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A “Rory Rammer” Tape (or Two) — An ARTC Interview

(Though ARTC has been doing live productions of the “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal” series for several years, only now is the Company starting on a tape production. ARTC spoke with Ron Butler, who writes “Rory,” about the project.)

ARTC: OK, so what’s your connection with this project?

RNB: Well, I wrote the scripts –.

ARTC: So? What have writers got to do with production?

RNB: I’m not going to get involved in one of those epistemological, “Which came first — the chicken or the egg?” discussions. At ARTC, the answer is, “More than at most places.”

ARTC: In the movie business, of course, the irrelevance of writers is legendary —

RNB: So is the amount of money you can get even for an unproduced screenplay. However, audio drama writers don’t have money to salve their bruised sensibilities.

ARTC: — but even in audio theater, writers are subject to rewriting —

RNB: Not uncommonly on the spur of the moment. Actors are often of the opinion that they can write better off the tops of their flat little heads than a writer can over a period of days or weeks.

ARTC: — expedient changes of character gender —

RNB: We’ve already talked about “Princess Two Moons,” and I don’t intend to say any more.

ARTC: — casting driven by “star power” rather than fit with the role —

RNB: I’m not sure either “star” or “power” is the right word in some cases.

ARTC: — even whimsical changes of accent. So you signed on as producer of this project —

RNB: As a matter of self-defense, yes.

ARTC: In point of fact, this won’t actually be the first “Rory Rammer” tape, will it?

RNB: In terms of a finished production, that has yet to be decided. The Company did put out a pre-production version of “Queen of the Spaceways” at DragonCon this year, though. There were a limited number of copies produced, and if you didn’t pick yours up then, sorry —

ARTC: What happened there?

RNB: Sonya Arundar, who has been doing electronic effects for our live productions for a number of years now, has turned her hand to tape editing. We had recorded voice tracks for Ted Raimi, Claire Stansfield, and Alexandra Tydings when they did the live version of “Queen” at DragonCon in 2000. Sonya is a big Ted Raimi fan, so she took up the project, got additional voice tracks recorded, and edited the whole thing together as her first piece of work.

ARTC: And there it ends?

RNB: Not at all, we don’t waste work. Current plans are for “Queen of the Spaceways” to be the flip side of one of our “Dean’s List” projects — Robert Heinlein’s “The Menace from Earth” — in a fully-finished form. [Editor’s note: We went with “Luna Shall Be Dry!” for that product. But we haven’t forgotten about “Queen of the Spaceways.”]

ARTC: How can you have a “flip side” on a CD?

RNB: It’s a figure of speech —

ARTC: So if you didn’t get one of the instant-rarity tapes at DragonCon, you really haven’t missed out on anything?

RNB: Maybe, maybe not. Sonya did a “blooper reel” for the pre-production tape, which may or may not show up on the “Menace” version.

ARTC: That doesn’t seem very fair.

RNB: You snooze, you lose.

ARTC: Writers get arrogant when they get a little power, don’t they?

RNB: I couldn’t say.

ARTC: But this isn’t the main “Rory Rammer” production, is it?

RNB: It’s the only one that’s a reality, so far. But I hope to fix that by sometime next year [i.e., 2002].

ARTC: Will this other tape have Ted Raimi as Rory Rammer?

RNB: No. These episodes — which we’ve been referring to as the “Director’s Cut” — should have a consistent Rory and the same Skip Sagan all the way through. There may be guest actors, but not in recurring roles. There might even be a tape with various “guest star” Rories and Skips somewhere out there in the future — but that would be a separate project.
ARTC: Have the actors been set?

RNB: Halfway. David Benedict, who did “The Monster” in “Passion of Frankenstein,” will be Rory. The role of Skip Sagan is still up in the air, I’m afraid. Actors — or actresses — who can both sound like an adenoidal teenage boy and say “anaphylactic” or “magnetohydrodynamic” without stumbling are few and far between.

