The only reason Keir Hansen really wants the ability to time travel is to be able to get to all the content the geek community creates in a single day. A web dork and hack pixel-pusher by day, all spare hours are devoted to absorbing film and television, reading and writing sci-fi, a smattering of gaming, unlicensed attempts at mixology, culinary adventures, and novice cat wrangling.
He was once accused of being a "Jack of all trades", but that sounded too much like actual work, and the accuser has since been sacked. His particular passions include Whovianism (classic and new), the complete works of Douglas Adams, and anyone who offers a free sample of wine and/or chocolate, even when unmarked white vans are involved. (It's okay. He can run really quickly.)

Podcasts: Gallifrey Public Radio

Episode 42: Verily and Merrily

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If you met someone who expressed a high interest in the culture, language, civil structure, and societal behaviors of a historical period, say, the 16th century in northwestern Europe, you might identify them as a Elizabethan of Jacobean historian. If someone else spent weeks on end portraying a historical role, actual or fictional, you’d likely guess they were an actor by profession. If someone combined these passions and fueled them with a boundless energy, a willingness to accept self-inflicted physical discomfort, a desire to learn obscure or even dangerous hobbies, and a penchant for equal parts highbrow and low-brow humor, well — you’ve got yourself a renaissance faire performer. The origins of renaissance faires and festivals can trace back to the late 1950s, but it wasn’t until the mid 1960s and early 70s that the idea of a weekend-long historical immersion enterprises began to appear in the United States. These interactive attractions combined music, dance, and theatrical performance with demonstrations of archery, riding, combat, artistry, crafting, and even smithing. Faire-goers came to expect an experience where the staff (or cast, or company, the labels may vary) remains “in character” at all times, adding to the sense of realism. These are commercial endeavors, to be accurate, but something about the nature of comradery and desire to create a complex and intricate illusion for the patron makes “faire-folk” a very special breed. We’d like to find out what makes renaissance faires as popular now as they’ve ever been in a 40-plus year legacy, and in addition to the constant stream of patrons, what draws talent in from long distances to be a part of this most unique production. To help make that happen, we sat down for a raucous conversation with Kelly and Don Kilcoyne, two of the principal writers, directors, choreographers, marketers, oh — and cast members — of the 40-year running New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, New York.

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Episode 41: What, Like the Radio?

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There are (at present) 16 head categories and 56 subcategories recognized by the Apple iTunes podcast directory, and similar numbers for Google Play’s library. Within them, there are virtually hundreds of thousands of podcasts to explore and listen to, nearly 30% of which continue to publish new content on a monthly or even weekly basis. We don’t want to bog everything down with the math, here, but assuming each cast varies in length from 25-minute explanations of recent behavioral research studies (see NPR’s “Hidden Brain”), to hour-plus analyses of each individual minute of a single film (such as the “Back to the Future Minute”), you could safely estimate that at any given hour, there is more audio content than can be listened to in an entire year. It takes a very special sort of person — some may say, a special flavor of crazy — who chooses not only to enter this sea of sound as a listener, but as a creator and contributor. Well, challenge accepted! Today, joined by fellow podcaster Haley Malle (of Gallifrey Public Radio, Legends of SHIELD, and numerous other Gonna Geek podcasts), we’re looking at the idea of podcasting as an activity, perhaps hobby, perhaps profession, and the rise of this form of distributing entertainment, news, and information over the past ten years that has earned the buzz phrase of “disruptive technology”, now rivaling broadcast and satellite radio in more demographics and regions of the world as you may imagine. Sure, you can still enjoy a good oldey-timey radio show, complete with sound foley, musical interludes, and even commercial product endorsement, but the actual radio itself is now not only optional, it teeters on obsolete.

