Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Sting of the Dark Tower (CSL 'adaptation')


So, I posted some while back about a local group who were working on a radio-play version of CSL's THE DARK TOWER. Thanks to friend Allan (thanks, Allan!) I now have the link to the finished product, "The Sting of the Dark Tower" by Peter Gruenbaum:

Having now listened to the whole thing, I have to report that it's a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's good to see someone adapting a neglected CSL work. On the other, it's a pretty good sign something has gone seriously wrong when said adaptation ends by denouncing the author and urging people not to read him.

This radio-play, which is just over an hour in length, falls into two parts. The first is an adaptation of Lewis's story that pretty much covers the entire surviving fragment. They simplify and change some things but do produce something recognizable as a dramatization of CSL's work. I enjoyed the voice acting as well, for the most part, finding it pretty reminiscent of old radio plays; I'll want to save this one to listen to it again at some point down the line.  The second half goes beyond what Lewis wrote and completes the story, making clear that this is only a possible conclusion and probably not the one Lewis himself wd have come up with. Nevertheless, it represents the only continuation/conclusion I've seen, and thus is of interest for that point alone.*

Ignoring lapses such as Orfieu referring to his friend Lewis as "Clive", or referring to their 1940s version of CSL as "Professor Lewis" (which mainly just goes to show the scriptwriter doesn't know much about CSL, and didn't bother to show the script to anyone who does), it's rather nice to have some dialogue from the former Stingerman in our world and see a bit of how he looks at things (he insists his sting 'brings happiness' to those whom Lewis et al consider his victims). But there's a didacticism on the scriptwriter's part that keeps breaking in inappropriately into Lewis's story, as when the intermittent  frame story interjects a defense of mercy killing or warns against taking pharmaceuticals to treat mental conditions. And however good their intentions, it's purely incredible that CSL wd end the story by expressing his admiration for sassy New Yorker Camilla Bembridge with a toast "To modern women: what would we do without them?"

But I was disabused of the notion that this adaptation had 'good intentions' when the frame story ended by launching into a sudden denunciation of Lewis himself:

Screw C. S. Lewis.
I mean, who cares what he would do?
You know, if you want to read
some old science fiction
you cd do way better than Lewis.

The script then segues into praise for John Wyndham and especially James Tiptree; Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood are also mention in the fade-out.

So, the whole hour-long radio-play turns out to be a set-up to tell Lewis fans (the only people likely to spend an hour listening to an adaptation of a lesser-known CSL work) that they're idiots to waste their time on Lewis and shd instead be reading other people whom the scriptwriter prefers.

So for me the ending spoiled the whole -- which is a pity, since a lot of work clearly went into this. They did a great job of capturing that old radio-drama vibe. And it had some amusing or interesting touches (such as the ex-Stingerman's warm appreciation of our world's fish-and-chips), or the big reveal in the end that the master of the Stingermen is none other than the Othertime's C. S. Lewis analogue. But I found the frame story a whole lot more annoying than it was intended to be, and its conclusion spoilt the whole for me. Too bad.

--John R.

*having myself speculated in print about how Lewis may have intended to conclude the story, and knowing of at least three other such speculations.

1 comment:

TGW, Esq. said...

Anyone who rads this review should consider the playwright's reply, posted on the website with the play.

In simple terms, "John R.", you missed the point.
Your exaggerated case of high dudgeon is badly misplaced.