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A Listener Reviews: Tower 4

Tower 4

Episodes: 9 in the first season

Length: 25-45 minutes per episode, with most around 30 minutes

I’ve listened to… All of the story

Transcripts Available: Not that I could locate

The Premise: Mike takes a job to run a fire lookout tower in the remote forest, hoping to get away and work on his novel. But once there, he begins to hear and see strange things, eerily similar to the fate that befell his predecessor in the tower.

My Review: Tower 4 is from 7 Lamb Productions and tells a spooky story of isolation and conspiracy. I stumbled across the show and quickly was drawn into the narrative style and lives of the characters. The focus on nature really caught my attention, and being someone a little more constrained by the responsibilities of life, the freedom of being in the wild is, well, intriquiging.

The story focuses on Mike’s life in the eponymous Tower, including his relationship with his one and only contact to the outside world, Amber–the lookout for Tower 3. The story manages to weave the two personalities together into a very interesting narrative. Both appear unreliable at times. Mike is harboring his own hurts and demons, and maybe the isolation is a bit much for him. The constant question as I listened was what was coinicdence and what was something sinister. Amber provides a skeptic’s balance to the events. But as Mike begins to distrust her, I as the listener did as well. She manages to easily dismiss the events–is that because she knows more than she’s telling, or because Mike is making more of the events than they are?

Despite this constant duel between potentially unreliable narrators, the relationships between Mike and Amber is nice to hear. There are some really natural, friendly moments between them. Throughout the course of the episodes, their relationship provides a platform to deepen both characters through their interactions and snippets of the past. They are both wounded in some way, running from something in the woods. That common hurt allows them to grow closer, showcasing their strengths in their interactions. It also leads to a good bit of the conflict. I’d be remiss to not include the forest as a character here as well, and the way the setting interacts within the world is really well done. It is the backdrop, but also begins to seemingly take on more agency as the story develops. I leave the episodes so far feeling as if the forest is not simply a neutral location, but could be either friend or foe.

The storyline overall is paced well. It starts relatively calm, with Mike learning his role and exploring the area. The strange elements begin to creep in on the fringes, but develop more and more quickly as the story progresses. It shows enough to keep the story interesting without ever really revealing what all is going on. The story balances reveal and concealment very well, with each new piece of information moving closer to the truth. And yet it does not rush the ending. In fact, season 1 ends in a way the opens up a myriad of questions for season 2.

The story has a first person narrative approach, and I found it very easy to listen to Mike throughout. The writing, descriptive level, pacing, and tone of voice are rather relaxing. For me, that made those tense moments stand out all the more from the surroundings. It’s easy to be lulled into a feeling of peace in the forest, away from everyone. And yet this podcast demonstrates one less common reason why that can be a very dangerous thing.

Interspersed are excerpts of Mike’s book, telling about his past relationship and the way it fell apart. There is a real sense of grief, loss, and guilt not only in the narrative sections, but also in Mike’s reflections on this event and other parts of his life. It provides a deeply introspective tone, and the events of the story serve to highlight this. Mike is at once finding similar patterns and trying to respond differently, to choose a new path for his life. And yet it seems like some forces may have other plans.

Overall, I have found Tower 4 to be a wonderful show that makes me happy every time I see it show up in my feed. The characters are inviting and human in their motivations and interactions, and I continue to listen to see how they will play off one another. Each twist of the plot brings it deeper and deeper into the world of the weird, steadily building up strange occurrences. Just as the pieces begin to fall into place, something else takes things off course. I love a story that starts simple and explodes into dozens of questions and mysteries, and Tower 4 does that exceptionally well. If you want to puzzle over some clues and get lost in a conspiratorial mystery, I’d recommend you find a quiet place and tune into the first season.

You can find them here: Tower 4 and support 7 Lamb Productions Here


A Listener Reviews: Margaret’s Garden

Margaret’s Garden

Episodes: 10 in the story

Length: 45-70 minutes per episode

I’ve listened to… every episode

Transcripts Available: Currently up through episode five, linked here

The Premise: The city of Everton, built by two brothers after World War II, was meant to be a sanctuary. And then it disappeared. Now two agents must find out what happened to the people of Everton. The journey will take through impossible realities, astral existence, Arthurian legends, and danger in every step.

My Review: Margaret’s Garden is created by Midnight Disease, the same folks responsible for the wonderful podcast that is SCP Archives. They bring the same talent and excellent production to this standalone story set in its own fantastic world. I finished listening to Margaret’s Garden about a few weeks ago, and I am still thinking about the incredible story that unfolded in these ten episodes. It is amazing how much work and creativity was poured into this story, and the final product is truly remarkable.

The podcast takes place both in semi-present day and the time shortly after WWII. It switches between the two timeframes, guided deftly by the wonderful narrator. The narrator plays an integral role, acting as an omniscient presence guiding the story, providing context, and bringing listeners along. There is ample direct address to the audience, creating a sense of familiarity with the world and experiences. And when things get hard to follow, the narration provides an anchor to tie information together.

The story also alternates between the world we know and the world of the astral plane. Each setting is slowly explored over the course of the story, developing into their own world with rules and expectations. This, of course, adds a remarkable degree of complexity to the storyline. However, it always feels manageable based on the talented storytelling. When I say there is a lot that happens in these ten episodes, I mean a LOT. There are love stories, horror stories, legends, wars, conquests, and universes all contained within the ten episode run. I do not think I have really come across a podcast telling a story quite like this, though it certainly shares themes and concepts seen elsewhere. The breadth and complexity of the story is standout.

The writing, in both dialogue and narration, is phenomenal. Each character has their own tone, motivation, weaknesses, and story. The decisions they make, especially how they react to what they do not know or fear, drives the plot forward in a very organic way. It provides ample opportunities for characters to learn and grow…or stay in their faulty ways of thinking and sacrifice everything. Given how, frankly, bizarre some things can be, the use of description and narration is balanced carefully with the dialogue and sound design to ensure scenes are comprehensive and engaging, even as it stretches the bounds of what one can imagine.

The themes addressed are weighty. What would you do to be safe? To be loved? To build a better world? To be powerful? In the character’s successes and missteps, a remarkable world rises and falls. It does not try to maintain simplistic views on the good guys and the bad guys. Each character is complex, with understandable motivations and, often, questionable means to meet their needs. And that make sit hard to know what will happen next or even what outcome the listener should be rooting for. And yet it manages to tell a powerful story that addresses this complexity and refuses to stoop to solving it with a neat bow.

Overall, Margaret’s Garden is a beautifully constructed story with a whole group or intriguing and realistic characters. The production team behind it is talented, and so every aspect has been carefully polished to be a wonderful listening experience. The acting is engaging, creating characters a listener can know and care about. The writing balances a host of competing storylines and themes in order to tell a full and satisfying story in multiple times and places. It is a wonderful piece that blends sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and horror themes into something new and different. And you should definitely buckle in and listen.

You can find them here: Margaret’s Garden and support them here


A Listener Reviews: Janus Descending

Janus Descending

Episodes: 13 full episodes with three prologues, and epilogue, and a full supercut available.

Length: 15-30 minutes per episode, with the supercut totaling 222 minutes

I’ve listened to… Everything

Transcripts Available: Yes, linked here

The Premise: Two scientists discover evidence of an abandoned world and set off on a journey to uncover what happened to the missing civilization. The story is told in alternating segments from the perspectives of the scientists, one starting from the beginning and the other from the end of the story.

My Review: As I mentioned last week when discussing Primordial Deep, it is wholly my oversight not to talk about Janus Descending earlier. For sci-fi horror, you really cannot go wrong listening to this story, and they have a sequel story in the works now. When I saw something new show up in the Janus Descending feed, I immediately loaded it up to listen and was so excited. So let me tell you why you should listen.

Chel and Peter are the main characters, and episodes alternate between their personal logs. These logs are made up of descriptive information about the planet and their discoveries alongside personal reflections and monologues. They both know the other may be listening, and so they also serve as notes between the two, messages separated in time. Chel and Peter have very different approaches to the discovery, with Peter often taking a more cautious approach, while Chel is chasing the excitement of exploration. Between their two perspectives, the listener gets a clearer sense of the reality of their situation. It is one filled with wonder and riddled with danger, a fact neither of them can fully understand until later on.

While they give away the ending very early on, the context develops slowly, providing multiple layers of discovery and appreciation over the course of episodes. So, even though I knew the ending from the very start, I cannot say I fully understood or appreciated it until much later, as comments became clear and the reality sank in. The alternating perspectives also served to fill in the gaps, as one character might experience something described by the other at another part. It was enjoyable having the chance to put the pieces together and reconstruct the story as it developed, filling in the missing pieces from both the start and end.

Aside from Directive and Seren, I’m not sure I’ve had as emotional a reaction to an audiodrama as I did with Janus Descending. There is something beautiful and tragic in the unfolding story of these characters. They become so complete in the telling of the story, and something about knowing the end makes it all the more poignant. It is truly a beautiful story set in a very terrifying world.

Of course, the plot centers around exploration of an alien world. And this is handled wonderfully, telling a tense story with excellent pacing, careful reveals, and building unease. The alien concept is not necessarily unheard of, and fans of sci-fi staples will probably recognize familiar ideas. However, the way it develops and is presented sets it apart from other similar works. It takes these familiar threads and weaves them in a different way, using clever moments of obscurity and revelation to savor the exploration of the world they have encountered.

Overall, Janus Descending is a podcast that has stuck with me since I first listened. It is the kind of story I wish I could write, done masterfully. It combines sci-fi and horror elements that are familiar, but through careful work and thoughtful character development, spins those into a new listening experience. It remarkably balances character and plot, developing both in chronological and reverse order simultaneously. The attention to detail in the characters and themes of the story makes it feel cohesive from start to finish, weaving a beautifully tragic tale of space exploration that deserves plenty of listens. If you like sci-fi/horror podcasts, this is pretty much required listening.

