The Indispensable Podcast Listing


Posted on : 12/27/2016 03:40:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , , , ,

I got into listening to podcasts a while back.  Most of those early podcasts were focused on the Fantasy & Science Fiction genre(s).  My early interest was motivated by a couple of different factors.

The first factor is that I love the genre and have hopes (more probably ethereal ravings) of writing in the field some day.  Even if I never get a chance to pursue that interest, it is always interesting to hear about authors, their writing process, and their challenges within the industry.

The other factor at the time was in learning more about the industry due to my interest in the Sad Puppies imbroglio.  I didn't learn as much about that, but it was an early motivating factor.

My podcast list grew from there due to my continuing interest in a few public radio programs.

While I know that the trend is to make everything seem to be larger than life these days, this list really, really isn't indispensable.  It isn't huge.  Or huuuuuuge! in modern presidential parlance, I suppose.

However, it is a great starting point for people that are curious about podcasting.  Take a look, and then give a listen.

I have scored each podcast in three areas; Production Values, Entertainment, and Information.  Production values represent the recording quality, the voice quality of the participants, and the general organization of the podcast.  Entertainment is pretty self-explanatory; how much does the podcast engage me from an entertainment perspective.  Essentially, the giggle factor.  Information is equally self-explanatory; how much new information does the podcast present.

There may be some bleed-through from one category to another.  For example, a regular participant with a less than entertaining voice may drag down both the production values and the entertainment scores.

I don't listen to all of these podcasts every week.  Some are on hiatus.  Some come out on an irregular basis.  A few of the podcasts will provide re-runs to fill in on weeks when they don't have something new.

I have filtered through some podcasts and dropped many that just were not worth the effort.  While there are some overtly political podcasts on the list, I think that most of these programs are worthy of consideration.  For someone new to podcasts, this list is a decent place to start.

News / Commentary

Podcast Production
Entertainment Information
Monique Marvez 9 9 7
The Pollsters 8 7 9
Three Martini Lunch 9 8 7
Serial 9 6 8
Embedded 9 7 9
So To Speak 9 6 9
Power Line Podcast 8 6 7
Paradox Project 5 6 7
My History Can Beat Up Your Politics 8 7 10
Scribble and Jam 8 5 6
Harvard Lunch Club ? ? ?

  • Monique Marvez is a comedienne that does a weekly show on Saturday evenings on the KFI radio station located in Los Angeles.  I first encountered the marvelous Ms. Marvez via a comedy special on Netflix.  She came across as a smart and sassy lady.  She tickled my funny bone.  A few weeks later I came across her podcast.  It was more of the same.  She offers general humor originating from the news of the day.  I thoroughly enjoy her perspective on the world.
  • I discovered The Pollsters this year courtesy of another news/political podcast (Paradox Project??).  The Pollsters is hosted by two women that represent each side of the proverbial political aisle.  Their focus is less about the candidates and ideology and more about the methodology of conducting and interpreting polls.  As a bit of a policy wonk, I find their approach and content pretty entertaining and quite informative
  • The Three Martini Lunch is a project of the National Review magazine.  This is a quick shot style podcast that usually runs 12-15 minutes long.  It rarely runs longer.  The format is to take three items from current news/events and present them as "martinis" for conservatives.  The martinis run from good to bad to crazy.  While the hosts have their obvious biases, they do a great job of making their show entertaining while remaining true to their ideals.  A little hint - none of the hosts are Trump fans.  They didn't predict a Trump win and aren't terribly enthused at the prospect of the imminent Trump Presidency.  Even those with a left of center bias should enjoy the show's humor even if their perspective chafes.
  • Serial is an NPR project that looks at a single issue over a longer time frame.  There have been two "seasons" with the most recent one focusing on Bowe Bergdahl.  I am not sure if it will ever return.  It is well produced, but a little dry in presentation.
  • Embedded is another NPR project.  Each show provides a deep dive into a given subject.  They have explored opioid addicts in Indiana as well as immigration courts.  The host has a very engaging style.  Even when I disagree with the proferred conclusion, I usually come away with a better perspective on the issue.  The show is currently on hiatus but should return at some point in the future.
  • So To Speak is a project of FIRE - The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  Each show focuses on a different aspect of intolerance offered to speakers.  While FIRE's more recent activities have been to oppose leftist intolerance and the shutting down of conservative speakers, the show frequently offers a review of efforts to shut down left-of-center speakers as well.  Any person that appreciates the right to speak freely will appreciate this podcast.
  • The Power Line Podcast is a project of the guys that set up the Power Line Blog so many years ago.  It is issued on an irregular basis.  They look at various issues from conservative and slightly libertarian perspective.  They are reasonably entertaining for folks of a reasonably comparable philosophical perspective.  
  • The Paradox Project is hosted by a group of young conservatives and is intended as a parallel to the articles appearing on the Paradox Project website.  The entire enterprise was initiated by Jordan Ecarma who was looking for an outlet for her thoughts on conservatism, feminism, and religion.  She brought in Zach Noble and Matthias Shapiro as co-hosts and additional writers.  Eventually, the podcast was handed off to the guys with Ms. Ecarma as a less active participant.  Zach Noble has had less of a presence of late, which is disappointing as he generally had the better-informed positions.  There are a couple of other modest disappointments with the podcast.  The biggest one is the way people end up talking over one another.  That leads into the second being that Matthias frequently interrupts Jordan while she is making a point.  Matthias interrupts a lot of people.  The final production negative is that recently there have been obvious and distracting keyboard noises in the background.  Listening to young people wrestle with why they believe the things they believe is interesting and can be informative.  During the recent discussions about transgendered bathroom rights, it was the Paradox Project that pointed out that Minnesota law had effectively allowed people to use restrooms based on their personal identity and has not seen any significant increase in crimes as a result.
  • My History Can Beat Up Your Politics is an ongoing project of Bruce Carlson.  Bruce is a self-described podcaster and student of history and politics who has been contextualizing political issues and events with history for 10 years.  His general approach is to view our current political climate through the longer lens of history.  He looks at political events from decades/centuries ago that echo modern political events.  He offers deep profiles into historical figures and events.  He did a multi-part series on Ronald Reagan that was tremendously balanced and was in turns critical and supportive of Mr. Reagan's term in office.  In a recent podcast, he talked about FDR as a President concerned with limiting the deficit by controlling spending for some period of time during his term in office.  In general, his contrasting of historical events with modern politics gives me a measure of hope.  MHCBUYP certainly helps to keep my rhetorical keel more evenly balanced.
  • "Scribble and Jam" is the work of Dan Haseltine.  Dan was one of the founding members of the Christian alternative band "Jars of Clay".  I am a huge fan of their music; both the lyrically and the instrumentally.  Dan's podcast was presented as an attempt at reconciliation in a divided world.  We are a few episodes in and I'm not sure how accurate that objective is.  He seems to come at issues from an "I'm OK, what can we do about you" perspective.  Unidirectional reconciliation is rarely successful.  While the show has high recording values, the combination of his perspective and the rather dry discussions that are presented have this podcast "on the bubble" for me.  I may drop it in the future due to lack of interest.
  • The Harvard Lunch Club is a recent addition and they are definitely on the bubble.  A recent episode features climatologist Judith Curry.  Ms. Curry went from being ideologically unwilling to engage climate skeptics to the point where she is more open to receiving legitimate criticism of global warming theories with the objective of improving the quality of her work.  And thus the moth was drawn to the flame.  We will have to see if I have time for another hour-long podcast to be added to my week.

