As we hunker down into winter and contemplate the months ahead, it’s time to take stock of your supplies. You probably don’t need a case of toilet paper or 20 pounds of dried beans. You do want a plan to stave off cabin fever by keeping your brain busy. Escapism is your friend right now, especially in the form of a story that is just so absorbing that it transports you to a place where Covid doesn’t exist. Here are seven excellent podcasts—several of which have a sci-fi theme, to ensure a complete escape from reality.
As the pandemic drags on and on, you may be looking for tips for indoor living. There is no better place to learn how to stay inside for months at a time than from the intrepid volunteers who sign up to spend life on simulated Mars. The Habitat follows six imitation astronauts as they spend a year in isolation in a dome built in the lava fields of Hawaii. Their struggles and triumphs may inspire you to persevere through the long winter.
Salt Fat Acid Heat cookbook author Samin Nosrat, and Hrishikesh Hirway, creator of the Song Exploder podcast, were bored during the pandemic, so they teamed up to make this delightful podcast for other folks stuck at home. On each episode the friends and their special guests goof around, crack each other up, and make bad, bad puns while answering listeners’ questions about what to cook and how to cook it. Home Cooking is a limited series, but when you run out of episodes, you can always watch their respective series on Netflix.
Tom Brown’s Body
The night before Thanksgiving in 2016, 16-year-old Tom Brown disappeared from the small town of Canadian, Texas. Two years later, his body was found under a tree and everyone in town became a suspect. There are plenty of theories, but no arrests have been made, although that might change thanks to the attention brought to the case from this podcast from Texas Monthly. It’s an engaging whodunit that not only digs deep into a crime but also explores how violence affects an entire community.
If you’re looking to temporarily escape your surroundings, at least mentally, try Dust’s third season— a 14-part story called “Chrysalis.” This sci-fi audio drama is filled with A.I., aliens, and a dystopian future so bleak that it will make you feel better about the timeline we’re living in. Plus, the show has such an incredible cast (Toni Collette, Lance Reddick, Haley Joel Osment, Corey Hawkins) that it feels like you’re watching a movie with your ears.
The Sharp End
You wouldn’t think that a show about mountain climbing accidents would be uplifting—and it’s not always—but if you’re looking for a meditation on perseverance, this is it. On each episode host Ashley Saupe interviews climbers, skiers, and rescuers who were involved in mountain accidents. While the show is ostensibly about climbing safety, the determination, grit, bravery, and stamina shown by everyone involved offers a lesson in surviving not just climbing but everything life throws at you.
Sharon Mashihi set out to tell a semi-autobiographical story about an Iranian Jewish woman growing up as an outsider in a tightly-knit community on Long Island and ended up creating a show unlike any other. This immersive story is fictional—sort of. She lends her voice to Melanie, the protagonist, as well as most of the rest of the cast, but occasionally Sharon herself pops into the action, too. It’s not only a fascinating story of a young woman at a crossroads, but an exciting glimpse of the possibilities of audio storytelling.
While this show’s first season focused on Bigfoot, the latest series is all about alien life and the people hunting for signs of non-human intelligence out there in the universe. While we’re all chilling out in our apartments, connecting with the outside world only through the disembodied heads seen on Zoom calls, this podcast is great for remembering you’re not alone.