Audiobook & OTR Alien Worlds The One and Only Original Sci Fi Adventures Series

 
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  Starlog Magazine Review of Alien Worlds
alien worlds: Science-Fiction Radio Drama Rides Again
By AL TAYLOR, BILL HUME & MIKE SMITH

Slowly rotating at the edge of deep space, 1,000 kilometers beyond the atmosphere of 21st-century Earth, is the Arthur C. Clarke Astronomical Observatory: Starlab. Here Starlab Research Director Maura Cassidy, along with the scientists and technicians of the International Space Authority, watch over the countless stars and planets that fill the silent distances beyond the giant space station. This week the men and women of Starlab encounter the terrifying dissonance of "Deathsong."

So begins another episode of Alien Worlds, a series of action adventure audio cd's. It is an epic saga of future man, with continuing characters and inventive storylines that combine the standard elements of science fiction and effective audio production know how. The result is a fast-paced half-hour that is stimulating to the ear as well as the mind. Worlds is the brainchild of longtime radio man Lee Hansen, who was given the chance to create it while working for Watermark, Inc., the company that originally syndicated the programs. At the time, he recalls, "they had one studio and a show called American Top 40, with Casey Kasum, which was beginning to break ground and become very successful. Since they had a recording studio, they wanted to put it to use making commercials and developing programming. With that in mind, I was hired as Creative Director at Watermark-in terms of locating potential business and doing creative commercials as well as radio syndication program development."

Hansen proposed his idea for an action adventure series and Watermark jumped at the chance to syndicate it. Hansen decided to produce a "science-fiction, imagination-theater." Hansen came to Watermark with an impressive list of radio credits and 14 years of experience. His radio career started when he was a junior in high school, at a station in Colfax, Washington, KCLX. "From there,'' he says, "I went into the military where I became a staff announcer for Armed Forces Radio and Television in Saigon, during the early part of the Vietnam War." When I came home, I went to work at KASH in Eugene, Oregon. While Hansen enjoyed his involvement with radio announcing for ten years, he later decided to pursue his interests in the production side of the medium." When I came to Los Angeles, in 1972," he relates, "I was introduced to Mel Blanc and was hired as his creative director. I also became associate producer for the Gary Owens Special Report. Owens was hot at that time on TV's Laugh-In. I produced all 260 shows of his Special Report. I later became director for the Mel Blanc School of Voice and Commercials and was more or less the personal recording engineer for Blanc for The Flintstones, and most of the commercials that he was doing at the time."

Very Human, Very Real

In developing the concept for Alien Worlds, Hansen decided that he "wanted it in a sort of documentary style, like it was actually happening; it was to be very believable." Hansen felt that one element that would help achieve this was a set of continuing characters who could be related to as very human and very real. Through their experiences and interrelations, Hansen hoped to create a fully rounded world for his listeners to enjoy and sink in to." The basic concept of Alien Worlds," Hansen says, "is to explore the unknown and the possibilities of what might exist in space; how people would relate to it spiritually as well as from a trained, scientific point of view; and how, as representatives of Earth, they would deal with alien beings. l proposed that it would be in a positive way rather than with hostility. That's why the International Space Authority was created. The ISA is the governing entity of space development. It represents a worldwide effort to try to advance us into space. The other thing I wanted to do was support the growing movement for space migration; I've talked about the L-5 Society on the air." Hansen has done more than just give his governing space body a name and objective; he's provided it with a fully fleshed out history. We quote from the l.S.A. Project Report-Starlab: "March 2, 2018: President Lorraine Keach introduces the Starlab Referendum during a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. The referendum calls for the creation and orbital insertion of Earth's first scientific/commercial space station. Cost of the project and the benefits derived from it to be equally shared by all nations. July 19, 2018: The General Assembly passes the Starlab Referendum. August 3, 2018: The United Nations authorizes the expenditure of 25 billion World Bank dollars for Starlab's design, development and construction. The International Space Agency (ISA) is created to coordinate the project. Retired Air Force Chief of Staff, General Northrop Hughes, is named ISA Commissioner and Starlab Project Director. Hughes appoints as Vice Commissioner former NASA research analyst Matthew White. February 10, 2019: Construction begins. By the end of April 2021, Starlab's first level is complete and semi-operational. We now skip to Phase 3, two years hence: April 18, 2023: Five extraterrestrial spacecraft appear and enter a parking orbit 700 meters beyond Starlab. Work on the space station ceases as attempts are made to communicate with the mysterious ships via a random series of light signals. The ships return the signals for two hours at 10-minute intervals. Three days later, they abandon their orbit and move off into deep space. April 24, 2023: The United Nations General Assembly calls an emergency session and votes to announce the sighting. Commissioner White makes the announcement four days later via satellite television. April 27,2023: Two million people crowd into Vatican Square, listening calmly and silently as Pope John XXIV urges a broadening of fundamental beliefs so as to ' . . . make room in our hearts and minds for our brothers and sisters from beyond the stars. May 1, 2024: Starlab becomes 100 percent operational, 14 months ahead of schedule. Space Science Analyst, Dr. Maura Cassidy, arrives to begin her duties as Starlab Research Director. May 3, 2024: Earth watches on satellite television as Starlab is officially christened: The Arthur C. Clarke Astronomical Observatory-humanity's hope for the future, slowly orbiting at the edge of deep space, on the threshold of. . . Alien Worlds."

