Tag Archives: podcasts

Best of the Drabblecast

If you're not listening to the Drabblecast, yo...

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a fanatic devotion to the Drabblecast, a podcast that produces a great speculative fiction story each week. I’ve been gradually working through all 300 episodes of the archives since I started listening a year ago, and as of last month, I’ve finally caught up. And what better way to celebrate such a thoroughly enjoyable year of listening than by making a “Best of” list?

Therefore I present to you some of my favorite episodes picked from the first 300. I say “some” because my initial list had over 40 episodes on it, but I’ve forced myself to pick just 20 for this list. I’ve also left out of the rankings the Drabblecast B-Sides episodes (I may do a separate list for them) and episodes that featured classic speculative fiction stories (I’ve put a few favorites on their own list at the end). If you’ve not listened to the Drabblecast yet, any of these episodes would be a great place to start. If you do give them a listen, be sure to let me know what you thought.

My Top 20 Drabblecast Episodes:

  1. Drabblecast 211 – At the End of the Hall –  Easily my #1 pick, both because it has one of the best readings I’ve ever heard on a podcast, and because it makes me cry like a baby every time I hear it. It’s incredibly life-affirming.
  2. Drabblecast 043 – Jelly Park – A very close second, this story best captures everything I’ve come to associate with the Drabblecast: how strange things sometimes feel like home. Are you the kind of person who mopes alone after a bad breakup, or are you a bus driver who hums to herself all day, because you have a secret?
  3. Drabblecast 129 – Annabelle’s Alphabet – A moving story married to flawless production. It’ll give you goosebumps. Also a great intro to Tim Pratt’s work.
  4. Drabblecast 083 – Floating Over Time – It’s a truth of the human condition that life is never long enough, whether you live two years or two million years, and that none of us get any assurances in the face of death.
  5. Drabblecast 039 – The Beekeepers – Parasitic wasps and alien invasions. This is top-notch horror, but I’d recommend that you have a strong stomach going in.
  6. Drabblecast 298 – Flying On My Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog – It’s funny. It’s dangerously funny. The kind of funny that causes you to suppress laughter until it bursts out anyway, and all the strangers in the vicinity will decide that you’re unstable and dangerous. You’ve been warned.
  7. Drabblecast 246 – The Kidney – I’m a sucker for anthropomorphic bodily organs just going about their business. It’s surprisingly moving for such a ridiculous concept.
  8. Drabblecast 299 – The Revelation of Morgan Stern – Remarkable for being both a great post-apocalyptic horror story and a great love story.
  9. Drabblecast 025 – The Worm Within – I love this episode, but I should warn you it’s gross in a potty-humor sort of way. But since I write this Medical Microfiction blog, you won’t be surprised at my love of subjects like intestinal worms.
  10. Drabblecast 155 – The Second Conquest of Earth – This is the story I’ve always wished I could write about cold readers. Excellent all around.
  11. Drabblecast 198 – Love in the Pneumatic Tube Era – A shamelessly romantic sci-fi love story. There’s not an ounce of cynicism in this one, and that pleases me.
  12. Drabblecast 106 – Boiled Black Broth and Cornets – Frank Key is an odd, odd author. I might compare his style to Dr. Seuss in that they both enjoy word play, but it’s hard to describe unless you hear it. Listen to this one. You won’t regret it. Also, I think Norm deserves a standing ovation for the tongue-twister at the end.
  13. Drabblecast 192 – Rangifer Volans – More Tim Pratt, this time with a Christmas-themed story! Cryptozoologists go looking for flying reindeer. It’ll make you laugh, I promise.
  14. Drabblecast 058 – Eggs – Another “Medical Microfiction” pick, and also about parasitic worms, this time of the cat-exploding variety. It’s gross, it’s hilarious, and it’s deeply disturbing.
  15. Drabblecast 236 – When You Visit The Magoebaskloof Hotel – I picked this one because I enjoy well-considered sci-fi, especially when a story taps into true alien psychology. This story also read like a parable of sorts. I listened to it a couple of times before I felt like I understood it, and got something new out of it each time around.
  16. Drabblecast 292 – Hollow As The World – It’s about Minecraft, and a teen dealing with the unexpected death of his best friend. I loved it from start to finish.
  17. Drabblecast 150 – Morris and the Machine – Yet more Tim Pratt! A time travel story about a man who cheats on his wife… with his wife. It’s rife with some interesting moral conundrums that left me chewing over the story for days.
  18. Drabblecast 091 – Gifting Bliss – It’s a parody of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, but I found this episode surprisingly moving. Norm created and performed a set of Nirvana song parodies that made this episode particularly outstanding.
  19. Drabblecast 274 – Amid The Words Of War – Another example of a well-considered alien species which feels extraordinarily inhuman. The story is written so well that you feel for the aliens anyway.
  20. Drabblecast 265 – Pop Quiz – First, the main episode is great, which is quite simple but has a great payoff. but this episode also features a Frank Key story about this Shatner-like captain on an epic voyage for nougat. And that is awesome.

