Synthetic Voices’ Top Podcasted Stories of 2012

SynthVoicesBigSwirl_250Over at the Synthetic Voices podcast, I see a LOT of fiction over the course of a calendar year.  Now, the 2012th year of the Common Era is coming to a close, so I thought I’d look back over my selections and pick out the cream of the crop.  The podcast has only been running since March, but I have been writing a “Top Picks” list since at least January of 2012, so all of those stories were eligible in addition to those featured on the podcast.

The winners below were painstakingly plucked from over 30 initial candidate stories, so congrats to all the authors, narrators, producers, and editors involved!

Best Podcasted Stories of 2012:
*In no particular order

“The Seven Samovars” by Peter Sursi
Lightspeed Magazine September Issue
— This story grabbed my heart as soon as I began listening.  The marvelous reading by Cassandra Campbell brought life to the character of an old Russian woman and the elegant magical framework kept my attention from beginning to end.  Each sub-story feels rich and can stand on its own feet, as well.

“She Said” by Kirstyn McDermott
Pseudopod Ep. 284
— Before this year, I was almost completely unfamiliar with modern horror.  This piece and others like it have showed me that horror is more than hollow thrills and chills.  “She Said” delivers a dark look at the life of a painter and the women who inspire him.

“In The Stacks” by Scott Lynch
Podcastle Ep. 200
— This story was a big cast recording from the Podcastle crew celebrating their 200th episode.  Not only did the ensemble do a great job with the audio (fulfilling the spirit of a community celebration), but the story was a fun wizard school tale that turned out to be a nice bit of fantasy.  Here’s to another 200, Podcastle!

“Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe” by Ramsey Shehadeh
The Drabblecast Ep. 249
— I recently listened to this story again, and it does not lose anything the second time around.  On the face, “Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe” seems like a wacky/weird post-apocalypse story, but it might surprise you.  There is a lot of heart and humanity to this one.  It might even jerk a few tears!

“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick
StarShipSofa Ep. 234 (timecode 9:50)
— This Hugo nominee stood out from the others I discussed on the podcast.  The story of a transmogrified son returned home to visit his ailing mother, it quickly becomes a familiar generational divide between estranged father and son.  Resnick does a nice job using a speculative element to mirror a commonplace human drama.

“The Five Elements of the Heart Mind” by Ken Liu
Lightspeed Magazine January Issue
— It was a challenge sorting out which of Ken Liu’s stories I loved the most this year, as I am an avid fanboy.  I decided that this story was on my lips the most often, as I praised both its inventive premise and its compelling characters.  Liu never fails to mix humanity, science, and “the issues of today.”

Most Frightening Tale – 2012:

“Kill Screen” by Chris Lewis Carter
Pseudopod Ep. 285
— This is a scary story.  There is a gore, there is terror, and it will scare you.  Actually if it doesn’t scare you, that just means you’re less easily scared than me, but it DID scare me.  There were actually only a few strong contenders for this category, but “Kill Screen” used the audio medium the most sucessfully by far!

Best Distant Reprint – 2012:
Many podcasts are reprint markets, but this category recognizes a story printed many years after its initial publication.

“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg (1970 Hugo Nominee)
Escape Pod Ep. 369
— This story kept members of the WSFA podcast discussion group talking for weeks!  If you could no longer trust in the privacy of your own mind, how would you go on with your life?  One person might lose their mind, but when this happens to a whole society, how does the world adapt?  Can you have relationships when at any moment you might become a Mr. Hyde?  This story will leave you guessing…check the Escape Pod forums for theories that other readers came up with.

Best Narration – 2012:

“A Nice Jewish Golem” by Ao-Hui Lin
The Drabblecast Ep. 245
— There were a number of contenders for best narration this year, but during our WSFA discussion group, it became clear that its popularity was largely due to the artful narration of Sondra Harris.  I won’t describe the narration too thoroughly – you have EARS, don’t you – but she nailed “the Jewish mother.”

Favorite Audiobook Series – 2012:
I don’t formally recognize audiobooks very often on the podcast, but each year I do listen to a number of them and occasionally mention them on Synthetic Voices.  Here is my favorite that I listened to this year:

The “Trader Tales” Series by Nathan Lowell
Including All Six Books “From the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper”
Free on Podiobooks
— First begun in 2010, this series explores adventure on the high seas…in space!  If you enjoy classics such as the Horatio Hornblower series, this “below decks to ship’s owner” saga will captivate you.  Many of the more scifi elements are left to ambiguity, but this leaves the reader more time to explore the life of Ishmael Wang, a young man adrift in the galaxy until he finds a home aboard a solar clipper.  All six books are both compelling and progressive.  Just remember to tip your author on the site (or buy a hard copy on Amazon)!


Keep in mind that only stories featured explicitly on the podcast/primordial lists were eligible for consideration above.  While more consideration was giving to stories who had not yet received as much acclaim as, say, a Hugo nominee, all stories were weighed equally before a decision was made.  The “Best of” picks are in no particular order, and, of course, all decisions were based on the opinions of one particularly fickle podcast fan (and input from a few friends).  Feel free to disagree. 🙂

Need more great stories?  Check out this list’s progenitor from last year: My Top 5 Podcasted Science Fiction Picks of 2011!


This article was first published on Science Is Magic, home of the Synthetic Voices podcast.  Reprinted here under a CC license.

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