by Rick Norwood
J. Michael Straczynski started off by revolutionizing television science fiction when he created Babylon 5 (****). Since then, all of his TV deals have either been canceled or have fallen through entirely. (The show he was working on with Chris Carter came that close.) So he turned to comic books, with Rising Stars (****), reviewed last issue. Now he's working in radio drama. That's right, radio.
I love radio drama. I suppose I ought to call it "audio" but old habits die hard. Radio has produced at least one classic in the SF genre, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (****), the radio version of which is by far the best. And some of those old X Minus One shows weren't half bad. I particularly remember The Lifeboat Mutiny (****) by Robert Sheckley and The Martian Chronicles (****) by Ray Bradbury. (The best radio drama of all was Gunsmoke (****), infinitely superior to the watered down TV Gunsmoke (**). You can order Gunsmoke on radio by calling 1-800-733-4648.)
Alas, Mr. Straczynski's radio drama, while well acted, with fine production values, is too much like the old Twilight Zone TV show of beloved memory to be enjoyable. In short, it takes too long to make an obvious if laudable point -- it is not nice to be prejudiced against Black people.
The series title is City of Dreams, and the first episode is "The Damned are Playing at Godzilla's Tonight" (**). I suspect Harlan came up with the title, which is catchy but not really apt.
If you're curious, and want to give it a listen, here's what you do. (The Sci-Fi Channel has not made it easy to find.) First, go to www.scifi.com. Then pass your cursor over SciFi.com Presents, and a pull down menu will appear. Then click on Seeing Ear Theatre. Then click on City of Dreams. (You have to wait a little while for that logo to appear near the top of the page.) [Editor's Note: The URL is www.scifi.com/cityofdreams/]
Seeing Ear Theatre also has Neil Gaiman's Murder Mysteries (**). But your best bet is under "classics" where you will find some of those old episodes of X (echo effect) Minus (echo effect) One.
Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.
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