Interview: Mur Lafferty

Mur_lafferty_headshotMur Lafferty is one of the pioneers of podcasting – founder, producer, host, voice, editor, author. She has won the Parsec Award several times. Her Shambling Guide comedy-horror series is available from Orbit.

MUR’S RAP SHEET:
Member of the Podcast Pickle Hall of Fame
One of the Top Ten Savvy Women in Podcasting, 2006
Tricks of the Podcasting Masters was named one of the top reference books for 2006 by Amazon.com.
2007 Parsec Nomination for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Short Form): I Look Forward To Remembering You
2007 Parsec Award for Best Writing Related Podcast: I Should Be Writing
2008 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Novella Form): Heaven – Season Four: Wasteland
2008 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Long Form): Playing for Keeps
2010 Parsec Nomination for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Novella Form): Heaven – Season Five: War
2011 Parsec Nomination for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Novella Form): Marco and the Red Granny
2012 Nomination for John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
2013 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

 

Lafferty_ShamblingGuide2F8-1-200x300CARL SLAUGHTER: You’re one of the pioneers of podcasting. Geek Fu Action Grip, Wingin’ It, I Should Be Writing, Mad Science with the Princess Scientist, Angry Robot Books, Pseudopod, Escape Pod. Did I miss any?

MUR LAFFERTY: Almost! I did the Lulu Podcast and This Day in Alternate History back in 2007.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: How did you get involved in each of these projects and what significant happened while you were there?

MUR LAFFERTY: I’m not sure what significant things happened- I was simply interested in podcasting and I became part of the podcasting community where I met Michael and Evo of Dragon Page, and Steve Eley of Escape Pod. My communications with them had me working on Wingin’ It and the Pseudopod and Escape Pod, and editor Lee Harris was a listener of mine for I Should Be Writing and he asked me to do the Angry Robot show.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: You recently returned to Escape Pod. In what capacity?

MUR LAFFERTY: I’m Editor at Large for Escape Artists, which means I am co-editing Escape Pod with Norm Sherman, but I have some other duties that will be apparent in future months.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: I Should Be Writing is your longest running podcast. How many episodes have there been? What topics have you discussed? Who have you interviewed?

MUR LAFFERTY: Probably around 400 to 500 total. I have video, special eps, and some premium content for people who have supported me for years. I talk mainly about the anxieties that can stop new writers, and how to work past them. I’ve interviewed Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, NK Jemisin, and, coming up, Seanan McGuire and Charlaine Harris.

 

Mur_lafferty-300x198CARL SLAUGHTER: Who is the Princess Scientist, what are the science topics, and how mad is the science?

MUR LAFFERTY: She’s my 11 year old daughter, we do science experiments around a theme via video. We’ve done sun science and baking soda science.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: Whose idea was it to launch the Parsec Award? Who was involved?

MUR LAFFERTY: I thought SF podcasting needed an award, since podcasting awards started coming on the scene in 2005, but no one was recognizing the geeky section of shows. I got together with Michael R. Menenga and Tracy Hickman and we launched the award.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: You carved out a fiction career for yourself in podcasting before you broke into print. How does an author get podcasted without getting published first? Is it easier to get a story published after it’s been podcasted? Is it easier to break into print after you’ve been podcasted?

MUR LAFFERTY: Publishing fiction via podcast is a DIY endeavor – an author doesn’t “get” podcasted, she does it herself. As for easier, I don’t think so. Like all self publishing, if something is a huge hit, publishers may take notice, but if it’s not, then publishers will consider it already published and not worth their time. One thing podcasting will give you is an audience which can make you more attractive to publishers, but ultimately you have to have a good book.

 

Lafferty_GhostTraintoNOLA-TP-200x300CARL SLAUGHTER: Suppose someone wanted to launch a podcast. How much money would they need to raise? What would they need in the way of recording equipment and web resources? What would they need in terms of personnel?

MUR LAFFERTY: I think you’re thinking bigger than I’ve ever been! You can launch a podcast with a $20 mic and some web space, which can be $120 a year. You don’t need a group to do it, the biggest thing is make sure you have a host with plenty of bandwidth so, if you get popular, you don’t get hit with a huge server bill.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: Anything else an aspiring podcaster needs to know?

MUR LAFFERTY: You will hate your voice and your first few shows will likely suck. It happens to everyone. Don’t let it stop you.

 

Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

The Best of Escape Pod 2010-

written by David Steffen

And, on to my next list. Again, I’ll be picking up where I left off from my previous Best of Escape Pod list, and running to the end of 2010. This’ll be a short one because I posted that list in May. For this list I considered episodes 240-273, and here’s my 5 favorites. Enjoy!

There have been big changes at Escape Pod since the last list, especially two things:
1. The founder of Escape Pod and the other Escape Artists podcasts, Steve Eley, has stepped down from his former role after the birth of his second child. I hope everything’s going great for him, and I wish him the best of fortune. I’ll always have a soft spot for the guy, because my very first story check came with his signature on it (for my Pseudopod sale). I’d be happy to buy him a beer if I ever cross his path.
2. They’re a pro paying market now! As far as I know, this is the only pro paying podcast, great news.

And, if you like this, check out my other Best Of lists.

1. Bridesicle by Will McIntosh
read by Amy H. Sturgis

I’m clearly not alone in my like of this story, since it won the Hugo for short story. But hey, it’s really good. In the future, medical technology has advanced to the point that almost no condition is fatal, and the body can be kept alive for a very long time. The technology is available, but very expensive. It’s funded by treating it like a dating meat market. Wealthy customers visit, have a chat with the momentarily awakened people, and if they hit it off they can pay to have them permanently cured and revived. This is the story of a woman in one of these holds, as she’s woken up for suitor after suitor.

2. Cruciger by Erin Cashier
read by Kij Johnson

I read this first in Writers of the Future. To quote Flight of the Conchords, “The humans are dead.” Well, most of them are, and the rest are preserved, in the hands of a superpowerful superintelligent robot (named Duxa) created by the last vestiges of humanity to find a planet suitable for terraforming and tear it apart to make a human-inhabitable world. But while she’s there, she makes first contact with an intelligent race of swimming tentacled beings.

3. We are Ted Tuscadero for President by Chris Dahlen
read by Cheyenne Wright

You think political advertisements are ever-present now? Imagine if Presidential candidates could make dozens of “proxies” of themselves, with their full set of memories, allowing them to be everywhere they want to be all at once. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s about a politician. I generally hate politician stories, but this one was really good, perhaps because this proxy was split off from his main self

4. The Love Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake by Robert T. Jeschonek
read by John Cmar

Wow, Cmar has an amazing voice, unbelievably well-suited for this story. Smidgen is a snack cake, part of an intelligent sales system, meant to tempt buyers into spending money. He has no greater goal in the world other thanbeing eaten. And Cmar’s salesman voice is very convincing in the role.

5. Ò‰lan Vital by K. Tempest Bradford
read by Mur Lafferty

Have you ever wished you could’ve extended the life of a loved one who died before their time?. Â But what price would you pay?

The Best of Escape Pod

Escape Pod is the mother ship of speculative fiction podcasts. Five years ago, Steve Eley posted the very first Escape Pod episode, and set out with the goal of providing a weekly audio speculative fiction story. He did not want to charge for it, and he didn’t want listeners to be annoyed by constant advertisements. And he’s kept to these goals remarkably well for nearly half a decade. He’s created a company to run it, Escape Artists Inc., which has spawned two sister podcasts, Pseudopod for horror and Podcastle for fantasy, while refocusing Escape Pod’s tastes to focus on science fiction. All three are supported by user donations. You can make a one-time payment or set up a monthly payment, whichever makes the most sense to you. They prefer reprints, though they do run original stories from time to time (like mine), so they’re sort of like a “Best of” podcast themselves, taking high quality stories that have (usually) appeared elsewhere, and breathing new life into them by having them read aloud.

I’m eternally grateful to Steve Eley for starting this venture because Pseudopod was the very first market to ever buy my fiction. If it weren’t for the success of Escape Pod, that sale would never have happened. After I received the Pseudopod acceptance letter, I set out to listen to Pseudopod’s backlog to find out whose footsteps I was following in, and I loved it!  If you’re like me and you rarely take the time to just sit down and read, podcasts are the perfect medium. I listen to stories while driving to and from work and while doing low-cognitive tasks around the house like washing dishes or raking leaves. So I listened to all of the Pseudopod stories, and then wrote a Best of Pseudopod list. I did the same for Best of Podcastle. And now, to complete the Best of Escape Artists trifecta, this is the Best of Escape Pod list.

I’ve listened to every single Escape Pod story that’s been published to date, 239 full length episodes and many flash fiction extras. iTunes estimates 6.5 days of audio for all of this. And from all of those stories, I’ve picked my top 10 ranked favorites, along with 6 more that almost made the list. In truth, there were a lot more that I would’ve liked to put on the list, but I really wanted to keep it at a top 10, not a top 100 or 200. Trimming it down to just these 16 was extremely difficult, but these are what I consider the cream of the crop and I hope you agree. And the good news is that there are plenty more quality episodes to listen to after this.

By the way, Escape Pod is on hiatus for the moment because Steve Eley’s second child was born a couple months ago. He’s resigning from his position as editor of Escape Pod, but EP will be returning with new episodes and a new editor on May 12th.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough, on to the list!

1. Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster
Read by Lawrence Santoro

Another world very different from our own, where masks define who you are. The worldbuilding in this is among the best I’ve ever seen, easing you into this strange world at just the right pace so that it’s neither boring or too confusing. The first section or two are a little hard to grasp, but just keep listening, it should start to come together. This one is nominated for this year’s Hugo award, and I really think it deserves it. And, as if that weren’t enough, this is one of those cases where a narrator transforms a great story into something even more outstanding. Lawrence has a very versatile and emotional voice and it fits perfectly with this story.

2. Friction by Will McIntosh
Read by Stephen Eley

There’s some great philosophy on this one and some great characters as well. Told from an alien point of view, I really felt for the characters and this story left me pondering long after it was done, about finding a purpose in life.

3. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Read by Ray Sizemore

Another great philosophical one. Another alien point of view, this story leans more toward the hard science fiction side of things than I usually care to go, but manages to tie in the science in such a way that it’s interesting to hear about, it’s relevant to the plot, and makes me sink into a delightful philosophical stupor.

4. Connie, Maybe by Paul E. Martens
Read by Wichita Rutherford

The funniest Escape Pod episode, this one had me rolling. This is another case where the perfect choice of narrator made the story transcend above the words it contained. Wichita Rutherford’s exaggerated backwoods accent fits perfectly with this story about identity and alien abduction.

5. Lachrymose and the Golden Egg by Tim Pratt
Read by Stephen Eley

Don’t look so surprised. You knew that Tim Pratt had to be on the list after he got 3 spots in the Best of Podcastle top 10. I don’t know how he does it, but with every story he manages to create an interesting and unique setting and populate it with compelling characters and keep me on the edge of my seat up until the end. A great story about parallel worlds and the ties between them, and the price you’re willing to pay to help others.

6.ÂÂ I Look Forward to Remembering You by Mur Lafferty
Read by Daisy Ottman, Anna Eley, and Stephen Eley

A great example of a time travel story done right. A woman hires a time-traveling consort to travel back in time to help herself lose her virginity in the hopes of improving her current life. Heartfelt and wonderfully done. Also includes a mention of Ranma 1/2, which was a great show.

7. His Master’s Voice by Hannu Rajaniemi
Read by Peter Piazza

A tale of cyberhumans and clones as told by cyborg dog. Can it get any better than this? Yes it can–the cyborg dog also has a cyborg cat friend! The first few minutes can be a little confusing as you try to sort out the setting, and I’m not entirely sure that I understood everything that happened. But whether or not I did, I enjoyed the ride!

8. Barnaby in Exile by Mike Resnick
Read by Paul Fischer

Resnick has a reputation on the Escape Pod forums for writing tearjerkers, and this is definitely one of those. Barnaby the ape talks to his handler about various and sundry things, all filtered through his very limited point of view. If this doesn’t make you feel any emotion, then you may very well be a robot.

9. Reparations by Merrie Haskell
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal

A worthwhile use for time travel! I dug this story mostly for its premise. The story’s compelling as well, but just the idea itself had me so in awe of Merrie Haskell’s creative powers that I was too awestruck to nitpick the story much. I’d like to think that I would volunteer for this program if such a program existed.

10. How I Mounted Goldie, Saved my Partner Lori, and Sniffed out the People’s Justice by Jonathon Sullivan
Read by Stephen Eley and Jennifer Bowie

Another canine point of view. What can I say, I like dogs! Told as a debriefing of a K-9 cop. Steve Eley outdoes himself with the voice on this one, sounding like a perfect dog. Keep in mind while you listen to this one that Pixar had not yet release UP when this story was published, so he is not just copying Dug. I like to think that someone at Pixar heard the story and that Dug is a copy of Steve Eley’s voice. Also, for anyone who’d like to get a peek behind the scenes of podcasting, EP also released an unedited version which includes multiple takes, and just BSing between Stephen and Jennifer. I wouldn’t listen to it before the final cut, but I got some laughs out of it listening to it after.


Honorable Mentions:

Impossible Dreams by Tim Pratt
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick

A hugo winner, and perfect for media lovers.

Cinderella Suicide by Samantha Henderson
Read by MarBelle

Full of weird slang, a little hard to follow at times, but fun.

Pennywhistle by Greg van Eekhout
Read by Anna Eley

Flash fiction. Dark, very dark, but oh so great.

When We Went to See the End of the World by Robert Silverberg
Read by J.C. Hutchins

A bit dated, written decades ago. A vision of the future that had me laughing for odd reasons.

Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley
Read by Mur Lafferty

A world where monsters are commonplace, people carry swords, but knights and pirates never existed. Fun!

Off White Lies by Jeffrey R. DeRego
Read by Scott Sigler

Just one of the many Union Dues superhero stories by Mr. DeRego that ran on EP. I like most of them to some extent, but this one has some actual action.