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Spacefaring stories in the Midnight Sun

Theatre Artists Olympia’s recurring program will transport enthusiasts through the great sci-fi works. Photo courtesy Christian Carvajal

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Science fiction can take us anywhere, from human blood vessels to the edges of the universe. In 1897, it turned menacing Martian tripods loose on the streets of Victorian London. These days, episodes of Doctor Who can be viewed on any smartphone, an improvement over Starfleet's communicators.

Words, Words, Words is a recurring program of literary selections, as performed by actors from Theater Artists Olympia (TAO). This month's installment is devoted to speculative fiction from H. G. Wells to infinity and beyond. We're obliged to relinquish authorial neutrality here, as your humble correspondent is the curator of this faster-than-light evening of interstellar entertainment. I'll be joined by fellow fanboys (and fangirls) John Beck, George Dougherty, Heather Matthews, Gabriel McClelland, Rick Pearlstein, Christopher Rocco, Amanda Stevens and William Turbyfill, plus artwork from some of the most spectacular illustrators in the history of the medium.

The first grown-up book I ever read was Ray Bradbury's S Is for Space. Decades later, I'm the author of two published science-fiction novels. Yet even after a lifelong fascination with sci-fi, I've been surprised and delighted by selections recommended by cast members, from a witty 250-worder by Fredric Brown to a tongue-in-cheek A.I. story published only last year. These stories cover the entire gamut and history of the genre. As literary "sf" matured from its so-called Golden Age (generally, the 1940s and '50s) into mainstream ubiquity, it greeted a new wave of diverse writers. Their work drew from fresh perspectives to spin wild yarns of alternative ethnology, sexuality and gender. Sci-fi is more about the present than it ever was about the future, so of course it has to change with the times.

We'll read beloved stories by Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and Ursula Le Guin, but don't be surprised if you find something new to love just as much. As listeners get teleported through the 20th and early 21st centuries, they'll meet Venusian bullies, an emaciated child in a basement, a godawful alien poet and a holographic Gandhi. TAO's journey through time and space promises - to use an expression once used to promote 2001: A Space Odyssey - a total head trip. Buckle up, kids - we're about to make the jump to hyperspace.

Each dollar raised by Words, Words, Words goes toward keeping the doors open at the Midnight Sun Performance Space, TAO's home since last year. TAO's experiencing a post-summer financial crisis, so it's changed up its game by announcing a full season of sexy spectaculars in advance. To find out how you can help, please visit OlyTheater.com or TAO's fundraising campaign at GoFundMe.com/2mw5yw3w. Slip a few extra credits in the jar before hopping into our literary DeLorean for a grand voyage back to the future.

If you like these stories, watch for director James Venturini's radio-drama-style take on The Day the Earth Stood Still ("Gort: klaatu barada nikto!") at Lakewood Playhouse next month. As a certain Federation admiral once commanded, "Second star to the right ... and straight on till morning."

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS: SCIENCE FICTION, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9-10, The Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, $10, 360.292.5179

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, 8 p.m., Oct. 14-16, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $25, 253.588.0042

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