Listen Online! JAT Chat # 6 – August 2019

Bjorn and Bill talk about the end of season, two of Rogue Tyger, some of the shows coming up for the rest of the year and 2020 as well as pause to ask for your help in keeping all this audio theater going.

Rated AD-G (Audio Drama “G”)

Length: 12:34

Rated AD-G, because we’re basically just talking.

“That’s what the kaoliang is for!”

Twelve years ago, I had an idea for what became Jabberwocky Audio Theater.

Eleven years ago, I knew the first show to kick it off: a space opera based on a fictional setting I’d been toying with since 1998. A pilot script was written. Auditions were held and a great cast assembled. “The Pilot” was recorded. More scripts were written. More recording. A lot of life happened in-between with plenty of starts and stops. However, as they say, theater is life with the boring bits cut out. So let’s deal with the now.

It’s twelve years later and the last episode of Rogue Tyger, episode 30, is done. It’s all ready to be broadcast and podcast starting Sunday, August 4th.

Those of you who listen to Rogue Tyger know that the fictional Tyger crew will kick back with a glass or several of kaoliang, a very real distilled liquor made from sorghum.

When I decided that the crew, and especially Enling, would favor this drink, I naturally had to do some research. The bottle you see above is one of the results of that research. Listeners more familiar with gaoliang –or baijiu in general– can let us know if this is a popular brand or not (it’s what was at a local liquor store that actually stocked baijiu). One of my happiest moments in writing “The Pilot” was confirming that people will drink shots of kaoliang chilled, and so I kept that scene with Aidan and Enling in the script. It’s always nice when things that work dramatically can reflect what’s been done culturally.

And now, these many years later, we’re at the final steps of that journey of so many miles. I’m absolutely ecstatic about what we’ve been able to do with this first show… and so it seemed more than appropriate to celebrate the way the crew of the Tyger would. I hope you all listen in to the season finale on August 4th and, should you care to, enjoy some kaoliang (though I have to caution you from personal experience: not being a Spacer, I’m still getting used to the taste).

干杯 ( Gānbēi !)

Bjorn Munson
Deepest Springfield, July 2019

Yeah that’s a paper towel to keep my hand from freezing. It’s not like I’m Tinker who can hold ice-cold bottles without a problem… Plus, robots don’t drink kaoliang (mostly).

Last Day for Our Summer Reading Giveaway

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through –TODAY– July 12th.

For this past week, I also took the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle, Here’s the list:

Now, you’ll notice I covered several books that aren’t in the Bundle. That’s because we all had suggestions and I lot of the other writers and artists suggested works that I would love to read. So, I definitely hope one of you reading this now wins the book bundle, but if not, there’s a bunch of selections to check out at your local library. Remember, the giveaway ends later today!

~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater

Summer Reading Giveaway: The Sparrow

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through July 12th.

I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle (I’ve covered about all of the ones that are).

Yesterday, I talked about The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a book that has worldbuilding, sure. It has interesting characters, certainly. But it really makes one think when it comes to how differently people may think and how cultures can be formed around those lines.

As you might imagine, my background in anthropology means I was all into that (and arguably I became interested in anthropology, in part, because of such stories).

So it probably comes as no surprise that one of my favorite science fiction books is written by an anthropologist: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s a novel about first contact where you know, from the very beginning, things went horribly, horribly wrong. The story bounces between the lead up to the expedition to the debriefing of the sole survivor. Because it’s weighty and well-researched and philosophical, the usual gang of snobs were desperate for it not to be “science fiction” because they (gasp) enjoyed it too much. I won’t link to the Wikipedia article itself, because it reveals why it’s called The Sparrow and, for me, the reveal of why the book is called that is one of its best moments. And the novel is full of great moments, in part because of the characters: wonderfully ingenious, emotional, imperfect characters.

While The Sparrow isn’t part of this book bundle, it’s easy to track down a copy, possibly at your local library. For the book bundle itself, remember, it ends tomorrow, July 12th.

~ Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater

Summer Reading Giveaway: The Dispossesed

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through this Friday, July 12th.

