BlogOfTheMoon

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Podcast Recommendations: Humour

I love comedy and humour, and so in part three of my podcast recommendations series I’m talking about the podcasts that make me laugh. Read on, if you’d like a chuckle.


No Such Thing as a Fish

Produced by and featuring four of the QI Elves, No Such Thing as a Fish sees the hosts present and discuss their four favourite facts from their research in the past week in a conversational and funny way. Each of them shares their “main” fact with the group in advance and then they all go off and do their own research on the subject, bringing it all together in the episode. I binged this podcast more than any other one I’ve listened to, even getting to the point where the hosts were turning up presenting facts in my dreams. The only problem is that after listening to over 350 episodes, they all blur, and while it’s all fascinating, I can’t always remember that many of the many brilliant facts that they’ve told me over the years. This is also the only podcast that I’ve been to see live, when they did a show, including a recording of an episode, in Glasgow in 2019 (*sigh*, I miss the theatre).

While the podcast has been running since 2014, the first two years are no longer available on the feed (although they are available commercially). Episodes come out weekly and tend to be about an hour long.

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Jamie Morton’s dad retired and instead of taking up gardening, he decided to start writing porn. And instead of politely ignoring it, Jamie rounded up a couple of his best friends and decided to broadcast it to the world. The hilarious My Dad Wrote a Porno is the result. First up, it’s porn – it’s very definitely explicit, but it’s also awful, and the podcast trio take great glee in tearing it to shreds, albeit in a loving way.

The stories themselves aren’t long, they’re novellas rather than full-sized novels, and there’s as much business in them as sex (or, at least, it feels that way sometimes), and the gang does a chapter per episode, with Jamie reading and the other two providing commentary. Think of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, but in literary form. And with porn. Listening to it is a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re feeling sick at some of the descriptions and five minutes later you’re sick with laughing so much.

As well as the main episodes, there are the Footnotes, which are bonus episodes in which the gang either talk about something that came up in the previous episode or they talk to a famous fan of the show (and, my, there are some quite famous fans!).

Enormous fun, just don’t listen in public without headphones.

Dungeons and Daddies

Dungeons and Daddies is, as their tagline goes, not a BDSM podcast, but a D&D podcast about four dads from our world who get flung into the Forgotten Realms on a quest to rescue their lost sons. It’s a fortnightly show DMed by Anthony Birch, who some of you may remember from Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’. It’s very funny, although it can be surprisingly touching at times. They play fast and loose with the rules, so if you’re a D&D purist, you may find yourself shouting at your podcast player at times. They value story over mechanics, and that seems the right choice to me for a podcast that needs to be first and foremost entertaining.

The four players are all great fun, and they have good chemistry together. Beth May’s perpetually confused stepdad Ron is a particular firm favourite while Will Campos’ hippy-dippy dad Henry is alternately sensible and horrifying, in a hilarious way. This one just hit episode 50 at time of writing, and episodes are about an hour long.


If you listen to podcasts that make you laugh or want to suggest something that you think I should listen to, go ahead in the comments. You can find the other posts in this series below.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Podcast Recommendations: Culture and Ideas

Podcasts are all the rage right now. I listen to a fair few, and I’ve got opinions about them. Opinions that I’m happy to share with you. You can read the first post in the series, where I talk about the SF podcasts that I’ve enjoyed here, and read on for my opinions about podcasts in the hand-wavey category of culture and ideas.


99 Percent Invisible

99 Percent Invisible (99PI to its friends) is a very difficult thing to describe. Nominally it’s a podcast about architecture and design, but their actual remit is so much wider than that suggests. Recent episodes have included stories about Santa Fe’s Pueblo Revival architecture; the history of movie novelisations; and how the US Government released almost the entirety of Enron’s emails (the episode on city flags and why they’re awful is a classic and was later turned into a TED talk). It’s always fascinating, and they’ve been going for over a decade now, with over 400 episodes in the archive, and an incredibly detailed website that expands on the stories in the podcast. Episodes are released weekly and are usually between thirty and forty minutes long. The only downside is that so much of my conversation these days starts “Ooh, I heard something really interesting on 99PI the other day…”

It’s hosted by Roman Mars, whose smooth West-coast tones are very easy on the ear, and from whom I learned to “always read the plaque”.

More or Less

More or Less is a BBC Radio 4 programme about statistics in the news and in life, presented by Tim Harford (aka the Financial Times Undercover Economist). So many of the numbers we get bombarded with in the media are either only superficially true, based on a misunderstanding, or are just outright lies. More or Less has been gallantly standing up for the truth and to improve public understanding of numbers and statistics for years now.

