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Classic Science Fiction Radio Plays

The idea of a state of the art computer being used to listen to an entertainment conceived in the days of crystal sets seems to fit in rather well with the spirit of Future Past, so we are offering a selection of classic American radio sci-fi for your enjoyment and edification.

And there's more

For even more vintage radio, see our radio play collection over at Ephemeral Isle.



Appointment in Tomorrow

by Fritz Leiber

Ever been to a science fiction convention?  Ever witness that remarkable mixture of enthusiasm, imagination and adolescent frustration that marks the truly dedicated science fiction fan?  Never has there been a group that was so in love with science and the possibilities of the future.  Never has anyone understood how dreams can leap light years ahead of reality and drag the world behind on their coat tails.  What would happen if the world finally sat up and took notice of these acolytes of the spaceship and the ray gun?  How far would we advance if imagination was given its full reign?

Could it be that Fans really are Slans?

In this biting, cynical little tale, Fritz Leiber shows us what it is like in a 21st century ruled by science fiction fans-- at least, what it's like while they think they rule, but that's only until they keep their appointment in tomorrow.

First broadcast on the NBC radio network 7 November 1956.

Click here to listen


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The Green Hills of Earth

by Robert A. Heinlein

This is the story of Rhysling, the blind singer of the spaceways.  He was a jetman second class, a boozer, a freeloader, and as insubordinate an SOB as ever manned a reactor on a cranky old rocket freighter on the triplanet run, but the songs that he picked out on his battered old guitar for drinks spoke of the lives of the spacemen.  They told of the beauty of the deserted cities of ancient Mars, the fetid swamps of Venus, the pounding of the jets as they threw giant ships into the void, and the loneliness of the men who made their living in the empty wastes between the worlds.

But most famously, Rhyslings' songs told of the one thing that his eyes, long-destroyed in an atomic engine accident, would never see again:  The green hills of Earth.

First broadcast on the NBC radio network 7 July 1955.

Click here to listen

First Contact

by Murray Leinster

As man ventures out into space, it is a safe bet that sooner or later he will make first contact with another race of intelligent beings-- perhaps in a chance meeting of two ships whose paths cross while exploring the Galaxy. 

Such an encounter would certainly be a momentous day in the history of two worlds, but what happens when it's time to leave?  How could the Earthmen be certain that the aliens were really friendly?  How could they be sure that the strangers wouldn't follow their ship back to Earth as the prelude to a sneak attack.  For that matter, how could the aliens be certain that the Earthmen wouldn't do the same to them?

Would anyone ever be able to go home?

First broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System c.1950.

Click here to listen

Chicken Heart

by Arch Obler

Good things come in small packages.  So do evil things, too.  Sometimes the most dangerous threat is that which seems tiny, harmless and even absurd.  An atomic bomb can destroy a city, but a flea can wipe out a civilisation. 

As an example we present this frightening little tale less than eight minutes long about how the world was brought to an end and mankind exterminated by the unstoppable menace of... a chicken heart.

Based on a true story!

First broadcast on NBC's Lights Out on 10 March 1937.

Click here to listen

The Seventh Victim

by Robert Sheckley

He has killed six people-- gunned them down in cold blood.  Now he is stalking his seventh victim.  But no one is trying to stop him.  The police won't lift a finger to keep him from taking another life and the courts will never prosecute him.  Why should they?  After all, he has a permit. 

In the future, murder is not only legal, it's encouraged as an outlet for man's aggression.  So long as you follow the rules and fill out the paperwork you can deal out death to your heart's content.

Provided, that is,  that Fate doesn't throw a spanner into the works.

Based on the short story by Robert Sheckley, who passed away on 29 December 2005. It was adapted for the screen as The Tenth Victim in 1965.

First broadcast on the NBC radio network on 5 March 1957.

Click here to listen

Tunnel Under the World

by Frederik Pohl

“On the morning of June 15th, Guy Burckhardt woke up screaming out of a dream.”

