Monday, December 30, 2019

A Tribute to Old Time Radio.

I sort of have my parents to blame for this one.  It all started a while back when was just a kid.  I was an avid book fan in the making back then.  I knew I liked what I had read to me, but I didn't yet know how to read.  Turns out this wasn't too much of a problem, however.  There were two reasons for that.  The first, and most important, is that I soon got rid of the whole illiteracy problem by learning to both spell out and pick up the meaning of the words, both on the page, as well as the ones my school teachers made me spell in notebooks.  Another factor in my favor was that I never lost the enthusiasm for books, and so it was the drive of that whole interest which finally made me drill down, grab a copy of R.L. Stine, and begin to pour over the letters I found inside.  It was something of a relief to discover they made sense.  It was even better when, a few minutes later, they also turned out to be pretty entertaining.

That was the major reason why I didn't have much trouble back then.  Another part of it has to do with the fact that I'd discovered an item that was called a "Book on Tape".  They were clunky, yet compact audio cassettes with little spools or reels of odd, ink-ish stuff woven around them like cloth on an old weaver's loom.  They had to be the novelest looking things I'd ever seen up to that point.  I don't think I had much time to give the cassettes all that much consideration however.  What riveted my attention was the cover of the miniature box the tape came in.  It was one of the familiar and macabre illustrations of an old artist named Stephen Gammell.  The cassette tape was an entire collection of the second volume in Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark series, and it was all mine.

I suppose it wasn't my first exposure to books on cassette.  However, the little I'd heard of this "hip new medium" was in the form of old collections of children's folk songs that my grandparents kept lying around, and maybe one of two condensed narrations of Disney's that I can still recall, but they are all a vague series of snippets of dialogue and one tune that I remember and yet can't make out at the same time.  I know there was perhaps one more in there, an kids audio of Return of the Jedi, however that's about as far as my exposure went at the time.  It's a bunch of voices from the aether that aren't quite live enough to be Memorex.

That Scary Stories tape, however, was something else.  I recall I had one of those cheesy old tape players, the kind with the sort of bright, garish colors painted on that would appeal to no one else except a little kid.  It's main casing was red with a yellow main speaker.  I could be wrong, yet it's just possible that the player buttons were blue, or something like it.  What I know a lot better is that I might have had a pair of headphones to go along with the whole ensemble.  I put on the head-set, unwrapped the cassette with what might have been careful eagerness or just plain carelessness.  It's the small details, after all, that seem insignificant as they happen.  It's the passage of time that somehow makes even the trivial seem like one big moment of important, like a form of code whose cipher has been lost.

Anyway, I know for a fact I opened the tape box and brought out a curious, squarish, white rectangular object.  You could just make out the spool of tape inside.  I don't think I knew what they meant, however.  I placed it in the tape player, and pushed play.  Or was it just an ordinary Walkman, and the multi-color player was from earlier?  Either way, a lever was flipped, there was an audible pop as the speakers began to work.  There was the arrival of a slow, rhythmic opening musical chord that in retrospect is sort of like a milder, slower form of the Halloween theme.  Or at least that's as close as I get get to a description.  The next thing I knew, I was listening to the voice of the Heat Miser from The Year Without a Santa Clause as he took me on a guided tour of a corpse who didn't know he was dead, vengeful wraiths from beyond the grave, a girl who survived a premature burial, a new mother with glass eyes and a wooden tail, as well as my first experience with the Gothic genre as a spoken performance.  That was my introduction to what is nowadays known as the audiobook.

An Enthusiasm Builds.

That was the real start of my audiobook listening mania as far as I can recall.  It is possible I listened to one other Schwartz book on tape before that.  In a Dark, Dark, House is what it could have been.  However, it was the Scary Stories tape that set the whole thing off in a serious way.  After that I tried to get my hands on whichever audiobook managed to capture my fancy.  All of them were oriented toward one particular format, that being the Horror genre.  I think it was my liking for that type of story that made me learn to love books.  This was helped when I was given an audio copy of Edgar Allen Poe's short stories.

