Sci-Fi Radio: Hear Radio Dramas of Sci-Fi Stories by Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin & More (1989)

Image by Mr.Hasgaha, via Flickr Commons

If you dig through our archives, you can find no shortage of finely-produced radio dramatizations of your favorite science fiction stories. During the 1950s, NBC's Dimension X adapted stories by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and even Kurt Vonnegut. Later in the '50s, X Minus One continued that tradition, dramatizing stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Poul Anderson and others. By the 1970s, Mind Webs got into the act and produced 188 adaptations--classics by Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke. And the BBC did up Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

Those productions will keep you busy for a good while. But if you're wondering what the 1980s delivered, then tune into Sci-Fi Radio, a series of 26 half-hour shows which aired on NPR Playhouse, starting in 1989. Some of the adapted stories include: "Sales Pitch" and "Imposter" by Philip K. Dick, "Diary of the Rose" and "Field of Vision" by Ursula K. LeGuin, "Wall of Darkness" by Arthur C. Clarke, and "Frost and Fire" by Ray Bradbury.

You can stream all episodes below, or over at Archive.orgSci-Fi Radio will be added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free. Hope you enjoy.

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How Russian Artists Imagined in 1914 What Moscow Would Look Like in 2259

In the days of popular retrofuturism—say, the first half of the twentieth century—people tended to imagine the world of tomorrow looking very much like the world of today, only with a lot more flying cars, monorails, and videophones. This is true whether those doing the imagining were titans of industry, marketing mavens, idealistic Soviets, or subjects of the Tsar, though we might think that people living under an ancient monarchical system might not expect much change. In some ways we might be right, but as we can see in the 1914 postcards here—printed as Russia entered World War I—the country did anticipate a modern, technological future, though one that still closely resembled its present.

Perhaps few but the most far-sighted of Russians predicted what the ailing empire would endure in the years to come—the disaster of the Great War, and the waves of Revolution and Civil War. Certainly, whoever painted these images foresaw no such catastrophic upheaval.

Although purporting to show us a view of Moscow in the 23rd century, they show the city very happily “still under monarchical rule,” writes A Journey Through Russian Culture, going about its daily life just as it did over three hundred years earlier, “with the addition of everything from subways to airborne public transportation, things probably seen as standard methods of transport for the future.”

Of course, there would be hot-rodded sleds on St. Petersburg Highway with headlights, fancy windshields, and what look like Christmas elves perched in them. Lubyanska Square, further up, would still host military parades of men on horseback, as children whizzed by on motorbikes and subway trains rumbled underneath. The Central Railway Station, above, might seem entirely unchanged, until one looks up, and sees elevated trams streaming out of the terminal like spider’s silk. Red Square, however, just below, would apparently host drag races, while people in trams and giant dirigibles looked on from above.

The images have a children’s book quality about them and the festive air of holiday cards. (If you read Russian, you can learn more about them here and here.) They were apparently rediscovered only recently when a chocolate company called Eyinem reprinted them on their packaging. Like so much retrofuturism, these seem—in their bustling, yet safe, cheerful orderliness—tailor-made for nostalgic trips through Petrovsky Park, rather than imaginative leaps into the great unknown. For that, we must turn to Russian Futurism, which, both before and after World War and the Revolution, imagined, helped bring about, but didn't quite survive the massive technological and political disruption of the next two decades.

See more of these Tsarist-futurist postcards at the site Meet the Slavs.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Omni, the Iconic Sci-Fi Magazine, Now Digitized in High-Resolution and Available Online

There was a time, not so long ago, when not only could a blockbuster Hollywood comedy make a reference to a science magazine, but everyone in the audience would get that reference. It happened in Ghostbusters, right after the titular boys in gray hit it big with their first high-profile busting of a ghost. In true 1980s style, a success montage followed, in the middle of which appeared the cover of Omni magazine's October 1984 issue which, according to the Ghostbusters Wiki, "featured a Proton Pack and Particle Thrower. The tagline read, 'Quantum Leaps: Ghostbusters' Tools of the Trade.'"