You can find them here: Janus Descending and support the No Such Things Productions team through options here

And again, they absolutely deserve all the support you can provide. So please, help them keep creating new shows, like the upcoming sequel to Janus Descending, Descendants.


A Listener Reviews: Primordial Deep

Primordial Deep

Episodes: 7 episodes + a prologue and epilogue in season 1.

Length: 45 – 75 minutes (and worth every second)

I’ve listened to… all of season 1.

Transcripts Available: Yes, linked here

The Premise: A crew is sent deep under the sea in order to investigate strange happenings. However, it becomes quickly evident that there is more under the water than anyone bargained for, and their employer must know more than he let on.

My Review: No Such Things Productions are the creative geniuses behind Janus Descending which, after realizing I have not already reviewed it, will be reviewed next week in eager anticipation of their new story in the Janus Descending world. But today’s focus is on Primordial Deep, a sci-fi horror show set in the deep oceans of our very own planet. Continuing with the theme of the strange, horrifying, and alien, this earth-bound tale weaves a fantastic and heart wrenching story.

I’m writing this fresh off of the season finale. And woah. Let me tell you, it is a spooky ride, but one that you should definitely join. The cast of characters really makes this work a masterpiece. A story like this with carboard characters who can live or die without any emotion would fall into anonymity with hundreds of similar stories. But the amount of life brought to each character in this story is remarkable. It is a character story told in a horrific setting, with stakes increasing moment by moment.

The classic conflicts are human vs. human, human vs. self, and human vs. nature. Primordial Deep manages to weave all three of these conflicts into one single story, with constantly shifting threats from within and without. The writing balances danger and periods of quiet well, but never lets the listener feel too comfortable. If it is not monsters, it’s the boss or a character’s own thoughts that threaten to destroy the team and mission. The pacing is wonderful in this regard. The show spends time learning about, understanding, and developing characters both during times of distress and times of relative quiet. In turn, the listener develops a strong relationship with them.

There are a lot of heavy hits in this show, and it is not for the faint of heart. The story is unapologetically dense, tackling a lot of difficult themes around life, relationships, grief, guilt, and belonging. However, these are consistent with the overall themes of the story and the developmental needs of the characters. Each person comes in with their strengths, weaknesses, and works in progress. As humans, they are messy, hurting each other in their attempts to keep self and others safe. No one reacts perfectly to every situation, and it provides a level of realism to the otherwise sci-fi setting.

Admittedly, I am one of those people who does not trust the ocean on a good day, and this audiodrama has provided me ample reasons to stay far away in the future. There are creatures in here, and the development and creativity of these is incredible. They provide varying levels of threat, making it often hard to know what is dangerous and what isn’t….until it is. I am not a marine biologist, but the descriptions and explanations presented also felt really consistent throughout. Is it scientifically accurate? I have no idea. Is it convincing and well-developed in a fictional setting? Absolutely.

And the sound. It is very atmospheric, which is really crucial for a story where the setting is as much a character as any of the voice actors. They provide a great background for what is happening and allow the listener to discover some of the secrets of the ocean alongside the characters, based on the well-designed sound cues. I think the investigative tone of the initial mission also functions well in the audiodrama format, as characters provide scientific descriptions of creatures encountered and their behavior. I left most episodes with a great mental picture of what was going on, whether I wanted to imagine such things or not.

Overall, if the preceding paragraphs have not given it away entirely, Primordial Deep is a horrifically good sci-fi story about the dangers under the water. It develops the characters well in order to fully engage the listener, and then holds them there with wonderfully developed sound design and expert writing. Once the story takes off, it does not slow down much, hurtling toward greater stakes and danger each step of the way. It’s worth listening to, and with all of season 1 released, it is definitely worth binging so you can eagerly wait for more.

You can find them here: Primordial Deep and support the No Such Things Productions team through options here

Also, one moment, but this creative group is one that absolutely should be swimming (pun only moderately intended) in Patreon support. So if you can support them, please do, because I need them to be around a long time creating such wonderful shows.


Terse Tales: When Opportunity Calls

Theme: The call came at midnight


The phone was ringing. I reached a hand toward the buzzing, glowing thing and sat up, trying to clear the sleep from my voice. 

“Hello?” It didn’t work, and my words came out with the familiar fuzzy, just-woken quality. 

“Mike? It’s Chris.” Chris. I checked the caller ID on the screen. New guy from work. Nice enough, but not the sort I would take middle of night phone calls from. 

“Uh-huh,” I added to the conversation, dropping all pretense. If you called this late–early–then you knew the person had been sleeping. 

“I figured it out. I was having this dream, and it just all–Boom!” 

“Figured what out?” 

“The time travel project, of course” 

“Time travel?” 

Chris laughed. “Why else do you think I’d be waking you up? We both know what a grump you are.” 

He was clearly drunk. Or high. Probably both, I reasoned. 

“Listen, Chris, I think you need to get back to sleep. We’ve got work tomorrow, and we can talk then.” I figured he would instead be sleeping off whatever this was, but did not say as much. I just wanted to go back to sleep myself. 

“Work? Mike, what are you–” he stopped midsentence. 

“It’s Wednesday morning, bud. Sleep it off.” 

“No, it’s not. We don’t–” 

He paused, there was an intake of breath on the line. Part excitement, part shock. 

“What’s the date, Mike?” 

“Now? It’s February 10.” I said after checking the phone screen. 

“February 10…” he trailed off, waiting for me. 

I sighed and ran a hand across my face. The smart thing to do was hang up. “2021,” I said instead. 

“Oh.” In his voice was surprise, confusion. “Oh,” he said again. This time somber and shocked. “I have to get back,” were his final words before the call disconnected. 


A Listener Reviews: Life with LEO(h)

Life with LEO(h)

Episodes: 3 so far

Length: 25-40 minutes each

I’ve listened to… all available episodes

Transcripts Available: Yes, linked here

The Premise: Life With LEO(h) follows Jeanine, a futuristic lawyer specializing in keeping one rule-bending company out of trouble. After saving them yet again, she is given her very own android. The problem is, LEO(h) has free will, something that is definitely not okay. The story follows Jeanine, caught in this ethical nightmare, and LEO(h), the loving, empathic, optimistic, and only sort of helpful android as they confront questions about free will and love.

My Review: I was contacted to review this audidorama and was so excited. As I mentioned when reviewing them, The Bright Sessions was one of the first audiodramas that got me truly hooked on the genre. So when Atypical Artists reached out about one of their new projects, it was an easy choice.

The story so far has been a blast. Jeanine and LEO(h) are incredibly interesting characters, and the supporting cast really add a great background to provide depth to the world and additional stakes. The writing is sharp and engaging. There is a wonderful pace to every scene that keeps the story moving along, while unraveling strange cases or sifting through personal problems. Each episode is constructed to move the overall story forward, while also handling new challenges.

In one sense, it feels like a really smartly written sitcom. The episodes each have their own individual struggles, and each of these play into the bigger picture. The comedic aspects of it are very much based on the absurdity of certain situations and vicarious awkwardness, and yet that balances very well with the real important questions. Early on, the story introduces the concept of consent. LEO(h) has free will, except in that he must love Jeanine. The show dives straight into the question of whether or not that is free will, and can consent be freely given?

The world feels close to ours, albeit with advanced AI and androids. The situations are realistic extensions of what we experience today, updated to a futuristic setting. As the show has progressed, the intricacies of this reality have been further and further developed. Jeanine’s work colleagues offer insights into the complex system set up to try and manage the world of android law. Through their cases and conversations, the preconceived ideas and assumptions that keep things running begin to show up, and LEO(h) serves as a contrast to the legal precedent.

In addition, Jeanine’s sister and fiancée break up the tension with their good-spirited banter and familial taunting. They offer a space for Jeanine to reflect and get a good reality check as needed, while also rooting for some exciting romantic drama to keep them entertained. They are a wonderful addition and serve to provide a human, lighthearted element to the story overall.

I am truly smitten with Life with LEO(h) so far. The writing is quick, witty, and engaging. The plot is well-paced and intriguing. The characters, both main and secondary, are relatable, energetic, and realistic. I also cannot wait to see where they take some of the big questions around free will, sentience, love, and consent. I am not a huge romance fan, but this is one romcom I am eagerly waiting for, episode after episode. If you like some laughter and humanity in your sci-fi audiodrama, it is definitely one to listen to.

You can find them here: Life with LEO(h) and support the podcast here


Terse Tales: Homesick

This is a new thing. Welcome to my first Terse Tale, chosen as a name almost entirely because of alliteration. I’ll be sharing some micro stories I have been writing for an online challenge over the past few weeks. These are 100-300 word stories based on a given prompt. I’ve always been rather wordy, so I have found it really tough and rewarding to try and tell a convincing story in a short format. Sometimes the attempts is a success, other times less so. But I have found myself thinking a lot more about what I say and how I say it when writing. Ideally, I will post these weekly for as long as I continue to write them!

So, in the interest of brevity, here is the first one, based on the theme “it was as if time itself stopped.”


It was as if time itself stopped. Or perhaps that was just wishful thinking. I wondered how long I could stay there silent, motionless, barely breathing. Perhaps they would just go away and I could imagine nothing was wrong.

They were touching me now, a hand light on my arm. I think it was supposed to be reassuring, yet it only served to threaten my careful shell of denial. And they were talking, but I could not be bothered to tune my mind to their words. I was in freefall and neither gravity nor time could touch me unless I chose to stop.

“We’re not going home?” My words broke through, surprising both of us, and they stumbled mid-sentence. A heartbeat of silence.

“No. The boosters were too damaged to get us off the surface.” They were repeating what they had already said, I realized, but the words felt all new to me, striking a fatal blow each time.

“Rescue?”

