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The words "Audio Dramatic" on top of the logo, of a pair of headphones with a pen across them, against a sparkly daytime sky with peeks of skyscrapers at the bottom edge
Hello, fellow podcast lovers!

Thank you for the lovely messages last week, especially the ones that reminded me that in fact, I need sleep. Seems fake, but I'll give it a shot.

This past week, one of my closest friends gave birth to an extremely cute baby. I organized a food train for her and her husband, so that they don't have to worry about cooking dinner for a couple of weeks. It felt really amazing to pull together our friend groups and do this kind of localized community work. It reminded me of the importance of recognizing the multiple kinds of communities you belong to and understanding how they overlap. It's always in the gaps that we fail to provide aid or empathy. Spending some time with myself thinking about the things that are important, and the things that I want to be more important even though I've left them aside or behind, has definitely started to bear tangible fruit.

Also, I got to see that baby in person when I dropped off dinner and the tiny bundle of cuteness swaddled in cloth almost killed me, so you're lucky you're hearing from me today.
a foggy day in Antarctica; glacier and water, and a mountain fading into thick fog.

Our favorite sad babies in space are back and already entangling with the dangerous and unknowable Martian biosphere. A change from previous seasons, the third season's first two episodes stick with Jacki and Chip as they struggle against a hostile environment instead of shifting perspectives. There's an excellent reason for this: there's a total lack of communication now between different groups, meaning a far more extreme sense of isolation and an uncertainty as to what the plan of action could even be. Even if the third episode does shift to another perspective, having lingered in one place for longer achieves a settled, deeper anxiety of not knowing what else is happening (and that coincides with all that's happening to ANDI, which, excuse me, that's my precious AI son). Holding together a narrative structure is absolutely reliant on the plot constraints as well, and Marsfall has demonstrated time and again that they understand exactly what this story requires.

Something Strange is Happening
cw: body horror

Something Strange is Happening is one of the first fiction podcasts to debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, a horror anthology where immigrants who brought their culture and language to their new towns also brought their monsters. The first season takes place in LA's Historic Filipino Town, starting at an enormous celebration for a teenager's debut. The pilot opens with a historical narrative of the violent colonization of the Philippines and subsequent immigration, setting the eerie tone and deep roots of the scene with a vibrancy in both sound and dialogue that can only come from people creating and reflecting on their own stories. Also, listen, this episode was creepy as fuck; the foreshadowing, the little hints dropped even if you don't know Filipino folklore, nail the tension to the wall perfectly.

Venice takes on the influencer-laden spiritual community of Los Angeles, following Mel and Jessica, two sisters who fork sharply in their paths, one of whom gets sucked in by a charming, magnetic couple running a "light worker" training retreat. Yes, they're white people; they appropriate from Native American and Indigenous cultures without care in ways that we know are real: calling themselves shaman, going on spirit journeys to find spirit animals, and so on. Jessica is the one who points out how much of a scam it is, the exhausted voice who wants her sister to be safe, to check on who it is she trusts, to be a bit more of a skeptic. Mel is the one who wants to dream and take risks, who needs concrete support that she hasn't been getting from Jessica or any other part of her family. The sisterhood between them is on the rocks, and is the front and center piece of the story as the retreat and the hallucinogenic-tea-drinking couple help to drive an already existing wedge between them. Character-focused stories like Venice need strong acting chops, and Pia Glenn (Jessica) and Satya Vanii (Mel) bring clarity, chemistry, and complexity to their characters.

