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Three Flavours of Binge-Worthy SFF Podcasts

Microphone by Matt Botsford (detail)

Stuck indoors? Trying to drown out those inner anxiety voices? Just want a new fix of audible SFF goodness?

Let us serve you three flavours of podcast. Neapolitan style!

Strange Suburban Fantasy

Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale (logo)

A lone radio host reports the goings-on in a bizarre desert town somewhere in the USA. He really likes that handsome scientist who just arrived in town, he hates Steve Carlsberg and he’s utterly terrified of the amorphous, eldritch mass known as Station Management.

Night Vale is also home to a sentient glow-cloud (All Hail), gangs of mysterious-but-municipally-approved hooded figures, a little girl born as an adult male hand, multiple varieties of helicopters spying on the population, a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home, a five-headed dragon and much more. Everything ordinary is weird (and often fatal), weather is a musical interlude, time is uncertain, and mountains are lies.

Welcome to Night Vale is just about the most surreal experience you’ll ever have with a podcast.

King Falls AM

King Falls AM (logo)

Another ‘radio show’ broadcast from a small town in thrall to supernatural forces. King Falls is less off-the-wall than Night Vale. But that does make it easier to relate to its two co-hosts and their quirky callers.

This podcast features an epic and touching bromance as well as redneck werewolves, soul-stealing skin-walkers, over-dramatic vigilantes, corrupt officials, and creeping shadows. It’s a woke show with a talented cast that delivers all the feels, plenty of comic moments and, occasionally, genuine chills.

(There’s something really creepy about listening to someone get abducted by UFOs or dragged away by shadows live on air as the appalled hosts scream at them to get out of there.)

Modern Fae

Modern Fae (logo)

A creative, well-acted and warm-hearted urban fantasy podcast that follows Diya, a young woman who gets dumped by her girlfriend and moves to a strange little town where most of the inhabitants are creatures from myth and folklore—sirens, faeries, creepy children and ancient gods, many of whom still play out their old stories in one form or another.

Diya manages a magical bookshop and has to navigate romance, mystery and supernatural shenanigans. This podcast has good production values and a very pleasant soundtrack but, headphone-users be aware, the difference in volume between speech and music can catch you off guard.

(Also, at the time of writing, Episode 6 came out nine months ago and there hasn’t been an update since, so try to savour this one.)

The Goth Librarian

The Goth Librarian (logo)

A calm, soothing voice tells you horrible, wicked things.

Carefully researched and drawing from history, myth and folklore, The Goth Librarian has a shelf full of twisted tales to tell you. Witches, ghosts, monsters, murderers, spooky museums, haunted libraries and more. It’s all great fuel for horror and urban fantasy stories (or just good old-fashioned nightmares), and could even inspire your next holiday, if you have a taste for the odd and the macabre.

Ok, this podcast isn’t fantasy as such, it focuses on real-world stories and actual folktales, which are like grapes to the wine of urban fantasy. But it has one of the best podcast names ever and damned if I wasn’t going to include it somewhere.

Horror and Role-Playing Games

How We Roll

How We Roll (logo)

An RPG Let’s Play podcast focused on Call of Cthulhu and D&D, with players in England, Ireland, and the US. Lots of laughs and fun, even when the characters are in terrible trouble.

I’d recommend listening to the How We Roll crew from the beginning. It’s great to hear their initial forays into CoC (complete with brutal character deaths and driving their GM to distraction), then listen as they slowly develop legendary characters, master new systems and continue to drive their GMs to distraction.

Or jump in and try their Pulp Cthulhu campaigns—“The Two Headed Serpent” and “Masks of Nyarlathotep” (which has an all-star cast). The characters in these action-packed and anarchic tales have almost as much fun as the players!

The Good Friends of Jackson Elias

The Good Friends of Jackson Elias (logo)

Three friends, all of them experienced GMs and horror game writers, talk about what interest them. In their own words, this podcast is about, “Call of Cthulhu, horror films and horror gaming in general”. The Good Friends covers everything from modern horror films like Martyrs and Midsommar and modern horror stories like “Wild Acre”, to classic weird fiction tales like “The Yellow Sign”, “The Hospice”, and “The Colour Out of Space”. As well as more general topics like occultism, ghosts, slasher films, endings and Nyarlathotep. All with an eye for creating fuel for horror RPGs.

Whatever they’re discussing, The Good Friends’ conversations are endlessly fascinating and an absolute delight to listen to. I’ll never forget the tale of the actual historical scientist who bought an Italian castle, farmed apes and spliced their testicles into human men, believing that this was the key to immortality. (Later, he moved on to trying to create human/ape hybrids for the Soviets.)

I will warn you though, for the sake of your sanity, don’t listen when they start to sing.

Fandible

Fandible (logo)

A hilarious RPG podcast that bounces between horror and goofiness. These folks try out a huge range of systems. My standout favourites are their Gargoyles adventure, World of Darkness one-shots, 80s style post-apocalyptic action in Six String Samurai (using the Straight to VHS system), and a superb rendition of Nitrate City (a FATE game that mashes up noir tropes with classic Hollywood monsters), including a nerdy werewolf bartender, a reanimated bouncer and a piano player who goes bump in the night.

Oh, and that FATE adventure where they played the pets of people on the Orient Express, including an over-excited little dog and a villainous parrot who desperately wanted his owner to die.

Onyx Pathcast

Onyx Pathcast (logo)

The in-house podcast of Onyx Path Publishing, a company that creates RPG products for the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness lines, along with many other properties such as Scion, Trinity, Pugmire, and They Came From Beneath The Sea!

The Pathcast is a lively and informative look into the modern RPG industry, full of banter and silly tangents like the ‘awkward silence song’. It’s intended to promote Onyx Path games and is great for fans of their products. But it’s also very useful for anyone wanting to get into RPG development or writing. And the hosts are happy to discuss games from the White Wolf back-catalogue and beyond.

Infinite Deer

Infinite Deer (logo)

There’s a kind of very British humour that’s one-part whimsy, one-part grimdark and one-part filth. Think Fleabag, League of Gentlemen, or Red Dwarf.

That’s what you get in Infinite Deer, a D&D podcast that intentionally sets out to be silly and still goes off the rails. Featuring innocent snow-people, a moral ghost, a ruthless no-witnesses policy, assault cows, romantic Warforged rebels, drug-related violence, and that bar where everyone knows your name.

Also, you’ll never look at a centaur’s backside the same way again.

(Filth, I tell you, FILTH!)

Book Appreciation Societies

Sword and Laser

Sword & Laser (logo)

This long-running SFF Book Club podcast is an absolute institution. The hosts, Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt, read a book a month, alternating between Sword (fantasy) and Laser (sci-fi) picks. They have a fantastic back-catalogue of reviews of modern and classic genre fiction. They also do interviews.

There’s a whole S&L community, including busy Goodreads and Discord forums where fans can discuss the book of the month and related topics. Audience feedback is read out by the hosts in the Bury Your Sword section of each episode. The shows’ legion of fans also contribute news items on SFF books, films and series for the Quick Burns section, making this one of the best places on the internet to stay up to date with everything SFF.

SFF Yeah!

SFF Yeah! (logo)

Sharifah and Jen, two high-level geeks, say ‘yeah’ a lot and talk about a ton of SFF books, shows and adaptations. Each episode has a specific theme, including mysteries, sea-based stories, shapeshifters, African SFF, clones and more.

This is a lovely, conversational, upbeat podcast that’s great for filling up your TBR list and getting your SFF news fix. It feels like sitting down for coffee with a couple of dear friends and just hanging out for an hour or so. It’s very up-to-the-minute and inclusive as well. I somehow feel that listening to this podcast makes me more modern.

Reading Glasses

Reading Glasses (logo)

Actor and writer Brea Grant (who you may recognise from Heroes) and Mallory O’Meara, film-maker and writer of the acclaimed biography and feminist war-cry The Lady from the Black Lagoon, team up to discuss every aspect of reading. Along the way they interview all sorts of interesting, reading-aligned people and chat about their own book addictions, from horror to comic books and even, non-SFF books. *hisses and hides behind the sofa*

Topics include: what to do when an author you like says something awful, taking part in NaNoWriMo, how to Goodreads, the best reading snacks, and the benefits of Snargle-Flargen. They also look at specific genres and themes like punks and goths, Pride, quick mysteries, and YA.

Reading Glasses is here to grab you by the collar and shake you until you read better. But in a friendly way.

Coode Street

Coode Street (logo)

The Coode Street podcast is an SFF show that’s been around even longer than Sword and Laser. It’s hosted by a critic, Gary K. Wolfe, and an anthologist/editor, Jonathan Strahan. They interview authors, do in-depth reviews, give updates on awards, dissect the themes and fashions of SFF and consider what its future may hold.

Thoughtful, philosophical, erudite, the hosts of Coode Street have very powerful dad energy. (If your dad knew pretty much everything there was to know about sci-fi and fantasy). If you ever worry that enjoying SFF fiction isn’t as worthy or clever as reading e.g. mainstream literature, then plug yourself into this podcast for a while.

Did we miss your favourite podcast? Let us know in the comments!

Title image by Matt Botsford.

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