I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle (I’ve covered about all of the ones that are).

So, yesterday, I talked about The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and how it blends worldbuilding (albeit mainly the past world) along with insights in human nature. I know I’m not the only one who loves how science fiction can use its settings and fantastical conceits (e.g. faster-than-light travel, time travel, telepathy) to explore and comment on the human condition (sometimes with non-human characters).

A lot of the settings allow one to create societies that are different, yet recognizable and therefore allow you to find no end of “what if?” scenarios. That’s a great lead in to The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin manages to make one ponder human nature, desires, and ways of thinking by giving you just the right amount of writing that your brain eagerly fills in the cracks. The novel also plays with time to a great degree, popping between the two planets of the narrative in an artful way. And it gives us the ansible, which does for faster-than-light communications what the warp drive does for starships. (A form of ansible is used in the universe of Rogue Tyger).

Again, The Dispossessed is not in this particular book bundle, but there’s a bunch of wonderful novels that follow in its thought-provoking footsteps. The giveaway ends on Friday, July 12th.

~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater

Summer Reading Giveaway: The Doomsday Book

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through July 12th.

I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle. Several of the ones I pitched are in… and several that I’d love to read myself are in.

Yesterday, I mentioned the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, which is in the bundle. Asimov is phenomenal when it comes to worldbuilding, but sometimes his characters are not as fully realized. So, when I heard multiple talk about the worldbuilding AND the characters in The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, I knew I had to check it out.

Now, in fairness, the worldbuilding on display is that of past history as opposed to alien worlds, the early 14th century to be precise. However, it’s just as involving as one of first contact, as the novel explores human nature; fear, greed, cowardice, and heroism.

Again, while The Doomsday Book is not part of this bundle, there’s a whole bunch of cool stuff in there, but you’ll need to enter by this Friday, July 12th.

~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater

Summer Reading Giveaway: The Wonderfully Epic Foundation

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through July 12th.

I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle. Several of the ones I pitched are in… and several that I’d love to read myself are in. One of the former is the beginning of the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.

Asimov was considered to be one of the most influential science fiction writers of his lifetime and his impact remains today, I think in great part due to his strength in worldbuilding. The Foundation series, which he started in 1951 and then expanded on for more than 30 years, is a wonderful example of it.

At the fall of the Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon devises the science of Psychohistory, an amalgam of history, sociology, and statistics that essentially can predict the future. The notion of this amazingly accurate methodology seemed abstract and almost magical l when I first read the series 20 years ago. Now, in the face of the big data mined by the Google, Facebook, and related tech overlords, it seems all too possible: like Person of Interest on a galactic scale.

In any case, part of the joy in reading the series, especially the first novel, was that it almost was, in many ways, an anthology of related stories set in the same universe, and all written to illustrate a grand sweep of history and human motivation.

Thinking of how he wrote empires rising and falling and power ebbing and flowing absolutely played into the fictitious chronology I created for the setting of Rogue Tyger and the Imperium, which is relatively young, only in its fifth century. There are no psychohistorians in this empire however (though something similar will make an appearance in season four) and I found a way to pay tribute to Foundation in the last serial of season two currently running.

In the meantime, Foundation is part of the aforementioned book bundle, so you’re interested, go ahead and enter before the giveaway ends of Friday, July 12th.

~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater

Summer Reading Giveaway: The Joy of Shorts

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through July 12th.

I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle. Several of the ones I pitched are in… and several that I’d love to read myself are in. But there are a few that I’d say have been inspirations that I know don’t make sense for the bundle. One of those –or, really, several of those– would be all the science fiction and fantasy anthologies I read growing up.

I’m guessing when I throw up book covers like “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame” here, many of you will recognize it. I loved these and they seemed both inexhaustible and never enough. Kind of like speculative fiction tapas. True to the nature of small dishes, not every story turned out to be one I liked, but the variety was part of the fun.

