Readng to as a child stimulates a number of areas of growth: language development; social bonding; letter and color recognition. Not that the child cares about any of that. Reading fantasy to a child opens up worlds of possibility. When done right, all the child cares about is the next line in the story, the next fantastic moment and location that will sweep them away to somewhere wondrous where they don’t have to do chores, finish homework, or hurt, if only for a little while.
The same can be said for audio fantasy fiction as an adult. Load an audio book, click on your favorite podcast, and let someone tell you a story. I’m not talking radio dramas or stage performances, though those have their merits. I mean a story or novel, something with the “he said”, “she did”, “they saw” intact, A full package deal with one narrator or many, sound effects and music or a bare bones production. There is something about listening to a story that allows our thoughts to soar. We focus on the wonder of the written word brought to life by the tradition of passing tales from one generation to another. Good stories make us feel. Great stories make us think.
All of the above is a fancy way of saying “I like audio fiction.”
The development of easily accessibly audio fiction has opened doors to a whole new audience of readers. Whether on a bus, at home alone, in the gym, driving to work, or “too busy to read”, audio fiction is the perfect hands-free medium to indulge yourself in a bit of fancy while continuing about your day. I often listen to stories while doing household chores, and audio books frequently transform rush hour traffic into quality time. At night, I put myself to bed with my favorite fantasy or horror fiction podcast. I have friends who listen to books while jogging or working out, and one who keeps a CD collection of Bradbury’s works in the bathroom so she can “read in the tub.”
SF/F/H/YA fiction have benefited from a variety of audio markets that allow readers to sample new authors, revisit old favorites, and delve into new areas of interest. Larger chain bookstores rarely deviate from the regular offerings of the major publishing houses. Audio fiction allows you to mix it up a bit, seek out different voices, under represented voices, women writers, LGBTQ writers, writers of color, writers with disabilities.
Services such as iTunes, Audible.com, and Blackstone Audio offer short story collections and a range of full length novels. A growing number of genre fiction podcasts present a selection of short fiction from both new authors and seasoned, award-winning writers of note. Certain podcasts also produce classic genre stories that might otherwise be overlooked by modern readers in the hurry and crush to buy the next mass-market best seller. Not that there’s anything wrong with best sellers. I listen to those as well.
Audio fiction is often free in the case of podcasts, is relatively cost competitive when compared to physical books or eBooks, and is often far more portable. Multicast productions present distinct character voices, while certain narrators are skilled enough to breathe life into the story with the barest of inflections. Most podcasts are produced under a creative commons license that encourages you to share the work with friends or on any number of social media platforms so long as you don’t change the attribution or the production itself. You can loan someone an audio CD or file of a downloaded work, but please don’t give copies away. Like writers, narrators and sound crews work hard to produce the best product possible and deserve to be paid for their efforts.
So, it’s a big audio world out there. Where do you start? Check out the links to some of my favorite genre fiction podcasts below and see what tickles your ears’ fancy.
- Podcastle: http://podcastle.org/
- Pseudopod: http://pseudopod.org/
- Escape Pod: http://escapepod.org/
- The Drabblecast: http://www.drabblecast.org/
- Cast of Wonders: http://www.castofwonders.org/
- Clarkesworld Magazine: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com
- Toasted Cake: http://toastedcake.com/