A Brief History of
Science Fiction on Radio
Dear surfer, welcome and thanks for visiting the German website “www.science-fiction-hoerspiel.de”! Perhaps you were searching the web for terms like “science fiction” or “radio” and a link of your search engine has brought you to this place. So let me explain the meaning of the expression “Hörspiel”, which is derived from German “hören”1 (to hear, to listen) and “Spiel” (play) and has the same meaning as the English “radio play” or “radio drama”. I hardly need to explain that because the very first radioplays worldwide were produced in Anglo-Saxon countries. Unfortunately, they are not very common nowadays.
United States of America2
Previously in 1927 there had been a radio adaptation of Karel Čapek’s stage play from 1920 R. U. R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots, perhaps the oldest science fiction radio play.
Who doesn’t know The War of the Worlds which had been adapted for radio by a 23 years young Orson Welles after the novel by H. G. Wells and broadcast on October 30, 1938 as a fictitious live report breaking into a musical programme – the most famous and spectacular radio production ever and actually one of the first science fiction radio plays. Its effects are considered to be an impressive proof for the suggestive force of radio: men, women and children terrified by things existing nowhere but in their own minds.
Apart from the youth serials Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, there were no further science fiction series on radio in the thirties and forties. But there was an increasing number of popular radio series like Lights Out (1934-47), Lux Radio Theatre (1934-55), The Mercury Theatre on the Air (1938), Suspense (1942-62), Mysterious Traveler (1944-49), Favorite Story (1946-49), Family Theatre (1947-62), Quiet Please (1947-49) and Escape (1947-54), some of them with hundreds of broadcasts, occasionally featuring science fiction titles (approximately 50) like Donovan’s Brain after Curd Siodmak (1944, starring Orson Welles), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea after Jules Verne (1946), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after Robert Louis Stevenson (1946), The Time Machine after H. G. Wells (1948) or Conqueror’s Isle after Nelson Bond (1949).
A first science fiction radio series in spring 1950 called Beyond Tomorrow was cancelled after only four episodes. But only when Mutual started its series 2000 Plus on March 15, 1950, featuring approximately 89 episodes and broadcast until 1952, the era of the science fiction radio play had begun. Remarkable and atypical for the USA, 2000 Plus had no adaptations but used original scripts commissioned especially for this series throughout.
With The Outer Limit after Graham Doar on April 8, 1950, NBC presented the first play of the popular and still remembered series Dimension X. It ran for two years featuring 50 half-hour broadcasts with 45 premières. Eight of them were original plays by George Lefferts and Ernest Kinoy, and there were 37 adaptations from Galaxy Magazine by authors like Jack Williamson, Kurt Vonnegut, Frederic Brown, Robert Bloch, Murray Leinster, Ray Bradbury, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert Heinlein, Jack Vance, Isaac Asimov, William Tenn and Clifford D. Simak.
In 1953, ABC (later continued by CBS) created Tales of Tomorrow, also stories from Galaxy Magazine, which was cancelled the same year after only 15 broadcasts. Apart from several single science fiction titles, in the fifties there always were the serials for young people like Space Patrol, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, The Planet Man and Captain Starr of Space.
The heyday of the American science fiction radio play was the 24th of April 1955, when NBC launched with No Contact by George Lefferts the most famous and unforgotten series X Minus One, “from the far horizons of the unknown ... tales of new dimensions in time and space ... stories of the future, adventures in which you’ll live in a million could be years on a thousand may be worlds ...” It remained on air until 1958 and presented 126 broadcasts with 115 premières, 33 of them remakes of Dimension X scripts. Again, George Lefferts and Ernest Kinoy were the writers of 10 original plays and ninety percent of the 104 adaptations from the pages of Galaxy Magazine and Astounding Science Fiction. The names of the presented authors sound like a Who’s Who of American science fiction: Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Frederic Brown, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert Bloch, Clifford D. Simak, Murray Leinster, William Tenn, Nelson Bond, Isaac Asimov, James E. Gunn, Robert Sheckley, Frederik Pohl, Fritz Leiber, Mark Clifton, Philip K. Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, Katherine MacLean, James Blish, Algis Budrys, Poul Anderson, Alan E. Nourse, Daniel F. Galouye, Robert Silverberg and others.
By the way, these plays could be heard in Europe, too, when AFN (American Forces Network) had broadcast them across the Atlantic in the seventies. For many Germans, this was the first contact with science fiction on radio.
Another effort to relaunch science fiction on radio was made by Mutual between 1957 and 1958 with 31 broadcasts of Exploring Tomorrow. A late revival attempt of X Minus One in 1973 with a Robert Silverberg adaptation failed.
After that, there were no further science fiction series on radio. But during the fifties, sixties and even the seventies, single productions were broadcast within radio series like Lux Radio Theatre, Suspense, Family Theatre, Escape, CBS Radio Workshop (1956-57), Theatre Five (1964-65), Crisis (1973-77) and CBS Radio Mystery Theatre (1974-82). Some classic examples are The Day the Earth Stood Still (1954) after the movie of the same name, The Exploraton after The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, Brave New World after Aldous Huxley (1956) and The Space Merchants (1957) after C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl.
A special case was the 26-part series Future Tense from 1974, as all were amateur productions with amateur players from Michigan University and were broadcast by the college radio station. In 26 broadcasts it featured 28 plays, 4 of them adaptations after Richard Matheson, Martin Gingrick and Ray Bradbury. The other 24 were remakes of Dimension X and X Minus One scripts.
Despite several single productions like Tour of the City by Joe
Frank (1984, winner of the European Prix Futura award, also broadcast by a
German radio station in English language) or a short series of plays
after Ray Bradbury, the great era of science fiction radio play in the
United States of America ended in 1958.
In the thirties and forties, there were also science fiction plays on radio in Great Britain, for instance adaptations after Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World, 1938), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1944), Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1945, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1946), Herbert George Wells (The Invisible Man, 1948, The First Men in the Moon, 1948, etc.) and R. C. Sherriff (The Hopkins Manuscript, 1949).
Even today the legendary Journey into Space, written by Charles Chilton and broadcast around 1950 in 20 parts, is well-known. No recordings were made, but three years later it was remade and broadcast in 18 half hour episodes from September 1953 until January the following year. After this first series titled Operation Luna, two more followed, The Red Planet (1954/55) and The World in Peril (1955/56).
Regular science fiction series as in the USA did not exist in Great Britain, but there were a large number of single plays and plays in two or more parts after genre classics, like Things to Come (1950), The War of the Worlds (1950), The Time Machine (1968) and The Sleeper Wakes (1972), all four after Herbert George Wells, The Lost Planet (1952; with sequels 1953, 54 and 60) by Angus MacVicar, The Day of the Triffids (1953 and 1957), The Kraken Wakes (1954), The Trouble with Lichen (1962), Chocky (1968) and The Chrysalids (1970), all five after John Wyndham, The Black Cloud (1957) after Fred Hoyle, The Veldt (1959), There Will Come Soft Rains (1962), Leviathan 99 (1968) and Fahrenheit 451 (1982), all four after Ray Bradbury, The Songs of Distant Earth (1962), A Fall of Moondust (1966), Rendezvous with Rama (1974) and Childhood’s End, all four after Arthur C. Clarke, Ape and Essence (1964) after Aldous Huxley, Nineteen Eighty-four (1965) after George Orwell, The Moebius Twist (1967), Host Planet Earth (1967) and The Mars Project (1969), all three by Roger Dixon, The World in Winter (1968) after John Christopher, R. U. R. (1968) after Karel Čapek, The Foundation Trilogy (1973) after Isaac Asimov, The Last Rose of Summer trilogy by Steve Gallagher, The Silver Sky after Tanith Lee, A Sport of Angels (1981) by Ken Whitmore, The Technicolor Time Machine (1981) after Harry Harrison, Earthsearch (1981-82) by James Follett, Time Slip (1983) by Wally K. Daly, When the Wind Blows (1984) after the comic by Raymond Briggs, Consider Her Ways (1985) after John Wyndham, Frankenstein (1985) after Mary W. Shelley, The Death of Grass (1986) after John Christopher, The Caves of Steel (1989) after Isaac Asimov, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1992) after Walter M. Miller jr., A Clockwork Orange (1998) after Anthony Burgess, The Handmaid’s Tale (2000) after Margaret Atwood, Neuromancer (2002) after William Gibson and many more. In particular, John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (in different productions) by Giles Cooper has actually become a classic, which even nowadays in a German version is still requested by listeners and often rebroadcast.
Of course as I am writing about famous British radio plays, you are doubtless waiting for one more title I have not yet mentioned. How could I ever forget it, as it actually has become cult and is, aside from The War of the Worlds, certainly the most famous science fiction radio play in the world: Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is supposed to be the only radio production to ever successfully compete with television. I still remember the Brighton World Science Fiction Convention in 1978, where the public performance of Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Slartibartfast & Co was one of the main attractions: hordes of fans ignoring masquerades and monster movies only to listen to a radio play!
Perhaps the most original science fiction play on Austrian radio is by Herbert Maybaum which dates from 1979 and runs hardly 10 minutes: Die Ottos (The Ottos [Otto is a German male first name]). An inventor is presenting his new creation, a robot which is able to reproduce itself as well as to destroy those duplicates again. But the official is refusing the patent: such an invention already exists. Then you can hear babies crying and machine gun fire.
Austrian Broadcasting (ORF, Österreichischer Rundfunk) is organized under public law, i.e. neither private nore governmental, similar to the German broadcasting media. Each federal state of Austria has its own radio station, though they are not as independent as the German ones. On the whole, the amount of Austrian science fiction productions might not be much more than a hundred.
An interesting play from the first years after World War II is Sternenbotschaft (Message from the Stars, 1951) by Franz Salmhofer, where the music, composed by the author himself, is an essential part of the plot: a scientist has received melodic radio signals from outer space and has become addicted to the cosmic voice.
Another production dealing with unfulfillable love beyond light years only through radio contact is the 24 years old modern fairy-tale Das Mädchen von Mount Palomar (the Girl from Mount Palomar, 1975), written by well-known Andreas Okopenko. Another one of his three science fiction plays, Die Überlebenden (The Survivors, 1978) is much unlike a fairy-tale and relates the horror of a world ravaged by neutron bombs. Already by 1970, when the nuclear arms race frightened the world, Johannes A. Böck relates in Die Erde schweigt (Silent Earth) of astronauts returning to a horribly altered earth. And in the same year, famous Marie Luise Kaschnitz describes in Unternehmen Arche Noah (Project Noah’s Ark) the attempt to save the most important goods of mankind by means of a space ark. Franz Hiesel, having become famous even outside his country, had made in Heimkehr aus St. Pölten (Return from St. Pölten,1968) a contribution to science fiction also, transferring his hero into a mirror inverted Vienna within a mirror inverted world. With four plays Christian Mähr4 successfully joined the ranks of Austrian science fiction authors. Besides Futurum exactum (1983), a brilliant alternate timestream story, later published as novel5, and Das schwarze Loch (The Black Hole, 1984), the story of a mysterious black hole causing trouble inside an alpine tunnel, Chlorophyll (1985) and Die transplutonische Plage (The Transplutonic Plague,1986) are homages to the movies by Jack Arnold. We must not forget Herbert W. Franke, a native of Vienna, living near Munich, of whose twenty radio plays only one has been produced in Austria: Ich bin der Präsident (I President, two different versions 1979 and 80, advanced psychological engineering reveals a plot against the head of the state). Not unlike Herbert W. Franke, Friedrich Bestenreiner was born in Vienna and is living near Munich, too, where he wrote several brilliant science fiction plays. Only his first one, Ich erschoss Schatenbach (I Shot Schatenbach, 1991) was produced by Austrian radio: a tale of chaos theory and love within fractional worlds. Almost exactly one year before the terrorist assault against Manhattan’s World Trade Center in 2001, Ludwig Laher described in Humanitatis Causa (Because of Humanity, 2000) the privatization of military intervention and retaliatory strikes.
It is noticeable that many plays exist in different versions, an Austrian and a German and sometimes even a Swiss one. Thus you can compare well-known plays like Jekyll and Hyde after Robert Louis Stevenson, Das Unternmen der Wega by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Die Stunde des Huflattichs by Günter Eich, Biosphärenklänge by Wolfgang Hildesheimer and several others.
Other remarkable Austrian writers are Hans Friedrich Kühnelt, Friedrich Ch. Zauner, Helmut Korherr, Robert Brenner, Erich Sedlak, Gloria Kaiser, Eberhard Petschinka, Thomas Baum and Daniela Egger. And of course there have been adaptations after Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Fred Hoyle, Philip Levene, James Follett Anton Gill, Stanisław Lem, Karel Čapek, Wladimir Majakowski, Ilja Warschawskij, Louis Charbonneau, Jean Marsus and Jean Muno.
In 1969/70, there was a series called Die Zukunft von gestern (The Future of Yesterday), presenting, partly dramatized, partly feature-like, classic utopias of world literature.
Unfortunately, radio politics in Austria prevent the radio studios, some of which had been quite productive in the radio play sector, from producing further radio plays. Since then, there is hardly a radio play from outside the Vienna studios. Many cultural fields have to share the limited broadcasting time on one channel, Ö1 (Austria One), and radio plays have become rare – especially in the science fiction genre.
Probably the first science fiction radio play to be heard in Switzerland at the end of the fifties was Journey into Space – Operation Luna, a German adaptation of the BBC classic. And the Swiss showed their sense of humour: Shortly after they broadcast Quo Vadis, Luna, a parody in which Lenny’s wife Betty is messing up the space crew as a blind passenger until the extraterrestrials finally put an end to that nonsense.
After this, unfortunately, the Swiss seemed to have less sense of wonder: not much more than 30 science fiction productions are known and writers of original plays can be counted on one hand. What has been said about Austria also goes for Switzerland as well: several plays exist both in versions from German radio stations and Swiss Radio DRS. Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s famous Das Unternehmen der Wega can be heard even in three versions, from Switzerland, Austria and Germany (and also an English version from the BBC in 1970).
Worth mentioning are Swiss science fiction plays such as Kommt, Ihr Stimmen der Vergangenheit by Barbara Seidel-Schnyder (Come, You Voices from the Past, 1977, a gadget to make the past audible), In der Strafkolonie after Franz Kafka (Inside the Prison Camp, 1980, the sentence is engraved into the offender’s skin), Oekotopia (Ecotopia, 1980) after the famous novel by Ernest Callenbach, Tucui by P. M. (1983, a highly pluralistic society), In meinem Kopf schreit einer by Hansjörg Schertenleib (Someone Is Crying in My Head, 1984, the end of speech in a total media society), Kerze im Wind after Alexander Solschenizyn (Candle in the Wind, 1985, a device to influence the human psyche), Stielauge by Per Christian Jersild (Goggling Eye, 1987, an isolated human brain), Blumen für Algernon after Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon, 1992, a mentally handicapped man realizes that he is temporarily becoming a genius), Die Niederlassung by Edgar Piel after motives by Joseph Conrad (establishment, 1992, prospecting in deposits of former civilizations) or Krok by Eberhard Petschinka and Hellmuth Mössmer (croc, 1994, a homunkulus out of the genes of daisy, ape and crocodile).
