Entering The Outer Reach
About a year ago, I got an email from Nick White, a radio producer at KCRW in Los Angeles, who wanted to discuss an audio science fiction show that he was developing. We had heard about each other thanks to a lucky coincidence—Nick had gone to high school with my brother—but I quickly became interested in the project for its own sake. At that point, it didn’t even have a title, and all I knew was that it would be an anthology series of loosely connected stories set in the far future. Nick had already put together a pilot featuring the actor Martin Starr, and he was hoping to commission four more episodes to be released on the Howl FM podcast network. He also had a small budget to pay writers, which is even more remarkable than it sounds. When he asked me if I had any stories that I’d consider adapting, I sent him a link to my novelette “The Boneless One,” which had been released in an audio version by StarShipSofa. In the end, it didn’t seem like a natural fit for the format: it had too many characters, and there was no obvious way to tell it through dialogue and sound alone. Since it seemed as if any adaptation would require at least a week of work, if not more, I started wondering if it might make more sense for me to write something up from scratch. And Nick, fortunately, agreed.
The result is “Retention,” an installment of the original science fiction anthology series The Outer Reach, which debuts today in its entirety on Howl. (If you aren’t already a member, you have to sign up for the service, but the first month is free. The streaming page for the show is here.) Nick put together a great cast—the episode, which consists entirely of a conversation between two characters, is performed by Aparna Nancherla (Inside Amy Schumer) and Echo Kellum (Arrow)—and I’m very happy with the result. I’ll be talking more about how it came together in a future post, but I’ll just say for now that it represents my attempt to write a story that could only be told in an audio format, and that utilized the medium’s logic, rather than fighting against it. Listening to it has been an odd but ultimately gratifying experience. I wrote the script last December, which is long enough ago that I can hear it with detachment, and I don’t feel the same sense of ownership over it that I do with, say, my novella “The Proving Ground,” which appears in the current issue of Analog. “Retention” is the first thing I’ve ever written that I’ve handed over to be realized by somebody else, and I’m relieved to say that I like it. In fact, I like it one hell of a lot. It’s only fifteen minutes long, so please check it out if you’re so inclined, and let me know what you think.