Writing a podcast is very different from writing a novel or short story, in fact I believe it’s more akin to writing for a TV series, but can’t confidently say since I have yet to be hired on to write the next episode of Game of Thrones. The big difference with this type of writing is that it’s episodic: you’re writing shorter pieces in each episode for a longer overarching story. You might think, well, this is pretty similar to writing a novel with individual chapters each telling a part of the longer story of the book. And yes, there are some similarities, but when you’re working on a novel you usually have a deadline in mind many months or sometimes even a year or more down the road. When it comes to a podcast, especially an ongoing one, the deadlines are a lot more . . . oncoming and perhaps seemingly never ending.
In case you haven’t (literally) heard, we are living in a golden age of podcasts. In a time when the world is full of entertainment multi-taskers, we use up every spare minute and second with some sort of media, whether it’s playing on our phones, listening to music, reading a book . . . or all of the above. Our days are broken up into specific increments of time and we like to get the full extent of our entertainment out of those increments. Podcasts are a great way to do that. As your friendly neighborhood mailman, I have a lot of time during the day while prepping and delivering mail to be able to dedicate to listening: sometimes it’s music, but usually it’s audiobooks and podcasts. At last count I’ve subscribed to and listen to 12 podcasts.
Varying in lengths from ten minutes to a half hour, to 45 minutes, to an hour or longer, you can find a podcast for just about anything right now, and with the handiness of iTunes, you get each new episode automatically downloaded as it’s released. Also there are podcasts like Welcome to Night Vale and Lore, as well as many others, that have shown it is possible to make some good money with sponsors and donations through sites like Patreon. Night Vale has gone on to an unprecedented level of success with their production, seemingly always on tour with the show, taking it worldwide, along with the recent release of a novel and the first two years of transcripts in book form which have become instant bestsellers; and somehow they’re still able to crank out new episodes every two weeks
I’m discovering new podcasts all the time. I must’ve tried over 50 of them. I give them an episode or two to pique my interest and get me hooked, though they usually reel me in within the first ten minutes. But like so many forms of entertainment in our world today, many podcasts are written by men and feature the male sex as the main characters. In the podcast I’m currently working on (@ostiumpodcast) coming out January 2017, I’m certainly guilty of this because Jake was the character I came up with initially, though I was quick to add a female character.
Basically: there are a lot of dudes writing and talking about other dudes in podcasts.
BUT . . . there are also a good number of podcasts written by and featuring women that are some of my favorites and I wanted to just highlight these today, because it’s important and . . . they’re awesome podcasts you should be listening to.
Black Tapes: A fascinating podcast about the supernatural and unexplained. Alex Reagan is a journalist working with Dr. Richard Strand and investigating his “black tapes,” which are recordings of strange events that he cannot explain. The show is very well produced, with great sound effects and an ambiance that totally sucks you in. The listener soon starts caring a lot for Alex, as you journey along with her into these unexplained mysteries.
Ars Paradoxica: Dr. Sally Grissom is a physicist who through a lab experiment gone bad is transported back to 1943. After accepting that she’s stuck in this time period, she joins a secret government group to continue her research on the time machine she invented which accidentally transported her back to the forties. Sally’s voice reminds me of Jodie Foster in Contact, intelligent and fascinating and powerful. Sally’s not someone you want to mess with, and if you do, she’ll be sure to let you know what she thinks. The storyline is compelling. The productions values are great and listeners really feel drawn in. Plus there’s the character of Anthony Patridge (voiced by Robin Gabrielli) who sounds like Chris Parnell to me, and when I hear his voice all I can think of is Cyril from Archer.
The Bright Sessions: Dr. Bright is a therapist who has patients that are unusual and different, which she calls atypicals. There is the woman who under stressful situations travels to a different point in time. A young man who can empathically feel what another person is feeling. Each of these patients has a supernatural ability and Dr. Bright’s history and experience has given her the tools to help these people. The voice acting on this show is fantastic, with a varied cast that makes each character clear and distinct, and just when you think things might be getting a little slow, the plot kicks into high-gear as storylines start to come together and the listener gets more and more addicted.
The Bridge: The newest of the four, the bridge in question is a trans-oceanic bridge of the future connecting Europe with North America; it’s the new way to travel! Along the way are watchtowers in place to protect travelers on their long journeys. This podcast focuses on Watchtower 10 where Etta is a DJ for the radio station providing news, updates and weather for those traveling acrossing the very long bridge. But there’s never that much traffic news to tell, so Etta tells stories instead, stories about the history of the bridge and it’s not so successful attractions and its not so glamorous past.
