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Brad Strickland Interview

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This month we’re completing our interview series…for now. Be sure to let us know what you think of this new format and we may mix it in again from time to time! This time we are featuring ARTC actor and Head Writer Brad Strickland. Also, how is everybody liking the new Libsyn plugin format? Be sure to let us know what you think and we’ll make adjustments based on your feedback!

Brad Strickland
Not as mean as he looks.

Brad is the author of many of our finest adaptations, including At the Mountains of Madness and The Rats in the Walls by H. P. Lovecraft and the forthcoming Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. He is also the author of several original audio dramas such as An Arkham Home Companion. He has several published novels and was the writing partner with the late Thomas E. Fuller.

You’ve heard his voice in several ARTC live productions and also as Professor Cletius Tremaine in The Dancer in the Dark.




Brad Strickland at the microphone
Brad as Prof. Tremaine


Brad Strickland and Richard Hatch
Brad Strickland with Richard Hatch in “The Weapons Shops”


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Kelley S. Ceccato Interview

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This month we’re continuing on with our interview series, this time featuring ARTC author and actress Kelley S. Ceccato. We’re also pleased to be making our very first post using the new Libsyn WordPress plugin! This will, of course, be changing up how the podcast is presented just slightly, so be sure to let us know what you think of the new format and we’ll make adjustments based on your feedback!

KelleySCeccatoKelley is the author of several audio dramas including Nothing-at-All (which we’ll be performing LIVE at CONjuration this weekend), In Need of a Bard, Sarabande for a Condemned Man, The Horseman of the Hollow, The Worst Good Woman in the World, and The House Across the Way.

She is also the author of the novel Atterwald and the forthcoming Nightmare Lullabye under the name Nan Monroe.

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Dave Schroeder Interview

Size: 31M Duration: 16:54

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As we enter the last quarter of 2015, we’ve got big plans for the podcast. We’ve been publishing since 2006 and have been highlighting our live performances. The response from our fans has been incredible, and we’re deeply grateful for all the kind words that have been sent our way. We’ll still be bringing you live performances on occasion, but the time is approaching for us to change things up a little.

For the remainder of this year we will be featuring interviews with various ARTC actors, authors, technicians, and producers to help our fans get better acquainted with the people who have been bringing you audio drama since 1984!dave shr.
This month we begin with an interview conducted by ARTC founder William Brown with actor and author Dave Schroeder.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Let us know what you think, and we look forward to helping you get to know us better with even more exciting events to come!

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Rory Rammer at Dragon*Con

(Over the past few years, ARTC has been fortunate enough to have a number of well-known actors — Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space,” Robert Trebor, Alexandra Tydings, Claire Stansfield, and Ted Raimi of “Xena” and “Hercules” — participate in our DragonCon presentations. The vehicle for these performances has mostly been “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.” ARTC spoke with Ron Butler, who writes “Rory” for the Company, about the series and its productions at DragonCon.)

ARTC: I don’t think those were the usual people at Blimpie’s. Maybe they were doing training.
RNB: I should hope so. I’m not used to being actively sneered at by someone who’s making minimum wage for slapping cold sandwiches together. I mean, this isn’t France.

ARTC: Anyway — We spent most of an hour earlier talking about Rory Rammer and never actually got around to talking about Rory Rammer at DragonCon. Can we correct that?
RNB: Really, I think you’re wanting to talk about the “celebrity” RR shows. ARTC was doing Rory at DragonCon before the stars showed up. Uh — just don’t ask me to remember which scripts or when we did them. Year before last, ARTC’s advertising poster promised “Another Rory Rammer.” I felt slighted by that at the time — I had come up with a title, after all — but I know the performances and the conventions can start to blur together.

ARTC: How does ARTC attract guest stars for DragonCon?
RNB: We don’t. Ed Kramer [Supreme Potentate and Reality-Master of DragonCon] comes up with these notions about guests appearing in ARTC shows. The point where the plans usually fell through in years past was that — apparently and from what I heard at the time — Ed never did tell the actual guests about these plans before they arrived in Atlanta. Bummer. We finally took the step of contacting prospective guest stars ourselves — after Ed told us who he had in mind — to see if they wanted to play. For quite a while there, we got responses like, “Huh?” and “Who are you people?” Disappointing, since there were a number of folks we’d have liked to work with, even some experienced people from elsewhere in the audio-drama field.

