Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jack Williamson 1908-2006

Jack Williamson, the science fiction writer, critic and academic, died yesterday at the age of 98.

Ray Bradbury says that Williamson was one of the first professional writers to help him in his career. In a 2000 interview he said:

"Jack is a wonderful man, a terrific man. He was very kind to me when I was 19 years old. He read my stuff long before Leigh Brackett did, and it was really bad in those days...Jack started publishing in magazines when I was about 7 or 8 years old...I couldn't afford to buy the magazines, but I borrowed copies from friends on occasion, and I read Jack Williamson first."

[Interview source:]

There is a good account of Jack's life and works here:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nigel Kneale, 1922-2006

Nigel Kneale has died at the age of 84.

Kneale was one of the great British SF screenwriters, creator of the wonderful Quatermass series from the days of live TV (the greatest instalment of which was Quatermass and the Pit - get the beautifully restored original TV version on DVD, far superior to the Hammer movie remake of the late 1960s). Kneale also did a startlingly good adaptation of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four for the BBC in the 1950s, and some remarkable, prescient single plays through the '60s and 70s: "The Year of the Sex Olympics" has some uncanny resonances with today's television; "The Stone Tape" still packs a few scares and shocks.

Kneale's influence was enormous, and to a large extent he defined the limits of acceptable/respectable SF in British TV. (It's hard to imagine that there could have been a Dr Who without his trailblazing efforts for the genre.)

Like Ray Bradbury, Kneale crossed genres without hesitation. His science fiction was filled with horror, his horror often scientifically rationalised, all of it delivered with an element of fun. In the latter part of his career he even wrote a sitcom, the unusual (and, to be honest, not very funny) Kinvig.

He will be missed.

Wikipedia has a good biography of Kneale, and this obituary from The Independent reminds me that Kneale made significant non-genre contributions to British film, with work on Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dandelion Wine

Just when you thought you had the seasons all figured out; just when the dandelions have died back; just when you have said Farewell Summer, celebrated autumn with The Halloween Tree and contemplated celebrating further with a re-read of Something Wicked This Way Comes...

It's summer again! When? Just after Christmas. New Year.

Confused? Then I'll explain.

On 1st January 2007, Colonial Radio Theatre releases its CD audio production of Dandelion Wine. Taken from Bradbury's stage play, rather than directly from his novel, it brings Doug Spaulding, Tom, Colonel Freeleigh and co to life in a lavish audio production. You can hear some clips from the CD on Colonial's web site.

Colonial were kind enough to send me a review copy, so I have written a review which you can read here.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of (post-) Halloween, Utah-based radio station KUER-FM has recently broadcast a live dramatic production of Bradbury's short story "Zero Hour". Staged and performed by Plan B Theatre Company, this production used Anthony Ellis' 1955 Suspense script, which can be viewed online here, courtesy of Generic Radio Workshop.

"Zero Hour" was presented as part of the RadioWest show on KUER, as second half of a double-bill with Lucille Fletcher's "The Hitch-Hiker". You can listen to/download an MP3 recording of the entire show here. (I don't know how long KUER keep their archived shows, so best to listen now while it's still there!)