It’s not often you come across a whole lump of stuff on radio that feeds into your interests, but Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra have done it with Dangerous Visions , in their words, “A season of dramas that explore contemporary takes on future dystopias“. I’ve written before about how I love this kind of stuff. Right now I’m listening to a ‘dystopia’ episode of Radio 4’s Start The Week, including discussion with writer Hari Kunzru, and Jane Rogers, discussing her book The Testament of Jessie Lamb, which I found enjoyable, but not amazing. Not as powerful as something like PD James’ Children of Men, for example, which followed a similar idea. It’s a bit unclear whether Kunzru’s book is a straight up novel; it also seems to consist of a show.
But more excitingly, for me, is that BBC are doing new radio adaptations of JG Ballard’s The Drowned World and Concrete Island, and reminded me of this. Both are great novels, and illustrate that Ballard does sci-fi – some of his more famous novels like Crash and Empire of the Sun might lead you to think otherwise. Confusingly, googling The Drowned World suggests it’s been adapted at least once by the BBC before, read by Robert Glenister; this is a new adaptation. It’ll be interesting to see how Concrete Island is adapted for radio. The book requires a little suspension of disbelief, in the idea that someone could be stranded Robinson Crusoe style on a traffic island, but it does benefit from being able to re-read descriptions of the landscape and get your bearings. This won’t be possible on radio, obviously.
Finally, I half heard, and will now go listen on iPlayer, a play called The Sleeper, starring Maxine Peake, which seems to be another piece of speculative fiction: “This is a Britain in which, decades ago, human beings gradually lost the gift of sleep.” Although, with two small kids in my house, it doesn’t seem so much sci-fi as morbid reality.