Nine sci-fi and supernatural podcasts you should be listening to
The world of podcasting can be fickle. Some may find they are speaking to an imaginary audience while others build empires on their voices. There are hundreds of thousands of options, especially sci-fi and supernatural podcasts, and typically only the best (or the ones with huge financial backing) tend to rise to the top.
Even we experimented with a vodcast for awhile. We are planning to return to this medium in the next few months with something special – more news on the in the future, but it will be something a little different than before. Our first attempt proved that vodcasting/podcasting was more complicated than it seems, but we learned from it: you need a little something special.
The relatively recent release of the serial podcast Alice Isn’t Dead – from the team behind the wildly popular Welcome to Nigh Vale – got us thinking about what other great genre podcasts are out there. Specifically, audio narrative or audio play podcasts. For fun, we then threw in a few literary podcasts as well.
We left out a few of the more obvious ones like the aforementioned Welcome to Night Vale and we kept the list focused on works of fiction, so you won’t find the likes of true story podcasts like Serial, interview podcasts like Nerdist, romance book discussions like Vaginal Fantasy, or general discussion podcasts like Geek in the City. Those are all very much worth checking out if you haven’t already, but this list is a little more specific.
Below we’ve picked out nine podcasts that run the genre gamut from horror to fantasy to science fiction. Like many of our lists, we had to have actual knowledge of and have listened to at least a handful of episodes for it to be considered. If you don’t see something you like on the list, let us know in comments or on social media, we’re always looking for new voices and stories to shove into our earholes.
Audio Narrative or Audio Play
Let’s start with the podcast that kicked this whole list off. Alice Isn’t Dead is a new fiction serial from Joseph Fink and the crew behind Welcome to Night Vale. While Night Vale is more built around the supernatural goings on of a small desert town, Alice focuses on a truck driver looking for her wife on the roads of America. Some have described Night Vale as Lake Woebegone meets The X-Files with a Monty Python slant, but Alice might hew closer to Stephen King’s work.
King has a fascination with road stories that show up again and again in his novels and short stories. There’s an undertone of horror and desolation to the road that he brings to the fore. Alice feels very much of that world.
Unlike Night Vale which is running open-ended with mostly self-contained episodes, Alice is set to run in parts. The first 10 chapters will constitute the first season, and are considered Part 1. In a Wired interview, Fink said that the goal is to mimic serialized novels a la Charles Dickens.
They have only released the first five chapters so far, and each episode runs about 20 minutes, so you don’t need to worry about trying to catch up. If you like horror, give Alice a try.
Created by Zach Glass and Christian Madera, The Once & Future Nerd feels like a D&D adventure. This audioplay follows three high schoolers who are sucked into the Fantasy world of Iorden. Unlike, Alice, Future Nerd features a large cast of characters and crew that make up the world of Iorden and help bring it to life.
Future Nerd is comprised of 10 chapters broken up into four or five parts. Each episode is about 20 minutes long, so it is something of an investment. They recently finished Book 1, with plans for a Book 2 to start up soon, however, the crew is currently on hiatus. What’s nice about Future Nerd is that it doesn’t stray away from adult themes, including sex, politics, and violence, but it never feels like it uses those themes gratuitously.The humor in the show can be hit or miss depending on what you find funny, but for the most
The humor in the show can be hit or miss depending on what you find funny, but for the most part it works within the world that Glass and Madera have created. It’s actually reminiscent of K.A. Applegate’s Everworld, minus the war of the ancient Gods
Escape Pod (Science Fiction), PodCastle (Fantasy), Pseudopod (Horror),
These three podcasts are all grouped together because they’re created by the same group, Escape Artists, Inc., and they all essentially do the same thing across their respective genres.
Each episode is a standalone short story read by a different narrator. There’s a host, but the narrators regularly change. The lengths also vary depending on how long the chosen story is. For those who want to follow along, starting in January of this year they began putting the text of the story on their website as well.
If you’re the kind of person who likes a clean podcast sheet, we wouldn’t recommend these. They release regularly and, if you’re like us, you’ll want some time to sit down with each story. Trust us, it can build up. However, as mentioned, each episode is standalone and you don’t need to follow along.
Escape Pod is currently up over 500 episodes, PodCastle has over 400 episodes, and PseudoPod has over 490 episodes. There’s plenty of content to catch up on if you want to go back through their archives.
The host of Drabblecast, Norm Sherman, describes the show as an audio magazine. However, similar to the Escape Artists’ podcasts, Drabblecast episodes are generally made up of one story, and they end on “Drabbles” – 100 words stories.
Started in 2007, Drabblecast focuses on a grab bag of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and humor. Fair warning: at times this focus on diverse and disapparate content makes for some poor episodes. While most of our suggested podcasts can feature hit or miss episodes, Drabblecast‘s format and content makes it miss more often than the others. That said, they seem to be swinging for the fences when it comes to curating strange stories, a few whiffs are to be expected.
The following bonus podcasts are literary in nature with a focus on science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction.
Of all the podcasts that we’ve listed here, Sword & Laser might be the most popular and well-known. Some of that is due to the hosts, Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont (also of Vaginal Fantasy fame). The duo got their starts at CNET and through various shows there and at TwiT.TV gained a popular following.
Sword & Laser is their science fiction and fantasy-themed book club that they run through the podcast and their large GoodReads forum group. There are weekly podcasts with a new book every month. For example, this month’s pick is Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.
For the most part, S&L chooses books that are relatively available for everyone to pick up either through a store or at their local library.
In the last couple of years Belmont and Merritt have started expanding the book club. They’ve interviewed tons of authors whose books they read for the club including Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, and i09’s Charlie Jane Anders to name a few.
They also have a published anthology of stories submitted by listeners with a plan for more down the road. If you’re looking for a community and a reading list with your podcasts, this one is well worth the time.
This podcast is run by authors Gregory A.Wilson and Bradley P. Beaulieu, who write speculative fiction. The problem with the term “speculative fiction” is that it’s base definition is so broad as to be almost useless, as it generally encompasses any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. Basically, the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror genres.
In other words, speculative fiction explores the “what ifs” of a character’s environment, while “regular” sci-fi explores a character’s actions in relation to the environment that they inhabit.
Wilson and Beaulieu interview authors and artists that are considered speculative, while also reviewing novels and short stories in the genre. The best aspect of their podcast is their writing technique discussions. Sometimes it’s the grammar nuts and bolts, but the techniques and hows of what a writer did are the most fascinating part, and worth the listen.
It’s worth noting that at times, Speculate! can feel “Small Liberal Arts College” pretentious. If you’re not a fan of that tone, we would still recommend this podcast, but warn you about what you’re getting into.
Look, there are plenty of Star Wars podcasts out there. In fact, we can name at least 10 to 15 audio narrative podcasts set in the Star Wars universe that exist. Their quality may vary, but that’s not the point.
In a literary post, we’re adding Full of Sith because they do a great job of combining discussions of the movies and TV shows, but also the graphics novels, short stories and novels, as well as the games.
This show gets deep into Star Wars, not just philosophically, but also in nerd fashion. I mean, there is an entire episode centered around the crews’ favorite background characters and the actors who played them, turning into a discussion of some of those characters actual arcs in Star Wars books.
If you’re a fan of all things Star Wars, Full of Sith isn’t a bad podcast to add to your rotation.
Did we miss your favorite sci-fi and supernatural podcasts?
Let us know here or on the Dead Beats Panel Facebook page and we will add them to the list!