PodUK 2020 Horror Panel Transcript

Alasdair Stuart 5:33

Good afternoon, everybody and welcome to the horror panel. This is less a panel, more a cartographic expedition within which myself and my elite colleagues over here will attempt to map for you some of the more interesting and innovative elements of modern podcast audio horror. The best possible thing we can do at the top of every doomed expedition is of course, take the photo. You know, the one where people get crossed out as the polar bears eat them. [laughter]

See, same wavelength. So what we're going to start off with is introductions and I'll have all of us explain who we are and what we do and what kind of shows we work on. I'll start I'm Alasdair, your moderator for this evening. I co own the Escape Artists Podcast Network, along with my partner Margeurite Kenner. We produce four shows: Escape Pod which does science fiction, Pseudopod, which does horror, Cast of Wonders, which does YA, and Podcastle, which does fantasy. I host Pseudopod, the horror show, for a frankly, horrifying amount of time. Seriously, I don't want to think about it. I think there's, I think I'm on the Bayeux tapestry recording episode 49. In addition to all of that, I also write about the genre a fair amount, and I've turned up in several other voice acting capacities, most recently, as Peter Lukas, who is the unsung Hero of The Magnus Archives.

I'm on film. I'm on film doing this!

Alex Newall 7:06


Alasdair Stuart 7:09

Percy, whose queen, who if everyone who listened to nothing bad would have happened, not that anything bad happens at the end of the Magnus Archives season 4. And speaking of the Magnus Archives, Alex.

Alex Newall 7:21

Hi. And so I'm the CEO of Rusty Quill limited, which is a podcast production company and Podcast Network. And we generate a large number of shows the most relevant of which to this panel is called The Magnus Archives, which is a horror series that pretends to be an anthology but it's not. And and basically, I think that's as succinct as I can really get. So

Gemma Amor 7:21

Hi, I'm Gemma, I'm the CEO of nothing. I write for I write for a number of horror podcasts I write for the no sleep podcast. I co write and voice act in a horror comedy show starring Kate Segal called Calling Darkness. I am also in season two of shadows at the door which Mr. Ault is involved in and various other scary spooky shows hiding on the internet. I'm also a writer. I write books and novels and various other. That's me. This is David.

David Ault 8:24

As Gemma said, I am David. David Ault. I am a voice actor in the NoSleep podcast just 48 hours ago came back off tour for a European tour so don't quite know what day it is or where I am. But I'm also the co host of shadows at the door with Mr. Mark Nixon here. And we do ghost stories M. r. James style horror with old stuff that has been adapted and new stuff from writers like Gemma Amor. I'm also on the white Vault and various other things so yes. I'm also Byron and the buyer in Chronicles, which has been going since 2006. [awe from the audience] I know Yes, I was fresh out of university and this American guy said, Would you like a podcast.

Yes. Then they get you hooked.

Alasdair Stuart 9:23

Oh, we're gonna be fine.

So this is your elite team of completely doomed scientists who are gonna walk up to the big squamous rogos blob of horror, poke it and see what happens. And the first question I want to ask everybody and I'm going to start at the other end and work back this time is what brings you to horror as a genre in particular?

David Ault 9:49

I think I arrived at horror via sci fi probably one of the reasons I got into voice acting all those many many years ago was Doctor Who. I was - it was in the the wilderness years between 1989 and 2005. Where there was no doctor who on TV - it was it was a long, long time. And the BBC started doing audio dramas with the old doctors and I really enjoyed those and I thought, Oh, are there any other people doing doctor who audio dramas, found some people online, listened to their work, listened to others. And then I've always liked ghost stories. So yes, I got involved with darker projects, then pendant audio, and basically it's sort of gone from there, but it's a deep seated love of ghost stories and coming in via sci fi.

Gemma Amor 10:46

I think I came probably via fantasy first, my first and biding love is fantasy. I grew up on a diet of Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time and the point horror books as well when I was a teenager And I've just always been - as a writer in particular, I'm drawn to making up things because you don't have to follow the rules. So that's why I will never write procedural crime drama because you have to know stuff and everything has to be based in an element of truth and with horror, you can pretty much invent your own landscape. Invent your own world. So. Yeah that's me.

Alex Newall 11:23

I mostly came to horror through convenience. [audience laughter]

Alasdair Stuart 11:27

That is the single most you sentence -

Alex Newall 11:31

Okay, so for me and horror, I suppose I have the most experience on the sci fi side as well actually. But in terms of horror as a medium, it is one that's interested me because I think it lead - it simultaneously, people think it's easiest one to get into because, you know, it's just like 'ah, the tropes they're there. You do the tropes and you've done a horror!' But at the same time, it also leaves you very little wiggle. room between good horror and hot garbage, which I quite like, operating in that space. But I have recently been made aware that the things that I make that aren't horror are still nightmare fuel? Which is news to me. I wasn't aware that's a thing, now I know. And so as a result I can I can work with that.

Alasdair Stuart 11:35

I came to horror ... very similar to David's in many ways. In that most of my entry point was science fiction, coupled with the fact that I was from a relatively young age, perpetrating an elaborate genetic con. I was about six foot by the time I was 13. And my voice broke really early. And that was useful, especially in a small rural community with a single screen cinema. And the nice old lady behind the counter whoat no point went, 'You're 18 aren't you sonny?' 'Yes!!!' She just kind of assumed and so I saw a frankly ridiculous amount of movies, I had no business seeing at least five years early. It left marks and very much a good way! It horribly traumatises you, but in a good way!

Alex Newall 13:20

This explains so much...!

Alasdair Stuart 13:24

Oh, and it's also partially Paul Daniels' fault. [audience gasps] For those of you who don't know, Paul Daniels was kind of the avatar of TV stage magic in the UK for a really long time. And he is one half of a very curious, binary experiment with horror that the BBC carried out and which went very well. And as a result, they were terrified. Never did it again.

David Ault 13:45

Was this Wizbit?

Alasdair Stuart 13:47

No, Wizbit is the thing of the demon realms. Not to be brought forth like - Youtube Wizbit, and we're not sorry. We're not sorry. Paul Daniels famously did a Halloween special in the very early 1990s, where he finished with an elaborate escape, which was supposed to be him getting out of an Iron Maiden, which is not him having the band fired at him at high velocity but rather a very large spiky cupboard, which shut on him and apparently killed him. And they just didn't mention anything about it for like two hours and of course, being terribly British my family I've watched this and went, 'fairly certain we've just seen a man die. ..D'you want a cup of tea? [audience laughter]

And this this landed in a very similar kind of period of time to Ghostwatch. Ghostwatch, for those of you who haven't seen it, is terrifying, terrifying. It's terrifying in an insidious and really evil way. It is presented as a terrible early 90s live TV event. It's presented by the exact people you think would present a terrible early 1990s live TV event and then about half an hour in, very slowly it starts to go to hell. And the final sequence which involves these words in various stages of combination: TV studio, flames, demonic voice, talk show host.. seared themselves into my brain so the whole time I'm going along going obviously I'm science fiction guy cuz I like spaceships and nuns from hell..! Pseudopod finally let me realise that I was a horror guy wearing a space suit! And that's kind of where I am. So I'm going to jump around a little bit in order and ask Gemma my next question which is what keeps you in horror?

Gemma Amor 15:34

I think the licence to be as imaginative as you can, you can do anything with horror and I love that and I was talking to somebody at the stand earlier on today. So my jam is people based horror, I write about people first and foremost. And my main concern when I sit down to write anything is is how the characters' feeling, what are their main motivations? How do they go through their lives and why. And the decisions and the Stories grow up around the people. And sometimes the horror is almost incidental. It's something that happens around them. But with horror, you can just, it's just free licence to let your imagination run riot. And I think that's what keeps me there. And I do dip into sci fi and I do dip into the more kind of psychological thriller side of things, but I like ghosts and ghoulies and monsters and things that go bump in the night, because you can just let your imagination go. And yeah, that keeps me keeps me firmly grounded.

David Ault 16:33

Absolutely, well, everything that Gemma just said. But also I the thing with horror, and especially with ghost stories is that they are timeless. They don't have they can be absolutely present day but they can be so timeless, which I don't need to explain the word.

But that's what horror and especially audio hora.

I love the all the audio medium Simply because it leaves all of the details to your imagination. It is all there and you are painting your own pictures and you can scare yourself as much as you want to, with what you're listening to, or if it's on a book, what you're reading and so that that's, that's what I like it, it becomes a lot more personal to you as the as the devour of the horror. If you like that's, that's my Yeah.

Alex Newall 17:33

For me, I'm gonna give a sort of shorter term answer, which is that for reasons beyond my understanding, but I'm happy to know, cosmic horror is currently basically getting in vogue, which is phenomenally useful. But what that also means is - oh God, Alex has just had a brain drop from like 10 years ago. Okay, cool. So we have emergent culture. We have dominant culture and we have residual culture. As lovecraftian horror shifts from emergent to dominant, one is left wondering what is emergent next. Now what I'm what I'm getting at is -- [audience laughter]

yeah, I just channelled a 10 year younger version of me who was a pompous ass.

Gemma Amor 18:18

very intimidating.

Alex Newall 18:19

So what what is interesting to me is we all know now what's currently interesting, what's kind of in vogue and what's going there. But for horror, we are due something new. And the same way that sort of the zombie trope came in and then kind of faded and so on, we are now due one. And a lot of the time what is due next is defined by what leaves public domain because that is what allows -- sorry what *enters* public domain, because it allows experimentation within the space. So it's like, Okay, cool. This thing has become public domain, it's fair game. And in podcasting, what we are as an industry is one enormous playground where people get to make things that *no one* in their right mind would *ever* option for anywhere else. Right up until it's successful and go, 'Oh, yes, we were definitely thinking about that.' But what that means is that right now we are due a big new thing - and I don't know what it is, for horror - combined with an industry that's still able to just suddenly have 10,000 people go, 'I think it's this!', 9000 to be wrong and everyone to still be having a good time and not care. You know, like, that's why I'm here right now, if you know what I mean.

Alasdair Stuart 19:26

I'm in horror because I really like [?], especially cultural ones. I firmly believe horror is one of the most fundamentally hopeful genres of fiction there is and it's hopeful, I think in two very different ways. There is the schadenfreude element, which is well at least that's not happening to me.

Alex Newall 19:43


Alasdair Stuart 19:47

And there's also the survival element. And I mean, this is kind of an easy get, but I think an awful lot about cabin in the woods, and about the moral dilemma that breaks down very starkly in the final 15 minutes of that, and where various characters land; that idea, that kind of visceral interaction with ethics, something which I think horror does. I wouldn't say no other genre does it because I know lots of other people in those genres and I know where I live. But I think horror engages with it in a way that very few others do. And I really respond to that. And I've my dark days, I've had tremendous strength in horror stories.

Gemma Amor 20:27