ARTC: Just to throw in a gallopingly obvious idea, have you tried casting a teenage boy?

RNB: Their voices change, unless you take certain — surgical precautions. And it’s proven tough to get parents to sign off on permission forms for such things.

ARTC: Yig. Er — Have episodes been decided on? Do you have enough material for a tape?

RNB: We have suitable material for at least two tapes, maybe three. The episodes for the first tape are (tentatively):

  • “The Phantom Menace”
  • “The Island of Dr. Marceau”
  • “The Planetoid of Doom”
  • “The Lance of Justice”

ARTC: How did you do that?

RNB: Do what?

ARTC: I’ve never seen anyone talk in bullet points before!

RNB: It’s a writer thing.

ARTC: Anything to say about the episodes themselves?

RNB: They’ve all been live-produced before, so their plot summaries are on the Web site. (Is there a link around here someplace? Oh, yeah — here.)

ARTC: Let’s talk schedule. Or is this all vaporware?

RNB: Would ARTC do such a thing? We will be laying down voice tracks between November and January. Ideally, it wouldn’t take that long, but we’re threading the recording sessions for a number of upcoming ARTC tape productions around each other.

ARTC: Other upcoming ARTC tape productions?

RNB: Absolutely. Now, let’s see — Tape editing could start around March. Y’know, the history of ARTC hinges on various bottlenecks. Thomas Fuller, our head writer got stuck writing thirteen weeks of programming once, swore he’d never do that again, and began cultivating other writers. It took ten years, but ARTC now has a respectable little stable of scribblers. DragonCon 2001 was a milestone; there were no Thomas Fuller pieces on the program. A bittersweet thought, that.

ARTC: Other tapes?

RNB: Actors — Well, you’re never short of actors, though you can be stuck for a particular actor for a particular role —

ARTC: About these other tapes —

RNB: Musicians. By the way, I’m hoping Brad Weage will reprise the “Rory Rammer” theme music he’s provided at any number of live performances —

ARTC: Yeah, sure, but about —

RNB: In the case of “Rory,” the tape production has become a possibility only because ARTC has recently grown a crop of new tape editors. Our master editor is still Henry Howard, but Henry can only do so much, what with life and earning a living.

ARTC: Hey!

RNB: I already said Sonya’s working on “Queen.” Bill Ritch just finished up “Man Who Traveled in Elephants” for DragonCon, and is working on “Menace from Earth.” David Benedict — did I mention he’s going to play Rory? — is polishing up “The Passion of Frankenstein,” and may move on to “Solution Unsatisfactory.” And Daniel Taylor is working on “The Canterville Ghost,” I believe.

ARTC: One, two, three…

RNB: Put your shoes back on. Potentially, ARTC could have five new tapes / CD’s at DragonCon 2002.

ARTC: “Potentially…”

RNB: Potentially, we could have put a man on the Moon in 1966, but this is real life. (And that’s another script…) I’ll be overjoyed with three, quietly happy with two.

ARTC: So long as one of them is “Rory Rammer”?

RNB: It’s a producer thing.

[Editor’s note: The voice tracks do exist. “Queen”, “Elephants” and “Frankenstein” materialized: “Rory” has become one of ARTC’s “cursed productions”. Mr. Butler’sreference to “real life” was all too prescient, but we’re determined to get it out sooner or later.]

[Second Editor’s note: Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: Volume 1 was successfully published in 2009.  Volume 2 is in the planning stages as of 05/2013]

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Unresolved Mysteries Episode Guide

The Loch Ness Monster
Daniel Kiernan and Clair Whitworth Kiernan journey to Scotland to solve the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster once and for all — by draining Loch Ness!

Past Lives Regression
With arch-skeptic Randy Zwinge keeping an eye on things, Daniel and Clair are regressed to their past lives together as — Rhett and Scarlett?

Phrenotherapy
Daniel finds that the latest developments in phrenology can be a real kick in the head…

UFO Abductions
Daniel and Clair disrupt eastern Kansas to hitch a ride on a UFO. (Parental warning: Contains nudity.)

