jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Butterfly Hat)
(I swear, I've been doing other things lately aside from listening to podcasts. Anyway...)

Lovecraft's stories are always hit-or-miss for me. A couple of years ago, I went through a whirling reading fest over the course of about a week and inhaled as many of his stories as I could manage. Afterwards, I took a break and tried to sift through my feelings. For the most part, I came out of it frustrated--so much of his work is problematic and not easy to stomach, even given the period in which he was writing. At times it's racist, xenophobic, classist, homophobic; there aren't many female characters and women are under-represented; and it can be horribly purple at times. And some of his earlier work just isn't very good at all, on all levels. On the other hand, some of his stories are stunningly creepy and imaginative, and if nothing else, we can thank him for shaping what a lot of weird fiction and horror is today. There's a reason people still love to run around in his playground, and I think it's even more important to continue reinventing that playground, make it more accessible, diverse and consistent. But I digress.

I've been listening to and loving the heck out of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (otherwise known as H.P. Podcraft) hosted by Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey. Basically, they've gone through most of Lovecraft's work, providing readings, commentary, music and resources. There were a couple of stories I wasn't originally able to finish--The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath being one--but recently I've revisited them with the podcast providing a kind of Cliff Notes / York Notes version, with additional laughs and observations I hadn't considered. Chad and Chris also often give background info about the stories, like when Lovecraft wrote them, what he said about them in his letters to correspondents, which magazines they were published in (or rejected by!), and other works inspired by them. It's interesting listening, and Lovecraft himself becomes a more interesting character when seen through someone else's eyes. I noticed that they're currently doing works by other authors, too, possibly having run out of Lovecraftian pieces (they're currently up to episode 212 and still seem to be going strong!).

And, for anyone who hasn't tried HPL before, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast is a terrific place to start, especially if you're intrigued about Lovecraft but haven't been able to find anything by him that's easy to get into (as I said above, he can be very hit-or-miss).

You can also find them on Twitter and their forums.

Euphoria, by Collide.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Wouldn't Like Me)
All caught up to the latest episode of We're Alive: A Story of Survival, the zombie apocalypse podcast / radio drama I blogged about before. The show ends in July; not much more left! They're going out with a bang in a live recording of chapter 47, a show that sold out fast, followed shortly by the release of chapter 48 - the finale.

I'm not despairing too much though, because there are tons of great podcasts to gobble. Here are a few more I'm enjoying:

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. This podcast began in 2005 and still goes strong. From their site: Dedicated to promoting critical thinking, reason, and the public understanding of science through online and other media. I love it because it debunks a lot of misinformation and crap that's put out there for public consumption. They don't pull punches, and I learn so many awesome science-y things. It's great. Free to download on iTunes.

The Infinite Monkey Cage. This BBC Radio 4 podcast is hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince. Witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists eyes. They have a host of guests, including scientists, authors, comedians, and musicians. The mix of science and comedy is refreshing and it's another one where I learn a lot of cool stuff I probably wouldn't otherwise find. Free to download on iTunes.

The Walking Dead 'Cast. Does pretty much what it says on the tin - covers the amazing AMC TV show The Walking Dead, featuring interviews with various people involved in the show (cast, crew and writers), episode breakdowns and commentary, and other undead news from around the world. Love it. Also available on iTunes.

If you know of any podcasts you think I might like (aside from Welcome to Night Vale) please let me know!

This Is The Thing, by Fink.
jenniferkoliver: (FFVII | Sephiroth)
Trawling through the iTunes podcast library, I stumbled on an audio drama called We're Alive - A Story of Survival, by Wayland Productions. It's a zombie podcast, but before you run for the hills, hear me out. It starts off as you might expect, but it quickly becomes clear that they're doing something a little different with the zombie post-apocalypse. For starters, it's done in the style of a fully realised radio drama, with an ensemble cast of voice actors, high-quality sound effects, a clever score, and even custom artwork for each chapter.

Though I'm only on chapter 16 right now, there are currently 45 chapters overall, so plenty to catch up with. Generally chapters are split into three or four parts, each part running from under ten minutes to around thirty minutes, which makes it easy to squeeze in on a lunch break, a car journey, a walk, or even just before bed.

The pros:

  • The sound effects are brilliant. Who would have thought that something that's usually so visual—walking, rotting corpses—could be way scarier when only in audio. And these zombies aren't the shambling, shuffling dunderheads you see in a lot of other venues. Think 28 Days Later undead who can sprint. Listening with headphones is absolutely the way to go—when you first hear the rapid thump-thump-thump of the monsters running at you, the sound growing louder and louder in your ears, it's terrifying.

  • Like I said above, they're doing something different with the zombies. So far, I haven't totally figured out exactly what the deal is—I'm not quite halfway through—but it's one of the main things that keeps me intrigued. I hope the payoff is good.

  • Apart from a couple of minor niggles (see below), the voice acting is fantastic.

  • The score is also very good, building tension or relief at the right moments. So far, there's only been one instance where I felt the background atmospheric music was out of place.

The cons:

  • Sometimes the dialogue is hokey. There are a number of cliches that could have been avoided, and at one point a character even says (narrating) that she goes on "an emotional rollercoaster". That old chestnut. But the podcast is otherwise quite slick and while it jarred for a moment, it didn't put me off.

  • Once in a while the line delivery is slightly awkward, and you can tell that the actors are reading from scripts. It's never so bad that I would stop listening, and generally they do an excellent job. It's just the odd line.


If you don't usually go for horror, or zombies in particular, but have always wanted to try some, this might be a good entry point. Its format sets it apart from many other horror stories out there. Plus, if it's the blood and guts visuals you tend to shy away from, you don't have to worry about seeing any of it here—only the squishy sounds coming from all directions. :)

You can find We're Alive on Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, too.

The Boy's Republic, by Deftones.
jenniferkoliver: (The Walking Dead | Daryl)
Thank you for the responses to my (locked) poll from the other day. Your comments were very welcome. I'll admit—though it was possibly obvious anyway—that when I posted the poll I was still coasting on the waves of a big rejection, and some of your replies were heartening and encouraging (even if you didn't realise they were!).

I met a really nice tutor from a Writing for Young People MA recently, who was doing some workshopping with local teens (which I was lucky enough to attend, too). I mentioned that I liked the sound of the MA and was writing a young adult novel, but didn't have a degree. To which he said: "You don't need a degree to do the MA." To which I boggled, because I didn't know that—I just assumed that a course at a level higher than a degree would require a degree. O.o Apparently students are chosen based on the material they submit with their application.

I don't know if I'd be able to apply for an MA any time soon, and I'm not convinced an MA is the right thing for me anyway, but I did weigh up the pros and cons and I'm pleased the course is accessible.

And in other O.o realisations, my New York trip is under five weeks away!

I'm also into Podcasts all of a sudden. It started with Welcome to Night Vale, which you should be listening to if you're not already, and now includes Frank Skinner's weekly show on Absolute Radio, and a small podcast that is gently teaching me French. This calls for another O.o.

The City, by The 1975.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Kitty Love)
A lot of folk have mentioned Welcome to Night Vale and I'm going to add my voice, because it is unique and clever and just plain rollicking creepy fun. This is the blurb: Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide. Great thing about Night Vale? It's free to download. Other great thing? It's extremely well produced and acted. And did I mention rollicking creepy fun?

I've had an idea for a new novel. Cheers, brain. I'm not done with the current steampunk novel and I've only just started outlining its follow-up, but now I have this third monster—a YA sci-fi about celebrity culture and self-identity. It was originally a short story I wrote last year that never quite came together or felt complete. And now I know why.

And it got me thinking: Sometimes you have a fully realised world and you try to work it as a short story, and you're sure there must be a way of showing what needs to be shown super subtly, in a condensed form. But some stories can't be pushed into small packages, and I think you have to go with your gut rather than struggle with them. Writers agonise over keeping things lean, but it should never be to the detriment of story.

Occasionally I would try to squish a story to fit the guidelines of my favourite magazines, but not so much these days. It wasn't healthy, for me or my fiction. Now I go with my gut, and try not to freak out too much if I realise that short story I've been bouncing around is actually a novel. :)

John Scalzi's Convention Harassment Policy - That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action. There's also a post where you can co-sign this policy.

I've never been harassed at a convention, but I've been inappropriately grabbed before, and I would hate for something like that to colour a fan's enjoyment of an event that should be a safe, welcoming and exciting environment.

Ashes to Ashes, by David Bowie.

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Jennifer K. Oliver

March 2017

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