“Not with the storms and solar flares picking up. We’re lucky to have landed at all.”

Lucky, they said. Didn’t feel that way. I glanced at the small photo taped haphazardly to my work station. That small face that I knew would age years in the time I was away, but now–

“Food?”

“A few weeks, with rationing. No one could have predicted–” 

“And a few months until rescue,” I interrupted. They didn’t say anything more. They did not need to. I understood perfectly my sentence as I was to serve it. Weeks or months had no meaning; I would float through the remaining time left, but I was already dead. 

I grabbed the picture as I walked away. He and I were now both frozen moments in time, even if mine soon would run out.


A Listener Reviews: Vega


Vega

Episodes: 13

Length: 20-30 minutes per episode

I’ve listened to… all released

The Premise: Vega Rex is a highly effective assassin taking out some of the world’s worst criminals in a fascinating sci-fi world. Only this time, she may not be able to catch the bad guy.

My Review: If you have not listened to Vega already, you have definitely been missing out. Set in a sci-fi, fantasy, futuristic, technologic world, it follows Vega as she does her job. Her job as a high-powered, terrifying, secretive huntress. The story is told with a strong, engaging creative voice and weaves together a complex world that I am always left more and more curious about.

The style of Vega certainly sets it apart. It is told through narration predominantly, with frequent asides to the audience, commentary on events, and general insight from the mostly omniscient narrator. It breaks the fourth wall frequently, chides the audience, and keeps energy high throughout the telling. It is one of the most distinct narrative styles I have listened to in recent audio dramas, and it serves very well to accentuate and elevate the story into a different experience. It is not always a linear story. The narrator may pause and expand on a topic, reveal a bit of the past, or jump forward a little into the future. Or even dive into the perspective of another character. It is a fast-paced ride through the story, and the narrator’s energy shows this is a story they are passionate about. The casual and conversational style of the writing also gives it that feel of a great, excited friend eagerly filling you in on the important facts and juicy details. Frankly, I’d listen to the narrator tell me about paint dry and probably still be fascinated.

The world of Vega is also incredible. There is a lot of depth alluded to, and expanded upon in its time, throughout the thirteen current episodes. Not everything is explained or laid out neatly, but the narrator provides context necessary to understand. This also serves to leave a number of questions that I look forward to hearing answered. The cultures created are certainly intriguing, with various worldviews and religious perspectives that are detailed to varying degrees. It provides a backdrop of a complete, fully functioning world that Vega must navigate. And while as a listener I never know all of the pieces, I can start to appreciate some of the challenges present in a universe as complex as the one showcased in Vega. It feels real, as if the narrator could look to the side and begin to tell you a story about that other character over there, their life, experiences, and roadblocks. It feels like a living world.

Vega as a character is intriguing. She is good at what she does–unapologetically one of the best–and she embraces that. However, she also questions and pushes against the status quo when it does not work, putting her at odds with the system she has in many ways mastered. There is some nicely developed conflict between her and the rules of the world she lives in, and I think the character development in those moments is really spectacular. She is also multifaceted, with competing values and motivations at various points around her job, religion, family, and self-preservation. As a listener, I had an opportunity to appreciate the complicated identity of Vega, while also recognizing I have a lot more to learn about her and the world as the story unfolds.

Vega is fast-paced and action packed. However, it does not neglect world-building or character development in the process. Instead, it provides glimpses into a fully developed world, while also following realistic characters living within these cultures. The narrative style is unique, but instantly engaging, and the excitement is infectious. As I said, if you haven’t listened, you are almost certainly missing out. I’ll stop talking so you can go and fix that.

You can find them here: Vega and support the creator on Patreon


A Listener Reviews: Forgotten SciFi

Forgotten SciFi

Episodes: 10 so far

Length: 30 – 90 minutes

I’ve listened to… 4 episodes – working my way through more!

The Premise: Forgotten SciFi is an anthology podcast focused on reading the original, as-written foundations of modern sci-fi. With stories stretching back into the Victorian Age, it showcases some of the early stories that smudged the line between scientific breakthrough and fantastic fiction.

My Review:  Some of my earliest memories of media are watching Star Trek with my mother at way too young of an age. I remember being fascinated by Star Wars in the same way, and then going with my dad to see the re-releases in theater. There is a distinct moment where I remember feeling betrayed because it dawned on me that he knew the whole time who Darth Vader was, and he had kept it hidden. But that reveal in the theater was remarkable.

Sci-fi as a genre is one that I have become very familiar with, and so many of the tropes that are used can become common place. Rarely can I recapture that amazement that I had when I found out the truth about the Skywalker family. And not to ramble on too long about Star Wars (a bad habit, I’m sure), but I find Forgotten SciFi helps me better appreciate the sci-fi of today by learning more about its history. It shares stories that created what I know and love today, and I realize someone had that same moment of amazement as they learned about alien worlds, time travel, and other twists for the first time in these stories.

As an anthology, each story is different, has a different author, and is its own contained narrative. It is really easy to pick up any episode and dive in. The narration of the episodes is fantastic for this medium, and I find myself really transported by the narrator as each story unfolds. This is a literal one-man show, but it is put together in a wonderful way. The pacing, tone, and emotion of each story is well-balanced. Even when discussing the dangerous and otherworldly, there is something soothing in the voice that just makes me want to keep listening. I’m also impressed by the ability to set apart characters with easily noted changes in voice.

For an anthology, I think it is also served by digging deeper into the past for the narration. These are not stories I have come across in other podcasts, nor are they ones I was reasonably familiar with prior to listening. However, each one showcases a story that developed some of the familiar themes we see in sci-fi today. As someone who also enjoys writing, I am fascinated by the way the writing style, author’s voice, and original context is preserved in the rendering. The “downside” of using such foundational stories, however, is that the stories often become somewhat predictable. Rather than detracting, this instead allows the listener to appreciate the crafting of the story, even if the twists are now familiar.

Forgotten SciFi is unique in that it tells engaging stories that are expertly crafted, while also providing an experiential history of sci-fi. Each story stands alone and presents a unique story that can transport you to the incredible world being constructed. If you like sci-fi, this is definitely worth a listen not only to appreciate the craftsmanship of the original story and the talent behind the current presentation, but also to learn a bit about where modern sci-fi draws its inspiration.

You can find them here: Forgotten SciFi


A Listener Reviews: New 2020 Roundup

Hello there!

I’ve been a gone a bit. That probably comes as no surprise because, hey, it’s 2020 and life has been a chaotic ride. That said, I am getting back into the swing of things. Or trying because it is 2020, so best laid plans and all of that…

To kickstart the process, I would like to cover a roundup of a few new items that have popped up over the past few months (no specific time frame because, to be honest, I can’t tell one month from the next). These are stories that I have found organically, been following creators from prior projects, or been contacted by the creators as a review request. I did a similar roundup before and found it a nice change of pace. There is no unifying theme to the ones I chose beyond being things I have listened to recently that are not quite long enough yet for me to review fully on their own. Who knows, maybe you will find something new to listen to!


Unseen

So, in the interest of all transparency, I supported the Kickstarter for Unseen. As someone who truly has enjoyed other Long Story Short Productions’ podcasts, I threw my money at them when I heard there was a new show. I have written previously about the “end of the world” anthology series Zero Hours. And it’s also the creators of Wolf 359 (which I still won’t review, because IT’S SOOOOOOOOO GOOD” is not a valid review). Each episode is a standalone story taking place in a world much like ours, but where magic is real. Some humans can see it, most cannot. The themes of the story deal with very universal experiences in terms of love, belonging, purpose, and understanding. There are five episodes out currently, and so I am sneaking them in here because it is such a new release. The stories have been diverse so far, but engaging and interesting all the same. I have enjoyed learning about the world through the episodes, and I look forward to see what more is developed.

Support Link


Primordial Deep

Now for some spooky sci-fi horror happenings deep under the sea. Primordial Deep is the story of a team setting out to find a sea monster. Throw in some shady secret organizations, a great cast of characters that are charming and repulsive, and a history of incredible work from this team (creators of Janus Descending-which if you haven’t heard, you should go listen to RIGHT NOW), and you have an absolute thrilling start to a show. While trying to find a sea monster is a terrifying enough premise, deep below water there exists many wonderful and horrific creatures. The character development in the first few episodes has been really great, and I cannot wait to see how this team responds to what will surely be increasingly dangerous straits over the season.

Patreon Link


The Hero of Matysia

I’ll be completely honest and say I am not sure if this was one I found organically from Reddit or from their request to review, but either way, I have enjoyed the two episodes so far. It is a fantasy story and, as I have mentioned somewhere on this mess of a blog before, fantasy is kind of my first love. It tells the story of two Azure Scouts sent to find their nation’s greatest, most legendary hero to save the day from encroaching evil. While they do reach him they are unable to leave right away and so remain, hearing the true stories behind his exploits. I have so far found it well written and acted. The frame story works well and leads to a more anthology-type experience; however they are obviously all linked and developing the same story and world. I am really excited to learn more about the world, creatures, and systems at place in Matysia. Bonus: The title link will take you to their youtube page where episodes are narrated and accompanied by soem pretty cool illustrations!

Patreon Link


Margaret’s Garden

By the wonderful group working on the SCP Archives is a new spooky story. This tale is about uncovering the mystery of what happened to the purported utopia of Everton. The story not only takes place in the relative modern day, but also during the development of Everton, providing parallel storylines that will (hopefully) shine some light on the many mysteries surrounding Everton. Episode one introduces the story and throws in some secretive government agencies, cosmonauts, and a good mix of cult references. Fans of SCP Archives will definitely recognize some familiar and very talented voice actors, and it makes for a very enjoyable, immersive listening experience. There are two current episodes, and I am really excited to listen to episode two as soon as I can, because episode one started some great threads that I cannot wait to follow!

