20 episodes

A curated selection of Golden Age sci-fi by some of the genre’s best writers, from Ray Bradbury to Arthur C. Clarke, as well as classic serialized radio programs.

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The Reader Crew Joshua James

    • Science Fiction

A curated selection of Golden Age sci-fi by some of the genre’s best writers, from Ray Bradbury to Arthur C. Clarke, as well as classic serialized radio programs.

joshuajames.substack.com

    Mind Webs: Paradise Regained - Cogswell Thomas - 30:36

    Mind Webs: Paradise Regained - Cogswell Thomas - 30:36

    A group of escapees on a prison world aptly named Hell determine to make a home in the only livable valley on the planet.

    A straightforward prison-escape story with an ironic twist that I didn't see coming at all. The incidental background music plays counterpoint to the dialog, creating the image of a truly hellish landscape.

    *Note that Cogswell Thomas was a pen name for the collaboration of Theodore Cogswell and Theodore L. Thomas. Both men were award-nominated in their own right.

    Mind Webs was a 1970's series out of WHA Radio in Wisconsin that featured weekly short stories of science fiction by some of the genre's best writers. The music, sound cues and occasional character voices along with the performance of Michael Hansen, the reader, resulted in better than most fully dramatized productions of the period. Around 150 shows were aired between 1976 and 1984 varying in length, but most were about 30 minutes.

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    • 30 min
    X Minus One: Tunnel Under the World by Frederik Pohl - 27:59

    X Minus One: Tunnel Under the World by Frederik Pohl - 27:59

    Groundhog Day meets The Truman Show meets The Matrix is a description that may give some indication of this episode's mind-bending plot. What the story shares in common with all these examples is that it raises the question of what is reality. As such, it feels as if it might have come from the febrile imagination of Philip K. Dick (though it is in fact based on a short story by another master of science fiction, Frederik Pohl).

    Many listeners will also be reminded of The Twilight Zone, as the story could very easily have been adapted for this series. In any case, this ranks as one of the very best X Minus One episodes of all. What is most striking at the beginning - when we first meet the protagonist and learn that he keeps reliving the same day, yet no one else seems aware that the day is repeating - is how modern its central idea feels; after all, Groundhog Day didn't bring a similar conceit to a wider audience until over thirty-five years later.

    It's difficult to discuss any more about the plot without giving too much away, but one reason this is such a strong episode is that just when you think you have the story figured out, there is a twist that sends it veering off in a new, unexpected direction. Furthermore, with so many twists and turns in the plot, this means there are enough ideas here for two or three different stories.

    Another reason this ranks so highly is that it is almost the archetypal X Minus One episode, in that it touches on a great many of the fears and concerns of the era that were explored throughout the series' run, including about the atomic bomb, consumerism, the advertising industry, electronic surveillance and secret conspiracies; it even manages to reference both Martians and Russians, the two major 'bad guys' of 1950s American science fiction.

    Finally, the ending is bold and jaw-dropping, and packs a real punch.

    X Minus One aired on NBC from April 1955 until January 1958. It was an extension of Dimension X which aired on NBC from 1950-51. The first fifteen scripts used for X Minus One were scripts used in the airing of Dimension X; however, it soon found its own little niche. The stories for the show came from two of the most popular science fiction magazines at the time; Astounding and Galaxy.

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    • 27 min
    Mind Webs: The Veldt - Ray Bradbury - 30:56

    Mind Webs: The Veldt - Ray Bradbury - 30:56

    This is one of a handful of Mind Webs versions where Michael Hansen is joined by a guest narrator, in this case Carol Collin, and it really adds something to this classic story.

    A nursery in a fully automated house allows its owners’ children to create any virtual environment they desire, but when they use it to recreate the African savannah, the line between illusion and reality starts to become blurred. Based on a short story, originally titled “The World the Children Made”, first published in The Saturday Evening Post, in September 1950; and later, as “The Veldt”, in Ray Bradbury's short-story collection The Illustrated Man, in 1951.

    If you haven’t experienced it, it’s a truly remarkable tale that touches on over-reliance on technology, parenting, and the troubling consequences of virtual reality.

    Mind Webs was a 1970's series out of WHA Radio in Wisconsin that featured weekly short stories of science fiction by some of the genre's best writers. The music, sound cues and occasional character voices along with the performance of Michael Hansen, the reader, resulted in better than most fully dramatized productions of the period. Around 150 shows were aired between 1976 and 1984 varying in length, but most were about 30 minutes.

    Get full access to The Reader Crew at joshuajames.substack.com/subscribe

    • 30 min
    X-Minus One: Something for Nothing by Robert Sheckley - 21:55

    X-Minus One: Something for Nothing by Robert Sheckley - 21:55

    A man wakes up one morning to discover that a strange machine has mysteriously appeared in his room, which turns out be a 'Utilizer', a device from the future that is capable of granting his every wish. Based on a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, in June 1954; and later in Robert Sheckley's short-story collection Citizen in Space, in 1955.

    X Minus One was an extension of Dimension X which aired on NBC from 1950-51. The first fifteen scripts used for X Minus One were scripts used in the airing of Dimension X; however, it soon found its own little niche. The stories for the show came from two of the most popular science fiction magazines at the time; Astounding and Galaxy.

    Get full access to The Reader Crew at joshuajames.substack.com/subscribe

    • 21 min
    Mind Webs: Roller Ball Murder - William Harrison - 31:02

    Mind Webs: Roller Ball Murder - William Harrison - 31:02

    Giant corporations rule the world and sponsor teams for a lethal professional sport called Roller Ball. This story was published in Esquire and was later dramatized in the film Rollerball (1975).

    Mind Webs was a 1970's series out of WHA Radio in Wisconsin that featured weekly short stories of science fiction by some of the genre's best writers. The music, sound cues and occasional character voices along with the performance of Michael Hansen, the reader, resulted in better than most fully dramatized productions of the period. Around 150 shows were aired between 1976 and 1984 varying in length, but most were about 30 minutes.

    Get full access to The Reader Crew at joshuajames.substack.com/subscribe

    • 31 min
    X-Minus One: First Contact by Murray Leinster - 22:54

    X-Minus One: First Contact by Murray Leinster - 22:54

    First Contact by Murray Leinster

    When human beings make first contact with an alien species in deep space, the encounter soon becomes a stalemate, with neither captain of their respective spaceships willing to depart the area for fear of leading the potentially hostile other vessel back to their homeworld. Based on a short story first published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine, in May 1945; and later in Murray Leinster's short-story collection The Best of Murray Leinster, in 1978.

    This classic story originated the term “first contact” to describe the first meeting between humans and aliens. It also introduced the idea of a universal translator to allow for communication without having to rely on the implausible notion that aliens might somehow speak English. The episode unfolds in a tense, intelligent manner, as the two races try to find a way to break the deadlock, making this one of the best X Minus One episodes. It is interesting, though, that this radio adaptation opts for a different (less optimistic) ending to the original short story. Yet both are strong, so it is worth checking out the original to see how they diverge.

    X-Minus One was the radio extension of Astounding Science Fiction. It’s one of my favorite of the old time radio shows that you can find floating around Archive.org.

    It featured full-cast renditions of stories—and not just stories that published within the pages of Astounding.

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    • 22 min

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