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Episode 40: Print Positive

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Whether you identify with Hermione, delving into the racks and dusty back corridors of the Hogwarts library to find the perfect tome, or Sam Tarley, sneaking into the Citadel archives to seek the ancient texts that may save Westeros, or perhaps Willow in the Sunnydale High School library, poring over stacks of historical and theological references to find the information needed to keep her friends and town safe, there’s something in in nearly every pop culture franchise of the past two decades that involves a lover of books. Doesn’t this conflict with the increasing ubiquity of digital media and electronic communication? Haven’t we sold enough Kindles, Nooks, and iPads to turn the tides of publication, and go truly paperless? Does anyone seriously want to hold a physical book in their hands anymore? (You probably know where we’re going with this.) Despite the sales of electronic reading devices, the exponential surge in both independent blogs and commercialized Internet journalism, and the exhausting media hype about “those darned device-dependant millennials”, the printed book still has a firm foundation in our culture, and in our consumption. We want to spend some time looking at the dogged persistence of print, and what still gives us that unique pleasure in holding a tangible literary object in our hands, the act of turning the pages, and the satisfaction of closing the back cover after finishing the tale. This week, we’re joined once again by fellow bibliophile Joy Piedmont, to discuss the enduring love of the physical, printed book. Referenced Text: The HPA Fandom Forward on Doctor Who, with extensive citation from our own Alyssa!

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Episode 39: Space For Everyone

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Some initial facts to chew on: population distribution by ethnicity puts caucasians at roughly 60% in the United States, and below 33% globally, according to census data and CIA factbooks between 2010 and the present. That means that by ethnic identification, 40% of Americans and 66% of the world recognizes itself as non-white. Now go to the movie theater, video game shop, comic book rack, or convention center, and see if the math holds true. Something feel a little out of joint? There have been great strides made in the wide scope of science fiction over the last 50 years with regard to incorporating people of color. Often in step with historic advances in civil rights, political awareness, and a more vocal and interactive global community, the entertainment industry has likewise moved forward to present stories and characters that better represent the diversity of the human race — both present day, and in the future. So how far have we really come? Who has led, and is still leading, the efforts to progress further towards true representation of all ethnicities in science fiction? And how far are we from where we ought to be? Joined by writer Tai Gooden, we look at the past, present, and future of diversity in science fiction through all media.

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Episode 38: Merits of the Maligned

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We’re all about appreciation and support on In Defense Of, but this time around, we’re taking that even further by defending the seemingly indefensible. In the age of nearly limitless varieties of entertainment surrounding us: broadcast, cable, streaming, and even equally popular self-produced content, there are going to be an equally limitless number of approaches that fictional characters can be depicted. We’re not just referring to the hero and villain, ingenue and sidekick, comedy relief and best friend, but the underlying themes, motivations, and thought processes behind each individual on screen. With 10,000 programs at our fingertips, do we need another ‘Ozzie and Harriet’? But when writers, producers, and directors opt to put problematic and complex characters on screen, ones who cannot fit into the conventional boxes that television history has crafted, there is pushback. And when that character is a woman, the pushback can get even uglier. We’re going to look at some of the characters who have gotten nearly lynch-mob reactions from critics and fans in recent years, and try and identify where the discontent stems from, where it misses the creators’ and actors’ intent, and how we can truly recognize and celebrate the impact of the ‘broken’ character — if they are indeed broken at all. Joined once again by the dynamic Cat Smith, we look to the merits and value of characters often maligned for their failure (or refusal) to conform. BONUS SEGMENT: Our “good geek news” of the month is a celebration of the “saving” of Sense8, thanks entirely to their fanbase!  

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Episode 37: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

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We’ve been immensely fortunate here on In Defense Of to meet and speak with members of the geek community and various fanbases who use their passions, creativity, and sheer numbers to enact positive changes in the world. From online gamers fundraising for Save the Children, to artists and illustrators auctioning their work for refugee aid, to fan groups volunteering time and resources to political and social activism; it’s clear that our fanatical passions bring us together, and when we stand together, we stand stronger. It came as no surprise to us that, while attending a Doctor Who convention this year, we met a group of people who exemplify the crossroad between fan appreciation and philanthropy — or to steal a term from their organization’s founder, “fanthropy”. Their virtual running events have hundreds upon thousands of participants, and each event is specifically targeted to channel donated funds to a charity uniquely connected to the fandom involved. One conversation later, and we immediately saw the benefit of sharing their vision, efforts, and tremendous successes with the IDO listening community. We hope to connect with many more such innovators and catalysts for positive change in the years ahead. We’re joined this time in-studio by Brian Biggs, founder of the Whovian Running Club, Hogwarts Running Club, and Chilton Running Club, to chat about geek altruism and fandom-inspired fundraising efforts. BONUS SEGMENT: We’re adding a section to the start of every IDO installment to celebrate and signal boost the positive news from our greater fandom circles, because we can always use some o’ that feel-good in today’s world. This session, there’s absolutely nothing better to talk about than the global success of the Wonder Woman cinematic release — and we spend a few minutes cheering the triumphs, the empowerment for fangirls and enlightenment for fanboys, and our unabashed love of Patty Jenkins.