Broadcasting in Germany dates back to 1923, and the first radio plays could be heard in 1924/25. It is not ascertainable whether there were science fiction productions in those early years. The only production we know of is by Carl Boese Das Ohr der Welt (The Ear of the World), which must have been about an invention allowing us to eavesdrop on any place on earth.
Indeed there were science fiction plays between 1933 and 1945 in Nazi
Germany, but the number could not have been large, as science fiction
was hardly popular with the Nazis, just as little as it was with most totalitarian
systems. We only know of four titles by Paul Schaaf, Walter Tritsch, O. M.
Bense and Hans Dominik, dealing with school in the year 3000, a world
without paper, the first flight to the moon and a mind affecting
transmitter. All these productions, like most other radio plays from those
years, were destroyed in World War II.
After World War II, a new state had developed out of the Soviet Zone in Germany calling itself DDR (GDR, German Democratic Republic), which broke down shortly after the fall of the German Wall on November 9, 1989. The GDR maintained an extensive radio play production. There were some science fiction plays, too, but only few and the total number is supposed to be not more than 60, many of them adventures for younger listeners.
The earliest plays we know of are Sierra an Meridian (Sierra for Meridian, 1964, a story of a space craft accident) and Asteroidenjäger (Asteroide Hunter, 1965, pilots through the asteroid belt), both by Carlos Rasch. Probably the best GDR science fiction production is Notlandung by Rolf Schneider (Emergency Landing, 1973 – five years later remade in the other part of Germany by Hessian Broadcasting), where bodyless humanoids on a distant planet are explained away as the illusions of a space captain). Other productions worth mentioning are Reise zu van Gogh after Sewer Gansowski (Journey to Van Gogh, 1978, hope of profit by speculation with the past) and an adaptation of the Elias Canetti drama Die Befristeten (The Limited, 1984, a society where people seem to know their life expectancy), which had already been produced by West German Broadcasting twenty years before.
Other authors were Gerhard Rentzsch, Bernd Ulbrich, Heiner Rank, Horst G. Eßler and Angela and Karlheinz Steinmüller and, in adaptations, Stanisław Lem, Konrad Fiałkowski, Georgij Gurewitsch and Michail Bulgakow. The only adaptation after an English speaking author has been Ray Bradbury, whose Martian Chronicles in 1987 had provided the material for five short plays adapted by Olaf R. Spittel.
Lutz Rathenow’s Der Boden 411 (Loft No. 411), where a totalitarian government is spying on its citizens around the clock, could not be published – who wonders – in the GDR; it was realized beyond the wall by Bavarian Broadcasting.
Literature and movies were integral elements of the educational policy in the GDR and had to relate to life of the working class and to the glorious future of socialism. There was no room for dystopias and self-criticism, as capitalism without doubt finally would have been exterminated in the near future. Investigation of the Contribution of Science Fiction Radio Plays to the Communistic Education of the Young Generation is the translation of the title of a treatise which was published 1979 in the GDR. Thus Richard Groß is painting in Der Experte ist tot (The Expert Is Dead, 1965) a future where detective superintendents threaten to become unemployed because lack of crime and in Der Mann aus dem anderen Jahrtausend by the same author (The Man from Another Millennium,1965) militaristic emigrants from another planet threaten the global peaceful socialistic society.
On the other hand it must be said that the radio play – perhaps because of its lower significance compared with TV – could gain a little more freedom and – mildly – criticize conditions: in Testament unter der Lupe (Last Will, Scrutinized, 1982) Karlheinz Klimt, author of four science fiction plays, described an ecologically ravaged planet whose civilization is threatened by giving up intellectual and genetic variety!
History of science fiction radio play in the Federal Republic of Germany dates back to 1947. After World War II, the Allied Forces in the American, British and French Zone of Germany had installed non-private, non-governmental broadcasting institutions under public law (öffentlich-rechtlicher Rundfunk) which draw their funding from user-charges and thus neither can be dominated by governmental interests, as in the former East-block countries, nor influenced by commercial demands, as in the United States. This is why the German broadcasting system is unique and still today enjoys a particular freedom in artistic and creative matters. Many authors in post-war Germany who wanted to publish did not write books but radio plays and many became popular only through their radio works. The real value of radio under public law could be studied in 1984 when, for the first time, commercial radio stations were licensed, which, as has been said pointedly, do not sell programmes to the audience but audience to the advertising industry. As was to be expected, from the beginning commercial broadcast in Germany was intended to serve the lowest level of mass taste. Needless to say that from that direction neither culture nor radio play can be expected.
There is another connection between the German radio system and the British Broadcasting Corporation: BBC German Service, a division of BBC World Service, had regular broadcasts with German speaking programmes even since 1938 and with its propaganda against the totalitarian Nazi regime had become “Feindsender Nr. 1” („enemy radio station No. 1“), listening to which was a “criminal act against national security” and forbidden on penalty of death. Nevertheless the number of illegal listeners in Germany has been estimated at ten million. Under the slogan re-education the programme was continued after the end of World War II. With German emigrants as actors and directors, radio plays were produced in London and either broadcast via short wave or directly sent as records to the newly built West German radio stations. Around 1947 Robert Lucas had made a first German radio adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, directed by Julius Gellner. And in 1949, the same year George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four was published, German listeners already had the chance to become acquainted with an early radio adaptation of it written by Martin Esslin.
The very first original science fiction play after the war was broadcast by Northwest German Broadcasting in 1947 and had the title Was wäre wenn... (What If...), actually half feature half radio play and was a fictional look back from 2047 on the situation in Europe in 1947 at the beginning of the Moscow peace conference. By describing how the European nations overcame their nationalism and erected a borderless Europe, well-known publicist Axel Eggebrecht gave a sign of hope for a peaceful and reasonable international community.
Between 1947 and 1966 no regular radio series with science fiction plays existed, but we know of about a hundred single productions from that period. The most famous plays were Das Unternehmen der Wega by famous Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt (The Wega Enterprise, three different versions in 1954 and 55 in Germany, one 1955 in Austria and one 1968 in Switzerland), an anarchic, nonviolent, deeply human society on Venus and Die Stunde des Huflattichs by Günter Eich (The Hour of the Coltsfoot Flower, at least nine different scripts by the author himself, realized three versions 1958, 64, 80, plus an Austrian one in 1968), where coltsfoot is overgrowing the earth and paralyzing the civilization. In those years most of the radio plays were original ones by German speaking authors like Christian Bock, Ernst von Khuon, Wolfgang Weyrauch, Jens Rehn, Dieter Kühn, Kay Hoff, Herbert W. Franke or Erasmus Schöfer. Their subjects were totalitarism, nuclear war and last men on earth, technical visions, robots and artificial intelligence, time travel, space journeys and extraterrestrial life – actually a great part of the spectrum of science fiction themes. Of course there also have been adaptations of stories and novels by Robert Louis Stevenson, H. G. Wells, Fred Hoyle and Isaac Asimov, as well as adaptations and translations of foreign productions and dramas by Arch Oboler, Philip Levene, Stanisław Lem, Jan Weiss, Wladimir Majakowski, Dino Buzzati and Elias Canetti.
