It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.
I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.
So today, I’m pleased to feature the Hugo, Girl! podcast, which discusses Hugo winners and finalists as well as other SFF novels from a feminist POV.
Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Haley Zapal, Amy Salley as well as Lori and Kevin Anderson of Hugo, Girl! to my blog today:
Tell us about your podcast or channel.
Hugo, Girl! is a book club-style discussion podcast. We all read the month’s selection, with someone designated as DM each episode, meaning that they’ll take the lead on guiding the discussion and providing a little research into the book and author. Before the episode, we painstakingly avoid discussing the book in our group chat lest we spoil the upcoming discussion and waste hilarious reactions. (This is harder than it sounds).
We structure each episode around recurring segments like Boob Talk, Misogynist Moment, and Goodies from Goodreads. We end with the hardest, and probably most divisive segment, “Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?” where we ostensibly decide if the month’s selection is more sci-fi or more fantasy, but in reality is code for “Did Haley like this book?” since she is a known Tolkien-hater.
One of our favorite reviews from Apple Podcasts described us like this – “Your smart, funny sci-fi book club: Three friends chat about books, share insights, and crack each other up.” That’s pretty much everything we hoped and dreamed our podcast would be!
Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?
Hugo, Girl! is hosted by three self-proclaimed space feminists: Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, and Lori Anderson. Our audio tech and editing wizard is Kevin Anderson. We all live and work in Atlanta, Georgia.
Haley has no memory of watching Star Wars for the first time — it’s always been a part of her consciousness. By 12 she was immersed in the Expanded Universe and writing her first novella-length fanfic. As an adult, she enjoys movies and books about space, and pondering if the speed of light really is the universe’s speed limit. She does not like fantasy, mainly because of all the horses.
Amy is a longtime sci-fi and fantasy fan. She cut her teeth on teen urban fantasy (including a dubious foray into vampire LARPing in her youth) and Star Trek:TNG and never looked back. In fact, her teenage commitment to one day wooing Wesley Crusher is probably how we got where we are today. Amy is fiercely committed to converting all of her friends to the Truth of nerdy pop culture, including but not limited to forcing them all to listen to the podcast.
Lori had no idea she was a sci-fi and fantasy geek until she was an adult, despite having read Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince series at least ten times between the ages of 15 and 20. She also read (and re-read) the Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series, but didn’t acknowledge the truth until her first trip to Atlanta’s Dragon Con in 2012. And there, a true geek was not exactly born, but at long last acknowledged and embraced.
Kevin’s first memory of being a “fan” is, of course, Star Wars (or maybe He-Man, who can say). From pretending to run from AT-ATs in the Northern Alberta snow, to puzzling over the timeline of Back to the Future, he was a fan from an early age. Soon every trip to the mall required a stop at the bookstore, where he would go straight to the Sci-Fi section, choosing books based mostly on cover art (this was before Goodreads!). He continues his fandom with yearly attendance at Dragon Con, cosplaying such characters as Herbert West (Re-Animator), Ned Flanders, the 10th Doctor (Doctor Who), and “Mad” Max Rockatansky.
Several years ago, during a mind-numbingly boring stretch of unemployment and in need of a worthwhile project, Haley set out to read all of the Hugo Award-winning novels. She started a blog with the most excellent pun name of “Hugo, Girl!” (think: you GO, girl!) to help chronicle her journey. No entries were made, sadly, but she did end up reading about 10 books before her funemployment was up. She had caught the fever, however — and a seed was planted.
Fast forward a few years later. Blogs are out, and podcasts are in — at least for 30-somethings looking for a fun, creative outlet. Haley’s ex-girlfriend at the time had been doing a podcast with her best friend for a while, viewing it as a way to cement scheduled hang-out sessions while also reading cool books together. Inspired by this, Haley decided a podcast with her best friends was something she definitely needed in her life — and she had just the perfect, catchy name to help convince Amy and Lori. They were sold almost instantly.
The fan categories at the Hugos were there at the very beginning, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?
High-powered studio creations, like Marvel movies, and industry-lauded best-selling novels may get a lot of attention (and thus awards) because they have deep pockets of funding, but fan-centered media and creation is the lifeblood of sci-fi and fantasy. A perfect illustration of this divide can be seen even in cons. Your hosts are passionate attendees of the Atlanta-based Dragon Con (Lori and Kevin even got married at the con, on the floor of the Marriot Marquis in 2014!). The costumes, the panels, the parties, the overwhelming joy you get from Dragon Con — it’s incredible. But it’s the more corporate cons like San Diego’s Comic-Con that get the biggest stars and hugest announcements.
Fan-based media is important because it fosters a sense of community with everyday people you can relate to. With just a little equipment (and it’s getting cheaper every year!) anyone can start up a zine or podcast — and as a result, the act of production has become much more democratized, offering platforms for diverse voices, points of view, and participants. Other fans tuning into a DIY fan podcast can also contribute as listeners, communicating with the hosts via social media or email to provide much-needed feedback and criticism. In this way, fan-created media can oftentimes create a sort of self-sustaining ecosystem, and it’s fun (and eye-opening!) to experience in real-time.
We were about a year into Hugo, Girl! when the pandemic hit, so we were forced to begin recording episodes remotely instead of huddled all around Lori’s dining room table. It was a bit of a change at first, but remote recording has really been a blessing, as it’s enabled us to collaborate with other podcasts all across North America, including Hugos There, Androids & Assets, and Gribcast. We’ve hosted a couple of one-off book clubs via Zoom, which gave us the opportunity to meet other podcasters and many of our most devoted listeners. It’s been great connecting with people who enjoy geeking out over the same stuff.
In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts have sprung up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?
If reading sci-fi for our entire lives has taught us anything, it’s that we’ll always adapt to whatever the prevailing technology is in our lives. We mentioned before the democratization of media production, and we think it’s only going to continue becoming more equitable, allowing nearly anyone to produce something that other people can read, listen to, or watch from anywhere in the world.
The media of the past was dominated by passivity — reading words printed on a book shipped across the country, listening to a radio show beamed from 40 miles away. We believe the media of the future will keep evolving toward more interactivity, as people work on projects together and discuss, comment, and critique each other in near real-time.
The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?
For reading material, we enjoy The Science Fiction Project (it’s tough to Google, so here’s a link: http://lovehistory.net/blog/the-science-fiction-project/), the Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, Nerds of a Feather, and your blog! For listening, we recommend Hugos There, Androids and Assets, and Desi Geek Girls.
This one isn’t exactly fan work, but we also wanted to mention the podcast Newcomers because we think many of your readers might like it as much as we do. Two great comedians, Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer, watch all the Star Wars (yes, including the Christmas special) and Lord of the Rings movies for the first time and discuss. It’s lighthearted and hilarious.
Where can people find you?
We are Hugo, Girl! on Facebook, @hugogirlpodcast on Instagram and Twitter, and we can be reached via email at email@example.com. We’re pretty sure we’re on all the major podcast hosting apps, but if we’re not on the one you like, send us an email or a Tweet and we’ll try to fix that!
Thank you, Haley, Amy, Lori and Kevin, for stopping by and answering my questions.
Do check out Hugo, Girl!, cause it’s a great fancast.
Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.