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There is Adventure in Sound!

Welcome, everyone, to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company podcast.  It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally ready to get this show on the road.

Since 1984 ARTC has been producing quality audio drama.  I don’t recall when our first live performance was, but we’ve been doing them for a nice long time now and we’ve got a fairly substantial backlog of recordings.  Some of the older ones don’t have the best sound quality, but we were just learning after all, and we’ve gotten a lot better.

You can find us here at Be sure to tell all your friends.

So sit back, relax, and prepare to enter the world of your own imagination through the Magic of Radio.

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Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: The Meteor Surfers

time: 21:21 (9.78)

[esplayer url = “” width = “80” height = “20” title = “Rory Rammer: The Meteor Surfers”]

Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: The Meteor Surfers was written by Ron N. Butler and performed live at Dragon*Con 2003.  It features anime voice actor Michael Brady!

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The Future of Rory Rammer

LG:  Lisa Getto, back again with Jack Jolley, producer for the forthcoming “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal” TV project.
JJ:  Good to be here.

LG:  Jack, what attracted you to a “Rory Rammer” revival?
JJ:  Lisa, “Rory Rammer” is a mainstay of American popular culture. It has tremendous nostalgia appeal, while being artistically challenging, action-packed, and thematically relevant for the twenty-first century.

LG:  I see. I think. Will you be sticking to the original series?
JJ:  Absolutely. We have tremendous respect for “Classic Rory,” and will be hewing closely to the original concept, while re-imagining it for a contemporary demographic.

LG:  I — see. So we can look forward to seeing more of Rory, Skip, the Space Marshals, the “Silver Star” — ?
JJ:  Absolutely. Right down the line. Well — there will be a slight title change.

LG:  To what?
JJ:  “Rory Rammer, XTCU.”

LG:  “XTCU”?
JJ:  “Extra-Terrestrial Crime Unit.”

LG:  O-kay. Well, as long as it’s still Rory and Skip —
JJ:  “Lips.”

LG:  “Lips”?
JJ:  Yes, we updated Skip Sagan’s gender. To female.

LG:  Cast the role yet?
JJ:  She’s six feet tall, ash-blonde, with a brain like a positronic computer, and a body made for either lethal, bare-handed combat or passionate physicality, whichever the situation calls for!

LG:  “Passionate physicality”?
JJ:  Let’s just say that she takes a very — personal — interest in her superior officer, as they pursue their undercover mission through the Asteroid Belt, pursued by both The Man and Interplanetary Organized Crime. (Beat) And she doesn’t wear too many clothes.

LG:  Let’s cut to the chase: Are they having sex?
JJ:  That depends.

LG:  On what?
JJ:  On what the ratings look like after the fourth or fifth show.

LG:  And what if that doesn’t, uh — “bring up” your ratings?
JJ:  Two words: Mutant baby.

LG:  Thank you, Jack Jolley, producer of the new “Rory Rammer” —
JJ:  — “Extra-Terrestrial Crime Unit” —

LG:  Look for it this fall —
JJ:  — or maybe spring of 2005 —

LG:  On Fox.
JJ:  Or could be UPN.

LG:  Maybe the SciFi Channel?
JJ:  Possibly at a video-rental store near you.

LG:  “Soon to be a minor motion picture.” Thank you, Jack.

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Musings on Bumpers Crossroads

by Daniel Taylor

I’ve been thinking lately about what exactly BUMPERS CROSSROADS is, and how I do it. This is dangerous. You may remember the story about the centipede who was asked, however did he manage to keep all those feet coordinated. The centipede stopped and thought about it — and couldn’t take another step.

I think BUMPERS CROSSROADS is the most pure expression of my sense of humor that I have ever been able to achieve — part LUM & ABNER, part GARRISON KEILLOR, part NORTHERN EXPOSURE, but not really “like” any of these. I astound myself that I am able to be alternately surreal and silly; to put pathos and pratfalls in the same script and make them work together. I’m very proud of it, and more pleased than I can say that people seem to like it.

When it comes right down to it, I feel pretty good about my writing — almost good enough to explain the favorable reaction BC evokes.

I THINK its appeal comes from the fact that it DOES reflect a distinct perspective, a human voice, not a committee consensus. The fact that it is mine is secondary. Given all the margarine on broadcast television, the relentless pop music on the radio, the determined obsequiousness of the daily newspapers — I think people are STARVED for a discernable viewpoint and personality.

