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”

Back to the Past

Let me take you back in time for a second. I know; you should be used to this now, since I write a show called Ostium all about time travel. But I’m going to take you back a couple of years, to the first month of 2017. The first two episodes of Ostium have been released and I’m feeling like I’ve got this podcasting thing just right and it’s all going to be smooth sailing from here on out …

Back to The Past:

Future Alex Has a Few Things to Say to Past Alex

by Alex C. Telander

Let me take you back in time for a second. I know; you should be used to this now, since I write a show called Ostium all about time travel. But I’m going to take you back a couple of years, to the first month of 2017. The first two episodes of Ostium have been released and I’m feeling like I’ve got this podcasting thing just right and it’s all going to be smooth sailing from here on out …

Continue reading “Back to the Past”

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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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.


Edict Zero Episode 2

By Lex ScottWelcome to part two of my deep dive into the masterclass in audio drama that is Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my episode 1 review right here, before joining me for the rest of my journey.

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Welcome to part two of my deep dive into the masterclass in audio drama that is Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my episode 1 review right here, before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And of course, spoilers ahead!

Episode 2, 2415 Part 2

3 seconds. In all my studies and my own experience in content creation, 3 seconds is all the time you’ve got to hook your audience in the online space. This of course is not true of all content: watching a movie you’ve usually got a few minutes to grab your audience’s attention, and just a few fewer for television. But online content: web series, social media videos… podcasts? You’ve got precious little time to really get to the point before your audience decides to move on to a more immediate gratification.

This is what was going through my mind in the opening moments of Episode 2. Now granted, as I’ve said before this show is quite a few years older at this point and it’s possible a lot of this information hadn’t really been gathered at that point. But still the scene setting in this show is excruciating from a modern viewpoint. They spend so much time setting the scene that I honestly believe if you decided to recut this show you would potentially lose about ten minutes of run time (probably an exaggeration but I really needed to get that off my chest).

I think the most maddening aspect of the scene setting is that most of it isn’t just establishing location through background noise like traffic etc to go along with any “new location” voice announcement. Most of it is actually world building and lede burying, BUT it all ends up being superfluous because they give us the same exact info in actual dialogue during the scenes being set up! It makes me feel like the show believes it really needs to hold my hand and lead me through it’s oh so labyrinthine and difficult plot, which makes me think either it doesn’t respect me enough to be able to follow along, or thinks it’s much much smarter and more elaborate than it is.

It all comes across really as clumsy exposition, compounded further by more clumsy foreshadowing and exposition. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of hiding info dumps in radio broadcasts that our characters are listening to in scene, that slowly fade out as the scene in actual starts to play out, is genius. But the problem is simply that too much time is taken with it all being repeated anyway, when each episode is already bordering on an indulgent run time.

Much like I’ve spent so much time on this one gripe I have with an admittedly high quality and objectively good show.

Side note I’m always genuinely torn when reviewing something; between being a creator and knowing what an achievement it is to just make something (especially independently) and thus shouting down excess criticism, and picking everything apart down to its tiniest components and being very critical indeed. I am really riding the line with this series, but it might be because I’m both reviewing it for work and also dissecting it to better understand what I want in my work.

 

Anyway, episode two is definitely a part two. Everything going on is just wrapping up previously established plot points aimed at putting everyone where they need to be before the action really gets going. We get some great world building in Kircher’s interactions with her AI butler Jasper (sassy or bitchy? Let me know in the comments) and her cars built in AI slash some kind of phone/ PDA system? It’s a fun taste of the futuristic tech that’s just helpful enough to not castrate our investigators in this mystery, and just broken enough to be entertaining.

 

Side note I don’t know what it is specifically but a lot of this whole show just feels really nineties to me. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue or the music or what but so much of it reminds of nineties storytelling and aesthetics.

