Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interview with Anna & Dave, Editors of PodCastle

Today's interview is with editors Anna Schwind and Dave Thompson, editors of PodCastle. PodCastle is a wonderful fantasy fiction podcast and a pro-paying market accepting both reprint and original submissions. Check out their full submission guidelines.

From their website:
PodCastle is the world’s first fantasy audio magazine. Each week we bring you short stories across the spectrum of fantasy from leading authors and new discoveries. Like our sister podcasts, Escape Pod and Pseudopod, PodCastle is entirely free to listen and share.


W1S1: What attracts you to the fantasy genre in general and PodCastle's offerings in specific?

Dave: Fantasy, more than most genres, seems to have very broad boundaries. One of the things we try to do at PodCastle is make it so you don't know what kind of story you're going to get week after week. It could be something very contemporary and literary - like Kelly Link's The Hortlak, which is about convenience clerks servicing zombies, at a border that may or may not be death - or something like Tim Pratt's Little Gods, which is a beautiful story about grief and mourning - or something like Lavie Tidhar's Buried Eyes, which is a very twisted Guns and Sorcery western. Hopefully, the one thing the stories all have in common is that they're fantastic, in more than one sense of the word.

Anna: I think we tend to be drawn to stories about experiences not like our own, and settings not our own, and people not like us that nonetheless resonate on some level. I'm a tourist reader, and the fantasy genre tends toward depictions and characters and story arcs that are very satisfying jaunts to other places, such as Cat Valente's "Urchins While Swimming" (Episode 198) or E. Lily Yu's "Tiger in the BSE" (Episode 243).

W1S1: Are there things in a submission you look for specifically for a podcast that you might not look for in a print publication?

Dave: Well, we like to find things we haven't seen before. It's great to run a bit of S&S or Urban Fantasy or something that's like comfort food for us fantasy fans, but when we find something that's in a setting we haven't seen before, or a structure we haven't seen, it's appealing. We recently ran a story by Cat Rambo and Ben Burgis that was set in the time of the Mariel Boatlift in Florida and Cuba in the 80s, and that felt like a very fresh setting. We're still looking for Cold War stories. We just bought a story that I think will be a bit challenging for some of our audience because of its very unique structure. And when I first started reading it, I didn't think it could work well in audio. But a couple paragraphs in, I could already hear the voice of it in my head, and we knew it would work despite that.

Anna: There are definitely things that do not work in audio. We're sad when someone sends us an otherwise great story that there's no way to do in audio. Stories with visual puns are hard to pull off, for example, and we see a number of those. But best are stories that surprise us, that we think might not work in audio, but if we're creative enough, or get the right narrator to read it, end up working out beautifully.

W1S1: How would you describe the submissions for PodCastle? Are there trends that seem to be the major causes of rejection?

Dave: We like the worldbuilding to be thought out and explored. Not always explained, but if it feels like the world the story is in will fall over if we poke it, that's a deal breaker. Settings we've seen a million times - a story set in a generic European fantasyland can get a strike against it very fast. Lack of sensory detail is a pet peeve.

Anna: People sometimes forget that we're mostly a reprint market. Sending us something that's not extraordinary yet good will be rejected if it's an original but that same story might be bought as a reprint. It's a little headscratching for us, because we assume authors want to be paid, and if they get their story printed somewhere else first, they'll be paid twice for their efforts! If the story is great, something that really speaks to us and we really love, it makes no difference whatsoever...we do run a handful of originals every year as well as a handful of stories that we solicit (as opposed to being subbed to us). But there's fifty two slots in a year and not every one of those is a story that completely blew us away and an author's chances are much better if their story has been bought before.

W1S1: What do you like best about editing for PodCastle?

Dave: Finding the right voice for a story is definitely my favorite part. Reading a story, and trying to figure out which of our awesome narrators is perfect for it. And then, knowing that I can listen to that story over and over again.

Anna: I do poorly on "like best" questions generally, but a couple of things I enjoy about editing PodCastle are working as a partner with Dave and when people tell us that they have difficulty reading stories in text but are able to enjoy them in audio - either because they lack time to read, or have a disability, or are too young yet to be independent readers. Being able to bring stories to people who would not otherwise have access to them is really rewarding for me.



A huge thanks to Dave and Anna for joining us! For those of us looking for fantasy audio markets, PodCastle should be at the top of our list.

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