Terror on the Prairie!
Randy Zwinge goes to Black Helicopter Country to investigate the latest in UFO abductions.

The Great White Hunter
He wants to put a stuffed Yeti head on his den wall — and that’s only the beginning of his plans!

Stealth
Daniel and Clair infiltrate Area 51 to see the latest in aeronautical technology. Or maybe not…

Collins’ Best “Unresolved Mysteries” Commercial
Daniel and Clair investigate the origins of the “kick” in Collins’ Best.

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Bumpers Crossroads Episode Guide

  • The Traffic Light

Woody, Grandpa and Luke watch a car drive by. COMMERCIAL: “Look, here’s the lawn mower, as long as I’m up…”

  • The Developer

A real estate developer passes through, and thinks the Crossroads would be a perfect place to build something. COMMERCIAL: The Announcer needs a cup of coffee.

  • Woody’s Socks Don’t Match

Helen is off shopping, and Woody can’t find anything. COMMERCIAL: Collins’ Best Tea.

  • Out To Lunch

Woody and Grandpa stroll over to Mary’s Diner for a sandwich. What was that waitress’ name again…? COMMERCIAL: Mary Turner testimonial.

  • Gone Fishin’

Helen Woodrow and Mary Turner talk about the boys while they’re gone. COMMERCIAL: Collins’ Best Coffee Pot.

  • Complaint Department

Woody complains about the food at the diner. COMMERCIAL: “It perks you — UP! And kills bugs — DEAD!”

  • Beyond the Farthest Bump

Luke imagines the Crossroads in Space. COMMERCIAL: Collins’ Best Instant.

  • Hide! A Cow’s Outside!

The archetypical episode. It takes a lot of nerve to use jokes this old. COMMERCIAL: Husband and Wife for Collins’ Best Cocoa.

  • Hallowe’en

Mary needs a costume, and Luke needs a rest. COMMERIAL: Collins’ Best improves office productivity, too!

  • Whole Lotto Shaking Going On

Lottery fever hits the Crossroads. COMMERCIAL: Ezekiel Collins testimonial.

  • A Bumpers Crossroads Christmas (Rose’s Fruitcake) (by Daniel Kiernan)

Woody deals with more than one fruitcake. COMMERCIAL: Santa Claus testimonial.

  • Mow Better Blues (by Terry Sanders)

Luke considers joining the Yard-of-the-Month Club and entering their local competition. COMMERCIAL: …other, more motivational, uses for Collins’ Best Coffee.

  • Grandma’s Diary

Grandpa finds his late wife’s diary, but he’s afraid to read it. COMMERICAL (by Ron Butler): Collins’ Best Laundry Detergent.

  • Japanese Tourists

A tour bus driver chooses Mary’s Diner. COMMERCIAL: Coffee pots exploding all over the office.

  • Over the Rainbow

Luke bangs his head. COMMERCIAL: Fiona loses a day of work, thanks to Collins’ Best Cocoa.

  • “We’re a Little Late…”

There’s not enough time for the show because of the… COMMERCIAL: Ezekiel Collins vs the Announcer.

  • Luke’s Correspondence Course (a Coffeehouse intro) (by Daniel Kiernan)

The gang learns how to put on a radio show. (About time, I guess.) No commercial.

  • Love At The Crossroads (by Daniel Kiernan)

Girl talk about Woody and Helen’s courtship. COMMERCIAL (by Daniel Taylor): “Unresolved Mysteries” explores the secret of Collins’ Best Coffee.

  • Faint Reception (Croon 1)

Grandpa Croon calls out Grandpa Bumper. COMMERCIAL: Collins’ Board Meeting.

  • Family Feud (Croon 2)

It’s Grandpa vs Grandpa, with Woody and Luke to the rescue. COMMERCIAL: Collins Moments 1. “Well, dear, at least the air bag worked.”

