Friday, November 01, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Chapter 28

Wow, twenty-eight installments of these.  Y'know, twenty-eight is how old we've decided Big Anklevich is . . . forever.

I finished my third Dumarest book, and am about to start on the fourth, unwilling to let the deadline creep up on me the way it did on this last one.  If I can figure out the main female character's voice, I'll begin soon.

So, remember how I mentioned there was a Bradbury story up for auditions, and I felt like I had to try for it, despite having looming deadlines I wasn't going to reach?  Well, I saw a piece by Theodore Sturgeon go up, and I felt very much the same there.  Sturgeon was a well-known Sci-Fi writer of years past, and I only know him because of his work on "Star Trek."  He wrote my favorite episode of the series, "Amok Time," so I auditioned for the story, and it turns out I got that one.  That's pretty cool.  I'll let you know how that goes.

I've mentioned that I try to describe the voices I give characters in my notes, so that I'll be able to do them the same way when they show up again.  Sometimes, it's as simple as "Old Spock," "Professor McGonagal," or "Morgan Freeman," but they can get a bit surreal, like "Tight-lipped American woman," or "Italian Liam Neeson," or "the guy who did the voice for Piglet."  Actually, that last one was a pretty good description, because while I'm sure it sounds nothing like the actor who voiced Piglet in all those "Winnie the Pooh" things*, it tells me how to voice the character the same every time.

And that's a good trick for doing this kind of work.  Even if you don't do an impression of, say, Jeffrey Combs, my face goes a certain way when I'm trying to talk like him, and the voice comes out differently simply because of that.  You'll probably never know which guy was supposed to be Jeffrey Combs, but he's not gonna sound like the other characters.

I got an offer this week from a publisher to narrate a book by a famous(?) Sci-Fi writer of the past.  I put the question mark in because, while I recognized his name, I've never read anything by him, could cite any of his titles, or even know how to pronounce his first name.  I read the sample they sent me, and afterward, didn't know what to do.  While I know that, career-wise, it's way better to perform the work of famous writers rather than unknown ones, the writing itself really, really vexed me.

It went a little something like this...

Hglathath was regent of all Copernyiah, in the Trygroifth region, son and heir to all that the great Kjiastia left his people.  He was a wise ruler, advised on one side by Valmoroor the sorcerer, and his goodly wife Gynschi on the other.  His three children, Koobl, Bunchiast, and Dave would all inherit a third of the kingdom, each of which has an equally unpronouncible name.

A silly example, maybe.  And perhaps oversimplifying my issue with the writing, but I sent the actual paragraphs to Big, and they made what I wrote just now seem like Dick & Jane readers.  I, personally, hate Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing like this, and if you like it, you can burn in the fires of Quadiodor, where the great beast Amalagothorianyh dwells with his cast out followers, the Bilginiathy.

To me, I have to be able to, above enjoying it, appreciating it, or admiring it, understand what I'm reading, in order to do an effective performance.  Audiobook narration, to me, is not something a computer can do.  I'm not reading a textbook here, I'm not simply copying spoken word from written word.  I'm acting it, I'm translating it, I'm interpreting it, in a way, and trying to make it come alive in a way that will elevate the material, as arrogant as that sounds.

I've listened to quite a few audiobooks in the last seven years, and the best ones are the ones where you forget that there's a single person reading the book for you, but that when the daughter speaks, you know it's her even before the text tells you it's her.  When someone is angry, you feel that they're angry, even without the text saying, "He growled angrily."  When someone is emotional, when someone is whispering, when someone is thinking, your mind knows that's the case because of the performance, rather than depending on the author to spell it out.  Because authors don't write for audio.  They write in text, and it's so easy to have characters argue on paper and keep them straight.  But a narrator's job is to make it obvious which character is speaking when, so that when the author leaves out, "Adam asked," the listener doesn't miss it.

It friggin' blows my mind that I am not simply stating the obvious, and that everyone else feels the same way.  But hey, people are different.  Some folks are able to keep nonsensical names, places, creatures, and terms straight in their head, and such things do not derail the listening experience.  On the other side, my friend Jeff has no tolerance for audiobooks, and I wouldn't be surprised if he likened what I'm doing to creating Cliffs Notes for great literature.

So, I couldn't accept the offer of doing the book, because I wouldn't be able to give it my all, give an individual voice or personality to each of the characters, and, frankly, I fear the work would go so slowly that I would rue the day I ever agreed to it.

I struggle enough as it is with E.C. Tubb's language, and he writes in English.

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