As I discussed in my first Geek Revolution blog (Why I’m a Nerd/Geek), nerds and geeks tend toward the niche. We like things with an intensity that often turns into an identifying part of our persona. These interests can really be anything. You can be a garden geek, a math nerd, or in my case – a genre-book girl.
Technology is also often inextricably linked to our community. Maybe that’s because back in the day one had to really have an intense interest and focus to utilize the technology that was available. With the advent and popularization of portable and accessible technology, the old cliche of a lonely forty-year-old man in his basement with a room full of computer parts is a thing of the past
More and more, people are becoming technologically savvy and this has given our society both an audience and a market for all that is niche. This is what, I believe, creates the byproduct of “Geek Chic.” When anyone can access what they’re interested in (yes, even sports) at any given moment, and be connected with other enthusiasts in real-time, then the Star Trek forums that have been around since everyone used DOS don’t seem so weird.
What I want to talk about today is one of ways technology has helped to create communities of niche enthusiasts: Podcasts. Because believe me when I say, there is a podcast for everything. For some of you, you’ll already know what I’m talking about. You can skip down to the recommendations section to see what I’m currently listening to. But if you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “What’s a podcast?” – then read on!
What is a podcast?
A podcast is like talk-radio, only available when and how you want it. You can stream them live off the web with your browser open or minimized, or you can download them as mp3s and listen to them on an mp3 player or off your smartphone.
Where can I find podcasts?
Podcasts generally have their own website where you can download or stream directly. iTunes also has a comprehensive selection, but you’ll have to download the iTunes player on your computer if you want to access podcasts this way (just click the install button and follow the prompts). There are also several apps. for smartphones that will help you keep track of your podcasts and episodes. If you have an iPhone, you can access the iTunes store easily from your device. I have an LG that runs the Android operating system. For my purposes, I’ve really enjoyed using the Beyond Podcast application. The standard version is free, but for a couple dollars you can upgrade it for more options.
What topics are covered on podcasts?
Virtually everything. There are crafting, gardening, sports (general and specific), comedy, reading, writing, political and news oriented podcasts. If you can think of something you would be interested in learning about, there’s probably a podcast out there about it. If there are two things that you are interested in, for example, nutrition and gardening – there’s a podcast for it! Those two things are pretty close in topic, but some mashups can get really interesting. The best part is, if your cross-section of interests doesn’t exist as a podcast, it’s easy to make your own! (more on that later…maybe)
How long are podcasts and how much time between episodes?
The ones I’ve listened to range anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours. There are no strict rules. Some shows post once a month, once a week, or several times a week. It’s all up to the show runner.
How much do podcasts cost?
Most podcasts are free! That’s right, zero dollars. There are a few shows that have figured out how to charge subscription fees, but all the ones that I listen to are 100% free. Podcasters usually make their money through advertisements, which are often placed at the begin or the end of the program. And a lot of shows are created and maintained, not as businesses, but out of the sheer love of the topic at hand.
Note: Not all podcasts are equal. Some have poor audio quality or the show-runner isn’t very talented. But don’t give up! There are a lot of really excellent shows out there. A quick Google search can help you find well reviewed, quality shows.
Here are some of the ones that I’m into right now:
Adventures SciFi Publishing: Run by Shaun Farrel, with contributors Moses Siregar, Brent Bowen, Matt Hughes and Miranda Suri. This podcast focuses on the publishing industry and features upcoming books and events in the SciFi and Fantasy community. They also interview all my favorite authors. They talk writing process and business. Podcast length varies episode to episode and production value is typically really good. I sometimes find the sponsor placement a little distracting, but who am I to complain? It’s free!
Making It, Riki Lindhome: Riki is one half of the comedy band Garfunkel and Oates. She’s quirky and fun and her podcast focuses on people in the entertainment business. She talks to people like Joss Weadon, Felicia Day, and Matt Walsh “about how they started, how they’ve kept it going and what they’ve learned along the way.”
Sex Nerd Sandra: For all of your sex-positive inquiries and more. This show is funny and is endlessly fascinating to me. The descriptor for the show reads: “Listen in as the endlessly curious sex educator Sandra Daugherty and her comedian co-host, Dave Ross explore the fascinating world of human sexuality. With tell-all interviews, juicy topics, tips and more, Sandra and Dave keep it fun, keep it sex-positive and keep it real.” Good times, people, good times.
Sword and Laser: Run by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt, this podcast sprung from its original form as a fanforum/book club. Veronica and Tom are snarky and their personalities play well off one another. The structure of this podcast centers around their pick of the month. They keep their listeners up-to-date on the latest news and publications, review fun topics of discussions from their forum, interview industry notables, and talk about what they are currently reading.
The Nerdist: This is the podcast that got me into podcasts. Sure, I’d listened to one here or there from links placed on my favorite author’s blog, but this is the first one that I listened to consistently. I don’t even know where I found out about it, but Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Myra are a perfect mix of hilarious and interesting. They have great interviews with people who are both in the entertainment industry and participate in the nerdy pursuits. I particularly love the “hostful” episodes, where it’s just the three of them going over their week and shooting the shit. Also, I’ve learned about other podcasts through them. I highly recommend this podcast.
WTF, with Marc Maron: ”You know when you make popcorn there are always those fluffy white kernels that are fun and good to eat but there are also always those burnt, black kernels that don’t pop. You know why they don’t pop? Because they have integrity.” Marc Maron is a lot of fun to listen to. The first part of his show is just him talking about whatever he is thinking about that day or week. He goes on rants, gets personal, and generally just does his thing. He has an interesting perspective having raised himself out of the ashes of addiction. He also has spent the majority of his life as a standup comic, which means he really looks at everything through his own unique lense. I love his interviews because he doesn’t pull any punches. He asks personal questions, and most often his guests respond without the usual bullshit answers that they reserve for more traditional talk hosts.
Writing Excuses: “15 minutes long because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and Mary Robinette-Kowal give a writer’s tutorial every week. This is a great podcast for aspiring writers. They talk plot, character, world-building, pacing, outlining, the writer’s life, and many aspects of the publishing industry. They have been nominated for the Hugo two years running, the first podcast to make the shortlist. At the end of each episode they give a writing prompt, which just adds to the fun. Also, they are available on twitter and are very connected with their fans.
So, go on, find the podcast that fits you! Enjoy!