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Hugh Likes Podcasts: 2016 Top Five

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: 2016 Top 5

In no particular order, here are my five favorite narrative podcasts of 2016. I listened to a lot this year, and there seemed to be too much to really judge, but these five stood out as gems in the podosphere.

Six Stories Told at Night
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K T Bryski and Blythe Haynes are a dynamic duo of podcast fiction. The writer/narrator pair have worked together on a variety of projects, from the audiobook Heartstealer to the Nightvale-esque Coxwood History Fun Cast. I think this is the apex of their collaboration. A six episode podcast about Canadian Folklore, “Six Stories” blurs the line between myth and reality, story and storyteller, and history and the present. It is an amazing work, commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council.

Gosh-Darn Fiasco
GDF Podcast
A live-roleplay podcast of Bully Pulpit’s Fiasco which started in 2015, this is a mix of roleplaying and improv that works just right for podcast. The episodes are a bit on the long side, with each running at least an hour and often running longer, but hosts Angela Webber and Richard Malena, as well as their recurring guests, are always surprising and hilarious. The playsets are well chosen, and lots of fun. Where else are you going to hear about secret muppets and Antarctic rock bands? No place, that’s where.

Alice Isn’t Dead
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From the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale,” Alice isn’t dead is a one-woman audio drama about the long, strange gaps of rural America, the things that inhabit them, and what, precisely, makes us human. The narrator’s search for her presumed-dead wife, and the strange and terrible things she finds along the way are the stuff of American nightmare, compelling and frightening.

The Hidden Almanac
hidden-almanac
A micro-cast written by author and illustrator Ursula Vernon and produced by her husband Kevin Sonney, The Hidden Almanac is a look into the hagiography and domestic garden life of a world not our own. But more precisely, it is the adventures of the long suffering Rev. Mord and his saintly and drunken companion, Pastor Drom. This year they braved the dangers of a library catacomb, fought off an inter-dimensional invasion, and covered a fraught local judiciary election between a revenant used car salesman and a charismatic chicken.  Five minutes a week shouldn’t be this effective, but it is.

The Voice of Free Planet X
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Jared Axelrod continued their run on this highly polished spec-fictional version of This American Life by visiting a city with amnesia, covering a funeral for a pulp heroine, and helping to preside over a rap battle for the fate of the Earth. Jared is an incandescent wit and talent, and I’m just glad they’re on our side.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Voice of Free Planet X

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HLP-The Voice of Free Planet X

Produced and hosted by Jared Axelrod

jaredaxelrod.com

Freeplanetx

Over the course of over one-hundred and seventy-five episodes, Jared Axelrod has hosted a variety of projects on his podcast, The Voice of Free Planet X.  It began as a presentation of his short fiction.  It has also served as a platform for his sci-fi puppetry project, “Aliens You WIll Meet.”  It featured the serialized steampunk adventure “Fables of the Flying City,” which is where I jumped on board.  But the latest, recently begun project revives the original title, and is an outstanding podcast production.

Ostensibly published by GPR (Galactic Public Radio) The Voice of Free Planet X is This American Life for a fantasy world, a Radio Lab of the impossible.  Jared interviews stranded aliens and out-of-the-casket vampires.  He talks to AI musicians and post-apocalyptic road warriors.

It is a clever response to the post-Serial podcast landscape, and the production values are top-notch.  It takes a discerning ear to determine the show was made in a home studio with actors, and not on the board of a WBEZ mobile truck.  But the real strength lays in Axelrod’s writing, and the performances of his interview subjects.  He’s managed to take spec-fic cliches, such as vampires as metaphors for sexual deviancy, and breathe new, and interesting, human life into them.  The format does an end run around suspension of disbelief, but the voice, if you will, is what sells it.  These interviews aren’t pulse-pounding adventure stories.  They are the best sort of feature story for people that never existed.  And like the best of this flavor of fiction, it bleeds into the way we see the real world.  Because you never know when that youtuber will turn out to be an incarcerated computer intelligence.