Brenda Cooper

Listen up, writers! The joy of podcasts

Yesterday I had one of those long 8 hour drives through the country, me and my golden retriever and  and a bunch of podcasts.

I’ve taken a real liking to having stories told to me.  Here are some of the reasons:

  • As a writer, it’s an easier way for me to disengage the critical brain, and have an emotional reaction to story.  That is, after all, a big part of why I read and write.  To feel.  Yesterday I discovered a new story by a new writer I’d never heard of (Paper Cradle by Stephen Gaskell, read by Kate Baker, available at Clarkesworld) which made me cry.
  • They’re almost always free.  I like audio-books, too.  But they’re usually around $30 a shot and take a long time.  If  I did all my audio in audio-books, I’d be broke.  I DO drop bits of money toward the podcast producers from time to time via their websites, and if you like the work, you should too.  This is how we keep them around.
  • Short fiction lends itself really well to podcasts
  • It helps me pay more attention to the audio quality of my prose. Yes, works on a page have an audio quality.  I now read my work out loud as a last step before sending it out.  If nothing else, this saves embarrassment while reading in front of audiences at bookstores and cons.
  • Podcasts extend my “reading” day – I can engage in fiction while dog walking and gardening and laundering and working out, and with the day job and professional writer and family superwoman outfit on (a bit torn around the edges and mended here and there), it helps to have yet another way to screw up my mind with multitasking.

What do I listen to?  Well, a lot, but here are two which I drop into my iphone automatically

StarShipSofa – a fabulous, rambly, whole magazine with a regular host (Tony C. Smith) who now feels like a friend to me even though I’ve never met him.  This is sort of like loving a drive time DJ, only Tony is DJing stuff like interviews with authors, science fiction history, and science fiction (old and new) by some of our best authors.  And quirky as it may sound, Tony has a nice accent. In audio, that matters.  One small word of caution – sometimes Star Ship Sofa clocks in over two hours, which means I don;t end up with time to listen to all of it sometimes.  Star Ship Sofa won the Hugo this year for best fanzine.

Clarkesworld Audio Fiction:  Just the fiction, no magazine and not much news.  This is nice for a single walk or housecleaning session.  I can count on the stories being excellent and the narration being excellent as well: crisp and well-read.  Since they are reading the new fiction in the magazine, this is cutting-edge relevant fiction. Clarkesworld chooses a mix of fantasy and science fiction that seems to come in at about half and half.  This suits my personal tastes well.  The fiction quality at Clarkesworld is so good that almost half the stories end up on my awards consideration or reading recommendation lists, or I just have to tweet about them….  Clarkesworld won a Hugo for best semi-prozine this year.

Other podcasts I listen to and wish I had time to listen to more often include Seattle Geekly (cultural geeky stuff from my general neighborhood, great hosts),  Escape Pod (science fiction, largely reprint, mostly excellent stories, audio quality below Clarkesworld or I’d listen to them more often), Adventures in Sci Fi PublishingThe Nature Podcast, etc.  So it’s not all fiction.  These are MY tastes – there’s are so many podcasts out there I suspect you can find the ones that fit your tastes the best.

If you’re not sure about the value of podcasts, go listen to Paper Cradle or The Cull at Clarkesworld.  Your computer can play them for you while you organize paperwork.