The Hour of the Wolf

I am a dutiful wife and so I agreed to wake up at 3:30AM to accompany Scott to Jim Freund’s crack-of-dawn sf radio show on WBAI.

Here’s Scott’s account:

Because we just haven’t had enough jet lag this year, I agreed to go on Jim Freund’s radio show. It’s called "Hour of the Wolf," and has been going for 32 years, and everyone in sf who comes through NY must do it by tribal law. (Joanna Russ and Samuel Delany used to run it.) It’s on a very cool radio station called WBAI, which is all hip and listener-supported, with neither ads nor government funding. What’s the catch? The show’s on Saturday morning from 5AM-7AM.

Now, because there’s millions of people in range, there is an audience at that time. According to Arbitron (which to me sounds like a bad name for a company in the business of providing data), 30,000 people are listening at 5AM, and about 120,000 are listening at 7AM. The error range is 50,000 plus or minus (Arbitron, indeed), so at the beginning you can be pretty loose, ’cause like 6 people could be listening.

Me and Justine had only about five hours sleep on Thursday night, because of mad drinking and early breakfast date. We figured exhausting ourselves and going to bed early would work. It didn’t. We became hysterical and giggled until about 1AM, and the wakeup call came at 3:30AM, the car at 4:15AM.

But coffee is coffee, and Jim and I had a good time talking about cricket and bisummerality while 0 to 80,000 people were listening, Then I read "Non-Disclosure Agreement" from 5:45AM to 6:30AM, which means most people tuned in in the middle and were like "huh?" Then I pushed Risen Empire and finally read the funny and short "Cat Years" for the last 10 minutes.

But here’s what’s interesting. We got back to the East Village (WBAI is on Wall Street) and went to the local 24-hour diner to eat good Ukranian food and languish in bad Ukranian service. (So painful on no sleep, until we started giggling.) On the way out I saw this skinny black guy with a hat pulled down over his head, his feet all tangled together, alone at 8AM on a Saturday morning scribbling in a notebook. And, of course, it was Tricky, either getting up early or coming down hard. But looking very much the tortured artist, not unlike I was feeling by that point. So although it is vanishingly unlikely, I fantasize now that he was up early to listen to WBAI, and his next album will have an anthropomorphic cat rap on it.

—Scott Westerfeld

I have to confess that I knew almost nothing about "Hour of the Wolf" before this morning’s outing. I’d seen Jim Freund at various readings with large headphones on his head, wincing when people tapped the microphone. Apparently he was recording proceedings for some science fiction radio show but I knew little beyond that.

Turns out "Hour of the Wolf" was founded in 1972 by Margot Adler who now works at NPR on such shows as "All Things Considered". Jim Freund was part of the show right from the beginning. They’ve interviewed almost every writer you can think of in science fiction and fantasy and have produced many sf and fantasy radio plays, including an adaptation of a scene from Lord of the Rings which involved close consultation with J. R. R. Tolkien. Sf scholars should know that they have the majority of the tapes from the show’s history and Jim seemed quite keen to make them available to scholars.

I thought that the whole thing would be utter, utter hell. I’m not an early morning person, don’t like waking up until I have to. But I had a really good time. The two hours zoomed past. What with Jim’s, um, idiosynchratic choice of music, the entertaining conversation between he and Scott and the fact that I kept falling into hallucinatory little micro-sleeps. Jim Freund has a surprisingly excellent radio voice and got Scott talking about many things Australian (always a good thing). Though they both kept mentioning Scott’s newest book The Risen Empire without actually saying what it was about until I prodded (off-air).

I think the six people listening would have really enjoyed themselves.

"Cat Years" is indeed very funny. So too is "Non Disclosure Agreement".

Sadly, I wouldn’t have recognised Tricky. You know, not unless he was performing and there was a sign up that said "Tricky".

I seem to have rashly agreed to be the one behind the mike some time in the future. If that happens maybe we’ll see P. J. Harvey or Me’Shell NdegéOcello at Veselka next time (them I would recognise).

New York City, 21 June 2003