(Especially when it is clearly different from what can be called the Dominant Media Culture’s generally leftist lean. I think that’s why Rush Limbaugh is so popular, even among those who disagree vehemently. He remains an individual person, expressing a point of view uniquely his own.)

Although I hesitate to make the comparison, BUMPERS is essentially me on paper. Woody is the forceful, decisive presence I’ve always wanted to be; Grandpa is the genial, blithe potato I suspect is the best I can hope for; Luke is the distracted state of mind I probably spend most of my time in. And I put these three parts of me in the place I’d most like to live; a small town where you can safely ignore whatever’s going on, secure in the knowledge that empires will not crumble no matter which way the coin falls.

Certain aspects of life will never find their way into BUMPERS, because I don’t find them entertaining. I’ve mentioned the concept of gayness; I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a gay character, though I refuse to write one for the sake of social responsibility. But AIDS will never be mentioned, because it is not nohow funny.

There are also no black characters, and there will likely never be. Communities tend to be homogenous, ROOM 222 and its decendants to the contrary, and I can’t credibly introduce a black character, or explain how he came to be there, in a manner that rings true to me.

Anyway, I intend to stick with what I know. Social responsibility has no place in BUMPERS CROSSROADS. This may limit its appeal in certain markets, but so be it: We (as a culture) are drowning in things that try to be all things to all people. Which was my original point, come to think of it.

All I really wanted to do was amuse myself — but, just the same, I’m glad I’m not making the trip alone.

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Bumpers Crossroads Writer’s Guide

created, researched and composed
by Daniel Taylor
from a title by Thomas E Fuller
Correct as of 04/12/94
Subject to change
Authors should feel free to modify or contradict anything herein defined for the sake of a good story.

“BUMPERS CROSSROADS: two old fart vaudevillians sitting around telling jokes that Grover Cleveland used to laugh at, as a child.”
–Thomas E Fuller’s original concept, in its entirety


BUMPERS CROSSROADS was conceived for the fictional Wolf radio network, as presented in the proposed daily radio serial DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL, created by Thomas E Fuller. It would be referred to, but probably never heard.

Wolf’s BUMPERS CROSSROADS was the show where talent went to die — the place from which no one, performer, writer, or producer, EVER made a comeback. You knew your show business career was over when they sent you to work on BUMPERS CROSSROADS.
I didn’t want to write that show, but I saw some Lake Wobegonian potential in the premise. As I write it, it is about equal parts Garrison Keillor and “Lum & Abner”, with a dash of “Northern Exposure” for flavor.

It is NOT about country bumpkins or “hicks”, and it does not make fun of rural life. It is about simpler life, and simpler times. It’s a community of good-hearted people, a community where everybody who lives there likes it the way it is. (If they didn’t, it would probably be a shopping mall by now.)


Every episode begins with the crow of our familiar rooster, the opening strains of theme music and the following introduction:

“It’s time once again to take a little trip just a ways down the road, to America’s favorite little town, BUMPERS CROSSROADS, brought to you as always by Collins’ Best Coffee. When you need a pick-me-up, you need Collins’ Best. We’ll join our friends at BUMPERS CROSSROADS in just a moment.”

In a real sense, BUMPERS CROSSROADS retains the original concept of a “show within a show”. That is, the characters often step out of continuity to appear in the sponsor’s commercial messages, and in general seem to know that they are characters in a radio play. Some of the jokes they’re called upon to tell are SO bad that the only way to pull it off is with self-awareness. In fact, in one episode, one of the characters decides the jokes are TOO stupid and excuses himself from the exchange.
BUMPERS CROSSROADS is an easygoing little community where Nothing Much Ever Happens. (No, Jerry Seinfeld did not invent the concept of a Show About Nothing.) They don’t have big-city-1993-type problems there. They have the kind of problems that can be realistically wrapped up in a five-to-seven minute script.

Okay, that’s not quite true, that bit about Nothing Ever Happens. But it is the kind of show that lends itself to episodes in which Nothing Much Happens. It is very much character-driven. The question to ask when plotting an episode is not “what can happen to these guys?”, but “how would they react to…?” The characters have distinct personalities, and the best stories are those in which it’s not possible to swap anybody’s lines for anybody else’s.


