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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/03/07 -- Vol. 26, No. 5, Whole Number 1452
Table of Contents
Cliffhanger (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was watching one of the old time movie serials. They wanted to leave a cliffhanger ending between episodes and that narrator asks, "What unexpected emergency may happen any moment?" I think that is a very interesting question. If it really is unexpected, why ask? Nobody really knows the answer to that question. Still, it seems to encompass a certain philosophy of life. What meteor may be heading toward you right now? What may be welling up from the ground below? Think about what unexpected emergency may happen to you any moment. [-mrl]
The Best On-line Radio Drama Sites (Redux) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
This guide has been published in the past. But because it has been much updated since then, and because it has gotten comment from readers, and because I am away on vacation and have BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN WRITE EDITORIALS (sorry, that just slipped out), here is the Best Radio Drama, Mark II.
Those of you who have read the Mt Voidfor a while know that I have a special interest in radio drama. It is particularly convenient to download it from the Internet. Different people will record programs in different ways. These days most people download MP3s. Being old-fashioned and I transfer the programs to audio tape via a jack in my PC. These are the best Internet sites I have found for finding radio drama.
There are really two types of site. There is PC radio. These just broadcast 24 hours a day from what is usually a non- published schedule. The listener can sample it at random times or can just record an interval of time and then go back and choose what he likes. BBC7 is the exception in that it does publish its schedule a week in advance. There are also download sites where you choose a program and listen on your PC or download it.
PC RADIO STATIONS PLAYING CONTINUOUS RADIO DRAMA
The first five are much the same as each other. Yesterday USA has more original programming and longer musical interludes. That is not to my taste, but the programs are good.
1. Treasure Trove ACB Radio: ACB is the American Council for the Blind. This site was established as entertainment for the blind, but I can imagine they have a lot of other listeners as well. It has a really good selection of old time radio including some BBC science fiction. You might want to also make a small contribution to the ACB.
2. Radio Nostalgia Network: Another continuous 24x7 Old Time Radio station. This one has a special plus. It archives all the programs that it plays so any is available at any time. Look down the right column to find access to monthly archives going back to January, 2005. This amounts to a lot of OTR available very continuously. They also seem to run BBC science fiction drama like DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS.
3. Brando Classic Radio: A third similar old time radio station. This one seems to mix in religious messages that can be skipped over. Saturday early morning they have a lineup of science fiction and mystery programs.
4. Yesterday USA: This station associated with a broadcast museum is a good source of old time radio, but it does it own original programming much of which is not very interesting to me. There are long musical interludes, interviews, hosts talking, musical programs, etc. They do more children's programs than others above.
5. WNAR: This is a Pennsylvania AM radio site that is a lot like Treasure Trove and Yesterday USA. It has nonstop old time radio. At least for this one there is a schedule right on the page. Some of the programming is religious.
6. BBC 7: BBC has established this all-entertainment PC radio station with rebroadcasts of their older programs. There is science fiction, mysteries, comedy, etc. every day. Usually it is in the same time slots. Often they do Sherlock Holmes. Goon Shows show up frequently and they really are very funny.
Since BBC drama is so frequently better than much of what was done in the US for radio drama, certainly some of what BBC7 has is a very welcome find. To play (and if it does not play there are links to Realplayer and Mediaplayer):
Also try BBC4's similar page. They have less drama, but still some including the Afternoon Play. And there is a lot more to listen to:
Today's BBC7 Schedule (All times are in GMT):
BBC7 SF and Fantasy schedule:
WEEKLY SOURCES FOR RADIO DRAMA DOWNLOADS
1. BBC 7 Listen Again site: At this site BBC7 has replay sites that allow the user to play BBC& programs at any time in the six days following any program, just like the plays listed below. This, combined with the quality of BBC7 programming is a very, very big convenience. One no longer has to record at just the right instant. Thank you, Beeb.
2. BBC Saturday Play: 60-minute weekly plays. The BBC Saturday play tends to be light entertainment. It typically may be a comedy, a crime story, or a thriller. There are a few romance stories. BBC radio plays generally have high production values.
3. BBC Friday Play: 60-minute weekly plays. I find that these are much like the Saturday plays, but they tend to be on more serious subjects.
