Monday, January 22, 2007

Trolls, Ghosts and an Extraordinary Friend

It's long past due that I post some praise and thanks for my long time friend, associate and promoter: Birke Duncan.

Birke and I met doing high school theater together. My favorite memory of Birke from that idyllic age was his portrayal of a nearly mad scientist in the production of Karel Capek's Rossum's Universal Robots that I served as student director on. Birke is a wonderful character actor and has brought a bright spark of wit to every production he has been involved in, he took to the role as naturally as breathing. The highlight for me was when something unexpected happened during a performance- a heavy furnell light came loose from its overhead bar to come crashing down on the stage just a scant few feet in front of Birke! (fortunately not on his head!) Not missing a beat Birke looked up, shook his fist and proclaimed: "Clumsy robots!" -Brilliant!

I could go on and on and on about Birke's many innovative creative projects (as he often does, hehe) and so I will pick some that are near and dear to my heart and that I was directly involved with.

I'll start with Birke's book The Troll Tale and Other Scary Stories that he wrote with Jason Marc Harris, fellow folklorist. The book is a collection of strange but true tales as told by the people to whom they happened- one of those being myself, the teller of my own true story, The Troll Tale!

There are some wonderful stories there, I am especially fond of Robert McAllistair's River Boys. As for my own tale Birke has transcribed it directly from an audio tape of my telling which gives it a kind of a scientific weirdness (although it was a tad upsetting how many times I vocalized "Uhhh") which accentuates the fact that this bizarre story really happened! I also have another entry in the volume concerning a poltergeist I encountered in Bavaria- and you don't have to believe me to enjoy the stories, either!

I will at some point publish my short story version of the troll story here, and I highly recommend taking a look at the book itself The Troll Tale and Other Scary Stories ! The book has made the 'Best Seller List for Scholarly Works' and has been required reading in classes at both the University of Washington and Michigan State University- but make no mistake, this is no stuffy textbook and the 'Scary Stories' live up to their name!

Birke has also produced a thrilling radio play enactment of the tale which is available directly from Northwest Folkore on CD by contacting Birke at -The sound effects and voice acting were so realistic that I felt as if I were back in that campground in Sweden going through the eerie experience all over again!

The third project Birke has produced involving me is the audio CD 'radio play' version of my novella A Long Vacation which I may at some point expand into a novel as a project on this blog. It's the story of Ray, a lonely young American who works in Tokyo taking a vacation to a remote Japanese island in the Ryukyuu archipelago. There he becomes smitten with a mysterious girl named Satsuki he meets while skindiving who may hold keys to doors into Ray's past that he himself is unaware of. When he jokingly makes an offering at the abandoned cliffside shrine of a forgotten sea god Ray finds himself propelled into a chain of increasingly strange and dangerous events. There's a ghost loose on this island and who it is is anybody's guess!

At Birke's strong (and relentless!) encouragement we worked together to adapt the novella into a radio play script. Once that was done Birke superhumanly casted a group of excellent actors, found amazing sound effects, mastered new technologies and created something entirely new and wonderful- my novella transformed into a vibrant new art form through the great talents of all involved! Hearing my written words brought to life by Birke's wonderful troupe of voice actors was an incredible experience, and one that I think you will enjoy, too. Here is the link for procuring the audio CD of A Long Vacation , and I am pleased to note that I was able to contribute one more creative act to the production as I designed the cover and took the photograph of the lovely mermaid featured there.

I am also delighted to report that A Long Vacation received the Silver Ogle Award for
the (2nd) Best Fantasy/Horror Audio Production of the Year 2005! As I live in a rather distant city (Bangkok, Thailand) I couldn't make it to the ceremony so Birke received the award on our behalf as producer, co-writer, director and mastermind. I am very proud to have been a part of it!

And so I want to thank Birke for unfailingly encouraging me to write and create more, and for his hard work in taking some of these creations to new levels of exposure and artistry! Birke always goes above and beyond to make things happen and its about time this hero of mine got his song. Hail Birke, you are an inspiration! Ja vi elsker det Birke!!!

Garrett W Vance

1 comment:

Birke Duncan said...

Garrett Vance ranks as one of the most engaging storytellers I've ever heard. Four of his eerie yarns grace the book, "The Troll Tale & Other Scary Stories." He has a rare talent for blending humor with suspense. These tales and "A Long Vacation" also showcase his gift for vivid descriptions.