BUMPERS CROSSROADS started circa 1965 as a traditional family-based situation comedy, feauring Fred and Sharon Bumper, their children, and storekeeper “Woody” Woodrow as one of several supporting characters.[1] At the time, “Bumper’s” still had the apostrophe it should correctly have, and “Crossroads” wasn’t meant literally, but as a synonym for “turning point” (or, occasionally, “crisis”).[2] It was a not-so-subtle knock-off of “Fibber McGee and Molly”, all the way down to the overcrowded hall closet. Sharon’s diary was a recurring storytelling device from the beginning. (Although the Bumpers’ street address has never been used, it might be nice if it were 72 Wistful Vista, the McGees’ old address.) (That is, 72 Wistful Vista, Autumn Falls.)

Woody essentially stole the show over the course of the first few years. Woody and Helen were married on-stage in the second season. As Sharon Bumper grew older and weaker, the other characters — and especially Woody — were given more to do. The show came to be less “Fibber McGee” and more “Lum & Abner”. By the time Sharon died in 1987, Woody had become the second lead. As Grandpa has gotten older and less active, Woody has assumed a central role in the show. (Sort of like a show called “Amos and Andy” came to be ABOUT a character named “Kingfish”.) But the show has such a following that nobody wants to bother renaming it. Today, the action (if that’s the right word) rarely wanders far from the front porch of the local general store.

There is a substantial, deliberate blurring of the lines between “show continuity” and “off-stage reality”. Either these people have little-to-no offstage life, or they REALLY ARE the people we meet on the air every week.


Our Regulars

A reminder: Most of these characters are older people. I am striving to include younger characters, but the existing regulars are so rich that I’m having trouble finding much reason for more. Still, remember a few key points:

They are old, but not decrepit. Rural life is hard work, and tends to help one live a long and healthy life. Helen Woodrow, in particular, the youngest person in her generation at 49, is still a vibrant, sensual woman. And Woody is not too old to respond to it. Do not make the mistake of thinking of ANY of these people as Just Old Farts.

They are adults. They have children. That means they have sex lives, and are not shocked at the very mention of the subject. They are rural, not anal-retentive. The subject will not often arise, though, because it’s the kind of thing they only talk about with their most intimate friends. Helen and Grandpa talk about it in “Grandma’s Diary”, for example, because Sharon and Helen were extremely close friends, despite the disparity in their ages — which means Helen is Grandpa’s last link to Sharon AS AN ADULT. (Their kids remember their mother, of course, but it’s not the same thing.)


The general store is WOODROW’S MERCANTILE, run by “WOODY” WOODROW. (We’ve never heard Woody’s real first name. It’s not a running gag — It’s just never come up.) Woody is the lead character, if there is one. His is the strongest presence, and generally if anything really gets done, it’s because it was Woody’s idea to do it. He is a cantankerous older man, given to saying what he thinks.
His trademark line is “I reckon…”. It can be used as “I reckon so.”, or anywhere you might otherwise use “I think”. In addition, he usually (but not always) gets to prompt Grandpa’s trademark line by saying, “Nice day.”

Woody has a wife, HELEN (see below), and two children, both girls. They are of college age, and usually gone.


We usually find Woody spending the day sitting on the front porch of the Mercantile, in the company of GRANDPA. (Grandpa’s real name is FRED BUMPER, but only Woody calls him by name. Most folks just call him Grandpa, whether or not they are related to him, or in what way.) Grandpa is sensible, but sedentary. He rarely initiates any action. He and Woody have known each other most of their lives, which may explain why two such disparate personalities get along so well.
Grandpa is THE Bumper whose Crossroads these are. He owns most of the undeveloped land in the area, mostly to the South side of town, and the hills are probably crawling with his relatives. There is still an active Bumper farm, somewhere, worked by one or more of Grandpa’s children, but Grandpa is well enough off that it is almost a hobby. GrandMA is long enough gone that she is but infrequently mentioned. Fred and Sharon were married in 1950, and had 37 happy years together before Sharon died in 1987.

