Welcome to Malleus: Vibrations from the Middle Ear, a weekly review column of English and German language audio drama, audio books, and other spoken word recordings. Malleus came about for two reasons: 1) to provide critical reviews of spoken arts recordings that rarely receive them and 2) to introduce English-speakers to the remarkable German phenomenon colloquially termed the ?H?rspiel-Boom?. To that end this English language column will cover both English (U.S.A., Canada, Britain, and Australia) and German productions. Malleus will tend to focus on science fiction, fantasy, and horror, three fantastical genres that have enjoyed considerable success over radio?s phantom airwaves. However, from time to time other genres will be featured. Readers can expect to see reviews of both old and new productions, from Old Time Radio and obscure LPs to cutting edge MP3 downloads. Most recordings discussed will be in print; a few will require scouring ebay or making a trip to your local library.
Aside perhaps from a willingness to bring the hammer down hard on inferior work, what distinguishes Malleus most from other review columns is its bi-lingual emphasis. There are a few decent review sites focusing on English-language audio drama and more devoted to German productions, but as far as I know this is the first Internet column to address both. Why do it? Honestly, audio drama has been my favorite pastime for twenty-five years, and English and German are the languages I know. That said, Germany?s h?rspiel (audio play) industry really is something special. You might think every country would have its own vibrant audio drama scene: not so. France for example, whose native tongue is admired the world over, strangely lacks a significant audio drama tradition. Germany not only has one, it bucks the contemporary trend of declining production common to English-speaking countries. On the contrary, Germany has been enjoying a true ?audio drama boom? for the past ten years that exceeds anything in the country?s history. That?s right, folks: not only are professional German audio drama companies thriving, new ones are entering the market every year. It?s gotten to the point that German companies are now licensing more major American properties for audio drama than their American counterparts are (Star Wars, Hellboy, TSR?s Forgotten Realms, to name a few). Today Germany is producing work on a scale and level of sophistication that rivals the best of what even the BBC has to offer. This column will open that world up to you.
Malleus will strive for 50 / 50 coverage of English and German language productions, so even if you?re not interested in the German scene there should be something to catch your eye. Variety will be emphasized: upcoming reviews consider English language productions Jack Flanders: Midnight at the Casa Luna by ZBS, The Buoy by Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater, Deathlands #73: Labyrinth by Graphic Audio, and German language productions John Sinclair by Wortart, Drizzt – Die Saga vom Dunkelelf #1 – Der Dritte Sohn by Lausch, and Chronik der Unsterblichen: Blutkrieg by ZYX Music, among others. All reviews will run approximately 2-4 typed pages and feature a 1 to 10 star rating.
So again, welcome. I hope you’ll find Malleus interesting, provocative, and illuminating to the dark passageways of your ears. And I’d like to express my sincere thanks to Fred Greenhalgh of Radio Drama Revival for hosting this column.
March 13, 2008
For the curious: The malleus of the column title is one of three ossicles in the middle ear, named for its shape (Latin for ?hammer?.) Along with the incus and stapes, the malleus transmits vibrations from the eardrum into waves of fluid in the inner ear.
Legal Nonsense: The title Malleus: Vibrations from the Middle Ear and all reviews posted in this column are copyright 2008 Chris Dueker. Reviews may not be reprinted or otherwise redistributed without permission. All opinions expressed in Malleus are my own, and do not reflect those of Radio Drama Revival.