Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Listening to the Hugos: Fancast

We continue our journey through the 2016 Hugo Awards with a look at the finalists for Best Fancast. Before this year, I seldom listened to any podcasts that were not named Rocket Talk (not currently a finalist for a Hugo Award). I would listen to a sports themed podcast from time to time, but that's about it. Something changed this year, though I'm not quite sure what, and I find myself listening to a LOT of podcasts, though only a small number of them are SFF themed. All five of this year's finalists are new to me.

When I think about the category of "Fancast", I think of an audio podcast. I think of downloading the podcast and listening at work, in the car, or when I'm out mowing the lawn (something which I'm probably overdue to accomplish right now). The thing is, audio is only half of the definition.

Per section 3.314 of the WSFS Constitution, a Fancast is "any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects" and "which does not qualify as a dramatic presentation".

I only mention this because of how it impacts my own thoughts of the category. I think of audio when I think of fancast, but video is very much a part of the definition of the category - though this is the first year a finalist has been a video fancast.

With all of that said, let's talk about the finalists. I have several biases regarding fancasts which will come into play and I'll mention each one as it comes up.

8-4 Play  
Cane and Rinse  
The Rageaholic  
Tales to Terrify

Tales to Terrify: Let's start with an Admission of Bias: I do not enjoy listening to audio fiction. Tales to Terrify is an audio fiction podcast. You might have guessed from the title, but Tales to Terrify focuses on horror.

I tried. I really did. I don't think there's anything wrong with Tales to Terrify (it's part of the "District of Wonders", which also produces the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa), but man, it's audio fiction. I have to work extremely hard to stay engaged and pay yet deeper attention to have any glimmer of an understanding of what is occurring in the story and given when I have time to listen, that's nearly impossible for me. I do so much better with a nonfiction podcast. I tried two episodes, and I struggled to maintain my focus / attention on either of them.

8-4 Play: Is 8-4 Play actually eligible? I ask this for the same reason I have nominated Rocket Talk as Related Work instead of Fancast. Rocket Talk is hosted by Tor.com, a professional publication. 8-4 Play is hosted by 8-4, Ltd, a professional video game localization company.  Section 3.2.10 of the WSFS Constitution defines a professional publication as one which "was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter of the income of any of its staff and/or owner." Just as Tor.com is a professional publication, I have believe that 8-4, Ltd is considered a professional company. Now, given that 8-4 Play is on the final ballot, I have to assume the Hugo Committee deemed 8-4 Play to be a "fancast" so we'll treat it as such (though I'm skeptical).

Admission of Bias Time: The longer the podcast, the less interested I am in listening to it. 30 minutes is my sweet spot, I'm comfortable up to an hour, and the farther a podcast goes past an hour the less interested I become, even when the topic and conversation is interesting. Most of the episodes of 8-4 Play run over 90 minutes, with a not insignificant number running over 120 minutes.

8-4 Play did not include links to recommended episodes, so I pulled one from 2015 that was focusing on some video games I was interested in (Zelda and Dragon Quest). 30 minutes later, I was done. 8-4 Play is a video game focused podcast, and it took way too long for the hosts to actually start talking about the games. The opening seemed more focused on refreshing each other what they've been up to than moving on to the games. Now, first main section on one guy's Retro Collection was okay (and I love me some old school games) and they were only just moving into Fallout 4 by the time I gave up on the podcast, so maybe there is solid game talk and a reason why I should consider listening to 8-4 Play in the future, but this particular episode is more than two hours long and that's really tough for me to overcome, and given that for this particular episode the hosts took waaaaaay too long getting to the meat, I won't be coming back to it. Perhaps I selected the wrong episode and perhaps I should have skipped forward to the 38 minute mark, but perhaps this podcast is simply not for me. Pass.

The Rageaholic: While I think The Rageaholic could work as a straight up audio podcast, I'm not sure I really want someone yelling at me for ten to twenty minutes straight. If I wanted that I'd put The Rageaholic on in the background and not watch the screen. I appreciate Razorfist's passion and ability to pull out a ten plus minute rant seemingly without pausing to take a breath. I'm exhausted just listening to the man. I'm slightly curious how much of this is off the cuff brilliance or if he scripts up enough talking points to pull it off. Either way, the man has the ability to just blow and to do so with some profane eloquence. These video game rants, even on the stuff he loves, isn't entirely my cuppa (assuming I actually drank a cuppa, which I do not), but The Rageaholic comes with a fresh (and angry) perspective and I'd much rather watch / listen to this than either 8-4 Play or Tales to Terrify. I'm not going to, but I'd rather.

HelloGreedo: A Star Wars focused parody, reviews and news YouTube channel. I have two primary thoughts here. The first is solely my issue. I don't really have the time to watch all the tv shows and movies that I want to watch today. Sorry, Friday Night Lights and actually going to the movies. So, a YouTube channel is always going to be a tough sell for me even when it's good and is something I'm interested in. I can listen to podcasts during my drive to work, while mowing the lawn, or even quietly in the office. I can't do that with video. This ties into my second thought: HelloGreedo is good. It's fun and funny and entertaining and the guy behind HelloGreedo clearly knows and loves his Star Wars. He also does it in full Stormtrooper costume, which is fun. I would happily watch more HelloGreedo, but it also is not quite enough to force itself into any sort of regular watching rotation.

Cane and Rinse: So, what I said about 2 hour podcasts still stands, but there are apparent exceptions. I do wish that Cane and Rinse was a significantly shorter podcast, but I've now listened to upwards of ten episodes and I really enjoy what they do. Cane and Rinse is a video game focused podcast, and my interest level waxes and wanes with how familiar I am with the particular game they are breaking down and how interested I am in said game. For example, their episodes working through the Legend of Zelda series and the episode featuring Goldeneye are standouts for me. I enjoyed their digging into the history of each game, the music, the production, the playthrough, all the varied aspects. However, I just couldn't get into a more recent episode on Golden Axe (which was not part of my Hugo Listening). The hosts are personable, very British, and overall a delight to listen to. Cane and Rinse has made its way into my semi-regular rotation of podcasts.

My Vote
1. Cane and Rinse
2. HelloGreedo
3. The Rageaholic
4. 8-4 Play
5. Tales to Terrify

Also, feel free to look at the rest of our Hugo Awards coverage:
Short Story

Dramatic Presentation: Long Form 

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.