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Vox: SF For Your Ears
by Scott Danielson

Other Vox: SF For Your Ears Columns

Blackstone Audio
Crazy Dog Audio Theatre
Radio Repertory Company of America
Soundings by Jeff Green
Yuri Rasovsky
Audio Drama
Crazy Dog Audio Theatre
Giant Steps: An Apocalyptic Comedy for the World Wide Web
Mark Time Award
Seeing Ear Theater
Wollcott and Sheridan
Audio Publishers
Atlanta Radio Theater Company
Books on Tape
Defiance Audio
Fantastic Audio
Full Cast Audio Books
The Reader's Chair
Recorded Books, LLC
Star Trek Novels/Audio
Star Wars Novels/Audio
Timberwolf Press
SF Talk Radio
Book Crazy Radio
Cosmic Landscapes
The Dragon Page
Hour 25
Reality Break - a science fiction talk show
Sci Fi Overdrive
SF On the Radio
Radio Station: subspaceXmission
The Teaching Company
Timeship Studio
Voyage's Multimedia Project

The Fires of Heaven Epic fantasy is as popular as ever. And even though these books tend toward HUGE, audiobook publishers have tried to keep up. The fat books pose a particular problem for audiobook publishers. Abridged editions do not sell well because the thickness of the fantasies is a desired quality amongst readers. Unabridged editions are unwieldy -- next to my keyboard I have The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan -- 29 CD's, 38 hours long. More studio time, more editing time, and more physical media push the price of large audiobooks out of the range of many people who want them, but technologies like MP3-CD's and downloadable audio files pull the price back down into a more reasonable realm. But still, the audiobook publishers find some epic fantasies worth the effort, and as a listener, I'm very happy about that.

J.R.R. Tolkien is the grandfather of epic fantasy, and so it is appropriate that he be the first in the unabridged epic fantasy field as well. Recorded Books published fine unabridged editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King in 1990. The books were performed by Rob Inglis, and are a joy to hear. Inglis handles the frivolity and the seriousness of the books with equal skill, and sings the songs that appear throughout.

Audio Renaissance is in the process of publishing all of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series. They published the tenth volume (Crossroads of Twilight) when it was released in print (2003), and are now going back and getting all the others. They are currently up to Volume 5: The Fires of Heaven. The books are read by a pair of narrators: Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. They are both skilled, and since the novels have a lot to do with tension between the sexes, it was an inspired decision to do the readings this way.

A Game of Thrones My personal favorite of the recently published epic fantasy is George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The series currently contains three fantastic (and huge) books -- A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords -- and is expected to end with the sixth title. It's an interesting story from the audio publishing standpoint as well, because Martin was approached to do these books in an abridged format. Since he was convinced that the story wouldn't work that way, he kept the rights until a publisher was willing to do them unabridged, and it was well worth the wait. Roy Dotrice performs all three books, and listening to them was a sheer pleasure, even though I had already read them in print. There are so many characters here that it had to be a daunting task for a narrator, but Dotrice met the challenge and the result is simply excellent.

Paladin of Souls Lois McMaster Bujold won a Hugo for Paladin of Souls, a sequel to her fantasy novel The Curse of Chalion. Blackstone Audio published them both, with Lloyd James narrating the first and Kate Reading narrating the second.

Books on Tape carries the unabridged original Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks, read by Scott Brick. I haven't heard these, but enjoyed them long ago in print. Since Scott Brick is a narrator I admire very much, I think they are a safe bet.

The above examples prove that epic fantasy works very well on audio. There is one thing I'd like to see done differently with these. You know that cast of characters page that is included in most of these books? Well, it would be just as handy to an audio listener as it is a reader. They should print those lists on card stock and include it in the package.

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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