The entire medium of independent fiction podcasting is a wild, untameable beast with a vast array of tendrils spiraling out in a variety of genres for listeners of all kinds.
Fans of science fiction, fantasy, comedy, slice of life, actual play TTRPG, horror, mystery, thriller, and more can expect to explore their Spotify and Apple Podcasts charts and, at this point in time, find hundreds of different shows begging for their attention.
And at the end of the day? Trying to choose the right serialized (or anthology) show to suit your fancy is an entirely subjective experience. That’s why I’m not trying to call this a list of best fiction podcasts, because for someone with differing tastes every single one of my answers could be completely the wrong one.
What I will be trying to do, though, is give you an eclectic list of shows in a variety of genres from a diverse set of creators that maybe aren’t the first thing that pop into your mind when you think of listening to fiction. So no, this list won’t include Welcome to Night Vale, or The Bright Sessions, or Wolf 359, or We’re Alive, or Archive 81, or The Black Tapes, or Limetown, or Wooden Overcoats. That’s not to say that each and every one of those shows isn’t fantastic, or even a wonderful place to start for a brand new listener, but they’ve all had years to earn their well deserved accolades, and I’d like to do my part in uplifting some lesser known creators.
One final note before I get started: this isn’t a ranking. I doubt it’ll come as much of a surprise after the rest of this intro, but I’m not personally interested in that kind of thinking when it comes to presenting new work for you to listen to. This is just a list of 10 great shows that I would love to see find their way to a wider audience.
10 Fantastic Fiction Podcasts
- 10. Primordial Deep
- 9. That Vampire Show
- 8. Beef & Dairy Network
- 7. Temujin
- 6. Seen and Not Heard
- 5. Rogue Runners: In the Blood
- 4. Apollyon
- 3. Moonbase Theta, Out
- 2. Who Killed Avril Lavigne?
- 1. Small Victories
10. Primordial Deep
Jordan Cobb’s name is sort of synonymous with the entire fiction podcasting community. She’s an elastic performer who can bring gravitas to any role that she inhabits, so it’s no surprise that every creator (including myself) jumps at the chance to cast her in their projects.
But what Jordan does even better than that is build dynamic, horrifying, and original worlds for her own characters to inhabit.
An admitted Michael Crichton obsessive, Primordial Deep sees Cobb wearing her inspirational heart on her sleeve. A group of scientists are tasked with a mission so top secret, and so irresistible, that they find themselves in a mobile, deep sea base investigating the re-emergence of prehistoric creatures of enormous proportions.
With an incredible ensemble cast that features a career-best performance from vocal chameleon Josh Rubino, and some of the best creature sound design by Julia Schifini, this show is not one to miss.
Full disclosure: I have an extremely tiny cameo in one of the prologue episodes of this show, but I only stick around long enough to be killed in brutal fashion. Everything else is all Cobb, and the rest of her dynamic cast of crackpots.
For Fans of: Jurassic Park, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jaws, Underwater, and going to sleep with the lights on.
9. That Vampire Show
Marissa Tandon is another one of those fiction podcast creators whose name is just immediately synonymous with quality. From the YA superheroes of Super Ordinary, to the pandemic beauty of Life on Pause, she’s made a name for herself assembling teams chock full of audio fiction superstars. But for me, it’s her most recent show, That Vampire Show, that takes her consistently winning formula and turns it up to eleven.
That Vampire Show follows two writers at wildly differing stages of their career: Warren Young, the wildly successful, yet presently unfulfilled creator of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque show called Bloodlines, and Kat Wright, a high school senior who privately writes Bloodlines fanfiction on her own time. But after Kat’s best friend submits her work to an official contest, she’s invited to the set of the show in order to meet the cast and crew, and finds her life (and Warren’s) turned upside down in the process.
And beyond the brilliance of the series itself? Tandon made this show into a multimedia experience, inviting several writers from our community to create the social platforms for several characters in-world. It’s a show that rewards repeat listening, and has so much fun bonus content for obsessives like me.
For fans of: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, The O.C., and killing your idols.
8. Beef & Dairy Network
Benjamin Partridge has been making Beef & Dairy Network for so many years at this point, that I’m honestly shocked that it hasn’t run out of steam. The number one podcast for those involved or just interested in the production of beef animals and dairy herds, it is the definition of a comedy show committing to the bit.
