|A Conversation With Stefan Rudnicki|
|Executive Producer -- Fantastic Audio|
|An interview with Scott Danielson|
| February 2002 |
Fantastic Audio is a new imprint of Audio Literature, a 15 year-old audiobook publisher. The imprint's first titles, several Arthur C. Clarke short story collections from Tor's Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, were released last year. From that excellent foundation, Fantastic Audio has been producing fantastic audio after fantastic audio. Check out their March 2002 releases alone; Best Fantasy: 2001, edited by Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, Best Science Fiction: 2001, also edited by Silverberg and Haber, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, The Birthday of the World and Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin and Demons by John Shirley. And that's just March.
Their release of The Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett and narrated by Christopher Cazenove and Karesa McElheny is one of three finalists for the 2002 Audie award in the category "Achievement and Innovation in Production."
Stefan Rudnicki has been involved (as both an actor and director) in live theater and feature film. He was executive producer of the Beyond 2000 series of science fiction radio shows on NPR. He appeared as talent in several of the episodes, including an appearance as the Ticktockman in Harlan Ellison's Repent, Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman. He is also author or editor of 11 published books. Currently, he is Fantastic Audio's executive producer. The interview was conducted by e-mail.
Stefan, you wear many hats. You've been involved with live theater and feature films as well as with audiobooks and audio drama. What attracts you to audio production over these other forms? And what attracts you to science fiction?
As for science fiction, I've been reading it since I've been reading. To justify, besides sheer love of the genre, I have found that science fiction, and to a degree high-end fantasy and horror as well, tap into issues (spiritual, political, emotional and psychological) in a way mainstream fiction does not. These genres also tend to be more cutting edge in form and structure, not from some ill-considered attempt at literary experiment, but in order to achieve communication of the issues in question. Think of all the wonderful literary lights who have gone into SF/Fantasy territory when their content demanded it: Kurt Vonnegut, John Fowles, Mark Twain, etc.
Reading Ray Bradbury, when I was nine or so, started me going. In the last couple of years at Dove/NewStar, I began to concentrate my efforts on acquiring certain key authors in the SF/Fantasy and mystery genres. Now, through Fantastic, I can finally let my love of the genre fly. Authors like Harlan Ellison, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke and Ursula K. Le Guin changed my life years ago. Now I am working with them, collaborating with them on audio projects... and it is an absolute joy.
With Ursula, it's spending an hour or two on the phone with her going over pronunciations of the world-specific words in her stories.
With Scott Card, it's choosing material for original audio collections... always with his input. The newest collection, which I just finished recording today, includes performances not only by Scott but also by his son, Geoffrey and his daughter, Emily. Both are first-rate readers, combining youthful voices and attitudes with an intelligence and education very rare indeed among the young.
With Harlan, the relationship goes back nearly seven years, and we've done dozens of books and stories together, not only his own material, but Ben Bova's (City of Darkness was winner of an Audie Award for Best Narration, Male), Jules Verne's, John Shirley's, Arthur C. Clarke's, Ursula's, and even a story of Card's he recorded yesterday. His two audio collections, Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral and the soon to be available again I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream comprised stories I selected with his approval and support.
What does an executive producer do? Facilitates. That recording of "Repent, Harlequin..." almost did not happen. There were deal-breaking contract issues with Robin Williams' people less than twenty minutes before the start of the recording session, and everybody else was ready to walk away. I'm pleased to say that, with Harlan's help, I was able to make it work.
Anthologies can be listened to in short segments or all at once, and they provide a variety of tone that is otherwise very difficult to in the audio genre. Dove Audio pioneered multi-reader collections, a fashion now catching on among other audio publishers. It's a joy to be able to cast just the right person for a story, often someone who might never get to record a whole book, but whose voice and personality and background are ideally suited for the story at hand. In addition to the new collections, which include Card, Ellison, the Best Ofs, and Ursula K. Le Guin's new book, The Birthday of the World, we are planning several other anthologies for the next year.
An experience I just had today with the Best Fantasy collection is a good example of what I'm talking about. There is a story in it called "Ave de Paso" by Catherine Asaro, a richly textured and highly evocative tale based in Aztec mythology. I recorded this story today with a young woman of Mexican heritage who understood the material in both heart and mind in an uncanny way. The performance will add greatly to the level at which a reader/listener can engage with the piece.
Scott discovered the world of SF audio years ago, when he spent hours a day in his car. His commute has since shortened considerably, but his love for audio remains. By trade, he's an electrical engineer. Aside from reading and writing science fiction, his hobbies include community theater, where he can often be found behind the soundboard or (much less often) on the stage.
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