In the last two podcast spotlights I featured Escape Pod, the first speculative fiction podcast, and Pseudopod, the first horror podcast. This installment is about Podcastle, the third brand of the Escape Artists brand with the other two. They cover the whole spectrum of fantasy stories from contemporary to epic, grimdark to comedy, literary to light, contemporary authors to classics (including three Conan the Barbarian stories so far). There’s something there for everybody, and plenty to recommend. Compared to the other Escape Artists podcasts, they are friendlier to longer stories–even featuring period “Giant” episodes of novelette length stories, and have also often feature Miniature episodes for flash fiction. They’ve also started doing some non-fiction features, including Podcastle Spotlights to highlight an exciting upcoming fantasy novel, and recently featured Kameron Hurley’s essay “We Have Always Fought” reprinted from Dribble of Ink that went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Related Work.
Podcastle was launched in 2008 by owner Steve Eley to round out the Escape Artists trio of speculative fiction podcasts. Until Podcastle’s launch, Escape Pod carried both fantasy and science fiction stories, but with the launch of Podcastle, Escape Pod switched to publishing only science fiction to leave the fantasy stories to Podcastle. The first episode was “Come Lady Death” by Peter S. Beagle.
At the time of launch, Rachel Swirsky was the editor and Ann Leckie was the assistant editor. Rachel Swirsky retired from the editor position in 2010 to focus on her fiction writing (and has had many publications, including award-nominees in the meantime). Anna Schwind and Dave Thompson took over as co-editors from there, and remain the editors to this day. Ann Leckie retired from the position last year with the release of her novel Ancillary Justice which has swept the awards (I reviewed Ancillary Justice last year, Carl Slaughter interviewed her recently, and a review of the sequel Ancillary Sword will be published here on October 7th). In the beginning Rachel Swirsky and Ann Leckie did most of the hosting. There have been many different guest hosts over the years, but nowadays the hosting duties are mostly filled by Dave Thompson with MK Hobson hosting periodically and guest spots by others at regular intervals.
THE BEST EPISODES
Podcastle episodes made 7 of the 50 episodes in my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time list. My favorites were:
- “Heartless” by Peadar Ó Guilín
- “Cup and Table” by Tim Pratt
- “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
- “The MSG Golem” by Ken Liu
- “As Below, So Above” by Ferrett Steinmetz
- “The Mermaid’s Tea Party” by Samantha Henderson
- “Creature” by Ramsey Shehadeh
- “Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy” by Jim C. Hines
- “Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future” by Keffy R.M. Kehrli
- “The Warlock and the Man of the Word” by M.K. Hobson
- “The Ghost of Christmas Possible” by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw
- “Scry” by Anne Ivy
- “Captain Fantasy and the Secret Masters” by Tim Pratt
- “Wuffle” by Chantal Beaulne
- “A Heretic by Degrees” by Marie Brennan
Now that the three Escape Artists sister podcasts have been in the spotlight, next time will be the weirdo that’s not technically part of the family but still shows up for Christmas parties and no one has had the nerve to ask him who he is(I really mean that in the best way possible). My Top 50 list of podcast episodes was dominated by 15 Drabblecast stories, and there’s a good reason for that–the editor Norm Sherman has a weird taste for stories that’s perfectly in tune with my own.