A few great classic stories you should also check out:

Drabblecast 069 – The Storyteller by Saki

Drabblecast 200 – The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

Drabblecast 251 – The Music of Erich Zann by H. P. Lovecraft

Drabblecast 273 – The Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick

Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

Okay, I lied. Here’s a few more:

Drabblecast 281 – Doubleheader XII – More Frank Key! This episode is a particular favorite of mine because of the reading, and the way the two stories fit together.

Drabblecast 017 – Morton – Sometimes the jerks in life have all the luck. Also, it’s worth noting how even the early episodes of this podcast are very high quality.

Drabblecast 286 – Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse – If you’ve read Flannery O’Connor, you’ll really appreciate why this story is hilarious. If you haven’t, you should listen anyway and then go read Flannery.

Drabblecast 191 – Primary Pollinator – A humorous sci-fi piece about the lengths you have to go through to maintain an alien ecosystem. Also makes me really glad that plants aren’t sentient.

Drabblecast 135 – “Hello,” Said the Stick – This one’s hard to describe without spoilers, but it does, indeed, involve a talking stick.

Drabblecast 115 – Clown Eggs – An episode that balances humor and horror in perfect measure. If you weren’t terrified of clowns, you will be.

Drabblecast 113 – Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely – I don’t always like meta-story humor, but this one worked well. Feel for the poor comic book characters who suddenly realize we’re watching them.

Drabblecast 082 – An Overgrown Clump of Narcissists – A perfectly weird story with a nice twist at the end.

Drabblecast 075 – Trifecta IV – The stories are good, but it’s the original song written by Norm Sherman to commemorate the first 75 Drabblecast episodes that makes this one outstanding.

Drabblecast 052 – Sleep Age – A bit of magic realism cast in the form of a thought experiment: what if we could commodify and sell sleep?

Drabblecast 142, 143 – The Golden Age of Fire Escapes – This two-part story has outstanding production in the style of an old-timey radio show. If that wasn’t enough, it also features the concluding segment of Connor Choadsworth: In Search of the Mongolian Deathworm!

Drabblecast 257 – Judgement Passed – A team of scientists returns home to Earth to find that Jesus showed up and Judgement Day’ed everyone while they were gone. Now what?
Drabblecast 109 – Babel Probe – Time travel, alien horrors, and the ancient Middle East. Nuff said.

Drabblecast 234 – Jagannath – Another great story about symbiosis, where humans maintain an alien’s body from the inside.

Drabblecast 217 – Followed – This episode is a parable for consumer culture, and the invisible consequences of having cheap things. It’s also one of the most clever zombie stories I’ve ever heard.

Drabblecast 124 – Ghosts and Simulations – This one hit close to home. A story of terminal illness, what kind of immortality technology might offer us, and whether this is a good thing.

Drabblecast 188 – The Store of the Worlds – If there are infinite dimensions, somewhere out there is one that fulfills your most desired dream.

Coffee is Hospitality: The Art of Friendship on the Internet

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to mention it on my blog, but last Friday, the Drabblecast featured one of my stories on Episode# 299 – “The Revelations of Morgan Stern”. For those of you who are regular readers, it was my story Dear John, a little tale framed around themes of loss and hospitality. The production of my story absolutely blew me away, and I was especially moved to have this one picked because of the story behind it, which you can read about in the original post.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been blown away by a series of loosely connected events that have left me moved and humbled by the kindness, thoughtfulness, and love of people I’ve only ever met online. It took me by surprise; to a degree I’ve always carried the unspoken assumption that there’s a clear and obvious distinction between the people you deal with face-to-face and those you deal with on the internet. As if the one is more “real” or counts for more than the other.

And while nothing will ever replace my friends and family, I think I’m wrong to undervalue the extended network of friendships made possible through the power of technology. We’re something like pen pals, many of us separated by half the world, and yet brought together by common interests. We celebrate each other’s triumphs. We feel one another’s pain. And sometimes we push each other to levels of courage that would be impossible normally.

After all, hospitality is coffee. Sometimes you invite people into your home and share a cup together. But other times, you invite them in from afar. You – yes, you – have joined me in my living room on many an evening to swap stories and jokes over a beer. Other times, we’ve sat at the kitchen table while I poured out my frustrations, fears, and sadness. Right now, we’re sitting in the student lounge together at my college as I finally recognize what a good friend you’ve been to me all along.