It’s an excellent show, usually talking about the stats that have come up in the media the week prior to broadcast, and they take listener questions too. They try and get to the original source of statistics, delving into the scientific literature and talking to the experts (experts! Remember them?). Obviously the last couple of series have been pretty focussed on Covid-19, but they occasionally still find time to talk about other things (butterfly decline in the UK in a recent episode, for example). Episodes are half an hour long.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful, a podcast about political ideas, completely rehabilitated Ed Miliband for me. Released from the shackles of having to be bland and media-friendly (not that that really worked for him), he’s surprisingly passionate and funny. This podcast was started in the wake of the 2015 general election and consists of him and radio presenter Geoff Lloyd discussing ideas in the political and cultural sphere and finding reasons to be cheerful. From universal basic income to improving public transport to the four day week, they cover a broad spectrum of ideas. And they do it in reasonable depth too. They interview a series of experts, and are generally happy to let them talk about their expertise, without that horrid macho interruption so common in media political interviews. They do sometimes make the usual mistake in “UK” politics of thinking UK = England, which can be a bit frustrating at times, but there’s more than enough more general conversations that make up for it.

They’ve got great chemistry together and are obviously good friends off-mic. At times, I feel I listen to it for the the banter between them as much for the ideas.

Episodes are released weekly and there’s over 175 episodes in the archive. The episodes tend to be about an hour long.

Reply All

Reply All, aside from being a function that you should think very carefully before using in your email client, is a podcast about the Internet: about the people who shaped it and how it shapes people. This is another podcast that interprets its remit broadly. They’ve featured episodes on feelings of impotence in the face of the climate emergency; trying to explain QAnon; finding out about the story behind JenniCam, (a blast from the past for Internet users of a certain age); and looking at the story behind spam recordings that sometime briefly take over American government phone numbers. It’s a fascinating insight into the underbelly of the Internet, and the feature where they explain some of the weirder memes floating around the web/social media to their boss has shown me parts of Internet culture that I wish I could unsee, but it’s really interesting from an anthropological point of view.

In tone, it’s often quite light, and the hosts mock each other mercilessly, but they’re not afraid to share their feelings and to go into quite dark places at times. There was, for example, a multi-part story where one of the producers talks to a man in prison for murder, having discovered him because he wrote a blog from the inside (on paper, that his mother took away and typed up for him).

The show is normally released fortnightly, but the schedule can sometimes be vaguer than that, and they always take some time off in the summer where they run reruns. There’s over 170 episodes (including reruns) in the archive and episodes started off at running under half an hour, although these days they’re closer to between forty minutes and an hour.


So there’s the second set of podcasts, the next set will probably fit whatever the theme the post will be about a bit better. You can find the other posts in the series below.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Podcast Recommendations: Speculative Fiction

My first introduction to the world of podcasts came from my friend Kenny Park in the mid 2000s when he pointed me to Escape Pod, a science fiction podcast, which ran free short stories every week. I eventually worked my way through the archive as it stood then (and wrote a blog post listing my favourite stories), and also subscribed to its spin-off podcast Podcastle when it launched. I dabbled in a few others over the years, but my listening time was limited.

That changed a few years ago when the world just got too much for me and I stopped listening to the BBC radio news programmes on my commute to and from work, which opened up more time to listen to podcasts, so I expanded my repertoire. Skip to 2020 when lockdown and working from home meant that to continue some exercise I was doing long walks every day after work, which gave me even more time. My podcast collection has built up a lot in that time, so I thought I’d talk about a few that I enjoy. I say a few, I’m going to be talking about quite a lot really, so I’m going to split this across multiple posts. First up is my first love: science fiction. I’ve been an SF nerd since before it was cool, so below are the SF- and general geek podcasts that I’ve been listening to.

Escape Artists

Escape Artists is the parent company of Escape Pod, the podcast that got me into this spoken word audio stuff in the first place. They’ve got four podcasts, covering science fiction (Escape Pod), fantasy (Podcastle), horror (Pseudopod) and Young Adult (Cast of Wonders). I only listen to the first two, since horror isn’t really my thing and I’m probably not exactly the target market for YA fiction.

All the EA podcasts are free and are listener funded. These days they’re a SFWA-recognised pro-paying market and they also put the full text of the stories they publish up on their websites too, which is great.

Escape Pod

Escape Pod is one of the oldest and longest running SF fiction podcasts around, running more or less continuously since 2005, with over 700 episodes to its name. As I mentioned above, my pal Kenny introduced me to it and I spent an enjoyable few years working through the archives. Original host Serah Eley was personable and her intros (later outros) were always thought-provoking and interesting. Eley left after about five years at the helm but a succession of editors have kept the ship steady since then. Eley’s original intent was to provide fun SF stories (and fantasy in the early days, before Podcastle launched). Some of the later editors have taken the show in darker directions, but that original guiding principle is still there and keeps me coming back, week after week.

Stories are run weekly, and they sometimes have flash fiction interspersed in there too, although these days, they tend to run a few flash stories together in a regular episode. Episodes are usually between 25 and 45 minutes, although some can run longer. They sometimes run even longer pieces, split up over multiple weeks.

Podcastle

Podcastle is Escape Artists’ fantasy podcast. It started a few years after Escape Pod, in 2008, and there over 650 episodes covering pretty much the entire fantasy genre. Like its siblings, it runs weekly stories, with episodes ranging from 20 minutes to about an hour. It also sometimes runs longer stories over multiple weeks.

