Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Starting a podcast

Sure, it's easy to rate other peoples' podcasts, but how hard is it to start one? Short answer: very hard. I had no idea how much mental energy this would take up. It sounds so effortless when you listen to a podcast. Steve Eley, StarshipSofa, Dunesteef, PodCastle, they all make it look elegant.

First I had to figure out how to record. I already had a microphone so I figured it would be easy. No. My microphone is for musicians and sounds very faint when used through the computer. Turns out you need a pre-amp. Those run anywhere from $100 into the thousands. Before I bought a pre-amp I tried all manner of jury-rigged setups. I tried to record through my camcorder. Sometimes that worked great. Other times I got nothing. Finally I bought the ArtTube preamp from my local music store. It worked great for two days and then started popping and cracking (the sound, not the mic). I brought it back, to the chagrin of the store owner and decided finally to by the BlueYeti usb mic online. Finally, that works well.

The Blue Yeti works so well it picks up the incessant buzzing of my MacBook fans. I have to put the MacBook behind my desk, where I can't control the recording without hurting my back.

That was all the recording stuff. The website has been harder. I learned a little code back in the day, but that baby html is all but useless to me now. I bought a domain and hosting from IPage and have already been on the phone with them three times. To their credit, they are polite and solve the problem each time, but sheesh. Now I have to design the site, knowing nothing.

Now I need stories. Did I even mention what the podcast is about? It's called Tales of Old, a weekly audio magazine for historical fiction and alternate history. People can submit stories to submit@talesofold.org. I am going to pay 1.5 cents/word. I hope it doesn't break me (actually I hope it does, that means I'm getting some stories).

Lastly I need narration. I'm going to try it by myself at first, but I'll definitely be happy to have some outside talent, but of course I can't afford to pay anyone. I know that for some people the steps I outlined above would be easy. I look forward to hearing your podcasts!

Friday, April 8, 2011

DrabbleCast goes 200

The DrabbleCast with Norm Sherman just put out its 200th show. He started the show with a clip from DrabbleCast episode number 1, where Norm is not yet his cocky loveable self, and his first story was one he wrote. That was a great touch.

The 200th show is Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question," and instead of just reading it, Norm has collected a host of voices from other podcasts: the Dunesteef, EscapePod, and others, even Steve Eley who started EscapePod. Ususally I'm not a fan of multiple voices in audio fiction. It's distracting somehow. Maybe because you still have all the "she said, angrily" and "intoned Paul" stuff between the voices that draws your attention to the fact that this is a written story, not a play. Even with those defects, this story is worth listening to. It's a classic and it's just cool to hear all the voices you know from other podcasts in one piece. Typical Norm Sherman, there is also a soundtrack, which can also be hit or miss, but which comes out pretty well here.

Congratulations Norm! You are doing a great thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ITunes Annoyances

I listen to a lot of podcasts and I cannot figure out how to get them onto my ITunes without subscribing to them. Maybe it's because I still have a dumb phone and have to use my Mac to get podcasts from Itunes to my Shuffle. I don't know, but the upshot is that I have hundreds of podcasts sitting in my podcast folder, a lot of them from podcasts that I just wanted to sample. If anybody has a solution to this problem please let me know.

I tried out two Clarkesworld podcasts. This is not a review, by any means, but the two I listened to did not thrill me. I actually stopped listening to one story because of the reading. Kate Baker has a great voice and she is normally a good reader, but this one she really messed up. She was reading a story narrated by a Russian man and she did a Russian voice only when he was speaking, and also for the other Russians he talked to. First, I couldn't figure out who was who, and second he's talking all the time, because he is the narrator. Strange how a little thing like that can really ruin a story. This story was getting on my nerves anyway, though.

Clarkesworld is a full fledged web magazine, and a very slick one at that. For some reason I thought it had something to do with Arthur C. Clarke, he being a famous science fiction writer, but it is actually named after Neil Clarke, its publisher. I will listen to more episodes before passing judgement. If I would learn to read I might actually read some stories online.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SFSignal Podcast

SFSignal is a Speculative Fiction blog (hey, this is a speculative fiction blog!). SFSignal has a lot of contributors and a very active Twitter account with lots of good information. They also have a podcast obviously. It is a very informal podcast dedicated to speculative fiction in all forms, TV, movies, and books. They interview authors, have panel discussions, and take voice mails from listeners sometimes. Their interview style is very laid back, more like meeting in a bar with the author than a serious Q&A. It's a nice way to get to know an author though, because they get the author joking along with them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two Weeks Without Podcasts

I am anxious to review the Clarkesworld and SFSignal podcasts but I haven't listened to enough of them yet. Why, because for the past two weeks I have been hooked into the InkHeart audio book that a friend in Switzerland gave me. My German is finally good enough to understand it perfectly, Tintenherz is its German name. It is beautifully read in a pleasant deep voice. I can't find the narrator's name. The upshot is that I have not wanted to interrupt the story for podcasts.

There is only so much time in the day when I can listen. I listen walking to and from work, which comes out to about an hour a day, perfect for most podcasts. Unlike some, I absolutely cannot listen to stories and read or do any kind of computer work. I love doing garden work to podcasts. In fact, as I walk around my yard or on one of my many routes to work, I know exactly what I was listening to as I pass any particular place. It is uncanny and I wonder if other people have the same experience.

In a book called the Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, describes the Australian Aborigines tradition of singing while walking so that each place has special parts of a song, and that the song describes the route. The book really stuck with me, and now I kind of have Podcast lines. Of course newer podcasts can erase the old lines eventually, but particularly powerful stories stay with the place where I heard them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Steve Eley Speaks

I just heard an interview with Steve Eley the Geek' Guide to the Galaxy, show number 7. Steve is the founder of the EscapeArtists family of podcasts: EscapePod, PseudoPod, and PodCastle. Since he left EscapePod last year I've been wondering what he's been up to. Unfortunately the interview was from February 2010, and there was no hint in it that Steve was even thinking about leaving. But it was still a great interview, all about how Steve started EscapePod, paying authors $20 a story and later moving up to $100. I was fascinated by how he put the whole thing together. It reminds me of listening to the Dunesteef, where they talk about the podcasting process even as they do it.

So I still have no idea what Steve is doing now. He cited other duties and mental health issues when he left EscapePod. Apparently he is into Polyamory, although he never talked about it on EscapePod. I guess it's where you can be married and still have other love interests. He used to contribute to the Polyamory Weekly podcast, maybe still does. Good luck with that. I get it, there are some cute girls out there, but frankly, my wife would kill me. And I don't want to die just yet.

Anyway, hope you are doing well Steve.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DrabbleCast B-Sides

DrabbleCast B-Sides is a spin-off of Norm Sherman's DrabbleCast, where Norm Sherman puts stuff too weird for the normal show. The DrabbleCast "brings strange stories from strange authors to strange listeners such as yourself" already, so what goes on B-Sides can be pretty weird or very esoteric, like narrative poems from H.P. Lovecraft. I listened to "Snuggle the Dead" yesterday, by Matthew Bey, and I have to say, that was one of the weirdest, creepiest, stories I had heard in a long while. I had to share because the first rule of Snuggle Club is "you always talk about Snuggle Club."

Here is Norm's promo line:
Drabblecast B-Sides \ˈbēˈsīds\ n.
1.  The Drabblecast’s awkward, hilarious but mildly retarded half-uncle that every so often drops by unannounced with his prize-winning pet mole.