I’ve been lucky enough to go for a run with those of you involved in the production of the podcasts I listen to. Together we braved the heat, rain, and cold, set records, jumped over snakes, waved to neighbors, high-fived children, and snarked at catcallers and other rude folks.

All of this was in my head when I listened to a recent metacast from the folks at Escape Artists (behind the podcast magazines Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod). The gist is that these podcasts are endangered species because of high readership but low support. You can read a partial transcript here and a summary here.

Coffee is hospitality. We mark our friendships through such rituals, through a mutual give-and-take where we loan support when the other needs it most. Sometimes this support is emotional. You’re both broke, and the best you can do is commiserate. Other times, you have the luxury of being able to extend a hand when needed.

I think the biggest difference between internet friends my face-to-face friends is that I’ve always found it easy and natural to practice hospitality towards people who are physically there. Online, there’s just enough distance that you forget to offer the coffee. You forget that you can. I mean, I can’t pour caffeine into my keyboard and expect it to come out on your end, but there are other ways of extending hospitality all the same.

Anyway, I’m changing that. Since I’m not completely broke, I’ve decided to repay both Escape Artists and the Drabblecast for their gift of friendship by becoming one of their paid subscribers. It’s the financial equivalent of getting together and buying them coffee once a month. I can most certainly do that.

If you’re also a fan of these shows, I’d encourage you to do the same if you’re able. If you’re not one of their fans, why not give them a listen? You might find something worthwhile, as I did.

How about you guys? How do you view your internet friends versus the ones you meet face-to-face? Who do you like to support around the blogosphere and interwebs?

Link Roundup 8-12-13

A multicolored Perseid meteor striking the sky...
A multicolored Perseid meteor striking the sky just to the right from Milky Way. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve conquered my first day of the semester with no problems, so I’m taking the suggestion of a reader and writing a little nightcap article. That means it’s time for a link roundup! Here’s some interesting reads that caught my eye around the interwebs this week. What’s happening on your blog? What fun or thought-provoking articles did you run across?

Writing

When you hire that poet on Craigslist to mock you, good things happen. I want to hire this guy for my birthday!

Author Cat Rambo shares some advice on the topic of wordy prose. When can you get away with it, and when should you just say no? It’s a longish read, but trust me it’s well worth your time.

I discovered a tool called Submissions Grinder this week that has been a treasure trove of information. It lets you search for fiction markets by word count, genre, and style, and additionally provides some interesting data on response time and percent rejections. I’m a bit of a data junkie, so this kind of thing sucks me in.

Science

Cool things afoot in the world of epidemiology as scientists test out a vaccine against malaria. My other favorite anti-malaria solution involves weedkiller.

This chemist writes an excellent rebuttal to a fear-mongering list that made its way around the ‘net about allegedly dangerous food additives. I love this article because it puts into words both our fear of all things “artificial” and “chemical” while showing why there’s no need to be so afraid.

Tiger cubs! Tiger cubs! Tiger cam!

One Awesome Video

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy brings us time-lapse footage of the sky over Australia during an eclipse.

Podcasts I liked:

 Drabblecast #97 – “Daydream Nation”: Ever wondered what the dating scene would be like if we could share our dreams when we met each other? This episode notably had one of my favorite pieces of 100-word flash fiction I’ve ever heard. It made me want to stand and applaud, and stayed with me for days afterward.

Drabblecast #99 – “Sarah’s Window”: a haunting little tale that explores the difference between how parents love their children and how, in turn, children love their parents. Reminded me of this E.M. Forster quote: “A wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children; and — by some sad, strange irony — it does not bind us children to our parents. For if it did, if we could answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor, and we might be wonderfully happy.”

Link Roundup 7-21-13

English: Leafcutter ant Acromyrmex octospinosu...
Leafcutter ant! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the weekend! Here’s a few interesting links on science, medicine, writing, and more from around the blogosphere:

Someone finally explains the real strength of the Bechdel Test, as applied to movies and books. I’ll be keeping this in mind in the future when I write about characters whose backgrounds fall outside of the privileged arenas in society.

Io9 brings us video of the world’s tiniest protest rally, brought to you courtesy of Phylum Arthropoda. Video embedded for your viewing pleasure:

Speaking of adorable things, don’t miss Dreamwalkeramrita’s whimsical re-imagining of common text abbreviations as fuzzy little superheroes!

A portrait gallery of the elderly reflected in mirrors as their younger selves. I found these pictures haunting and beautiful.

All about vitamins, and why many of them might not be as helpful as you think. In the future we’ll spend a whole week here at Medical Microfiction talking about vitamins, thanks to the suggestion of author and reader CJ Friend.

Podcasts I Liked:

What’s going on in your blog this week? What caught your eye around the interwebs?