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Podcast Highlights: Great Discussions and Sweet Short Fiction

by Jonathan 0 Comments

If you’ve a mind to listen, here are a few bits of audio goodness from around the internet.


If you’ve got some time to kill or need some company while you drive or work or occupying various administration buildings, check them out.

Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcasts

And now for your listening pleasure...

Books on tape have gotten me through thousands of miles of driving and countless hours of mowing. When I started writing short fiction over the past year, I checked out the online outlets for Science Fiction and Fantasy in order to study the form.  There are a slew of podcast fiction sites, but only a handful really offer free podcasts of top-shelf fiction read by great readers.

If you’ve ever listened to books on tape or podcasts, you know the reader can make or break a story. I’ve delved into Librivox recordings of public domain works read by volunteers. It’s definitely hit or miss. But, because it’s all volunteer, I can’t complain and it gives me access to works by Lovecraft and Poe and Dickens. At the very least, Librivox makes me appreciate those sites that work at the craft of podcasting great short fiction.

The sites I feel are offering the best short fiction, both writing and reading, are:

The cool thing about PodCastle is you get two new stories each week. Authors such as Cat Rambo, Rachel Swirsky, Holly Black, and Greg van Eekhout show up at PodCastle. PodCastle is part of a trio of audio fiction podcasts. Its sister sites are Escape Pod and Pseudopod. Recommended story:  Wolves Till the World Goes Down by Greg van Eekhout

Clarkesworld features Kate Baker behind the mike. Her reading is well-polished and she does a fantastic job of conveying each story’s mood. With a consistent reader, listening to the Clarkesworld podcasts is like visiting an old friend week after week. Clarkesworld features writers such as Tobias Buckell, Catherynne M. Valente, N.K. Jemison and Lavie Tidhar. Recommended story:  A Jar of Goodwill by Tobias Buckell

Beneath Ceaseless Skies seeks out what they consider to be Science Fiction and Fantasy of a literary quality.  Here is a quote from their site that should give you a pretty good idea of what they mean:

We love traditional adventure fantasy, including classics from the pulp era and the new wave of post-Tolkien fantasy. But we also love how the recent influence of literary writing on fantasy short fiction has expanded the genre, allowing writers the freedom to use literary devices such as tight points-of-view, round characters, unreliable narrators, discontinuous narratives, and others. This sophisticated level of craft has made fantasy short fiction more powerful than ever before.

We want stories that combine the best of both these styles—adventure fantasy plots in vivid secondary worlds, but written with a literary flair. Beneath Ceaseless Skies will feature exciting stories set in awe-inspiring places that are told with all the skill and impact of modern literary-influenced fantasy.

Recommended story:  Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride by Saladin Ahmed.

Starship Sofa bills itself as The Audio Science Fiction Magazine, and for good reason. Not only do you get great fiction–think Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, China Mieville, Jeff VanderMeer–but also interviews, news and other SFnal goings on. And, Tony C. Smith, your host, has a nice thick Scottish brogue that makes it even more fun to listen. Recommended story:  The Gambler by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Tor.com offers more quality authors such as Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Charles Stross, Jay Lake, Ken Scholes, and Terry Bisson. In some cases, the authors read their own material. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not so much. Recommended story:  Catch ‘Em in the Act by Terry Bisson.

SFFaudio was created in 2003 by Scott Danielson and Jesse Willis. Their goal was similar to what I’m doing with this post, only they’ve done it way better. The site creators just want to  spread the word about great audio fiction that they’ve enjoyed. They believe audio is the best medium for Science Fiction literature and drama because of its ability to  transmit story, mood, and ideas.

And there you have it. If that’s not enough to keep you out of trouble, than there is no hope for you. If you have any recommendations you’d like to add, feel free to post in the comments. Otherwise, enjoy!

Free Podcasts and Print Books Living Together, Mass Hysteria!

