Thursday, June 15, 2017

Listening to the Hugos: Fancast

Welcome to another edition of Reading the Hugos! Though, since we're talking fancasts today we've temporarily rebranded to Listening to the Hugos! The exclamation is entirely optional and can be excluded if you're not feeling the excitement at any given moment.

This is my second year listening to podcasts and much like last year I have not listened to many SFF themed podcasts, especially since Rocket Talk and Midnight in Karachi seem to have gone on hiatus - which is a pity. As such, you'll see that none of my nominees are on the final ballot. Half of this year's finalists are familiar to me from previous years (Tea & Jeopardy, Rageaholic, Galactic Suburbia), two I have listened to on and off over the last several years (Coode Street, Fangirl Happy Hour), and one was completely new to me (Ditch Diggers). This is a much stronger ballot than what was on offer last year and I was happy to give all of them another listen.

On to the finalists!

The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist
Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

The Rageaholic: I'm going to recycle much of what I said last year regarding The Rageaholic because everything I said then applies in full this year: "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"

The difference this year is that The Rageaholic is up against a much stronger lineup of podcasts, and I vastly prefer an audio podcast over a video fancast. I sampled two of Razorfist's videos (my personal minimum for this category. My opinion was set after one episode, but it's always best to make sure) and this just isn't for me.

Tea and Jeopardy: My problem with Tea and Jeopardy is the framing device Emma Newman uses. The conceit here is that Newman is inviting a guest to her garden for a spot of tea. While I get that this is only a small part of the podcast, it is enough to completely put me off from subscribing. The episodes with Kate Elliott and Charlie Jane Anders were otherwise great conversations when Newman and her guests were not engaging with the framing device. It's just that the framing device is a complete turn off for me.  Since I've only listened to two episodes of this year's run, I'm can't be sure, but I think there Newman is also telling a serial story as part of the framing device - and this should interest me, but it really doesn't. I'm unlikely to listen to another episode unless Newman interviews an author I simply can't miss.

Galactic Surburbia: Winner of the 2015 Best Fancast Hugo. For this one I only sampled one episode, the year's end wrap up episode. I find my opinion on the conversation to be much the same as when I considered the category the year they won, which is simply that it was unable to grab my interest. Two years ago I struggled to get into any podcasts.  This time around I listen to many, but I'm going to pass on Galactic Suburbia. Since this is a five time finalist and one time winner of Best Fancast, I am clearly in the minority here.

Fangirl Happy Hour: I love the energy and passion that Ana Grilo and Renay Williams brings to the table (or, to the microphone, as the case may be). Grilo is part of the editing team behind the Hugo Finalist Semiprozine Book Smugglers (which was also a 2014 Finalist for Best Fanzine), a publisher crushing it with a number of very well regarded short works. Williams is one of the editors for Lady Business, now twice a finalist for Best Fanzine. I've listened to at least a third of the 2016 episodes, so I didn't give the primer episode a go. Williams and Grilo wear their fandom on their sleeves and make no bones about ranting on what bothers them about books and the shenanigans of genre or ranting in joyful excitement about the stuff they love. They get deep into what's going on behind the scenes of a story, bringing a serious level of depth and theory, examining why something works or in what way a novel might have failed while otherwise being an entertaining story.

The Coode Street Podcast: Back in my "I don't listen to podcasts" days, I tried The Coode Street Podcast and bounced off it much as I bounced off of every other podcast at that time. As a finalist for this year's Hugo Award it was time to give Strahan and Wolfe another shot and this time it stuck. Coode Street brings the perspective of an editor producing some of the finest anthologies today (Strahan) and a reviewer who's been doing the work for years (Wolfe). Coode Street feels like a conversation that has been going on for years and we're getting the chance to listen in. It's good stuff and the focus is on the parts of genre I tend to love. I listened to a wider cross section of episodes than the recommended ones.

Ditch Diggers: Despite not being a writer and not having much intention in becoming a published writer, I find myself fascinated by the Ditch Diggers podcast. Matt Wallace and Mur Lafferty drop a whole of truth about the reality of being a published writer and doing the work - or, as they refer to it, digging the ditches. They're not talking about the glamour of being an "author", they're talking about the work of being a professional writer. I listened to their recommended episodes (22: Guide to Absolute Failure, 26: Kameron Hurley and Hannah Bowen, 27: Madeline Ashby) and then I kept going.

My ballot
1. Ditch Diggers
2. The Coode Street Podcast
3. Fangirl Happy Hour
4. Galactic Suburbia
5. Tea and Jeopardy
6. The Rageaholic

Our previous coverage:
Short Story
Graphic Story

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Writer / Editor of the mostly defunct Adventures in Reading since 2004. Minnesotan.