The movie made up that cover, but it didn't make up the publication. In reality, the cover of Omni's October 1984 issue, a special anniversary edition which appears at the top of the magazine's Wikipedia page today, promised predictions of "Love, Work & Play in the 21st Century" from the likes of beloved sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, social psychologist Stanley Milgram, physicist Gerard O'Neill, trend-watcher John Naisbitt — and, of course, Ronald Reagan. Now you can find that issue of Omni, as well as every other from its 1978-to-1995 run, digitized in high-resolution and made available on Amazon.

"Omni was a magazine about the future," writes Motherboard's Claire Evans, telling the story of "the best science magazine that ever was." In its heyday, it blew minds by regularly featuring extensive Q&As with some of the top scientists of the 20th century–E.O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk–tales of the paranormal, and some of the most important science fiction to ever see magazine publication" by William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin — and even the likes of Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and William S. Burroughs. "By coupling science fiction and cutting-edge science news, the magazine created an atmosphere of possibility, where even the most outrageous ideas seemed to have basis in fact."

Originally founded by Kathy Keeton (formerly, according to Evans, "a South African ballerina who went from being one of the highest-paid strippers in Europe") and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, Omni not only had an impact in unexpected areas (the eccentric musical performer Klaus Nomi, himself a cultural innovator, took his name in part from the magazine's) but took steps into the digital realm long before other print publications dared. It first established its online presence on Compuserve in 1986; seven years later, it opened up its archives, along with forums and new content, on America Online, a first for any major magazine. Now Amazon users can purchase Omni's digital back issues for $2.99 each, or read them for free if they have Kindle Unlimited accounts. (You can sign up for a 30-day free trial for Kindle Unlimited and start binge-reading Omni here.)

Jerrick Media, owners of the Omni brand, have also begun to make available on Vimeo on Demand episodes of Omni: The New Frontier, the 1980s syndicated television series hosted by Peter Ustinov. And without paying a dime, you can still browse the fascinating Omni material archived at Omni Magazine Online, an easy way to get a hit of the past's idea of the future — and one presenting, in the words of 1990s editor-in-chief Keith Farrell, "a fascination with science and speculation, literature and art, philosophy and quirkiness, serious speculation and gonzo speculation, the health of the planet and its cultures, our relationship to the universe and its (possible) cultures, and a sense that whatever else, tomorrow would be different from today."

via The Verge

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


240 Hours of Relaxing, Sleep-Inducing Sounds from Sci-Fi Video Games: From Blade Runner to Star Wars

Need to put a little geek in your sleep? We've got just what you need...

Back in 2009, the musician dubbed Cheesy Nirvosa" began experimenting with ambient music, before launching a YouTube channel where he "composes longform space and scifi ambience," much of it designed to help you relax, or ideally fall asleep. He calls the videos "ambient geek sleep aids."

You can sample his work with the playlist above. Called "Video Game Relaxation Sounds," the playlist features "long relaxing soundscapes from video games." Sci-fi video games, to be precise. The playlist gives you access to 21 soundscapes, running more than 240 hours in total. Lull yourself to sleep, for example, with ambient sounds from the 1997 Blade Runner video game, a "sidequel" to the Ridley Scott film. Or de-stress with this ambient noise produced by the A/SF-01 B-Wing Starfighter. It's taken from this 2001 Star Wars game created by LucasArts.

Stream the playlist above. And hope you enjoy dreaming of electric sheep.

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Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

The story of malicious space aliens invading Earth has a resonance that knows no national boundaries. In fact, many modern versions make explicit the moral that only fighting off an existential threat from another planet could unify the inherently fractious human species. H.G. Wells' 1898 novel The War of the Worlds, in many ways the archetypal telling of the space-invaders tale, certainly proved compelling on both sides of the pond: though set in Wells' homeland of England, it made a lasting impact on American culture when Orson Welles produced a thoroughly localized version for radio, his infamous War of the Worlds Halloween 1938 broadcast. (Listen to it here.)

And so who better to illustrate a mid-2oth-century edition of the novel than Edward Gorey? He was born in and spent nearly all his life in America, but developed an artistic sensibility that struck its many appreciators as uncannily mid-Atlantic. His work continues to draw descriptions like "Victorian" and "gothic," surely underscored by his association with the British literature-adapting television show Mystery!, for whose title sequences he drew characters and settings, and the young-adult gothic mystery novels of Anglophile author John Bellairs. The Gorey-illustrated War of the Worlds came out in 1960 from Looking Glass Library, featuring his drawings not just at the top of each chapter but on its wraparound cover as well. Though out of print, you can find old copies for sale online.

