Hear Inventive Stories from Ursula LeGuin & J.G. Ballard Turned Into CBC Radio Dramas

If you read the nov­els and sto­ries of Ursu­la K. LeGuin and J.G. Bal­lard, you drop your­self into invent­ed real­i­ties both over­whelm­ing­ly alien and unset­tling­ly famil­iar. And if you heard them on the radio — That Most Inti­mate of All Media, so they say — would­n’t those qual­i­ties take on a new inten­si­ty? Thanks to CBC Radio’s Van­ish­ing Point, a sci­ence-fic­tion anthol­o­gy series which ran from the mid-1980s to the ear­ly 90s, you can do just that and find out for your­self what it feels like to have them piped more or less direct­ly into your mind’s eye. Fans of both LeGuin and Bal­lard may take excep­tion to the straight label­ing of them as “sci­ence fic­tion” authors, and right­ly so. The for­mer’s work belongs as much to the tra­di­tion of fan­ta­sy as to that of sci-fi, and in both modes does a lot of detailed soci­o­log­i­cal world-build­ing; the lat­ter’s dark psy­cho­log­i­cal dimen­sion and near-non­fic­tion­al use of the mod­ern world always pre­vent­ed easy cat­e­go­riza­tion. Still, I sus­pect that the mak­ers of Van­ish­ing Point not just knew all this, but under­stood its appeal.

They must also have real­ized that nei­ther LeGuin nor Bal­lard had grown famous for their adapt­abil­i­ty. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heav­en got made twice for tele­vi­sion, to vary­ing opin­ions; opin­ions var­ied even more when her Earth­sea books more recent­ly became a Sci Fi Chan­nel minis­eries and a film from Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s ani­ma­tion stu­dio. Bal­lard’s nov­el of auto-wreck-eroti­cism Crash became a cult favorite in the hands of David Cro­nen­berg, but usu­al­ly his work cross­es into oth­er media in a more bizarre fash­ion (such as the tele­vi­sion short of Crash we fea­tured last year). But radio can han­dle pret­ty much any­thing such imag­i­na­tive writ­ers can throw at it, as you’ll hear in Van­ish­ing Point’s six-part adap­ta­tion of LeGuin’s The Dis­pos­sessed at the top of the post, or in the Inter­net Archive playlist of its six adapt­ed Bal­lard sto­ries just above. His­to­ry, alas, has­n’t record­ed the reac­tion that LeGuin, always out­spo­ken about oth­ers’ treat­ments of her worlds, had to these CBC dra­mas. When Rick McGrath of jgballard.ca sent Bal­lard him­self CDs of all the pro­duc­tions in 2004, he received “a great note from him explain­ing he’d love to lis­ten to them, but he has yet to buy a CD play­er.” And if I had to make a guess, I’d say that vision­ary of our alien­at­ed, frag­ment­ed tech­no­log­i­cal future nev­er got around to pick­ing one up.

Find more sci-fi radio drama­ti­za­tions in the relat­eds below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

X Minus One: More Clas­sic 1950s Sci-Fi Radio from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

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

Aldous Hux­ley Reads Dra­ma­tized Ver­sion of Brave New World

Free: Isaac Asimov’s Epic Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy Dra­ma­tized in Clas­sic Audio

The Very First Film of J.G. Ballard’s Crash, Star­ring Bal­lard Him­self (1971)

J.G. Bal­lard on Sen­sa­tion

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

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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