When storytellers want to see just how far they can push the resolve of their characters, there’s only one place to send them—space. Creed, oaths, and religions come face to face with the inky darkness of the void, and the myriad of friends, foes, and otherwise that they’ll find on each new planet’s surface. Our protagonists’ resolves and bodies are tested in the heat of laser sword based combat and the cold of an ice clad moon—and sometimes while being chased by popcorn aliens while working jobs to pay their impossibly large debts to a multi-solar conglomerate. It’s all par for the course with these renegades, rogues, scoundrels, and space detectives.
Fortunately, this particular sliver of science fiction has been well explored in audio fiction podcasts, and there are days worth of stories available to be delivered right to your ears.
Here are four space podcasts that will make you want to venture off into the stars.
Listen if you like: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir or The Mandalorian
Vega Rex is an assassin of faith, hired by the government to go after the world’s worst criminals, but set on a personal quest for answers and vengeance after the assasination of her Uncle—a quest that could set her against the very state she serves. Ivuoma Okoro tells this futuristic story from a brilliantly contemporary perspective, using pop songs and movies contextualize an other-worldly adventure, and invigorate the narrative with an intoxicating, vivacious rhythm. Ivuoma is the kind of story teller who makes every listener feel right at home in a world also populated by brain-wave hijacking oracles, rival deity night clubs, and powerful technogods. Exploring the limits of faith and violence, and the competing obligations of family, country, and creed, Vega: A Sci-Fi Adventure will pull you in and cut to the quick.
Listen if you like: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers or Firefly
Biologist Violet Liu finds herself down and out after an explosion takes out her ship and her crew—and it’s clear that the Federation isn’t coming to save her. But she gets picked up by a ragtag group of smugglers, and the adventure and intrigue take off. Mystery abounds as the diverse crew of starship Rumors begin to figure out that what happened to Liu’s ship may not have been an accident, and they may not be safe yet. But the true heart of Jessica Best’s The Strange Case of Starship Iris is in it’s characters, just trying to get by and maybe find a family along the way.
Listen if you like: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams or Guardians of the Galaxy
What’s the point of science fiction if you don’t get to visit worlds with popcorn people who just really want to watch their movies? Or follow the adventures of a part giant wasp, part human, part cow named Marilyn as she tries to figure out her place in the universe? Or be reassured that sometimes brains need some extra help to work the way they’re supposed to. We Fix Space Junk is a truly unique and heartfilled jaunt through a weird and wonderful galaxy, as Kilner and Samantha pay off their monumental debts to the all powerful Automnicon. It’s fast paced, fun, and sharply written by Beth Crane accompanied by gorgeous sound design from Hedley Knights.
Listen if you like: Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly or Blade Runner
Two words: Space. Noir. The Penumbra Podcast feed features two stories interwoven, and while I can’t say enough good things about The Second Citadel, we’re here for the one and only Juno Steel, a private eye on Mars. Like all good noirs, Juno gets mixed up in the seedy underworld of a corrupt planet, finds himself on the edge of life and death, and gets through all of it with his sharp wit and weaponized disinterest. Unlike most noirs though, in the world of Juno Steel, our detective might go in search of ancient alien artifacts, get cornered by a reality TV monster with a camera for a head, or come toe to toe with his greatest fear: human relationships. Despite fitting snugly into the noir genre, creators Harley Takagi Kaner (formerly Sophie Kaner) and Kevin Vibert have built a world with a voice all of its own. As they put it, they like bending genres almost as much as they like bending gender.
Ponders is a writer and podcaster trying to tell ebullient stories in a rubescent wasteland. They’re helping paintings come to life with Accession, and wandering through a magical forest to save their love in The Wanderer. Proud and user of thesaurus and twitter dots com.