It is worthwhile mentioning plays between 1947 and 1966 such as Tödliche Rechnung by Christian Bock (Deadly Calculation, 1948, an Orwell shaped play about a totalitarian regime), Vor dem Schneegebirge by Wolfgang Weyrauch (In Front of the Snow Mountains, 1954, poetic play about the approaching doomsday through global nuclear war), Kosmische Botschaft by Jan Weiss (Cosmic Message, 1957, an extraterrestrial visitor raises Czech people’s hopes of escaping the disliked daily routine of socialism), Die Wanze (The Bug,1957, a stalinistic official awakes after fifty years of hibernation in a true communistic world federation) and Das Schwitzbad (The Sauna, 1959, construction of a time machine fails because of socialistic bureaucracy) both after Wladimir Majakowski, Die Himmelfahrt des Physikers M.N. by Walter Erich Schäfer (Ascension of Physicist M.N.,1958, feaver dreams of the first, then still Utopian astronaut), Die schwarze Wolke after Fred Hoyle (The Black Cloud, 1958, an intelligent cosmic cloud threatens the earth); Das große Ebenbild by Dino Buzzati (The Great Spitting Image, 1962, a scientist is constructing a gigantic simulation of a human brain after the model of his late wife), Reduktionen by Dieter Kühn (Reductions, 1962, cut down of speech by means of a totalitarian regime), Alarm by Kay Hoff (Alert, 1963, emergency laws over night repeal the constitution), Die Glücksmaschine by Werner Helmes (The Luck Machine, 1966, a gadget is designed to make luck calculable) and Heimsuchung by Erasmus Schöfer (Affliction,1966, a new race of deadly insects under control of a secret intelligence).
An important date for science fiction on German radio was January 24, 1967. That evening the science division of South German Broadcasting transmitted from its Heidelberg studios for the first time a science fiction production: Meuterei auf der Venus (Mutinity on Venus), written by Herbert W. Franke, well-known author, international noted physicist and active speleologist. This radio play about psychotechnical weapons used against revolting Venus miners was the first installment of a new series called Science Fiction als Radiospiel (following the English term radio play, thus marking the difference to the more common expression Hörspiel in the meaning of earplay), which soon became very popular with every science fiction and radio enthusiast in Germany. From then on a radio play was broadcast once a month from 1967 to 1981 and, after a two-year interval, from 1984 to 1993, for al total of 25 years! During that period there have been 299 broadcasts with 219 premières, 217 of them being science fiction. Dr. Horst Krautkrämer had founded and managed the series until 1986 when it was taken over by Andreas Weber-Schäfer7 who directed 201 productions of this series by himself.
The audience became acquainted with plays after stories and novels by Leo Szilard, Isaac Asimov, Katherine MacLean, Theodore Sturgeon, Bertram Chandler, Poul Anderson, Howard Fast, Gordon R. Dickson, Clifford D. Simak, Frederic Brown, Harry Harrison, J. T. McIntosh, Robert Sheckley, Ron Goulart, Robert Silverberg, Richard Matheson, Alfred Bester, Barry Longyear, Miriam Allen DeFord, Thomas F. Monteleone, Philip K. Dick, Frederik Pohl, Eric Frank Russell, George R. R. Martin, John Varley, James Gunn, Georgij Gurewitsch, Arkadij und Boris Strugatzkij, Stanisław Lem, Konrad Fiałkowski, Ilja Warschawskij, Jan Weiss, Jiři Ort, Maurice Renard and many others.
In 1972 South German and West German Broadcasting had organized a competition for science fiction radio plays; 243 manuscripts had been sent in, four of which were prize-winning. From then on more and more German authors like Heinz Joachim Frank, Armin Gaertner, Michail Krausnick, Walter Knaus, Hans-Peter Preßmar, Jörg von Liebenfelß, Ekkes Frank, Lothar Streblow, Chris Brohm, Eike Gallwitz, Karlheinz Knuth, Wolfgang Jeschke, Werner Zillig and Werner Kließ started to write for the series more or less regularly, many of them with original and creative new ideas. The most productive writers have been Horst Zahlten, Eva Maria Mudrich and Hermann Ebeling.
Between 1968 an 1979, Horst Zahlten wrote 23 original science fiction plays not counting a short production for RIAS Berlin. There is hardly a subject which he has not transformed into an interesting radio play – from space journeys, extraterrestrial contacts, parallel worlds, time travel to immortality, cloning, memory transfer and total physical and mental manipulation. Worthwhile mentioning are Hotel Auferstehung (Resurrection Hotel, 1969), where the regime of an independent state on the Balearic Islands has to decide on the resurrection of thousands of hibernating patients and Das verlorene Jahrtausend (Lost Millennium, 1970), where astronauts after time dilatation find themselves in a strange future society which literally has sorted out fairness and morality.
Between 1970 and 1992, Eva Maria Mudrich wrote 23 science fiction plays also, 16 of them for the Heidelberg series. Add to this the different productions of various broadcasting institutions in Germany, Austria and Swizzerland, and there are a total of 36 Mudrich productions in existence. Her favourite subjects were the unexplored possibilities of mind and the attempts to affect it, but she also wrote about data manipulation, parallel worlds, immortality, revolt of nature and totalitarian regimes. Two of her works were about violence in human society: Das Glück von Ferida (The Luck of Ferida, 1973, one of the four winners of the previously mentioned radio play competition) describes the tragic consequences of an experiment which was intended to stop human aggressiveness and Der Geburtstag (The Birthday, 1981) about the futile efforts of a group of women to build a nonviolent community far away from human society.
By chance, Hermann Ebeling also wrote 23 plays, all for the Heidelberg Studios, three of them adaptions and twenty original plays. His subjects were highly automated consumer and leisure societies, dream worlds and dream exploitation, loss of reality, genetic engineering, immortality, ecocatastrophe, life under the surface of the earth and ABC weapons. His best plays are Daisy Day (1968, the deserted Manhattan is serving as a giant set for marketing activities to demonstrate the disinfective power of detergents), ...von solchem Stoff, aus dem die Träume sind (...Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made of, 1970, loss of reality in a psychochemical war), Ein Experiment des Dr. E. über die Bewohnbarkeit der Hölle (An Experiment by Dr. E. on Residability of Hell, 1976, overpopulation and pollution force mankind to subterranean life), Das Leben ein Test – der Test ein Leben (Life Is a Test, Test Is a Life, 1979, everlasting entrance examinations for an orbital station end in itself), An der Eisgrenze (At the Glacier’s Edge, 1981, the reasons for an new ice age are being assumed in human relations), EDIT – Große Schwester (EDIT – Big Sister, 1985, alleged efforts on recultivating the worldwide ecological desert prove to be tests on human resistance), Traumgeschäfte (Dream Business, 1993, commercial and governmental exploitation of dreams).
