Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday Radio: Mr. Costello, Hero (X Minus One)

Based on the story by Theodore Sturgeon, published in Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1953.

Originally broadcast on NBC, July 3, 1956.

Another story by Theodore Sturgeon, "The Golden Helix," appears in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 2.

(For some reason, this file won't work with the usual embedded player. So just click here to download the file.)

You may remember from a couple of weeks ago that the adaptation of Fredric Brown's "The Last Martian" had some filler that announced itself as such to me by being a bit wrong.

Well, with this episode, the adapter, George Lefferts, had the opposite problem: "Mr. Costello, Hero" was a bit too long of a story for a half hour. As a result, the radio version is missing some of the creepiness of the story. Here's a little bit from the story about the making of Costello's "perfect" society:

"What happened to the ones who wouldn't come to Centrals?"

"People made fun of them. They lost their jobs, the schools wouldn't take their children, the stores wouldn't honor their ration cards. Then the police started to pick up soloists—like they did you." She looked around again, a sort of contented familiarity in her gaze. "It didn't take long."

The adaptation, by contrast, makes it seem like it was just the quoting out of context that did it, and missed the point that it was a sort of social snowball effect. In the story, these quotes are spread via 3-D TV by "the Lucilles," a commentator replicated into four images (presumably to make her/their statements seem more authoritative). Pretty soon...

"Believe it? Well, it's true, isn't it? Can't you see it's true? Everybody knows it's true."

Just like "everyone knows" that Al Gore said he invented the Internet, or Sarah Palin said she can see Russia from her house. Because pundits who knew better—but, being pundits, had an investment in a cause, and no compunction about lying to further it—said so, alone and in chorus, over and over until people who didn't know better never heard it any other way. And voilá, "everybody knows it's true."

You know you're dealing with a good science fiction story when it seems more timely 55 years after it was first published.

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