Re-imagining Books As… Podcasts!

Today on The Paper Alchemist, I’m looking at some books (mostly YA) that would make amazing podcasts  (and describing them in detail, because of course. WE NEED THE JUICY DETAILS. Alternatively, feel free to see them as radio plays. I get very into this).


the_loneliest_girlThe Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James

Commander Romy Silvers is the loneliest girl in the universe: the only crewmember of the spaceship Infinity, travelling to a distant planet on a mission to establish a new colony, Earth II. Then she learns that a new ship, The Eternity, has been launched and will join her – and on it is a single passenger named J. Their messages take months to transfer across the vast expanse of space, but Romy holds on to the hope that when J arrives, everything will be different. If she can keep her increasingly eerie ship running that long… 

This is such an obvious candidate for a podcast adaptation! A single viewpoint character, an ear-catching premise, a distinct setting, a twisty plot, escalating narrative tension, ominous thriller overtones. It’s a relatively compact book, so a well-planned series of 17-22 minute episodes would keep it short and sharp. It could be in the form of Romy’s captain’s or ship’s log, with sections of her fanfic for the fictional TV show Loch & Ness used to break up segments. Throw in some suitably sci-fi background noises and occasional guest voice actors to vary the sonic landscape, and you’d have a super-cool narrative podcast. It’d probably be totally creepy, but some of the most talked-about podcasts are dark or mysterious (*coughs* Welcome to Night Vale).

Side note: I’ve talked extensively about how much I like The Next Together (time travel! Epistolary additions! “Said the actress to the bishop”! Hot Tom!) and The Last Beginning (More time travel! LGBT lady protagonists! Hot DILF Tom!!). While either could work as a podcast, albeit quite a complex and busy one given the multiple time periods, from a more straightforward stylistic standpoint The Loneliest Girl In The Universe unfortunately fits the medium better. Also I SUPPOSE one can’t put the Finchley-Galloway-Sutcliffes (unless there is a collective noun for an extended family of rule-breaking gay time travellers that will have to be their name okay I don’t make the rules) in every feature. In the meantime though you can read more about them here, or here, or here…

30370281Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

The messiest choice on this list by far! I reviewed Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s third book Freshers before it released earlier this year (you can read the review here) and it was amazing – clever, vibrant, outrageous, incredibly funny. I’d definitely read a sequel, or in the absence of one, listen to a podcast adaptation.

The Freshers podcast could be framed as a university radio show, ostensibly hosted by one of the more sensible characters like Josh or someone totally outgoing and eclectic like Frankie (ohmygod, imagine her music choices) but actually hijacked by the entire friend group. It would include lots of chat, campus news, a slot for the Quidditch society, and salubrious amounts of gossip. Negin would be the deadpan, sarcastic one, speaking only when it’s effective. Rita would put in disclaimers to stop them being sued for libel, but be an unsurprisingly good contributor. Bowl-Cut Mary would wish she’d thought of it first and try to get on this wildly popular campus radio show (really, the first cool thing they’ve had on in years). 25-minute podcast episodes would cut in and out of the much longer in-world radio show (fading back in after ‘songs’ etc.), with some choice backstage scenes of plot where, most importantly, Josh and Phoebe finally talk about their OBVIOUS feelings!! There’d be lots of tea and laughter and quickfire dialogue and general awesomeness.

17199504The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I’d like to see more fantasy podcasts given a chance! I’ve chosen Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season because it’s alternate timeline SFF, with some recognisable elements – the London setting, the general concept of clairvoyance – rather than high or epic fantasy, which might need more of a leap on the part of listeners. There was supposed to be a movie of this series but I haven’t heard anything about it in ages, so maybe a podcast would be a more successful medium! Episodes would be twenty minutes to half an hour, with that slightly mysterious, unsettling feel and evocative background soundscapes, like crowds or echoing tunnels. It would, of course, feature members of SciLo’s unnatural population, and would be as much about the more interesting elements of its world as about plot. Side characters might take take more prominence – one might even helm it (is there an order of clairvoyant to do purely with sound?) – than they do in the series, which is told almost exclusively from Paige Mahoney’s perspective. Think stories from or about London’s spirits, its different types of clairvoyants, its shadiest corners and ongoing rivalries – and every now and then, a hint at the shifting allegiances and events of the ongoing books.

The idea of a podcast or radio show in SciLo is also quite subversive – it’d be an insight into stories or an underworld the reader or listener knows is forbidden in the world of the books. And, oh wow, I’ve just realised if he thought he could get away with it, Jaxon Hall would absolutely showboat his way into a radio show like this. Like Potterwatch, only completely insufferable. Well, isn’t that delightful.

The Spinster Club
trilogy by Holly Bourne

Rather than just a book-to-podcast adaptation taking listeners from reworked versions of Am I Normal Yet? and its sequels, what strikes me as interesting podcast material here is the post-series years. Evie, Amber and Lottie, still frustrated with not seeing each other much several months after the events of And A Happy New Year? decide to make a commitment to record a friendship-and-feminism podcast every month so they have an inescapable excuse to hang out. Plot progression mostly involves behind-the-scenes moments, updates on who’s dating and who’s hating, Lottie’s political ascension and the steady exploration of the girls’ lives as twenty-somethings.

Lottie is the moderator and leader with the schedule and microphones, Evie is the researcher and referee, and Amber is the riotous one who inadvertently gets quoted in all the soundbytes. A shaky start devolves into lots of laughter, cheesy wotsits and Amber yelling about taking down the patriarchy while accidentally snorting her drink out of her nose. There are regular features such as ‘Feminist Ladies We Love’, ‘An American Boyfriend Chips In Where He’s Not Wanted; or, The Token Bloke’ and eventually ‘Agony Aunties (And Other Annoying Relatives)’ in which they attempt to give advice in response to a chosen listener letter, deferring to areas of expertise or experience or, sometimes hilariously, trying to tag-team an answer. Episodes are fifty minutes to an hour depending on how many times someone falls (or gets pushed) off their chair howling.

