Procyon Podcast Network: Science Fiction, the Humanities, and Inclusivity

In both the vast reaches of outer space and the deep, dark depths of the ocean, the writers who drive the Procyon Podcast Network have begun to explore both science fiction and more inclusive writing. Currently, this fledgling network of independent writers, voice actors, and coordinators have released two podcast series with their first handful of episodes.

tumblr_static_18acsvmu86f4swc8ows4ogw0wThe Procyon Podcast Network began after a group of mostly twenty-somethings reached out to each other over a variety of social media for the express purpose of writing more inclusive fiction. All fans of audio dramas, the largely female team decided that pooling their expertise and passion could result in the creation of their own stories. Podcasts, in particular, provide a low-cost, enjoyable way to do that.

Together, the group decided to name themselves after raccoons in a reference to the star Procyon, as well as a subtle reference to Lin Manuel Miranda’s explanation of internet fan culture. In his words, fans of something may refer to themselves as “trash of the thing.” As a well-known trash-dweller, the raccoon seemed to be the perfect mascot for the newly-formed production team.

As a group that formed over the internet, this creative team remains spread across four countries and over six time zones. They are an excellent example of the way that the internet can foster collaboration in ways other media cannot.

The Strange Case of Starship Iris is the PPN’s first ongoing production, followed recently by Under Pressure. While the PPN has experienced a positive reception from its listeners, and while its capabilities are still growing, the production team is, admittedly, still gaining a foothold. In the past, Jessica Beat, writer of Starship Iris, has mentioned the challenge of gathering the funds needed to pay the actors, going so far as to use Christmas money in order to do so. Because the series is largely run by twenty-somethings, who likely have busy jobs and responsibilities outside of these works, some production issues are expected. There is nothing wrong with this fact. Such is the case following Starship Iris‘s fifth episode release this April: after facing some setbacks, the production team has pushed back the release of episode six by roughly two weeks.

In order to fund future endeavors, the network recently launched its first Kickstarter. The crowdfunding initiative was a success, and gained over a thousand dollars more than its original target. This should benefit production efforts significantly.

tumblr_inline_ojs52tyrWZ1qjb678_500Each episode that the PPN releases seems to further demonstrate their passion for audio dramas and the arts. Even in stories fully entrenched in the science fiction genre, both Under Pressure and Starship Iris blend the realms of science and the humanities together not only to show the network’s love of both, but also to drive the plot itself. Written by Margaret Clark, Under Pressure features Dr. Jamie MacMillan-Barry, a scholar and expert in Romantic literature, who finds herself aboard a deep-sea research station. With a star who comes armed with a strong understanding of the humanities, this podcast promises plenty of literary references and appeals to bibliophiles of all stripes.

starship-iris-260In the first episode of Starship Iris, biologist Violet Liu and the so-called Captain Kay Grisham sing a duet of the folk song “Whiskey in the Jar,” in order to remain calm long enough to save Liu, the last survivor, from her decimated ship. Later in the same series, crewmember and resident linguist Brian Jeeter holds his own in a heated debate about interpretations of medieval writings from an entirely different planet. Any polyglot or linguistics enthusiast will be thrilled to know that this series centers pivotal plot points on different dialects, linguistic structures, and alien languages that the writer created from scratch, similar to Elvish or Klingon.

While Under Pressure is currently under development, I can say that I am impressed by Starship Iris‘s attention to detail within the framework of the story. Finding tiny references to Star Trek characters, mythology, or pop culture makes listening to this series that much more enjoyable. Harmony College, for example, is an institution mentioned frequently. It’s largely based on Bryn Mawr, a real university in the state of Pennsylvania. Coincidentally (or perhaps not?), Harmony is also the name of a real town in western Pennsylvania. Framing each episode within the archives of an interplanetary government is also an interesting touch.

The PPN appears to be a good match for anyone who enjoys audio dramas, science fiction, obscure literary references, and indie productions. It will be interesting to see where their stories take listeners next.

If you enjoyed this, try:

Interview: The Penumbra Podcast
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: Welcome to Night Vale

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