Weird Podcasts for a Weird Year
April 26, 2021 8:25 AM   Subscribe

It’s Spring 2021, and here’s another roundup of weird audio dramas! They may help you spend time while self-isolating, waiting for vaccination, or doing chores to take you away from the endless online meetings. Notably, we can all take a moment to admire the completion of The Magnus Archives, the 200-episode horror extravaganza. Or, if you prefer, Alasdair Beckett-King’s not entirely unfair take down of the genre. As usual, I am focusing on paranormal ongoing stories as opposed to Science Fiction or Fantasy dramas or series of short stories, with or without framing elements.

Stories with LGBTQ characters and elements are identified when possible. Podcasts with frequent or severe content warnings are also noted as much as possible as are those which provide transcripts. All the podcasts are accessible via most podcast apps and aggregators (although, weirdly, some apps seem to not catch entire seasons of some of the shows). Some of these are complete stories, some are ongoing, and some are on hiatus (mostly due to COVID but some for season breaks). This status is identified when known.

Miriam Dufour’s life is off the rails when she receives a letter describing a mysterious inheritance. She moves to the curious town of Achewillow to operate a small café. She’s already a talented cook and banker, but Achewillow might make her something more, because nothing in the town works quite the way it should. Magic, horrors, helpful and infuriating townspeople, a cloud-worshipping cult, and lots of baking. The only thing everyone agrees on is that the Achewillow, the tree that the town is named after, does not exist.
Tone: whimsy and horror
LGBTQ: none significant
Three seasons (45 episodes + supplements; ongoing)

Among the Stars and Bones
The Proximans are the first examples of intelligent life 23rd Century humanity has found, but the Proximans seem long-dead, leaving advanced technology and tantalizing hints about their science, civilization, and fate. The joint corporate/military/academic mission discovers wonders but also a growing sense of horror in a city of alien dead. And soon there are signs of threat, but, whether from ill-understood technology, human dissension, or something stranger remains to be seen. The story feels more or less complete, but they are considering a second season. Transcripts available.
Tone: scholarly exploration, infighting, and growing tension
LGBTQ: none significant
One season (10 episodes)

Lara Campbell used to believe in ghosts. Now she pretends to believe in them for money. But when her ex-girlfriend goes missing in Charity, OR, a town with some very mysterious issues, she may have to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew. Town is unfriendly, the family evasive, and Lara’s only ally is an unreliable Sasquatch enthusiast. The series is struggling to get out of COVID hiatus, so it’s currently very much unfinished. Transcripts available.
Tone: small town horror and disturbing woods
LGBTQ: Main character is lesbian (maybe bisexual)
One season (4 episodes + supplements; on hiatus)

A family moves to a smallish town in the Ozarks. The younger child, Sam, makes friends who support him as he learns to fit in, grow up, and deal with the sudden disappearance of his older sister. By High School, it’s clear that there is a terrible connection between an inhuman scream, parties out in the woods, and dozens of missing people stretching back decades. And, somehow, the town just lives with it. CW: sexist and homophobic insults, graphic violence, sexual assault.
Tone: small town horror shading into sordid rural noir
LGBTQ: none
Complete story (9 episodes)

Call of the Void
People in New Orleans are losing first their senses, then their minds, then their lives. Confused siblings Topher and Simone Sommers and angry fortuneteller Etsy Delmen race against time to find out the cause before more people are lost to the Void. The story wraps up in the first season but continues in the second with the same cast as the mystery takes an alarming turn.
Tone: growing menace
LGBTQ: none significant
Two seasons (16 episodes; ongoing)

Children of the Stones
A reworking of a 70s TV program, this podcast tells the story of Mia Brake and her archaeometrist father move to Milbury, a village framed by an ancient stone circle. But all is not right in Milbury. The stones emit a strange power, people won’t admit the strangeness, children are falling under the spell, and, perhaps, an old rival of Mia’s father is trying to leverage the stones to…? CW: Morris dancing.
Tone: folk horror
LGBTQ: none
Complete story (10 episodes)

