Sunday 6 December 2015

PODCAST REVIEW: A word in your ear - storytelling by podcasters

This review originally featured in The Tribune's Weekend section on December 4. 

Seeking a flight of fiction? There are a number of podcasts around the internet which offer readings of short stories... or even longer tales. This week, we look at three.

The Wicked Library

Each week, when we pick up the reviewer's headphones to start this column, we give a call out on Twitter for recommended podcasts – and The Wicked Library were one of the first to answer the call when it came to considerations for this column. The Wicked Library is something of a podcast equivalent to Tales From The Crypt – even with their own Librarian character introducing the stories, similar to the TV show's Crypt Keeper. The production values are excellent – high quality recordings, music backing throughout the reading, artwork splashed across the site all helping to immerse you in the stories themselves. Those stories are well worth a listen too – they're currently running through a repeat run of some of their greatest hits, so it's a great time to hop aboard. My first show I listened to was The Diplomat, by Barbie Stoeckle, a tale of humanity, zombiekind and betrayal... a delicious shiver of a story. They also have a similar project over at which has a Twilight Zone vibe to it. Open with care.

Cast of Wonders

A few months back, we reviewed Pseudopod, which is another horror podcast story site. It links arms with other podcasts covering science fiction and fantasy in the Escape Artists group of podcasts – and that group is to be joined in January by Cast of Wonders, which puts the focus squarely on Young Adult storytelling. The stories aim towards the teenage market – or the teen at heart, with stories of trolls and fairies, spaceships and dragons.
There's lovely attention to detail by the site, with music setting the mood, credits duly acknowledged to all contributors, and precision in the readings. For example, in science fiction story The New Kid Is Not An Alien, by Bert Lowe, reader JS Arquin turns the name of the peculiar Zaxx into a clicking of x sounds, like the doors of the Starship Enterprise closing each time the word is said.
There's enchantment and wonder to be found in these stories, and a real delight for younger ears to discover.

Priori Podcast

If short stories are not meaty enough for you and you want something more filling, try the Priori Podcast. This is more of an audio play than a simple reading, with different characters voiced by various actors through a full reading of a fantasy novel, broken into parts. The quality of production isn't as high to begin with, with a couple of dodgy microphones in there to begin with that break you out of the mood at moments, but that improves as the episodes go on. The story tells that of a woman named Beverly on the run from The Kraken, leader of a brutal empire, and who possesses a power that may stop him – The Priori – or may end up serving him if she cannot escape.
The episodes vary in length quite a lot – some are half an hour, some stretch to over an hour – but one of the nice things is that each ends with a chat section involving all the voice actors and contributors, in which they explore the issues of the novel and motivations of the characters – and speculate as to what listeners can expect next.

Got a podcast you'd like to see featured in a future review? Drop me a line in the comments or tweet me @chippychatty

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