Go Behind the Scenes:
The Making of the Stories from the Golden Age Audiobooks

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The Golden Age of Radio. The Theater of the Mind. Every night, millions of people gathered around their radios to listen. The stories captivated listeners with stories of every description. In the pre-television era, it was a form of pulp fiction all its own.

L. Ron Hubbard knew that aural landscape very well. Despite being best known for his novels and short stories, he also was a significant contributor to radio’s own literature.

In 1930, fresh out of high school and ready to begin his first semester at George Washington University, Ron began scripting dramas for WJSV radio. Later, while pursuing his studies in engineering and molecular phenomena, Ron also wrote and performed ballads for a local station, WOL.

In the years that followed, he was off on his meteoric rise to the top of the pulps, but he never turned his back on his gifts as a radio storyteller. Now, almost eighty years after L. Ron Hubbard made his professional debut as a radio dramatist and balladeer, we are pleased to announce the new release of L. Ron Hubbard’s pulp fiction audiobooks.

Photo of Enn Reitel recording

While this exciting release is a fully-realized re-creation of each of Ron’s 153 pulp fiction stories in audiobook format, it is not standard “audiobook.” Not only have the best elements of classic radio drama been revived, they have been augmented with state-of-the-art production values borrowed from feature films and then improved even more.
To truly understand how innovative this series is, you have to go inside the making of a Golden Age audiobook. Take the adventure story Sea Fangs, the tale of a sailor caught in a whirlpool of piracy and murder, played out against an uncharted island.

Such an intense tale would be done a disservice by relying exclusively on a sonorous voice narrating on and on. It demands a setting worthy of its inherent impact. To do Sea Fangs and the other stories justice, the entire audiobook process had to be reconceived.

And it was.

First, casting. Usually an audiobook will have one reader who performs every character. But with such a vivid mix of characters and types, even accents and ages, in Ron’s fiction, it was paramount to assemble an entire cast of talent for each story. Scores of actors contributed to the creation of the L. Ron Hubbard pulp fiction audiobooks.

Photo of Kristen Proctor Campbell recording

Another innovation was the acting process itself. Instead of isolating each performer to do his bit alone in a recording booth, and then mixing everyone together later in an editing bay, the entire cast was called in at the same time, and the performances were recorded in one day.

The atmosphere was unique. According to audiobooks director Jim Meskimen, “we were all there together—the actors, the technical team, myself—united to bring off the full range of emotional impact from Hubbard’s fiction. Being in such close proximity heightened the effect beyond our expectations.”

Meskimen also says that “this new process has attracted world-class performers from radio drama, animation and live theater. I can’t imagine a better crew of actors.”

Another luminary in the field, and one of the founders of Firesign Theatre, Phil Proctor, had this to say: “I’ve done a lot of work in cartoons and other areas, and with those you’re working in an isolated format. You come in, record your material, and it’s put together in editing. This was a wonderful opportunity to work creatively in a dramatic context. It made it more vibrant, more honest. You are affected by, and are yourself affecting, another actor in the studio with you.”

The result?

“Two things happened,” said Proctor. “First, there was an undeniable feeling of actual involvement in the reality of the story. That is what makes it so compelling to the listener when he hears the finished product. Second, it was an awful lot of fun! It’s hard for people to understand how much fun we had doing this work!”

Photo of Jim Meskimen and Phil Proctor recording

Next came post-production and that all-important element—sound effects. Again, no previously set standard would do.

While most audiobooks contain a few if any sound effects, our technicians created a rich and accurate aural landscape for every story, literally transporting the reader straight into the environment.

For Sea Fangs, that meant every detail—from the howling thunder and shrieking wind to the creaking ship’s hull amid heavy ocean waves to the staccato burst of machine-gun fire—were all brought to life amid the actor’s performances.

The creation of this new audiobook series was so extensive that our studio engineers employed a total of 175,000 sound effects, many thousands of which were original to this production.

Not only that, but the sounds themselves were all extensively researched for cultural and historical accuracy. For example, when a ship rings out “eight bells,” which signals the end of a watch, it is an authentic eight bells, confirmed first hand by the United States Coast Guard and duplicated by a sound technician in the exact rhythm and accents of those bells.

Photo of Thomas Silcott recording

According to a review from AudioFile magazine, “The ever-present soundtrack … lends a richness to the imagined picture that would, in other titles, be filled by narrative description. Those who listened to ‘The Shadow’ and ‘Flash Gordon’ growing up will love this production.”

And as Proctor noted, “These new productions may be in the audiobook genre, but they’re fully realized dramatic adventures and that is very unique. To have such incredible production values, they are like nothing else.”

It is something that has to be experienced to be believed, as the result is practically a new art form in itself.

Photo of cast recording

Ultimately, however, the pulp audiobooks are about the stories and what made Ron’s fiction so great—that sense of adventure, the breakneck pace, the intriguing characters and the deeper sense of humanity that permeated his writings.

Perhaps Meskimen summed it up best when he said, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a western yarn or a story about the French Foreign Legion. There’s that undercurrent of decency and respect for mankind, all told with Ron’s inimitable style. Let’s face it, the pleasure of great storytelling is one of the rewards of being human. And Ron’s stories certainly deliver in terms of thrills and excitement, and more—resonating with us long after the action has concluded.”

Come share this new adventure. Immerse yourself in a world with every story. For anyone who has ever been a fan of pulp fiction or of radio drama, L. Ron Hubbard’s pulp fiction audiobooks are the chance to experience something entirely new. The world will never sound the same.

 

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