Sunday, May 22, 2016

Radio Greats: The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway (X Minus One)

The 1950s in radio saw a slow, cautious exploration of the genre of science fiction. One thread of the genre that tended to work especially well with radio was comic science fiction. Science fiction, of course, has always been recognized as having some satirical potential, but this can be quite dry or acidic; what worked especially well on radio was the use of science fiction for genuinely humorous twists. X Minus One, the most important and impressive science fiction series ever to air on radio, had a number of classics of this kind -- "Skulking Permit" and "Bad Medicine" (both by Robert Sheckley, the latter satirizing psychoanalysis) are obvious examples. Another great example of comic science fiction at its best is "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway", which aired in April of 1957.

As is always the case with X Minus One, it is based on a short story of the same name from Galaxy magazine; that story, by William Tenn, was published in 1955. William Tenn (the pen name of Philip Klass) is often considered the greatest writer of science fiction satire in the Golden Age of science fiction, a period in which a great deal of science fiction satire was done. He has a knack for skewering on more levels than one, and not just skewering but stimulating thought in new direction. "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway", which satirizes the art world, is an excellent example of this, raising fascinating questions about creativity and evaluation of art.

You can listen to "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway" at Old Time Radio Downloads or at The Theatre of the Mind on YouTube or at Relic Radio or at the Internet Archive (episode 95). You can read the radio script at Generic Radio Workshop.

If you prefer to read the original, you can read it here.

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