A Paleontology of Quiet

Neil Verma



Mike Shy



PORKY: Me, I'm a roughneck. Well, I was a roughneck, I mean, twenty years ago. A little too old, too slow now. Besides, I got a dollar now. I don't have to be a roughneck, y’see. Married, got a nice home. Have to meet my wife. Hey Mike! Her name's Maxine but she likes to be called Mike. Mike! I guess she's busy out in the kitchen someplace. Besides, she doesn't hear very well. Shame, too -- she's so pretty and everything. Well, you'll meet her... Sit down. (Cooper 1948) [1]


Those are the first few lines of “The Thing on the Fourble Board,” a radio drama by American author Wyllis Cooper that aired on Monday 9 August, 1948 at 9:30 p.m. EST on the Mutual Network on the program Quiet, Please, the 60th broadcast in a run of 106 plays. Born in 1899 in Pekin, Illinois, Cooper served in the Signal Corps in WWI, where he was among those gassed at the Argonne. After the War he held various odd labor jobs across the country, including a short stint in the California oil fields, ending up in advertising in Santa Monica and then returning to Chicago to write radio copy for ad firms. In 1933, the NBC network hired Cooper as continuity editor, and he began to contribute scripts to one of the earliest surviving adventure shows, Tales of the Foreign Legion, but he is better known for having helped to invent horror radio with Lights Out! on WENR Chicago, a 15-minute fantasy program airing at midnight on Wednesdays beginning in 1934. Thanks to the creativity of those scripts, Cooper is cited as a pioneer of the use of stream-of-consciousness in radio (Oboler 1945: 20). When Lights Out! went coast to coast on the NBC Red network it became wildly popular, spawning scores of fan clubs. Later, Cooper went on to write and produce such marquee shows as The Empire Builders, Hollywood Hotel, Good Neighbors, The Army Hour, Arthur Hopkins Presents, Radio City Playhouse and more, along with a modest career writing for television and film, including installments in the Frankenstein and Mr. Moto franchises. Upon his death by stroke in 1955, Washington Post radio critic and longtime fan John Crosby (Crosby 1955) wrote that Cooper had “turned out more dialogue than a truck driver could lift,” an analogy that surely would have pleased the author, many of whose plays involved a supernatural force disturbing the quotidian routine of an obscure worker – a telegrapher, a steel worker, a distiller, a taxi driver, an overnight disk jockey, an encyclopedia salesman – anyone who keeps odd hours, just like Porky, our roughneck oil man narrator in “The Thing on the Fourble Board.”

The Quiet, Please anthology was Cooper’s last return to supernatural horror, now with a simplified style, at once tonally restrained and imaginative, dark but effervescent, capturing the feeling of its moment – a New York Post critic called it “better than Benzedrine” around the time that mainstream recreational use of that stimulant peaked. [2] The show had many highlights. In “We Were Here First,” (22 June 1947) a narrator explains to a child about how they – the ants – will triumph over their giant oppressors, the humans; in “Inquest” (3 August 1947), a man who attempted narrates his story from Hell, where he is judged guilty by Shakespeare’s Caesar and Duncan; in “The Man Who Knew Everything” (6 March 1949), the titular oracle tells us about three people coming to visit – a short man with a gun, a tall man with a moustache and piano wire, and a woman with an ice pick – then he dies before telling which one will attack us. But among the 89 extant recordings of Quiet, Please there is no contest: “The Thing on the Fourble Board” is Cooper’s masterpiece. In an impeccable reading, critic Richard Hand  (Hand 2006: 153, 156) has praised its “faultless” structure, emphasizing a perfect oscillation between the horrific and the comic, and fans of “old time radio” regularly tout the piece as a classic of the medium, showcasing all its magic.

The opening is typical for Cooper scripts. After the program title we hear a brief segment of César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor. Next comes first person direct address monologue delivered by actor Ernest Chappell (star of all the plays in the show) who is so closely-miked that we often hear stray exhalations in between lines, even a little vocal fry here and there. Chappell speaks to an as-yet unnamed narratee who has some uncertain role to play and whose audioposition (Verma 2012: 33-56) we occupy, our substitute second self. [3] The mood of the scene is low-key, but also somewhat urgent. Radio Mirror lauded the way Cooper could open “a door on a madman’s monologue” (Dunning 1998: 559). Yet when we look at the words on the page (or screen) as above, they convey a false flatness, as if issued in a face-to-face exchange across a negligible middle distance, the fantasy inherent in the written word as a vanishing medium. In sound form, on the other hand, the scene is quite different. Listen to the same segment, here:

In giving “Maxine” her unusual nickname and having Porky go halfway off-mike from our audioposition to call to her, Cooper has created a uniquely radiophonic pun: Porky leans away from the mike in order to summon “Mike.” In this small physical act, Porky also transforms the broadcast from a piece of spoken prose to something more like a drama. What Porky says is one thing, but the projections of his voice into a palpably larger acoustic space is something else – not dialogue, but action. All of a sudden we are in a setting that has shape and definition, a living room in a “nice” home, where a married man past his prime but “with a dollar” might live, and activities can occur and dangers emerge. Our sense of that space develops even as (or maybe because) its earshot limits are reached at the mention of Maxine, a beautiful being in the depths of our experience of the space, both deaf and silent, our opposite on the far side of a symmetry reaching across the plane of narration. The scene is a balance of emptinesses. In this quiet room, Porky speaks to a quiet addressee (us) about another quiet addressee (Mike) using a third (the microphone). This is to be the story of mutenesses separated by speech, and it is no surprise that the play will unite them all in the conclusion. As Porky’s sub vocal chuckle toward the end of the audio segment above (just before “Well, you’ll meet her”) indicates, everything in the space is enervated with the expectation of that outcome. The drama brings itself into existence through what Clive Cazeaux  (Cazeaux 2005) calls radio drama’s “invitational” quality. To use Cazeaux’s phenomenological terminology, as a unit within the drama, Porky’s mike technique in this segment is a beckoning or “opening on to” that establishes relational gaps and makes expressive potential possible. The play has created the space for an audible scene around an inaudible cavity – Maxine/Mike – and the action will be preoccupied with shaping that orifice and the presence within it waiting to emerge, which is why, at times, the broadcast verges on a ritualized drama of birth.


[1] Transcription by the author. For more on Cooper and this program, including more thorough transcripts and recordings, please visit www.quietplease.org.

[2] This quote comes from an ad for the program printed in Variety, February 4, 1948, 35.

[3] Audioposition is a term I have developed in my work to indicate where the microphone seems to be in the world of the fiction. It replaces “point-of-audition,” which assumes a visual corrolary that doesn’t exist in radio and which can be a little cumbersome for extensive use. Audioposition also suggests that such a “place” is always a fabrication; scenes don’t just “have” points-of-audition, because mikes are always positioned by someone according to a particular aesthetic regime, conventional practice, dramatic instinct, or by accident.

Sonic Paleontologies



The prologue is not over, yet. After Porky explains that being a roughneck means working on an oil drilling crew, pointing out that “a derrick floor or a fourble board’s no place for a guy with a bow-tie,” he brags about a well he once brought in at 7,313 feet, a record at the time, “But last May, Pure Oil brought one in out in the Trona Valley in Wyoming at 14,309 feet. That, friend, is almost three miles. Quite a hole, that.” The last sentences give a sense of the central idea of the play, with the demonstrative pronouns forming a kind of false palindrome (“that … that”) that frames fathomlessness. After a contemplative pause around that invisible void, Porky lays out the idiosyncrasies of the modern oil industry. It is one of the many instances when a sense of mystery is temporarily suspended as Porky rapidly explains a set of details – about drill rigs, production and core samples (a fourble board is a platform for assembling four lengths of pipe) – for want of which he supposes his addressee to be confused and struggling to keep up with the narrative. This tendency anchors the mood in realism so as to make its thwarting by the supernatural almost an aesthetic necessity. Porky continues,


Sure, I don't think there's an oil man in the world don't wonder one time or another what's down there besides rock and oil and gas. Oil that's made out of trees that died twenty million years ago, oil that's made out of dinosaur bones, oil that's made out of the flesh and blood of men maybe, that beat each other to death with a stone axe, ate saber tooth tiger for lunch. Yeah, you get to wondering. You look at the cores that come up from way down there, and sometimes there's little shells, trilobites mostly, that was alive when Manhattan Island, where New York is, was under half a mile of ice. We found something once, me and Billy Gruenwald. And something found us. I'll tell you about it …