Gorey had begun his career in the early 1950s at the art department of publisher Doubleday Anchor, creating book covers and occasionally interior illustrations. In addition to Bellairs' novels, he would also go on to put his artistic stamp on such literary classics as Bram Stoker's Dracula and T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, bringing to each his signature combination of whimsy and dread in just the right proportions. Given the inherent ominousness and threat of The War of the Worlds, Gorey's dark side comes to the fore as the story's long-legged terrors arrive and wreak havoc on Earth, only to fall victim to common disease.

Gorey's War of the Worlds illustrations also seem to draw some inspiration from the very first ones that accompanied the novel upon its initial publication as a Pearson's Magazine serial in 1897. You can compare and contrast them by browsing the high-resolution scans of the out-of-print 1960 Looking Glass Library War of the Worlds at this online exhibition at Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections, in partnership with the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

Though conceptually similar to the illustrations in Pearson's, drawn by an artist (usually of children's books) named Warwick Goble, they don't get into quite as much detail — but then, they don't have to. To evoke a complex mixture of fascinated anticipation and creeping fear, Gorey never needed more than an old house, a huddle of silhouettes, or a pair of eyes glowing in the darkness.

via Heavy Metal

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Official Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Long-Awaited Blade Runner Sequel Is Finally Out

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) has provided us material for many posts over the years (find some favorites below). If his upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049 yields half as much, we'll count ourselves lucky.

The official trailer for the new film came out today. Look for the film in theaters on October 6th.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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30 Hours of Doctor Who Audio Dramas Now Free to Stream Online

"Yes, this should provide adequate sustenance for the Doctor Who marathon," once said The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy while pushing a wheelbarrow full of fast-food tacos down the street. As the embodiment of fandom for all things fantasy and sci-fi, he would certainly know that Doctor Who, no longer an obscure BBC television show but an ever-expanding fictional universe with a global fan base, constitutes the ideal material for binge-watching, which he could now do at his convenience on a service like Britbox. But it isn't just watching: now, on Spotify (whose free software you can download here if you don't have it already), you can binge-listen to thirty straight hours of Doctor Who audio dramas as well.

"An icon of modern British culture and the longest-running science-fiction TV show in history, Doctor Who has never been more popular than it is today," wrote Christopher Bahn in the AV Club's 2010 primer on the series, which had relaunched five years earlier after initially running from 1963 to 1989. "No matter who’s playing the lead, the basic premise has been essentially the same since the show’s debut: A mysterious, eccentric alien known only as The Doctor (not 'Doctor Who,' in spite of the title) travels through time and space having adventures and fighting evil. He’s usually accompanied by one or two humans picked up along the way. They journey with him in a time machine called a TARDIS, which looks like a blue phone booth."

This format "allowed the show to literally go anywhere in the universe and sometimes outside it, with virtually limitless storytelling possibilities." At its best, "Doctor Who relied on solid, imaginative scripts to create smart science-fiction thrillers with a humanistic, anti-authoritarian heart. Consistently popular through the 1960s and 1970s, the show began to falter in the following decade as tight budgets and questionable artistic choices took their toll." After its cancellation in 1989, Doctor Who "lived on through the ’90s, as science-fiction shows often do, in the wilderness genres of semi-official novels and radio plays."

The best known of these Doctor Who radio plays, which you can hear on this playlist, come produced by a company called Big Finish. Having acquired a license from the BBC in 1999 (and recently renewed it into 2025), they've put out a range of audio dramas, both one-offs and series of various lengths, using not just the characters but many of the actual actors from the television show, including six of those who have taken on the iconic Doctor role onscreen. Owing to the fact that Doctor Who officially has no canon and thus no need for continuity, rigorous or otherwise, they can get even more imaginative than their source material, going so far as to explore counterfactual storylines such as one where the Doctor never leaves his home planet in the first place.

Below you'll find a complete list, assembled by a fan on Reddit, of the series and episodes of Big Finish's Doctor Who audio dramas now available on Spotify and are now housed to our collection of Free Audio Books. The material comes to thirty hours in total, but the question of when to listen to it falls second to a more important consideration: what sort of sustenance will best ensure that you can keep up with all of the Doctor's audio adventures?

