This is the second part of my list of my favourite audio fiction debuts from 2020. You can read part one here.
Null/Void is a science fiction show created by Cole Burkhardt, and is a part of the Piece of Cake Podcasting Network. Piper works for Void Networks, a telecommunications company with a huge presence in her town; and one day, after what seemed to be a chance encounter at the bus stop, she receives a call warning her not to catch the bus home from work. This is the introduction to a sinister plot by Void Networks, which only becomes more and more frightening as the series unfolds, and whose plans and power go far beyond anything Piper or the audience could ever imagine during that first episode.
A science fiction thriller written by Jordan Cobb, which always has me on the edge of my seat! Something ancient has awoken, and is lurking deep beneath the waves. The story starts when a prehistoric creature is washed up on shore on the west coast of the US, a creature that should be long, long extinct. We follow Dr Marella Morgan, a marine biologist, as she is recruited as part of a team which is to be sent deep beneath the sea to investigate the resurgence of these creatures. After arriving on board The Tiamat they soon find themselves battling for survival, both inside and outside the station, as they come face to face with prehistoric creatures.
Seen and Not Heard
From deaf creator Caroline Mincks, Seen and Not Heard is a story about hearing loss and deaf gain. Bet goes deaf as an adult, and this story focuses heavily on the relationship that she has with her family – during the course of this emotional story we see her dealing with frustrating family dynamics, with those who should be closest to her very often being ableist. We also see her trying to navigate new friendships, and our introduction to Bet is through her first ASL class, where she struggles to fit in. There is some absolutely amazing sound design from Tal Minear, conveying to the audience what Bet hears in the world around her.
Created by Reese Patterson and Serena Rahhal, Signed, Venus is a road trip with a difference. Travel in the country of Conclaire is taboo, but one anonymous writer travels the land, and records their experiences in a journal. This journal, named Signed, Venus, is sent back to The Writer – and Hayden’s – hometown of Coast Venus. Hayden is fascinated by both the journal and The Writer themselves, and decides to track them down, with the help of their friend, Kameron. Part I was released this year, where Hayden and Kameron travel to the beautiful coast town of Arabella, which was The Writer’s first stop.
A beautiful adaptation of The Secret History of the Mongols, written by Roshan Singh. The story is told by Jamukha, on what might be his last night alive. He has been captured by his now rival, Genghis Khan, who he knew as Temujin. The focus in this adaptation is not on epic battles or wars, but on the friendship between Temujin and Jamukha. Two young boys meet, and the story tells of how, many years later, they came to rule an empire together. Temujin asks Jamukha to be his sworn brother and right hand man, but everything falls apart when they have a disagreement on how to run the empire.
The Great Chameleon War
By Justin Hellstrom, The Great Chameleon war is a series of surreal, dream-like recordings from the Nesting Zone. There’s a war, from which no human soldier has returned. The Amanuensis managed to escape from the army, and now records his experiences and surroundings, as he walks alone through a landscape populated by giant, mythical, reality-altering reptiles. Our first encounter with him is when he finds an object from his past which has no reason to be there; and along the way he meets strange, but legendary figures of the war. The Great Chameleon war is the best kind of weird, and the amazing sound design conveys this surreal and fascinating setting, absorbing the audience into the story.
The Mountain’s Heart
One of MJ Bailey’s many brilliant podcasts (she also launched Temporal Light this year), The Mountain’s Heart is a series of recordings sent by Felisa to her college professor, as part of an assignment. Felisa goes on a family holiday to the Philippines, where her relatives live, and it’s her first visit since a traumatic accident that happened a few years previously. Not much of the trip feels like a holiday to Felisa; who has to deal with family secrets and conflict. Felisa also has to deal with her family’s ableism, and her own internalised ableism, as she tries to come to terms with the injuries she sustained in the accident. As with some of MJ Bailey’s other work, it’s a candid and emotional look at complicated family dynamics, and the inner turmoil that creates for the narrator.
An urban fantasy from Long Story Short Productions (Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina). The unseen world exists alongside ours, but only a few humans can see it. It’s a world where magic and magical creatures exist, where magic makes both the ordinary and extraordinary possible. Told through the point of view of a collection of very different characters, both human and non-human, each episode introduces the audience to a new narrator, and how they fit into the unseen world. Our very first introduction to the unseen world is through a young woman who works in a bookshop, and as the season progresses, we meet a fae woman, a dragon, and a harpy, as well as some other human characters. Some of these figures have a complicated relationship with magic and the unseen world, while others have to balance an existence in our world and the magical one.
We Know None
(Note: I appear briefly as Helen in We Know None) We Know None comes from Welsh-based Calliopic Productions – the show itself is mostly set in south Wales – and I’d also like to shout out their sci-fi show Voidless, which was launched before We Know None. The paranormal mystery follows Gwen, as she investigates the disappearance of her girlfriend Frankie. Frankie was big into anything paranormal, and investigated buildings which were said to be haunted for a local newspaper. Gwen has no idea why Frankie disappeared, and listens to the tapes she made as she went on explorations, as she tries to discover what happened to her. This investigation will take Gwen far from home, in more than one way, as one of the tapes that she listens to brings about the start of an unexpected twist to the story.
(Note: I play Emma in Y2K.) Y2K is created by Karin Heimdahl, and season one of the show ran for the whole of 2020, with a new episode released every week. Olivia finds voicemails on her mum’s old laptop, going back and forward between her mum and her friend, in 2000. Back then, they lived on opposite sides of the world – Jess moves to New Zealand to study right at the beginning of 2000, and Kat stays in London. We follow their long-distance friendship over the year, a year that brings many challenges and struggles to both, with the show dealing with some difficult but important themes; and we also follow Olivia during 2020, as she sets out to find her bio dad, whom she’s never met. We see how the events in 2000 affect Olivia’s present in 2020, as she listens to her mum’s life during that year unfold.
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