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.

Six Months of Glitching

It’s been two weekends since Intervention, and I finally have the strength to sit down in front of a keyboard again. I’ve been pushing myself hard at work the last two weeks to demonstrate my conscientiousness, and it’s worn me out creatively. Last weekend I couldn’t even manage the energy to play any of the video games I have unfinished. (This week, I’ve found a little. Damn, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is good.)

About a week and a half ago, I released Episode Twelve of Managlitch City Underground, which was one of the craziest things I’ve tried. There ended up being eight speaking parts, which were recorded live in a room full of strangers with little more than thirty minutes of prep and rehearsal. Five of the voice actors I’d never worked with before; two of those were total strangers, and a third was forty-year-veteran of radio, TV, and audio drama Terry Molloy! If I’d spent any time contemplating what I was doing, I’d have been terrified.

I’ve had great feedback on the results. There are some sound quality issues, but they were unavoidable given the circumstances, and certainly explainable in the episode setting. I’m so proud of hitting half a year’s work on this project; I have plans for the upcoming six months, and I can barely imagine how I’ll feel when I reach the one-year anniversary.

In the meantime, Maya’s still looking for work, I’m still wishing I had a gaming group (and time to devote to it), and Mom is still pretty much exactly how she was a week, two weeks, a month ago. Intervention itself was great! I had a blast, didn’t screw up any of my staffing responsibilities too much, and got the hit of inspiration juice I always get while I’m there. I also reconnected with an old friend, and we mended fences that needed fixing.

I’ve had to hit the brain meds pretty hard lately, but that’s what they’re there for. I expect I’ll never be any more free of my anxiety illness than I will be of this hip prosthetic. Thank goodness something could be done in both cases. I many not be happy about either but the alternatives are far far worse.

Well, I’m doing this instead of writing Episode Thirteen, so it’s time to wrap up and get back to work. The City needs me!

Tenth Episode Anniversary

I’m a little amazed that I’m sitting here working on the eleventh episode of Managlitch City Underground. I’ve already released just over two hours of audio since I started: an entire movie’s worth of storytelling. And while it’s not a complete one-man show, I do most of the heavy lifting all by myself: writing, most of the acting, editing, graphics, webmastering, etc. This is literally the product of four decades of trying my hand at anything that interested me.

Is it any good? I like it, and I know of at least a few regular listeners. Like any creative type would, I hope I keep getting more. I do think it steadily improves as I learn more and more about what I’m doing – by making mistakes, of course. Only way to improve.

I had to ditch another con due to finances, as $1000 of car repairs (front CV joints and tires) swallowed up my Shore Leave money without a trace. That meant leaving my fellow actors in Luna-C without a cast member, so it’s extra painful, though they had a month’s notice to work around the problem. Looking forward to working with them at MarsCon next January.

I’m still going to Intervention in two weeks, mainly because I can’t drop out of that; I’m staffing coordinator there, thanks to a terrible attack of constaffus volunteeritis. On top of that, I’m a member of a panel on World Building with Pete “Sluggy Freelance” Abrams, I’m presenting a talk on the making of my bawdy slapstick videos, and I’m recording an episode of Managlitch City Underground live at the con with audience participation and special guest voices which I can’t yet discuss. I’ll almost certainly cosplay too; I hope I see lots of my friends there. Gonna be fun, and I’m going to be exhausted when it’s done!

I’ve been to see a doctor for the first time in years. They’ve x-rayed my hip and kidney to be sure neither will be offering trouble anytime soon, and I’m back on anti-anxiety meds which is wonderful. I lose so much time and work to panic attacks and general feelings of dread; I’m absolutely thrilled to have the chemical tools again to beat that back. Things are still great with Maya, and I’m so lucky to have her at my back when things are bumpy. We make an amazing team.

With luck, I’ll have lots of amazing news from Intervention. Until then, drop me a note if you’re enjoying the podcast!

Clearlight 23rd, 715 in the Forty-One Worlds

Hi. It’s me. I’m surprised to see that I last wrote something here less than a month ago… it seems ages. But I just posted the eighth episode of the Managlitch City Underground podcast, and even if that isn’t a nice round number like fifty or twenty or even ten, it feels a bit anniversary-ish because I’m a computer geek.

