Podcasts are all the rage right now. There are those that everyone seems to be listening to – “Serial” being one of the most well known. My favorite form of podcast, surpassing genres such as true crime or advice, are those that tell stories. So next time you find yourself scrounging through Netflix for the umpteenth time, consider listening to something new instead — perhaps some of the following podcasts. For an added bonus, you can put it on in the background while you study and fake some semblance of productivity.
“Welcome to Night Vale” is one of the most popular storytelling podcasts. Set in a small desert town, the story follows the voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer, as he details the goings on of his community on his public radio show. This is no ordinary town, though – Night Vale is often plagued by strange, Eldritchian horrors. Yet, the citizens of Night Vale are unfazed by their strange existence – the paranormal is normal in this town.
Much of the first arc of Night Vale centers on Cecil’s fascination with the outsider Carlos. This fascination soon gives way to a beautiful, gay romance between the two men. In many ways their relationship drives Cecil’s — and, by proxy, the town’s — development throughout the series. To that end, “Old Oak Doors,” including both parts A and B, remains one of the most well-written podcast episodes ever produced.
“Alice Isn’t Dead”
A romantic horror story, “Alice Isn’t Dead” is written by Joseph Fink, one of the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale.” The podcast ups the horror of “Night Vale,” as it takes place in a different universe — one more rooted in the world we know. Here, monsters roam free – the first episode finds our narrator facing a nightmarish, cannibalistic adversary and the dangers only increase in severity from there.
Our narrator is a woman in search of her wife who, she has recently found out, is not dead. As she traverses the country hauling goods in an 18-wheeler, she finds herself tangled in a plot involving villains both of this world and not. As she recounts her thoughts over the truck radio, often addressing her wife directly, what begins as a story of monsters evolves into an intimate portrayal of a woman who is very afraid, very in love, and very determined.
It’s like “The Office” in space – well, if “The Office” eventually ended in gut- (and heart-) wrenching plot twists that leave all the characters at risk and at odds. The communications officer aboard the space station Wolf 359 narrates the show, although the structure of this podcast is far more ensemble-based. The entire crew makes appearances each episode, and the episodes serve as a snapshot of the day-to-day life onboard. As they float through space, the three-man crew realizes there is more to their mission than they are being told. As information is revealed and new players arrive, the characters and audience are left wondering who, if anyone, can be trusted.
Listening to “Limetown” in broad daylight does nothing to mitigate its terror. Though fictional, the story is presented as true crime, with one reporter seeking to solve the mystery of Limetown, a town of roughly 300 scientists and their families.
One night, emergency services are flooded with calls from frantic citizens of Limetown claiming complete chaos had broken out. By the time responders are able to get into the town, all traces of the population are gone. Years later, Lia Haddock is determined to find out where those hundreds of people went — and why. What follows is a harrowing investigation where danger looms at every turn.
“The Adventure Zone”
Hold on through the first arc of this podcast, and soon you’re going to be sobbing about a “Dungeons and Dragons” campaign full of goblins and elves. “The Adventure Zone” is a podcast by the McElroy Brothers (of the advice podcast “My Brother, My Brother and Me”) and their father, set around three (so far) “Dungeons and Dragons” campaigns between the four of them. The world building is fantastic, and the characters are diverse (LGBTQ+ representation!) and compelling . There’s also a guy named Barry Bluejeans so, you know, it contains multitudes — ridiculous humor and profound hope.
Contact Danielle Hilborn at [email protected].