ARTC: Was Jonathan Harris [Dr. Smith from the TV series, Lost in Space] the first success?
RNB: Well, a halfway success. We were supposed to have both Mr. Harris and Ray Harryhausen [stop-motion special effects legend], but Mr. Harryhausen apparently thought “radio production” meant “in a radio studio,” not “in front of three thousand screaming people,” and decided to bow out.

ARTC: Did that cause problems?
RNB: We always have understudies. Have to, if only to have someone to read the lines during technical rehearsals. Hmm… I’ve made it sound like we cast department store mannequins as understudies, which we don’t. If nothing else, we’re well aware that any guest might have to cancel out at any time, for paying-work reasons if nothing else. So we cast understudies in the full knowledge that any or all of them may do the actual performance. Daniel Taylor stepped up for Mr. Harryhausen and did a great job.

ARTC: Did you fit Mr. Harris into an existing “Rory” script?
RNB: No, I wrote a script especially for him. [“The Cosmic Cycloplex”] In fact, it’s just about useless without Jonathan Harris. My biggest mistake was to name his character “Dr. Feynman,” a pre-existing character, but completely unlike himself in this incarnation. If I’d had my wits about me, I’d have changed that name. To “Professor Cronkite,” probably.

ARTC: After Walter Cronkite?
RNB: No, it’s a very old joke. “Krankheit” (can I spell or what?) is German for “sickness,” so the doctor in burlesque skits was often “Dr. Krankheit.”

ARTC: So Professor Feynman wasn’t himself that night?
RNB: No, he was Dr. Zachary Smith in all but name. “Cycloplex” is a shameless conglomerate of every Lost in Space reference and in-joke I could come up with. It was cheap, it was crass. I know DragonCon audiences, though — they howled at it. And I think Mr. Harris enjoyed doing it, too.

ARTC: How cheap was it?
RNB: Rory falls off a spaceship (don’t ask) into a black hole-like object called a “cycloplex.” (I lifted that concept, but not much of anything else, from a “Space Patrol” script.) At which Skip Sagan cries, “We’ve lost Rory! He’s lost! Lost in –” And Feynman growls, “Don’t even say it.” And the crowd goes wild…

ARTC: Sure they did. What was it like working with Mr. Harris?
RNB: I didn’t; you’ll have to ask the cast. I missed the single rehearsal, on Saturday afternoon, so I just huddled up at the front of the stage during the performance. And I was astounded.

ARTC: At what?
RNB: At Mr. Harris. I believe he was nearly eighty even then and obviously not in the best health. He got one rehearsal before performing — and he was letter-perfect. I mean, even at age twelve, I hadn’t been overwhelmed by the subtleties of his performance in Lost in Space, but he came through like a trouper. I’m ashamed to say that I suspect he was a much better actor than I’d ever thought.

ARTC: Did you get to talk with him?
RNB: I hopped up on stage after the applause died down and introduced myself. “Mr. Harris,” I said, “I’m Ron Butler. I wrote the script and I just wanted to say — I know how tough that dialogue was — but you did a marvelous job. I couldn’t have done it that well, I know, and I wrote that stuff.”

ARTC: And how did he react to that?
RNB: He stopped pulling on his shoes and growled, “Frankly, neither could I. I faked it.”

ARTC: Will that show up on a tape?
RNB: Very, very unlikely. It’s proven impossible to get a usable voice track from any of the live performances at DragonCon, so we’ve taken to recording separate voice tracks from the celebrities during rehearsals, for Henry [Howard] to meld in with other voice and sound effect tracks later. But we didn’t do that with Mr. Harris, and his health has — sadly — declined since then. “Cosmic Cycloplex” may have been one of his last public appearances of any sort. I like to think he had fun.

ARTC: Next year [1999] was Robert Trebor?
RNB: Yes, the first of our “Hercules / Xena” connections. The script was “The Phantom Menace.”

