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New Month, New Genre with Gaslamp Fantasy

Gaslamp Fantasy was first coined by Kaja Foglio to describe her graphic novel series Girl Genius.  The term evolved as a response to the Steampunk movement to distinguish titles that share some of the same literary elements, but lack a focus on scientific technology and mechanization.  Read More..

Revisiting the Star Wars Radio Drama

Like William, I was lucky enough to be born into a good, Force sensitive, Star Wars loving household. As a kid, my brother and I watched Star Wars movies several times a month. My parents were fairly religious and had strong opinions about what media was “appropriate for the Sabbath.”

It may seem odd that laser swords, spaceships, and Death Stars made the cut off (along with The Sound of Music, The Princess Bride, and Disney movies), but they did, and watching the original trilogy became a regular Sunday activity. The fourth, fifth, and sixth Gospels. We were in deep.

Action figures, video games, and Legos (this was before Lego video games or we would’ve had those too) all branded Star Wars were an integral part of my childhood and teenage years. To be honest, Star Wars is a large part of my adulthood. For my 28th birthday and much to my spouse’s (and to a certain extent, my own) incredulity, I bought myself a Lego Star Wars set. An expensive one. I spent my birthday sitting on the ground in our living room watching The Clone Wars as I built it. You only live once, right?

All this started in 1977, when visions of a galaxy far far away completely mesmerized my 13 year old dad. The movie that later became known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was like nothing he’d ever seen. As one of ten kids getting by on my grandpa’s teacher’s salary, it wasn’t often that my dad got to go to the theater, but he was industrious. Scrimping and saving he managed to see A New Hope a couple of times in theaters thanks to his paper route earnings. Some of his friends saw it well over a dozen times and had every line memorized. They’d reenact the entire movie by heart. They’d talk about it in their radio club at school. No wonder I ended up so nerdy.

My newest Star Wars experience was something with which my dad was already well acquainted.  The Star Wars Radio Drama. I didn’t know this existed until my dad offhandedly mentioned listening to “the Star Wars tapes” back in the 80s.

Tapes? What tapes?

In 1981, George Lucas “sold” the rights to produce a radio serial version of A New Hope to KUSC-FM, UCS’s public radio station, for a dollar. Looking at it objectively, the idea seems a little preposterous; a large part of Star Wars’ appeal, especially when it first came out, is the sight of it—special effects, iconic spaceships, strange creatures, and foreign planets—it really does transport you to a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.

But thanks to some great performances from Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels who reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker and C-3PO, as well as a talented voice cast (who if I’m honest, sometimes ham it up a little too much), liberal use of the original sound effects, and access to John William’s iconic film score soon NPR was touting “you may think you’ve seen the movie; wait til’ you hear it!”

The radio drama is broken up into thirteen roughly thirty minute episodes and clocks in at just under 6 hours as a whole. That’s a lot of radio drama for a two hour movie. But it works. Brian Daley, who adapted the original screenplay, really wanted to add characterization, including some additional backstory, to the cast. That’s probably where this adaptation shines the most, adding to the movies some of us have seen hundreds of times. I particularly appreciate that Luke and Leia both have brief moments where they get to grieve their tremendous losses in the radio drama. Ben Kenobi’s fate gets some extra attention as well.

There are little additions like that, but there are also all new scenes. Obi Wan gets in a little more training with Luke. There are extra scenes with Han Solo showing more of his rascally side, as well as scenes elaborating Darth Vader’s cruelty. There’s an entire episode dedicated to Leia’s backstory. You also get to finally meet Luke’s friends at Toshi Station, and spoilers: they’re not great.

Add all that new material to compelling performances and great production value and you have a hit. When the Star Wars Radio Drama first aired it broke NPR records with over 750,000 listeners. One of them was my dad. I asked him how many times he relistened to the tapes once he got a hold of them. “We probably listened to it ten thousand times.”

And why not? It’s not perfect, but the Star Wars Radio Drama adds a new depth into a classic story that so many of us have come to love. And most importantly, it’s a lot of fun. And luckily for us, we don’t have to wait years between episode; the library’s copy comes with dramatizations of both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. So get listening!

Oh yeah, and may the Force be with you.

—Ian Stepp is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


YA Backlist: 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is probably one of my top favorite YA authors. His characters are honest and relatable, and their stories are always engaging. 100 Sideways Miles is no exception. Read More..

Things Are Looking Up, but Hopefully You Weren’t

It’s hard to put a finger on what makes a great title, and like everything else about reading, it’s a matter of taste.  Among the classics are the biblical (East of Eden), the ominous (For Whom the Bell Tolls), the elegant (Beloved), and the just plain weird (Wuthering Heights . . . what does “wuthering” mean, anyway?).  My favorites tend to be titles which make universal pronouncements in complete sentences, like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Things Fall Apart, or You Can’t Go Home Again.  So I was pleased to see a new book arrive at the library which has as its title the grandest, truest statement about the human experience I’ve ever heard: Someday a Bird Will Poop on You.   Read More..

International Women’s Fiction

March 8th is International Women’s Day! Hooray! Here at LPL, I walk among powerful women every day within the stacks, not just from the U.S., but from across the globe. Being surrounded by these women’s words is a joy, even if it means my “To Be Read” list is destined to be enormous and overwhelming forever…

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Spring Break Reads

Spring break is just around the corner and I can’t wait. Call me boring, but I’m taking a staycation. Forget cleaning the house and yard projects, my plan is to read books, watch movies, sleep in, eat chocolate, eat more chocolate, and drink a little red wine.


As an appetizer to the week ahead, I’ve already delved into Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta. No, it’s not another Read Across Lawrence outer space adventure. This one was recommended by our son who received the book as a gift from his in-laws-to-be who hail from Jackson, Mississippi. Seems they thought that the Kansan who is marrying their incredibly lovely and smart daughter needs a lesson on their home state. Read More..

Local History And More At LPL

Interested in researching your roots? Investigating the history of your house? Heard about one of the many pivotal historic events that happened right here in Lawrence, and want to learn more about it? The Information Services team at Lawrence Public Library is here to help! Our Local History room is a quiet, light-filled space on our lower level, and a treasure trove of resources to help you get started on your research. Read More..

Trust No One

Trust No One, an anthology curated by Jonathan Maberry, is a love letter for fans, new and not so new, of the realm of The X-Files. The fifteen stories are, in essence, episodes themselves expanding on storylines and involving notable characters. This unabridged collection with a running time of just over fifteen hours is adeptly read by Bronson Pinchot and Hillary Huber, and it flows so seamlessly that you may just experience lost time. As Maberry voices in its introduction, “Every author here has been hand picked for their love of the show, their understanding of how The X-Files ticks and for the quality of their storytelling.” The title may suggest to trust no one, however, trust that Maberry has placed you in capable hands. Read More..

A Conversation With Local Author Cote Smith

Author Cote Smith, a Kansas native and KU graduate, has a debut novel hitting the shelves. Hurt People follows two brothers coming to terms with the struggles of family, the dangers of the world, and the reality of growing up in a city defined by its prisons: Leavenworth, Kansas.   Read More..

Get Books– and Seeds– for The Garden at LPL

For many seasons I’ve spent my life in the dirt, alongside friends and family, tending plants and cultivating memories. About this time each year when winter hints at warmer, sunnier days, my mind begins to drift once again toward dreams of overflowing garden beds and caches of endless varieties of seeds to start. This time of year also reminds me of the many reasons I tend whatever patch of soil I can lay claim to. Among them is the fact that I garden to remember, but then again, also to forget. Read More..