Escape Pod is a publication which has embraced the digital age. They pay their authors at a professional level, but their stories are available for free as podcast, and also for reading on their site. They pay their authors from money collected from donations, or from sponsors.
They also use voice actors to read the story. Some of the stories have better readers then others. but the quality is generally high.
If you’ve never listened to a podcast, it’s easy to start. There is free software available for windows, as well as for Unix distributions and Apple Itself. A link to windows software is here. You can play them on your computer or save them to your music player.
All of the fiction which they’ve published is available, so you could spend many hours going over their website. You might want to try Immersion, the story of a woman who uses a device that is supposed to let her instantly adapt to any culture. As is usually the case with devices of that nature, there are some drawbacks.
Also produced by the same group are two other podcasts you might be interested in. Pseudopod is for horror enthusiasts, and PodCastle is dedicated to fantasy.
Escape Artists, the company which produces all these podcasts also maintains forums for their listeners (and readers.) It’s a good place to go to talk about your reaction to what you’ve read and learn about good new books to find. I highly recommend it both for fans and for those who are trying to sell their own work.
There has been a lot said about how the digital age has torn apart the publishing industry, driven many bookstores out of business, and made life generally difficult for writers. That’s a fact of life everyone has to live with, but you shouldn’t be so bothered by it that you fail to take advantage of the good that it offers.
It is easier then ever before for fans to talk to one another and really get to know what’s going on in Science Fiction.
Michael, I really enjoyed and appreciated your article, especially all of the links (including the software link). It was exactly the type of article I was hoping to see at Amazing Stories. I’m certain that you are right, this is the direction the future of science fiction fandom is going toward. In fact, I think that interactive Podcasts are the next step, with some kind of hyperlinks from the written word to the spoken. I look forward to seeing Podcasts develop as they embrace the technology and sophistication available that is used in computer games. This next step being the written word read aloud coupled with artwork (cartoon or otherwise) like in contemporary computer games, allowing for a more expanded experience and journey.