Sunday, May 25, 2008

WG5: Other Forms of Storytelling

This week on the Weekly Geeks our mission is to talk about other forms of story telling. I have to say that books have always been and I suspect will always remain my preferred method of discovering a story, but that doesn't mean there aren't some good alternatives out there.

I do watch some TV, but with my health I find it a strangely difficult form to keep up with. All the same, I have some favourite shows both past and present. I like a long, detailed story with as much character and plot development as possible, which means that on one level, episodic shows with a strong story and character arc are perfect for me. Unfortunately, on a different level altogether that simply adds up to more time spent in front of the TV that I can justify since I have so little time in a day when I'm awake and functional anyway.

My favourite TV show of all time would be Babylon 5 (with Quantum Leap running equal but it is a story-a-week show and I'm talking about shows with a long term story here). I loved the way the story developed, as did the characters and settings and situations. I wish I had time to watch this regularly as I think it still leads the pack when it comes to showing how beautifully a story can be told using TV as a medium. Unfortunately it was stopped from being perfectly told by network decisions that lead J. Michael Straczynski to squashing up the end of the fourth season story, losing a lead actor for the fifth season and not having quite enough story for that same fifth season. As I understand it, if the fifth season had been confirmed before the end of the fourth, the civil war storyline would have crossed into the beginning of the fifth season (just as the Shadow War storyline crossed into the beginning of the fourth), we would still have had Ivanova for season five and there would have been less need for filler episodes.

In terms of current shows, I make a point of watching Doctor Who and I'm greatly enjoying the new series that is now in its fourth season with David Tennant as the tenth Doctor. This has both individual episodes and an over-reaching story arc and I just plain love the show. I'm a fan of the Doctor from way back (I started watching regularly with Tom Baker's Doctor, but do remember some Pertwee episodes as well) so it is great to see him on the TV screen again. Last week's episode was particularly appropriate for a blog post about books and storytelling as it featured Agatha Christie and was a lovely pastiche of Dame Agatha's books and story style (I believe the writer and producer essentially had a competition to see who could get the most Christie titles into the dialogue). Even if you're not a Who fan, if you're a Christie fan consider trying to catch a viewing of The Unicorn and the Wasp.

I also watch Bones for no more significant reason that I like it. I think it appeals to the scientist in me and is generally less gory than the CSI shows have become (not to mention that I absolutely cannot stand Horatio Caine on Miami).

But these days, my main form of storytelling entertainment aside for actual books is all audio. I spend a lot of time lying in bed at present and keeping my eyes open to watch TV or read a book (not to mention actually holding up a book) can be too much. So being able to lie down, close my eyes and listen to something saves me from total and absolute boredom (at least until I fall asleep which happens a lot more quickly and regularly than I like - sleeping during the day is such an absolute waste of time and I waste hours that way every day).

Staying with the Doctor Who theme, way back in 1999, when the show was still in limbo and possibly never going to return to the TV screen, a British company called Big Finish gained a licence from the BBC and began to produce audio plays featuring the fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors, all played by the original actors. Not too much later they were also joined by the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, who was only seen on screen in the British/American telemovie so it was wonderful to see his character (which I just love, along with Paul McGann's voice) have a chance to live on in this medium.

Big Finish released their 107th monthly Doctor Who audio this month, so there is absolutely no way I have either the money or the time to keep up with them all, but I have the early McGann audios and have borrowed some others from friends, featuring a variety of Doctors. All the same, as I continue to listen, I suspect I'll choose to concentrate to the eighth Doctor (in the main monthly series and in his own series started more recently) as he's my favourite and I can't listen to them all. Big Finish also produce audio plays in a number of other media universes including The Tomorrow People (I loved that show as a kid), Sapphire and Steel, 2000AD and they're just starting up with Stargate (both SG1 and Atlantis) this year. Of course, once again the "I don't have enough money and I can't listen to them all" thing features in and I haven't tried any of these.

Something else I enjoy listening to, although it isn't quite so much storytelling as the audio plays, is podcasts. These are wonderful as they cover all sorts of topics and again, can be enjoyed while lying down with one's eyes closed. I listen to a range of subjects: Doctor Who again, science fiction/fantasy writing and publishing, astronony, the history of Rome, genre television, Celtic and Renaissance Faire music and the occasional short story. (If anyone thinks these sound interesting and would like some links, let me know and I'll put up a new post with those in it.)

And of course, how could I leave out audiobooks? Right at this moment, I can't focus on the words enough for audiobooks but I've spent many pleasant hours listening to them in the past and I know I will again. Thanks to my library and's subscription service which makes books affordable for me, I have access to a wide variety of authors and genres (although nothing is more frustrating than the "we cannot sell to your geographic location" message that comes up sometimes on Audible when I think I've found the perfect book to buy). My current book is Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vor Game and I'm stuck at about the three-quarter mark. That's okay though, I'll get back to it. And I know the story well so I'm not likely to forget anything important.

I do wish that some of the older books that I remember being available on cassette from the library were still around. I guess the tapes got old and stretched and since they aren't available for purchase now that means they're gone. I listened to Dorothy L. Sayers' Gaudy Night while travelling around the US about 10 years ago (all those tapes must have taken up a decent amount of my luggage space) and I can't find that anymore and I wish some of Mary Stewarts novels were available. I also remember Margery Allingham books on tape helping save my life and sanity when I was trying to cope with being put on prozac for depression. I had all the classic bad reactions and my brain was spinning so fast I needed something else to concentrate on so I didn't have to listen to what was going on in my own head. I know I listened to two or three Allingham books at the time. I don't remember much about them, but boy I appreciated them! (For the record, the prozac was quickly abandoned and I was put on something else that worked beautifully for many years.) Hopefully CDs will last longer than cassette tapes did and audio books will remain in libraries for many years to come for people like me to enjoy.


gautami tripathy said...

At one time I was a TVaddict, watching all the series etc etc. Now, I don't evn switch it on. Unless my mom is there.

Tell a Story!

morjana said...

I've purchased and listened to the Stargate titles now available: SG1's 'Gift of the Gods' (read by Michael Shanks) and SGA's 'A Necessary Evil' (read by Torri Higginson) and I was impressed and entertained by both of them.

I recommend these audio drama novels. The CDs come with short interviews, and the production qualities are excellent.


Ross the audio books worm said...

With reference to audiobooks,some websites do not charge a monthly subscription. You can download what you want when you want. Give a try.

Jaimie said...

Audio books are something I am definitely going to try. I listen to classes on audio but that is about it.
I think storytelling on T.V is getting better, expecially in the Sci-Fi area. I like PBS mini-series and a good adaptation is such a treat.

Nicki said...

Yes, you're right about B5. Such a shame wasn't it? It's probably my favourite show of all time too but it was messed up. Have you seen the recent made for TV DVD though - very disappointing...

And wasn't Doctor Who fun last week? I think I irritated Martin by commenting every time I spotted a book title :) No episode this week because of the Eurovision Song Contest. I know which I'd rather watch!

pussreboots said...

Since you're a Doctor Who fan, I highly recommend The Ten Doctors, a web comic. It's basically fanfic but in comic form. It's really good!

Stephanie said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I too loved Quantum Leap - it was just so good (and it didn't hurt that I had a thing for Scott Bakula)!

Nymeth said...

I'm a Babylon 5 fan too :)

Susan said...

Hi Kerry - found you via Bride of the book God - because of her Weekly Geeks report on Star Trek etc - and I came and read your post on Babylon 5 and Dr Who. I've ended up writing on DR Who as well for my Weekly Geeks 5, here's the link:
if you're interested. I love what you say about Dr Who, we're a season behind here in Canada, so I'm still desparately waiting for the Titanic episode! Now Bride says there's one with books....David T and books.....
We also loved Babylon 5 in our house, and I rewatch them every 3 or 4 years. They are such good storytelling, I agree, it's still among the best ever done on tv. Except for the last season and the loss of Ivanova....
Glad to meet you and see that we share the same tv tastes! And I hope you get well enough soon to read more again.