Episode 59: Podcast Saga Part 12 - My Time, My show


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            Yep, we’re talking about my show today. Not a great thing for us to discuss, I know. For all the times I’ve played “the death of the author card,” this is going to feel ironic. If not hypocritical. It all depends. Regardless, I’m going to go ahead and set that aside for this episode. Which is also probably a little rude, I’ll admit. I mean, if I dish it out I should be able to take it. And I will have to agree on that. But that’s not what I think this episode should be. I think discussions on audio fiction should probably include at least a few thoughts from an audio fiction creator, and that’s what’s this episode is going to be.

            But I’m fully aware this is not a great episode to do, and maybe I should have brought in a guest host. I know this is probably a little self-serving. Especially when you consider that at the beginning of this podcast saga, I included the four trailers at the end of the first four episodes. I’ve brought it up multiple times. And now to do an entire episode devoted on it just feels a bit like overkill. Or clear insecurity. Which I have brought to your attention multiple times, so it’s pretty much a well-established part of this show.

            Despite all of that, I’m going to continue on anyway. But there was a line in last week’s episode that lured me in and then trapped my brain onto this road, and this subject became an inevitability of sorts. Namely, I said that in podcasting, we have plenty of audio fiction shows presented in such a way that the audience exists in the narrative as an unintended listener, an interloper, you could also call it. In found footage as a whole, this characteristic defines or influences the story. For podcasting, we hear audio we aren’t meant to hear, it exists outside of us, and this unexpected nature changes our relationship with what we heard.

            And that’s what I was going for with The Oracle of Dusk. The client sessions or tapes in the feed are just thrown out there as posting on the internet is the only way the main character has a chance of being heard. Heard by specific people, yes, but on the other hand, it’s so open that we can all listen in.

            And that openness is pretty important. Podcasting’s openness made The Oracle of Dusk possible in so many ways. And with that in mind, and the first season done, I think it’s worthwhile to talk a little more about it. Particularly now when I’m thinking about found footage type podcasting. Or how the ability for anyone to post anything can give a story its power.

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            Hi. It’s M. Welcome to Episode 59.

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            If I should take another step back to try and justify what might not seem like a very big deal to you, I could go back to my storytelling roots, as they were. Which are so far back in my past that they can be hard to find. I can’t even begin to remember how I got started. But I think I’ve always been writing.

            You see, when I was moving out of my mom’s house and towards the big city, I cleaned out all my old toy chests and bookshelves and other nooks and crannies that don’t seem so endlessly deep in a rational way but actually were. Or it seemed like they actually were because in those places were the remains of the hundreds of stories I had tried to tell over the course of my life.

            As numerous as those scraps were, there were some similarities or some common threads. I stuck with things that would be considered novels or novel length, mostly. I went through a poetry kick at one point and the idea of short stories comes and goes. Before that is the typical, child picture-book fair. Complete with terribly illustrated pages. Terrible even by the standard of a young child. I just wasn’t good at certain things.

            Even then, writing was a sort of coping mechanism for me. Elements of me were inserted into conflicts that vaguely mirrored my own but were within the grasp of this super powered version of me or super-abled self-insert. The characters were all young women whose dads were sick, but it was okay because they’re actually superheroes or super good at an easily marketable skill, which helps them get the things they need to cure their dad. Whatever that may be.

            They were also usually social butterflies, which I decidedly was not. I don’t know how much of it was just the social rejection that came from having a sick parent or being the only mixed-race child in what has to be one of the whitest schools in America. I mean, I stood out. Always. But I also had this sense of impending doom from that sick parent that made conversations hard. Even with adults, if I am to be complete honest. Existential dread in a child is never a good look.

            At this point in my life, my relationship with this art form was a therapeutic one, using that term loosely. I certainly didn’t grow in anyway or confront any demons directly. I was just coasting, coping with the present. Writing was a way to communicate something that was bothering me or to conquer an issue in my life that was way above my capabilities otherwise. Sure, there were other options I had, other things I could have been doing, like talking to people, but certain problems can compound or limit your options. For example, it seemed like every family resource went to my dad and keeping him alive, which I was fine with. All things considered.

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            But in time, I got a better grip on the whole life thing. And yet, despite the initial need fading away, I was still inclined to write and make stories. So I guess this has always been a part of who I am. Or it has been pushed so deep into my pen-holding hand that it has infiltrated my DNA. Or I could have just been on a trajectory that I couldn’t pull myself away from. Not that I wanted to.

