When it comes to deep-dive nonfiction podcasts, the focus is often on topics like science or current events. Podcasts about fiction are more of a rare breed, but Words to that Effect is a fantastic addition to podcasts like Imaginary Worlds:
Words To That Effect is a literary podcast of the intriguing, the curious, and the unexplored. Launched in June 2017, the show is a research-based, storytelling podcast created in Dublin, Ireland which combines guest experts, new Irish music, and engaging narratives to explore history, culture, science, and literature. In essence, the podcast answers the kinds of questions you never knew you had, like:
- Why did a group of world famous authors secretly meet at the outbreak of World War I?
- What is transhumanism and should we be concerned about its aims?
- Why did the creator of Sherlock Holmes, the most rational detective of them all, believe in fairies and ghosts?
- Where do zombies come from and why have they taken over popular culture?
Words to that Effect is a lovely nonfiction podcast all about fiction. Each episode discusses one specific topic about a feature of fiction, whether it be a movement, a trend, or specific questions about specific works.
The structure of each episode feels very akin to other sophisticated deep-dive podcasts. While listening, I was consistently reminded of 99% Invisible: it has the same calm feeling while being incredibly well-researched. The podcast’s editing is light and clean, giving it a polished sheen without sounding over-produced. Episodes are usually about half an hour, giving enough time to give the listener a well-rounded discussion on the subject without feeling like a lecture. It’s a deep-dive podcast that would appeal to anyone with a love of fiction, remaining perfectly accessible regardless of the listener’s level of familiarity with the topic.
It helps, too, that Words to That Effect specializes in some of the stranger sides of fiction. Instead of just going over the traditional literary canon, this podcast focuses in genre fiction, helping explain why we love it and what makes it great. While most genre fiction is ignored or scoffed at in academia, Words to That Effect gives it the attention and analysis it deserves while still staying approachable and engaging. While listening, I especially loved the aforementioned episodes on both zombies and transhumanism–topics I’ve heard discussed before in Imaginary Worlds and Note to Self, respectively, but enjoyed much more as approached by Words to That Effect. You can listen to this podcast in any order, and I’d recommend picking the topic that sounds most interesting to you for a first listen.
Almost every episode of Words to That Effect features an interview with an expert on the subject. The interviews with experts are edited in such a way that they feel like an organic piece of the story overall. Instead of having one segment dedicated to research or setup and one section dedicated to a standard interview, episodes function as one comprehensive story on the topic. If you ever had an English teacher tell you to weave your quotes into an essay instead of relying on block quotes, this is, fittingly, exactly what interviews in Words to That Effect feel like.
On occasion, I did find my mind wandering while listening to this podcast. Its calm, thoughtful tone is calming, but sometimes I felt it lulling me in the same way podcasts like Myths and Legends often do. Words to That Effect isn’t boring, by any stretch; it’s just usually very relaxing, largely due to its instrumental bed music. Luckily, it’s still interesting enough to always reel me back in. It seems like it would be the perfect fit to listen to while taking a nice, long bath; it’s a great mix of soothing but mentally stimulating.
You can find Words to That Effect on its website or on any podcatcher. You can support the podcast on Patreon.