I've been sitting on this project for a while now, working on it a bit here and a bit there, tweaking this and that for months, which is a bit sad given that it's all of 12 minutes long. So, I've decided that it's time for me to flip the damn switch on this thing and put it out there. This is my first attempt at producing, for lack of a better term, an "NPR-ish", non-fiction audio piece (plus text preamble), and I would love to hear what people think. I've got a few more ideas kicking around, and especially if people are into this, I may make more.

Postcards from DragonCon
So there I was at DragonCon, one of the biggest scifi/fantasy conventions in the world. I was there because two audio theater podcasts with which I've had the pleasure of being involved, Second Shift and The Mask of Inanna, were up for Parsec awards (Inanna won!), but other than a short awards ceremony, I really had no idea what to expect from or do at such a huge convention.

It's easy to feel alone in a crowd at an event like DragonCon so, reminded of my exchange with Mr. Glass, and encouraged by Seth Boyer, a musician and podcaster I met there, I... just started interviewing people; anyone who would talk to me. This is the result of that project. I recorded about 40 interviews over the course of two days, mostly between the hours of 1am and 6:30am (yes, am), and was only able to use a small fraction of them in this piece. The biggest lesson I learned is that when you go into an interview project without a specific narrative in mind (which seems to me the most honest way to do it), building a narrative out of what you get can be surprisingly difficult. I got a lot of great advice on this subject and others from Melissa Galvez, a public radio pro who was a huge help to me as I worked on editing this project. Thanks, Melissa! (by the way, as of this writing, she's in the job market, in case anyone's looking!)

One thing I wish I could have worked into the piece was some acknowledgement of the issues the con has had recently, which range from a problematic (if legally binding) relationship with its co-founder to conflicts with fan groups. I say this not because I want to bring down the many people who work hard to make Dragon*Con great, but because I think they're nonetheless important issues that warrant acknowledgement and due consideration in any introduction to the con that aspires to be comprehensive. Shortly after my return I wrote about the two biggest issues of which I'm aware, along with my general impressions of the con as a first-time attendee, here.

Music Credits (in order of audience):

Special thanks to Jamendo.com and FreeMusicArchive.org, where I found most of the music for this show, all of which is used with permission and/or under a creative commons license.

If the embedded audio above doesn't work for you, you can download the mp3 here. If I do anything else like this, I'll put it up on the RSS feed at http://geekdome.net/podcast/

One of the many things I learned at the recent public radio conference I attended was the existence of a podcast called "Re:Sound". It's run by the Third Coast Festival, which is the biggest public radio conference out there, in the US if not the world, and its mission is to collect exceptional stories from radio and online into an anthology series that showcases them all in one place.

For once I was commuting instead of working form home this morning and didn't have my bike handy, so I took the opportunity to listen to an episode over breakfast and on my way into work. I'm only through two of the three stories in their latest episode, which is all stories on the theme of "Enemies to Friends". You should listen to it.

As many of you know I'm a big believer in the power of real-life stories. I think the stories of others are maybe the single most powerful force for bridging the gap of their otherness, for which so much evil in the world is to blame. I'm also a sucker for stories of redemption, so this ep was basically designed to punch me in the gut.

The first story in the show is steeped in those themes (though whether it truly counts as redemption or just effort made in that direction is debatable), and includes acts bravery and selflessness that border on stupidity; the kind of acts that I was raised to call "Christ-like", but... well, the story is called "The Rabbi and the KKK", so you can probably imagine why that label might not be appreciated here. ;) If that title sounds familiar, it previously ran on Snap Judgement, so if you're a Snappa you might have already heard it. If you don't listen to Snap Judgement, do so!

The second story is the thing that's moved me to write this post before even finishing the episode. "Two Enemies, One Heart", is the story of two soldiers, one Iranian and one Iraqi, who were at the same battle when their countries were at war. It spans about 20 years and is now the story I will point to to illustrate the principle that truth is stranger than fiction. In fact, I wouldn't feel right posting this without adding that I still can't quite believe that everything could have happened exactly as reported, but that didn't stop me from nearly breaking down crying in the middle of Kendall Square (fortunately I made it to a bathroom at work first).

Listen. And remember: stories are good for the soul.
There was so much going on at Dragon*Con that it's hard to isolate specific highlights, but there are a few things that seem worth mentioning, so the next few posts will cover them. The list is almost certainly incomplete, and definitely not in any kind of order!

The Parsec Awards!
For the two of you out there to whom I haven't expounded about this at length, the parsec awards are kind of the Emmys of podcasting. Ok, maybe not quite that big a deal, but it's still a pretty well-respected award within the community. I was honored this year to have taken part in not one, but two finalists in the long-form audio drama category, Second Shift and The Mask of Inanna.

The parsecs are given out at a ceremony at DragonCon, which was the excuse I gave myself for attending the con this year. To be honest, Second Shift and Mask of Inanna being up against one another led to some... complicated feelings for me, because I honestly believe that both shows deserved the win. Second Shift is my baby; I've personally put an enormous amount of work into it, and we have fans who've really fallen in love with our world and our characters in ways I've never seen from a podcast audience; I'm incredibly proud of that.

But then The Mask of Inanna is, hands down, the most ambitious audio theater project I have ever heard. A full-cast audio serial where each episode is over an hour long, and includes not only the two primary story arcs, each with a distinct setting and cast, but also an original, vintage-style radio play in a different style each week? My... my head hurts just thinking about it. And when you add to it the fact that after Second Shift and the PMRP's own Neil Marsh came up with the concept, outlined the story, and assembled a cast and crew, almost all of the writing, directing, and post-production was done by one person, Alicia Goranson... man. Don't tell Alicia, but I've become convinced that she's actually an android sent here from the future to study us, and does stuff like this when she gets bored with her primary mission.

On top of all that, we were up against some very strong competition, including Decoder Ring Theater, one of my personal favorite shows, run by one of my audio theater heroes, Gregg Taylor. So suffice it to say, I was full of... feelings at the awards ceremony. Julia Lunetta and I were both there, and as we'd each played parts in both shows (I am eternally grateful to MoI for casting me in a role that was not only fun, but about as far from my 2S character as possible! ;), we were there representing both.

I won't say it didn't feel kind of weird when Inanna was announced as the winner and I went up there to accept the award (strategically re-pinning my badge so that it covered the 2S logo on my shirt), but that's because I wanted my baby to win, not because I thought for a second that theirs didn't deserve to. The Mask of Inanna is Neil's love letter to radio brought to life by Alicia, and it is an amazing and most worthy thing. Check it out if you haven't!

My biggest take-away from this, though? Between Inanna, Second Shift, the PMRP, and all the other independent and side projects around here, Somerville has a friggin amazing audio theater scene! :)
As mentioned earlier, I met a lot of nifty podcasty types at Balticon. I've debated whether to even try and pimp all the fun-sounding shows I've learned about or been reminded of lately, because I'm sure that if I try I'm going to forget someone. But I figure networking is good, there are at least a few of your on my flist who are always looking for new shows to check out, and some recs are better than none, so here goes...

Misc nifty podcasty people
There are a bunch of folks I met whose work I haven't yet gotten to sample, but who have me completely convinced of their abilities, such that I'm quite looking forward to doing so.

Podcasting's Rich Sigfrit is a remarkably versatile voice actor, from what I hear, and I look forward to checking out his Pulp Adventures show. He also does a movie reviews 'cast if that's your thing.

Practically every member of the "production master class" panel let me pick his brain afterward about ways I can get 2S wrapped up. Of particular help were JD Sawyer, who has a couple of very cool-sounding podiobooks out, Chooch, who does a 'cast about blended families (eg Brady Bunch, which I hope is not an offensive comparison for them or anything) with his wife Viv, who also hosts the Girls Rules show, and John Taylor Williams, for whom I sadly have no web link, but the guy was a lot of fun to talk to.

Also, special thanks to Chooch and Viv for hosting a swell party for all the New media types Saturday night!

In addition to the pros, I had some good talks with other amateur folks who seemed downright eager to help out.

In particular, I talked with and was on a few panels with Paulette Jaxton, who has just finished what sounds like a really interesting full-cast podiobook called The Empress Sword. I don't wish to pideon-hole it, especially without having heard it yet, but from what I've gathered, it will be particularly interesting for folks who like fantasy stories that play around with gender roles, gender identity, etc.

On a note related to that, one of the voice actors present for a lot of the panels was @ddog, a smart and articulate young person who is also FtM transgendered/genderqueer, and runs a blog and podcast on the subject, which sounds interesting, particularly for people like me who know trans people, but don't have much direct access to that experience.

The creepiest Escape Pod story I've heard in a long time
There was an awesome panel that [livejournal.com profile] andrea2s1 was on called "Improv Story Writing", or something along those lines. As the name implies, it was kind of like Whose Line is it Anyway for authors, and [livejournal.com profile] lediva and I are totally going to pitch it for next year's Arisia and/or the Intercon pre-con (though it would probably fit best at the former).

Anyway, the guy hosting it, one John Cmar, was one of those people whom I encounter and immediately think "damn, I have got to larp with this person some time". Not only was he an excellent moderator, improvising questions and audience interactivity to fill space while writing was being done, he had, well, I'll just say it: a damn sexy voice.

I talked to him afterward, and it turns out that he did recently read for a short story on Escape Pod called The Love-Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake, which he described as "the story of a seductive, sociopathic, bio-engineered cake". Needless to say, I obtained this story post-haste and we listened to it on the way home.


This story expertly walks the line between creepy and absurd, with a creamy center of eroticism (yeah that's right, I said it), with a net effect of a combination of all three that is ultimately even more creepy. If that doesn't sound like a complete turn-off to you, check it out, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Plans to go back to my room and nap were interruped by walking by one of the performances room and hearing guitar/mandolin duo performing an upbeat, folkish ditty, the chorus of what was "There's a fetus in the kitchen!". I could explain the context, but trust me, it still wouldn't make much sense. Despite this, though they were musically quite talented and their songs were really catchy and fun, such that I ended up staying for the rest of their show. The guy who writes all the songs also does a podcast called The Drabblecast. At least for me, though, he's a bit like Paul and Storm in that the energy at his live shows makes them a completely different, and IMO better, animal (though if you see him play and like it, buy a CD so he can keep doing it ;)

There was also a lovely spontaneous group-sing led and accomanied by @sinspire aka Comic Book Goddess, a local filker and one of the people who really made an effort to reach out to me and make me feel welcome, not to mention giving me an excuse to sing. Thanks!

I also saw a pretty nifty low-budget, indie movie called "I <3 Doomsday". The whole thing was made for less than $10k, and it shows in being pretty amateurish in some ways, but what it lacks in polish it makes up for in originality and a sort of over-the-top, nerdy charm. If you saw my tweet about watching a "mad-scientist proxy-android romantic comedy", this was it. It's not out on DVD currently, but if that ever changes I may well be hosting a showing.

I also picked up a really nifty pendant at the art show made by Hibernia Curios, which I have dubbed "The Steampunk Shodan". It really needs to be seen in-person to be appreciated, though, so no pic. Her stuff reminds me a bit of [livejournal.com profile] slyviolet's, and since Vi just released a gorgeous new piece, here's a link to that, too.

Metamor City
I had heard of Metamor City ages ago, but had never really taken the time to listen, but I talked to the guy who runs it at the con, and saw a live performance and now I am really intrigued. The remarkable thing about MC is that the creator sort of outlined the world in which it all takes place and then licenced it under a Creative Commons/Share-Alike license. So, while he still gets to pick which stories become "official canon", anyone is welcome to play around in that world, create spinoffs, etc.

Since it's creation many years ago, it seems to have grown into a pretty expansive world, which lots of details and characters contributed by a host of authors, which is pretty dang cool. I look forward to exploring it further.

TekDiff/Waking World/The Account
I'm saving this one for last, both because technically it's not connected to Balticon (though I did find out about it when doing research for my panels), and because, to be honest, it's my favorite new thing I've found in a while. Oddly, no one at Balticon had heard of this one, so its seems that, like Second Shift, this guy's been off doing his own thing in a little bubble, and he's produced some amazing results. The show is called Teknikal Diffikulties, by a guy who calls himself Cayenne Chris Conroy. It's mostly sketch comedy which, in an audio-only medium, is something I don't see much of, but I've been paying particular attention to his "Waking World" series of serialized stories (look for episode titles that begin with "The Account:"). It's a fantasy comedy series that is remarkable in a number of ways:

  • The writing is some of the best I've ever heard. I'm three eps into the "Relic Skies" series, and in the most recent episode he had me both laughing out loud and seriously, seriously creeped out.

