Fancast Spotlight: Octothorpe

Nominations for the 2022 Hugo Awards are open, so I will be continuing the Fanzine and Fancast Spotlights. 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.

Today’s featured fancast is Octothorpe, a podcast focussed on the world of science fiction fandom.

Therefore, I’m pleased to welcome Liz Batty, John Coxon and Alison Scott to my blog today.

ETA: You can also listen to an audio version of the interview over at Octothorpe.

Octothorpe logo

Tell us about your podcast or channel

Alison: It was John’s idea! Octothorpe’s tagline is “the podcast of science fiction and science fiction fandom”, We do talk about science fiction a fair amount, but we talk more about fandom—upcoming conventions and the things that fans do—I think that is where our heart is. We also have a very engaged community who write in and tell us what they think about all of these things, and we are very pleased about that.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel? 

John: I’m John Coxon.

Alison: I’m Alison Scott.

Liz: And I’m Liz Batty.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

John: I decided to start a podcast, and I recorded a pilot episode of a podcast with Meg Frank back in 2013, which never actually made it. I knew I wanted it to be about fandom and I knew I wanted to be in the style of the Apple tech podcasts that I love; it turned out that Alison also loves those podcasts. So I said to Alison “Do you want to be on a podcast, because you’re quite loud?” I knew I wanted another host, and I wasn’t talking to Liz quite as much as usual because she had moved to Thailand. I thought that since Liz is more sensible than me and Alison she’d be a good moderating influence on the two of us, so I asked her. I think it’s gone very well: I really like talking to Alison and Liz every two weeks, and I really like getting to listen to it again when I edit it. They make me laugh, and I very much enjoy my Sunday mornings when we record.

Alison: I have been wanting to do a podcast ever since the very beginning of podcasts, but it turns out that if you want to do a podcast, you have to find someone who’s daft enough to do the editing for you. Because otherwise podcasts don’t happen, do they? So if you want to run your own podcast the core thing you need is somebody who’s up for doing the editing.

Liz: I didn’t have any desire to be on a podcast, or to start a podcast, or really to do any work around a podcast. But John was asked me “Do you want to do a podcast?” and I said, “Maybe?” And then there was a coronavirus, and now I literally have nothing else that I need to be doing on a Sunday afternoon, so let’s do a podcast! And I am just constantly amazed that we have made it almost 50 episodes, and there appear to be at least ten people actually listening.

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

Alison: We’re an audio podcast you can get in all good podcast apps, and the three of us discuss the news in science fiction fandom fortnightly before talking about science fiction together. John mentioned Apple podcasts earlier, but really the sorts of podcasts I like are podcasts where a bunch of mates get together every so often and chew the fat about things going on in their area of interest. None of the science fiction podcasts I had found were quite doing that. It’s explicitly modelled on a couple of those Apple tech podcasts (ATP and Upgrade), except that unlike those podcasts, there are women on this one.

John: I definitely did not want to be another “white dude” podcast, as I think there are probably enough of those already. One of the things I really loved about the style of podcast Alison describes was how discursive it is, and I think that really ties into old-school fanzine fandom, even down to the letters of comment. That was one of the reasons I thought the format would work in a fannish context.

The fan categories at the Hugos were there at the very beginning, but they are also the categories which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

Alison: I’m a fan of science fiction fandom as much as I am a fan of science fiction. Some of my reading and watching is genre and much of it is not, but the people I choose to spend time with are science fiction fans. It’s the community of fandom that I find so valuable, and it’s that community that generates the fanzines, fan writing, and fancasts. I find SF fans very interesting. That’s why whenever I’m looking at conventions I’m thinking about how we manage all the things that aren’t the programme, because I’m here for the social interactions between fans. This is what is known traditionally as being a “fake fan”, but obviously it’s the most real fandom of all.

John: One of the early fandoms I was in was fanzine fandom, and I think its role in my early fandom is probably why I think it’s important. I wrote a fanzine between 2007 and 2014-ish called Procrastinations which I’ve recently published a new issue of. As fan writing has evolved, I have enjoyed interacting with it.

Liz: I think it is very nice that the Hugo Awards from the start have rewarded fan endeavours alongside the professional ones. I think it’s nice to have them so that people who are not as familiar with fandom and look at the list of Hugo winners might check out some of the fanzines and fancasts. But, I think as long as there is a vibrant community I’m not particularly bothered if they get fewer votes and nominations than other categories. I think it’s nice that they’re there for people but I don’t necessarily worry that there aren’t as many people nominating for Best Fanzine as there are for Best Novel or Best Short Story. I think they are just aiming at a slightly smaller segment of fandom. I just don’t want it to get too low because I do want the categories to continue to be prestigious! And, obviously, I don’t want the categories to attract so few votes that the award isn’t given.