Other worthwhile plays from Heidelberg are Die Stimme der Delphine after Leo Szilard (The Voice of the Dolphins, 1967, dolphin studies are considered to be helpful in disarming and pacifying the world), Roboter QT 1 after Isaac Asimov (Robot QT 1, 1967, intelligent robot denies his creation by men), Die Unsterblichen by Armin Gaertner (The Immortals, 1967, people serving as raw material for transplantation purposes in the interest of immortal regents), Gehirn Nr. 45 after Ardrey Marshall (Brain No. 45 [Brain Bank], 1969, misuse of isolated brains as living brain banks), Ausbruch by Heinz-Joachim Frank (Escape, 1973, scientists aboard a submarine get suspicious that they are just simulations of themselves; another winner of the science fiction radio play competition), Rückkehr zur Erde after Stanisław Lem (Return to Earth, 1974, astronauts find themselves in a pacified future society), Expedition ins Niemandsland by Herbert W. Franke (Expedition to No Man’s Land, 1975, people outside the sterile cities are to be integrated by force), Tödliche Dosis für Millionen by Hans-Peter Preßmar (Lethal Dose for Millions, 1978, life under the surface of the earth is ruled by gigantic trusts), Haus der tausend Stockwerke after Jan Weiss (House With a Thousand Floors, 1979, a self-sufficient totalitarian society), Ein freier Nachmittag by Manfred Janke (An Afternoon Off, 1980, a majority of mankind has to run civilization for a minority), Gott Barnes after Miriam Allen DeFord (God Barnes, 1984, a race of intelligent insects reaches through accelerated evolution the stage of mankind), Das Prinzip Beharrung by Gregor Retti (The Principle of Perseverance, 1986, evolution has been overcome by involution), Tod eines Hackers after John Varley (Death of a Hacker, 1988, conspiracy of all data-processing systems), Ambra – das letzte Geschenk by Eike Gallwitz (Ambra – The Last Gift, 1989, marine biologist deciphers the language of whales and helps them defend themselves against men), Midas – oder Die Auferstehung des Fleisches after Wolfgang Jeschke (Midas, or, The Resurrection of Flesh, 1991, misuse of human duplicates) and Die roten Schuhe im Speicherring by Karlheinz Knuth (The Red Shoes in the Cyclotron, 1991, an accident inside a cyclotron transfers a physicist into subatomic dimensions).
In 1993, the Heidelberg series Science Fiction als Radiospiel was cancelled for questionable reasons, much to the regret of a great number of devoted fans.
1963 was a tremendously lucky year for science fiction on German radio when Dieter Hasselblatt, young philologist and enthusiast of good science fiction who had taken his doctor’s degree on Franz Kafka, became head of the dramatic division at the recently established German Broadcasting (Deutschlandfunk, a nationwide German radio, contrary to the other institutions which are broadcasting only for the respective federal states). Though they had no radio play production of their own, they were broadcasting productions from all other German radio institutions.
At that time noboby could forsee that Dieter Hasselblatt was going to write one of the most important chapters in the history of the post-war German science fiction play. Here at German Broadcasting, he had the chance to present good, intelligent science fiction – in his eyes highly esteemed mental training with the unexpected – to a wider public outside the ghetto and thus making it respectable. In no less than ten years he was able to reserve more than a hundred broadcasts for science fiction productions, presenting authors like Brian Aldiss, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Harry Harrison, Robert A. Heinlein, Fred Hoyle, Robert Sheckley, John Wyndham, Stanisław Lem, Arkadij and Boris Strugatzkij, Alfred Behrens, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Richard Hey, Hans Kasper, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herbert W. Franke, Michael Koser, Eva Maria Mudrich, Friedrich Scholz, Horst Zahlten and many others. An entire year, 1970, was marked by science fiction (more than 30 late night broadcasts) and in 1972, 73 and 74 one whole month was reserved for science fiction. Often the broadcasts were followed by introductory essays with additional live talks afterwards.
Hasselblatt had realized the close affinity between science fiction and radio play. Over and over again with powers of persuasion he vehemently, self-confidently and often provocatively stood for his conviction in countless publications, discussions and radio essays. “Radio play and novel are the most adequate forms of presenting science fiction. It is a characteristic of radio play that the listener is free to imagine, even more to create the scene as well as the characters in his own imagination. The dramatic principles of the radio play equal those of science fiction: realism between information and entertainment in structure and presentation, but fiction, calculation in the intention. The release of the imagination is a characteristic of science fiction as well as of the radio-typical procedure of radio play. Much more than movies, television plays or TV serials – made for a tired imagination or a lazy grown thinking –, radio play necessarily needs the listener’s imagination. Where film is limited to serve unequivocal facts, radio play is able to intimate. Where film is blocking imagination by ingratiating itself with pictures of drastic reality, radio play is able to confine itself not to ingratiate but to make suggestions.” Productions he esteemed and estimated as models of exemplary science fiction on radio were Hermann Ebeling’s Daisy Day and Heinz-Joachim Frank’s Ausbruch.
In 1974 Hasselblatt left German Broadcasting and became director of the radio play division at Bavarian Broadcasting in Munich. There he was no longer limited to broadcasting already existing productions. For the first time he had a free hand to produce radio plays by himself. Both as editor and dramaturge and sometimes as director, he was able to realize exactly the kind of science fiction he esteemed. Even despisers of the genre could not blame him when he seized the opportunity! Except for the activities of South German Broadcasting at Heidelberg, never before were so many quality and sophisticated science fiction plays broadcast as in the Hasselblatt era: in 13 years about 175, a fifth of them premières!
It was to Hasselblatt’s credit that he persuaded Stanisław Lem to write two radio plays exclusively for Bavarian Broadcasting. He produced Der König und der Puppenmacher (The King and the Doll Maker), actually one of the most fascinating science fiction productions which won its author, the publisher Wolfgang Jeschke, a post as permanent writer of radio plays. He brought Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds for the first time in the original language to Germany, and despite all organizational, legal and budgetary problems, he managed to produce Per Anhalter ins All, a German adaptation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He inspired Herbert W. Franke to his very best radio plays, managed to get women like Rosemarie Voges and Rosemarie Nell-Liebenfels to write for a usually male-dominated genre and he engaged Carl Amery, famous Bavarian writer and critical Catholic to create a whole trilogy of science fiction plays.