Media / Publishing

Entertainment Information
SinCast by Cinema Sins 8 9 9
The Once & Future PodcastA 5 6 7
The Sarcastic Voyage PodcastA 9 9 N/A
Three Guys with BeardsA 6 6 7
The Post Atomic Horror PodcastA 9 9 8
More Bits A 9 6 8
The Horror Show with Brian KeeneA 6 8 8
Tea and JeopardyA 9 9 7
The Grim Tidings Podcast 8 7 8
Adventures In SciFi Publishing 9 9 8
Star Wars Minute 7 6 8

A = Podcast to which I have contributed financially.

  • The SinCast is hosted by the writers of Cinema Sins and Music Video Sins.  I picked up on their podcast pretty early on as thus have essentially been following along as each episode is published.  Their current routine is to review the best and worst of American cinema for each of the years that they have been alive.  They started out reviewing movies in the mid-1970s and are now up to 2009 (as of this moment).  All three of the hosts spent years (in a couple cases decades) working in the movie theater industry as managers and projectionists.  As a result, they have had a lot of exposure to a lot of movies.  They all possess an enviable depth of movie watching experience.  Periodically they will do a specific review of a current movie that is in some way significant.  As a modest aside, the SinCast does cover a lot of fantasy and sci-fi genre movies.  As such, the SinCast ought to be seriously considered for the Hugo fan-cast award.
  • The Once And Future Podcast is the labor of love of Anton Strout.  He has a day job with Penguin Randomhouse, but is also a published author, avid game player, and all around geek.  He interviews authors, game creators, and other luminaries in the so-called "nerdiverse".  His term.  The meat of each interview is great for aspiring authors and for avid readers who enjoy having greater exposure to the writing/creative process.  There are a couple of aspects of the show that cause me to have it "on the bubble".  I may remove it from my active list in the future.  While Mr. Strout seems to be a nice guy, his voice doesn't do it for me.  That's a personal preference issue, and it isn't that big of a factor.  For an interview show, he is in the habit of turning the conversation focus back on himself rather than leaving it on the guest.  A few of the shows have had some audio issues.  My biggest complaint is with what feels like an endless repetition of lengthy boilerplate language included in every episode.  He has an extended legal disclaimer at the end.  He has some introductory language about the podcast presenting a version of the private conversations that he used to have with "other authors and creative types in the nerdiverse" that is frequently repeated at various times in the same podcast.  Mr. Strout also uses his podcast to promote his published books.  It is his podcast and thus his prerogative.  He does some sort of self-promotion at least three times each episode.  And each of those three promotional segments seems to include a mention of every series that he has written and most of the books in each series.  It feels as though the advertising and boilerplate language consume at least a third of the program.  Two brief mentions of his fiction with a reference to his website and a single longer recitation of those works would be fine.  I do contribute a small amount to the program via Patreon.
  • The Sarcastic Voyage is a catchall program for Matt Rowbotham and Ron "Algar" Watt.  You will be seeing those names again, folks.  The current episodes of Sarcastic Voyage take us through the trials and tribulations in the continuing saga of Contentment Corner.  They harken back to the days of radio theater before television came along to fill in the previously imagined details.  The guys have a regular group of voice actors that portray the characters in this radio drama.  Being a bit on the fantasy/sci-fi end of the world, Contentment Corner contains an interesting and amusing array of characters and events that are not quite grounded in reality.  The humor is good and the actors are excellent.  I have tipped a couple bucks into their tip jar once or twice to help keep Matt and Al's productions coming along.
  • Three Guys With Beards a show featuring three authors talking about pop culture.  They frequently have other authors join the group as guests.  They talk about a wide variety of entertainment vehicles; movies, TV shows, books, comics, games, you name it.  Periodically there are some minor production issues.  Most shows are moderately entertaining.  I contribute modestly to the show by contributing to their network's Patreon campaign.
  • The Post Atomic Horror Podcast is the love child of Matt Rowbotham and Ron "Algar" Watt.  Apparently, Matt and Al used to make a ton of Star Trek references during prior iterations of The Sarcastic Voyage (see above).  It was suggested that they do a podcast devoted to Star Trek to provide a more focused outlet for their interest.  They decided to review every episode of Star Trek.  Every live action show.  Every animated show.  Every movie.  All of it.  And they started at the beginning with Star Trek "TOS".  (In my opinion, that "TOS" stands for The Only Series.)  I have listened to every episode of the podcast in order.  It took well over a year to catch up to where the show is currently working through Star Trek Voyager.  What I like most about the podcast is that both Matt and Al don't force any false choices about what is good or bad about any particular episode or any particular series.  They went into TOS largely expecting to be disappointed and were surprised to be mistaken.  They went into Voyager again expecting to be disappointed, and have been pleasantly surprised to find nuggets worthy of appreciation.  They demonstrate the ability to appreciate a past work within the time frame in which it was produced without sacrificing their more modern perspective on some issues.  As an example on gender issues, they embrace the duality of wanting better roles/writing for female actors while also appreciating attractive women.  Most importantly, they have inspired a desire to revisit the non-TOS series.  IMHO, this podcast has been significantly overlooked when it comes to the Hugo Awards for fan-casts. It should be a perennial nominee.  As indicated above, I have hit Ron and Al's tip jar once or twice.