A New Element is Introduced.

I think it must have been my Dad who wound up buying me that Schwartz tape.  He knew I was kind of a big fan of all things ghastly, even at such a young age.  By that time the work of an old Gothic scribbler named John Bellairs had caught my attention, and pretty soon my imagination as well.  Since this was all a form of literary baby steps, a lot of my early fiction intake tended to be on a one-note level.  If it didn't feature something going bump in the night, my interest tended to go elsewhere.  It must have been this single minded interest in frights getting on my parents nerves that led to what happened next.

They must have gotten so sick of listening to the same tale of grue or old, dark, house mystery that pretty soon I found them interrupting with some guy name Garrison Keillor.  It was a seed that would grow later on.  However, at the moment, aside from a recitation of Casey at the Bat, I found little in the man's works to hold my interest.  I don't know if it was any back breaking straw, or whatever.  What I think, looking back, is that it was a simple act of desperation on my Dad's part that introduced me to the concept of the radio drama.  He had taken me to an old, forgotten chain store called Book Stop, and I'd been looking around for more Horror stories on audio.  He relented, and I got what I wanted, though I can't remember what it was now.  The reason why is because I just noticed my Dad pick another set of book tapes lying nearby.

It was an uninteresting looking pale, blue-green looking thing, and the worst part is that a lot the cover art is lost to my memory.  That's because while I saw my Dad bring it along with him, I was already in disinterested dismissal mode.  We took our purchases to the checkout and left soon after.  I had left one of my mystery audiobooks on in the car when we first arrived, and was ready to settle back in a let the tape play out, like usual.  However, that's not what happened.  Instead, my Dad said some words to the effect of "That's enough of that", or something like it.  Then he ejected my cassette took out his selection of tapes, and then inserted that in to the car player.

I think my reaction to this was a mixture of mild disbelief combined with a sense of, "Aw, not this again".  The tape started to play, and what I heard was like nothing I knew before.  The sound was scratchy and somewhat faded.  There people there, yet it always sounded like they were speaking from an echo chamber in some far off, distant country.  Their words crackled, and while their voices were American, I could detect multiple levels of style and vernacular that I'd never really heard before.  The greatest shock, however, was that Dad had chosen something that was not just entertaining.  My first introduction to Old Time Radio was one that made me laugh, of that much I'm certain.

First Voices.

I want to say that Eddie Cantor was the first old radio star I've ever heard.  He used to be one those grand old funny men, the kind who would have been a strict Stand Up Comedy tour feature rather than anything big.  It was a simpler time back in his day, however, and back then the ability to get even a minor laugh out of audiences could go a long way.  I remember laughing at all the jokes, though I can't recall a single one anymore.  That might not sound like much, yet I think it's a least kind of a shame.

I have a clearer memory of the next voice I heard.  He was a funny looking little guy named Jimmy Durante, and part of the reason I have a better memory of this fellow is because Lucille Ball was a featured guest star.  I already knew about here because back then my TV would replay old episodes of The Lucy Show.  Does anyone still love Lucy?  In addition to her, another thing that helped it stick in my memory was that the gags Durante chose to employ were like audio sight gags.  His humor was compatible with that old Looney Tunes features.  You could imagine his voice in conversation with Bugs Bunny as if they were old friends.  I think it was this stylistic similarity that allowed Durante to use a series of comic vocal performances of the kind that tend to stick in your mind, especially if you're a kid.  It also doesn't hurt that Durante himself looks like what would a happen if Popeye were to step off the animated cell into real life.

Welcome to Baker Street

After that, the picture gets a bit blurry as the memories either fade or coalesce into each other.  The next thing I recall, at least at the moment, is re-entering the world of the Gothic with a radio anthology series known as Suspense.  I didn't know it at the time, however I later discovered that this series is or was kind of important back in the day.  For one thing it's premiere debut episode was directed by some guy named Alfred Hitchcock, and was an audio drama adaptation of The Lodger, which was also the first film to establish and determine the rest of his career as a director.  Perhaps it was this pedigree that helped ensure it was radio's running dramatic series, managing to keep itself on the air from 1940 all the way to about 1963.  This was not my intro to the series, however.  This was all something I discovered for myself later on.