With a revolving door cast filled to the brim with a who’s who of British comedians, and the dry with of Partridge, there has never been a show quite as hilarious as this one. It is almost impossible for me to turn on an episode of this show and not bust my gut, cackling maniacally.
This series takes place in a world where Beef is the true center of all things. From crowing of the Bovine Poet Laureate, to regular Beefhead Day holiday celebrations, to the competitive sport of Hogball, and the proliferation of Bovine Information Centres, there’s beef related activity for everything under the sun.
At the end of the day, what makes Beef & Dairy Network so special is its utter commitment to the bit: how on earth the cast of this show gets through recording an episode without breaking out into laughter every two minutes is beyond me.
For Fans of: Cunk on Earth, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, and the top secret fifth meat.
Roshan Singh Sambhi, the writer, director, and composer of Temujin took the epic proportions of Genghis Khan’s empire, and pitted them against the backdrop of an intimate portrait of two old friends, coming together, and apart, over the course of their lives.
Choosing to center this historical fiction on the rise and fall of a relationship, against the backdrop of the rise of an empire, was a brilliant one. What could have otherwise been a by-the-numbers military epic, instead becomes an examination of how the dynamics of Jamuhka and Gengis’ friendship changes as one becomes all powerful.
But don’t let that mistake you: this adventure has everything else you’d want from a historic epic as well. There’s action, there’s romance, and there’s an entire cast of other characters to fall in love with. Created as a labor of love by an entire team of artists from Singapore, some of whom were even able to take a trip to Mongolia to see the place they were writing about before principle production, this show has taken on a life all its own: and earned Andas Productions more than its fair share of deserved accolades.
For Fans of: Seven Samurai, Gladiator, Spartacus, and learning that autocratic despots are people too.
6. Seen and Not Heard
I’ve already said a lot about the brilliance of Caroline Mincks’ semi-autobiographical slice-of-life masterpiece Seen and Not Heard for DiscoverPods, but it always bears repeating.
This story of Bet, a young woman contending with the ways in which losing her hearing has changed the course of her life, is equal parts beautiful, heart-wrenching, and funny. An extremely Jewish story with a gorgeous script and an even better cast, anchored by Caroline Mincks (themself a deaf Jew), with mind-blowing sound design by Tal Minear that purports to simulate the experience of experiencing the world through imperfect hearing aids.
And what’s even better yet? What was originally touted by Mincks as a one-and-done miniseries, is officially in pre-production on a second season. One that, (full disclosure again), I’m proud to say I helped bully them into making. I’m happy to say that I knew, before Caro did, that there was more gas left in the tank to keep telling this story about Bet, and her best friend David, who himself suffers from debilitating OCD. And, I’m happy to admit: this new season? Is going to be just as special as the first one.
For Fans of: Fleabag, Sound of Metal, Catastrophe, and George R.R. Martin’s overlong descriptions of food in the A Song of Ice & Fire books.
5. Rogue Runners: In the Blood
I’m the first person to tell you that I tend to shy away from actual play shows. It isn’t the fault of any single person involved with them: I love playing Dungeons & Dragons, I love improv, and I love a blend of comedy, drama, and high stakes action… but there’s something about the genre that has never hit for me.
That is, until Tau Zaman launched Rogue Runners: Into the Blood, an RPG set in the world of Supergiant Games’ runaway roguelike adventure game, Hades.
What’s funny about my deep and abiding love for this show, is that I listened to the entire thing before ever playing a single minute of Hades. There was just something about the way that Tau had lovingly built up a world informed by Hades, while using mechanics from D&D 5E, and a series of fantastic game-show themed boss battles including one truly Cash Cab moment.
The entire ensemble that makes up the party of Rogue Runners fires on all cylinders, every time they play, and Giancarlo Herrera’s sound design for the series is top notch.
For Fans of: Hades (obviously), Dimension 20, Critical Role, and ugly crying at episodes where they dive into a character’s tragic backstory.
Nashville-native Faith McQuinn has an essentially perfect track record when it comes to creating audio fiction. From the pulse-pounding emotional action thriller of Boom, to the cozy slice-of-life rom com Margaritas & Donuts, to the deeply researched (while also deeply human) pandemic-themed sci-fi of Apollyon, Faith has a real knack for crafting compelling characters whose interior lives are utterly engrossing.
