OTW Guest Post: pod_together

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.

klb and Paraka are the mods for the pod_together community. klb has been active in podfic fandom since 2009 and has helped create and run a number of challenges and events, including pod_together, the Awesome Ladies Podfic Anthology, and theatripod.

Paraka joined online fandom in 2003 via vidding before discovering podfic in 2006. Her first podfic was posted in 2008 but she really got going in 2010 when she started running challenges, creating comms, talking meta, and hosting other podficcers on her website parakaproductions.com. Today, they talk about getting into fandom, the beginning of pod_together, and the collaborative nature of the community.

How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?

klb: I always had a tendency to feel fannish about various canons (getting really invested, always wanting more and wanting to spend a lot of time talking and thinking about the characters and worlds), and sometime in high school that tendency led me to the X-Files fanfiction website Gossamer Project. I couldn’t believe how amazing fanfiction was—I never wanted to stop reading it!

paraka: I also tended to feel fannish about things before officially ~discovering~ fandom in university when my roommate introduced me to Queer as Folk (US) and vids. It was the first time I had regular access to high speed internet and the time to browse and found myself obsessed with fanvids, then later fanfic, then later still podfic.

How did pod_together start?

klb: It was a really exciting time in podfic fandom. Tons of fannish energy and a sense that anything we wanted to create was possible. There was also a lot of talk about the way writing and podfic interacted. Podfic was being seen as just a “format shift” in many places, rather than as an artform of its own, largely because the text always came first and could always stand independent of the audio performance. I think my initial main goal was to shake things up by facilitating a collection of fanworks where audio wasn’t an afterthought but an integral part of the creative process. And I do think that it helped to change the conversation. It also, across the years, has opened up new possibilities for what fanworks can be. When the words and audio are planned together from the start, there’s a lot that can be done that’s exciting –like immersive in-universe fake podcasts and radio shows!

paraka: At the time I had already been running a couple of challenges and I always felt pretty blatant about my motivations: I’d see something happening in podfic fandom that I’d either like to encourage or encourage in a different direction, then I’d create a community that would affect that change. Most of my communities were pretty single focused: pod_together turned out to be the one with the most goals.

As klb said, I wanted to create a place that encouraged podficcers to experiment and play with the boundaries of our art form. I also wanted a platform that put podficcers on a more equal creative footing with fic writers, and which encouraged consumers to give podfic a try, which led me to pushing for streaming of all podfics in the challenge.

What makes pod_together different from other fanworks exchanges?

klb: I wouldn’t call it an exchange, because it’s not about creating for someone — it’s about creating with someone. It’s more intensely collaborative than most other fannish challenges I’ve seen, and I think that’s what makes it different. Even in a Big Bang, the text is written before the artist ever shows up. In this challenge, collaboration starts all the way at the beginning. That can be challenging, because if a partnership doesn’t click then it will color the whole experience. But if they do click, and especially if they’re both interested in putting the same amount of energy into the partnership and in being playful and creative, then it can be amazing.

paraka: Yes, what klb has said. The collaborative aspect from day 1 is definitely different for the average comm and can certainly make things interesting to mod. Klb puts a lot of thought and care into the matching process and most teams will work well together and create interesting works! But if life gets in the way for a participant, or something falls apart at the last minute, a pinch hit doesn’t necessarily fill in completely because there’s little to no time for that collaborative experience.

What is your favorite thing about pod_together?

klb: I love when I see participants inspire each other and make each other happy, especially when they stay friends (or even continue to collaborate!) after pod_together ends. But I think my favorite thing is seeing projects come out of it that really take on the challenge of how to make something specifically designed for audio and for performance. The most exciting moments for me as a mod are when I listen to a pod_together project and hear something unique or unusual in it that I know would never have happened if it hadn’t been this type of collaboration.

paraka: I love the excitement this community can bring to its participants. I love how we have people that sign up every year, how there are some that take up the challenge of pushing the boundaries and experiment. I love that this challenge has helped some participants better know themselves and find partners to sign up with so they can create the project that is perfect for them.

klb: Ooh, yes, I’d like to build on that last point. Podficcers who are not also writers usually have to choose from what’s already written, so if they have an amazing idea that there isn’t yet a fic for, there’s not a way for them to bring that idea to life on their own. But pod_together allows for podficcers to have a broader range of possibilities of what they can create with their partner and might give them a path to finally make a fanwork idea they’ve been dreaming about into reality.

How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?

klb: I can’t remember when I first heard about the OTW, but I see its role as protectors of fandom. I remember when there were some issues with Mediafire issuing takedown requests to podficcers because they thought the podfic was a copyrighted work (like if it shared a title with a song, which many fics do!) And I remember the OTW legal team jumped in to help out me and other podficcers with the best way to deal with that situation and fight back against the takedown. And it worked! That’s my strongest memory of interacting with the OTW.

paraka: I was around for astolat’s original own-the-damned-servers post and followed the progress of the organization from then on, sometimes more closely than others.

As for its role, I mostly think of the OTW as the services it provides, from AO3, Open Doors, to Fanlore, legal advice/advocacy to the academic work it does.

The OTW is a lot of things to a lot of different people, but I’ll always remember how the OTW, and the AO3 team specifically, helped us get pod_together working. We’ve run pod_together on AO3 every year we’ve run it, but that first year we didn’t decide to use AO3 until we were already well into the challenge. At the time getting an invite code was more of a hassle than it is now, but when I contacted Support I was given enough codes to get all our participants an account. I was also determined to have streaming podfic with each project, which required an embedded flash player. The AO3 team worked with me to get the flash player we were using (this was before AO3 hosted its own dew player options) whitelisted so they’d work. Actually, if I’m remembering correctly, they did a last minute code push the day of reveals so it would work for us. That felt so above and beyond to me.

What fandom things have inspired you the most?

paraka: Oh man, other podficcers are constantly inspiring me to make more podfic, to make cooler podfic, to run communities to encourage more podfic. Fic authors inspire me to turn their words into podfic, especially fic authors with blanket permission to podfic so I don’t have any barriers to starting right away.

klb: One fandom thing that inspired me a lot was a LiveJournal RPG called “This Is Now.” It was a Harry Potter RPG, and I was just a reader, not a participant, but the whole thing felt very immersive and audience-facing. The premise was that the characters had all been given “magical journals” (which were represented by their LiveJournals) and were using them to interact in real time across a couple of years as different events happened.

I loved how different it felt from other fanworks and how exciting it was to see a new way fans found to use the same tools everyone else was using in a fresh and creative way that opened up all sorts of possibilities I’d never have thought of. Even when I basically left fandom for a couple of years in college, “This Is Now” was the one thing I still followed all the way to its conclusion, and I still feel like nothing has ever quite been able to replicate the feeling of that particular fannish experience for me. So perhaps my deep love for innovative and experimental use of fandom tools started there.

Catch up on earlier guest posts

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