Inspired by a story that was probably written by C.S. Lewis.
Written, directed, and produced by Peter Gruenbaum
“Peter Gruenbaum serves up a fresh plate of story in the imaginatively original Sting of the Dark Tower. In a world of the stale, repurposed, overtold stories, Peter has something new, in a story that sways and sings with a saxophone quartet, a solid ensemble cast and ambitious script. A must listen for 2015.” — Fred Greenhalgh, Radio Drama Revival podcast.
“[Makes] intelligent use of a variety of sonic resources to create an imaginative world at once different from yet uncomfortably similar to the worlds we inhabit.” — Lawrence Raw, Radio Drama Reviews.
“Like C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape, Peter is devilishly clever in his interpretation of The Dark Tower, mixing a grand adventure of a time-traveling battle over modern vs. Victorian morality – and a lovely original score to boot! Take a peek into the chronoscope yourself to see this fantastic world of insectoid men and eccentric women.” — Alicia Goranson, writer and director of The Mask of Inanna, winner of the 2012 Parsec Award.
Selected by the HEAR Now Audio Fiction Festival
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by Audio Drama Reviews.
“Incredible…compelling…” — The Sonic Society podcast.
The writer C.S. Lewis is invited to visit a lab in 1940’s Cambridge England where he is shown a device called a “chronoscope” that does to time what a telescope does to space. The chronoscope shows strange images of a dark tower ruled by men with stingers on their foreheads. An accident with the machine results in minds being switched between Cambridge and the dark tower. In the present, a precocious teenager and her mysterious nanny explore and ultimately complete this work of fiction that was discovered after C.S. Lewis’s death.
The Sting of the Dark Tower asks the questions: How are Lewis’s ideas relevant to today? How might the story have been written if it had our modern viewpoint?
Voiced by professional actors and with an original score for classical saxophone quartet, The Sting of the Dark Tower will take you back in time, sideways in time, and perhaps get you to think about who are our own men with stingers.
Listen to some excerpts:
- C.S. Lewis is shown images from the device known as the “chronoscope”:
Listen to the whole story:
- Click the button below to either listen on your browser or alternative-click (right-click on Windows) and Save Link As to download the file to then transfer to an Android device.
- Click the link below to find it on iTunes.
Length: 1 hour 4 minutes
Listen to the original episodes:
Walker Caplan, Carol Sage Silverstein, John Ruoff, Will Rose, Bill Johns, and Alice Bridgforth
Written by Leon Gruenbaum. Played by the Firebird Saxophone Ensemble (Richard Ginnis, Fran Lucas, David Lawrence, Bill Stickney, and Peter Gruenbaum). Background music by Genes and Machines.
Logo: Created by Ben Gruenbaum
Suitability for children: minimal violence, no swearing, some innuendo.
Special thanks to:
- Alicia Goranson for her advice, support, and sound effects.
- Jack Straw Cultural Center for their affordable studio space. Recording engineers Steve Ditore (voice) and Doug Haire (music) were fantastic.
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What do you mean in the introduction when it says the story was “probably” written by C.S. Lewis?
Well, remember that this was published after his death, so we only have the publisher’s word on its origin. Some people don’t believe Lewis wrote it. You can read about the whole controversy on the Dark Tower Wikipedia page.
I personally think he did. There’s a character who later appears in the Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength. In The Dark Tower, he is Scottish, but in That Hideous Strength, he is Irish. I think that anyone who would go to the trouble of creating a forgery would get that kind of detail consistent.
For the parts that appear to be adapted from the novel, is it an accurate adaptation?
No, not really. It has a lot of the elements, like the concepts, the setting, and some of the characters. Here are the major things I changed:
- All of the dialog is my writing, except for two lines belonging to Orfieu.
- In the novel, there are two people who created the chronoscope (Orfieu and Scudamour) and three observers (Lewis, Ransom, and MacPhee). I rolled all of the observer characters into Lewis to reduce the number of voices.
- I gave Orfieu a visual impairment. This is the plot device that allowed me to make it work as an audio drama.
- I made Scudamour and Camilla be American. I did this because I wanted each of the characters to have a very distinct voice so you could know immediately who was talking.
- I made the chronoscope use a lens made of Substance Z, where the original was something diaphanous. It seemed more realistic to be a lens, plus Scudamour could pick it up and carry it around later.
- I simplified various aspects of the plot to move it along faster. In the original, the observers watch over a period of weeks as Scudamour’s double gradually grows his stinger.
- I made one of the Dark Tower inhabitants be Orfieu’s double. Again, fewer voices, plus it was kind of fun.
- I changed the name of the enemies of the tower from the “White Riders” to the “savages”. Think about it: who would call their enemies the “White Riders”?
- I added some elements that I could later use when continuing the story, like a reference to the Greater Society and a conversation between Lewis and the Othertime Scudamour involving food.
Wait a minute. You made up the parts about the Greater Society?
Yes. The Dark Tower is clearly about people giving up their minds to state. If you think about when it was written, I’m sure it was about fascism in Europe. Well, we’re not dealing with that kind of fascism any more. So how could I make it relevant?
I started thinking about the theory that language is a virus. You can also make the argument that racism is a virus. After all, none of us are born with it, we pick it up from others who have it, and unwilling pass it on to others. Same for sexism, classism, and all of the other prejudices we carry around. Now, C.S. Lewis believed in the devil. What if he came to the conclusion that the devil was not a malicious intelligence, but rather an unintelligent virus that was using us for its own purposes? What kind of story would he write to express that?
Towards the end, the character Eleanor says some very negative things about C.S. Lewis. Is that what you believe?
Not at all. In fact, I don’t think that Eleanor believes the things she says in that scene. She has a motivation for saying what she does. I won’t say more than that.
In one of your scenes, Orfieu calls C.S. Lewis by the name “Clive”. But his friends called him Jack. Why be inaccurate?
I really tried to get across the idea that the second half of the story is not how Lewis himself would have finished it. I kept putting clues in there to remind listeners of this. The use of “Clive” was one of those. Pretty subtle, I’ll admit, but hopefully not lost on everyone.
The Sting of the Dark Tower is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.