The Fallout of a Podcast


Managlitch City Underground Episode Thirteen is done and out on the Interwebz, and this seemed like a good place to talk about making the podcast itself. I use a fairly nice microphone plus Audacity and GarageBand to record the show. The baseline is just me in character rambling about the weirdness that is life in Managlitch, but to keep it interesting I have guest stars every couple of episodes: usually friends I know can act and that have recording equipment. Technically it’s working out well. I don’t think it sounds 100% professional, but luckily for me it doesn’t have to – MGCU is a pirate radio station, and isn’t always going to have perfect sound.

I grab my sound effects from public domain and creative commons sites that don’t require pay or attribution. My favorite source so far is actual Mercury space mission chatter used as ambient noise in Episode Three. I stumbled into the perfect theme tune by accident when my friend Tom Monaghan posted one of his latest musical compositions; he wouldn’t even let me pay him to use it.

Those are the technical details, but I’m here to talk about the writing. Deep dark secrets of the creative process will be revealed here, so turn away if you don’t want to know what’s behind the curtain. Still with me? Good.

When I started, I knew very little about the City or the people in it. I knew I wanted to write about a world where weird happened every day and people just adapted, as humans are wont to do. MGCU became a pirate radio broadcast because I could make that a one-man show and have the technical excuses mentioned above. But above all, I wanted it to become a real place, a place that made a certain kind of sense and held together. There are lots of fantasy cities out there which don’t work too well once you look past the immediate narrative. Those worlds would quickly break down if you took them seriously at all, and sometimes that’s fine, because that’s not the point of the setting. I wanted to try something different.

To my great surprise and pleasure, the setting and the plot grew and developed around the characters and crazy events as I wrote them. I found that I had to make more and more assumptions to keep the wheels of Managlitch turning, and that was wonderful because these assumptions gave me new things to write about. I believe I owe a debt to the writing style of Douglas Adams, who had a habit of assuming that all his paragraphs would eventually fit together somehow and didn’t fret too much about it. I don’t say I’m doing it as well as he did, but he was an inspiration.

Then, in the middle of a script, I realized what I wanted the story of Managlitch to really be about. Or rather, I discovered what I’d unconsciously wanted it to be about all the time, because the seeds are there from the very first episode. In a way, it’s a little sad, because what I’ve learned about the plot and characters means those characters are going to have to suffer more than I’d expected them to when I originally dreamed them up. I hate to do it to them, but now that I really know the story I’m telling, there’s no way around it.

I’m having these thoughts because “Fallout” was the first script I wrote really knowing what was in store. A friend who knows some of Managlitch’s secrets says that it’s pretty clear in this one that some of Glenn SevenFiftyFive’s remaining innocence (and he wasn’t especially innocent as it was) has been taken from him. That’s because the writer’s lost some of his as well, and it’s reflected in the speeches the characters make. Frankly, it’s made this episode a little hard to finish. But if I’m going to write about a real world, with real characters – even a world as weird as Managlitch – then the training wheels come off at some point.

I’m sticking with it, of course. I know I have some loyal fans, and even I don’t know exactly how many things in the story are going to turn out. The only way for everyone to find out is for me to write it, and I still need to say those things I’m going to say. This project has been an incredible learning experience for me, and I do mean a positive one. I’ve been a writer for almost forty years now; it’s well past time I started to grow as one.

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