This time four years ago, way back in 2017, I started listening to fiction podcasts. I wanted to write a post looking back at 10 of the first podcasts listened to, and my experience of getting into a new medium.
My very first fiction podcast, my first love. I got into fiction podcasts during a difficult time in my life, and one of the reasons I fell in love with the medium so much was because of the company it provided. I remember looking through my podcast app at the logos of shows I’d subscribed to at the beginning of the year, when I’d read an article that featured a bunch of podcasts broken down by genre. I chose to start with Wolf 359, and I haven’t looked back since. As someone who has really got into sci-fi as an adult, the genre and its sense of escapism appealed to me; and as someone who was constantly and unhappily single, I really appreciated the lack of romance in the show. I got caught up with Wolf 359 in time for the surprise Lovelace administration special, which was released a few days before the show’s fourth and final season in June 2017.
The Bright Sessions
Another of the big shows that was running at the time, The Bright Sessions was the second fiction podcast I listened to. This felt like it was another one of those shows that everyone was listening to, and it seemed like a solid choice when I was still dipping my toe into the world of audio fiction – and it certainly was. Even as I discovered more and more shows, it remained one of my favourites. I got caught up just in time for the two-part season three finale, which was definitely one hell of a place to be with no more episodes to go through and waiting for the next season! Even though I only listened to a season and two episodes in real time, I still have a sense of having seen the show’s characters grow up in the main The Bright Sessions series; seeing them in their therapy sessions with Dr Bright, how they dealt with their strange abilities in different ways, and watching them shape their future. I’m very much looking forward to listening to spin-off series The College Tapes when it’s released publicly in July, and seeing Caleb and Adam again.
The Strange Case of Starship Iris
I knew I got into Starship Iris fairly early on in my time as an audio fiction fan, but I was surprised when Podcast Addict’s playback history told me it was the third fiction podcast I’d started listening to! Unsurprisingly, I picked another sci-fi show, and I loved the queer representation. It was at this point that I really began to understand just how much podcasts could bring to me that other mediums – especially visual mediums – couldn’t, especially in terms of the representation of folks of marginalised identities, in imagining different futures, but also with storytelling in general. I instantly fell in love with this found family, and I’ve loved watching the story unfold and develop into the show’s second season.
The first show I followed in real time, as I listened to episode one the day it was released. Being a huge fan of Wolf 359, I was excited to see that Zach Valenti, the voice of Eiffel, was in a new show; and the general setting wasn’t that unfamiliar, either. This time, the crew was in an underwater research station; and the premise of a group of misfits having to work together in a confined space while being faced with unknown threats, and not being able to escape, was quickly becoming a favourite of mine. With Under Pressure, I particularly enjoyed seeing life underwater through the eyes of an academic who was all new to it. I was so excited when I saw a casting call for the second season recently, I can’t wait for it!
I still remember how it felt to hear that Sally Grissom was asexual, as a demisexual person it was the first time I’d ever seen asexuality canonically represented in a piece of media. I’d been struggling with not being allosexual for years, but this show was a huge part of my process of acceptance. Sally, the badass scientist who accidentally invents time travel, is still one of my absolute favourite audio fiction characters to this day. She becomes stranded in the past, after time travelling back to 1943, and becomes entangled in a secret government organisation. I’m still in awe at the complexity of this show, how it spans and follows multiple timelines and their consequences, all while juggling a sizeable cast of characters.
The Far Meridian
It makes sense that after getting into ars PARADOXICA, I discovered another Whisperforge show. The Far Meridian launched in May 2017, and I listened to the first episode the day after it had been released. I’ve followed the rest of the show in real time, and it quickly became one of my favourites. The surreal, dream-like quality of a lighthouse that travelled overnight and arrived in a new place every morning instantly appealed to me, and I found the character of Peri very relatable. Even though the show deals with some heavy topics at times, I found it very comforting and reassuring. To me, it’s one of those shows that helps you feel a little less alone in the world.
I actually remember making a choice to start Kakos Industries before Welcome to Night Vale, as I was a bit intimidated at the size of the Night Vale backlog! But it wasn’t as if Kakos Industries didn’t have a fairly sizeable back catalogue of its own at that point, as it had launched in February 2014. Kakos Industries is an ongoing show, seven years later, even though production had to (understandably!) scale back from two episodes a month to one. I find that there’s something very comforting about listening to a show for so long, even one which focuses on ‘doing evil better’ – following Kakos Industries’ calendar as the events and celebrations roll around each year, remembering what happened with a certain celebration the previous year, and looking forward to hearing about just what kind of shenanigans will happen at the next.
Welcome to Night Vale
But I wasn’t intimidated at the number of Night Vale episodes for long, as I started the show around a couple of weeks later, and instantly fell in love with the strange desert town. Four years on, there’s still something very comforting about this show, the familiarity of it feels like home. I carried that show around with me that summer, and there’s one particularly memorable coach journey I associate with certain episodes. Welcome to Night Vale was also the first podcast live show I went to, in October 2017; and it was such an amazing experience to finally be surrounded by people who shared my love for a fiction podcast, to feel like I belonged somewhere again.
Initially, this was another surprise as to how early I’d started listening to it, but then I remembered that I’d got into it when I was a few episodes deep into Kakos Industries (and Night Vale too, but strangely, I don’t have that memory connected to it). I’d never been to Boston, and wasn’t familiar with the city at all, but I was intrigued by the surreal quality of the show, and the mixing of reality and the unreal. That ‘Nope’ from Leon in episode one is still such a memorable moment nearly four years on! I discovered the show nearly a year and a half after its launch, and by the time bonus episodes were released between seasons two and three, I was caught up (Just thinking about With Truck, Without Truck still makes me laugh!). The Greater Boston folks put on an awesome online live show recently, to mark the fifth anniversary of the show, and I was so glad that I was able to catch it.
Our Fair City
I remembered this show being a fairly early discovery – it had been running since 2012, and I got caught up a few episodes into its eighth and final season in September 2017. This still remains one of the most impressive fiction podcasts I’ve listened to in terms of world-building and lore, and the representation of such a rich and complex world, especially in a small and isolated society. The fair city in question grew out of the HartLife insurance company, which controls every aspect of the lives of the policies (policies, not people) of the city. In this isolated city in a post-apocalyptic world, the episodes of Our Fair City are presented as “true dramatizations” of the city’s history by the show’s narrator, and cover various facets of the city’s society – from the mole people, to scientists, the lightning riggers, and right up to the Vice Presidents of the Company.
2 thoughts on “Four Years of Fiction Podcasts”
Such good shows! I’ve listened to all but three ❤️