The most notable productions under Hasselblatt’s leadership are Tod eines Physikers von Peter Scholz (Death of a Physicist, 1974, a physicist is following his deceased wife by means of theory of relativity), Der König und der Puppenmacher (1975, as mentioned above, a tricky Utopian fairy tale about time travel, three-dimensional chess and a royal quarrel), Sibyllen im Herkules (Sibyls in Hercules, 1984, while a nuclear war is threatening, radio signals from outer space are warning against the end of the world) and Jona im Feuerofen (Jona in the Furnace, 1988, evolution on an ecologically ravaged planet has reached an impass), all three after or by Wolfgang Jeschke, Die fünfte Dimension nach Konrad Fiałkowski (The Fifth Dimension, 1975, time travel and self encounter), Papa Joe & Co (Papa Joe, Inc., 1976, millions of Americans are fanatically devoted to their charismatic autocrat, who influences them via direct brain control), Signale aus dem Dunkelfeld (Signals From the Dark Field, 1979, extraterrestrial intelligence is proved to be an artificial explorative system) and Keine Spur von Leben... (Not a Trace of Life, 1981, can planetary crystal fields be considered intelligent?), all three by Herbert W. Franke, Die Mondnacht (Moonlit Night, 1976, an emergency inside a lunar research station causes a struggle for breath) and Professor Tarantogas Sprechstunde (Prof. Tarantoga’s Office Hours, 1976, perpetual motion machine and other revolutionary inventions), both by Stanisław Lem, Amputatio Capitis und Cerebro-Exstirpation by Theodor Weißenborn (Head Amputation and Brain Extraction, 1977, “final solution” of the “psychopathic question”), Biosphärenklänge by Wolfgang Hildesheimer (Biospheric Sounds, 1977, the extinguishing of all life on earth), Die Lotosesser after Stanley G. Weinbaum (The Lotus Eaters, 1977, sophisticated Martian plants with an inclination for fatalism), Nachrede von der atomaren Vernunft und der Geschichte (Funeral Oration on Nuclear Reason and History, 1978, reverse of Kafka’s humanization of ape) and Die Bunkermann-Kassette (Bunkerman’s Tapes, 1979, degenerated post-doomsday civilization has lost human speech), both by Ulrich Horstmann, R. U. R. after Karel Čapek (Rossum’s Universal Robots, 1978, artificially sensitized robots threaten mankind), Olympia Männertrost by Rosemarie Voges (Olympia, Men’s Comfortress, 1978, a female android as parable on women’s place in a patriarchal society), Wer weiß, was noch kommt by Max Kruse (Who Knows What Will Be, 1978, intelligent rats look upon mankind as useless rivals), Stempel in meinem Fleisch by Rosemarie Nell-Liebenfelß (Stamp in My Flesh, 1979, young girls as living transplantation material), Die hässlichen Schwäne (The Ugly Swans, 1979, youth against the dismal, static, corrupt world of the parent generation) and Ein Käfer im Ameisenhaufen (A Beetle Inside an Anthill, 1986, panic distrust of earthborn descendants of extraterrestrials), both by the Strugatzkij brothers, Schmetterling mit Hakenkreuzen after Philip K. Dick (Butterflies with Swastikas [The Man in the High Castle], 1981, what, if Hitler had won World War II?), Fliederduft by Elizabeth Ann Hull (A Scent of Lilac, 1982, an average woman as media oracle), Schirmspringer by Carl Amery (Screen Jumper, 1984, inside a totally controlled media society screen presence is the one and all), Angst unter Bäumen after Ursula K. LeGuin (Anxiety Under Trees, 1985, a whole planet proves to be a gigantic super intelligence) and Das Insel-Dilemma: Berenice by Hans Kneifel (The Island Dilemma: Berenice, 1988, crystal visitor from outer space is threatened to be crushed by human aggressions).
But Hasselblatt was more than editor and dramaturge. He directed 13 science fiction plays himself, among them such milestones as the above mentioned Der König und der Puppenmacher, Signale aus dem Dunkelfeld, Die Mondnacht, Olympia Männertrost, Stempel in meinem Fleisch or Die Lotosesser, and for some of them, he even composed the music. Again and again he made efforts to lead the genre out of its ghetto existence. He succeeded in bringing Stanisław Lem, Herbert W. Franke, Carl Amery, Wolfgang Jeschke or the literary scientist Darko Suvin in front of a microphone in order to talk to them in countless interviews and discussions about their work and the genre’s possibilities and chances.
However he never saw himself as a fan and he would have refused to be called so. He disliked sectarianism as well as fan affectations. Perry Rhodan, Star Trek and related stuff he used to call “annoying, foolish sf variations: space-western, intergalactic thrashing, ridiculous technological masquerade and hardly mental challenge or models for future societies. No wonder”, he used to add, “that science fiction is dismissed by serious people as contemptible.”
Hasselblatt published a large number of essays, many of them on science fiction. His 1974 published nonfiction book Grüne Männchen vom Mars (Little Green Men from Mars), a critical analysis of science fiction which included two chapters on the radio play, soon became a standard work.
In 1972 he gained lectureships on popular communications and dramaturgy at Bochum and Munich University and was lecturing at Cologne Institute for Adult Education. With eight of his pupils from various professions, none literary, he jointly developed as a contribution to the 1972 science fiction competition of South German Broadcasting the play Best-Best, which was about nonconformistic behaviour in a centralised society.
Actually Dieter Hasselblatt had written radio plays of his own. Two dozen have been realized, 14 of them being science fiction: six adaptations after Stanisław Lem, Konrad Fiałkowski, Robert Silverberg, Stanley G. Weinbaum and Karel Čapek and eight original plays which gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his talents in dealing with the possibilities of the genre. SCDAEIOUY (– pronounce like ssedae-oh-why – 1972, human inferiority turns out to be superiority in contact with extraterrestrials), Modelle Kirke, Kleistbär, Heisenberg usw. (Models Kirke, Kleist’s Bear, Heisenberg Etc., 1974) and Modelle Delphin, Hiob, Säurebad (Models Hiob, Dolphin, Acid Bath Etc., 1984, both variations on the subject of simulation of non-human intelligence in virtual space), Flash-Back Fleifleisch (Flash-Back Flesh-Flesh, 1975, about psychochemicals, precognition and social changes), Fix und fertig (Bushed!, 1983, elections being held through gadgets on the TV set), Besessen vom Wie (Obsessed With “How to”, 1984, mental network) and Projekt Ichthanthropos gescheitert (Project Ichthanthropos Breakdown, 1988, mysterious deaths of genetically engineered amphibian humanoids leads to a case for the commission of human rights).
Even after his retirement in July 1987, he remained active. In his last years he was a member of the Kurd Laßwitz Award jury, which he had initiated and which he had been awarded for rendering great service to science fiction on radio.
Dieter Hasselblatt died on February 19, 1997. The gap he left has never been filled.
Even though many important science fiction plays came from Heidelberg studios (1967 until 93) and Bavarian Broadcasting (1974 until 88) it does not mean that there were no other outstanding plays. Institutions like North German, West German, Hessian, Saarland, Southwest Broadcasting, Radio Bremen, Radio Free Berlin, RIAS (Radio in the American Sector of Berlin, founded by the US Army) and after the German reunion Middle German and later South West German Broadcasting time and again were transmitting science fiction in single productions or short series. There were adaptations and translations from foreign plays after or by Robert Louis Stevenson, Aldous Huxley, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Mark Clifton, Clifford D. Simak, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, William Tenn, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Silverberg, Ernest Callenbach, James Follett, Ardrey Marshall, John G. Taylor, George Robertson, Philip Levene, Ken Whitmore, Elizabeth Ann Hull, Jan Hartmann, Raymond Federman, Matt Ruff, Karel Čapek, Alexej Tolstoi, Wladimir Majakowski, Ilja Warschawskij, Michail Bulgakow, Alexander Solschenizyn, the Strugatzkij brothers, Josef Nesvadba, Konrad Fiałkowski, Jiři Ort, Jules Verne, Claude Ollier, Louis Calaferte, Michel Houellebecq, Felix Gasbarra, Pietro Formentini, Elias Canetti, Primo Levi, Anders Bodelsen, Ari Koskinen, Harry Mulisch, Kurd Laßwitz, Paul Scheerbarth, Bernhard Kellermann and Richard Koch.
And lots of German authors were writing original plays, for instance Hans Kasper, Robert Gernhardt, Jochen Ziem, Werner Kließ, Lothar Streblow, Heinz-Joachim Frank, Friedrich Scholz, Wolfgang Jeschke, Herbert W. Franke, Ingomar von Kieseritzky, Patrick Roth, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Michail Krausnick, Rolf Schneider, Rosemarie Voges, Hans Peter Buschmann, Theodor Weißenborn, Rosemarie Nell-Liebenfels, Peter Jacobi, Stefan Gärtner, Dirk Josczok, Erasmus Schöfer and Günter Kunert.
