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31 Years of ARTC: LibertyCon 2009

Continuing our look back at ARTC’s 31 years (thusfar!) with photos from our live performances. You can get a look at our whole history of combining adventures in sound with the thrill of live performance in our Chronology!

In this installment we bring you our appearance at LibertyCon where we presented Our Fair City by Robert A. Heinlein, Omnilingual by H. Beam Piper, and Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: Enemies Within! by Ron N. Butler. Check out all the pictures on our Flickr album.

We’re prepping for our next performance at LibertyCon right now, and the setup there is a LOT different than what is depicted in these pictures. Come on over to Chattanooga, check out a great convention, and be a part of one of our best audiences of the year!

The famous Rory Rammer
The famous Rory Rammer “Yay!” sign!
David Benedict
David Benedict comes in peace. We hope.
Clair W. Kiernan and Ron N. Butler at the microphones.
Clair W. Kiernan and Ron N. Butler at the microphones.
Brad Weage playing two keyboards.
Brad Weage plays two keyboards and still turns his own pages!
Rachel Bowman runs recorded SFX.
Rachel Bowman on recorded SFX.
Clair W. Kiernan and Brian Phillips on the mics. Alton Leonard and Ron N. Butler wait their turn.
Clair W. Kiernan and Brian Phillips on the mics. Alton Leonard and Ron N. Butler wait their turn.
The Tech Crew - Bob Zimmerman, Bill Ritch, and Rachel Bowman.
The Tech Crew – Bob Zimmerman, Bill Ritch, and Rachel Bowman.
The Foley Team - Lili and Fiona K. Leonard.
The Foley Team – Lili and Fiona K. Leonard.
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31 Years of ARTC: Blues for Johnny Raven 2009

Continuing our look back at ARTC’s 31 years (thusfar!) with photos from our live performances. You can get a look at our whole history of combining adventures in sound with the thrill of live performance in our Chronology!

In this installment we bring you our appearance at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates, which featured our 2009 performance of Blues for Johnny Raven by Thomas E. Fuller. Check out all the pictures on our Flickr album.

This was our 25th Anniversary performance, and so we really went all out, as they say.

Bill Kronick and Alton Leonard
Bill Kronick and Alton Leonard going “all out”.

Y’know, we talk about how surprising it is that we’ve lasted so long. But the truth is that good storytelling is and has always been valued, so it really shouldn’t be that surprising.

Mary Buchanan and Megan Tindale backstage.
Ok, maybe it’s a little surprising.

This performance featured some of our favorites, some blasts from the past, and was a ton of fun. We got to see our founder William Brown take the stage again to recite The Mountain Whippoorwill by Stephen Vincent Benet…

William Brown on stage.
You don’t often see someone playing the “air violin”.

…as well as one of our favorite Rory Rammer episodes: The Asteroid of Love.

Fiona Leonard, Megan Tindale, and Ariel Kasten sing with Ethan Hurlburt observing.
Featuring the beautiful Android Sisters!

We were also treated to Brad Strickland’s An Arkham Home Companion.

Brad Strickland
Brad Strickland, just telling a regular old story about a tentacled monster trying to steal an eldritch book.

We were also joined by our frequent musical guest Juliana Finch!

Juliana Finch
Juliana rocks harder than you.

And, lest we forget, the main attraction, Blues for Johnny Raven!

 

Fiona Leonard and Daniel Kiernan
Raven (Daniel Kiernan) listens to the case brought to him by Gloria Kinsolving (Fiona Leonard).
Brad Strickland and Daniel Kiernan
Raven (Daniel Kiernan) consults with his friend and informant, Benny the Gospel (Brad Strickland)
Mary Buchanan
Mary Buchanan takes a break from playing the sax.
Ariel Kasten and Megan Tindale
We have no idea what’s going on in this picture.

Blues for Johnny Raven is in the final stages of post-production now and will be available soon, first by download and later on CD!

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30 Years of ARTC: Sci Fi Summer 2006

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology for a look at our 30 (and counting!) years of live performance!

This week we bring you our appearance at Sci Fi Summer 2006. Check out all the pictures on our Flickr album.

