Harlan Ellison and Forgotten Heroes from 1983.

Yesterday we talked about the dangers of classic heroes becoming forgotten by new generations. When I was inspired at random to write about 1983 I didn’t know why, but I knew fate would bring me where I needed to go each week. For example, last year one of my favorite writers – Harlan Ellison – died at 84 years old. I’ve been influenced by all of his writing for 20-25 years. In memory, I looked through my shelves and picked the first volume that spoke to me.

An Edge in My Voice collects columns Ellison wrote for Future Life and The L.A. Weekly. Five hundred plus pages of essays on whatever topic sparked his interest that week from 1980 to, wouldn’t you know it, 1983. I allowed the universe to take me to the January 3, 1983 column originally in The L.A. Weekly. In this one, Harlan hypes his upcoming appearance as the lead in “Leiningen Versus the Ants”. A classic episode of the old radio show Escape, that hadn’t been performed in over 30 years from time of his writing. Ellison describes the theater in which it will be performed in, the majesty of all the performances it has held over the years. The history of radio plays. And I knew, barely any of it.

I’m aware of Doc Savage and the Green Hornet. I know of Escape and other old radio shows. But I had never heard of any of the multitude of actors named within the essay. The main reason I know of classic radio series is directly related to the lack of variety in FM radio. Much like the inspiration for this year’s blog, the over emphasis on a handful of popular media and shunning of all others, FM radio stations will always focus on a very limited amount of music. Once the listener hears the pattern and becomes bored, they begin to search the dial. Those of us with a certain mindset inevitably hear something interesting on NPR. The dial is left there, forgotten, then turned back on late at night. Most NPR stations play “Tune in to Yesteryear” at night, a collection of vintage radio plays. Suspense, horror, Burns and Allen, and of course Escape. It can be a gateway for audio books and podcasts. Aural means of educating oneself. Also, a round about way to keep some of these heroes alive.

Harlan is gone, the building is long sold and remodeled, the Society preserving these shows back in 1983 is disbanded. Over 35 years ago there was already a concern of stories becoming lost thanks to TV and other popular culture. In the infancy of cable and before the bane and boon that is the internet.

The fine line of a thread connecting researchers, collectors, hoarders, and bibliophiles is that if we don’t own these items, and by doing so preserve them, then who will? We see a lack of knowledge or appreciation for that which came before, to say nothing of that which would be considered ancient. It becomes a desire to save the media, because it’s too late to save the masses. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

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