Braving the Dragon’s Lair: An INKterview with the PodCastle Editors

Hello everyone,

It’s me, your friendly neighbourhood Jaz. In September of last year I reviewed one of my favourite fiction podcasts on my blog. Half a day later, I was shrieking so hard it spooked the dogs. You see, the Podcastle crew had enthusiastically retweeted my blog.

So after I was done swooning, I grabbed the dragon by the talons, and asked them if they’d enjoy some more signal-boostings. In the form of an INKterview, of course! And they agreed!

The next shriek cracked the window panes. After the INKlings’ ears stopped ringing and they could understand what I was saying again, I cracked the whip over them and set them to work coming up with some good questions to lay at the feet of the Podcastle dragon and his underlings.

Co-editors Jen R. Albert and Cherae Clark, and host and assistant editor Setsu Uzume were kind enough to reply to our questions and Bex and I very much enjoyed sneaking a peek at their answers.

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Braving the Dragon’s Lair: An INKterview with the PodCastle Editors


PodCastle LogoINK: How did the dragon find you?
  • Setsu: Pseudopod was the first short fiction market I’d ever heard of. I made a bunch of stupid jokes in their Facebook fan group, asked the editors if they needed assistance, and they directed me to Cast of Wonders. While slushing for CoW, PodCastle invited me to work for them too, and I did double-duty for about a year before shifting focus solely to PodCastle. Meeting everyone at a Worldcon fan event probably helped smooth the way as well.
  • Jen: I was recruited to help out around the castle by Rachael K. Jones, who took over as co-editor along with Graeme Dunlop when Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind left a few years ago. I was reading for Uncanny Magazine at the time, and Rachael knew that I had been in love with PodCastle for years. For a while I slush read for both, but eventually I had to leave Uncanny as I took over more responsibilities at PodCastle, first as social media manager, then assistant editor, and eventually co-editor.
  • Cherae: And I got recruited by Khaalidah and Jen at the end of 2018. I was reading for Clarkesworld at the time and Jen and Khaalidah had just published my story “Burning Season” earlier that year. It was really funny timing because I was just leaving a job and a country and trying to find the next step, so a friend had me do some soul-searching. I told her that I’d be fine as long as I was working in and with the fantasy genre. Then I got the tap on my shoulder.
INK: Can you tell us a bit more about your roles at PodCastle and about yourselves outside of PodCastle?
  • Cherae: I’m one of the co-editors — I help make final decisions on stories, find narrators, and other behind-the-scenes stuff. Sometimes I even get to host and narrate, which is pretty cool. Outside of PodCastle, I also write and teach youth creative writing in person and online. I’m also a digital nomad; in the last year, I’ve lived in Taiwan, London, Morocco, Paris, and various places in the US, and I’m always looking for a new adventure. (I would like that adventure to include sword lessons.)
  • Jen: I’m one of the co-editors — I help make decisions on stories . . . er, what Cherae said! I’m an editor by day as well. I edit and acquire books, including SFF, for ECW Press, a Canadian independent publishing house, a job I love. In another life, I was an entomologist.
  • Setsu: I think the host’s job is to make way for the story and then get off stage, so my part is mostly providing context at the end, either with the author’s intent or something tangentially related to the story. That way the listener has room to process their own thoughts without being told what to think. As assistant editor, my job is to make the co-editors’ lives easier. That includes slushing, casting, training and managing the team, and doing back-end data projects as they come up. I also write, do voice work, and practice combat arts with patient horses.
INK: Is the dragon a jealous master?
  • Setsu: There’s no room for masters here. Ultimately we want this to be a fruitful experience for everyone involved, whether that’s authors developing their craft, editors looking to flesh out their resumes, or listeners who are looking for something new. We’re happy to support each other, from current staff and alums, to other publications.
  • Jen: The dragon totally didn’t force them to say that. *looks into the sky nervously*
INK: Several of us have submitted to Podcastle or other EA markets. When selecting stories, what kind of role does the diversity information that writers add to their cover letters play?
  • Setsu: If it’s directly relevant to the story, it has a large impact; but there are subtleties. For example, a story with a blind character is slightly different from a story in which the plot hinges on the experience of being blind as a core character perspective. In both cases, editorial wants to be cognizant of ableist tropes, but we also want to give the author some breathing room when they’re bringing their own experience to bear. There’s still stuff we miss. Recruiting slush readers with marginalizations of their own will help expand editorial vision down the road.
  • Jen: What Setsu said. We don’t ask for demographic information on submission but we’re happy when folks share it with us. We like to know when stories are coming from a place of experience. We’re in strong support of OwnVoices stories and encourage submitters to share their own unique lived experiences.
INK: Do you have any advice for underrepresented writers struggling to find their way into publication?
  • Cherae: As an underrepped writer myself, I read a lot and wrote a lot. I remember starting out with a goal of writing a short story every quarter of the year and printing out loads of stories from to study. (This was before I discovered the other magazines, very long time ago.) I . . . actually didn’t read near all of those stories I printed, and I failed at the quarterly story goal. But I got as much feedback on my stories as I could, joining places like the Online Writing Workshop and making other writer friends to swap critiques with. Then I submitted, took the rejections on the chin and kept at it. Several years later, one of those quarterly stories came out at PodCastle–check out “Burning Season,” episode 519! Submitting also means looking for mags that have a diverse staff.
  • Setsu: Hard agree. Reading extensively in and outside your genre will not only help your craft, it’ll give you a sense of which editorial teams are likely to understand the kinds of stories you want to tell. There are certain editors I will always submit to because I trust them to get it. With regard to community, look not just for writers that you like, but writers with whom you share similar career goals and aesthetics. It’s so important to have colleagues who support not just you as a person, but the particular direction of your work.
  • Jen: Definitely look for editors and publications you might work well with, those who publish the writers that inspire you. I always also like to advocate getting out into the community, if that’s a possibility for you. If you are near a city or town with a literature scene, try to attend readings, lectures, or other events that look interesting. You’re sure to meet interesting local like-minded people who will be in the know. Alternatively, connecting with like-minded folks on social media and asking questions there can be great.
INK: When selecting stories, what do you do differently compared to a text-only publication? Can you give us any tips for when we’re deciding which story to submit to you? What might make a story work better than others in an audio market?
  • Cherae: In particular, I look for an interesting narrative voice and sharp dialogue that uses rhetorical techniques well. Arresting imagery and story that is still easy to follow while listening (maybe even while mildly distracted) is also important. A great rule: read it out loud and if you stumble over the dialogue or it doesn’t sound like something that would come out of your mouth (versus your brain), something is off.
  • Setsu: The text in its entirety has to be polished. Are the sentences easy to say, or do the consonants crash and tangle into each other? Are you struggling for breath? Does every sentence have the same rhythm and create a lull when you want it to be exciting? Will a casual listener appreciate your stylistic tricks or skip them? Seanan McGuire has very clean prose that’s easy to enunciate. Meg Elison’s voice is so solid it sounds like she’s there talking to you. Those elements are what we’re looking for in audio.
INK: Some of our members would love to get into slushing. Other than listening to everything you publish, how can we best prepare for the next time the dragon is recruiting new crew members for their flying castle?
  • Cherae: Read a lot of published short stories and try to identify the things that they’re doing well, including the things that draw you personally as a reader. Though novels and short stories share a lot of the same DNA, they often succeed differently just because of space. Learning the different ways a story can succeed is important. Also . . . the dragon might be swooping around looking for snac — slushers to recruit soon.
  • Jen: We sometimes like to start a dialogue among our readers, having several comment on a story that’s being passed up to get a conversation going and to gather different perspectives. Do this with fiction out in the world. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to slush reading; so much of it is personal preference, and your own read of the story and its themes might be very different from another’s. Really thinking about what you like and don’t like about something, what works and doesn’t, and then getting an outside perspective can be really valuable. For recruiting, we love to have readers from all backgrounds and experiences. If you’re applying to read at PodCastle, let us know what’s unique about your perspective and what kinds of stories you identify with.
