Podcasts are one of the Internet’s greatest contributions to mass media. Whereas hosting a radio show used to require either a very specific career path or a lot of money spent on ham radio gear, modern Internet jockeys can produce their own broadcast using a standard laptop and some freely-available software. But that means there’s a glut of frankly mediocre content out there, and finding the gems can be tough.
We at The Portalist feel your pain, so we're highlighting 15 of the greatest podcasts out there for geeks, so you can find the best option for your particular interest. If you’re looking for something new to plug into your brain, these shows should be on your radar, from science fiction and fantasy serials to scientific analysis and pop culture banter. Happy listening!
The Adventure Zone
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that The Adventure Zone is one of the best podcasts on the Internet, bar none. Created by the beloved McElroy brothers (of My Brother, My Brother, and Me fame) and their father Clint, The Adventure Zone chronicles a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that’s absorbing, heartbreaking, and goofy as all get-out—frequently all at the same time.
When a podcast has a Latin title, you can tell it’s run by a bunch of high-level nerds. Literally meaning “invisible things,” Invisibilia explores the science behind how things that usually escape our notice actually define our lives. It’s definitely one of NPR’s best podcasts, and good news—its third season began on June 1st.
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Whereas one of The Adventure Zone’s longest-running gags is “the boys forget to do character voices,” Critical Role is a D&D video series/podcast entirely populated with voice actors. The show airs every Thursday at 7:00 P.M. Pacific on the Geek & Sundry Twitch Channel, but you’ll want to get caught up on the story first, which might take a while; most episodes clock in at over four hours long.
Black Girl Nerds
With its focus on uplifting and empowering geeky Black women, Black Girl Nerds— which features pop culture roundtables alongside interviews with folks like Jordan Peele and Oprah— engrosses listeners through its intersectional feminist look at media.
How Did This Get Made?
How Did This Get Made? hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas have transformed their passion for bafflingly bad movies into an art. Every episode, the hosts and a guest convene after watching a notoriously bad film to attempt to sincerely answer the show's titular question. How Did This Get Made? has developed a passionate fandom, and with good reason; the show's stars have infectious chemistry, and their genuine passion for terrible movies makes their discussions more joyful than snarky.
Ever finish a science fiction story and wonder what would happen if its premise became reality? Flash Forward is dedicated to exploring that idea. Host Rose Eveleth talks to historians, scientists, and writers about the futures that might be coming.
The Bright Sessions
If superpowers and creepy conspiracies are your jam, welcome to one of the best podcasts for serial fiction on the Web. Each episode represents a different “case study” by the mysterious Dr. Bright, whose agenda is as curious as her patients’ supernatural abilities.
Sword & Laser
Call yourself a SFF fan? You should probably be listening to Sword & Laser. A combination of book club and podcast, S&L may well be the best podcast for nerds who enjoy meticulously-crafted episode descriptions.
Drive to Work
This is one podcast no Magic: the Gathering fan should miss. Hosted by MTG Head Designer Mark Rosewater, the show breaks down every aspect of the game, from its early development and core design principles to the nitty-gritty details of new sets.
Those in search of general-purpose geekery need look no further. Every week, the ladies of Rocket tackle a variety of nerd-friendly topics, from tech and the Internet to comics and gaming. Nintendo? Phishing? Virtual reality? Click “yes to all."
Unquestionably one of the all-time best podcasts for speculative fiction, PodCastle is home to some of the most diverse and gripping stories you’ll ever hear. With hundreds of science fiction and fantasy stories rated G through X, there’s something in their massive archives for everyone.
Comics legend Warren Ellis may not speak on his podcast, nor update it with any degree of frequency, but Spektrmodule is still a must-listen for those who love eerie ambient music (or just want something to listen to while reading one of Ellis’s creepier books).
More to Come
Anyone who wants to keep their finger on the pulse of the comics industry must listen to this podcast from Publishers Weekly. Featuring breaking news, market analysis, and interviews with creators like Scott Snyder and Marv Wolfman, the PW editorial team will keep you up to date on all the latest trends in the funny papers.
Art of Wrestling
There's a surprising amount of overlap between fans of wrestling and fans of geek pop culture—maybe it's because wrestling, like many genre narratives, requires a willingness from the audience to suspend disbelief and an ability to invest in different timelimes and intricate universes. In Art of Wrestling, industry veteran Colt Cabana shows why the wild, weird world of professional wrestling can be so engaging. Each week is filled with stories from his career, interviews with iconic wrestlers, and analysis of what makes this unique type of storytelling so much dang fun. Even if you’re not a wrestling fan, AoW ranks among the best podcasts to get you interested.
Hosted by former site editor Sarah Mirk, Bitch Media’s biweekly culture podcast features an ever-changing lineup of feminist writers and personalities on a timely series of cultural themes. If you enjoy engaging critically with your geek media, many of the episodes are not to be missed. For example, check out their 'Fembots' episode below, in which director Allison de Bren looks at the history of female robots on screen, from Metropolis to Westworld.
Did we cruelly ignore your favorite podcast? Leave us a link in the comments!
Featured photo via "The Adventure Zone" on Twitter