Today, as many listeners wonder not about the origins of oil underground but its future up in the air, Porky’s oleaginous little fable has a special resonance, prompting a certain  “planetary awareness” through sound that Jacob Smith (drawing on the work of Ursula Heise) has called the “eco-sonic” (Smith 2013; Heise 2008). That Cooper possessed such a sense of his own drama is unlikely, but his plays often showcase bio- and geoacoustic phenomena, with dramatizations of speaking flowers, singing northern auroras, and even the distortion in the orbit of the earth. In “Fourble Board” the eco-sonic clearly outstrips other sound materials. Despite ample opportunities for sound-rich auditory environments of machinery, for instance, the play opts for relatively thin backgrounds in its oil field scenes. Indeed, several crashes on the derrick are left purposefully inaudible, and in fact we never hear the much-discussed drill functioning properly. The romance of machinery is displaced from the space of action, with the background organ accompaniment employed to reflect mechanical events more often than sound effects do, while lonely scenes of nighttime campfires are far more prominent than the clamorous din of traveling block, tong and rotary table.

What would it mean to follow Porky’s hint, to make his “geology of wonder” the centerpiece of a reading? For one thing, it would abandon much of what has concerned the theory of radio dramatic sound over the decades, which have seen a focus on compiling vocabularies for sound, establishing elements and showing how these elements form into rules, codes and practices (Barnouw 1939; McGill 1940; Mott 1990; Nisbett 1962; Crisell 1994; Crook 1999). A geological framing wouldn’t have much use for hierarchies among the three “elements” of the genre – words, music and sound effects – nor would it need to privilege the informational level of broadcast drama, “the signs which its codes make use of in order to convey messages,” to borrow a phrase from the pioneering work of Andrew Crisell (Crisell 1994: 42). In my own writing, I have foregrounded sound aesthetics, drawing in a few of R. Murray Schafer’s proposals to the study of radio drama, but even this approach remains centered on the semiotic function of radiophonic art as the main item on the agenda for “close listening” (Verma 2012). Whatever the merits of the current set of approaches, they lose something about how sounds come to us, ignore points where categorization falters and blends, and mishear affects that can often overwhelm and even obviate acts of communication. As Tim Crook has noted “there is a philosophy of sound expression that transcends ideas of phenomenology, art for art’s sake, cultural materialism and propaganda” (Crook 2012: 152). The question of what a sound does in drama still needs better grounding in what sound is in drama, and that’s just what Cooper’s work urges. 

Indeed, in radio drama studies, the era of focusing on terminology may be at a close. Thanks to recent handbooks by writers like Crook, Richard Hand, Mary Traynor and others, as well as the vigorous theory of close listening, we have rigorous terms and approaches (both historical ones from broadcasters and contemporary ideas imported from other sound studies areas) as robust as those of any humanistic field (Biewen 2010; Crook 2012; Hand and Traynor 2011; Bregman 1994; Goodale 2011; Lacey 2013). The question is no longer how to get critical tools to help “think sound,” but how to sort among them in a manner that reflects what is perhaps the core insight of recent sound scholarship, that sound requires methods, but it also precedes method and is a method. Jonathan Sterne has a nice way of putting this, emphasizing not research methodologies but the “sonic imaginations” that animate them. In his recent Sound Studies Reader, he writes:


There is no a priori privileged ground of methodologies for sound studies. Instead sonic imaginations are guided by an orienting curiosity, a figural practice that reaches into the fields of sonic knowledge and practice, and blends them with other questions, problems, fields, spaces and histories. Method matters, but it should arise from the questions asked and the knowledge fields engaged, not the other way around. (Sterne 2012: 6)


Rather than seek an a priori privileged ground when it comes to this play, in what follows, I privilege an underground. And with the blending of sonic imagination with other fields in mind, the following reading meets Porky and Billy Gruenwald at their oil well, in the knowledge field they dredge up from the depths, letting their own “sense of things” spill out of the recording and coat our ears. Semiotics, production laws, phenomenology and soundscape theory will only take us so far into the inky sound world of this episode of Quiet, Please. To really inhabit the rock, oil, bones and flesh of the play, we’ll need a little paleontology, to dwell a little on Cooper’s seemingly inconsequential line about those little shells that were alive when New York was under ice.

