Fancast Spotlight: Tales from the Trunk

After the Hugos is before the Hugos, so here is another Fancast Spotlight for your consideration. 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 Tales from the Trunk, a podcast where SFF writers talks about their trunk stories, i.e. stories that failed to sell. And trust me, we all have some of those.

So I’m very pleased to welcome Hilary B. Bisenieks of Tales from the Trunk to my blog today:

Tales from the Trunk logo

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Tales from the Trunk is a podcast about the stories that we, as writers, have had to give up on for one reason or another. Every episode, an author comes on to read a story out of their trunk, or in the case of book tour episodes to read an excerpt from a new or forthcoming release, and chat about the writing life, the reasons that some stories just don’t make it, and why every word you write is its own victory. Episodes come out on the first and third Friday of every month.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

Tales from the Trunk is hosted and produced by author Hilary B. Bisenieks (that’s me). I’m joined each episode by a guest author who works in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and beyond.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Originally, I’d been thinking about a somewhat different show—one where authors would come on and read their juvenalia—but Sarah Gailey pointed out that, especially as someone not really known in the podcasting space, that would probably be a hard pitch for me. They did say, though, that if I had a show where I invited folks on to read stories out of their trunks, they’d be very interested in being a guest. That was probably mid-January of 2019, and by that March, I had the first three episodes of the show recorded, talking with Sarahs Gailey and Hollowell and my childhood friend, author R.K. Duncan. Ultimately, I decided to start this podcast, even after changing the format from what I’d initially envisioned, because it was the sort of show that I would have really liked to listen to back in the mid-to-late aughts, when I first became a Podcast Fan™ and thought that it would probably resonate with other folks.

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

Trunkcast is an interview show, and ultimately it’s a cozy chat between friends. I’ve been listening to podcasts for more than 15 years at this point, and public radio interview shows like Fresh Air and The World Cafe for quite a while before that, which really influenced how I think about radio and radio-like things. I knew that the centerpiece of the show, in some ways, would be the reading, but also that the reading was a jumping-off point into the real meat of the show. I have a basic format: introduction, reading, conversation, and the “time machine,” that I’ve been using for all my main-line episodes since the show began, and when I started doing book tour episodes around the start of 2021, I came up with an abbreviated format for those shows that I’ve hewed to pretty closely, too, so I have an idea of the shape of each episode from the jump, but I never really plan on what we’ll talk about beyond that outline.

Hilary B. Bisenieks

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?

I grew up in fandom, and some of my earliest memories are of being a child-in-tow at Worldcons. My dad has written for various fanzines since he was in his twenties and maintains subscriptions to a few of the remaining print zines to this day. All of this is to say that I can’t picture fandom without fan-works. The barrier to entry is so low, and the output is so vital to the field as a whole. I don’t think anything exemplifies how important fan-works are more than the fact that AO3 won a Hugo. For me, making a podcast is a way that I can contribute something to the massive conversation that is fandom and bring a lot of warmth, encouragement, and camaraderie to all the writers out there with us in the trenches of the submission grind.

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?

I work in technology and have watched science fiction try and mostly fail to predict the future for decades, so I’m not even going to pretend to guess at what kind of new media fandom might move the conversation into. I will say, though, that video is probably going to occupy a larger role in fan media. We’re already seeing that a little bit with the first booktube channel being nominated for best fancast a few years back, and the only reason I can see for that to slow down is if the platforms that we rely on push further and further away from archival discoverability and more and more towards ephemeral content. I’ve been on TikTok since a couple months into the pandemic, and while I do see booktok content in my feed on the regular, that platform isn’t really conducive to sustained conversation or long-term discoverability of older content.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a renaissance in print zines, or variations on the theme for people who don’t want to bother with printers and postage. We’re seeing this in the indie tabletop roleplaying space right now, with some creators offering printings of their games or making it easy for players to print out zines of the games themselves. There’s something very pleasing about a tactile artefact, and I would certainly love to see the fanzine space move back towards that even a little bit.

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?

Almost all of my fancast faves are on some level of hiatus, but I can’t not give a shout-out to the excellent Be The Serpent. Likewise, We Make Books is a lovely show that I think deserves more attention. The Hugos tend to favor SFF to the detriment of the H, but for folks who like horror films, Rank and Vile is well worth your time. Finally, in the fancast space, A More Civilized Age: A Star Wars Podcast is one of my favorite shows around, and their current (as of this writing) series of companion episodes to season one of Andor provides a ton of additional material to chew on long after the end credits of the show have finished rolling.

For fan writing, Elsa Sjunneson, Sarah Gailey, and Jason Sanford are doing amazing work, and on the fan artist side, a lot of people are sleeping on the amazing work being done by Miri Baker, who created Fran Wilde’s Hugo dress this year and previously created a capelet for Amal El-Mohtar inspired by This is How You Lose the Time War that is just stunning.

Where can people find you?

For as long as it’s still standing, I’m easiest to find on Twitter at @HBBisenieks, and Tales from the Trunk is at @Trunkcast. Failing that, I can be found, utterly unhinged, on Tumblr, also as HBBisenieks (and as trunkcast, hinges still firmly intact). You can find links to all my work at hilarybisenieks.com, and you can listen to every episode of Tales from the Trunk at talesfromthetrunk.com or wherever fine podcasts are sold.

Thank you, Hilary, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Tales from the Trunk, cause it’s an excellent podcast.

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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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