  • Cayenne Chris Conroy does almost all of the voices. His skill as a voice-actor is really quite amazing, and I'm learning a lot just by listening to him. If you know what to listen for, you can tell all the voices are being done by one person, but every character is still distinct. Sometimes it's by accent, but often it's just by differences in attitude and inflection. Quite impressive.
  • This is a weird thing to say, given that so many of the characters are done by one actor, but the chemistry between cast members is fantastic. I'm assuming that much of this is done in post, but however he manages, the comedic timing and delivery is consistently absolutely spot on. This guy is good.

  • Cayenne Chris Conroyis a pretty badass name. Just sayin'.

Ok, that's all for now. Apologies if I left anyone off. Too many awesome people doing awesome things! :)
Spent the weekend at Balticon and had an absolutely lovely time. Fan cons are generally not my thing, but I think there were three unusual things about this one that made a real difference for me.

First off, the community that's developed around podcasting, podiobooks, and audio theater is just amazing. So many friendly, interesting and supporting people! Thanks to each and every one of you for making me feel like a part of that community right away. At most cons the main thing I have in common with people I don't already know is a shared self-association with this vague thing we call "fandom". At Balticon, thanks to its strong New Media track, I was interacting with people from a much more specific scene, which made for relatively easy conversation. Plus, a lot of the people there knew Second Shift, which was cool, and the admiration of peoples' work went both ways. At a party on Saturday night, the hostess (who was also one of the people behind us getting invited to the con) was being flatteringly squeeish as she told me how much she enjoyed Second Shift, when a friend of her's approached. She introduced him, saying, "This is Patrick McLean. He does a podcast called The Seanachie". Now, The Seanachie happens to be one of my favorite 'casts from back in the day. Several years back he did a story called "How to Succeed in Evil" (the original, un-finished version, for those familiar with it, which for the record is not what I've just linked to, though I'm told that the re-vamp is also excellent), which I absolutely loved, so I then got to turn around and fanboy at him, even earning a hug when I told him that I actually had the comic book version of How to Succeed, which he'd sold once upon a time as a fundraiser.

Over the course of the con, I ended up having a lot of great conversations like that, plus a very nice lunch with McClean and Nobilis Reed, another well-known podcaster/author and Second Shift forum-goer from way back (note that he specializes in erotica, so link may be nsfw).

I think I enjoy hanging out with podcasters for the same reason I enjoy hanging out with larpers. Aside from having something in common with them, it's a subset of geekdom that self-selects for people with some modicum of social skill, which makes interfacing significantly easier.

The second factor is simply that of distance. I enjoy, for example, Arisia, but because I'm not as tight with the communities represented there, most of the people I see are local friends. Now, I love my friends, but Arisia is basically a big, expensive house-party largely populated by the people I usually see at smaller, less ambitious parties. I probably won't have the opportunity to see the people I met at Balticon again until next year, which means there's something different to be excited about for next year, and while I'm not guaranteed to go next year, I'm seriously considering it for that reason, especially if I can be involved in events again, which brings me to the third thing...

Actually being on panels and whatnot (my first time doing so) made a huge difference in my con experience. People who know me will be shocked to learn that the presence of an audience really put me in my element, and made for a much more engaging time than I usually have at (non-larp) cons.

I was on four panels, each of which I was nervous about for different reasons, and each of which ended up going really, really well if I do say so myself. Even the "Open Source for Everyday Use" panel with ESR and Thomas Gideon of The Command-Line podcast went really well. I was nervous about this one both because I feared being out-classed in terms of technical know-how, and because I'd heard from others who had had "personality conflicts" with ESR. I'm glad to report that I left the panel feeling like I'd contributed pretty well, that I'd gotten along well with both of the other panellists, and most importantly that I'd had fun. ESR was very friendly and a great co-panelist. He digressed on a few topics, but they were by way of some pretty undeniably cool stories, so that was easy to overlook, and while there snark, it was clearly all in good fun. And yes, I said hi to him for you, [livejournal.com profile] tpau. ;) The panel is going to be podcast on an upcoming episode of The Command Line, and I'll link to it when that happens.

