7 Fiction Podcasts To Make Your Upcoming Holiday Travel A Lot Less Painful

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This week I flew from New York to San Francisco to give a talk at Books in Browsers. I’m flying back to New York on this very day. When I’m not obsessively correcting my talk, writing Queer Your Tech or using napping as a coping mechanism to deal with the small child kicking my seat from behind FOR THREE HOURS, my fave plane activity is podcast-listening. Yes, I like it even more than reading—reading doesn’t drown out the other people noise.

The holidays are officially Just Around The Corner, which means a lot of y’all will be traveling soon too. Trains, planes and automobiles—podcasts are good for all of them. They feed your brain and occupy your ears. Here are some of the fiction podcasts I’m listening to, have listened to, or am specifically saving for a travel day. Add yours in the comments and together we will create this year’s fool-proof podcast playlist, suitable for all your upcoming holiday travel needs.

Alice Isn’t Dead

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This one features Jasika Nicole, a Straddler we all love. Brought to you by the folks who brought you Nightvale, I’m saving this one for a road trip type of travel, since it is a road narrative. Oh also this is about a woman searching for her wife.

Part One is available right now. Listen to it now so you’ll be ready when Part Two comes in 2017.

The Black Tapes

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I know I’ve recommended The Black Tapes before, and I’m gonna do it again because I feel that strongly about it. This one is all about demons, ghosts and scripted immersive fiction. These peeps never come out of character, not even for a second on Twitter. And you’ve got two whole seasons to binge listen to on your travels.

Tanis

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This is made by the same folks who do The Black Tapes and there’s some overlap in the characters. Tanis starts a bit slower than Black Tapes, which is why I recommend you start there. But this podcast will be here when you run out of Black Tapes and then wonder what you now do with your life. The answer is Tanis. And it does speed up, so highly recommend.

Limetown

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This one isn’t updating anymore, which is a super bummer because the storyline is ultra-suspenseful. There’s rumors of a season two, but it hasn’t happened. This one’s very much in the conspiracy theory vein. The premise is that ten years before the podcast, an entire town of people disappeared in Tennesee. This is one journalist’s investigation of what happened. Still fiction, but definitely still immersive. You’ve got one season to do.

The Message

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The premise of The Message is pretty basic: the earth receives its first communication from aliens. Pandemonium ensues. While this is a GE branded podcast, it has all the feel of the independently-developed fiction podcasts with an eye toward scientific realism. They also just announced a new project: Life After, which will be available to download starting on November 13th. You’ve got just enough time to listen to this short season. It’s very War of the Worlds. Which brings me to a small interlude: who’d have thought that, in the year 2016, one of my favorite forms of entertainment would essentially be “radio play.” Everything comes back around always.

Lore

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Okay, some of y’all might call this creative nonfiction, and I don’t think you’d be wrong. I wasn’t sure how to categorize this one-man show that takes stories both implausible and plausible (but almost always creepy) and links them together, giving us a historical view of speculation and rumor that give rise to the Lore surrounding places, people and monsters. From Pirates to Vampires to Witches to grizzly murders, this one sort of feels like discovering a new Sweeny Todd situation with each episode. I’m putting it with my fiction podcasts because, even though people sometimes deeply believed in what they were making up (and sometimes the stories aren’t made up at all), it still often deals with the line between what is fiction and what isn’t. It DEFINITELY fits in with the rest of these. You’ve got 46 full episodes of this one, so no worries about long travel times.

Flash Forward

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This one, like Lore, might strike some as creative nonfiction. Or as more science than fiction. Flash Forward takes a potential future, either plausible or implausible, and imagines it into reality by creating fictive radio broadcasts, commercials, and even (in one memorable episode) a government answering machine. We explore that future through fiction, and then Rose, our host, brings in experts to talk about if that future could happen. And if it could happen, how we might get there. Highly, HIGHLY recommend this one. And because of the strength of the storytelling, it’s elevated from thought experiment.

So what about y’all? What are your fave fiction podcasts? Oh, and if you’re looking for a podcatcher with which to listen, we’ve got you covered.

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A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 543 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. Ah! Great list. I listened to Black Tapes and Lore a lot before Halloween, and have started Limetown and Alice Isn’t Dead (both super creepy). But I’m excited to have more science/science fiction to listen to.

  2. “Within the Wires” is another awesome, spooky, sci-fi podcast from the Nightvale people (trigger warning if you hate mild body horror, as the podcast takes place in a futuristic medical institute) and, while how it comes in is a huge spoiler, there’s queer lady content. The last ep of season one just aired. I highly recommend it!

  3. King Falls AM is a pretty so-so. I like the jokes and the characters, but there is a huge dirth of women in general :\

    Within the Wires is fantastic but, like Launa said, kinda body-horror-y. Plus sides being that it’s a pair of queer women as the main characters (including your first-person perspective) and the voice acting is AMAZING.

    For non-fic, I’ve been a fan of The Moth and Snap Judgement, and the Memory Palace for ages.

    and weirdly enough, I don’t count it as a podcast, but you know what I got super into? The Zombies Run! exercise app. You can still listen to it without all the walking; I used it a lot when I was a page at a library.

  4. This is a great list! I love Lore, Black Tapes, and Alice Isn’t Dead. I’m really excited to give limetown and flash forward a try. I’ll also have to look into between the wires!

