The crystal city glistens in the moonlight. Three of the six moons of Summa Nulla are shining down, casting weird shadows in this abandoned city. Yeah, yeah — not totally abandoned. This was once an automated city; now the rusted slidewalks no longer move. The winds blow through the broken city.
Oh yeah, slimies — biogenetically engineered assassins out for the hunt. I can feel their mind nets sweeping the city.
So begins Colin Marshall’s Ruby: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe, the very first cyberpunk radio drama — and still, to this day, by far the coolest. This bit of hard-boiled yet slightly goofy dialogue, tonally representative of the entire series, occurs between Ruby, the detective protagonist heavily armed with “subtle feminine charms and other, less subtle, persuasions” (and, oh, the power to slow down time at will) and what now sounds like an awfully Siri-esque digital assistant.
But at every moment, Ruby offers so much more than dialogue. The opening quote is our heroine introducing herself while gunning down a slimey in pursuit of a frankie. This particular frankie (local parlance for a human who’s more new parts than original organism) just happens to be Ruby’s doppelgänger.
Ruby is presented as a series of five minute episodes, sixty-five in all. An ever-shifting electronic score underlies almost the entirety of Ruby’s three hours of total run length, interwoven with narration from Ruby herself, her conversations with a host of colorful secondary characters (human, alien, mechanical, and otherwise), and a wealth of evocative effects. The whole production plays as if composed as one long piece of music; we might call it (apologies to Billy Idol) the finest cyberpunk album ever made.
William Gibson defined cyberpunk most succinctly as the intersection of “high tech and low life,” something that happens in all of Ruby’s 65 episodes. As a detective in the true Chandlerian tradition, Ruby deals with lowlives almost exclusively, not least the mustachioed, smoking jacket-clad tentacle monster The Tookah; Toots Mutant, part-human-part-“reptoid” leader of the “techno-punks”; and Rodant Kapoor, the pointy-nosed, beading-eyed, protruding-incisored humanoid who gets this adventure going by hiring her to investigate media manipulation on the planet of Summa Nulla, “the crossroads of the galaxy.”
Ruby originally aired on NPR the radio in 1982, the same year Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner made its theatrical debut. You’ll be able to hear episodes of Ruby: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe at the following times:
|Monday through Friday||3 pm PT / 6 pm ET / 11 pm BST|
|11 am PT / 2 pm ET / 7 pm BST|
Ruby: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe premieres on SCIFI.radio on August 21. Tune in to hear it!
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