Saturday, November 30, 2019

Podcasts (Fiction)

Following Dan at Throne of Salt, I decided to review some of the podcasts I listen to. Because "Oh God I Listen to So Many" is a sentiment I can share. I found his post very useful, as it finally convinced me to listen to the Magnus Archives, so I hope that someone else may find some gems here.

To keep the list manageable, I'm only listing fiction podcasts for now (not actual play, history, etc.), and I've broken it into "Abandoned", "Caught Up", "Underway", and "On My Radar". "Serialized" means you should probably start at the beginning, and "episodic" means you can probably start anywhere. "Nondiagetic" here means that the people doing the recording know there's an audience, but I've probably applied it inconsistently. "Explicit" means you'll want headphones, at least.

Abandoned

I started these, but have no intention of finishing or catching up right now.

Archive 81

  • serialized (?)
  • horror
  • nondiagetic

If the act of producing The Magnus Archives was itself a ritual of some kind. I just didn't have the time to get a feel for it.

The Signal

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

I remember listening to this, but nothing else about it.

Steal the Stars

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

A para-military organization guards a UFO. Too tense for me. I can do horror, but I can't do suspense generated by human decisions. I imagine this is like how some people just cannot handle cringe comedy.

The Black Tapes

  • episodic
  • horror
  • nondiagetic

A podcaster follows an experienced paranormal investigator looking into his "black tapes"&emdash;the tapes he could never explain away. I liked individual episodes well enough, but they felt "unfinished". I didn't care at all for the metaplot, which from what I understand dominates later episodes.

It Makes A Sound

  • serialized

An obsessive fan of an obscure musician searches for an early tape. I think? It wasn't what I was expecting, so I left quickly.

The Other Stories

  • episodic
  • horror

Short horror stories. Seemed workmanlike, but I may revisit it. There is a different podcast also called The Other Stories, which is unrelated.

Kench!

  • serialized
  • comedy

I was only in it for the first miniseries (5 episodes), starring Ben Partridge of Beef & Dairy Network. If you like Beef & Dairy Network, you'll like that, but the rest is wildly different from what I can tell.

Mission to Zyxx

  • episodic (?)
  • comedy
  • sci-fi

A space-diplomat gets sent to the sticks. It's not bad, but there are too many podcasts. I do enjoy the episodes that crop up on the Max Fun bonus episode feed.

Caught Up

I've listened to all of these that there is to listen to.

Adventures in New America

  • serialized
  • horror
  • comedy

Satire in future America with space vampires. Very camp. I probably would have bounced off it, but I had a lot of time on my hands.

Beef and Dairy Network

  • episodic
  • comedy

Absolutely one of my favorite podcasts, but very difficult to explain. When I try to explain it to friends I just get weird looks. I recommend starting with the first episode ("Dr. David Pin") or episode 52 ("Tusk Henderson", guest starring Nick Offerman).

The Bridge

  • serialized
  • horror

Traffic reports broadcast from a watchtower along the (abandoned) trans-Atlantic bridge. I think I'm a sucker for both alternate history settings and horror about people with boring jobs.

Bubble

  • serialized
  • comedy
  • sci-fi

Inside the bubble is a city of relative safety, and outside is wasteland with devils in it. The devils occasionally break through and fighting them is subcontracted through a ride-share style app. A weird premise, but well-executed.

Deadly Manners

  • serialized
  • comedy
  • crime

Basically the Clue movie but with different famous people (LeVar Burton, Kristen Bell, Michelle Visage) and a good dose of cold war paranoia.

Dreamboy

  • serialized
  • horror
  • explicit

Weird things happening to a horny gay musician spending a winter as a zookeeper in Cleveland Ohio. It's a mood.

Getting On with James Urbaniak

  • episodic
  • comedy

Comedian James Urbaniak, whose voice you know, adopts a variety of personas to deliver deranged self-centered monologues. A true gem, but sadly dead.

In Darkness Vast

  • serialized
  • horror
  • sci-fi

Season 1 is "when Star Trek goes wrong". Season 2 is a about identity and celebrity, but more about survival on a hostile planet. I really enjoyed these, and hope for more.

Middle:Below

  • episodic
  • horror (?)

Aims for Doctor Who with Ghosts, but sometimes ends up a little on the "community theater" side of things. Charming though, enough to compensate.

The Orbiting Human Circus

  • serialized

Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel tells surreal Christmas tales for children. If it had actually been broadcast in the 20th century, I expect that listening to it would be a family Christmas tradition, like a sharp-edged Rankin-Bass film.

Pounded in the Butt by My Own Podcast

  • episodic
  • comedy
  • explicit

Podcasting celebrities read the works of Chuck Tingle aloud, sometimes with friends, rarely sober, and apparently with very little preparation.