  • Know Your Limitations (Mason 1)

George Mason needs another mechanic. COMMERCIAL: “Uncle” Jimmy Piper testimonial.

  • One Of The Guys (Mason 2)

Does George know that there’s something… different about the new mechanic? COMMERCIAL: Ezekiel Collins vs Jimmy Piper.

  • The Crying Bump (Mason 3)

The truth comes out. Does it matter? It does to Luke. COMMERCIAL: Collins Moments 2. “We’re going to give you to the count of three…”

  • Eggs Mark the Spot

The Easter egg hunt is a week late. So is Luke. COMMERCIAL: Helen Woodrow vs Jimmy Piper.

  • The Stray Dog (by Linda Young)

He really needs a home, but both Woody and Helen know how much the other one dislikes dogs…

  • The New Toy (by Jeff Baskin)

Who can resist a fire engine? Well, Woody can… COMMERCIAL: Do vampires drink coffee?

  • Special Report (by Clair W Kiernan)

The program is pre-empted.

  • Bradbury’s Funeral Home (by Ron N. Butler)

Helen says goodbye to an old friend. [No commercial.]

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The 3,000-Year Old Radio SF Writer [Less 2,915 Years]

LG:  Good evening, I’m Lisa Getto, and we are very happy to have a special guest this evening: Norman Winstock, one of the original writers for “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal”!
NW:  Thank you, thank you. Very happy to be here. Happy to be anywhere, to tell the truth.

LG:  And how about giving us that famous tag-line?
NW:  Hmm? Oh — yeah. “Up, up, and away!”

LG:  Uh — no. Not that one.
NW:  “Quick, old chum, to the Batmobile?”

LG:  No.
NW:  Oh! I’ve got it: “Ow! I’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider!”

LG:  Nope.
NW:  “Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy Unite?”

LG:  I’ve always found that one a little — suspect. No, I mean the tag-line for “Rory Rammer.”
NW:  Oh, that one! Ahem… “From the skies of Earth, to the orbit of the Moon!” (Coughing fit)

LG:  Easy, Norman. Can you go on?
NW:  I think so. I’ll give ya’ a sign if I can’t.

LG:  And that will be?
NW:  I’ll fall down and stop breathing.

LG:  I’ll watch for that. Now — “Rory Rammer” had a remarkable string of predictions about the world of 1985 A.D. Space travel, of course. Telescopes in orbit. The fall of the Soviet Union. Don’t you feel a certain pride, when you reflect back on your status as a prophet of the future?
NW:  Actually, I am haunted by two particular predictions I made. One successful, the other completely off the mark. And they were both in that one episode, “Luna Shall Be Dry!”

LG:  And those were — ?
NW:  The first was the prediction of disco music.

LG:  Certainly a major cultural trend —
NW:  More like a crime against humanity! All through the later 1970’s, I had nightmares about being hauled up in front of a war crimes tribunal for that ‘un!

LG:  And the prediction that didn’t work out?
NW:  Heh! I actually predicted that — one day — the State of Massachusetts would have a senior United States Senator who didn’t drink like a fish! (Cackles) What was I thinking of?

LG:  I can’t imagine. Now, if we could talk a moment about Mary-Jane Talbot, who played “Kryssa Feynman” during the second season —
NW:  Lovely, sweet girl.

LG:  Yes, she was.
NW:  Liked that costume she wore.

LG:  Yes, the skirts were very short, especially for 1949.
NW:  Devil between the sheets.

LG:  I — uh, wouldn’t know.
NW:  I would. Not too bright, though.

LG:  And why do you say that?
NW:  Silly girl! Tried to get ahead by sleeping with the writer! (Cackles wildly, then goes into Cheyne-Stokes breathing)

LG:  Is this that “sign” you were telling me about?
NW:  (Gasping) Oh,yeah.

LG:  Harry? Could we get some oxygen up here?

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A Note on Graphics and “Silver Star” vs. “Silver Star 2”

Silver Star 1 diagramSilver Star 2 diagram

ARTC: Could you say something about the new “Silver Star” graphics that are up on the ARTC web site?

