1955-58: X Minus One

Countdown for blastoff… X minus five, four, three, two, X minus one… Fire! From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds. The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Street & Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction presents… X Minus One.

Both of my recent posts – X-files and I, Robot, have their ties to a show that I love, The Outer Limits. The thought about Science Fiction evolution has encouraged me to take a couple steps further back this weekend, past The Outer Limits, to X Minus One, a staple from the golden age of radio.

X Minus One, like its not as well known predecessor Dimension X, was a Sci Fi anthology program featuring a mix of both original stories as well as adaptations of popular tales (typically from partnering magazine Galaxy Science Fiction) from the popular writers of the day, men who became legends in the genre, like Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury. Adaptations and original stories were written by Ernest Kinoy or George Lefferts.

There were over 100 of these 20-30 minute episodes, when the show was cancelled, in part due to the rising in popularity of television. The success of this show, as well as others, lead to the creation of both the Twilight Zone and the outer limits, both of which inspired shows to come, such as X-Files, Fringe, and Star Trek, featured up and coming writing legends such as Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison, and adapted a few pulp tales, such as I, Robot.

 I first came across X Minus One as a young teen when I would listen to them from 11-1:00 ever night (unless a hockey game was being aired) on a local AM channel. Radio shows were something I was into well before I even discovered comics.

Wanting to take a couple days off from X-Files, which I’ve been watching 2-3 episodes of a day, but not wanting to completely distract myself from it, I started listening to an X-Minus One podcast. I forgot how good some of these stories were. Today I challenged myself even further and found a few of the original stories to read and compare to their adaptations.

I read:

Philip K. Dick’s The Defenders (1953), a story about men who have gone underground to avoid radiation poisoning from World War 3 and left robots in charge of fighting their battles, only to discover that the robots have ended the war and been waiting for the humans to grow up a little bit before ending the charade.

Jaywalking by Ross Rocklynne (1950), about a woman who pushes her husband away because she can’t handle the stress of worrying about his job as a pilot, but when she wants him back she sneaks abourd his ship, putting herself and everyone else in terrible danger.

Project Mastadon (1955) by Clifford Simak, about a small group of men who try to claim a prehistoric North America as a new colony only to get trapped there for a few days. It sounds boring, but it was written quite well.

 And my favourite of the weekend 1948’s Knock by Fredric Brown. It is a story about the end of the world and it starts with a brilliant explanation of a very short horror story. “The last man on earth sits alone in a room. There is a knock at the door…”. He explains that the horror is not in the words, but in the “…” Which is so true. H. P. Lovecraft’s genius often came from describing the feeling of something and leaving the actual discription up to the readers mind. Fredric Brown goes on to tell what happens after the knock at the door, which is an entertaining story, but nothing will beat his thrilling opening.

I listened to probably 12 broadcasts in total, but those were the only ones whose source material I read. All the stories I bought in $.99 (why is there no cent symbol on a keyboard but there are €£ and ¥?) mega packs on iBooks which came with a ton more shorts for me to read!

Additionally, while I was listening to the radio shows I did a little drawing. My art, is intended to be in the style of old Sci Fi magazine covers, specifically Amazing Stories. I originally intended for a rocket ship with a Mastadon standing by it, and a human in a space suit, but since I can’t draw in actuality, but at least it filled my time. This was the end result.

As I am starting to train for another marathon this spring and will be spending a long time with my headphones in my ears my goal is to get through all 100+ plus episodes. Reading the stories will be a little more difficult as most are not available through iBooks. I feel like this weekend has been a great start!

Thanks for reading.


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