The Guardian Short Stories Podcast presents British actor Simon Callow reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Tree. The short story is a sort of reverie and look back at childhood imaginings inspired by the magical sight of a Christmas tree.
This is an LP of a 1957 recording of Aldus Huxley narrating his science fiction masterpiece, Brave New World. The music is by Bernard Herrmann. Of course, it’s not really the book. It’s a 1 hour radio dramatization. The book is a frightening look at a future of genetic breeding and an anesthetized population of perfectly content people without desires. They are kept uninformed and comfortable so that they will remain peaceful and easy to control by a ruling order. They are made to cherish their servitude and oppression.
Huxley believed that George Orwell’s vision of the future in 1984 was too extreme and that oppression of large populations would be watered down into something resembling pleasure and entertainment. They were both partly right.
So read Huxley’s book and think about the world around you and how little is really expected of you.
What we have here is an enormous tale of medieval chivalry, dragon lore, heraldry, round-tableness, and the insane goings-on of knights and their goonish glory. The magnificent squad of funny men behind these tales of audio craziness call themselves The Hazardous Players. Their ongoing comic production is a series of tales called Knighttime, which follows the lunatic adventures of Sirs Cottington and Bratwurst through the kingdom of Udenland.
Give a listen to the first episode, called The Problem in Pimpleton – Act I:
The audio stories are full of eccentricity reminiscent of Monty Python, Firesign Theater, Shakespeare, Douglas Adams,Terry Prachette and Christopher Moore. They contain great bits of self-referential humor and constantly break out of the stories to comment on the very story that they find themselves in. Characters do odd things like take breaks to go off to the bathroom. They get enthusiastic when the laugh track goes off and start playing to the audience for more laughs. It’s hilarious and engages the listener in the wonderful world of pure storytelling. This kind of silliness that works so well is very hard to find and makes the Web a pure joy when you do find it.
The Hazardous Players have built a web site (www.hazardousplayers.com) around their world of funny characters, complete with sketches and a blog that chronicles various happenings in their story kingdom. The audio is of excellent production value and uses music and incidental sounds with great precision and comic effect. The vocal performances are magnificently ludicrous and enable the listener to clearly imagine each character in perfect detail. I look forward to many more episodes in the silly kingdom of Udenland.
The wonderful science fiction podcasting site, Starship Sofa, in celebration of its 100th episode, has published its first collection of stories as a book. Not just an ordinary book. It’s a book filled with fantastic illustrations and gorgeous layout that hearkens back to the pulp publications of the 1930s through 1950s. It even has vintage advertisements!
Some of the authors featured are Michael Moorcock, Alastair Reynolds, Ken Scholes, Ruth Nestvold, Elizabeth Bear, and more.