The History of Audio Drama 3

In the last post, we saw how Marconi’s ‘Radio Telephone’ made the Théâtrophone obsolete, how it dazzled the United States with opera and musical comedies, and how radio stations were beginning to pop up all across America to get involved in this new medium.

by Dōhai

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

In the last post, we saw how Marconi’s ‘Radio Telephone’ made the Théâtrophone obsolete, how it dazzled the United States with opera and musical comedies, and how radio stations were beginning to pop up all across America to get involved in this new medium.

One such station was WGY, Schenectady NY: they started broadcasting in February of 1922. According to historians they were the first station to have a troupe of actors dedicated to radio plays, and were transmitting full length stage plays every week, complete with music, and sound effects within a few months of opening. Their first play, ‘The Wolf’ by Eugene Walter, a complete three act play with musical interludes between acts, aired August 3rd 1922.

Another of the first of the major players was Cincinnati’s WLW who, within months of getting a license, were broadcasting one off plays and excerpts from longer works. On November 9th 1922, they ran their first one act play: ‘A Fan and Two Candlesticks’ by Mary MacMillan.

Within a year of these two starting up a score of new radio stations were also broadcasting audio dramas all across the states, and WGY and WLW were holding competitions, inviting listeners to write their own scripts to be performed on the radio.

recording a radio play

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It wasn’t long before Europe too was reveling in this new found medium of entertainment, and on January 15th 1924, the BBC presented its first ever written-for-radio play: ‘Danger’ was written by Richard Hughes in one night.

A play about a group of people trapped in a coal mine, Richard recalled writing it with major sound effects in mind. Sound effects which, come recording time, he had no clue how to create.

They enlisted the help of the sound effects man from the local cinema, and the stars of the show were made to wear buckets on their heads to create the echo effect of being in a mine. But the climax of the play was to be an explosion, and they were still a little stuck as “even popping a paper bag would have blown all the fuses”.

Reporters and critics set up in the press room during recording were very impressed, and they never found out that Hughes had staged a real explosion in the room next door.

recording a radio play

​​

On the other side of the channel, ‘Maremoto’ (Seaquake), a realistic account of a sinking ship due to be aired in France on October 23rd 1924, was banned from French radio until 1937 because the government feared the SOS message would be mistaken for a genuine distress call.

But of course, the saga of this new medium and its heightened sense of realism doesn’t end there! Next time on #THoAD, we take a look at probably the most famous radio drama the world has ever known ‘The War of the Worlds’ its creator Orson Welles, and the alleged controversy surrounding it.

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Main Street Mythology Review

There is a certain elegance in knowing what you’re good at and then delivering just that; not trying to do too much or stretching yourself too thin. Like a singer that knows their range and nails a simple song within that range. The 5 episode mini-series, Main Street Mythology presented by Newton’s Dark Room, is fine a lesson in doing just that. A few narrators, reading short stories in a shared world that are spiced up with a bit of background music.

by Matthew William

There is a certain elegance in knowing what you’re good at and then delivering just that; not trying to do too much or stretching yourself too thin. Like a singer that knows their range and nails a simple song within that range.

The 5 episode mini-series, Main Street Mythology presented by Newton’s Dark Room, is fine a lesson in doing just that. A few narrators, reading short stories in a shared world that are spiced up with a bit of background music.

That’s the whole show. And I’ll tell you what, everything comes together nicely.

The premise for the story is quite simple: “What if our world was built by a pantheon of gods instead of people?” So the cities, the clocks, even the satellites in this setting were created by deities. There are immortals that overlook the trash, the streetlights, the internet; keeping watch over their domains and making sure everything runs smoothly.

These fables are brought to life by one of three narrators, Eleiece Krawiec (who has narrated for Escape Pod), Robert Ready (who does work as an audiobook narrator) and Mike Emling, and all are excellent, grounding this fanciful world and giving the podcast a professional sound.

The stories are accompanied by an original score from La Troienne. The mystical soundtrack provides an otherworldly ambiance to the tales, and the music does a tremendous job of adding to the immersion without ever being distracting.

The whole show is brought together by Talon Stradley; a writer, musician, and audio producer based out of Long Beach, California.

There’s not really an overarching plot to the narrative and that’s okay, you’re here for the worldbuilding. Each vignette runs 5-10 minutes long and is a story about a certain god or a certain event and everything weaves together to form a really cool quilt of a shared world.

The production team, Newton’s Dark Room, is even sort of a character in itself. Their description is kept a little enigmatic, adding to the mystique.  

“An otherworldly artist collective based out of Calisland. Our collection of unique members scour countryside and cosmiverse to bring you the best in multi-media storytelling.”

All in all, this is a great podcast to listen to if your in the mood for a bit of escapism and enjoy worldbuilding. I listened to it while driving and it was a relaxing experience. I kept on coming back for more peaks into the world of this show.

Newton’s Dark Room has done a great job of creating a simple fiction podcast. And in a world where so many stories are packed to the gills with action and high stakes, it’s refreshing to have a show that simply brings you to another world and keeps you entertained.

That in itself is pretty ambitious.

Edict Zero Episode 4

A Man in the Alley, a Man in the Elevator, and a Man with(out) a pan.

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

by Lex Scott

Welcome to part four of my deep dive into Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my previous episode reviews (part 1) (part 2) and (part 3), before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And as always, spoilers ahead

Episode 4, Beautiful Lies

A Man in the Alley, a Man in the Elevator, and a Man with(out) a pan. A tactical unit commander acting as technical support, and a military presence despite the assertion that humanity (and the planet they occupy) are no longer divided into competing countries.

Continue reading “Edict Zero Episode 4”

So You Want to Make an Audiodrama?

Many new podcast listeners decide to become creators and make their own shows, so we’ve taken a look at a couple of courses that will help you get off to a flying start.

By Alex C. Telander

Podcast listeners like to brag about the size of their ‘to listen’ list, how they’re not sure if they’re ever going to get totally caught up, because they keep finding new shows to subscribe to. There are new audio dramas debuting every week. Part of the reason for this is because many new listeners decide to become podcast creators and make their own shows. They either listen to a type of show they would like to try and make, or are encouraged in hearing so many great shows and want to make that idea in their head become a podcast reality.

