SF and comics author Steven H. Wilson is one of our presenters at this year’s conference and we are excited to have him. In addition to teaching a session “Character Development as World-Building” he is also teaching how to produce an audio version of your work with “Steps to Recording an Audio Book & Podcasting.” Please enjoy all the good information in his interview with our conference chair, Phil Giunta.
by Phil Giunta
Tell us how Prometheus Radio Theatre and The Arbiter Chronicles began and your personal fascination for the medium of audio. What other audio material can be heard on Prometheus Radio Theatre?
Steven H. Wilson: Prometheus began, unnamed, because I was in charge of programming for the Farpoint convention back in October, 2000. There was an hour free on the main stage, and we wanted to do something different. A couple years earlier, my friend John Vengrouskie, an amazing audio engineer, had mounted a half-hour radio Western at the same con, and I’d played the lead. It was great fun, and it showed me the potential for live radio theatre. (I still call it “radio theatre.” That offends modern purists. They’re welcome to sneer at me. I’ve been at this since before most of them could shave. In those days there was no podcasting!) Adding to my inspiration, the Christmas prior, Bill Pullman and an all-star cast had performed “Merry Christmas George Bailey” as a radio play live at the Kennedy Center. I was particularly taken by the fact that a script had been dropped–pages everywhere!–and the cast had kept going while they held back tearful laughter. So this live radio theatre thing sounded fun.
I turned to John V. and said, “How do we do this?” He muttered something about not being able to teach me a lifetime craft in the space of a week, but we did it anyway. I dusted off an old novel proposal that had never sold, and created the characters and situations which would later be christened The Arbiter Chronicles. The audience loved it, and, when asked, “Do you want more?” applauded loudly. And here we are. I’ve written two dozen adventures of the Arbiters, as well as quite a number of ghost stories for audio. In 2005, I was invited to start podcasting with the Radio Nostalgia Network. Our podcast has also hosted author readings of the books published by Firebringer Press, including my own works.
What began my personal fascination for audio? Well, my youngest uncle was (and still is) an avid collector of 1940s nostalgia. He introduced me to both comic books and Old Time Radio–“Lights Out!”, “Dimension X”, “The Shadow” and “Amos and Andy.” After that, Nimoy, Shatner, Clarke and Asimov began recording abridged books and stories for Caedmon Audio. Long before Audible and Books-on-Tape, I was an audio addict. I even recorded episodes of Star Trek, Lost in Space, and Space:1999 in the days when a home video recorder was a luxury only for the rich.
What prompted you to self-publish your first novel, Taken Liberty, and launch your own publishing imprint, Firebringer Press? What other titles have you released through Firebringer since its inception in 2006?
Steven H. Wilson: Firebringer just released its seventh title, the anthology Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity. We’ve also published two of my Arbiter novels, my original Peace Lord of the Red Planet, two paranormal mysteries by Phil Giunta, and Lance Woods’s original novel, Heroic Park.
As to what prompted me, it was the realization, after a dozen or so years of failing to sell to the pro-markets, that I was unlikely to see my science fiction published any other way. There was also a good deal of peer encouragement to start my own company. Much-published SF authors who were friends of mine were starting to do the same, telling me that they couldn’t sell an SF novel in the current market. It’s sad, but I do believe science fiction as we knew it is dying, if not dead, as far as the big publishers are concerned. Don Sakers, in particular, encouraged me and mentored me on how to become a publisher, long before there was a CreateSpace, when author service companies were largely scammers and looked on with disgust by the industry. I still submit to pro-markets, but I love having an outlet for my writing, and I really love bringing new writers to the public.
In 1993, you co-founded Farpoint, an annual science fiction convention that runs every February in Timonium, MD. Please give us a brief history of how and why Farpoint came about.
Steven H. Wilson: In the words of Bill Nighy from Love, Actually, “Not that crap again!” 🙂 Okay, well, it was a dark and stormy night…
Seriously, I married into a Fandom family. I had no choice but to step up and be one of the people who made Fandom happen every year.
I’d been writing fan fic for my own amusement since I was 12. I started going to cons at 15. There I laid my hands on my first zine, and started buying those. In college, I decided to publish my own Star Trek novel as a zine. That’s how I met Marion McChesney, publisher of Vault of Tomorrow, a Trek genzine, and founder of a Baltimore con called ClipperCon. She introduced me to Bev Volker and Nancy Kippax, ClipperCon committee members and publishers of another zine called Contact. Bev had a beautiful daughter named Renee who, at 15, had become Assistant Programming Chair for the con, keeping the panels running on time. There were beautiful girls in Fandom! I mean, I’d heard of them, seen them occasionally, but this one was willing to speak to me! Well, after about two months of casting shy glances at each other, anyway.
By 1993, Renee and I were married. ClipperCon had folded, but been replaced by OktoberTrek, a much bigger con run by the same committee. OktoberTrek lasted three years, but still had a contract to run a con that weekend for two more years. So I took over the contract and founded Farpoint. Believe it or not, the big deal at the time about Farpoint was that it was open to fandoms outside Star Trek. Fans today may not realize that there was a time when guests from other shows weren’t invited, and panels about non-Trek topics were verboten. Farpoint helped change that, at least in Baltimore. Renee and I stepped down as owners of the con in 2001, and as its Operations Managers in 2013. It’s still going strong, and both my sons are key committee members. And one of them seems to have met this beautiful girl whose family is in fandom and who works as a programming assistant at the con, keeping the panels running on time…
For the Write Stuff conference, can you please give us a summary of what you will cover in your Saturday presentations, “Steps to Recording an Audio Book & Podcasting” and “Character Development as World-Building”?
Steven H. Wilson: Character Development as World Building – SF and comics author Steven H. Wilson will offer a new take on one of the biggest challenges for writers of original SF and fantasy: how to create an entirely new world out of imagination. Learn how to explore your world as your characters explore it, to see it through their eyes, by first understanding who your characters are and what they want. Steve will provide examples of how to use strong characters to provide a point of view on new worlds, without ruining the mystery of unexplored universes.
Steps to recording, editing and podcasting an Audiobook – with modern computer software and hardware, just about any author can set up their own recording studio and produce an audio version of a novel or a short story. Multiple platforms exist for distributing these, from free markets like podiobooks.com and podcasting platforms like Libsyn, to paying venues like Audible, iTunes, Amazon and Overdrive. Steven H. Wilson is a veteran audiobook narrator, award-winning audio theatre producer/podcaster and author. He’ll provide an overview of those markets, as well as a step-by-step guide to preparing your work for audio, getting the necessary hardware and software, setting up a proper recording environment, actually recording the work, editing, and formatting for distribution.
What have you released recently and what’s next for you, in both print and audio?
Steven H. Wilson: My most recent release was the story “Don’t Go in the Barn, Johnny!” in Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity. I’m currently developing a series of paranormal stories called Cattail Country Store, which will be simultaneously web-published at the Firebringers site and released on audio. That will be an anthology series, and four other authors are already planning to contribute. I’m also bringing new versions of my Arbiter Chronicles stories out in eBook and on audio, hopefully through Audible/ACX, with the intention of eventually collecting those stories in hardcover.
Steven H. Wilson is the creator of the Mark Time and Parsec Award-winning podcast series The Arbiter Chronicles, as well as the author of two novels spawned by the series Taken Liberty and Unfriendly Persuasion. He is also the author of Peace Lord of the Red Planet and three short stories for the ReDeus series from Crazy 8 Press. He has written for DC Comics and Starlog, and is publisher for the Maryland-based Firebringer Press, whose seventh and latest book, Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, collects tales of science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal by Mid-Atlantic authors.