Winner of the 2012 Parsec Awards and a favorite among audio/radio drama fans everywhere, The Mask of Inanna combines elements of old time radio with the sensibilities of audio drama in the modern age. The blending of the two is seamless and works for the story Alicia E. Goranson is telling. It doesn’t feel like a cheap gimmick at all. Rather, it pieces up things up in the same way the Mistborn: The Final Empire (the book) uses the italicized paragraphs at the beginning to chapters as both a plot point and a coolness factor.
The plot itself is anything but simple and is so unique. There’s a god called Inanna who watches over her followers children who are out risking their lives in Iraq. The protagonist is Leonard Allen—an elderly man who recently left retirement to finish the horror radio show he hosted back in the day. The name of the show is “After Dark” and for most of the episodes, a radio drama within an audio drama takes place. But it’s not simply there for fan service of OTR fans, it serves the story as a plot point.
The ending is where this piece truly shines. Truth be told, the middle was a slog to get through, mostly because it felt like setup or simply wasn’t interesting. But, man was that set up worth it. The last time I grew misty-eyes from listening to audio dramas was We’re Alive Season 2. Since then I’ve awaited another show to hit me with an emotional gut punch. I won’t say what happens for obvious reasons, but know that getting through the middle episodes is well worth your time.
I first heard the ending of this audio short while dabbling in ITunes’ radio feature. It was the last few minutes and by the end of the piece, I wanted to listen to it all the way through. It took me about a week to find the episode. I was fortunate enough that the series name: “The Whisperer” was repeated. Unfortunately there were a lot of episodes I had to sift through. And by pure luck, I found it.
The story is about a blind sea-captain who has a clear motivation. He doesn’t want to stop being on the sea. You can “see” how him being blind could come into conflict with that desire. But wait there’s more. The first mate is blackmailing the captain. It couldn’t possibly get any worse for the blind adventurer of the seas. Wrong. A man wrongly sent to prison comes back onboard the captain’s ship. The first time we are introduced to this man, he wonders why the captain is acting so strange. He wants to know why the first mate can do whatever he wants. That’s a clear protagonist, antagonist dynamic right there. The protagonist is the sea-captain, because we spend so much time with him. The antagonist is the person whose goals are—by definition—opposing the protagonists.
Let’s talk about the ending, and yes I will be spoiling the ending somewhat. This episode came out in 1945, so the statute of limitations has passed. I said on the Facebook fan page that the ending takes the concept of radio being a “blind medium” to a literal sense. The ending is sort of a deus ex machina, but really it’s not. To some people it would feel cheap, but to me the writer took advantage of the medium. We are the sea-captain. He’s blind and so are we. Sure we can imagine what everything and everyone looks like, but for a lot of people “imagination” isn’t an inherited trait. Sometimes it’s hard to visualize something out of thin air.
Spoiler: At the end of the story, the sea-captain thinks he’s killed his antagonist. But what actually happened was that someone else was killed. The antagonist never left the room from the previous scene and saw the captain building the trap meant for him. We never know this until the very end, but then again, a lot of audio dramas of the mystery genre tend to have the big explanatory dialogue scene. In fact Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) does the same thing.
Probably all my subscribers know about the kickstarter campaign for Pendant Production’s Dixie mini-comic, but for those who may not be, the link is below.
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Campaign against the Nazis here