If you want to see more reviews, interviews, and other articles from me, you can support me at my Patreon, or at my ko-fi account for a one-time donation! You can also sign-up to talk about advertising in the newsletter.
Patreon Ko-Fi
A headshot of a laughing Rose Eveleth, host of Flash Forward, wearing a tropical print shirt. The image has been duplicated many times, and is fading in the distance to the right.
Flash Forward’s Experimental Space Imagines Better Futures, for All of Us
Experimtnal art piece: a very foggy, indistinct background of looking up at trees and a patch of sky, and a splashed line of gold paint across the middle.
Letter From The Editor: Breaking down the line between “fiction” and “nonfiction” in podcasting
Sometimes, it pays to worry about an audio writing style called "Mickey Mousing", where a narrator describes an action happening and then the sound design chiming in to demonstrate it; it's sometimes redundant and repetitive. However, sometimes, it pays to play into it in order to twist the soundscape around on you, like Tartarus does. At its basics, a droll and haunting narrator describes the lives of people interacting with strange, colossal, frightening monsters. In the first episode, for instance, we follow Lilly in her summer job at the aquarium and it seems very normal at first, Lilly echoing the actions the narrator describes, until exactly a quarter of the way through the episode, vibrating synthesized chords slide in and take over. The use of music here is crucial to creating the impression of a monster's shape and size, of their presence, even as the narrator describes what Lilly can see. If you like single-narrator short stories with an astute use of music and sound effects, cue up the stories on Tartarus.

(Please note: There is another fiction podcast called Tartarus that does not show up when you do a title search in some podcatchers, like mine. I originally was looking for that one, thought this was that one because they're both horror podcasts about monsters and have narrators, and got very confused when I pulled up the other Tartarus' transcripts. For humor and also my completionism, I decided I listen to the first episode of second Tartarus, which is the one that follows!)

"We invest so much energy asking the question ’would alien life be friendly?’ when there are so many more interesting questions; do they think like us? How do they look, walk or talk? Who cares if they’re friendly?"

This is one of the first things you hear from Brie, an anxious astrobiologist who derives entire lectures and endless wonder from the unknown. While she gives a lecture, somewhere else a facility is having a meltdown having gone into a high alarm state. It takes a moment to figure out that these are two different places; the scene switch is not as clearly indicated as might be helpful. However, the world-building is top-notch. For people who do not know anything about the UK's academic system, Tartarus gives the audience an easy and seamless path into understanding how precarious tenure is since Thatcher, meaning permanent lecturers can be fired. But Tartarus isn't just about the horrors of academia and government, but about the monsters out there, and the monsters inside of ourselves. Also, Brie ends up in Antarctica, which sounds like a great place to run away from your problems to, right?

The Pale
From the production platform that hosts Desperado comes the second podcast set in Antarctica that I listened to this week, this time on a cruise ship instead of a hidden research station. (Me @ every character: has NO ONE seen The Thing?). Art Rosenblatt is a journalist on vacation with his family, his senator wife and three children, and everything's going about as well as it can on a cruise to Antarctica, until one of his children goes missing. The resulting phenomena is bizarre, impossible to collate, and Art starts interviewing people on the ship, his children, the captain and crew, trying to figure out what, exactly, is going on. The Pale's hook hinges heavily on Rosenblatt's performance, which creator and voice actor Zev Hurwich knows exactly what's necessary: sarcasm and skepticism, fear and protective paranoia, a healthy curiosity plus a genuine sense of self-preservation. It's styled as Canterbury Tales meets The Twilight Zone, which frankly is a brilliant marketing narrative that bears up under scrutiny of its structure (and episode title schema). 
The article highlights above are links to things that I wrote for a special newsletter issue I guest edited over at The Bello Collective, the first outlet to have onboarded me as a writer when I started formalizing my criticism. Getting to do this was a dream come true, so I want to point you to the other two works that I curated and edited.

First, we hired Andas Productions (Temujin) to produce a minute-long audio art piece that blended fiction and nonfiction together. They adapted a poem, Fever Dream, that imagines the romantic life of Singapore's founding couple, and romance at the heart of independence, in a way that is accessible, beautiful, and loving.

Then, Rashika Rao agreed to write a piece on her thoughts about the sound of experimental audio, and what makes it experimental. She ended up writing one of the most amazing analysis articles I've ever read in the audio criticism space, Defining "Experimental": A Gallery of Meditations on Genre. You will be missing out if you let the experimental nature of the article itself get in the way.
Did you get here from a link online, or sent this by someone else?

While I was writing this, one of my friends used the word "upsetti" in a chat and you do not want to know how long I spent looking at the words "upsetti spaghetti" in one blurb and trying to figure out if that was 1) accurate and 2) acceptable.

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.

May your podcasts bring you joy,
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