Monday, July 30, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Star Wars

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

First broadcast in 1981, the Star Wars radio dramatization gives us a 13-episode tour de force that both recalls and expands the movie story. Where Lucas's movie was a feast for the eyes, Brian Daley's excellent dramatization is a feast for the ears.

I thoroughly enjoyed it when I first heard the broadcast on my local NPR station back in '81, and I continue to enjoy it as I listen to my copy of the dramatization at least once a year.

In addition to giving us the movie, this version also shows us Luke's and Leia's lives shortly before the events of the film. We see Leia at home on Alderaan. We meet Luke's friends at Anchorhead. We even meet Luke's old pal, Biggs. Remember that scene in the Special Edition where Han and Jabba square off in the Falcon's docking bay? We get that here, too--minus Hutt. And we even find out what happened in that interrogation scene we only glimpsed in the film.

There's several other fun bits, too. But I'll leave those out so you can listen for them.

Although Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels were the only two original cast members to reprise their film roles, the actors who came in to fill the other cinematic character shoes did a fantastic job.

Perry King lent the right vocal quality and attitude as everyone's favorite smuggler, Han Solo. Ann Sachs, as Leia, captured the Princess's spunkiness and inner strength. Bernard Behrens nicely captured Obi-Wan's sound and cadence.

And while Brock Peters as Darth Vader didn't, in my mind, quite match James Earl Jones's vocal depth and resonance, he did manage to embody enough of Vader's character, attitude, and tone. By the time episode 8 came along, Peters was the Dark Lord of the Sith as far as I was concerned.

Add to that Ben Burtt's fantastic sound design and John Williams's stirring score and you have a winner.

If you liked the original Star Wars, you will definitely love this dramatization.

Oh yeah--and in this version, Han shoots first.

Get your copy as a CD from Amazon here or as a download from Audible here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Doubt and the Writer

Two fellow writer folks have recently posted about writer doubt, something that I've actually been pondering over the past few months.

You might recall my Progress Report post from three months ago where I note that I hadn't really done much work on the next Kat and Mouse adventure. In fact, as of that post, I hadn't worked on the story in 7 weeks.

Then last month I posted that I may have gotten back on track with things.

However, what I came back on track with isn't fiction, as I point out here.

So why am I bringing up the issue of Writer's Doubt?

Because of my latest efforts, something in my head tells me the Writing Winds have shifted.

And that's where my particular brand of Writer's Doubt comes in. Mainly this: "Have I tapped my story well? Have I told the stories that I've wanted to tell? Is that all the fiction I'll be writing?"

Because each time I try to work on that next Kat and Mouse adventure, I quickly get bored and the words are molassess slow in coming and I keep thinking of other things I could be doing than writing this story.

But comes this part of my brain that tells me "Hey! Write this instead!"

Five months.

It's now five months of no fiction written.

Is this a phase? Something that'll fix itself in my head?

I hope so.

Or I could just shift to non-fiction.

As I seem to be doing at the moment.

So maybe it's not so much "quitting" as "taking another path up the mountain."

Y'think?

(photo: mordoc/stock.xchng)

Monday, July 23, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Kingdom Come

(Originally posted on OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

Synopsis: It is the early years of the Twenty-First Century. Without the guidance and values long championed by the old guard -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- a younger generation of super heroes is ravaging the world. But when the Man of Steel returns from self-imposed exile, his very presence could be the catalyst that pushes us all into Armageddon. Seen through the eyes of Norman McCay, an aging minister who embarks on a disturbing odyssey of revelation with an angel known as the Spectre to guide him, "Kingdom Come" is the story of what defines a hero in a world spinning inexorably out of control...of the heroes who adapted to that changing world, and those who couldn't...of personal battles fought with inner demons, and the final war that would determine the fate of our planet.

Kingdom Come, while an epic story in the original graphic novel, lacks the same punch as an audio drama. Don't get me wrong. It's a serviceable production.

But it could've been so much more.

The adaptation by John Whitman (who also wrote adaptations we'll cover in upcoming reviews) works well for the most part. I had issues with some lines that bordered on badly executed exposition.

I think the biggest problem I had were the actors. In particular, the actor playing Norman McKay. (Sorry I can't tell you who that was; there was no cast list). A tepid performance for the most part. While there were snippets of "real" acting here and there, I got the sense that he wasn't really performing the role. That he was just doing a dramatic reading of the lines.

And even then, that dramatic reading wasn't too dramatic. More ho-hum.