Membership Link


The Oyster

I think almost every audiodrama I followed has recently pointed me toward The Oyster, and I am very thankful. The Oyster tells the story of humanity after catastrophic environmental changes force everyone underground. The catch, however, is that only about 80% of the population was able to be saved. Decisions were made based on a values-point system and integrated neurological technology. If you are thinking that sounds like a great recipe for some dystopian shenanigans, you would be right! For those in the bunkers, hope comes in the form of Eden 2070, a return to a habitable part of the surface. However, resources are short, and so challenging questions arise about how humanity can survive. Enter The Oyster Project, a way to save resources while suspending people’s consciousness in a state of enlightened bliss. This comes from the folks who created Darkest Night, and there are definitely some similar themes in terms of neurologic/cognitive science and how that can be used or twisted. One of the other things I really like is that they have woven in some modern terrors, including climate change and systemic racism, to show how horrifying it can be. It is uncomfortable not only because of the futuristic, sci-fi terrors, but also because it brings up some ugly truths about the world we already live in.

(I did not find a support link. Please let me know if there is one so I can update accordingly!)


Superhuman Public Radio

This is another Reddit find! Have you ever wondered what NPR would sound like if superheroes existed? Well, wonder no more with SPR – Superhuman Public Radio. They manage to really evoke the style and approach of NPR, while addressing the fantastic reality of a world with superheroes and villains’. The first episode explores how the gig economy effects supervillainy, and I found it incredibly charming. The parody ads set in-universe made me smile, and the tenor of the stories had the reassurance of a soothing NPR story, while also introducing some great comedic and thoughtful ideas. If you want something a little more lighthearted in your feeds and like a good superhero story, then I think this will fit the bill nicely.

Patreon Link


Arcane

The creator for this final podcast reached out to me via the contact form and requested a review. It is a supernatural story focused on an unnamed narrator investigating the weird and the unexplainable. Which, honestly, is right up my alley, so I was happy to listen and review. There are two episodes so far. The first one I think threw me as I was not 100% sure what to expect, but as the pieces came together, it introduced some interesting ideas for supernatural investigation. I went into the second episode with a clearer expectation and found myself easily immersed in the story. The initial episodes allude to a relatively complex world in Arcane, and I only have a few glimpses so far. What I have heard has caught my attention, and I look forward to learning more as new episodes release.

(Also could not find a support link. Happy to update!)


A Listener Reviews: Seren

Seren

Episodes: 8 episodes, potential for a second season

Length: 10-15 minutes

I’ve listened to… All episodes.

The Premise: Seren is on an 8-month journey into the vastness of space. As the story unfolds, the listener learns about her world and why she is alone among the stars, save for her strict AI.

My Review: I posted about Seren in January when it was just coming out. It is a thoughtful sci-fi story that brings up themes of culture and belonging, specifically what it is like to not fit in with what the majority feels should be the “right” way to do things. The voice acting is wonderfully executed, truly bringing Seren to life over the course of the eight episodes. One of the things which most impressed me is how well developed the world and culture are in such a short span. There is no long, drawn out explanation of the universe. However, I left the season with a clear picture of the relevant details.

Everything is explained fluidly throughout the story. Part of this is that the story follows recordings Seren makes to, according to the first episode, “reflect on [her] past and the mistakes that led to [her] becoming a colonist.” This produces a consistent atmosphere of reflection that serves to highlight the central conflicts of the story.

I don’t want to give things away, so forgive the vagueness, but I was struck by how artfully the story balances aspects of assigned guilt and blame with concepts of independence and autonomy. While as a listener I had a clear opinion on the situation at the crux of Seren’s role as colonist, it was written in a way to show how embedded cultural norms can become. I think that is a message we all should reflect on from time to time.

It is an emotional story with a focus heavily on the internal struggle of living out of line with the world around you. The themes introduced can be heavy, as can be the theme of isolation throughout.   However, the overall story arc is absolutely beautiful. Challenging, to be sure, but moving in directions I did not expect. Ultimately, I left this portion of the story feeling reassured and hopeful, despite some of the heavier moments throughout.

Seren is a brief, but tightly constructed story that packs a punch. It introduces some important ideas and themes, and shows a very human reaction to impossible situations. The universe it presents is well developed in a natural way that helps keep the story moving at an engaging pace, while still outlining key aspects. It is a beautiful story–albeit emotional and heartwrenching at times–to follow along with. I greatly enjoyed the story so far and will eagerly await any further opportunities to join in Seren’s world as the story (hopefully) continues.

You can find them here: Seren (Patreon)


A Listener Reviews: Exoplanetary

Exoplanetary

Episodes: 24 in the ongoing storyline

Length: 20-40 minutes, generally, but with some longer outliers

I’ve listened to… All released episodes

The Premise: A sci-fi audiodrama following the adventures of the four Wolverton siblings through time and space and everything in between. It deals with evil megacorpoprations, colonization, AI and robots, time travel, history, and siblings. Plus all their friends, companions, and co-stars throughout.

My Review:  I had to search my blog, because I would have sworn I’ve talked about Exoplanetary before. But apparently I’ve just written the review multiple times in my mind and never put it on paper. Or I’m doing it twice, but hey, this deserves to be shouted out as many times as you can. Exoplanetary is a delightful blend of sci-fi, humor, and drama. It has some great, lighthearted moments, but it does have a well-developed plot that introduces some challenging themes and ideas.

The story starts with the four Wolverton siblings, all doing their own thing in various corners of the galaxy. As season one develops, their stories begin to intertwine. Personally, I found the opening stories very interesting. They rather quickly established the world and core characters. As the stories developed further and the paths began to cross, I think it got a little confusing for me (because when you’re dealing with space and time, it can be hard to keep up). It is a complex story with a lot of different perspectives and moving parts, but it all came together beautifully to end the first season with a lot of excitement and emotion. And even as season one drew to a close, it planted seeds for more and more mysteries waiting to be explored.

The supporting cast of characters is also very intriguing and serve to round out the world of the Wolvertons. They have very different reasons for being there, from duty to a desire for exploration to love. And they serve to complement the characters–or at their best, highlight the very human flaws of the Wolverton family. Expolanetary uses character flaws to develop real challenges and problems, but also shows the wonderful side of humanity alongside. Each episode shines a little more light onto the broad cast of characters and the expansive universe in which they reside, making it truly enjoyable to listen in each time to see something new.  Overall, the only drawback is the time between episodes. There is 1-2 months between releases, on average. But honestly, each episode is so packed with information, so well acted, so thoughtfully designed, and so expertly edited, that I cannot begrudge them taking the time to put out a really impressive creation.

Exoplanetary manages to tell a rather serious sci-fi story with hints of absurdity, but never takes itself too seriously to have fun. It has managed to built an expansive world, with each episode filling in more and more of the corners. As things are revealed, more questions appear.  Whenever a new episode shows up, I’m excited that I get to take a trip into their world to explore some new reach of space or time. And I cannot wait to see where all the journey may lead.

Find them Here: Exoplanetary 


A Listener Reviews: Directive

Directive

Episodes:  6 episodes.

Length:  10-20 minutes, with most in the low teens

I’ve listened to… All of season 1.

The Premise: Frank’s job is simple: take care of the passengers aboard the colony ship bound for a new world. He’s alone, aside from his AI assistant, and video calls to other caretakers, which seemed like a blessing at first.

My Review:  Before listening to Directive, an audiodrama had never made me cry. Maybe I got a little misty-eyed, but I kept it together. And then the final episode of season 1 comes along and got me crying. Like tears down the cheeks, yucky sniffling kind of crying. I am still amazed by how powerful a punch they managed to pack into six short episodes. It is a true testament to how wonderfully crafted it is.

Now, this review may be a little vague because I really don’t want to give anything away. The story is so well structured. As someone who likes to write short stories, I’m really impressed by the level of skill in pacing and plot this audiodrama displays. It develops the main components really well, keeping things slow where they should be and moving gracefully through other moments. I think the initial episodes do an excellent job of impressing on the listener the monotony of Frank’s day-to-day. It builds a sense of familiarity and camaraderie with him. And that makes what comes after all the more powerful.

Frank is a solid character, drawing the listener in as you build a connection with him. He is balanced well by the meticulous AI, focused solely on accomplishing the mission of safely ferrying the passengers. It is interesting that both Frank and the AI have the same motivation, albeit with different motivations. For the AI, it is programming. For Frank, it’s to get his well earned reward for all the hard work. However, it may not really be as straightforward as all that, once you get down to it. But I’ll let you listen and see.

Season 2 is coming up and appears as if it will be telling a different story in the same universe. I’m not sure what to expect or how interconnected the two seasons will be, but I am excited to see what this creator does next.

Listen, if you are up for some really exceptional writing and storytelling, grab yourself a box of tissues and settle in to binge all six episodes. You’ll be done in about an hour and a half and have the rest of the day to reflect and think on what an incredible story Directive tells. Maybe it won’t hit you quite the same way it did me, but I know it is a fantastic example of how well-created a story can be.

You can find them here: Directive


A Listener Reviews: Windfall

Windfall

Episodes:  10 Episodes in their incredible first season!

Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes with a slightly longer season finale episode

I’ve listened to… All 10.

The Premise: Years ago, Wanda showed up in her castle in the sky and built a fantastic floating city. The rich live in the city, while Grounders try to eke out a living below. The story follows a family and the interconnected web of characters as Contact Day, the day of celebration commemorating Wanda’s first appearance, approaches and something sinister grows.

My Review:  Wow. So, this is a new podcast for this year, and I caught it after the season had ended. I’m glad I did, because I would have been miserable waiting week after week for a new release. Not sure what I’m going to do when season 2 starts. I’m not ashamed to admit this is a story that had me peeking at upcoming episode descriptions to try and figure out what was coming next. But they are pretty good about their descriptions and did not give away much. So I just had to cross my fingers and listen.