Your Friendly Podcast Symbol

Your Friendly Podcast Symbol

I have to admit, I love free stuff. Not the junky stuff you get in your bag at the student bookstore or the casserole dish you get when you open a checking account, but the kind of stuff that is substantial — free audio-books. I used to commute an hour each way to work and listened to a lot of books on tape from the library. Then I changed careers and reduced my commute to five minutes each way, hardly a prime scenario for listening to books on tape. Now, I listen to books on tape while I mow. I ditched the music. I’m a freakin’ genius (not really, if I was a genius, someone else would mow my lawn).

It takes about an hour for me to mow. I used to lament this time and couldn’t wait for it to be over. Now, I wish I had my old mowing situation – An acre and a half that took about two hours from start to finish on a riding mower. Now I push a Neuton mower about my yard and lose myself in audiobooks. I just wrapped up listening to American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (received free by signing up for a trial membership with audible.com via an Pioneer XMp3 promotion. See–FREE).

Knowing how much audio books go for (usually around 30-40 clams, US), I don’t buy them. I’d much rather read a book than listen, but, in a pinch audio books are sweet. A friend of mine turned me on to Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom via a disc of the story he had downloaded from Doctorow’s site–for free. Doctorow did the reading himself and the book was enjoyable. I’ve been mining Doctorow’s stuff since and telling everyone I can about his books.

Cory Doctorow, in a 2003 interview with Katherine Macdonald at Strange Horizons, explains how his downloads for Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom took off and what that meant for subsequent books.

KM: Speaking of the mass movement, what do you think that has to do with the current mad downloading of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom?

CD: Yeah, it’s a good parable for it, a good parallel to it. Tor increased my print run on the strength of advance notice to 8500 copies — so this means that the average first novel from Tor gets fewer than 8500 copies, and I believe that there’s probably a good reason for that, which is that I think first novels probably sell fewer than 8500 copies in hardcover. This says that the audience for science fiction in book form is dwindling, or is in some ways so small as to not be an enormous political or social factor anymore.

There was a time, I think, when first science fiction novels, or all science fiction novels, had a larger audience; certainly this is true of the magazines, which have been in a sad and steady decline for a long time. I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest Locus yet, but it’s got the round-up of all the magazines, and their circulation is plummeting — it looks like the dotcom bust in slow motion. Increasingly, people are getting their information online, and increasingly people are turning to other forms of entertainment. You see this in WorldCon attendance and everywhere else. The thing that is amazingly interesting about the download experiment is that 75,000 people have downloaded this book, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the final total will be in excess of 100,000 people; in fact, I’ll think it’ll probably be larger than that, so the number of people who will download the book exceeds the number of people who could be reasonably expected to read it by more than an order of magnitude — and that’s read it in hardcover, and that’s a pretty stunning statistic.

Patrick [Nielsen Hayden], my editor, when I told him how many people had downloaded it, which at the time I think it was 30,000, said, “Jesus Christ, do you realize that you now have an audience of 30,000 people for your next novel?” It was like, yeah, shit yeah, that’s totally killer.

Andy Shackcloth weighs in with his blog post today breaking down why podcasting, or serialized audio books, can be beneficial.

Podcasting a free serialised audio book gives

  1. Passage past the agent/editor barrier to public readers
  2. Diminishing of the grammar/style hurdle
  3. Free distribution to millions of listeners
  4. Removal of the barrier to ‘try’ a new author
  5. Ability to find your ‘personal’ audience
  6. Develops curiosity for future (hopefully better) work
  7. Maintains an audience whilst your writing develops
  8. Direct contact and feedback with audience
  9. Meet fans of your work

I’ve been considering recording some of the short material I’ve completed or am completing just to get it out there for anyone who is looking for something to listen to on their way to work, while they work out, sipping coffee on a Sunday morning, whatever. I love the idea of serializing novel-length works if the publisher’s okay with that as an effort to compel people to spread the good word (that would require me to actually have a book published, too). I probably would not use it as a self-publishing tool, unless it is something that I was not trying to get an agent for and didn’t intend to sell to a publisher.

Andy has the right of it when he says:

Podcasting your novel as a serialised audio book is no guarantee of easy success. The numbers game providing the potential of a dedicated and loyal fan-base also conceals that same fan-base inside a gigantic haystack of an internet. Your personal audience can be found, it will take time, it will take a sustained effort, it is possible and the method is open to all.