Of all the entertainment formats of the past, audiodrama is probably one of the last you would have expected to hear about getting a resurgence in 2018. However, thanks to popular podcasts like Limetown, the Welcome to Night Vale family, and Homecoming, the audiodrama is alive, well and THRIVING.
The audiodrama rebirth has been ongoing for a few years. One of the earliest, Welcome to Night Vale kicked off in 2012, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and voiced by Cecil Baldwin. Though at first it was primarily a quirky and weird series of dispatches from a bizarre desert town, serialized elements creeped in and soon Night Vale was the story of a fascinating and creepy universe.
However, in 2014 the format exploded when Serial became became a phenomenon. The investigative podcast’s format was quickly applied to fictional universes, inspiring shows like Limetown, the Black Tapes, Tanis and the Message. Limetown in particular exploded, reaching the top ten on iTunes’ podcast charts with it’s terrifying tale of a visionary who could hear the future and the conspiracy trying to silence the story.
Since then the format has continued to grow. It’s easy to find them. So we thought we’d spotlight a few we enjoy that you may not have heard of, and maybe give everyone something new to listen to on your way to work or school.
King Falls AM
Probably the best known show on this list, King Falls AM was created by Kyle Brown, and Eric Kimelton. According to Brown, he was inspired by the idea of taking a similar premise as Welcome to Night Vale, but playing it straight. The show is centered around the late-night AM broadcasts in a sleepy mountain town, hosted by Sammy Stevens (Brown) and Ben Arnold (Noah James). The show also features a number of recurring characters, including local deputy Troy Kreighauser (Kimelton), librarian Emily Potter (Lauren Denham) and many others (many of whom are voiced with Mel Blanc-like quality by Trent Shumway).
The community is anything but sleepy though, as it’s filled with UFOs, lake monsters, racist witches, secret societies and, most frightening of all, a powerful shadow demon. Though the show started more as a comedy, it found a niche with a mixture of genres, even sometimes within a single episode.
The show is currently on hiatus, having released their 75th episode in May, and promises to return before the end of 2018. It’s equally funny, scary, thrilling and heart-warming, and a great binge-listen.
You can find King Falls AM at KingFallsAM.com.
The White Vault
Winter has been the source for many a nightmare for mankind. Between the cold, the snow, and the longer nights, it’s easy to see why. KA Statz took that to a logical conclusion when she visited Iceland a few years ago and realized that the country would be a fantastic setting for a horror story.
On the remote island Svalbard not far off the Icelandic coast, a multinational team is dispatched to repair a communications outpost in the dead of winter. When a storm traps the team after they’ve completed their job, they explore their surroundings and discover a tunnel to an abandoned village under the nearby glacier. Things unravel from there, as they battle the elements and strange, possibly supernatural happenings around them.
Statz and her cast weave an engaging story as vivid and engaging as any television show. Framed as a presentation of the documents and recordings found at the outpost, the story quickly goes from mundane to unsettling to terrifying. Adding to the authenticity of the show, the cast records the reading of their letters and journal entries in both their native language and English.
Only 10 episodes are out from the series currently, with more coming in the fall. And not a second too soon.
You can find The White Vault at whitevault.libsyn.com.
Liberty is a unique entry on this list. From White Vault producer Travis Vangraf and writer KA Statz, Liberty is a multi-media universe, with a podcast, graphic novel, webcomic, and RPG setting.
Taking place on a distant colony in the far future, the colony is split between two factions- the near-utopian city of Atrius and the savage wasteland of the Fringe. Atrians have been indoctrinated to believe their home has no flaws, and that the Fringers are savage beasts. Over the course of the stories in the universe, we begin to realize that the truth is much different.
In the past two and a half years, Liberty has actually produced three different shows within the universe. Critical Research follows a team of Atrians who travel into the Fringe to conduct research into the culture and military capabilities of the Fringe. Tales from the Tower tells short horror stories within the universe that reveals a much darker side to utopia. Lastly, Vigilance is actually a recording of an RPG play through with sound effects, music and further voice cast added.
I’ve been listening to audiodramas to years myself and haven’t found anything quite like Liberty out there. Vangraf has clearly put a lot of world-building into the universe before a single word of story was ever committed to paper. It’s deep, immersive, and very engaging.
Liberty and its associated media can be found at libertyendures.com/.
The Bright Sessions
This show is a little bit better known as well, but it deserves a wider audience. Written and created by Lauren Shippen, the Bright Sessions is centered around Doctor Joan Bright (Julia Morizawa), a therapist for the strange and unusual. In this case, strange and unusual means superpowers.
Starting on a smaller scale, focusing on the individual sessions of Doctor Bright and a select group of her patients, the show quickly grows in plot, setting and scope. Don’t tune in expecting a superhero battle, but a thoughtful exploration of the psychology that accompanies superpowers, as well as the possible conspiracies and political wrangling that would go with it.
The show has a deep mythology, and Shippen has devoted so much time to build it. The main show has actually ended, but Shippen has announced two spin-offs and a YA novel, as well as minisodes. Another great aspect of the show is its genuine diversity, dealing with issues of mental illness and sexuality, economic background, race, and so on.
You can find the Bright Sessions at http://www.thebrightsessions.com/.
The premise is one horror fans have heard many times. A group of teenagers head to a cabin in the woods. Very shortly, things go wrong. However, creator Pacific Obadiah clearly didn’t just want to tell the typical scary story at a remote campground.
Lake Clarity currently has two seasons out. In the first, five young adults, just about to start college, spend a weekend at Camp Clarity, Colorado. They begin to experience frightening events until their experiences explode into a battle for survival. In the second season, a fledgling radio journalist finds herself drawn to the mystery of what happened to the five kids while doing a puff piece in the nearby town. The show quickly descends into sci-fi weirdness as its revealed that there’s so much more to Lake Clarity than even just the creepy government conspiracy the first season hinted at.
Though the show isn’t as polished as the other entries on this list, it’s well acted and well written. It was also impressive to see the show completely reinvent itself at the beginning of season 2 with a new batch of equally interesting characters. Though it’s still finding its footing a bit, it quickly became a show to watch.
To learn more, you can find Lake Clarity at midnightdisease.net/lakeclarityhome/.
These are just a few that we’re listening to, and hey, maybe we’ll be back with another batch recommendations soon!