On Hiatus


Summary first. Escape Pod is going to miss its weekly releases for the remainder of November. We will resume in December, probably the first week.

Now the explanation.

I suppose I could just say that I’m writing this just prior to leaving for my grandmother’s funeral. She died a few weeks ago, and the memorial service is taking place in New Jersey this weekend. That would be sufficient excuse to miss a week by almost anyone’s reckoning. Add in a tough new day job, lingering physical illness, and unstable brain chemistry, and I could really play for some sympathy here. But it isn’t the complete picture.

The fact is that I need some time. I need to get regrounded, for my own health and also for the good of Escape Pod. Since May of 2005 we have not missed a week, and I’ve been very proud — perhaps hubristic — of having one of the longest uninterrupted runs in podcasting. We’ve achieved some amazing things almost by accident: we’ve become the number two SF market with about 25,000 listeners, we’ve brought attention to incredible stories by previously unknown authors, and we’ve grown into a real business with two additional podcasts. From a strategic point of view we’re doing all right. We’re not totally where I wanted to be by now, but fundamentally we’re succeeding.

But tactically, with Escape Pod in particular, I’ve been flying way too close to the ground. It’s been week-to-week and barely controlled chaos for a really long time now. My communication’s always been behind, but now it’s by months. The releases keep slipping, and sometimes I don’t know on Monday what the week’s story will be. It’s been costing me more sleep than usual. These are resolvable issues; I have a nice clear to-do list of obvious things that would make my job a lot easier. (“Better delegation” covers about half the list.) But I haven’t been stepping back to do any of them. Even when I have the time, it’s been hard to muster the energy.

Most of all, I’m afraid of losing my perspective. For a while now I’ve been pushing myself so hard on EP that it’s close to becoming more Not Fun than Fun. I’m in danger of forgetting why I’m doing it. And that is not something I can permit. If I lose my own passion for the stories, I know I won’t be the only one who suffers. That’s the point at which the podcast will start to suck.

So I’m doing a very, very difficult thing right now for the sake of long-term success: I’m letting myself fail for a few weeks. I’m taking a breather, relaxing a bit, and trying to forgive myself for doing it. I’m going to do right by my grandmother, and then I’m going to take a few days to just chill, and then I’m going to see what I need to do to get organized and get on top of the game again.

I know it’s risky to pin such things to a schedule. But I’m pretty confident in the range of this hiatus: it will not be less than two weeks, and it should not be more than four. The smart money’s on three weeks, putting us back on in the first week of December. We already have some great stuff pending. We have the next Union Dues story, and in my opinion it’s the best one yet. We have a fantastic alien world story from this year’s Cambpell Award winner, Mary Robinette Kowal. And Mur Lafferty is preparing what may be the most kickass science fiction Christmas story ever. I promise you we’ll be back soon, because dammit, I want to hear those things in audio.

Two logistical points:

First, PodCastle and Pseudopod aren’t affected. Rachel and Ann and Ben and Al are totally in the groove, and Escape Artists as a company is doing fine. This announcement only affects Escape Pod. So you’ve still got a short fiction fix, and if those aren’t enough, feel free to check out some others.

Second, I’m well aware that donors have a pretty good reason to be upset. You’re giving your money on an article of faith, after all — that we’ll use it to keep bringing you stories — and if we’re not bringing them to you, even temporarily, we’re not keeping that trust. We’ve recently had some very substantial donations, ones which I have yet to send proper thank-you messages for. (Those are coming too.) I’m hoping most of you will be cool with my reasoning here and bear with us. But if you’ve donated in the past few months and you object to this hiatus, e-mail me from your PayPal address and let me know, and I will refund your money to you, no questions asked. I would honestly rather keep your goodwill than your cash.

…So there you have it. That’s the honest explanation of what’s going on, as best I can state it. I’ll be spending the next few weeks gathering my wits, my priorities, and a team, probably in that order. And then you’ll have more stories. We’ll be back soon. In the meantime, thank you for any patience you’re willing to give.

And of course: Have Fun.