I love podcasts.
I love spoken media. I also have a long daily commute, and an iPod, so the advent of podcasting has been a tremendous blessing. There’s a wealth of great stuff out there in the aether just waiting for you to track it down. These range from simple amateur affairs to polished professional shows and everything in between.
Three of the finest providers for quality fiction podcasts are Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and Podcastle, which collectively fall under the banner of Escape Artists, Inc. The brainchild of Steve Eley, these podcasts began with the bold idea to pay authors professional rates for their stories and provide them to the listeners for free. The podcasts are supported by fan donations and the stories are free to download and distribute, as long as they are redistributed in full and at no charge.
Escape Pod is the flagship show, started in May of 2005, followed by Pseudopod in August of 2006, and Podcastle in July of 2007. All three shows release new episodes every week and their full archives are available online, meaning that there is a staggering library of stories available.
Escape Pod refers to itself as, “the premier science fiction podcast magazine,” and it’s hard to dispute that claim. There are over 400 stories in the Escape Pod archive with works from new authors as well as masters like Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Escape Pod stories feature protagonists from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds, which provides a range of perspectives. The exposure to this variety is one of the things I like best about Escape Pod and is a refreshing change from the homogeneous selection of voices that dominate bookstore shelves.
Each year Escape Pod also offers Hugo Month when they produce the stories nominated for that year’s Hugo Awards.
The show has excellent readers and I have never been disappointed in the quality of their episodes. There is no set time limit for stories, but they average about 45 minutes in length. I highly recommend Escape Pod, not just for fans of science fiction but for listeners curious about what the genre has to offer.
Pseudopod was next to launch and delivers a healthy dose of horror every week. There are currently over 350 episodes in their archive and like Escape Pod, Pseudopod features a variety of perspectives and styles. Stories tend to come from more recent authors and run about 45 minutes on average.
I have a special fondness for Pseudopod. I am a long time fan of old school horror and weird fiction and I love a good ghost story, but I never had much interest in modern works of horror. Listening to Pseudopod has changed that and I look forward to when each new episode hits my iTunes library. The high quality stories combined with the excellent readers and production values have gripped my imagination and fueled my interest in modern horror.
Podcastle rounds out the Escape Artists’ lineup. In keeping with the philosophy of its sister-casts, Podcastle usually eschews the Tolkien-esq style of swords and sorcery and focuses on stories of a more fantastic nature. There is more variety in story length on Podcastle, with shorter flash fiction and longer giant episodes being more common than with the other shows. There are also several classic folk tales that make their appearance, such as a two-episode production of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.
I admire everything about what Escape Artists has accomplished. Their business model embodies the idealism we hoped that the Internet would enable and everyone benefits from their success. The passion of the producers combined with the generosity of their listeners has created a real literary treasure for everyone to enjoy.
Give these shows a try and you won’t be disappointed.