Books, Culture and Society

Practice Makes Perfect: New Brand of Audio Books Breaks The Mold of Tradition

It was the irresistible fragment which caught fire in the mind, a character's remark, a clanging bell or a chord of music. But it all combined to tell a story, to ignite something on the other end of the airwaves. It was the Golden Age of Radio, also known as the Theater of the Mind.

Practice Makes Perfect: New Brand of Audio Books Breaks The Mold of Tradition

Tiffany Holmes, VP of Marketing for book publisher, http://www.galaxypress.com, is working to reintroduce Stories From the Golden Age, a line of 80 books and multi-cast, unabridged audio books, featuring 153 stories written by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1930s and 1940s, using his own and any of the 15 pen names he used. http://www.goldenagestories.com

Every night, millions of people gathered around their radios to listen. The stories captivated and enthralled with a wide range of genres, stories with guts, stories with heart, it was all there. It was a form of pulp all its own.

And yes, it summoned more of the audience’s involvement before the lazy lure of the television tube, because it painted a picture with sound and became a living dream in the mind of the audience. A simultaneous affair, these stories spilled out across the landscape at light speed, entertaining an entire nation all at once.

It was an aural landscape that bestselling author L. Ron Hubbard knew well. Because despite being best recognized for his novels and short stories, it was also in the days of radio’s liftoff that Ron himself launched a legendary
storytelling career.

The year was 1930, and fresh out of high school and in the summer before his first semester at George Washington University, Ron began scripting dramas for station WJSV. Later, as he continued his studies in engineering and molecular phenomena, Ron also wrote and performed those classics of literature’s origins, ballads,for the local station WOL.

In the years that followed, Ron was off on his meteoric rise within the all-story pulp fiction magazines that were the prime form of entertainment for Americans in the 1930s and 1940s. But when we’re talking radio, the point is plain: those grand old shows on the burgeoning airwaves across America were pulps, in the more intrinsic terms of style and substance.

And so now, many decades later, and almost 80 years since L. Ron Hubbard embarked upon his professional career as a radio dramatist and balladeer, Galaxy Press has announced the release of L. Ron Hubbard’s Pulp Fiction Audio books, in the Stories from the Golden Age collection.

And, while it is a fully realized recreation of each of Ron’s 153 pulp fiction stories in audio book format, it is not, however, your standard “audio book.” Because not only have the best elements of classic radio drama been revived, but they have been augmented with state-of-the-art production values from the world of feature films, and then improved several steps further.

To truly understand this, however, you have to go inside the making of a Golden Age audio book. Take the adventure story “Sea Fangs,” the tale of a sailor caught in a whirlpool of piracy and murder, played out against an uncharted island.

Such a yarn could not tolerate some old sonorous voice narrating on and on. It needed action! Surprises! Dynamic characters! In short, the entire audio book process had to be re-conceived. And it was.

The atmosphere was something to be experienced, and according to the audio book director, Jim Meskimen, “we were all there together, the actors, the technical team, myself, united to bring off the full range of emotional impact from Hubbard’s fiction. Being in such close proximity heightened the effect beyond our expectations.”

Meskimen also pointed out that “this new process has attracted world-class performers from radio drama, animation and live theater. I can’t imagine a better crew of actors.” Another luminary in the field, and one of the founders of The Firesign Theatre,

Phil Proctor, had this to say: “I’ve done a lot of work in cartoons and other areas, and with those you’re working in an isolated format. You come in, record your material, and it’s put together in editing. This was a wonderful opportunity to work creatively in a dramatic context. It made it more vibrant, more honest. You are affected by, and are yourself affecting, another actor in the studio with you.” The result?

“Two things happened, “said Proctor. “First, there was an undeniable feeling of actual involvement in the reality of the story. That is what makes it so compelling to the listener when he hears the finished product. Second, it was an awful lot of fun! It’s hard for people to understand how much fun we had doing this work!”

According to a review from AudioFile magazine, “The ever-present soundtrack lends a richness to the imagined picture that would, in other titles, be filled by narrative description. Those who listened to “The Shadow”
and “Flash Gordon” growing up will love this production.”

And as Proctor noted, “These new productions may be in the audio book genre, but they’re fully realized dramatic adventures and that is very unique. To have such incredible production values, they are like nothing else.”

It is something that has to be experienced to be believed, as the result is practically a new art form in itself.

Ultimately, however, the pulp audio books are about the stories and what made Hubbard’s fiction so great, that sense of adventure, the breakneck pace, the intriguing characters, and what’s more, that deeper humanity which
permeated his writings.

Perhaps Meskimen summed it up best when he said, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Western yarn or a story about the French Foreign Legion. There’s that undercurrent of decency and respect for mankind, all told with Ron’s inimitable style. Let’s face it, the pleasure of great storytelling is one of the rewards of being human. And Ron’s stories certainly deliver, in terms of thrills and excitement, and more resonating with us long after the action has concluded.”

So come share in this new adventure! Actually immerse yourself in a new world with every story! For anyone who has ever been a fan of pulp fiction or radio drama, this is the chance to experience something entirely new, with L. Ron
Hubbard’s Pulp Fiction Audio books. The world will never sound the same!

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