  • More Bits is another podcasting outlet for Ron and Al.  It comes out on a very irregular basis with topics that range from marketing to depression to Star Wars.
  • The Horror Show with Brian Keene covers news in the horror sub-genre.  It features famed horror author Brian Keene with his trusty sidekick Dave "Meteornotes" Thomas.  They talk about various aspects of writing and publishing within the horror community.  Over the last year, they have covered issues of poor performance by the HWA as well as sexual harassment by people within the horror community.  Authors from within the horror sub-genre as well as authors from the larger speculative fiction community are frequent guests.  Discussions range from the serious to the hilarious and back again.  Brian is an outstanding interviewer.  The largest issue that I have with this show are the installments where there are not enough microphones to cover everyone that is at the table and/or in the room.  Fortunately, that is a rare occurrence.  I do contribute modestly to their effort via their network's Patreon campaign.  This is another podcast that is worthy of consideration for the Hugo fan-casting award.
  • Tea and Jeopardy is an interview show wrapped in a delicious bit of radio theater confectionary.  The show is created by the married writing duo of Emma and Peter Newman; both are accomplished writers.  The premise of the show is that Emma portrays a proper British lady inviting publishing industry guests for tea.  Peter acts as her butler, Latimer, who prepares a unique "tea lair" for each episode.  The locales offer endless opportunities for a "spot of mild peril" to the author and guests of the show.  Emma is a terrific interviewer.  Emma and Peter present marvelous radio theater segments.  Both parts of the show add together to provide a top-shelf presentation.  My one modest criticism is Emma's occasional expressions of discomfort at having to deal with men in the publishing world.  While it is ever so pleasant to see women continuing to advance in the field, there is nothing regrettable about men continuing in the field as well.  "Tea and Jeopardy" has been twice nominated for the Hugo fan-cast award.  It is well worthy of that consideration.
  • The Grim Tidings Podcast is the product of Rob Matheny and Philip Overby.  Their focus is largely on the "grim dark" corner of the speculative fiction pool.  Both gentlemen are sons of the American south with a global awareness that defies certain stereotypes.  Together they ask relevant, probing, and introspective questions of their guests.  They show also features mock quiz/game show segments played by the guests that tend towards guffaw-inducing.  "Grim dark" is a sub-genre of the SFF field where characters are rarely presented as being entirely good or entirely evil.  It also embraces a higher level of described violence.  The Grim Tidings Podcast is a rising star worthy of the attention of SFF fans.  (A modest disclaimer, I won a physical set of Brian Stavely's Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy via Grim Tidings Podcast contest.)
  • Adventures in SciFi Publishing is another podcast focusing on authors and others within the SFF industry.  They have been on hiatus since April/May of 2016.  I haven't seen any plans for a resumption of podcasting.  AiSFP is notable to me for a couple of interviews they conducted a couple years back relating to the Sad Puppies.  They conducted a serious interview with Larry Correia to get his perspective.  They then interviewed Paul Weimer for a contrasting view on the issues.  To my surprise, the two gentlemen appeared closer in opinion during these interviews than the heat of discussions in other locations would otherwise imply.  ("Closer" should not be taken to mean "essentially in agreement" or some such thing.  Just....closer.)  I look forward to the return of AiSFP.
  • Star Wars Minute is a podcast that reviews the Star Wars movies by focusing on successive single minutes of each movie for each podcast.  The first few podcasts for each movie can get a little boring as that is when the credits and crawl are presented.  I found the Star Wars Minute via the Airport Minute that was doing something similar with the movie Airport.  It had comparable problems.  This podcast is on the bubble for me for a couple of reasons.  The first is that the presentation style of the participants tends to be pretty dry.  The second is that there frequently are minutes of a movie where there really isn't much to say.  So the discussion tends to ramble across a range of topics that can only charitably be considered tangentially related to the movies in an effort to fill the allotted time.  Some podcasts do delve deeply into various aspects of producing the movie in an informative and entertaining fashion.  The episodes where the participants are just marking time.....not so much.  Star Wars fans should give it a try to see if it fits with their interests.


