Personal Essay: David Steffen
Pseudopod was my gateway into audio fiction. My very first acceptance letter was from Pseudopod, for “The Disconnected” a story which I am still very proud of. My very first writing income was a check signed by Steve Eley for that sale. And Pseudopod was my very first audio fiction intake.
As soon as I made that sale, I figured “Hey, maybe I should sample the publication I’ve sold a story to!” So I downloaded the most recent story on the Pseudopod feed at the time, which happened to be “The Hay Devils” by Colin P. Davies, and I was instantly drawn into the world of audio short fiction. It was especially appropriate for that first story to take place on a farm. One of my first thoughts as I listened to that first episode were of my father, whose tales of childhood on a farm included listening to The Lone Ranger and other such tales as radio dramas as a break from a hard day of work.
Listening to that first episode immediately brought Dad’s description to mind, and to this day, the audio medium is more conducive to me to evoking emotional reactions from horror to sense of wonder than any other. A big part of this, for me, was Alasdair Stuart’s introduction and wrap-up, giving his own impressions of the themes of the story and how they applied to life and the horror genre in clever and pithy fashion. Alasdair’s voice was the first voice I heard in all of my podcast listenings, and it remains the core of my impression of audio fiction.
After that first episode was a slippery slope. First I listened to Pseudopod’s entire back catalog, which took months. Then I tackled PodCastle’s backlog, and Escape Pod’s back catalogs, and Drabblecast’s back catalog, and for the last eight years I have filled every commute and much of my idle-minded sort of chores with short fiction from more than a dozen different podcasts. My favorite and easiest and most valuable content on my own site is my "Best Of" podcast lists, which I put together from listening to hundreds of podcast short stories every year. Without Pseudopod, my fiction consumption, my fiction writing, and my nonfiction writing would all undoubtedly be very different.
As if that weren’t enough, the Escape Artists forums are one of my favorite places on the Internet. I find most venues for discussion of fiction to be unpalatably extreme: either unmoderated and filled with trolls looking to insult and fight, or so oppressively moderated that any negative reaction is discouraged or even deleted. The EA forums, for me, hit a happy medium where the positives and negatives of stories can be discussed frankly while being moderated at a reasonable level to keep trolls to a minimum. I have forged some of my best writing friends there, and the flash fiction contests held there are so wonderful and constructive (if also exhausting!).
Long live Pseudopod and all of the Escape Artists family of publications!
David Steffen is a writer, editor, and software engineer living in Minnesota. He runs the Submission Grinder, a free web tool for writers to track their submissions and find new markets for their work. He edits the zine Diabolical Plots which began publishing fiction in 2015. He is also the editor of the Long List Anthology series, which publishes stories from the longer Hugo Award nomination list.