ARTC: I beg your pardon.
RNB: “Phantom Menace.” No, not that George Lucas thing. Our “Phantom Menace” actually opened, at a convention in Florida, a few days before the movie did. Maybe I should sue him…

ARTC: Why don’t you just take your life’s saving out of the bank, convert it into pennies and melt them into a puddle of cupro-zinc slag? It’d probably be faster and a lot less painful.
RNB: You’re probably right. Anyway — Say, did you realize “Trebor” is “Robert” spelled backwards?

ARTC: It’s a stage name.
RNB: You think so? I didn’t get to attend rehearsals that year — “Menace” has a slightly huge cast and rehearsals are traditionally held in Bill Ritch’s traditionally teeny hotel room — and sat halfway back in the auditorium for the performance. Mr. Trebor certainly seemed to enjoy himself. At the end, “Captain Cosmos,” the space pirate, is revealed to be Skip Sagan’s uncle. Skip was being played by Daniel Kiernan, with a high-pitched, nasal Brooklyn accent, and once Trebor got “Cosmos’s” breathing mask off, he spoke with the exact same accent. In fact, it was darn hard to tell them apart.

ARTC: Space pirates seem to show up a lot in Rory Rammer.
RNB: Probably because I think it’s such an idiotic idea. There’s just no way to make it pay. “Captain Cosmos” is a debt-ridden physicist with an invisibility device, which he uses to pursue a life of crime. But he can’t dispose of his loot and he’s on the point of starving when he captures Rory Rammer.

ARTC: You mean “when Rory Rammer captures him.”
RNB: I mean what I said.

ARTC: Is this one going to be on a tape?
RNB: Almost certainly. We have it penciled in. As I said, Mr. Trebor must have had a good experience, because this year [2000] we got enthusiastic acceptances from Ted Raimi (“Joxer”), Alexandra Tydings (“Aphrodite”) and Claire Stansfield (the shamaness “Alti”). Maybe he talked us up to his co-workers.

ARTC: Was this another specially-written script?
RNB: Yeah. Henry Howard [ARTC Head Technical Producer] called me one evening in May and asked if I could have a “Rory” script with two strong female leads written — or at least outlined — in ten days. If I could, we might be able to attract Alexandra Tydings and Claire Stansfield. I have to admit that female characters in “Rory” are pretty thin on the ground.

ARTC: I’d noticed. Why don’t you do something about that?
RNB: Hey, it’s Fifties science fiction. Women were about as abundant in that milieu as they were at the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club.

ARTC: That really sounds like sexist rationalization to me. Just because women were ignored then you have to ignore them now?
RNB: It wasn’t that women were ignored. They were present, here and there, but when they did show up they were treated in pretty set ways. For instance, I’ve had the suggestion made to me that there should be a female Space Marshals cadet written in as a love interest for Skip Sagan. A character like that would have been treated one of two ways: Comically, which gets us into a lot of stereotypical “teen” humor that would make my pancreas freeze up. Or the poor girl — by which I mean a pre-wommin — would be so put upon that she’d resign from the Space Marshals by the end of the first episode and go home to marry an insurance salesman and hatch babies. I don’t want to go either of those places.

ARTC: But you’ve had female authority figures. There are allusions to the President of the United States being female. The Undersecretary for Suprastratospheric Affairs is referred to as “Madam Undersecretary.” What’s the diff?
RNB: Those are distant female authority figures. They give a whiff of exotic modernity without actually having any day-to-day impact on the way things get done. And I have a precedent for it: In Robert Heinlein’s other sci-fi movie, Operation Moonbase, the POTUS is a woman. In fact, she sounded like Eleanor Roosevelt — which is a nasty thought.

ARTC: I think a man who quotes precedents to explain his dramatic choices is covering up like a cat on a linoleum floor.
RNB: And I just think I’m being as true as I can to the genre I’m parodying without getting completely fossilized. I also didn’t think I’d have to justify myself to an EEOC hearing. Do I get any credit for a couple of really nifty female villains? I like Sinead O’Chronos [Episode “Set Loose the Dogs of Time!”] if only for her name, and Dr. Renee Marceau [Episode “The Island of Dr. Marceau”] is just plain fun.

ARTC: You can only deal with strong women if you make them evil?
RNB: Make up your mind. Do you want women characters or not? The lead good guy spot is already filled. That leaves room for strong villains. Besides, it’s the snake who gets all the good lines.

