Interview with Rachel Hyland of Geek Speak Magazine

Written By: Kellie - Aug• 28•12





Hello one and all, today I’ve got a special treat for you. As some of you know, I recently started writing for Geek Speak Magazine, an online zine of all things Nerdtastic. So, today we have an interview with Geek Speak’s Editor-in-Chief who will talk a bit about writing, editing and following your passion.

Rachel Hyland is… the Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine, a “monthly publication dedicated to science fiction, fantasy, horror, covert ops, the paranormal… and vampires. Lots of vampires.”

ReaWrite: When and why did you start Geek Speak Magazine?

Rachel: The time was February 2010, and television screens everywhere were then being afflicted by an abomination known as Stargate Universe. A huge adherent of the original series – and, to a lesser extent, of its first spinoff, Atlantis – I was outraged by this BSG-ian facsimile of one of my favorite shows, and so penned a diatribe against it entitled “Why I Hate Stargate Universe”. But where to publish such a thing? I really didn’t know; four thousand-word essays on the suckiness of somewhat random Syfy shows weren’t exactly the norm online at the time—and still aren’t. I mean, that would be a LOT of tweets. But I had once worked for a long-defunct, much-missed publication, The 11th Hour Web Magazine, that would have published such a thing, and so with the encouragement of a fellow 11th Hour alumnus, decided to start something similar of my own.

About six weeks later, in March of 2010, Geek Speak Magazine Issue 1 was launched… and I’ve barely had a decent night’s sleep since.

ReaWrite: Since its inception, how has Geek Speak evolved?

Rachel: Well, probably the most significant change is in the design; the first twenty editions, which we refer to as “Volume 1”, were very… well, I like to say “simple but elegant”, though the plain truth is that the original site template was more amateurish than anything. (What can I say? To paraphrase Dr. McCoy: I’m a writer, not a web designer.) But one of our Staff-Writers, the multi-talented Sara Paige, stepped in with a redesign some months back, bringing us into this century with results we all pretty much adore.

The other big change, I would say, is in the size of our crack staff. We’ve gone from eight regular contributors to about twenty-five, which means that – blessedly, for the reading public – I no longer write seventy percent or so of each issue. With the legitimacy that comes with age, we also have more access to things like advance copies of books and advance screenings of movies, and we’re receiving (and usually turning away) interview requests and new contributor applications in much higher numbers these days. Not that we don’t still welcome both, of course! We’re just… more discerning.

Oh, and an innovation we introduced some months in is a regular feature called General Knowledge, in which any of the staff – though usually, it’s me – can ponder things that are not necessarily genre-related, but still worthy of a couple of thousand words or so of comment. Last month, I waxed rhapsodic over Aaron Sorkin’s new show, The Newsroom. (Upon viewing the latest episodes, I’m kind of regretting that now.)

ReaWrite: What is involved in being Editor-in-Chief? How much of your time goes into each issue?

Rachel: Don’t you love it when you start your own magazine? You get to give yourself whatever title you want. (Evil Overlord, while tempting, seemed counterproductive in the long-run.) In my case, being Editor in Chief means either responding to or coming up with feature ideas, fitting the right person to the right article, requesting access to forthcoming books, movies and TV shows from publicists and the like, organizing interviews, replying to hundreds of e-mails each month – often regarding possible interviews – assigning/soliciting reviews and articles, setting deadlines, sending pestering reminders (which our Brad Crammond once called “lovely, but vaguely threatening”) when deadlines have been overlooked, copyediting each piece and working them through with their authors to get them Just Right (with which I am ably assisted by our inimitable Editor at Large, Kate Nagy, and our ever-incisive Associate Editor, K. Burtt) and – this is never a chore, but I certainly consider it a big part of my job – making sure that everyone who writes for us knows how much they, and their contributions, are appreciated.

(The Geek Speak staff is so funny! And knowledgeable. And talented and dedicated and thoughtful and great. Did I mention good looking? We have a very good looking staff.)

Along with all of this, I also have to stay abreast of what is happening in the wider arena of our genre mandate, so that I can make sure we’re not missing out on any majorly topical happenings; try to keep up with our social media presence – though, happily, our never-to-be-sufficiently-praised Sara Paige also lends her expertise there; send out news of each new issue to our ever-growing mailing list and generally keep the Geek Speak flag flying high throughout our small corner of the digital world. Oh, and then upload everything! And other stuff, too!

