Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Radio: Nightfall (X Minus One)

Based on the story by Isaac Asimov, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, September 1941.

Originally broadcast on NBC, December 7, 1955.

A previously uncollected story by Isaac Asimov, "The Portable Star," appears in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1.

Last week, we had a 1955 adaptation by Ernest Kinoy from X Minus One which was different from his adaptation of the same story for Dimension X in 1951.

This week, well... not so much. I haven't listened to all of the Dimension X version, but the first few minutes are the same, word for word. The X Minus One recording is vastly better than the available one of Dimension X, which sounds like someone recorded it from across a very large room. (Also, there's another reason I didn't use the Dimension X version, and I'll get to that reason in, oh, eight or nine weeks...)

"Nightfall" is, of course, one of the most popular science fiction stories of all time. According to Wikipedia, it has appeared in some four dozen anthologies. "In 1968," they add, "the Science Fiction Writers of America [SFWA] voted Nightfall the best science fiction short story written prior to the establishment of the Nebula Awards in 1965."

Asimov himself, in the 1979 first volume of his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, declared "Nightfall" only his fourth-best story, after "The Last Question," "The Bicentennial Man," and "The Ugly Little Boy," respectively. Besides all its honors, "Nightfall" outdid "The Bicentennial Man" in being made into two sub-mediocre movies (1988 and 2000) instead of one (1999).

In the same volume, Asimov recounts a meeting on March 17, 1941, with Astounding editor John W. Campbell, Jr. Campbell handed Asimov the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which ended up opening both story and radio episode.

Campbell asked me to read it and said, "What do you think would happen, Asimov, if men were to see the stars for the first time in a thousand years?"

I thought, and drew a blank. I said, "I don't know."

Campbell said, "I think they would go mad. I want you to write a story about that."

Asimov did, and got a bonus from Campbell, his biggest check yet as a writer ($166), the cover, and a new reputation as something "more than a steady and (perhaps) hopeful third-rater."

Enjoy X Minus One's adaptation of "Nightfall." Don't listen with the lights out.

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