9 Fiction Podcasts That Are Just As Entertaining As Any Audiobook
I've always wanted to be an "audiobook" kind of person. There is something so appealing, so capable, about taking in a literary experience while doing the dishes, folding laundry, taking a walk. But alas, my brain is not wired to lap up every single word I hear read aloud — especially if it was initially written for the page, filled with beautiful descriptions and phrases that may not necessarily drip off the tongue. Good news? We're living in a golden age of audio, my dudes, and these fiction podcasts take storytelling to a new level — and perfectly marry radio with fiction.
Though it seems ubiquitous now, the term "podcasting" has only been around for the past decade and a half. Though the official credit for "Creator of Podcast" is a bit muddy, what is agreed upon is that, in 2004, Dave Winer, a software developer, created "iPodder," a way to directly download radio internet broadcasts onto an iPod — hence, "pod-cast." A portable, recorded (rather than live) broadcasting over the airwaves. This concept, which seems so straightforward now, completely revolutionized our consumption of information, of humor, of stories.
But the root of podcasting — oral storytelling — hits at an innate part of human nature. We've been telling stories, to ourselves, to each other, for millennia. Something magical happens at the intersection of narrative and acting. And while podcasts have certainly taken off in recent years — everyone and their mom and their boyfriend seems to have an idea for one — drama podcasts, which marry fictional storytelling and audio elements, haven't boomed in quite the same way. And TBH I don't understand why, fiction podcasts are like the best of both worlds.
'Welcome to Night Vale'
One of the OG pioneers in podcasting fictional drama, Welcome to Night Vale brings listeners twice-monthly community updates from the town of Night Vale, a small desert town hiding an immeasurable amount of mystery and, uh, weird-doing.
The premise of Limetown, created by Two-Up Productions, is eerily ambiguous: 10 years ago, 300 people disappeared from a small-town in Tennessee. Now, American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock asks, "What happened?" Over the course of 11 episodes, we follow Lia as she sets out to solve the mystery.
Limetown, released in 2015, has since become so popular that there is now a prequel novel, currently available for pre-order from Simon & Schuster, and set to ship November 2018.
If you ever wanted to hear Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer, and Oscar Isaac tackle a radio drama, well, here's your chance. Hollywood stars take to the... small(est) screen? The airwaves? The earbuds? In Homecoming, to tell a story, now two seasons long, of a woman overseeing a mysterious government trial - and the ethical implications it has for the rest of her life.
Get weekly reports from Nicky Tomalin, working to de-code an alien message received 70 years ago. Though only eight episodes, The Message dives deep into the world of cryptology, the science of breaking codes.
'Steal the Stars'
From Tor Labs, the new audio fiction arm of sci-fi and fantasy publishing juggernaut Tor, comes Steal the Stars, a 14-episode noir with all the, uh, classic noir elements: forbidden love, a desperately protected secret and, uh, a UFO crash.
In the aftermath of total disaster, how do we move forward? How do we re-shape our world? The creators of Immunities, a thriller/sci-fi podcast that follows the survivors of an alien attack, explore issues of identity, of violence and of love in their drama series, now in its second season.
Hi, 36 Questions is a three-part musical podcast starring Jonathan Groff (you may know him from Mindhunter - or Spring Awakening, if you were a sexually frustrated musical theater teen in the early aughts like, uh, I was), in which a couple, on the brink of divorce, seeks to reconcile through an exercise meant to make strangers fall in love - 36 revealing questions.
"A podcast about ghosts, family secrets, strange houses, and missed connections" - this is how the creators of Mabel, a surrealist fairy tale that unfolds over 32 episodes, describe what they do. Centered around a series of voicemails left for the mysteriously absent "Mabel," this newer podcast is spooky as hell.
If you're a short story junkie — or a film nerd — then check out The Truth, whose pieces only run between 10-20 minutes and function as "movies for your ears."