Grandpa is ALWAYS the person who delivers the line “(Sure) could use some (or “a little”) rain, though.” No one else ever says it unless Grandpa is unable to deliver the line.[3] The show usually either opens or closes, and sometimes both, with the exchange “Nice day” “Yep. Could use a little rain, though.” (Rain should be an extremely rare event onstage. But Grandpa is a retired gentleman farmer, and as such is never really satisfied with the weather. If it isn’t raining, it should be. If it IS raining, he’s afraid they may get too much.)


LUKE is Grandpa’s grandson, but NOT Rose’s son. His is an odd perspective, for he is the only one of the three lead characters with any real curiosity about what life is like away from Bumpers Crossroads. He is the only recurring character who calls Woody “Mr Woodrow”, though there is no good reason why he should. He is capable of drawing Woody and Grandpa into dream sequences, although the characters are almost always aware that they ARE dream sequences. He is not as stupid as he sometimes seems, but he lives in a world all his own. He is all there, but his “there” is not our “here”. His signature line is the delayed “Oh” of recognition or understanding, states of mind that usually come late for Luke.

We have not yet met Luke’s parents, or established his last name — that is, we don’t know if his mother or his father was Grandpa’s child, or indeed where his parents are or what they do. I’ve been assuming they’re on the Bumper family farm. Luke lives in a house with a badly-kept yard full of old cars in varying states of repair.

On those infrequent occasions when neither Woody nor Helen are in the store, Luke minds the store.


Woody’s wife, HELEN, often helps cover the store while Woody is sitting out front with Grandpa — or out fishing. Helen is capable of giving as good as she gets from Woody, but rarely sees reason to. She is Woody’s female half — it’s easy to see they’re a good match. She’s one of the few characters capable of shutting Woody up.

Helen looks younger than her age — so much so that Woody is occasionally jokingly accused of “cradle-robbing”. But Helen is in fine shape for a woman her age in more than one sense — she throws a mean left hook. We don’t often have reason to see this, but when she gets riled, look out.


The Diner across the parking lot is owned and run by MARY TURNER. She and Grandpa are sweet on each other, and a good match, though possibly neither she nor Grandpa realize that last. She does not normally draw attention to herself, but she’s not above speaking out if she feels the need. In one episode, she plays a prank on Woody to pay him back for his playful griping about her food.
Mary feels a rivalry with ANNETTE’S, a restaurant down the road in Red Whistle. There is really very little difference in the actual menu. However, “Annette’s” styles itself rather more pretentious and sophisticated (it serves “brunch”, while Mary closes between breakfast and lunch). (Annette’s is run by Annie Crawford, an old “friend” of Mary’s.)


When the series began, Grandpa’s daughter ROSE was, as they say, not yet a gleam in her father’s eye. Born three years into the series, today she works for Mary, waiting tables and other duties as needed. Like many parents, Grandpa has trouble remembering his children’s names. Grandpa’s forgetting Rose’s name IS a running gag. However, Grandpa does this mostly because it gets a rise out of Rose. He pretends to forget it more often than he genuinely does forget. Rose is named after her mother, about whom more later.


DICK CROON is the patriarch of the Croon family, the first family of nearby Autumn Falls. (As featured in the hitherto-unseen companion radio series “Croon’s Mountain”.) He is as like Grandpa as two peas in a pod. The Bumper and Croon families have been feuding for so long that nobody but Grandpa and Dick Croon remember why. Grandpa and Dick get together periodically, in secret, to discuss the sad state of affairs and talk over old times like the old friends they are — THEY get along fine, it’s the REST of their families that insist on perpetuating this feud. (Croon should be treated like a “guest star” when he appears, as he is the “Grandpa” of a different radio series making a rare crossover appearance. The Bumper-Croon feud is actually a device to keep crossovers rare.)

GEORGE MASON is the senior mechanic at the local service station, Arrow Oil. He knows more about cars than the people who build ’em. Unfortunately, George is getting on up there (he’s about Grandpa’s age), and he can’t see well enough to do much of the work any more. But, wouldn’t you know, he finally convinced himself to take an assistant/apprentice, and who should apply but the lissome ANDREA “RAY” CARPENTER. Yes, George was uncomfortable with a woman mechanic in the repair bay, but when she managed to breathe life into an engine he’d thought was dead, he learned to respect her native talent. Since Ray wears the traditional baggy mechanic’s coveralls with “Ray” on the pocket while on duty, many transients never know. (It’d be hard to mistake her for a man in what she wears OFF duty, though. She’s businesslike enough about her work, but coquettish enough to enjoy the reaction she gets in street clothes, and take it as a compliment.) But darned if the cars hereabouts don’t run good. (Luke becomes a regular customer, what with all those “classic automobiles” in his yard. He could fix ’em himself, but it’s more fun to watch Ray work. And Luke may be good, but Ray is better.)