It’s had some great editors over the years, including founding editor Rachel Swirsky and the multi-award winning Ann Leckie. Podcastle (and its siblings, to be fair) has done an enormous amount over the last few years to increase representation in the stories it tells, whether this is stories from LGBTQ+ writers, writers from around the world or under-represented minorities. This is a wider trend in SF fandom, and I’m glad to see it in my SF fiction podcasts of choice.

Robby the Robot’s Waiting

Robby the Robot’s Waiting is a pretty new discovery for me. It’s a podcast about (mostly media) sci-fi hosted by two former editors of SFX magazine (Rich Edwards and Dave Bradley) and a sci-fi journalist (Tanavi Patel). I discovered it because they had a couple of special episodes where they got together the other editors that SFX has had over the years to talk about it on its 25th anniversary. I’ve been a reader of SFX right from the start so was interested in hearing all its past (and current) editors in conversation. From there, I looked at a few of the episode descriptions of the show and was intrigued enough to listen to some. The gang obviously love their subject and enjoy nerding out together on the show, which makes it a joy to listen to, even when they’re talking about shows I’ve never seen or wasn’t that interested in.

The format is to start off talking about what they’ve been consuming since the last podcast, then a guest that joins for the rest of the show, starting with a deep dive into a piece of SF from the past (Buffy, Flash Gordon and New Galactica have all been done); finishing off with news about upcoming SF. It’s not been running all that long, with fourteen main episodes since July 2020, as well as a bunch of specials. The (main) episodes are released fortnightly, and are about an hour long.

The name is apparently a Bananarama reference.

Til Dice Do Us Part

I must confess that I’ve got a personal interest in Til Dice Do Us Part, it’s a podcast about tabletop RPGs run by my dear friends George and Ailsa. George has been the GM for my RPG group for over three lustra now and I’ve whiled away many an hour talking about roleplaying. And now he, and his partner Ailsa, decided that these conversations should be available to a wider audience.

It’s a pretty new podcast, with just half a dozen episodes under their belt at the time of writing, but they’ve got a varied format, with different segments that they bring in and out of episodes, including the Elevator Pitch, where they talk about a specific game system that they’ve played (well, played in Alisa’s case, more likely to be run in George’s); quizzes on deep dives into the subject matter; and Ask a GM, which is, er, exactly what it says on the tin. Topics that have come up include inclusivity in gaming; dealing with nervous players; and how to handle sex and relationships in a game.

Specific games that they’ve talked about include Night Witches, King Arthur Pendragon and Umläut: Game of Metal. Although George and Ailsa have been part of a few other groups over the years, I’m a member of what I’m egotistical enough to call their “main” RPG group, and have played in all the games they’ve talked about so far. It’s been fun revisiting those, although they’re good enough at talking about them that you don’t need to have played the games to find them interesting. Whether you’ve just got a passing interest in D&D or you’re a hardcore indie gamer, there’s a lot to enjoy in this podcast.

I especially enjoy their little fictional menagerie of podcast helpers, including Twike the social media goblin, the Inch-High Incel (more a hindrance than a helper, that one), and, my personal favourite, the Mailer Daemon. The fake adverts mid-episode are often hilarious, advertising such things as SheDice (dice for girls!), fictional game systems and dating apps for superheroes. Episodes are around an hour long and are released fortnightly.

Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary Worlds was a recommendation from my friend Matthew. It’s tagline is that it’s a show about how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. The host, Eric Molinsky, is a former animator and radio producer and is an all-round geek. Each episode he takes a deep-dive into a particular subject within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres, whether that’s an analysis of the uncanny valley; learning about Magic: The Gathering; the composer behind the original Godzilla films; or discovering tabletop RPG-ing and, later, LARP. There’s occasional mini-series topics for which have included looking at aspects of Doctor Who, and superheroes from the angle of sidekicks.

It’s a thoughtful podcast with Molinsky never skimping on the research for his subject that episode. Episodes are released fortnightly and are usually around half an hour. It’s been running since 2014 and there are over 150 episodes in the archive.

Our Opinions Are Correct

Our Opinions are Correct is my newest podcast, and I’m only a handful of episodes in so far, but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be a keeper. It’s presented by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, the same duo who founded io9, and is the two of them talking about subjects within science fiction that interest them. It’s very broad-ranging, and talks more about literary SF than, say, Robby the Robot’s Waiting. The first three episodes have covered the first season of Star Trek: Discovery; mind control in SF; and SF novels that have stood the test of time.

The hosts are knowledgeable, both in terms of breadth and depth of knowledge of the genre, and their conversational style keeps it ticking over nicely. It’s been running since 2018 and has won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast for its first two years (in 2021 the hosts recused OOAC since they’d already won twice, which, I think, shows some class).

Episodes are released fortnightly, with about 75 in the bank already, and are about forty minutes long.


Next up will be a mix of podcasts that I’ve hand-waved together under the category of culture and ideas. Do you have a favourite podcast? I’d love to hear about it (although the last thing I need is yet more podcasts).

The other posts in the series are:

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