Habitat – Original release date June 21, 2014
Habitat is our 9th podplay exclusively constructed for Earbud Theater. We hope you like it – Nicholas Thurkettle is the (super) brainchild behind this one and has a bit to say about it. Take it away Nick!
Written/Edited by Nicholas Thurkettle
Danna – Christine Weatherup
Interface – Nicholas Thurkettle
Produced by Casey Wolfe, Aaron Drown & Branon Coluccio
Voice Direction by Matt Enlow
Music by Chris Zabriskie
Spot Art by Kevin Necessary
Habitat arose out of an epiphany about myself and science fiction. I have been a hardcore, no regrets sci-fi fan ever since my parental units gifted me Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. As a pre-adolescent with more math skills than social skills, Asimov’s psychohistory gave me faith that the world could make sense – not that it did, but that it could. Later, as an oddball adolescent, Vonnegut gave me company and solace and the beginnings of a courage to embrace my oddities.
I have grown into a shameless nerd culture slut. But for many years as a grown-up writer, I avoided writing sci-fi. I psyched myself out of it because, frankly, I was terrible at science. As a worshipper of Asimov, whose tremendous scientific mind informed both his projections of the future and his perfectly-distilled prose, I feared my own science weakness would leave me writing knockoffs, or get me secretly laughed-at in science get-togethers like the ones at NASA where they screen Armageddon (I have read that this happens and I reject any suggestion that it isn’t completely true.)
But when I read sci-fi greats writing about their genre, I noticed a common thread of them railing against their genre label as a misnomer. Sci-Fi wasn’t about science, they reached out to assure me, but about the imagination, about possibilities, about using the fantastical to explore humanity. I started to notice that in some of the best sci-fi I knew, the science and the setting were barely-relevant, or simply served as a Trojan Horse for the good stuff. The episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Inner Light – where Captain Picard lives an entire alternate life through family and infirmity and beautiful little hobbies and finally doom on an alien planet – gets him there via more gobbledy-gook than science: a probe thing zaps his brain with a ray thing and the crew can’t wake him up because we’re not done with the plot yet, thank you very much.
And what a plot; raising the awesome questions: what matters in a life? Is a culture known in its relics and its records or in its values, the daily way its people were with each other? Do we understand one another with reason or with feelings; or do we need both to do it right? Sci-fi, as well as horror and fantasy and other realms where Earbud Theater dwells, allows us to look at these questions in a way realism cannot.
Stories about humanity?, I thought. I can take a crack at that.
I remembered the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Dr. Bowman appears to be growing old in a handsome, sterile room somewhere beyond infinity. I thought about the interpretation that the aliens could be biding their time while he lived out his normal span so that he could be reborn on the brink of death. Given how often Kubrick depicted spiritually-deadened people in cold environments, it struck me that of course he thought all a person would need would be sufficient food and some nice furniture. A real person in that situation, I thought, would go nutzo.
This felt interesting, and I liked it all the more because it didn’t call for me to create sinister aliens or an end-of-the-world scenario (actually, wait for my next Earbud episode on that one.) These aliens could be entirely benign, and want badly to help, but would be hapless in a way that anyone who had ever blown a relationship by failing to understand their partner’s needs could understand.
Speaking of Asimov and Star Trek, the character of Data, who introduced himself as a realization of Asimov’s concept of androids as devoted servants and attempted students of humanity, had a major impact on me in life and in this piece. Data was my high school nickname, and not because I asked for it; and Brent Spiner has enough DNA in Interface that there ought to be a paternity test.
I have known Christine Weatherup and her husband Matt Enlow for many years, since she showed up to audition for a play I wrote and won the part thoroughly. We have collaborated frequently since then, always with great pleasure. She is an actress of tremendous range and courage and willingness to play; that, and Matt’s vision and directorial confidence, his ability to coax out both the laughs and the heart inside seriously quirky material, were both part of the plan for Habitat from the beginning.
I wrote the first draft in a week, intending it to be a short film, but as Tolkein once wrote: “This tale grew in the telling.” I realized we needed time to really take Danna on something resembling the human journey, and even with this version of Habitat realized, I never get tired of writing about Danna and Interface, and their attempts to get through this thing called Life.
It was my longtime friend Branon Coluccio, one of the smartest men I have ever met in Hollywood when it comes to wrangling this unropeable beast called “story”, who suggested Habitat’s possibilities for the audioverse, and introduced me to Earbud Theater, a fantastical sandbox Casey Wolfe has lovingly built which I have reveled in and now plan on refusing to vacate.
Now that we have all reached this moment of shepherding Habitat into the world, I can’t be more proud and thrilled than to have had these partners on the journey, not to mention grateful that I had parents cool enough to give their kid Asimov books. Hopefully I get to be that cool someday.