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Why you should be listening to Fiction Podcasts, and 7 to get you started

If you’re anything like me, you probably get bored with TV, movies, and YouTube pretty quickly. It’s nice when you first find a new director or actor or YouTuber who you really connect with. All you want to do for the next week is consume everything they’re ever been in, but once you’ve burned through a creator’s catalogue you end up thinking: what now? Quarantine has only helped to exacerbate this fact, as there are only so many shows I can binge-watch before I’m back to mindlessly scrolling through Instagram for hours on end. The one saving grace of my last 8 months have been podcasts.

Yes, I am referring to the little purple icon that takes up space next to your FaceTime app on your phone screen. When you read the word podcast, you probably imagine some hour long true crime investigation or your favorite YouTubers talking about random stuff that’s too unimportant to make actual videos about. While that is a sizable portion of what the platform has to offer, I’m talking about the new way of storytelling that has taken the world by storm: I’m talking about fiction podcasts (also known as audio dramas).

Fiction podcasts have been giving independent and relatively unknown artists the chance to showcase their unique and insanely entertaining stories for years now, but within the past couple of years the genre has dominated the game and charts. The best part of fiction podcasts is that they can be about anything and everything: you will always be able to find a story or character you can relate to. If not, then create one; anyone with a microphone, laptop, and something to say can easily publish their work for the world to see.

Podcasts are free, convenient, and a tap away. I listen to podcasts while going on my morning walks, while cleaning my house, and even just before bed. Trust me, once you start listening, you’ll never want the journey to stop. Below is a list of recommendations for anyone looking for a place to start their auditory adventure.

  1. Welcome to Night Vale (2012-Present)

Welcome to Night Vale/ Via Night Vale Presents 

Anyone who considers themselves well versed in the world of audio dramas has listened to, or at least heard of, Welcome to Night Vale (WTNV). Under the guise of a community radio program, host Cecil Palmer reports the everyday news of the supernatural town of Night Vale. Writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have been pumping out bi-monthy tales since 2012 and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. This show offers a lot of content, but don’t let that scare you, WTNV can be listened to in any order and always makes for a fun listen. 

  1. The Bright Sessions (2015-2018)

The Bright Sessions/ Via Atypical Artists 

The Bright Sessions is my personal favorite and I recommend it every chance I get. The drama, written, produced, and hosted by Lauren Shippen, follows the therapy sessions of a group of individuals with special abilities, called Atypicals. The show begins with the main characters trying to lead normal lives while being able to time travel, read minds, and feel the emotions of others, among other abilities. As the story progresses the cast finds themselves enthralled in the sinister plot of an evil government agency. The Bright Sessions tells a riveting and complete story, having ended in 2018 after 4 seasons. Yet, if you find yourself craving more, the two spin-off shows, both only on Luminary, or read the two companion books, available wherever you purchase books. 

  1. Passenger List (2019)

Passenger List/ Via Radiotopia

This eight-part mystery thriller follows college student Kaitlin Le as she desperately searches for her twin brother who’s flight went missing mid-flight between London and New York. Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Colin Morgan (Merlin) star in this nail-biting investigation.

  1. Limetown (2015-2018)

Limetown/ Via Two-Up Productions 

Reporter Lia Haddock unlocks the mystery of how the town holding all the smartest people in the world completely disappeared. Having reached the number one spot in the U.S. on Apple Podcasts and spawning a Facebook Original television adaptation, this podcast is guaranteed to thrill and entice.

  1. The Magnus Archives (2016-Present)

The Magnus Archives/ Via Rusty Quill 

The Magnus Archives is my current obsession. This anthology horror podcast follows the archival team at the London Magnus Institute as the supernatural encounters they record begin to form a life of their own. Writer and star Johnathan Sims never fails to terrify and delight listeners with truly unsettling tales of monsters, ghosts, vampires, and flesh eating worms, just to name a few.

  1. The Two Princes (2019-2020)

The Two Princes/ Via Gimlet

This Gimlet and Spotify original tells the story of two rival princes who’re prophesied from birth to one day defeat each other, but after a chance encounter they find they mind have more in common than initially thought. Tony Award Winner Ari’el Stachel (The Band’s Visit) and Noah Galvin (The Real O’Neals, Booksmart, and Dear Evan Hansen) star as the titular character alongside an insanely talented ensemble. If you like this one, be sure to look out for the upcoming HBO Max animated special.

  1. 36 Questions (2017)

36 Questions/ Via Two-Up Productions 

This is where it all began for me. 36 Questions is a 3-part musical podcast that follows Judith Ford as she desperately tries to save her failing marriage, and that’s all I’ll tell you because it truly deserves a blind listen. The voices of two-time Tony Award Nominee Johnathan Groff (Hamilton) and Jessie Shelton (Hadestown) shine through the beautifully written score of Ellen Winter and Chris Littler. Netflix is set to produce a film adaptation of this podcast so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Fiction podcasts are so interesting because the listener always has a little part in the story. The writers and actors supply the plot and voices, but it’s up to the reader to create everything else in their mind.  

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