ARTC: The Company has converted some roles from male to female. For instance, “The Green Man’s Burden” has probably had a “Princess Two Moons” more times than it’s had a “Chief Two Moons.” What’s wrong with that?
RNB: Two Moons’ sex-change was a logistical necessity: ARTC, like most theatrical companies of whatever stripe, has more actresses than actors. I didn’t think it worked particularly well and if I thought it was going to be permanent, it would force me to rewrite the script.

ARTC: Oh, come on! Why? Would “Two Moons, Princess of Mars” act that differently from “Chief Two Moons”?
RNB: Probably not, but “Bubba Beacham” would interact with “her” a lot differently, and Rory’s reactions wouldn’t be quite the same. I may be writing parody, but I’m trying not to be a hack.

ARTC: I think you just don’t like women, especially strong women.
RNB: I’ll refer you to my wife on that. But I’d advise you wear padding and to get your ego Sanforized before you do.

ARTC: So, do you think the roles you came up with for Tydings and Stansfield are “strong”?
RNB: One is an over-the-top businesswoman villain. And Ms. Stansfield’s character [“Michiko Sakai,” a female undercover operative for the Department of Justice, Extraterrestrial branch] is probably strong enough to spin another series from. Good enough?

ARTC: Are there references to the actresses’ roles on Xena / Hercules?
RNB: Not really. I confess, item one in my response to Henry’s followup e-mail was “Who are these people?” Ms. Tydings’ character is president and CEO of “Aphrodite Spacelines,” but that’s about the only reference.

ARTC: How did Ted Raimi [“Joxer”] get into this?
RNB: At the last minute. Otherwise, there would have been a character specially-written for him, too. As it was, I thought he’d make a really great Skip Sagan — but Skip didn’t have that many lines. Bill Ritch, I think, first had the idea of making him Rory. It was casting dead against type and not something I was enthusiastic about at first, but it worked out well. He can come back and do Rory for us as often as he wants.

ARTC: You got a little closer to this year’s production, I think.
RNB: I was able to attend the guests’ rehearsal. Yes, it was in Bill Ritch’s even-teenier-than-usual room in the Hyatt. And it was crammed with all of Bill’s audio equipment; he’d stored it there after Thursday night’s production of “All Hallow’s Moon,” so I ended up wedged between the side of a bed and the bathroom wall. Daniel and Clair Kiernan had the remainder of that side of the bed.

ARTC: Was this a tech rehearsal, too?
RNB: Not a chance! Henry had rigged microphones for the guests, though, so we could record clear voice tracks of their lines. If Henry has that, he can assemble voice tracks from the local ARTC-ians, music and sound effects into a complete program. Henry’s really excellent at that sort of thing.

ARTC: So, did this qualify as fun?
RNB: More like excruciating. Audio production involves take after take. I understand the only thing worse is video / film production. The guests seemed comfortable, though, and that’s what was important. Raimi, in particular, looked like he was having a hell of a time. I had to apologize to Daniel Kiernan, however.

ARTC: Why?
RNB: Daniel — who has played both Rory and Skip, by the way — is kind of ARTC’s King of Ad Libs. Which drives me — as a writer — up a wall. But Raimi was just as bad. In fact, he duplicated a number of Daniel’s ad libs from earlier rehearsals.

ARTC: Did that drive you up a wall?
RNB: Sid Jovi, non sid bovi.

ARTC: Huh?
RNB: Let’s just say that Ted Raimi can get away with some things Daniel can’t.

ARTC: Any problems?
RNB: Aside from the cramp in my calf? Well, the script does have one section where Michiko Sakai asks villainess Aphrodite DeHavilland where she found men corrupt and desperate enough to hijack spaceliners for her. And DeHavilland says, “Oh, I had them on the payroll already. Most of them are shop stewards with the Teamsters’ Union.”

ARTC: I think I see. Ms. Tydings is a member of SAG/AFTRA, right?
RNB: So Henry Howard warned me. I was ready to change her response to “Creative Talent Associates,” but with my luck they’d turn out to be her agents. The second fall-back position was “The William Morris Agency.” As things happened, she didn’t turn a hair.

