X Minus One: Hear Classic Sci-Fi Radio Stories from Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury & Dick


Though I sel­dom long for my native cul­ture when abroad, when the need for a hit of Amer­i­cana does arise (and I say this cur­rent­ly writ­ing from Seoul, South Korea), I fill my iPod with old time radio. Many shows from Amer­i­ca’s “Gold­en Age” of wire­less broad­cast­ing can fill this need, but one could do much worse than Dimen­sion X, the ear­ly-1950s sci­ence-fic­tion pro­gram we fea­tured ear­li­er this month, or its late-1950s suc­ces­sor X Minus One, whose episodes you can also find at the Inter­net Archive. Both show­case Amer­i­can cul­ture at its mid-20th-cen­tu­ry finest: for­ward-look­ing, tem­pera­men­tal­ly bold, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly adept, and sat­u­rat­ed with earnest­ness but for the occa­sion­al sur­pris­ing­ly know­ing irony or bleak edge of dark­ness. That last comes cour­tesy of these shows’ writ­ing tal­ent, a group which includes such canon­i­cal names as Philip K. Dick, Ray Brad­bury, Isaac Asi­mov, and Robert Hein­lein.

X Minus One’s run, which last­ed from April 1955 to Jan­u­ary 1958, includ­ed a heap­ing help­ing of the evi­dent­ly high­ly radio-adapt­able Ray Brad­bury: his sto­ries “And The Moon Be Still As Bright,” “Mars is Heav­en,” “The Veldt,” “Dwellers in Silence,” “Zero Hour,” “To the Future,” and “Mar­i­onettes, Inc.,” all appeared as episodes. From Robert A. Hein­lein’s hard­er-bit­ten body of work the show pro­duced “Uni­verse,” “Requiem,” and “The Roads Must Roll.” Isaac Asi­mov, one of the most sci­en­tif­ic of that era’s sci­ence-fic­tion writ­ers, wrote the source mate­r­i­al for “Night­fall,” “C‑Chute,” and “Host­ess.” The pen of Philip K. Dick, sure­ly the most pure­ly imag­i­na­tive of the bunch, for its part pro­duced “The Defend­ers” and “Colony.” Amer­i­ca let fly all sorts of visions of the future back then, from the opti­mistic to the pes­simistic, the utopi­an to the dystopi­an, the pro­gres­sive to the regres­sive. The afore­men­tioned writ­ers did it best by mix­ing all those sen­si­bil­i­ties into each of their visions, which you can hear, along with those of many oth­ers, in X Minus One’s robust archive. You can stream sev­er­al of the episodes below.

“The Defend­ers” (Philip K. Dick)

“Night­fall” (Isaac Asi­mov)

“Zero Hour” (Ray Brad­bury)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

Orson Welles Vin­tage Radio: The War of the Worlds That Pet­ri­fied a Nation

The Rel­a­tiv­i­ty Series Fea­tures 24 Free Plays About Great Sci­en­tists and Sci­en­tif­ic Endeav­ors

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

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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