Friday, October 28, 2016

The Strange Silence of Ernest Kinoy

I have heard the name Ernest Kinoy over and over in recent years as the old archives of broadcast radio have gone online. As an example, look at the episode lists for the two iconic SF radio play series Dimension X and X Minus One from the 50s.[1]

Not only was he involved in the adaptation of nearly every episode of these two series, but he and his partner George Lefferts also contributed original pieces. True, much of his work in SF was derivative in the sense of being derived from the short stories of others[2] but radio plays are a very different beast from print, and it's not as though he did no original work of his own: Kinoy contributed 8 wholly original works to these two series, and is credited with the novelization of several dramatic works in addition to adapting work for radio and screen.

Kinoy was heavily credited in both radio and TV[3], and although he moved on to other things once he shifted to TV - mostly suspense and thriller – he continued to contribute to the SF corpus from time to time, for example the 1980 TV film The Henderson Monster.

Kinoy was no lightweight in writing, and though he may not primarily have been a SF author his contributions are surely significant – and yet…

And yet, despite winning two Emmy Awards for his work in television[4] and his significant contributions to radio SF during a period of enormous growth – and surely contributing to the fortunes of the iconic writers whose work he adapted – on his death in 2014 he passed away never having been honored by the SFF community and not even warranting a mention in the usual genre history sources.

Did his SF work reach the levels usually recognised by Hugos or similar awards? Maybe not, but it seems strange that a man whose writing contributed over the course of a decade to the popularization of SF through these two iconic SF radio drama series was so completely invisible.

I find myself wondering if the issue is – at least in part – related to a kind of snobbery, a sense that “just a radio drama” wasn’t good enough to be noticed, as though radio dramas held the same kind of place in the scheme of things as merchandising.[5] This sort of “high-brow” thinking is hardly new to SFF. Both fandom and the writing community have long suffered a kind of inferiority complex due to the way in which genre has often been viewed by the ivory tower and even the general public. After all, comics and TV have only comparatively recently begun to be taken seriously in some parts of fandom[6] - there’s no particular reason why writers like Kinoy ought to have been awarded per se.[7]

But in a realm where simply being a fan who just won’t shut up wins accolades and followers, one has to wonder why radio dramatists were never recognised at all.


[1] X Minus One actually ended in January 1958, and had a replay in 1973 with a fresh story by Robert Silverberg, but Kinoy’s involvement seems to have ended with his adaptation of Nourse’s “The Coffin Cure” in November 1957.
[2] And just look at the names whose work he was adapting!
[3] imdb lists 73 TV and film credits to his name - I can't find a similar listing for radio, but he has 91 *just in "Dimension X" and "X Minus One"
[4] One for his own episode “Blacklist” in The Defenders, the other shared with Blinn for their work on the second episode of Roots.
[5] Cue the new Hugo category…
[6] The Hugo “Graphic Story” category was launched in 2009, “Dramatic Presentation, Short Form” in 2003.
[7] Though I do find myself wondering if the stage version of R.U.R. would have been recognised. 

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