But wanting to make an audio drama and actually releasing one are two very different things separated by a great divide. There is A LOT that goes into making a podcast, depending on what sort of show you want to make, and how much time and energy you’re willing to sacrifice to make it. Most creators end up sacrificing more than they can afford and steal from things like sleep and doing anything fun.

Let’s quickly list the steps to making a single episode of a show:

1. Write the episode.

2. Revise the episode until you’re happy with it.

3. Cast actors for the episode.

4. Have actors record for the episode, either together or separate.

5. Mix voice acting and dialog.

6. Add sound effects.

7. Add music.

8. Mix everything together so it sounds how you want it to sound.

9. Get podcasting host.

10. Release episode to the world.

So that’s just ten steps in making a simple episode off the top of my head. Yes, it’s a lot of work. For a lot of people – especially those being creative for the first time – it’s daunting and at times seemingly insurmountable.

If only there were some guide available for would-be podcasters to learn how to do it all and get lots of advice?

Well, there is. Actually, there are two amazing guides: Audio Fiction 101 from the Fear of Public Shame team, and Sarah Rhea Werner’s Podcast Now masterclass.

On August 14th, 2014, the first episode of an audio drama called Wolf 359 was released and podcasts were changed forever. As each episode and season was released, the show grew and grew in popularity, and it is now one of the most popular podcasts around, up there with Bright Sessions and the Black Tapes, boasting a five-star rating on iTunes with 2,150 reviews. The show dropped its last episode on December 26th, 2017.

Zach Valenti

Since then, the people behind Wolf 359 — Zach Valenti, Sarah Shachat, and Gabriel Urbina – have released a mini-series, Time:Bombs, under the name of Fear of Public Shame. In late 2015, the trio started talking about the idea of doing an online audio fiction course, then they put it on hold until fall 2018 when they started planning and in November they kicked it into high gear. Their goal is to impart some of their knowledge and experience in making an audio drama for those looking to make their own show. After a number months and a lot of hard work, the result is Audio Fiction 101.

Sarah Shachat

It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, whether you’re a complete novice at writing audio dramas, or have been doing it for some time, Audio Fiction 101 will have something for you. Now, it’s important to note that this online course is not about sound design, engineering or anything related to working with sound in podcasting. Audio Fiction 101 is about writing and storytelling and honing your craft when it comes to creating and writing an audio drama. It’s about knowing the advantages but also the pitfalls and hindrances of this genre of podcasting. It’s goal is to give you all the tools you need to make a compelling and popular audio drama.

Gabriel Urbina

The course is told through a series of videos over three hours in length, divided into three units. Unit One covers how writers think about storytelling: “Understanding the objectives narrative, shaping audience expectations, and what makes audio unique among storytelling mediums.” It consists of eight videos including: “The Science of Storytelling,” “The Art of Control,” and “The Limits of Imagination.” The introduction video is available for preview.

Unit Two gets into the details: “How to construct settings, write for sound effects, plot and structure, do effective world-building in audio, and more.” The unit features fifteen videos giving full coverage from the strengths and weaknesses of audio dramas to “Designing Great Radio Characters” to “World-Building in Audio.” If you want to check it out, a couple previews are available on the site.

Unit Three is all about getting you ready to start making your show: “How to outline effectively, strategies for getting a first draft of the ground, how to even come up with ideas, and more.” It features ten videos with interesting titles like: “The Fear of Public Shame,” “Outlines Are Your Frienemies?” and “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over.” There’s also a preview video for “Revising and Improving” to give you an idea what this unit is like. In addition to these three units, there are also appendices with resources on “inspiration and writing software choices.”

The practical side to the Audio Fiction 101 course is that all the videos are relatively short, in the five to ten minute range, making it a very versatile course: you can watch videos on your commute, or just before going to bed at night. You can do one a day or one a week and apply what you’ve learned; or marathon a bunch of them together unit by unit. The price tag isn’t too bad either: the whole course for $75, or four monthly installments of $20. There’s even a scholarship option available for those who can’t really afford it.

If you consider yourself an audio drama fan, then you’ve very likely come across the great show Girl in Space and its writer and lead voice actor, Sarah Rhea Werner. You may also know Sarah from her popular writing podcast series Write Now, featuring writing advice and author interviews. Sarah is also one of the few podcast entrepreneurs who has turned all her work into a full-time and successful job. She has been featured in Forbes and had her very own TED Talk. Now she’s going one big step further and offering everything she has learned and experienced in podcasting to you with her very own online course, Podcast Now.

Sarah Werner

The 12-week masterclass “will guide you, step-by-step, through the entire podcasting process – from strategy to launch and beyond.” What’s neat about this is you can choose an audio drama track or a nonfiction podcast track. It features eight modules with 52 video lessons. There are also downloadable worksheets to be completed and help you along as you complete each video lesson. Throughout the course Sarah will also offer weekly live office hours where you can “ask [Sarah] literally anything you want. No holds barred. Not kidding.”

The course covers the entire process of making your podcast beginning with ideas and plotting and writing, to recording and editing, to eventual publishing and marketing, using a “step-by-step action roadmap” and achievable goals so you won’t get lost along the way or become overwhelmed. As an extra aid, you’ll also get access to the private Facebook Mastermind Community group where you’ll be able to receive personal coaching.

Pricing for this immense and comprehensive course has an estimated value of over $4000, but is currently on offer for the special introductory price of $1500. An installment plan is also available with 12 payments of $150. Enrollment for the course will open once again for the second time June 3rd through the 7th and begin on June 10. After that the course will not be offered again until October when the price will likely increase.

Course Comparison

The obvious big difference between the Audio Fiction 101 course and Podcast Now course is the price tag. But the scope of the two courses is different: Audio Fiction 101 focuses on writing and putting together an audio drama with a series of short videos, while Podcast Now course helps you make your podcast, whether its audio drama or nonfiction, from initial idea to creating your show, to making it a success. If anything, both courses compliment each other relatively well, and if you can manage it, taking them both would provide you everything you could possibly need to turn your inkling of an audio drama into a popular and well-rated show.


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Una Animus

Una Animus is a nonfiction podcast by Sin Ribbon, about mental health, new perspectives, and the quest for personal fulfillment. Something of a shift for Sin, who works primarily as a fiction writer and visual storyteller.

Una Animus

by Dōhai

Una Animus is a nonfiction podcast by Sin Ribbon, about mental health, new perspectives, and the quest for personal fulfillment. Something of a shift for Sin, who works primarily as a fiction writer and visual storyteller.

I first encountered Sin’s work back at the end of 2017 with the launch of her first podcast, ‘In Her Burning.’ A critically acclaimed, haunting tale of a young girl chosen to undergo a procedure that would enable her to see beyond her physical reality. Written, directed and starring Sin (as a secondary thesis project), this audio drama’s beautiful style had me hooked from the get go. Incidentally the In Her Burning transcription has just been released in book form.

In this new podcast, not only does she share her personal journey through depression and agoraphobia, she brings the resources and insights used as coping mechanisms to help her along the way. Una Animus reflects her personal exploration into better mental health as she seeks joy and meaning in living.

Una Animus is not a rumination on depression nor does it have a, “Stop worrying, be happy!” type of self-help approach. The content focuses on balance, acknowledging the weight of fear while providing a perspective of hope. Although the uphill battle may continue, the point is that you keep climbing.

Listeners are welcome to ask questions of Sin for her to answer on the show by directing them to @sinribbon on Twitter.

I had the pleasure speaking with Sin about this new project, and I am honoured to share it with you all now.

I absolutely admire your choice to go public with this show; to bring your own mental health issues into the public domain requires so much strength. What was the defining moment/s that made you decide to share your thoughts on your own mental health with the hopes that it could help those who haven’t yet found the strength and courage to voice, or even face their own?

“Thank you. I suppose it was a combination of factors. First, it was something of a “backup plan” I’ve had sitting around for a while–not a mental health podcast specifically but some venture that resulted in opening up about my ideas, morals, and the knowledge I’ve acquired along the way. I mention in the first episode of Una Animus that I surround myself with positive reminders to help manage my stress, and I thought sharing these techniques might help others as well.

Primarily, I want to offer new perspectives through fiction, but an event in my life inspired me to share all the stories, content, and ideas I’ve been hoarding for years. It started with publishing my novel and began to snowball into a realization that there was more I could do to connect with audiences. Despite my social demeanor, I’m a reticent person, and I prefer to live behind a wall. I suppose I saw this project as an opportunity to share valuable information while conquering my fear of opening up.”

Having taken a quick look at the season highlights, I notice you take an in depth view from both a scientific and spiritual look at mental health issues. Is this because you have taken on both sides of the equation in your personal journey, because you feel that this balanced approach between science and spirituality is key for personal growth, or are you offering both standpoints in the hopes that the listeners can pick and choose what helps them the most?

“Both, actually. The show’s content emerges from my personal world, so naturally it seemed appropriate to take the approach that’s always worked for me. I’m a firm believer in overall balance and that both viewpoints are necessary to provide a wider perspective. At the same time, I wanted people of different faiths and ideologies to be able to connect with the show.

Science dissects while remaining grounded in the natural world in its quest for truth. However, it can become scrutinous and pedantic. A spiritual approach sees the situation on the whole. When dealing with mental health, you need understanding, compassion, and empathy. I don’t think you can go without mentioning spirituality when discussing emotional development and personal joy. Spirituality is unifying and connecting. Nevertheless, I believe it’s important to provide a foundation of evidence and research. Healing benefits from both approaches, so I discuss the medical and psychiatric side while also sharing the attitudes and viewpoints that have had an impact on my own healing. Audiences can draw from one or both of these approaches–it’s up to them–but they might be surprised by how much they overlap.”

It has certainly surprised me how much spirituality has shaped my life over the years. I was always the cynic, the scientist, when it came to life. It wasn’t until I began studying martial arts that I discovered how calming, mindful, and empathetic my emotional state had become.

For all the resources you share throughout the season, how deep would you say you explore these processes, and do you offer the listener further resources if they wish to examine them further?

“Absolutely. In the second episode, I touch on neuroplasticity with a fair amount of detail, although I do try to keep things understandable in a layman’s sense. The episodes tend to bounce back and forth between spiritual and scientific viewpoints from then on. For each episode, I cite where I pull the information from and provide links to where it can be found in the show notes. Throughout the season, I reference scientific books, research papers, self-help books, and online articles. I believe this is important because it creates greater context to the issues I’m addressing and how specialists have utilized this information for the betterment of mankind. There are new, revolutionary methods being used to conquer both physical and mental ailments. Not all of them are widely known, and in a show about mental health and growth, I want to provide hope that healing is possible. Sharing these resources illuminates the fact that we’re all in this together.”

Is there anything else you wish to add that you feel pertinent for the readers?

“I suppose for categories, I’ll have to classify this show as self-help, but I want people to be aware that I seek to go beyond that. Una Animus is about more than finding happiness; it’s about the journey through the valley and all the voices that speak to you along the way. My aim is to inspire from a pragmatic viewpoint because that’s the approach that’s helped me the most. Belief is important, but explaining the why’s, the origins, and the real world applications solidifies that belief. This show hinges on my spirit, all its strength and fragility, so while I may be sharing a lot of outside resources, all of it comes from a personal place of honesty and vulnerability. I think that will help listeners connect the most.”

I certainly feel it will help. Having a personal connection between the host and issues always helps more than detached information bursts. I for one am really looking forward to exploring this podcast, and if you are too, then you can find the show on its home page, as well as all your usual podcatchers.

My thanks Sin for your time, and I wish you all the best with this project.

Una Animus season one launched on Tuesday, (May 7th 2019) and will consist of twelve episodes to be released every Tuesday. There will be early access and potential bonus content via Patreon as well if you wish to support its creator Sin Ribbon.


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Hadron Gospel Hour: A Love Letter of Sorts

Comedy podcasts are no rarity in the audio drama community, and this is helped along in no small part by the multitude of improvisation shows that pop up the second you search comedy on your average podcast listening app. During my time in high school, when I was listening to ILLUSIONOID and on the fence about the level of devotion necessary to get invested in The Thrilling Adventure Hour, one show that I was always at the beck and call of no matter what mood I was in was Hadron Gospel Hour, a long-form science fiction comedy made by two long time friends.