Creating Believable FX

Much of Alien Worlds attraction is the air of verisimilitude that Hansen and his writers have given to the show. Creating space sound effects is one of the challenges inherent in such a production and one that has been well met by the Alien Worlds crew. Hansen recalls one particular sound effects mission: "We needed to get the hollow sounds of movement inside the metallic Starlab. Our crew and as many actors as could make it went to San Pedro Harbor, to a 300 million gallon oil tanker, Atlantic Trader. The tanker was empty and in dry dock. We were allowed to board the ship and go running around the steel ladders and rampways to record the sounds we would be using for the ambient, echoing footstep effects on Alien Worlds. We had a wonderful time doing this; it was a hoot!" Hansen later adds that he and his crew spent two whole days running up and down inside the tanker, recording all the different sounds they could generate. On other "missions," Hansen has "gone to places like metal shops to record the hissing sound of a blowtorch and the explosive pop of the torch being ignited;" he has recorded metal lathes being started up and various electronic devices in use. Another time he recorded the "simple click of a 35mm camera at high speed and then re-recorded it at one-quarter speed. The result was the unique clunk of a hatch closing aboard a spaceship." And, Hansen confesses, "many of our electronic effects are created on a variety of synthesizers. "Getting writers knowledgeable in the areas of both science fiction and radio drama was one of Hansen's more difficult tasks but one in which he claims success. Many of the plots and subplots are often designed to offer the opportunity for "sound" to be used as an effective storytelling instrument. A good example is the plot of "Deathsong," in Series II: "Two benevolent alien elves, with a hostile alien ship in hot pursuit, are given asylum aboard Starlab. They have with them an instrument devoted to the healing of living organisms by 'tuning' them. The hostile vessel controls Deathsong, the direct musical antithesis of the elves' music. We become witness to the ultimate struggle between the alien music forms."

Now that Alien Worlds has achieved national recognition and wide exposure, would Hansen consider adapting it to other media? "The main reason for having Alien Worlds as an audio adventure series," Hansen says, "was that I felt that I could do much more with imagination there than on film." Hansen strongly feels that audio offers an opportunity that the visual media do not: creative memory. "To me, creative memory means that images rise from an individual's own imagination. These images are more vivid and longer lasting than if someone else has created the picture for you." But don't just take our word for it-tune in on Alien Worlds; in this case, hearing is believing.

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By AL TAYLOR, BILL HUME & MIKE SMITH

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 Alien Worlds Classic Science Fiction Dramatic Audio Adventure Series As Heard On Sirius XM Satellite Radio