ARTC: And that Ted Raimi story?
RNB: Oh, yeah! There’s a point in the script where Rory and Sakai strap themselves to the side of a disarmed space-to-space missile and launch it at the bad guys’ space yacht. They light the fuse and the missile takes off, Rory giving a cowboy yell and Sakai screaming in — fully justified, I think — terror. Mr. Raimi read that, paused, and said, “Kinda like that Colonel Kong in Dr. Strangelove, eh?”

ARTC: The scene where Slim Pickens rides an H-bomb down, waving his cowboy hat and yelling?
RNB: Exactly. And I sat there feeling like my mind had been read. I hadn’t intentionally used that imagery, but it was perfect. One way or another, almost all the actors we’ve used in DragonCon ARTC performances have surprised me.

ARTC: Were there any other guests working with ARTC this year?
RNB: Joshua Kane did all our narration and announcing for the Saturday night show. What a voice! And as a matter of fact, we also got Michael Sinelnikoff, from The Lost World TV series, at the very last minute. I think Bill had an idea he might want to play with us, because he [Bill] asked me before the convention about copies of an old script of mine, “The Most-Pierced Man in America.”

ARTC: The what?
RNB: Just what it sounds like. It’s one of an occasional series of faux daytime interview show pieces, hosted by women with names based on old British airplane manufacturing companies — Fiona Leonard as “Jane Handley-Page,” in this case. Mr. Sinelnikoff was “Oleg ‘Pincushion’ Penkovsky, the Most-Pierced Man” —

ARTC: ” — in America.” Any relation to the Soviet double agent?
RNB: Now there’s a character name I feel guilty about. No. The script is based on a segment on piercing I heard on NPR a number of years ago, during my afternoon commute. It was fascinating, but queasy-making. I squirmed quite a bit all the way home, but I didn’t turn it off. The object of the script is to make the audience squirm, too, and it’s been doing that successfully for years. We also traditionally give it to newbie actors at ARTC, just to see how they handle themselves under fire.

ARTC: Oh, fun…
RNB: For us, yes. Mr. Sinelnikoff handled it with perfect aplomb, I have to say.

ARTC: Could I ask what sort of —
RNB: Ear piercing —

ARTC: Big deal.
RNB: — nose rings, scalp rings, tongue studs, nipple rings —

ARTC: Ouch!
RNB: –a three-eighths inch diameter hex-head stainless steel bolt with a castellated nut and cotter pin through the wrist —

ARTC: Oh, my — !
RNB: — and something called a “Prince Albert” —

ARTC: I think we can stop right there!
RNB: That’s what Jane said.

ARTC: *Urg!* Plans for future DragonCons?
RNB: Yet another “Rory Rammer,” I’m sure. I believe the next installment in the “Heinlein Project” is supposed to be “Solution Unsatisfactory,” but you’ll have to ask Daniel Taylor about that. I haven’t yet managed to write anything over twenty-five minutes in length, but — who knows — maybe by next year… Say, isn’t it getting toward dinner time?

ARTC: I don’t have much of an appetite for some reason.
RNB: Pity…


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The Rory Rammer Universe

(Over the past few years, ARTC has been fortunate enough to have a number of well-known actors — Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space,” Robert Trebor, Alexandra Tydings, Claire Stansfield, and Ted Raimi of “Xena” and “Hercules” — participate in our DragonCon presentations. The vehicle for these performances has mostly been “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.” ARTC spoke with Ron Butler, who writes “Rory” for the Company, about the background of the series.)

ARTC: Why “Rory Rammer”? Like “rammers,” the Bussard ramscoop pilots in Larry Niven stories?
RNB: That’s probably in there somewhere; my subconscious sometimes throws up things even I don’t recognize. (Ted Raimi reminded me of that during the rehearsal for “Queen of the Spaceways,” and I’ll tell you about it later, if you’ll remind me.) But the name “Rory Rammer” — I grabbed “Rory” out of the air because I wanted a tough-guy name that might have come out of the Fifties, and thought of Rory Calhoun, the Western actor. “Rammer” was just alliteration. If I’d worked at it, I might have come up with something better, but Rory started out as just a throwaway name in a commercial.