Hadron Gospel Hour: A Love Letter of Sorts

By Podcake

Comedy podcasts are no rarity in the audio drama community, and this is helped along in no small part by the multitude of improvisation shows that pop up the second you search comedy on your average podcast listening app. During my time in high school, when I was listening to ILLUSIONOID and on the fence about the level of devotion necessary to get invested in The Thrilling Adventure Hour, one show that I was always at the beck and call of no matter what mood I was in was Hadron Gospel Hour, a long-form science fiction comedy made by two long time friends.

Richard Wentworth and Michael McQuilken star as the main characters in a multidimensional love letter to Douglas Adam’s inspired sci-fi romps, where our heroes travel from place to place trying to fix a fractured universe. The opening narration will gladly inform you about how the effects of a science experiment gone wrong ripped a hole through space and time, and provides the groundwork for a number of weird things to happen to weird people.

The central plot does follow a grieving Dr. Oppenheimer wallowing in his failures and trying to piece together his shattered wife whose existence was scattered over multiple dimensions, upon his failure to study the “Hadron Effect” the show credits its name to.

When rational IT worker Michael Wilkinson gets dragged into Oppenheimer’s plan purely by accident is where the show properly begins and does a decent job of setting the central tone of random chance conflicting with personal interest. This is where the buddy-cop aspect comes along and makes up the primary comedic dynamic, ensuring that as long as these two are around, there is plenty of comedy to spare in between the bouts of tragedy.

Hadron Gospel Hour is one of the most creative story-driven podcasts to have come out in 2014: A scripted series, but still not short of the sort of wit and charm that an especially interesting DnD session may have. There’s a variety of locations, great narrative pacing, and a number of characters and gags that add to the chaotic nature of a fractured setting.

Hadron Gospel Hour may be all fun and games but it has an excellent underlying theme of sticking to your guns in even the toughest of scenarios, and finding the best qualities in the strangest of people. It’s a story about compromise and unlikely encounters, forgiving yourself for your mistakes while also pursuing a life of self improvement. Hadron Gospel is never pointlessly cruel to its heroes and always finds a way to make the most bizarre of problems joyous and comedic.

And yet, Hadron Gospel Hour isn’t just a science fiction show: it’s every possible kind of science fiction show. There are bizarre creatures and races, super computers and supernatural powers, and hilarious body horror. There’s an episode entirely about troubling romantic relationships, with a twist so excellent I won’t spoil it, and a battle of the bands plot in what I think is one of the best episodes ever put out in any fiction audio drama in general.

Hadron Gospel has very long episodes (for a scripted podcast), some pushing past an hour, but they really do ensure each and every second isn’t wasted. The amount of creativity on display could only be possible by two friends with ambition and a shared devotion to their craft, to make the best possible piece each and every time.

Weird for the sake of weird is something I’ve had my fair share of ever since pursuing this hobby, but not many other audio dramas have also charmed me like this show has. The character writing, it’s ability to be equal parts episodic and story driven, the miniature arcs that are satisfying and never drag on… t makes for an experience you can sink your teeth into and still laugh about.

It’s definitely the kind of experience that’s highly unique, and I think that’s due to the solid chemistry of the creators and can be easy to get wrapped up in once you get acquainted with its likeable cast. It’s still in something of a niche category even given its quality, but how much it has to offer has made it my immediate go-to for recommendations in comedy podcasts.

When the show makes its joyous return for what will likely be a series finale, I not only look forward to how this all wraps up but what new adventures Wentworth and McQuilken might have in store in different dimensions.


Angel of Vine Review

Let’s start out by saying that The Angel of Vine is one of the best audio dramas out there. Produced by Vox Populi, it has accrued 651 iTunes reviews worldwide, with a 4.8 average star rating at the time of this article’s writing. So it’s fair to say it’s popular, as well as high quality.

The Angel of Vine Review

By Matthew William

Let’s start out by saying that The Angel of Vine is one of the best audio dramas out there. Produced by Vox Populi, it has accrued 651 iTunes reviews worldwide, with a 4.8 average star rating at the time of this article’s writing. So it’s fair to say it’s popular, as well as high quality.

The first thing you’ll notice is the all-star cast (especially by audio drama standards), with Joe Manganiello in the lead as Hank Briggs, Camilla Luddington, Oliver Vaquer, (who also wrote the show and plays the NPR-style journalist host) Misha Collins, Mike Colter, Alfred Molina, Khary Payton, Alan Tudyk, and Constance Zimmer. Veteran voice actors Travis Willingham, Matthew Mercer, and Nolan North round out the cast.

For those of you who haven’t heard it yet, here’s the official synopsis:

The Angel of Vine is a noir tale told in true crime style. The “podcaster,” a journalist named Oscar Simons (Oliver Vaquer), is fascinated by cold cases. One of the most infamous is “The Angel of Vine,” a gruesome murder in 1950s Hollywood. Young aspiring actress Marlene Marie Evans was found in a parking lot, her body mutilated and posed, with evidence either nonexistent or destroyed when she was discovered by a stampede of curious onlookers.

The police gave up with no leads, and the case would never be closed… or would it? Ex-cop and private detective Hank Briggs (Joe Manganiello) may have solved the case, but he never told a soul. It’s up to Oscar to search through Hank’s mountain of tapes and clues from more than 60 years ago to uncover the killer.

null

With near perfect production values, acting, and story, there is very little to complain about. It seems they have achieved a new gold standard for audio drama production. I could wax lyrical about how great the show is, and I feel like most reviews have been doing just that. But, I do still have a few nits to pick.

Now, the dialogue is mostly good. I can see how some people call it stiff, but that’s sort of the point. 1950’s noir is sort of stiff. But the dialogue didn’t pop the way it does in, say, Double Indemnity, and I was never surprised or felt as if I was listening in on a conversation. It felt as if I was listening to the main character uncovering the plot points and nothing more.