Sci Fi Summer 2006 saw an action-packed performance featuring The Brotherhood of Damn Sassy Mutants, Mildly Exciting Tales of Astonishment, Rory Rammer, Space Marshal, our genre-bending sampler Time for Station Identification, and all of that wrapped up in a unique package we called Three Bad Writers!

Sci Fi Summer cast
Not pictured: Three bad writers

We also tried a little experiment at this show. In the below picture, find the red dot that indicates the red microphone on the right, just to the right of Bob Zimmerman’s head. That’s David Benedict sitting and performing the recorded SFX as well as playing his part in the show.

Sci Fi Summer cast and crew
Pictured: Experimentation

Please note that we haven’t done this much. It worked, it was just inconvenient.

Sorry for the short update this week, folks. We’ll be back next time!

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30 Years of ARTC: Sci Fi Summer 2004

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

The convention scene has always been kind to ARTC. We get our biggest audiences, attract our most fervent fans, and have our biggest sales. We also have our best guest stars, and in 2004 we had the honor of performing alongside Lisa Getto at Sci Fi Summer.

Bill Ritch and Lisa Getto do a quick sound check.
Bill Ritch and Lisa Getto do a quick sound check.

Lisa was a great guest star. We actually don’t really know what she’s been up to lately, but if anybody has any info we’d love to catch up with her. She brought a talent to the show that really enhanced everyone’s performances and was a pleasure to work with!

Clair W. Kiernan preparing to sing bad karaoke in
Clair W. Kiernan preparing to sing bad karaoke in Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: Luna Shall Be Dry!

For our show selections, we went back to an old concept of Thomas E. Fuller’s, which was the idea of having a fictional radio network that broadcast old-time radio shows that were all in a similar vein. Occasionally one show would have a vague reference to another just to imply they were all in the same universe, but they didn’t really overlap. The concept was called the WOLF Broadcasting Network and we hope to get a bunch of these series into the studio very soon!

Phil Carter, Clair W. Kiernan, Megan Tindale, and Sketch MacQuinor in an episode of
Phil Carter, Clair W. Kiernan, Megan Tindale, and Sketch MacQuinor in an episode of Terra Tarkington: Interstellar Nurse’s Corps.

Among these shows were Terra Tarkington: Interstellar Nurses Corps by Wendy Webb, adapted from a story by Sharon Webb. This series tells the story of the intrepid Terra Tarkington and her adventures in the outer orbits with her beloved Dr. Brian-Scott.

Foley setup for Sci Fi Summer
Foley setup for Sci Fi Summer

We also included an episode of The Crimson Hawk. One of the great things about these kinds of shows is that they tend to be heavy on Foley. Some of our more elaborate productions make extensive use of recorded sound effects in order to keep the atmosphere more real, but in these shows we’re hearkening back to the days of old-time radio and so a little extra Foley is completely appropriate.

Cast members hold a makeshift sign that reads
The infamous “Yay!” of Rory Rammer.

Two episodes of Rory Rammer, Space Marshal were included. You can always tell when we’re doing Rory because of the infamous “Yay!” You can also tell when we forgot the sign and had to make a new one on the spot. Hey, give us a break. If you could see how much stuff we have to bring to a show, you’d be surprised we don’t forget more stuff.

Join us again next week for more 30th anniversary fun!

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30 Years of ARTC – Solution Unsatisfactory, Dragon Con 2001

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

Last week we brought you the story of Guards! Guards! at Dragon Con 2001. But we’ve been doing two shows at that convention for several years now and the second part of that double bill in 2001 was Robert Heinlein’s Solution Unsatisfactory.

Harlan Ellison introduces Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at Dragon Con 2001
Harlan Ellison introduces Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at Dragon Con 2001

First, we got things started off with a bang by being introduced by the legendary Harlan Ellison. Mr. Ellison has performed with us in the past and we were honored to be graced with his presence once again, even though he did not act with us in this production.

Henry Howard is presented with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award
Henry Howard is presented with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award

Shortly afterwards we took a moment to present Henry Howard, owner and operator of Audio Craft Studio, with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award. Henry’s studio has served us well for years, and he was instrumental in our acquisition of ARTC Studio. He has also produced and edited a huge amount of our work and we make use of his expertise whenever possible.

Thomas E. Fuller performs the iconic opening lines from Rory Rammer, Space Marshal
Thomas E. Fuller performs the iconic opening lines from Rory Rammer, Space Marshal

And we led off the performance with Rory Rammer, Space Marshal! The name of the exact episode has been misplaced, so if you were there, let us know what we did at this show and we’ll edit this to reflect it. But no matter which episode it was, it was a rip-roaring good time!

Daniel Kiernan and David Benedict share a laugh during the performance.
A rip-roaring good time

See? A rip-roaring good time!

Peter David and Alton Leonard in Solution Unsatisfactory
Peter David and Alton Leonard in Solution Unsatisfactory

After the Rory Rammer episode, we got to the main event. In addition to all the other star power we commanded in 2001, we were also joined by Peter David!

A scene in a radioactive room features the actors wearing masks to muffle their voices, just as their characters would be muffled.
A scene in a radioactive room

One scene in Solution Unsatisfactory features the characters in a room filled with radioactivity. They were wearing full lead armor in the script. We simulated that with standard filtering face masks.

Be sure to check out the rest of the album for even more great pictures!

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30 Years of ARTC – All Hallows’ Moon, Dragon Con 2000

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

Continuing our annual appearances at Dragon Con, and 2000 was a real doozy. First, it included one of Thomas E. Fuller’s best original pieces, All Hallows’ Moon. But we were also priveleged to perform an episode of Ron N. Butler’s Rory Rammer, Space Marshal series, The Queen of the Spaceways with Ted Raimi, Alexandra Tydings, and Claire Stansfield! All that plus Zap thy Neighbor by James P. Hogan, and you’ve got a stellar lineup!

Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, and Thomas E. Fuller set the scene in
Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, and Thomas E. Fuller set the scene in “All Hallows’ Moon”

ARTC doesn’t normally do costumes. It’s actually a long-running debate within the company – how to create visual appeal for a medium that doesn’t normally rely on visual appeal at all! But when you’re performing live, the audience expects to be able to see something and asking them to close their eyes can lead to inopportune snoring, so occasionally we give costumes a try.

David Benedict, Ron N. Butler, William L. Brown, Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, Daniel W. Kiernan, and Thomas E. Fuller portray the inhabitants of Mother Lode, New Mexico.
David Benedict, Ron N. Butler, William L. Brown, Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, Daniel W. Kiernan, and Thomas E. Fuller portray the inhabitants of Mother Lode, New Mexico.

Here’s another example of the costuming work for this piece. We have been very lucky to have a number of professional costumers work with ARTC in the past to help us on occasions such as this.

William L. Brown accepts the first ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award
William L. Brown accepts the first ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2000 we also debuted the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in audio. Presented first to ARTC founder William L. Brown and informally known as the “Brownie”, the award was renamed as the Thomas E. Fuller Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Ted Raimi, Karen Barrett, and Claire Stansfield perform in
Ted Raimi, Karen Barrett, and Claire Stansfield perform in Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: Queen of the Spaceways as Alexandra Tydings waits for her cue.

We also had the great honor of performing with three of the stars of Xena, Warrior Princess that year. Ted Raimi hammed it up as Rory Rammer, turning in an uproarious performance…that also happened to be about half an hour longer than we’d scheduled it for! Claire Stansfield and Alexandra Tydings were also spectacular in the roles of Michiko Sakai and Aphrodite DeHavilland.

Alexandra Tydings and Ted Raimi
Alexandra Tydings and Ted Raimi

This performance is still recalled fondly by those members of ARTC who were lucky enough to be present.

We hope you’re enjoying this look back at ARTC! If so, let us know! And don’t forget that your support is extremely important. Tell your friends! Tell your family! Buy a CD or make a donation!

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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…

[TAPE ENDS]

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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?”

ARTC: Ha.
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 —

[TAPE ENDS]

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A Guide for Writers for Rory Rammer, Space Marshal

by Ron Butler
“Rory Rammer, Space Marshal” is the radio equivalent of “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” or “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.” It is post-Buck Rogers, but pre-Star Trek, produced sometime between the end of the Second World War but before the beginning of the actual Space Age. As a boys’ afternoon radio serial of the Eisenhower Era, we find it a little conformist in mindset (at least on the surface), pro-military, and stereotypical. This should not be played for obvious camp; any irony should seem to be the natural result of the passage of forty years and changes in public attitudes. (In reality, I’m well aware that we’re writing in the ’00s for a ’00s audience. This is just my way of telling prospective writers to avoid the cheapest laughs.)