Piano Jazz Shorts887
The Moth796

  • Piano Jazz was the NPR program featuring Marian McPartland interviewing various guests within the jazz world.  The show also features the guests playing musical selections joined frequently by Mrs. McPartland.  I came to jazz a bit later in life, but have come to love the genre and its history.  Unfortunately, the podcast is a greatly abbreviated version of the longer program.  The show stopped being produced back in 2011.  The podcast adds a nice little shot of jazz to my week.
  • The Moth is another NPR program featuring amateur, semi-professional, and professional storytellers relating real events from their lives.  These stories run the range from hilarious, to poignant, to down-right sob-inducing.  They provide a unique slice of life and a bit of much-needed perspective.  If you have never experienced podcasting before, then I heartily recommend this podcast as an excellent and entertaining example of the podcasting medium.


Freakonomics Radio9810
Planet Money9810

  • Freakonomics Radio is a podcast from the Freakonomics team.  They focus on evaluating various issues from a statistical perspective.  Surprisingly, their evaluations are also fun, engaging, and entertaining.  They take very high-level evaluations of real-world issues and break them down into commonly accessible elements. 
  • The Planet Money podcast is an offshoot of the NPR show of the same name.  They also look at various economics related issues and provide a very accessible interpretation.
Both of these podcasts are indispensable towards the objective of understanding how we all make economic decisions.  They provide a greater context for the options we think we have (and those that we lack, but should possess).  

In thinking about this section, I was prepared to confess a bit of confirmation bias in selecting and supporting these two podcasts.  In broad terms, I would prefer a modestly smaller federal government that retains programs that succeed in improving our lives and terminates programs that do not.  The people preparing these podcasts might not agree with the former objective.  I believe that I am on reasonably firm ground to suggest that they would warmly agree with the latter.  Collectively they have reviewed a number of programs that are less than effective as well as a number of initiatives that work quite well.  I also think they would agree that it is terribly difficult to devise a one-size-fits-all solution for an economically, culturally and regionally diverse nation such as the United States.

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Comments (2)

You have some solid choices here, and some overlap with my podcast listening. I'll recommend a couple that might slot into your tastes.

Imaginary Worlds:
Each episode takes some aspect of SF/F and related interests and explores it with noteworthy interviews. Good production values.

Writing Excuses:
Three SF/F writers and a webcomic creator go in-depth into every aspect of writing.

Good Job, Brain:
Just because I enthuse about this one to everybody. An aces quartet of pub trivia mavens talk about trivia and present quizzes.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the suggestions, Edd.

Right now I'm having a bit of a time keeping up with the ones on my current list. But if I should need some new material, I will definitely check them out.