  5. Ooh! I’ve actually been on the lookout for exactly these kinds of rec lists since about a week ago, so this is excellent timing for me! Looking forward to checking these out!

    One that isn’t on this list that I’d HIGHLY recommend is The Bright Sessions. My ADHD makes paying attention to podcasts pretty difficult at times (lack of visual stimuli = my eyes looking for something to pay attention to = oops i just missed the last two minutes because i started reading something on my screen) but not only did I have surprisingly little difficulty staying focused on this one, I actually managed to get through a whole bunch of episodes in a row without any trouble!

    The podcast centres on a woman named Dr Bright, who’s a therapist specialising in “the strange and unusual”. Most episodes take the format of a recording of a therapy session with one of her patients, who all have some sort of special ability. The voice acting is great, the writing is compelling, and the cast includes some queer characters. They’ve just started their third season, and are planning to release episodes every second week.

  6. Great list! I wish there were more Limetown and Alice Isn’t Dead. I would definitely add Within the Wires though–same team that does Welcome to NightVale. It starts off kind of strange but is really really fantastic. Archive 81 isn’t too shabby either.

  7. One of my fav podcasts for trips is called Unsolved Murders: true crime stories. While it is nonfiction, there are several voice actors reenacting the events and there are lots of sound effects. The murders they choose are lesser names in history and have very interesting back stores. Each murder is 2 or 3 hour long episodes.

  8. If you guys want to hear the queerest podcast of all time, check out the Penumbra Podcast! Their main recurring character is a hard-boiled PI (on Mars!) with a male love interest (!) and extremely well-written depression and anxiety (and the creators promised his gender identity is going to be explored more in the future!), there’s a two-part genderqueer lesbian love story in the Wild West, multiple supporting queer lady characters, and their newest recurring segment features a disabled knight!
    Another great podcast that will change your life is Wolf 359 — the storytelling shifts tones from “adventure-filled space sitcom” to something entirely different in the course of like 12 episodes effortlessly, they have probably the most well-written characters EVER (I swear that I am not exaggerating. Get to know Renee Minkowski and Doug Eiffel and get back to me if you think I’m lying), and oh yeah, it’s in SPACE! No queer characters yet, but 1) no one is actually definitively straight, either; this show has zero romance at this point, and 2) the creators have heard queer fans out and are talking about how to change this in the future!

  9. I am a grown-*ss over-educated adult who can never remember the difference between fiction and non-fiction without talking myself through it.

    So I got confused reading this and kept thinking, “Podcasts?? But these are all like… serial stories! ALL OF THEM!”

    Oh wait, that’s the point. Sigh.

    I’ll have to try some of these! :D

    • If you haven’t listened to it yet, the Thrilling Adventure Hour is great! There’s a couple of different stories that are told so getting a playlist set if listening to things where you subject-hop isn’t something you enjoy is a must. My favorite eps are Beyond Belief which are about a married pair of boozing psychics that is just comedy (and plenty of puns to boot) and no real scare-factor. My second-favorites are Sparks Nevada:Marshall on Mars which is a space western.

      All my other recs already here and kind of scary because evidently I can do horror podcasts because horror is gripping and makes me focus on driving but I can’t do horror in other forms (and have made the mistake of listening to some podcasts….cough LIMETOWN cough…en route to solo camping which was a HORRIBLE IDEA -10/10 do not recommend even though Limetown is incredibly gripping and great it is imo the podcast with the biggest creep-factor/horror quality to it on the list).

  10. Ali, you and I have like, the same taste in podcasts. Which is awesome, except I already listen to all but two of these shows!!!! I had been hoping to get more recs!!!!

    (I guess this also means I should give Tanis a second chance be I listened to the first few eps and wasn’t loving it, but since you’re my podcast twin basically and you like it, it could just be a few weak episodes or just that I listened to it after binging Limetown so literally everything wasn’t living up to those expectations.)

    I’d throw a recommendation out there for Archive 81 because it’s pretty awesome too. Also if the author ever continues with it and it goes off hiatus, The Audio Diary of a Superhero is REALLY AWSOME with a queer disabled leading lady, but having only 5 episodes is almost it’s own form of torture be I want more!!!!!

    And if horror-type stuff isn’t your jam, The Thrilling Adventure Hour!!!! Unfortunately the podcast is done and there is no more new material coming. Fortunately, if you haven’t listened to it yet, there’s over 200 episodes of it so there’s PLENTY to binge on in your travels.

  11. I just started Limetown and I’m totally hooked. I have exhausted all the true crime podcasts and this has been a nice departure. Although, I have to disagree on Lore and Blacktapes. I couldn’t stand the narrator on Lore and while the story line was gripping, the voice acting in Blacktapes was hard to stomach. And in the midst of writing this, I subscribed to Alice isn’t Dead and started listening.

  12. I don’t know if this ~quite~ counts but I can’t not recommend Pretend Wizards, which is the best D&D podcast I’ve ever listened to. It’s so good and there are 2 lady ppl on it which is rare and all of the roleplaying and characters are great. Plus, a lot the fans of it are not straight so there’s a good community of us, and it is ! Full of lady characters having varied roles. It’s Good.

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