William's home for discarded gems and concepts-in-progress.

Welcome to William Van Winkle's blog, home for everything from notes on his latest ebooks to leftovers from his articles in CPU, Tom's Hardware, Smart Computing, and other media outlets. Check out his author pages at Amazon and Smashwords!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Short Shorts Review: Bradbury 13

Wow, I totally spaced on posting my last Sci-Guys podcast spot. Many apologies. But...better late than never, yes? So without further ado, the text from my most recent appearance as found on Sci-Guys Podcast #110...

Hey, Sci-fans. Sorry I missed Halloween, but I was tied down with this 99-cent ebook called “The Ghost Story Megapack: 25 Classic Tales By Masters.” I figured, hey, if I can find just two or three decent ghost stories in the collection, it’ll be a steal. What I didn’t anticipate was that nearly all of the stories would be from the 1800s. But I thought, “OK, these are the roots of modern horror. This is good to enjoy for its literary value and erudition and—”

No. You know what? It was boring. Beyond boring. Mind-numbing in the endless descriptions of sprawling estates and cloudy skies and on and on and just about everything except anything resembling an actual story! I took a Victorian Horror class when I was in college, and the only thing scary was how much time I blew being bored off my ass!

Maybe I’m uncultured. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to appreciate fine literature. Whatever, but I’m sorry. I just couldn’t do that to you listeners.

Instead, I stumbled across a rare treat at the library called Bradbury 13. If your library doesn’t have it, you can pick it up on Audible.com or Amazon. Before I get into it, though, I have to tell you that I’ve been a rabid audiobook fan for over twenty years. I have a huge collection, especially of sci-fi and horror, and I’d say that in the last few years, I’ve listened to ten, maybe fifteen books for every one I’ve read on paper. I listen when I’m walking to the mail, washing dishes, making coffee, and any other time I have at least a few minutes of quiet, non-social time. I keep half a dozen different audiobooks on my phone, carry a Bluetooth earpiece in my pocket, and while yes, listening is slower than reading, I get so many more listening minutes than I do minutes to concentrate on a book that I end up consuming way more literature through my ears than my eyes.

OK, end of audiobook pitch and back to Bradbury 13.

This is an adapted collection of Ray Bradbury tales from the ‘50s and ’60s. In fact, the first Short Shorts review I ever did, for Bradbury’s “The Veldt,” is in this collection. There are time traveling hunters who have an unfortunate meeting with a T. Rex, a machine just guaranteed to make anyone happy…until it doesn’t, a team that makes supposedly first contact with a new planet one day too late, and more – thirteen stories total. NPR ended up pouring $120,000 into making this into a fully casted production, complete with sound effects and musical score. I’m too young to have enjoyed radio dramas, but that’s exactly what these are. They originally debuted on radio, with one story in every 30-minute segment. I only found one story in the set, “The Screaming Woman,” that I found disappointing. Sure, many of the stories sound quaint and archaic. Bradbury is prone to his bouts of gee-whiz, Golden Age of Sci-Fi sentimentality. You can’t survive in space with just an air helmet. There are no abandoned cities on Mars. We know all these things now. But if you can set that aside and let your imagination roll back and see such things as fantasy more than science, then the humanity and symbolism that Bradbury excels at so deeply shines through.

The CD version of Bradbury 13 sells for $16 and change on Amazon, $11.95 as an Audible download, and $13.95 from the publisher, Blackstone Audio, if you like supporting the little guy. Search YouTube for “Bradbury 13 The Ravine” for a free and probably not-so-legal preview. I could swear that at one point I found the individual stories available to download for three bucks each, but hell if I can locate the link now. No matter what, I can’t recommend this collection enough. It’s nostalgic, fun, inspiring, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll spark in you the same passion I have for reading by audiobook.

Until next time, this is William Van Winkle, and thanks for checking out my short shorts.