  • MAN (TOM), a real estate developer.
  • WOMAN, Tom’s wife.
  • A VISITOR with a bit of car trouble.
  • BERT, a local resident.
  • DAVE, a local resident.
  • A BUS DRIVER from St Meridian.
  • A JAPANESE TOURIST who speaks excellent English.


In the conclusion of Blues For Johnny Raven, Miss GLORIA KINSOLVING is told to find another track of programming and bury herself deep. There is no better place to hide than offstage at Bumpers Crossroads. She is a reclusive woman “recently” moved into a home with a sizable yard out on Red Whistle Road. (She’s been there for as long as the series has been on: However, this being a small community with long memories, no matter how long she’s been there, she’ll be thought of as having “recently” moved in.) She has been mentioned twice, and I hope to have her spoken of from time to time, but I have no plans to include her as a speaking character. She’s more a mechanism to tie the “Don’t Touch That Dial” universe together than a necessary character. She can do anything the plot demands of her except actually appear on-mike.

Others include:

THE GIRLS, who go on a day shopping trip with Helen. It’s not specifically stated in the script, but they are Woody’s and Helen’s college-age daughters. (What the heck, let’s name ’em. JANET is 21 (b 1972), and ELIZABETH “LIBBY” is 19 (b 1974).) They return to Bumpers Crossroads infrequently. Luke might have a crush on Libby, to Woody’s horror. (I was hoping for a sentimental “packing the youngest daughter off to college” story, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

THAT LOOMIS GIRL, who got married and moved to Autumly to open a yogurt stand. Loomis is undoubtedly her maiden name. I think she may have married one of those dad-ratted Croons.

JACK KELLY, who enters the local “Lawn Of The Month Club” contest by having his lawn re-turfed.

RUTH, the primary cook at Mary’s Diner.

ROSE OF SHARON WILKES BUMPER, b 1933, m 1952, d 1987; It may seem macabre to include her, but now that her diary has resurfaced, she can return as a voiceover or flashback character whenever convenient, by the simple expedient of reading from the diary. (By the way, “Rose Of Sharon” was not an uncommon girls’ name in the early part of the century. Most people just called her “Sharon”.)


KAREN MILLER (name subject to change) is a lovely young college student from New Albion State College. (Before you ask: No, it didn’t exist in 1938. I figure it was built on the ruins of what used to be the Upstate Girls Academy, which did not survive Mary Margaret’s leaving. Wait a minute — wrong bible.) She is canvassing the area attempting to confirm reports of UFO sightings. Much to Woody’s and Grandpa’s surprise, Luke confesses that he is an abductee. (It develops that, in the interests of keeping the young lady’s attention for as long as possible, Luke is not telling the entire truth about this situation. That is, he didn’t tell her he KNEW he was dreaming at the time.)

The only policeman they regularly see is CAPTAIN DALE PARMENTIER (that’s Par-men-TIAY) of the State Patrol, stationed in Red Whistle, who lives on Autumnly Road just the other side of the Crossroads. (Since Luke watches Nick at Nite, he invariably addresses him as “Captain Parmenter” [that’s PAR-men-ter]. Parmentier takes it in good humor, but clearly is tired of it.)


BUMPERS CROSSROADS is a little community far off the beaten path. It consists — so far as we have seen to date — of a general store and a diner. There is a gas station as well.

As with Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon, if you can’t find it at WOODROW’S MERCANTILE, you can probably get along without it. The Mercantile is the kind of old-fashioned general store that Cracker Barrel restaurants are intended to resemble. It is a large woodframe building with a covered front porch, on which sit several rocking chairs. (In which we usually find Woody and Grandpa.) There is an old, yet functional soft drink cooler on the porch, of the chest type that used to be common. One side of the building also bears a painted advertisement for the same soft drink. There is a single antique Pure Oil gas pump out front — it does not work, but the town has grown attached to it and they won’t let Woody remove it.