ARTC: A real commercial?
RNB: A fake one. One of ARTC’s other series is “The Crimson Hawk,” a parody-of-slash- homage-to boys’ afternoon adventure radio serials of the Thirties. And some of the episodes include embedded commercials for “Whole Grain Flakes — the Breakfast of Americans!” They’re manufactured by the Cedar Springs Cereal Company, and I had an idea for a one- or two-minute piece about what’s happened to the company since then.

ARTC: And what has happened to them?
RNB: Well, they’re now “CSC International Comestibles, Inc.” and they make a breakfast food named “AdverCereal.” It has a sugar- and-testosterone frosting, and the spokesperson is a pit-bull plaintiff’s attorney, a sort of nightmare version of Alan Dershowitz.

ARTC: I don’t see where a Fifties space- adventure show fits in to this.
RNB: I’m getting there. The “AdverCereal” piece starts out with a letter from an old lady — whose name even I can’t recall — writing to ask about [Here Butler assumes a really terrible Monty-Pythonish old-lady voice] “Whatever happened to the swell folks at the Cedar Springs Cereal Company? You know, they used to sponsor ‘The Crimson Hawk,’ and ‘Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.’ ”

ARTC: Will you stop doing that voice? It’s annoying. And ageist, if not downright sexist.
RNB: Sorry.

ARTC: Okay, that gave you a name. A name isn’t a series. It’s not even an idea for a series. Well, maybe in Hollywood —
RNB: Oh, I’d say “Roseanne” tells me everything any sensible person needs to know —

ARTC: As may be. You had a lead character’s name, nothing to go with it, no supporting characters, no background information, and no plots.
RNB: Oh, those are easy. What I needed was a punch line.

ARTC: A punch line? Writing fiction starts with a punch line?
RNB: If you’re writing comedy. If you’re writing drama, you need some central image that the plot builds to and then develops from. C.S. Forester said his novel “Payment Deferred” started with the image of the main character in his bedroom with his wife’s dead body — and there’s a knock on the door.

ARTC: He must have been a hit at parties.
RNB: Is acting obtuse supposed to put me at ease? I said I was writing comedy. “Rory” would be part-homage, part-parody of Fifties radio space adventures, the same way “Crimson Hawk” bowed to boys’ radio adventure serials of the Thirties. Parodies need to be humorous, or they’re just imitations. And I find it easier to write comedy than drama.

ARTC: I thought “drama is easy, comedy is hard.”
RNB: Actually, I think that’s “Dying is easy…” It seems to be the reverse for me. Maybe it’s a matter of expectations. If you write bad comedy, people just don’t laugh at it. If you aim at drama or tragedy, and fail, people go, “Geez, that’s sentimentalist crap.” Or “mawkish.” Or —

ARTC: I get your point.
RNB: The punch line of the first “Rory Rammer” script [“Eye in the Sky”] was the Hubble Space Telescope.

ARTC: Is that funny? I have a calendar in my office of Hubble photographs. They look great.
RNB: This is the year 2000. We’re living in the future now.

ARTC: Huh?
RNB: Never mind. Literary allusion. Remember, this [the first script] was being written in the early Nineties. The Hubble had been launched with faulty optics, and it took a couple of Shuttle missions to set it right. Cost billions of dollars. So the punch line of the script — the only joke in it, really — was Rory saying, “Who would believe the Department of Science would launch a space telescope costing millions of dollars without checking the optics first? Sheesh! What sort of idiots do you think we are?”

RNB: Look, it took me a couple of hours to write, ran four minutes, and got a big laugh around Bill [Ritch’s] pool table. I know my audience, and that’s all I expected from it.

ARTC: So why didn’t it die there, as the in- joke it was?
RNB: I guess because it had so much potential for better — or at least lengthier — things, the same way that “Crimson Hawk” and Daniel Taylor’s “Bumper’s Crossroads” grew out of little throwaway scraps in Thomas Fuller’s “Don’t Touch That Dial!” proposal. They all tapped into radio genres that we knew well enough to play with and loved well enough to joke about. And a sufficiently robust series framework can also take present-day references without breaking down, so it’s not just all backwards-looking nostalgia.

ARTC: What genre was “Rory”?
RNB: Shows like “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.” “Space Patrol.”

ARTC: Buck Rogers —
RNB: No. Definitely not.