This is just me describing the perfect podcast now, isn’t it. TL;DR: SOMEONE MAKE THIS PLEASE I NEED MORE SPINSTER CLUB IN MY LIFE.

Would you like to see YA books turned into podcasts? What books would you pick? Do you have any podcast recommendations? Leave a comment down below!



The Paper Alchemist does Pop Culture // Doctor Who series 10 episode 1 review

Today’s blog post is something different – a chance to indulge in my Doctor Who fandom! I don’t know if I’ll review the rest of the series, but it’s been so fun to write tumblr_oogw7angze1qf5tr5o1_500this one. 

It’s that time again: The Doctor has a new companion, a theme tune you could recreate with only the contents of a slightly dodgy dishwasher is ringing out and the BBC’s Saturday evenings are full of aliens once more. Peter Capaldi’s hair, accidentally suffused with several years’ worth of timestream ether, has exploded by at least 238%, and his Doctor seems to have softened around the edges, too: gone is the harsh, gloomy turn which appeared in much of his previous series’ self-recrimination, replaced by a kindlier, more eccentric figure. He’s just as prone to sudden leaps and occasional melancholy but perhaps willing to engage in a little more silliness and gusto. A poignant moment comes when he uses time travel to provide an emotional Bill (Pearl Mackie) with pictures of the mother she lost. He and Mackie bounce terrifically off each other – and it is Mackie who really shines here.

A rather rudimentary plot in which the Doctor and Bill are essentially chased across the universe by a semi-sentient puddle is mere scaffolding, an excuse to give this new acquaintance a chatty introduction. When it comes to companions, modern Who always works best when taking the ordinary and putting them into the extraordinary. Jenna Coleman’s plucky, much-maligned Clara suffered because no-one could decide what she was supposed to be, the promising Impossible Girl concept which saw her as everything from feisty governess to cheeky schoolteacher losing momentum as explanations became convoluted or individuality was sidelined in favour of perfunctory dialogue and exposition. As it stands, Moffat has taken what must seem like the only logical step and tried to forget any of it ever happened, but for fans the memories remain strong.

Thus Mackie’s Bill is less a breath of fresh air and more a bracing lungful, like being pushed out of a sauna into the Finnish snow in the nip. Inquisitive, gobby and wide-eyed, Bill isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions (“It’s like a… kitchen! A really posh kitchen. What happened with the doors though, did you run out of money?”) or ogle a bit when she finds herself in a time-travelling policebox helmed by a man with a penchant for extravagant outerwear. The message is clear: Bill is like us, only funnier.

Some lush camerawork and cinematography wraps an adventure in which The Doctor and Bill brave university essays, mysterious baths and unwitting villain Heather (Stephanie Hyam), who was looking a bit Jack at the end of Titanic (THERE WAS ROOM ON THE DOOR) after being thoroughly soaked by an alien oil slick. As they took refuge in a conveniently placed TARDIS (“The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried,” remarked Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor in Rose, followed promptly by a more brusque “Now shut up a minute”), Bill alternated between deadpan and brassy, deftly played by Mackie when the Doctor couldn’t seem to understand her working-class origins and inability to enrol at St. Luke’s. Throw in such mainstays as jabbing buttons, running, unnecessary Daleks, a fairly constrained timeslot, and more running, and series ten announced itself with the kind of oomph some Who fans haven’t seen in years.

For long-time Whovians there were Easter eggs a-plenty, from nods to twenty-first century companions Clara (mind-wipes and familiar music) and Rose (chips, even Bill’s general bolshiness) to classic Who throwbacks including a glimpse at some disco-meets-Masterchef  white-clad Movellans and perhaps most interestingly, several weighty glances at a framed photograph of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, alongside another of River Song (archaeologist, wanted criminal, escape artist, the Doctor’s sometime-wife, and general badass). Despite occasional references – David Tennant’s “Donna, I’ve been a father before” after coming face-to-face with Jenny in The Doctor’s Daughter among the most heart-wrenching – to a past family life, The Susan Question has been rarely addressed in modern Who, and it’s one I’d love to see explored and finally answered. Capaldi, who is set to take his leave at the end of the current series, certainly has the grit and gravitas to pull off the look of a man confronting questions of family and loss. Could there even be more to it? Could Susan have more of a story to tell?

Small details and key teasers for the rest of the series litter the episode. The Doctor’s magnificently decorated office and university professorship should feature again as he protects a suspiciously alien-looking vault beneath the university, while Nardole’s continued presence seems like something of a misguided afterthought unless there are bigger plans in store. Bill joins River, Captain Jack Harkness, Madam Vastra and Jenny (not Jenny the Doctor’s clone-daughter, but a sword-wielding Victorian ladies’ maid who has a bit of a thing for lizard women from the dawn of time) and even Clara (who definitely had a fling with Jane Austen) as well as Class leads’ Charlie and Matteusz in the pantheon of canonically LGBTQ+ Who characters. The Doctor muses that she may see one-time crush Heather again with all of time and space at their disposal, but I’d rather see the rest of the series explore a more substantive relationship for her.


For an episode that was somewhat light on actual plot ‘The Pilot’ packed quite a lot in. It even managed to gently poke fun at itself – whether in Bill’s “I know you’re not exactly a sci-fi person,” or her questioning of the usual TARDIS explanation: “It’s hidden itself as a box with ‘pull to enter’ on the front?” There were sparks of liveliness and awesome in this series opener that I didn’t expect. I hope it’s a sign Who will continue to deliver.