RNB: Well, Daniel was kind enough to post a graphic of the “Star” a while back, but it was pretty rough looking. It was a bitmap grab of an AutoCad file, and the resolution was pretty low. The new graphics are JPEGs. They’re not perfect, but they’re certainly more readable. I like them a lot better.

ARTC: You mentioned an AutoCad file. What’s the source for the drawing?

RNB: It’s sheet 1 of the top-level assembly drawing for the Barnes Model 1012 — which, of course, the first “Silver Star” was. Barnes built twenty-six of the type, under a contract from the Department of Extraterrestrial Justice, which designated them as “Ness”-class cruisers, named for — no big surprise — Elliott Ness. The “Star” was line number four in the series.

ARTC: Was the 1012 considered a deep-space craft at the time?

RNB: Not really. The 1012’s, operating from the Earth’s surface, were capable of making a dry-tanks landing on Luna. Operations to Mars or Venus, along a reasonably fast trajectory, required either in-orbit refueling or an assisted launch — usually from the Pikes Peak catapult. The Kilimanjaro linear accelerator wasn’t built until the type had pretty much been retired.

ARTC: You called this “the first ‘Silver Star’.”

RNB: Line number 4 was lost after a crash-landing in the Martian high desert, east of Solis Lacus City. [See: “The Enemy of the People”] Marshal A.R. Rammer was diverted from his landing approach into a hot pursuit of a smuggler. The smuggler was shot down but the “Star” suffered debris-strike damage and had to make a glide-landing herself.

ARTC: The ship wasn’t salvaged?

RNB: It was uneconomical. The hull was broken up and the reactor carcass was boosted to the Atomic Graveyard at Earth’s Lagrange 1 point.

ARTC: There was some controversy about that entire operation, wasn’t there?

RNB: Oh, considerable! The smuggler in question was the legendary “Rex” Gorbachev, who had been a thorn in the side of the Martian Colonial Administration’s Department of Health Education, Enhancement and Enforcement for years. A federal board of inquiry determined afterward that the DeeHee’s had exceeded their authority in several places.

ARTC: I believe the final report said — Let me see. “Unlawful orders…” “Reckless endangerment…” “Destruction of government property…”

RNB: And to cap it all, Gorbachev got away!

ARTC: Very little blame seems to have attached to Marshal Rammer or his cadet / co-pilot.

RNB: He was assigned partial responsibility for the loss of his rocket, but the Board also specifically noted that the DHEEE agent in charge — one Ludo Raynor — had misled the marshal into believing he was operating under combat conditions. On the other side of the equation, Rammer _did_ manage to capture Gorbachev and bring him out of the deep Martian desert, dragging his injured cadet after him, and handed the smuggler over to the Martian authorities.

ARTC: Who lost him.

RNB: If Gorbachev had effected his escape ten minutes earlier, considerably more blame would have been laid on Rammer. However, Rammer had formally passed custody to Agent Raynor before Gorbachev broke free, knocked out Rammer, Raynor and Raynor’s partner, then stole their canal-skimmer and disappeared to God knows where. (Chuckles)

ARTC: Quite an exploit!

RNB: (Laughs) One of the reasons Gorbachev is a legend in the saga of How the Solar System Was Won.

ARTC: What happened to Agent Raynor?

RNB: Well, we know his partner was demoted three grades — which probably ended up saving her life in ’89. Raynor was busted completely out of the service and the historical record loses track of him there. If he stayed on Mars — The Martian Rebellion wasn’t a particularly bloody event, as revolutions go, but very few senior-grade DeeHees survived the fall of the Colonial Administration.

ARTC: Anyway — “Silver Star 2”?

RNB: Is the second graphic, the completely new one. With the expansion of operations beyond Mars, the Department of XT Justice had commissioned a more capable class of rocketship —

ARTC: Also from Barnes Aircraft?