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Episode 36: Between the Panels

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The adage states that art imitates life. True to the stage, the novel, the canvas, the screen, we see the influences of events and subjects of societal importance relative to the time each creative work is crafted. Often, the influence is worn as clear as a scarlet letter, as a clear and unequivocal statement from creator to audience about their observations of the world of that time, and the people within it. Other times, the impact of cultural impression, social nature and mindset are more nuanced, but can be identified by a more objective eye. If Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird can exemplify the lens of art focusing upon a point in humanity’s behaviors, state of mind, triumphs and tragedies, is there anything that says the same could not be true for the comic book and graphic novel medium? Can superhero stories really teach us anything about ourselves as a community, a nation, a species? Joined this time by Danica LeBlanc and Jeremy Radick, we look at the past, present & future of comic books as a societal lens.

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Motivation via Meme

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From the use of anthropomorphic cartoon characters to sell war bonds and other government propaganda in the early 20th century, to the image of a certain futuristic rebel-princess-turned-general with fist raised in defiance of a modern-day political regime, it is an established practice to utilize a welcome, familiar, and widely understood cultural icon of fiction as the rallying or motivating point for a very real and serious grassroots effort. What makes this sort of juxtaposition so effective? Are there behavioral or psychological explanations for why the very thought of a film’s theme, a literary character, or a representative logo of an organization entirely fictitious in origin can inspire us to support a cause, or raise our voices for (or against) a movement in our own nation, state, or neighborhood? Joined by public broadcast producer Andy Hicks, we look into the origins, efficacy, and potential pitfalls of using geek or pop culture icons as the means to gather support or advocacy for another effort, be it social, environmental, political, or any other goal not directly related to the reference to begin with. Hoist the Rebel flag, earn points for your house, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Episode 34: Keeping It Casual

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We’ve made it abundantly clear how thrilled we are to witness the progression of fandom topics from the sidelines, to an era of “geek chic”, to widespread mainstream adoption. Watercooler conversations now involve such subjects as the Marvel cinematic universe and ‘Game of Thrones’ as often as politics or sports (well, almost as often), and you can drop references to Star Wars, or even quote a line from a Harry Potter book at a party without getting side-eyed. If this is the new age of geek assimilation, that should mean that the “old guard” of people in those fandoms should relish the new blood, increased interest, and new energy that the expanding fan-bases see, right? Well, not exactly. Why is it that the casual fan can still be made to feel marginalized, or even discouraged from the fandom because they’re not as deeply invested as the hardcore or “superfans”? Joined by our friend Chip from Two Minute Time Lord and The Audio Guide to Babylon 5, we discuss the rigors of being a casual fan of anything in a world of ‘superfans’.

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Episode 33: A Life With Furpose

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By its simplest definition, anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman objects or entities. With roots going back over 30 years, the concept of anthropomorphic characters as a fan-based portrayal, or the furry fandom, in more modern parlance, is a substantially sized and diverse group that gathers worldwide in their own convention settings, as well as online forums, social network groups, and other in-person and virtual meetings. Like many fandoms we’ve covered in the past year and a half on In Defense Of, there is a close and very active community within the furry fandom, one that extends beyond their social gatherings, into music, literature, and the arts, charitable fundraising, and nonprofit organizations. Broadcast media has had a tendency to pick and choose what aspects of the fandom are reflected, but when fuller research is done, it becomes clear that like any science fiction or comic convention, sports fanatics or other group of enthusiasts, the community rallies together for conversation and enjoyment of their common interests, and in this case, those interests often center on a brief escape into a fictional character, acting out for a while, and enjoying watching others immersed in the same. This episode, we’re joined by furry community member and convention attendee Nate, as well as Dr. Samuel Conway, chairman and showrunner of one of North America’s largest and longest-running furry conventions, AnthroCon. With their contributions to the conversation, we get a fuller understanding of the furry fandom and the upbeat and fun-loving community that has grown at the heart of it. Links of Interest: WikiFur AnthroCon Answers: What is “Furry”? BBC Magazine Reports on Furries Syrian Refugee Children Entertained By Furry Convention Attendees

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