In ten episodes, this audiodrama manages to bring to life a whole host of various characters. And they are deep and complex and relatable in their humanity. Characters I would have classified as secondary or background characters manage to have a major impact. It is remarkable how nuanced just about everyone seems to be. The situations they are placed in are often challenging and morally ambiguous. How do you balance life, safety, freedom, respect, loyalty, family, healing, and anger in a way that is fair to everything? You can’t. And it is in those choices that the depth of the characters and strength of the writing really shines.

I said in the description that it follows a family, and that’s kind of true. But I think the family encompasses more than those related by blood, but extends to those who stand side-by-side. The characters are from above and below, demonstrating no one is as simple as they appear. Each is unique in background and motivation, each piecing life together as they can. But as the status quo in the world begins to shift, those things that worked before no longer suffice. And the choices made in those moments have far reaching consequences.

Listening to the finale episode knocked me back. It was intensely emotional in good and bad ways. I’ll say the “twist” did not really catch me by surprise, but I’m hesitant to even call it a twist. I’m not sure it was anything meant to be carefully concealed. Still, taking that in stride, it had plenty of surprising and emotional moments that left me reeling. And inspired. I think Windfall does an excellent job of showing a truth about humanity. Place people in impossible situations and their true selves will show.

With an excellent cast, intricate story, and compelling world, Windfall is an easy recommendation. It’s got some sci-fi notes, a little dystopia, some crime, some drama, and a little romance for good measure. Characters are dynamic, but woefully imperfect in the way that makes their stories exciting. The build up in tension from season 1 is handled expertly, culminating with an absolutely explosive season finale. Expect to be blown away when you give it a listen.

You can find them here: Windfall


A Listener Reviews: The Phenomenon

The Phenomenon

Episodes:  16 episodes in two seasons. Season 3 is set to start in October!

Length: Generally around 15-25 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. I cannot wait for season 3!

The Premise: Creatures show up in the sky. If you look at them, you die. And the world circles the drain pretty quickly thereafter,, but things manage to keep going from bad to worse as new dangers appear. The survivors must try to understand what happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen if humanity hopes to survive at all.

My Review:  If you have been looking for some very well done post-apocalyptic horror, this is a great podcast. It is dark and pulls no punches showcasing just how terrible the end of the world can be. There are monsters and there are people turned monsters, and humanity is safe from neither. Not to say there are not bright spots and good people, too, but there is also not an attempt to paint silver linings to the grey clouds.

There has been a recent surge in apocalyptic media using this theme of the danger of sense (be they sight, sound, or otherwise). The Phenomenon has some concepts that show up in other such properties, but manages to rise well above others. The tag line of the show is simple: “Do not look outside. Do not look at the sky. Do not make noise.” And from this simple directive, they derive so many surprising developments and challenges. What I think makes The Phenomenon so great is that the threat is not static. Whether from within or without, there is a dynamism to the show that suggests the truth– and possibly salvation–is always just a step beyond what is known. It does what good stories do, however, in that as new information is revealed, new challenges and wrinkles show up to keep the tension high.

The sound design is great; I find this particularly audiodrama very immersive because of that. It complements an great script and the excellent work of their voice actors. Overall production of the show seems to be top notch, and so it makes for a really engaging listening experience. The story is expansive in scope, but is well crafted from start to finish.

Speaking of expansive, there are a lot of characters to get to know. I think that was my biggest challenge overall as I started listening to the podcast. I had some trouble keeping everyone organized as to who they were, how they related to other characters, and even where they were at times. As the show has gone on, I have gotten better about this…and some characters no longer need to be accounted for. Like I said, it definitely does not pull punches when it comes to being a rather dark exploration of humanity after an apocalypse.

I have routinely been surprised by the twists and turns this story takes. If you have seen and heard of similar stories and thought this fits the same mold, you’re probably like me and probably just as mistaken as I was. The Phenomenon really excels not only in the quality of the product, but in the creative development of its story. The plot borrows some themes from apocalyptic stories (and of course it does, that’s the genre) but finds ways to make those new. There is a careful balance throughout of hope and hopelessness that is so delicately crafted, it elevates other themes from the genre, such as the search for safety or a “cure.”

Overall, The Phenomenon really showcases how great apocalyptic fiction can be. It shows all facets of humanity when faced with such peril. Characters are good, bad, and everything in between, making impossible decisions in impossible scenarios that, frankly, get worse by the day. It is realistic, shocking, and beautiful. I can highly recommend it and suggest you catch up on the first two season before the release of Season 3.

You can find them here: The Phenomenon


A Listener Reviews: SCP Archives

SCP Archives

Episodes: 27, if I counted correctly

Length: Episode length varies, from around 15 minutes to an hour. Usually they fall somewhere around the 30 minute mark.

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. Also some of the Patron Bonus Episodes.

The Premise: If you aren’t familiar with SCP, let’s have a little bit of an internet history lesson. So the SCP Foundation is a collaborative writing project detailing steps taken to handle dangerous or unusual non-human entities that show up. The Foundation exists to Secure, Contain, Protect. There is a wiki with tons of stories, ranging from great to not so great, I am sure. Anyone can try their hand at introducing an entity, discussing how it is contained, and weaving an interesting myth together in the form of a secure government documents. The podcast takes and narrates some of these case files, including the narrative write-up as well as recordings and documents related to encounters with the entity. Each episode stands alone, detailing information about a single entity. At times there may be some overlap or reference to other SCPs in the episodes, but those are not necessary to understand what’s going on.

My Review: I first heard about the SCP Foundation when I was really active in the creepypasta community. They were kind of another branch of creepy internet stuff, but everything was contained in this world of the Foundation. I never got involved because it felt kind of overwhelming. When I heard about the podcast, I decided it was time to dip my toe in the water. I’m kind of glad I don’t have more free time on my hands, because otherwise I think I would end up way too deep.

The podcast handles the stories very well. The narrator has the perfect ominous voice to read over the standard case information. When the episodes move into more first person experiences, the voice acting has typically been spot on. The sound effects are used well, and it manages to set a great atmosphere.

The writing quality varies to some degree given the various authors, but it has always been solid. Some of the stories are incredibly creepy and unsettling. Others are rather lighthearted. Then some are creepy and absurd all at once. There are a couple I still don’t completely get, but I kind of think that’s the point. There are some entities out there that we simply can’t understand, but we still must be protected from them. The variability in tone is a positive from my perspective, because I never quite know what to expect when I queue up an episode. I have enjoyed almost all of them, and even those that were not my precisely brewed cup of tea were still a good story.

It’s October, month of all things unsettling, scary, and downright terrifying. I think if you are looking for something to get you in that creepy mood, SCP Archives will be perfect. They have done a great job selecting cases from the vast SCP Foundation, and each one they have put out has been enjoyable in its own way. They run from funny to terrifying, so its a little bit of a gamble when you start one up. Still, what better way to celebrate than some fun and some terror all rolled into one? And, let’s be honest, it’s good enough that I’m sure they’ll have you hooked even after October ends.

You can find them here: SCP Archives


A Listener Reviews: Project Nova

Project Nova

Episodes: 15 current episodes, with the final episode of season 2 coming soon!

Length: Generally around 15-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. Eagerly awaiting the season 2 finale.

The Premise: Four strangers wake up in a strange place and begin to try and figure out how to live and survive in the world they’ve woken into. Their companion in this is the AI, designed to administer trials to help them learn to survive. But things begin to take a dangerous turn and more questions about who they are and why they are here surface.

My Review: If you are looking for something to scratch a good sci-fi/thriller itch, this will do it. The episodes generally focus on how the four characters manage to respond to tests designed to help them learn to survive. Along the way, of course, things begin to go off the rails and some uncomfortable realities begin to surface.

I think season one of this was good, but season two is where they really have hit their stride. There is so much depth in each episode, so many clues and trails to follow as the listener tries to puzzle through all that’s happening. I think what is impressive is that season one answered a lot of the original questions, but presented so many more that have been churning throughout season two. And given the direction for season two so far, I anticipate much the same experience: we’ll get our answers, but only to the degree that it makes us question so much more.

One strength is in that very fact. Yes, there are moments and solutions that are telegraphed a bit in advance. But in general, I have found myself repeatedly surprised by the scenarios and their solutions. The titles tend to give a bit of a hint, and so I enjoy trying to figure out what might be coming. Nevertheless, it has always been an exciting story to follow along with.

The main cast is the four subjects (and the AI). The four have a really great dynamic together. There are moments of levity and moments of intense stress. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, but does provide some moments of respite and aptly timed humor. The subjects shine in moments of crisis, but the “downtimes” provide so much opportunity for character development. Personally, I think the danger gets my heart pumping, but the more personal, heartfelt moments of real human connection and uncertainty are what have helped me feel connected to the characters. Those moments are the ones that keep me rooting for them to overcome all the messes thrown their way.  In the midst of chaos, there is a lot of about finding who you are, following your strengths, doubting yourself, and pushing forward. And the importance of teamwork. 

Overall, Project Nova is a podcast that makes me smile and lean forward in anticipation every time I hear the intro. The writing is sharp and creative, introducing new and unexpected elements throughout. The characters are human, endearing, and resourceful. It makes for an exciting and enjoyable listen where I can’t help but keep rooting for success, even when things seem grim. Fingers crossed for the season two finale. I’m sure it will deliver.

You can find their Patreon here: Evil Kittens Patreon


Twinkle Twinkle

Gabe walked out hand in hand with the girl from the party. Her name was Jessica, he thought. It had been loud inside, and he was always terrible with names. He did know that she was pretty, laughed at his jokes, and kept smiling at him all night. Those, for the moment, were certainly more important than names.

“You know how they do those stupid human trick shows and stuff?” he asked her. It was cold out, and he remembered seeing the words coalesce in the early morning darkness.

