Hugo listening 2017: Fancasts

Six fancasts enter, one fancast leaves…

We started with Fangirl Happy Hour, which is delightful.  Renay is lovely, but Ana really steals the show for me – I could listen to her all day.  I love her enthusiasm about the things she loves, and her vehemence when decrying the sexism of the first Ghostbusters, and her accent is just the icing on the cake (I adore accents.  Working with so many people with beautiful accents is a big perk of my job).  Ana and Renay have basically put together a podcast sampler with six extracts from their shows.  Of these, we listened to five, since Ana and Renay firmly forbade us to listen to the section on The Obelisk Gate until we had read the book.

I think my favourite segment was the Genre Starter Pack, where they talked about which books introduced them to their favourite genres, and which books and films would be the starter pack they would recommend to a new reader.  Ana won my heart by saying that her first YA Fantasy was Twilight, which she came to as a romance reader.  She was, apparently, totally hooked until the end, when Bella inexplicably stayed with Edward, instead of dumping him and going off to college, which was where Ana was absolutely sure the story must be going, since this was clearly the picture of a toxic relationship… Their starter packs were interesting and not at all what I would have chosen, so that was fun, and Andrew had strong objections to Renay’s choices of science fiction/space opera movie, which was even more fun.  I think I have a YA Fantasy booklist to check out now, which my purse will not appreciate..

The segments on Ghostbusters 1989 and Ghostbusters 2016 were heaps of fun, and having attempted to read The Vision, it was interesting to hear their take on it.  Their segment about the Core was entertaining only because Ana and Renay were talking about it, and otherwise went over my head.

The Rageaholic is the Puppies’ choice for this category, and there was debate in our household over whether we should give him a chance.  And also, how much of a chance we should give him.

Unlike all the other podcasters in this category, the Rageaholic (also known as RazörFist) doesn’t suggest any sample episodes that might give you a flavour of his work.  He just gives you a link to his YouTube channel, where one can find episodes with such pleasing titles as ‘Sexism in Metal (and other fables) – a Rant’; ‘Abolition is Retardation: The Electoral College Rant’; ‘Make RPGs Great Again: a Rant’ (notice a theme here?); Game Awards RANTPOCALYPSE 2016′; and ‘Marvel goes full Fatwa: A Rant’.

Videos seem to range from around 4 minutes to around 20 minutes, and having just listened to over an hour of FanGirl Happy Hour, I felt that we should, in all fairness, at least watch one of the longer rants, but I was vetoed by Andrew, whose veto rights come largely from the fact that I didn’t really want to listen to much of this stuff either. We chose ‘#DumpStarWars – A Rant’ as the episode least likely to unduly raise our blood pressure.  Also, it was short.

Let’s start with the positives.  RazörFist is quite good at alliteration, and occasionally has a nice turn of phrase.  He said two things which I almost agreed with, and several more that were not actively offensive.  He doesn’t actually repeat himself, and it’s a reasonably coherent rant, as rants go.  And it’s only 4 minutes and 43 seconds long.

On the negative side… well, he’s obnoxious in pretty much all the ways one would expect from a Puppy.  He is also pretentious and neither as funny nor as clever as he thinks he is (to be fair, this is a common problem in many fields, and is not exclusive to Puppies), but he definitely thinks that people like me are stupid and need to be insulted.  He seems to delight in saying things in the most mean-spirited way he can.

OK, I’m going to be honest here.  I started writing this while he was still ranting and I’ve already forgotten most of what he said.  And I really was paying attention as much as I could.  It was basically like having some dude shout at me about something that I wasn’t very interested in, while swearing a fair bit in a somewhat misogynistic way.  I disliked him; I disliked his politics, and he struck me as someone who would be unpleasant to deal with in real life.  And I realise that this sounds judgmental, but for me, at least, podcasts live or die by whether I like the person who is speaking.  If I don’t enjoy their company and their conversation, then there’s not a lot of point listening to their podcast, because that is essentially what a podcast is.  I would actively walk out of a room to avoid this man’s conversation, and it was difficult to give him even five minutes of my attention.  That puts him at the bottom of my ballot for certain; whether he will go above No Award is something I’m still considering.

Our third podcast for today was The Coode Street Podcast. They offered three selections, but they are an hour each, and life is short so I chose just one, which was their interview with Kai Ashante Wilson.  This was a nice, serious, in-depth interview, which I enjoyed very much.  Quite professional, particularly compared to other podcast interviews I have heard.  They talked about how Ashante Wilson became a writer, how African American culture and themes manifest themselves in his writing, and how politics and personality find their way into fiction.  I liked how Ashante Wilson talked about magic versus technology – he is someone who doesn’t understand technology very well and views it as somewhat magical, which works quite well in his fantasy worlds, where there is magic that is probably actually technology really.  I also liked the part where they talked about language and vernaculars, and how this is used in Ashante Wilson’s writing and elsewhere, and how telepathy and psionics generally have fallen out of favour in speculative fiction (which is a shame, because it’s always a favourite device for me.

It’s a very good interview.  One comes away with a very strong sense of the writer as a person, as well as how he approaches storytelling.  This is probably going to come in second on my podcast ballot, because it does lack the delightful liveliness of Fangirl Happy Hour, but it’s a very good podcast.

On a side-note, it’s fun how many Hugo nominees showed up in these podcasts.  The Fangirls talked about Ghostbusters, The Obelisk Gate and (briefly) Ms Marvel; The Coode Street Podcast talked about A Taste of Honey; and even the Rageaholic talked about Rogue One.  This adds a nice touch to my Hugo reading.

The fourth fancast on our Hugo listening program was Tea and Jeopardy, by Emma Newman.  I’m actually familiar with this podcast, though we are far from being up to date on our listening to it.  It’s a nice format – Emma, accompanied by her Igor-esque butler, Latimer, goes to a secret tea lair (always in a new, imagined location), and receives a guest for tea, cake, and ‘a spot of mild peril’.  The latter usually occurs as the guest leaves and runs into whatever uncanny or unpleasant creatures are dwelling in the margins of Emma’s tea lair location, and more often than not, they are led straight into the jaws of trouble by Latimer himself.  The podcasts run for about half an hour, which is a good length for those of us with short podcast attention spans, and consist of an interview with the week’s chosen victim.

Emma always asks her guests to bring a curio, which is then described on the podcast (Charlie Jane Anders brings a perilous parasol), and at the end of the episode, she asks them for a theme song, which is then sung by her pet chickens.  I have no idea how the chicken thing works.  It’s bizarre.  But pleasing.

One of the recommended episodes for the Hugo nominations was Episode 50, in which Emma interviews Charlie Jane Anders.  Since Anders is the author of one of the Hugo nominated novels, this seemed like a good choice to go with.

Emma asks interesting, somewhat off-beat questions, such as ‘If you could own any spaceship from any science fiction book, TV series or film, which spaceship would it be and why?’, or ‘What famous historical mystery would you most like to investigate?’.  Alas, this latter question backfired spectacularly for me, as Anders expressed an interest in investigating Richard II, and I got all excited, and then she said she wanted to know whether he had really killed his nephews, and I looked at Andrew with an expression of bitter betrayal while he tried to convince me that it OK and normal for people to mix up Richard II and Richard III.

But it was not OK.

It may never be OK again.

I did enjoy the podcast – Emma Newman has a lovely speaking voice with a beautiful English accent, which makes my accent-fancying self very happy, and in a sea of podcasts that go for an hour or longer, a half hour podcast is very appealing.  And the Richard III isn’t really her fault.

But I’m not sure if this quite beats the Coode Street podcast, and it definitely does not attain the giddy heights of Fangirl Happy Hour.  I’ll have to think about that a bit more.

Podcast number five was Galactic Suburbia, featuring Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts.  I had high hopes for this one – I completely adored Tansy’s Love and Romanpunk novella sequence, and of course it is lovely to see an Australian podcast featured.

Oh, but it was long, though.  The recommended episode was their 2016 retrospective and it ran for nearly two hours, and was also a little bit depressing, as they talked about the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher, and then Alisa went on a whole lengthy thing about preparing for the inevitable apocalypse now that Trump is in power, and working out what survival skills she and her friends had, and I sat there going, well, I’m doomed for sure, I have nothing to contribute to a survivalist colony that half my friends can’t do better.  So that was glum.

They did talk gleefully about Rogue One (but without spoilers), and about several books and shows that sound like fun – Hurricane Heels, which is about a group of girls who have to keep on saving the world, and they are kind of getting exhausted by it since they are now adults with jobs and uni and such to go to; Check Please, which is apparently about ice hockey and sounds strangely fascinating, and Yuri on Ice, which is an anime cartoon about male figure skating and comes conveniently pre-slashed, no fanfic required.  So I may have to look into those.

It’s a good podcast, very much in the genre of three friends chatting in their living room about stuff that interests them, and these are certainly friends I would invite into my living room for a chat.  But I’d probably invite Emma Newman over first.

We saved the Ditch Diggers for last, because they had an episode called “The Ditch Diggers’ Guide to Absolute Failure”, which sounded irresistible, and like it might be a good antidote to any heavier podcasts.  The Ditch Diggers, Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace are clearly very good friends, and they normally talk about the nuts and bolts of making a living as a writer, but this particular episode is basically about giving the worst advice they can think of on a variety of subjects.

It’s hilarious.  They start with giving advice for Conventions, including such gems as making sure to never ask a question from the audience when you can make a statement instead (especially if it involves telling everyone about the dream you had last night), and once you start talking, do not let anyone cut you off; or being sure to spend lots of time in the bathroom, being super sociable, or just lying in wait for the people who are avoiding you (“Tweet that you are in the bathroom, waiting for people”, said Mur.  “They have to pee sometime.”).  My favourite bit of con advice was to make sure, if someone has won an award that you don’t think they deserve, to chase them down and tell them this, at length, explaining all the reasons that they should give the award back.

It will not surprise you to know that every single bit of advice they gave about Cons was something that they had personally witnessed or had had done to them.

They talked about the vital importance of ignoring any publisher guidelines when submitting queries, and being sure to compare your book favourably to Harry Potter.  They also suggest 8 point Comic Sans as a suitable font, or better still, WingDings.

There was a lengthy section on how best to behave on social media (“Operate more like a bot than a human being,” suggested Matt), including the importance of autoDMs, @-ing people whose work you are negatively reviewing, and calling people out constantly.

And then they talked about the importance of exposure, which really is better than money, as everyone knows.  At one point, they started toying with the notion of an exposure-based economy, which is a slightly horrifying premise for a science fiction story…

This only scratches the surface, of course.  But it was a really fun, clever podcast, with a large amount of extremely good advice disguised as terrible advice.  I thoroughly enjoyed Ditch Diggers, and they have the field to cruise into second place – Fangirl Happy Hour is still winning for me.

So my final lineup looks like being Fangirl Happy Hour in first place; Ditch Diggers second; Coode Street and Tea and Jeopardy fighting for third place, and I don’t know who will win; and Galactic Suburbia in 5th, which seems a travesty, but the competition really is exceptional.  No award is in 6th place, ahead of the Rageaholic, who is a travesty of an entirely different kind.

And that’s the fancasts done!  I’m hoping to finish the Silverberg-based Related Work tomorrow, and then read the novelettes while I’m up in Darwin for the weekend.  Next week, I’ll make a start on the Campbells, I think, and alternate them with the other Related Works.  Though I plan to do some free reading, in between.  There is only so much reading-to-critique I can do in one hit…

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