Interview with Jesse Willis (SFFaudio)


Today Ill be talking to Jesse Willis from SFFaudio.

SCy-Fy: Tell me a bit about the focus of SFFaudio, Jesse.

JW: Unlike most folks I see podcasting, SFFaudio looks mostly backward. The median age of the books we talk about is probably in the 1910s or 1920s. We do modern books, but not as often. I’m only excited by a few modern writers; when they put out new books I become interested in those.

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

JW: We basically do two main kinds of shows.

One requires no special prep and is generally more relaxed. Our new releases/recent arrival show requires we just make a list of items to talk about. For this the hardest part is to ensure that everyone knows when the starting time is, in which time zone that time is, and that everyone has a decent sounding microphone. In this kind of show we talk about the latest audiobooks, audio dramas, books, and comics that have arrived for review or that have caught our interest.

SCy-Fy: And the second type?

JW: The second type of show we call a “readalong” (sometimes accompanied by the audiobook in question). This requires a lot of prep, at least for me. I spend at least a solid week preparing on this kind of show. First there is the reading of the book, or if it is short, re-reading it with my students. Then I acquire and watch or read any and all adaptations. I intersperse this with reading criticism about a work and always reading any and all introductions to the story or novel by the author (or other writers) that I can lay my hands on.

SCy-Fy: Very thorough! Which resources do you use for this?

JW: Typically, the process begins with many visits to various related Wikipedia entries, HathiTrust.org for finding texts, and our own PDF page which features more than 1,000 stories, novels, poems, plays, comics, and essays in the US Public Domain. ISFDB.org, by the way, is an invaluable resource for finding the original publication information – it often includes details on illustrated versions of a story or novel. Yahoo!Groups is surprisingly still relevant, and I also use Archive.org, Wikisource.org, and LibriVox.org.

SCy-Fy: How do you select which books to discuss?

JW: Generally, I won’t even consider a book or story for a show without knowing it will be good and meaty enough to talk about. Many, if not most, of our “readalong” shows have their genesis in an earlier show, or comments by listeners. And, even long after a show goes up (one every Monday) the post associated can often be updated with illustrations any time in the future. Whichever story or book we do, I intend that the discussion be as complete as possible.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

JW: We post a public schedule of future shows, but other than that there’s really nothing particular on the horizon. I can, however, say that I’m very happy with the PDF page I’ve put together over the last few years. It now includes more than 1,200 US Public Domain PDFs, all suitable for turning into comics, movies, TV shows, audio dramas, and audiobooks. I’ll keep adding to that page, and the podcast will continue as a weekly show into the foreseeable future.

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

JW: Basically the same ones we’ve faced for a while now, iTunes and net neutrality. Mostly we’re good for the latter at the moment, but the former seems ripe for fixing – how it can be fixed I have no answer.

SCy-Fy: Any advice for podcasters?

JW: My main advice to podcasters would be to remember that your 1 hour of content will be multiplied by the number of people listening to your show. If you have 1,000 downloads of a 1 hour episode, any 2 minutes of dross in that show is actually 2,000 minutes of people’s lives wasted. But, to fix this I’d say more preparation is better than more editing.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

JW: I was going to say no, but then I thought a bit and recalled something. There was an episode about Nancy Kress’ novel Beggars In Spain. That book is evil. My fellow podcasters wanted to talk about its merits, but I was insistent that it doesn’t have any. That show was not put out.

SCy-Fy: Thats a shame: it probably would have been very popular, in a stand-around-and-watch-the-street-fight sort of way. Actually, what has been the most popular show youve presented so far?

JW: We keep a publicly viewable spreadsheet for downloaded episodes (this only includes the 9 most popular in any given month).

SCy-Fy: Do you have a personal favourite out of all the shows youve presented?

JW: I, personally, have many favourite episodes. I love our readalong shows, and there have been dozens of them that I am very, very happy with. If you’re looking for a good place to start, look for a show of ours about a book you’ve read – you’ll find we’re pretty good about being interested in them.

SCy-Fy: Thank you for stopping by, Jesse.

Please join me next time for another insight into the worlds of science fiction and fantasy podcasts, blogs and magazines.

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