Old Time Radio: Science Fiction

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Tollin, Anthony. Old Time Radio: Science Fiction. Schiller Park, IL: Radio Spirits, Inc., 1995, "Produced in association with Smithsonian Institution Press" (sic: not "Scholarly Press"; no place indicated on booklet, and Web pages give an e-mail link). Foreword by Ray Bradbury.

Very small booklet, 14 cm wide by 12 high, 50 pages.

Includes a brief overview of SF history, Lucan of Samosata (160 CE) through A. E. Poe and on to Hugo Gernsback in the US in the 1920s and "Buck Rogers" and the rise under William Paley of CBS Radio (pp. 1-7).

Brief chapters, or sections, include

• "Adventures in the 25th Century" on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in its radio incarnation, starting 7 November 1932 on CBS-Radio (pp. 8-10), and Flash Gordon, starting 27 April 1935 on the Mutual Network. See for sound effects for "devices not yet invented," including advanced rockets (from studio A/C [p. 10]). 
• The radio adaptation on The Mercury Theatre of the Air for 30 October 1938 (Halloween) of The War of the Worlds: Orson Welles and John Houseman, no less, although before they became icons (pp. 11-17). 

No one had considered the effect that dial-twisting would have on the [reception of] the broadcast. About 12 minutes into the hour and after the opening comedy skit, the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy[1] broadcast on NBC went to commercials and returned with a none-too-popular singer. Listeners began searching for something more entertaining until Bergen and McCarthy returned. Many of them tuned into CBS [and Mercury Theatre of the Air].

About six million people heard "The War of the Worlds," and it has been estimated that a million of them believed the invasion to be real [if possibly by Hitler's forces with "a secret devastating weapon"]. (pp. 15-16)

Years later a Spanish translation of the script played in Ecuador, resulting in a deadly riot — 15 dead — when listeners judged it a bad hoax.

Discussion of the Welles/Paul Stuart/35Houseman War of the Worlds pp. 31-35.

• On 8 April 1950 Dimension X premiered for a short but significant run, "being the first [U.S. radio] program to regularly produce adaptations of the works of the foremost science fiction in the field (pp. 24-25). Brought back as X Minus One (Radio Series), which see (pp. 27-28). 
• "Radio's last ongoing science fiction series" (in the USA) "debuted over the Mutual Network on 4 December 1957, less than a month before X Minus One would end its distinguished run: Hosted by John W. Campbell Jr., Exploring Tomorrow, on the Mutual Network. Still, "the glory days of radio drama were coming to an end as the 1950s faded," and Exploring Tomorrow "ended its Mutual run," and period, on 13 June 1958 (p. 29).
• "The Legacy of Hugo Gernsback" briefly notes radio outside the USA. "While science fiction all but disappeared from American network radio in 1958, new dramatic broadcasts contine[d] to be aired in many countries throughout the free world," including the UK (especially Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, (1978 f.) and South Africa (p. 30), although we can debate how free South Africa was in the 1960s. Moving into the 1980s, US National Public Radio (NPR) offered adaptations of the first three STAR WARS movies, Doc Savage, and a new adaptation of The War of the Worlds (p. 30). 
• See also for radio adaptations of The Time Machine on CBS-Radio (p. 40), and The Martian Chronicles (p. 46).


RDE, finishing, 15-16Aug23