Figure 1: Isotelus Gigas

Rock, Meat and Love


This is a photograph of a specimen of Isotelus Gigas, a trilobite distantly related to the ones that fascinate Porky. [4] It comes from the Bobcaygeon formation in the Canadian province of Ontario, encased in about 2.7 kilograms of Ordovician dolomite. It’s 475 million years old. When it was alive, it fed on dead fish at the bottom of the ocean and looked like a lobster, with an exoskeleton of chitin, a hard shelly substance that is similar to human fingernails, as well as well-developed antennae. Trilobites are unique in the animal kingdom for their stony eyes, the honeycomb lenses of which were made of calcite crystals rather than proteins (Angier 2014). This specimen seems to have been buried under mud very soon after death; normally, trilobites are found in pieces. As its flesh decayed after death, the exoskeleton of this specimen formed a thin plane of separation between the sediment below and that above. Over eons, both upper and lower layers hardened into limestone. The exoskeleton vanished, particle by particle, leaving behind only the gap it set between strata of stone, the top half of which was hammered away when the piece was discovered fifty years ago. That’s what we see in the image. There isn’t a molecule of any trilobite in this stone; there hasn’t been any part of that creature here for hundreds of millions of years. In that sense it’s not a trilobite at all, just a record of contact with one, preserved by a geologically automated substitution of particles around the periphery of an absence. It’s not a corpse but a death mask, a footprint, a thing and also nothing.

Why might Cooper cite such a (non-)thing in the opening lines of this play? Certainly the paleontological uncanny gives the setting mystery, pointing us to a world of hidden sound at the center of this tale to which the old roughneck will offer auditory access. I am reminded of Brandon LaBelle’s (LaBelle 2010: 5) writing on the sound of the underground, “a space of creaks and murmurs, a slow shifting of acoustical particles […] which carry the possibility of threat, danger, and inversion, suggesting that what lies underneath surreptitiously mirrors what lies above in full view,” as well as of Doug Aitken’s 2009 Sonic Pavilion installation, a 5-year project to drill down toward, amplify and translate sound from 200 meters below ground (Kim-Cohen 2011). Cooper’s interest in rock is also that of a deeply materialist writer, one whose aesthetic is committed to a slow, haptic relationship to instruments, environments and labor. It has been noted that his plays are significantly shorter on paper than those of many peers, leaving time for voices and silences to linger, materialize, dissipate. The action can be positively pokey. In an interview in Writer’s Digest in 1949 (Cannon 1949), Cooper likened his process to bricklaying. That is a good way of explaining the construction at the heart of “The Thing on the Fourble Board,” which turns its most ephemeral sound object – the silent Mike – into its most obdurate, gradually mineralizing her with more and more aural features, until this intangible being is made sonically corporeal. Richard Hand is right to call her a modern golem. If Mike is a sound somewhere out of our earshot, then the work of the play is to construct a body for her and thus make it possible for her to enter the room. It does so gradually, but never completely; because she is only a sound – or, more precisely, a series of sounds aggregated around the periphery of a gap (a “that … that,” if you like) the play can do no more than form an impression of something not there, something we’ll never see or touch, but can only imagine and acutely know to be absent, much like the specimen of Isotelus Gigas.

In fact, returning to the story now, the principle events of the play begin with an act of solidification – cementation, to be precise. It is some 20 years earlier, and Porky is working on an oil derrick somewhere in the Oxnard Oil Field in Southern California. Having found water down in the bore hole, the crew has decided to cement off the hole, sealing the area so that drilling can resume the next day, and as the water-proof cement sets overnight, Porky stands watch out on the dark oil derrick while the rest of the men go to town. We find him making pork chops by a campfire – another Cooper pun, alluding to cannibalism; there will be several more such hints embedded in expressions used in the later dialogue of the scene (“I’m starved!” “What’s eatin’ you?”) as the writing errs a little too closely on the side of private amusement. Geologist Billy Gruenwald arrives, sitting down to eat and study some unusual core samples. As Hand (Hand 2006: 154) has pointed out, we have no illusions of what will happen to him; having driven in all day to the site, his first words are “I’m dead.” Here is part of what transpires next:

The sound of the splash of red lead onto the creature is the climax of the main action. Illustrated with a piano, it breaks the tension of the scene and turns fear of the creature into pity as the narrative rupture of time is also sutured and we return to the present-day and the “nice home” that Porky shares with his wife.