ARTC: What’s the difference?
RNB: “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon” are from the Thirties, same as “Crimson Hawk.” “Rocky Jones” and “Space Patrol” are late Forties-to-mid Fifties.

ARTC: Like I said: What stands between them?
RNB: The Second World War.

ARTC: I guess I’m missing your point here. Not that you’re being real clear.
RNB: The war was a technological and a social revolution, and it showed in the entertainment products of the two eras. Let me get the nuts-and-bolts technical part of that out of the way first —

ARTC: I’d expect that. You’re an engineer.
RNB: Harrumph. I hope my profession only adds another dimension to my writing, of a sort not to be found in the work of people with – – say — a degree in medieval French poetry. Anyway, what does a spaceship in a “Buck Rogers” serial look like?

ARTC: A little model on strings.
RNB: Which it was. To me, they’ve always looked like silver-painted shoes with fins. My point is that nobody knew what a spaceship should look like. Their best guess was based on Thirties airplanes, which is why you see fixed landing gear and tailwheels on some of them. They were vague about space, too. Fly into space and you might go to Mars — you might go to “Mongo.” Who knew? Space was fantasyland, and they projected the usual sort of adventure stories into it.

ARTC: This was different after the war?
RNB: Rockets turned real, in an awful sort of way. Air forces were still flying open- cockpit biplanes when it started. By the last year of the war, Germany was firing ballistic missiles from the continent of Europe through the fringes of space, to land in downtown London. After that, if you wanted to show a spaceship in your science fiction movie, you inserted some scratchy footage of a V-2 rocket launch. It was a real thing.

ARTC: Science fiction had turned real.
RNB: In a lot of ways. Rockets — spaceships. Radar — seeing things far away, in the dark. Penicillin — magic cures for disease. And the atom bomb. This isn’t my insight. Robert Heinlein, Willy Ley, a lot of others made the same point at the time.

ARTC: Okay, let’s move on to the “social” side of it.
RNB: Sure. Who launched Flash Gordon to the planet Mongo? NASA?

ARTC: I thought it was Dr. Zarkov.
RNB: Two points! A lone inventor-cum-mad scientist building an interplanetary spaceship in his garage, and paying for it out of petty cash.

ARTC: All right, that sounds silly now.
RNB: But that was the popular stereotype of technical innovation in America, pre-World War 2. Henry Ford. The Wright brothers working out of their bicycle shop. Thomas Edison — not that he was really a “lone inventor.” That was public relations. But that’s how people thought about these things. And nobody was going to spend government money on wildeyed space-rocket schemes.

ARTC: Things were different after the war?
RNB: During the war, the government essentially took over the economy of the country, spent everyone into the poorhouse, and did big, big projects. Building an army from scratch in eighteen months. Manufacturing hundreds of thousands of tanks and airplanes. The invasion of Europe. Setting up a global air transportation system, whether they were delivering packages or bombs. Inventing radar and sonar. Jet airplanes —

ARTC: And the atomic bomb.
RNB: Yes. The Manhattan Project was the new archetype for technological progress: Government funding, run by university scientists, and always with an eye to military applications. It’s only with the rise of the personal computer and the Internet that the paradigm has shifted.

ARTC: Para– ?
RNB: Call it twenty cents. Before the war, space travel was wild adventure in homebuilt rocketships. After the war, it was bureaucrats and the military and —

ARTC: Cops
RNB: The Space Patrol. Or the “Space Marshals,” in my case. I tried “Space Sheriff,” but it was hard to say without spitting.

ARTC: Okay, scratch out Buck Rogers. So your background was all pre-fabricated?
RNB: The bare bones, anyway. I had most of my fun during the writing of that first episode with the names.

ARTC: “Skip Sagan,” boy wonder?
RNB: Carl Sagan was still alive and well then. It may look like a cruel joke now, but I’m kind of stuck with the name. And it suggests intelligence, which I want from Rory’s sidekick.

ARTC: Intelligence? Skip? You’re kidding.
RNB: — coupled with incredible naiveté. Okay, maybe the intelligence doesn’t show through too well, but I’ve been trying to avoid the Wesley Crusher-ization of Skip. He gets used a lot as a fireplug for Rory to explain things to.