The subjects of the podcasting-related panels ranged from things about which I felt pretty qualified to talk, like "Herding cats: Producing large-cast audio theater" and "Audio Theater Today", which turned out to be mostly a Q/A about how to get started in audio theater, to ones where I wasn't even entirely sure why I'd been put there, like "Storytelling". The reason I was worried about that last one is that the one thing I didn't ever do on Second Shift was write, and I'd read the panel as being primarily about that. As it happened,though, the panel ended up evolving into a really cool conversation about storytelling in general, the difference between an author and a storyteller, the role a voice actor plays in telling an author's story, and the effect of the Internet, podcasting, etc on storytelling, I'm rather proud of one of my lines, "We're all around one big campfire now, and that's awesome". Another great comment, though I sadly forget from whom it came, was the suggestion that if recordable audio media had existed since time immemorial, maybe we never would have bothered conveying non-fiction with the written word alone. An interesting thought indeed. I also got to plug my idea for storytelling parties, which was well-recieved, and in fact someone approached me afterward and told me about the National Storytellers' Network, about which I'm excited to learn more.

Other highlights of the con included a "master class" panel/demo being run by some professional audio engineers on how the technical side of things worked. I think I only took in about 30% of what was said, but it was good stuff. I also got some great networking done and might, juuuuust might have some help lined up to get the remainder of Second Shift actually done. Stay tuned.

So yeah, anyway, I could go on with nifty things and people encountered, but you get the idea. Had a fine time, and a big thanks to all the lovely folks involved with the New Media track for being so friendly and nice. I'll do some pimpage of specific media things in a separate post. (ETA ...and here it is!)
...and it's extremely positive! Squeee! =:)

First, we got a mention on the Sonic Society's blog, which I've already posted about.

Then, we got a good post-episode-2 review from an admin on the Voice Acting Alliance forum.

A couple of weeks ago [livejournal.com profile] lediva noticed a very in-depth review of the Silent Universe podcast on the Rocket Jones blog. I emailed the proprietor to see if we could get a chance at a review too and this morning, the result was posted. Some choice quotes:

These characters are three dimensional, not cardboard heroes (mystery reference for you gamer geeks). They have depth and background history and realistic emotions. Their speech and exchanges with other characters sound real. Since this is an audio play, dialogue is paramount, and it is exceptional... you don't feel like every character exists just to support the three travellers.

I thought the [journal] posts on creating the sound effects were particularly interesting. <-- Tee-hee! That was by me! =:)

There is quite a bit of speaking in the "local" language, and it's beautifully done... The language itself is lyrical and pleasing to listen to, and sounds natural enough for me to wonder just how much of this language is already real (in the sense that there is a dictionary and humans fluent in the language of the fictional Klingon race). <-- Actually, the language is being written as an actual language. The grammar more-or-less exists already and the dictionary is updated each time a new word is needed so that usage is consistent.

If you like fantasy, you'll enjoy Second Shift. If you like character driven stories, you'll enjoy Second Shift. If you like Cary Grant, you'll enjoy Second Shift. You were paying attention, right? If you are intrigued by podcasts or the golden age of radio, you'll enjoy Second Shift.

Seriously, this made my day. And the review is not only positive, but hilarious. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

For those of you who haven't gotten around to listening to the show or who only listened to the first episode, which remains our weakest link, give it a read and see if it doesn't motivate you to give us a(nother) chance.

Ep5 is due out Friday.
Hey, wow. People are starting to notice Second Shift! Yesterday I had a really flattering experience. I took a chance and emailed Gregg Taylor, one of the guys behind Decoder Ring Theater, who do two of my favorite shows, "Black Jack Justice" and "The Red Panda". I mentioned Second Shift, pointed him to our website and asked for his thoughts on the show.