TIME
“1985.” Like the year “1964” in On the Beach (Don’t you remember — when World War 3 killed everybody on Earth?) this is 1985 as imagined from 1952. It is postulated that travel into space is common and that the Moon is well-settled; Mars, Venus, and the Asteroid Belt have been colonized but only thinly; and Jupiter and Saturn are the sites of scientific outposts.

LOCALE
Anywhere in the Solar System, especially the inner Solar System. I have avoided writing anything set below Low Earth Orbit because I don’t want to specify very closely what Earth is like in “1985.” (Classic Trek did the same for similar reasons.) At this stage of the exploration of space, Jupiter and Saturn are at the outer edges of things (though Pluto can be considered if you have a specific story in mind that needs it). Interstellar travel is out for technology reasons. This leaves you with “only”: Space between the Earth and Moon, the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, and various comets, etc. Oh, yeah — the Sun, too.

A SHORT TOUR OF THE RAMMERESQUE SOLAR SYSTEM

  • Earth:

The Soviet Union having fallen, the United States is the premier power on Earth, possesses the most colonies on the other planets, essentially owns the Moon, and throws its weight around pretty much as it pleases everywhere else. Nonetheless, there are British, French, German, Japanese and Brazilian colonies on various planets, moons, and asteroids. The space between the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and the orbit of the Moon has become thick with space stations, observation platforms, radio / TV relay satellites, and specialty manufacturing facilities. Due to the economics of moving from the Earth’s surface into Earth orbit (see “Technology” below) the U.S. Space Marshals are headquartered at “Space Station J. Edgar Hoover,” in a geostationary orbit over the equator at a point due south of Washington, D.C.

  • Moon:

Main source of materials and metals for the burgeoning orbital industrial zone around Earth, the Moon is getting a tad crowded and civilized but still has lots of holdovers from its days as a roughneck company mining town. (See episode “Luna Shall Be Dry!”)

  • Mars:

Mars has natives (see “The Green Man’s Burden) analogous to the North American Indians. Militarily and technologically, the “Green Indians” are overshadowed by the earthly newcomers, but a match for them (at the least) in intelligence, determined to defend their culture — while glomming onto anything interesting human civilization offers and adept at making a buck on the side, too.
The human settlements on Mars are the oldest (after those on the Moon) and tend to be heavily bureaucratic, stuffy, even puritanical since government authorities in charge of the colonization were determined to “do it right this time,” after letting capitalists, prospectors, saloon-keepers, madams, and all sorts of other ‘unsuitable’ people overrun the Moon. (See “The Martian Mafia”) The existence of the Martian natives gave the bureaucrats the excuse they needed to do things their way, so as to ‘protect’ the indigenees. The indigenees put up with it.
Environmentwise, this is a late-1940’s Mars, with thin but breathable air, savagely cold nights, and abundant flora / fauna.

  • Venus:

The other life-bearing planet, is the home of a really decadent alien civilization. Not specified to this point, think of it as the ultimate banana republic. The Venusians are eight feet tall, languidly elongated, yellow-skinned and stylish. (Think: elves. Snotty ones.) A government bureaucracy exists here, too, to protect the natives. The natives view it mainly as an impediment to smuggling exotic drugs off-planet, and selling their neighbors’ lands, mineral rights, and nubile young females to gullible humans.
Environmentwise, this is also a late-1940’s Venus — permanent cloud cover, hot and humid, jungles and swamps, but survivable by humans.

  • Asteroid Belt:

Where all those ‘unsuitable’ people went when the Moon got too crowded for them and the authorities wouldn’t let them settle on Mars. Abounds in two types of folks: Miners and social / political / religious utopians. Hard to tell which sort is crazier.

  • Jupiter & Saturn:

Gas giants, they cannot be landed on because there’s no ‘land’ (i.e., solid surface) there. There is a balloon-supported scientific research base in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and the various world-sized moons around the two planets offer plenty of playing room. None of the moons have been colonized yet but various nations sporadically engage in attempts to ‘claim’ them.