MARY’S DINER shares a gravel parking lot with the Mercantile. Both buildings are set back from the main road at an angle. The neon sign in front of the diner is broken — the R and Y in Mary’s name are missing. At night, then, the sign says MA’S DINER. Since the diner is rarely open after dark, this hasn’t been a problem. Occasionally somebody thinks it might be funny to call Mary “Ma Turner”. Mary doesn’t think so. There is no finer food between Red Whistle and St Meridian.

The ARROW GAS STATION is across Autumly Road from the Diner and Mercantile. Because of the angle of the road and the placement of the buildings, it’s not visible from the Mercantile’s front porch. The mechanics, GEORGE MASON and ANDREA “RAY” CARPENTER (unmentioned so far) works six days a week.


BUMPERS CROSSROADS is not a town per se. It has no city limits, nor Mayor (though Woody is sometimes referred to as the Mayor, usually when something needs fixing), nor city council (though if Woody is the Mayor, Grandpa is the city council) nor chamber of commerce (unless you count Mary and George).

It is, as the name implies, a crossroads, and the actual roads that cross are State Route 42 and Croons Ferry Road/Red Whistle Road. Route 42 runs approximately North-South, and is also known as Autumnly Road, since that’s where the road goes. The Bumper family lives mostly to the South, where Grandpa owns most of the nearby undeveloped woodland. The Mercantile and Diner face approximately south. The East-West cross road is known as Croons Ferry to the East, and Red Whistle Road to the West.

Its only legal existence is as a neighborhood of nearby AUTUMN FALLS, which IS a town, though “downtown” is no bigger than Bumpers Crossroads. Residents of Bumpers Crossroads do not consider themselves living in Autumn Falls, due to an age-old feud between the Bumpers and Autumn Falls’ first family, the Croons. The city of Autumn Falls is on Autumnly Road, between the Crossroads and Autumnly.

The actual falls themselves are in the hills to the south of Bumpers Crossroads, as are numerous other streams and creeks, among them IVY CREEK and CUDDY’S CREEK, two of Woody’s and Grandpa’s favorite fishing spots.

A fair number of people who live in the area work in AUTUMNLY, the county seat. (I haven’t named the county yet.) Autumnly is a little town of about 6,000, with the county courthouse on the town square, ringed by shops. The nearest dentist, for instance, is the one in Autumly. There is an Autumnly exit off Interstate Highway 45 at Route 42, but it hasn’t done much to bring traffic in: If anything, traffic that otherwise would have gone through town on Route 42 now travels I-45 instead. (This interstate number is subject to change: I don’t want to imply anything about where this place is supposed to be.)

The nearest town of any real size is RED WHISTLE, in the neighboring county. It is around 30-40,000, large enough to support a small mall. The Crossroads/Falls area has thus far avoided unpleasant commercial development by diverting it to Red Whistle, which does want it. Doubtless they are trying to live down their name.

About an hour to an hour-and-a-half away to the East-North-East is the major city of ST MERIDIAN, amply documented in the “bible” for THE CRIMSON HAWK. Except that THAT is 1939, and THIS is now. It doesn’t matter — we’ll never go there. Heck, we’ll probably never get out of sight of the Merchantile’s front porch.

(Logically, this also means that the upstate city of NEW ALBION, home of the Vixen’s private school, can’t be more than two or three hours away at most. It could be as close as Red Whistle, if there is any need for it.)


Bumpers Crossroads’ original and only sponsor, throughout the years, has been COLLINS’ BEST COFFEE. (The pronunciation is intentionally incorrect. There should be a possessive in there somewhere, but there isn’t.)

Collins’ Best always includes the following boilerplate copy, or as much of it as possible, in each commercial:

“That special concentrated blend gives you more of what you drink coffee for. It’s so full and rich that it virtually picks you up and throws you out the door!”; “When you need a pick-me-up, you need Collins’ Best.”; “That’s Collins Best Coffee: It perks you…UP!”

Commercials bear more than a passing resemblance to a pusher selling drugs. When a character asks “Try some?” I’m hoping the only sensible response is “hell, no”.

If it helps, try to imagine what coffee commercials sound like to someone who does not drink coffee. (Or, perhaps a better example, what beer commercials sound like to someone who does not drink beer.) If you don’t already consume the product, some of the things they tout as positive selling points look negative. The feel I’m hoping for is that, even if it DOES have negative effects, the ad agency obviously feels they are minor, unimportant, or worth putting up with for the positive benefits of the product.

The Collins Best product line has expanded to include: an industrial strength coffee pot; tea; hot cocoa; instant coffee (in the form of an effervescent tablet); laundry detergent (leaves your clothes sparkling white — no matter what color they were when you put them in the wash). However, the primary emphasis should always be the coffee. Expand the product line juduciously, only when a sterling opportunity arises.

The commercials do not necessarily present the Collins products in the most positive possible light. To put it mildly. This distressed the Collins people at first, but as the audiences grew fonder of the self-depreciating style of the Collins Best commercials, the Collins management put aside its misgivings. (This was not uncommon in radio programs of the time.) Every now and then, though, they decide some other advertising agency might be able to present their product in the wholly positive light they’d really like to see. This is how Uncle Jimmie Piper came to be their sometime spokesman (see below).


Ezekiel Collins is the founder and president emeritus of the Collins Coffee Company. He is the man who developed their signature coffee and its “special blend”, a carefully kept trade secret.

Collins is over ninety years old. The only thing that keeps him going is the jolt of energy he gets from his daily cup of Collins’ Best. If he hadn’t been drinking it all along, it would probably kill him. As is, I figure he needs it to stay alive.
He likes to go on the air occasionally and do his own commercials, but he never gets through the spot without losing his place or going off on some tangent. He rarely gets the name of the show right: “Bumstead’s Crosswinds” or “Bungler’s Crossbow”, or something like that.
His doddering delivery leaves one with the feeling that he could expire at any time — sometimes, with the feeling that he HAS expired in mid-pitch. Thomas Collins is the current CEO of CCC, but Ezekiel is always popping up and making decisions behind his back.


Recently, Jerry Page has made an important new contribution to the Bumpers Crossroads saga: The show that BUMPERS CROSSROADS replaced when it premiered in 1971.
In those days, sponsors essentially programmed the broadcast networks. They bought time in quarter-hour, half-hour or hour blocks, and decided what show would air under their name. For twenty-one years, 1950-1971, the show that Collins’ Best Coffee sponsored was UNCLE JIMMIE PIPER AND ALL THE HAPPY LITTLE PIPERS (“Happy Pipers” for short). For unspecified reasons, the Collins people became disenchanted with the Happy Pipers and developed the BUMPERS show as a sometime feature within the Happy Pipers show starting in 1965. In 1971, Uncle Jimmie Piper signed off for the last time, and BUMPERS CROSSROADS began.

Lately, Collins’ new advertising agency has brought back Uncle Jimmie Piper to do commercial endorsements. This was done at Collins Sr’s request, having forgotten that he fired Piper in the first place for having paid undue attention to Collins’ then-wife.

Details regarding Uncle Jimmie Piper are subject to negotiation with Mr Page. In general, Jimmie Piper can be thought of as his generation’s Arthur Godfrey. He is a man with no discernable performing talent, but with two special gifts: He sounds friendly and folksy on the radio; and he is a flatterer par excellence. His voice is timeless — he sounds no older now than he did thirty years ago. He is a master of ceremonies by trade.

Piper is angling to take over the ANNOUNCER’s job, and is using his considerable skill at ingratiation to this end. Although most of the cast — the MALE cast — thinks fondly of him, Helen Woodrow is immune to his charms; she remembers “Three Hands” Piper from way back. The ANNOUNCER considers him a harmless eccentric who can’t read scripts as written; he does not realize Piper is after his job.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE (with original, traditional casting)


  • “WOODY” WOODROW, owner of Woodrow’s Merchantile [Thomas Fuller]
  • FRED “GRANDPA” BUMPER, retired gentleman farmer [Daniel Kiernan]
  • LUKE, Grandpa’s grandson [Al Leonard]

Recurring characters:

  • HELEN WOODROW, Woody’s wife [Fiona Leonard]
  • ROSE, Grandpa’s daughter [Clair Whitworth]
  • MARY TURNER, owner-manager of the Diner [Joyce Leigh / Trudy Leonard]

Featured players:

  • DICK CROON, patriarch of the Croon family [Doug Kaye]
  • GEORGE MASON, owner of Arrow Oil Station [Bill Jackson]
  • ANDREA “RAE” CARPENTER, apprentice mechanic [Trudy Leonard]


  • WOMAN from out of town, developer’s wife [Wendy Webb]
  • MAN from out of town, “Tom”, the Developer [Daniel Kiernan]
  • “GEORGE JETSON” [Ron Butler]
  • a VISITOR with a bit of car trouble [Trudy Leonard]
  • BERT, local resident [Jerry Page]
  • DAVE, local resident [Ron Butler]
  • BUS DRIVER from St Meridian [Vic Lambert]
  • JAPANESE TOURIST who speaks excellent English [Clair Whitworth]

Mentioned but not seen:

  • “THE GIRLS”, probably Woody’s daughters
  • “The LOOMIS GIRL”, who got married and moved to Autumly
  • MISS (GLORIA) KINSOLVING, refugee from another audio track
  • JACK KELLY, who likes to resod his lawn to enter the Lawn Of The Month contest
  • RUTH, Mary’s chief cook
  • SHARON BUMPER, Grandpa’s wife (deceased)


  • EZEKIEL COLLINS, founder of the Collins Coffee Company [Doug Kaye]
  • UNCLE JIMMIE PIPER, of the Happy Little Pipers [Jerry Page]
  • The Collins’ Best HUSBAND [Ron Butler]
  • The Collins’ Best WIFE [Caran Wilbanks, Fiona Leonard]
  • The Collins’ Best BOSS [Bill Jackson, Daniel Kiernan]
  • The Collins’ Best Supervisor, CRATCHIT [Jerry Page]
  • The Collins’ Best Secretary, MARIA [Joyce Leigh]
  • “FIONA” [Fiona Leonard]
  • THOMAS COLLINS, Chairman/CEO, Collins Coffee Company [Tom Fuller]
  • DWEEBISH, the everyman [Daniel Kiernan]

And, of course, defying categorization is the all-knowing, ubiquitous ANNOUNCER, who transcends the arbitrary bounds of “on-stage” and “off-stage”, interacting freely with BUMPERS and COLLINS people alike. [William Brown]


1901 Ezekiel Collins born
1925 Jimmie Piper born
1928 AMOS N ANDY premieres
1931 Fred Bumper born
1933 Sharon Bumper born
1933 Ezekiel Collins discovers formula for Collins’ Best Coffee
1935 Woody Woodrow born
1937 Helen Woodrow born
1939 Mary Turner born
1950 UNCLE JIMMIE PIPER AND ALL THE HAPPY LITTLE PIPERS premieres on Wolf Broadcasting Network, sponsored by Collins’ Best Coffee
1952 Fred & Sharon Bumper married
1954 The first Bumper child is born
1965 “Bumper’s Crossroads”, a situation comedy featuring the Bumper family, premieres as an occasional feature of the HAPPY PIPERS show
1966 Woody & Helen Woodrow married on the air to attract attention to the show and boost ratings (What the hell. It worked for Tiny Tim.)
1968 Rose Bumper born
1971 THE HAPPY PIPERS signs off when Collins withdraws sponsorship; the next week…
1971 BUMPER’S CROSSROADS, a situation comedy featuring the Bumper family, premieres on Wolf Broadcasting Network, sponsored by Collins’ Best Coffee. Later that year…
1971 Fred’s first grandchild, Luke, is born (It worked for Lucille Ball.)
1972 The first Woodrow daughter is born
1974 The second Woodrow daughter is born
1985 BUMPERS CROSSROADS as we know it today — the central focus moves permanently from the Bumper home to the front porch of Woodrow’s Mercantile
1987 Sharon Bumper died
1993 today: Sixtieth anniversary of Collins’ Best Coffee
1995 Thirtieth anniversary of BUMPERS CROSSROADS
[1]This is, I guess, in an alternate reality where radio entertainment programming was not decimated by the arrival of television. This is the same presumption that most of the current ARTC program makes.
[2]If we’ve got a good enough idea, we can always do a “flashback” episode to those halcyon days, or “re-present a Classic Episode from The Past”.
[3]All rules were meant to be broken, though. In episode two, Woody gets to say it, for probably the only time.

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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?

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!

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.