If you’re anything like me, you’ve definitely wished that you could just curl up with a stack of books and not ever have to do anything else but live in your own head, going on adventures in other worlds with your favorite characters. But alas, real life gets in the way. It’s not possible to read while driving, walking the dog, or taking care of chores, but how could I continue to satisfy my need to constantly be engrossed in a story? The solution I came up with: podcasts. The wide variety of podcasts available ensure there’s always something different to listen to, and the shorter format was perfect for my commuting needs. Not to mention the main draw: audio frees up the eyes and hands so that you can still get shit done (well, if you’re a fan of multitasking, that is)! Here are three of my favorite fiction podcasts that are perfect for book-lovers who, like me, can’t get enough of beautiful storytelling.
Created by the brilliant Lauren Shippen, The Bright Sessions is probably my number one favorite podcast right now. For starters, it’s about a therapist who specializes in patients with supernatural abilities, and is presented as recordings of her sessions with each of them. What made this podcast truly stand out to me was the incredible cast of voice actors. In my mind, one of the primary things that makes a good story great is the characters. I want characters who are relatable, so that I can feel invested in them, yet unique enough to keep me interested and on my toes. I want characters with depth and who experience growth over time. In The Bright Sessions, the actors have accomplished all of this through their voices alone, and it is an absolute joy to listen to. Julia Morizawa is particularly captivating as Dr. Bright, the sympathetic, yet mysterious, therapist who is trying to understand her unusual patients. The Bright Sessions just wrapped up its second season, and will be back for Season 3 in the fall.
Archive 81 is a found footage audio drama written and produced by Marc Sollinger and Daniel Powell. In it, Mark plays back recordings that were collected by his friend Dan, who has mysteriously disappeared, in hopes that the tapes will reveal clues as to what happened or where to find him. The audio came from Dan’s recent job as a temporary archivist for the Housing Historical Committee of New York State, which required him to record himself and the old tapes he was hired to organize. What I love about this podcast is how much there is to explore. Not only is there the mystery of Dan’s disappearance, but there is also the mystery that unfolds within the HHCNYS’s tape archive, which comes from a 1994 survey of the enigmatic Visser Building. This is a must-listen for fans of mystery and horror. I constantly find myself on the edge of my seat while listening, and each episode ends with more questions than answers, leaving me craving more. New episodes of Archive 81 are released every other Wednesday.
Unlike the other two podcasts I have listed here, The Truth is not a serialized audio drama, but rather a collection of standalone audio short stories. The stories from The Truth have made me laugh and cry, they’ve left me speechless, and they’ve pushed me to contemplate the meaning of life. What creator Jonathan Mitchell and his team are able to do with audio is nothing short of extraordinary. With captivating performances and gorgeous sound design, each episode, no matter the plot of that particular story, is engaging from the moment it begins and stays with you even in the silence after it ends (in much the same way that an amazing book stays with you long after the last page has been turned). The Truth is currently on hiatus for the summer, but there’s a pretty good-sized archive to explore with plenty of material to keep new listeners occupied until their return in September!
While I have highlighted just three here, they comprise only a tiny fraction of the amazing fiction podcasts out there. Want more recommendations? Some independent podcasters, like those who’ve created the above shows, have started a Twitter hashtag to recognize and promote each other (hooray for supportive communities of creators!). Search #AudioDramaSunday on Twitter to get in on the action!