiction on Radio
There has been science fiction on the radio since before Buck Rogers in 1932. Anthony Tollin tells us that Ultra Violet was syndicated as early as 1930, written and produced by Fran Striker. No audio of the shows has survived, but the scripts have. Perhaps the most famous Old Time Radio SF shows are NBC's Dimension X (1950-51) and X Minus One (1955-57). Jim Widner and Meade Frierson III published a book updating sci-fi OTR to a much higher degree. A great book for afficianados or those just starting to look into the field. Find out more at Jim's Radio Days Web site - http://www.otr.com/ . Also take a look at a longer review article I wrote, SF OTR.
Science fiction is still being made for radio, too. You might want to check out the LodesTone Catalog, because they carry a very large variety of good SF Audio.
The Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year! From ASFSFA, the American Society for Science Fiction Audio. Check out the Mark Time SF Audio Hall of Fame, too.
SF & OTR
- Old Time Radio (Airwaves OTR Home Page.), by Lou Genco - http://www.old-time.com/toc.html
- Includes archives of sources of old time radio tapes, clubs, reviews and program logs, as well as archives of the OTR Digest mailing list. You can find program logs for X Minus One and Dimension X from this page.
- Radio Days - Jim Widner's OTR Page - http://www.otr.com/
- This guy has a LOT of useful information about the OTR programs, including program logs, discussions, sound files, and much more. Jim and Meade Frierson III also recently published a new book, Science Fiction on Radio: A Revised Look At 1950-1975, which has great detail on the NBC programs, X Minus One and Dimension X, and some about the other programs of the same period. A good introduction to the radio genre, or a very good resource for the afficionado. He's also got more about SF Radio on his web site at Widner's Science Fiction OTR - http://www.otr.com/sf.html .
- Radio's Golden Age of Science Fiction
- Four one-hour tapes of excerpts from over 100 OTR science fiction shows. Compiled and narrated by Fred Berney (email@example.com). Really a treat to listen to, he does a excellent job of picking out a scene from each episode that conveys the essence of that story. My only gripe is that he tells us the title and author of each story, but not always what program it was broadcast on. I, for one, would like to know if it came from X Minus One, or Escape, or the CBS Radio Workshop, or what. But it's still a lot of fun. Truly a collectors' item, and comes in a handy vinyl case.
The Sci-Fi Guy - http://www.scifiguy.com/ - Gordon Payton
Gordon Payton, known as The Sci-Fi Guy, has probably the largest collection of science fiction radio and audio anywhere in the world. He publishes a huge file listing OTR science fiction, fantasy and horror programs. He does make available many tapes for trade, and a few for sale. E-mail him at "firstname.lastname@example.org". It is certainly a valuable addition to the literature on the subject.
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WEB SITE AWARD!
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Contemporary Science Fiction Radio
Current Series still on the air:
- Mike Hodel's Hour 25 - http://www.hour25.org/
- Mike Hodel's Hour 25 is a one hour radio program of science fiction and science interviews, with news, reviews, story readings and radio drama. It is broadcast on Friday nights from 10 pm to midnight in Los Angeles on KPFK, 90.7 FM. Hour 25 has been on the air 30 years.
When the original host, Mike Hodel died, his friend author Harlan Ellison hosted the show for a year and renamed it Mike Hodel's Hour 25. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski and others followed Harlan. The current host is TV personality and aerospace engineer Warren James. Executive producer Terry Hodel died of cancer last year, and Suzanne Gibson is producer.
Their website has a new address, and lists upcoming and recent shows, links to the host and to interesting sites. An important resource for SF on radio today.
- Hour of the Wolf - http://18.104.22.168/toc.html
- Jim Freund has one of the most contemporary SF Radio shows around. Hour of the Wolf is still going on WBAI in New York City. He plays SF radio theater, but he also talks about what is going on in the field of SF literature and media, and interviews the writers and artists and other shakers of the industries that Science Fiction is a part of. Good job, Jim.
- That Sci-Fi Show - http://www.onepaper.com/scifi/
- A weekly radio program located in the Palm Beaches (Florida) that discusses all aspects of Science Fiction, Gaming, Anime, Comics and just plain goofiness. Tune your radio in to 1340 AM at 10pm every Sunday night, or check out their archive of RealAudio Archived Shows.
- SHOCKWAVE - http://www.visi.com/~romm
- A long-running radio show still going on KFAI in Minneapolis. Saturdays at 3:30 PM, 90.3 or 106.7 FM.
- Reality Break - http://realitybreak.sff.net/
- Stopped producing new shows in mid-1999, but reruns are still available. Host Dave Slusher interviews writers, artists and editors in the field of SF literature.
- Seeing Ear Theatre - http://www.scifi.com/pulp/set/
- Part of The Dominion, the Sci-Fi Channel Web Site, Seeing Ear Theatre is a home for audio theater on-line. You can download and listen to classic SF radio, and new original programs. It's not broadcast on the radio, but it's available to you via the internet, and isn't that living in the future?
- Science Fiction Theater - GAIN Radio - http://gain.simplenet.com/program/scifi.htm
- An On-Line radio station, specializing in Science Fiction radio. Page has not been updated since March 1999. Don't know what they plan, if anything.
- Delos Radio International - http://www.fantascienza.com/delosradio/ - (Italy)
- A virtual radio station broadcasting science fiction radio shows via Real Audio, entirely in Italian. Truly Sense of Wonder!
Science Fiction Audio - Programs and Series
- Great Northern Radio Theatre
- A number of science fiction and fantasy plays, some performed live at Minicons.
Try "Tumbleweed Roundup", your classic cowboys and aliens movie radio play. Or try Solid State University, a mockumentary about the first all computerized university administration. They've also got Star of Vengeance, a very silly serial of ten episodes (about 10 minutes each). Then there is Duplicating Duluth, a cyberpunk radio half-hour. And their latest, Sci-Five Live!, five short SF and Fantasy works starring David Ossman, Phil Proctor and Melinda Peterson, and Jane Yolen. All the ones in blue are available from LodesTone. Check out the Great Northern web site for more.
- ZBS Foundation - Some of the very best modern SF Audio plays anywhere. The introduction of RUBY forever altered the way radio theater is produced.
- Producers of "Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe" and the Jack Flanders adventures, and others. To get their catalog, see the Web page, or call 1-800-662-3345.
Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe. Ruby is a detective. She's tough, cynical, well armed, and she can slow time for those around who wish to harm her.
- Ruby* - Lots of fun, wonderfully produced. Out on 3 CDs now. My favorite character is Professor Teru (Bill Raymond).
- Ruby Two - Different actress for Ruby, but still great fun. Plot gets lost somewhere. Asides are often the best part. 4 CDs or cassettes.
- Ruby 3, Parts 1 & 2 - Each part is 10 half-hour episodes of intricate plot and terrific production. Denser and more focused than the two previous Ruby stories. 4 cassettes or 5 CDs each part.
- Ruby 4 - Four parts; each part is 2 hours (2 CDs or 2 cassettes). What you'd expect from Ruby. Terrific production; I think it's the funniest of the Ruby series.
- Ruby 5 - Back to the early format, 65 3-minute episodes. Ruby is hired to find out why people in the Awakening Archipelago are making their islands into places from the old children's stories of the Land of Zoots. Lots of good silly characters, and a pretty good mystery, too. 3 CDs.
- Tired of the Green Menace - An older Ruby one-hour episode. Very silly indeed. Also includes all the original Ruby pilot episodes, to show you how it evolved into the Ruby we love. One CD.
Jack Flanders - they tend more to mystical fantasy than SF, but still lavishly produced and usually in half-hour episodes. My favorite is definitely The Incredible Adventures of Jack Flanders.
- The Ah Ha Phenomenon - One 70 minute cassette or CD. The pilot episode. (Also part of Stars and Stuff. See below.)
- The Fourth Tower of Inverness - 13 episodes. CD and cassette. (Sequel, Return to Inverness, due Fall 2000.)
- Moon Over Morocco - 13 episodes. CD and cassette.
- The Incredible Adventures of Jack Flanders - 10 episodes. Now out on 5 CDs or Cassettes.
