Interview with Galactic Suburbia

It’s very cold in the northern hemisphere, so I am taking a quick trip to Australia, to meet the hosts of the Hugo-nominated podcast Galactic Suburbia: Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts.  

SCy-Fy: I’m not used to all this sunlight any more! How do you prepare for a show, ladies?

Alex: We read a lot, and watch TV. Then there’s a googledoc and we try to remember what we’ve read… and we check the internet for relevant arguments and interesting essays that we want to discuss.

Alisa: We also do a quick debrief ahead of the show recording in case there’s anything topical we want to discuss.

Tansy: Sometimes the debrief can be almost as long as the show itself if we get carried away!

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

Alex: We’re really excited to have started a Patreon campaign last year; one of our really ambitious goals is to get money that will help each of us visit more Australian conventions. That will mean we can record more live podcasts, which are heaps of fun! Other than that… well, there’s a Hugo to win, and world domination….

Alisa: With the Patreon rewards we have pledged to record 4 spoilerific shows a year, which seem to be our most popular kind of show – we each consume the same cultural artefact and then discuss it in great depth, for an hour or two. And this year we will have a special New Year’s Eve party show.

Tansy: Right now I’m trying to retrain myself to read novels after nearly a year of losing the knack, and the podcast is a good incentive, because I love to recommend books. But I’m also excited about our Patreon rewards!

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

Alex: For us in particular, staying relevant and building our listenership. Not getting bored by each other – which is unlikely, but it could happen when we’re old and grumpy.

Alisa: I think the great thing about podcasts is that anyone can record one using the mic in their computer and Audacity and then upload it to the internet. I’m not sure of the challenges with that – we make our show to enable three women to discuss issues and topics relevant to us without interruption or derailment. As long as we can still publish our podcast, we can still do that.

Tansy: I think for new podcasters coming in, the main challenge is to find an audience. We’ve been going for five years now, and thanks to some of our award nominations and word-of-mouth promotion by our listeners, our audience has increased from a couple of hundred to around a thousand listeners per podcast. But it helped a lot when we started that many of our friends and colleagues were podcasting too – finding your own community, and letting people know what makes you different or worth listening too, that’s the biggest hurdle.

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

Alex: Get a good microphone. If you’re not confident about editing your stuff, find someone to do it or at least give you lessons. If you really want to engage in controversial topics, be sure of your facts.

Alisa: Have fun with it.

Tansy: Alisa will growl at me for this one, because it’s her advice and I didn’t follow it for YEARS, but you have to be prepared to listen back to your episodes if you want to grow and get better as a podcaster.

SCy-Fy: Your secret list of useful resources?

Alex: They’re not secret; we publish our list of Culture Consumed every episode! Also cake.

SCy-Fy: I’m not leaving here without some recipes…

Alisa: Other podcasts – like Writer and the Critic, Coode St Podcast. Cheryl Morgan, Charles Tan. Twitter.

Tansy: Twitter more than anything! While we love the emails we get, most of the discussion we actually share with our listeners after episodes happens there, and we often use Twitter to crowd-source discussion ideas. Our listeners are our favourite resources, because they know us well enough by now to send us exactly the right book, or link, or factoid that we’re going to be interested in.

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for?

Alex: Engaging in flamewars where you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Alisa: Not being prepared. It can lead to rambling. And I think having something you know you want to say – why are you podcasting? What are your objectives? Also swearing – the Silent Producer hates it when I do that as he has to add the explicit tag for iTunes. Also, watch out for being caught in the crossfire of other people’s battles – but that’s true for life in general.

Tansy: He doesn’t mind us swearing, he just hates it when we forget to tell him that the swearing happened! But yeah with podcasting it’s easy to behave like you’re just having a conversation and forget that what you’re saying is being recorded, and may be cited as your opinion even if you’re talking out of enthusiasm or anger instead of actual knowledge.

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

Alex: Cake.

SCy-Fy: Recipes?

Alex: Knowing that people listen to us and the tweets of joy that greet us when we come back from a break over summer. And the amazing essays written by some listeners in our Galactic Suburbia Scrapbook.

Alisa: Definitely the feedback from our listeners. Knowing that we do connect with an audience and that what we say can and does matter/make a difference.

Tansy: My favourite thing is the constant update via social media of books that get bought and read because Galactic Suburbia recommended them. There’s a marvellous operatic background howl of “I spent too much money on comics and it’s Tansy’s fault.” My second favourite thing is when Alex or Alisa actually like the same thing I do because they can both be a pretty tough crowd and our opinions are often so different!

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

Alex: Not really.

Alisa: When we were only a few episodes in, maybe our third episode, we got some hate mail of a sexist nature attacking the raison d’etre of our podcast and I remember wondering why you would bother to listen to an hour or two of a podcast that you hate? Life’s too short!

Tansy: We do occasionally upset people, either by existing, or because they disagree with us – but more often, we simply get things wrong. But something we took pains to do really early on was to call our past selves out for errors – and acknowledge feedback correcting our mistakes. We’ve done our best to be graciously wrong on the internet where it’s been appropriate, and to demonstrate that getting things wrong isn’t the end of the world – it’s how you react afterwards that’s important. Of course, we don’t always get that right either, but we’re a work in progress!

SCy-Fy: What’s the most popular show you’ve presented?

Alex: Our Saga spoilerific episode is by far our most downloaded episode. Recording live is an amazing experience, and it’s a blast to announce the annual winners of the Galactic Suburbia Award, too. And spoilerific episodes are enormously fun as well, because we get to dissect one or two pieces of culture and really get our teeth into the crunchy bits.

Alisa: Probably one of my rantier rants – usually about gender bias in awards. They are very cathartic and tend to amuse our listeners.

Tansy: Alisa saying THERE IS NO JAM is still a classic, and I’m particularly proud of our Joanna Russ episode. Our recent Galactic Suburbia scrapbook was a great opportunity to revisit some of our greatest hits, though it was humbling to look at actual transcripts of our favourite episodes and to realise things like – wow, finishing sentences is something that we are not very consistent about!

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

Alex: Orphan Black season 3 and Haven season 5. The new James SA Corey (dubious about the TV show), and whatever Alastair Reynolds does next. The third in Greg Egan’s Orthogonal series, and the Hannu Rajaniemi collection.

Alisa: Kate Elliott’s short story collection. Haven Season 5. Orphan Black Season 3. Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld. Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti.

Tansy: I have to watch Haven this year, because I’ve been told (by guess who and guess who) that I have to, and I am still yet to watch more than one episode of Orphan Black which means that I haven’t yet been able to listen to Alex and Alisa’s Spoilerific. I have a shortlist right now of books I wish I’d read last year including Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, and Ben Peek’s The Godless. This year I’m super excited for The Avengers II and the new Daredevil and Jessica Jones TV series, and I’m terrified about the upcoming Marvel Comics reboot.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

Tansy: Being a podcaster is great. Everyone should try it!

SCy-Fy: Thanks, team.  

Please join me next time, when I’ll be back in the cold northern hemisphere.

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