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For descriptions of each episode, check out my Show Notes at the top of the page. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real people or events is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Some of the language may be offensive, but no worse than you would expect in an R rated movie.

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Podcast of the novel BETWEEN EARTH AND ARCTURUS

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Edict Zero is how audio entertainment should be

I came across Edict Zero FIS in a podcast listing and asked myself the age-old question, “will I like this?” which can only be answered by trying it. I recognized some of the actors’ names, which was encouraging. Like most audio shows (or TV shows for that matter) one episode is not enough to be sure. Alas, it’s only fine scotch that answers such questions with a single taste.
I was partway into the third episode when I decided to hear the 27 episodes already released and then write a review.
Some of the best talents in audio have joined forces to bring us Edict Zero FIS. This is one of the few podcasts that I will strongly urge listeners to enjoy with quality headphones. The sound mixing is as good as it gets, with not only great voices and effects, but also a beautifully crafted music soundtrack that adds to the experience.
The story begins as a police procedural mystery in a futuristic, but familiar, world. The character’s lives are understandable and sympathetic. This is not Earth, however. It is a world colonized by a dying Earth centuries ago. They call it Edict One. The creepy villain at the beginning is the first mystery, but not the most intriguing.
One thing listeners will appreciate is the gradual revelation of the truth as the plot progresses. We are not burdened with ever-deepening layers of unanswered questions. The clues are there, and yet placed so carefully that it becomes what book-lovers (as most of us are) call a page-turner, and we gradually figure it out just before the characters do.
One of the main characters, Nick Garrett played by James Keller, may rub you the wrong way right from the outset, but this is not an accident or an acting misstep. Nick does rub people the wrong way because there’s something not quite right with him, and it’s important to the story.
Jack Kincaid, plays various characters, including the ever-fascinating Captain Socrates, whose rambling diatribes are accompanied by a frenzied backdrop of classical music, underlining his apparent insanity. Jack is also the creator of the show. I contacted Jack with the following inquiry:

WTG: Can you please tell me a bit about the production, such as where the work was done, and anything else that my readers may find interesting.

Jack:      99% of the voicework is done remotely by the voice actors in a variety of environments.  James Keller, who plays Nick Garrett, records from a studio in Miami, as one example.  They record from all throughout the states and beyond.  Some record from overseas -- i.e. Michael Hudson (Griever) in England.
I've recorded my characters from home, using the same mic that I've had since 2008.   It began in Pennsylvania, some in Ohio while I lived there, and now in New York where I'm a full-time college student (film).

I do all the post-production myself.  Many have offered to contribute to the post, but I've been reluctant to give any of it up to anyone, especially for the (almost continuous) musical layering, because I'm particular and EZ has a feel that I'm not so sure anyone else could emulate.  Someone might prove me wrong on that some day, but being a control freak about it isn't necessarily a bad thing.  That is the reason that episodes take a while to produce, of course.  It's always a challenge and I'm always trying to push it farther, because it's not in my nature to be complacent.  I might be saner or happier if that were otherwise.

Edict Zero did have a bumpy start and it fundamentally began by taking all my life experience, skills, interests, genre tastes, and jamming them together into a fusion that's much like the world of Edict Zero itself.  Its birth might be best described as an act of rebellion on my part and my desire to tell a story completely outside the box, delighting in breaking "rules" and even tripping taboos.  There was a good deal of experimentation in Season 1 and I'm happy about the way that it has evolved since then.  

Probably the most difficult thing about Edict Zero is I knew the truth of the mysteries and somehow managed to keep my patient and gently dispense the answers as it progressed.  I am a big fan of mystery-within-mystery stories and series, but also the one thing that I did not want to do was make everything up as I went along and then write myself into a corner where I might have to produce some dodgy, ultimately not-satisfying ending to wrap it up or leave it entirely ambiguous, which might be in the spirit of the storytelling, sure, but if you're going to invest people, there really needs to be some kind of payoff.

The biggest fear -- of myself and indeed by many fans, and even some of those inside production -- was that circumstances (life) might cut in and then there would be no ending at all.  So, sometimes I do hear concern from people that it will never be "finished", or just abruptly end, like a TV series cancellation.  i.e. Firefly

That hasn't happened and though at one point, I did break from Edict Zero for more than a year to sort out some life things, I did come back to it, as I promised.


Russell Gold (Benjamin Zurn, covert field agent) and James Keller (Nick Garrett, criminal profiler) each responded to some questions:
WTG:     The episodes of Edict Zero are fairly long for a podcast show. Does this affect how challenging it is to do your part?
James:  Not for me. I think if Jack could make each chapter longer, he would, however once you start listening, you don't realize what the length truly is, as you get so involved.
Russell:  It's a very large cast and most of us are only in a handful of scenes per episode, so I would say not.

WTG:    Did you know where the story was going for each entire season, or did you find out a bit at a time?
James:    I don't think any of us knows where he story is going, Jack included.  Each chapter surprises us.
Russell:   I generally find out when I receive each script.

WTG:    Jack tells me that most of the recording was done remotely. How does it affect the cast to work separately?
James:     Fortunately, we are all sent a complete script with everyone's lines and scenes included.  Working remotely, and separately isn't that much of a challenge for me.
Russell:    There are some accommodations that we have to make, but there are many shows that work this way. The hardest part is anticipating how others will record their own lines, so that we can react properly. Typically, we handle this by recording multiple takes with different interpretations for each line, giving Jack the option of using one that works.

WTG:    Is Nick Garrett’s character arc due for some self-doubt?
James:    That's up to Jack to decide.  I have always felt that Nick has always been kind of a loner, and closed off quite a bit... mysterious.
Russell:    Jack is really the only one who can comment on future arcs; as an actor, I just trust the direction he is taking. 


WTG:     Should Benjamin Zurn finally reach a breaking point after years of getting squeezed by the powers that be?
James:     Oh wouldn't THAT be fun ! 

WTG:     What do you think the future of podcast audio drama is? Do you see any trends?
James:     Audio drama is a strange beast, and still evolving in my opinion. What Jack has accomplished is far superior to what a typical audio book, or narrative story has ever done, with elements of music and rich ambience, the listeners are fully engulfed into the story, leaving images to be painted by their own imagination... honestly, I can't see it evolving too much more from that. There definitely is a trend stemming from it.
Russell:    I'm seeing a lot of shows getting more and more listeners, and yet there are so many people out there who don’t realize the wealth of really well-done stories available to them at no cost. I think things are only going to improve.

The cast of Edict Zero are professional voice actors with more experience than I can list in this post. So, I refer you to their web sites where you can see what they’ve done before and where to find other shows that they’ve done.
 James Keller:  avoiceforanycharacter.com
Russell Gold:  russgold.net/va/          
Russ is also an accomplished software developer and has written a lot on the subject. You can check for yourself at these websites:
www.packtpub.com/getting-started-with-apache-maven/video,  www.httpunit.org, and simplestub.meterware.com.  He also blogs at russgold.net/sw/
Other remarkable voice actors in show include: Phil Rossi, Julie Hoverson, Tanja Milojevic, Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard, Michael Hudson, Matthew McLean, Jennifer Dixon, Robert Cudmore, Chris Barnes, Caitlin Sneddon, and David Collins-Rivera.

For numerous music credits, please visit the home page edictzero.wordpress.com for episode-by-episode lists.

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