Instead, the first episode of Suspense I remember has always stuck in my mind because of its setup.  Imagine you are a high priced attorney, all alone on the top floor of an office building.  You're just about to leave when the phone rings.  The guy on the other line is an "old friend" or accomplice who helped you out when you're marriage was on the rocks.  The trouble is you may have stiffed this friend on the bill for his services.  Your old accomplice has phoned up to let you know he's on his way to collect the bill.  He also makes it a point of telling you it would be a mistake to leave the office, or the building, if you know what's good for you.  So there you are, stranded in your own property as all the exit points are closed off against you one after another.  All the while the clock keeps ticking down as your assailant edges ever closer to the kind of showdown that's best described as deadly.

The entire setup is simplicity incarnate.  It could almost be a scaled down Quinton Tarantino scenario.  All the excitement for the drama comes the way the scriptwriter is able to ratchet up the tension as the showdown between the two antagonists draws ever more nearer.  We are able to get invested as the lawyer at the heart of the drama keeps trying to look for ways out of his predicament.  Each desperate attempt meets with a dead end.  All the while there is the ever lingering fear of what will happen when the hitman is able to reach the lawyer's office.  This grants a welcome and effective sense of threat and menace to the whole proceedings.  A good example is when the lawyer tries to take the one remaining elevator out of the office, only to observe that the car is headed directly towards his floor.  In addition to being a fine thriller tale, it was also my introduction to a man named Bob Hope.  I suppose you could call him the Bill Murray of the World War II generation.

Beyond that it's more like snippets of recall.  It was an episode of an old Jim Henson animated show that led in a round-a-bout way to my learning about Orson Welles's radio series, The Shadow.  It may be of interest to comics fans to learn that this character predated all of both the DC and Marvel pantheon, making him the closest thing America had at the time to the first superhero.  I suppose a good way to describe its impact would to imagine what it could have been like if it were Citizen Kane who first donned the by now familiar cape and cowl.

My next big radio discovery came at the hands of Disney.  Rather it was a result of buying and watching a copy of The Great Mouse Detective that served as my first introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes.  When the film was over I wanted to know more, of course.  I think it's like a built-in feature of this type of story.  Once the curtain goes down and the banquet is over, you're still hungry for further offerings.  It was natural that not too long after that I found out about a radio series called The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

This is a show I still have clear and vivid memories of.  There's not much to offer in terms of setting.  I was still a kid at  the time, and I listened to the majority of this series while riding in the car with my folks while they were on their way to one place or the other.  However this lack of external settings was more than made up for by the world I was transported to in each mystery of the week.  Like the Disney film before it, those Holmes radio plays led me back into a faded, fogged out world on the cusp of the century.  I was able to hear the hansom cabs and the click of the horses hooves as they made their way through the streets.  You could catch the echo of Big Ben as it chimed the hour.  Sometime you could even hear a strain of violin music as the greatest consulting mind tried to solve the latest puzzle to arrive on his doorstep.

The curious part for me is that while I could tell on some level that the actors playing Holmes and Watson were not the same as the performers in The Great Mouse Detective, the remarkable thing is that it somehow didn't matter to me at all.  I could still see the characters in my mind quite clearly.  I think it's just possible that Holmes and Watson are the type of character that each generation is able to catch up with sooner or later.  Right now Benedict Cumberbatch is the first face most fans will think of when they hear the name Sherlock.  It's not a face in my case, it was just a voice.  However, they say first influences are supposed to count for a lot.  It's an idea that holds true right up until it doesn't.  In that sense I guess I'm lucky enough to still count Basil Rathbone as my candidate for the closest we'll ever get to a definitive Holmes.  The same goes for Nigel Bruce's performance as Watson.