I confess, one of my favorite collections is certainly uneven, the “Mythical Beasties” anthology from the 80s. The stories run the gamut from traditional fairy tale (Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Little Mermaid”) to a mythical beast in a sci-fi setting (“The Triumph of Pegasus” by F. A. Javor). but there’s great stuff there… including this short story by a George R. R. Martin. I should see if he’s done anything else…

Anyway, the idea of anthologies in audio theater certainly isn’t new, as listeners of Dimension X and X Minus One are certainly aware… to say nothing of more reality-bound anthology series like Suspense and one of my personal favorites, Escape. This may explain why we’ll be launching two anthology series on Jabberwocky Audio Theater later this year, the fairy tale/folk tale based “Through the Looking Glass” and the spookier “Through a Glass, Darkly.”

In the meantime, there aren’t any anthologies per se in the book bundle, but considering it’s about 20 different books and graphic novels, it’s sort of a big anthology of speculative fiction goodness in an of itself, right? Remember, you have until Friday, July 12th to enter.

~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater

Summer Reading Giveaway: “What’s Prydain?!?” Chronicles other than Narnia

Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through July 12th.

I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle. I wrote about The Expanse and Dune earlier this week and, yesterday, I wrote about the Chronicles of Narnia, which may have been the first book series I tore through… unless is was another one.

If this wasn’t the exact same edition I had, it has the same cover art. Good stuff.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander is that other series. I have found that most people to whom I mention the series haven’t read it nor heard of it outside of the Disney animated film version of The Black Cauldron. That film itself was not well received. I believe one of the complaints was that it was noticeably darker than typical Disney fare (having the main villain being the “Death Lord” with an undead army will do that I suppose). Ironically, for me, it wasn’t dark enough. One look at the Disneyfied version of Gurgi –a creature that threatens to eat the main character when we first meet him– meant that I never saw the film as a kid. I mean, if they couldn’t get that right, how good could the film be? I finally saw the film about 30 years after it came out and, guess what? My grade school self made the right call.

I finally watched the film because I re-read the books for the first time as an adult and absolutely loved them all over again. Now, I don’t mean to pit Narnia against Prydain because I very much like both, but assuming you know whether or not you’re up for Narnia, I feel like I need to make the case for Prydain.

So, why should you or your kids read the Chronicles of Prydain?

  • Unlike Narnia, the characters are stuck in Prydain. No popping in and out of the fantasy world when a crisis might arrive. The aforementioned Death Lord who wants to rule over all? Yeah, they’ll need to deal with him. There’s no wardrobe to escape through.
  • Speaking of Prydain, it’s wonderfully specific and different land heavily influenced by Welsh mythology (while not being Welsh mythology per se). It is anything but generic and it is fully realized.
  • Oh, and the characters? They’re absolutely idiosyncratic and imperfect and utterly human in their reactions from being noble, evil, and just plain dumb.
  • The main character, Taran, is underestimated and, frankly, dismissed by many of the people in authority because he’s an assistant pig-keeper. Over the course of the novels he learns what it means to be an adult on his own terms. I have to think many a kid will identify with him and his struggles.
  • Eilonwy, who I guess is still a “Disney princess,” is resourceful and is quite perceptive, not that people around her pick up on this. Again, many a kid will identify. Had we had a daughter after re-reading the books, I would have strongly made a case for naming her “Eilonwy.”
  • Dallben is everything you want from your wise, old mentor character.
  • The whole series was enthralling as a kid, but just like old Warner Bros. cartoons or the best Pixar movies, there’s some things you pick up deeper as an adult. Taran’s realization working with the potter in Taran Wanderer? That’s a stone cold truth bomb, right there.
  • There’s great humor and even whimsy, but the stakes are real. As a kid, I never felt like I was being talked down to (written down to?)

Evidently, Disney has the rights back (or did in 2016), so perhaps a mini-series or movie is in the works. In the meantime, you might find the books at your local library.

And for books you don’t want to give back, there’s the aforementioned Summer Giveaway running until next Friday, July 12th.

Tomorrow, I’ll get back to science fiction inspirations… and a little fantasy.

~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater