I listen to podcasts on almost a daily basis on my iPod. If you’ve never heard of this term, essentially, they’re radio programs recorded and posted to the web. They’re usually posted on a regular basis — daily, weekly, etc. Most people download them in the morning before they’re off to work, and listen to them in the car or on breaks. They can cover anything, ranging from science fiction to computers to international news to Catholicism. They’re the time-shifting of your radio shows, much like TiVo so famously does for television.
Podcasts aren’t that new, though — they really broke into the mainstream early last year. What is new — to me, at least — is the serial fiction form that’s cropped up recently. I listened to two of them today. The first is The Silent Universe:
With a style of drama that mixes elements of “24” and the new “Battlestar Galactica,” each episode of the Silent Universe reveals layers of suspense and intrigue that leaves audiences guessing at what twists its plot will take next. Its motley cast of characters includes weapons specialists, a computer hacker, an ex-mercenary and even a casino tycoon, all forced to go to extreme lengths to prevent tragedy from striking the solar system. In a world where nuclear weapons are common to even the poorest countries and the United Nations is nothing but a quaint historical footnote, even the smallest conflict between powers can threaten to plunge mankind into Armageddon.
The first episode is out, and it’s actually very good. Professional voice actors probably help with this, but the writing is surprisingly good. The author of this effort goes by J. Marcus Xavier, which I believe is the same person protrayed on a blog called Very Small Doses. I’m sure the radio shows from the 30’s and 40’s were better, but that was a main national past time, and therefore had the massive weight of all the associated money behind it. For something like this to come out in a free format, and probably not paying a penny to anyone concerned (they’ll have a hard time paying for their bandwidth with the advertising alone), is pretty impressive.
The second one I listened to, Children of the Gods, was not quite up to the same level of quality:
Children of the Gods is a series on which I have been writing for the last few years. It is composed of three books, which follow the trials of humanity as the Terrans fight for their right to exist, and ultimately face the truth of mankind’s destiny. The series was originally inspired by the book Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and later, more heavily, by the movie based on that book, Independence Day. In the book, aliens come to Earth to move in and take the indegenous primitive species (us) into it’s tribal structure. In the movie, they come simply to kill us all and take our planet and its resources for themselves.
This is definitely of a more homemade breed, but still enjoyable. I can’t say I could do much better, but I wish they could. (Seriously, the Batman Begins soundtrack playing in the background? Really?)
If you have the capability to download and listen to these and other serial fiction efforts from the podcast community, then do so.