Sunday, February 02, 2014

Audiobook Adventures 34: Kalin: A Battle of Voices

So, as I was explaining in my earlier blog post (a month or more ago now) about the E.C. Tubb book "Kalin," I had a real headache with a) the voice I chose for the character of Kalin, and b) the accent I have given her (which sound like it's one and the same, but both is and isn't).  It's so complicated, I figured I'd dedicate a whole post to it.

From the first chapter of the book, I decided to give Kalin a unique accent (unique for me anyway, as I tend to do five or six different "stock" voices for background characters, and try to keep celebrities in mind for specific parts, such as a bad Terence Stamp or Anthony Hopkins impression, which may not sound like them to you, but help to keep the voice consistent, which is way more important than sounding like General Zod or Hannibal Lecter is).  I haven't sold a lot of these audiobooks, but I imagine that someone who buys one or two might buy them all, since there is something of a fanbase out there (at least enough to find websites and collections and essays and forum discussions about them).  Maybe they'll appreciate if the love interests don't always sound alike.

I've learned the hard way in 2013 that I really should read the projects through before I start the narration, and I now do that with short stories, but can't quite muster the energy required to do it for novels.  So, for each of these Dumarest books, I have sought out summaries online, and found a cool site that has all the books summed up in pretty good detail.*  Whenever possible, I will do this from now on, trying to avoid the kinds of mistakes I've previously made.

In that overview of "Kalin," it was explained that--spoilers ahead if you're actually interested in reading Book Four--Kalin is not actually Kalin, but a character called Keelan, who was nearly killed and saved through the use of a symbiote which transferred her mind into the body we know as Kalin.  Her actual body is still on her homeworld, in a comatose state, and though we don't find that out till the end of the book, we meet her two brothers early on, and having read the summary, I gave the brothers (and indeed, everybody on her world) similar accents to Kalin.**

I cannot predict the reasons why E.C. Tubb writes the way that he does, unless he does it like Stephen King often preaches about, and simply makes the books up as he goes along, not knowing where each is going, and then just published them with absolutely no attempt to go back and give it a cohesive structure.  For example, in the middle of the book, a bunch of characters are sitting around a fire, each discussing their plight, and one is referred to as "a man in the shadows."  I tried to give this guy an appropriately villainous voice and accent, thinking immediately of him as a sort of puppetmaster, someone who operated from the shadows.  Only in editing did I realize that none of these characters ever appear again, and that sinister one was described as the man in the shadows simply because Tubb didn't need to ever give him a name.  Sigh. 

Anyhow, in "Kalin," it seems that the whole Kalin/Keelan thing is misdirection, so you don't realize that the comatose girl and her brothers are related to her.  This is compounded when, at another point in the book, a man is introduced searching for his long-lost daughter.

Immediately, the reader knows that this man has to be Kalin's father, because she is the only female character in the damned book.  But I had read the overview, and I knew that this man turns out to be the father of Mallini, the body in which Kalin/Keelan is inhabiting.  I gave this man an American accent (a sort of New York tough guy voice, though he turns out to be a nice guy in the end***), and went on with my life until I reached the end of the book.

At the end, the girl in the coma communicates mentally with Earl Dumarest.  She is, physically, the body of Kalin, the girl with the funky accent, but mentally, she's Mallini, whose father has an American voice.  So, when this happens, I had no idea what to go with. 

Again, spoilers if I've not stated it...  Coma Girl (Keelan) is dying, and her voice is described as so strained and in pain that it sounds as though an old woman is speaking.  I had recorded for two hours when I got to the end of the book, and it was easy to put just a bit of pressure on my vocal cords and sound like a scratchy Jimmy Stewart filibustering in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.  Vocally, it's probably the best work I have ever done (but what do I know?), but I still couldn't figure out how to perform her voice.  She's the actual, physical body of Kalin, who grew up on the world of the accents, but she is not the body we have gotten to know throughout the book, which speaks in that accent.  She could speak like Keelan/Kalin or she could speak like Mallini.

I performed it both ways, with both accents, doing the horrible screechy old/young woman voice for each.

In the end, I think it has to be the American version, because I--Rish Outfield the narrator and editor--am interpreting that the book is saying that Mallini's mind went into the comatose body of Keelan, even though who really knows what happened?  Also, I'm sure E.C. Tubb, when he wrote it, envisioned everybody to have the same accent (probably something British), so it was incidental whose voice she spoke in.

Artistically, I think the voice should be the American one, since that's how I've chosen to interpret the text.  Narratively, though, I wonder if it would be confusing to have a different voice talk to Earl in his mind than the one we've come to associate with Kalin . . . who this both is and isn't.  What would be narratively correct might be confusing to a listener, and what would be immediately recognizable to the ear, might not make sense, if this sort of thing can make sense.**** 

I fear I may not have explained this well enough either.  The thing is, they're BOTH Keelan and BOTH Mallini, inextricably linked mentally, even though one body is healthy and one is severely damaged.

If you'd like to listen to it, you can judge for yourself.  If you'd rather not have the ending of the book spoiled, I totally understand.

Rish Outfield, Audiobook Boy

*Of course, had I read the book first, I would've avoided the Hispanic accent problem I mentioned before, but I actually get very little reading done anymore, as my spare time is taken with audiobooks and podcasting.

**In the very first book, "The Winds of Gath," I decided that the people of each world should all have the same accent, just to simplify things, and that has been a great help to me in my readings, as each of these E.C. Tubb books have taken place on three to five worlds, none of which are the same.  In fact, infuriatingly, there have been only two actual repeated characters in any of the books so far (Earl Dumarest and, technically, his memory of the unnamed Captain who rescued/adopted him as a child), and then the voice of the Master Cyclan, which is a hive mind I have chosen to give the voice of Old Spock.  But I digress.

***Except that he never does show up again.  Again, the weird structure of the writing introduces the character as important, but jettisons him, then has somebody else explain at the end his importance.  Like if it were a TV series, and the actor that played him died along the way.  I cannot fathom how this works to a narrative's advantage, or that there might be people out there who appreciate this.

****Did you ever notice that Counsellor Troi had an alien accent on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," but her mother spoke in an American one (so it must have been her dad who spoke like that), and then, when they finally introduced her father, he too spoke with a bloody American accent?  Maybe those jocks were right in taunting and beating up us Star Trek fans all those years.

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