Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Radio: Child's Play & Venus Is a Man's World (X Minus One)

"Child's Play"

Based on the story by William Tenn, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1947.

Originally broadcast on NBC, October 20, 1955.

"Venus Is a Man's World"

Based on the story by William Tenn, originally published in Galaxy, July 1951.

Originally broadcast on NBC, February 6, 1957.

Philip Klass, who, under his pseudonym William Tenn, was one of the greatest short fiction writers, and probably the greatest satirist of the Golden Age, died last Sunday at the age of 89. In his memory, we present radio adaptations of two of his stories.

Klass/Tenn wrote only two novels, both expansions of shorter works, and his entire output as a science fiction writer fills only two volumes, but he produced far more than his proportionate share of classics.

To name two... "The Liberation of Earth" (written in 1950) was a satire on the Korean War in which two warring alien races repeatedly "liberate" from each other the people of Earth... until there are none left. "Time in Advance" (written in 1956) explored the fascinating idea of gaining the right to commit a crime--even murder--provided a person serves the sentence first. Once he gets out... watch out.

According to Tenn/Klass in his 2001 collection Immodest Proposals, he wrote "Child's Play" in 1946 on a dare while serving as a purser on a cargo ship.

My brother had sent me the May issue of Astounding, containing my first published story, "Alexander the Bait," and... I showed it around quite proudly. My fellow officers, however, wondered why I made such a fuss over a printed tale by someone named William Tenn; again and again, I had to explain the concept of a pen name....

The first mate... took me to the purser's cabin and dumped me in a chair in front of my typewriter desk. "If you are really William Tenn and can write stories that get published," he said, waving a wobbly forefinger in the air, "prove it. Write one now."

And so he did, and "Child's Play" became Klass/Tenn's "second published story and... first science-fiction 'success,'" and his first anthologized story. It was also his first to be adapted for radio, on NBC's Dimension X in 1951. So why are we presenting the X Minus One version from over four years later? Well, I'll get to that reason in, oh, seven or eight weeks...

I was already considering doing "Venus Is a Man's World" (written in 1951) soon on Friday Radio, because, you know... Venus... our new edition of Between Worlds... etc., etc.

Tenn/Klass had this to say in 2001 about the story:

[Galaxy editor] Horace Gold was worried about publishing this one. He said it was a bit too much of a feminist story. He was not sure that feminist stories belonged in science fiction. As I said, it was 1951.

My favorite part of the story is how, in typical Tenn fashion, it turns the accepted on its head, and we realize how traditionally "feminine" qualities like emotionalism and intuition can just as easily be pinned on men instead.

Since this is, after all, the Thrilling Wonder Stories website, I'll point out that Klass/Tenn wrote four stories for the magazine, three of them in consecutive issues in 1948. Or maybe I should just say that Klass did, since the first, "Dud" (April 1948) went out as by Kenneth Putnam instead of William Tenn. The Tenn three (as it were) were "Consulate" (June 1948), "The Ionian Cycle" (August 1948), and "The Jester" (August 1951).

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