Many of you may know Logar the Barbarian (aka Shane Thayer), the driving force behind the Wobblies and Wizards podcast. He was kind enough to be the interviewee for a change and answer some of my questions.
Question. Can you talk a little bit about your podcast and how it came to be? It's a pretty unique format, with the short "micro-episodes" that make it really easy to listen to during work or doing chores.
Answer. Our podcast started with me trying to figure out how to record a podcast. If you listen to the earliest episodes, you will hear me talking to myself and as I slowly figured out how to edit, record with guests and things like that. Over time I was able to turn it to what it is now. I liked the idea of a short daily podcast because I was listening to shorter daily podcasts on the way to work and not finding one that really hit the spot for me. I noticed some things that I did not like about them and decided to try and make a podcast that delivered on what I wanted.
I do listen to a handful of gaming podcasts here and there, more now that I am doing my own RPG podcast. The two podcasts that I would say are my favorite that I listen most often to are not game related, they are Behind the Bastards by Robert Evans and Philosophize This! by Steven West. I take more inspiration from radio than from podcasts.
The podcast is myself and our game group we named Wobblies & Wizards. We named the group after my WiFi. We had a little blog tabletoproleplaying.com and it really got very little attention. After game one night while smoking and joking on the porch, one of our players suggested renaming it after the game group itself and we decided to launch a new blog under that name. Shortly after I bought the URL and at the same time I started playing with trying to do a short daily rpg podcast under the same name. As a long time blogger I found it not too difficult of a transition from doing regular written content to regular spoken content.
Q. Within a short period of time the podcast has really become, I think, an important voice in the OSR-community for sharing the work of indie publishers, who may not be that familiar to mainstream gamers. How do you find people to guest? I do something similar with the Roundup, and I know I have a difficult time finding stuff that is out of the mainstream (truth be told I rely on your 'cast to expose me to some folks I don't know about).
A. I started by approaching people on social media asking them if they wanted to come on to the podcast and talk about RPGs. It did not take long before people started connecting me with others and people started reaching out. If I find unique projects I will reach out to the creators.
I have been playing older editions of games since they were new, and over the decades I have been more behind on picking up newer editions, largely because of the financial investment. I at the same time I have always been interested in new things to add to our games to improve. In that process I have found myself at a place where I am discovering new things done with old games and new games emerging from them. I have often found that what is going on in gaming is very different from what I am used to and by being open to hearing what others are doing and creating I have found myself in a place where I am more involved in newer independent creators and they are teaching me about what is going on and what is out there.
I have always been involved in some sort of niche geek culture. When I was a teenager and in my early 20s in a previous century, ha ha. I was very much caught up in an elitist mindset that appears in niche milieus where things different or more popular are scoffed at or rejected. I would say that a term used for this is gatekeeping. I got out of the USMC under Bush and got active in organizing in my local community. In this one of the most important lessons I learned was to listen to others, not be dismissive of what they have to say and offer and to keep open to new things. Often as a white man in our society it can be easy to take on a role of “the expert” and this is often rewarded, but I have found that that keeps you in a stunted place unable to move forward. After my last divorce, I returned to school much older than most, and there I found myself learning a great deal from a younger generation. I found that I had to overcome the tendency to be dismissive of younger folks and was able to learn a great deal from them. I found that that translated over to other places in my life, not just academics and organizing. I feel that the willingness and ability to listen to others and let them show me what it is they enjoy and are passionate about has only gone to benefit me in this regard as well as introducing me to new people and ideas.
Q. With the recent news of Dave Johnson, the "writer" of nuTSR's vaporware Star Frontiers game I wanted to ask you briefly about your politics. I don't know how many of your listeners are aware that your show is explicitly named after a progressive movement (the IWW, or "wobblies"). How do your politics intersect with your gaming? I've been having some self-reflection in the past year or so with the conflict of my prefered style of game -- the hexcrawl and domain-level play -- and the aspects of colonialism and western expansion that comes with it. I also really liked your recent episode on gaming with Tourettes, as a friend of mine I gamed with in high school also had Tourettes.
A. One thing I have tried to do with Wobblies & Wizards is to create the kind of space I have wanted to see. It is a process of constant learning and re-evaluation. Most of my adult life has been steeped in radical left-wing activism and organizing. After I left the USMC I first found myself getting into the IVAW, The Iraq Veterans against the War and The Veterans for Peace. This made me quite a controversial person who gained a great deal of hate from a certain people. In this time, I found myself organizing and engaging in direct action with a wide variety of people across political spectrums from anarchists and communists to libertarians, conservatives and more. In this I have cemented a few hard lines that I stick to and brought over to our gaming groups and what we try to do in the podcast. Largely we see bigotry, racism, sexism, fascism, homophobia, and transphobia (I will just categorize all those as just bigotry going forward.) as unacceptable in any context. While I have a specific political alignment, I realize it is more radical and not widely accepted even with some of the others on the Wobblies & Wizards podcast. We have found that keeping a hard line against bigotry is and should be a central focus in general. This was a big factor in deciding to do the podcast. We wanted voices in the community that normalized opposing bigotry since so many voices seemed to be trying to normalize, dismiss or ignore bigotry.
I went through a long period where I did not engage in circles of geek culture because of many of the social issues that are being brought up today both in the content and within the communities. In returning to such communities, I did so with a different lens and understanding. Short of giving a lesson in social theory and philosophy, I found Gramsci’s concept of hegemony and a lot of the works of Theodore Adorno and Herbert Marcuse to be influential in coming back to this material and in doing so in a public way. Hegemony is a strong force which determines dominant social norms and what we find acceptable in a society. Media and art is very influential in normalizing these narratives and world views. Much of our media has been strongly impacted by a specific hegemony that has upheld white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism, bigotry and much more. The more you begin to examine the games we play, the media we consume, and their content, the more the more it becomes apparent. It has always been my intent to shift the hegemonic discourse in the space to reflect one that I would like to see more dominant in our society. I was raised in a very conservative fundamentalist household and held very closely to those ideals and ethics for many years. Over time I have found that by continuing to learn from others and continuing to read and seek out new ideas I encountered existential crisis on a few occasions which drastically changed my world view, ethics, and politics. Because of this I find that it is very healthy to use the game and its flaws as a framework to question what it is we are playing, emulating, and creating while engaging in a very social hobby. There are disturbing elements that come up in the game. It is positive that some are looking to rewrite those and fix those. It is also very positive that we are having conversations and reexamining what it is we are emulating and might not have questioned or passively accepted. Games are amazing places to start the kind of conversations about issues we need to have in our communities as we look to build a better world within the shell of the old. We should always be willing to reexamine and question what it is we are doing or believing otherwise we become stagnant and do not grow. Questioning and being willing to learn advances us and I think it is amazing we have a hobby and game that naturally has politics and social interaction at its core where these kinds of conversations can be had. They are not always easy conversations to have, and it is not always easy to look at yourself and realize that perhaps you might not have been the good guy all this time, but we can continue to learn and improve. I find that to be worth the effort.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects? I know you have a Youtube channel in the works, and your podcast schedule (of one a day) has got to be brutally regimented.
A. I have been releasing our Zine Thursday segment on YouTube the last few weeks, mostly with hopes to start slowly building up a following there, however there has not been much planning around YouTube content. What we are putting there is mostly the raw video from the zoom recording of those episodes. This was largely in response to a suggestion from one of our listeners who said they would like to see us on YouTube so they could see the Zines we are talking about when we cover them. Perhaps more video might be in the future, but I have no definitive plans at this time. We have considered going in a few other directions in the future, but at this moment those are simply ideas with little to no plans as of yet.
We do have a lot of exclusive content in the works for our Patreon page that is exclusive to our supporters, that is a wide variety of content like the podcast much of which is less edited and more candid.
I have a lot of projects in the works currently. I am hesitant to bring much of that up by name or go too in depth. I am a writer and most of what I have put out has been a political blog that had a loyal following when blogs were much more popular than today. Most of my past writing was either for online publications or smaller zines and collaborations with others putting out independent political publications, self-published comics, or academic writing. I also worked many years doing illustration, design, fine art and marketing. I have been doing a little of that for some other Indy creators here lately. I have a great deal of my own writing that is more game content that has not seen the light of day and I am hoping to do some zines with some of that content, but as to which project will see the light of day first I cannot say at this point and am hesitant to say because I do not want to disappoint and under deliver, as the podcast can be time consuming.
I will say that the project I am most excited about has gone through a great deal or revisions. I started the project using the Year Zero Engine from Free League, that changed a bit to the idea of releasing it for Mothership, and again changed courses a few times. When I thought, I was going to have a great deal ready to put out I found that much of it was more complicated than I wished it to be, so we went back to rework it and I have thrown out more of what I have written for it at this time than I feel I have ready to edit. That project I am working on with a couple of folks here locally and I hope to have something to announce on that sooner than later. I do feel it is something I do not see much of out there and leans more into science fiction than fantasy. I have considered just laying out some of the stuff I have in a small zine format and putting it out there truncated, and I have considered looking for some collaboration on a few of them to get a final out the door. Anything we do put out will likely be previewed first on our Patreon and I am leaning more towards short print run zines initially as it would be more manageable for me to publish here out of my basement.