09 November 2009 ~ 5 Comments

The Best of Pseudopod

PseudobanSince I was a kid I’ve always enjoyed reading fiction, but for some reason I’d never really considered audio fiction a very intriguing offering.  But when I sold my story “The Disconnected” to Pseudopod (due out some time this mont), it was as good a time as any to try out this whole audio thing.  I love it!  Now I wonder how I ever did without it.  I listen to stories on my commute, which transforms the drive into something I look forward to.

For those of you who don’t know, Pseudopod is a horror fiction podcast.  Every week they post a new story to their site, usually somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes long.  It’s free to download, and you can share it with whoever you want as long as you don’t alter it or sell it.  Audio fiction has a whole new dynamic because the reader can add or take away so much.  Some stories are much better in audio, and some are better in print, it just depends on the way the story is laid out.  Besides the great stories, each week has an intro and outro, usually done by the excellent Alasdair Stuart.  These are worth the download alone, as he talks about the themes of the week’s story and relates it to other things in pop culture or his own life.

And for those of you who don’t like horror, you also might want to consider the other fiction podcasts published by Escape Artists, the creators of Pseudopod.  Escape Pod is for science fiction and Podcastle is for fantasy.  I’m just starting to listen to Podcastle’s backlog, so I expect I’ll do a “Best of Podcastle” article when I finish.  <EDIT:  I’ve now down a Best of Podcastle and a Best of Escape Pod>

Since July I’ve been plumbing the depths of Pseudopod’s backlog and now I’m sad to say I’ve listened to everything they’ve offered to date.  Now I only get one new Pseudopod a week like the rest of the world (released every Friday).  But now that I’ve listened to all of Pseudopod’s offerings, I feel qualified to make a list of the Best of Pseudopod, my top ten favorite stories that have been posted to the site (and a few that ALMOST made the list).  If you think you might want to give this audio fiction thing a try, these stories are a great place to start.  If you like them, I encourage you to help Pseudopod’s continued success by donating, writing a blog post about it, buying an archive disc, or sharing the file with potential fans.

1.  Deep Red by Floris M. Kleijne
Read by Ben Phillips
Very few suspense stories actually make me feel the suspense.  Not that I don’t enjoy them as entertainment, but they don’t really get me going.  This story is the exception.  By the end of the story my heart was pounding and I didn’t even take the time to analyze the plot to death as I was listening because I was just so enthralled.  This story works really well as an audio tale, as the reading really adds to the experience.

2.  Suicide Notes, Written by an Alien Mind by Ferrett Steinmetz
Read by Phil Rossi
This is a dark science fiction tale.  In this future, there is an interplanetary war between humans and an alien race with powerful psychic abilities.  How can you fight something that can warp your mind and turn you into a weapon against your allies?

3.  Stockholm Syndrome by David Tallerman
Read by Cheyenne Wright
Though this story takes place in a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world, the zombies are not the scary part.

4.  Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy by Douglas F. Warrick
Read by Phil Rossi
No two ways about it, I am scared shitless of Alzheimer’s.  The protagonist in this one is an Alzheimer’s sufferer, which is compelling enough as it is, but there’s much more to this tale than that.

5.  The Button Bin by Mike Allen
Read by Wilson Fowlie
I would never have thought that buttons could be an element of horror, but this story is simply amazing.  The beginning is a bit slow, and the 2nd person is off-putting, but if you stick with it there’s a lot of original ideas in this, and some really vivid imagery.

6.  Last Respects by Dave Thompson
Read by Scott Sigler
In a post-Twilight world saturated with fanpires and Stephenie Meyer copycats, it’s really hard to find a vampire story that isn’t just everyone else’s vampire story rehashed.  This is a vampire story that breaks past all the stereotypes and succeeds.  The protagonists are vampires and the story occurs after the vampires have won the war against the humans.  But the vampires themselves have their own humanity.  They are sympathetic despite what they are.  The horror of this story does not scream for you to pay attention to it.  The horrific elements are presented with such a nonchalance and everyday language that they become that much more horrific because of it.

