I don’t know about you, but for the most part, I haven’t had much luck with focused reading lately. So far I’ve only finished five books since January (update: I just finished reading book #6 this week, Sourdough by Robin Sloan, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, probably because I’ve been baking a lot of sourdough over the past few years). Also, one of the books I read was a novella, so while it still totally counts, it was relatively easy to finish reading it in a day.
What about reading short stories? you may ask. And that’s a good suggestion. But, if you saw the pileup of New Yorkers and One-Storys in the basket next to my reading chair—to say nothing of the Firesides and FIYAHs and more in my e-reading apps—you’d get a pretty good idea of how well I’m doing with that. (Answer: not very.) I seem to be having trouble sitting still and focusing on the printed page (or screen) for any sustained period of time. If I’m honest, which I try to be, this was a problem for me even before this year of plague began. However, it has only gotten worse since I started staying home 99% of the time. You would think the opposite would be the case, and yet….
So, what’s the answer? Podcasts.
Yes, I’ve listened to the New Yorker fiction podcasts for a long while now, but I hadn’t ventured too far from that into other fiction podcasts besides Welcome to Nightvale. But then I stumbled across PodCastle and have been listening to it for a while now—it’s a fantasy fiction podcast—and that was so enjoyable that I started backing their Patreon, Escape Artists. Just recently began downloading their science fiction sibling podcast, Escape Pod. I have no idea why it took me so long to get on that one, especially since I tend to read (and write) science fiction more often than fantasy, but I’m glad I finally did.
“And Never Mind the Watching Ones” by Keffy R.M. Kehrli is a recent standout story. It’s told in two parts, and it’s a wonderfully strange story told from multiple points of view about, among other things, otherworldly frogs. It originally appeared in Uncanny magazine, which is also close to my heart (and I have a lot of issues of that to catch up on in my e-reading apps too).