As a reader, I’m fascinated by the “What if?” question, and each of the podcasts explores this question in completely new and fascinating ways that makes my imagination for the unknown and unexplained go into hyperdrive. The fact that each of these shows are mainly written, or at least feature women writers, makes them all the more entertaining and compelling in this golden age of podcasts.
Now, I’m sure there are more great podcasts out there written by women and featuring female leads that I’ve not heard about. Feel free to Tweet @bookbanter or leave a comment on this blog post.
Go here to enter the Welcome to Night Vale giveaway
For perhaps the first time in history a couple of books have been created, written and brought together for every single conceivable type of fan, but you’ll have to read to the end of this review to find out exactly how. I am talking of Mostly Void, Partially Stars and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe that collect all the episodes for season one (the former) and season two (the latter) of one of the most popular podcast shows in history. I am talking, of course, about Welcome to Night Vale, which features an astonishing number of followers and avid listeners, a bestselling novel (with the same title as the show), and a cast that seems to be continually on tour playing to sold-out shows across the globe, while still recording new episodes and releasing them every two weeks.
The last book I had that collected all the episodes for an entire season was for The X-Files, but as addictive as those books were each time they came out before the airing of the new season, the Welcome to Night Vale collections are just as addictive and perhaps more important, for they feature more material. In addition to the complete scripts for every episode of the season, there is bonus material, such as some awesome illustrations that sometimes relate to the current episode being read and sometimes not. The reader can choose to study the image and forget about the haunting soullessness of say the Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD!) and lose themselves in the detail of the shocking artwork, or perhaps be terrified by the graphic detail of the illustrations that they immediately go back to reading the script.
Mostly Void, Partially Stars features an introduction by bestselling author and awesome tech-nerd (Boing Boing) Cory Doctorow. A contents list for each episode, providing handy referencing. As well as the script for the live show “Condos.” The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe features an introduction by author and Night Vale contributor Maureen Johnson, as well as the bonus script to the live show “The Debate.” Both volumes feature a piece from the creator of all the awesome music for Welcome to Night Vale, Disparition, as well as all the artists featured on “the weather” segment of the podcast. The other really awesome thing about both books is that they feature intros to each episode. The majority are written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, while others are written by Cecil Baldwin (the voice of Night Vale) and many of the other cast members, guest stars and guest writers for the podcast. The intros provide a back story, a history and/or an insight into a specific episode, or just an entertaining anecdote.
Good you’ve made it this far. So if you’re reading this it means you are familiar in some way to the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and you may be wondering (though if you’ve read this review fully I don’t really see how) how these books will benefit you. Well, you will likely satisfy one of the categories listed below which each, in turn, explain why you need these crucial Night Vale volumes.
1) You’re a die hard fan of Welcome to Night Vale: You’ve listened to every episode multiple times, you’ve been to many live shows, and you know everything there is to know about the characters. But sometimes you don’t have the option of listening to a particular episode or remembering a particular phrase from the middle of an obscure episode. These books are the tools to accomplish this. You can find that episode and read that phrase in an instant!
2) You’re kind of a fan of the show but haven’t heard everything: So you missed a few episodes here and there, especially in the first couple of seasons. No problem. Just start with Mostly Void, Partially Stars and you can find those “lost episodes” and read them in less than five minutes and get all caught up.
3) This is the first time you’re hearing of Welcome to Night Vale: Firstly, welcome. You’ve made the right choice. Secondly, you now have the option of listening to many many hours of this awesome show, but that takes a lot of time you might not have, especially if you heard the Night Vale cast is coming to a city near you next week and your friend just bought you a ticket and you need to get caught up fast! Well, these two volumes can be digested in record time and then you’ll have a fruitful lexicon for seasons one and two of the show. However, I’d recommend listening to the first episode or two, no, not to boost their download numbers, Night Vale has already broken a lot of records in that regard, but to acclimate yourself to the show and to familiarize you with the deep, baritonally-comforting emanances of the shows narrator, one Cecil Palmer. After that you’ll be able to read each episode from the book with his wondrous voice solidly fixed in your head, equal to a narration by Morgan Freeman or Sir David Attenborough. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the wonder that is Welcome to Night Vale.
Originally written on September 5, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.