The other actors weren't as bad.

Superman had the voice quality I expected but the actor struck me as a one-note performance. Not much vocal variety.

Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman were the two I thought who were wonderfully played. Wonder Woman seemed to take a little time to get her groove but once she does, I thought her performance came alive. Same for Luthor, played with a restrained but manic glee. Effective and not too over-the-top.

The biggest problem I had with the production overall was the pacing and delivery of lines. As if the actors were just reading the script instead of actually performing. An excellent example of Read-Acting Syndrome.

I wish the director had done a better job coaxing more life out of the performances.

But, as I said earlier, it's a serviceable production.

I hung onto my copy and I listen to it again from time to time.

Get your copy from Amazon here. (Fair warning, though--it's on cassette. Can't tell if it ever came out on disc.)

(um...you do know what a cassette is, right?)

(...right?...)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Which Entities Clash And Use Tasers

Huh.

It seems that two entites--The Audio Dramatist and The Audio Drama Reviewer--have just ganged up on The SF Pulp Writer, tased him unconscious, and stuffed him into a broom closet.

Oh boy.

This could get ugly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: "Landfall" (BBC)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

Synopsis: When five lost souls, recruited by the Company travel to an abandoned planet, all they know is that they are to retrieve the only known sample of an ore left over from an old mining operation. But their task becomes considerably more complicated when one of their party has a close encounter with the indigenous plant life - plant life which seems to have some very odd, very powerful properties. Soon they are battling not only to stay alive, but to hang on to the very things that make them human.

Another offering from the pen of Mike Walker (I reviewed his adaptation of Rendezvous With Rama the other day) only this time, it's an original work. First broadcast in March of 2011, I caught a re-broadcast last Friday and I thought "Hey! Let's review this one!"

So here we go...

In terms of story, "Landfall" is reminiscent of the first Alien. Rag-tag crew (plus android) sent on assignment to another planet who encounter...something when they arrive on the surface.

Like Rama, it's a very minimalistic, bare-bones production. Music is understated, used mostly as transition between scenes--although there are a couple of instances when a pulsing rhythm provides dramatic tension.

The cast was pretty good. My favorite was Clare Perkins as Hudson. No-nonsense and driven, Perkins gives the role just the right measure of intensity and she's consistent throughout the whole production.

I did have a few issues with Cally (played by Nicola Miles-Wilden). Her performance energy seemed to shift between "engaged" and "bored." I realize she's playing an android, but even Ash*, Bishop**, and, hell, Data***, showed some measure of emotion. When she was "bored," the performance came across as flat. I found this "bored" performance very evident in her scene with J.D. which starts around 33:20 and in the scene that immediately follows.

I thought it was interesting that Miles-Wilden manages only two moments of really inspired performance. First, when she rails against the others at the 42:30 mark, lasting roughly a minute-and-a-half. Then again at the 48:20 mark, which lasts a little over five minutes.

But at the end of those five minutes, she goes back to being "bored."

A sour note for me there.

Sidenote: Intaba (played by Cyril Nri) sounds a tad like Keith David. When I first heard him, I thought, "Hey! It's Goliath! What--Huh?"

Some other nits to pick.****

First: When the ship first lands on the planet, Cally notes that it would be rough coming in. But when they finally land, there's no reaction to such a "rough landing" from the crew. They just...land. And then everything's okay and it's "let's get on with the scene."

Second: About half an hour into the story, a heated argument erupts. Only there's not much heat in said argument. I would've thought otherwise.

Seems like director Marc Beeby missed a couple of good bits there.

Still, it's a good, solid audio drama. I recommend it.

As of this posting, there are 3 2 days left to listen on the BBC i-player (click the "Listen Now" icon).

If you don't get to catch it in time, buy your copy of "Landfall" from AudioGO at this link.


*The android from Alien.
**The android from Aliens.
***Data? You don't know Data? Shame on you!!! You call yourself a sci-fi fan? C'mon--turn in your Geek Card.
****See? Even a BBC audio drama doesn't quite hit all the marks for me.



Monday, July 16, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Rendezvous With Rama (BBC)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

First broadcast in 2009 and presented in two parts, Rendezvous With Rama is a wonderful adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke novel.

Let me say this first: I haven't read the book yet. Yeah,yeah, I know. This is unheard of and you can all flame me now.

But I do know the general premise of the story.

