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Original Fiction

The No Sleep Podcast

If you know horror, you know The No Sleep Podcast. Or, in my case, you recently discovered it and have spent a month and a half catching up on its vast back catalog of episodes.

This may be the grandpappy of all horror podcasts available currently. With four and a half years and hundreds of episodes, I can’t see this being any less than the Number One podcast to listen to for any and all horror fans. NoSleep was spawned from the bowels of Reddit’s /r/nosleep subforum, a place for authors to submit their horror fiction short stories for review, critique, and the morbid enjoyment of all. It is a horror anthology show, taking the best stories submitted from that forum and turning them into mini audio plays. The cast, crew, and authors vary widely so I won’t bother trying to cite them all, but showrunner David Cummings seems to be the driving force as well as host of the show.

The audio quality and production is professional and fits the mood for each individual story, which is quite the undertaking when you think of just how many stories there are here. I wouldn’t say it’s as clean as Lore, or as immersive as SAYER, but it finds a balance that makes each story a unique piece and doesn’t overdo the bangs and creaks to the point that they detract from the fiction. I find myself constantly in the image-world of the featured story while I’m listening and working, a result that takes a good ear to produce.

All of the content is sourced from outside authors, and so the style of writing and subject matter varies as vastly as it would in a three tier bookstore. The real feat here is the selection process. I’ve been listening for about six weeks now, made it through three years worth of episodes, and only been disappointed by a story wholly one time. There was another, but that was just a plot hole and I hope I don’t find any more of those, for my own sake. There are tropes, many tropes, but the stories selected for the show seem to flip them on their heads or play cat and mouse with them, very rarely supplying the expected conclusion. Whoever is in charge of picking the terrifying tales is doing one hell of a job.

NoSleep started as a fully free show and has evolved into a free show with an expanded subscription model that nearly triples the content for about twenty bucks a year. I find absolutely nothing wrong with this and once I’m caught up I may actually go back to buy the season passes so I have a few years worth of listening to binge on, which should take about three months at the rate I consume audio. From what I see in my podcatcher, once the season starts it keeps going until it’s done with nary a late episode. There are also “full” episodes you would normally only get with a subscription, holiday, and other bonus episodes published every so often as a thank you for the free listeners.

The Horror element is inherent in the show. It drips from the intro, oozes in the cracks between stories, and creeps into your blood like an I.V. drip while you enjoy the dark fiction supplied. From psychological to scatological, Bela Lugosi to Eli Roth, Lovecraft to Lebbon, unless you just hate horror in all its forms, there’s something here for everyone.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 9
Content\Originality:           9
Consistency:                     9
Likeability:                         10
5’th Element: Horror:         10

Final Score:                       9.4

Everything you need to listen to, support, and connect with NoSleep is easily found on their website here.

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SAYER

Extending the theme from Horror Month, since I didn’t have time to get to all the shows I wanted to, is a show I mentioned in an earlier review, SAYER.

SAYER is an original fiction Scifi-Horror show created by Adam Bash and hosted on the Geekly Inc Podcast network. Here we find a self-aware artificial intelligence construct, SAYER, controlling a space station and communicating with the residents within. This is typically to accomplish some sort of task and usually with great success, as long as you don’t include “Survival of the Resident” as a requirement for said success.

SAYER is a superbly well produced show. From the robotic vocal effects Bash uses to achieve the A.I.’s expressive voice to the music and sound effects, this one leaves no ess de-essed, no breath unmuted, and no opportunity for story enhancing audio is missed. On occasion a “Low Level Alert” catches my eardrums by surprise, but that’s all part of the fun. This is a Scifi-Horror show, after all.

The writing duties are split amongst an excellent writing staff of Jonah Gregory, Nika Howard,and Ashleigh Shadowbrook, with Bash penning the main story arc episodes. Many episodes follow the Monster-of-the-week format between advancement of the main plot, though there are elements even in these tales that tie in deeply with the main canon of SAYER. Some of these stories are better than others, but I have yet to hear one that I found less than entertaining. From start to finish as of the time of this review, Season one episode six is still my favorite.