She pulled her arms around her and nodded. “Yeah, like burping the alphabet backwards or fitting into a shoebox or something?”

“Yeah, that kind of stuff.” He paused and gave her a smile he hoped came across as intriguing and not creepy as it felt. “I’ve got one of my own.”

He could almost see the eye roll. And to be fair, it did sound like a bad pick-up line, now that he played it back. But that wasn’t the point. The bad pick-up line would come later.  “Not like that,” he added quickly, the false bravado and charm fading away.

She took a step or two away, looking at him with a subtle smile. Then she raised an eyebrow. “Show me.”

He smiled. “Okay, look up at the sky and pick a star,” he explained, hurrying over to stand just behind and to the side of her.

“Alright, that one,” she said with finality.

“Can you point to it? So I know which one?”

“Well, this isn’t going to be much of a magic trick if I show you my star, but sure.” She lifted her arm and pointed to a middling bright star in the middle of the sky.

“Good choice,” he said thoughtfully, then raised his arm. “Keep your eye on that star, and—“ he extended his finger, pointing to the star as well. “Poof.”

Like that, the star blinked out, leaving a little patch of black in the sky.

“Whoa, did you just—can you do it again?”

He laughed, then answered her. “Yeah, of course. Choose another one.”

She did, and they repeated the process. Four times total.

“That’s amazing. I mean, you just point and they disappear?”

“Yeah,” he said, with insincere humility, “just something that I’ve been able to do since I was a kid. Don’t show off too much or else the government might track me down.” She leaned back against him, staring up at the sky with its covering of stars that now seemed not quite so far away. “And if you think that’s impressive, “ he said, leaning close to her ear, “you should see what else these fingers can do.”

And there was the bad pick-up line.

___

It was later, lying in bed, that Jessica—that was her name, he had confirmed surreptitiously—brought the trick up again.

“So, like, do the stars just stay out or…?”

He blinked his eyes open and shifted his position, trying to stay focused despite a wave of grogginess. “No, they come back, at least by the next night or so. I’ve never really timed it.”

“And you can just do that? Like, you weren’t hit on the head with a meteor or born in a spaceship or anything?”

“Not that I know of. Just found out when I went star watching with my grandpa one year.”

“And you primarily use this power to get women to sleep with you?”

“What?” he asked, a hint of offense coloring his words. “I definitely do not do that. It’s just that the only people I trust with my secret ability are those that are willing to sleep with me. I can’t just let everyone know I’m the world’s most useless superhero. If my secret identity got out,” he chuckled and let the sentence hang incomplete, settling comfortably into the pillows.

“Well, your secret is safe with me,” she said, rolling over and pulling the covers around her contentedly.

Gabe closed his eyes, breathing a deep sigh as he let the drowsiness take over. He was nearly asleep again when her voice broke through.

“But what if there are, like, planets round those stars?”

He shook his head, as if that would shake off the sleepy feeling. “Planets?” he asked, trying to quickly replay the last few seconds to make sure he knew what she said. “I’m sure there are planets around them. Aren’t there tons of planets out there?”

“Yeah, yeah, but” she sat up, suddenly looking excited, “but what if there are people on the planets? And you just turned out their sun?”

“Oh no,” he said, throwing his arm over his face and rolling to the side with theatrics. “I picked up the crazy chick. Don’t tell me you believe in aliens.”

She gave him a playful push on the shoulder, laughing herself. This was one of those moments he would go back to after their relationship eventually dissolved. Her in the bed, hair tousled, eyes sleepy, but a wide smile on her face as she laughed. Through the laughter, she thought out her response. “I mean, no, not really, but who knows, right? There’s so much out there, and—“

“Listen, if there are aliens out there, they can come and ask for an apology. I’ll give it to them. But I think it is mighty suspicious that sightings of aliens have dropped now that everyone has a handy camera with them 24/7. So I think I’m safe.”

And yet, here he was.

___

The abduction didn’t happen like it did in the movies. There was no blinding white light or tractor beam. And Gabe was pretty sure he was not paralyzed, at least not physically. It was, however, very much like those kidnapping movies that took off for a while. A bunch of shadows in his bedroom that suddenly lunged and grabbed him on all sides, sliding something bag-like over his head, and then carrying him out of the house. Gabe heard the door squeak shut behind them, the sound of too many feet on the gravel, and then an electronic whoosh and snap sound. The air around him was cooler, not the humid summer heat, and the light making its way through whatever was on his head was brighter. He felt cold ground beneath him as they set him down, then everything stopped.

His heart was still pounding in his chest, a rapid beat that threatened to burst right out of his chest. He tried taking everything in, tried making the shadows he had seen match anything plausible. He was being kidnapped, that was certain, but he had a very unsettling feeling it was not by anyone or anything he had encountered before.

“You can remove the hood,” said a voice. The sound of English made his heart slow a pace or two. They spoke English. So that meant it was unlikely anything as absurd as his mind had raced to.

“I can leave it on, if you prefer. You know, so I don’t know who you are. So you don’t have to kill me.” The words poured out of his mouth, sounding stupider than he thought.

A sigh. “I’d prefer to speak to you directly.”

Gabe grabbed the hood and lifted it off in a fumbling motion. And as his eyes adjusted to the bright light, the conversation so long ago with Jessica came rushing back.

In the movies, abductions use tractor beams. In the movies, aliens are vaguely humanoid. Gabe was discovering both of these were simply Hollywood magic and nothing at all related to reality.

The gathering of being stood around his cage. There were five of them—no six. One had no form at all, but did appear to be a collection of moving haze. One at least had clear legs, though there were four of them. He could generally find eyes in their various places on the beings, and some had indentions that Gabe thought could possibly be mouths. But beyond that, his understanding of their anatomy stopped. Despite the bright lights, the room started to go dark around the edges. Then the middle. Then everywhere.

___

The room was still cold and bright when Gabe awoke, and there was a hum of activity off to the side. He was not in his bedroom, which meant something had happened, but it most certainly could not be those things swimming to the surface of his mind.

Voices. He tried to focus on them, if only to stop the spinning in his head.

-not what we really were expecting.”

“Does it really matter what this creature is like? It’s dangerous!”

“I just don’t think we should make any sort of rash decision.”

“No one is suggesting we act rashly but just—“

“Me. I suggest we act rashly. Who knows? It could wipe us all out before we even—“

“Now we have no reason to think—“

“You don’t get to just—“

The voices began to meld into a stream of babble and yelling that was indistinguishable. Gabe slowly rolled over, letting himself finally take a look at his surroundings.

It was, unfortunately, exactly as he remembered. A white room, bars surrounding him, and a menagerie of completely alien creatures standing in a huddled mass to the side.

Eventually one of them—some creature with what looked like tentacles and apparently a mouth that opened by splitting their head widely down the middle—noticed he was moving.

“It has awoken,” it said, a sharp tone of panic in its voice. The others turned quickly to stare at him.

“Earthling,” said one of them, taking a step towards him. This one had four legs, three long protrusions with what looked like eyeballs, and no discernible mouth. Nothing moved when he spoke, but Gabe heard it clearly. “We have been sent to neutralize you.”

“You speak English,” Gabe gawked, his mind trying desperately to help him see that was not the important part here. The alien’s face fell, as did the others, and Gabe was amazed to discover he could recognize disdain in completely alien features. Perhaps that was another superpower he possessed.

“Our ship automatically translates all language into something you can understand.”

Curiously, Gabe also discovered that the same disappointed tone was also easily interpreted. He sat staring and they stared back at him. Now that he had a chance to see them without passing out, he realized they were all wearing what looked like armor of some sort. The pieces were all different, fit to their physiology, but made of some thick, dark, shiny substance. They were some sort of military squadron? Or pirates? Or space cops?

His mind finally ran through and processed what had been said to him before, and panic shot through his system. “Wait, neutralize?”

“He got there!” said one of the creatures, though Gabe did not look quickly enough to tell who. From the gestures being made, he thought it might have been amorphous creature standing towards the back and cycling through different colors, but he could not be sure.

The four-legged alien spoke again. “Yes, that is our mission. We have been sent to save our homes and neutralize you. By whatever means necessary.”

“I think you have the wrong person. I just work in a call center. I don’t have anything to do with aliens.”

“So you aren’t the one who keeps extinguishing our stars?”

Had he been on Earth, Gabe was certain this would be a good time to request a lawyer. But, with aliens, he was not sure if the idea of a lawyer even translated. Or was an option. They had just kidnapped him, after all. Or was it an arrest? He felt out of his depth.

“Can I plead the fifth? Is that a thing?”

The gathered group turned toward one another, then back to him. “That is not an answer. Have you extinguished our stars?”

One of the group stepped forward slightly. Its face, or what Gabe liked to think of as its face, was covered in a smattering of shiny, black spheres. Most likely eyes, but this was all a learning exercise for him. The sides of its head suddenly lifted, two large wing-like appendages stretching into the air. These were connected to the rest of it by shimmering strands of something. It stood there, waiting.

“What would happen if I had?”

“This is going to take all day, Devlox.” Now Gabe was sure it was the large amorphous creature. It turned a striking shade of maroon with impatience.

“We have plenty of time before we reach home system. If it takes many days, it takes many days.”

“Home system?” said Gabe, sitting up straighter and feeling his heart begin to race again. “You mean we’re leaving Earth?”

“Yes, we left some time ago. As soon as we boarded, actually,” responded Devlox. Gabe felt a little better. This…being was at least willing to be reasonable. To answer questions. The good cop, thought Gabe. And bad cop was back there. But that still left a lot of undecided creatures in the wings.

“But then what if it’s not me?”

The collection of haze spoke. Its voice was in the ship, but Gabe also seemed to feel it resonating through him. All in all, it was a very unpleasant situation. “Earthling, we already know it is you. Devlox and his kind are more…skeptical of modern technology.”

