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Podthoughts: The Truth

Vital stats:
Format: sound-oriented radio fictions
Episode duration: 9-18m
Frequency: 2-3 per month

“I thought there would be a revival of fiction and theater on the radio,” says science-fiction author Terry Bisson, “and I’ve been very disappointed that it hasn’t, kind of, worked out that way.” You and me both, brother. I say this as someone who, in childhood, obsessively collected bootleg tapes of old-time radio shows like Amos & Andy and X Minus One and had the newer, more internationalist productions of the ZBS Foundation playing on infinite loop. I dreamed of re-introducing “movies for your mind,” in the words of one radio-drama survivor whose tapings I attended as a kid, to the dead airwaves of my benighted time. Bisson made his lament to producer Jonathan Mitchell on an episode of Mitchell’s podcast The Truth [RSS] [iTunes] which adapts Bisson’s story “They’re Made Out of Meat” [MP3]. I bet Mitchell went through similar youthful befuddlement, wondering what made all those cool old shows go away and hoping — knowing, in some quasi-messianic sense — that they would return. It hasn’t, kind of, worked out that way.

What to blame? Maybe the increasingly utilitarian slant of modern American radio, which either feeds listeners’ anxiety over not having the latest news and information or numbs them completely with three-minute shots of anesthetic familiarity. But I get the sense that, deep in the minds of even dedicated tuners-in, radio just isn’t for fiction. They may express great admiration for the idea of new radio drama, and they may even bemoan the past 50 years’ lack of it, but they’ll keep turning the dial if they suspect what they’re hearing isn’t true. I doubt they do it for strictly gray-flannel-suit reasons; they probably just fear that they can’t keep up with a fictional narrative on the radio, or that they’ve already missed some plot point critical to understanding what happens next, or that they’ll get where they’re going before the big twist ending when everything falls into place. Or they just assume the story won’t give them much to talk about at the water cooler.

Read the whole thing at Maximum Fun.

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