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, 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!

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