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There Is A Big World Of Amazing Fiction Podcasts
If you’ve been reading some of the more recent reviews, then you know we’ve pivoted to basically only looking at podcasts and books until the Hollywood strike finishes. And, while I have reviewed podcasts previously, I really dived into the medium over the past month or so. This has given me a much better feel for this medium of storytelling. It opened my eyes to the variance and breadth that’s available with audio-only narratives.
And, though I am by no means an expert, I’ve noticed a few interesting things about podcasts. Traits, patterns, and general observations. Five, in fact.
And, because we’re on the internet, I’m going to put those five into a numbered list. Although the order isn’t indicative of which points are the most important.
#5: Podcasts Are The New Radio Play
I’m too young to have been alive for the rise and fall of radio plays, but I know that there was a time when people sat around a radio set and listened to thrilling tales. I’m glad that podcasts have essentially revitalized this practice, and I get why people liked them the first time around. Much like the appeal of audiobooks, story podcasts offer a way to passively experience art.
#4: Podcasts Have a Different Approach to Storytelling
The big difference between fiction podcasts and audiobooks is that podcasts have a more serialized nature to them, almost by design. Some podcasts may mimic the chapter structure of the average novel, but they operate on a more television-like release schedule. Podcast episodes average a typical length of between 20-50 minutes and need some level of conclusion at the end of each one. They have to make it entertaining enough for the listener to return, after all. And the thing this most reminds me of is pulp magazines. A lot of the classic science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories that we still talk about to this day were released in chunks; you needed to keep checking in to get the whole picture. This makes the general pacing different, and it leads to a rhythm of storytelling you can’t get in most places.
#3: Podcasts Are Perfect for Anthology Formats
For all the reasons above, podcasts are great at making a themed home for a lot of different, unrelated stories. This has proven especially true for horror. There are a ton of podcasts that essentially function as a hub for a few different writers, or even just one writer, to release different spooky tales every so often. And, as a fan of short fiction and horror fiction, this is fantastic for me. Sometimes, I’m already in the middle of several long-form stories and want something that I can enjoy in an afternoon—especially as we get closer to Halloween.
#2: Podcasts Scale to Different-Sized Teams
I’ve listened to a few podcasts now with massive teams. These have crews with so many people that the credits take minutes to say. Every character gets a voice actor; every setting and major action gets an audio cue. Given enough prompts, the mind just fills in all the needed visuals—and the creators of these podcasts are only so happy to oblige.
However, I’ve also listened to podcasts that have so few voices, sometimes only one, and are wonderful in a wholly different way. These podcasts are more like monologs, showing off both the narrator’s skill at extended vocal performances, and often require a focus on layered and interesting prose to not fall apart. It’s almost impossible for a listener to not develop a sense of closeness, of getting to know the person telling the tale. They often also put in diegetic reasons for the narrator to be telling this story. Epistolary formatting isn’t that common anywhere else, so it’s been a fun experience to see how different artists tackle the constraints of small-cast productions.
#1: Podcasts Are Full of Indie Artists
Okay, I lied—this is the most important part of the list. Fiction podcasts are full of skilled creators. They don’t have massive budgets or endless resources, but through creativity and an artful approach to the limitations of the audio medium, they produce art. Even in the podcasts I’ve recently given negative reviews, there’s a passion that’s palpable. You can tell it’s a labor of love. Podcasts offer a chance for creative and weird stories to get made, get distributed, and have fans find them. If you open any podcast app, you’ll find hundreds of options in many different genres from emerging and established artists. It’s hard not to be a little awed by how many creative people are just releasing stuff like this out into the universe.
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