This week's guest is Christian Madera, co-creator of The Once And Future Nerd. The long-running serial features three high school kids - Billy, Jen and Nelson - who find themselves swept into the fantasy kingdom of Iorden. With all the benefits and challenges (mostly the latter) that entails...
[The episodes are about 20-25 minutes each, which is eerily perfect for my morning commute, and I'm having a blast listening to them.]
We asked Christian to recommend a few of his favourite podcasts, and he's obliged rather spectacularly...
Elevator Pitch: Three very funny podcasters play a D&D campaign with their Dad.
Review: The Brothers McElroy have spent years honing their comedic banter game on their tongue-in-cheek advice show My Brother, My Brother, and Me. For whatever reason, that show, while slick, funny, and well-done, never captured my attention. But the added Fantasy bent of their Dungeons and Dragons spin-off was the hook I needed to fall in love with their unique style. In The Adventure Zone, Travis and Justin McElroy, and their Dad (himself a broadcasting veteran and geek before it was cool) play through a D&D 5E campaign, with Griffin McElroy taking the role of DM.
They begin with the default quest in the 5E player's handbook, but the campaign soon branches off into a surprisingly fascinating world of Griffin's devising. The snarky asides remain enjoyable throughout, but what really makes the show for me is Griffin's morbidly hilarious combat commentary and smartly specific character work as various ridiculous NPCs. And of course the constant delight the players take in annoying their DM. The first episode is a bit mechanics-heavy, as you might expect, but stick it out through the first battle and you'll be glad you did.
SFW-ness: Curse words and drug references, but it never feels gratuitous
Find it at: http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone or search "Adventure Zone" on iTunes
If you love this, try: My Brother My Brother and Me or Sawbones for more McElroy family banter, Party Roll or Drunks & Dragons for further comedic RPG action
Elevator Pitch: Two friends try to make each other laugh with goofy Fantasy stories
Review: If we define 'farce' as a comedy in which jokes, rather than character, motivate the plot, then Fantasy Fiction is farce par excellence. Josh Henderson and Dom Moschitti, two indie podcast pop culture mavens, spend every episode of this show trying to one-up each other with over-the-top Fantasy stories set in a Warcraft-inspired universe. All the episodes are self-contained, so you can pick up listening anywhere, but there's a consistency to their "canon" that will reward completionists. They revel in raunch and poor-taste, but it never feels like the tired and tiresome "offensive for offensiveness' sake" schlock that too many uninspired podcasters try to substitute for creativity. Every once in a while, an edgy joke will miss its mark and make me cringe, but there's a clever ambivalence that I think sells the whole thing: they're poking fun at the juvenile version of masculinity that plagues so much pulp Fantasy, while never denying its appeal. Great show if you want to turn off your brain and laugh.
SFW-ness: not even close
Find it at: http://fantasyficpod.podomatic.com/ or search "Fantasy Fiction" on iTunes
If you love this, try: ContinueCast for more Josh Henderson, Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction for more genre raunch
Elevator Pitch: Satirical Victorian/Steampunk Supernatural Thriller Audiodrama
Review: Yup, that sure is a lot of descriptors. I promise it doesn't sound like a Frankensteined mish-mash when you actually listen to it. To the show's great credit, it actually blends it all quite well! Rude Alchemy is a company of Audiodramatists who write comedy set in a Victorian/Steampunk universe, with Lovecraftian horror creeping around its edges. They just concluded their first series - "Carver Cranebottom: Bone Detective" - about an archaeologist hunting for missing fossils and an ancient, eldritch weapon. The sophomoric humor contrasts nicely with the skilled voice-acting and meticulous sound design. Audiodrama is in the midst of a significant revival lately (which I hope continues for selfish reasons), but I chose this show in particular to highlight, just because of how reliably it brings a smile to my face.
SFW-ness: graphic jokes about poop and butts
Find it at: http://rudealchemy.com/ or search "Rude Alchemy" on iTunes
Elevator Pitch: Two Audiodrama Producers navigate the ins/outs of that medium, with plenty of overlap into genre fiction
Review: Though this is not technically a Fantasy podcast, Audiodrama is one of the richest new media for indie speculative fiction (as I hope the previous entry in this article made clear). Robert Cudmore and Matthew McLean, who produced Aftermath, discuss various topics in the production of Audiodrama, sometimes amongst themselves and sometimes with an esteemed guest (or me that one time). Some episodes veer towards the technical side, but plenty deal with story structure and world-building in speculative fiction. If you only want to hear those, you can suss out which they are pretty easily based on episode titles. But if you think you might want to use an aural canvas for your next indie-Fantasy masterpiece, these guys will always have good insight to spare.
SFW-ness: An interviewee will sometimes swear, but pretty much PG
Find it at: http://audiodramaproduction.com/ or search "Audio Drama Production Podcast" on iTunes
If you love this, try: Writing Excuses (Fantasy legend Brandon Sanderson discusses writing process with his friends), Sword & Laser ("state of the genre" style talk show), The Architect's Apprentice (interviews with Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors), The Fantasy Podcast (interviews with Sci-Fi and Fantasy actors, LARPers, etc.), Scriptnotes (hands-down the best screenwriting podcast out there; no genre focus but hosts are clearly SF/F fans)
Elevator Pitch: Dark, atmospheric Fantasy saga read by a single narrator
Review: Devin McKernan spins his original yarn about a female knight sworn to protect a realm that's mostly covered in evil and darkness. Haunting, moody scoring nicely complements the themes of isolation, alienation, and Nietzschean abysses staring back at you. Will appeal to you if you like Dark Souls or The Witcher, or if you wish True Detective were set in early feudal Europe.
If you love this, try: MedusPod (anthology-style stories across all genres, read by excellent narrators), The No Sleep Podcast (narrators read short horror stories), PodCastle (magazine-style short Fantasy stories; they also have sister shows for Sci-Fi and Horror)
If you fall in love with any of the shows listed above, please consider nominating them for a Parsec Award. The Parsecs recognize excellence in Speculative Fiction podcasts, and they are one of very few ways for such shows to earn recognition. Nominations are open through May 31st.