Guest List

Rashika Rao

Rashika is the Submissions Editor for Radio Drama Revival and co-host/Executive Producer for the Michigan Daily's Pass the MiC. She has previously written for International Podcast Month. These days, she’s figuring out how to put her ham radio license to use.


Let’s Talk About Narration

Narration gets a bad rap in fiction. Some call it cheating, quoting “show, not tell” as a reason to keep it out of your work. Others dismiss it as a means to an end, a strategy to allow for basic creation before you can afford a full cast. But while everyone’s run into their share of particularly onerous narrators, the tool isn’t implicitly bad. In fact, working with audio means that narration can be, has been, and is used to create art that’s unlike anything else on the market. It also (in my experience) makes audio fiction an easier transition for people used to nonfiction interview or storytelling-style podcasts.

Whether you’re now fully on board or still unconvinced, here’s a list of eleven audio fiction podcasts where narration is as inventive and integral to the story —maybe even more! — as any other element.

A note: The majority of these shows are serialized audio dramas, meaning that you’ll get the best experience by listening from start to finish. Where it’s possible for me to recommend a favorite episode while avoiding major spoilers, I have. Otherwise, it’s from episode 1 for you!

Midst

This show actually made me sit up in bed the first time I pressed play — listening to its three delightfully unreliable narrators throw the story back and forth feels like watching an intricate acrobatics performance. Sit back, relax, and let its three delightfully unreliable narrators take you on a magic mica-filled journey through a small island outpost, a mysterious weird darkness, and the literal price of doing good.

Recommended listening: Start from the beginning

Vega: A Sci-Fi Adventure Podcast!

Vega Rex is a legend, the best of the elite professional assassins tasked by her government to dispose of the universe’s worst criminals — and she’s about to find herself up against her greatest challenge yet. Creator and sole voice of the podcast Ivuoma Okoro has built a world and characters so rich, immersive, and tantalizing that you’ll almost forget she plays them all!

Recommended listening: Start from the beginning

CARAVAN

CARAVAN is a fun, sexy romp about found family, nasty demons, potentially unrequited love, and, of course, a magical canyon. At the heart of the show lies main character Samir’s stunning internal monologue, which showcases a deft and highly relatable display of code-switching. (This show is NSFW.)

Recommended listening: Start from the beginning

I Am In Eskew

The city of Eskew twists and turns, grows monsters like new appendages, lulls you gently into a false sense of security. After all, it only wants you to stay. You were made for it. Alternating narrators David and Riyo guide you through their daily horrors and near-misses in this sprawling Annihilation-esque exploration of what happens when the places we call home go wrong.

Recommended listening: “Episode 2: Reproduction

Folxlore

There’s an artful quietness to Folxlore that accompanies the subtle ribbon of horror that threads through each story. Composed of three standalone poetry performances backed by echoing soundscapes, this show doesn’t back down from tackling the haunting, often confusing spaces queer people find themselves in.

Recommended listening: Static

The Penumbra Podcast

Two hallmarks of the Penumbra are its unapologetic queerness and Martian P.I. Juno Steel’s dry narration, both a tribute to and a subversion of the noir of the past. As the show evolves, so does the narration, shown best when the microphone gets handed off to the rest of the main ensemble in Season 3. (Bonus: If you prefer knights to spaceships, the Penumbra feed also features the high-fantasy Second Citadel.)

Recommended listening: 3.09-3.10: Juno Steel and the Shadows on the Ship” (Parts One and Two)

Death by Dying

Try not to laugh out loud as the lonely Obituary Writer of Crestfall, Idaho investigates mysterious deaths in and around the small town. With adoptive man-eating cats, death by erotica novel, and some of the funniest sermons you’ll ever hear, if the sheer absurdity of Crestfall doesn’t get you, the Obituary Writer’s droll additions definitely will.

Recommended listening: Start from the beginning

Rose Drive

Love a good thriller? Have a fondness for unreliable narrators? Then you’ll want to be listening to Rose Drive, which follows Markus Hill as he uncovers the truth about a high school tragedy after their ten-year reunion. It’s another show with an inner monologue — so pay attention to the contrast between what Markus thinks and what Markus says.

Recommended listening: Start from the beginning

Such A Pyaar

Welcome to the world of microfiction! These bite-size tales use inner monologues to create delightfully sweet and often hilarious insights into the ways we navigate love.

Recommended listening: S1E3 – Cosmo

Mija

Each season of Mija bears the stories of a new immigrant family, told in ten-minute bites by Mija, or “my daughter.” While individual details are fiction, every story is grounded in the daily realities of immigrant families, and this, combined with Mija’s clear, transportative storytelling, makes Mija a great transition podcast for those new to audio fiction. Each episode is available in English, Spanish, French, and, as of Season 2, Mandarin.

Recommended listening: 02: Tatika

Campaign: Skyjacks

It wouldn’t be a complete audio fiction list without at least one Actual Play. Skyjacks, grounded in a card game co-created by The Decemberists, tells the story of a ragtag pirate crew, their undead captain, and their heist against one of the most fearsome ships to ever sail the skies. GM James D’Amato does a great job of setting the scene — and making sure even RPG newbies (like me) can follow along. (This show is NSFW.)

Recommended listening: Start from the beginning (S2E1 “Skyjacks: Episode 1”)

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About Darian Muka

Content Curator and Producer Liaison at Pocket Casts.
  • New York, New York