Review: Cryptids

★★★★
Well that sure took a turn.

Okay, I legitimately do not know how to describe Cryptids without spoiling it, so here is the word-for-word description from Pocket Casts. Cryptids tells the story of a conspiracy radio show host and an avid listener who go in search of an afterlife. Instead they find a truth beyond their wildest nightmares. In this female driven, scripted, sci-fi audio drama, you’ll meet monsters, aliens… and the ultimate grim reaper.

A lot of Cryptids focuses on grief and moving on after a loss, and it is one of the best representations of that grief that I have ever seen. Cryptids is fairly “unassuming” as podcasts go – it has 7 ~20 minutes long episodes – so it’s easy to expect it to keep things plot focused. But Cryptids develops the characters first, not even introducing the proper “plot” until nearly halfway through the season. As you all likely know by now, character driven stories are my jam, so this was a beautiful surprise. The first half of the season builds up the characters and their grief and why they are both looking for answers, and it is absolutely beautiful.

One of the best parts of the show, which I will describe the best I can without spoiling anything, is that the audience is constantly questioning what they can trust and whether the search for answers is truly worth it. Every episode, I thought I finally understood what Cryptids was about, and every episode they just tore that back up again. And it was glorious.

Cryptids explores all sides of grief, not just the ones that are easy to talk about or easily understood. It acknowledges that grief is ongoing, and doesn’t have an easy resolution, even when answers are available.

Overall, Cryptids is an eerily beautiful show about loss and how far a person is willing to go to get answers. I would recommend it to fans of other shows looking at death and grief like How i Died or Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services.

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cw: death, grief, violence, guns, existential talk, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, alcohol, blood, injury

Press Release: The Magnus Archives Debuts New Logo and Video Trailer For Fifth and Final Season

The Magnus Archives is one of the most popular fiction podcasts in the world. The fifth and final season launching 2nd April 2020, is one eagerly awaited by their dedicated audience who have been on a cliffhanger since Halloween night of 2019. The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast that first presented itself as an anthology series set within a mysterious, possibly haunted, research archive; however, over the course of 160 episodes the show has developed a deep metaplot, tying together the events of every episode and every story. The grand plot features a struggle between powerful entities that exist as the actual embodiments of fear itself and the folks caught in the middle. After the shocking and apocalyptic conclusion of the show’s penultimate season. Rusty Quill, the UK production company behind The Magnus Archives, is debuting both a new series logo and video trailer that hope to reflect the occult and apocalyptic nature of the final season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The intersecting straight lines are meant to evoke the ritualistic and the occult. Those familiar with the show will understand the connection of rituals to the main plot. The tape is a connection to the existing logo whilst the loose form of the tape is also meant to look like both an owl that connects to the Magnus Institute’s owl insignia as well as the skull seen in original The Magnus Archives logo. The relevance of webs and spiders will also be clear to any fans of the show,” explains Anika Khan, the artist behind the design.

The introduction of a new logo that makes it clear The Magnus Archives has a dark and bleak nature is well-timed to replace the previous logo, which while in keeping with the company and shows aesthetic in 2016, is a little out of place for a show dealing with real dread. The trailer takes a step towards showing the kind of conversations and imagery that Season 5 is exploring. Indeed, potential listeners are warned that Season 5 of The Magnus Archives and the new season trailer come with the following disclaimer:

Season 5 of The Magnus Archives was prepared long before the Covid-19 pandemic and due to its post-apocalyptic nature it deals with many themes that some may find uncomfortable given the current situation. This being said we still believe that our content can provide a much needed distraction and provide a controlled fictional space within which people can explore their fears without being overwhelmed by them.

As content creators we have a responsibility both to our staff and to our fans to provide employment and entertainment respectively, more so now than ever before. As a result we have elected to continue our release as planned and with no changes to the content. We will however, be ensuring all our content is labelled even more stringently with appropriate warnings and we will be taking additional precautions to ensure all our productions continue in a safe and sustainable manner,” said Alexander J Newall, Director of The Magnus Archives and voice of Martin Blackwood on the show.

The crew of Rusty Quill have also previously expressed that despite all wishes for a happy ending, this would not be the case and that fans should be prepared for the worst.

