[Susan Stepney's Home Page][EoA index] The Eye of Argon -- more background

In June 2000 I received the following info about The Eye of Argon by email from [name supplied]:

It was genuine. The author was once interviewed on a Los Angeles sf show called Hour 25. The guys on that show used to read "Eye" periodically and mock mightily. The author was rather hurt that his story, which he wrote out of love (however misplaced) for the Howard genre, was so hooted at. He said he would never write anything again. There is someone who still has an audio of the interview, and that's Eric Foss, the "official archivist" for Hour 25. He can be reached at webmaster@blind.net

The show started in 1971 on KPFK, a Pacifica (non-profit, subscription-supported) station in Los Angeles as a two hour (sometimes three) Friday night chat and interview show by a bunch of radio people who happened to read and love sf. The original hosts were Mike Hodel, Mitchell Harding, Terry Hodel and Katherine Calkin. At one time or another they had just about every sf writer in LA on live -- they missed Heinlein and Asimov, but they got Clarke, Sturgeon, Dick, Herbert, Ellison, Farmer and scads of others.

Mitchell Harding and Katherine Calkin left, and Hodel co-hosted with Mel Gilden for a while. Mike Hodel died in 1986, of cancer when he was in his late 40s. Because Mike wanted to keep the show going, his good friend Harlan Ellison took it over for a year, and then he turned it over to J. Michael Straczynski and Larry DiTillio. During this time JMS was working on selling Babylon 5 and would refer to it as "TWCBN" (That Which Cannot Be Named). When JMS got too busy to do it every week, other hosts (Steve Barnes, David Gerrold, Arthur Byron Cover and Warren James) would host once a month. The show became a little less literary-oriented and more media-oriented, as that was where the interests of the hosts lay. Eventually there was a big blow-up with the station, over language and content on the show (management wanted to know in advance what would be said; they were afraid of getting in hot water with the FCC, apparently), and all of the hosts except Warren James walked. As this was never a paying job, but something they did for love of the genre, they had no reason to stay if they couldn't do what they wanted without interference.

I have subsequently heard (part of) the 15 January 1982 Hour 25, with Mike Hodel and Mel Gilden reading of The Eye, and Eric Foss' 8 March 1984 telephone interview with Jim Theis.

The reading is differently strange. The radio hosts read it "straight", with no sniggers or MST3K-esque commentary (well, at least for as long as I could stand to listen, anyway). It loses something -- mostly the unique spelling and punctuation -- but gains something else: a better appreciation of the breathlessly long sentences, and the infelicitous word combinations, like "the back entrance of the inn he had been guzzling in" (try saying it out loud...)

The phone interview (which was apparently not broadcast) has hardly any questions about The Eye itself, until the very end. But we do learn that Jim Theis (pronounced "Tice"), 30 years old at the time of the interview in 1984, wrote The Eye around 1970, when he was about 16 years old. He now has a degree in Journalism. He still collects books, comics, German swords, but no longer writes fiction. He was surprised to hear there seemed to be a page missing near the end of The Eye, and offered to try to find it. He was also surprised to hear that there had been radio readings of The Eye, and asked for a recording. (At the end Foss tries to set up a follow-up interview for the following week, with another interviewer, but I don't believe that ever went ahead.)