If you’re a fan of scientifically accurate scifi (I’m not checking the science, but Bash says he is), Body/Psychological Horror, Puzzle solving, and Space Mystery, you’ll love SAYER. The Horror element with this show runs the gamut, from gore to simple implied consequence, and each different facet of it is done quite well. This is a fairly specific show given its genre, but I feel that the writing and production are good enough that even the mildest scifi or horror fan would enjoy it. The squeamish folk or listeners that don’t like being made to think by their entertainment may find SAYER over the top, but those would be few I’d say.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 10
Content\Originality:           9
Consistency:                     10
Likeability:                         8
5’th Element: Horror:         9

Final Score:                       9.2

Support SAYER via Patreon
Find all things SAYER at the Geekly Inc. SAYER page

The Black Tapes Podcast

Let me tell you about a podcast that changed the medium forever. What could be arguably held as the most immediately successful podcast since episodic audio via the internet became a thing. That show was called Serial.

With its fresh format mimicking TV magazine shows and indie documentaries, its subject matter, a true story of an accused and convicted murderer and the possibility of his actual innocence, Serial took the podcast world by storm.

Now let me tell you about a show that blatantly steals that format, replaces the subject matter with a story about an investigative journalist focusing on the paranormal, and captures the listening public’s attention in a way that hadn’t happened since Serial itself. That show is The Black Tapes Podcast.

True to it’s spiritual predecessor, The Black Tapes is a very highly produced and well written show. Season one is over now, and the entire run is available everywhere. When it was being published I never saw an episode go out late. The voice talent is very natural sounding for the most part. There was one moment where someone pronounced Nirvana “Nir-VAN-uh” when referencing the band, which took me out of the story for just a minute. That was early on, easily forgivable, and in my assumption due to the voice actor most likely being Canadian. Aside from that one admittedly minor and amusing hiccup I couldn’t find fault as the show went on. The acting sounds professional, and the talent truly commit to their characters making them eerily believable.

The horror factor for The Black Tapes comes in a very X-Files-ish way. With the main story arc playing through every episode there is a through-line that is easily followed, but there are also “Monster of the Week” episodes that restart the narrative from a different viewpoint. I won’t give away the end of season one except to say that the obvious conclusion of the various stories being connected is pursued and season two is all but announced. If there is no season two, this entire project falls flat no matter how good its setup was. That being said, the setup is exquisite and you should listen to it and hope for a future payoff.

I wish I could give this show a perfect 10. The fact that it does lean so heavily on the format of Serial takes away a fraction of a point, as obviously smart an idea as it was. The show does have its scary moments, but it’s less of a Horror factor and more of an underlying creepiness at work here. There isn’t “something for everyone”, but if you’re the one out of ten that isn’t at least marginally entertained by this show, go back to your 5 A.M. Farm report. These are the reasons I couldn’t give it a perfect 10, but I wanted to.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 10
Content\Originality:           9
Consistency:                     10
Likeability:                         9
5’th Element: Horror:         9

Final Score:                       9.4

Head to The Black Tapes Podcast Website for episodes and interaction

Shadowvane Podcast

The first review of Horror Month is Shadowvane Podcast, an anthology show in its first season.

The current storyline of Shadowvane, “Progenix”, is sci-fi horror original fiction. Produced in the vein of a radio play, “Shadowvane is a storytelling podcast of a similar format to the old radio dramas of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s.” says the about tab on their website. I agree with that sentiment. The writer\producer Andrew Lister does a solid job of making the show not only listenable, but well produced enough to draw you into his story.

The self description continues, “Think of the classic War of the Worlds broadcasts from 1938 or more modern podcasting examples like Welcome to Night Vale or Sayer.”. While I definitely find Shadowvane shares many similarities of both feel and substance with Night Vale and more so Sayer, I place its story closer akin to Eli Roth’s Netflix original series Hemlock Grove in its first season. Mystery, medical experiments, creatures more than hinted at, emotional trauma, the stories run a comfortable parallel without ever actually being similar enough to cry “Copy”, which Shadowvane is anything but.

Season one also includes bonus content. “Classic Tales of Terror” features short story readings of the works of Lovecraft, Poe, Phillip K. Dick, and Julius Long. There are also fan submitted stories, a poetry collection, and a behind the scenes episode. The show is faithfully released around the first and fifteenth day of every month with bonus episodes peppered between.

As far as the Horror element goes, this isn’t a jump-scare spookfest, but it is seated firmly within the horror and sci-fi sections. A welcome addition to both.

All in all, Shadowvane is a fun show in its first season, and I’m looking forward to the Progenix storyline conclusion and what’s in store for season 2. I recommend this to sci-fi, horror, and radio-play fans. If you would like to support Shadowvane follow the links below the scoreboard.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 8
Content\Originality:           8
Consistency:                     9
Likeability:                         8
5’th Element: Horror:         8

Final Score:                       8.4

In addition to the Shadowvane Podcast website, there is also a Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon page if you would like to support them.

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