There's a catch to all their efforts, however.  The key is that no matter how talented the actors involved, all parties are nothing if the right words aren't in place for them to recite.  If you have a bad manuscript, then even the most talented thespian is going to come away with egg all over his face.  If, in the other case, the story is written with a sure hand, then even the most mediocre mummer can still bring off the needed dramatic effect.  That's why it was lucky that Bruce and Rathbone had a writer like Anthony Boucher to help them out.  He was a magazine editor who specialized in Mystery and Detective thrillers.  His biggest legacy right now would have to be helping to launch The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  He was also able to bring a remarkable level of sophistication to the scripts he worked on for the series.  It's something you can tell by the quality of the dialogue and the nature of the general interactions between characters.  When you listen to Boucher's continuation of Doyle's characters, you know they're in good hands.

A Useful Form of Storytelling.

It would be a mistake to call the radio drama a lost art form.  It is true that the multi-cast audio performance experienced a slump in America with the invention of Rock and Roll and the evolving advent of FM radio.  However, while this same musical evolution was happening across the pond, it was somehow never enough to extinguish the artistic presentation of the drama for radio in Britain.  For whatever reason, English listeners were able to cling on to their wireless sets with a singular tenacity.  This left an opening for the survival of the audio theater in that country.  As a result, over the decades British listeners have been able to regale themselves with the on-air presence of continuing characters like Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Lord Peter Wimsy, and of course, there was always the occupant of 221b Baker Street.

In addition to this were the countless opportunities for stand-alone dramas.  Post-war Britain was in a unique position in terms of this format on the radio.  For whatever reason, they've been graced with a brilliant, literate history on both the page and stage.  In practice, this has meant whole hours devoted to the works of Austen, Dickens, and even Kipling.  Of course, there was also highly original programming such as the time when a roving tourist got drunk in a field somewhere, and wondered how come no one had ever thought to produce a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  All of which is to say that the survival of the radio drama in Britain means that an entire country has managed to hold on to a form of storytelling that is not so much a lost, as it is a forgotten art in this country.

The good news is that the advent of mediums such as podcasting, and even YouTube, have managed to force the idea of the radio drama back into the public consciousness of America.  It seems to exist right now as a fringe enthusiasm among the vlogging communities as far as I can tell.  This makes a kind of sense, as this form of written performance would have to make its way in through the most readily available back door that was also guaranteed to draw the most hits and likes.  The good news is that the online video public hasn't allowed the art form to remain dormant.  Projects like The Simply Scary podcast and The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have found ways of creating their own modern content that relies on the techniques and style of what was once described as the golden age of yesteryear.  In addition, online content creators like Alan Resnick's Wham City have found ways of creating mixed media projects which incorporate the idea of the radio script in part of a larger creative context.

There is a value in this type of audio drama that I haven't seen talked about much.  One of the perks of writing for radio is that it forces the audience to pay attention to what is being said, rather than the way everything looks.  In other words, the radio drama, by its very nature, has to rely upon the words in order to get its point across. Its the only other artistic medium in which the writer is able to maintain his paramount importance outside of the the novel.  It's just possible that this will sound like an odd claim.  That's the trouble with a style of thinking which could be described as one-dimensional.  It cause us to create artificial barriers between different content when there are none.  All of which makes it something of relief to realize I'm not the only one who has thought about the use of writing and radio in at least similar terms.

In his book Theater of the Mind, author, critic, and scholar Neil Verma even went so far as to hint at a lineage between a standard radio play and classical Greek drama.  "Their work also satisfies many criteria that define dramas in the Western tradition.  The radio platform facilitates most of the elements outlined in Aristotle's theory of tragedy, even elevating plot, character, and diction, the components needed for purifying catharsis.  Indeed, the ancient Greeks may have practiced a primitive form of radio drama by wearing masks equipped with amplification devices and performing in auditoria that were acoustically designed so as to let voices reach distant seating (5)".  I've got to admit I like this linking up of radio with Classical drama, as it grants the whole thing a stamp of literary legitimacy.

