Hour 25

Hour 25

Hour 25 was a radio program focusing on science fiction, fantasy, and science. It was broadcast on Pacifica radio station KPFK in Southern California from 1972 to 2000, and is now distributed over the Internet. It has featured numerous interviews with famous authors of science fiction and fantasy, in addition to luminaries of the scientific community. The program was originally hosted by Mike Hodel. Harlan Ellison was a regular host for a time in the mid-1980s, as well as J. Michael Straczynski. The show is now hosted by Warren James.

On the website, in addition to new programs, there is an extensive archive of older shows featuring interviews with popular authors, including Terry Pratchett, Larry Niven, Laurie R. King, Frank Kelly Freas, and Neil Gaiman.



Hour 25 was one of the longest-running noncontinuous science fiction radio programs, surpassed by only Hour of the Wolf and Shockwave Radio Theater. It was also one of the earliest programs to be taken seriously by both the authors and the publishers. The show was originally hosted by Mike Hodel and Mitchell Harding, whose appreciation for the genre and differing tastes brought a unique quality to the program. The show was an eclectic mixture of science fiction news, reviews, readings, filk music, occasional on-air listener phone calls, interviews, and playing of science fiction radio shows such as "X Minus One" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". In its first years, Hour 25 functioned almost as a science fiction "web page" for the Los Angeles area fan base, before computer technology made keeping up-to-date on news and events in the relatively small world of science-fiction fandom simple.

Originally, the three-hour show aired Friday nights from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM, but when the management at KPFK threatened to cancel the show, the producers were able to negotiate a schedule change, so that Hour 25 aired Fridays for two hours from 10:00 PM to 12:00 AM (the last hour, which was largely devoted to playing old-time radio shows, was eliminated). Most of the program was engineered by "crack engineer" Burt Handelsman, who was also a character in the story "The Hour That Stretches" by Harlan Ellison. Terry Hodel, Mike Hodel's wife, maintained and read on the air each week a calendar of science fiction related events in the Los Angeles area, which before electronic media and the internet was the only way many science fiction fans learned of conventions and book signings.

Hour 25 was also the first US radio program to introduce the audience to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" before NPR gained rights and aired it. It was broadcast as two series of six shows with a "bridge" episode, and was replayed until NPR gained the rights. Hour 25 later featured Douglas Adams as an in-studio guest.

After Harding's departure from Hour 25, Hodel co-hosted with science fiction and television writer Mel Gilden, who was just beginning his career. For several years, Bill Warren was a once-a-month "media" host.

One frequently-discussed concept in the show was the "Group Mind", which consisted of all the listeners. Hodel often said there was no topic that some "cell" of the Group Mind wouldn't have information about. Many times members of the "Group Mind" would call in with answers as the show aired (presaging live shows today which have chat rooms for the same function).

Hour 25's "lost tape" incident involved a recorded interview with author Philip K. Dick. In this interview, Hodel talked with Dick about his new book, "A Scanner Darkly", and Dick read some passages which he said were inspired by his own use of drugs. The original recording was over three hours long, but the broadcast version was edited to be much shorter. Some time after being aired, Hodel realized that neither version of the interview could be found in the station archives.

A 75 minute version of the Dick interview is now available and a transcript is held on the Internet Archive. [1]

Hour 25 adopted a fan-friendly method of operation in Southern California. The outer door of the station was deliberately propped open during the program, allowing fans to come and go as they pleased. Fans would often drop by the station to meet the evening's guests, or to deliver refreshments the way that "mainstream" media did at the time.

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison was a frequent and favorite guest on the program. On August 14, 1976, he was the guest and after explaining what would happen that night he started work on a story. He began with the audience suggesting words and phrases he could use. He picked three and began typing, describing what he was doing and occasionally asking the hosts and audience for help. This continued so long that the host of the following show gave him more air time. The show lasted over 3 and 1/2 hours, but he was unable to finish the story that night. Ellison came back on August 28th and continued writing. He returned once more on September 4, 1976 and read the completed story, "Hitler Painted Roses."

Ellison later "immortalized" Hour 25 in the story, "The Hour That Stretches", which featured the radio show as a central element.

When Mike Hodel became gravely ill, Ellison took over hosting the show. After Mike Hodel died on May 6, 1986, Harlan became the new host on May 9, the Memorial program for Mike Hodel. Ellison opened each program by reading vignettes of his own composition while music from the opening credits of Dark of the Sun played in the background. Ellison renamed the program, "Mike Hodel's Hour 25", and began closing each show by saying "Goodnight, Mike". As the sole host of Hour 25, Ellison began to find it challenging to create two hours of original content every week, he left in June of 1987.

J. Michael Straczynski

When Harlan Ellison decided to leave Hour 25, he contacted writer J. Michael Straczynski and asked him to take over the show as its weekly host. Since Mike had left custody of Hour 25 to Harlan, Harlan in turn felt it was his legacy to pass on, and wanted to ensure the quality of the program.

Straczynski hosted Hour 25 for five years, during which time he interviewed such guests as Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwin, John Carpenter, Dean Koontz, Walter Koenig, Neil Gaiman and scores of other writers, directors and actors. During his tenure, he was assisted by occasional co-hosts Larry DiTillio and Arthur Byron Cover. Straczynski and DiTillio finally left Hour 25 over creative difference with station personnel over the direction of the program. After their departure, the show struggled on for another few years before finally going off the air.

Theme song

The show's opening theme was, for much of its run, "Needles and Bones" from Vangelis's 1975 album Heaven and Hell. "Jupiter" from Holst's The Planets was also used, as well as "Tubular Bells" and other mixed material. The original opening was created by Joe Adams. Later versions (under Mike Hodel and then Warren James) were created by Burt Handelsman (BHCE).


External links

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