4. BBC Afternoon Plays (45-minute plays, five a week) This is more a mixed bag. There are love stories, comedies (some quite funny), fantasies, detective stories, historical dramas, you name it. Never science fiction, but occasionally they do ghost stories.
5. BBC World Service World Drama (60-minute weekly plays). Yet another site for new plays each week.
6. The Halls of Ivy: This is a weekly program about a college president. It stars the distinguished Ronald Colman and usually stresses intellectual values.
7. "When Radio Was" Past Shows: Radio Spirits seems to have cut back from several of their radio weekly programs. These days they have just Stan Freeberg's program in which he plays one or more old time radio programs. They put a new one up each weekday and they stay up seven days.
8. WBAI Golden Age and Mass Backwards: Max Schmid on WBAI does a weekly show "The Golden Age of Radio" and he also will frequently play radio drama on his other weekly show "Mass Backwards." These shows are downloadable from the WBAI archive. Do a search on the page for the two titles and then click on link in the right column.
9. Imagination Theater: This is a weekly radio program of newly produced original drama. Each is a program of about 50-minutes with generally two stories. They have several series with continuing characters. They do stories with detectives like Sherlock Holmes and their own Harry Nile. They also have stories with an occult detective. Then a lot of their stories are not in series. This is the most accurate pastiche of Old Time Radio currently available. If you have heard all the old OTR shows, this station will have good material you have not heard before. Jim French Productions syndicate the show to local radio stations, but the weekly show is also available at their web site. It is a little hard to find where in their site to find the program. You can find it by going to www.harrynile.com, clicking on "Imagination Theater," seaching for the string "Listen Now" and then clicking there.
10. LA Theatre Works: This is just one play a week, but it is two hours long and usually a production of very high quality. It is good (frequently familiar) playwrights and good (frequently familiar) actors. After a week the plays remain on the site, but are replaced with a sample that is just the first 15 minutes. I recommend checking each week.
The schedule of upcoming programs can be found at
FIXED COLLECTIONS FOR DOWNLOAD
1. The Mercury Theatre on the Air: Perhaps the greatest genius of radio drama was Orson Welles. This site seems to be a complete source for everything he did on radio. This includes the famous October 30, 1938 "Panic Broadcast" based on THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, but even better is his adaptation of DRACULA.
2. Quiet Please: Wyllis Cooper created one of the better horror series of Old Time Radio. Some episodes of Quiet Please are very good mood pieces. A few have become classics.
3. The OTR Network Library: This is a terrific collection of over 12,000 Old Time Radio programs. Not just the weaker programs either. Things like a long run of Lux Radio Theater. This site is a must for OTR fans. Really!
4. Monster Club Radio Library: An extensive collection of horror, science fiction, and fantasy Old Time Radio programs. Very worth visiting.
5. The Wireless Theatre Company: I have just recently become aware of this site from Britain. Apparently they put out plays on a regular basis in zip file format (so you may need winzip on your PC). They are planning to record a whole season of Shakespeare Plays this summer along with other classics to go along with the National Curriculum.
BLINDSIGHT by Peter Watts (copyright 2006, TOR, $25.95, 384pp, ISBN 0-765-31218-2) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
Spurred on by the "Notes and References" section of the novel, I went to Wikipedia to see what it had to say about blindsight. Here's the definition:
"Blindsight is a phenomenon in which people cannot consciously see a certain portion of their visual field but still behave in some instances as if they can see it."
I think I can see what's going on here--the book was certainly right in front of me. But I'm not quite sure what I saw.
Okay, that's a partial truth. BLINDSIGHT is a first contact novel, and it's one of the most original I've ever read. It's dark, tough, and gritty; as I think about it, it reminds me of the atmosphere of the movie ALIEN. The thing is, with ALIEN there was at least one character that the audience could like. I'm not sure there's one likeable character in the bunch in BLINDSIGHT. Watts tries to give us the character background of one of his characters, possibly in an attempt to make us sympathetic or give us some insight into his actions throughout the rest of the novel, but what Watts reveals does not make me feel any better about said character; in fact, I probably ended up liking him even less than I would have had I known nothing about him.