“Season 5 will be a dark and apocalyptic thing. Many fans hope for a happy ending and whilst I won’t give away any details, it is with some trepidation that I must make it clear that The Magnus Archives is a work of chilling horror and tragedy, where bad things will happen to characters we have been encouraged to connect with,” remarked Callum Dougherty, Chief Marketing Officer for Rusty Quill. “Though I urge any committed fan who has made it this far that we may sometimes think ‘I hate sad stories because they always end the same’ but I really feel Season 5 will end the show in a wholly satisfying way and finish the series on a high that will definitely leave you wanting more. To address the elephant in the room, I recognise that for some, horror can be a harsh reminder of the realities they are facing but for others, horror can be a medium to address your fears in a controlled manner. For some, including myself, this can help to alleviate anxiety. I think the trailer really helps showcase that.” he concluded.

Visit www.themagnusarchives.com every Thursday for new episodes.

For more information on all goings on at Rusty Quill, be it their popular podcasts or upcoming streams, visit www.rustyquill.com, follow them on Twitter (www.twitter.com/therustyquill) or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/rustyquill or email mail@rustyquill.com

Self-Isolation Podcasts

I know that COVID-19 is terrifying. It’s totally normal to be scared. I’m real scared! If you, like me, are social distancing right now and trying to prevent going outside as much as possible, you’re going to need a lot of entertainment to keep yourself occupied. Here are some great podcasts to keep your mind off of the current situation – five audio dramas, and five of my rare non-fiction recs (I know, shocker)

Fiction

Sidequesting – Y’all know I adore Sidequesting. It’s literally about avoiding the thing hanging over everyone’s head. Perfect for right now.

Queer Dungeoneers Queer Dungeoneers is perfect for just listening to all 60+ episodes in one sitting, laughing and crying, and getting overly emotional about a twink with a recorder.

Kaleidotrope – Light-hearted, romantic fluff, Kaleidotrope has 10 half hour episodes, which makes it perfect for an afternoon of podcast listening.

Captivated – Okay, so this one obviously has some serious content (gun violence) in it, but it’s surprisingly light-hearted and funny. Plus, it’s short, so perfect if you just need a quick pick me up.

Stellar Firma – Ridiculous, absurdist humour. Stellar Firma truly is improvisation and Rusty Quill at their finest.

Non-Fiction

Fake Heiress – The best kind of true crime. Fake Heiress looks at the rise and fall of Anna Delvey and it is so ridiculous, you’ll be through all six episodes before you realize it.

Shedunnit – I am a MASSIVE mystery fan and Shedunnit looks at the woman writers of the Golden Age of mystery writing. It’s so atmospheric and absorbing.

Wonderful! – Griffin and Rachel McElroy talk about the little things that they love. It’s a source of such pure joy.

Every Little Thing – Exactly what it says on the tin. Each week a listener calls in to learn about some small thing that we don’t really think about. My first episode was “Drugs on Screen” and I highly recommend it.

ICONography – A look at the history behind the icons – real and imagined – of a culture. It’s so well researched and interesting, it’ll really hold your attention.

Review: Once It’s Begun

★★☆

Disclaimer: Although this is a requested review, all thoughts expressed below are 100% my own.

Way too many men for a show with this many characters.

In a post apocalyptic future, Hart sets out across a desert wasteland to discover the truth behind his father’s murder while trying to fulfill his duty to protect the sacred and mysterious Charge. He is pursued by his once-brothers now-enemies.

So this is a hard review for me to write because Once It’s Begun got some things right, and then some things not so right. And I don’t like being negative, but I also want to be honest. I hope I achieve an equal balance of that.

On one hand, Once It’s Begun is very well produced. The actors are great, the sound editing is fantastic. The show switches between present, past, and dreams, and they all sound distinct. I also really like how the sound effects are placed into the narrative. Once It’s Begun has a narrator, Sol, and when she’s describing a scene, it feels like she is there but separate, like there is this barrier between herself and the gunshots, and that’s mirrored in the sound design. I quite like it.

The downside of this is that Sol is also a character present in many of the scenes, and it’s sometimes hard to tell when she is narrating to the audience and when she is speaking to the other characters. That being said, her way of describing the action is great. It keeps things clear while not sub-coming to the sluggish feeling that audio narration can sometimes give action scenes.

Honestly though, the main thing that I struggled with listening to Once It’s Begun is that Sol is the only woman in the story. This is a podcast that has at least six or seven “main” characters. And only one of them is a woman. And her main purpose seems to be to be hot and narrate the story. So it was kind of uncomfortable to listen to as someone who is perceived as a woman.

So would I recommend Once It’s Begun? It would depend on the person. If you’re looking for a well designed, action packed story, Once It’s Begun is definitely worth it. I haven’t seen Fast & Furious, but this is what I imagine it would sound like in audio format.

Website

cw: guns, death, violence, murder, alcohol, injury, blood

Social Media Etiquette for Podcasters

Social media is a big part of how almost every audio drama markets itself. Twitter especially is a hub for audio drama creators, allowing for people from the complete opposite ends of the Earth to connect and share ideas, even collaborate. I am a big fan of social media for these reasons. Obviously there are a lot of problems with social media, such as harassment, doxxing, etc., but we’re going to set those aside for right now. We’re going to work from an assumed place of understanding that sending people death threats is not okay in any circumstance.

There are a few elements of social media that are treated like you should just know them. Some things, sure, see the above statement about death threats, but some stuff goes unsaid. And sometimes the line between personal and professional can blur when a creator posts cute dog photos right after a Patreon link. So here are a few unsaid audio drama social media etiquette rules for those of us who might misstep sometimes.

Follow Fridays are great. I think it’s a really cool idea. Please don’t just tag fifteen people. It’s better to make a nice tweet about one person and explain why you like them rather than just say “hey follow these people” and spam their notifications because of the next point.

Please, please, please, untag people from conversations that don’t involve them. If someone has recommended you and a few other shows in a tweet and @ed each of you, untag them from your “thank you!” reply.

Personal and professional will inevitably get blurred on social media. Sometimes it will just be thinking “oh, we had a great conversation about something semi-professional, we’re kind of friends” while they’re thinking “that was a nice professional conversation.” Sometimes it will be treating someone really nice and as a friend until they promote you and then ghosting them. My rule of thumb is to think “how would I react if this was someone in real life?” Is ghosting someone after they do what you want something you would do to a real colleague? No? Then don’t do it on social media. Some of this stuff is going to, inevitably, be a case of “well yeah, you’re just a dick in real life as well.” Complimenting a colleague’s breasts? CREEPY NO MATTER WHAT.

Related to that, I want to talk about understanding that people who are your friends, who you have met through this industry, are sometimes going to draw personal-professional lines themselves. Maybe your friend doesn’t want you to audition for their show because they would feel uncomfortable directing you. Maybe they follow your personal account from their personal but not show account. These are boundaries that other people might set in order to keep their personal and professional lives from getting too blurred, even when crossover already exists.

Also re: promoting your show. It’s generally considered to be good form to not promote your show in podcasters’ tweets that aren’t asking for recommendations. Especially not if your response is just an iTunes link. It is also not good form to be passive aggressive about your marketing: “well, I know you don’t listen to MY show” or “not that you care but” are a couple of examples.

#AudioDramaSunday and other such hashtags are meant to be spaces in which you promote other shows. Spamming the tag with tweets promoting your own show? Kind of a jerk move. Promote others and they will often promote you in turn.

Following and unfollowing and following and unfollowing and following someone over and over again, especially over the course of just a few weeks is not a viable marketing scheme. It’s just annoying and will probably put you on their “never listen to” list.

Subtweeting? Is rude. There’s tweeting about trends in the industry that bother you, saying (directly) that you didn’t enjoy a particular episode, or pointing out something offensive in a show. Those are all, in my opinion, fine. Vaguely saying that “some people think too much about themselves” or other such nonsense is better to be sent in a private message or not at all.

Review: The Phone Booth

★★★☆

If one of the My Hero Academia heroes decided “hey, screw y’all.”

Fifteen years before the start of The Phone Booth, a teenage girl named Beca Orlofsky went up into the sky and exploded. While superpowers weren’t unheard of before then, after Beca explodes, 99% of humans gain superpowers. Also a bunch of people died either because of people turning into beasts or because they gained the power of flight and floated off into space. Now, podcaster Joe Pollard has set off to learn from people around the world how they feel about this event, named B-Day, and how its aftermath has changed their lives.

I really enjoyed how The Phone Booth looks at a variety of reactions to something that would have been both incredibly traumatic, but also, for many people, improved their lives with their new powers. There’s a pretty equal balance between people who felt like B-Day was a good thing, and people who found that it absolutely destroyed their lives, and neither side contradicts the other. It’s just a different way of looking at things.

My personal favourite episode was episode three, “The Book of Beca,” that features an interview with a pair of brothers who are part of a religion that believe that Beca Orlofsky was a god and now worship her. The Phone Boothstrikes an interesting balance between the brothers’ worship of Beca, and the grief and hardships that they endured because of her. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between Steve and Joe at the end of the episode where they talk about what being gifted or powered means in this strange new world.

The Phone Booth keeps Joe in the background for most episodes, allowing for the guest stars to truly shine. Joe is far from a bland interviewer character though, with a lot of personality shining through in each interview. He also gets his own focused episode, “Joe in the Minor Key” that is absolutely heartbreaking.

The one episode I found really uncomfortable to the point where it was unenjoyable was episode two, “h2o.” It tells the story of a pair of anthropologists who are observing a tribal nation that is in the middle of a bad drought when B-Day hits. One of the anthropologists gets the superpower that her blood is now water, and when this is discovered, the tribe keeps her captive to get water from her. The episode would have been fine had it been set somewhere like California or Arizona (I don’t know, where in America gets droughts?), but having a secluded tribal nation be the focal point (especially since there’s the whole mystery of why no one else on the island got their powers until weeks later) feels like it’s straying into “savage without Western civilization” territory.

Overall, The Phone Booth is an enjoyable show about what would happen if overnight, most humans woke up with superpowers. I would recommend it to fans of super hero shows like Super Ordinary or connected anthologies like Murmurs.

cw: death, violence, suicide, self-harm, abuse, child endangerment, racism, body horror, murder, fire, existential talk, agoraphobia, kidnapping, human trafficking, grief, near-death experiences

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Review: Y2K

★★★★

Oh no, my emotions. They’re back.

Y2K is the story of a pair of friends, Jess and Kat, and is told almost entirely through voicemails. The only part of the show not told through voicemail is the scenes with Olivia, who is the daughter of one of the women, and is piecing their voicemails into a podcast in 2020. Back in 2000 though, Jess and Kat are dealing with their newfound separation as Jess moves across the world to New Zealand. Y2K follows them as they fall in love, struggle with their identity, and try to heal from past and present hurts.

A-hem. So. I got advanced copies of the first ten episodes of Y2K for review purposes, so I am going to do my best to talk about how amazing it is without spoiling anything. Apologies if things are a little vague though. Better safe than sorry, yeah?

The first thing that I absolutely love about Y2K is the characters. The focus is primarily on Jess and Kat, who are both so loveable and have SO MUCH going on in their lives, and I just want to wrap them up in blankets and protect them. But we also get quite a bit from the other characters in their lives, from brief mentions of someone to them interrupting the call. Each character is fully fleshed out and interesting in their own right, and it really does feel like these are characters whose lives we’ve been dropped in the middle of. Their relationships develop off call, and they have their own separate ambitions that get hinted at, without the “hey, remember how I want to be an actress?” kind of worldbuilding that happens so often.

The framing of the show is also fantastic. Each voicemail is short enough it feels like a voicemail, but long enough that each call develops the characters or plot in some way. Like I mentioned above, the voicemails are often interrupted by roommates or partners, and those interruptions feel natural and like you’re really just listening to a couple of roommates chat. The information that’s conveyed through the voicemails also makes sense because the characters do not just communicate through voicemail. They mention other calls and emails that they’ve exchanged, so it feels more realistic.

The only bit of the framing that I’m not wild about is Olivia turning the voicemails into a podcast. It’s meant to be a sort of “passion project” (so to speak) of hers, but I don’t really understand why she only listens to a couple at a time if she’s invested in the story, or why she doesn’t just ask her mom about it. But the framing device is so much fun that I’m willing to overlook it. It also adds to the tension of the show, because you know it will (hopefully) end well, but not how it will end.

Overall, Y2K is a fun story about friendship and love that can last the hardest things and the furthest distance. I would recommend it to fans of shows focused on friendships like The Beacon, or voicemail framed shows like Love and Luck.

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cw: abuse, suicide, transphobia, homophobia, alcohol, gaslighting, manipulation, toxic relationships

Review: McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop

★★★★

This is why you don’t trust random old men.

McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop takes place in 1921 after Maude gets herself a diary. Her first few entries are boring because nothing happens to her. And then she acquires a piece of china with an eye on it, gains magic powers, is hunted by a cult, accused of murder, and almost dies a bunch. So her entries get about a thousand times more interesting.

McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is what I want every single narrator show to be. Minerva Sweeney Wren is a fantastic actor who is absolutely captivating even when reading about Maude’s boring pre-magic life. While she doesn’t do character voices in the traditional sense, it’s always clear who is speaking because her inflection changes. This allows for the smooth transition between characters and scenes without being distracting or irritating.

I absolutely adore all of the characters of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. As you likely know by now, strong, well-rounded characters are my weakness, and McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop has more than enough of those to satisfy me. Maude herself is an absolutely fantastic lead. She operates from a place of such kindness, while not being too quick to forgive those who wrong her. “The Twenty-Four Hour Death” is a particularly good Maude episode. You know that picture of a puppy looking in a mirror with the caption “aren’t you tired of being nice? don’t you just want to go apeshit?” That’s Maude in that episode and it’s beautiful. Her two “sidekicks” (I guess? Companions? Sometimes best friends?) (I think they fall more into the category of love interests, but), Ariana and Noble, are both absolutely wonderful and complex characters in their own right, and I can’t wait to see the three of of them have more adventures in season three.

I find that choosing the right length for your episodes is such a difficult balancing act for creators. Too short, and the episode is forgettable and doesn’t advance the plot. Too long, and it drags. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is exactly the right length. Each episode manages to fit so much into its 10 minutes, but is short enough that I can remember everything that happens. It’s short and snappy, without a single word wasted.

Overall, McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is a beautiful show about staying strong and true to yourself in extraordinary circumstances. I would recommend it to fans of historical fantasy shows like The Infinite Bad or strong single narrator shows like Quid Pro Euro.

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cw: violence, death, murder, kidnapping, injury, cults

Top 30 Audio Dramas of 2019

Happy end of 2019/almost start of 2020! This year has been quite busy for audio dramas, with a lot of premieres of new fantastic shows! Here is my list of the top 30 audio dramas of 2019.

Criteria:

  • Must have at least three full episodes out
  • Must have released at least one full episode in 2019
  • Full episode can be of any length, but must not be a teaser, trailer, or mini-episode
  • Must have some element of fiction

30. It Was Never Just About The Revolution 

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If you missed this gem, now’s the time to catch up. At ten minutes an episode and six episodes total, you can hear its glory in just an hour. For such a short show, It Was Never Just About The Revolution packs a lot into each episode, and has built a beautiful (if terrifying) world. Sunny Chang does an incredible job as Jemma, the lead, and is able to bring the world to life even without anyone to play off of. 

cw: grief, violence, death 

29. Quid Pro Euro 

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Another short show that you can listen to in the same timespan as an average blockbuster movie, Quid Pro Euro is a clever comedy podcast. While I don’t always get the jokes (I am Canadian, so it’s inevitable that some won’t land), the ridiculous nature of the show means that I’m always finding something to enjoy. 

cw: violence

28. MOONFACE 

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Have a box of tissues next to you for this one, it’s a hard hitter. The powerful story of a Korean American son and his immigrant mother and their struggles to connect as they don’t speak the same language, MOONFACE focuses on Paul trying to figure out how – and if – he should come out prior to their trip to Korea. 

cw: homophobia, racism 

27. Oracle of Dusk 

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Oracle of Dusk is a powerhouse of what I am going to call “vague storytelling” (there’s probably a proper theoretical name for it, but I don’t know it). This is a story that is told without any real details – the clients are not named, the Oracle is not named, and many details are brushed over (e.g. “after that day in your office” but the events of said day are not described). Despite this lack of detail, you always know exactly what the Oracle is talking about because the emotions are there. It is absolutely beautiful. 

cw: grief, abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, addiction, death, choking 

26. Love and Luck 

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Love and Luck is the soft queer romcom you’ve been waiting for, with the wonderful addition of stories of resistance and strength right alongside the romance. Season two focuses on queer history and how it ties in with modern queer resistance movements, and is just as gorgeous as season one. 

cw: homophobic & transphobic violence, abuse, raised voices, alcohol, panic attacks, poverty, ableism (addressed), injury, blood, medical procedures, loud noises, anxiety, PTSD, grief, death  

25. Oblivity 

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Looking for a fun comedy to relax to on the weekends? I recommend Oblivity. This podcast about the crew of a Pluto research station is absolutely hilarious and will have you falling in love with the main cast by the end of the first episode. Oblivity’s episodes are largely stand alone, so it’s also good for a more interspersed listen if you need/want to listen to something else between episodes (which I always appreciate). 

cw: violence, death, war 

24. Mission Rejected 

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Mission Rejected gradually turns on the heat, building to a season finale that ties everything all together. Mission Rejected plays to one of my weak points, which is a ragtag crew of misfits tasked with stopping complete destruction. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s well written and well acted; in short, it’s wonderful. 

cw: violence, guns 

23. Barjory Buffet: The Cruise Detective 

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If your weakness is mysteries but you don’t love how sad most end up being, I highly recommend checking out Barjory Buffet. It takes the premise of mysteries – a detective skilled in deduction with a reoccurring sidekick and an intriguing murder premise – and makes everything twenty times more ridiculous. Add to that the absolutely incredible acting of the two leads, played by Rachel Crowe and Brad Beideman, and you have a recipe for a fantastic show. 

cw: violence, death, vomiting, murder, alcohol, teeth, death threats, gambling, enclosed spaces, fatphobia, animal death, crowd noises, kidnapping 

22. How i Died 

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There are a few common premises for audio dramas. One is a missing person. The other is a small town with a secret. How i Died falls into that second category and puts a new spin on it with ghosts and murder. The acting is fantastic and the audio editing is absolutely gorgeous. It will pull you in right from the start and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for season two. 

cw: violence, death, terrorism, grief, rape, abuse 

21. Moonbase Theta, Out 

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Moonbase Theta, Out broke from form this year by switching to 20 minute episodes for season two and expanding the cast beyond Leeman Kessler’s Roger Bragado-Fisher to retell season one beyond the formal communications back to Earth that we saw in season one. While I had already been a fan of Moonbase Theta, Out, season two cemented it as a show that I truly loved with amazing performances delivered by all the cast. 

cw: death, enclosed spaces, grief, injury 

20. Nym’s Nebulous Notions 

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This is another one of 2019’s hidden gems. Nym’s Nebulous Notions dropped all on one day and is a contained story, so wasn’t talked about much after the first few days. But it is truly fantastic. The voice acting is wonderful, and the story is so engaging. It’s one of those stories that really stays with you. 

cw: death, grief 

19. VAST Horizon 

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The sound editing for VAST Horizon is exemplary. The show takes place on a spaceship that is falling apart and focuses on Dr. Nolira Eck as she tries to make her way to safety, and it really feels like you’re running right alongside her. Siobhan Lumsden and Tanja Milojevic give absolutely incredible performances as Nolira and AI respectively. 

cw: death, violence, genocide, injury, grief, war 

18. Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back 

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Microfiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is incredibly difficult to get right. No show has captured the beauty of what microfiction can do quite like Fan Wars. A show built on a love for Star Wars and a romance that blossoms out of that love, Shenee Howard has created something truly unique. 

17. The Amelia Project 

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The Amelia Project also broke from their season one form this year, introducing an overarching season long plot and including more details about the mysterious Amelia Project and its origins. Season two included some of their best episodes, and took risks that 100% paid off. The Amelia Project is doing some fascinating new things with the “characters are recording this dialogue” format, and you should be paying attention to them. 

cw: violence, death, suicide, kidnapping, transphobia, murder, guns, medical procedures, broken glass, not safe for driving 

16. Timestorm 

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Timestorm rereleased their first handful of episodes and the rest of their first season this year and is one of the most beautiful audio dramas I’ve heard. Timestorm has struck the perfect note and created a show that is informative, important, and enjoyable to adults and children alike. 

cw: sexism, bullying, deals with Hurricane Maria, but does not portray the hurricane itself 

15. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop 

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This is a last minute edition to this list because I literally just finished it two days ago at the time of writing, so that should tell you everything you need to know. The writing is incredible. Every episode is only ten minutes long yet so much happens in each one because Minerva Sweeney Wren doesn’t mince words. The characters are all so real and complex, and pull you right along on the adventure from the moment you press play. 

cw: murder, death, violence 

14. Centered 

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Oh, Centered. The brief great love of my life this year. Centered has only released four episodes so far (thus making it JUST BARELY ELIGIBLE for this list) and is currently between seasons, but it was an instant fave. Panic attacks are depicted realistically without being likely to trigger one in listeners, and complicated family dynamics are portrayed realistically and respectfully. 

cw: anxiety, panic attacks, drugs, NSFW

13. Quietly Yours 

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I don’t know how, but Quietly Yours has perfected what I’m going to call “comfort horror.” That’s when they’re saying something truly horrific but their voice is so soothing that you still want to listen to it before bed. Despite being an anthology, each episode features fully fleshed out and interesting lead characters, even though the story is the main focus. 

cw: death, zombies, violence, death threats, murder, drowning, existential talk, war 

12. Prism Pals 

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Prism Pals has released some absolutely buckwild episodes this year, but they’ve kept their focus on developing the party and plot. The cast is composed of some strong personalities, which makes every episode fun to listen to, without having one player overshadow the others or get left in the dust. The characters are a delight, and while there are a lot of NPCs, they’re all distinct and memorable. 

Disclaimer: I did appear on their Pride Week Q&A. That did not affect the show’s placement on this list. 

cw: violence, death, child endangerment, guns, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, manipulation, injury, blood, electrocution 

11. Greater Boston 

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In 2019, Greater Boston released the conclusion to their third season, which dealt with the aftermath of the mayoral election. It’s a powerful ending to a powerful season that tackled social issues ranging from racism to classism and how those problems intersect for many people. Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreasen approach these topics with care and respect for the real life people listening to the show. 

cw: violence, death, suicide, child endangerment, racism (addressed), screaming, vomiting, NSFW, guns, alcohol, drugs, fire, existential talk, medical procedures, blackmail, explosions, trivializing mental illness (addressed), enclosed space, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, kidnapping, manipulation, panic attacks, poverty, victim blaming, grief, brainwashing, racial profiling, addiction, crowd noises, injury, raised voices, loud noises, PTSD, OCD 

10. Bike Brigade 

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Bike Brigade finished their series this fall, and while I’m sad to see it go, I can’t say I didn’t love the ride. Bike Brigade is absolutely hilarious, and while each episode had me nearly crying with laughter, they also always had at least one strong emotional moment. This year’s episodes have dealt with being closeted in the sixties, the loss of a parent, and the after effects of trauma. Each issue is tackled with respect and thoughtfulness, with enough time for listeners to sit and reflect before the party moves onto the next scene. 

cw: gore, raised voices, blood, injury, brainwashing, choking, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, kidnapping, death threats, fire, murder, screaming, child endangerment, abuse, death, violence, drowning  

9. Solutions to Problems 

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This year was big for comedy shows getting a little bit more serious with their overarching plotlines. Solutions to Problems always dealt with questions that were somewhat serious in nature – though it was always a comedy show – but this year it tackled why one of the leads, Loaf, had left his home planet and what the repercussions of that for his family were. This year also featured the fantastic “Hot Messes Together” which is quite possibly the best comedy episode I have ever heard. 

cw: raised voices, death threats, war, existential talk, death, violence 

8. The Beacon 

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The Beacon may have only just returned for season two last month, but it’s already showing why it’s one of the current greats in the audio drama world. Each line is nailed by the actors, each episode has a focus so that information is concisely imparted on the listener, and the writing is absolutely stunning. 

cw: violence, death, homophobia (addressed), screaming, alcohol, fire, medical procedures, explosions, panic attacks, animal death, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, insects, loud noises, anxiety, grief, mentions of bullying 

7. Quest Friends! 

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Quest Friends! has quite possibly the cutest aesthetic of any audio drama currently airing. It is promoted as having “tone and worldbuilding reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and I really can’t think of a better way to describe it. The players all do a fantastic job at developing the world through their characters, and the GM, Kyle Decker, does an incredible job describing the scenes, even if his descriptions are a bit cursed at times. 

cws: violence, death, spiders, murder, existential talk, death threats, gambling, manipulation, toxic relationships, grief, drowning, miscarriage, injury, blood, choking

6. CARAVAN 

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CARAVAN is the queer audio drama that you’ve been waiting for. It plays with pre-existing conventions of storytelling (narrator, cliffhangers, etc.) but makes all of them seem fresh and exciting, like CARAVAN was the one that invented them. CARAVAN delivers an exciting story with some absolutely fantastic performances from its leads, especially from Sushant Adlakha, the voice of Samir. 

Note: CARAVAN is 18+ 

cw: violence, death, guns, existential talk, anxiety 

5. Lakeshore and Limbo 

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My one weakness in life….. mysteries. Add to those mysteries a team of loveable idiots, and you have an irresistible show that also happens to be Lakeshore and Limbo. The mysteries are well developed enough that you actually do have a mystery each time, rather than a “how have you not figured this out yet” each time, and it’s 100% possible for the listener to solve the mystery alongside the players. The players are all fantastic, and the way they play off of each other is incredible. There’s never a missed beat, and the story keeps moving in interesting ways, even if the team’s just talking in the Winnebago. 

cw: violence, death, child endangerment, vomiting, body horror, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, blackmail, death threats, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, injury, blood, raised voices, gore, zombies

4. The Magnus Archives 

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The amount of effort and build up that has gone into The Magnus Archives is absolutely incredible. There were reveals this season that had been built up since episode one. Not one word is wasted. The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast, but rather than the moral of “everything’s terrible and everyone’s going to die,” it insists on hope even in the worst situations. I think saying that it’s purely a hopeful show is a stretch, as bad things do happen, but it never tries to tell the listener that it’s impossible to beat the Entities or that rebuilding is impossible. It will be hard, and people will be lost, but The Magnus Archives never loses itself to despair. 