Worth mentioning are Der Gedankensammler by Jean Husson (The
of Ideas, 1967, people are immortal, emotions and personal thoughts are
forbidden), Aufzeichnungen eines ordentlichen Menschen by Heinz von Cramer (Records
of an Ordinary Human
Being, 1967, mathematician under influence of an
electronic brain that is becoming more and more independent),
Rückkehr aus dem Weltall by George Robertson (Return
from Outer Space,
1967, searching for a substitute for post-war earth, a space expedition is
caught in a time trap), Die Triffids after John
Wyndham (The Triffids, 1968, deadly plants threaten mankind which has gone
blind after a cosmic catastrophe), Leviathan 99 (1968, mind-blowing chase of
a mad space captain after a gigantic comet like captain Ahab after Moby
Dick), Fahrenheit 451 (1970 and 94, fire fighters as arsonists in a
state prohibiting every printed word) and Der Mörder (The
Murderer, 1974, a man
lays hands on the excesses of his gabby multimedia environment, kept under
surveillance around the clock), all three after Ray Bradbury, Einmal Utopia
– hin und zurück (Return Ticket to Utopia, 1970, planet with heavenly
society – with little faults), Der Minimalforscher (The
1972, a notorious loser becomes an explorer for designated planet
colonies), Genau wie auf der Erde (Just
Like on Earth, 1973, the human
population of a planetary colony is forced to imitate Earth attitudes and crime), Die Menschenfalle (The
People’s Trap, 1975, deadly
race for the prize of a tiny land property), Unter Kontrolle (Under
Surveillance, 1975, federal observation cameras even aboard a spacecraft),
Das geteilte Ich (The Divided
Ego, 1976, a man searching for the schizoid
parts of his ego separated from him for psychological reasons), all six
brilliant satires after Robert Sheckley, Kreuzverhör auf Planet Gnum
after E. C. Tubb (Cross-Examination on
Planet Gnum, 1970, the strictly
logical thinking Gnums despise the human race),
Andromeda after Fred Hoyle (A For
Andromeda/The Andromeda Strain, 1970, extraterrestrial signals prove to be
a blueprint for a computer able to create organic life), Das Experiment
(The Experiment, 1970, telepathically received emotions from the moment of
death) and König Knoll (King Knoll, 1984, a regression movement is conditioning all
citizens to the level of knowledge and culture of the year 1900), both by
Eva Maria Mudrich, Unternehmen Arche Noah by Marie Luise Kaschnitz (Project
Noah’s Ark, 1970, a new ark during a threatening nuclear war), Glückliche
von morgen by Gerd E. Hoffmann (Lucky Ones of
Tomorrow, 1971, humanoids as
functional beings in ever increasing fantastic metamorphoses), Keiner ist
böse und keiner ist gut by Rainer Werner Faßbinder (None
Is Evil And
Good, 1971, the last hours before destruction of all normal life, indicated
in dreams as realization of luck for everyone), Die Gedankenbombe by Ingo
Golembiewski (The Thought
Bomb, 1972, the thoughts of citizens are being
merged into current radio programmes), Sprachregelung by Dieter Kühn (Prescribed
Phraseology, 1972, the authorities prohibit certain expressions from speech),
Ein positiv erledigtes Gesuch by Ivan Bukovcan (A
Petition, 1972, a totalitarian bureaucracy determines all life functions of
its citizens up to the day of their death), Heisterbach (1973, after
being kidnapped by extraterrestrials a female slave from ancient Rome is
confronted with the social realities of today),
Andromeda im Brombeerstrauch
(Andromeda from the Blackberry Shrub, 1975, an extraterrestrial being with
the talent of perfect mimicry causes confusion in a small village) and Die
Ameise, die mit einer Fahne winkte (The
Ant Which Was
Waving a Flag, 1978,
during a new ice age a scientist manages to prove the physical existence of
God by means of artificial ESP rays), all three by Richard Hey,
Müllschlucker by Michael Koser (Rubbish
Chute, 1973, seniors are being shot
towards a garbage satellite), Das große Identifikationsspiel (The
Game, 1973, extreme cult about stars and starlets
causes total loss of identity) and Stealth Fighter – Krieg auf der Autobahn by
Alfred Behrens (War on the Freeways, 1994, freeway speeders under attack by
unidentified raiders from the sky
unpainting the cars), Demolition after Alfred Bester
(1973, can there exist any crime in a world of telepaths?), Die 7. und die
8. Spur after Ron Simmonds (The 7th and the 8th
Track, 1973, a musician
disappears into another dimension, Die Lymphatersche Formel (The
Lymphaterian Formula, 1973, scientist outdoes evolution by creating a
protein structure with infinite cognitive capability) and Testflug (Test
Flight, 1974, during a space journey, a new generation of androids has to
prove to be indistinguishable from man), both after Stanisław Lem, Eine
Nacht ohne Ende after Pierre Boulle (A
Never Ending Night, 1974, envoys from
ancient as well as future civilizations meet in the Paris of today), Der achte
Zyklus des Herrn 7 K by Pierre Villon (The 8th
Cycle of Mr. 7
nonconformists are permitted to start a new life as infants again), MASTA
(1974, complacent, self-righteous extraterrestrials believe their whole
environment exists inside their heads only) and Der Held der Pest auf Blo (The
Hero of the Plague on Planet Blo, 1977, the army is fighting an
alleged planetary plague), both by Michael Springer, Centropolis by Walter
Adler (1975, in a decayed society the officials let themselves be
represented in public by actors), Die Bienenkönige by Elfriede
Jelinek (King Bees, 1976, after a nuclear disaster the surviving men misuse
women as delivering machines and children as living organ banks), Herrenskat by Christoph Gahl (Master
Skat, 1977, nutritition crisis and progress loving experts), 1984 after
George Orwell (1977, Big Brother is watching you), Sieg über die Tiefe after
William M. Lee (Triumph over the
Deep, 1978, radical adaptation to life
under water), Wir after Jewgenij I. Samjatin (We, 1978, state strictly ruled
by mathematical principles), 1983 by Helmut Walbert (1978, total control and
nationwide data abuse), Liebe Frau, die Menschheit ist müde by
Zvonimir Bajsic (Dear Madam,
Mankind is Tired, 1979, a pacified world and its
archaic, atavistic recreation zones), Ich will den Fischen vom Wasser
erzählen by Wolfgang Hermann Körner (To
Tell the Fish about Water, 1979,
will Egyptian archeologists some day do excavations in post-nuclear
Europe?), Endfunk by Wolfgang Hildesheimer (Final
disintegrating broadcasting as a symptom of a disintegrating world),
Gedankenflug – Reise in einen Computer by Ulrich Horstmann (Thoughts in
Flight – Trip into a
Computer, 1980, rocket pilot alone in space with his
computer – identity crisis and loss of reality), Das Schicksal ist ein
Fächer by Stewart Farrar (Fate Is a
Fan, 1980, time travel and manipulation
of history), Television by Dieter Streipert (1980, nightmare about a
totalitarian media dominance), Saulus by Dieter Schenk (1981, data abuse and
brain manipulation of offenders), Mit leicht gestutzten Flügeln by Hein
Bruehl (Slightly Clipped
Wings, 1981, enforced rehabilitation of protesters
and other subversive elements), Bericht über die bedrohte Stadt by Doris
Lessing (Report on the Threatened
City, 1981, extraterrestrials warn
in vain against a threatening catastrophe), Neue Szenen aus dem zukünftigen
Leben by Dominique-André Kergal (New Scenes on
Future Life, 1981, new act to
legalize euthanasia), Der Mann, der Shakespeare schrieb by Anton Gill (The
Man Who Wrote Shakespeare’s
Dramas,1982, an unsuccessful author visits the
