Breaking Gender Barriers in Science (Audio) Fiction

A good friend of mine recently said that the audio field has a large representation of a reoccuring identity we so often see in modern entertainment. Alexander Graham Bell first made the telephone  in 1876. In 1881, Clément Ader, a French native, came up with the first ideas of audio drama through his invention of the “théâtrophone,” giving people the chance to listen to multiple types of performing arts through a telephone. Orson Welles, the producer of the audio drama “The War of the Worlds,” accidentally caused panadomium in America with a sci-fi story of Martian aliens suddenly appearing on a farm in New Jersey. Years later, that representation hasn’t changed. Gene Roddenberry created the popular tv series Star Trek; George Lucas with Star Wars. Yes, these creative contributions to society certainly could have made our community what it is today. However, the minds behind these incredible patents and inventions are all men.

People forget that science fiction wasn’t just all behind the minds of men. Mary Shelley was one of the first science fiction authors out there in recorded history, with her classic book, “Frankenstein”. Ursula Le Guin with “The Left Hand of Darkness”. Suzanne Collins wrote the teen novel “Hunger Games”. With all these examples of womens’ work from the publishing or production side of entertainment, audio drama isn’t that far off from writing a book, or making a movie with ships of all sorts, or even adding in a strange evil corporation. Women are simply ameliorating the audio drama scene by taking sci-fi by storm.

Sci-fi, time and time again, shows that the genre can be better executed through audio drama. One reason why this is comes through in a memory from Podcast Movement, 2018. I attended the “Future is Fiction” panel with Mac Rodgers, John Dryden, Christy Gressman, and Jonathan Mitchell. I remember Rodgers referring to the intimacy of audio. Through either a pair of headphones or car speakers, a news story, an interview, and yes, even audio drama, can take you to different places, requiring you to actively use your imagination. Picture that ability, then imagine flying spaceships blasting off to a new planet; A submarine whirring through the deep depths of the sea, and everything else in between. Science fiction gives listeners the advantage of creating a world for themselves, which is much more valuable than a movie or television show, with characters and location already visually included. There’s something to admire about the art of audio — a sense of imaginary adventure is hard to find these days. There’s a million creators out there who carry out the genre in a delicate way, however I want to highlight a few that resonated with myself.

When I personally first was introduced into the audio drama scene, the Girl in Space podcast was a great way to capture how listening to an audio drama should really feel like. It should be one of many first recommendations people give to others if one wants to start delving into other worlds. Writer and voice of X, Sarah Rhea Werner, constantly heightens tension through her story, throwing curveballs of mystery and suspense, and most importantly, letting the listeners empathize with the characters and having people's feelings drive the story. What Sarah does is such a fantastic way for fans to get involved. Other aspiring creators should take note — Her methods work.

Creator of Battlebird Production’s We Fix Space Junk, Beth Crane, created a swashbuckling story that can instantly steal the hearts of sci-fi fanatics everywhere. The show has everything a story-lover wants: crime and rebellion, self-conscious robots, and a “caring” corporation.Truth be told, Beth’s writing will make you laugh until your sides hurt - a pain I think we all need to experience nowadays. When I listened to the ending of season one, I was at a total loss; I needed to know of the story, and I couldn’t wait (and still cannot wait) for more. The second season is coming on the 17th - I’d listen to more of Beth’s writing anyday.

Here Be Dragon’s creator, Jordan Cobb, does more than enough writing to practically keep the whole audio drama community afloat. I love the fact that Cobb wrote a drama with a mostly female cast. What makes it more special is her extraordinary talent in voicing not just one part, but two. It’s always such a pleasure to read transcripts or listen to past episodes of HBD. She writes charming and whimsical audio drama in an idea I have never really thought of since my ponderings on the Loch Ness Monster, or other deep sea fables I’ve heard about in myths and stories.

And last but certainly not least, The Orphans and The Unseen Hour’s Ella Watts. I admit, there’s a lot to catch up with when it comes to her projects, because she is so passionate about audio drama. I want to, however, focus in with Unseen Hour, considering she’s the producer for said show. I got to say, when I first heard the pilot, I knew I was getting myself into something that was worth giving praise for. However, there is more praise due to her when the pilot episode I’ve listened to was live. To put an audio drama episode together in a live setting is something that is simply mind blowing to me. I’ve always wanted to see one.

All of these women, in one way or another, motivated or supported me through every step of making my own podcast, Athena. Some heard my ideas, some heard my ramblings beforehand, and some mentioned me, wishing me luck in my own endeavours. Without them, I wouldn’t of had half the confidence as I do now. We’re breaking down barriers, but we still have a lot more to do. And I’m looking forward to supporting and listening to these people’s creative works. I’d be lost (and life would be pretty dull) without their projects.

LINKS TO PEOPLE AND AUDIO DRAMA

Mac Rodgers: https://twitter.com/macwrites

John Dryden: https://twitter.com/johnscottdryden

Christy Gressman: https://twitter.com/NVPresents

Jonathan Mitchell: https://twitter.com/TheTruthFiction

Girl in Space: https://twitter.com/girlinspacepod

Sarah Werner: https://twitter.com/SarahRheaWerner

We Fix Space Junk: https://twitter.com/WeFixSpaceJunk

Beth Crane: https://twitter.com/NotCombustible

Here Be Dragons: https://twitter.com/HereBDragonsPod

Jordan Cobb: https://twitter.com/inkphemeral

Orphans: https://twitter.com/OrphansAudio

Unseen Hour: https://twitter.com/UnseenHour

Athena: https://twitter.com/athenapodcast

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TORY DUBENDORF, ATHENA

Find Tory: https://twitter.com/tyranatory
Find Athena: https://twitter.com/athenapodcast