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Spreadin’ the Weird: The Drabblecast

July 3, 2014

Who has time to keep track of the short fiction market out here on the web? Not I. At least not with any consistency. The best I can do is skim through the current issues of the various online speculative fiction magazines for stories that I think I’ll enjoy, or authors I know I already like, for samples of what’s getting published and what’s been done to death. Thankfully podcasts make that a whole lot easier. I’ve found that the Drabblecast is one audio fiction magazine that consistently delivers the kind of inspiring, genre-bending weirdness I love.

The tagline is, “strange stories, by strange authors, for strange listeners”. They’re good at delivering what’s promised.

As good as the stories are, the highlight of the episodes are often the intros and ‘outros’ performed by host and editor-in-chief Norm Sherman. Norm’s unique style of voice and sense of humor are a huge part of what makes each ‘cast a magazine, and not just someone reading a story. Even though the voice actors they get are usually pretty damned talented as well. But some of the best narration I’ve heard is actually performed by Norm himself.

It’s named the Drabblecast for the flash fiction. Since they started running longer feature stories on a regular basis, most episodes open with a ‘drabble’, a 100-word story that usually comes from the fans on the forum. Each episode also closes with a ‘twabble’, a 100-character story also submitted on the forums. If you’re not sure how a story can be told in 100 characters,and I wasn’t before I began listening, it’s worth checking out.

Here are few of my favorite recent episodes. (But if you don’t trust my taste, they have their own list for new listeners.)

Drabblecast 325 – Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon

A western fantasy faerie tale of sorts.

Drabblecast 324 – The Ball Room  by  China Miéville

It’s a ghost story by weird fantasy/horror author China Miéville. What more could you want?

Drabblecast 313 and 314 – The Blue Celeb  by  Desmond Warzel (Part 1 and Part 2)

This is a long one, but great one. Two old friends run a barbershop in part of town that’s seen better days, and end up having to take responsibility for the deadly supernatural mystery that’s been parked on their doorstep. I don’t see how anyone could not like this story.

Drabblecast 301 – Everything Ravaged Everything Burned by Wells Tower

Vikings having a mid-life crisis and looking for a career change. Hilariously violent and violently hilarious.

Let’s see, then there’s the great stories by the late Jay Lake they’ve recently re-cast as Drabbleclassics. If you’ve ever wanted a single story to show someone that you could say “this is weird fiction — stories like this!” then you need look no farther than Clown Eggs by Jay Lake. The biologist in me wants to giggle incessantly at the title alone.

Oh hell, you could just dive in with the most recent episodes too. It’s hard to go wrong.

* * *

The Drabblecast doesn’t have a monopoly on great weird fiction of course. To honor author Jay Lake, who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer (chronicled on his blog), Podcastle ran a full cast recording of the story “Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy” by Jim C. Hines. This story has it all: superheroes, talking tumors, fecal jokes, and jokes about cancer. It’s a phenomenal story, if you’re in the right place for it. They give fair warning in the intro that, depending on what’s going on in your life, it just might not be what you need to hear.

If you are in the right place for this story, be sure to listen all the way through the outro after the story. Trust me, it’s worth it. Especially for Drabblecast fans.

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