Jan. 31, 2023

Why I love narrating Sci-Fi

Why I love narrating Sci-Fi

As voice actors, we have the choice of performing in many, many genres of narration. Some come easier to us that other based on our personal life experiences, instrument / voice and acting ability. Nonfiction, Science Fiction, Literary Fiction, Memoir, Fantasy, Business, Biography, Children’s Lit, and Mystery Suspense are all genres that we get to dive into, to name a few.

I was four years old when the world changed by an American epic space opera called Star Wars in 1978. My dad was a HUGE sci-fi buff before that, but when I came into his life at at 34 years young, we became movie buddies - watching popular flicks like Flash Gordon (still my all time #1 favorite - no matter how cheesy), Bladerunner, Logan’s Run, Mad Max, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Close Encounters, Tron, Back to the Future, and Spaceballs. But when Star Wars came out - that was the beginning of our serial movie commitment to each other and our father-daughter movie viewing life.

I had a strong love / hate relationship with my father. We were very similar in temperament, cleverness, passion, intelligence and creativity. He built all of my science projects (for me… not with me? maybe because he wanted them “to be good”. lol) I would sit at his feet while we watching movies and he’d roll me off the couch with his feet, laughing. And I loved it. Though he made a meager salary with a good paying government job in the 1970’s ($400/mo), he always made time and saved enough money to take us to the movie theater for the BIG movie releases (Star Wars, Jaws, Popeye, etc.). My admiration for my father and desire to lift myself up out of “being broke” compelled me to study Electrical Engineering and take a high-paying engineering job straight out of college.

When I watch movies and read stories in the sci-fi genre, it brings back powerfully happy memories bonding with my father. And as an Electrical Engineer, I love the technology and possibility that informs sci-fi story lines. I agree with Jeff that the tech is never the BASIS of the story… the stories ALWAYS stem from the struggles of humanity. But, enunciating the hallmark words of the genre (ectoplasmic, cataclysmic, “Marty, I'm sorry, but the only power source capable of generating 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning.”)

Plus, I love that in the sci-fi genre, I’m frequently required to find BELIEVABLE voices for aliens, humanoids, robots and creatures. Believability is always about finding the point of view, experience, beliefs, values and opinions of the character. The voice is always made up of the way the creature APPEARS (facial features, height, weight, sex) as well as possible idiosyncrasies of their education (or lack thereof), “ethnicity”, and any habits they may have (smoking, drinking, etc.). I love the process that comes with trying to pin those personalities down. It’s both a very difficult AND very intuitive process. Sometimes the personality of the character just “speaks” to me…. and tells me what they sound like. Sometimes, it takes a little digging. And when they have an identifiable, foreign accent to me (not American), I hire an Accent Coach!!! #TomAntonellisOnSpeedDial

In the UNTOLD TALES Audio Anthologies, you’ll find me performing ALL KINDS of characters… young children, old people, men, women, aliens, creatures, A.I., robots, etc. I’d love to know what you think when you listen! On our website, we can see your comments on the episodes, so please feel free to tell us what you think! I am a resilient, hard-working actor and my choices are only choices. Perhaps the voices in your head when you read a character are a little different. But, I always perform with authenticity, care, and love for the characters (yes, even the cheeky, bad ones!)

Let me know if you have anything you’d like to hear/read about from a Voice Actor’s perspective on narrating audiobooks and audio dramas!

- Melissa Del Toro Schaffner, Narrator, Host of Untold Tales