The creature is Maxine/Mike, of course. Coming up the darkened drill shaft, extruded violently from a blind world where geotechnical forces shape matter through crushing pressures, it’s no surprise that Maxine is a chimera, half spider and half child, invisible. But her auditory construction has also been no less alchemical. In the opening scene she was there-before-she-was-there, and surely imagined-before-heard by the listener, who is given no acoustic information at all about her besides that of aural expectation. Next, in the derrick sequence that forms the principle temporal span of the play, our contact with Mike moves from silence to sound, then from sound to music, then from music to voice. All that remains is to move her from retrospective time (always represented with distance from the microphone relative to a more intimate present narrator) to the present. And what could accomplish that but the power of love? Porky concludes the play narrating up on the fourble board of his memory:

It is a masterful delivery, a powerful blend of tender affection and abject terror. Each sentence of the passage that begins with rapturous love and hypnotic wonder (the voice rising, sweetening) concludes with horrified revulsion (the voice dropping, the phrase abbreviated), and vice versa, a pattern of affect that reflects Mike’s double existence as both there and not there, both human and monster. In some ways, her presence actually makes her more difficult to imagine; an aesthetic of void remains everywhere. Even Porky’s dialogue is full of gaps in information, either by evasion (“I won’t tell you about that”), euphemism (what it “used for food” rather than “what it ate”), elliptical omission (“I’m afraid I’ve fallen in …”). And how else could it all end, when we return to the present, to our close-quarters with Porky, and the far off door to the kitchen opens at last, emitting that same hungry, childlike cry? The moment that Mike meets the mike, we become Mike’s meat. 


[4] Thanks to my father, Harish Verma (PhD, Geology and Paleontology, McMaster University) for these details – and for the fossil.

[5] Known as the “Woman of a 1,000 Voices,” Roy is probably best known for playing Caspar the Friendly Ghost in several films and programs from 1945 until the 1960’s.

It’s a spatially deep scene, and constantly reminding us of that fact. Porky and Billy take turns moving from the fixed audioposition of the fire – a well-illustrated foreground – toward the edge of auditory focus, where they speak just frequently enough to give us a fuzzy, darkened sense of “out-thereness,” with vocal amplitude indexed to the reach of firelight. The men speak of their private fears just like little boys at camp, Billy of the dark, Porky of black widow spiders. Porky is a little overeager to talk, with his deep chuckle, Billy is a little unwilling to warm up to him, to engage his penchant for storytelling, the first and most prominent aspect of his personality that we have been introduced to, it having licensed the narrative from the getgo. Upon this fire-licked backdrop, and with an auditory hint of sizzling meat, the play resumes constructing the “Thing” alluded to in its title, a creature that the oilrig has dredged up from the world of fossils and echoes. First we hear Gruenwald report that he hears the sound of something in the night, but we are provided with no sonic illustration to hear ourselves. That silence is odd, from a narratological point of view. Since the sound event takes place in Porky’s memory and we will later learn that he understands its source quite well, why shouldn’t it be illustrated sonically? But just as the problem of the “existence” of the sound in memory starts to form, we hear a second sound event attributed to the creature, the ringing of a stand of pipe as it moves along the ground seemingly spontaneously. This sound is more like the others in the scene – the sounds of the fire, footsteps, coffee cups, voices – on the soundscape of Porky’s memory, sounds motivated by iconic codes of resemblance (to use Peirce’s terms) to the sounds of physical acts we already recognize (Crisell 1994: 42).

Over the next few moments, Porky and Billy puzzle over two terrifying items they discover in the drilling core samples: a filigreed gold ring and what looks like a stone finger embedded in million-year old strata from a mile underground, a “petrified salami” as Porky calls it. The rock in the finger dissolves, but its weight remains in the hand, invisible. Both men swoon in an alcohol-induced lapse of consciousness, and when Porky awakens from a dream of spiders, he finds Billy dead with a broken neck and the ring missing. Porky hides in Billy’s truck until dawn, when the local police quite quickly absolve him from blame for the “accident” at the behest of the mine owner Ted, who is eager to have work resume. No sooner has Porky taken up his place on the fourble board, than a steel cable is ripped to pieces in front of him by some invisible hand, dropping a giant pipe on Ted. This is the third “appearance” of the creature in the oil field sequence of the drama, but unlike the first two – Billy Gruenwald’s report, the sound of a moving pipe – this one is marked with music, as the organ plays a quick glissando to illustrate the falling of the pipe as the greedy derrick boss meets his ignoble end, in what is surely wish fulfillment.