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?

John: I have opinions on this, as, as some people may know. One of the reasons I wanted to do a podcast was because the style of fanzine I quite like—with the focus on fandom—is something that I feel like hasn’t really made the jump to more modern media. This is a problem for me because I enjoy more modern media; I completely respect that there are fanzine fans who are very into their printed materials and PDFs, but I’d quite like some of it to be available in the forms I enjoy. My first fanzine, Procrastinations, was an epub for a while but is now online as a blog (https://procrastinations.co.uk); my second fanzine, Lulzine (https://lulzine.net), is an email newsletter; and my other fan work is this podcast. Email newsletters especially are currently blowing up with sites like Substack; there’s a lot of good fanwriting you can get delivered to you now.

Alison: I think the last 20 years has seen a massive fragmentation of the sort of fan publication I like. Some of the fans who were used to doing paper fanzines have found it tricky to engage with more modern forms. And some of those forms are much more ephemeral than traditional fanzines, so it’s quite nice to have some things that are not so ephemeral. Now people may decide in the future “Why would anybody listen to a podcast from 2021?”, but they might not. Alternatively they might ask, “what were people thinking, what were they saying?” Old-time fanzine fans have a concept of “timebinding”, making things that have a degree of permanence, and I’ve been struggling to find ways to do this these days. I too have an email newsletter, Dante’s Cardigan (subscribe at https://tinyletter.com/AlisonScott), and one of the reasons it hasn’t been as regular as I hoped is that I wanted to put a lot of links in, but after doing two issues I realised that those links start rotting immediately, so you lose the permanence of your fanzine. I’m thinking about what I can do to keep a sense of permanence about the zines that I publish. In the future, in the event anyone cares, I want there to be something there for them to care about.

Liz: Yes, I think I’ve noticed more traditional fanzine fans aren’t embracing those more modern media. But there’s a lot of people on YouTube talking about books (BookTube) and a lot of them have pretty big audiences. There’s definitely an audience out there and I wonder if more and more fanwriters will drift towards that video model. Email newsletters are an extremely throwbacky idea that has come around again, so maybe the next thing is going to be a LiveJournal revival! Or it’ll be a completely different set of media that we haven’t even seen invented yet.

Lastly, are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists, we’d like to recommend?

Some great creators and creations we like a lot and your readers should definitely check out:

Abigail Nussbaum [Asking the Wrong Questions](http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/)
Ansible [Ansible Home/Links](https://news.ansible.uk/)
Banana Wings
Become the Teapot [Become the Teapot](https://becometheteapot.buzzsprout.com/)
Brad W. Foster [Jabberwocky Graphix ~ The Art of Brad W Foster, and more!](https://www.jabberwockygraphix.com/)
Bruce Gillespie
Claire Brialey
Dave Langford [Langford Home Page (Pardon?)](https://ansible.uk/)
España Sheriff [Futuriana – You can’t keep a good blog down](https://espanasheriff.com/)
Fantasy Book Swap [Fantasy Book Swap](https://alibaker68.podbean.com/)
File 770 [File 770 | Mike Glyer’s news of science fiction fandom](http://file770.com/)
Hugo, Girl! [Hugo, Girl!](https://hugogirl.libsyn.com/)
Iain J Clark [iainjclark art – Artwork and ramblings](https://iainjclarkart.com/)
Mark Plummer
Portable Storage [eFanzines.com – Portable Storage](https://efanzines.com/PortableStorage/)
Salon Futura [Salon Futura – Cheryl Morgan’s Fanzine](https://www.salonfutura.net/)
Sara Felix [All the things! – Sara Felix](https://www.sarafelix.com/wp/)
SF Commentary [eFanzines.com – Bruce Gillespie: SF Commentary](https://efanzines.com/SFC/#sfc)
Stitch’s Media Mix [Blog | Stitch’s Media Mix | A critical Stitch.](https://stitchmediamix.com/blog/)
Sue Mason
The Drink Tank [eFanzines.com – The Drink Tank](https://efanzines.com/DrinkTank/)
The Incomparable [The Incomparable – a podcast from The Incomparable](https://www.theincomparable.com/theincomparable/)
This Here… [eFanzines.com – This Here…](https://efanzines.com/ThisHere/)
Transfer Orbit [Transfer Orbit](https://transfer-orbit.ghost.io/)

Where can people find you?

You can listen to Octothorpe in all good podcast players, or from the website at https://octothorpe.podbean.com . We are @octothorpecast on Twitter, and we have a Facebook group where you can come and chat to us or respond to the latest episode at https://www.facebook.com/groups/octothorpecast/ .

Thank you, Alison, John and Liz, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Octothorpe, cause it’s a great podcast.

***

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

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