Hear Vintage Episodes of Buck Rogers, the Sci-Fi Radio Show That First Aired in 1932


(echo) Buck… Rogers… in… the… 25th… Cen­tu­ry!

On this day in 1932, the Buck Rogers in the 25th Cen­tu­ry radio pro­gram hit the air­waves. Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of the char­ac­ter in the com­ic strip for­mat, it was nat­ur­al to adapt Rogers for the nation’s lat­est craze: radio.

Few fic­tion­al char­ac­ters have had such a pro­found and pro­longed impact on Amer­i­can cul­ture as Buck Rogers. He first appeared in Amaz­ing Sto­ries mag­a­zine as Antho­ny Rogers, and then in Philip Fran­cis Nowlan’s novel­la Armaged­don 2419 A. D. and its sequel The Air­lords of Han. The sto­ry caught the atten­tion of Nation­al News­pa­per Syndicate’s John F. Dille, who con­tract­ed Nowl­an to adapt the char­ac­ter into a com­ic strip, chang­ing “Antho­ny” to “Buck.”

In 1932, the radio pro­gram pre­miered, mak­ing it the first sci­ence fic­tion pro­gram on radio. Ini­tial­ly broad­cast­ed as a fif­teen-minute show on CBS on a Mon­day through Thurs­day sched­ule, the show stayed on the air for the next fif­teen years with vary­ing sched­ules.

Now, thanks to Archive.org, you can trav­el back to 1932 and fol­low the adven­tures of “Buck and Wilma and all their fas­ci­nat­ing friends and mys­te­ri­ous ene­mies in the super-sci­en­tif­ic 25th cen­tu­ry” (as stat­ed in the show’s intro­duc­tion).

Buck Rogers is large­ly cred­it­ed with bring­ing into pop­u­lar cul­ture the con­cept of space explo­ration, not to men­tion ray guns and robots. Ray Brad­bury may have stat­ed it best in his intro­duc­tion to The Col­lect­ed Works of Buck Rogers in the 25th Cen­tu­ry, when dis­cussing its com­ic strip form:

There you are, wait­ing, trem­bling, in fevers; so full of life that if you were a vol­cano you’d come up in someone’s corn­field and bury the silo. There you are, as after­noon slides toward warm dusk, eyes shut, lis­ten­ing…

And there’s the sound, whistling through the air, crash­ing along the shin­gles, slid­ing down the roof, falling to the porch. You fling the door wide. You bend to touch that incred­i­ble news­pa­per with a hot hand. Buck Rogers had just been born. And you a sin­gle wise small boy, are there alone to wel­come him to a world he will help change for­ev­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Revis­it Futuria Fan­ta­sia: The Sci­ence Fic­tion Fanzine Ray Brad­bury Pub­lished as a Teenag­er

Isaac Asimov’s Sci­ence Fic­tion Clas­sic, The Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy, Dra­ma­tized for Radio (1973)

Free: Lis­ten to 298 Episodes of the Vin­tage Crime Radio Series, Drag­net

Revis­it Orson Welles’ Icon­ic ‘War of the Worlds’ Broad­cast That Aired 75 Years Ago Today

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