Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience. It always has been, from when the first individual began drawing on cave walls to the thrilling fiction podcasts of the 21st century. We'll focus on the latter here, as cave drawings don't translate well to full-cast productions, sci-fi radio shows, comedy podcasts, true crime, and radio dramas. At least not yet, anyway. The best fiction podcasts cover plenty of ground, from sleep-friendly short stories to the total opposite, namely scary stories that will keep you awake all night. Audio drama is at its best right now, and the best fiction podcasts are all the proof listeners need. The best podcasts tell a good story so bust out the popcorn because these podcasts do it better than most.
Where better to start than with some great horror? History is filled with chilling tales of unexplainable events and sinister ghouls, and The HorrorBabble Podcast is a terrifying homage to some of the greatest horror short stories ever written. Ian and Jennifer Gordon add impressive layers of ability to the narration, bringing style and panache to a collection of stories specifically designed to chill listeners to the bone. Audio-fiction at its finest, The HorrorBabble Podcast displays an understanding of sound design that helps these short stories jump out of the speakers, whether your nerves can take it. It might be best to sleep with the light on tonight.
A weekly podcast, Tales by the Fireside is a tremendously meditative romp through short stories that will help you sleep in the evening, bringing classic storytelling and a good night's sleep together in stunning fashion. There is a reason parents help their kids off to sleep by reading them goodnight stories, after all. The tender telling of tales by a cast of narrators is perfect for listeners of all ages, with expert sound design ensuring the levels reduce anxiety and line up healthy Z's for a long night of resting. Is there a more soothing sound than that of a crackling fire? Probably not, in truth.
Warhammer fans will get plenty out of Adeptus Ridiculous. Still, the enthusiasm displayed by lifelong fan Bricky and grimdark greenhorn Dkdiamantes is enough to drag newbies into the fold along the way. The Warhammer 40,000 world goes deep, and that universe provides the co-hosts with plenty of fantastical material for one of the most entertaining fiction podcasts doing the rounds today. An absolute riot of a listen Adeptus Ridiculous flies by at breakneck speed in a flurry of warriors, cultists, co-host chemistry, and others. Check-in regularly as new episodes drop every week. You don't want to miss this.
If you want to be transported back to the days of telling spooky stories around a roaring fire, Horror Hill: A Horror Anthology is the horror podcast for you. Voice actor and illustrator Jason Hill knows what he's going for and exactly how to get it, namely the dissemination of horror fiction to the masses, bringing the stories of independent and previously-published authors to a broader audience. It is terrifying, audio fiction at its finest, accentuated by sound effects and all the bells and whistles that such a podcast needs. A spinoff of Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, Horror Hill: A Horror Anthology will have you conjuring up all sorts of fears in no time.
Canada's favourite detective has made his way to the fiction podcast world, and listeners are all the better for it. Detective Murdoch has been solving crimes (fictional ones, obviously) on television since 2008, but this audio drama podcast adaptation of the famous detective's world might be even better. An absolute must for fans and a curiously inventive listen for newcomers, The Secret Diaries of Detective Murdoch is a deep dive into the mind of an investigative genius. This mind is as complex and conflicted as those committing the crimes. William Murdoch is no ordinary fellow, a small-town man at heart with the ills of a big city on his plate. It all makes for one of the best fiction podcasts going today.
From awake-all-night-terror to sleep-friendly stories once again, the juxtaposition is just too delicious to ignore. The Sleepy Bookshelf is another excellent podcast for hitting the hay, an exercise in sound design that focuses on relaxation. Each new episode begins with ease before jumping into a summary of the previous episode, ensuring that listeners are always there or thereabouts to keep up to date. Not that it matters, as the central aim is to get to sleep. If you fall asleep listening to The Sleepy Bookshelf, you are updated with the podcast. Ad-free listening is available to members because nobody wants a comfortable doze to be disrupted by special offers.
And back to horror! The Magnus Archives is a weekly horror fiction podcast that dives headfirst into the archives of the Magnus Institute. This organization is all about the weird and wonderful world outside of reality. The focus is more on the odd than the wonderful, but it all leads to horror fiction right at the top of its game. New episodes drop every Thursday, although that conjures up a strange contradiction at the heart of horror fiction podcasts. Is it possible to look forward to something that fills you with fear? Possible, yes. Logical? Maybe not, but The Magnus Archives is just that good. Horror audio drama done right, perfect for spooky road trips and the rest.
Dungeons & Dragons is pretty wicked. It divides opinion like few other things, but the length and breadth of the universe within the game is astounding. JemJammer is a fiction podcast set in the Spelljammer universe, a 1989-released setting with sci-fi at its weirdest, but it makes for a compelling and quite insane listen. Telling listeners what to expect is an exercise in futility because this is the sort of fiction with a cast of characters that needs to be heard to be believed, and belief is only half the battle. Load up some episodes, press play, and let the spiders with eel heads, mer-himbos, library crimes, and hippo men commence. No, not a single typo to be seen.
No self-respecting list of radio dramas and fiction podcasts is complete without a hefty doffing of the cap in the direction of Gunsmoke. It originally aired on the radio throughout the 1950s, but its influence spread far and wide, not surprising when you consider the clarity of storytelling that filters through 25-minute episodes. Set in 1870s Kansas during the settlement of the American West, Gunsmoke is audio fiction at its very best, a radio Western for adults filled with compelling characters and an unshakeable sense of realism at its heart. Did the team succeed? Of course, but you might as well listen and find out for yourself.
Sticking with the classics, they don't come much more iconic than Lux Radio Theatre. A famous radio show broadcast between 1934 and 1955, Lux Radio Theatre started as a vehicle for adapting Broadway plays before fulfilling the same purpose for full-length films. With episodes clocking in at around one hour, everything was performed live in front of a studio audience with authenticity and excitement that made it the hit. The modern fiction podcast universe is packed with excitement, innovation, and creativity, but sometimes you just can't beat the classics. After all, Lux Radio Theatre is the ideological starting point for many audio dramas on this list.
Meditation might be as popular today as at any point in the modern age, and there is an excellent reason for that. The world is a chaotic place, and any assistance in finding harmonious balance is assistance that people are snapping up. 21 Days of Meditation is what the title suggests, a 21-class journey in meditation that takes the listener from beginner to status to, well, still being a beginner but being a far more relaxed one. That's all we want, right? A little bit of clarity here and there. Tenured yoga and meditation teacher Jess Ray helms the podcast, where sound effects accentuate peace, and the whole thing is specifically designed to turn the volume down on the noise outside.
A killer job might be appealing, but taking those words will only lead to severe complications. Hit Job is a brilliantly written audio drama that tells the story of Brynn Morris, an artist struggling with finances who needs to find some kind of work, any kind of work, to help her grandmother. The humdrum existence of an admin assistant is too good an offer to refuse, although everything isn't quite as it seems in the office. A thrillingly original fiction podcast, Hit Job is an adults-only affair, what with all the killing and that. Can Brynn get by without her very moral fiber being utterly obliterated? Listen to Hit Job to find out.
We've all been there, floating through space, bored of the day-to-day drudgery of work and desperate for the chance to do nothing. When Starship Captain George Cottonhammer (brilliantly voiced by Will Forte) decides to live the dream and commit to nothing more than the truth of love and the idea of an intergalactic burger franchise, he has no idea of the chain of events that is about to unfold. Failing upwards is very much a real thing, and Captain Cottonhammer is about to understand just how doing nothing can lead to having to do something massive. Middlespace is a tremendous romp of a listen, science fiction radio drama done at its very best from start to finish. It has equal parts fascinating and hilarious, with plenty of insanity.