For example, in the first six minutes of Episode One, when the daughter describes going to the house where her estranged grandfather had been living, she suddenly starts describing the old car in the driveway in graphic detail for some reason:

“Old car. Not a classic car. An 83 Cutlass Ciera. Hadn’t been maintained in years. A fender was rusted. Cobwebs around the hubcaps. The felt from the interior ceiling was sagging.”

This might play into the “film noir” style they’re trying to affect, but it felt too much like a school report to me. “I’m describing the setting here! Aren’t you immersed?”

The character development also could’ve used a bit of work, as the main character Hank Briggs, is a little too one dimensional.

I get that it’s a noir, but characters, especially lead characters, need to be more nuanced: he’s into poetry (which feels a little shoehorned into his character), we’re told multiple times that he has a great sense of humor, and he had scenes with his daughter where he shows a tender side.

But overall I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was directed with the words, “Okay, you’re a 1950’s Brooklyn tough guy, fugettabout it!” in pretty much every scene.

At the end of the day, maybe it was for the best, because when he’s confronted with the gruesome climax, he is truly shaken and that’s what shakes us. We hear him crack, so what he sees must be really bad. So, from that point of view, I really can’t fault the choice.

But the good far outweighs the bad.

Oliver Vaquer had the unenviable task of making something that sounds both conversational and journalistic, set in the modern day and in mid-century LA. In the end, I feel like I took a tour through old-school Hollywood. That’s a hard trick to pull off.

The writing does a skillful job of using the audio drama format, with the conceit that the main character was always carrying a recording device with him. And the descriptions of the crime scenes will send chills down your spine (no pun intended). I’ve even heard it said from multiple people that it took them awhile to realize they weren’t listening a true crime podcast.

The acting is one of the key things responsible for that. Vaquer as the journalist is very believable, and the genuine performance convinces you this is a real cold case investigation. Alan Tudyk is incredible in his role as Samuel Tensch. I didn’t feel like he was an actor at all, rather a living breathing character. And Alfred Molina has acting superpowers. His character, Leonard Shaw, is so over the top awful, but he delivers the lines so perfectly that when he later starts talking about his health problems, you somehow start feeling sympathy for the guy. My goodness.

That said, I wish there was a better female part. The players are largely male, and the story could have really used a femme fatale type. There are a lot of women in the cast, Constnace Zimmer and Camilla Luddington are given 2nd and 3rd billing, respectively, as a mother and daughter pair, but they aren’t given much to do. (I can’t even really remember anything the mother says or does, besides constantly sounding a bit tired.)

And how fantastic is that theme song? I mean, seriously, I could write a whole article on that. A modern take of a 1946 song “Angel Eyes” that really sets the mood and makes you feel like you are in old-school LA.

There are ads tucked into the show, as most podcasts do, but one particular Johnnie Walker ad blew my mind. Not long after a Johnnie Walker Blue Label ad, the characters in the show sit down for a drink of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

“I think it’s the perfect way to mark the moment,” the character Beth Turner says, somehow quoting the slogan perfectly.

Production isn’t really my area, so I don’t have an insider’s perspective, but to my ears, it’s more or less perfect. The sound effects were immersive and never pulled me out of the story. They do an amazing job at making the old sound old and the new sound new.

This is definitely a show I would recommend, without hesitation. It is excellent in almost every area, but I had one major issue with it, which unfortunately pertains to the ending. So…

MAJOR SPOILERS from here on out: (I mean, if you haven’t listened to it already, what are you doing? Go and download it immediately.)

First off, the story endings feels flat and unsatisfying.

We go through this whole investigation to try and figure out who killed the Angel of Vine, and in the climax we finally learn that it was Samuel Tensch – the man who was paying Hank Briggs to investigate the crime.

Then we get the explanation as to why he committed the grisly murder and it was because… he was crazy!

And that’s pretty much it.

The thing about a mystery is, when it’s finally solved, you are supposed to go: “Ahhhh, of course, I should’ve seen that coming. All the pieces fit together now” not: “Oh, uh… okay, I guess.

As soon as I heard the last episode, where we learned Samuel Tensch was the killer, I went back and re-listened to the previous episodes, to see if I missed anything – any bit of foreshadowing, or clues, or any hints that this character is maybe hiding something.

But nope. There’s not really anything.

There’s a brief mention of a mysterious fire, where his mother figured died, and we later find out he killed her and he caused the fire to dispose of her body. But there are no motivations, no clues, no nothing. We just find out he was disturbed and used his victims blood to make paintings.

Um, okay.

I know real life serial killers and murderers don’t always have a satisfying motive, and the pieces don’t always fit together into a nice coherent narrative. This could be the show paying homage to such unsatisfying endings in other popular true crime serials, but we expect our stories to be better than that. Especially mysteries.

Despite all this, the Angel of Vine remains a can’t-miss podcast. I just wish the writing was a little stronger. But they left the story open to interpretation: either the killer is still at large… or Hank killed him. We’re probably going to be getting more seasons to find the answers.

And that’s definitely a good thing.

Now ‘scuse me while I pop open this bottle of unbranded, not-paid-to-advertise bottle of whiskey, the perfect way to mark the moment of finishing off a review.

♫ Oh, where is my Angel Eyes?

Excuse me while I disappeeeeear…♫


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The Stories We Tell

The podcast ‘The Stories We Tell’ launches with a double-shot of the first two episodes next Tuesday (23rd April 2019), so to celebrate I got together with Paul Sating and Natalie Aked, creator of ‘Horrible Writing’ and ‘A Breviloquent Challenge’ respectively.

The Stories We Tell

by Dōhai

Back in October 2018 the Horrible Writing Writers Support Group on Facebook launched a fun monthly 500 word flash fiction event. The Founder of the group, Paul Sating, was so inspired by the event, he developed the idea into a podcast that features the best of these short stories.

The podcast ‘The Stories We Tell’ launches with a double-shot of the first two episodes next Tuesday (23rd April 2019), so to celebrate I got together with Paul Sating and Natalie Aked, creator of ‘Horrible Writing’ and ‘A Breviloquent Challenge’ respectively.

To tell the story of this podcast we first need to go back to July 2017, when veteran podcaster Paul Sating (Subject: Found, Who Killed Julie, and Diary of a Madman among others) launched Horrible Writing, a podcast with the aim of bringing ‘empowerment through candor’ to authors from all paths across the globe. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two years since the show launched, as I have been here listening since inception.

I asked Paul to give us a brief outline of the Horrible Writing show and its premise.

“I love listening to other writer’s take on the craft, but I couldn’t find a podcast featuring the affective side of writing. I need a pep talk from time to time, as many writers do, since this is such a solitary venture. But no one was doing it, that I found. I also believe that too many writers don’t open the closet and show our guests all the mistakes. That’s harmful to newer writers. They see a polished work and think, “I can’t ever do that.” So I did what I always do. If someone isn’t doing it, or willing to do it, I will.

I started the Horrible Writing podcast to document my journey, publicly, from know-nothing to published author. I wanted to serve that dual purpose of showing people the emotional journey alongside the reality that no one knows everything about ‘how’ to get published, and that’s it’s a constant exploration of learning.

Yesterday, I recorded the 83rd episode of the show and I realized there is so much I still have to learn. So, so much. And that’s okay.

By opening up to the public, with full candor, I believe–and the emails and reviews I receive can verify–other writers find it helpful and don’t feel so alone, so we all rise together.”

If you haven’t checked it out yet, and you have even a passing interest in writing, then this show should be on your playlist. You can find it here.

The Horrible Writing Writers Support Group launched on Facebook last August (2018) and has exploded with members from all walks of writing life, all of whom share support and resources to ‘raise all ships’ in the true spirit that this powerhouse was born.

One of the founder members of the team is administrator Natalie Aked, a blogger and short story writer. She has published a few books on Yuan Dynasty Mongolian food. In her own words:

“Mostly, I am a storyteller. I enjoy bringing the world to people in snippets of tales.”

Natalie introduced ‘A Breviloquent Challenge’ the monthly 500 word flash fiction event to the group so that they could have a bit of fun and flex those writing muscles. I asked her about her thoughts about introducing this challenge:

“I suggested the ABC to Paul because many of our newer writers were struggling with common problems. I hoped that flash fiction might help – writing is the only solution to writing problems in my book. I also hoped it would foster a solidarity within the group; and, maybe, start a conversation.

I think that the ABC is a positive force in the group. Not everyone participates, but those who do gain feedback and those who participate regularly are seeing improvements in their writing.”

Within a month of ABC being launched on the support group Paul and Natalie were in talks about a podcast.

“In late November/early December 2018, Paul broached the idea of the podcast. He admitted that he had been thinking about a podcast of stories and he hoped the ABC would be the venue to find those stories. I loved the idea!”

From initial idea to release has only taken a few short months. With (at time of writing) three episodes in the can I asked both Natalie and Paul if there had been any major hurdles, or even a few bumps in the road:

“Well, I have the easy job. I am responsible for the written stuff. Which basically means I set the challenges and the writers take it from there. Once the end date comes, I have a team of four judges who are AMAZING. They read and rank the stories. I collect the data and give it to Paul. Really, his job requires the most effort and he’s awesome at what he does. It’s been such an easy process thanks to everyone involved.” -Nat

“It’s been very smooth. Natalie is a champ. She was on-board with the idea from the very beginning. In fact, when I pitched it to her, we immediately started ironing out how it would work and what some of the potential tripping points were (things such as how we would keep it manageable for both of us and set the right expectations for everyone else. This was, honestly, one of the easiest joint efforts I’ve ever undertaken, credit to Natalie!” – Paul

One of the things I’ve noticed as a member of the group is the camaraderie: normally social media posts have a ‘look at me’ feel to them, but here they’re all about helping one another, has this bled over into creating the podcast?

“One of the most epic things about this whole process has been the community. Horrible Writing Writers Support Group has always been a nurturing environment, but when we added ABC I was blown away with the immediate response. Not only do the writers who participated read the other stories but they give constructive feedback. It’s also common to see comments from members who didn’t enter a story that month. It’s an awesome resource for the writers.

Now that we have linked the writing challenge to the podcast, we are seeing that community support again. Some of our writers are hesitant to read their stories. They may not have the equipment and time or they may feel that they can’t do the story justice. But the community just keeps giving.

This project has definitely cemented the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ sentiment in my mind. The group has shown such support to one another.” – Nat

“This show truly is a community effort. It would be easy for people to post their story and move on, but that’s not what happens. In this wonderfully positive collective, what you see instead is the community reading each other’s work, providing encouragement and constructive criticism; and the narrators echo that.

I sent out a single initial call and was inundated with responses from narrators who want to be involved. We don’t have enough stories for the next five episodes to give to them, there are so many! Their eagerness to help is matched by ‘how’ they invest in someone else’s story. The narrators read other writer’s stories as if they are their own. This is truly a horribly wonderful community!” – Paul

I for one am looking forward to listening to the podcast and I wish it all the success. Being a part of it has not only helped me as a writer with technical aspects, but the community helps alleviate that impostor syndrome. Any final words from you both before I let you go?

“I’m super passionate about this project. I can’t wait to hear what listeners think of the podcast and read what our writers will come up with next. It would be great to see the participation grow. If there are writers out there reading this, come join us, please.” – Nat

“I’d really encourage people to give this show a listen. It’s a beautiful project because it is the manifestation of my Horrible Writing ideology, that we all rise together, that each and every one of us have stories to tell and we ‘can’ find an audience for those stories. Already, we have nearly 50 stories from dozens of authors to share with the world, and that’s only going to grow as we move forward. If someone is looking for fresh fiction from a variety of writers around the world, there is no other place to go than The Stories We Tell. It is a show for all voices, and all listeners.” – Paul

The podcast launches next Tuesday (23rd April 2019) and I hope you will join us here at Podern Times in celebrating the world of indie writing with the Horrible Writing Writers Support Group on Facebook and The Stories We Tell.


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Edict Zero Episode 3

The plot kicks into motion in this episode, with Briggs being rescued from his brief captivity in the sewers; Wakeman being suspiciously helpful about it, and a concrete confirmation that there is indeed a group conspiring (either directly or indirectly) against our protagonists…

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Welcome to part three of my deep dive into Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my previous episode reviews right here (pt1) and here (pt2), before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And of course, spoilers ahead

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Episode 3, Dead Canaries

The plot kicks into motion in this episode, with Briggs being rescued from his brief captivity in the sewers; Wakeman being suspiciously helpful about it, and a concrete confirmation that there is indeed a group conspiring (either directly or indirectly) against our protagonists.

Now this was a good episode, in that it definitely advanced the plot and gave us new information, but it also succeeded in highlighting what I’ve discovered is my main underlying issue with this series so far: The episodes are far too long, especially given how little actually happens in each one. It’s been three episodes so far and we’ve elapsed significantly less than 48 hours in this series of events.

That’s more than three hours worth of solid, jam packed story time, covering only two days. Now, you might be thinking that a lot has happened in that time but let’s recap. A bomb went off, agents were assigned to investigate it and evidence was reviewed. Suspects and witnesses were interviewed, more evidence was collected and presented, and our protagonists were assigned to the case. Then one of our protagonists was incapacitated and promptly rescued.

That’s it.

That is the entirety of the plot that has been covered in these three plus hours.

Now I don’t want to be giving out praise to TV procedurals, but that’s the kind of story they can (and do on a weekly basis) cover in a measly 35 minutes, with time left over to gossip about office scandals and hookups.

‘But Lex,’ I hear you saying through the magic of modern day spyware, ‘there’s been so much more covered! Important stuff, like character development, motivation, interpersonal relationships, all that vital good stuff that makes compelling human drama!’ And to that I say, everything I know about our characters I learned in about five minutes of “screen” time. Total.

I know Kircher is idealistic, moral, and honest. She genuinely cares about her job, her coworkers, and helping people. She’s also criminally underserved by her employer and unfortunate gender politics.

I know Garret is a widower, very unexpressive of his emotions (though the show would like me to believe he lacks them completely), and makes a very real and genuine effort to understand people and their motivations, but lacks the personal experience necessary to do so on anything more than a purely academic level.

I know Briggs was once in a relationship with Kircher, likely throws himself into his work to avoid confronting his personal and emotional issues directly, and tends to work alone and resents being anything less than self sufficient.

So much of the character and world building on display here is so gingerly holding my hand and carefully walking me through everything that it’s all but hammering me over the head. The show, and of course the writer, director etc, don’t trust me to follow along with it all.

They say show don’t tell, and Edict Zero has that down. They absolutely show me how everything fits together and works, and they show me how everyone relates through their interactions and genuinely good performances. But it also tells me all of that too.

The scene where the random drunk finds the briefcase floating in an alley (gravity bomb) was excessive. I don’t need to know that he’s late on rent and laid off from work, I don’t need to know that his wife is cooking and he’s ungrateful because he wants to go out drinking…

Side note: If your wife is generous and cares enough to cook for you don’t berate her, that’s just shitty.

…I just need to know that he’s drunk, it’s new years eve still, and he found a floating briefcase that he intends to pawn. It’s simple, it’s maybe a minute, and it’s far more engaging.

I should say though that there was one very satisfying moment, where Garrett’s brother-in-law confronts him and Kircher actually calls him out on it! It was a very typical moment between two characters where one says something confrontational and entirely unprofessional that just wouldn’t fly in a real workplace, that usually goes uncommented on by other characters. But in this instance Agent Kircher takes notice, and actively dresses down the man and defends her colleague.

It didn’t go as far as I personally might have liked, but it’s giving me hope that the writer will actually treat her character with a more deft hand than I previously thought.

Look don’t get me wrong: I like this show. It impressed the hell out of me the very first time I turned it on, and from a technical standpoint it’s goddamn genius. Each new episode I turn on I’m engaged with the plot and I genuinely want to know what happens, not to mention the director getting very good performances out of the actors (and of course the actors giving those very good performances).

But wanting to know what’s next isn’t always enough for me, I know that most recently from Wolf 359. The show started pretty strong with a fun irreverent vibe but now I’m half way through and I’ve been on the verge of giving up for a while now.

Now you should know that I’m obsessive when it comes to story: I have to finish them or it eats away at me. But in this day and age if something isn’t keeping me invested with good execution I have the option to just look up the plot online. I want new exciting shows to immerse myself in and get obsessed with, but you’ve got to be more engaging than simply reading the wikipedia page for your show or I’m not going to finish.

I like this show. I want to enjoy this show. I desperately hope it’s not losing its lustre for me so quickly.

#

Theories and Predictions:

Socrates is actually an agent of Edict One (can’t remember if I suggested this previously) but somehow had multiple peoples consciousnesses transplanted into his brain. He’s clearly got more than one, and it would explain the word salad verbal diarrhea thing he’s got going on.

Side Note: Also I forgot to mention the reveal of his invisibility ring, another artifact briefly mentioned previously, and shown to have failed him in his moment of need. Clearly these Paradox Artifacts are then fallible, so they run of tech as opposed to a kind of magic.

A bit of a fringe theory, but what if Edict Zero is actually a computer simulation. We know that the trip from earth took a huge amount of time, and that most were in cryosleep. What if the reality they’re experiencing is actually generated for them while they sleep? I still firmly believe(/possibly proven) that edict one is actively conducting experiments on the gen-pop, so this isn’t that far removed from what we know.

What do you think of my theories? What do you think of my criticisms: are they genuine but harsh, or the bitter ravings of an amateurish failure? Let me know in the comments below, let me know your own theories, or better yet let me know if you are listening along with me in this deep dive. Just please no spoilers for upcoming episodes, as I will absolutely be reading your comments.

And of course, go download episode 4 right here, and join me next time as I continue my deep dive into Edict Zero – FIS.


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Days of My Life Podcast

The name Aidan Wheller may seem familiar to some of you if you’ve been around the indie podcast scene for the last year or so: he made his debut in the podcasting world when he started reviewing shows in March of 2018 on YouTube. Well now he has his own podcast and not only did we get to preview the first episode, we got an interview as well.