“I’m simply not willing to base such a decision on the advice of a machine, Cylantha. There is nothing wrong with being diligent.”

Cylantha sighed, which felt similar to a strong wind pushing against Gabe’s body. “Yes, but this whole interrogation is simply to satisfy you.”

“Fine,” Devlox stomped back, a feat Gabe noted was more impressive with more legs. “Then what do you suggest we do? Go ahead and execute it?”

The amorphous creature turned a shade of green that Gabe felt very unsettled by. “That’s the easiest way, yes.”

Another, tinier voice spoke up as a rather short, squid-like creature piped up. “It is wrong to kill another creature. We must find another way”

“Wrong to kill a creature that could wipe out all our planets in an instant? That’s wrong?” spoke the tentacle creature that had first alerted them to Gabe’s consciousness.

“It always brought them back,” added the little one, not shrinking down from the intimidating figure. “Right?” he asked, turning toward Gabe.

“Well, I mean, I guess so. I didn’t really do anything, you see.”

“So you mean to say you didn’t extinguish the stars?” asked Devlox.

“I guess, I mean, I did. I didn’t mean to. Well, I meant to, but I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

“And you brought them back?” added Devlox.

“They just, always came back. I didn’t have to do anything.”

The creature with the wing-like appendages and many eyes stepped back, the wings folding back in. “It is telling the truth,” it said in a monotone. Somehow, that did not seem to help.

The large creature now stepped forward. “You mean to tell me you just hoped they would come back?” it roared, skin flashing all shades of dark blue and purple.

“You just hoped it would work?” squeaked the tiny creature with a hurt, accusing tone. Gabe shrank back more from the disappointment than the rage. He had always been susceptible to a good guilt trip.

There was a push of wind, something from Cylantha, Gabe assumed, and the group quieted. It was silent, and in that silence Gabe felt guilt pouring over him. The only solution was to break that silence. “So you are telling me I’ve been turning your sun off and on for all these years?”

“Yes,” came the exasperated sigh from most of the seven assembled beings. It was not in unison, but almost.

“And you had no idea what you were doing?” asked Devlox. Gabe noticed that the wing flaps were back up.

“I knew if I pointed at a star, it would blink out. And then come back later. I had no idea there were aliens—“ he watched the whole room recoil at that word—“up there. I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

“It is telling the truth,” came the same monotone report as the wings closed again.

“So you just kept doing it? With no thought to the consequences?” asked Cylantha.

“I didn’t know anyone else was out there.”

“So this is the great Destroyer,” said Devlox, pacing across the ship. Again, it was remarkable to Gabe how universal disappointment seemed to be. “Sorry there will be no need for an honor duel, Antu,” it finished, waving to the amorphous creature who had settled into a silvery green shade.

“It would not be much of a fight,” snapped back Antu.

“Do we have to kill him, then?” squeaked the squid-like creature. Devlox looked to the group.

“I don’t know,” said the weary creature after a moment. “Things are not going according to the plan.”

“How did you get your powers?” asked Cylantha, wafting forward toward the bars. “Did you purchase them? Performa a ritual? Defeat a great enemy?”

Gabe shrugged, then realized that might not translate to a group of beings with no shoulders to speak of. “I don’t know. I just always could.”

“And you never found that odd?” asked the hazy form again.

“I mean, sure, it was a weird trick. I’d show people sometimes and they’d be amazed. But I tried not to make a big deal out of it. Sounds like it caused you all a lot of problems.”

“Well, mass panic intermittently, irregularities in temperature and gravitational fields, and the crushing despair that one day Kav’nu may not return,” bristled a blue-shaded Antu.

“I’m sorry,” said Gabe.

“See, it’s sorry everyone. We can just forgive it and go on with our lives,” squeaked the squid.

All three of Devlox’s eye stalks peered down at the tiny thing, blinking slowly. “That’s not how this works, Meerk. It could still destroy us all.”

“But it said it’s sorry.”

“And I am sorry. I promise, now that I know, I won’t do it again.” Gabe began to foolishly hope that this tactic might actually work, given his sincerity.

“Oh, we will be sure of that,” said Devlox, eyes returning forward.

“You’re going to kill me?” Gabe whispered.

“Not yet. But we are going to keep an eye on you. You say it happens when you point? Wait, Viremat,” Devlox gestured to the thing with many eyes that stepped forward, raising the flaps on its head again.  “It only happens when you point at a star?”

Gabe nodded.

“Speak,” ordered Cylantha.

“Yes,” squeaked Gabe, feeling so many eyes on him.

“It speaks the truth.”

Devlox took a deep breath. “Alright then, Antu, get something to hold its arms down. We’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”


Thanks for reading!

I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve dabbled here and there, but this was one of the first times I sat down with an idea and just got to get it out there. I typed it up on my day off, gave it a read through and made some adjustments, but I’m just so happy that I got something done! This is an idea that I had in the first few weeks after my little girl was born. Those were some rough weeks and, despite being tired, my anxiety was doing a great job ensuring I was not sleeping. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Haha, okay then.

I started developing this idea then, after singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her. And having something to think about, a world to play with, it made me start to feel better. So I really wanted to get back to this and flesh out this character. It’s changed a lot from where it started, but I think it was a fun idea to play with. It’s what I needed then, and what I needed now to help me do something just for me.


A Listener Reviews: Marsfall

Marsfall

Episodes: 16 Episodes so far.

Length: Generally around 25-35 minutes

I’ve listened to… All available episodes

The Premise: A colony from Earth has landed on Mars and things get off to a catastrophic start. Can the colonists stabilize and figure out how to survive life on Mars with a constant barrage of problems?

My Review: This story is intense. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is certainly not for the faint of heart as it starts with tragedy and deals with the “harsh reality” of life on Mars, per their content warning at the outset of each episode. But wow, do they tell a fantastic story.

I do not know if I have listened to a podcast that has evoked so many strong feelings. In it’s 16 episode run, there has been a lot of grief and heartbreak. The characters are authentic about their feelings, at least in their personal logs, and it ends up drawing me in as the listener so that I feel very invested. The logs also help to create an incredibly deep cast of characters with complex motivations. You still have your good guys and your bad guys, but there is far more time spent with characters muddling through gray areas. I’ll listen to that any day.

Speaking of characters, I think that is truly what sells the story. They are so perfectly human, flaws and all. Even characters I like I disagree with and find myself frustrated at their decisions. Because they act with all the nearsightedness and selfishness of all of us. However, as the story is told from multiple perspectives, the listener knows all the moving pieces, and you can’t help but wish they could overcome. Their weaknesses serve to drive the story and make it interesting. No one is satisfied sitting around and waiting, and so their impulsivity and focus on individual goals end up propelling them into exciting situations. But it all feels so organic, because they first started with realistic characters whose motivations follow naturally.

In terms of critique, I wish they would handle content warnings in a different way. Sometimes it ends up giving away too much of what’s coming in the plot. I understand the appeal of content warnings to people, and I think they have a place in media. However, the decision to speak to specific episode content each time ends up spoiling some big plot points. I would much rather have a generic content warning, followed by details in the show notes or some other format, rather than hearing up front that an episode contains death. However, even with those “spoilers,” I have ridiculously enjoyed every episode I listen to.

So, in case you have not noticed, I absolutely love everything about Marsfall. It’s incredible. It is intense, as I mentioned. I think you need to be aware going in, because some episodes are heavy. But it truly excels because it does not shy away from those topics, either. It confronts death, grief, loss, anger, fear, and so many other tough parts of life. Its willingness to confront the challenges is what really makes it something special.

Just to let you know how good it is, it was what inspired me to finally get a Patreon account and start giving back. I checked theirs, expecting it to be absolutely FLOODED with patrons because it is just that good. And I found that it was chugging along, but not nearly receiving the support they deserved. So I definitely had to sign up and give them my money every month. Because when people are making something this good, they deserve every cent they can get.

You can find them here: Marsfall


A Listener Reviews: Oz-9

Oz-9

Episodes: 12 Episodes so far.

Length: Generally around 10-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All available episodes

The Premise: Greater Gated Galaxies (bad ears….) realizes they are about to be found out and lose a lot of money if their whole fleet is grounded. And they’ll definitely be grounded, because the ships are flying deathtraps that are lucky if they’re held together with chewing gum and duct tape. So, the best bet? Hurriedly staff the ships with crews of convicts, take a lot of rich peoples’ money, and load everyone on the ships in the hopes of stumbling across a habitable world at some point, maybe. We follow the crew of the Oz-9 as they struggle to survive the reaches of…space relatively close to earth, but definitely not still within jurisdictional range of anyone. They’ll make it out there among the stars eventually.

My Review: This is one of the few podcasts where I knew I was going to love it from episode one. Usually, it takes me a couple of episodes to warm up to an idea, and then I’m hooked. But this pulled me in incredibly quickly. The scenario is unabashedly ridiculous…but also cynical and greedy enough that I worry it may be clairvoyant. The crew of the Oz-9 are certainly caricatures, but endearing ones. As we learn about their sheer incompetence, it makes you want them to survive even more, because honestly, it seems cruel to kill people that are this hapless.

The plot is beginning to develop a bit more depth, and I certainly welcome it. The “crisis of the minute” style has been good at introducing everyone and everything, but now it’s beginning to build some more involved story arcs, and I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds. I’ll also be interested to see the humor in the show develops as the plot gets deeper. One of the things I most appreciate about this story is it’s ability to be goofy and “random” without falling into the “lolz penguin of doom” style. It does this by using call backs very well, playing on the same gag in unexpected ways. These gags have not become overused, but they’re only 12 episodes in, so let’s not give them too much credit. (I kid. Listen to the show. It’s perfectly on theme.)