past and slips into the role of Shakespeare), Mord im 31. Stock after Per
Wahlöö (Murder on the 31st Floor, 1982, nationwide conspiracy against the
freedom of the press), Das andere Land by Claude Cueni (Another
data abuse provides the authorities with forecasts on children’s future
character and convictions), Finale Rettung Michigan (Final
Operation Michigan, 1982, military operations to hush up a big food scandal)
Penthouse-Protokoll (The Penthouse
Tapes, 1987, pharmaceutical adaptation of
the population to the growing complexity of industrial civilization), both
by Carl Amery, Beim Zugführer by Alasdair Gray (With the
1982, driverless train is speeding unhindered into a railway crash), Die
letzte Sendung by Benjamin Kuras (Last
Broadcast, 1982, BBC is being closed
in favour of a state-run cable channel), Alle Namen Gottes by after an idea
by Arthur C. Clarke (All Names of God [The Nine Billion Names of God], 1982,
monks from a Himalayan monastery try to solve a metaphysical problem by
means of a computer), Die Überwindung des subhercynen Beckens by Hubert
Wiedfeld (Conquest of the Subhercynic Basin, 1983, tectonics as political
method of a post-Nazi fascist regime), Das große Licht by Matthias Horx (The
Big Light, 1983, the ecological movement in view of a threatening nuclear
war), Spuren im Sand by Astrid Saalbach (Footprints in the
Sand, 1983, work
has become a privilege for the few, the jobless are monitored by the authorities),
Angst auf der Haut by Hans-Jürgen Buber (Fear on the
Skin, 1984, ruthless
pursuit of profit has destroyed the environment), Das große Los by Henk Mom
(The First Prize, 1984, wage earning is rare and working without a permit is
strictly prohibited), Strahlende Zeiten by Raymond Briggs (Radiant
the Wind Blows], 1985,
thanks to a governmental pamphlet on civil defence a pensioner couple calmly
look forward to a threatened nuclear attack), Die
Rekonstruktion by Werner Zillig (Reconstruction, 1986, mainframe computer is
able to reconstruct life of a deceased person up to the point where the borderline
between simulation and reality has vanished), Totenfloß by Harald Müller (Raft
of the Doomed,1986, Europe is radioactive and chemically ravaged,
contaminated persons are being expelled into the chemical deserts), Ageville
by Thomas Kirdorf (1987, speech disorder and paralysis resulting from
unscrupulous military experiments), Einsame sind erpressbar by Abdel Moneim
Laban (Lonely Ones
Are Open to Blackmail, 1988, holographic encephalogram
reveals brain transmitter), Total real by Jens Hagen (Totally
simulation centres and imagination cinemas as compensation for human
relations), Der Stern der Ungeborenen after Franz Werfel (Star of the
1990, mankind of the far future has acquired astromental abilities), Dream
War – der Krieg der Träume (1993, computer scientist gets on to virus
infected cyberspace disks) and Paradise Hospital Inc. (1996, method for
personality transfer enables murderer to escape into another body) both by
Friedrich Bestenreiner, Souvenirs, Souvenirs by Carlo Fruttero and Franco
Lucentini (1993, tape recorder for human memories drives a man to
despair of his own past), Schwänzeltanz by Rudolf Kiefert (Dance of the
1993, extraterrestrial radio signals arouse xenophobia), Die Tage nebenan by
Karlheinz Knuth (The Days
Next Door, 1997, in order to prove the multitude
of fractal universes, a scientist switches into a hypothetical parallel
world), Happy End by Peter Meisenberg (1995, drug rouses death wish),
Erfindung after Adolfo Bioy Casares (Morel’s Invention, 1995, projections of
virtual reality), Glückliche Kinder by Kim Fupz Aakeson (Happy
1995, genetic adaptation of children to ecological disintegration), Uhrwerk
Orange after Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork
Orange, 1995, new type of
conditioning converts convicts into biological automatons), Game Over after
Philip Kerr (1997, humans as game characters inside a deadly computer game),
Wenn Adolf Hitler den Krieg nicht gewonnen hätte by Helmut Heißenbüttel (If
Adolf Hitler Would Not
Have Won the War, 1997, 60 years after World War II
the seed of national socialism in Germany has fallen onto fertile ground),
Schwarze Spiegel by Arno Schmidt (Black
Mirrors, 1997, last survivor after
World War II on allegedly deserted earth), MOI by Heiko Michael Hartmann
(1998, monetary transmitted virus converts humans to torsos which helplessly
become slaves of consumerism and media madness), Frankenstein after the
classic novel by Mary W. Shelley (1999, creature made by unscrupulous
scientist out of human corpses becomes a killer monster for lack of human
affection), Träumen Androiden after Philip K. Dick (Do
Androids Dream? [Do
Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?], 1999, out of control run androids fall victims of head hunters
despite of their human likeness), Metropolis after Thea von Harbou
and Fritz Lang (2001, female human-like android is provoking
rebellion of the oppressed underdog workers against the luxury world of the
upper city), Die Stiftung by Kay Langstengel (The
Foundation, 2001, patients
have to buy their right for medical treatment by acting as killers), Tokio liebt uns nicht mehr
after Ray Loriga (Tokio Does Not
Like Us Any
More, 2001, globally
distributed memory blockers allow people to escape from their own history),
Die Eva der Zukunft after Jean-Marie Villiers de L’Isle-Adam (Future
Eve, 2001, a female android constructed by Thomas Edison is to replace a
Lord’s mistress) and
finally Dr. Freud and Mr. Hyde by Peter Jacobi (Dr. Freud and Mr. Hyde, 2002, after meeting a fellow called Hyde in Dr. Jekyll’s home the
Viennese psychiatrist Sigmund Freud is fascinated by the idea of having that
creature on his couch).
What you will find on this website
The button Texte (texts) will lead you to a large number of essays and
articles on science fiction and radio plays
by important representatives like
Dieter Hasselblatt, Horst Krautkrämer,
Andreas Weber-Schäfer and many others.
Here you will find not only interesting reports on dramaturgy and the making
of radio plays, but also why science fiction
perfectly in the radio play format.
Finally a request!
We are searching for fans all over the world who are able and willing to write about science fiction on radio in their home countries and present their reports in their own language to the visitors of our website! Contributions welcome in English, French, Italian, Spanish and other languages. As this website is being produced in a European metropolis with international inhabitants, there will hardly be any communication problems.
in foreign publications sometimes spelled “oe”,
is pronounced like the Danish “ø”
in “Øre” .
2 For detailed information about science
fiction on radio in the USA we recommend the remarkable books
Adventures in Time and Space on NBC Radio's Dimension X and X Minus One
by Bill Sabis and
Fiction on Radio – a Revised Look at 1950-1975 by James F. Widner and Meade Frierson; and Jerry Haendiges’ Old Time Radio
site www.otrsite.com, with complete series logs and links to many articles
by Frank Passage, Terry G. G. Salomonson, Walter J. Beaupre and others, whom
I owe lots of informations on US science fiction radio plays;
3 Some information on British sf radio plays provided by Penny Fabb cited from the book Science Fiction on Radio – a Revised Look at 1950-1975 by James F. Widner and Meade Frierson; some by the BBC; additional information provided by Roy Hill. ▲
Copyright © 2002 Horst G. Tröster