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Hello, fellow listeners!

As winter starts to crawl to an end, the snow is trying to cling to my house still and I don't want to go outside because it's too cold, which means lots of podcasts (and books and murder mystery television, let's be honest). A bunch of introspection tends to take place when I'm spending long stretches at home, and I want to share some thoughts on how we can better take care of ourselves and of each other.
Joseph, New World (episode 10): There is not a single wasted second in this finale. There is so much love to be found in the soundscaping and effects design, as much as in the deeply immersive performances. "New World" kept me hooked all the way to the end, and it is not a disappointing ending. It was always a particular type of story, and to betray that would have been inexcusable; Joseph fully understands what it's message it and what it wants to bring to the table, and it delivers both admirably. [45:42]

The Van, Dusting (episode 5): The Van follows superpowered children under the controlling thumb of an abusive adult. This episode has the perfect balance of creator Emma Mantoani's poetic, dreamlike language for protagonist Cola's internal monologue and the sharp, racing tension of the villainous Nova's scenes and the ongoing effects of trauma on teenagers. The sound design drops away, muffled and distant, whenever Cola's internal descriptions come to the forefront, but never forgetting where she is. [24:54]

Calling Darkness, Class Is In (episode 1): The opening episode to this horror comedy features six women in a retreat-style acting class, who then read from a book together and summon a demon. The writing and performances are a great tone-setter, with distinct personalities in all these voices making it both vibrant and easy to follow who's speaking, and different approaches to comedy depending on who's speaking, in a way that feels natural instead of forced or too cheesy. [27:56]

Everything is Alive, Alligator, Alligator (episode 2.2): Listening in to this interview with a small child's stuff toy alligator is like a hit straight for adult nostalgia and memory.  This conversation winds from amusing to poignant to breathtakingly strange, and drifts in soundscaping like we're in Alligator's dream in a swamp full of alligators. I keep not expecting to cry over inanimate objects, but Ian Chillag and his guests insist on proving me wrong. [23:47]

Immunities, Alternatives & Options (episodes 3.1 & 3.2): Immunities continues to be one of the most effective horror and thriller podcasts in my queue with their third season of conspiracies and rebellions against aliens that overtake the bodies and minds of most of humanity. In particular, the effect of being inside Lorna's head for so long is a different way of putting the listener into their feelings and perspective than they've done before, and it's especially effective in heightening the sensation of isolation and resultant fear. [27:53 & 35:14]

The Far Meridian, Neon is the Color of Desire (episode 2.10): This has to be my favorite cold open from The Far Meridian, a surprising but still tone-perfect departure for a couple of minutes that easily bring a smile to listeners' faces. Barraza and Stanton made this episode like listening to a Far Meridian version of Nighthawks come to life, full of lonely people meeting their past and coffee and pie. [17:29]

The Hidden People, Something Happened (episode 1): From the Dayton Writer's Movement (the creators of Unwritten) comes this intriguing horror mystery about Mackenna and the gruesome, baffling murder of her parents, guided by an active, omnipresent and ominous overseer. It's interestingly structured in this way, with character introductions by an outside force and a mystery that isn't quite your regular whodunnit with the clear reveal in the first episode and the hints to all the folklore the creators have layered into it.[33:29]

The White Vault, Proof (episode 2.10): A staple in the horror podcast world, the second season ending understands where to pull a thread to keep the story going, with a vague and ominous promise. Fool and Scholar's desolate Arctic landscape has been harsh, unforgiving, and punishing, and their monsters unfathomably grotesque, but this finale showed that The White Vault can deliver fear even with just a one simple conversation. [22:38]

Moonbase Theta, Out, Four (episode 15): As Moonbase Theta, Out hurtles towards its conclusion, and the last week of the scientific moon base's shutdown on the moon, communications offer Roger has deviated sharply from protocol. I continue to be impressed by how much character, world-building, and plot the creator has compacted into five-minute episodes, and how much life voice actor Leeman Kessler brings to Roger. [06:19]

The Bright Sessions, Patient #6-C-1 (episode 64): This conversation between a shapeshifter and Dr. Bright is one of the rawest in the bonus episodes. Aron Brown's performance is stellar, heart-breaking and excited and anxious in turn as they deliver effective, gorgeous, and touching non-binary representation in a therapist's office. This is a story that will both resonate and gently educate. [33:08]

white elderberry blossoms and leaves against a blue skyDigital spaces can sometimes get a bit noisy: a lot of ideas, thoughts, demands, needs, cries for help overlapping one another, and it can be hard to spend the emotional energy to sift through it, to know how to respond, and to know whether responding is even necessary. I want to encourage everyone participating in a rapidly growing and diversifying artistic community like fiction podcasting, or even podcasting in general, to deeply consider how to best embody the notions of radical empathy and self-care, as two linked ideas.