  • Setsu: Pick three published stories you like, and three you don’t like. Analyze their structure, themes, and language. Did they stick the ending? In other words, did the ending answer questions or fulfill promises made at the beginning? If the characters were unlikeable, why were they still resonant or interesting? If, in the course of analyzing a story, you discover that it’s full of flaws but you still love it, why is that? Also the reverse, why does the story you don’t like still work? Who was the intended audience if it wasn’t you? Being able to see and articulate these things is a big part of the editorial process, and it gets easier with time and practice. We (and other venues) need people who can do this deep dive quickly, consistently, and fairly, week after week. As Cherae said, the dragon gets hungry.
INK: Can you tell us how your selection process works? Who does what?
  • Cherae: First up, the submissions go through our slush readers. If a reader likes it, they send it up to the editorial table, where Jen, Setsu, and I can read and make our final decisions. Our readers only bump about 10% of the stories they read.
  • Jen: Once Cherae and I get a hold of a passed up story, we read and discuss them. Every submissions period, we have a meeting to discuss which stories worked and which didn’t work for us. Typically if one of us has strong feelings about a story and can advocate for it, we get what we want. If neither of us can muster enough enthusiasm, that usually means passing on a submission. Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean we feel passed on stories are bad in any way; most things we see on the editors’ desk are excellent but it’s hard to account for personal taste, and passion for a piece is sometimes unexpected. I still can’t predict exactly what Cherae will love!
  • Setsu: Yup. Cat Rambo teaches that about 10% of short story submissions receive personal rejections, and 1% make it through to publication. If you’re getting personals, that’s really good! It means you’re on the right track. Rachael and Khaalidah used to say that in most cases, short stories fail because they start in the wrong place — so that beginning/ending, promise made/fulfilled exercise is a concrete thing to study and practice if you feel like you’ve hit a plateau.
INK: Which story first made you fall in love with speculative fiction? Why?
  • Cherae: Oh man . . . probably the first one was actually that old Sword in the Stone movie? But that one that made me jump fully into writing and stuff . . .When I was a kid, The Wheel of Time did this thing where they released The Eye of the World as a 2-book illustrated paperback and it was in my Scholastic book fair thing. That was the beginning of my end. I joined some RPG writing sites (SilkLantern, anyone?), discovered Lord of the Rings, the adult fantasy section of the library . . . all downhill from there.
  • Setsu: Hard to pick one… some combination of Jim Henson, Elfquest, and Red Sonya. It was neat to see how the same narrative sharpened or expanded in different formats, such as the Neverending Story adaptations, the novelization of Willow, and the art/lore book for The Dark Crystal — to say nothing of ttrpg books and the infinite retellings of fairy tales and myths for a modern context. I like when the same story expresses itself as watercolor, or dolls, or a score (numerical or musical). These levels of abstraction suggest spec, even with stories that aren’t necessarily speculative. That’s what grabs my attention.
  • Jen: I think for me it was probably video games. I used to play those old Sierra adventure games. King’s Quest, Space Quest. My favorite was Quest for Glory. I loved the whimsical humor and jumping into a new fantasy setting every game, and I loved being able to be the hero! Eventually I found that most of the literature I consumed was in the genre too.
INK: Are there books you read again and again? What about them makes them so special?
  • Setsu: Pratchett’s Discworld books because I get something new out of them each time. Also Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo, and the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, because they’re comforting when I feel stuck.
  • Jen: I’m not one to read books again. There’s just so much out there I haven’t read yet! That said, I think I’ve reread The Goblin Emperor at least four times since it came out, and that was just a few years ago.
  • Cherae: I also don’t read books again (very different from when I was a kid). I do read the books I teach multiple times. A couple that I have doubled (tripled?) up on . . . The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson is something that I’ve been drawn back to again and again because I want to keep learning from it. Not to mention the exquisite construction of heartbreak. Also Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie. I would also like to go back to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
INK: What is the most influential lesson you learned through your work for PodCastle? How does it affect you as a writer and a reader?
    • Jen: So I’m not actually much of a writer. I edit full time for PodCastle and ECW, but now as a reader, I feel like an old salt. It’s hard as an editor not to get a little bit jaded about the things you read because stories, themes, plot elements, character tropes, and the like tend to come up again and again. So in some ways, I think I read with a little less patience. I’m more likely to put something down if it’s not working for me. That said, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that when something is done right — when told with a fresh perspective and the right voice — you can take even the most overdone story elements and make them into something brilliant.
    • Cherae: I’m developing the writing professional callous. You always read that rejections aren’t personal but it’s hard to really understand that until you’re behind the table. I’ve rejected colleagues, friends, idols . . . and then we move on to the next story, the next coffee date. Best way to handle it is to be courteous, always.
    • Setsu: Through collaborating at PodCastle and as part of Escape Artists at large, my perspective has shifted from “why is this bad” to “who is this for?” In other words, how can one identify what this audience wants and give it to them? Stay curious about market shifts, what’s working, and why. Most of all, find the balance between what’s personally and commercially sustainable. This is a job, and sometimes the job won’t love you back, even when it’s the dream job.
INK: Can you still read stories without picking them apart and analysing them?
    • Cherae: Hehhhh, sometimes. It’s easier for me with short stories than with novels. Short stories are also easier for me to give a second, more analytical read.
    • Setsu: Only if I haven’t heard anyone else’s opinion. Otherwise I fixate on target audience rather than enjoying it for what it is.
    • Jen: I can turn my editorial brain off to a degree and just enjoy a story despite some issues. I think I need that break sometimes and the self-permission to just enjoy a story for what it is and not what I’d make it into. Reading for fun is a relief.
INK: When you have to choose between two stories, one original, one reprint, how much does the reprint factor play into your decision?
    • Jen: Reprints cost us less and proportionally we buy a higher percentage of them, but we get far more originals than reprints submitted to us, and we have only a few active spots for originals per period.
    • Cherae: Actually, they aren’t usually competing for the same slots, so to speak. We’re more likely to have to choose between two originals.
    • Setsu: That said, we might have more wiggle room once we meet our Patreon goals. The only other thing it affects is which stories we can put forward for awards consideration, but that’s more of an end-of-year thought than an acceptance/rejection thought.
INK: When a reprint appears in the slush pile, is the previous publication record of the piece something you take into account?
    • Setsu: The most important part is when it’s out of the exclusivity period. We tend not to run stories that have been previously produced as podcasts, but if it’s been a while or the story is our jam we’ll buy it.
    • Jen: Like Setsu says, if it’s been produced in audio a few times before, or if it’s something very popular that most genre fans have already read, I might be less likely to want to release it again. There just are so many stories out there from brilliant anthologies and magazines that never got their due.
INK: Do you think your selection process will change to accommodate the SFWA pay increase? For example, will you be looking for more rewrites or shorter tales?
    • Setsu: This question makes me cry, as an author and an editor.
    • Cherae: Cost does play a factor; the longer an original is, the more in love with it we’ll have to be. That said, the quality of the story is the first thing we look at. We do our best to find places for stories that we love, regardless of cost.
INK: Which PodCastle story stands out as your absolute favorite? Or which one are you ecstatic to have found and why?
    • Setsu: What I liked about PodCastle as a listener was that the stories were all different in tone, style, and subgenre. The variety makes each story pop. “The Parable of the Shower” by Leah Bobet and “The Ghosts of New York” by Jennifer Pelland hit me in very different ways, but they both hit. While I loved all the AR4 picks, “My Heart the Bullet in the Chamber” by Stephanie Charette was particularly satisfying because not only was the voice exactly what I was in the mood for at the time, but I had been dying to cast Robin McLeavy as something, anything, for two years prior to that. There was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down when that episode aired. Sometimes you ask for everything you want and you get it.
    • Jen: I really can’t say which ones are my favorites. I’ve been at this for a few years, and, like children, I love them all. But some of my “pride and joy” episodes are stories that we’ve picked up from brand-new authors who are clearly going places. “Wolfy Things” by Erin Roberts and “How to Survive in Room 105” by T.J. Berry were their first pro short story sales, for example, and both authors have gone on to do fabulous things! It’s a pleasure to introduce new voices to the world.
    • Cherae: As a new editor, I feel like all the stories I’ve gotten to have a hand in are these little treasures I found and got to add to the hoard. One story I’m really proud of is the full-cast recording we did of Kyle Kirrin’s story, “Yo, Rapunzel.”
INK: When you read a story, do you imagine what it would sound like in production?
    • Cherae: Yep. When things get to the final choices phase, I can often be found mumbling to myself as I imagine how the voice actor would perform. I’m still learning the narrators we have on deck, but hopefully I’ll get to the same point as Setsu and Jen.
    • Setsu: Absolutely. It’s gotten to the point that I’ll add notes to the story recommending a particular narrator if that’s who I heard in my mind.
    • Jen: Same! I often hear things in the voices of particular narrators now!
INK: Do you advise new writers getting started to build a reputation with smaller publications or aim high right from the get-go?
    • Cherae: I’m an aim high writer. Teaches you where your weak spots are.
    • Setsu: Seconded. Aim high, have a backup plan, and start the next thing while your current thing is on submission.
INK: Especially for Jen: what do you think about current bi representation in the short form? Do you think there is an issue with bi-erasure?
    • Setsu: I will fight my own erasure by jumping in on this question. The original issue had to do with the way fans “claimed” a character as their own by setting rules and limitations on what made someone “qualify” for any given identity. Explicitly gay and lesbian characters are more accepted and celebrated now, so they’ve become more commonplace, and the need to explicitly claim and label them, thus erasing their “disqualifying” attributes is also easing off. Authors are now reworking tropes like love triangles or complications with exes to include a range of genders, see Baru Cormorant’s three parents, or gelfling Deet’s fathers. It’s the More not Or principle — the more we have, the more room we create for varieties and subtleties of the human experience, and as a result fantasy more accurately reflects the casual queerness of our world in defiance of patriarchal propaganda. The other thing to keep in mind is that short form requires a tight focus with limited subplots, and not all short stories starring queer characters center family dynamics or romance. It’s not unreasonable to presume bisexuality, pansexuality, or queerness until told otherwise.
    • Jen: Setsu is right that short fiction can make it a bit hard to show a character as explicitly bi or pan just because there may not be sufficient word count to include the multitudes of their heart, but it is always nice to see active and direct representation — acknowledgement of a character’s bisexuality — and that’s still a bit lacking. What’s especially lacking are the many permutations though: romantic relationships between folks of any and all genders (or none). Aromantic and asexual relationships. I’m polyamorous as well as bi, and boy do I want that love triangle Setsu talks about to turn a healthy and sustainable poly dynamic. Writing romance and queerness into a story should be more interesting than ever because there are so many folks living and talking about their individual and diverse truths. I probably assume most characters are queer just because my friends and partners and partners’ partners all are, but that’s not enough; I want to see them all represented.
INK: Writers all have to face rejection, at least sometimes. How do you deal with rejection of your own work? Having experienced the other side of it–having to reject pieces–do you have any tips for writers struggling to cope with rejection?
    • Setsu: It’s not personal, it’s business. Have a “private salt channel” of friends with whom you can complain so you don’t say something you might regret on social media. When you start to doubt yourself, get curious about something else. Cultivate a variety of interests, and be proud of yourself when you improve. It’s a long and difficult process, and it’s easy to fixate on the difficulty, but climbing a mountain is a lot easier when you focus on the view or the conversation rather than your own soreness.
    • Jen: Editors know rejection hurts, especially when a story is very personal. But the more you submit the more you’ll realize that a rejection doesn’t mean something is bad. It’s so much about taste and timing. The best way to deal with rejection is to get back on the horse and submit again.
    • Cherae: Thirding all of this. It just really hit the truth home — reasons for rejection are myriad and not because you the author are a failure. It’s so much fit, timing, and taste.
INK: Is there anything you feel like you never get enough of in your slush pile? And what do you get too much of?
    • Cherae: I always want more queer swordshumans. But I’m just in general hoping for second world stories that take old guard fantasy and do something new with it. We get a lot of mermaids and a lot of fairies . . . which we’re definitely not against, but do keep in mind that there will be quite a lot so those stories will have to be fiercely unique.
    • Setsu: Light, fun adventure stories. Humor that doesn’t break the fourth wall. As Cherae mentioned, we get quite a number of stories that meet trope expectations, not many that break them. On this particular morning, I’d like to hear more about witches in physically demanding societies, children with agency, enemies who have been at it for so long they celebrate each others’ birthday, and mixed media (tales about painting, music, confections, or some other art form).
    • Jen: I’d really love to see stories from all around the world; the best way to break down tired tropes is to come at them from a new perspective, interpret them in a new way. In general I love interesting, nonlinear story structures, beautiful prose, and thoughtful character-driven stories, but I have to be held back from publishing too much of that because it tends to be a bit slow for audio. Also, like I said above, I’d love to see more diverse forms queerness represented. I want to see a merry band of found-family relationship anarchists of all genders and sexualities setting off on a quest together — generally good-hearted, nuanced characters dealing with difficult situations with intelligence and fellowship (and also swords and magic). Reminds me of home.
INK: What sacrifices does the dragon prefer? Chocolate? Pancakes?
    • Cherae: *cough*chocolatechipcookiedough*cough*
    • Setsu: The dragon eats an impressive array of materials, but sacrifice implies a wish. You know what your wishes are worth.
INK: Do dragon droppings make good fertilizer?
    • Cherae: Sure, if you need to fertilize an entire field at one go. A small garden, though . . . you’ll have some extra.
INK: How are your rooms in the castle decorated?
    • Jen: Mine has a lot of soft, breezy fabrics and pastels. I’m in a high-femme phase lately.
    • Cherae: With these pictures from Sara Alfageeh:, and Initiate by Ilse Gort (a favorite of the dragon’s).
    • Setsu: We talk a lot about the dragon, but the flying castle itself keeps changing so it’s hard to describe in any definitive way? For example, there have been locks and portals in the corridors that resemble a piece by Jay DeFeo, and that’s the castle asserting itself. The people and ideas within change it, too. The rooms, furniture, and even the fragrance of the trees in the courtyard shift whenever there’s a change in crew or when a particularly potent story comes aboard. There are constant little evolutions, from the color of the stonework or the direction of its grain, to larger things like the presence of ghosts, gargoyles, or werewolves in the ballroom. It’s like an incidental rather than intentional version of Janine Antoni’s sculptures. You can tell in the details that a real, definitive someone was there.
INK: The castle is suddenly surrounded by pirates seated on octopus steeds. Do you invite them in for tea, have the dragon blast them, or something else?
    • Cherae: I’m intrigued. Do I get to ride the octopi?
    • Setsu: Surrounding us is an act of aggression. They get one chance to state their purpose.
    • Jen: This is why Setsu is in charge of castle security.
INK: Does the castle have a moat?
    • Setsu: Not intrinsically, but we can set down anywhere, and thus, could borrow a moat.
    • Jen: Hell, we could set ‘er down in the middle of the ocean! Though I guess that wouldn’t deter the pirates riding octopus steeds . . .
    • Cherae: But if we could ride the octopi…
INK: Podcastle, like the other Escape Artists podcasts, has a high focus on including diverse and underrepresented voices. Our own experience already as a writer’s group wanting diverse membership has shown that this isn’t always easy. Do you have any advice for us or for other publications wanting to improve their diversity that you’ve learned along the way?
    • Cherae: We’re still learning this but . . . look for the names you don’t know. Also, consider the stories that you’ve heard again and again from marginalized groups, e.g. slave stories from/about Black American communities. Dark stories about a community are worth telling, but also consider stories that show the underrepresented outside of or beyond trauma. Look for stories that celebrate joy and thriving.
    • Jen: Research and reach groups whose members are underrepresented writers. See what those members are working on. Follow them on social media. And publish the diverse voices and perspectives you find. The audience, and the talent within it, will with luck start to find you. Most importantly, listen when folks tell you you’re getting it wrong.
    • Setsu: Speak among the powerful, listen among the marginalized. Try to remember that the goal isn’t to be the best or the least problematic; it’s to mitigate the ways in which systemic problems make daily life hard for individuals. Sometimes you’ll roll a 1. Learn. Try again tomorrow.

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Thanks again, Jen, Cherae and Setsu, for being such good sports. We’d like to offer you all the title of honorary INKling. Of course, someone ate the cake again. Seriously, this has to stop. I’m not going to name names. The culprits know who they are, and they should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

They could have at least saved me a slice.

Oh, and Cherae? Our resident INKtopus, Boris, might be convinced to let you ride him, but fair warning: we cannot be held responsible for any ink spills. Proceed at your own risk. He also loves cuddles but the same disclaimer applies.

PodCastle Logo

PodCastle began in 2008 as the third Escape Artists fiction podcast with editor and host, Rachel Swirsky. PodCastle continues to produce audio performances of fantasy short fiction and all its subgenres, including urban fantasy, slipstream, high fantasy, and dark fantasy. PodCastle has been a finalist for the Parsec Awards twice (in 2010 and 2015), won the Academy of Podcasters Best Podcast — Fictional award in 2017, and in 2018, then co-editors Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali and Jen R. Albert were nominated for the World Fantasy Award in the Special Award — Non-Professional category for their work on PodCastle. The current co-editors are Cherae Clark and Jen R. Albert.

If you enjoy the fiction they produce and want to help them continue offering fantasy fiction at pro rates from diverse authors–and hopefully one day pay their readers–consider signing up for the Escape Artist Patreon. This provides financial support to all four EA markets (PodCastle, EscapePod, PseudoPod, and Cast of Wonders).

If this INKterview has inspired you to apply as a reader, they are, as of posting, seeking new crew. Check their website here for information.

If you are an author and PodCastle is a dream market for you as it is for many of our own members, you’re in luck. PodCastle is open to general submissions in March 2020 and for a range of scheduled periods (listed on their website). Check their submission information and make sure you follow the rules. You wouldn’t want to annoy the dragon.

Our Interviewees

Jen R. Albert: PodCastle Co-Editor

Jen AlbertJen Albert is an editor, writer, and former entomologist. She works full-time as an editor at ECW Press, an independent publishing house based in Toronto, where she enjoys working on books of all kinds, including speculative fiction, popular science, and LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction. She became co-editor of her favorite fantasy fiction podcast in 2016; she now wonders if she still allowed to call it her favorite. Along with her co-editors, Jen has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award for her work on PodCastle.

Cherae Clark: PodCastle Co-Editor

Cherae ClarkCherae is a writer originally from Kansas City. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesFIYAHPodCastle and Uncanny. You can follow her on Twitter  @c_l_clark.

Setsu Uzumé: PodCastle Host and Assistant Editor

Setsu Uzume in a treeSetsu Uzumé is a nonbinary person who writes and occasionally narrates dark fiction. When they’re not hosting PodCastle, their stories can be found in Grimdark MagazineCast of Wonders, Bourbon PennMetaphorosis, and several anthologies. They enjoy horseback archery, studied Daoism and martial arts at a monastery in rural China, and their favorite fruit is the raspberry. Find out more at or tweet them @scribblesassin.



  1. R. Jean Bell

    This interview was totally worth waiting for. I think I will be coming back and studying it a few times when considering what to sub to PodCastle. Now if only I could send you ridiculously long narrative poem… with an octosteed.

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