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Do You Hear What I’ve Heard — Again?

review by Sandra Odell

Welcome back!

When last we left our intrepid band, they were caught fast in the nefarious clutches –

Wait.  Sorry, wrong exciting conclusion.

Here we are for part two of our look at genre podcasts and some of the best fiction you’ll ever hear on the web.  In the first installment I introduced StarShipSofa’s Aural Delights, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Hopefully you’ve listened to some of the fine narrations these podcasts have to offer. If not, download and listen to a few stories now.  You can catch up to the rest of the column when you get back.

For part two I’d like to share a trio of related podcasts, and a fourth podcast near and weird to my heart.

First up we have Escape Pod from Escape Artists, Inc.  Founded by Steve Eley, Escape Pod debuted on May 12, 2005, and originally produced stories ranging from science fiction to fantasy to genre suspense.

Mr. Eley later formed Escape Artists, Inc., to serve as an umbrella company for Escape Pod and its sister-casts Pseudopod and PodCastle.  He stepped down as editor of Escape Pod and CEO of Escape Artists, Inc., after the birth of his second child in 2010.

Creating separate podcasts allowed Escape Pod to focus on science fiction in its many and varied forms which it has managed to do quite well since then.  Now edited and hosted by Mur Lafftery, an accomplished writer in her own right, with occasional turns at hosting by Norm Sherman of The Drabblecast, Escape Pod offers a sterling selection of older science fiction (#86, When We Went To See The End Of The World by Robert Silverburg; #182 ,The Story Of The Late Mister Elvesham by H.G. Wells) as well as works by some of today’s best writers (#276, On A Blade Of Grass by Tim Pratt; #274, Angry Rose’s Lament by Cat Rambo; #133, Other People’s Money by Cory Doctorow).

The overall production values and narrations are solid, and Escape Pod now presents text versions of stories and various book and movie reviews on their site for those who prefer to read rather than listen.

Pseudopod slithered onto the podcast scene on August 11, 2006, exploring the extremes of horror and all points in between with a mix of new flash fiction and longer works (#155, The Worm That Gnaws by Orrin Grey, #173, Bophuthatswana by Lavie Tidhar, #203, Flash On The Borderlands III ), as well as classic horror (#200, Oil of Dog by Ambrose Bierce and The Horror of the Heights by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

Hosted by Alasdair Stuart, intriguingly congenial and creepy by turns, Pseudopod is by far my favorite Escape Artists, Inc., podcast.  The narrations flow well (editor Ben Phillips is a delight to the ears), and while I may not care for every selection, I can understand why the story made the cut and appreciate the perspective on the genre.  Listen for one of my own stories on Pseudopod in 2011.

PodCastle is the most recent edition to the Escape Artists, Inc., family, offering Peter S. Beagle’s Come Lady Death for their premiere episode on April 1, 2008.

Co-hosted by Dave Thomson, Ann Leckie, and M.K. Hobson, another talented writer, PodCastle serves up a wide range of fantasy spanning the genre’s history (#25, Through the Cooking Glass by Vylar Kaftan; #47, The Behold of the Eye by Hal Duncan; #25, The Whistling Room by William Hope Hodgson).

While I generally enjoy most of PodCastle’s offerings, some stories leave me cold, perhaps because fantasy is seen as a much broader genre than either science fiction or horror and certain stories just don’t click.

Like all Escape Artists, Inc., podcasts, PodCastle offers strong narrations from a number of talented voices.  PodCastle is also more likely to produce shorter and flash fiction such as miniature episode #56, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Maque of the Red Death, always a plus in my opinion.

Winner of the 2010 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology Podcast, The Drabblecast has been bringing “strange stories by strange authors to strange listeners such as yourself” since February 1, 2007.  Produced and narrated by Norm Sherman, The Drabblecast presents stories with music, sound effects, and occasional guest or supporting narrators reminiscent of old time radio shows rather than the straight forward readings of other podcasts.

Though early production values were abysmal, reminiscent of recording with a faulty microphone in a shoebox, The Drabblecast has come into its own in its celebration of quirky short stories (#95, Blue by Mike Resnick; #146, Teddy Bears and Tea Parties by S. Boyd Taylor; #190, The Wheel by John Lyndham), one-hundred word “drabbles” (Drabblecast #151, The Birthday Party by Josh Roseman, Drabblecast #178 Packets by Rish Outfield), and one-hundred character “twabbles”.

And it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you had a listen to Drabblecast #156.  Just saying.

As an added bonus, Norm is an accomplished songwriter and musician, writing “Bbardles” such as “Pimp My Satellite” and “Radioactive Runaways”.  You can purchase CDs of his music at The Drabblecast website, and even check out the fan-made video on “Pimp My Satellite” on YouTube.

That brings us to nearly the end of this podcast tour, and I say nearly because of, well, money.  Each podcast in parts one and two is supported by listener donations and the occasional sponsorship, using the money to pay writers, artists, and sundry server costs, so if you like what you hear toss them a few bucks to help make ends meet.  Yes, you can listen for free, but even podcasts need the love that keeps great stories on the web.  Your appreciation of quality genre fiction won’t be disappointed.

I’ve only just scratched the genre fiction podcast surface, I know.  Have a favorite podcast?  Post the link below.  Share the love!

Until next time, be safe and watch out for those nefarious clutches.

Sandra Odell

-staff troublemaker

Escape Pod



The Drabblecast

[Return to the March 2011 Issue]

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