Podcast Fiction: Ahmed and Bear
I’ve had a harder time lately making time to read for pleasure. It’s something I usually try to do before bed, but between working double-time on the book and the kids staying up later, this hasn’t been working out as well. Then, after listening to Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted on the drive to and from GenCon, it occurred to me that I could at least squeeze some audio fiction into my 15-minute commute to and from the day job.
This is how I ended up on PodCastle and Escape Pod, searching for stories to listen to.
I started out with Saladin Ahmed‘s “Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions,” a short first-person superhero piece. At 14 minutes in length, it felt like flash fiction, though I don’t know the exact word count. More snapshot/commentary than full-length story, it contained a number of good, Ahmed-style observations about race, prison culture, and superhero tropes. Poor Doctor Diablo…
Next up was “The Tricks of London,” by Elizabeth Bear. PodCastle describes this as a “Giant Episode,” coming in at 79 minutes. The story is set in Bear’s New Amsterdam world, and features Detective Crown Investigator Abigail Irene Garrett, a forensic sorcerer and the only woman in the late nineteenth century Enchancery. (April 1879, to be exact.)
The story is told from the point of view of Detective Sergeant Sean Cuan, and describes their investigation into a supernatural serial killer.
Let me put it this way. I now need to read all of Bear’s New Amsterdam stuff.
The plot itself isn’t overly twisty, but the details she provides reminded me that Bear has a lot of practice writing this kind of fiction (see Shadow Unit), not to mention being a fan of Criminal Minds 🙂 )
It’s the characterization and the language that really drew me in, though. While this story does fall into the “only one active female surrounded by male characters” category, it’s a deliberate historical choice, and handled quite well. I like Garrett a lot, and enjoyed her developing quasi-mentoring/friendship with Cuan. And Bear’s description is vivid and evocative. She chooses each word carefully, and it shows.
Have you read or listened to either of these stories? If so, what did you think? And what other sites would you recommend for someone starting to get into podcast fiction?
August 30, 2013 @ 9:55 am
I’ve not listened or read either of those stories (yet), but for other sources of podcast fiction I have some recommendations. First there’s The Drabblecast (http://www.drabblecast.org/), which like PodCastle and Escape Pod is an audio fiction only “magazine”. Their most recent episode features a Ken Liu story. In my experience it’s hard to go wrong with that.
Several of the best SF/F magazines also podcast some or all of their stories. Lightspeed Magazine (http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com), Clarkesworld Magazine (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/), Apex magazine (http://www.apex-magazine.com/) and Beneath Ceaseless Skies (http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/)all have podcasts of their stories available.
Finally, if you’re looking for something more substantial (in time sunk in anyway) there is Podiobooks (podiobooks.com) which is all about full audiobooks available in a serialized format.
And of course all of the above are available free.
August 30, 2013 @ 9:57 am
Abby IREEEEEEEENE!!!!!! She is my mostest favorite of Bear’s characters. You will not be disappointed with any of the New Amsterdam stories.
August 30, 2013 @ 9:58 am
Oh! Also? You should listen to Seamus Heaney reading his own translation of Beowulf. It’s amazing. Go in glory, Mr. Heaney.
August 30, 2013 @ 10:27 am
That story by Elizabeth Bear is indeed great. I don’t think I have listened to that Saladin Ahmed story yet.
For pure stories, the escape pod family is indeed good and has a variety of narrators. Garth Nix has some great stories on there, as does Tim Pratt. They also try to do Hugo nominees each year on the Escape Pod section.
As mentioned above the online magazines all seem to have podcast sections. I have a soft spot for the Kate Baker narrated Clarkesworld podcast.
Hugo Winner StarshipSofa features reprint stories, with some great examples in the past, and often manages to get great narrators. But their stories are incorporated in other content (although usually easily reached by skipping ahead), which might not be what you are looking for.
For your shorter commute the flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake by Tina Connolly might be a good fit, although intro and outro can be a significant part of each podcast.
August 30, 2013 @ 12:19 pm
Seconding Jeff Xilon’s Clarkesworld Magazine podcast suggestion. Kate Baker is a superlative host, and the stories they pick are massively high quality.
I do subscribe to Drabblecast as well; they too pick interesting stories, but are a bit more prone to unquestioned sexism (last year’s Christmas episode was a case in point) – although not, I hasten to add, anywhere near as bad as most mainstream media are for unquestioned sexism. And Norm has a very soothing voice to my ears; this may or may not be good for driving 😉
August 30, 2013 @ 1:00 pm
I usually listen to fiction from Escape Pod, Podcastle, StarShipSofa, Tales To Terrify, and Drabblecast when I ride public transit, alternating the fiction with assorted science related podcasts.
August 30, 2013 @ 4:44 pm
EscapePod just did their 400th episode with a full cast. Go listen to it. Listen to it NOW. it will put a smile on your face.
And I would like to add that Strange Horizons is doing podcasts as well. (http://strangehorizons.podbean.com/)
August 30, 2013 @ 5:24 pm
The SFF fiction podcasts I listen to have all been mentioned. I’m also addicted to The Archers, a british soap set in a farming village, which has (6) 14 minute episodes a week.
Are you interested in SFF discussion and review podcasts as well? There’s lots of great stuff out there. In addition to the Hugo nominated podcasts, there are The Writer and the Critic, Verity, Skiffy and Fanty, Outer Alliance, Tea and Jeapordy to name a few.
In paid for fiction, Big Finish has a great range of audio plays, mostly Dr Who, but they also do a few other series. And of course there are plenty of good audiobooks available. Anansi Boys, The Privelege of the Sword and Feed are some good ones I’ve listened to.
Jim C. Hines
August 30, 2013 @ 7:37 pm
Heading over to download now 🙂
Jim C. Hines
August 30, 2013 @ 7:40 pm
I’ll probably get to the discussion and review stuff eventually. For now, I’m jumping into the fiction side of things, though.
I’ve heard about the Big Finish audio plays … one more thing to check out. Thanks!
Jim C. Hines
August 30, 2013 @ 7:40 pm
I heard a number of people recommending that today. Will have to check it out. Thanks!
August 30, 2013 @ 11:54 pm
If you haven’t tried it yet, may I suggest Welcome to Night Vale? (20-30 minutes, and available on ITunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, Feedburner and Soundcloud)
It’s … kind of hard to describe this podseries in ways that make it seem awesome, rather than mind bogglingly weird (which to be fair, isn’t a bad description in an of itself – awesome and really strange).
But it’s a lot of fun. If you ever liked the Addams Family, there’s probably room in your heart for Night Vale.
A safer recommendation is The Secret World Chronicles (available at secretworldchronicle . com).
It’s a alternate modern reality, rather apocalyptic, superheros vs Nazis podseries that’s been running for years. It’s got lots of amazing women, who all bring something different to the table, and an interesting plot. The episodes are all fairly long, so maybe not that suitable for your commute, but it might be worth having a look at anyway.
September 1, 2013 @ 10:53 pm
Two particularly good episodes of Escape Pod: Travels With My Cats and Me and My Shadow. A couple of other podcasts that I recommend the Thrilling Adventure Hour and Decoder Ring Theatre.
September 7, 2013 @ 12:40 am
You should try Nathan Lowell and his solar clipper series. Nathan is self published and all are available for free on line. Pure space opera, and pure fun. Nathan has a wonderful voice.
September 7, 2013 @ 1:39 am
http://podiobooks.com/contributor/nathan-lowell/ Again Nathan Lowell is awesome and you can try it for free…