RNB: Barnes was, at that time, the premier space vehicle designer and manufacturer in the United States, which is to say in the world. Like Boeing or Douglas in the Age of Aviation. They got a jump on everyone with their first nuclear-powered spacecraft project — which you can see a stylized depiction of in the drawing’s data block, by the way — and never looked back. The new design was the Model 1014 —

ARTC: The “Bonaparte” class?

RNB: Named after an early head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I believe. And — yes — he was a distant relative of the Emperor.

ARTC: It’s — beefy-looking.

RNB: Compared to a 1012, yes. Fifty percent higher maximum gross liftoff weight. A reactor with a third more output than the 1012’s old AP451. The 1014’s could also accept external mass tankage and tolerate much higher catapult launch loads. Regular patrol operations into the Asteroid Belt, which was opening up to colonization and industrialization then, would have been impossible without the 1014’s. This is truly The Rocket That Tamed the Belt. [See: “The Planetoid of Doom” and “Murder by Meteor”]

ARTC: And gave Saturn a ring?

RNB: I would place most of the responsibility for the destruction of Iapetus on Colonel LeMay and the Space Force Cruiser “Azrael.” [See: “The Angel of Destruction”] But 1014’s — “Silver Star 2” among them — did make occasional forays as far as Saturn. And even farther.

ARTC: And played a part in humanity’s first contact with extrasolar aliens?

RNB: I’m sorry. I’m not at liberty to discuss that.

ARTC: Oh.

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The Curse of ‘Rory Rammer’

The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company issues the following in response to a number of public questions concerning the so-called “Curse of Rory Rammer.”

ARTC: Briefly, what is “The Curse of Rory Rammer.”
RNB: [Originator of the “Rory Rammer” series] There’s no such thing.

ARTC: Excuse me. Isn’t one of the continuing characters named “‘Skip’ Sagan?”
RNB: Yes, that’s true, but —

ARTC: Whom you have admitted, on an earlier occasion, is named after astronomer Carl Sagan?
RNB: Yes, I did name him after —

ARTC: Who is now dead?
RNB: So far as I knew, he was in perfectly good health when I started writing the series.

ARTC: And is not another continuing character “Professor Irwin Feynman?”
RNB: OK.

ARTC: Also named after a well-known scientist, Dr. Richard Feynman?
RNB: He is.

ARTC: And what is Dr. Feynman’s current situation, viability-wise?
RNB: Well, he’s dead. But the man was in his seventies! He worked on the Manhattan Project, God knows what he was exposed to!

ARTC: Let me now draw your attention to a new character in this year’s [2000] DragonCon performance of “The Queen of the Spaceways” — “Michiko Sakai.”
RNB: It’s not even been established that she’ll be continuing.

ARTC: As may be. The origin of that name?
RNB: Well, like many of my character names, it’s taken from aviation. In this case, from Saburo Sakai, an Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilot of the Second World War.

ARTC: Would you read the following item, datelined the Associated Press for September 28?
RNB: [Paper rattling] “Japanese World War II fighter ace Saburo Sakai, who downed 64 enemy planes and then went on to reconcile with his former foes and urge his nation to face its wartime past, has died.”

ARTC: Indicating that Mr. Sakai is, in fact, dead?
RNB: Oh, for crying out — ! He was 84! He’d been shot three times during the war and lost one eye! I should live to be 84, even without bits being shot off me.

ARTC: And would you read further, in the second paragraph?
RNB: [Muttering] Look, you’re gotta believe me: I never guessed he had a daughter named Michiko! I pulled the name off a Web site for female Japanese nuclear engineers. Besides “Michiko” is probably as common a name as “Susan” —

ARTC: Don’t you feel any apprehension as to what might happen to this young lady?
RNB: Frankly, no. I don’t believe a word of this codswallop. If you do, though, I think I can propose an interesting experiment.

ARTC: That being?
RNB: How about I name the next “Rory Rammer” character after you?

ARTC: Stop the tape! Just stop the damn —

[Tape ends]