Biography in Sound — “Ticket to the Moon”

[Editor’s note: For our first OTR showcase of 2021 I’d like to thank Dr. Willard M. Oliver of Sam Houston State University, Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville, TX, for suggesting the following program and specific episode. Biography in Sound was a program new to me, and I hope this episode will prove as  fascinating to other science fiction fans as it was for me. Thank you, Dr. Oliver.]

Biography in Sound (1954-58) aired “Ticket to the Moon” on December 4, 1956 as the 69th episode of its estimated 95, which one source claims includes original broadcasts, rebroadcasts, and specials, of which 55 are known to still exist. This documentary series began by accident, airing under the NBC news division’s umbrella, with a one-shot tribute to Sir Winston Churchill on November 28, 1954 (though there are those who believe a tribute to Hungarian-born composer Sigmund Romberg was the first one-shot documentary tribute, airing on October 24, 1954). Whether one view or the other eventually prevails, both were written and produced so well that listener acclaim quickly convinced NBC to produce a series of these tribute biographies under the program name of Biography in Sound, with the premiere episode, “Meet Ernest Hemingway,” airing December 19, 1954. Other celebrities featured over the next four years would include Carl Sandburg, George Bernard Shaw, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Leo Durocher, Albert Schweitzer, W. C. Fields, Fred Allen, and many more.

“Ticket to the Moon” is testament to the wide ranging nature of the material featured on Biography in Sound. It was written, compiled, and edited by Ernest Kinoy (1925-2014, photo at right), best known to science fiction fans as one of the writers (or story adapters in most cases), along with George Lefferts, of the classic SF radio programs Dimension X and X Minus One. Many of these series’ shows were adapted from previously published stories in SF magazines (Astounding and Galaxy), while a few were original scripts by Kinoy and/or Lefferts. That Kinoy was intimately familiar with, and a sympathetic promoter of the science fiction genre is without doubt why “Ticket to the Moon” carries with it the cachet of insider verisimilitude, making this tribute so historically fascinating to SF historians and fans alike. Some of the voices you will hear are those of legendary Astounding/Analog editor John W. Campbell, authors Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and A. E. van Vogt, SF’s most famous fan and genre memorabilia collector Forrest J Ackerman, and filmmaker George Pal, not to mention the voice of Asimov’s first wife Gertrude Blugerman (1917-1990), a rarity, indeed. Their marriage ran from 1942-1973.

The topics covered in this tribute to science fiction include, but are not limited to, early SF clubs, SF fandom in general, the types or sub-classifications of SF emerging, and what seems like from this current vantage point to be timeless questions of whether or not politics is proper fodder for SF stories and whether it is SF’s role to predict the future or perhaps only by unspoken fiat to imagine alternatives or suggest possibilities. In any case, what you are about to hear is a fascinating audio time capsule of the state of science fiction in 1956–from its fiction to its fans–as viewed from its then most influential and thought-provoking magazine editor as well as from some of the field’s most renowned and popular practitioners. Some of the answers may surprise you.

[Left: John W. Campbell, Jr., 1910-1971 — Center: George Pal, 1908-1980 — Right: Forrest J Ackerman, 1916-2008]


[Left: Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012 — Center: Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992 — Right: A. E. van Vogt, 1912-2000 ]


Play Time: 47:37

{After listening to “Ticket to the Moon” in early December of 1956 there was no question that the neighborhood gang would head for the corner newsstand, totally jazzed for SF pulps exclusively. Astounding SF (1930-present, now Analog) was an easy choice, being a favorite for most of their lives. It was a monthly in 1956. Relative newcomer The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (1949-present) was gaining readership with each issue, and with a lineup like that below it was hardly any wonder, especially with the 3rd and final installment of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Door into Summer awaiting them. It also was a monthly in 1956. Imagination (1950-58) was another of Raymond A. Palmer’s publishing ventures. He sold it to new publisher and editor William Hamling after the magazine’s 2nd issue, and Hamling maintained those top positions until the magazine (and many others at the time) folded due to the selling off of the American New Company, its distributor. It was a bi-monthly in 1956.]

[Left: Astounding, Dec. 1956 – Center: F&SF, Dec. 1956 – Right: Imagination, Dec. 1956]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.