Author Topic: EA Metacast Aug '09  (Read 3016 times)


  • Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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on: August 23, 2009, 09:00:41 PM
Original Post

[Ben Phillips]

EA Metacast - August 2009

This metacast announcement is going out over the Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Pseudopod feeds, so if it sounds familiar it's because you've heard it before.  Feel free to skip it.  There's no story here, either.  This is a State of the Podcasting Company Address for those who are curious, and I'll also make some announcements about upcoming merchandise, a fun contest with fabulous prizes that's nice and easy for you to enter, and how the two relate.  More on that in a minute.

My name is Ben Phillips.  I am the chief editor of Pseudopod, the horror fiction podcast, and as of this calendar year I'm also the managing editor of Escape Artists, Inc., as a whole, which brings you Pseudopod, PodCastle for fantasy, and of course Escape Pod, still the high emperor of free science fiction audio since its inception in 2005.

First off:  You asked for them, so solid plans are in the works for t-shirts, and YOU can help us come up with what should be written on them.  Tag lines, in other words.  Escape Pod:  The Future Is Now!  PodCastle:  It's what's for Second Breakfast.  Pseudopod:  The streets will run red with the blood of the non-listeners.  Whatever.  You can do better than we can.  Send your submission by September 15, 2009, to  You can submit a tag line for any one of the three podcasts, or for Escape Artists in general.  You can submit tag lines for all of them!  You can submit ten tag lines for each one of them.  But you don't need to.  More details can be found at on our Contests board.

Now I'm going to let you hear briefly from some of the other principles involved.  To kick it off here's the man who started it all (and roped me into it!), my old college buddy and founder not only of Escape Artists, but also the fiction critique group we used to be in together where we solidified our "radical" views on genre limitations or lack thereof.  Here he is:  Steve Eley.

[Steve Eley]

Hi. It's been a while. So -- how've you been? Good? You're looking good; did you lose weight?

All right. Getting real here. What Ben has said to you so far, he's said as the guy who's running Escape Artists Inc. Why is he running Escape Artists?  Because I asked him to. Quite bluntly I realized I just couldn't do it any more. If you've listened to Escape Pod long enough you've heard me talking about having some mental health _interesting times;_ you've seen my occasional supreme lack of organization and some consequences thereof; and you've heard me wax very passionately on the desire to keep short fiction strong in SF, but without doing enough to reach out to the rest of the community.  And now, as more people than ever are involved in Escape Artists, and as our three podcasts are being recognized as primary institutions in their genres -- we have the potential to do some amazing things.  And more and more I've been feeling like I'm holding it back.  This is bigger now than one guy -- especially one guy with a day job that's really motivating for a change, a second child on the way, and an ADD mind that's much more suited to big vision than keeping schedules in order day-to-day.  I'm still the owner of this company, but that needs to change.  I still have my motivation for story, but the _business_ of story is something that other people on our team are better at than I am.  My personal mission now is to empower the right people to kick ass, and get _my_ ass out of their way.

So here's what's going to happen, in a nutshell.  First: I'm going to stop owning this company.  As of about, oh, _now,_ Escape Artists, Inc. is beginning the bureaucratic process of reincorporating as a non-profit and filing for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  This is something we'd talked about internally for a while, and I'd researched it seriously before we became a business at all.  At the time it seemed too complex for what still felt like a hobby.  Now it's time.  This has some benefits for you: assuming we get approved, and I make _no_ promises on how long this will take, if you're a US citizen any donations to us will be tax-deductible.  And we can still do advertising and all of that.  But the real reason is that it fits better what we're doing in my head.  My feelings on making money from this have changed -- and not just because the economy's kept us from making any money anyway.  All of these podcasts have missions that are about keeping a certain type of story alive.  A certain spirit, a certain imagination, a certain energy.  Going non-profit means that no one person, including me, can make or break that spirit.  No one owns it.  It means decisions made by a board putting the community first.  It's not going to be simple, and probably won't be cheap; and if you're considering donating -- I'll get to that in a minute -- please please _please_ don't hold off waiting for this.  We need to stay alive long enough to get there.  And by the way, if any lawyers are listening who can help us, I'd love it if you'd drop me a line.