However, there are some voices who, even if they are willing to grant that radio has its place, still regard it as an outmoded form of entertainment.  That was the surprising conclusion reached by Stephen King, in his 1980 study Danse Macabre.  King cited the medium in relation to what he refers to as "the set of reality".  It sounds intimidating, yet all he's talking about is an idea that's not really his.  It belongs to one of the old Romantic poets, as King himself admits.

"Earlier on I  talked about the suspension of disbelief, Coleridge's classic definition of what the reader must provide when seeking a hot shot from a fantasy story, novel, or poem.  Another way of putting this is that the reader must agree to let the gorilla out of its cage for a while, and when we see the zipper running up the monster's back, the gorilla goes promptly back into its cage.  After all, by the time we get to be forty or so, it's been in there for a long time, and perhaps it's developed a bit of the old "institutional mentality."  Sometimes it has to be prodded out with a stick.  And sometimes it won't go at all.

"Seen in these terms, the set of reality becomes a very difficult thing to manipulate.  Of course it has been done in the movies; if it had not been, this book would be shorter by a third or more.  But by detouring around the visual part of the set of reality, radio developed an awesome tool (perhaps even a dangerous one; the riot and national hysteria following The War of the Worlds broadcast suggests that it could have been so) for picking the lock on the gorilla's cage.  But in spite of all the nostalgia we might want to feel, it is impossible to go back and re-experience the creative essence of radio...; that particular lock pick has been broken by the simple fact that, for better or worse, we now demand believable visual input as part of the set of reality.  Like it or lump it, we seem to be stuck with it (123-4)".

I'm gonna have to go out on a limb here and say I not only disagree with what King says, I'm also willing to go farther and claim that a lot recent history is able to re-write his misgivings about the set of reality.  To star with, I can't help thinking that Coleridge's ideas about the reader's disbelief threshold was a bit more open-ended and malleable.  Part of my reason for thinking was to the extent that Coleridge knew of both Shakespeare, and the Popular Tradition of which the Bard's work formed a part.  It's a topic I'm willing to sound out all the way to the rafters if I have to.  The fact remains that the nature of Shakespeare's writing proves that it is possible for audiences to incorporate the zipper running down the monster's back.  The reason this is possible is because the writer is willing and able to let the audience in on the dirty little secret of all creativity.  Namely that it really is all about the illusion and artifice of the story.  Shakespeare and Coleridge went even further in staking themselves to the idea that an awareness of the artificiality of the fictional world would help the reader in his enjoyment of a story.  It was a multi-level form of paying attention where both real world and fictional, secondary world were held in a harmonious balance.  A good example of this is the prologue to Henry V where the Bard actually encourages his audience to imagine the entire field and conflict of Agincourt up on a bare and empty stage.  I think that radio makes a similar demand on its listeners.  The only real difference is that the latter medium seems to offer a more cozy and intimate setting in which the imagination can run a pretty wild riot.

My second objection to King's take has to do with his ideas about the set of reality itself.  He tends to view it as something that can only travel or develop so far before going static and stagnating.  In King's view, once you reach a certain age, your ability to believe in make-believe is essentially dead inside.  The ability to go along with storytelling is like a weight that's impossible to lift.  The trouble with this line of thought is that the modern face of social media has proven that way thinking to be simplistic to the point of being naive.  Far from finding it difficult believe the unbelievable, modern social media has revealed that it is possible for readers of any age to believe in several different and incompatible impossibilities stacked on on top of the other.  The upshot of all this evidence is that the proverbial set of reality might be far from set, at least in terms of far a lot people's imaginations might be willing to go.  The truth seems to be that is is far more malleable than even auteurs like Orson Welles could have dreamed of.

