A cup of coffee, once a month

How to help support great audio magazines

I began listening to podcasts and audio books when I was doing a data entry jobs in Richmond, VA during the fall/spring of 2004-2005. I found that stories helped the time go by even more quickly than did music because I would fall into the narrative, my mind wandering about in a story even as my eyes scanned names and addresses and my fingers typed them in. When I moved to New York city in 2005 I spent the next three years with earphones nearly permanently lodged in my ears. I hardly ever moved out and about in that city without noise isolating, in-ear headphones (first Ultimate Ears, then Etymotics), to block the ever-constant and loud noise of the city. The subway was the worst, but nearly every moment outside my apartment felt like I was being aurally assaulted. A series of temp jobs, with several of them having data entry components, further solidified my love of audio books and narrative podcasts. Back on my old blog, I see that the first mention of Escape Artists podcasts was made on Sept 2, 2007. For the next two years I listened to nearly every episode of both ‘casts, rekindling a love affair with short, genre fiction that I had, for the most part, abandoned. Sure, I didn’t fall in love with every story, but as Steve Eley would remind us, there was always going to be another story coming up.

For two years I listened, week in and week out, to EscapePod and PseudoPod. After PodCastle’s launch I listened to that ‘cast as well, though I’ll be truthful and admit that I didn’t listen quite as often as I did to the science fiction and horror ‘casts. Ahh, irony. Because one day, I got an email from Ben Phillips—then Editor of Pseudopod—wondering if I might be interested in doing some audio production work. This wasn’t completely out of the blue: I had emailed Steve sometime in the previous year about helping out on the technical side of things. However, it had been long enough that I’d not really expected to hear from them. But there it was, the invitation to call and actually speak to the voice that had read so many creepy and scary and dark tales to me on Pseudopod. I can still remember how exciting and odd it was to be having a conversation with that voice! While I was more interested in EscapePod or PseudoPod, what Ben offered was the audio producer position for PodCastle. I was vaguely disappointed as it was my least favorite of the EA podcasts, but I was eager to be part of the organization that had brought me so much joy. Plus, I was talking to freakin’ Ben Phillips: if I said no he’d probably garrot me or turn loose some hideous monster from the vaults of PseudoPod to wreak a terrible revenge. So of course I said yes and I came on board and my first full length PodCastle episode that I edited together was episode 82, for December 16, 2009: “The Twa Corbies” by Marie Brennan As I write this essay, I’m prepping episode 282, for October 15, 2013: “The Sunshine Baron” by Peadar Ó Guilín.

I do not do this for money. Though I do get paid a small amount per episode, that amount is the same as it was in 2009 and it serves as a little extra cash for, depending on the month, groceries or beer money. If Escape Artists came to me and said that they could continue indefinitely if I would work for free, the truth of it is that I would offer my time and skills solely for the continuance of these podcasts. Because I love PodCastle, because I love my editors, because I love being part of an organization that brings stories, each and every week, to tens of thousands of people, and because I love hearing from listeners who are touched, sometimes deeply, by the stories we run.

In the time that I have been part of the PodCastle team, I have moved from Providence RI to Pittsburgh PA and gone from temping to a PhD program in Theatre Arts. I expect to be “all but dissertation” by January. Have there been times when I have been extremely busy and felt that I just didn’t have time for PodCastle and I wished I didn’t have to work on it? Well, actually, no. Even when I’m not a huge fan of the story—and that happens regularly—, I am still just so damned happy and proud to be part of PodCastle and it has become such an integral part of my life that I cannot imagine my life without it.

Really, that is not hyberbole. Ask me how long I will continue to do this and I will say “as long as I can.” If I can hear and use a computer and am in a position to download and upload files I want to be the audio producer for PodCastle.

But I could very well be forced to say goodbye to PodCastle at the end of this year. In fact, everyone could very well be forced to say goodbye to PodCastle at the end of this year. And PseudoPod. And EscapePod. The costs have simply outstripped, by huge amounts, the donations. We don’t charge for our podcasts, we don’t sell advertising (though occasionally we will do some promo spots), and we pay our authors and some of the staff. You can see the issue. We rely completely on donations from our listeners. If you have some time—and care—, check out the Metacast that went out on October 13th. It will give you background on the various shows, a bit of history, and a rundown on just how dire our situation is. And it is dire indeed. Escape Artists could very well shut the doors to its spaceport, its castle, and its house of horrors at the end of 2013 if we don’t get a serious amount of our listeners to start helping financially. According to Paul Haring, our business manager, only about 1% of the tens of thousands of listeners donate any amount of money to help keep us going.

My gods but we are thankful for that 1%!

But I really, really, really, am not ready to say goodbye to this podcast, this team, this organization, and this part of my life. Despite being a grad student making around $16,000/year, and despite the fact that I am already donating labor hours worth more that the token compensation that I accept, I am committing myself to donating $2/month. As I tweeted earlier, “for less than the cost of some crappy, over-sweetened Starbucks coffee drink, you can help keep free stories flowing.” Again, as Paul Haring, our numbers guy points out in the Metacast, if every listener donated just $2 every month for one single year, we could cover our current operating costs for 20 years.

Think about that.

Yeah.

There is no need for these podcasts to end, not if those who listen value them enough to spend the cost of a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or a candy bar once a month in support of us. Imagine what would happen if we all chipped in the cost of one beer per month, or one mixed drink! So if you can, please help us continue. I know that for some, even a small amount is just not feasible in today’s economy and for your budget. So for those of you who can, maybe buy us two coffees a month. And if you do love what we do, please share us with any and all who love good storytelling. All of us at Escape Artists, Inc. want to continue to bring you the best short stories in fantasy, science-fiction, and horror for a long, long time to come.

Help us make it to the future.

Thanks.