Well it turns out that he'd not only already found us on his own but had also already given us a very nice writeup on the Audio Addicts blog:

Here's one I found at Dramapod that's worth a look... Its called Second Shift... billed as a "comedic drama", it quickly starts rolling as a trip into fantasy as three Boston-area college students who work in a pizza parlor are pulled into a Fantasy-style adventure... and if I'm not yet sure why, I also don't mind not knowing yet. This one is very ambitious, there are a lot of characters and there's a lot going on - but it feels very much like those at the helm have a strong idea of where this is going, so I feel very comfortable settling in for the ride.

Coming from someone whose own work I admire, that's a big vote of confidence! We've also had a recent influx of people visiting the forum. One newcomer wrote:

I found your podcasts by accident, never being a podcast listener myself. I think it was through a link from a link in a friend's blog that just seemed interesting.

Anyways, I've listened to all three episodes the last couple days after work and can't get enough. I wish I'd found these 6 months from now so I could listen to them all in a row. Wink So, great job at making a very enjoyable "radio" drama! I look forward to hearing more.

So, wow. People who weren't personally dragged there by a cast member are listening to our show and liking it. Woo! =:)

By the way, if any of you have been enjoying the show and want to help us out, please take a minute to visit Drama Pod and give us a vote. It doesn't even require a login, just one click! We're already in the top three fantasy shows, but with a few more votes we could make it to the front page as well, which would greatly increase our visibility.

By the way, I don't think I've mentioned this, but I'm now officially the assistant producer (or "ass prod", as it is sometimes called) of the show. So, alas for those of you who have been trying to politely ignore my pluggage, I'm afraid you can only expect more from here on. =:P

Next episode goes up in a week and I'm really excited about it. After taking a lot of time to establish characters more in ep3, eps 4 and 5 will ratchet up the action a lot and, well, some interesting things are going to happen. Enjoy!
Copied from Second Shift's episode-anounce mailing list
Episode three of Second Shift, entitled "Stupid Magic" is now up for your
enjoyment! You can download it here:


Remember that you can also subscribe to the show using iTunes or your
favorite podcast client using our xml feed:


If you like the show, please consider voting for us at any of the
following podcast directories:

Podcast Alley: http://www.podcastalley.com/podcast_details.php?pod_id=30654
Odeo: http://www.odeo.com/channel/110401/view
Dramapod: http://www.dramapod.com/item.php?catid=139
Podcast Pickle: http://www.podcastpickle.com/casts/15164/

Finally don't forget the forum! We'd love to see a community built around
the show so if you have any comments, ideas, or just random chitchat, step
on up and say hello!


Next episode is scheduled for release on 8/5/06.

Enjoy! I'm off to record my parts for eps 4 and 5 later today.
Episode two, the second and final part of the Second Shift pilot, "Everything to Everyone" has just gone live. For those of you who listened to the first part and were told that the conclusion marks a big improvement in terms of writing and pacing, now you can listen for yourself and let us know if you agree.

Website here
Direct dl here
Forum here

Please check it out and let us know what you think. We got some helpful feedback after the first ep and I would love to get more for the second.


P.S. My character gets to be a bit of a badass in this one, so I like it a lot. =:)
Got a treat for y'all.

Since the next episode of Second Shift is delayed a bit while we retool a couple of sound effects, we've decided to release a little goody we'd been saving for a rainy day. This one's a lot shorter than the actual pilot, so those of you who have been slacking have no excuse. =:)

If you did listen to the pilot you may remember the "Captain Laserbeard and his Gamma Raiders" radio serial playing in the background of scene 1. It's only really heard at the beginning and end of the scene but we actually recorded an entire episode of the thing.

Ever wonder what happens when two severely deranged writers decide to bang out a story about pirates and then hand it to the cast of a completely unrelated show to read cold? Well, now is your chance!.

Acting note: I found it strangely difficult to do a pirate voice without slipping into old-west-prospector-mode for some reason. But hey, it's not bad for a cold-read. =:)

Episode two should be out soon, which really picks up the pace of the show and improves on ep1 a great deal IMO. Expect further pimpage soon.
Just listened to a rough-cut of part one of the Second Shift pilot. I think we may be on to something here. [livejournal.com profile] choose_again's comment after hearing it was "I really want to know what happens next!", which is the greatest compliment I could have asked for. I can't wait to hear what it sounds like with SFX and music.

Rehearsals tonight, then more recording on Friday. Woot.



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