The best fiction podcasts are paving the way for how we tell stories in our rapidly changing world. Books are great, but the growth and availability of audiodramas provide even more opportunities for people to tell tales and gain an audience. I’ve always found that independently created radio shows are the places to go for great and varied representation, as the total creative freedom and ease with which someone can make a podcast means that artists are making spaces for them and their community.
I’ve collected a list of some of the best fiction podcasts out there that you should check out; from the spine-tingling to the rib-tickling, there’s sure to be a story for you!
Best Fiction Podcasts To Listen To Right Now
The world of podcasts is full of supernatural and science-fiction stories, but this show is a cut above the rest. As a new archivist at the Magnus Institute begins to dig through a selection of transcripts and statements regarding the horrific and Lovecraftian in the hopes of organising them, he stumbles into his own tale of terror. What do you do when the abyss looks back? This show is sinister and engrossing, as seemingly disparate pieces begin to slot together. An unsettling jigsaw puzzle that hops, skips, and drowns in the macabre.
Juno Steel is a bisexual private eye on Mars, hot on the trail of the latest intergalactic crime and falling in love with one of the main perpetrators along the way. But sometimes it’s also about a Medieval-esque knight with a crush on his nemesis, a lizard man, despite just getting engaged to his sweetheart. What will they do?! The Penumbra Podcast is an exciting and heart-wrenching chocolate box of a show that celebrates and normalises diversity and deals with hard-hitting topics in ways that always feel genuine, rather than exploitative, especially considering the wealth of queer characters in its cast. Every performance in the show is impeccable, as is the sound design: I cannot recommend this show enough.
Evelyn Hooper died at a Nickelback concert 16 years ago, and now suddenly finds herself bound to a nonbinary ghoul called Riley after they decided to make a meal of her dead body. What do you do when you’re stuck with a stranger in monster-infected Florida? Make a podcast, obviously. The dynamic between these two is really fun, and perfect for anyone who loves friendships in which one party is high-spirited and positive, and the other is quite gloomy and practical. Documenting the weirdness of their lives – or undead lives – these two friends face hijinks from beyond the grave and from within. Quite madcap and grisly, this show is great for fans of the strange and unusual.
While they orbit the eponymous star and (sometimes) analyse the data provided by this astronomical event, the misfit crew of the Hephaestus have to work hard to fend off boredom, isolation and growing paranoia as their mission suddenly takes a turn for the strange. If you like shows in which things seem sort of silly at the start, then the glamour cracks and dark secrets spill out fast, this is a podcast you should be tuning into. This show is a tense sci-fi thriller, a hilarious sitcom, a philosophy class, and a bottle-episode horror show all in one, culminating in a highly engaging story about personhood and the power of community even in the most remote of places. In our trying times, Wolf 359 reminds me that people can change for the better, that strength comes from trusting those close to us, and that yes, I’m always going to get crushes on artificial intelligences.
A folkloric feast of spookiness and sapphic goodness, Mabel presents its story through a series of phone calls and voicemails. It details the investigations of Anna Limon, a young woman who looks after an elderly woman full of tales of a girl called Mabel. When the fairytales start to seem more real than Anna thought, an odd friendship and an odder, more dangerous world unravel. This show is dreamy and thorny, full of lush descriptions and dialogue that you can feel teeming with moss. While listening, there is always the creeping feeling of something sharp and violent waiting around the corner to pull you into darkness, and as the more eldritch aspects of this show come to light, you’ll want to jump right in it.
Kill the Beast are a British horror-comedy theatre group, known for balancing shrieks of fright with shrieks of laughter with mile-a-minute jokes and energetic spooky capers. And even in their dip into radio drama, this is not a show you should have on in the background; you’re going to want to keep an ear out for all the puns! The show follows Eglantine Whitechapel, a monster-hunting, perp crunching secret agent on the trail of an ancient, arcane power and her missing mentor. With vampires, Soviets, sea monsters, and the ways of the heart to confront, this show’s a whole lot of bonkers and a whole lot of fun.
Lia Haddock is a rookie journalist, keen to find a scoop that will reveal the truth about the mythic Limetown, a village from which the entire population vanished overnight. Following the style of shows like Serial, including archival recordings and interviews, as well as Lia’s own recorded notes, this fictional story begins as your typical ‘missing persons’ conspiracy tale, headed by a plucky but naïve reporter, until it gradually morphs into something more sinister and threatening. Limetown is a masterclass of how to write a narrative that will get people obsessed and playfully toe the line between the fact and fiction; sometimes the performances and trajectory of the story are so convincing, you might just find yourself googling the location of the blighted town. Eerie, prevalent, and something you should definitely listen to before reading the book.
Set in the far future, Pan is tasked with going through libraries of sounds collected from the past (including our present) in order to decide what should be kept in an archive and what can be discarded. However, when she stumbles upon a particularly hypnotic sound, she finds herself in danger from a cold and hostile government threat. The performances and sound design of this show are stunning, and the relationship between our protagonist and her boss is very unique – if you’re like me and adore a ‘cool and collected villain seems to be developing unplanned feelings on their lackey or enemy’ story that additionally has a lot to say about noise pollution, identity in a digital age, and media censorship, this show is one to check out immediately.
The people behind Night Vale Presents have a whole host of new and strange shows to check out if you want more weirdness, but my personal favourite is Within the Wires. I’m a huge fan of unconventional narrative styles, and each season of this show takes a different approach to how it styles and packages its story. The first season tells its story through a series of manipulated guided meditation tapes, which directly address you, the listener. What seems like characteristically cryptic and vague instruction manuals on how to relax soon become smuggled plans for escape from a government institute, where you, the listener, have been contained for breaking the rules of your dystopian society. Season 2 contains its story within increasingly personal art museum audio guide clips, which you, the listener, are using to inform your wander around the exhibition of a missing artist. Season 3 is a narrated transcript of email exchanges. Each season reveals more and more about the bizarre new world these stories are made in, and listening to that picture come together is stunning. Within the Wires will undoubtedly get under your skin and rewire your perspective on narrative design.
Harper Bennett, recent graduate of a Classical Mythology degree, is woken up one morning and whisked away on an expedition to the Bermuda Triangle. There’s rumour of a sea creature lurking in the depths, and Harper and her team sink down into the core of the truth in a submarine with only each other and hope to see them through. There’s also a cute AI, constructed from the remnants of museum audio guide clips for company and direction! Similar to Wolf 359, this show tackles what happens when people are stuck in isolation and forced to co-operate, slowly building friendships as they uncover crazy conspiracies.
There is a lot of science fiction and horror on this list, so let’s turn to the quaint hilarity of two rival English funeral parlours for some levity. It’s the Funn siblings versus handsome newcomer, Eric Chapman, as they fight to keep their businesses and maintain public opinion. Oh, and there’s quite a bit of murder and death involved. Charming and funny, this sitcom is full of humour as black as the reaper’s cloak and dry as the dirt of a grave. If you’re a fan of the unsettling small town of Night Vale and its cast of eclectic weirdos, but maybe want something bonkers in a different way, take a trip to Piffling Vale and meet the locals. They’re dying to get to know you.
Dr Bright is a therapist for people with special super abilities; whether her patient is an anxious empath teen, a woman who can travel in time without warning, or an art student with mind reading powers, Dr Bright is there to help. But as the secrets come out, Dr Bright and her patients become tangled in a web of teen angst, self-discovery, and manipulative underground battles for power. This show is such a classic of the podcast boom, and Lauren Shippen’s writing has garnered her heaps of well deserved praise. This show is sweet, comforting, and thrilling all at once, with a cast of diverse and interesting people that truly discuss the everyday chaos of superhero life.
Sweet and helpful, Kalila is the witch to see if you’ve got a problem. With her cat, Eldritch, by her side, and a wealth of magical knowledge at her disposal, Kalila is here to soothe your troubles with love, animal transfiguration, or contact the dead. This show is sweet and heartfelt, and Kalila is a character who is extremely easy to fall for. The show features a diverse range of characters, and the 20-ish minute long episodes mean you’ll either be racing through the story, or relying on them for a nice break from the panic of daily life.
This anthology podcast collects short horror stories written by black authors that aim to send shivers up your spine and have you glancing into the dark corners of the room to make sure you’re definitely alone. Each story differs in length and monster, and is bound to have you on the edge of your seat as the narration and sound direction ramp up the tension. There are audio jump scares abound, creaking floorboards, and slobbering breaths to really make your own hackles rise, and compelling tales that will keep you listening well into the night…if only to keep an eye out for what lurks in your wardrobe.
Drew and Harrison are your hosts of Kaleidotrope, the local radio show on campus at Sidlesmith, answering caller questions and giving advice on love and life as their own friendship slowly becomes something more. This show is cute, calm and queer, with a tinge of the magical, as the school has a reputation for making sure people find romance. Whether or not that’s true is for these two unlikely friends to discover along the way. In the meantime, there’s a dance to prepare for, mysterious ancient treasures to find, and sweethearts to woo! Escapist, casual, and very friendly, Kaleidotrope is a short and cosy podcast perfect for tuning into to find a little piece of happily ever after: great for fans of the graphic novels Heartstopper or Moonstruck.
To keep up with the world of reading, you can also check out our own podcasts! For more science fiction chats, we’ve got SSF Yeah! or if you want to find out more about the latest literary fiction you can tune into Novel Gazing .