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Science Fiction on Radio

"The best special effects are the ones inside your head. The best aliens are the ones that only you can see. And you only see them in your own mind." -- David Ossman

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. (Some scripts are reprinted as examples in Radio Speech, by S. P. Lawton, 1932.) Perhaps the best Old Time Radio SF shows are NBC's Dimension X (1950-51) and X Minus One (1955-57). They made use of new stories from the best science fiction magazines and writers of the period.

All that went away and for a long time there were only sporadic outbreaks of SF on the airways of America. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" rekindled an awareness of good radio in 1978. In 1981 ZBS released the first series of "Ruby: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe" in 3-minute episodes on both public and commercial radio. But it was probably the Star Wars radio series from National Public Radio that showed that there might be an audience, just as there was a huge fan base for the Star Wars movies.

Now there is more audio theater being produced that at any time since the radio networks ceased it in 1962. And a large portion of it is science fiction and fantasy. It’s not on the radio, though. It's on the Internet - a very science fictional sort of medium. In fact it's ALL OVER the Internet.

The
first place to look on the Internet for SF Audio is SFFaudio.com. (www.sffaudio.com) Jesse Willis includes reviews, notifications and links to science fiction, fantasy and horror audiobooks, and Scott Danielson focuses on full-cast audio drama, and Old Time Radio. It is searchable, so you can look for specific things, or generalize and find something you didn’t know was out there. And second look to the The Audio Drama Directory’s science fiction section (http://theaudiodramadirectory.com/sciencefiction/). It has listings from all over the Internet that are free to listen. Also take a look at the Mark Time Awards winners for some of the best in recent years.

Sources


Here are some sources on the web for science fiction audio theater. This is not intended to be a complete listing, others are doing that. These are production organizations that have a large catalog of material.

  • Darker Projects - Shorts, novel-length originals, fan fiction in the universes of Star Trek and Dr. Who, and super-hero audio.
  • BrokenSea - SF books, movies, comics and television adaptations and originals.
  • ZBS - Home of Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe, and the Jack Flanders adventures, and many more. Look for “Stars and Stuff” for excellent shorter stories.
  • Atlanta Radio Theater Company podcast - Heinlein, H.P.Lovecraft, many others. Originals and adaptations, performed before an audience.
  • Radio Repertory Company of America - Originals featuring Claudia Christian in the Anne Manx series. Mark Time Award winner.
  • 19 Nocturne Boulevard - Fantasy and horror abound, but some SF included. Mark Time Award winner.

Series


These are ongoing or completed series that are SF or Fantasy in nature. Long-form, book length stories in sound.

  • Edict Zero - FIS - Earth colony. Story focuses on government agents, with an investigation that leads them into conflict with authorities.
  • We’re Alive - Zombie podcast story. Excellent stories, acting and production values. Mark Time Award winner.
  • The Mask of Inanna - Original fantasy/horror story with OTR radio broadcast embedded. Good characters.
  • Space Casey - Quite silly story about Casey, woman who steals a spaceship and suffers the comic consequences. Mark Time Award winner. Sequel is out there, too.
  • 1918 - Steampunk with aliens and airplanes. Mark Time Award winner.
  • The Red Panda - Decoder Ring Theater ongoing podcasts of Canada’s Greatest Superhero. Superb writing in an Old Time Radio style.
  • Brad Lansky stories - From Protophonic Studios in South Africa. The hardest science fiction story around. Very high production values. Mark Time Award winner.

Audiobooks


These are sources of SF audiobooks.

Podcasts


Here are some of the regular podcasts that feature science fiction audio theatre and readings, as well as interviews, reviews and discussion.


SF Radio Shows


These are continuing radio broadcasts that feature content related to science fiction and fantasy. Many interviews, lots about movies and TV.

Mike Hodel's Hour 25 was a one hour radio program of science fiction and science interviews, with news, reviews, story readings and radio drama, and it was on the air on KPFK in Los Angeles for 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. Now they broadcast only on the Internet at the above URL.

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.

Presently the longest-running college radio SF show in the world, and the second-longest running SF magazine-type show overall, DESTINIES - THE VOICE OF SCIENCE FICTION airs on Fridays at 11:30 PM on WUSB, 90.1 FM, the radio station of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Hundreds of writers, artists, editors, actors, producers, directors, and musicians have appeared on the program since its debut in April, 1983. Regular features include: the Destinies Audiobook Sampler, Soundtrack Spotlight, Graphic Detail, the Destinies Radio Theater, the Destinies Film Review Team, Christopher DeFilippis' "DeFlip Side," and I-Con highlights from 1985 - 2008, as well as host Dr. Howard Margolin's flawless interviews. Archived broadcasts of all episodes since late December, 2005, as well as dozens of older shows can be found at the website above.

Old Time Radio SF


Sources of Science Fiction OTR, some downloads and some on CDs.
  • 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 the late Meade Frierson III also published a 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.

Jon has a really large catalog of MP3 CDs available, in many genres, though he's especially fond of the science fiction ones. See his page on the highlights of science fiction radio shows, http://www.otrcat.com/science-fiction-in-radio.html.