A.R Olivieri has been a pioneer of the microfiction format since they released 2298 in 2017. In microfiction, episodes are under 10-15 minutes long, and many use that format to create shows that feature just one character (I made a list featuring some of my favourite microfiction podcasts back in January). Olivieri’s shows predominantly focus on one character, or at least initially, often using this format to explore themes of isolation and abandonment; and how the narrator can survive on their own and escape their surroundings when the odds are stacked against them. The character here is only known as Profile 24, and lives on a futuristic Earth where only a small part of the planet is habitable. They live in a dystopian society, and every aspect of their life is controlled by the Network. The Network requires absolute focus from Profiles, but Profile 24 keeps getting distracted by a bird.
2298 is a completed show, with 24 episodes available.
Jar of Rebuke
Created by Jasper Oliver, who is also the voice of Dr Hared Hel. Jar of Rebuke is one of my favourite debuts from 2020, and the show consists of recordings from Jared’s audio journal. The story is set in the small midwestern town of Witchton, a farming town in the middle of nowhere, and Jared works for a mysterious organisation called The Enclosure. The Enclosure investigates supernatural activities, and Jared definitely experiences enough of that – starting with himself. We find out very quickly that he has some unnerving and unexplained supernatural powers; but as well as that, he has a mysterious past, and can’t remember anything that happened more than two years ago. The show draws on midwestern folklore, but there are also elements from broader Western legends – such as the friend Jared makes about halfway through the season. Belonging is also a big theme in the show, as Jared tries to make friends and fit into the town, while also keeping a large part of his identity secret. I won’t spoil anything, but I loved how the first season ended!
Some other guest voices appear over the course of the season, but the show mainly focuses on Jared and his recordings.
One of the longest-running fiction podcasts still currently releasing episodes, Kakos Industries recently celebrated its seventh birthday. Written, performed, and produced by Conrad Miszuk, Kakos Industries is a dark, NSFW comedy. Every month (originally twice a month) Corin Deeth III records the Corporate Shareholder Announcements, and the shareholders listen to them on a different and… unconventional device each time. Kakos Industries is a very old company, which Corin inherited from his father, and grandfather before him, and its mission is to help its clients Do Evil Better. The announcements keep shareholders up to date with what the company has been up to, and this includes what the various divisions in the company are doing to improve evil – such as the Division of Secret Societies, the Division of Smells, and the Division of Figuring Out What All of These Keys Go To. There’s also the many festivals and celebrations which are held throughout the year that shareholders attend, with the highlights recapped in the broadcasts. I’ve been listening to Kakos Industries for about three and a half years, and one of the things I enjoy the most about the show is the sense of familiarity these yearly celebrations give each time they come around – such as the Shareholder’s Ball, the Darkest Universe Festival, and of course, Halloween.
There are a few recurring characters, such as Corin’s competitor, Melantha, as well as guest characters who pop up every now and then; but the vast majority of the show only features Corin Deeth and his announcements.
Lost Terminal is a show I’ve become a big fan of over the last few months, and it almost exclusively features the voice of one character – an AI called Seth. When we meet Seth with his first ‘Hello world’ in season one, he’s in a satellite orbiting Earth, named Station 6. He was created by one of the human crew that used to work on the station, but that human crew is no more, and Seth is on his own. Neither Seth nor the audience know just how long he’s been in the satellite, but we do know that the satellite has outlived its lifespan, which leaves Seth with a big problem to solve. In every episode Seth broadcasts a message down to Earth, but no human ever responds to him. There are a couple of other AIs on Earth that he hears from, but the planet seems to be as deserted as Station 6. The Earth also doesn’t look as Seth thinks it should do – we can understand the effects of climate change, but for Seth, it doesn’t match the data that he has in his systems, and he can’t explain why. Seth is a very human AI, and has a very childlike view of his situation at times, but he’s also aware that his components are very different to that of a human when he gives little mental health reminders, especially during the course of season one. As the story progresses through the show’s second and third season, the universe that Seth finds himself in expands, and so does the audience’s understanding of this futuristic Earth.
Lost Terminal is currently on its third season, which is due to conclude on March 8th.
Mija is produced by Studio Ochenta, and is the story of a daughter of immigrants, and her family. There are currently two seasons available, and the story is told by two different daughters – Mija is daughter in Spanish. The story in season one is told by the daughter of Columbian immigrants in New York; and in season two, there’s a new host. This time, Mija is from Paris, and she’s the daughter of Chinese immigrants. In each episode Mija has ten minute to tell the story of one of her relatives, but before she talks about her family, she starts off with her own story. In season one, Mija talks about how her parents met, her siblings, and growing up with two cultures in New York, surrounded by other immigrants or children of immigrants. The two Mija talk about the love for their family, the relationship they’ve had with their Columbian or Chinese culture over the course of their lives, and what it means to build a home somewhere new. Mija is available in multiple languages – English, French, Spanish; and also Mandarin in season two.