At the second accidental death, we are told, the whole crew quits. A few days later, Porky returns to the derrick, now described as a desolate skeleton, already a kind of fossil itself, “the deadest thing you ever saw.” As Porky wanders around the bones of the scene, he sees the gold ring appear as if dropped from an invisible hand, an act sonically illustrated by an organ in a similar way as in Ted’s death. Then, at last, there is a vocal sound – the voice of the creature – to fill the gap that the play had opened in its first moments, what Porky describes as “the sound of a kid crying” or of a kitten. Voiced by Cecil H. Roy, the creature has a unique prevocal quality, a wide-open cawing, at once intensely human and otherworldly, produced in part through an erratic and jagged wandering between head voice and chest voice across her vocal break. [5] It’s a voice of wonder and of pain, a displaced voice unmastered in its own ascents and depths, a spontaneous vocal self-mining apparatus. Pursued by this voice, Porky runs along the rig, firing a few shots and avoiding the crash of a stand of pipe, until a final climax of reveal, when Porky grabs a can of red paint and tosses it in the direction of the sound. Here is the scene:

From Sonorous Object to Sonorous Thing



But before allowing that conclusion to consume the entire reading, let me back up a little to the last scene on the oil derrick, once more. There is a lesson for close listening in the way Maxine becomes loveable and open to the play of representation and perception at precisely the moment of being resurfaced in red paint, a splash that we are told is only the beginning of Porky’s lovingly delicate maintenance of her over many years. According to Porky, Mike needs constant encrustation with mud, greasepaint and disguises in order be perceivable and to perceive others – remember the stony eyes of the trilobites? – in a veritable living parable of relentless “remediation” (Bolter and Grusin 1999). Dressing up an absence is, after all, what the play itself has been doing all along, adding ever-more layers of audio around the periphery of a gap that is as unrepresentable as the body of a half billion year old fossilized trilobite is irrecoverable.But Maxine’s make-up (and mike-up) aren’t the only encrustations that we have heard. Indeed, in order to hear this play at all we’ve had to dig with our ears through generations of recordings. In my four clips above you can hear various moments in the history of this track since 1948 in a number of surface noises, beginning with the mark of a lacquer disk as it was first recorded (the announcer points out it was “brought to you by transcription”), then probably a tape of some kind (there are one or two moments of hiss), perhaps a vinyl record – you can hear the dust in the grooves – and also now an MP3, with its nagging compression artifacts pock-marking the audio with chirps. Like Mike, “The Thing on the Fourble Board” is an unstable immateriality, but one that requires material cladding to encounter. In remediating Quiet, Please, we are doing just what Porky does with his greasepaint, and for the same reason – love and horror – throwing splashes of material at a transfixing but ultimately ungraspable emptiness, from which all materials eventually drip, ooze and slide.

What I’m getting at is a double experience of listening to this piece, one that only emerges nowadays, as the ontology of “The Thing on the Fourble Board” has at last caught up with its subject matter. On the one hand, as listeners, we are led off in pursuit of the play as a “sound object” in Pierre Schaeffer’s sense (Schaeffer 2004), willfully and delightfully ignoring the source of emanation and even Wyllis Cooper’s craft, so that we may enjoy what seems to be a free projection in the theater of our mind; Frances Dyson (Dyson 2009: 55) has justly described this sort of listening as a drive to “suspend the instrumentality of audio, projecting it beyond the determinations of technology and media culture into a peculiarly transcendent space.” But, on the other hand, even as we pursue that kind of listening, the intervention of the sound-marks of recording draw us back again and again to the pitted surface of the medium and to its material history as a recording, through a noisiness that enriches as it interposes (Krapp 2011). In our haste to achieve promised immediacy, we stumble, our mind’s window gets smeared with filth, a broken footlight winks out here and there in the theater of the mind. The sonorous object alone won’t render a replete account of the play; to theorize both the Thing and “The Thing,” we’ll need thing theory, and it is in that spirit that I propose thinking of radio dramas as fossilized invertebrates in the contemporary media ecology, caught between objecthood and thingliness, between oil and geology (Verma 2012: 227-28; Brown 2001). Perhaps what we desire to meet in “The Thing on the Fourble Board” is a projection soaring way up in the air, but what wants to meet us, it turns out, is an earthen creature from deep down in dark rock. And all old radio plays that survive today inevitably have that same dual property, suggesting that Maxine is not just a winking synecdoche for the inky little play from which she emerges in all her glorious abomination, but also for classic radio itself.




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