Interview with Brent Bowen (Adventures in Scifi Publishing)

My guest today is Brent Bowen. Brent is the Executive Producer of the Hugo-nominated (by his own admission – somewhat dubiously) Adventures in Scifi Publishing podcast. Adventures in Scifi Publishing (or AISFP as many like to call it) has been podcasting about science fiction and fantasy literature since 2006. A team of dedicated volunteers donate their time to bring listeners and readers interviews with authors, editors, agents, publishers as well as reviews and coverage of speculative media. 

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

BB: Craft beer and tea. Not necessarily in that order. For our discussion segments, Kristi Charish and I agree on topics in advance – generally over a beer: They can range from issues facing speculative fiction (Hugo Awards controversy) to personal interests (gaming).

We’ll lurk on Twitter and blogs for several days to research what’s being said, particularly if we’re not well-versed on a given subject. I have a journalism background so I’m quite practised at trying to cover things where I don’t have any knowledge.

SCy-Fy: I understand that very well…

BB: As for the interviews, I won’t speak to a guest unless I’ve tried his or her work. I want to have a respectful conversation with the guest, and I don’t think you can do that without having read, seen or heard a person’s work. We try to approach the conversation as a fan would. The prep allows us to provide some starter questions in advance, but we often deviate from those pretty quickly based on the guest’s response. The desire is for a conversation, not a simple back and forth.

SCy-Fy: What are your future plans?

BB:  We’re looking to get three new projects off the ground, all in varying stages of development: 1.) Gamer segments; 2.) a Suds and Science segment; and 3.) MG/YA Book Club.

Video games have become so evolved as a form of storytelling that it would be shortsighted to not include it as a publishing format.

In the Suds and Science series – where we drink craft beer (one of our favorite scientific processes) or another favorite beverage with a scientist and talk about potential applications of the science and what it will mean for us – we, as creators, draw so much inspiration from exploration and innovation we couldn’t resist sitting down to see what separates us from the apes.

Finally, with the Middle Grade/Young Adult Book Club, I’ve attended too many conventions where all the talk has been where are the young fans. I, personally, want to get them involved directly.

SCy-Fy: Those all sound very good. What do you think will be the major challenges for podcasts in future?

BB: For speculative media, saturation. If you consider our Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards shows, there is quite a bit of conversation about a narrowing core SFF audience. Yet, there are more podcasts now than ever. When we started in 2006, there were only a handful. A lot of shows are diversifying a bit to extend reach in audience and differentiate themselves. While others or some new shows are moving more niche. A new grimdark show I’m excited to see launched by Rob Matheny is a great example – they plan on covering the subject in-depth.

SCy-Fy: Challenges for AISFP in particular?

BB: We’re no different in that we need to evolve. We’re largely known for our interviews and publishing news — and that will remain a core of the show – but how do we create other compelling reasons to listen that separate us from the crowd?

The other challenge, that I can’t shortchange, will be ensuring everyone on our team stays committed to our mission while managing the next four-plus months and navigating this Hugo mess.

We view the show as a journalistic endeavor with the mission of exploration. Exploration can be an ugly business. Our goal is to address the issues facing the community, but not by telling people what to think, yet what to think about.

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

BB: If it’s just you, think about joining an existing team first. Life can get in the way, so if it’s just you, building and keeping your audience can be a challenge. If you can assemble a team, by all means have a go at it. Find your topic and make sure it has a shelf-life. I see people trying to build a show around a short-lived or seasonal theme, say a convention, and just wonder how they survive. They generally don’t.

SCy-Fy: What are your most useful resources?

BB: From a speculative-fiction standpoint, too many to list (watch our Twitter feed and you’ll see). But for podcasting, I absolutely love my new Zoom iQ7 iOS microphone. For research, notes and organization, Evernote and Pocket are trusted friends.

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for?

BB: There’s a social media marketing concept called 4-1-1: Four parts giving or sharing of others work, one part education and one part selling your own stuff. Honestly, I think the four parts should be six to 10 parts. At any point in time somebody is doing it better or different. You should always look to acknowledge and share others’ efforts that you respect. Don’t chase. Don’t fall into jealousy. Just share. Kudos to you SCy-Fy for embracing this concept!

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

BB: Team – plain and simple. It never ceases to amaze me the passion and time people give to this. We’re not doing this for money, but love of craft.

SCy-Fy: What has been the most controversial show you have presented so far?

BB: We inserted ourselves directly into controversy several episodes ago (and it’s punched back a couple of times since) by hosting the Sad Puppies interview with Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen. We lost a few subscribers, and many folks openly questioned us in social media (including one of our own co-hosts).

Look, we’re not going to shy away from controversy. Kristi and I may not be mercurial like reality television stars (or agree with every guest) but we’re going to explore topics affecting the industry and try to bring on guests who represent the full spectrum of the field.

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

BB: Come on. If anyone has ever had Neil Gaiman or Patrick Rothfuss on the show, you know it’s been the most popular. Unless, of course, GRRM has been on.

One of my personal favorites – because it was so memorable — was one of my first interviews for AISFP. I chatted with Paolo Bacigalupi as we was hitting the award circuit for The Windup Girl. He was a pro and charismatic. That alone would have made it memorable. But it was the perseverance in getting the interview that ultimately lodges it forever in my memory. He was fighting his asthma (my son also suffers from it), and I offered to bag the interview. He absolutely refused to quit. We recorded for nearly an hour and a half to get through the questions, which resulted in the 30-minute interview.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books, films and TV shows you have read or seen recently?

BB: Best books have included Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Elysium by Jennifer Brissett and Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz.

Haven’t seen a ton of note-worthy movies (don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored The Lego Movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Big Hero 6) but Big Eyes by Tim Burton struck a chord, ruminations on creative credit and all.

TV favorites include Orphan Black binge watching and Silicon Valley on HBO. On the latter, I can’t recall a concoction so equal parts intelligent and stupid. My wife and I looped the season one finale, and I don’t remember ever doing that for anything else.

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

BB: SO MUCH! I’m launching into Daredevil Netflix series now, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the X-Files reboot. I bought two 750ml of Dark Raven saison to celebrate the newest season of Game of Thrones.

As for books, if Scott Lynch’s The Thorn of Emberlain hits shelves this year, I will read it and push all other people and things aside until I finish. Other titles I’m eagerly awaiting are my cohort in crime Kristi Charish’s upcoming novel Kincaid Strange, about a Seattle voodoo practitioner who rooms with the ghost of a late grunge rockstar, Cold Iron by Stina Leicht, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Aftermath: Star Wars by Chuck Wendig.

Speaking of THE FORCE, this is the year of Star Wars for me. Force Awakens is the only movie I’m going to mention — I’ve already put in my vacation request for release day.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add, Brent?

BB:  Thanks for having me! If people are interested in keeping up with what we’re doing (and entering themselves in the occasional giveaway), they should subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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