The Once And Future Nerd is my new favourite fiction podcast.
I’ve had a lot of favourite fiction podcasts, from How To Succeed In Evil by Patrick E. Mclean, to Playing For Keeps by Mur Lafferty, to Shadowmagic by John Lenahan, to The Merchant Adventurer, also by Patrick E. Mclean, because he writes really well and is also a good voice actor, okay? But Mr. Mclean has been bested. It took a cast of multiple people, two writers, awesome special sound effects, great acting, a surprisingly solid world, really good sound quality, reliably funny jokes, and a puzzling riddle of dreams and visions, but it has happened. Mclean has been surpassed, at least in my personal ranking of favourite fiction podcasts or podiobooks, by The Once And Future Nerd writers Christian Madera and Zach Glass.
The Once And Future Nerd is a podcast that proves you can indeed have a tolkienesque, Dungeons-and-Dragons-style Standard Fantasy Setting with elves and knights and wizards, and also have diversity in the kinds of characters you create and the way they are seen in their world. From a black nerd to a heartstring-pulling lesbian couple, from an elderly knight to a thief queen, from a cheerleader who knows her physics and biology to an enormous asshole (who could probably kick Joffrey’s ass because, unlike him, no one sends this jackass to bed without supper), this show gets it. It is written by people who know that you don’t have to shoehorn in diversity, or make a point of it, to have it be there. It is written by people who understand that characters who are different are more interesting.
That understanding is what makes this podcast my newest favourite podcast. Because everyone is different. Between the voicework and the accents and the characters’ word choices, it is never ambiguous who is speaking to whom or why our protagonists just said this or did that. The writing and the preformances conspire to provide a wonderful experience that is only enhanced by the editing and the surprisingly immersive effects. Starting with a charming narrator sprite, and continuing on with a story that shifts from bunnies being shot, to teenagers stuck in a magical world, to court intrigue, to an impending war, to prophesies, to murder, to eldritch abominations; this show gets it.
This is a show that makes me wish I could travel forward in time at a faster rate in order to listen to the entire book in one sitting, provided I could then go back to the past and do all those other things people have to do with their lives. It’s a show that gets me to listen again and again to an episode so that I may catch clues and little things I didn’t notice before. It’s a show that doesn’t make me think “wait a second, that doesn’t make sense”; because it does, in fact, make sense. More sense at least than the ability of seeing trace amounts of metal in a human body translating to “seeing the metals in a person’s very blood” as opposed to seeing walking skeletons because calcium is a metal and why Sanderson why everything else was so good this is just like that birthday thing–I’m getting off topic. Just know that I am planning to tackle Sanderson’s Mistborn series at some point in the future. Speaking of Sanderson, I thought I would go on about the very straight-forward magic system in the story, but I feel like I don’t have enough information right now to really say much about it except that it doesn’t seem particularly broken at first glance, and that it allows people who know science to bend reality to their will, which is nice. The whole world seems really solidly built, and it’s nice to see a story with great worldbuilding that still keeps the setting in the background, and puts most of the attention on the great plot and awesome characters.
The Once And Future Nerd takes what feels like a cliché premise, in a cliché setting, and makes it fresh, new, and awesome in ways I didn’t know were possible. Are there issues with it? Probably. I know I had a hard time getting past the elf with the southern accent. And the half-Orc with a southern accent. I don’t like those accents, okay? They make me twitch. I’ve known people from places in the south of the U.S. and they don’t sound like that at all. Where does that accent even come from? But I digress. It is a testament to the quality of the work the voice actors do that I stopped twitching within only a couple of minutes of both introductions and these characters are among my favourites now. Dreaded southern accents aside, I have a hard time finding anything to dislike about the podcast. Even the elf with the southern accent is pretty interesting and awesome. That’s not a sentence I ever thought I would write, but there it is.
I’ve listened to and loved Welcome to Night Vale, The Takeover, basically everything Patrick E. Mclean has done, multiple Mur Lafferty projects, Shadowmagic, The Prince of Hazel and Oak, and many more podcasts. Maybe I’ll add a more comprehensive list to this later. And yet, I have no reservations about calling The Once And Future Nerd one of the best podcasts (if not the best) I have listened to yet. They recently celebrated their anniversary and said they would enjoy it if they got a review they didn’t request. If you’re reading this, Mr. Madera and Mr. Glass, I know it’s almost a month late and I also know I don’t exactly have a big audience of people that… exist. But this is a review, and you didn’t request it, which I hope can be enough. Thank you for doing what you do, and happy birthday. I can’t really donate rigth now, but I can do this. The Once And Future Nerd is my new favourite fiction podcast. I heartily recommend it to everyone who read this. Yes, all three of you. Check it out.