Three down, three to go! The next exciting plot twist in the Hugo Fan Writer series!
Podcast: www.escapeartists.net , https://pseudopod.org/ & https://escapepod.org
What do we call a pop-culture explorer who co-owns a podcasting empire? A pod-cast impresario? An impodsario? The Escape Artist network of podcasts (SF: Escape Pod, Horror: Pseudo Pod, Fantasy: Pod Castle, YA: Cast of Wonders) are just part of what Alasdair Stuart is involved in but I’m starting there because of our 2020 Fan Writer theme of messengers between worlds.
Stuart describes himself as:
…a professional enthusiast, pop culture analyst, and writer. He is a Hugo Finalist for Best Fan Writer, and a British Fantasy Society Best Non-fiction finalist for his weekly pop culture newsletter The Full Lid. His nonfiction can be found at numerous genre and pop culture venues, including regular columns at the Hugo Award-winning Ditch Diggers and Fox Spirit Books. His game writing includes ENie-nominated work on the Doctor Who RPG and After The War from Genesis of Legend.https://escapeartists.net/about-ea/team/
It’s an amazing range of outputs and Stuart uses his skills as a pop-culture critic to great effect, mixing personal observation and depth of knowledge of genres to provide insights into books, stories, games and dramas.
Central to Stuart’s fan-writing is his weekly newsletter The Full Lid. If you aren’t a subscriber then it is worth dipping into the archives. I particularly liked this essay he wrote last year on the coverage of the anniversary of the moon landings (it’s also available in the Hugo Packet).
“But while there’s reassurance here there’s also entitlement and complacency. We can, and have waited for the future to come when we could have gone out and built it. But instead of a first step Apollo has come to be viewed as a destination and you can see the seeds of that here.The surly bonds of Earth have been stripped and now all we have to worry about is waiting for the next trans-lunar shuttle. Seeing BBC Panorama’s counsel of luminaries, including an impossibly young Brian Aldiss, discuss the philosophical impact of the landing was especially weird. The greatest minds of their time, which was fifty years ago, talking about a future which, for us, has yet to arrive.”https://alasdairstuart.com/2019/08/22/apollo-at-50/
Stuart manages very well to shift the distance in his writing from the observational to the personal. Character is, I’d contend, a underestimated aspect of fan-writing. Yes, fan-writing does cover the kind of community journalism style writing, as well as descriptive reviews (both valuable – I’m not knocking them) but fan-writers are by title fans and it is the personal engagement with fandom and stories that drives the world of fan-writing. You can’t genuinely know people from what they write but good fan-writing should, over the course of many examples, give a sense of a person and a perspective. I think it is something that Alasdair Stuart does very well. I’ve never met him (and it’s unlikely I will anytime soon) but his writing conveys character in a way that is very personally engaging. Yes, yes, that’s an illusion of sorts but that illusion is something I enjoy in good writing.
Alasdair Stuart’s packet contribution is quite extensive. The content page makes it look shorter but three full newsletters really adds to the breadth of coverage.
The thorny issue of paid versus non-paid output in fan-writing is a topic I’ve covered inconclusively before. Stuart takes a simple and pragmatic approach to the problem: he includes both paid and non-paid writing in the package but is absolutely overt which-is-which and the remuneration involved. Likewise, for categorical purists, the commentary on pod-cast are clearly marked. Also, as well as a collated PDF of all the material he included, there is a separate folder of the individual parts, so if you want to ignore say the horror-related writing (out of genre purity 😉) you can.
I feel like I must have missed something but that is a repeating theme in this year’s finalists. Prodigious pop-culture polymaths, each of them but Alasdair Stuart gets to be a paradigmatic podcasting prodigious pop-culture polymath.