Interview with Jonah Sutton-Morse (Cabbages and Kings)

My guest today is Jonah Sutton-Morse (@jsuttonmorse on Twitter): A Stay At Home Dad, science fiction and fantasy reader and newly host of the Cabbages and Kings podcast (@kingcabbagecast), which is only four episodes old. The podcast will focus on talking with serious readers about science fiction and fantasy.

SCy-Fy: Jonah, apart from the first introductory episode, you have so far presented a two-part discussion on Ann Leckie’s novel Ancillary Justice and a wide-ranging chat about the fantasy genre with reader, blogger and author Troy Wiggins.

JSM: That’s right. I really liked the discussion of Ancillary Justice I had. And everyone should listen to the Troy Wiggins episode, because he’s awesome! Or at least check the show notes for great short story advice!

SCy-Fy: What are your future plans?

JSM: I’d really like to get guests who aren’t on Twitter and not really part of the online SFF discussion. I’d like to get a couple of recurring guests and topics – probably one spotlighting short fiction. Ask me in 6 months when I’m closer to finding my voice. Right now my future initiative is to hit 5 episodes! Then 10!

SCy-Fy: What is your approach to finding guests for the show?

JSM: I’m still figuring this out. Getting guests is harder than I expected. I want to have a template to email prospective guests, but so far I’m just soliciting folks on Twitter – but please ask to be a guest here!).

Once a guest has been scheduled, I have a one page template in google docs that I share with them. Then, for each person, I write a brief intro and some bullet points for what we might discuss and then share that document with them so that they can add/remove topics, update the introduction, take notes during the podcast, etc.

When I’m doing a solo episode, I try to pick two topics that I think I can talk about for 10-15 minutes, grab a couple of related books, put in some bullet points and then start talking. I’m still figuring out the balance of spontaneity and scripting.

SCy-Fy: Do you have a clear idea of the profile of guests you would like to have?

JSM: I’m trying to be very conscious of gender and racial balance in my guests. “Diversity” seems to be a buzzword right now. For me, I’m looking to get women’s voices, discuss women-authored books, have African-Americans on the show, and get people I don’t interact with on Twitter. Sometimes more successfully than others.

SCy-Fy: What about resources for the technical side?

JSM: I use Audacity (free) and Voice Recorder for Skype, and every once in a while I google general advice. I keep meaning to look for YouTube tutorial videos, but haven’t yet.

Editing takes longer and is more necessary than you think. But who knows, maybe in a few months I won’t be editing as much. I hear Shaun Duke knows about editing.

SCy-Fy: Yes. He also knows about reptiles, but stay clear of those… .

JSM: Sometime I’m going to email Shaun and ask what his final cleanup process is, and how to make sure that tracks recorded at different times have the same volume.

SCy-Fy: What have you learned in terms of presentation?

JSM: I noticed in my interview with Troy Wiggins that I centered myself in the conversation. Listening back, I heard many points where I could have pursued a more interesting topic he opened up, but didn’t go there because I was more comfortable with another topic.

I think that it probably helps to know why you’re doing this, and prepare a few episodes before you begin. It’s more work than I thought, but having a vision statement helps.

SCy-Fy: Starting any new enterprise is tough. What has helped you through so far?

JSM: Someone I respect on Twitter said of me that I was “doing the work”, and that meant a lot to me. When I was stuck launching this, I asked for some help and people on Twitter said “yes, do this!”, and after the first episode some people started talking about my topics, which was awesome and keeps me going.

I also commissioned art from @etrandem and it’s awesome and every time I look at it I smile and want to work on the podcast.

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

JSM: Discoverability? It seems like podcasts are “having a moment” (thanks Serial), but also like we don’t really know what they are. I’m guessing this is like blogs 5-10 years ago? I don’t really remember. Except that social networks are so much more entrenched and gameable, so finding podcasts among this Wild West is tough.

I suspect this means that a few formats are going to settle in – an existing NPR program and three friends sitting and chatting for 2+ hours are right now both considered “a podcast”. That’s nonsense. But I don’t know what listeners are going to want.

There’s a meta-discussion about podcasts to be had – long vs short, level of production, etc. I think its going to be interesting to see how that develops in the future.

SCy-Fy: Let’s talk about your own reading now. What have been the best books you have read or seen recently?

JSM: I’m working my way through an enjoyable reread of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, and also Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels. Elysium by Jennifer Brissett was good-not-great – I will be discussing it on an upcoming show – but I loved Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon!

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books are you most looking forward to reading?

JSM: Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives and Black Wolves! I’ve heard good things about Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I really want to dig into Toni Morrison and more of Nnedi Okorafor’s books. But I like rereading a lot. I’ll go back to Lord of the Rings soon (I’ve been saying this for years).

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Jonah.

JSM: Thank you! People interested in SFF podcasts should also check out Gizmodo’s Meanwhile in the Future (new, but seems really interesting and I like the format – short, and mixing interview with a near-future imagined scenario) and Fangirl Happy Hour.

And if you like reading SFF and are interested in being a guest on Cabbages and Kings, let me know!

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