Friday, September 26, 2008

The power of the human voice

In this day of computer generated blockbuster movies, we tend to forget the power of a human voice telling a tale of human drama. We forget that the radio play used to affect people as deeply as any movie, except on Halloween, when we are reminded that a radio play drove a nation-wide public panic.

One of my favorite hobby sites is Tales of Future Past , a site that celebrates what people thought 50 years ago our new century would look like in every aspect from space flight down to cooking and family life. (warning: this site is addictive, and can cause many wasted hours) One of the many, many fascinating things on there is a page of science fiction radio plays , from the 30s to the 50s. Two things about them are amazing: the first, how well these outdated stories hold up. These were written in a time when it was felt that good science fiction is first and foremost good fiction.

The second thing is just how well they work. One might think that perhaps a normal drama would still work on radio, but no modern scifi fan would be satisfied; we're just too sophisticated today. Try it and see- I think you'll be surprised. You just might be surprised at how timely these old stories are, too. You think alternative energy and public transportation are new issues? Listen to "The Roads Must Roll", by Robert A. Heinlein. The teaser: "Remember the old days when there were things called automobiles? Before the highways became so choked with traffic back in the 1950s that they literally ground to a halt? And then the Engineers took over and replaced the cars with the Roads; giant mechanised conveyors carrying millions of people across the continent everyday and most of the freight at up to a hundred miles an hour? Today the economy of the 21st century is utterly dependent on the Roads-- and the men who run them. Thank Heaven they are utterly dependable.

They'd better be, because the Roads must roll.

First aired on the NBC radio network on 4 January 1956"

Do you hate commercials? Are you on the no-call list? Listen to "The Space Merchants", by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth
"Sure, pop up adverts are annoying, junk mail is frustrating, and spam is enough to make you want to tear your hair out, but it could be worse, At least the advertising agencies aren't running the place-- at least, not yet.

In the classic Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth novel, adapted in two parts by the CBS Radio Workshop, you will encounter a future where Madison Avenue rules the world and the morals of advertising are the law of the land. But what happens when one Mitchell Courtenay, Copysmith Star Class, is given the ultimate in sales campaigns: to sell the American people on emigrating to Venus.

First broadcast on the CBS radio network on 17 and 24 February 1957."

No comments: