Hugo Review – Best Fancast – SF Signal

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I’ve started with Best Fancast, as all content is available even before the Hugo Voter Packet is released.

This is my review of SF Signal Podcast.

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics which interest me. For those who are interested, I listened to the podcasts in 30 minute to one hour segments whilst driving, so my attention was often split depending on road conditions.

I asked on twitter which episodes I should review, and @atfmb suggested episodes 26, 30, 49 and 94.

Format: Patrick Hester and John DeNardo moderate an panel interview on a specific topic with a number of guests for anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour.

In general: This felt kind of like being at a convention panel, with the guests talking about a particular topic in a moderated fashion. I thought the balance of the number of guests, detail of the topic, and length of the podcast had room for improvement, either through more detail, longer podcasts or fewer guests.

Episode 26: Guests Sue Lange, Lou Anders, Mike Resnick and John Picacio discuss the future and impact of ebook publishing. This felt just like being in the audience at a convention panel (except for the audience interjections), which the introduction said it was designed to do. Despite a few audio glitches and volume differences between the guests, I enjoyed the episode overall. Given it’s a topic I’m quite interested in, I found myself nodding along in agreement in some places, calling “bullshit” on others, and even a “whoah” moment on the implication of “in print” as applied to ebooks. I thought an hour was a bit short for the topic, and there were several points where the guests could have elaborated or moved onto related points; perhaps four guests and two moderators was a bit much for a one hour podcast.

Epiosde 30: Guests Cat Valente, Alan Beatts, Chris Roberson and Allison Baker discuss the Borders bankruptcy and its implications on Brick and Mortar bookstores, with a segue into the impact EBooks are having, and the future of publishing. This was an interesting discussion, which despite losing a bit of relevance due to the passing of time (the Border’s Bankruptcy was over a year ago, and so much has happened since then) filled out some gaps in my knowledge of the way publishing and distributing worked, and the seeming incredible inefficiencies as it exists at the moment (printing three paperback books to make one paperback sale, and junking the two remaining books).

Episode 49: Guests Derek Johnson, Lisa Paitz Spindler, Paul Weimer, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson discuss which Science Fiction and Fantasy novels should be in every fan’s library. This felt like an incredibly short podcast, less than twenty minutes, where each guest was really able to only suggest one book or author, and their reasons for including that book or author. There was no debate on the selections, and no real collaboration towards stocking the essential fan’s library. Whilst the Guests were interesting and knowledgeable, this podcast seemed very rushed and light on detail, and left me very unsatisfied with it.

Episode 94: Guests Karen Burnham, Derek Johnson and John Stevens discuss international authors. I found this episode immensely disappointing – to spend only thirty minutes discussing international authors, when you could easily spend two hours just discussing Australian authors seemed a bit poor. Also, the closest they guests came to an international author was Karen who I believe was Canadian. It seemed to be a discussion of international authors without any input from international authors, which rang a bit off.

As I had a bit of extra time, I also checked out Episode 113 – where Andrew Liptak moderates guests Jean Johnson, Karin Lowachee, T.C. McCarthy and David J. Williams. This podcast started with the promise of greatly expanding my to read list, which I felt it didn’t deliver. I think it was a combination of the guests not saying why they liked a work (I want more than just “you should read blah” or “I liked blah”), as well as a lot of discussion about their own work. Sound quality was also a bit off on this one, every time David was speaking, there was this irritating water dripping sound (I think it’s a Mac error message).

All up I liked the introduction and finishing sequences on SF Signal, but wasn’t incredibly impressed with it overall. Perhaps due to it being the first solely American podcast I’d listened to, and there may not have been a cultural fit, or perhaps the selection of guests / topics just didn’t work for me, or I could have just had different expectations from the previous podcasts I’d listened to. Regardless, I’ll probably keep it on my regular download list, but only listen to it if I get the time or run out of others to listen to.

Three Podcasts reviewed, two to go. Next: SF Squeecast.



Best Fancast Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Fancast category for the 2012 Hugos are:

The Coode St Podcast – Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast  – Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
SF Signal Podcast
– John DeNardo and JP Frantz (presenters), Patrick Hester (producer)
SF Squeecast
– Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente
– Tony C. Smith

In terms of review, I asked each via Twitter / Email and received the following recommendations:

Galactic Suburbia have suggested podcast episodes 32, 36 and 47 as their ‘picks of 2011′ for review.
SF Squeecast has suggested Episode 7 via email, and say that will be the one they link to in the Hugo Voter Packet.
@JonathanStrahan has suggested episodes 65, 71, 74 and one at random of Coode St via Twitter.
@StarShipSofa has suggested episodes 214, 228 & 232 via Twitter.
@atfmb has suggested episodes 26, 30, 49 and 94 of SF Signal via Twitter.


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