People, there are so many podcasts to choose from! If you’re reading this, you likely listen to mine, so let me suggest a few good stories for your ears. Today I’m offering up Jared Axelrod‘s Fables of the Flying City.
Cast your mind back to a time when you found yourself unexpectedly out at some place foreign to you: a smoky place, with shady people, where drink is sold.
Mayhaps you found your way there in the company of friends, on the advice of a friend–or perhaps ill fortune or happy accident.
Regardless the cause, as with all new experiences you need to take a moment to decipher some kind of sense in all the newness.
The labels on the bottles are unknown to you. Your companions are mysteries, from backgrounds far removed from your own. Everything is a jumble of the Strange, alluring, threatening.
You have a choice to make: get up and go, or join in. Do you turn tail or take a deep swallow from one of the strange bottles and find out what it all feels like on your tongue.
There’s always a cost, and as with all thing you have to decide in advance if you want to pay for it.
If you do stay awhile, do savor the drink and scents in the air both cloying and sweet, you will learn or feel something new.
You might even find yourself laughing, clapping your hand to the shoulder of one of those alien folk you so nearly ran from a short time before. You don’t know their accents, nor their jokes or complaints, but if you listen you just may find a new part of yourself – a part that talks back, cracks wise…and melts right into the pot.
Listening to Jared Axelrod’s Fables of the Flying City podcast is much like that foreign slice of reality: there are unknown roads that will take you to places all just a little different than where you’ve been before.
There are deep mysteries and deep histories, both joined in mid-course when the story opens, and our characters are pitched into them like meat into the grinder.
What of the characters? The thrust of the story follows the protagonist Ashe, a street urchin with a mysterious past of her own, from successful (and unorthodox) bid for acceptance in the city’s aerial guard. Her fellow soldiers, and the other players in the city arena, paint the picture. The narrative episodes are punctuated along the way with the occasional episode voiced by another strong character in monologue form-representing the written word, in the case of journalist and bizarre champion of life, Hanner Gatling. Truly a great and original character, both operatic and gutturally profane!
The point of history of Axelrod’s imaginary world is close to a clash between the mysterious forces keeping the city aloft and the seemingly unopposable forces of a great military empire.
But enough about the story: it’s strong enough, but secondary to the journey, here. This podcast is unabashedly dedicated to the quirk of a character, the honesty in the stage dressing. Its creator Jared Axelrod, is dedicated to a romantic and chivalric esthetic, where steampunk tropes are applied in a fantastic setting, but at the story’s heart are instincts, hopes and fears common to us all.
Wit, adventure, battles and seduction are writ large in this story: Axelrod loves words and moods and he builds the flying city of Amperstam on these things, on emotions and impressions, as much as he does on plot and intrigue. Honestly, even moreso-though only occasionally to the story’s detriment.
The episodes are tragically short-some less than ten minutes, and this includes title music, intro chatter and outro music (great, original music, evocative of an age of empires, pomp and circumstance) and I do crave more than the frequent one scene per episode. Listening to them in order in one sitting can lead to gnashing of teeth and tapping ahead to te next episode. On the other hand the podcast is complete now, so this is a minor annoyance at worst.
The delivery is closer to a recorded reading than an audiobook-style narrative, with slight stammers and fudges left in place–but this is by design. Axelrod in fact launched the podcast with a live reading in front of an audience at a convention and the delivery is what he intended, not inattention to editing or production values. His reading is rich with the relaxed, sly wit of a wise omniscient narrator winking fondly at his audience. It works.
The style of recording more than works, it serves the strengths of his world: His world is one with consequences, change and loss– but always told with humor, heart and panache.
I heartily recommend Fables of the Flying City to anyone who’s ever found themselves in a strange place, and found the joy. You’ll find something to love in Amperstam, too.
Did that whet your whistle? Get a real taste at Fables of the Flying City dot com!