Two full seasons of Mija are currently available, and last year Studio Ochenta launched Ochenta Stories. Featuring storytellers from around the world, with each episode produced in two languages, it features writers answering the question, “What do you want to hear when this pandemic is over?”.
One of my favourite aspects of audio fiction is how stories present and deal with isolation, and you don’t get much more isolated than Ester Ellis’ atmospheric horror, Station Blue. Set in Antarctica, it’s a story told through the eyes of Matthew Leads, who finds a job as a caretaker at a research facility for the summer. When we first meet him, on his long journey to Antarctica, he has six weeks to prepare the station before the scientists arrive – but until then, he’s on his own. Once he arrives, there’s no way home, and there’s no escape from the suffocating surroundings of the Station. Leads purposefully takes the job for the solitude, to try and find himself, but we soon discover that there’s a mysterious company behind his employment, and that’s just the beginning. It’s not only the empty Station and its secrets that Leads’ has to deal with, as he struggles with his mental illness, and small hints along the way introduce us to the reason behind his broken heart. The sense of foreboding is only heightened by Leads’ voiceover narration, looking back at the events he recorded in the past, now fully aware of what was unfolding.
There are some additional voices in the show, especially in the first episode, but once Matthew gets to Station Blue, he’s all alone.
The Oracle of Dusk
I’ve mentioned MJ Bailey and her work several times since starting this blog, and I could’ve chosen any of her podcasts to feature in this list. I decided to go with The Oracle of Dusk, Bailey’s first podcast, which is currently on its fourth season. The Oracle of Dusk is narrated by Delphi (or, at least, that’s what she calls herself for this podcast), a reluctant oracle who sees other people’s lives in her dreams. This has been going on since she was a child, and now, as an adult, she’s decided to record ‘sessions’ for the people she sees in her dreams. She can see their futures, their thoughts, their hopes, and what’s lacking in their lives or making them unhappy. There have been times when one of her clients was going through events which I found very relatable, or when Delphi told someone words that resonated very much. As Delphi talks directly to her clients, referring to each of them as a ‘you’, it feels very personal; and even though you know these recordings in a fictional story aren’t for you, sometimes it can feel like they are, which can be very comforting.
MJ Bailey also creates, writes and produces an impressive collection of single person podcasts: Aishi Online, The Mountain’s Heart, and Temporal Light are all fiction podcasts which are currently running.
Vega: A Sci-Fi Adventure Podcast!
I featured Vega in a post when I launched this blog back in July 2020, but I just had to feature it in this list as it’s one of the most impressive examples of single-person storytelling I’ve come across in fiction podcasts. The show is created and written by Ivuoma Okoro, who also narrates the story of Vega Rex, and voices all the characters in the story. In a futuristic universe, Vega is a hunter, an assassin contracted by the government to kill the world’s worst criminals. Vega is the best at her job and she knows it, but things quickly go wrong for her after a botched mission. I love Okoro’s storytelling, her enthusiasm, the way she plays with her characters and creates suspense, every episode is a joy to listen to. It’s a world that exists in the aftermath of the God Wars, full of technogods, masked prophets and prophecies; putting a decidedly sci-fi twist on some traditional elements of fantasy stories. Right from the opening of the show, she sweeps up the listener, telling them that she has a story she’s been dying to tell them, and brings them on a rollercoaster of a story.
Season one of Vega: A Sci-Fi Adventure Podcast! is currently available.
Welcome to Night Vale
Yes, I know, Welcome to Night Vale needs no introduction if you listen to fiction podcasts, but I couldn’t not include it in a list of single narrator shows. It’s many folks’ first audio drama, the one that introduces them to the wonderful world of fiction podcasts. It wasn’t my very first one, but it came along soon after, and it was the first podcast live show I attended, back in 2017. Running since 2012, and now totalling over 180 episodes, it’s a cornerstone of the medium, and an inspiration for many new creators. Trying to sum up the show, all of its details and storylines, feels a bit daunting at this stage – and even 11 years on, new lore and information is still being introduced that shocks the audience. The details boil down to Night Vale being a strange desert town, and the story all revolves around Cecil, who presents a radio show on Night Vale’s Community Radio. A show where the weather is a song, a town where a faceless old woman secretly lives in your home, and a story of gay love which gave many folks the queer representation they had never experienced before.
Of course, Cecil’s voice isn’t the only one we hear, but Welcome to Night Vale is predominantly known for being a story told by a single person. And it’s not the only one on the Night Vale Presents Network – both Alice Isn’t Dead and Within the Wires are both stories told by one person, with a new narrator being introduced in each season of Within the Wires.