Audiobooks and podcasts are not for me.

I want to like them, but somehow I always find my mind drifting, losing important bits, having to rewind, which defeats the point of hands free and listening while doing something else. So I’ve just regarded them as not-for-me, especially since audiobooks can be acquired as just plain books, which I do enjoy!

Then a friend recommended a podcast called ‘Tanis‘ and managed to make it sound compelling enough that I took my longstanding grudge against audio inputs off the shelf and examined them again. Part of it was timing – I’ve found that by not listening to NPR or other radio stations while driving I have lowered my stress levels lately, so I need good things to listen to on Spotify.

Tanis: “What they tried to do with World of Darkness (the tabletop RPG) – but clever.” That was the description that helped sell me on giving it a try. The real world references given a slightly darker shadow, the nuance that anything on the podcast that sounded too weird to be real could be input into Google to show that it was actually the factual source material they were using. Add in the character ‘Meerkatnip’ as a acerbic hacker who I find super compelling to listen to, and I had to stop to absorb it, at least a little. That little has turned into a lot.

If I listen at work, I either stop working or start missing large swaths of Tanis, so that was a bad sign. Any time I’m at my computer with a browser open, I have to be careful not to have that mental wandering take place. It turns out, though, that there are two activities that let me do what needs to be done at the same time as receive Tanis appropriately – driving alone and, strangely enough, showering. I’m fortunate my phone is waterproof.

My commute is miserable and mindless hours in traffic – generally at least an hour and a half each way to and from work. I used to keep up on world events via NPR, but as I mentioned it was slowly eroding my calm in a way I hadn’t noticed until I stopped letting it. Since it’s some of my best thinking time, though, having something thought-provoking, like the intersection between reality and fiction, the eerie and the mundane, seems to work very well for me. I can’t look things up while I’m driving, so it’s all equally regarded as real world, making it feel more alive.

What is Tanis? As the show says, “It’s not an easy thing to understand.” The very root of it is a short story, written by Jack Parsons (of JPL fame), and that amount of oversimplification takes it to a near criminal degree. It’s an intersection of science, history, mystical forces, and conspiracy theories like you wouldn’t believe. But even that cheapens it. Maybe it is just enough to call it ‘Mystery’ and leave it at that.


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