So, how much time does being an Editor in Chief require? Take however much time you think all of that requires… then triple it. And triple it again.

ReaWrite: In addition to editing, you frequently write for Geek Speak. What is your writing process like?

Rachel: My “process”? I suddenly feel like I’m on Inside the Actor’s Studio. I don’t really know that I have a process, as such… I just sit down, harp on about whatever the topic is for usually way too many words and then sit back with a no doubt overinflated sense of satisfaction over, at best, one particular turn of phrase that feels vaguely original. It does depend on the article, though. Some require hours and hours of research – like, for example, my recent treatise on comic book collecting, Into the Android’s Dungeon – and are written in a more proper journalist, objective-y way. Obviously, I enjoy doing those (or I wouldn’t do them; again, it’s my magazine), but to be honest, I probably like best writing articles that are basically just… well, me harping on about assorted topics. One of my friends, whom I don’t get to see very often and who doesn’t even really like this stuff, often reads my work because she says it’s just like having a conversation with me. Which is probably why I find reviews, opinion pieces, and especially whatever side I am taking in a Geek VS. Geek, the easiest, if not always the most rewarding, articles to write.

ReaWrite: Which do you enjoy more writing or editing?

Rachel: That’s a tough one! I do love looking at someone else’s already excellent work and then helping them – I hope, helping them – make it the best it can be. (Just like the Army, only with more grammar and less guns… usually.) And one major benefit of editing is that you rarely, if ever, get editor’s block, which on the writing side of things is, shall we say, not entirely unknown to me.

But when it comes down to it: I love the writing! All the lovely words and the things I can make them do for me. Dance, monkeys, dance! (You see: to words, I can say that. To my staff: never!)

ReaWrite: Haha, just try it. You never know what might happen! So, what’s next for Geek Speak Magazine, do you see it evolving further or continuing as is for the time being?

Rachel: You mean evolving like with mutant powers? Because that would be awesome! Otherwise, no, I pretty much see us just being, well, us. Maybe with a podcast. MAYBE.

ReaWrite: Finally, if you could only have access to three fandoms for the rest of your life (spanning TV, comics, movies… the whole shebang), which three would you choose?

Rachel: Such torture! Who would ever do such a thing to me? Is this some kind of MST3K-style world domination experiment? Because the thing is, much as I love/become obsessed by various worlds and universes and fandoms, and then enthusiastically preach their gospels and memorize their vital statistics and even go so far as to read their fan fiction, eventually the thrill, while never gone, wears off a little, and it’s onto the next thing. Never forgetting, exactly, the halcyon days of my utter, all-absorbing enchantment with Star Trek/Buffy/Babylon 5/The Pretender/Stargate/Farscape/Eureka/Chuck/Supernatural/Doctor Who etc., but cast also into transports of delight over a new all-encompassing interest – like my current fascination with all things Falling Skies.

So, choosing a mere three arenas in which to wallow forever is HARD, but… okay, since apparently I must, I choose: the Jossverse (encompassing Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse), the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (encompassing also its spinoffs and anthologies), and the Marvel Universe (encompassing the comic books and the movies). Yes, I know the breadth of these choices could be perceived as cheating. But come on! Like you wouldn’t try it? And even now I’m second-guessing myself, wondering whether I shouldn’t substitute Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe® for Honor, or throw over Joss in favor of Stargates SG-1, Atlantis and even Infinity (but NEVER Universe), or consider putting Girl Genius ahead of the collected works of Marvel. And what about The Lord of the Rings? The Fifth Element? The Princess Bride! Could I go my whole lifetime without ever once again hearing Inigo Montoya tell Count Rugen: “You killed my father. Prepare to die.”? I just don’t know.

Damn hypotheticals. Now I’m gonna be worrying about this for days.

ReaWrite: Ooo, all good choices. Don’t know what I would do without the Jossverse. Well, thank’s so much for answering all of this, it’s been extremely entertaining.

For the rest of you, don’t forget to check out the August issue of Geek Speak Magazine.

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