A good story can brighten your day, change your outlook, or make the time fly by. Movies are nice, and reading is great, but hearing rests your eyes while letting your imagination set the scene. Audio books are good, but they can be expensive to buy or inconvenient to borrow. Here are 11 free sources of audio fiction and drama to download and enjoy.
These are stories delivered by podcast — radio at your convenience. It comes to your computer, and you can download it to a smartphone or MP3 player or record it onto a CD.
Most of the stories in this list are speculative fiction — science fiction, fantasy and horror. If that’s not your favorite, you’ll find some mainstream and nonfiction in the list — but you might want to give a listen to some of the science fiction and fantasy podcasts anyway — it may not be the rockets and ray guns you remember.
You’ll find audio dramas — with actors and sound effects — and readings — one person reading the story and performing all the voices. With the right cast and production, either one will put you in the middle of the action.
EscapePod is a weekly science fiction podcast featuring short stories by top authors in the genre. Most episodes run about a half hour. Escape Pod has been around since 2005. Eventually, there were enough listeners and enough stories that organizers spun off two sister podcasts — Podcastle and Pseudopod.
PodCastle is a sister podcast to Escape Pod, offering weekly fantasy stories. Episodes usually run around a half hour, with an occasional flash fiction (shorter) or giant episode (longer) thrown in.
Pseudopod is the third of the Escape Artists podcasts, along with EscapePod and PodCastle. Pseudopod features weekly horror and dark fantasy stories.
4. Decoder Ring Theatre
Decoder Ring Theatre is a weekly drama podcast from a troupe in Canada featuring two alternating series: The Red Panda and Black Jack Justice. Both of these dramas capture the liveliness and enthusiasm of Old Time Radio from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s without sinking into either nostalgia or parody.The Red Panda is “Canada’s greatest superhero,” and Black Jack Justice is about a hardboiled Ontario detective and his partner, “Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective.”
The Drabblecast is a weekly podcast featuring “strange stories by strange authors for strange people, such as yourself,” as host Norm Sherman explains in his weekly introduction. Each episode has a short story, a Drabble, which is a 100-word story, and a Twabble, which is a 100-character story, along with thought-provoking commentary. And if you can’t get enough of the Drabblecast’s off-beat stories, subscribe to the B-sides, too.
6. Starship Sofa
Starship Sofa is a weekly science fiction podcast featuring interviews with authors, occasional science news for SF fans, a weekly story, and an occasional work of flash fiction or audio drama. Starship Sofa runs longer than most podcasts, and the ones on my iPhone right now have lengths from 45 minutes to over 2 hours. There’s an index in the lyrics pane, though, so you can skip to your favorite part if you like.
7. Patrick McLean
Patrick E. McLean looks at the world a little differently: A vampire in the attic makes an annoying neighbor; a zombie learns the meaning of life; a supervillain helps build a just society. If you subscribe to his podcast, make sure you go back and listen to the year of stories called the Seanachai. These 10-minute gems were funny, entertaining, with a twist of surprise that keeps you coming back for more. His novels, which are running now, are just as surprising, but in a longer form.
8. Podio Books
Podiobooks is not so much a podcast as a Creative Commons audio bookstore, where you listen for free and donate for the stories you like. It’s a revolutionary business model, where authors read their works and offer them as free downloads (available through iTunes or other podcast players). The site owners give 75 percent of donations to the authors. Even though there is no editor accepting or rejecting books, you’ll find a variety of excellent books for download, including some authors who have used their Podiobooks exposure to negotiate deals with major publishers. The site has more than 500 books in 30 genres.
9. The Classic Tales
In The Classic Tales podcast, actor B.J. Harrison blows the dust off some old literature and shows what exciting stories they can be. From Sherlock Holmes to Bertie and Jeeves, from Mark Twain to Oscar Wilde, his readings bring the stories and characters alive and shows you what makes them “classic.”
10. This American Life
More than a half million people a week listen to the This American Life podcast. Each week the producers put together a series of two or three nonfiction stories centered around a theme — such as “Know When to Fold ’em” or “Very Tough Love,” about real people and the unique way they handle life’s challenges. Sometimes funny, sad, inspiring or all three at once, there’s a reason the podcast is so popular.
11. Stories Take You Places
Take some of these stories along with you. They’ll be great companions on the journey.
About the author: Jan Bear writes about using the internet to market your book and teaches authors and other small business people how to get started on the internet in a weekly podcast, Marketing Savvy.