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SpyCast!

I have a new podcast on my list!

SpyCast is the official podcast from the Spy Museum in Washington DC. The host and guests are former members of the intelligence community (including a few from the KGB) and they bring an interesting insider’s view to the topics of trade craft. The archives go back to 2006 and I’m only a few episodes in, but I am hooked. The conversations are casual and the guests are fascinating. The average episode clocks in from 30-60 minutes and if I have one complaint it’s that I want to hear more.

If you’re looking for some insights for your Top Secret game, or just a fan of espionage history, then check this one out.

You can find SpyCast on iTunes, or from their website here.

Spy-vs-spy

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in History, Podcasts

 

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The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger eons, even death may die.”

-H.P. Lovecraft

The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, also known as the HPPodcraft, is a labor of love by dedicated fans.  A regular on my daily commute, this series delves into the works of Lovecraft starting from his first published story and going all the way through his career.

Hosted by Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer, each episode contains an analysis of one of Lovecraft’s stories.  They also delve into the history of the stories and the man who wrote them, giving context to them based on events in Lovecraft’s life and how the works relate to each other.  Though there is no single continuity to Lovecraft’s work the analysis of the stories does reveal interesting progressions in how the mythos developed.   I’m well versed in Lovecraft but I have never read the stories in any particular order and I was fascinated to see the patterns, both stylistically and in content.

The podcast goes beyond the stories, giving us a look at Lovecraft’s life and motivations.  They discuss his early life and career as well as his final years when his fortunes and health declined.  They discuss his friendships and dip into his correspondences with other writers, such as Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard, among many others.  Lovecraft was a prolific writer of letters and a large collection of them survive, allowing us to see into the community of weird fiction authors from his era.

Lackey and Fifer also delve into the collaborative and ghost written works that Lovecraft wrote.  These I found particularly interesting, as I only recently discovered most of them.  These include the infamous story Medusa’s Coil which he collaborated on with Zealia Bishop.  Lovecraft is rightfully known for his racist and classist beliefs, particularly in his younger days, and nowhere is it more pointed than in this story.

Which is another thing I appreciate about the podcast.  They do not shy away from the controversies of Lovecraft’s life, nor do they harp on them.  There is plenty of celebration of Lovecraft’s great works and vision, but they are also able to honestly criticize his mediocre works, though at times they fall into nitpicking in the name of humor.

That humor would be my one criticism for the show.  It is often forced and over-done and detracts from the whole.  This is particularly true for the early episodes, enough that I suggest a first time listener to start with a few later podcasts from when the show’s format has settled down and they have more experience.  Then go back and listen to the early podcasts once you’ve already become a fan.

Each episode also features segments of the stories being read aloud, for which they used a wide variety of readers.  The readers are all talented and these segments are gold, leaving you wanting more.  Fortunately for us they also did full readings of several stories, including readings of The Call of Cthuhlhu and The Haunter in the Dark that are spectacular and should be mandatory listening for any fan.

Sadly, all things must come to an end, and Lovecraft’s body of work is no exception.  Although they completed his library the podcast continues.  It now features original content in a mix of free and subscription based offerings.  I did not stay with the series for very long after they completed Lovecraft’s work, because it was the author’s work and history that I was interested in.

The entire show’s archive, including the full readings, is freely available on their website.  Whether you are a veteran fan or recent discoverer of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, you’ll enjoy the series.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Podcasts

 

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Podcasts – Entertainment from the Aether

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.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Cool Stuff, Podcasts

 

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