Listen Up!: 5 Awesome Lit-Based Podcasts
Once upon a time, there were radio programs. Many of them specialized in specific topics like sports, news, arts and, of course, music. The shows had personal identities. The topics were discussed, music was played, and everyone who listened felt enlightened and fuzzy.
These days, listening-based programs still exist on stations such as NPR, The Spy, WFMU and KEXP, but for the most part the radio waves are filled with syndicated content pumped in from a satellite that auto-plays the same Top 40 pop hits at predetermined intervals on a continuous loop. Sad, really.
Fortunately, there are these newfangled things called “podcasts.” They’re like radio shows, except they aren’t cast out broadly into the world (broadcast, if you will), but rather appear magically via a free subscription on your computer or smart device. I did mention these things are free, yeah?
Not only that, but there are plenty of podcasts dealing with all things bookish, be it celebrities reading short stories, authors reading their own short stories, authors reading other author’s short stories, or people talking about the world of literature.
Won’t you join me in exploring five really good lit-based podcasts? Perhaps you’ll subscribe to one yourself...
Yes, even your friendly neighborhood writer’s haven LitReactor offers a podcast. Hosted by columnist/blagger Cath Murphy, Education Director Rob W. Hart, and Managing Editor Joshua Chaplinsky, each episode typically features a news round-up, a “what are you reading” share session, a discussion about a particular hot-button lit topic, and sometimes a conversation with a very special guest.
To give you a taste of the insightful irreverence Unprintable injects into your life, here’s a brief description from the most recent episode’s news:
David Simon thinks just because everyone loves The Wire he is an expert on everything, but Cath thinks he should shut the hell up. Rob seems indifferent. Josh is quasi-famous in the erotica self-publishing arena, to which Rob seems indifferent. Rob gives a eulogy for the Nook, and seems indifferent to his own indifference.
How could you not listen to that? No, really, I’m asking you...
If your neighbors happen to overhear you listening to Selected Shorts, they will instantly know you are one classy individual. I mean, freakin’ Jon Lithgow frequently reads the introductory advertisement for Selected Shorts’ primary benefactor, Zabars. And then there’s that smooth jazzy intro music that just oozes sophistication.
The stories/live readings are quite cosmopolitan as well. The tales are read by Broadway, film and television actors, fellow authors, and other personalities onstage at Symphony Space in New York City. Just recently, for instance, actor David Furr read Michael Chabon’s “Art of Cake,” a tribute to his mother’s baking; following this, Tony Award-winning actor Robert Sean Leonard (he was also on House, people) performed Mark Strand’s “True Loves.”
Following the death of Selected Shorts creator Isaiah Sheffer, each episode features a rotating roster of guest hosts, including the aforementioned Lithgow, actress Parker Posey, David Sedaris, and Neil Gaiman, amongst others. How can you go wrong? You can’t, that’s how.
Hosted by author and The Nervous Breakdown founder Brad Listi, Other People features in-depth, usually hour-long interviews with authors, discussing not only their work, but their life outside of writing, making for a well-rounded portrait.
Listi opens the show with a pause-laden, humorous monologue, which typically relates to his guest in some way. For instance, in preparation for his interview with actress-turned-writer Molly Ringwald, Listi contemplated bringing a pubescent photo of himself to prove to her how much he looked like Anthony Michael Hall (he decided against it).
Possibly the best thing about Other People, though, is the fact I haven’t heard of 90 percent of the authors appearing on Listi’s show. Ringwald, Megan Abbot and Owen King—Stephen’s other famous son—were the only ones I recognized in the last fifty episodes. This is a good thing: Other People introduces me to authors I might not have discovered otherwise, thus fattening my to-read list exponentially.
This podcast features recordings of stories published in Nightmare Magazine. It also features one of the best podcast introductions ever—spooky “Halloween Sounds of Horror” organ music, creepy giggling children and a voice growling “Nightmaaaaaaaaaarrrrrreee.” The horror geek in me is pleased.
Nightmare producer Stefan Rudnicki (he’s a Grammy winner, by the way) gives us quick bios of the authors and the readers (usually other award-winning voice talents), and then the story begins. Recent episodes featured spine-tingling tales from Ramsey Campbell, Laird Barron, and Brit Mandelo. What more do you want me to say? It’s awesome, listen to it.
You can thank LitReactor’s very own Rajan Khanna and his column Small Packages: Short Fantasy Fiction for turning me on to Escape Pod (he even does voice work for them). As the clever name suggests, this weekly program offers top-notch science fiction read by other authors and voice actors. Recently they featured Ken Liu, who swept up the Hugos, the Nebulas, and the World Fantasy Awards with his short story “The Paper Menagerie” (that particular story isn’t read there).
But it’s not just big names you’ll find on this podcast. I didn’t know Merrie Haskell before I heard last month’s “Zebulon Vance Sings The Alphabet Songs Of Love”, a wonderful, funny story read in a perfectly appropriate deadpan by Amanda Ching. Everyone should listen to this.
Though not listenable, Escape Pod also features film and book reviews, so be sure to check out their website as well. All content is free because the creators, Escape Artists, rely on donations, so if you dig it and/or you’re feeling generous, be sure to click the Paypal button. BONUS! Check out Escape Artists’ other podcasts, Podcastle (fantasy) and Pseudopod (horror).
These five lit-based podcasts are only the tip of the tip of the iceberg. There are far more out there, awaiting your eager ears. If you have any good ones you’d like to share, shout out in the comments section. Until next time...
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