In addition to this, there's the same growing Internet enthusiasm I noted above.  How a lot of the younger generation are re-learning the nature and art of the audio drama with the advent of podcasts and YouTube channels.  What I think this means is that it's all less a problem of suspension of disbelief, and more the simple question of artistic trends.  As I've said before, radio plays went out of fashion in America for a time, and back then the real culprit was probably a young upstart named Rock and Roll.  However in Britain even the advent of the Beatles couldn't dull the enthusiasm for audio performers like Spike Milligan and John Guilgud.  Also, the advent of digital media casting its shadow over analog formats like television and cinema has made it a lot easier for the element of sound to have its say at the table.  To be fair to King, Danse Macabre was written in an age in which the VCR and VHS had just begun to explode on the market.  Rip a few decades off the calendar and they are now looked at as collector's items.  Meanwhile the media landscape has shifted in ways that would have been impossible for King to contemplate back when he was a writer in residence at a New England college.  So no, far from thinking its time has come and gone, I'm willing to argue that the radio dramatization has found its second wind.

The most important aspect in all of this for me, however, is that radio always places its emphasis on the quality of writing. The trick with radio is that you are able to hear people speaking, yet you have to "see" for yourself.  The catch is that without the presence of words, all radio is what's best described by the professional term of dead air.  "Silence on the radio," as Garrison Keillor once mused, "I'm not sure how that works."  And of course he's right.  Without the right words in the right place at the right time, radio, like all mediums of storytelling, are nothing.  It's a principle so fundamental that I suppose it makes it all the easier for the great majority of us to forget it even exists.  Perhaps the curse of ubiquity is the loss of awareness and, in time, of memory.        

I like this sort of enforced reliance on the the choice of words, as it can be a good form of discipline for the writer.  Besides that it also helps draw attention to another fundamental that is easy to lose sight of.  In the last resort, all artistic mediums are at the mercy of words and language.  Even moments of heart-stopping action can't exist without the need of someone writing down how it should go.  The same holds true for the theater as much as the sound-stage.  It's just that with a medium like the novel, words are more noticeable, and can't be got away from, no matter how hard you try.  Radio performs the exact same function because, in the end, all you're left with is the dramatic words.  The reason the radio is useful is because it is the one form of writing outside of the novel which forces the audience to pay attention to the words being said, and to pay close attention to just what they mean. 

This is the main incentive behind the writing of this post.  It's to ask the simple question of whether or not the audio drama can help people learn a more sophisticated way of reading the stories we know and tell ourselves.  When Stephen King lamented what seemed like the loss of a genuine artistic medium, he wrote from the perspective of an analogue, visual-oriented culture.  Back in his day, seeing was often equated with believing.  Now we are in a digital age in which text and sound are starting to make a come back as the more straightforward forms of broadcast media don't so much vanish as become just another face in the crowd.  It's the perfect environment to foster an appreciation of sounds married to the written word.  This is where old time shows like X Minus One or The Mercury Theater on the Air can come in handy.  At their best, old radio shows like this were able to tell a gripping story with little more than sounds and the listener's imagination.  It's a narrative technique that's right for a revival.  Maybe all this goes some way to explaining why I tend to have a valid artistic enjoyment for the lost voices from the golden age.


  1. Uh-oh, I began a comment but it appears to have been lost. Not sure what happened thre,I must have x-ed it out.

    This is less a review of Old Time Radio programs and more a sketching out of the idea of radio/ mental visualization. Which of course is fine I was just kind of waiting for you to get into specific programs. As you said in your conclusion "whether or not the audio drama can help people learn a more sophisticated way of reading the stories we know and tell ourselves. "

    That question I can't quite answer for myself, since I got into OTR more or less after decades of reading/ watching movies and TV. Although as a kid for sure I loved my readlong audio tapes, Jeff Wayne's WAR OF THE WORLDS, and an episode of "The Necklace" (Guy de Maupassant) on (I think) CBS MYSTERY THEATER that left a memorable impression on me.

    The only one I know here is SUSPENSE, which is of course worth listening to, and you mention MERCURY THEATER and X MINUS ONE at the end, which are of course indispensable.