Radical empathy refers to the practice of actively striving to understand the feelings and experiences of others, and through doing this, to improve their lives in a concrete fashion. Khen Lampert, a philosopher and professor who works with the theory of radical compassion, clarifies that its practice “includes the inner imperative to change reality in order to alleviate the pain of others”. It’s not simply a case of listening and saying, “That sucks”; it’s looking for ways that one can reach out and change someone’s life for the better or fight for that change to be realized.

What can radical empathy look like in a digital space, or in an artistic medium heavily mediated by social forums like Twitter? It could simply look like conscious signal-boosting with hashtags that promote visibility of those who could benefit from your platform, but it also looks like taking steps to improve others’ lives in indirect ways. That means hiring sensitivity readers for your writing, casting marginalized people in roles that represent them positively, sensitively, or wholly, and both offering and accepting criticism with grace.

Nina Power, a wonderful culture critic and lecturer in philosophy, does a lot of great work in untangling the different forms of empathy, and why it’s important to do this work in our current era where people are often pressured to “empathize” with others who treat them poorly, usually according to racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic biases. Because of this, it’s important for me to note that when I encourage people to practice radical empathy with each other, it’s with the underlying assumption that it is a practice done with empathy towards yourself, as well.

I’m speaking here, of course, about self-care. Self-care isn’t a selfish act. It’s about knowing what we need to do to take care of ourselves so that we are then able to take care of others. Without the practice of taking care of ourselves, it’s even more draining to fight for the betterment of the lives of others, which may even include our own lives as well (for example, a Latina participating in activism to support Latin American communities). It might take the form of an effective use of the mute button, or disconnecting from social media for a specific set of time, or taking a break from work even if one doesn’t feel like it’s deserved.

What happens, then, when someone says that their self-care is to not get involved in fighting systemic oppression? The result, of course, is a lack of change in oneself and in the environment they affect, and thus a lack of empathy. The argument of “not getting involved” is often leveraged by those with privilege, or relative privilege, because they have the luxury of not being affected; people who are affected by system oppressions are already involved, and ignoring it may even become dangerous for them personally.

And of course, it depends (my favorite phrase): marginalized people are often held up to a higher and double standard than non-marginalized people, and expected to carry the burden of fixing their own lives without the help of privileged voices. Taking the time to disengage from this cycle of oppression is self-care. Often, especially in the digital space, marginalized people are vulnerable to the vicarious trauma of watching the same news repeated over and over, with no discernible change in response. Not taking the time to heal from that trauma will impede the ability to practice radical empathy in a way that is genuinely nourishing and impactful.

What does radical empathy look like for you? How do you practice self-care as a creator, and as a fan? Fans are the backbone of communities like these, and all creators are fans of someone at some point. Empathetic fans might discourage trolls or fight against racist commentary, or support an independent creator financially or through word of mouth, for instance. Remember that you are responsible for your actions and your patterns, and those will in turn have an impact on your community. We must not just take care of each other after the fact, but work to change the facts. Remember this includes taking care of yourself; plan self-care into your workflow if you haven’t already. You deserve it.
16 Fiction Podcast Debuts in January
“Unwell”: Quiet Example and Direct Subversion of Midwestern Gothic
If you want to see more reviews, interviews, and other articles from me, you can support me over at my ko-fi account! 
Ko-Fi Support

If you live in Melbourne, there's a new fiction podcaster meet-up at The Lion Hotel.
The podcast Boom is now crowdfunding for season 4. Go and support more intense thriller, character-driven audio!
International Podcast Month has released their participation guidelines for audio drama, actual play, nonfiction, and creator conversations minisodes. Submissions open on March 1st!
Remember to check Wil Williams' Help Wanted section for casting calls, producer searches, and more.
There are only a few days left to get in on the Hit the Bricks Kickstarter rewards, a fully-funded audio fiction set in the world of Oz. Help them reach some cool stretch goals!
The Austin Film Festival's Podcast Script competition is open! April 19th is the early deadline, and lowest price.
Podcast Movement's speaker submissions close February 28th! And they are looking for fiction-related submissions!
Amanda McLoughlin, wrote this great how to on audience surveys for your podcast, and why you should have one. Cue me over here taking copious notes.

This morning, Mac Rogers wrote a great Twitter thread on the Steal the Stars finale, and the place of subtlety in his work. I think it's a worthwhile read and thing to think about, but for goodness' sake, don't read if you haven't listened to Steal the Stars!

In the realm of news and recommended listening, I've joined the Radio Drama Revival team as a submissions editor! You can listen to the conversation between myself, host David Rheinstrom, creator Fred Greenlaugh, and fellow new hire, as line producer, Wil Williams.

I've got a very busy week ahead, so keep your eyes peeled on my various platforms!

If you'd like to ask me questions or comments, you can reply to this newsletter (it goes directly to my email!) or reach out to me on Twitter.

Happy listening,
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