            But the point is that this wasn’t just something I felt like I had to do to survive on some metaphysical level anymore. It became something I love to do. Maybe even something to which I could devote myself professionally to if there was any truth to be found in the many clichés that were being thrown at us when we were growing up.

            To that end, I tried traditional publishing, on top of graduate school to give you a sense of the time line, but because I was working on the types of books that \ maybe only I would want to read, predictably, it was a scene I couldn’t seem to break into. Then again, I was also young, inexperienced, and the type of client a literary agent wouldn’t want to take such a big chance on. As a cautious person, I can understand their logic. But I also very much understood that no matter what direction I ended up taking in life, making things had to be a part of it.

            Self-publishing was a thing I could do, I know. I was reminded of such, actually, but I liked the idea of having some sort of publishing community around me, even if it consisted solely of the purely business type relationship a literary agent, editor, publicist, and writer all have amongst themselves,. I mean, it’s not great, but it’s better than nothing. And I thought there maybe was some community amongst established authors. Which is the sort of thing that seems awkward and, like, the coolest thing ever.

            I have a feeling this is not a great arrangement, though I don’t know for sure, but as a not very sociable person, relationships based on transactions and the conditions therein are things I can handle. I know it could fall apart at any moment, but I know the conditions around which it would, even if I can’t control them. They are somewhat avoidable. Somewhat.

            In the meantime, recreationally, I was digging deeper into my podcast listening. But because Apple didn’t have an audio fiction category, though it will very soon, it was hard to find the audio fiction part of this world. And then I did. And I didn’t want to leave.

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            The other part of this story, one that runs parallel, is a story that you may already know. Or it’s come up before. But to recap I was starting to get these dreams about a professor who was dear to me, who taught the class that changed my life and served as the example I was modelling my new life off of. A life, I should clarify, that was based on thoughtful consideration. Nothing else. Just philosophy, you could call it.

            Regardless of the word choice, I was happy. A feeling I didn’t always have. And I did feel like I owed him something before the nightmares started. This was something I never forgot about, but with the nightmares, it seemed like a more relevant debt. I mean, sure there wasn’t much I could do to help him, but I mean I could try. I thought I needed to stay something. Anything. Maybe something that could help him. Maybe it was just important to fill the silence. There was a chance that speaking to him would help. So didn’t I have to do it?

            It doesn’t really seem like an ethical quandary, does it? The answer just seems so obvious, but I couldn’t do it. And it wasn’t that anything had happened between us that made me so reluctant to speak to him. More like, whatever connection there was between us was going to be collateral damage to a different falling out I had. And if he was okay, then I could accept that without issue. But the dreams were suggesting quite the opposite was true.

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            And yet, they were just dreams, right? But I’d always had a different relationship with my dreams.

            I’ve had this weird ability, for lack of a better word. Or I’ve been experiencing odd things, I guess. I catch glimpses of things at night in my dreams that come to pass in the coming days but not in a déjà vu type way. I mean… There’s some interpretation involved. But it’s not like the shifting type of interpretation where it can mean whatever you want it to mean. If you put in enough effort. There is no effort. I wake up and just know what the point was. I know something, and for a while, I’m essentially waiting until it happens. And then it does. And I don’t know what to say.

            It’s impossible to believe, I know. But I’ve known about things I shouldn’t have known about. Like family members who my parents decided to never tell me about because it wasn’t going to do me any good anyway. And, yes, that’s a cheap piece of not evidence. I’ve seen the John Oliver piece on psychics, and I agree with it.

Yes, I agree with it. Look, I don’t want this to be real, but I’m scared it is. And with the stakes so high, what do you want me to do?

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            I’ve said this several times, but to remind you of two shows I really love. Alice Isn’t Dead starts with one woman trying to reach out to the wife who she thought was dead but surprise no she isn’t. And Within the Wires starts off as a set of relaxation tapes that aren’t standard issue. Both shows were about reaching out through audio, calling out into what may be a void, but you know, someone is listening. And it might be the right person… or not.

            Those shows taught me a lot about what a story could be. To be specific about it, they taught me that as long as you had a general picture in mind, it wasn’t so important how exactly you got there. You just had to manage to stay true to what you wanted this world of yours to be. Ultimately, the story doesn’t rest with the medium but with the storyteller, and you have to treat it like you would a romantic partner, almost. In this relationship, you have to accept your partner, your story, for what it is—both the good and the bad—and help it find ways to maximize its potential. You have to help it exist as it organically is. You can exult the good and try to soften the bad. But you could never really get rid of the bad, could you? Maybe you should try, but you also have to remain realistic. There’s only so much you can change without losing everything. Come to think of it, maybe that’s also why adaptations fall flat so often. You’re asking this thing to change on a fundamental level, essentially to stop being the thing you remember loving so much. And that’s a very big ask. Probably one you should not be making.

