Audio Fiction Explained

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Audio Fiction Explained

Olivia Burns, Writer

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As most people who know me could tell you, I’m very into audio fiction podcasts. They’re not tied to a studio or publisher, so they have less constraints. This leads to innovating plotlines and more diverse characters, in most cases. It’s a very effective medium for compelling stories, because it is acted out and it’s not constrained by what the actors or set looks like. It’s also just a very fun medium to work with. Personally audio horror is the only horror I like because they can’t rely on jumpscares and they have to be more well thought out to work. 

It’s also not as much of a commitment as a book or show because you can listen to one while doing any work you have to do. 

If you were to ask me what my favorite podcast was I would probably say “The Magnus Archives” before you could even finish your sentence. It would most likely make it onto the list of my favorite works of fiction. It is about an archive of peoples’ paranormal experiences that strange things start to happen in. It seems to be an anthology of individual stories at first but then aspects start to connect to the larger story arc. Everything about the larger story arc has been planned to a tee from the very beginning. There are no plot holes and no nonsensical elements added onto the story. It’s just well plotted and executed immaculately. It has an interesting premise and mythology. The characters and relationships are very well developed. The characters are very diverse and three dimensional. It’s horror but a very tasteful type of horror that isn’t going to draw on real life trauma or gore for shock factor. The audio quality and effects have been good from the beginning. I just can’t tell you anything wrong with this podcast except that I think they should do more full cast audio drama type episodes because they’re done so well. Also, some people might not like such a long form serialized podcast, but I really enjoy it personally. 

There are many podcasts for those just getting into the medium. These are a few of my favorite picks. This list will go in order from more fun, comedic podcasts to more plot heavy ones possibly containing some elements of horror. 

Starting with some fun lighthearted picks, I know most people like to start with Welcome to Night Vale.I believe it’s too long with not enough overarching plot to be a great starter podcast. To each their own, however, and it is popular for a reason. 

Starting this list with the most comedic and least plot heavy would be The Amelia Project, a comedy podcast about an organization that will help you fake your death for a very reasonable fee. It doesn’t seem like it would be funny, but the writers work the premise in some very interesting ways. If you want a lighthearted comedy that won’t make you think this is for you. 

Moving from a fun comedy to fun high fantasy, the first in that genre would be The Penumbra podcast, specifically the Juno Steel stories. It is a fantasy anthology podcast with an ongoing story arc that is noir science fiction about a space detective named Juno Steel whose love interest is a charming spy known for impersonation named Peter Nureyev. This podcast does have storylines that dip into horror, so read the descriptions first if that isn’t your thing. Another good podcast with a more lighthearted approach is the classic Wolf 359, a science fiction story about the officers on a spaceship, their friendship, and antics. This podcast is also great at handling more serious topics later on and turns into a compelling story about capitalism and shadowy organizations while still keeping a lighthearted approach. It is also a larger cast podcast which may be easier for first time listeners. Another great full cast podcast is The Bridge, a story about the maintenance employees of the Transcontinental Bridge, a highway crossing the Atlantic Ocean with many attractions such as hotels, casinos, and amusement parks along the way. The Bridge was abandoned years ago in favor of airplanes so the employees are tasked with watching over the abandoned highway. Sea monsters, spies and a 1920’s esque atmosphere ensues. 

Coming to the more plot heavy, horror side we start with Archive 81, a show about a missing government archivist and what he was listening to. There are cults, strange music, a supernatural apartment building and it’s generally a fun time. It has horror elements but I would say it’s more science fiction/ fantasy. 

Next on the list is Point Mystic, a podcast about a strange town and the man whose family lives there. On the list mainly for it’s white rabbit storyline which was well thought out and atmospherically chilling. It contains horror elements but they’re tastefully put in to enhance the story and don’t consume it. Next up is one you’ve most likely heard of, Limetown. Ten years ago over three hundred people disappeared from Limetown, a town populated by the brightest scientists of the time all lured to the town with the promise of high pay and the chance to work on cutting edge research. A mysterious 911 call brought police to the town gates but they could not get in until the morning for no apparent reason. Public reporter Lia Haddock takes it on herself to investigate. Many people have heard of some version of Limetown, the book, the podcast or the facebook series. Personally, I thought the first season was pretty dry and the plot was loose although the voice acting was good. The second season is where it really finds its footing with a more engaging plot and a creatively interesting ending. As a listener, the ending was unsatisfying if they don’t end up writing more but the writing quality definitely increased. 

Last on this list is The Black Tapes, a horror podcast about an audio journalist named Alex Reagan who interviews an expert on the paranormal, notorious skeptic Dr. Richard Strand, about his collection of black tapes. These tapes contain records of the paranormal cases he finds credible. This launches their full scale investigation into the paranormal and the conspiracies surrounding these tapes. Every podcast Pacific Northwest Stories does is known for its dedication to seeming credible so they are heavily researched and every website they mention does actually exist so they get props for that. However, The Black Tapes is infamous for it’s last season’s plot unraveling due to poor planning so I couldn’t recommend it without that disclaimer. These are good starting points for those who want to listen to audio fiction.