ARTC: “Professor Irwin Feynman?”
RNB: Is there to explain things to Rory. There is a scientific point to be made in a lot of episodes, you know, and that’s Feynman’s job. His last name is from Richard Feynman, the inventor of quantum electrodynamics — who has also since died. The first name is from Irwin Corey, a professor of a completely different sort.

ARTC: “Kryssa Feynman,” his daughter?
RNB: The maiden-in-distress-to-be-rescued in that first episode. I had intended her to be a sort of Tess Trueheart figure to Rory’s Dudley Do-Right, but it hasn’t worked out. Kryssa’s damn smart and far less impressed with Rory than he is with her. Plus he acts like a perfect jackass whenever he gets near her. It’s hormones. I think. I won’t talk about her name. That part might be actionable, to a sufficiently aggressive attorney.

ARTC: “Rex Gorbachev,” space pirate?
RNB: Please to say “privateer.”

ARTC: Was that supposed to be a Russian accent?
RNB: It was trying to be.

ARTC: “Gorbachev?” Have you no respect for anything?
RNB: Certainly not for things that don’t deserve respect. Mikhail Gorbachev is the Homer Simpson of late-Cold War geopolitics. The man who tried to put duct tape all over the Soviet Union and ended up breaking it. I’d make fun of him even if he was dead!

ARTC: Uh-huh. If Gorbachev is Homer Simpson, does that make Ronald Reagan Mr. Burns?
RNB: Matt Groening would doubtless agree with you, but I refuse to push the metaphor that far.

ARTC: Buck-buck-ba-caw! “Space Station J. Edgar Hoover?”
RNB: It was 1985. Who knew? Nobody is going to name anything after Hoover nowadays without raising a snicker, but back then — and in Rory’s world — what better name for a space station used by a federal law enforcement agency?

ARTC: I’ve been meaning to ask about that. The announcer’s introduction says: “…the far- off future days of 1985 A.D. After men have landed on the Moon!” Why 1985?
RNB: Well, it’s obviously not our 1985, the real 1985 —

ARTC: Aren’t history and reality social constructs?
RNB: Go walk through a wall. This is 1985 as seen from about 1950 or 1955. Think about it this way: thirty-five years before 1950 was 1915. The United States hadn’t yet gotten into the First World War. Nobody had yet flown the Atlantic. Radio was brand- new. Take the rate of technological advance over those thirty-five years, and tack it onto the state of things in 1950, and you get Rory Rammer’s 1985 A.D. Cities on the Moon, colonies on Mars —

ARTC: Hasn’t turned out that way, has it?
RNB: Let’s just say I’m severely disappointed in certain parts of the last thirty years. On the other hand, we managed to get rid of the Soviet Union without going through the Presto War.

ARTC: Wait a minute! The Presto War? Where’s that?
RNB: Well, it’s not in that first script. But it’s in Rex Gorbachev’s character sketch in the “Rory Rammer Bible.” Rex was the Communist Party General Secretary in Sverdlovsk until the Soviet Union collapsed after the Presto War.

ARTC: There’s a scriptwriter’s guide for this? You sat down and made up all these details?
RNB: Yep. It was fun.

ARTC: Out of your head?
RNB: Yes.

ARTC: You must be. Doesn’t a “bible” cramp your freedom to write stories however you want?
RNB: I find it actually stimulates my thinking and suggests new plots, so on the whole it’s an asset. Plus it helps me keep things straight. I keep trying to call Rex Gorbachev “Max,” and I’ve spelled “Kryssa” at least three different ways in different scripts. And I’m not going to hand you any more straight lines like that last one.

ARTC: Any possibility of putting the guide online?
RNB: I don’t have any problem with that. Why don’t you look and see if there’s a link around here somewhere…

ARTC: We still haven’t talked about the DragonCon performances.
RNB: And it’s getting close to noon. Why don’t we take a break and start back after lunch?

ARTC: Fine. There’s a Blimpie’s down the street.
RNB: I prefer Subway, actually, but if you’re buying —

ARTC: I’m not buying you lunch.
RNB: What? I’m doing this big-deal interview and the Company won’t even spring for lunch? What a bunch of cheap —


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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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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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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.


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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?”

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]