Audio stories go back to the very beginning of humanity’s storytelling legacy with myths, lore, and community sharing that created what we call culture. Live theater was the next step, pulling in visual art and written scripts to fine-tune the drama. And movies made it all bigger, brighter (and louder) than our ancestors could have fathomed.
So why go back to just listening to a story?
Because it’s not a lesser experience than visual (and written), but has its own place that has never been usurped by more “modern” ways to tell a tale (I’m sure at one point cave painters were “whippersnappers with their modern ways!”). Listening taps into the oldest parts of our brain, pulling out our deepest emotions. Podcasting is like sitting around the fire hearing legends of the tribe, but with better sound effects.
Today’s podcasting is the internet version of radio.
Radio dramas have a rich history, especially with comic heroes and science fiction. Long before CGI, audio storytelling could immerse you into a fantasy world without a big budget, your imagination making it realistic (you know the story ofWar of the Worlds.)
I was first introduced to radio drama while researching and designing a curriculum for a summer camp with children set in the 1930’s, when radio was king. I knew radio stories were big back then and had a vague notion in my mind of annoying, silly, over-dramatic voices with cheesy music. They weren’t (well, some of them were). Most of these were gems of writing and acting and foley effect, in a live broadcast format- that’s talent!
I ended up writing and recording my own versions with the kids and we LOVED them. You can read more of that experience in a previous post.
Podcasts are anything audio-only from news to a discussion to drama. I’m more interested in drama, either a retelling of something true, legends, or speculative fiction. Audiobooks are one version of this, but an audio drama is more like a movie that you listen to, with a script, a cast of actors, and sound engineering (effects and music) that take you into the story. If you’ve never given it a try, I highly recommend it. It’s truly one of my favorite forms of storytelling.
Here on GeekMom, we have highlighted podcasts for you that will creep you out, an audio play retelling of Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird, a retelling of folklore in a modern style with Myths and Legends, plus some experiences with podcasts that went on the road with live performances like Welcome to Nightvale and The Intergalactic Nemesis.
Once you start looking, you’ll see there are thousands of podcasts from around the world. Narrowing down to stories (as opposed to music or news) is still overwhelming. Here is a site that gives you a selection of the best by category. You can peruse all the audio drama ones.
Why not listen to something that won an award? The Parsec Awards are for speculative fiction podcasting.
With our culture completely media-saturated, when and why does anyone listen to podcasts?
Travel is a big one. Driving and listening to audiobooks or podcasts is a great way to keep sane during a long commute. Long walks or other exercise can become a new world with an audio play.
My son listens to podcasts while doing artwork. Personally, I put in my earbuds in the kitchen while cooking and baking. My husband and I listen to stories together while doing a puzzle as a “date night.” Reading and screen time are straining on the eyes and involve sitting and more sitting. It’s one thing to do this for work, but what a healthy break for your body to be entertained without the need to stare continuously at one spot in a chair.
Next family night, instead of turning on a screen, dial up a podcast story, get art supplies for the kids, a puzzle or knitting for yourself, and sit around the virtual fire, immersed in a story together.