There is no greater relief than having a frightening dream come to an end with the dawn of a new day, but when Guy Burckhardt wakes on this June morning he discovers that his nightmare is only beginning.  He finds himself trapped in a terrifying, yet familiar world of secrecy and manipulation that is literally without a tomorrow and where the ultimate horror is to be found in the tunnel under the world. 

First broadcast on the NBC radio network on 14 March 1956.

Click here to listen


by Isaac Asimov

A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 

So says the First Law of Robotics and it seems a sensible sort of precaution to build into a machine.  But how far must a robot go to avoid harming a human being?  What will it do?  What will it  say?

What if the robot in question can read minds?

If your only exposure to Isaac Asimov's robot stories has been the recent Will Smith action movie antics, then you are in for a pleasant surprise.  In fact, this is a neat two for one deal.  Our story was not only written by Dr. Asimov, but it is introduced by the legendary sci-fi editor John W. Campbell Jr.. 

First broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System c.1950.

Click here to listen

The Cave of Night

by James Gunn

America's first man in space is trapped in orbit a thousand miles from home; his engines useless and his oxygen running out.

Unable to receive messages on his damaged radio, the marooned astronaut passes the time by conducting a running monologue to the people back on Earth about the wonders of space while the authorities throw every bit of money and manpower they have into a race against the clock to build a rescue ship to bring him back from the cave of night. 

Or are they?

First broadcast on the NBC radio network on 1 February 1956.

Click here to listen

The Roads Must Roll

by Robert A. Heinlein

Remember the old days when there were things called automobiles?  Before the highways became so choked with traffic back in the 1950s that they literally ground to a halt?   And then the Engineers took over and replaced the cars with the Roads; giant mechanised conveyors carrying millions of people across the continent  everyday and most of the freight at up to a hundred miles an hour?  Today the economy of the 21st century is utterly dependent on the Roads-- and the men who run them.  Thank Heaven they are utterly dependable.

They'd better be, because the Roads must roll.

First aired on the NBC radio network on 4 January 1956

Click here to listen

The Space Merchants

by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth

Sure, pop up adverts are annoying, junk mail is frustrating, and spam is enough to make you want to tear your hair out, but it could be worse,  At least the advertising agencies aren't running the place-- at least, not yet.

In the classic Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth novel, adapted in two parts by the CBS Radio Workshop, you will encounter a future where Madison Avenue rules the world and the morals of advertising are the law of the land.  But what happens when one Mitchell Courtenay, Copysmith Star Class, is given the ultimate in sales campaigns: to sell the American people on emigrating to Venus.

First broadcast on the CBS radio network on 17 and 24 February 1957.

Click here to listen to Part 1.

Click here to listen to Part 2.

A Logic Named Joe

by Murray Leinster

Think that the personal computer is strictly a modern idea?  That before the first Apple II hit the market in 1977 no one had foreseen such a thing?  That the Internet is such a revolutionary invention that someone from, say, the 1950s wouldn't understand it or the trouble it might cause?  If so, then I suggest that you sit down and use your logic.  Specifically, a Logic named Joe.

First broadcast on the NBC radio network on 28 December 1955.

Click here to listen

The War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells.

The 30 October 1938 broadcast of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air's notorious adaptation of H. G. Wells's 1898 novel.   The Howard Koch script moved the action from Victorian England to modern day New Jersey and presented the Martian invasion in the form of a news broadcast that Orson Welles made so realistic that it caused a national panic; landing both the CBS Radio Network and Mr. Welles in considerable hot water.

Click here to listen.


by Clifford D. Simak. 

First broadcast 29 February 1956 on the NBC radio network's science fiction anthology programme X-Minus One, this story of a spaceship crew stranded on a deserted planet is a mixture of Star Trek adventure and Twilight Zone twists that collides in one of radio's most chilling endings.

 Click here to listen.

Disclaimer:  So far as I am aware, the classic radio plays presented here are out of copyright and may be used freely.  There is no intent at infringement.

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