Ghost Tape
Following her family’s traditions, Tessa Dixon arrives at basic training. She’s also hoping to uncover evidence about her grandfather’s suicide or murder. Then she finds an audio cassette of her grandfather’s that points to generations of deceit and appalling violence by the Army and her family. And the past does not want to stay buried. CW: emotional abuse; physical violence (including war crimes); allusions to sexual assault.
Tone: visceral horror
LGBTQ: Two women have a sexual relationship
Complete story (8 episodes)

Glass Letters
Riz lives alone on a deserted island, reading the letters that wash up on the shore every day. Each letter leads to thoughts about Riz’s life and decisions made and unmade. Episodes are extremely bite-sized, usually running 10 minutes or less. The story may be complete, as it reaches a point of decision and hasn’t updated in a while. Transcripts available.
Tone: melancholy and wistful
LGBTQ: yes, but the revelation is a plot point
Complete (?) story (7 episodes)

Haunted Happenstance
A young woman moves to Boston and into her boyfriend's apartment in a renovated historic mill building. Things happen. Maybe ghosts are seen. The narrative draws in other residents and their own encounters with the increasingly disturbing forces that inhabit the building.
Tone: braided narratives and growing horror
LGBTQ: none significant
One season (28 episodes + many supplements; ongoing)

How It Ends
Micah Jones has suffered from night terrors and recurring dreams for as long as she can remember. With the help of her two best friends, Devon Williams and Elia Cabral, Micah starts to document her dreams and life, in hopes of finding resolution. Instead, she finds a mystery that leads her back to her hometown and secrets buried for entirely too long. Unfortunately for the friends, some secrets do not want to be uncovered.
Tone: eccentricity and humor
LGBTQ: none significant
Two seasons (21 episodes + supplements; on hiatus)

The Left Right Game
A young journalist sets out to report on a curious pass time of obsessive people playing a geographical game that is supposed to take them… elsewhere. Members of the convoy fall to various threats in a increasingly bizarre and dangerous landscape, and she begins to doubt the motives of her fellow travelers. As she travels, her reports and communications become increasingly incomprehensible, and a friend tries frantically to find her in a world that seems to be forgetting.
Tone: Surreal road trip and growing paranoia.
LGBTQ: a lesbian couple
Complete story (10 episodes)

Letters from Arkham
A father worried about his son searches across America for clues as he travels to the Massachusetts town of Arkham. His son keeps sending him letters, but the father is increasingly suspicious as cults and monsters dog his heels. Lots of Lovecraft references.
Tone: loneliness and Lovecraftian themes
LGBTQ: none
One season (8 episodes; ongoing)

Me and AU
When Kate "ACunningPlan" Cunningham is teetering on the edge of the adult world, which she is trying to avoid by digging deep into the fandom around a maybe-not-that-great paranormal adventure tv show. In the process, she sparks up an online friendship with a fellow fanfiction who might be everything Kate is looking for. Not actually a weird podcast; it’s a rather sweet story of online romance. Transcripts available.
Tone: fandom, queerness, and awkward romance
LGBTQ: awkward queer online flirting
Complete story (15 episodes)

A couple of friends come across what seems like an actual instance of the Polybius arcade game in a hipster arcade/bar. Which then burns down. Afterwards, they begin to receive mysterious messages, their phones are hacked, and strange and menacing people show up with conflicting stories about what is going on. Everyone agrees that the friends are now in the crosshairs, so what can they do? Another podcast on indefinite hiatus due to COVID.
Tone: conspiracy
LGBTQ: none significant
One season (12 episodes; ongoing?)

The Shadow over Innsmouth
The third chapter of the BBC 4's The Lovecraft Investigations, this is a very free adaptions of Lovecraft's story reset in the modern day, and largely transposed to the UK. Kennedy Fisher and Matthew Heawood are "The Mystery Machine,” an investigative journalism podcast where Fisher does the legwork and Heawood does research and edits the shows. This investigation uncovers something truly disturbing which keeps snowballing. Fisher travels across the Atlantic to uncover the secrets of Innmouth, while Heawood tries to decise if he can trust anyone, especially Fisher.
Tone: Eerie conspiracy and Cthulhu
LGBTQ: none
Third season, complete story (8 episodes + supplements)
posted by GenjiandProust (15 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Previous weird podcast roundups: 2020 2018 2017
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:27 AM on April 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

I try to keep my opinions out of the body of the post, so: of the QCODE podcasts, I like The Left Right Game more than Ghost Tape or Borrasca, which are much nastier in their tone, and the revelations at the end of the latter are... kind of headscratching. The Shadow over Innsmouth is a pretty good wrap up to The Lovecraft Investigations; if you liked the first two sections, you are getting more of that. Haunted Happenstance, Call of the Void, and Polybius are all a little rough in their execution, but if you value interesting plots and story construction more than technical polish, you may like them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:33 AM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Now that The Magnus Archives is done, I've started on Old Gods of Appalachia, which you mentioned in last year's roundup. You may be pleased to learn that the LGBTQ content has increased.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:35 AM on April 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

You may be pleased to learn that the LGBTQ content has increased.

Yeah, I don't know how helpful my LGBT notes are. have people found them useful in the past?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:55 AM on April 26, 2021

have people found them useful in the past

I appreciate it, although I'd honestly be more interested to learn about queer representation among the creators than in the show itself, if such information is public.

But since I have you on the line, as it were, may I ask why you've chosen to exclude anthologies from your listings? The Wrong Station is really phenomenal, just to name one. (And good gravy, Anthony Botelho's speaking voice is a thing of beauty.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:02 AM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Since I don't know any of the creators personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable speculating about the personal situations of creators. Some podcast networks (e.g. Procyon Podcasts and HeartLife NFP) produce very LGBT-friendly shows, but that's as far as I can go.

As for the anthologies... honestly , I made that decision to wrangle the first post back in 2017, and I have just stuck with it. I tend to prefer the audiodramas over the anthologies, but it is a very fuzzy line -- I mean, I like The Magnus Archives quite a lot, and it is, more or less, an anthology series with a very robust frame. Maybe the real reason is that, if I like the plot and characters, I am willing to sit through weaker voice acting and writing, but an anthology show that is deficient in one place or another doesn't have those extra elements to carry me forward.

If people would like an anthology round up, I listen to a good many of varying quality, and I would be glad to share if there was interest.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:14 AM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I, for one, prefer anthologies to ongoing serials, so I would love an anthology roundup.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Wow, thank you for posting this! I just finished listening to The Left Right Game and am looking for something with similar vibes. This is great!
posted by CompanionCube at 11:10 AM on April 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just popping in to second Old Gods of Appalachia. I was able to binge the first season all at once, it is really good. I am enjoying the second season as well - just wish I could binge it. I am trying to be patient.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 1:21 PM on April 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for these roundups, GenjiandProust! Count me as another person who tried out Old Gods of Appalachia after your roundup last year, and I really loved it. Great voice acting and audio production, and just the kind of horror I love. I'm waiting for the second season to finish to binge, but I also really enjoyed the standalone Patreon-only arc Build Mama a Coffin.
posted by yasaman at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I very much appreciate the recommendation of The Left Right Game, which through six episodes, has been terrific. I'll have to check some others out from this list.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:45 PM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

What a rich post, GenjiandProust . Thank you. Looking forward to exploring.
posted by doctornemo at 5:55 PM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just got an email that How It Ends is gearing up for a third season, so I highly recommend that, if you haven't tried it out.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:53 PM on April 30, 2021

I'm listening to Borrasca currently, and it's a marked step down from The Left Right Game. The production value is still high (which seems to be a QCODE thing) but the acting... Well, one of the twins from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is in this and he's the high point, arguably. So it's a steep dropoff from Tessa Thompson and W Earl Brown.

Super weird that it's set in the Ozarks and no one has a southern accent of any kind.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:19 PM on May 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I admit I almost left Borrasca off the list. In fact, The Left Right Game is the only QCODE show I would enthusiastically endorse. I kept forgetting it was set in the Ozarks....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:21 PM on May 12, 2021

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