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Vox: SF For Your Ears
by Scott Danielson

Other Vox: SF For Your Ears Columns

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RadioSciFi
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The Teaching Company
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Posing As People It's not every day that you see a live science fiction production. I'm a fan of live theater, but not a scholar of theater history, so I can't say how often science fiction has been tried on stage, but I have read enough science fiction to know that telling the story often would not require a special effects budget. Why don't we see more of it?

So, when Emily Janice Card told her dad that she thought one of his stories could be adapted to the stage, Orson Scott Card said, "Write the script!" And she did. Aaron Johnston and Scott Brick wrote scripts of their own from two other Card stories. All three one-act plays were collected under the title Posing as People, and a live play (directed by Orson Scott Card) was performed in Sherman Oaks, CA on September 9 - October 16, 2004. And now, Subterranean Press has published a book called Posing as People, which includes each original story, comments by the authors of the scripts, and the scripts themselves. A 4-disc audiobook, which has a reading of each original story and a performance of each script by the actors from the first run of the play, is also included.

The result is interesting in several ways. First, the stories themselves are quite good. "Clap Hands and Sing" is the story of a man given the chance to go back in time and fix a missed opportunity. "Lifeloop" is a story about reality TV taken to the extreme. And "Sepulchre of Songs" is about the fantasies (or are they?) of a young woman who lost her arms and legs years before. A quality that all three stories share is that they are most assuredly about the characters and the relationships between them, and not about the science-fictional idea in the story. Card provides an afterword to each story in the book, where he talks about the story's genesis, evolution, and general background.

The audio versions of these stories are also quite good. "Lifeloop" is read by Emily Janice Card, whose pleasant voice and fine timing made me wonder if she has recorded any other audiobooks. Her strong portrayal of the main character (with her constant inner analysis while being "looped") was particularly excellent. "Clap Hands and Sing" was read by Scott Brick, a voice that I am pleased to say that I've heard quite a bit, as he is a very popular audiobook narrator. His dramatic reading is amongst the best there is. "A Sepulchre of Songs," the longest tale, is performed by Robert Forster, whose voice reminds me a bit of Bruce Weitz; masculine, a touch of gravel.

Then there are the plays. The book has each script in its entirety, presented in the order they appeared on stage. First is "Clap Hands and Sing" by Scott Brick, then "Lifeloop" by Aaron Johnston, and "Sepulchre of Songs" by Emily Janice Card. All three authors provided notes.

The audio CDs contain each play, studio-performed by the original casts. The plays are presented here as they were presented live, with the exception of a few minor sound effects added (particularly during "Clap Hands and Sing") that I don't recall from the live show. But the feeling of the live show is successfully captured. Each play is a one-act gem presented by very competent actors. A problem with performing this live is that one of the characters has no arms and legs -- it's a testament to the power of audio that in this audio version, it's actually no problem at all. Emily Janice Card was able to portray this character on stage in a simple yet remarkably effective way that is obviously missing here, but that is described in her Afterword.

Part of what makes this so interesting a book (book slash audiobook, that is) is that the process of bringing the stories to the stage is presented in full detail. The original stories are there, and a comparison of those stories to the plays reveals the decisions that were made by the playwrights in bringing the story to live theater. The differences immediately reminded me of the constant debate that rages in the science fiction community regarding movies made from books. This book shines a spotlight on the fact that written fiction and live theater are different things entirely, just as written fiction and film are different. But they can all deliver a dramatically successful story, and if nothing else this book certain proves that, along with the fact that science fiction can make really good theater.

Copyright © 2005 Scott Danielson

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 control engineer for a manufacturing plant. 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. Scott can also be found at SFFAudio.


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