Science Fiction/Fantasy books and films may have been disappointingly sparse this year but it was a banner year for Podcasts. As I indicated in earlier articles, I have come to appreciate audio dramas on my long car-rides – the best of them really fire up the imagination and given the low production costs, there are some imaginative work being done which you would never be able to pull off on television. Here are the best ones I listened to this year.
Hadron Gospel Hour: My life was a pointless and bleak existence – I prayed to all manner of Gods for release but they never answered. That is when the mad scientist dressed in a lab coat and skull face makeup stepped out of a dimensional rift and told me I could save the multiverse. I took his hand and stepped through the rift. Now my life is filled with delightful things. Last night the love child of Steve Reeves and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, dressed up as Colonel Wilma Deering and gave me a lap dance in the front seat of an Oldsmobile Delta 88. Dave Bowman, still dressed in his space suit and helmet told me to ‘Open the Pod Bay Doors’ from the front seat and the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 cheered me on from the back. The Bee Gees ‘More than a Woman’ played on the radio while a shirtless Kirk fist-fought the goddamned Gorn Commander on the hood of the car. Thank you, Hadron Gospel Hour – you are the only thing in the world I wish to remain the same. The only thing I love that loves me back.
We’re Alive: I will get fried for saying this but We’re Alive is a better and more believable zombie story than The Walking Dead. It was 143 episodes long and ran from 2009-2014. It was high production values and had a great cast of characters but I think the thing I appreciated most about it was no one was a superman in this show – they made stupid calls, paid for them, and it wasn’t afraid to paint large on its canvas. It seemed more real to me than The Walking Dead and I was invested from start to finish. If society collapsed, I think it would look closer to this than anything else. Best of all, it is a complete story – something which doesn’t occur so much in the world of podcasting.
Hello from the Magic Tavern: What would happen if a Chicago comedian was transported to a fantasy tavern and interviewed its guests while in the company of a pompous Wizard and a sex badger. Remember when I said shit happens in podcasts that can’t happen on TV? This podcast proves the point. Completely improv but if you’re going to start, do so from episode one because after a year of doing this they have constructed an elaborate and entertaining world complete with its own rules. I almost crashed my car laughing at Usidore’s reaction to being asked if the dark one’s secret villain name was Count Dooku?
Bright Sessions: I love superhero stories, especially when they don’t know their superhero stories. The Bright Sessions is about a therapist with an unconventional practice – young men and women with ‘abilities’ and all the associated issues which come with it. As a guy who once did some time on a therapist couch, I find the interactions to have an authenticity to them which is gratifying. I won’t spoil the surprise but it becomes apparent there is more going on here than just therapy and this series is poised to break out of the therapy room and into the larger world.
Tanis & The Black Files: Both series are interrelated and come from the fictional Pacific Northwest Public Radio. They are both telling different stories, one a gothic horror owing much to the Cthulhu mythos and the other a more bizarre mixture of surveillance, science fiction, and ancient evil. They both possess high production values and tell compelling stories. I think I like the gothic story in the Black Tapes a bit better mostly because I feed the lead narrator a bit more compelling and the creepiness factor is exceptionally well done. However, the science fiction angle on Tanis is right up my alley and new episodes of both series are happy days for me. Both are on season break and will be returning with their third seasons in the Spring so now is the time to catch up with the Black Tapes first and Tanis second.
Other ‘Best of…’ lists from 2016: