Booktubers, Vlogs and Other Visions


Are you watching? There’s a visual counter-revolution underway. A month ago, I posted about podcasts, saying that they represented an audio fightback after years of domination by TV and related media. Youtube is creating a similar fightback for visual media over the internet.

Maybe you are already a regular viewer of science fiction and fantasy content on Youtube. If not, there is a lot to discover: search for channels that interest you, sign up for free and watch them when you like, comment and share.

There are many Youtube channels that specialise in discussing books. These have their own name – “booktubers”. The more general title “vlogs” covers those “video blogs” that discuss not only books but television shows, movies and much more.

A common criticism of the booktuber community is that it consists mostly of teenagers talking about Young Adult books. Some of the suggested channels below fall at least partly into that category, but that is far from all there is.

Below is a list of science fiction and fantasy channels that I have discovered so far and subscribed to. They are of many different types, so there should be something here for all fans, and there’s literally no limit to what else you might be able to discover:

Nerdist

Book Riot

SFF180

Fast Forward

Books and Pieces

Nicole’s Adventures in SFF

Common Touch of Fantasy

DweebCast

The Android’s Conundrum

Kalanadi

Kitty G

Novels and Nonsense

Bitten by a Radioactive Book

Interview with Summer Brooks (Slice of SciFi)


I’m talking with Summer Brooks, show host and producer of Slice of SciFi, a podcast and internet radio show focused on scifi genre entertainment.

SCy-Fy: Slice of SciFi re-launched a few months ago. What are your plans for this new phase, Summer?

SB: Finding a new momentum. Slice of SciFi has been out there, on terrestrial radio, satellite radio, and as a podcast for almost 10 years now, it’ll be 10 years in March. Contributors have come and gone, co-hosts have come and gone, but this year truly starts a completely new era, and I’m literally building a new foundation for the show on the ashes and embers of the old. I’m the last of the old guard from the show still involved, but I also have to build a new show going forward. Part of that process includes getting a live show up and running again, via KryptonRadio.com, an Internet radio station that is filled 24/7 with geek-centric music and talk shows.

So for now, rebuilding the show’s profile and audience is my top priority… that means consolidating the new show format & style, maintaining a consistent release schedule, and making sure that the topics of discussion and the interviews are as interesting to the listeners as they are for me. That’s the best way I know of to rebuild the show & the audience.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges generally for podcasts in future?

SB: Finding the audience for the niche you’re in. When we were starting out with podcasts, everyone looked for websites and grabbed the feeds they wanted. Then along came iTunes, making searching for podcasts easier, but also taking away visitors to the websites, and their exposure to other complementary features of the show.

Now, people subscribe from their smartphones using sites like Stitcher and TuneIn, and it’s harder to get your show in front of entertainment seekers on a platform you don’t have much input for. For the moment, I’m completely clueless about newer ways to market your podcast and increase your audience, because I’m still trying to figure it out from scratch myself!

SCy-Fy: And there’s always the financial issue…

SB: Yes. My next challenge is making the older shows premium content and making sure the people who’ve been donating and supporting the show long-term get a little return on their generosity, especially since we were “off the air” for nearly a year, and they continued to donate anyway… their support and funding during that time was the one biggest reason I was able to get the show off the ground again.

I honestly think that’s the way the future is heading… niche shows will find a way, and we’ve seen time and time again with Patreon and IndieGoGo and Kickstarter that people are willing to pay for content they place value on. So I may be late to that train, but I’m trying to get on board now!

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give to anyone presenting a podcast?

SB: Do what’s fun. If it’s fun for you, everything else gets a lot easier. Don’t do a show or show format simply because you think it’s what other people might want to hear… do the show you want to hear, and the rest should work out.

SCy-Fy: Any particular points to watch out for?

SB: Find out what your audience expects in terms of spoilers for shows and movies, and stick with it. If they know ahead of time that you may spoil something in a discussion, they’re good with that, just keep it consistent, with warnings about them.

SCy-Fy: How do you prepare for a show?

SB: Ideally, I like to have plans for either an interview with a guest, or a discussion with a handful of geek associates prepped ahead of time, so we can all be ready to go when recording starts. I make some notes if it’s going to be a discussion, or I get some background on the guest and the show/movie/webseries they’re part of, and from there, most of the discussion is free form. I don’t like the types of interviews that run from a list of canned questions… can’t stand them. I prefer an interview that’s more like an organic conversation… the guest’s answer might spark a question I hadn’t previously thought of, and sometimes those conversations become the most fun, and the most interesting for everyone.

SCy-Fy: Which resources do you use the most?

SB: Lots of websites that do entertainment media news. Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Marvel, io9, The Mary Sue, Comic Book Resources, and being on the mailing lists for a handful of independent film festivals for scifi, horror and mainstream. You never know where that next cool interview guest will come from.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

SB: If doing the show, talking to my listeners, and interviewing people about shows and movies I’d like to know more about ever stops being fun, then I’m doing something wrong. So far, even through the toughest of times, it’s still fun for me.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

SB: “Wash Dies”. Both the “incident” and the “punishment” were hilarious in the end, but a lot of listeners were livid pissed when it actually happened. Anything else that’s happened in the nearly 10 years since then doesn’t come anywhere close, or has been nearly as funny.

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented?

SB: One of the most popular recent shows was with the geek rock band Sci-Fried last August, promoting their newest album and the Orlando NerdFest music festival. They’ve been one of my favorite geek rock bands for several years now (they did an awesome “Babylon 5″ parody of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, which is how I learned about them). That conversation actually led to me asking if they’d do the new Slice of SciFi theme music for the show’s resurrection a few months ago. They did an amazing job.

Other fan favorite interviews (ones folks listen to over and over again) are Austin Basis from “Beauty and the Beast”, Kris Holden-Ried from “Lost Girl”, and the roundtable discussions with the cast & creator of Syfy Channel’s “Eureka”.

SCy-Fy: Your personal favourite?

SB: My personal favorite interview is a tie between an interview with John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) and his sister Carole, about their series of YA fantasy novels, and an interview with Casper Van Dien from Phoenix Comicon 2012… the anecdote about how his mom found his ass on the Internet is priceless.

SCy-Fy: I’ll have to track that one down. To finish up, which TV shows are you most looking forward to watching?

SB: I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for news on whether “Constantine” is going to be picked up for a second season, be it on NBC or Syfy — that ending of the season finale… WOW! This show is too good not to keep going… otherwise NBC will have its very own “Firefly”! I’m also completely frustrated at not being able to land an interview with anyone from the show while it was on the air… not being able to geek with them about that show will haunt me!

SCy-Fy: Thanks, Summer, and best wishes for the future!

Interview with Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld, Forever, Upgraded)


My guest today is Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld, Forever, and Upgraded, and a three-time Hugo Award Nominee for Best Editor (short form). 

SCy-Fy: Thanks for stopping by, Neil. You are best known for Clarkesworld, but you also have a new initiative.

NC: This month, I’ve launched Forever, a reprint science fiction magazine that will feature a novella and two short stories in each issue. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while, but it only recently became practical. I’ve enjoyed the few opportunities I’ve had to work on novella-length projects, so this will give me an outlet to focus on that and stretch my editorial wings a little.

As for Clarkesworld, we’re moving towards a series of different goals like adding more fiction, translations, improving and expanding the podcast, and raising our staff pay rates. The big goal is to be able to quit my day job and focus on editing. The future of Clarkesworld is actually the theme of my February editorial.

SCy-Fy: Staying with Clarkesworld now, tell me about a typical day working on the magazine.

NC: One of the things I like about Clarkesworld is that there isn’t a typical day. Sure, we have a specific list of things that need to be done every month and a never-ending pile of stories to read, but I pace it in a way to keep it from becoming boring. Today I’ve read some slush (maybe forty stories), queried an artist, exchanged a lengthy series of emails with one of our distributors, uploaded a podcast, sent out notes via Patreon and Joyride, and answered your questions.

SCy-Fy: I’m surprised you’ve found the time!

NC: All of this is done around a full-time job and time with my family. It’s a bit of a juggle, but it works. If you’re curious about what goes on behind-the-scenes, my December 2013 editorial covers a lot of territory.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF magazines?

NC: The major challenges will continue to be financial. There are a lot of great magazines being published at the moment, but most of them are not able to pay their staff a living, or even a somewhat reasonable wage. Things have improved considerably during the eight years I’ve been working on Clarkesworld, but the ecosystem is still unhealthy in that regard.

In this context, some people are concerned about the growing number of markets. Are there enough readers to sustain all these magazines? I like to think so – based on online readership data – but will they pay for it? Only time will tell. At present, the vast majority don’t. If we could convert ten percent of our readers to subscribers/supporters, this would become my full-time job. No one has managed to do that yet.

SCy-Fy: Any technical issues?

NC: One of the things that bothers me is that so many of the major digital subscription systems rely on PDFs, which don’t make for convenient reading across platforms. The text in app-based subscriptions should reflow like it does in ebooks so you get a great experience across phones and tablets. I know this is a deterrent for some readers. There’s an opportunity there for some clever app developer. [call me]

SCy-Fy: Tips for writers?

NC: The first instinct is to say “follow the guidelines,” but deep down, most people know they should. Instead, I’ll suggest:

Don’t self reject unless you’re considering sending me a zombie story.

Write what you want, not what you think a market wants (unless they overlap).

Don’t assume you need to start at the bottom. Submit to your dream market first.

Most stories can be improved by cutting them by 10%. Give it a try sometime.

Make sure your story starts on page one, not page three.

Consider volunteering to be a slush reader. It’s a great way to build confidence and discover the common mistakes most writers make.

SCy-Fy: Pitfalls in SFF zining?

NC: The big mistake most people make is underestimating the workload and overestimating their potential for success. Part of your homework before launching a magazine is to talk to people who are already doing it. Learn from their mistakes. Most of us are willing to share because someone did that for us when we started. I’ve probably consulted on at least a hundred by now. Many have run for the hills when they’ve finally done the math. There’s a reason one of my first questions is “How much can you afford to lose?”

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

NC: It’s a job you have to love to survive. I enjoy finding the gem in the slush pile and getting to share it with people. I’ve been lucky enough to have good friends alongside me at Clarkesworld and a family that has been more than supportive of my crazy little dream. All things said though, it pays to be a little stubborn. It helps you deal with those people who want to take you down by saying things like “You’re killing science fiction” or “It’ll be dead within the year.”

Since this question lends itself so well, I have to give a quick thank you to all our readers. They’ve been fantastic, particularly a couple of years ago when I had my heart attack. I’ll always remember that.

SCy-Fy: Which has been the most controversial story you have published?

NC: That’s easy. “Spar” by Kij Johnson is, by far, our most controversial story. It’s a powerful and nasty short that unspools in your head and becomes bigger than it really is. Nothing we’ve published has elicited such polarizing comments from readers. That said, it was a Nebula Award winner and a nominee for the Hugo, Sturgeon, and Locus Awards.

SCy-Fy: The most popular?

NC: Our most widely read story is “The Things” by Peter Watts. It went viral when we first published it and continues to attract new readers today. For many people, it was their introduction to Clarkesworld.

SCy-Fy: Your personal favourites among what you have published so far?

NC: That’s a book project further down the line. Until then, I’ll favor the babies and say the most recent issue and the upcoming (within a month) Clarkesworld: Year Seven anthology. I’m quite pleased with how the first issue of Forever came together as well.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?

NC: Two of the books I’m looking forward to had their start as Clarkesworld stories:

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente started as “The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew”.

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor started as “The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book)”.

I am also eagerly awaiting The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu and The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

NC: Just a thank you for having me here. I’d be happy to answer any follow-up questions you or your readers might have.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Neil. And good luck with everything.

Interview with Rob Bedford (SFFWorld, Tor.com, SF Signal)


This afternoon I’ll be lumbering around looking for rare sunlight together with the original Blogosaurus, Rob Bedford. Rob’s been at the blogging gig since dinosaurs roamed the earth (one of his many college nicknames was actually Dinosaur Bedford in a reference to The Tick). He’s been participating in the online genre community/fandom since joining SFFWorld in 2000 where he’s been moderating discussion forums, reviewing books, and interviewing authors. His geek-inspired writings have since also appeared at Tor.com and SF Signal.

SCy-Fy: Rob, you write for many different sites.

RB: Yes. I don’t blog so much for my personal blog on a daily basis but rather much of what I write, in terms of reviews, blog posts, columns, etc., appears elsewhere. My reviews have been appearing at SFFWorld for well over a decade, I write The Completist and curate Mind Melds for SF Signal, and do occasional book reviews and other assorted articles for Tor.com. So while the things I write don’t always appear at the same place, a review or piece I’ve written appears about once per week at one of those various aforementioned web locales.

SCy-Fy: Where do you find the time?

RB: I steal time at work to write those book reviews and other pieces and usually polish them off and post them at home. For SFFWorld, the other reviewers and I (Mark Yon, Mark Chitty, Luke Brown, Nila White) review each other’s reviews before we go live with anything.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

RB: To continue reading and sharing my thoughts on what I read with other people in a broad sense. Also, to finish the third round of edits on one of my novels, reassess another novel-in-progress, start another one plus some other things.

I’ve got a re-read series coming up at Tor.com that I just finished writing. The only thing pending on that is the timing since we (my editor[s] at Tor.com and I) want to make sure the re-read hits at a time appropriate to the author’s next book being published.

SCy-Fy: Tell me more.

RB: That re-read write-up covers a series I re-read last year (Tad Williams’s marvellous Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, probably my favourite Epic Fantasy series). For the past few years, I’ve found myself unofficially re-reading or re-reading and catching up to finish the series. That is, for series where I’ve only read one book or not finished reading the series like Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet or David Anthony Durham’s Acacia Trilogy.

Before review copies helped to build Mount ToBeRead (© Fred Kiesche), into the beast it is now, providing me with an ample supply of books and focus on the newer releases, I read through the first four books of Kate Elliott’s enchanting Crown of Stars series. Those books had a great feel to them, were a world-building marvel, and were populated with interesting characters. As newer books in the series published, the aforementioned review copies took precedence over non-review reading. So, at some point later in the year (I’m thinking Spring/Summer), I’m going to re-read the first four (it has been over a decade since I read the fourth book, Child of Flame) and finish off the series. How I document this (a series of blog posts, with a partner-in-crime, at one of the places where my reviews appears, etc.) is still undetermined. But interacting with Kate Elliott and following her on Twitter has me very excited to jump back into these books.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?

RB: Trying to predict the future is a game best left for the Science Fiction writers. I will say, however, that the past might be a good indicator that it isn’t easy to determine where this blogging thing is going in the future. When I launched my blog in 2004, it was a time when blogging for oneself was the way to go. Not to say that people still don’t have their own personal blogs that have become institutions in the genre blogging community (Bookworm Blues, A Dribble of Ink, MyBookishWays and The Wertzone to name a few), but content aggregators like Tor.com, SF Signal, and io9 have become what the genre readers seem to gravitate towards.

SCy-Fy: Any tips for bloggers and reviewers?

RB: Carve out your identity, separate what you do from others without alienating those other folks. For all things, however, follow Wheaton’s law: Don’t be a dick.

SCy-Fy: Traps in SFF blogging?

RB: Not including the giant stone ball tripped when you swap the idol with the bag of sand you thought was weighted perfectly but actually wasn’t? I don’t know, aside from flat out copying content from other blogs/sources and passing it off as your own. I’ve seen on more than one occasion jerks try to do this by stealing my stuff or, for example, stealing content from SF Signal and trying to pass it off as original. In most cases, those thieves will cease and desist, but other web sites have ceased the copying but continued on their own path and pretended like the past didn’t happen.

SCy-Fy: What have been your most popular posts?

RB: Neil Gaiman linked to one of my blog posts once, the guest post from Brian McClellan seems to have the most page views, and people seem to like my regular Books in the Mail posts. My latest Completist column for SF Signal, featuring another all-time favourite series, The Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover, seems to be getting some good traction and people acknowledging how underappreciated, brilliant, ahead-of-its-time the series is (especially the first book Heroes Die). I think my Tor.com reviews, by and large, generate decent response, too. I was particularly happy with my re-read of the brilliant comic series Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

RB: I wrote a post on my blog late last year that highlights the 2015 books I’m most anticipating, but I’ve either already received a few or those or read a couple. So, from that list, I’d say Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb. Off that list, I’d say Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades (sequel to the marvellous City of Stairs), Robert R. McCammon’s return to epic horror with The Border and The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and the launch of The Cinder Spires, a Steampunk series from Jim Butcher. Of the books on my personal Mount ToBeRead I already own that keep shouting at me to read them: The Red by Linda Nagata, The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

SCy-Fy: Thanks, Rob. I’m feeling sluggish now that it’s getting dark. We’d better go and find a sun lamp.

RB: Thanks very much for inviting me to participate!

Interview with Dave Robison (Roundtable Podcast)


My guest today is Dave Robison, founder and host of the Roundtable Podcast.

SCy-Fy: How do you prepare for a show, Dave?

DR: Each episode of the RTP starts with a “creageous” (creative and courageous) Guest Writer submitting a request to be on the show. Part of the Guest Query form includes a list of authors/editors the Guest Writer would like to Guest Host their episode. I like to think of the RTP as the “Make a Wish Foundation for Writers”, and I reach out to most of the potential hosts our writers request. Stephen King and Neil Gaiman haven’t answered my emails – yet – but I continue to hold out hope.

SCy-Fy: Just on that – any tips for getting high-profile guest hosts on a show?

DR: For the most part, I’ve found the ones that want to be contacted will have a “Contact Me” link on their website. If they don’t, the chances of getting them on your show drop significantly.

Be polite and respectful of their time. Accept the possibility that they may decline and end your invitation emails with “regardless of your decision, I appreciate your consideration and wish you great success in the coming year” – and mean it!.

Don’t just copy and paste your invitation emails… articulate your specific need and how the person you’re inviting is uniquely qualified to fulfill it. This serves to indicate you’re interested in them, not someone like them, and that’s much more appealing.

SCy-Fy: So in the end, the guest hosts stop playing hard-to-get…

DR: Eventually, we’ll find a good match with a willing Guest Host and we schedule a recording date and time. I always schedule a dress rehearsal with the Guest Writer to practice their story pitch prior to the recording. This provides the Guest Writer with an opportunity to try out their pitch – which helps reduce the recording jitters a little – plus I can help tweak or refine their presentation.

We only give our Guest Writers eight minutes to pitch their idea, and I know from experience that that’s not a lot of time. It can be tricky to figure out what to focus on and what’s extraneous to the actual brainstorming. It’s not just about getting all the information out there… it has to be comprehensible to the rest of the brainstorming team. Most of them are hearing it for the first time, so deluging them with a full cast list, the name of every town and mountain range, the complete pantheon of gods, and every event in the story is overwhelming. I help the Guest Writers focus their pitch on character arcs and the key events that describe it.

SCy-Fy: Meanwhile, the guest hosts are lining up at the door.

DR: Exactly… after we send the virtual stretch limo to bring them to our luxurious virtual studio.

While that’s going on, I start researching the Guest Host. In the early episodes of the podcast, I started creating elaborate introductions summarizing the events and influences in the Guest Host’s life. Now, it’s a signature event in the interview segment of the podcast. My goal is to put all the background information already covered by every other interview right up front and clear the way for some new conversational terrain.

SCy-Fy: How do you approach that?

DR: I read interviews and listen to podcasts, trying to piece together the childhood, education, and professional arc of the Guest Host. After a few hours on the internet, I usually have 4 or 5 pages of excerpts that comprise the big moments in their life. Then it takes another 3 hours or so to decide on the theme of their life story (Alethea Kontis’, for example, was a fairy tale, while Christof Laputka’s was a superhero comic), organize the events in sequence, and write out my 2-page introduction.

At that point, I’m ready.

SCy-Fy: Very comprehensive. What are your future initiatives?

DR: The answer to that could fill an entire blog. I’ll try to keep it brief.

I have several projects in the works, plus a few personal pursuits that have caught my imagination. Rather than develop them separately, I recently founded a new company titled Wonderthing Studios. It will be launching in March 2015 and it will be the “parent” organization for all my endeavours.

The Roundtable Podcast will be produced under Wonderthing and I’ll be doubling the production cycle, putting the extra episodes under a Patreon feed. In addition, I’ll be offering my story development and brainstorming services on a contractual basis.

My vocal work will also be made available through the studio and will include story and book narration as well as the development of audio promos for books and organizations. I hope to ultimately expand this into a promotional platform where those promos are then easily distributed to relevant podcasts and broadcasters world-wide.

Other projects under the Wonderthing banner will include Vex Mosaic, a monthly e-magazine featuring essays from authors, screenwriters, musicians, and artists that explore how geek culture reflects and influences the wider world, and The Shattered Worlds, a collaborative shared-world storyverse where everyone is invited to explore and add to the world, creating characters and stories to expand the canon of tales by which the universe is defined.

All of these projects will have podcasts, YouTube channels, e-books, and other media events to expand and explore their many facets.

I’m going to be very busy.

SCy-Fy: Sounds like it! What do you think will be the major future challenges for podcasts generally?

DR: I think the technologies of podcasting – and the audience’s acceptance and adoption of those technologies – will continue to progress. Creating and distributing podcasts will just get easier. The challenges of the future will, I think, be the same challenges of the present: acquiring/expanding a listenership, monetization, and making the time.

SCy-Fy: Making the time is an issue for everyone, I guess, so let’s take the other two points you mentioned – building an audience and money.

DR: Building an audience in podcasting isn’t really about marketing, in my opinion. There are hundreds of ways to get people to learn about your podcast… the real challenge is getting them to tune in, and then getting them to tune in again. How THAT happens is the subject for an entire blog post, but a clearly articulated idea, good production quality and high “value” to your content are all contributing factors. I think the strongest asset for any podcaster is to respect the audience and their time. If you’re Neil Gaiman, you can ramble on about shopping for milk and people will find it charming. If you’re not Neil Gaiman, shut up and get on with it.

SCy-Fy: And the money aspect?

DR: Once you have a consistent 500+ downloads per episode, I think you can assume you have “an audience”. Once that happens, there are three basic mechanisms for making money with a podcast: donations, subscriptions, and advertising. The challenge is that all of them require a larger investment of time and effort to pull off and, sadly, none of them will generate enough revenue to allow anyone to quit their day job.

SCy-Fy: Can you see that situation changing in future?

DR: Someday, someone will replicate the television model and create a “podcast network” where listeners are provided easy and convenient access to a wide range of quality in-demand podcast content. Such a network would command hundreds of thousands of click-throughs and that kind of traffic can attract large advertisers, which in turn could be used to support both the network and its constituent creators. It will never be as big as television, but I can see it being as big as radio.

SCy-Fy: Do you have a philosophy of podcasting?

DR: I’m wary of anyone who says, “I want to be a podcaster”. Podcasting isn’t an end, it’s a means to an end. If, on the other hand, you say, “I absolutely LOVE cooking and want to do a podcast about it,” I’ll totally tune in. I think audiences turn to podcasts to experience and share a compressed burst of passion and excitement, a sharp, targeted slice of some aspect of life. Comic books, a favourite TV show, gaming, sports, movies… every successful podcast is built on the foundation of a shared passion. It might be shared by only a few dozen people, but I consider a committed audience of a few dozen to be a greater success than hundreds of listeners who only tune in once.

SCy-Fy: Advice to anyone wanting to present a podcast?

DR: My best advice is to be very clear about your intent. If you’re just playing around, trying out something new and maybe finding a few kindred spirits out there in the podosphere, that’s fabulous. The beauty of podcasting is that there are no gatekeepers and the cost of entry is very small.

On the other hand, if you have something important to say – and “important to YOU” is the only relevant criteria – and you want to be heard, then respect yourself, your message, and your audience. Listen to successful podcasts both in and out of your subject area, figure out what makes them work and if/how you can employ the same tactic, and implement those aspects into your own podcast.

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for?

DR: Time zones. Holy crap… time zones. The internet is a global thing and you may have guests in different time zones. When you schedule anything, make sure you always include the time zone you’re referring to (i.e. 7pm Central Time). If you’re working with someone many time zones away, do them the courtesy of working out the time zone math ahead of time (“We’ll connect on Skype at 7pm Central time… that’s 2pm your time”). If you’re not sure what the time difference is, look at your clock, then go to Google and enter “What time is it in [guest’s town or country]”. Do the math, remember it, use it.

Also, don’t expect your guests to have ever heard your podcast before, so prepare your guests for what to expect. If you’re going to interview them, work up your questions in advance and send them to your guest a few days ahead of time. I guarantee you’ll get a much better response. If you have different segments on your show, explain them to your guest, clearly articulating the objective of each segment. The fabulous “Functional Nerds” podcast always has a segment called “Picks of the Week” where every guest picks a cool thing they discovered or are enjoying. You can bet the hosts (John Anealio and Patrick Hester) notify their guests in advance so they aren’t caught fumbling for something to share.

Finally, use your own sense of pacing and style. If you feel like you’re rambling during the podcast, then you can assume your listeners came to that conclusion way before you did. If you catch yourself fumbling over a section (introducing and ending your episodes are the most common), then practice it off-mic. Script it out, make it clean and sharp and – most importantly – consistent. Creating catch phrases or questions allows regular listeners to recognize and engage with the structure of your presentation. This is a kind of reward for their loyalty, an inside secret shared only with the faithful.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

DR: There are three things I can rely on to sustain me through whatever mayhem is messing with my mojo: my love of the creative process, the loyalty of our listeners, and the effort of my guests and co-hosts.

There have been many times when I hit the record button convinced an episode was going to suck. I’m always wrong. As soon as we start engaging with each other, there is an excitement that builds almost immediately. Everyone in the conversation is invested in the writing process and we’re all eager to share our discoveries or explore our unique perspectives. It’s an adventure every time and you can’t help but be infused with excitement when you’re doing something you love.

Feedback from our listeners is a huge inspiration to carry on and do my best. When it’s midnight and I’m still mixing the episode for the next day, there’s a strong desire to just pack it in. But if I do that, I know I’ll be breaking a promise. Our listeners look forward to our shows and the last thing I want to do is disappoint them. They invest their time and support into the show and I will do everything I can to make sure it’s worthy of that investment.

And I’m not the only one who “works” on an episode. The Guest Hosts and Guest Writers invest their time and energy and the co-hosts do the same. We all created something unique during the recording, something that couldn’t exist without each of us committing ourselves to that span of time. If that doesn’t happen, that spark of creative energy dies, lost in the hard drive of oblivion. I will always do my best to honour the commitment made by my guests and co-hosts, even if it means I lose a few hours’ sleep.

The other thing that gets me through those hard times is the absolute conviction that they will never happen again. If I’m staying up late mixing episodes, then I will adjust my schedule to get it done sooner. If an interview is going poorly, I’ll figure out why and make sure the next one will be better. “Bad” things are temporary and also opportunities to learn and improve. They are a test of your resolve and your commitment to your message and your podcast. I love what I do and it’s important to me, so – short of a global apocalypse – I’ll find a way to make it work.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

DR: Not really. There have been rare occasions when a listener took exception to the way we addressed some cultural aspect of a story but, more often than not, the listener’s comments illustrated a blind spot in my own perceptions. The current initiatives towards gender, cultural, and sexual diversity have exposed a few deep-seated behavioural patterns and assumptions I wasn’t aware of. Those comments helped me realize those assumptions and try to address them.

Other than that… hey, it’s a podcast about writing. There are a hundred cults, sects and religions regarding the best/correct/proper way to do anything in the writer’s craft. There are always disagreements, but usually they are directed as fuel for the discovery engine and not a point of contention.

Besides, we always make sure everyone knows that everything we say may be complete bullshit. The actual writing of the story is always in the hands of the writer and they have the final say on what to keep and what to set aside.

SCy-Fy: What have been the most popular shows you’ve presented so far?

DR: Our recent interview with K.C. Wayland, creator and producer of the “We’re Alive” audio drama, was the most downloaded episode in Roundtable history. In terms of total downloads over time, our interviews with Seth Harwood and Christopher Moore and our Roundtable Discussion about Transmedia Storytelling have all been big hits.

SCy-Fy: Can you name a personal favourite episode?

DR: … I can’t. Really. I learn something new every time I connect with a Guest Writer or Guest Host. Each new perspective is like opening a door in a treasure vault. Remember that scene in “National Treasure” – spoilers, by the way – where Nick Cage lights the gunpowder torches and reveals the vast hoard of gold and relics? That’s how I feel during every episode of this show. You can’t make me choose between the Hope Diamond and the Crown Jewels.

If I had to choose, I’d use a response I’ve heard from several authors we’ve had on the show… my favorite episode is the next one I record.

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books, films and TV shows are you most looking forward to reading or watching?

DR: I have become a huge Kameron Hurley fan. I’m enjoying Mirror Empire immensely and I’m looking forward to the next installment of that series.

Michael R. Underwood is launching an intriguing project with Tor.com called “Genrenauts” which sounds utterly intriguing. I love how Mike sees and articulates contemporary culture and this project is a perfect vehicle for him to wax rhapsodic on the topic.

I’m a nerd, so all the Marvel and DC movies look awesome, but I’m especially looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie. Actually, I’m looking forward to how the movie will be received by the genre fiction/geek communities. I can only assume the screenwriters on that project feel like every knife, sword, gun, cannon, and particle accelerator in the universe is pointing at them, daring them to screw it up. I hope it’s fabulous.

I’m also intrigued by Hollywood’s recent fixation on Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity. “Chappie” looks like an intriguing tale, as do “Ex Machina”, “Colossus”, and “Vice”.

As for TV… the only thing on my radar at the moment is USA’s “Dig” and the impending release of the next season of “House of Cards”. And I really hope “Agent Carter” becomes a full on-going series… it’s been brilliant so far.

SCy-Fy: Any last words?

DR: I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some thoughts. Your questions have inspired several paths of personal and professional exploration that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. I hope my answers inspire a few in your readers as well.

One last piece of advice that has been proven to be true time and time again… you find what you’re looking for. So, if you make sure you’re looking for amazing stuff, you will find it.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Dave, and good luck with all your projects!

Interview with Tabitha Jensen (Not Yet Read)


Today’s guest is blogger Tabitha Jensen of Not Yet Read. She spends her days devouring SFF fiction books of all kinds. When she isn’t reading,  blogging or dabbling in art she can be found schmoozing it up with readers and authors on social media. Be sure to hit her up on Blog, Twitter or Instagram

SCy-Fy: Tell me about a typical blogging day, Tabitha.

TJ: I log on each day and do a quick check of my page view stats for that day; I can’t help it, I am a bit obsessive.

SCy-Fy: You’re not the only one…

TJ: Then I go to the blog post that posted at midnight that day and read the comments and sometimes reply right then or I go and visit the blogs that were kind enough to comment so I can check out what they’ve been up to. I also visit random blogs from my feed reader, Twitter feed and my favorites that I leave open on my browser all the time.

I also take the time then to answer blog emails or book review requests from publishers or authors.

If I don’t already have the next day’s blog post written, formatted and scheduled then I try to get a jump on that as quickly as possible but sometimes the commenting and blog post prep doesn’t happen till late in the evening. When I do get around to writing and formatting posts I try to stay several days to a week ahead.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?

TJ: Future initiatives? Hmm, really I am just all about enjoying blogging and connecting with other like-minded readers. It would be great to grow my follower base, but other than that I am pretty happy with where my blog is at. I have met some great people and authors and would just like to continue on as I have. I hopefully want to read and review more science fiction because I have noticed I do lean heavily towards fantasy.

SCy-Fy: What about plans regarding the visual look of the site?

TJ: I would like to get better at Photoshop so I can redesign my blog with some new graphics. I drew the current graphics but had them digitally colored by someone else and I’d like to update the look and feel to something still fun and whimsical but a bit more serious. We’ll see.

I would like to include more of my art and doodles around the blog. Perhaps a doodle in each post/review but that would require a lot of time and effort that I don’t always have time for. Instead, I just have one art post a week on Thursdays for my Art It Up feature.

SCy-Fy: What do you think is the major challenge in SFF blogging?

TJ: Personally, I have found that adult SFF bloggers don’t tend to stick around more than a year or so. I’ve been blogging for a handful of years now and it seems the folks that enjoy reading and blogging about SFF tire of the blogging portion after awhile and their blog just fades away. It would be nice to see more of us stick around, but I think that might always be a challenge we face.

SCy-Fy: Any tips for bloggers?

TJ: I actually wrote a post recently on interacting with the blogging community; my personal tips and tricks. I would recommend any newbie blogger take a look at that.

SCy-Fy: For reviewers?

TJ: I would say being honest and respectful. I personally think most normal non- blogger readers don’t usually read long drawn-out reviews. So finding a nice balance between short and sweet and not too drawn-out is the best for the length of a review. I just note this based on all of my local friends and from my opinion before I started blogging.

SCy-Fy: Any advice for authors?

TJ: When approaching bloggers/reviewers requesting a review, take the time to thoroughly read their blog and review policy so you don’t waste your or their time. You also have much more chance of success if you develop a connection with them before asking them to review your book. We bloggers usually get several requests a day and always have a long list of books to be read in our queue, so if you don’t stand out in some way then your email will most likely not be responded to.

SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?

TJ: I don’t really have a secret list of resources. I use Edelweiss catalogs to find forthcoming titles I might like to review but I also look at each publisher’s website ‘coming soon’ area to find the books I’d like to request for review. I keep a spreadsheet of the books I find, ones I receive and ones I’ve read. It helps keep me organized.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

TJ: Sometimes life gets in the way of reading and blogging. I have a full time job, a husband and toddler and another baby on the way in a few weeks. If it weren’t for reading and the art I like to dabble in I would likely lose my mind. But I don’t always have the time to blog or read as much as I’d like. When things get really rough I have to take a step back from everything, steal a day for myself to just do pretty much nothing and when that isn’t possible I usually have to let a day or two on the blog slide with no posts. Sometimes it’s good just to unplug from the computer and social media for a few days to recharge.

SCy-Fy: Understandable. Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?

TJ: “ARCs – What’s acceptable to do with them? – the feedback from Publicists”;

“How Goodreads calculates Top Reviewer rankings, info from the experts”;

“When books are shelved in genres you don’t think they belong”;

“Where are women’s friendships in science fiction and fantasy?”.

SCy-Fy: Let’s finish with the bottom line, Tabitha. The best books of 2014?

TJ: Oh goodness, there were so many fabulous books I read last year. Some of my favorites were Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell (I even got to do a video interview with him! Check it out!) Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier, The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey, The Paradox Trilogy by Rachel Bach, Archetype Duology by M.D. Waters, The Waking Engine by David Edison, and I was a bit late to the game on this one, but Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. All of which I reviewed on my blog.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?

TJ: I was a guest over on SF Signal for just that topic, and I have now even read two of the five: Vision In Silver by Anne Bishop (loved), Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (loved) and the three remaining are A Darker Shade Of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Armada by Ernest Cline and Uprooted by Naomi Novik. So let’s add to that list Court of Fives by Kate Elliott and One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron!

I will definitely be reading these books and probably a good number of books on the other participants’ lists.

SCy-Fy: Any last words?

TJ: You made it this far? If you have, come check me out on my blog and let’s have a chat!

Interview with Layers of Thought


For the thirtieth interview in this series, I’m talking with Shellie who, together with John, runs Layers of Thought, an eclectic blog with an affinity for the speculative.

SCy-Fy: Just how eclectic is your blog, Shellie?

LOT: We review science fiction, historical fantasy and horror. We also read outside of SFF&H and enjoy historical fiction, mysteries, some non-fiction, and graphic novels.

Our posts are generally giveaways, reviews, excerpts, interviews and guest posts. Occasionally, we will review a food or drink-related book – we are foodies, after all! Every once in a while a post will pop up regarding our travels, especially to England, where John is from and where we travel several times per year.

SCy-Fy: All right, you’ve convinced me – very eclectic! How do you organise the work on the site?

LOT: John and I love to read but are not full-time bloggers. John works 60+ hours a week as a market analyst and I maintain the blog. I create all the posts and facilitate all the correspondence to the publicists and authors that we represent, and maintain the social media accounts for the blog. I typically spend several hours or more per weekday doing this. I keep active accounts on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, and Google+. It keeps me busy.

SCy-Fy: I’m sure it does! What are your future plans?

LOT: I hope to continue maintaining and updating the blog as long as I can, since it can be such a pleasure. We both read a lot – we do not subscribe to a TV/Cable service – and it can be a lot of fun thinking and talking about books, authors, and other blog-related happenings.

And I won’t lie, sometimes I imagine myself pushing the blog into a money-making publication, but I wonder if I would enjoy it as much – which is an important aspect of why I started Layers of Thought.

SCy-Fy: Looking forward, what do you think will be the major challenges for SFF blogging?

LOT: Pushing for and including more women, people of color, and LGBT writers within the genre.

I also predict that competition with social media could become even more tricky in the next few years. Most people are looking for quick entertainment and diversions rather than reading entire blog posts. We can see that in social media sites like Twitter and Facebook where feeds are based on short personal snippets.

SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers? For reviewers?

LOT: For aspiring bloggers and reviewers I would recommend following blogs that you hold in the highest regard and emulating them. Be persistent, patient, completely edit your reviews and posts (I still find typos in our posts and reviews), and be kind and honest. Publicists and authors like that aspect and are likely to return to you in the future if you do so.

Also, publish your reviews on a variety of social networks, especially Goodreads and Amazon. Follow up and let authors and publicists know about your post.

SCy-Fy: Do you have any useful resources to suggest?

LOT: I recommend Net Galley, Edelweiss, and Shelf Awareness as online resources for books and finding publishers that would like you to do reviews for them.

For bloggers looking to learn more and to improve their blogging skills, try the Bloggiesta! It’s a blog that periodically has activities hosted by experienced bloggers giving instructions on particular aspects of blogging. You don’t have to join in their activities but can dig around in the archives to access simple ways to improve your blog.

Also, joining blog hops helps to spread the word about giveaways and gain new readers.

I also recommend a blog writing program called Windows Live Writer. I love it and have used it for years when creating posts for Layers of Thought.

SCy-Fy: What do you think are the biggest challenges in SFF blogging?

LOT: Building an audience is probably the hardest and most frustrating aspect to blogging. Be patient with yourself. Making sure that you have quality and well-edited content can be a challenge and is very important.

And always remember that you can hire someone to do the technical aspects for your blog if needed – I have never done so but have seen some great results from bloggers that have.

SCy-Fy: Things that keep you going in hard times?

LOT: A great book is always a reviver (although those come along less and less frequently the more I read.) Also, an interesting and accessible author that does a wonderful interview or guest post can create a boost, as can a thoughtful comment from a happy reader that appreciates a review. And you can’t beat plain old persistence, determination and just doing it, regardless of what’s going on in your life.

SCy-Fy: Have any posts of yours created controversy?

LOT: As a small home-grown blog I have made a point of staying away from controversy. I think that there is often a danger of stepping over a line that once done can never be undone. I’ve seen that happen on several blogs.

SCy-Fy: There must be some little story to tell, Shellie, just between us…

LOT: Well, we did do something risqué when I first started blogging. I had created a tasteful header (I make all the blog’s headers) including a woman with glasses reading a book in the bathtub. It was a great picture and occasionally readers would think that the picture was of me. So John and I came up with the idea to do a post with a picture of him reading a book in a bathtub. It was a lot of fun. We got a lot of laughs regarding the post. But that’s as controversial as it gets for the blog.

SCy-Fy: What are your choices for the best books of 2014?

LOT: Well, first of all we generally only post reviews for books that we enjoy on the blog, so if you are really interested in the ones we like, take a visit to the blog and dig around. You can find reviews organized by genre and a five-star rating system on the right sidebar of the main posts.

Within the SFF&H genre I would say that Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, and Hook by Lisa Jensen come to mind.

Outside of the genre, The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry are two of my favorites for the year.

As for John’s latest most enjoyable read, it was a graphic novel called An Iranian Metamorphosis by Mana Neyestani.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?

LOT: One of the drawbacks of part-time blogging is not having the time to find all the up-and-coming books that will be coming out from a publisher, so I wait until a publicist contacts me with an offer. However, I do have knowledge of a science fiction book to be published by Tor by Catherynne M. Valente that will be coming out sometime in the middle of this year that I am particularly excited about. Since John reads most of the Sci Fi he may get to it first, though.

SCy-Fy: Any last words?

LOT: To your readers – please stop by and take a gander around Layers of Thought and say hello. We always personally answer all our comments.

And to you – thank you so much for having me here today. It was a pleasure.

SCy-Fy: Also for me. Good luck to both of you!