► Since people are following you for very different reasons, how many of them do you think are really aware of all the things Veronica Belmont does?
I think everyone who follows me for one specific reason is probably tangentially aware of the other things I do as well. I definitely have some followers from when I worked in gaming and ones from when I worked in technology journalism, versus those knowing me primarily from Sword & Laser. Hopefully they enjoy all of the stuff I post there, no matter the original reason how they became aware of me and why they decided to follow me. I keep it pretty varied, lighthearted, geeky, so it’s not too specific.
► Help us understand a bit better: How much of a typical week or month do you dedicate to Sword & Laser?
First of all, there hardly is such a thing as a typical week.
► Because working independently, especially in this kind of field, isn’t a 9-to-5…
Exactly. So you could say it varies from week to week. But also, that number has definitely grown over the years. It is becoming more and more as time goes on. A lot of that is due to our recent Patreon campaign. For the first time in the show’s history, we’re actually making some money. We’ve had ads in the past, but they were barely enough to recoup the costs for hosting and travel and the things we do for the show. But now we are able to put some money into the show itself. We’re now able to potentially travel more to conferences, to record episodes there, buy better gear, or pay authors to travel to join us for an interview. These are things we never would have considered in the past. Now that we are making some money, we are able to grow the show, and of course that means we spend more time on it as well. It definitely takes up a good amount of my time, between scheduling interviews, producing the show, posting it in all the different social networks that we use to communicate with our audience.
► Again, isn’t this a still relatively new phenomenon that we don’t really have a proper name for yet? S&L is not really your job, but it has clearly become more than just a hobby…
I guess you could call it a passion project. Yes, it’s more than a hobby, but it is certainly not paying my rent. It’s something I really enjoy doing and that I’m willing to put a lot of my time into. But I do other gigs to pay for the privilege of working on Sword & Laser. It could become a job.
► Maybe we might need another science fiction story to give us a word for this not-quite-a-hobby not-yet-a-job thing, like podcasts, YouTube channels, blogs, etc…
Maybe. Or maybe I just need to reconsider what I think of as a job. Maybe defining a job just as something that can pay your bills isn’t correct anymore.
► With S&L growing over the years, have you considered lifting the genre limitation, to give existing listeners more choice of content or to open the podcast up to a wider audience?
No, but we have considered doing other podcasts or collaborating with other podcasters. That still is something we’re thinking about, for down the line. It’s not something we’re actively pursuing right now, though.
► Why do you think it would be better to start a new podcast, rather than extend or broaden the existing one with its built-in audience?
Well, we’re Sword & Laser. We already got the name. It would be complicated to add other things.
We would not be true to us as hosts if we were to branch out into genres we don’t enjoy.
(laughs) You’re right, it’s not about the name itself. But we are a niche show. That’s the whole purpose of it. I don’t enjoy reading horror, for example, or historical fiction. We would not be true to us as hosts if we were to branch out into genres we don’t enjoy.
► There still have been some big changes within S&L over the years. For a while, you did it as a show on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. How did that come about?
It literally came about from Felicia* calling me, asking if I wanted to do a show on her YouTube channel. And of course I thought that was a wonderful idea. To us, it was both a fun idea to reach a totally new audience and a way of seeing Sword & Laser taking that next step into video. It was a lot of fun, we had a fantastic set, and I am so happy that we got to do it. Just having the chance to highlight authors in that way was great. Authors do a lot of work to promote themselves, but I really feel that they don’t get the attention they deserve sometimes as people. I hope those video interviews helped show that this author is also a human being who has opinions outside of the book jacket.
► So why did it end?
Geek & Sundry simply went a different path. We weren’t getting the huge numbers other shows on the channel were getting – like the very successful TableTop – and it was an expensive production. So first we decided to take it into our own hands and do a Kickstarter campaign for season 2, which was successful. But eventually we had to give up the set we were using, because our friends at Pixel Corps – who were kindly holding the set for us, without us having to pay them any rent – needed their space back. We have taken elements of the set that we plan to use in the future for road shows, including Lem, our dragon. You know, the Geek & Sundry collaboration was a great experience overall that just ended quite naturally.
► You can still see S&L on YouTube. The videos on your own channel just don’t have the exact same format…
Well, we’re not using a set. But we do weekly interviews and we do all our shows on the YouTube channel, so every podcast episode has a video element to it. It’s just not the same type of presentation. And I don’t think we’re ever going to have a set again.
► Even if another partner came along and said, ‘We liked what you did on Geek & Sundry and we’d like to do something like that with you on our channel’?
It would depend on the deal. The main issue here is that Tom lives in L.A. and I live in San Francisco. It would be a pretty big production for him to come up here or for me to go down there to shoot another season of the show, or to fly back and forth regularly. That is why I don’t really see that happening and see us more as a Google Hangout show and us shooting shows on the road.
* Felicia Day, founder of Geek & Sundry