Personal Essay: Dave Robison
Fiction holds a mirror up to the world and asks a question.
Horror Fiction does the same thing . . . but it turns out the lights first.
Audio Horror Fiction does the same thing . . . but it’s does it inside your head.
A well-crafted horror tale performed by a skilled vocal actor is a terrifying alchemy. Unlike the written word, a well-narrated story invites you to engage, to lean in to it, to participate in imagining settings and situations crafted to tickle your lizard brain with terror.
For a genre whose expressed intent is to disturb and unsettle you, tricking you into participating in that discomfort is a masterful seduction.
Pseudopod understands this and that’s one of the reasons I so enjoy their productions. They select subtle and insidious stories that prey upon the full emotional spectrum of “horror.” These are tales where the visceral manifestations of horror (which are abundant and articulate, to be sure) are merely the stage for a much deeper terror that leaves far deeper scars. Pseudopod’s horror is a multi-layered feast of terror.
In addition, the production team at Pseudopod is masterful in the pairing of story and narrator. Their roster of vocal performers is vast and they wield it with surgical precision . . . it’s not a matter of “who’s available”, but rather “whose voice, temperament, and skill will best embody the spirit of the tale.” That is no small task and requires an intimate understanding of both the narrator’s craft and the transformation of the written word into vocal experience.
Those two qualities alone are enough to merit a high ranking in the roster of horror podcasts, but Pseudopod distinguishes itself even further with a quality that is rare and elusive.
Most of the time we experience a story within the bubble of our personal perspective. We select a story, read it, and it’s up to us to decide its merit (or lack thereof). This has been the way of the story reader for millennia and it’s a perfectly acceptable and enjoyable process of literary consumption.
Where the Pseudopod team distinguishes itself is in their passionate commitment to frame their stories within a meaningful and relevant context. In addition to offering the listener a story, they also provide a glimpse into its possible significance in the larger context of literature, culture and life.
This isn’t some ham-fisted “moral of the story,” but rather an expansion of information and experience for the listener that enhances the storytelling experience. Brief but eloquent author and narrator acknowledgments provide an artistic context and prelude for the tale, while a thoughtful and articulate commentary following the reading provides a conceptual aperitif that invites the listener to consider the full subtly and nuance of the tale they just enjoyed.
Time and again, these notes and observations have enhanced my enjoyment and appreciation of the story in ways a mere reading or narration could not.
In an age where the quantity of media at our fingertips is overwhelming, quality becomes the determining factor of selection. In their 10 years of service to the horror fiction community, Pseudopod has consistently distinguished themselves as crafters of quality storytelling experiences and superlative hosts of the audio fiction horror experience.
The only gift greater than the past ten years of stories would be ANOTHER ten years, and that’s why I encourage fan exquisite horror to join me in backing Pseudopod’s 10th Anniversary Kickstarter.
Dave Robison is an avid Literary and Sonic Alchemist who pursues a wide range of creative explorations. A Brainstormer, Keeper of the Buttery Man-Voice (patent pending), Pattern Seeker, Dream Weaver, and Eternal Optimist, Dave’s efforts to boost the awesomeness of the world can be found at The Roundtable Podcast, the Vex Mosaic e-zine, and through his creative studio, Wonderthing Studios. Recently serving as vice-president for The Ed Greenwood Group (TEGG), he is currently Executive Producer at Onder Media Group, a speculative media enterprise launching in January 2017.