            And that’s not entirely unlike what could happen with the people you may be talking to or towards. You accept them, you care, but for any number of potential reasons, you find yourself calling out into the void, hoping they can hear. And when it’s done that way, maybe you can’t say everything to them, even if they are listening. But you don’t need everything to be said in order to be understood. Just enough. Enough to keep it interesting, you could say.

            You have to reach out. But how can you do it? There are ways, you should remember. There are so many ways to tell a story. Particularly nowadays.

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            There’s a rational explanation to everything, you might be saying. Or it has been said so many times that I think someone somewhere is always saying it. It has been said to me, by me. And here’s the explanation that I settled on for the dreams: the only force telling me these things is myself. Simply put my own two eyes. I’ve always been perceptive, overly smart, and slightly anxious. It’s creates a perfect storm: an inevitability, of sorts. Because of my anxious nature, I’m desperately seeking out what could go wrong. And given how perceptive and smart I am, I see the evidence and put it together pretty quickly.

            I am always going to see things I wasn’t meant to see and hear things I am not meant to hear. Like the fault lines at which we start to come together or connect. The effects of our interactions. The things we fear. The things we cannot do. I’ve seen so many things. We all do, I guess. It’s just not something mo/st of us pick up on.

            And in so far as a force is involved. It’s not a divine or cosmic one. It’s just me.

            But while that makes for a nice solution, it isn’t a complete one. In it, there will be some problems lingering. The principle one, being secrecy. Because that’s the thing about forbidden information: it doesn’t matter how you have it, you should never reveal it.

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            Delphi’s story started to come together. The threads interwoven in yet another perfect storm. This one for the better. I would hope I found a way I could tell a story familiar to me that maybe some people couldn’t otherwise understand. In a medium that was readily available to me and would contextually make sense for our protagonist as well. I know I keep harping on the fact that podcasting is open to anyone. It might be annoying to hear me repeat it over and over again, but this is a critical part of my experience. I don’t doubt that the way I tell this story lacks the popular appeal necessary to be greenlit by any executive type figure. And it needs to be told this way. In my opinion. The only opinion that should actually matter.

            Yes, it let me make the story, but it also let Delphi tell it. You can easily assume that she has a computer, microphone, and the free software Audacity. She gets the music, somehow. But maybe you aren’t thinking about the atmosphere so much. You just feel it. But as an extension of that, if the show isn’t perfectly polished, you might be expecting that. You might forgive the mistakes of the actual editor, me, who is still trying to figure out what she’s doing because Delphi wouldn’t know any better, either.

            This is the story of the things I have witnessed, yelled out into the void where the people who—in theory—it is about would be able to hear it. In the context of the story, those sessions or tapes are made for specific client. Each includes enough details for the clients to figure out that they are the subject of the session, but at the same time, others in their life might not know. And it’s done that way to honor the sense of privacy that has been otherwise taken away. I mean, it’s what I would do to try and be respectful.

            But at the same time, it’s something that anyone could listen to. And that’s a virtue in that too. You know, there’s a finite number of conflict types in literature, if you haven’t heard, and the number is surprisingly low. The exact number varies depending on where you draw lines, but a human can face themselves, the environment, or another person. That sort of thing.

            It might be off-putting to think about this, but our lives have that same sense of repetition, particularly from when you consider all of us together. We all have our struggles, our pains, and our difficulties, but we share them or they share similarities. And so, lessons could also be shared and should be. But I understand why we hesitate to take things that don’t feel like ours. But I mean, if you don’t know who a lesson is for, you might be more opened to taking it. To embrace it. Because maybe it is yours. Or it could just feel like it.

            And that’s why the first episode opens up like it does. To be completely honest. I went back and forth on how to do it for a couple of months. I knew there would be a lot of people who would shut it off right away when they heard the word “you” so quickly. So what was I going to do? What could I do, for that few seconds to have value or meaning besides give them something I think they—we—should hear more often.

            You are beautiful, I said. And I still stand behind that.

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            The Oracle of Dusk is on whatever player you are using to listen to my voice. And you should go check it out if you want. I just made an announcement on that feed about what comes next. And not to give anything away, but now might be a good time to go catch up on that show. Just saying.

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