I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a podcast addict.
The list of podcasts I’m subscribed to currently exceeds eighty. Seriously. Not that I listen to every episode they all put out, and some of them are probably dead or at best wildly infrequent.
But there’s fairly continuous churn. I’m constantly dropping and picking up series as I discover new stuff or lose interest.
Here, then, are my five favourite podcasts that I picked up in 2016. Something on this list for most kinds of listeners and they’re all worth your time, at the very least for sampling purposes.
From the podcast empire that is Gimlet Media, this is by far – by far – my favourite true crime podcast amongst those I’ve tried. The genre exploded in the wake of Serial, of course, and I’ve found one or two other decent ones. But Crimetown is astonishingly good. It’s a hugely ambitious serialised documentary about organised crime, local politics and law enforcement in Providence, Rhode Island; mostly in the 1980s. It’s like a true-life audio version of The Wire. Full of recurring characters, interviews, archive recordings. Unmissable.
The place I get 90+% of my astronomy, space exploration etc news and info from these days. A highly accessible, all-encompassing bi-weekly update on all things space-related. Rockets, satellites, probes, planets, exo-planets, moons, stars and so on. A wonderful example of what podcasts can do: plugging a gap in TV and radio output through the simple mechanism of two guys who love their subject and know quite a bit about it talking about what’s going on and what’s caught their attention. If you like space stuff, of whatever kind, this is for you. (Part of the RelayFM podcast network, which has a heap of other geek-friendly shows you might want to check out).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I sampled quite a few politics-related podcasts last year. The only one I’m still listening to regularly is Talking Politics. It’s from Cambridge University, and it’s mostly just a bunch of folks talking about big picture issues (and sometimes specific events) in politics around the world. Inevitably, there’s an emphasis on British and US politics, but they talk about European stuff a lot and get into major developments elsewhere sometimes. Kind of non-partisan in that they’re more interested in understanding what’s going on than pushing specific agendas, but the individual participants do, of course, have opinions so possibly not for you if you’re allergic to the so-called ‘intellectual elite’.
For those who don’t know, 2000AD is a legendary British sf anthology comic that started up in the late 1970s and – kind of miraculously – is still going. A truly formative experience for a big chunk of us Brits whose interests lay in that direction. Even those who don’t know it might have heard of Judge Dredd, it’s most famous character, right? This is their official podcast, loaded with interviews with famed writers and artists, talk about the comic’s history, key past and current stories and characters etc. etc. If you ever enjoyed 2000AD, you should listen to it. If you’re into comics, you should listen to it. If neither of those things apply to you … maybe not?
A podcast that looks at the culture surrounding sf and fantasy in all media. Sympathetic, smart and rarely obvious, it’s touched on a crazily wide variety of topics: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Avatar: the Last Airbender, LARPing, D&D, fantasy maps, Godzilla, Batman … the list goes on and on. Invariably just as is interested in the people who consume and support the media as it is in the properties themselves, it’s a weirdly unifying approach to all of geek culture.