Gone Scopping:
Keeping the Oral Tradition Alive @ KGB

June 24th, 2018

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time reading screens. When it comes to accessibility, the digital format is hard to beat. But is it the best format for sharing stories?

I recall an article at CNN.com in which a writer lamented the loss of print: “I miss the edges – physical and psychological. I miss the start of reading a print magazine, but mostly, I miss the finish. I miss the satisfaction of putting the bundle down, knowing I have gotten through it all.”

For those of us who came of age with print media, it’s hard not to sympathize. Yet, it’s worth remembering that the art of story existed long before ink and paper. Which brings us to one of the recurring themes of this blog site — story as performance.

Live storytelling may not be as convenient as digital or print media. You need to go to it, enter a physical space, remain there for the duration. And it isn’t as durable as print. It’s ephemeral, existing only for the moment. But it remains my preferred platform for sharing stories.

And that brings us to Fantastic Fiction at KGB.

This past Wednesday, I again got the chance to experience live storytelling on both sides of the KGB stage. And once again, I came away convinced that spoken-word storytelling still has an important place in the digital age.

This time out, I had the chance to read with multiple Hugo Award winner Mary Robinette Kowal. Although best known as a fantasy writer, Mary proved she is equally adept at science fiction by reading the opening chapter of The Calculating Stars, the soon-to-be-released first book of her Lady Astronaut duology. The excerpt features a gripping account of a catastrophic meteorite strike as experienced by a narrator far removed from the point of impact – a narrative device that amps up the tension as the character comes to realize what has happened. A seasoned reader (Wednesday’s performance was her fifth at KGB), Mary effectively brought the story to life in a manner that transcended the printed page. A stellar performance.

For my presentation, I had originally planned on sharing the bonus story from the newly released second-edition of Voices: Tales of Horror. The story first appeared as “Human Caverns” in Fear the Abyss (Post-Mortem Press, 2013). Revised and retitled as “Siren” for the new edition of Voices, the story is one of my personal favorites. But as the performance date approached, I began toying with the notion of framing the performance as a vintage anthology show (ala The Outer Limits) complete with a control-voice intro and several stand-alone stories (ala Night Gallery).

I felt the format might make for a fun presentation, and I like the way it provided a kind of homage to the upcoming anthology film Nightmare Cinema.

The resulting presentation featured the control-voice story “Aberrations” and the flash-fiction tales “Step on a Crack” and “Prime Time!” (all three taken from Visions: Short Fantasy & SF. I then concluded with an excerpt from “Siren” (the story I had originally planned to present in its entirety) and a control-voice outro.

How did it go? Did I make the right call? You’ll soon be able to judge for yourself. Fantastic Fiction will be posting the audio of the performance (expertly recorded and mastered by Gordon Linzer) at their website. Naturally, the digital recording will be one-step removed from the physical experience, but it should nevertheless give a sense of the oral tradition that hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel are keeping alive at Fantastic Fiction at KGB.

For now, thanks for reading these digital words. Until we meet again (whether in person, print, or pixels) … scop on!

Images:

  • Fantastic Fiction at KGB graphic from Kickstarter page, created by Matthew Kressel.
  • Crowd outside KGB Bar from The end of the Tour, A24 Films, 2014.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal and Lady Astronaut books at KGB, photo by Ellen Datlow.
  • The 21st-Century Scop reads from memory at KGB, photo by Tom Conair.
  • Cover of the second-edition of Voices: Tales of Horror. Cover art by Jason Zerrillo. Cover design by W. H. Horner of Fantasist Enterprises.
  1. This entry was posted on Sunday, June 24th, 2018 at 6:34 pm and is filed under 21st-Century Scop. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.


Leave a Reply