Also, let me take a moment in this review to talk about a completely unrelated media property. Arrested Development. I have said on many occasions that if there were a way to remove my knowledge of a show so I can re-experience the sheer joy of a first watch through, I would use that on Arrested Development. For me, Oz-9 hits a lot of the same notes. A cast of rather unfortunate, oblivious characters, good use of running gags, and a omniscient narrator providing commentary. Admittedly, this narrator has a bit more disdain for the crew and, frankly, the audience. But I probably deserve it.

Oz-9 is silly, senseless, unapologetic humor done really, really well. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and it thankfully does not take itself too seriously. It is just good fun to listen to. I know I can tune in and just enjoy laugh as the crew of the Oz-9 struggle to survive…at least a week or so?

You can find them here: Oz-9


A Listener Reviews: Moonbase Theta, Out

Moonbase Theta, Out

Episodes: 18 episodes

Length: 5-7 minutes

I’ve listened to… All there is so far!

The Premise: The crew of Moonbase Theta are preparing to return to Earth. Roger provides weekly updates to the corporate overlords leaders sponsoring the trip. However, communication starts to get spotty and things aren’t going according to plan.

My Review: This was a wonderful surprise of a podcast. I have seen a few audiodramas try to pull off very brief episodes, but this is the most successful application I have seen thus far. The format and structure of the episodes work really well, packing a lot of punch in the few minutes they put out each week. They also masterfully balance tension with what they say and, more importantly, what they don’t. What is unsaid is just as important in this story, and it is this fact which allows the story to delve so deep in just a few minutes.

Beyond having a refreshingly well-developed plot, there are some deeply emotional moments. It takes some very careful planning and creativity to build an intro, bit of intrigue, emotional punch, and outro within just a few minutes. I think it is a testament to the idea that sometimes restrictions lead to great creative leaps. The voice acting is also strong, leading you through the moments and carefully using tone of voice, rate of speech, and other verbal cues to help develop the full story. And they unashamedly keep the story relatively serious, not breaking the carefully crafted tension with jokes. But it is an engaging serious story being told.

The narrator is engaging and sympathetic. As someone who works within a large organization, I can feel the frustration when you don’t receive communication about things that seem vital for successful completion of your job. I mean, my leaders don’t have the excuse of being a whole moon away, but hey, I’m not bitter. That said, I definitely feel connected to Roger, the man running the communication updates. The glimpses of his life offered by the personal messages at the end serve to deepen the character in just a few lines.

As someone who enjoys writing, I am in awe of the creators ability to create such an amazing story in a very limited space. I’m wordy. It’s my flaw, and I own it. So seeing the impact of a few minutes/words is inspiring. In a thirty minute format, this story would still be good. The plot and idea is still intriguing. But the format adds a level of realism that makes the world feel more real. It also seems to highlight how limited and distant communication is, allowing me as the listener to feel just as isolated for those few minutes as Roger and the rest of the crew. I’m only going to get 5 minutes to hear the update. They only have 5 minutes to ask for help.

There is no excuse not to listen to Moonbase Theta, Out. Even if your queue is running behind, you will definitely be happy if you make a little time to catch up and keep up with this impressive, minimalist audiodrama.

You can find them here: Moonbase Theta, Out


A Listener Reviews: Splintered Caravan

Splintered Caravan

Episodes: 9 episodes

Length: Generally around 25-30 minutes

I’ve listened to… All there is so far!

The Premise: Delve into the world of caravans, groups of enhanced humans (and AI) that team up to complete jobs that err on the shady side. Caylek is unsure of them, but agrees to try it out when Triten–her partner? mentor?–encourages her to give them a shot so that they can complete a job. But, as you might guess, things go sideways and what should have been simple gets complicated.

My Review: I was not sure at first on this one. It seemed interesting, but was I up for this sci-fi, cyberpunk, black market, little bit of everything kind of blend? And I gave it a couple episode before I was completely hooked. The characters are not always likable, and that is one of the greatest strengths. They manage to bring to life realistic characters who make me so angry, but also manage to keep me critically interested in their well-being and survival. They have realistic flaws that end up propelling the story forward. They aren’t superficial flaws, but complex characters whose strengths and weaknesses are what make the show engaging.

Not only are the characters rich, but the world is deep; far deeper than they’ve fully explored so far. But the exposition of information has been handled well. There might be a few moments where it veers too far into explaining, but as a listener, I’m kind of grateful at times. Having Caylek as an outsider to the caravan system provides excellent opportunities for convincing in-universe exposition. I do wish some more of the details and scope of the story was a bit clearer at this point, but I’m willing to go along for the ride.

The written dialogue and acting has been consistently good. There are a wide range of voices, making each character unique in personality, tone, and motivation. Sound quality has been great, which I am always thankful for when listening in the car. From a technical standpoint, I have no complaints. I wish there was more of it to listen to, but I figure that’s just going to be the story for a lot of audiodrama.

Finally, the story is complex and deals with heavy topics, but knows how to lighten it up. There have been a lot of twist and turns in the short 9 episode run so far, and I am still working to piece things together. I would certainly not call it predictable; rather, it keeps me on my toes, eager to hear how things will unfold next.

You can probably tell, but I’m a big fan. I was excited to learn about a new episode coming out, downloaded it right when I woke up, and listened to it first thing in the morning. So it has me hooked. If any of what I’ve mentioned sounds interesting to you, then Splintered Caravan definitely deserves a listen.

You can find them here: Splintered Caravan (I could not find a direct website, so here’s their Patreon.)25-30


A Listener Reviews: Station to Station

To see this review in the original format, click “Read more.” Otherwise, please enjoy this updated version.

Station to Station

Episodes:  10 current episodes

Length: Generally around 30 minutes

How I Found It: From the Directory of Independent Audio Drama 

I’ve listened to… 10 episodes.

The Premise:  A scientist is missing, leaving notes for his friend and lab partner to uncover. But what happened to him and why does no one else seem to remember he existed?

My review: This is a rather slow burn of a story. It’s not loud and in your face like some similar stories in the genre, but a little more reflective and subdued. It builds tension that keeps you hooked, but it’s more the quiet, uneasy sort of tension. If I’m being honest, it was that quality that made it hard for me to get into at first. Because there was not a lot of urgency from the main characters, I found myself wondering what the big deal was. I’m glad I stuck with the story, though, because as all the pieces fit together, it really explodes into this interesting, thoughtful world. The exciting elements are not running from monsters, but trying to decide how to do what is right in an impossible situation. It feels more…philosophical, I suppose. What caught my interest most by the end was wondering how I would react in this situation. And if all this is happening, what are the broader implications?

I had some difficulties, however. I like to listen to podcasts when I am driving. This one made that difficult due to the rather quiet voices of the cast. I’d have to crank the volume up, and then get deafened a scene or two later. That’s a small annoyance, but it definitely makes it more challenging. I probably missed some information and connections because I simply could not make out the dialogue. Were I using headphones, this likely would have been less of an issue. But I also would have far less time to enjoy all the wonderful audiodrama out there. And perhaps this is just personal, but I also had some difficult telling the three main characters apart. There are three primary female leads, and while one was distinct, two tended to run together for me. I had to spend a lot of time staying focused on context. That made me glad I listened to the episodes in more or less one go (across a few days, but not over a release schedule), because I would have struggled even more trying to keep all the characters straight otherwise.

In the end, while I enjoyed it, the more reserved tone of this story made it a little harder for me to get as caught up. I did not ultimately feel as connected to the characters as I have in other audiodramas, partially due to my own difficulties distinguishing the characters, but also because I felt like there was less background. They remained very focused on the present moment of the story, fitting within the theme of the podcast, but less engaging for me. That said, their final episodes also left me wanting more. There is a season 2 in the works, apparently, I will almost certainly tune in to hear more of this story. It may not be my all time top podcast, but it’s one I am glad to have found and am excited to hear more of.

Find them here: Station to Station

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A Listener Reviews: Ars Paradoxica

Happy Earth’s Rotation Day! Here’s a science-y podcast. Because why not. 

Ars Paradoxica

Episodes: 36 for the whole story.

Length:Generally around 30-45 minutes

How I Found It: Found it on a Reddit list of suggested podcasts. I tried finding the list, but no luck. A friend also recommended this on the same day.

How I Found It: Found it on a Reddit list of suggested podcasts. I tried finding thelist, but no luck. A friend also recommended this on the same day.

I’ve listened to…every episode I could get my ears on.

The Premise: Sally is a scientist from 2XXX thrown back in time due to a strange accident. She lands right in the middle of WW2 and works to help the US government with the war effort using her knowledge and the one working Timepiece. But, as would be expected, meddling with time travel has its own repercussions. Also, as she cannot return to her home time (only back towards the original event in the past), she struggles with how to integrate herself into the world. 

The Good: Great voice acting, solid writing, and really memorable characters. I still feel for Anthony Partridge. The story covers a lot of ground, and each season seems to present new conundrums to be resolved. They sidestep some of the time travel complications, but in a way that makes it more complicated. Also, really strong representation of women and minorities throughout, which made me want to get out there and kick butt on a few occasions. In the end, I really liked the way they wrapped it all up. I was not sure how they’d write themselves out of the corner, but they did it well.

The Bad:  Okay, they kind of get a little lazy with the time travel issue dodging, but I think they make up for it in their treatment of the issues. There are one or two really dragging episodes in the mix, but they are certainly overwhelmed by the good.

My Rating: Top of the Queue.
A really strong podcast and one of my favorites. I was so sad to hear they were ending,but felt they did their story line justice. Always better to end when it needs to end than drag it out forever.

You should listen if…you’d like hearing a strong, female scientist with a penchant for cursing stumble through life in the 1940s and beyond while navigating the practical, ethical, and moral issues surrounding being the inventor of time travel.


Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.

PS- If there are any weird formatting issues here, let me know. I accidentally switched a new editor view that was not particularly kind to my text-only style posts.