    You ever go to ? I highly recommend them. I've downloaded a lot from them over the years. The next one I'm going to do is GUNSMOKE, which once you start reading up on OTR always looms large in people's estimations.

    My own experience came from living in one of the few in-range areas of Audio Noir and getting into YOURS TRULY JOHNNY DOLLAR, DRAGNET, BROADWAY WAS MY BEAT, and SUSPENSE. That led to other things. I especially love the history stuff, like THAT WAS THE YEAR or ADVENTURES IN RESEARCH, etc. It's a mansion with many rooms, our OTR!

    You briefly touched on LAKE WOBEGON. I should definitely consider that a pivotal stage in my development too, although by the time I first tuned into that (circa 2000) I as already well-established in my mental visualization from stories habit. But listening to Garrison (as well as BBC Radio dramas) was from that point on a big part of my listening habits. Garrison's reading of his own book WOBEGON BOY, especially, comes highly recommended.

    Nice post - hope more people discover the delights of OTR.

    1. Yeah, I hear what you say about not going into more specific programs or episodes in detail.

      My thinking was to do it one step at a time. The reasoning for that went something like, since most people have probably never even heard of this stuff, you can't just shove it all out there expect them to get it all at once. It's more like training someone in learning to speak another language.

      That's what made me decide to start things off with the most general kind of introduction to the medium as a whole, while giving enough hints to start up people's interest. From here I do plan to work my way back to this subject on a show by episode type basis.

      All I need now is to find the right way to get people hooked on listening. I have one or two ideas going with that. It's just a question of when's the right time.

      Good to know you liked it though. Thanks.


  2. Good post! You really summon up that sense of discovery so many of us feel for the things that entertain and instruct us.

    I think I agree with you that King's "set of reality" argument is flawed. I kind of see how he'd come to that conclusion in 1980, though, certainly as regards radio dramas, which were all but dead.

    Although, actually, wasn't that around the time the NPR version of "Star Wars" aired? If you've never heard it, it's a delight. So I remember it, at least.

    1. Oh yeah, the NPR plays. Ironic yet true fact, when the special editions came out, I was one of the few who was never entirely bothered by them.

      The reason why has to do with the indirect way I arrived at the Original Trilogy. I arrived at them all out of order. The first one I saw was "ROTJ", then, after a long span of time, I didn't see the first "Star Wars", rather I heard it on a multiple audio cassette collections. The irony comes in when you tell people that everything that's on-screen in the Special Edition version was already on-air, way back in the 80s. In that version, all the Special Edition scenes are even longer, yet they are given a context that makes sense, and doesn't detract from the characters. I like the radio plays just fine. At the same time, I can see how some fans would argue that the additions should have remained in the radio format.

      I don't think King was ever really aware of those versions, to be honest. I think his attention was in no way oriented to the medium back then. It would be interesting to find out the changes in the way people view and/or listen to stories has changed his thinking on the matter.


    2. If anything, I'm a little surprised that the resurgence in popularity for radio dramas via podcasts hasn't attracted King's attention as a creator. The King of, say, 1996 would have been all over trying to experiment in a "new" medium like that.

      I am intrigued by your experiences seeing the OT all out of order like that. It's very different from my own experience, which was linear. But I'm sure millions and millions of people saw them out of order the same way you did, especially back in those days when you had access only to whatever you happened to have in front of you.

      All things considered, this notion of being tied down to watching/reading/experiencing franchise stories in a specific order and ONLY in that order is a very recent thing. And probably not a good one.

      Oh, and I forgot to mention above: I haven't heard any of the audio productions mounted by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, but I'd like to. Their two movies are quite good (slight amateurishness [which actually enhances them a bit] notwithstanding).

    3. Well, I know there have been radio adaptations of his own work, so he must have signed off on those somehow. Perhaps it's the closest anyone can get to anything like a recantation of the views expressed in Macabre.

      Who knows.