Interview with Jim Freund (Hour of the Wolf)


It’s 3am and I’m running with the pack led by Jim Freund, host of the long-running live radio program, Hour of the Wolf.

SCy-Fy: Jim, you started out a very long time ago.

JF: I have been involved in producing radio programs of and about literary sf/f since 1967, when I began working at New York City’s WBAI at age 13 as an intern for Baird Searles.

SCy-Fy: And still going strong!

JF: Hour of the Wolf continues to be broadcast weekly, and is streamed live on the web. Archives of past shows are available “on-demand” for about 6 weeks after broadcast.

SCy-Fy: Your activities go much wider than that, though.

JF: Over the years, I have produced myriad radio dramas, and long ago lost track of how many interviews and readings I have done or presented.

My work has been twice nominated for, and once been a winner of, the Major Armstrong Award for Excellence in Radio Production.

I have dabbled – occasionally with great success – in producing for the New York stage.

I am Executive Producer and Curator of The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings.

I am also the podcast host for Lightspeed Magazine which won the Hugo this past year for Best Semi-Prozine.

SCy-Fy: Wow! That’s why you’re leading this pack! What’s next?

JF: I’m looking to find a way to share the videos of the NYRSF Reading series.

I also hope to take Hour of the Wolf into the podcast world, but to do that I’ll be giving up the immediacy of live interviews and listener calls reacting to what they’ve heard. One of the great advantages of radio is the ability to take listener calls based on what’s been heard, thereby creating a community. It’s quite a trick to pull this off with podcasts, but I think that day will come. For now, a podcast version of the show will be like a variety show, with different people known to the sf/f and geek worlds reviewing different aspects, including technology.

SCy-Fy: Can you expand a bit on what you see as the contrasts between radio and podcasts?

JF: Podcasting would work better than it already does if the tech skills can be made to emulate broadcasting. As podcasters, we are narrowcasting, if you will – reaching out to those already interested in our subjects or cult of personality. Podcasts are ‘pull’ media. They require that you ask for it in order to receive it.

Radio is ‘push’ media. People find it because you’re putting it out there and they happen to tune in. This to me, is not (merely) about numbers — it’s about catching folk who aren’t already a part of the fold and perhaps intriguing them. When I’m on the radio I’m hoping to catch the ear of a cabbie or whomever who’s never heard of science fiction as being anything beyond movies or TV.

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

JF: I make sure I’m familiar with a writer’s work, and more often than not I’m friends or at least personally acquainted with my guest. I act more as a host than an interviewer and tend to conduct chats rather than deep questions. If the guest has a good time talking, the audience should have a good time listening. So my preparation is simply making sure the guest is at ease with being on live radio, and probably with reading their work on the air; which not everyone is comfortable with.

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

JF: Sound is important — relax, be yourself, but still annunciate.

Know your guests to the point that you have a rapport with them. If they’re having fun talking with you, the listeners will enjoy the podcast that much more.

Use decent equipment. I am a fan of Zoom microphones. The H2N has a surround conference mode, a podcast mode that can extend the left-to-right range, and an XY mode that will record a field. There are also higher-end models.

Listen well to your guests. Be friendly — this is not an antagonistic debate. And don’t let everybody talk at once.

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

JF: Invite a friend to talk with. Chat is perfectly good. You don’t have to be right.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

JF: Not that much. On-air profanity, but warn listeners of adult content.

SCy-Fy: The most popular shows you’ve presented or personal favourites?

JF: My interviews with Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, and my production of Tolkien’s “The Council of Elrond” (with his permission.)

SCy-Fy: That sounds fascinating! Which forthcoming books and films are you most looking forward to?

JF: Avengers 2, small indie films that do their sf well, emerging translations of sf/f from China and other cultures.

SCy-Fy: Anything further to add?

JF:  Audio is having a wonderful renaissance. Keep listening.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Jim. It’s been great to be able to interview you.

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