So, the triggering event for the story is the appearance of over 60,000 alien objects in Earth's sky which eventually burn up in the atmosphere. A couple of months after that, an outgoing radio signal is detected at the edge of the Solar System. Something is talking to something else, and we're worried about it. So we send a ship with a very unusual crew, a crew of modified specialist freaks that the powers that be hope can deal with the situation in an appropriate manner.
And freaks they are: a linguist with multiple personalities; a soldier who has no interest in fighting, but is along for the ride if she's needed; a scientist that is so extremely modified to accommodate machine interfaces that he is nearly not human; a "synthesist," a man with half his brain gone but with the ability to make the un-understandable understandable (say that ten times fast); and they're all commanded by a real "live" vampire, who is just as much the monster as his ancestors were.
And this bunch of misfits and malcontents is going out to make first contact.
Not to disappoint==these aliens are alien. They are like nothing I've encountered before in all my years of reading SF, but I'm not sure what I can tell you about them. Like I said, it's there in my visual field, but I can't really see them.
It's difficult for me to talk about this book in a coherent fashion because I don't know that there's much to say about it. While I enjoyed the book and the writing style, there's not much *that* outstanding to the story or the plot. Aliens come to earth, we get worried, we send someone out there, we meet the aliens, bad things happen, etc. But really nothing to write home about.
I was impressed by the "Notes and References" that I mentioned earlier. Watts certainly did his homework when it came to researching this book. They're worth a read. I really liked the explanation for why vampires and crucifixes don't get along. Some of the notes are real, and I'm pretty sure some aren't, but they made for interesting reading.
I normally look at reading Hugo nominees as a way in which to read authors that are new to me, and many times I start picking up other books by that author based on the nominee. I'm not convinced I'll do it this time. [-jak]
The Vanishing Movie Experience (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek):
In response to Mark's article on the vanishing movie experience in the 06/29/07 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes:
I agree completely that the deteriorating quality of projection (among other things) ruins the film-going experience. However, one of the multiplexes in my town has upgraded to digital projection, and the initial results are stupendous. The image is always crisp, without any gunk on the film, or other projection mistakes. I believe automation has taken over all aspects of the projection details (focus, lens type, framing, etc) so that there is little room for error. I was worried the image would be weak or dim, or suffer from the sorts of artifacts we see in DVDs (edge halos, blocky compression errors, banding) but so far I have not seen anything like this in the films I've viewed this way.
There is one detail however that I'm concerned about, having been brought up by Steve Spielberg and also covered by Roger Ebert, regarding the psychological effects of film vs. video frame rates. More details about this here: http://tinyurl.com/2jkz29
I'm not sure that I miss the magical 24fps frame rate, but then again, the movies I've seen projected digitally have also not thrilled me very much either, and I don't know if that is the fault of the movie itself, or the medium. The only way to know for sure would be to compare frame rates side-by-side for a great film, and I don't have the means to do that. My understanding is that DVDs are encoded with the actual film frames so that it's possible to display movies from DVD using 24 fps if you have a progressive scan TV which supports this option. I'm waiting for such a device, as I'm not convinced it exists yet. I've read a lot about 3:2 pulldown features and other "cinema" quality aspects of modern systems, but I also hear that these are still approximations and do not actually do 24fps as one would expect. Perhaps some of the readers of this newsletter know more. [-ak]
At the Toronto International Film Festival we frequently see digital films. My feeling is that things standing still on the screen look perfect and very sharp. Moving objects have a problem. Traditional film would blur edges, but video does something else. I don't remember exactly what, but it does not look exactly right. I don't have a strong preference for one format over the other.
