Volume One

Dove Audio


3 hours/$18.00/1998

The Sci-Fi Channel's Seeing Ear Theatre

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The Sci-Fi Channel's website, The Dominion, has been producing a series on on-line dramas in the vein of old time radio shows.  A few years ago, when I tried to listen to one of them, the download was spotty and RealAudio frequently paused to buffer.  In the end, I gave up trying to listen to the broadcast and determined that no matter the quality of the show itself, it would onl be as good as the user's computer system.  Sci-Fi Channel has resolved this issue by releasing eight of their Seeing Ear Theatre dramas on audio tape.

The first point to stress is that these are not unabridged readings of the stories in question.  These are adapted dramatizations.  All the stories include multiple actors performing the various roles against a background of sound effects.  While the majority of these actors appear to be in house talent, they also used actors such as Marina Sirtis and Mark Hamill, who are familiar to any fan of science fiction.  The sound effects are well done and manage to add to the feel of the stories without detracting from the dialogue.

The selected stories cover a wide range of ground from Allen Steele's Award-winning "The Death of Captain Future," a combination satire on and homage to the pulp adventures of Edmond Hamilton, to Terry Bisson's humorous "The Toxic Donut."   They are different enough to appeal to a wide range of listeners while of good enough quality that people who enjoy one of the stories are likely to enjoy most of them.

One of the collection's negatives comes from the packaging.  None of the original publication data for the stories is included, which makes it more difficult for a listener to track down an unabridged print version of a story which they particularly liked.   Since all the stories are adaptations this type of information would have been a welcome addition.  Another possible solution would be for Sci-Fi Channel to publish a companion volume which included the full text of all the stories dramatized on the tape.

Introductions to the various stories are read by Harlan Ellison, a noted author who has had ties to the Sci-Fi Channel since its earliest days.  However, the tape's producers did not take full advantage of Ellison's knowledge or personality, and his introductions could have been done as easily and as well by any hired actor rather than the author.

Seeing Ear Theatre has continued to upload a wide variety of dramatizations which are only limited by the listener's computer configuration.  However, the words "Volume 1" on the box indicate that more of these dramatizations will be available on audio-tape, free from the fluctuations of sound quality and buffering which are part of downloading broadcasts using Real Audio.

Terry Bisson   They're Made Out of Meat
Terry Bisson   The Toxic Donut
Terry Bisson   Next
Brian Smith   Into the Sun
James Patrick Kelly   Think Like a Dinosaur
Allen Steele   The Death of Captain Future
John Kessel   A Clean Escape
Gregory Benford   The Bigger One

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