That's the big picture.  Smaller scale: let's talk about Escape Pod.  I know people still think Escape Pod == Steve Eley.  That's probably because I talk too much.  But the managing end of Escape Pod has almost completely been Jeremiah Tolbert for a while now.  He's been doing the story selection, he's been working with Nathan to do our audio editing, he's lining up the story schedules.  He's been doing the work.  And he's succeeding at it.  And by the way, there's been a little bit of blog brouhaha lately from people thinking two stories they don't like in a row means there's some sort of sea change in the kinds of stories EP is running -- not really true.  Stories bought by Jeremy have been running since about EP190.  If you liked "Sumo21" or "Exhalation" -- that's the one about the world powered by air pressure -- you like Jeremiah Tolbert's story selection.  He's as good at this as I am -- actually much better, since he's completely turned around our response time issues as well and is actively soliciting work from more name authors.

But I'm still hosting Escape Pod, right?  Right.  Wellll, actually...  I'm kind of sharing that too.  I already have been; you've heard plenty of guest hosts here, and that's been kind of fun.  We can keep doing that too.  But it's been the intention for a while to try to find someone who can help out with it regularly, so that nothing falls behind if Steve flakes.  We've found our cohost, we've brainwashed him into it, and I'm pleased to report that Norm Sherman, of the Drabblecast, will be _officially_ cohosting Escape Pod.  Norm's work has always stirred my envy -- the boy doesn't just talk and narrate amazingly good flash stories, he also writes songs and does foley effects and educates us on the dangers of freakish marine life.  We're lucky to have Norm on the team.  And no, this doesn't mean I'm vanishing.  I like reading things out loud too much, and, well, I like you guys too much to just go away.  That sounds cheesy, but it's true.

So those are the big announcements.  One smaller thing: we've been having complaints, and confusion, and just general bad vibes about some of the blog comments on our stories.  It's sort of an oddity that we have two separate communities for each podcast: there are our discussion forums, at, and then we also allow comments on the blog itself.  The forums have a pretty good crowd and are well-moderated thanks to strong efforts by some great volunteers.  The blog discussions are less moderated and while it's easier to just post a quick line there, they also tend to be prone to a lot of hit-and-run snipery and anonymous bad behavior.  In a few cases it's actually discouraged some of our authors and narrators from wanting to work with us again, and that's crossing a line.  The editors have talked, and at least for the near future, Escape Pod's answer is that new episodes are going to have blog comments disabled, and we'll post a link instead to the discussion thread in the forums.  I'm sorry if that's an annoyance for you, but it only takes 30 seconds to sign up in our forums, and it is a good community.  If you have strong opinions for or against, please let us know about it -- at

Finally: donations.  All right.  Ben was going to talk about this more, and then we kind of felt that maybe I should, because I sound nicer.  It comes to this: 2009 is a shitty year to be a donation-driven project.  Our audience numbers are good -- not growing fast, but holding well, at 20 to 25,000 for Escape Pod and 8 to 10,000 for PodCastle and Pseudopod.  These are really healthy numbers, and I love you all.  But donations?  Not so good.  We've been in the red for several months now.  Besides the stories, we have some paid staff now, and we're trying our best to pay our editors.  We haven't had a month in a while where everyone who's supposed to get paid _got_ paid.  I've refused to be paid.  I had to put more money in from my personal savings a couple times, and I personally haven't taken any money _out_ from my own company in over a year.  That's not a "Whee, look at me, I'm so noble" declaration -- I'm just letting you know where we are.

I know a lot of folks are out of work right now.  I know money's tight everywhere.  Our content's always free, and I won't ask you to do anything stupid -- if it comes to "donate ten bucks to support our authors," or "feed your family" -- go.  Feed your family.  I think most of our authors would tell you the same.  But if you can spare it, if you've been thinking you might for a while and haven't done it yet -- this would be the time.  We're building out advertising but it won't happen instantly.  And in the meantime we're facing having to make decisions like cutting our story rates, or going biweekly, because the cash flow just _isn't there._  We need your help.  I'm not dramatizing, it's just how it is.  If you want to give a one-time donation, that's great, we'd love to have your support.  But the _best_ thing you can do to help would be to click the $5 a month button on any one of our podcast sites.  That's a single cup of coffee for a lot of people these days, but to us it means support we can plan for month-to-month.  That we can budget in.  Either way, anything you can do for us will earn our sincere gratitude, and keep these podcasts going with stories week after week.  Please think about it.  And whatever you do, keep spreading the word about us.

Finally: one more cheerful note.  Dragon*Con's coming up in a couple weeks here in Atlanta.  You, me, and fifty thousand of your closest fan friends.  Once again I'll be joining up with Cunning Minx and we'll be cohosting an Escape Pod/Poly Weekly meetup.  Sunday September 6th, 11 AM at the Gordon Biersch brewpub.  This'll be our third year in a row, and it's a lot of fun and a great way to make new friends.  At least, for me it is.  It helps me get over my shyness.  So I hope to see you there, and either way you'll be hearing me on the podcast.  I'm passing the mic on now.  Thanks for listening, thank you for being as cool as you are, whoever you are, and Have Fun.

[Rachel Swirsky]

(Untranscribed as yet.)

[Ben Phillips]

This is Ben Phillips again.  I could babble at you myself about Pseudopod since I'm still its chief editor, but I think I'll let the charming Manx guy take it away.

[Alasdair Stuart]

Hello, I’m Alasdair Stuart and I host Pseudopod, Escape Artist’s weekly
horror fiction magazine.  I remember years ago reading Douglas Adams’ bio in
the front of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and being slightly jealous of
the jobs he’d done.  A few years later, given that I’ve worked as a comic
store manager, local journalist, civil service porter, the world’s most
polite bouncer and now master of ceremonies for the largest horror fiction
market on the planet, I’m not so jealous anymore.

I’m two years into hosting the show and in those two years a lot has
changed.  We’re now regularly topping 10,000 listeners and have produced
over 150 episodes featuring stories from authors at every level of the
field.  We’ve featured stories from Stoker award winners like David Nickle,
podcasting icons like Scott Sigler and Matt Wallace and up and coming stars
like David Barr Kirtley, Grady Hendrix and Matthew Bey.  We’ve even had a
visit from one of the acknowledged masters, running The Music of Erich Zann
by HP Lovecraft as our hundredth episode and have another in the wings, with
a Mort Castle story scheduled to run later this year.

Pseudopod works a very difficult beat as we have to unsettle and entertain
every single week.  Our editor, Ben Phillips, has an exceptional eye for a
good piece of fiction and the diverse range of stories we run is down
entirely to his discernment and taste.  Horror, all too often, is decried as
Old Man Wilkins from the amusement park under a bedsheet spattered with
fluorescent paint or the sole province of 14 year olds wearing death metal
t-shirts and the truth is, it’s both and it’s neither.  Horror doesn’t have
the distance of science fiction or fantasy, to say nothing of the
reassurance inherent in both genres.  No, horror is immediate, happening,
here and now, down the street.  Horror is someone telling you something they
can’t possibly know, a glimpsed familiar figure in the distance, the
realisation that the calls are coming from inside the house.  Horror is an
intimate, personal genre and despite this an immensely inclusive one.  There’s
room for us all, including the fourteen year olds in death metal t-shirts
and even Old Man Wilkins.

Which is why I love my job.  Every week I get to introduce one of the best
authors on the planet and watch as they terrify an audience that spans the
globe.  Because for me, the real secret of horror isn’t that everyone gets
scared, but that sometimes, it’s fun to be scared as part of a crowd.

[Ben Phillips]

Just a couple of closing comments.  I am very proud to be a part of Escape Artists.  Every one of these podcasts really pushes its respective genre forward, and is a major player in the industry as a whole by dint of the sheer size of the audience.  Sure, a lot of PodCastles could have been Escape Pods, a lot of which could have been Pseudopods, a lot of which could have been PodCastles.  That's going to happen, because the way we see it, genre boundaries...  aren't.  Our cavalier view of genre limitations is part of what defines us as a company, and it is the reason you hear excellent fiction from us that may have slipped through the cracks of other fiction venues because of split hairs about whether it belongs there.  We believe, more than anything, that great fiction belongs anywhere other than just a dusty corner of an author's house.

We have a staff of serious professionals across the board.  We have put an immense amount of our time, creativity, and energy into building the largest audiences of any fiction anthology podcasts out there.  If we weren't immensely proud of that and excited about it, we wouldn't still be doing this.  And what makes it worthwhile is you, the listeners.  So from all of us at Escape Artists, Inc:  thank you.  Please enjoy the shows, join the discussion at, and spread the word to other people who enjoy stories for their own sake.  Sharing what we love is the reason we're here.

This is Ben Phillips, Managing Editor of Escape Artists, Inc., signing off for the EA Metacast of August 2009.  Thank you for listening, and in the words of the guns and ammo dealer in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas:  have fun!

Music:  "Glory to Dog" by Harmaline
« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 11:21:50 PM by Heradel »

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.