From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.
blackestglass is a podficcer, sometimes writer, and life-long fangirl. You can find her works at AO3 and chat with her on Tumblr and Twitter at blackestglass. Today, blackestglass talks about letting her inner performer shine, getting started with podfic, and the gift of the podfic community.
How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?
Sailor Moon was my very first fandom and at first it was a fandom of two–myself and my best friend. After an episode aired on Cartoon Network, we’d immediately be on the phone (landline because cellphones weren’t a thing yet) with each other to discuss what happened and how we felt about it. When my parents finally got a computer and Internet at home, I eventually discovered the sailormoon.com forums and various Sailor Moon fansites, where I was introduced to the idea of fanart and fanfic. It blew my tiny little preteen mind. I’ve never looked back since.
I was a lurker for years and yeeeeears. I thought I was an okay writer but not good enough to be writing fanfic, and I DEFINITELY couldn’t draw. And then for a period of time I was a fairly prolific reccer which was my main contribution to fandom. It wasn’t until I discovered podfic that I actually started getting involved creatively with fandom.
What appeals to you about podfic specifically?
It’s funny, because as someone with minor auditory processing issues, it seems completely counterintuitive that podfic would end up being my medium of choice. But there’s a whole bunch of reasons I ended up here.
For one thing, podfic was the first fannish thing that I looked at and was like, “I actually have the skillset for this.” I’ve always been told that I have a pleasant reading voice. I was also a nanny for many years and every kiddo I’ve had has loved it when I read to them. (I do The Voices!)
In addition, when I first started looking into podfic, I was having trouble finding something that worked for my ears because of said auditory processing issues. I don’t parse accents well, audio quality really impacts my ability to process, etc. So another part of getting into podfic was just deciding that I needed something that would work for me, and it looked like I was going to have to do it myself to make that happen.
And the last, and I suppose most important reason, is that podfic really appeals to the thwarted performer in me. As a shy introvert, I generally do everything in my power to avoid being the center of attention, but I’m also secretly kind of a ham? People have always had this perception of me as a quiet person (for good reason!), but if there was a school play, or a dance performance, or a skit that I needed to participate in for a school project, I could turn it on for the duration of that performance. And afterwards, people would always come up to me, going, “I didn’t know you had that in you!”
I love performing, but I definitely couldn’t do it for a living. Podfic lets me exercise that performative muscle in a safe place. It’s okay if I make mistakes, because I can do as many takes as I need and edit out any imperfections. And I don’t have to worry about how ridiculous I look because no one can see me (and I have done some truly ridiculous things for the sake of my craft.)
Do you go looking for fic to podfic, or do you find them at random?
Both. Sometimes I’ll be on my daily AO3 grind, reading a fanfic, and suddenly be hit with a case of what the podfic community calls “pod farr,” where you’re completely overwhelmed with the urge to record this fic right now, it’s so good and it would be so fun! But if I’m doing a challenge or making a gift for someone, I will definitely go looking for a specific kind of story that meets the requirements of what I’m looking for. If that means going through the entire “deaging” trope tag on AO3, so be it.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get started with podfic?
Do ittttt! Honestly, just do it. I guarantee you that any barriers you’re worried about when it comes to getting into podfic are not as insurmountable as you think. If you’re worried about the sound of your voice or your accent, I promise you that is not going to be a problem. There is someone out there who will LOVE the way you read.
You don’t need a fancy mic or set-up. Several prolific podficcers record on their Macbook’s internal mic. For years and years, I used a simple Logitech USB mic that did a perfectly serviceable job. The only recommendation I have for set-up is avoiding wide open spaces and/or spaces with hardwood or tile floors when you’re recording because there is next to nothing you can do to get rid of echo in post-production.
If you’re worried about figuring out how to edit podfic, Audacity (which is a free audio-editing program that most podficcers use) is fairly intuitive to use. I learned almost entirely through trial and error. But there are lots of tutorials that podficcers have made for you to look into if you want to feel a bit more prepared before diving in. Here’s a podfic 101 tutorial which covers everything from story choice, getting permission, tips for prepping for recording, how to record, basic editing information for Audacity, exporting procedures, adding cover art, etc. For even more Audacity tips, there’s also this tutorial by the-dragongirl and this episode of Auralphonic, a podfic podcast.
What’s that? You’d like more tutorials? Paraka has a tutorial about how to actually post podfic to AO3. I made a tutorial about how to choose a hosting site and stream through an embedded player on AO3.
General wisdom is that it’s a good idea to start with something short. This is good advice, but it also makes me a giant hypocrite because the first fic I ever recorded was 10k. (I know several other first-time podficcers who also recorded epic length podfics for their first podfic.) In this case, I highly recommend doing as I say, not as I do. 😛 You’ll save yourself a lot of growing pains this way.
And lastly, be patient with yourself! You’re not going to get everything right on the first attempt–it legitimately took me 4 attempts and several technical malfunctions before I finally produced my first podfic–but you’re going to get so much better and grow so much as an artist.
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
Learning about the OTW was sort of a natural consequence of following fanfic’s migration pattern from decentralized fanfic archives on Angelfire or Geocities, to ff.net, to LJ, and finally to AO3. I’m old enough to remember when fanworks were much less understood and celebrated and the threat of takedown from creators was so real. I think the OTW’s work has gone a long way towards empowering fannish creators and preserving our work.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
The podfic community has been such a gift creatively for me. We’re a growing community, but small enough that most of us either know each other or know of each other at least. The people I’ve met are so vibrant and inventive and giving. We’re creating challenges, writing meta, organizing cons, experimenting with the audio medium, and constantly talking to each other about ways to push ourselves artistically. If I need people to play characters in a multivoice project, one tweet will have ten people offering their talent, even if they’re not in the fandom. Our annual holiday exchange, the #Informal Twitter Podfic Exchange, grows exponentially each year, because we’re so eager to make things for each other. Podfic is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, not just creatively but in terms of the people it’s brought into my life.
And of course, where would I be if not for the writers who inspire me with their words? I have been so fortunate to know so many talented writers, many of whom I bribed into being my friend by constantly podficcing their stories.
Catch up on earlier guest posts.