TECHNOLOGICAL TRAPPINGS

  • Space Travel:

The toughest trip to make in the Civilized Solar System (Say that three times fast without spitting!) is that between the surface of the Earth and Low Earth Orbit. Earth’s gravity well is deep and environmental restrictions do not allow the use of atomic power within Earth’s atmosphere. So any journey to or from Earth has two parts: 1) From the surface to one of three Orbital Transfer Stations (“Hartsfield,” “O’Hare,” or “Lacks”) on a chemical-fueled Orbit Freighter, then 2) on to anywhere else.
Large spacecraft which do not operate to Earth’s surface are generally atomic-powered, using water or ammonia as “working fluid,” to be heated by the atomic reactor and exhausted out the rear.
Small spacecraft — ‘runabouts’ — are powered by any of a variety of chemical fuels.
Unmanned freighters may use ion drives, which are extremely economical but have such low thrust that trip times may be weeks or months, even between Earth Orbit and Moon.
Typical trip times for passenger and military vessels are as given below:

Earth surface – Earth orbit
1.5 hrs.
Earth orbit – Moon
2.5 days
Earth orbit – Mars or Venus
3 weeks
Earth orbit – Asteroid Belt
5 weeks
Earth orbit – Jupiter
3 months
Earth orbit – Saturn
6 months

I have tried to keep at least a superficial gloss of plausibility on space flight in the “Rory Rammer” scripts. Just keep in mind: 1) It takes time to get anywhere in space, and 2) You *can* run out of fuel.

  • The ‘Silver Star’:

Marshal Rammer’s usual spacecraft, the ‘Silver Star’ is atomic-powered, but streamlined and with wings, to be used for glide-landings on Mars or Venus. Approximately 120 feet long and weighing about 1.5 million pounds fully fueled. Blazoned across the body is “Rocket Ship ‘Silver Star’ — U.S. Space Marshals — Homeport: Space Station ‘J. Edgar Hoover’ — R. Rammer, Commanding.” (See “Rory Rammer and the Martian Mafia”)

  • Weapons:

Standard energy weapon is the ‘blaster,’ from a sidearm to something the size of a battleship’s 16-inch artillery piece. Blasters fire ‘pulses’ of energy instead of a steady beam.
Projectile weapons persist, however, especially in situations where it is not desirable to melt a hole in the hull with a missed shot. Space Marine weapons include carbines (firing flechette rounds) and shotguns.
Not encouraged: Lasers. (Not invented in 1952.) “Phasers.” (This is not Star Trek.) “Light sabers.” (Nor Star Wars.)

  • Science and not:

I’ve been trying to stick to what was known / supposed about science, space travel, and the planets around 1950 – 1955. Please avoid doubletalk, inventions that would change the assumptions of the series radically, psychic powers (in general), and gratuitous one-time-only aliens. (Unless the script is really funny and then we’ll talk about it.)

ORGANIZATIONS / BUREAUCRACIES:

  • U.S. Space Marshals:

Extraterrestrial branch of U.S. Dept. of Justice — meaning they’re run by the same people who gave you the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The U.S. Space Marshals are headquartered at “Space Station J. Edgar Hoover,” in a geostationary orbit over the equator at a point due south of Washington, D.C.

  • Bureau of Martian Affairs / Bureau of Venusian Affairs:
    • Like “Bureau of Indian Affairs,” but “looking after” the natives of Mars and Venus.
  • U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Marines:
    • Relevant U.S. military forces. No other nations are allowed military forces in space. Space Marines can be called on for extra ‘muscle,’ like the U.S. Cavalry in an old “Lone Ranger” episode.
    • Space Force is ultimate Big Stick, when someone just has to be threatened with nuclear annihilation. It is USSF doctrine to shoot first and let the radioisotopes sort themselves out later. Space Force cruisers are large, fast, and named after archangels (“Michael,” and “Gabriel.”)
  • Dept. of Health Education, Enhancement, and Enforcement Proctors — Federal Mars Colony (The “Dee-Hees”)
  • De facto police force of the human colonies on Mars. Essentially unlimited powers, as they administer not laws but regulations. Enforce the draconian regs against tobacco, alcohol, high-cholesterol foods, fragrances and other harmful substances forbidden in the Federal colonies.

