Hugo Review – Best Fancast – SF Squeecast

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 Squeecast.

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 via email which episodes I should review, and was recommended Episode 7 which would also be in the Hugo voting packet. I also grabbed episodes 8, 9, 10 and 11, as I wanted to compare a sample of episodes.

Format: A monthly podcast where a group of Science Fiction  and Fantasy professionals squee about SF related topics, always with a positive vibe, for an hour to ninety  minutes. Regulars are Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Catherynne M.Valente and Lyn M. Thomas (moderator).

In general: Audio quality was mostly good, with the exception of one episode in particular I couldn’t listen to, the occasional technical glitch and podcasters who had computer notifications coming through over the podcast. The topics were varied, and the podcasters obviously had a good friendship going and worked well with each other. I got the sense there were a few ongoing in-jokes, as there are between friends, but nothing to stop a new listener enjoying it.

Episode 7: The regulars squee about the festive season, including movies, tv shows, books and the importance of not murdering people. Despite not being a huge festive season fan, I enjoyed the episode. I haven’t seen Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (*gasp*, yes I know, I keep meaning to, but haven’t yet), and despite that, found the different interpretations of the theme rather fascinating. I was nodding along to the comments on Hogfather (in particular the importance of it being European centric rather than American), and enjoyed the silly questions with Seanan. I found the music interludes to signal topic changes a bit disruptive, throwing me out of the sense of being there whilst they talked.

Episode 8: I gave up on this episode after 3 minutes, as I found the audio quality poor. It wasn’t normalised (the music intro was much louder than the speakers) and there was an annoying static buzz in the background.

Episode 9: Recorded on Valentine’s day, Elizabeth Bear, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente and guest Scott Lynch praise each others’ works. I found this episode a tad too saccharin sweet (but then I generally do with most Valentine’s related things), so it’s difficult to tell if it was specifically that, or not. The podcast warned that they were going to spoil the end of Feed and to fast forward to avoid spoilers, which I did. Unfortunately the bit I fast forwarded to started with “.. when XXXX died …” resulting in some swearing on my part. Still, I’ve put Feed on my “to read” list (I’ve heard it mentioned a couple of times by different people now, some positively, some not), hopefully I won’t remember the spoiler when I get round to reading it. I think the saccharin was getting to me, ’cause I found the snark in Scott’s answer to “can I have a cookie” one of the best bits. His reply was “You can have a Series Fantasy Author cookie, which means that it shows up three years late, it’s bitterer than you were hoping and the other two cookies in the sequence tasted better.”

Episode 10: Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell and guest Saladin Ahmed squee in an episode titled “The Linguistic Divide of Pants”, after an amusing anecdote from Seanan regarding pants in the US being overwear, pants in the UK being underwear, and where horrific misunderstandings can arise. This was my favourite episode, with several additions to my “to read” list, including Unpossible by Daryl Gregory (along with The Devil’s Alphabet and Pandemonium), Anno Dracula by Kim Newman and The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe (which I heard the first time round as “The Hun and the Sugar”, leading to an odd mental image of German prostitution). There was also an interesting diversion about the way comic characters transform over time, with their actions and dialogue reflecting the world at the time they were written – eg extreme racism (by today’s standards) of Captain America reflecting the racism attitudes towards the Japanese during World War Two.

Episode 11: Lynne M. Thomas, Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire and Catherynne M. Valente squee about different topics, then discuss negative reviews from an author’s perspective and how to review others negatively. Audio quality was a bit variable on this episode, with Cat dropping out a couple of times, and people sounding underwater sometimes. The Apple “drip” error message also recurred a few times, which was rather irritating. Other than that, an enjoyable episode. My “to read” survived intact, as the squeeing was about Stephen King’s It (which I’ve read), Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon (I’m waiting for an unaffiliated recommendation), Geoff Ryman’s Was (A Wizard of Oz alternate universe which didn’t grab me) and more discussion on Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver (already on my list). The most interesting part of the podcast was the section at the end about what authors should do when they see a negative review, which then digressed into how to write a negative review without resulting in their audience crushing a new author.

All up I enjoyed the podcast, although found myself getting a bit irritable at all the positiveness – I started to think that I wasn’t getting an unbiased review of various works, (note, personal feeling based solely on the overwhelmingly positive vibe of the podcast, not based on anything factual), which probably says more about me than about the podcast! I also much preferred sections where a few people had consumed a particular work and there was good back and forth discussion on it, rather than a single squee-er. I’m going to add this podcast to my regular list, but I don’t think I’ll listen to several episodes in a row again; I need a dose of “balance” between episodes.

Four Podcasts reviewed, one to go. Next: StarShipSofa.



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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