Fancast Spotlight: The Skiffy and Fanty Show

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 three-time Hugo finalist The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Shaun Duke and Jen Zink of The Skiffy and Fanty Show to my blog today:

Tell us about your podcast or YouTube channel.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show is, as you might have guessed, a podcast focused on literature, film, and other media broadly viewed as science fiction, fantasy, or horror. The show had humble beginnings, which is a nice way of saying we had no idea what we were doing because there weren’t a whole lot of SF/F/H podcasts back in those days. But we think we’ve figured it out (mostly). In a lot of ways, we’re just a bunch of mega dorks who want to have thoughtful and occasionally hilarious conversations about genre fiction and film, and that makes for a show that could best be described as “what Killer Klowns from Outer Space would be like if the klowns didn’t kill anyone and they were from Earth and had far too much time on their hands for semi-intelligent conversation.” Some might say that’s not an accurate statement, but we’ll let you be the judge!

On a more serious note, we’ve been at this since 2010. In those 10 years, we’ve discussed new and old works of film and literature, conducted interviews with authors from over a dozen countries, and given our time each month to semi-drunkenly discuss a supposedly terrible SF/F/H film (now selected by our supporters). In all that time, we’ve worked our butts off to draw attention to works by BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and women authors, going so far as to set entire years to specific themes. In Summer 2020, we decided to permanently focus our positive coverage almost exclusively on the contributions of BIPOC creators, with a little wiggle room for Into the Wardrobe (our show covering children’s films from our childhood), Torture Cinema (our bad movie comedy review show), and other quite irregular shows with specific focuses (like Thrawn and On and On, our Star Wars literature discussion show). All of this work has, I think, earned us a pretty loyal following and the honor of being Hugo Award finalists three separate times. And if you’re reading this and are partly responsible for that: THANK YOU!

TL;DR: We’re a mega dork podcast about genre fiction in all its myriad forms, and we conduct interviews and record thoughtful discussions about all things genre with a diverse range of people.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

The main folks are Shaun Duke and Jen Zink. But we have a whole lot of lovely folks who have joined us throughout the years, including Hugo Award finalist Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Alex Acks, Mike Underwood, Brandon O’Brien, Stina Leicht, and many MANY others. You can find a humongous list of folks who have contributed over the years here: https://skiffyandfanty.com/about/contributors/

Also: Shaun’s cat sometimes makes an appearance, and if we ever do live episodes again, you’ll see it happen in real time!

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

It’s a tad complicated. Originally, Shaun wanted to start a podcast with Jen because he’d moved across the country and wanted to keep in touch. Shaun not having any sense, he just thought it would be real easy and there would be nothing to worry about in making a podcast for the general public about dorky things. Jen having some sense was initially reluctant. So there was a brief moment when Shaun did it with a fellow by the name of Adam before Jen finally came to her non-senses and decided “hey, I want to hang with my best friend and talk about genre fiction.” And the rest was history, as they say.

We didn’t exactly have lofty goals at the start. We just wanted to do a thing to stay in touch and talk about stuff we loved, and then we discovered that the thing we called a podcast had some influence, and we could use that influence for good. These days, we continue making podcasts to stay in touch with one another — that is a big motivation — but we also use the platform to be the change we want to see in the genre world.

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

We have a bunch of different formats depending on the type of show we do. We release a good deal of episodes that are effectively discussions about a media thing (movies, TV, or books), and those follow pretty similar formats you’ll see elsewhere. Where we got “wild,” if you will, is with interviews and Torture Cinema.

For interviews, we had a good conversation about what kind of interview show we wanted to do, and we settled on the idea that we needed to read the book cover-to-cover and really dive into its themes and ideas with the author. Why? Well, Shaun and Jen, who started our interview train, both studied in the same literature program, and deep-dive interviews were a good way to keep using those muscles while doing something a little different from others. It’s a lot of work, but we think the end result is pretty solid.

For Torture Cinema, we really just wanted to have fun at the expense of films of questionable quality. We use a Like/Dislike structure (originally 5-by-5s <– a reference!) and a grading system (A+ to F-), and each episode runs through the entire film covering what worked and didn’t work, often with rants about the utterly absurd things terrible movies do. Sometimes the Union for Green Grass Performers shows up, which is fine because they’re pretty nice anyway! And then we average those grades to come up with a definitive “totally objective” grade for the whole film. It’s a discussion, a critique, and a deconstruction all wrapped in a happy, sometimes-drink-laden, often hilarious podcast.