Set in the 22nd century, where a virus has wiped out 75% of the world’s population, and the rest of its inhabitants are under the control of the International Conglomerate of Science, this show is equal parts scientific thriller, slice-of-life drama, and dystopic future. But what’s beautiful about the way that Apollyon presents itself is that, while the world has been forever changed by a virus with such disastrous consequences, it’s how the people that are still hanging on to their humanity that is the most important thing. And Dr. Theo Ramsey, the ICRS research scientist who may have just stumbled onto the right cocktail to craft an effective vaccine, is the perfect person to lead us through it.
For Fans of: Contagion, Outbreak, Silo, and baking an irresponsible amount of cookies after getting in a fight with your best friend.
3. Moonbase Theta, Out
D.J. Sylvis’ hopepunk masterpiece Moonbase Theta, Out only recently aired its series finale, and what an absolute triumph it was. What started as a single-narrator microfiction in 2019, blossomed over the course of its four year existence into a massive ensemble podcast with cast members from all over the world.
It was a genuine pleasure, getting to experience this show in real time, as it evolved and changed over the course of its run, but I’d imagine the marathon experience to be just as gratifying.
Set at the end of our current century, and following a team of research scientists living in various strategic bases around the moon, Moonbase Theta, Out genuinely had it all. A loveable set of protagonists, some dastardly villains, and more heart than you can even imagine.
With prosaic dialogue that often relied on the beauty of poetry to communicate the immense beauty and loneliness of being abandoned in Space, with nothing but a view of the Big Blue Planet you hope to return to, and a series of transmissions you can’t be positive are being heard by anyone.
For Fans of: For All Mankind, Avenue 5, Star Trek, and being unabashedly queer AF (and frankly, joyful about that).
2. Who Killed Avril Lavigne?
You might know Ben Lapidus as the “I always want more parmesan” guy from America’s Got Talent, but I’ve been a fan of his for years because of his work in audio fiction. From his absolutely hilarious podcast Gay Future, to his early 2000’s emo/pop-punk masterpiece, Who Killed Avril Lavigne? But it’s the latter of these two that truly saw him enter the audio fiction stratosphere.
Born from the batshit insane internet conspiracy theory that Avril Lavigne died in the early 2000’s and has since been replaced by an imposter (I’m not kidding, this is a real thing people think), this show uses time travel, bad potty humor, and an alien invasion to explain the theory away.
The story follows Derek Walker, a teenager in 2022 who believes he’s been born in the wrong decade (i.e. one where pop punk & emo no longer run the high school scene) as he travels through space and time to become The Chosen Punk. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and has an incredible soundtrack to boot.
For Fans of: Avril Lavigne, Taking Back Sunday, Blink 182, and basically anyone else who you might have found on a Vans Warped Tour stage.
1. Small Victories
I am a huge proponent of slice-of-life storytelling when it comes to fiction podcasting, which is why Small Victories by Jade Madison Scott is maybe my favorite show that I’ve ever heard.
A messy series following the misadventures of Marisol, a recovering drug addict trying (and mostly failing) to stay sober after one too many brushes with death. Jade’s legitimately brilliant scripts are some of the most realistic depictions of addiction that I’ve ever experienced, and yet, never sacrifice the inherent comedy of being a living and breathing person in the year of our lord 2024.
This team was recently nominated for a 2024 NAACP Image Away for Outstanding Scripted Podcast series, and I truly couldn’t think of a more deserving group of individuals.
Morgan McKynzie, who plays Marisol, infuses the character with effortless wit, vindictive bile, and love bombing at the drop of a pin. And the entire rest of the supporting cast is on fire as well.
This is an unapologetically human story, that doesn’t ever try to shy away from the grim reality of this disease, while also reminding us that a troubled life can still be filled with moments of joy, humor, and forgiveness.
For Fans of: Insecure, I May Destroy You, Grand Crew, and watching your absolute favorite characters on an endless path of joyful self destruction.
Fiction podcasts, here we come!
Well that wraps up my look at 10 fantastic fiction podcasts for first time listeners. I hope somewhere in this list, you’ve found your next hidden gem!
If you’re still looking for great shows, be sure to check out some of Podbam’s other favorites in the comprehensive lists below: