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Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 review / 2020 preview - Tracy Townsend

Make a Reading Resolution: Audio in 2020!

One of the great ironies of my life as an sff author and English teacher is that I spend astoundingly little time reading, at least in the conventional sense. It’s not that I’m the sort of writer Stephen King bemoans who doesn’t make time to absorb the craft through reading. It’s not that I spend all my time bingeing television and movies (ask me how far behind I am in any significant sff series and you’ll realize screens aren’t my problem). It’s that I simply don’t have time to sit in one place with a book or e-reader in my hands very often. When I am sitting still, it’s usually because I’m writing or grading. . . or sleeping.

Thank God for audiobooks and audio fiction.

If it weren’t for audio literacy, I would probably read only a small fraction of the amount I do. But with a substantial commute to work (averaging 45 minutes each way, and often much longer), plenty of laundry and cooking and dishes at home, and a workout regime to keep up at the gym, I’m able to ask my ears to the work most other people ask of their eyes. Not doing anything special with my time -- just the things I have to do every day -- I get through hours of short or serialized fiction and at least two novels a month. If you’re also looking for a way to keep up with your reading and looking to end 2019 with a resolution for 2020, here’s a tour of some great audio fiction options to make that easier.


Yes, this service requires feeding the mighty Bezosaurus, and thus may not be for you. But Audible’s app is one of the more user-friendly methods to “carry” your audio fiction, and hosts a huge array of titles across genre fiction and beyond. Moreover, its search functions allow you to find favorite narrators and follow their work the way you might follow an author.


Unlike Audible, which operates on a credit-based system that limits how many titles you can add to your library in a given month, Scribd’s subscription allows you to listen to as many titles as you wish. The trade-off is that Scribd doesn’t have the same volume of options as Audible, as much of its platform is shared with e-reader titles. Still, if you’re a voracious audio reader, Scribd could be a better economic bet than Audible. That said, it’s hard to beat free, in which case you might like. . .

Overdrive and Hoopla

Overdrive and Hoopla are platforms your local library (may) use to distribute audio and e-fiction to patrons. Check with your local library to see if your library membership provides access to these services -- or skip that step and check if the links provided here and your library card unlock the treasure trove! If not, ask your library to have these services added for patrons’ use. You’ll find many librarians remarkably responsive to suggestions about how to expand their lending resources without also having to manage physical materials.

Serial Box

If paying for your audio fiction doesn’t bother you, and if you’re interested in multiple media formats, you might try Serial Box, which gathers writers rooms of talents sff creators to partner together in the creation of original serialized fiction, published in both ebook and audio format, complete with sound effects, soundtracks, and top-flight narrators. You can purchase serials by the “season,” getting access to hours worth of audio reading from a wide variety of genre styles. Favorites of mine include Ninth Step Station and The Vela. Plus, Serial Box offers dramatic renderings of classic fiction and IP tie-ins for Orphan Black and Marvel comics.

SFF’s short fiction market podcasts

We live in an age of market abundance for short form sff thanks to online publishing, and the relative ease of audio recording and podcasting means lots of these markets offer narration of the stories they publish. You can focus on fiction specifically chosen for audio release (with text available on the web) by checking out the Escape Artists family of podcasts, covering fantasy (PodCastle), science fiction (EscapePod), horror (PseudoPod), and sff for young adults (Cast of Wonders). You can also get audio digests of select stories from issues of Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Clarkesworld via the web and some podcast apps.

App-based fiction podcasts

Smartphones and tablets have made podcasts seemingly equally ubiquitous. Your app store of choice will provide no shortage of fiction programming, but some especially sff-inclined and critically-acclaimed productions include Welcome to Night Vale; Steal the Stars; The Bright Sessions; and Limetown.

Some audiobook recommendations

If you’re not sure of where to start in your audiobook reading, some of my favorite reads from 2019 -- both for the quality of their writing and the delight of their narration -- are:

This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone - a gorgeous epistolary novella of espionage, poetry, treachery, and love.

A Song For a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker - a love song -- pretty literally -- to live music and the creative spirit, told through the evolution (and devolution) of a world compartmentalized by technology and terrorism.

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir - glorious in its worldbuilding and wicked in its humor, Gideon the Ninth is a master-class of whodunnit science-fantasy ready to satisfy all your space-necromancer needs.

And then, of course, there are my books.

I wouldn’t be a very good advocate for or consumer of audio fiction if I didn’t make sure my novels came out in audio. If you’re interested in what I write, you can find the first two books in the Thieves of Fate trilogy on Audible, Scribd, Overdrive, and Hoopla via Recorded Books. I hope you make a little time for The Nine (book one) and The Fall (book two) in your audio reading resolution.


Tracy Townsend is the author of The Nine and The Fall (books 1 and 2 in the Thieves of Fate series), a monthly columnist for the feminist sf magazine Luna Station Quarterly, and an essayist for Uncanny Magazine. She holds a master's degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is the former chair of the English department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, one tyrannical cat, and one very patient husband.


Anonymous said...

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