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, 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?

There are two elements to this that seem important to us:

1) The Hugos are one of the few SF/F/H awards with categories designed to honor fans for their contributions to the field. This is, to put it bluntly, a Big Damn Deal.

2) SF/F/H doesn’t exist without fans. It cannot survive without them. If fans don’t wax lyrical about their favorite SF novels, line up for tickets to a new fantasy epic, write zines about their experiences new and old, make podcasts of their critiques of SF/F/H media, and so on, then the genre dies. Fanzines, fancasts, fan wikis, and all manner of other fan projects are fundamental to how we talk about SF/F/H, and without them making these things on paper way back before the Internet, during the Internet, and now today, we think things would be pretty dull.

This is one of the reasons we tend to think that the fan categories should be the most important ones at the Hugos. But they’re also important because the Hugo Awards are voted on by fans. No novel gets an award without fans selecting it, and that novel probably got there because fans were writing about it in their blogs or wikis OR talking about it on their booktube channels or podcasts. Additionally, fans are at the heart of what makes this giant community tick, and that means they are foundational to change. Fans writing critical reviews or challenging the status quo or pushing the boundaries to make SF/F/H a more inclusive space are so essential.

We need fans to keep doing what they do, and we need to recognize them for that work. Because it is work. Work done out of love, but work nonetheless. They give their love every day, and they deserve some back!

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts sprang up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

As with a lot of media, we’re probably going to see a lot more fan production move into video, which is hardly revelatory because so much of fan media is already there anyway. Fan media is increasingly more mobile today than it was 10 years ago, and that often means that the media that gets a lot of the attention is most usable on mobile systems. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we see more and more video-based work take the dominant spot for fan media production, especially as newer fans enter the fray with a wider array of technological know-how.

Beyond that, it’s honestly hard to predict. In a lot of ways, fan media is still tethered to the same media types of the last 20 years because that stuff just…works. So maybe someone will come along offering virtual reality experiences? That would be cool and terrifying.

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?

Oh boy. You asked for here, so here we go! We don’t have fingers in all the pies, so forgive us if we’re just missing so much here! Some of our favorite Fanzines include Nerds of a Feather, Stitch’s Media Mix, Puzzle Box Horror, Morbidly Beautiful, Real Queen of Horror, Aidan Moher’s Astrolabe, Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid, Neon Dystopia, Speculative Fiction in Translation, The Mythcreants, Salon Futura, Journey Planet, and probably too many more to list (and oh my gosh I’m forgetting so many).

For best fan writer, we’d have to point to folks like Paul Weimer (we’re biased, but we love his stuff), Alasdair Stuart (for infectious joy), Alex Acks (also biased, but Alex writers great stuff), Foz Meadows (for truly exceptional analysis), Stitch! (their work on fandom racism is crucial), Aidan Moher (for that delicious gaming commentary), Camestros Felapton (for fandom analysis), Jason Sanford (for his fandom deep dives and pure bravery), Cora Buhlert (fandom/SF/F analysis — oh look, this is Cora’s blog!), Rachel Cordasco (for her razor focus on translated SF/F/H), and, again, far too many for us to list and also we’re forgetting so many.

For fancasts, we’re big fans of a pretty wide range of shows, including Aggressive Negotiations, Breaking the Glass Slipper, Dungeon Master of None, Fansplaining, Fictitious, and Our Opinions Are Correct. On this, we need to find more diverse shows that really scratch that itch for delicious fan and SF/F/H content, so scream at us about your shows! We’re also suddenly into a lot of Actual Play podcasts, which may or may not qualify as fancasts or dramatic presentations. Shows like The Adventure Zone, Crit Squad, The Critshow, Facing Fate, The Neon Streets, The StarBirds, and Tableverse (and here, we’re always open to more things, too).

This is really just a cue to the audience to fill the comments with more things. Do it!

Where can people find you?

Website:  http://www.skiffyandfanty.com/
Twitter:  @skiffyandfanty
Instagram:  @skiffyandfanty
Patreon:  http://www.patreon.com/skiffyandfanty

Thank you, Shaun and Jen, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out The Skiffy and Fanty Show, cause it’s a great fancast.

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Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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