Over the past year, I’ve contributed a handful of readings to the wonderful Starship Sofa science fiction podcast. Ciaran O’Carroll and Tony C. Smith began the show in 2006, as an in depth discussion of the life and works of a variety of New Wave and Golden Age Science Fiction authors. Ciaran left the show last year, but far from this being the harbinger of podfade, it spurred Tony on to new heights of fevered podcasting activity. The Sofa began to acquire the audio rights to a host of science fiction stories, poetry and factual articles, and started soliciting it’s own fictional content in the form of flash fiction.
Today’s Sofa has grown from a single weekly podcast to a pot-pourri of science-fictional productions, regularly releasing a variety of shows under the banner StarShipSofa: Science Fiction Audio Magazine.
Tony manages to regularly crank out the Round Table (a discussion of SF stories with some of the Sofa’s dedicated crew of readers and writers), Engine Room (a peek behind the production curtain), Aural Delights (short stories, essays and the like, read by a variety of professional and amateur micsmiths), and Sanatorium (an audio diary of his own eccentric doings).
The importance of the Star Ship Sofa, in this era of struggling old media, and horrendous science fiction magazine sales in particular; can’t be overestimated. The show is introducing a new generation of listeners to science fiction as it was meant to be enjoyed. Not merely as an alternative setting for a samurai or cowboy adventure, but as a fertile ground for new and strange ideas about mankind’s place in the universe, our relationship to technology, and the nature of consciousness itself. Great science fiction stories exude what’s become known as sensawunda, a glorious feeling that – like deja vu – has the quality of a unique and singular emotion. It’s clear that Tony and his fellow ‘Sofanauts’ share an enthusiastic familiarity with this addictive state.
So far I’ve done six readings for the Sofa (including two not yet released), you can download four of them (as part of Starship Sofa ‘Aural Delight’ shows) below…
Billy And The Wizard by Terry Bisson
Billy In Dinosaur City by Terry Bisson
Passion Ploy by Matthew Hughes
The Spencer Inheritance by Michael Moorecock
Gigantic by Steve Aylett
The Serial Murders by Kim Newman – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & 4.
Black Glass by Gary McMahon
I’ve enjoyed these readings enormously; even when I haven’t liked the stories, which has been quite often! Producing over the top characterisations, coming up with unique, appropriate (and often awful) accents for each character, and gaining skill in intonation and production, has been a whole lot of fun. Thankfully Tony has been heroically lenient with his narrators, allowing a great deal of leeway for creative interpretation. This is a good part of the reason I’ve just equipped myself with a new podcasting rig, as I’d previously recorded readings in TCD’s radio station. The show was also one of the main reason I began writing science fiction again, and hence sold my first story last year, to Irish magazine Albedo One.