Rolling back the history reels to June of 2008, I received a recommendation for a good horror podcast from Hank Snider. He vastly understated the quality of the stories, narration, production value, and editing done on these stories.
The podcast was PseudoPod and it had just released its 93rd episode, a story called, “The Land of Reeds.” As I usually do, I downloaded the past 10 episodes and listened to them in order. I fell in love immediately, and ran through their web site downloading every episode. (Sorry for the bandwidth bill you had that month.) Many of the stories were hits with me, some of them didn’t quite hit the mark for me, but they were all entertaining and thought provoking. The story that, to this day, still has the most impact on me is “Flat Diane.”
I kept downloading episodes as they were released, and after burning through the 100-some-odd episodes in a massive binge-listen on my daily commute, I caught up. I felt, well, cold and alone in my car. Something was missing because I no longer had a massive backlog of stories to consume. Then Alasdair Stuart (the host at the time, who would become the eventual owner of Escape Artists) mentioned the sister podcasts called PodCastle and EscapePod. PodCastle was somewhere in the 30+ episodes, but EscapePod (the original started by Steve Eley) had hit high marks at around 170+ episodes.
All three of these live under the umbrella of Escape Artists, and I know my life would be a more empty place without the wonderful stories released into the world by everyone who tirelessly works (some without pay!) on each and every single episode.
I’ve mentioned my favorite PseudoPod episode. I’ll do the same for the other two.
The story PodCastle ran that hit me the hardest was one called, “Sundae” about a guardian teddy bear. Seriously. A guardian teddy bear. It’s not flippant. It’s not childish. It’s the rawest story of protecting another I’ve ever come across. The performance given by Dave Robison in this incredible story brought me to tears. I came near crashing my car on my commute no less than three times during the near-hour the story ran.
Now, picking my favorite EscapePod episode is more difficult because they just crested 500 episodes. Yep. You’re reading that right. Five Hundred. In the podcast world, a series is considered fairly successful if they can hit 50. EscapePod has ten times that amount. Holy cow! I’ve had to think long and hard about this one, and I’m going to pick Dave Thompson‘s reading of “Flowers for Algernon.” Again, my car almost ended up in the same physical space as another throughout the episode. The powerful narration at the end of the episode forced me to pull over in a gas station just so I could bawl like a baby without fear of running over someone. This happened to be while I was on a run to the airport to pick someone up for our annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference earlier this year. I’m pretty sure I had collected and composed myself before they got off the plane to meet me because they didn’t ask me if I was okay or anything like that. Perhaps they attributed the red, puffy eyes to the stress of helping run a conference.
To this day, I’ve listened to every episode Escape Artists has put out, except one. Alasdair was nice enough to put a trigger warning about graphic suicide at the start of an episode of PseudoPod. I skipped it. I had to. I apologize to the author of what I’m certain was a fantastic story, but that’s a little too close to home for me.
Now that the metacast (parts one, two and three) is released into the world, I talk about how incredibly thrilled I am to see Cast of Wonders joining the EA family sometime in the next 6-12 months. I just added it to my iTunes feed and will update my Podcast Page here in a bit to link to it permanently. In other news, EA is launching a new online magazine called Mothership Zeta, and it looks like it’ll be going live almost any moment now.
I’m going to close out by thanking everyone who has made EA great in the past, is still with EA, and I look forward to many more years of listening greatness.