I’m trying to finish another episode in a week because I want two of them out this month. That sure sounds easy when I type it, but it hasn’t been. Lesson: when hitting up busy friends for donated talent, figure on lots of lead time. Basically, I’m learning to write more scripts in advance.

Maya still supports my creative efforts wonderfully. Since I work full time, every hour I spend writing is an hour we aren’t talking or cuddling or something; but she gets me so incredibly well, and understands that I need to express myself creatively for my soul to work right. And that’s important to her. She’s amazing and I love her dearly and I wish every day for a long joyful partnership.

I’m adjusting to life in Raleigh nicely, though it will of course be months before I feel as comfortable as I did in Hampton Roads. Having my own place is making me pretty happy; I’ll be happier when I tame more of the stack of storage boxes.

This year I had to skip Anime Mid-Atlantic because of all the moving expenses, and I hate that. I’ve barely seen any of my friends for weeks, and I’m not happy to have missed this chance to dress up, socialize, and party. (Responsibly.) Plus it’s my last non-working con until November, so feh.

Frankly, I’ve got plenty of money worries now that I’ve decided to level up my adulting game, but I don’t know many folks who don’t, and they aren’t disastrous at this point, so they’re barely worth mentioning. Were it not for my anxieties, I might barely notice them.

So that’s where I stand right now. Hopefully by my next post I will have some very fun news to announce. In the meantime, try the podcast out if you haven’t? And positive reviews of it on iTunes are always most welcome!

Four Episodes In!

I should be ready to record Episode Five of Managlitch City Underground in a day or two, if all goes well. I’m kind of amazed I have four episodes in the can and up on iTunes already. We’ve had two brilliant guest voices – Jerry Conner and Kara Dennison – and more are clamoring to appear in future episodes; I just have to keep writing them.

So far, it’s been a fascinating experience. I have no set deadline, but I know when I want the episodes to come out, and I’ve managed to stick pretty closely to that. I have very little idea what I’m doing, and have been learning GarageBand and iTunes and the PowerPress plugin for WordPress as I go. In many ways, I love that, because the only person breathing down my neck really is me, and it gives me the creative freedom to screw up. You only really learn and improve when you make mistakes, and I’m making the most of this chance to do so.

Maya’s been my primary editor for the show, and she’s doing an amazing job. She’s not afraid to tell me when she thinks something isn’t working, and she knows me well enough to point me in the direction I probably wanted to go anyway. It’s pure creative joy when working with other talented folks makes your creation even better than it comes out in your head.

I’m shooting for a recorded-live show at InterventionCon later this year – I should have plenty of episodes under my belt by then, enough cred to make a claim for a programming spot. My stats tell me people are listening, but I try not to take them too seriously and just concentrate on making something good. Do that, and with luck the rest will follow.

So, anyway, life is creatively good right now, and I just wanted to share that with anyone listening. 😀

Managlitch City Underground

I probably started listening to podcasts not long after I got my first full-featured iPod from Rain. I remember tuning into “Slacker Astronomy” (that evolved into “Astronomy Cast”); “The Instance”, a World of Warcraft podcast; and many others. They were like the cool radio shows that have mostly disappeared from anything other than public radio, and I could listen to them on my own schedule.

Probably less than a year or two afterwards, I started thinking how much fun it would be to do a podcast of my own. I had several half-formed ideas, but never could come up with something that I felt strongly about. I had the smarts to know it would be a lot of time and effort to put into something that didn’t excite me, so on the back burner the ideas went.

But like a Paul McCartney and Wings song, all those ideas abruptly came together a few months ago into something I liked! Since then I’ve been inventing a world, creating characters, writing scripts, Photoshopping graphics, and fighting WordPress bugs; all to bring you Managlitch City Underground!


A friend described the setting as “Zelazny’s ‘Amber’ meets Deep Space Nine”. Managlitch City is a place where reality frequently goes wrong in large or small ways, and where people make the best of it as they would anywhere else. On the podcast, a pirate radio host give you his perspective on the latest doings of the City, and we’ll use him to tell many different stories in the setting.

I know the iTunes podcast directory isn’t an exclusive club, but I’ve put a great deal of effort into this project, and I can hardly describe the thrill of seeing my work there for any and all to hear. I look forward to telling many tales of the City, and I hope someone out there enjoys them!