Like you I don't remember ever really liking a film that happened to be video. I don't know if that has anything to do with the fact that it is video, but it could. A video film costs a lot less. That means that there are fewer investors who have to be pleased with the script and story. Depending on the director that could make for a better film or a worse one. [-mrl]
The Vanishing Movie Experience (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to Mark's article on the vanishing movie experience in the 06/29/07 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
Your movie theater article got me waxing nostalgic for Saturday afternoons when I was a kid back in the early and mid-1960s. Back then, my brother and I used to get dropped off at the door of the Hopkins Theater (the nearest movie house) just before noon on Saturdays in the summer, and for something like three or four bucks each, we'd be there until nearly 6:00 PM watching a double feature, cartoons, previews, and so on. It was great, and it is very sad that nobody offers that kind of deal anymore. Heck, theaters would go broke if they did stuff like that nowadays. Of course, mom and dad would tell us about the days when they were kids growing up in New York City in the 1930s and all-day Saturday movies (complete with serials, cartoons, and newsreels) would cost all of a quarter, and so on. It made my brother and I feel like we were bleeding our folks dry at a whopping ten dollars once a month!
Now, my wife and I rarely go to movie theaters; too expensive. If and when we do, it's a major family outing that costs a lot of money, even for the lesser-priced matinee showings. *Sigh* Most movies we now watch are on DVD, which come out a few months after the movie leaves the theater. Heck, some are even released straight to DVD! There is a definite shift in movie marketing, and it's all geared--naturally--for accruing the almighty dollar. But, this is to be expected, isn't it?
In the meantime, I do thank you and Evelyn for the movie reviews you provide since you two see way more first-run films than we do. [-jp]
Some of my favorite films I saw in those matinees. I remember seeing THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD at one. A few years later I had a similar experience with JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. I should go to the movie theaters more often. By the time I review a film it is getting to be old news. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
AN INFINITE SUMMER by Christopher Priest (ISBN-10 0-440-14067-6, ISBN-13 978-0-440-14067-2) is a 1979 collection of five short pieces: "An Infinite Summer", "Whores", "Palely Loitering", "The Negation", and "The Watched". These stories have connections with other Priest works. For example, the author in "The Negation" (a 1978 story) has written a book titled "The Affirmation" which takes place partly in the "Dream Archipelago". In 1981, Priest wrote a novel titled THE AFFIRMATION, also using the Dream Archipelago, and "Whores" (as well as all five stories in his 1999 collection THE DREAM ARCHIPELAGO) also takes part in the Dream Archipelago. And in the introduction, Priest says that "An Infinite Summer" was intended to be part of his novel THE SPACE MACHINE, but could not integrate it well enough.
"The Watched" seems even more topical now in its use of surveillance devices, but also has a flavor of classic first contact stories, and some unexpected twists. (I thought I knew what would happen, but I was wrong.) This is one of Priest's three Hugo-nominated works; the other two are "Palely Loitering" (also in this collection) and his 1974 novel THE INVERTED WORLD. I find it noteworthy that Priest received all of his nominations towards the beginning of his career, during the "New Wave" period when people were looking more at style and literary qualities. Priest's later work is far more developed and nuanced, but the trend in Hugos has drifted away from that. (One might also argue that his frequent difficulty in finding an American publisher for his works has not helped. At the 2005 Worldcon, Priest recounted that he sent his 1977 novel A DREAM OF WESSEX to Harper Row, who turned it down, saying it was "long and slow and furthermore British." Brian Aldiss said that he got the same rejection for THE MALACIA TAPESTRY. Publishers liked it but had no category for it. He said that publishers need a new category: long, slow, and British.)
Priest has had only three collections of his short fiction published: REAL-TIME WORLD (1974), AN INFINITE SUMMER (1979), and THE DREAM ARCHIPELAGO (1999). None are easy to find, but all are recommended.
It is difficult to recommend CRAFTING THE VERY SHORT STORY edited by Mark Mills (ISBN-10 0-130-86762-4, ISBN-13 978-0-130-86762-9), given that it is priced as a textbook, at $50.20. (Only a textbook would have such an oddball price!) But it does have a few items worth noting. In addition to Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", it has useful essays by LeGuin on "Sentence Length and Complex Syntax" and "Points of View". And Naguib Mahfouz's "Half a Day" may be magical realism, or it may be fantasy, or it may be something else entirely. One might argue, however, that the inclusion of the story of the Prodigal Son (credited to "Luke" rather than "Saint Luke") is superfluous. I found the book at a used bookstore that normally charged half cover price, but they charged me less than a quarter of it. If you find it cheap enough, it is an interesting collection, interspersed with essays by the authors and others. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think it's their fault. -- Henry Kissinger (1923-)
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