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Erin Listens: Magic Tavern, SAYER, Black Tapes, Wolf 359, Kakos Industries, and more October 24, 2015

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches, Meta.
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Because in between all this old-time radio, I’ve been filling my ears with new-time podcasts. Mostly fiction, although I’ve been keeping up with the Savage Lovecast for years, and would rec that to anyone who has trouble with subtle emotional/relationship stuff and finds it helpful to have the subtext articulated. Or, y’know, who likes hearing about weird sex problems.

Hello From The Magic Tavern: Fantasy/comedy. Your host is a real-world human stuck in not!Narnia, trying to get messages back to Earth in the form of a podcast (sent over the wifi connection through a tiny portal, the other end of which is a Burger King with a finicky firewall). Co-hosts are not!Gandalf, a wizard who enjoins all their guests to join his quest to defeat the Dark Lord, and a shapeshifter (usually badger-shaped) who has a lot of weird sex.

The wizard, Usidore, is my favorite character. Ridiculously entertaining. I didn’t realize just how much of a Gandalf fan I was until this retroactively illuminated it. He’s on Twitter; I’m a fan.

Lots of pop culture puns, sendups of various fantasy series (lots of Narnia and LotR, some Harry Potter, a touch of Neverending Story, etc), and fun worldbuilding. It’s improv, but with some planning and forethought, so it comes out more fluid and less random than ILLUSIONOID. The credits are read by a mysterious voice who fervently reminds you how not-real it all is.

Follow: Magic Tavern feed (and ILLUSIONOID feed) on DW.

SAYER: Sci-fi/horror/comedy. In the dystopian future, on the space station created by an evil megacorp, the AI — the eponymous SAYER — guides you through your day. The first season follows a single You…who starts off with total amnesia, no description, and no lines, so I was a little disappointed when they started giving him identifying traits (and they included “male, attracted to women, Anglo-Saxon name,” etc). But a Q&A bonus revealed that the writers are admirably self-aware about this, and later episodes branch out into SAYER’s addresses to other characters.

Doesn’t skimp on the horror aspect, so if you’re going to be squicked out by a pleasant voice informing “you” of your impending grisly death/dismemberment/other horrible fate, approach with caution. And it’s often gratuitous even by in-universe standards. Sure, the evil megacorp sees employees as disposable, but it’s more than that — SAYER will direct “you” into serious physical peril even when there are easier, cheaper, and more-effective ways to accomplish the same job.

(The horror feeds back into the humor aspect, because it’s extra-absurd when the same calm voice describes things like “the scientists’ funeral for their experimental pufferfish, Captain Squiddlesquirt.”)

One early episode lifts the premise of “The Jaunt” wholesale, so any time they have a really cool single-episode premise, I get suspicious that they copied it from some earlier piece of SF. That said, I’m really into the overall plot, especially since it amped up at the end of the last season.

Follow: SAYER feed on DW.

The Black Tapes Podcast: X-files-type docudrama. There’s one season so far, and I’m about halfway through.

It’s…listenable? Unlike the actual X-Files, it’s ambiguous so far about whether there’s any real paranormal activity in-universe, which is a lot less interesting. “Hey, here’s a weird thing that’s cloaked in superstition, and maybe there’s a cause we don’t understand, or maybe it’s all just coincidence” — that’s intriguing IRL because of the possibility that someone might, one day, figure out the weird thing. If you’re a fiction writer who deliberately leaves it unexplained, then there isn’t any possibility someone will figure it out.

Also, the reporter protagonist is annoyingly credulous. Maybe she’ll get better by the end of the season? (Nobody spoil me, I’m getting there.)

Wolf 359: Sci-fi comedy/drama. Three people and an AI on a space station orbiting a distant star (the eponymous Wolf 359). It’s got a very Red Dwarf feel sometimes.

The first ten episodes are Shenanigan-Of-The-Week, comedy bits like “we accidentally created a plant monster in the greenhouse” or “someone is holding hostage the only tube of toothpaste left in supplies.” After that, it takes a sharp turn into High-Tension Drama, which is more tiring and less engaging. Still has its moments, but it’s bumped down to “…listenable.”

Follow: Wolf 359 feed on DW.

Kakos Industries: SF/horror/weird/satire comedy. The shareholder announcements of an evil megacorp, by its CEO. With occasional interruptions from the CEO of Kakos’ rival company, [chainsaw noise]. There’s not much of an overall plot, but there are recurring elements (like updates on the evil toddler whom Kakos claimed a share of at birth), and it’s consistently sharp and funny and enjoyable.

It also comes with its own transcriptions! Which makes it easy for me to pull a bunch of favorite quotes from last year’s episode-before-Halloween:

Halloween is approaching. For those of you who are new shareholders, you are probably wondering what we, Kakos Industries, the industry experts in Evil, are going to do on a holiday that is so dedicated to mischief, horror, and mayhem already? The answer is simple: we take the day off. Everyone else has it covered, so what do we really have to gain from putting out any effort at all…I’m just kidding! Our Halloween party is going to blow your fucking mind, son! It’s gonna bundle up all that scary, sexy, dark, and evil, wrap it in a cosmic mind-tortilla, and blast it off into goddamn space.

No one gets diseases or pregnancies at the Kakos Industries Halloween party. Are you already pregnant and afraid of how it will make your costume look or that you might not be able to enjoy all of the fun booze? We have machines that will take that thing out of you and keep it safe while you party your fucking ass off. Do you need to be pregnant for your costume to work? Borrow someone else’s fetus. We got that machine too! We can do it to dudes, too! You wanna be Zeus? We’ll put a baby in your fucking thigh!

Everyone gets their own Japanese woman dressed as a schoolgirl! That goes for men, women, people who opted not to check a box on our surveys, and even the Japanese women dressed as schoolgirls. We’ll figure out how to make that work!

(The company might be my favorite representation of how to have a modern, non-terrible sensibility on gender, sexuality, and various other social justice issues, while still being evil.)

Follow: Kakos Industries feed on DW.

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