PEOPLE YOU ARE LIKELY TO MEET:

  • Rory Rammer:

From “Who’s Who Above the Tropopause [1997 ed.]”: Rammer, Alan Roarke. b. 8-16-52, Hope, Arkansas. Education: BS, Ga. Inst. of Technology, 1974. MS, Reno U. (U.S. Fed gov’t.), 1976. Brevet U.S. Space Marshal Div., 1976. First posting: Luna City SM Office. [See “Luna Shall Be Dry!”]
(Daniel Kiernan asked me at one point if Rory Rammer was like Roger Ramjet. No. RR is usually quite competent, even steely. Humor arises from his stuffy over-devotion to duty. If you *want* him to act like a buffoon, put Miss Feynman nearby [see below].)

  • ‘Skip’ Sagan:

Obligatory sidekick, Skip seems to be about seventeen years old. (Now if his voice would just change.) Hugely enthusiastic, his intelligence is matched only by his naivete. Described as a “Space Marshal Cadet,” he seems to be attached to R. Rammer so Rammer will have someone to explain things to.

  • Prof. Irwin Feynman:

Director of “Science Station Galileo,” a science research laboratory in Earth orbit Resident know-it-all scientist, good guy variety, mostly seems to be there to explain things to R. Rammer. (If you want a Mad Scientist, make up one of your own.) Widower, one daughter (see below).

  • Kryssa Feynman:

Prof. Feynman’s daughter, 25 years old. No, she doesn’t have a PhD in astrophysics, but she could probably keep up in a graduate seminar, just from listening to her father talk over the dinner table. Basically a nice, normal young woman — with a slight tendency to scream. Not as taken with Rory Rammer as he is with her, and sometimes downright unimpressed with him (See “Runaway Rockets”) and not above manipulating the marshal / her father / any other males in line of sight to get what she wants.

  • ‘Rex’ Gorbachev:

Former General Secretary of the local Communist Party at Severomorsk before the Presto War and the Collapse, currently a ‘foreign-currency entrepreneur’–which means about the same thing to the Ministry of External Affairs of the Russian Republic that ‘privateer’ did to Queen Elizabeth I when speaking of Sir Francis Drake. Often apprehended by Marshal Rammer and extradited back to the Russian Republic — which slaps his wrist and sends him out into the world again. So far, Rammer has resisted the urge to just shoot Gorbachev and get it over with.

  • Chief Two Moons:

“Green Indian” chief in the Solis Lacus [“Lake of the Sun” — lots of schoolboy-Latin place names on Mars] region of Mars. Regularly runs mental rings around local Bureau of Martian Affairs agents. President / CEO / Chairman of the Board of “Barsoom Corp. (Pty.),” the legal entity of his “tribe.” Addicted to the BBC Interplanetary Service, but somewhat naive about certain aspects of life on Earth. (Thinks the British royal family are sitcom characters.) Speaks perfect English with a posh British accent. Appearance: E.R. Burroughs four-armed Martian.

  • Sinead O’Chronos

Brilliant but unbalanced Irish physicist. Invented and attempted to test an experimental time machine in “Set Loose the Dogs of Time!” but was thwarted by an omnipotent superbeing that guards the integrity of the time stream. Last seen headed for her lab carrying a consolation prize from the superbeing: a live Archeopteryx.

  • Renee Marceau

Unbalanced but brilliant French geneticist. Was hounded off Earth to Venus after her genetically-engineered squid-snail hybrid grew to enormous size and wrecked the city of Marseilles, France before being destroyed. Hatched a plot to cover the swampy surface of Venus with a living carpet of mutant squid / snail / grass but was thwarted by R. Rammer. Probably dead; last seen being gulped down by the carnivorous “lawn” of her island while attempting to escape.

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A Rory Rammer Episode Guide

So far, there are twenty stirring adventures featuring the dynamic Marshal, his eager young Cadet, and his ever-expanding supporting cast, many of which have been featured at Dragon*Con and NecronomiCon. In approximate chronological order, they are:

Eye in the Sky
One-joke spoof on the Hubble Space Telescope’s problems. (I’ll do the really cheap jokes around here, thank you. — RNB) Introduces R. Rammer, S. Sagan, Prof. Feynman, daughter Kryssa, and archvillain Rex Gorbachev.
Runaway Rockets
Rory gets his chance to earn Miss Feynman’s eternal gratitude by rescuing her when her father’s rocket scooter runs away with her. Instead, he sets them on a collision course with the Sun.
The Green Man’s Burden
Rory looks on while Bureau of Martian Affairs field agent “Bubba” Beacham matches wits with canny “Green Indian” chief Two Moons — with predictable results.
The Martian Mafia
Attempting to capture a cholesterol smuggler on the Martian moon of Phobos, Rory uses a practical knowledge of orbital mechanics to save the day.
Luna Shall Be Dry!
In flashback, young Marshal Rammer gets his first posting, to the rough mining town of Luna City, just as a female temperance activist crashes the robot freighter carrying L-City’s monthly shipment of liquor. Rammer must take her into protective custody before the outraged miners capture her and do God-knows-what with her.
The Last Vampire
Recovering an object plunging in from deep space, Rory and Skip, with Prof. Feynman and his daughter, find it is the last survivor of a race of alien vampires.
The Island of Doctor Marceau
Investigating a terrorist extortion plot on Venus, Rory and Skip are kidnapped and brought before the shadowy figure behind the scheme: mad geneticist Renée Marceau.
Set Loose the Dogs of Time
Sent by the Science Council to shut down physicist Sinead O’Chronos’s experimental time machine, Rory and Skip are captured, trussed up, and must watch as O’Chronos cranks up her device — with possibly catastrophic effects on the very fabric of Reality.
The Asteroid of Love
Rory and Skip accompany the “Android Sisters” on a special USO tour to a Space Marines base on the asteroid 1011 Amor.
The Cosmic Cycloplex
While rescuing Prof. Feynman from a black hole-like phenomenon — a “cosmic cycloplex” — Rory falls in.
The Phantom Menace
Captain Cosmos, Space Pirate, is waylaying spaceships all over the inner Solar System in his sinister, invisible battlecruiser. But is that any way to make a living?
Enemy of the People
Crashed in the Martian desert with smuggler Rex Gorbachev, Rory must decide who is worse: Gorbachev or the Martian police, who are determined to execute him for smuggling in eggs, bacon, and Ho-hos.
The Planetoid of Doom
Rory and Skip, with the help of a robotic deputy, must stop an asteroid miner who wants to cut out the “mining” step of getting his ore to Earth — by nudging the whole asteroid towards Earth with a hydrogen bomb!
Queen of the Spaceways
Rory, Skip and undercover operative Michiko Sakai investigate a series of puzzling spaceliner hijackings between Earth and the Moon.
The Lance of Justice
Rory and Skip are assigned by the Undersecretary for Stratospheric Affairs to act as technical advisers for a new TV show: “Lance Thruster, Rocket Ranger!”
The Colour of the Shadow of the Outsider Over the Mountain of Madness Out of Space
The Dunwich Disposal Corporation uses power generated by consuming garbage to recharge depleted power storage units. But their energy output is far more than can be accounted for by the amount of raw materials used. Does Dunwich have an unlicensed atomic pile? Or is their power source… something else?  
The Meteor Surfers
Rory and Skip must stop a gang of “meteor surfers” — teenagers who “surf” down from Earth orbit using flimsy, one-man heat shields and parachutes, endangering themselves and any air traffic below. A gang of surfers hijack an orbit freighter for a mass drop — but Rory delivers them into the arms of Justice.  (Or at least improved parental supervision.)
Murder by Meteor
Rory and Skip, with robot police officer DARIL T-8, investigate a freak accident at a science station in the Asteroid Belt: A scientist struck in the chest by a meteorite. But was it an accident? Was it a meteorite?
A Visit from Saint Rex
(The infamous Christmas episode.)  He wears a red suit.  He has a beard.  That’s a sack of toys on his back.  But he’s not Santa Claus, he’s space pirate Rex Gorbachev.  So the toys are stolen and the visions dancing in his head have to do with the black market price of a “Pickle Me Nemo” doll, not sugarplums.
Slaves of the Zombie-Tron
Rory battles his own mind-controlled cadet in order to defeat the plans of rogue scientist Richard Icthyopolos.
The Angel of Destruction
When the State Dept. accidentally leaves the Saturnian moon of Iapetus off the list of U.S.-claimed astronomical bodies, three nations launch expeditions to take possession. Rory and Skip try to defuse the situation before it leads to a three-cornered war back on Earth.