Michael J. Rigg is a creative force of nature. Copperheart may be his only scripted fiction podcast, but he also produces a weekly actual play podcast, and has written two novels, with a third in the works. The Steam Rollers Adventure Podcast has been running since March 2016, using a home brew system of Rigg’s creation, and is set in a steampunk world. The same steampunk world his two novels (titled Clockwork Looking Glass, and Clockwork Pandora) are set in.

Copperheart is not set in this steampunk world, but instead in a different reality in the same universe. This is an alternate 2015, 18 years after a global nuclear ‘mishap’ led to nuclear winter. Copperheart is partly set in what we know as Area 51, Nevada, in United States Reconstruction bunker GL51. Here, civilians, scientists, and military personnel live underground, hiding from the nuclear winter outside, awaiting the day they can safely return to the surface. This alternate Area 51 doesn’t contain any crashed UFOs or aliens, but it does contain a closely-guarded secret, also suspected to be alien in nature – what’s known as the Archimedes cube, a huge cube measuring 3.14 metre on each side, indestructible, a perfect mirror. Scientists have been examining Archimedes since it was discovered in 1947, without getting any closer to the truth – until one day, when things start getting very strange at GL51. An Earth Return Vehicle crash-lands near the bunker – which should be impossible, given the, well, 18 years of nuclear winter. There’s nobody left in space to return to Earth. So, how did this happen? This is where reality starts getting all wibbly wobbly, the Archimedes cube starts behaving strangely, and people in the bunker start losing seemingly random memories…

In parallel to this, there’s also a second storyline. In EL27, a reconstruction bunker in Illinois, Staff Sergeant Jack Sellers has been given the task of discovering what’s going on in GL51. Recordings from that bunker indicate something very strange has happened – everyone is ‘gone’. Gone where? And how can they be gone when the entire world is dealing with the effects of nuclear fallout? During the course of season 1, the GL51 and EL27 episodes alternate every other week, and as the season progresses, the EL27 episodes begin to follow a whole separate plot of their own, becoming more independent of the main GL51 storyline, with more characters becoming caught up in the story – and involve some phenomenal performances by Rigg in the role of Sellers.

Copperheart sucked me in right from the concept. I’ve been fascinated by post-apocalyptic stories for years, and when I first heard about it, it immediately reminded me of Hugh Howey’s Silo series – which also involves a large group of people living underground after a world-ending event. I’ve re-read those books several times, and I was very excited to see a similar setting in a fiction podcast. But what’s fascinated me the most as the story has progressed is how the Copperheart reality relates to the wider Heart of Bronze universe to which it, and the steampunk reality, belong. You don’t have to be familiar with any of Rigg’s other works to enjoy Copperheart, but it will help you appreciate the references and crossovers which appear in the show. (Spoilers: both the Copperheart of the show’s title, and also Adrienne Booth who arrives in episode GL5115, come from the steampunk reality. Adrienne is an important NPC and fan favourite in Steamrollers.) I’ve very much got swept away with the universe’s lore, and in trying to figure out how an Earth caught up in nuclear winter can possibly have anything to do with an Earth where the industrial revolution never happened. 

Copperheart is a huge undertaking – especially when you consider that all the writing, editing and sound design for the show is done by Rigg himself (who also has his weekly actual play podcast to work on, too!). The regular cast numbers over 30 actors, mainly from North America, the UK, and Australia. Rigg is currently working on putting together an epic three-part finale to the season, due to be released in the coming weeks. The culmination of two separate storylines in separate locations promises to be explosive, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out how this season concludes! 

One thought on “Copperheart

  1. This is such a good post! I fell in love with Copperheart in the very first episode and have been a Patreon backer from the beginning. The worldbuilding is phenomenal and the sheer workload he pulls is…just. Wow. This is one of the audiodramas I keep reccing left and right and for a damn good reason.


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