Main Range:

  1. The Sirens of Time
  2. Phantasmagoria
  3. Whispers of Terror
  4. The Land of the Dead
  5. The Fearmonger
  6. The Marian Conspiracy
  7. The Genocide Machine
  8. Red Dawn
  9. The Spectre of Lanyon Moor
  10. Winter for the Adept
  11. The Apocalypse Element
  12. The Fires of Vulcan
  13. The Shadow of the Scourge
  14. The Holy Terror
  15. The Mutant Phase
  16. Storm Warning
  17. Sword of Orion
  18. The Stones of Venice
  19. Minuet in Hell
  20. Loups-Garoux
  21. Dust Breeding
  22. Bloodtide
  23. Project: Twilight
  24. The Eye of the Scorpion
  25. Colditz
  26. Primeval
  27. The One Doctor
  28. Invaders from Mars
  29. The Chimes of Midnight
  30. Seasons of Fear
  31. Embrace the Darkness
  32. The Time of the Daleks
  33. Neverland
  34. Spare Parts
  35. ...ish
  36. The Rapture
  37. The Sandman
  38. The Church and the Crown
  39. Bang-Bang-a-Boom!
  40. Jubilee
  41. Nekromanteia
  42. The Dark Flame
  43. Doctor Who and the Pirates
  44. Creatures of Beauty
  45. Project: Lazarus
  46. Flip-Flop
  47. Omega
  48. Davros
  49. Master
  50. Zagreus

Special Releases:

UNIT: Dominion

The Davros Mission

Fourth Doctor Adventures:

1.01 Destination: Nerva

1.02 The Renaissance Man

1.03 The Wrath of the Iceni

1.04 Energy of the Daleks

1.05 Trail of the White Worm

1.06 The Oseidon Adventure

Eighth Doctor Adventures:

1.1 Blood of the Daleks, Part 1

1.2 Blood of the Daleks, Part 2

1.3 Horror of Glam Rock

1.4 Immortal Beloved

1.5 Phobos

1.6 No More Lies

1.7 Human Resources, Part 1

1.8 Human Resources, Part 2

The Lost Stories:

1.01 The Nightmare Fair

1.02 Mission to Magnus

1.03 Leviathan

1.04 The Hollows of Time

1.05 Paradise 5

1.06 Point of Entry

1.07 The Song of Megaptera

1.08 The Macros

Box 1. The Fourth Doctor Box Set

The Companion Chronicles:

2.1 Mother Russia

2.2 Helicon Prime

2.3 Old Soldiers

2.4 The Catalyst

Destiny of the Doctor:

  1. Hunters of Earth
  2. Shadow of Death
  3. Vengeance of the Stones
  4. Babblesphere
  5. Smoke and Mirrors
  6. Trouble in Paradise
  7. Shockwave
  8. Enemy Aliens
  9. Night of the Whisper
  10. Death's Deal
  11. The Time Machine

Short Trips:

Volume 1

Volume 2

The Stageplays:

  1. The Ultimate Adventure
  2. Seven Keys to Doomsday
  3. The Curse of the Daleks

Bernice Summerfield:

Box 2. Road Trip

Box 3. Legion

Box 4. New Frontiers

Box 5. Missing Persons


Series 1

Series 2

Series 3

Dalek Empire:

  1. Invasion of the Daleks
  2. The Human Factor
  3. "Death to the Daleks!"
  4. Project Infinity
  5. Dalek War: Chapter One
  6. Dalek War: Chapter Two
  7. Dalek War: Chapter Three
  8. Dalek War: Chapter Four

Jago & Litefoot:

Series 1

Series 2

Series 3

Series 4

Series 5


Series 1

Series 2

Iris Wildthyme:

2.1 The Sound of Fear

2.2 The Land of Wonder

2.3 The Two Irises

2.4 The Panda Invasion

2.5 The Claws of Santa

Series 3

Series 4


  1. Time Heals
  2. Snake Head
  3. The Longest Night
  4. The Wasting

I, Davros:

  1. Innocence
  2. Purity
  3. Corruption
  4. Guilt


1.1 Scorpius

1.2 Fear

1.3 Conversion

1.4 Telos

2.0 Cyberman 2

Charlotte Pollard:

Series 1


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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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