If you like this “Best of” list, check out my lists for other podcasts.
Strange stories by strange authors for strange listeners (such as yourself). This is the aptly chosen opening tagline for the Drabblecast. Founded and narrated by Norm Sherman, the Drabblecast is an audio showcase of the weird. It doesn’t restrict itself to any particular genre, just so long as it’s weird, so there’s a mix of what could be called science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, mainstream, and some stuff that just defies any sort of classification–it’s all welcome on the Drabblecast as long as it’s weird.
Every week Norm provides a whole set of features to entertain and confuse. Every week there’s a feature flash story, approximately 2000 words or less. On top of this there is a weekly drabble (story of exactly 100 words) and a twitfic (story of less than 100 characters). On top of this there is often a Drabble News segment in which he discusses some strange news article like the celebration of Dead Duck Day in the Netherlands. As if that weren’t enough, Norm also includes some music segments written and performed by Norm himself. The most notable of these are the Bbardles–a donation incentive, if you donate a certain amount of money he will write a song in the style of your choice on the topic of your choice and turn it into a funny and entertaining piece of music. These are really fantastic pieces of work.
I don’t mean this as a slight to the other fiction podcasts I frequent, but the Drabblecast is more tuned in to my tastes (both as a reader and a writer) than any other magazine/podcast I’ve come across. It’s actually kind of creepy. I think that Norm has hacked into my mind and has downloaded some kind of insidious spyware tool directly into my brainstem which is both judging and altering my tastes to ensure complete control of my mind. This would make me worried if I weren’t enjoying it so much. So I say “Bring it on, Norm. You may be using unethical mind control techniques to ensure my continued listening, but I don’t mind. Maybe I only like it because your brain-virus is telling me to like it, but that’s okay, because I like it.”
Part of what sets the Drabblecast apart is their audio production. Many of the stories add dramatic music and sound effects at appropriate places. I’m not sure if I like this better than just a straight reading, but it offers some nice variety at the very least and it sounds really good.
By the way, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way to download the audio files directly from Drabblecast’s main site. I can listen to them there, and there’s a hyperlink to sign up for their mp3 feed, but not an actual download option. There is a Drabblecast archive, but it’s not updated as often as the main site. In any case, for my weekly download I’ve been downloading from other sites that re-post the episodes, usually CastRoller.
Without further ado, here is my Best of Drabblecast list. For the purposes of the list, I’ve only included the feature stories in the list. It’s not that I don’t like drabbles or twitfic, but even though I enjoy them, fiction that short doesn’t leave a long-lasting impression because it’s over before I’ve really gotten the story congealing in my brain. So, of all of the Drabblecast’s feature stories to date, these are my favorites:
1. Teddy Bears and Tea Parties by S. Boyd Taylor
Don’t be fooled by the title; this is not a chlidren’s story. Amazing, creepy, disturbing, weird. Teddy bears that bleed grape jelly. ‘Nuff said.
2. Babel Probe by David D. Levine
Time traveling AI visits the Tower of Babel to find the truth of the myth. It’s just as cool as it sounds.
3. Annabelle’s Alphabet by Tim Pratt
Is anyone surprised that Tim Pratt is on the list? This is a great piece of writing. I read this in print a while back and I loved it there too. The story is about a little girl, Annabelle, and it goes through the alphabet letter by letter, tying them into the story. This approach works surprisingly well, and Pratt does a great job of filling in backstory in bits and pieces so that the big picture coalesces smoothly and poetically.
4. Snowman’s Chance in Hell by Robert Jeschonek
This is a very recent one, but I’m glad it aired before I made the list. I love creation stories, especially ones which take a bizarre and irrational take on it all. This is the best one that I’ve ever read.
5. The Wrong Cart by Bruce Holland Rogers (in Doubleheader IV)
A short one, which is part of a Doubleheader special, which has two stories by the same author within the same episode. The other story is relatively good, but The Wrong Cart is a real gem, a perfect example of Drabblecast weirdness. You know how, when people realize that they’ve made a mistake, there’s a tendency to just go with and pretend like there was no mistake? Well, imagine that concept taken to the point of absurdity, and you have this episode.
6. The Fine Point by Gary Cuba
Ooh, existential philosopy of the best sort. The scary part is that these particular ideas have crossed my mind, but I never wrote a story about it, so Gary wins. 🙂
7. The Food Processor by Michael Canfield
A bizarre story, which gets weirder and weirder. Children living with their mother and their never-seen overbearing father. If, early on, you think you know where this story is going, you are wrong.
8. Charlie the Purple Giraffe was Acting Strange by David D. Levine
I never realized this, but it appears that I’m a fan of David D. Levine, since he got two entries in the top 10. This is another one that sounds like a children’s story but isn’t. It’s philosophy in a toon suit.
9. The Society of Eccentric Moustaches by Daniel Lemoal
If the title alone doesn’t make you laugh, then you may be a zombie. Odd facial hair always makes for quality entertainment–especially mustaches with funny names such as the pushbroom, handlebar, or walrus.
10. So You’re Going to Die by Robert Reed
Another very recent one, structured as a sales pitch, a former assassin selling a sort of death insurance. Good stuff.
Performance Anxiety by Weldon Burge (in Trifecta II)
I’ll let this one speak for itself. Just listen to it, and stick around til the end. It’s worth it, trust me.
Jelly Park by Aliya Whitely
Don’t expect any deep and profound meaning. This is one is cute, and sweet, and has an insanely catchy song.
2084 by Tom Williams
A glimpse of a risk-taker in the future. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat.
6 thoughts on “The Best of The Drabblecast”
I’m also busy listening through the archives right now, and although I haven’t caught up completely I’m almost there – I’m surprised two didn’t make the list, or at least, I’m surprised they didn’t get a mention. 115 Clown Eggs by Jay Lake and The Beekeepers by J. Alan Pierce. On the other hand, I was never really a fan of Jelly Park or Annabelle’s Alphabet, despite everyone else’s love of them, so perhaps I’m missing something.
Clown Eggs was a great idea, and Jay Lake pulled it off well, but once the premise was clear the middle and ending didn’t really wow me. Definite kudos on the weird idea.
Beekeepers… I’m trying to remember which one that was. Was that the alien insect parasites?
Yeah Clown Eggs would have to probably be an honourable mention, it is really very fun, but doesn’t quite stand up there with the best stories, although that would be the competitions strength rather than any story faults.
The Beekeepers was the one with the Tehtix – I really liked that one because of the natural aspect of it, it wasn’t anything evil or masterminded, just really awesome evolution 🙂
Just found out about your site from the Drabblecast (I’m about a year behind on that podcast) and wanted to suggest something to you. These best of lists are great but tracking all these individual episodes down across podcasts is not great. However, all these different podcasts have creative commons licenses. It would be excellent if you released your top picks from all the podcasts you review as your own podcast. Maybe add an intro to the beginning explaining what you liked about it and a few minutes of discussion about the episode after. It would certainly be a great gateway into other podcast channels. You’d be like a podcast DJ. Or you could think of it like a curated “subscription box” of the podcasts you like/what is currently trending in short fiction podcasts.
The idea sounds fun, but I don’t think it’s too likely to happen.
First, the “no derivatives” portion of the creative commons license used by most fiction podcasts would mean that I can’t really alter them to add my own content to it–though I could theoretically just post the commentary as a separate thing. I could ask for permission, and I do know some of the podcast runners, so it’s not impossible that they would say yes.
Second, I have a habit of picking up too many new projects the way it is–I don’t think I need to add podcasting to the list. 🙂