- Dreams of Rio - 13 episodes. Cassette.
- Travels with Jack - separate stories, each 2 hours on CD or cassette. Sounds recorded in exotic places and woven into the stories (or vice versa).
- Dreams of the Amazon
- Dreams of India
- Dreams of Bali
- Dreams of Sumatra
- The Mystery of Jaguar Reef - Takes place in Belize. On 2 CDs or cassettes.
- Midnight at the Casa Luna, Newest Jack Flanders story. 2 CDs or cassettes.
Stars and Stuff - Six tapes, each 60-90 minutes, of original short stories for radio. Usually leaning into the mystical, horror, science fantasy, or just silly. Includes all three pilot episodes of "Ruby Starr" (which became "Ruby") and "The Ah Ha Phenomenon" pilot for the first Jack Flanders tales. I especially like "Rocket Pierre and the Peanut People of Pluto." Cassette only.
O Boy O Boy O - The "Zombs" are criminals with new personalities programmed into them. When O Boy O, the programmer decides to program in "plots" for his characters, they come looking for their creator. 3-D sound. Available on cassette, and now out on CD, too - with a few scenes replaced that aren't on the cassette version.
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- Firesign Theatre*
- An audio comedy group who have done several SF and Alternate Universe stories. Their many albums are mostly out of print, though a few were re-released on CD from Mobile Fidelity, and a couple have recently been reissued by Sony. See my Firesign web page first; it will show you others.
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- Soundings...by Jeff Green*
- Jeff Green is a producer of radio in Canada, some of it really good science fiction. His Web page has sound files as examples of his plays. Really good listening!. Tapes available from The LodesTone Catalog.
- The Centauri Express by The Atlanta Radio Theater Company.
- I think there are five or six issues of this pretty good audio SF magazine. It included original stories, interviews with and speeches by SF writers and others in the field, and reviews of other audio SF. Take a look at their Web site to see how to get any that are left. They also have several H.P. Lovecraft dramatizations as well as other SF and horror stories available. "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is especially good. They have won two Mark Time Awards and an Ogle Award for Best Horror Audio Production.
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- Ziplow Productions - http://www.ziplow.com/ -
- Steve Ziplow, operating out of Hilton Head Island, SC, has done some really interesting work in SF audio in recent years. He's got a version of Dracula, and a version of War of the Worlds (set in Hilton Head). He's also done a couple of John DeChancie novels, MagicNet and Dr. Dimension (with Steven Bischoff). Now these are a combination of books on tape with full cast productions. They really do cover the whole book, and don't try to cut it down sharply to make it into a "radio play." MagicNet is the more serious of the two, and pretty well done, I'd say. The story premise is the use of magic to enhance the Internet. Very cute. Dr. Dimension is clearly meant as parody or satire, and is unfortunately sophomoric in many places. Both are available through the The LodesTone Catalog.
He's also released the Sci-Fi Trilogy, which is three shorter works on one tape, and a second volume titled Sci-Fi Shorts. These are also humorous stories, written by Daniel Cline. I prefered the stories "Twin Engines" and "The Lost Planeteers" over the hospital satire, "General Emergency." I felt there was more to "The Lost Planeteers", but the story ended too soon. All three are well done. The stories in the second volume aren't as good, and tend to be lowbrow in their humor.
- Starquest Entertainment - sci-fi-audio@Genie.com (CA) -
- Perry Jacob is the producer of a number of adaptations of science fiction novels and stories into full cast audio theater productions. The first attempt, Slan (A.E. Van Vogt's classic novel) was weak in a lot of ways. A more recent work, The Lost World, by A. Conan Doyle is very much better. Especially the strong character of Professor Challenger stands out, as he should. He has also done a dramatization of Metropolis, the Thea von Harbou book.
Starquest's most recent release is Stanley Weinbaum's classic short story, "A Martian Odyssey". This is really excellent. The sounds of the Martian, Tween, are believable and fun. It ended way too soon for me. It is only a one hour program, but well worth hearing. I understand he is looking at some of the Perry Rhodan stories as a possible next venture.
Last updated August 2, 2000. ©2000 by Jerry Stearns. email@example.com