Podcasting Extraordinaire

Podcasts are rather superb. For some reason the science fiction community produces a lot of them and many of them are of wonderful quality. My current favourite is Notes From Coode Street with Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. Listening to these fellows makes one remember exactly why one fell in love with science fiction in the first place. I do enjoy short stories and fiction of any kind, as podcasts I mean. But. Listening to really really knowledgeable conversation on literature and authors is such a rare and sublime pleasure that it tends to hit the sweet spot with an impact rarely achieved by even the best of fiction.

These conversations titillate and make science fiction not only seem relevant but important. Both gentlemen possess a truly inspiring knowledge of the field, such as to awe almost any listener. These conversations, not to put too fine a point on it, are nothing short of cultural history.

The latest podcast kicks off with Frederik Pohl and his relevance to the genre both as a pro writer and as one of the original fans, touches on Robert Silverberg and Philip José Farmer, moves on to the Big Three (Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein), segues a bit into jazz and Miles Davis and, well, franchise. People want to read what they like. And then they want to read some more of what they like - which is what sells books. Not intellectual or literary quality per se.

What I particularly enjoy about these conversations is the balance between structured content and improvisational riffing. One never quite knows where the conversation will lead but it always is worthwhile and interesting. And it may be off on a tangent but never haphazard - there always is an underlying logic that pulls the entire conversation together and elevates it. That is of course a difficult thing to achieve - unless one really really knows what one is talking about and has rare insight. Like these fellows.

And the amazing thing is that it's all pretty much off the cuff. They just bounce ideas and authors and books off each other and see where it leads. And still it's utterly solid and eminently erudite. Anything these fellows have to say is worth saying. That's because these fellows understand the field as a whole as only few people do. They have knowledge about writing as well as editing and publishing and even marketing. They know the authors and their works, profoundly and intimately. They understand the mechanisms that sculpt and regulate science fiction.

Also, they've met the legends. It's pretty wonderful to hear first hand stories of say Philip José Farmer and Frederik Pohl from people who've had deep and meaningful conversations with them. Cultural history indeed.

Other topics: iPad, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman and Neverwhere, comic books, Shirley Jackson, slipstream. The conversation just takes off in any direction. Which is simply delightful.

Wonderful story in the podcast: Peter Straub wrote a comic book and was introduced, at a comic book convention, very apologetically, as a writer of prose novels! (That being a bit embarrasing really.) This simply to illustrate that franchise is far more important than authors.

These podcasts last an hour or so. They seem much shorter. That's because one gets so mesmerised by them that time just flies. Which is a good thing because really to get everything out of them one has to listen to them at least a couple of times. Otherwise a lot of important stuff just passes one by.

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