Monday, May 19, 2014

X Minus One

X Minus One was a half-hour Science Fiction show on NBC Radio broadcast from April 24, 1955 through to 1958. Now if you consider the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” to be from 1938 to 1946 under the influence of John W. Campbell, editor at Astounding Science Fiction, then these radio plays, and the earlier Dimension X radio program that preceded it in 1950 and 1951, were the voice of the Golden Age.

Producing versions of the great sci-fi writers, X Minus One, in my mind, was the greatest science fiction radio series of all time. I’m the happy owner of all over one hundred episodes and they will be the sound track for the next voyage of the Blue Bus.

Initially a revival of NBC's Dimension X, the first 15 episodes of X Minus One were new versions of Dimension X episodes, but the remainder were adaptations by NBC staff writers, including Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts, of newly published science fiction stories by leading writers in the field, including Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Frederik Pohl and Theodore Sturgeon, along with some original scripts by Kinoy and Lefferts.

The episodes during the three year run included presentations of Philip K Dick’s "The Defenders" and "Colony"; Robert Sheckley's "Skulking Permit"; Bradbury's "And The Moon Be Still As Bright," "Mars is Heaven," "The Veldt," "Dwellers in Silence," "Zero Hour," "To the Future," "Marionettes, Inc.," and "There Will Come Soft Rains"; Heinlein's "Universe," "The Green Hills of Earth," "Requiem," and "The Roads Must Roll"; Pohl’s "The Tunnel under the World"; J. T. McIntosh’s "Hallucination Orbit"; Fritz Leiber’s "A Pail of Air"; Asimov’s "Nightfall," "C-Chute," and "Hostess"; L. Sprague de Camp’s "A Gun for a Dinosaur"; and George Lefferts' "The Parade." That’s just a partial list. The best that fit the format from the best that wrote during the Golden Age.

(Tom Goodwin's "The Cold Equations" was broadcast on August 25, 1955 by X Minus One. I did some preliminary work on a movie production of the same story with a local friend, Bruce Delaplain. He wrote the video script and we worked on one of the scenes in my home as a test shot. We used my recording studio with the flashing lights and computer screens as the spaceship and my friend, William Weinacht, played the part of the young girl. There are only two actors in the entire presentation plus a voice over the radio and only one location inside the rocket ship. So we thought we could make a simple production out of it. We never went further than creating the shooting script and making that initial test shot, and that is a project I look forward to completing as soon as I get a "round tuit.")

The program opened with announcer Fred Collins delivering the countdown, leading into the following introduction (although later shows were partnered with Galaxy Science Fiction rather than Astounding Science Fiction):

Countdown for blastoff… X minus five, four, three, two, X minus one… Fire! [rocket launch sound effect] From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you'll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds. The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Street and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction presents… X Minus One.

The series was canceled after the 126th broadcast on January 9, 1958. However, the early 1970s brought a wave of nostalgia for old-time radio; a new experimental episode, "The Iron Chancellor" by Robert Silverberg, was produced in 1973, but it failed to revive the series. NBC also tried broadcasting the old recordings, but their irregular once-monthly scheduling kept even devoted listeners from following the broadcasts.

The series was re-released in podcast form beginning on June 22, 2007.

In November 2008, Counter-Productions Theatre Company became the first theatre company to stage three episodes, "The Parade," "A Logic Named Joe," and "Hallucination Orbit."

These days is seems more like just “science” and we can drop the “fiction” part. Try to put yourself into the head of a young boy back in the fifties, hearing these tales for the first time. That might help you understand how that boy became what he is today. It explains a lot from IBM to the Internet, from 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs to podcasts, from NASA to the Space Station, from the Moon to Mars and beyond.

Now, with the digital essence of all 126 episodes stored on my 160GB hard drive in the Blue Bus, I'm ready for my next adventure. We're setting navigation coordinates for Portland, Oregon, and we'll soon start the count-down to launch. Just a few more things to prepare here at home, and then we will be on the road again, accompanied by the best of the Golden Age.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

— Shakespeare, “The Tempest”

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