Sandra

  • serialized

What if the engine behind the newest voice assistant was actually just a secret warehouse of people with access to all of your personal information? Despite that setup, this is not a satire or sci-fi show. It hit the same "tension comes from people's decisions" note that I found very stressful in Steal the Stars, but I made it through.

Tides

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

A scientist is trapped on the surface of a strange planet, with only intermittent communication. A weirdly meditative experience.

A Very Fatal Murder

  • serialized
  • crime
  • comedy

The Onion does Serial. If you're the type of person to read a whole Onion article, you'll get a kick out of this. If you're the type of person to laugh at the headline and then move on, you'll probably be content to know that it exists. The ads are memorable.

Your Attention Please

  • episodic
  • comedy

Monologues delivered without context. Dead at two episodes, but I was laughing out loud at both of them (well, giggling madly).

Underway

I have listened to some of these and either finished, or intend to finish.

Alice Isn't Dead

  • serialized
  • horror

Season one, a trucker makes odd deliveries around the US while searching for her wife (Alice) and running from things. Season two is all conspiracies and paranoia. It's really good.

The Cryptonaturalist

  • episodic

Each episode describes an encounter with a fantastical cryptid, and also has some poetry and other ramblings. Took me a couple episodes to get into, but I think it was just me.

The Ghastly Tales Podcast

  • episodic
  • horror

Scottish people read short stories.

Hello From the Magic Tavern

  • serialized
  • fantasy
  • nondiagetic

A podcaster fell through a gap in reality to the mystical land of Foon and this podcast is his lifeline. Every episode he and his friends interview a different resident of Foon. It's like an improv game, where the only rule is that anything anyone says is canon. It's hilarious, and I understand there's a great second season and a spinoff podcast, but there's just so much of it.

Lake Clarity

  • serialized
  • horror

Strange goings-on around Lake Clarity. A pastiche of classic campground horror.

LeVar Burton Reads

  • episodic

LeVar Burton Reads things to you. It's good.

Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • episodic

A small stable of narrators read stories from recent issues of Lightspeed Magazine. I'd recommend a lot of them.

Limetown

  • serialized
  • horror
  • crime (?)

A radio host looks into the historical disappearance of a secluded research facility. Really good tension, satisfyingly banal evil. I haven't listened to season two yet, and I understand there's a show on "Facebook Watch", which I unfortunately do not care enough to learn how to use.

The Lost Cat Podcast

  • serialized (seasons 2 & 4)
  • episodic (seasons 1 & 4)
  • horror

Nominally, the host looks for his lost cat. Each episode in any season is a well-crafted horror story, and in the first three seasons, each one has a brief musical interlude. I really love the worldbuilding.

The Magnus Archives

  • episodic
  • horror

I'm listening to this as I write these reviews, and it occurs to me how many other podcasts must have been aiming for this, and how skillfully it avoids all of their pitfalls. An archivist inherits a backlog of supernatural witness statements, and sets about recording them on tape and sometimes taking new statements. It's a very clean premise: every episode, of necessity, has something supernatural, and then the host is allowed to poke at it after. I appreciate that this poking is usually disbelief, but not always because it might be more likely within the world of the Archives.

Old Gods of Appalachia

  • episodic (?)
  • horror

The Appalachain chain was a prison for unspeakable things, and also there's witches. It's pretty good so far.

The Orphans

  • serialized
  • sci-fi

A bunch of crash-landed amnesiacs try to survive on a weird planet. I'm not far into it yet.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour

  • episodic
  • comedy

Different titles recall different types of show from classic old-time radio, but with modern comedians doing the voice acting. I particularly enjoy "Beyond Belief" (what if Nick and Nora saw ghosts) and "Sparks Nevada: Marshall on Mars" (self-explanatory).

The Truth

  • episodic

Each episode is a fully-produced, sharply-written, short drama. There's a lot of them, and a lot of them walk that same uneasy line as Limetown and Sandra.

Welcome to Night Vale

  • episodic
  • horror
  • comedy

"Community radio from the Twilight Zone". Justified and ancient. Sometimes gets a bit caught up in its mythology, but when it's good it's really good.

Within the Wire

  • serialized
  • horror
  • sci-fi
  • nondiagetic
  • second person

A series of guided meditation tapes help you escape from some kind of dystopian institution. Immersive experience.

Wolf 359

  • serialized
  • sci-fi
  • horror
  • comedy

Comms officer on a remote monitoring station broadcasts his logs into the void. There's a lot of Red Dwarf in the DNA, but also some alternate history world-building and some banal corporate evil.

On My Radar

I haven't even started these yet.

  • Darkest Night
  • DUST
  • Empty
  • Twilight Histories
  • The Walk
  • The White Vault
  • Wooden Overcoats

2 comments:

  1. This clearly means it is time for a podcast arms race.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's on, although eventually I may fall behind, as I do in all things podcast-related.

      Delete