The Escape Artists’ Next Big Trick

Hello! I bought a company this year! Let me explain why!

 

I’ve worked for Pseudopod for around eight years. I love my job. I get to indulge my fundamental need to aurally cosplay as Chris Stevens whilst simultaneously doing my favorite job; being the MC. Every week a new horror author comes on stage, the narrator does their magic and then I come back and tie stuff off at the end. It’s a wonderful job, just enough limelight to feed my ego, just enough analysis to keep my inner academic happy and every single week I learn a little more about horror fiction.

I love it. It’s my home, a job I’ve held longer than any other.

Last year it almost ended.

Rising costs, small donations and an organizational structure that accreted rather than being built meant that by the time we put out that colossal metacast at the end of last year, we had six weeks operational costs left.

I’ve been a temp in a lot of places. I’ve been a freelancer a lot of others. Neither of those jobs has permanence to them and I’ve had my fair share of contracts end, companies fold and magazines shot out from under me. That’s the nature of the game and if I couldn’t deal with it, I wouldn’t do it.

But I’d never had a company close around me before.

It terrified me.

So, after we’d hauled the metacast on course and got enough donations to secure a good ten months out, I got thinking. Firstly about how amazing our listeners and staff are and secondly about the one question I didn’t want to think about.

What happens next time?

No one likes to have to save someone twice. The thought of having to do this all over again, with diminished returns, broke my heart.

So I got talking to Dan Sawyer and we hatched a plan. Dan is an old friend of mine, a kickass audio engineer and author in his own right. We’d worked together on the Crudrat kickstarter and that had dovetailed neatly with the six weeks of me being up to my elbows in EA’s chest gore screaming ‘DON’T YOU DIE ON ME! DON’T YOU *DIE ON ME*!’. After the third week of hearing me complain, he suggested something.

‘Why don’t we just buy the company?’

There was, it turns out, no reason not to. So, we reached out to then publisher Paul Haring and EA’s own Stan Lee, Steve Eley and made the initial offer. They both said yes. In fact, they both did the equivalent of nodding vigorously in prose form and so we were under way. After five months of admin and due diligence, which, in Alasdair years, felt a little like five years at times, we signed off. So, Dan and I bought the company back in July.

 

We waited this long to announce because we knew, regardless of how we reassured folks, some people would still worry that would mean a drastic editorial step change. It doesn’t, and never will. We’re publishers, not editors and I’ll put this next line out by itself because it’s important.

 

We will never, ever dictate editorial policy. We have some of the best editors in the business. Getting in their way would be as foolish as it would be unnecessary.

 

Instead, our job is to secure the company as it is and expand. Right now, the metacast is going up on the various feeds and that’ll talk about what we’re doing but the Cliff Notes version is this:

Escape Pod, Pseudopod and Podcastle aren’t going anywhere.

-There’s going to be a Kickstarter next year to fund a massive expansion, all contingent on the kickstarter funding.

-This will include two new shows, which we’ll announce nearer the time.

-A massive cross company website overhaul that we’ve needed for ages.

-Narrator pay.

-Expansion into digital publishing.

 

2014 has been vast amounts of behind the scenes work getting this set up. None of it has been easy, not all of it has been fun but it’s all been necessary. Thanks to our listeners we’ve got a rock solid foundation. Our job now is to build on that to create something even more extraordinary than EA already is.

In other words, the water tank is full, the padlocks have been doublechecked and the timer has been started. But, for the first time in a long time, the Escape Artists have a full lung full of air and a PLAN. Go listen to some of the finest people I know talk about what we have planned for next year.

Also, Alasdan fan art. Make it happen, internet.

In the meantime, it’s good to be home.

Where’s Al?-The Bigger on the Inside Edition Part 1

It’s been a busy few weeks, so busy, in fact that ‘Where’s Al?’ needs to be broken up into two entries. First off, let’s take a look at what’s been going on at Hub, Pseudopod and Escape Pod recently..

Podcasting
Orrin Grey’s ‘The Worm That Gnaws’ followed Mark Felps’ ‘Raising Eddie’ at Pseudopod. It’s a great piece, a period story about the very real and very supernatural dangers of grave robbing.

Blake Vaughn’s ‘The Leviathan’ was up next and is one of my favourite Pseudopod stories in a while. It’s a piece about what it’s like to brush up against something unknowable on both the intimate and the supernatural scale and reminded me more than a little of Ray Bradbury’s classic ‘The Foghorn’.

