Audiozine

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An audiozine is a magazine that is provided in spoken or aural form. Until the arrival of the internet, where the podzine took on the role, such magazines were rare, particularly in the sf world. In fact the only one of note was The Centauri Express which was issued as a single ninety-minute audiocassette, featuring adaptations of both new and previously published stories performed by the Radio Theatre Company of Atlanta, Georgia. It had five releases between September 1987 and April 1990. In Britain, Paul Beardsley compiled an audio-cassette, Sound SF, which he called "the Tape Magazine" and which was distributed in the late summer of 1992 as a trial issue. It contained narrations of four stories from Auguries and one new story, "The Rings of Saturn" by Neville Barnes. Plans for future issues were shelved and remaining copies were distributed free with the magazine Exuberance a year later. By then the audiocassette was already being superseded by the compact disc and in 1997 Scott Virtes revived his Amateur Magazine Alpha Adventures as alphaDrive and issued it on CD-ROM. This wasn't a typical audiozine, as the stories were not read but simply displayed on screen, but there was music and games software included, making alphaDrive a hybrid. Virtes found the cost of producing the CD-ROM too expensive and from the next issue (May 1998) alphaDrive became an Online Magazine. The CD was also the approach adopted by Jeremy Bloom and Jaq Greenspon when they compiled Frequency, a planned bimonthly audio Anthology but there were only four more releases in two years. It had a special advance release at the 58th World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in September 2000 with narrations of all five of that year's Hugo-nominated short stories.

The move towards the first story podzine came a few months earlier, in February 2000, with Vacancy, produced by Jon Hodges, which called itself "the webzine of spoken word epiphanies." The emphasis was on Slipstream fiction which could be downloaded to the computer. The updates were occasional and Vacancy went into hiatus before being briefly revived in Summer 2004. Meanwhile in England, in February 2001, Ben Stebbing and his team put out the-phone-book.com from Manchester. This was a collection of new stories, no more than 150-words, which were hosted on a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) site and could be downloaded to computers and mobile phones. Stebbing found it worked best with genre fiction, chiefly crime, but also included horror and sf. It boosted the popularity of podcasts of Flash Fiction. It ran until 1 December 2003.

By now, the growth in technology for digital audio-players, notably iPods and the MP3 player, meant that audiozines could be easily created and downloaded. The first sf/fantasy podzine was The Dragon Page, created by Michael R Mennenga on 4 February 2002. The early releases were tests exploring Mennenga's likes and dislikes, but he maintained a weekly schedule and soon developed three separate podcasts including author interviews, reviews and fiction.

By 2005 there was a blossoming of sf podzines, several arriving at about the same time. In England, Paul S Jenkins offered The Rev Up Review, starting on 25 March 2005, presented as a programme of reviews, stories (including a serial) and general comment. Steve Ely started Escape Pod on 16 May 2005. This paid professional rates for new fiction up to 6,000 words, and ushered in a new era. Michael A Stackpole began The Secrets on 1 June 2005, originally replicating his newsletter of the same name but soon taking on a life of its own, providing guidance to writers.

Many sf podzines followed, notably Drabblecast (from 21 February 2007), produced by Norman Sherman, running stories under 2,000 words; The Great Beyond (17 June 2007-1 November 2008), a weekly audiozine from Amory Lowe; Clonepod (22 November 2007-current), a fortnightly podzine from Patty Kim; the short-lived SFZine (3 March-23 July 2009) from Carlos Ramirez and Podcastle (11 March 2008-current), a weekly audiozine concentrating on fantasy. The most successful has been StarShipSofa run by Tony C Smith, which began on 20 December 2007 and in 2010 became the first podzine to win a Hugo award, in the Fanzine category. Subsequently a new Hugo Award category was created to allow for podcast fanzines, the Best Fancast, whose first winner (in 2012 and again in 2013) was SF Squeecast (June 2011-current). This is essentially a reviewzine, carrying no fiction, but is full of informed chunter by leading critics and writers. Another nonfiction podzine of note is Writing Excuses, comprising short podcasts on the art of writing presented by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson: this won the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work.

The Space Dog Podcast (17 November 2010-current) is the podzine of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. [MA]

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