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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With the Functional Nerds–Patrick Hester and John Anealio

Every Tuesday night, a new episode of the Functional Nerds podcast is posted at www.functionalnerds.com with hosts Patrick Hester and John Anealio chatting with authors like Blake Charlton, James Enge, L.E. Modesitt, and more.

In addition to running the podcast, Patrick edits and records podcasts for www.sfsignal.com and author Mur Lafferty and can be found at www.atfmb.com.

John is a school music teacher by day and spends his nights recording and writing funny or serious songs with speculative themes. Much of his work can be found on various podcasts and websites, including http://www.youtube.com/user/JohnAnealio and http://johnanealio.bandcamp.com/.

They joined us to discuss their own work and the business of podcasting.


SFFWRTCHT: Please tell us a little about how Functional nerds came about. You were bloggers first?

 

Patrick Hester: I was doing a blog and podcast called ‘All Things From My Brain’ and thought I needed a second voice. John was listening and doing his own podcast and thought the same thing. He contacted me and we started chatting. Thus was born The Functional Nerds.

SFFWRTCHT: Why the name Functional Nerds?

PH: When John contacted me about partnering up, he said it needed to be called ‘Functional Nerds’ based on something I’d mentioned once or twice. I had a boss tell me that I was a nerd, but ‘functional’-as in, I function in society.

SFFWRTCHT: Hey, I like that. Podcasting is still new to a lot of us. Can you tell us how you go about putting a show together?

PH: I do the recording, editing and put the posts up. John books all the guests and handles the scheduling. I used to do all this show prep, I’d write out scripts for us (you can tell in the early shows), but we don’t do that now. John prepares cogent questions and then I mess him all up by going all over the place.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you use any other programs besides Skype do you use for the podcasts? I know Patrick’s written a great article on how he does the technical stuff.

PH: Quick app list for podcasting: Skype, Wiretap, Garageband, Amadeus Pro, Levelator.

SFFWRTCHT: What types of books do you like to showcase on your podcast?

John Anealio: Science fiction, fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy etc. and so on.

SFFWRTCHT: Has it been a challenge to book guests? And relatedly, how do you get in touch with people?

PH: For the SFSignal podcast, I have a list of contacts from SFSignal, plus I troll websites for contact info (I book that show). I recently have had publicists contact me to get their people on SFSignal, which is different and welcomed (sometimes).

JA: It’s been surprisingly easy to book guests for The Functional Nerds Podcast.  I’ve booked a lot of authors and musicians through Twitter.  For some authors, I’ve gone through their publicists.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you do phone interviews or do you always want them in person? Which is better for your show?

PH: Most of our interviews are via Skype. I can also call any number in the US via Skype if the person doesn’t want to mess with computers. I pay extra for that.

SFFWRTCHT: How far in advance do you book guests?

PH: I book the SFSignal podcast a little over a month out. John is better about the Nerds.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you have any dream guests you have yet to book and are trying?

PH: Dream Guests: L.E. Modesitt was one of mine – had him on. Uh, Jim Butcher would be nice, Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams. I’ve sent emails to Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi trying to get them on the podcasts – no go.

SFFWRTCHT: How long have you been doing the show?

PH: We just recorded what, John? Episode 38?

JA: 38 weeks.

SFFWRTCHT: Ok, so you get the guest on Skype and record a show, how much editing will then be involved?

PH: In the beginning, there was a lot of editing involved. Today, very little. I timestamp everything so it’s maybe 30 minutes tops. I try and spend some time getting links to all the authors stuff for the post, that way they have maximum chance for clickage. 

SFFWRTCHT: Where do you guys see Functional Nerds going in the next year?

PH: “Where do you see it going?” Easy – with the subliminal messages hidden in John‘s music, we intend to rule the world… My goal is to make John laugh. I spend hours thinking about how to crack him up…“Why haven’t you been published yet, Patrick?” “Because I spend all my free time dreaming up one liners for John.

SFFWRTCHT: That touches on another question, I assume this enterprise is entirely self-funded?

JA: Yes, this thing is self-funded. There is a donation button on the website, www.functionalnerds.com, that no one has ever clicked.

SFFWRTCHT: Is podcasting expensive? Beyond equipment and software, is the only expense occasional phone time & your time itself?

PH: It can be, sure. You have web hosting for the site, your time involved, software and bandwidth. A thing to keep in mind is that your regular old cheap webhosting that most people use will collapse under large traffic. You pay for only so much bandwidth per month—one massive download like, oh, say, George R.R. Martin is not your bitch, will crash your webhost or max out your bandwidth quota in a heartbeat. “So how much larger should the bandwidth be?” You need to be aware of your hosting agreement— most people aren’t. I originally used Podbean for bandwidth but after a series of horrible experiences, I flipped them the bird and moved on.

SFFWRTCHT: What response do you get from guests about how the podcasts impacts them? Does it bring readers?

PH: I think they are genuinely happy. They refer us to others and love to come back. I think people like our podcast because John and I have fun with it and we’re fans of the folks we have on and that comes through.

SFFWRTCHT: Any significant difference between live recording at a Con vs Skype?

PH: It’s always cool to connect with someone face to face, but manoman do I hate editing the background noise of live! We were a little nervous about live interviews. “Hey, will you come back to our room?” could sound creepy.

SFFWRTCHT: How long is a typical episode?

JA: We have done really long episodes & really short ones. For 2011, we’re shooting for tighter episodes around 30 minutes.

PH: We record on Tuesday nights, SFSignal on Wednesdays. I edit everything Sunday (when I should be writing) for the following week. SFSignal hits every Monday, Functional Nerds on Tuesday, and Mur chooses when the 2 ISBW episodes I do for her hit each week.

SFFWRTCHT: I’m curious about which podcasts you listen to on a regular basis (besides the ones you work on or produce).

PH: Podcasts I listen to: Slice of SciFi, Beware the Hairy Mango, I Should Be Writing, Seattle Geekly, Geek Dads. John listens to way more podcasts than I do.

JA: I listen to The Adam Carolla Podcast, The Nerdist Podcast, The Music Biz Weekly Podcast, The CDBaby DIY Musician Podcast and lots more.

SFFWRTCHT: I know that John does the music. I am assuming he wrote a theme you recycle each week and not for each show?

PH: Yeah – that’s John’s instrumental song ‘Sundog’ on Functional Nerds. I made him write something new for SFSignal.

SFFWRTCHT: You guys mention nothing but positives. Are they any negatives to doing these types of shows then?

PH: Uh, it can get rough doing a podcast every week. Luckily John and I get along well and we can say, “Let’s take a break!” or something. Skype on Mac needs more love from the developer. It does not like being on a WiFi connection. I ran 50 ft of cat 5 to make it work.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you guys do written transcripts of the shows?

PH: We don’t do transcripts—I take notes and write ‘key words’ from of the chat with whoever we’re interviewing. That becomes the post.

JA: I know of exactly one podcast that does transcripts, and they’re funded and come out 2 weeks later.

SFFWRTCHT: Have you guys had any TV type people on Functional Nerds? Is that something you’d like to do in 2011?

PH: We haven’t had TV people on Functional Nerds, but we did get Joseph Mallozzi from Stargate on SFSignal.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you attend many Cons? Are they good or bad for your podcast?

PH: I used to go to scifi Cons years ago, but haven’t recently. World Fantasy 2010 was my first in a decade and it was fantastic.

JA: I just started going to Cons about two years ago and go regularly to perform now.

SFFWRTCHT: What do you guys see as the advantages of podcasting for both yourselves and your guests? Do you think podcasting reaches a different audience chunk than say blogging or other formats?

JA: Advantages are the friendships we have formed, the connections we have made —the community that has embraced us.

PH: I think there is something about an interview that helps people connect with the author in a different, good way. I hear constantly that both of our podcasts have the effect of ballooning out peoples to read lists.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

 

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