 

Our trio of main characters (Kircher, Briggs, and Garrett) are thrust together in a mini task force operating independently within the main task force (ed: task-ception!) in a manner that makes Kircher suspicious of it’s ease, and the others exasperated at having to work with each other. Once they’ve each debriefed the others they set out to do some boots-on-the-ground investigating.

Briggs follows up on the homeless angle, given Garrett is “terrible” at interacting with anyone but the hard done by in particular would not put up with him, Kircher follows up on an asylum lead to learn hard info about Cooke and Socrates, and Garrett lets us all learn more about the Paradox Artifacts and in the process introduces us to one of the most teeth gritting characters that are unfortunately seemingly emblematic of this series.

I don’t know Jack Kincaid, and I’m not readily familiar with any of his other work, but he seems to have leaned far too heavily on a kind of excessive pomposity for a lot of his characters. I suspect this has a lot to do with his voice acting: a quick and dirty trick for voice acting is to put on an exaggerated accent as a kind of shortcut to character creation, and his characters all seem to share a similar upper class pastiche that lends itself to verbosity and pompousness. I don’t know if this is still true, or even if it will hold true in the near future of this series, but for now that’s what i’ve seen.

Oh and Mister Cooke returns (totally called in my last review) and reveals that Captain Socrates’ beloved pan was actually gifted to him by Cooke. So I guess I’ve got one more reason to dislike that arrogant eyeless churl.

 

Conclusions/ Predictions

All in all, though I do have one or two specific complaints that come primarily from my own instincts as a writer and thus are entirely subjective to my personal style of doing things, I am enjoying this show. I’m looking forward to finding out how they rescue Briggs, which from the preview will be the main focus of episode two, and I’m genuinely interested in these Paradox Artifacts. Now I lean more towards the fantastical than the realistic, so that could be why, but I really think the show will benefit from leaning more into the outlandish aspects that have been hinted at so far.

 

Side note if I don’t get a scene on a boat with those weird sea monsters they mentioned I’m going to be very upset.

 

A solid episode overall, very functional in what it needs to do. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I think not enough people are willing to make functional. All too often people eschew necessity for spectacle and neglect to put in the work, so I respect this episode all the more for it.

I’m working on a theory for the Paradox Artifacts, though admittedly I’ve still got very little info to go on. So far we know they exist. No matter what, that briefcase bomb does exist, and it has a voice activated trigger. We can surmise that some kind of personal teleporter also exists, thus it is likely if two exist there are others that exist as well.

We also have been told that Edict One, the people who developed on the spaceships in the (as yet unspecified length of) time that passed on the trip from earth, keep themselves separate from society and also somewhat prohibit laboratories (and thus probably scientific advancement to some degree?). We can surmise that they have developed technologically as well as socially. We’ve also been told that two other ships “disappeared” on the journey.

So my theory is that Edict One didn’t wake everyone up immediately, instead seeding the planet with these artifacts first so as to facilitate part of the experiment they are so clearly running on human society. Not invasive tests or anything, but sociological observations on how they’re developing as a people. They also probably terraformed the planet at least a little bit. Either way they’ve definitely got their own sixth continent they’ve set themselves up on.

What do you think of my theory? Leave a comment and tell 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 3 right here, and join me next time as I continue my deep dive into Edict Zero – FIS.

The Angel of Vine

On November 14, 2018 the Forever Dog Podcast Network (which according to their website produces innovative podcasts and limited series from next level comedians) quietly dropped a new audio drama: The Angel of Vine.

The Angel of Vine

By Matthew William

On November 14, 2018 the Forever Dog Podcast Network (which according to their website produces innovative podcasts and limited series from next level comedians) quietly dropped a new audio drama from production company Vox Populi: The Angel of Vine.

And the cast, ladies and gentleman, is incredible.

Joe Manganiello from True Blood is joined by the likes of Misha Collins (Supernatural), Mike Colter (Luke Cage himself!), Alfred Molina (too many credits to list, of which Doc Ock from Spiderman 2 is the most well known?), Khary Payton (Ezekiel from the Walking Dead), Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One, and countless other voice roles), and Constance Zimmer (UnReal).

This is in addition to some truly veteran voice actors – Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang in the English dub of Fullmetal Alchemist), Matthew Mercer (involved in the English dubs of various anime, as well as cartoons, films, and video games), and Nolan North (Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series) to name just a few.

This is easily the most stacked cast for narrative podcast we’ve seen (heard?) since 2017’s Homecoming, which starred, among others, Catherine Keener, boring Han Solo Oscar Isaac, and Ross from Friends David Schwimmer.

And if the cast alone wasn’t enough to convince you to download, here’s the 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.

All in all, a strong hook and a stacked cast. What more could you ask for?

The show straddles the line between a true crime show and an Audio Drama perfectly, and the gritty story line is enough to keep the most demanding listener begging for more.

Shows like this are beginning to prove to the world that Audio Drama is truly coming back with a vengeance. The first season is complete and can be listened to here.

Time Bombs

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. And what’s more, it was created in a week!

Can You Make a Podcast in a Week?

by Alex C. Telander

If you’re a big fan of audio dramas, chances are you’ve come across the fantastic show Wolf 359. If not, it’s a engrossing science fiction podcast about a distant space station orbiting the star Wolf 359, and the various antics the incredibly talented cast get up to. The show ran for three years, was nominated for a Webby Award, has an untold number of fans and listeners, and is still a big favorite for many. Then a year went by and some of the writers and cast members decided they really missed working together, and started a new project together with a seemingly impossible – or perhaps just insane – premise:

To create, write, record, produce and release a podcast in just one week.

Welcome to the wacky and very unpredictable world of bomb disposal with the three-part show, Time Bombs. Enter one Simon Teller (voiced by Peter Coleman), a trained professional in the fine art of “explosive ordnance disposal.” It’s New Year’s Eve and the rest of the crew would rather be anywhere else, except for Teller who’s looking to disarm a certain number of devices before midnight and beat a “coveted departmental record.” Along for tonight’s oh-so-memorable ride is Tatiana Sobrero (voiced by Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs), a reporter doing a profile on this dangerous life. Will Mark Midland (voiced by Noah Masur) graduate from trainee before the new year rings in? Will Sobrero get the exposé she’s looking for? And will Teller set a new anti-explosive record before midnight chimes in?

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. Since the cast have worked together before, they have no problem forming a cohesive crew. The fact that the whole project was completed within one week simply boggles the mind. The good news is, Time Bombs is the first of hopefully many shows under the new flagship network, Fear of Public Shame. Shachat, Urbina and Valenti have also started a weekly show called No Bad Ideas, as they challenge each other to turn a bad idea into a decent story within thirty minutes, and then spend the rest of the show talking about their creative endeavors.

Time Bombs is a great place to start in giving these talented people a listen and from there you can start consuming their growing collective of great podcast.

The Deep Dive Into…

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke.

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Ever since I started getting into scripted podcasts, I’ve wished I could find proper full episode reviews and breakdowns. I could never find them, but that might because I never looked in the right place. So, when Podern Times started up and I was asked what I wanted to work on, that was of course the first thing I said. I was recommended a show to check out and review and it was off to the races.

The show was terrible. I thought “I don’t think I can stomach listening to two more seasons of this show”

It turns out it was a joke! I was supposed to hate that show (ed: SORRY! ) and there was something far more substantial, and of significantly higher quality waiting just up next in my podcast queue. The second recommendation: Edict Zero – FIS.

Here was a show that, at eight years old, is still held up as a benchmark of quality for audio dramas, and is regarded by many in the community to be one of the best the medium has to offer. And that’s not just in sci-fi: every new show, regardless of genre, is measured against the astounding quality of writing and production design on display here. And yet no one has really broken it down or analysed it before.

It was everything I’d been hoping for, and almost everything it’s reputation promised: big long meaty episodes roughly an hour each. Excellent technical quality and absolute masterful sound design. I knew, if I could get into the story there would be plenty to sustain a series of articles of analysis, conjecture, and gushing over this veritable audible feast.