Things got meta the week after that with the debut of the first ever Escape Artists metacast. It’s interesting listening, with Ben our CEO, Steve, our founder, Rachel the co-editor of Podcastle and myself all contributing with details of where the company stands, what processes go into making an episode and how we feel about doing the work.

The week after that, Felicity Bloomfield’s haunting ‘Wave Goodbye’, a story that balances first world guilt with third world horror to terrifying effect.

Regulars’ was up next, with Frank Oreto deftly using the social contract between barkeep and customer to focus the deep, personal horror of the piece.

Jim Bihyeh’s ‘Reservation Monsters’ followed it, exploring Navajo culture with tremendous subtlety and atmosphere.

Most recently ‘Got Milk?’ by John Alfred Taylor explored what happens when you don’t notice reality start to curdle until it’s much, much too late. I narrated this one as well as introduced it and it’s a blast, simultaneously very funny and utterly revolting

I also spent a month in the woooorlld of tomorrow! Or Escape Pod as we like to call it, where I guest hosted four episodes. The first ‘Cathargo Delenda Est’ by Genevieve Valentine is a story about what happens when something is about to happen, that moment before the singularity, before everything changes.

Skinhorse goes to Mars’ by Jay Lake was up next, a highly entertaining combination of demented pulp invention and grounded, almost Firefly-like universe building.

The Monkey Will Never Get Rid Of Its Black Hands’ by Rachel Swirsky followed it, which I also narrated. This, to my mind, is one of the best stories we’ve ever run, a fascinating, troubling combination of alternate history, seething fury and vast human tragedy.

Finally, ‘Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast’ by Eugie Foster is yet another in a run of massively inventive, intelligent stories from Eugie. This and Rachel’s piece are two real highlights in what’s been a very strong year for all three podcasts.

Hub

Issue 95 kicked off with ‘Last Flight’ by Malin Larsson as well as a look at the Vampire in fiction by our new columnist Janet Neilson and reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes 19-21 by Richard Whittaker.

Issue 96 featured ‘Obsession’ by Jo Thomas as our story and featured my look at Ivan Reitman’s flawed but fun Evolution in our Big Screen Future feature. It’s not a perfect movie, but I’d contend any film which allows David Duchovny, Seann William Scott and Orlando Jones to sing ‘Play That Funky Music, White Boy’ has got to have something going for it. The issue is rounded out by a review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode 22 by Richard Whittaker.

Issue 97 featured ‘The Locked Room’ by Gaie Sebold and Martin Owton. The reviews section was given over to a Blockbuster round up covering Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Orphan. The issue was rounded out by Gary McMahon’s excellent Bleeding Words column, looking at the difficulties of transitioning from the small press to the big leagues.

Most recently, issue 98 featured an exclusive; ‘The Clockwork Hunter’ is a short story by Andy Remic set in the same universe as Kell’s Legend, his new novel from Angry Robot. It’s a fantastically nasty, very odd fantasy world delivered with Andy’s usual flair and this story is a perfect chance to see if it’s your thing.

The reviews cover Sarah Pinborough’s superb The Language of Dying, Neil Blommkamp’s fascinating District 9 and a combined review of Inglourious Basterds and Shorts. I’m a big fan of movie reviews at the best of times, you may have noticed, but the Inglourious Basterds review is something genuinely very special. I don’t agree with some of the points raised in it but I’ve yet to see another review approach the film as an exploration of film itself in quite so much depth.

The other stand out review this issue is a double header, as both Janet and I take a look at Personal Effects: Dark Art. A fascinating, transmedia novel that comes with a packet of documents that inform the story and sits in the centre of a cloud of websites that allow the reader to interrogate the story, it’s the print debut of podcasting giant JC Hutchins. Check out the reviews to see what we thought of it.
The issue is rounded out by another Big Screen Future, this time looking at James Cameron’s The Abyss. To my mind it’s not only Cameron’s best film but also the one that his new movie, Avatar, appears closest to in terms of approach. Whether Avatar will be instantly successful, in the way The Abyss wasn’t, is going to be fascinating to see.

So that’s what’s been going on with the podcasts and Hub recently. Check back tomorrow for a break down of what else has been going on.