Why We Love Audio Drama

One of the questions I get asked a lot is, "why do you love audio drama so much?" The other one is, "I really like your audio series, Escape Velocity; where can I hear more audio drama?"

The second question gives me a great amount of satisfaction. Not only because it shows love and support for my own audio series, but because there's nothing I like more than switching people on to audio drama.

Firstly, I need to draw your attention to a fantastic and worthy Kickstarter project. Fantastic Books Publishing is currently raising funds to produce four audiobooks, to be produced by us at The Radio Theatre Workshop, based on four exciting new science fiction novels set in the Elite: Dangerous universe.

Hear an example extract from Elite: Tales from the Frontier:

Supporting this Kickstarter will enable us to produce new, high quality, fantastic audio adventures for you to enjoy as much as you've been enjoying Escape Velocity. Head over there now for exclusive backer bonuses and spread the word about our campaign.

Firstly, the form itself is a beautiful compromise. I always think that there are two ends of the spectrum: film at one end, with its clear and unmistakable view of the story's world and books at the other, where the reader's imagination draws the pictures and allows imagination to roam free. Books are enormously personal, but interpretations differ and the experience (except I would argue, with the most exceptional books) can be rather cold. While films deny the imagination release, they allow all audiences to share the same experience and the conviction of the actors, combined with music allow for a greater emotion response to the material.

Audio drama occupies a fantastic space between those two poles. The action takes place entirely in the audience's mind, guided only by the voices and sounds that they hear. In this way, the experience is akin to books, in that it allows the recipient to take part in the imaginative process of creating the story's world. However the story is told with the power of human voices and all the additional support of sound effects and music to create an intensely emotional experience.

In a time-poor society, of course, films have won audiences with faster communication of ideas. A film may take two hours to tell a story which takes a reader several times longer. Audio drama generally moves at film or television pace, possibly a little slower. It is after all, dependent on conversation to depict environments which a film could convey in one or two images.

Ultimately, I love audio drama because I am a consumer of tales; a wanderer in adventure. I don't like to be far from an escapist story. I love books and films, but they demand my sole attention. Nothing enlivens a long drive or a day's housework quite like being accompanied by an audio adventure. The chore at hand may demand my body and my eyes, but my ears and mind are free to explore the heavens, the depths of the ocean or the wilds of an uncharted rainforest.

So what audio dramas would I recommend? Keep an eye on this website, as we have exciting plans for upcoming audiobooks and serials. But until then here are a few of the series which have inspired me in my love of audio drama.

This is an epic of British science fiction. Originally broadcast in the 1950's the science of space travel may have dated but the characters, psychological tension and horror still pack a weighty punch. Creepy crewmen, dreams of victorian exhibitions, martian pyramids all set against the challenges of surviving on a Mars expedition. This remains my greatest inspiration, not just for audio drama, but storytelling. This was the second of three series, but it by far the best and stands on its own. Also followed up in the 80's with the excellent Space Force, which must be available for purchase somewhere!

This was where the journey began for me. A classic of radio comedy, it also represents a cracking adventure in time and space. My folks had the tapes of the first two series and I listened to them over and over until I could speak along to the whole saga from memory. With the eventual production of series 2-3 in 2005, it's great to have the whole audio story catch up with the novels.

More recently I've discovered Big Finish, who produce a great range of audio dramas, mostly based on Doctor Who and Blake's Seven but go much further. The technical brilliance of their soundscapes is a bar to aim for, but beyond that they are also great and addictive serials. UNIT Dominion is an excellent and recent example of their work, featuring my own Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. Other great examples of their Doctor Who serials are The Chimes of Midnight (by far the best Christmas special to date!), Max Warp (a Top Gear spoof in the far future, mixed with a murder mystery) and Brave New Town (a brilliant story with an unexpected twist, harking back to my own teens with the memory of Bryan Adams' epic marathon at #1 in the charts).

Other great audios I personally recommend are Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Planet B and The Brightonomicon by Robert Rankin.
-- Chris