cw: violence, death, gore, body horror, murder, police brutality, cults, paranoia, loud noises, insects, brainwashing, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, torture, kidnapping, enclosed spaces, spiders 

3. Queer Dungeoneers 

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This is quite possibly the most ridiculous serious show I’ve ever listened to. Now, I know that a lot of the shows on this list fall into the category of “this is hilarious but also very serious” (I might have a type), but Queer Dungeoneers really is absolutely batshit crazy for a story that is all about stopping the apocalypse, fighting Death, and reuniting with dead loved ones. Queer Dungeoneers covered a lot of ground this year (41 episodes!) and I don’t think there was a bad episode among them. Episode 35 even earned my first (and only!) six star ruling. 

cw: zombies, raised voices, blood, injury, death, grief, fire, murder, violence, toxic relationships, manipulation, child endangerment, enclosed spaces, abuse 

2. Stellar Firma 

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Stellar Firma was the first of two podcasts that got a perfect score while I was making this list. That means that I can think of absolutely nothing that I would change about it. The acting is perfect, the soundscapes are incredible, the improv is hilarious, I love it all. It’s the kind of dark satire that weirdly makes you feel better afterwards, even after jokes about a planet blowing up because of the characters’ ineptitudes. It just works. 

cw: violence, death 

1. Inn Between 

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This is it, folks. The top show of 2019. A soft, found family story about an adventuring party trying to save a kingdom and keep themselves together. The actors give absolutely stunning performances, and the writing is incredible. Inn Between has been getting five stars from me almost every episode since season two began because oh my gosh, this show is so emotional and beautiful. Hannah Wright has created a modern classic. 

cw: enclosed spaces, death, violence, alcohol, choking, references to child endangerment, murder

Review: Sage and Savant

★★★★

*kicks leg in the air* TIME TRAVEL NARRATIVE

Disclaimer: I have not finished listening to the full show yet! This is based on the first two seasons (approximately). This is important because I might be missing some content warnings. If you know of any that I missed, please let me know and I will update the review on my website (though this applies for any review).

Dr. Sage accidentally invents time travel and she and Professor Savant travel to the past to learn more about history and transmigration. Every time they travel they end up in the bodies of the recently deceased, so their travels are fraught with potential danger. Add to that a fellow professor who has it out for Dr. Sage and wants to get rid of her however possible – including planting a spy in her lab to find out what she’s secretly working on – and a super secret organization that wants Dr. Sage to succeed however possible… Let’s just say they have a lot on their plates at the moment.

So if you’re new here: I am a massive history nerd. I love the range of times and places that Sage and Savant travel to. I love that they don’t always go to somewhere noteworthy. I love that sometimes they accidentally land in the bodies of very important people. I love how the show creates the historical scenes. But most of all, I love how the show struggles with the complexities of history. All of the scenes in the “present” (late 1800’s) grapple with the realities of Sage being a woman and a scientist and what that truly means for her career. All of the scenes that grapple with the harsh realities of the past are done respectfully.

The characters are also wonderfully realistic to the time period. Surprising absolutely no one, my favourite is Abigail, who appears and immediately crushes the gender binary in her fist. The main trio (present trio – not sure where the Narrator fits into the “main trio” idea of Sage-Savant-Narrator vs. Sage-Savant-Abigail) are all fantastically 1800s while still keeping the ideas and values of the 20th century. Savant struggles to understand the double standards applied to men and women in science, but wants to understand so he can better respect the women around him. Abigail’s use of the prefix Mx. confuses Sage and Savant, but they make an effort to remember it and encourage others to use it: including calling them out when they purposefully ignore Abigail’s preference.

Also!!! The reveals are so well done. As I said in the disclaimer, I’m not fully caught up on the show, but ohhhhh my gosh. Each reveal of new information about the bigger picture has me literally gasping out loud. This series is beautifully written.

Overall, Sage and Savant is an amazing historical story told with dual respect to modern audiences and respect to those in the past who had to suffer under persecution. It’s a fantastic tale of friendship and morality and what one is willing to do to achieve the knowledge that they so desperately seek. I would recommend it to fans of slightly out there tales of mysterious organizations like The Amelia Project or narrated tales with a real narrator like Greater Boston.

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cw: violence, death, blood, cannibalism, rape, abuse, child endangerment, vomiting, racism, murder, guns, existential talk, drowning, war, sexism, poverty, animal death, electrocution, discussions of suicide