Days of My Life Podcast

by Dōhai

The name Aidan Wheller may seem familiar to some of you if you’ve been around the indie podcast scene for the last year or so: he made his debut in the podcasting world when he started reviewing shows in March of 2018 on YouTube. In the space of five months he reviewed around 60 podcasts, including some of his personal favorites: The Big Loop, Dark Net Diaries, Dark Saga: Aethuran, Duggan Hill, Superstition, Lonesome Pine, Dream State.

Come summer however he stopped producing his podcast reviews in favour of producing a show of his own: he changed the channel name, removed all the reviews, and began plowing his time into his new project, the Days of My Life Podcast.

So when Aidan reached out to me with a sneak peek behind the curtain of his upcoming show, what could I say?

Within ten minutes of listening to his heart warming first episode I was on the phone setting up an interview.

Q. So what led to the scrapping of the review portion of your YT channel? Was it simply to make room for the podcast, or was there something else?

“The idea for Days of my Life came to me in a moment, and by the end of an hour I had mapped out twelve episodes in my head. I started recording the following week, and as it started to go well I decided I had to stop doing reviews. For one thing I thought to myself “I can’t do reviews and put my own show out.” I needed some distance from being a reviewer.”

He added:

“I still listen to loads of podcasts and audio drama but for now I’m just a fan… cheering them all on from the sidelines.”

Q. Is there a possibility that the review portion of your journey will return, or do you think it was ultimately just a stepping stone in your evolution?

“Maybe in some way it could. But as of now I have no plans to do any. (I still have all the reviews if anybody wants them), but to be honest I have ideas for another podcast after I get done with days of my life. I had another moment where a fully formed story popped into my head, this one is all fiction though, so a great amount of work will be needed to make it come alive. The thing I like about the idea of the show is that it does not limit me, for now I have twelve episodes, but I can see there being many more.”

Q. Would a continuation of DomL be just your own experiences, or would you consider doing “defining moments” of other people’s lives.

“I think that other people’s lives have probably been covered well enough. I thought about doing some shows about my heroes, idols… but I quickly ran into the copyright barrier! It’s impossible to really focus in on a person of fame without breaking copyrights! It took me a long long time to get the short clips that I use for reference in Days of my Life.”

A few weeks ago Aidan put up Episode 0, which is now available wherever you get your podcast fix. This heartwarming personal reflection on his deceased mother is entitled ‘Things I Wish My Mum Knew’ and it’s just that: a list of things that have happened since his mother passed away, that presumably is a reflection of the things they shared whilst she was still alive. It’s a simple premise, and with its monologue backed by somber piano music it is put together incredibly well, creating an ambience that makes me reflect on my own life, familial relationships, and the finite time we have together.

Now full disclosure here, I’m not really a fan of autobiographical works, even those of my idols, so obviously I came into this filled with trepidation. Something I’m happy to say, this podcast well and truly smashed. Perhaps it’s because Aidan is just your average guy on the street, not some Hollywood heartthrob or sporting hero that we hold in high esteem, that this story shines for me. Maybe the reason this story is so heartwarming is because it truly shows that all lives matter.

Episode 1 is entitled ‘Home Base’ and runs for just over half an hour.

In this episode Aidan takes us back to August 1997 when he was a wee lad of 16, when the times, as Bob Dylan so aptly wrote, they were a changing, and a young Aidan was having the time of his life. But this was all about to change, for this date was a major turning point in life, not just for Aidan personally, but for Billions of people around the globe.

As far as the content of this first episode goes, I’m going to leave it there. I have no intention of spoiling this story for you. Suffice it for me to say that this episode is not only well written and produced, it also humbles me how candid and self-effacing one human being can be about their own problems, flaws, and limitations. For me that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Q. I assume that the following episodes will be of life changing moments that are as candid and as self-effacing, so with that in mind, how hard was it for you to not only think on these matters, but to actually break them down, and lay them out for the world to see, and how cathartic was the process?

“Yes they all are very heart-on-sleeve, I would not be able to do any other way. In some ways it has been cathartic to go back to these times, maybe even a bit like therapy for me, but because its all my own life I own it 100% there’s no fiction or worry about how things might end, its reflective and honest and when it’s all done I will be proud to know that’s out there and not just in the backseat of my mind.”

“Not all of the episodes are linked to moments in everybody else’s life, 4 or 5 of them are, some of the dates everybody will know. some of the days are about moments in time and events from my own life story, all true but with some little changes to protect people close to me.”

Q. What do you hope your audience, (and yourself) will take away from this endeavor? Here you are talking about the moment you decided to stop using drugs and become more supportive of your dying mother? Does your mother, and other family members feature in other episodes?

“Yes my family feature more in other episodes, and yes my mother’s death and the time I spent looking after comes back, but I did not just stop getting waisted. The other shows focus in on the human condition of loss and living with grief, but also finding new things, and new ways to run away or transform into something else. I was only 16 in the episode Homebase, as I write this I am now 37, so plenty of time for more missadventures.”

“As for what people might get from it…. It’s just me saying hello to the world, and sharing my story, I guess I want people to like it, maybe relate to it.. I don’t think it will appeal to everyone, and not chasing anything… of course I want as many people to listen to as possible but honestly it sounds cheesy but it’s true, if just a few people listen to it and relate to it that’s fine with me.”

Q. So how are you feeling now that your first show is about to launch?

“I guess I feel a bit insecure. I’m not a pro and I am learning my craft as I go. I have one little mic and a shitty old laptop, so when I listen back to my shows I think, “it’s not as good as the shows I love” but then I think ‘Hell’ the whole thing came from one little thought, it doesn’t have to be perfect as long as it’s good enough for me that’ll do!”

I know how that feels, my first ever attempt is almost ¾’s broadcast, and even though I’ve had lots of praise, I still feel queasy when an episode is released, and I am poised to run through it all again so that I can reassess and learn all there is about my writing.

“The last thing I would say is that the show does not follow a solid timeline, so sometimes I might overlap or go backwards then forwards, I kinda like that it’s a bit blurry and rough.”

I wish you all the best with your show Aidan, I’m looking forward to listening to more days of your life in the near future.

If you wish to catch this show, then you can do so wherever you listen to your regular playlist, and episode one ‘HomeBase’ dropped on April 3rd 2019.


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