So, please join me as I take a long journey, episode by episode, deep into the future of New Earth and the Federal Investigative Services, as presented by Jack Kincaid and Slipgate Nine Entertainment.

And of course, spoilers ahead.

Prequel/ Episode 1, 2415 Part 1

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke. An interesting if overly hostile character, our time with him in this episode is sadly very brief.

He unfortunately is emblematic of one of the main issues I had with this episode though: an overly wordy talker, unnecessarily hostile to everyone he meets. It’s a trope I’ve seen time and again in every medium imaginable and I always find it tiresome, because it’s just not believable.

People just don’t get to be that openly hostile to others and still interact with them. He’s rude to the butler who ushers him through the building, he’s rude to security doing his job, the only person he’s not rude to is the girl he rescues.

Side note: I’m assuming both Cooke and Melissa Parker survived, otherwise the entire opening is pointless.

Maybe Cooke’s whole demeanor is meant to make him one of these “characters you’re supposed to hate” but I’ve never bought into that trope. Either engender sympathy for your hero’s plight to make us hate the villain as an obstacle, or make us fear the villain for his actions. Making a vaguely hostile and oddly verbose character just takes me out of the moment and reminds me it’s unrealistic.

Near the end of the episode we learn that Cooke was involved in procuring mystic items for this now deceased mob boss. I’m inclined to believe this suitcase bomb was one of these Paradox Artifacts, and can probably be used more than once. My guess is some sort of black hole or gravity distortion bomb. And the fact that Cooke and Melissa probably survived indicates he probably has more than one in his possession, likely one for some sort of teleportation. It’s debatable whether he also actually does possess the Hex Gate Disc he was supposed to trade for Melissa Parker’s life.

Edict Zero is on the whole an extremely impressive piece of literature. On a technical level it is nothing short of astounding, with sound effects, music, and background noise all expertly layered together to form a truly impressive soundscape that really does build a picture in your mind of where you are. Every scene transition is smooth and flawless without being unnecessarily telegraphed. There is the occasional robotic voice telling us of our new location when it’s necessary or pertinent, but it always feels like it too is part of the world.

It actually feels like an automated train announcement, telling us what stop we’ve just arrived at. This even gives us an extra layer of subconscious detail by subtly telling our brains that time has passed while we travelled here.

Another scene transition that blew my mind in its simplicity was a simple change in audio quality. There are a few instances where a character is on the phone with someone, and we hear their voice as though through a phone. Now in video you can quickly switch back and forth, showing the different locations, but here we slowly transition from hearing one character through the phone’s distortion to the other. And we end the interaction now following the second character, in the new location.

It’s an incredibly subtle change, and I doubt most listeners would pick up on it consciously, but  no one would fail to realise that we’ve suddenly changed perspective.

It’s simple, almost consciously imperceptible, and impressively effective.

There were unfortunately a few times where they spent too much time setting the scene, and the whole thing felt a bit too audibly busy, with sound effects and background noises building and bustling. But, as this is the first episode and almost a decade old at this point, I’m expecting this to be improved as the series progresses.

Our second major character is another trope I’m generally a bit tired of, but in this instance I’m more bothered by the people around him than the actual character.

That is one agent Nick Garrett, an example of the Sherlock type character. He’s studied it all, is well versed in the various sciences, but lacks the intuitive understanding of actual people that most develop in their early years. He lacks the “correct” emotional response to most situations, and comes at everything with a critical, analytical mind.

As this character trope goes he’s not bad, but it’s the others around him that make it aggravating to me as an audience.

He lacks any hostility or superiority in his tone to be truly rude, but everyone he meets acts as though he’s the foulest most offensive thing they’ve ever had the displeasure of enduring. Though admittedly this seems limited to FIS agents, in particular those who seem to really lean on their authority and positions. The son of the murdered mob boss seemed to be pretty reasonable in talking to him. This leads to us immediately distrusting most of the other (non-pov) agents. In particular one Agent Whiteman of the organised crime division.

Side note: in regards to Whiteman, they spent so much time showing us how incorruptible he is that if he doesn’t end up being a traitor I well be genuinely shocked.

A counterpoint to the Agent Garrett character is presented in the form of Agent Kircher, and the way she’s treated by the narrative/ other characters is troubling.

In the briefing scene there are two people interrupting Agent Whiteman: Garrett, and Kircher. While Garrett is removed from the room and verbally dressed down, he’s otherwise allowed to continue his own personal investigation. Meanwhile, Kircher is tolerated in the room but later simply removed from the case entirely.

She’s not given the same opportunity to pursue her (entirely relevant) leads, or even confronted about her somehow “disrespectful” behaviour. She’s simply removed without ever being given the same opportunity to defend her position. This is unfortunate but probably unconscious gender politics on display, and the complete difference in the way their actions were responded to warrants further thought and discussion. I don’t believe this was a deliberate or even conscious choice by the writers, but in 2018 it really sticks out.

We close out the episode with a final scene introducing us to our major lead in the case: the homeless, probably mentally ill “Captain” Socrates, an associate of Mister Cooke.

This scene with Socrates is honestly one of if not the single weakest in the entire episode. I know people say in acting you make a choice and it’s better than not making a choice, and Jack Kincaid – the creator of this show, and actor of this role – certainly made a choice.

The trouble is I think that choice was bad.

It’s a tired and, once again overly verbose, caricature of a mental patient from the 1950’s. Speaking in a pastiche of upper class gentleman explorer vernacular, he seemingly speaks in an interminable mashup of movie quotes and pop culture references that lose all meaning when jammed in next to each other. I get that this is probably the aim, presenting an unhinged character with a scattered brain and neurons firing every which way all at once, but it is so world breaking it completely takes me out of the moment every time I hear it.

I cringe, every time, and not in the way the writer probably intended.

Conclusions/ Predictions

Overall I like this show. It is a master class in audio presentation and mixing, truly the most complex and technical show I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear and I genuinely feel like I learned a lot about the craft just by listening to it. The world building is top notch and genuinely engaging, and I really am looking forward to hearing the next episode and knowing what happens to our characters.

One of my favourite things about finding a new (to me) show with a big back catalogue spanning years is getting to see a kind of time lapse of their skills, as the creators grow and develop as people and artists. Getting to go back to the beginning of a journey and looking for all the kernels of promise present right from the start; crossing your fingers and watching them tease out their problematic or tired tropes into well defined thoughts is always engrossing.

I am genuinely looking forward to continuing with this series and seeing where it leads. And, hopefully seeing them outgrow some of these things that bothered me.

Go download Episode 2 right now, and join me next time as I continue my Deep Dive into Edict Zero – FIS.


Girl in Space

The last man on earth concept is a popular one in science fiction. I am Legend, The Omega Man, and Oblivion all spring immediately to mind, but my personal favorite is a relatively new addition to the subgenre: Girl in Space.

By Lex Scott

The last man on earth concept is a popular one in science fiction. I am Legend, The Omega Man, and Oblivion all spring immediately to mind, but my personal favorite is a relatively new addition to the subgenre: Girl in Space.

This radio play is frankly an astounding achievement, and a testament to a medium many would dismiss off-hand as dead or irrelevant. At times heartwarming, tense, and funny, this show is everything you could want shoved directly into your earballs.

“Abandoned on a dying ship in the farthest reaches of known space, a young scientist fights for survival (and patience with the on-board A.I.). Who is she? No one knows. But a lot of dangerous entities really want to find out…”

This is how we are introduced to the girl we’ll come to call X, and it is so wonderfully compelling you wouldn’t believe. It sucks you in with concept, and hooks you with it’s superb acting and excellent execution.

Let’s talk about that execution.

Girl in Space is written, produced by, and stars Sarah Rhea Werner, a professional writer, speaker, and podcaster She left a decades long marketing career, (why are all us writers former/current marketing professionals? I mean, there’s some crossover skill-wise but still…) to pursue her creative passions. I personally believe that move has paid off tremendously. Sarah’s performance is so rich in emotion and honesty that it alone is enough to pull you in. Acting is hard, and voice acting is even harder. I seriously cannot heap enough praise on this performance. It is nothing short of mind blowing.

The writing itself is fantastic. Polished and tight without any real wasted time, while simultaneously feeling very raw and off the cuff. The character of X is one with no filter: on a space station alone, and encouraged from an early age to vent her free-flowing thoughts into a portable recorder will do that to a person. So her character needs to do a lot of free association and be allowed to let her mind wander, (even in life or death situations; let’s just say that her mouth gets her in trouble a few times). This gives X a very charming, naive quality that’s never boring or off-putting. I’m not usually a fan of “naturalistic” dialogue; I always say if I wanted to hear natural dialogue I’d just go outside. I always want tight, focused speech from characters, a heightened reality. But coming from X and Sarah’s performance it is such a perfect character choice. Like having a friend who talks all the time, but in such a pleasant way you can’t help but be charmed.

The sound design is a triumph. Filled with subtle ambient ticks to truly sell the out of this world atmosphere. We hear the whir of Charlotte’s (the ships irascible A.I) hydraulic arm as she moves in and out of the story, subtle music cues filling in emotional beats and pauses in the narration masterfully used to convey the almost wistful stream of consciousness present throughout the entire show.

The overall production quality is excellent. The actual voice recording is professionally crisp and clean, no pops or odd spikes in volume. Each sound, from speech to music to effects, are entirely clear; in many podcasts I find myself manually tweaking the volume as I go to adjust for someone suddenly becoming inaudible (through moving to far from the mic or to account for extra noises going on in the show) but I never found myself doing this with Girl in Space. Even at its most busy (and that’s never much, it is a very laid back show) I never found myself struggling to make out words over effects or musical cues.

The writing itself is amazing in its simplicity. In essence it is a stream of consciousness narrative: X, the eponymous girl in space, is alone on a space station. We know this, and we can infer from certain clues that she was there with her parents until one day they weren’t. From a young age she was given a recorder and encouraged to share her thoughts with it, both as a useful log of events (and a helpful training tool for scientific recording) and as a diary to stave off loneliness and provide a creative outlet. This leads to a character essentially with no filter, who’s spent her entire life (approximately 24 years by my count?) venting a stream of unfiltered thoughts into her diary.

You might think this would make for a boring character but surprisingly it doesn’t. The stream of consciousness is endearing and well presented, and helped along by being thoughtful and emotionally honest. It provides a genuine and narratively consistent window for us to experience her life as an audience.

Girl in Space is the only piece of literature I can think of that is absolutely perfectly suited to the medium it inhabits. Pretty much everything we consume, movies books television, can be (and often is) presented in any kind of medium. Any movie could be presented just as well as a book and you wouldn’t lose anything of the core content in the translation. Sure many movies or books do take advantage of their respective mediums, and any adaptation will by its very nature focus on different things, Harry Potter the book is not fundamentally different when experienced as Harry Potter the movie.

Not so with Girl in Space. It could not exist in any other form without being fundamentally, unrecognisably, different. Not just that it would lose something in the translation, but that it would not be Girl in Space anymore.

At every turn Sarah takes full advantage of the fact that her audience can only hear what’s going on, that she’s not limited by words on a page or the budget required for visual effects. She paints a rich landscape of emotion, futuristic setting, and engaging characters, all while only engaging a single one of our primary senses. This alone is enough for me to recommend this show to everyone I meet.

