When writing up my thoughts on the finalists, I found myself writing the same phrases for each nominee. “The podcast is a conversation between friends”, “comfortable”, “easy”. I apologize in advance for my overusing them and any others you might find.
Shall we lend these find podcasts an ear?
I'm sorry, I can't help it.
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
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
Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merrit
Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
Galactic Suburbia: Galactic Suburbia is an Australian fancast. I first listened to it last year when it was a Hugo Finalist for the fourth time, and now they're on their fifth go for the Hugo. It's very much a conversation between friends and we're just listening in.
Though we're comparing podcasts to each other and not to what they were in previous years, I can say that I enjoyed the packet contributions more this year than last. It's just that they're not hitting whatever it is that makes me want to keep listening to a podcast or subscribe. Galactic Suburbia just isn't for me.
Verity!: The tag is "Six Smart Women Discuss Doctor Who" and that's exactly what we get. I'm familiar with most of the current run of Doctor Who up to the first Peter Capaldi season. My son was born in the middle of Capaldi's run and that really knocked out a lot of my television watching. That's not a statement about this podcast, but is where I come from with the Doctor.
This is a fairly in depth doctor who podcast, but happily also one that is not simply doing an episode by episode recap and commentary. They do that, too, but they also talk about issues raised by the series and around the series. They play Doctor Who related games. It's a fun podcast, though one that is ultimately not for me.
Fangirl Happy Hour: Fangirl Happy Hour feels like an institution at this point. Perhaps because of its connection to both Lady Business (last year's Best Fanzine) and The Book Smugglers (a previous Fanzine finalist and currently up for Semiprozine), Fangirl Happy Hour is simply a part of my genre consciousness. Hosted by Renay Williams (Lady Business) and Ana Grilo (Book Smugglers), the two discuss what books, movies, and overall genre they're consuming. They dip into fanfiction (and I'm very much down for Renay's goal to one day get Archive of Our Own on the Hugo ballot for Best Related Work), and touch on major issues of fandom when they strike a chord.
What I like best about Fangirl Happy Hour is the passion of both Renay and Ana. Straight up, they care. They care about what they love and they care about the genre. From their discussions I am also reminded that everyone comes into science fiction and fandom from different directions and via different media, that there is no "one way" to be a fan or to be part of fandom because fandom is not a single discrete entity, but rather a large bulbous mass of smaller fandoms that intersect and cross pollinate and stay the hell away from each other. I may dip in and out of Fangirl Happy Hour as the mood or the season strikes me, but they are a vital part of the genre conversation and we're better off because they're here doing the work.
Ditch Diggers: I shouldn’t be so engaged by Ditch Diggers. At its core, it is a podcast for writers – whether those trying to break in or those who have been putting in the work and digging the ditches and maybe could use a little boost of knowledge and pep. I’m not a writer. I’m certainly not a fiction writer. I don’t intend to be, though like everyone else I have a number of ideas kicking around my head (the ideas are the easy part). The thing is, Matt Wallace and Mur Lafferty are so compelling and up front that I can’t help but listen. I get more out of some episodes than others, but it’s a podcast I keep coming back to. Plus, I absolutely love Matt Wallace's Sin du Jour series and every year I've been disappointed one of his novellas was not on the Hugo ballot, so I love that he (with Mur) is now a two time Hugo finalist. While Ditch Diggers does not top my ballot, I would absolutely love to see Matt Wallace win a Hugo Award.
Sword and Laser: I think I’ve heard of Sword and Laser before, but I have never listened to it until this year. I listened to the one episode referenced in the Voter’s Packet. Midway through that episode I subscribed to the podcast and then listened to the most recent episode (after finishing the first one I started, of course). Sword and Laser is a ten year old book club started by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt and I was immediately put at easy and sucked in. Sword and Laser has a pretty strong and vibrant community built around them and that comes through on the podcast. The pod feels like an offshoot of “the old days” where message boards and commenting on each other’s blogs were driving a part of genre community. My perspective is that Sword and Laser is the blogosphere condensed into a podcast, and that’s pretty cool. I even joined the S&L goodreads group, though we’ll see if I actually participate beyond posting my introduction. Either way, this is a podcast I absolutely want more of.
Coode Street: Some time last year I came back to The Coode Street Podcast and I haven’t looked back. Hosted by editor Jonathan Strahan and critic Gary K. Wolfe, Coode Street hits science fiction fandom from a very traditional perspective from two professionals. Strahan has edited all of the anthologies, or so it seems. Wolfe has been a reviewer for Locus for more than twenty five years. They’ve been involved in and around science fiction and fantasy for decades. The conversations and occasional arguments are comfortable and easy – there are occasional interviews, but more often is just Wolfe and Strahan talking about what’s going on in the genre at the time they’re recording. My favorite episodes are often the ones around award season and year’s end, because then they’re working through their opinions on the best books of the year – and as plugged into the genre as I am, there are always some works I’ve scarcely heard of and others that I have no interest in. But then, I expect they would feel the same about my list. At its best, Coode Street feels like sitting at a bar and being just close enough to listen into a really great conversation.
1. Coode Street
2. Sword and Laser
3. Ditch Diggers
4. Fangirl Happy Hour
6. Galactic Suburbia
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POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.