Mike Walker's dramatization opens as a documentary of the events that led to Rama's appearance in our solar system, then shifts to Captain Norton recalling what happened--his version of what happened--during the expedition to Rama.

This is the usual top-of-the-line BBC production with excellent sound design, great acting, and a moody and sometimes haunting score.

Richard Dillane portrays Captain William Norton, captain of the Endeavour, as a salty, grizzled sea dog (or at least that's how I heard it). Authoritative, demanding (in a good way), and knows when to follow the spirit of the law. At times, I heard a bit of Hugh Bonneville in Dillane's performance.

I found that Paul Courtenay Hyu as Li Kwok, our documentary narrator, seemed a little stiff in the beginning. But when we finally get to him talking with Norton, Hyu opens up a little more and we hear a little more life in the character.

The rest of the cast did an exemplary job although, like Hyu, sounded a bit stiff at first. As if either slowly finding their groove or warming up to their characters. But they got up to speed in short order.

One thing I didn't care for was the opening theme. I felt it seemed more suited to a ghost story or period piece than to a science fiction tale.

Of course, that could just be me.

Overall, an excellent production.



Curse You, Chuck Wendig!!!

NaNoWriMo 2011 brought Doctor Jericho out of my mental depths.

And now, as a result of Chuck Wendig's command to squirt my grapefruit, another...um..."entity" has emerged from the same depths as Jericho.

Who is that "entity"?

It's The Audio Dramatist.

Who first emerged after I finished listening to the Star Wars radio dramatization back in the 80s and then wrote fifty-some pages of a Raiders of the Lost Ark audio dramatization using the Marvel comic book adaptation as the basis.

Who planted the idea of writing an audio dramatization of David Eddings's The Belgariad into my brain when I was in high school.

Who continued to prod me about the Belgariad audio dramatization all during college.

Who decided to write an original sci-fi audio drama about a futuristic SWAT team, in six parts, as my college senior project.

Who, two years ago, wrote the first five pages of a Pawn of Prophecy audio dramatization.

Who, after getting irked at Black Library's "not real" Gotrek and Felix audio drama Slayer of the Storm God, wrote an audio dramatization of "Geheimnisnacht" from Trollslayer (from the Gotrek and Felix First Omnibus) and sent a sample of the first scene to Black Library via their Open Window Submission (which closed on June 30th).

Who, after being irked by GraphicAudio's "not real" full-cast production of Elizabeth Moon's Trading in Danger and by the sample (from Chapter Seven in the book) presented on GraphicAudio's webpage, wrote an audio dramatization of that very same scene just to feel better.

Who is not interested in writing original stories but wants to adapt existing works.

And who is now bugging me to find things to adapt as an audio drama despite the issues that brings up.

Yep.

I blame Chuck Wendig for this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Astrogenghis Speaks: 'A Lesson In Enlightenment' " by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the December 1991 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from the Jericho Files collection]

"Teacher," said Frank the Pupil. "What is the proper way to reach enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis said, "The road is seldom clear when one undertakes a long journey. But the absence of truth lies in the understanding of the willow tree."

"I don't understand, Teacher," replied Frank.

"To understand the enigma, one become a part of it. Or, to see the world as a gnat, one must first leap over the swan."

"Ah. Does that mean I must walk in someone else's shoes?"

"Let me tell you a story:
In the days of old, two monks were sitting by a riverbank, resting during a pilgrimate to a far off temple.

The younger monk turned to his companion and said, "See how the water is like glass. We can see ourselves in the water. It does not move."

His companion said, "That is because there is no wind."

The younger monk pointed to a nightingale sitting on the branch of a nearby tree and singing a song. "Hear how the nightingale sings. Her song is like a chorus of heavenly voices."

His companion said, "That is because one can hear the voice of the Creator in all of life."

The younger monk then pointed to the sky and remarked, "See how the sky is like the paint upon the canvas. The beauty of creation must be like the desires of the artist. It is in the acceptance of such beauty that we can all learn from the wishes of the Creator, from whom all this beauty comes."

His companion said, "You should cut your toenails."
"But, Teacher," said Frank. "What does this have to do with enlightenment?"

Astrogenghis smiled and said: "Absolutely nothing."


Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Raise the Bar

At OtherRealms Audio: I talk about setting standards and raising bars.

Happy 4th!

"Here's to America's colors, the colors that never run. May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather."

Have a great 4th of July.


(photo: The Expired Meter)

Monday, July 2, 2012

When Audio Dramas Clash

At OtherRealms Audio: I get very annoyed.