Girl in Space makes great and successful efforts to maintain a clean rating, and was intentionally created for all ages to enjoy. I never have any qualms about recommending it to any even remotely mature acquaintance. However if you are squeamish about slightly disturbing imagery such as descriptions of wounds and blood, and sci fi gun violence it might give you pause. Also it is very um, let’s say science friendly, and you should definitely be prepared for such graphic words as coagulation, narcissism, and epigenetics.

I might already have mentioned I’ve actively recommended Girl in Space to every thinking, breathing person I have even a brief interaction with. Quite frankly I think this show is a marvel and a tremendous achievement on every level. It succeeds technically, from sound effects and recording, to presentation and performance, and of course is narratively gripping and compelling in a way you just can’t believe until you listen for yourself. Do yourself a favour and check it out, I promise you won’t regret it.

Serial Meets Moonlighting – Arden Podcast

It seems each and every #audiodramasunday there’s a new podcast dropping about an unsolved murder where the killer is discovered and brought to justice within ten or twelve episodes. These types of shows – audio drama crime shows – are riding on the huge success of “true crime” podcasts such as Serial and S-Town and many others that continue to grow in popularity. And then there’s the Arden Podcast . . .

Serial Meets Moonlighting: The Arden Podcast

By Alex C. Telander

It seems each and every #audiodramasunday there’s a new podcast dropping about an unsolved murder where the killer is discovered and brought to justice within ten or twelve episodes. These types of shows – audio drama crime shows – are riding on the huge success of “true crime” podcasts such as Serial and S-Town and many others that continue to grow in popularity. And then there’s the Arden Podcast . . .

It began as an idea in 2016 when Todd Vanderwerff (Vox, A. V. Club) pitched his writing partner, Christopher Dole (National Theater Institute), with the tagline: “Serial meets Moonlighting.” Dole was immediately on board, and the two then brought in comedy writer Sara Ghaleb (Ruby LA House Team The Burbs), who apparently isn’t familiar with Moonlighting, but was just as excited. The result is a show that is in some ways like other crime dramas, and in many others completely unique and compelling.

The story is set within the glitz and riches of Hollywood stardom.

Ten years ago the renowned actor Julie Capsom ran her car off the road on a rainy night in Northern California, far from the safe and familiar environs of Los Angeles. No sign of her was ever found, she appears to have disappeared into thin air, while a headless corpse of an unknown man was found in the trunk of her car.

Now two unexpected people have decided to solve the case and explain it to the world on the podcast Arden.

There is Bea Casely, a reporter who knows how to follow the rules, but also knows some rules need to be bent every once in a while to get what you need. Brenda Bentley is a former police officer and now turned private detective, who has seen it all and very much wants to find out what exactly happened to Julie Capsom. The two, while not necessarily actual friends, are certainly acquaintances, and very competitive, but ultimately are willing to put their prejudices and feelings aside to work with each other towards this common goal.

Arden podcast is extremely well produced with limited but key sound effects, music that goes well with the dialog and moves the story along. The two main characters – Bea (performed by Michelle Agresti) and Brenda (performed by Tracey Sayed) – have a rapport and dynamic that is unique and special, and at the same time like any well-performing duo. The delivery of the lines, the acting, and the way they feed off each other is hilarious and makes the listener stop whatever they’re doing just to focus. Along with the rest of the cast, every actor is strong and compelling, so there is never a dull moment.

And to “cap(som)” it all off, Wheyface Industries – “the good people” – who owns the radio station and a good chunk of Hollywood, cuts in with some very interesting advertisements in each episode, such as an ad for Wheyface Industries itself [Arden Wheyface Industries Sound File], or the Wheyface Industries Dehydrated Drinks for Adults [Arden Dehydrated Drinks Sound File], or the new dating app Wheydate [Arden Wheydate Sound File].

In the style of the Amelia Project, A Very Fatal Murder, and The After Disaster Broadcast, Arden Podcast is an enthralling murder mystery that has ample humor and a dynamic cast that will leave you wanting more at the end of every episode. Do yourself a favor and download and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.