Time Enough for Podcasts

an interview with Alasdair Stuart of Escape Artists, Inc

First things first, the NC Science Festival is coming up in April, with many virtual and some in-person events.



Last week I mentioned this episode of the Twilight Zone, “Time Enough At Last,” starring Burgess Meredith as the bank teller and bibliophile.

Bureau of Industrial Service. This was a division of ad agency Young & Rubicam and was widely used by those in the television industry for distributing publicity material., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m not as bad off as that guy, visually, but I am finding it difficult to read and write while my eye is healing. The lens implant has changed my prescription so that my glasses no longer work well for close-up work. Making the print bigger on my computer monitor helps a bit, but only for short periods.

Solution? Podcasts!

I’ve been a fan of the science fiction anthology series Escape Pod for years and years, though most of my listening occurred on long car trips and lonely nights on the couch when I was stuffy and sick and couldn’t sleep. 2020 was ironically probably my healthiest year ever, in terms of colds and flus and similar respiratory invasions, because of the social distancing for COVID-19. When I fired up the iPod to give my eye a rest, it downloaded 50+ new episodes, including this little beauty from last month by Marie Vibbert, originally printed in Analog.


It is a perfect complement to our Mohs 5.5 Mars anthology, which has now earned me roughly $40 in royalties, a first in itself, and the most I’ve been paid for a story yet (though less than I made per column at The Intergalactic Medicine Show). Vibbert’s story is similarly hard science fiction, and it’s funny, in a cantankerous Mayberry on Mars sort of way. (Not as funny as the Fling episode of Northern Exposure, but then, what is?)

“It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself.” -Chris Stevens, conceptual artist

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The rest of this newsletter is also a reprint of sorts, an interview I did for the Medicine Show in February of 2019, which they never got around to publishing before the magazine folded its tents that summer. It did appear on my Steemit.com blog, where it was read by essentially nobody, as the upvoting on that platform was seemingly being done by bots at that point.

NOTE:Both Alasdair and Escape Pod are up for multiple Awards this season. If you're a voter, please give them your due consideration.

Alasdair Stuart of Escape Artists, Inc.

Since 2005, Escape Pod has been presenting short-form audio science fiction every week for free, paying their authors SFWA rates through listener donations. As of this writing, they’re on Episode #659. Three other successful podcasts followed to form the Escape Artists family: Podcastle for fantasy, Pseudopod for horror, and Cast of Wonders for young adult fiction. In 2014 the host of the horror series Pseudopod, Alasdair Stuart, bought the company (all of this background is via Wikipedia).

I’m a long-time lurker of Escape Pod. I dropped a few bucks on them back when I had a mundane job, but I have not engaged in the more active forms of fandom and mostly don’t know the lore of this tight-knit podcast community. So when EA made a general call for cross-promotion on Twitter a while back, it seemed like a good learning opportunity.

Now sit back and fire up your British-accent text-to-speech module, ‘cause it’s interview time.

Hayes: Just to satisfy my own incestuous curiosity, have you all ever run an IGMS story? I know I've heard it mentioned as a place some of your authors have published ...

Stuart: First off, A few IGMS stories:

  • Other IGMS authors? Dantzel Cherry, JP Sullivan, Barbara A. Bennett, Holly Helsey and lots more.

Hayes: How does Escape Artists work, as a collective? How many people work with EA? We know the on-air personalities; are there also Morlocks down in the bowels of the machine, doing ... something? Is there, heaven forfend, an org chart?

Stuart: Yes there IS an org chart! In fact one of our last tasks for the year before shutting down for the holidays is updating it. :) We have a lot of people too. Working from slushers/associate editors on up we've got just over 80 folks spread across the four shows and the globe.

In fact, when we got the Hugo nomination this year that worked in our favor. We got a really short turnaround time for the packet so here's how it broke down:

In the UK, Marguerite and I put together the initial idea and put it to Mur (East Coast) and Divya (West Coast) in the US.
Mur and Divya worked on it, refined it and sent their thoughts onto our e-book specialist Darusha, who's based in New Zealand.
Darusha sent it back to us, we added our comments and sent it onto Mur and Divya.
Thanks to a happy accident of time zones, this thing was worked round the clock for three days and ended up coming out looking great.

On a daily basis the same is true. Associate editors report to editors, who coordinate producers. Each editorial team runs their own slush and makes all decisions about content, from stories and narrators, to schedules and specials, to what ads they'd accept. (We are VERY anti 'stamps, socks and mattresses'.)

As publisher, we look for ways where the show's similarities can save work or money; for example, all EA's contracting is handled by a contracts manager, who processes the close to 500 contracts a year. Every other month there are editorial-wide check-ins to coordinate bigger events, like Artemis Rising, and to share things we've learned and directions we want to explore. We also wrangle the admin side of things -- accounting, tech, the recent website and graphics overhaul, marketing queries, Patreon, etc.

Another big part we play as publishers sounds odd but is really important to us - we're involved in the spec fic community. Marguerite is on the SFWA short fiction committee and the World Science Fiction Society's Hugo awards committee. I do a lot of cross-promotion of not just fiction shows but audio dramas and other indie podcasters. We both run convention volunteers, participate in programming and lots of events every year, and generally try to put our time and our energy where our mouths are in support of our core goals (lots more detail here: http://escapeartists.net/about-ea/)

Alasdair Stuart also has a geek life outside of EA, which we won’t cover here, except for the sentence “Loki is Blackadder without the troubling conscience,” from the last link below, which I love.

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All the people mentioned here, and more, with contact info.