7.  Hometown Horrible by Matthew Bey
This one starts off slow, but give it a chance, it’s well worth the time.  The story is told as a writer sets out to tell the story of Hellmut Finch, a Wisconsite writer who wrote dark tales.  The tales all have a common thread which each other, which begins to become clearer as the story goes on.

8.  Stepfathers by Grady Hendrix
Read by Elie Hirschman
Horror comedy is a very tricky subgenre to tackle, but this story manages it perfectly.  An Elder God is summoned, but is a little different than he’s expected to be.

9.  The Music of Erich Zann by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Read by BJ Harrison
This is an oldy but a goody, which Pseudopod posted for their 100th issue.  This is the one and only H.P. Lovecraft story that I’ve heard (or read for that matter).  It starts very very slowly, without much of a hook, but I attribute that more to the style of the times than to any actual failing on Lovecraft’s part.  I was expecting tentacled Elder Gods, but I was pleasantly surprised at the turns this took.  Despite a plot hole or two, and a slow beginning, the imagery and conclusion of this story were just fantastic.  A must listen.

10.  Garbage Day by Russell L. Burt
Read by Elie Hirschman
This one’s a fun little flash fiction.  It’s  a short and sometimes humorous trip following the reasoning of an irrational mind.

Honorable Mentions

The following stories were all close competitors for the top ten, but didn’t quite make it.  I could expand it to a top 15 instead, but 10 is such a nice number.  Every one of these is well worth your listening time.

Oranges, Lemons, and Thou Beside Me by Eugie Foster
Read by Paul S. Jenkins

Bottle Babies by Mary A. Turzillo
Read by Ben Phillips

Clockwork by Trent Jamieson
Read by Ben Phillips

Geist by Chandler Kaiden
Read by Richard Dansky

What Dead People Are Supposed to Do by Paul E. Martens
Read by Ben Phillips

Counting From Ten by Michael Montoure
Read by JC Hutchins

5 Responses to “The Best of Pseudopod”

  1. Damon Shaw 9 November 2009 at 12:35 pm Permalink

    I got into podcasts a month or so ago. Washing up has never been so enjoyabe.

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies have a very high quality set of audio stories. Clarkesworld has fewer, and a couple are a bit shoddy soundwise. Also, as you say, the actor chosen changes the experience a lot. Sometimes they give just too much and impose their own viewpoint on the piece. Both these mags are worth listening to, though.

    I’m going to check out the pods you feature here. Fantasy works really well for podcasts for me, so Podcastle is a must.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. David Steffen 9 November 2009 at 12:46 pm Permalink

    Thanks, Damon!

    And thanks for the suggestions for other audio fiction too. At the moment I’m working my way through Podcastle’s backlog, but I’m now always on the lookout for new audio fiction. The days of boring commutes are over!

    If you like Fantasy Magazine’s selection, you might want to check out Podcastle’s newest offering, “The Small Door” by Holly Phillips. Podcastle contacted Cat Rambo of Fantasy Magazine and asked her to choose a story, and this is the one she chose. The reading is well done, and I love the writing. I definitely recommend this one. I’ll be on the lookout for new work by Holly Phillips.

    http://podcastle.org/2009/11/05/podacastle-76-the-small-door/

  3. Shane 9 November 2009 at 6:08 pm Permalink

    Great post!

    I have been enjoying audio books for a while now on my commute, and I agree; night and day difference in my quality of life!

    My library allows you to check out full length audio books for free, which is my usual method. But pseudopod is great, thanks for turning me onto them!

    If you ever get around to it, a post like this on Escape Pod or Podcastle would be highly appreciated!

  4. David Steffen 9 November 2009 at 6:46 pm Permalink

    Shane,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    I recently signed up for my first library card in about 17 years, and I think my library does the same thing with audio book checkouts. For the time being the fiction podcasts are keeping me busy enough, but I think I will try out the audio book thing sooner or later. Thanks for the head’s up.

    And, regarding similar posts for Escape Pod and Podcastle, those are in the works. Of course, I have a lot of listening to do before I can write those. I’m working on Podcastle’s backlog right now and I will hopefully have an article for that in a few months, then Escape Pod to follow.

    Thanks for stopping by!
    ,David


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