Transcript - End of Season Q&A
1.45: Are there any gods that you wanted to show or use this season, but just didn't find an opportunity for?
5.30: In terms of sound design, what was the hardest part to produce? What was the most fun?
10:20: Were there any scenes you were particularly pleased with the outcome of?
14.47: What was your Season Two moment where you just looked at the script and went, “Oh, that's a lot!”
25.35: Are there countries other than the Linger Straits and Peninsula?
27.39: How do you cope with managing an increasing number of plot lines and characters throughout The Silt Verses?
29.41: I love what Paige and Hayward have going on. How would you describe their dynamic?
33.00: Favorite line or favourite line read in Season Two?
41.26: Jimmie. How are you so good?
42.07: Are the hunter twins as young or younger than Faulkner?
43.20: Does Faulkner have combat training?
45.06: Is the Season 2 finale the last we'll see of Gage?
47.50: Was the Glooming Guest inspired by the UK miner's strikes?
50.56: If you could play any other character in this podcast or another one who would it be?
53.34: S1 was very monologue heavy, but especially toward the latter half of S2 we're taken less and less out of the immediate action to hear it narrated to us. Was this intentional?
59.15: Who is the coolest god? Which one could you get a beer with?
1.00.34: Is there a future where we can see side story episodes not tied directly to the story?
1.05.51: Talk more about the echo angel episode!
1.08.31: Is ethical necromancy possible under divine capitalism?
1.09.55: What resources would you recommend to aspiring podcast teams with respect to the production pipeline and showrunning? And are there any underrated pieces of advice that you could give us?
1.17.45: How did you come up with Paige's god?
1.18.07: Could you talk about your inspiration for the Cairn Maiden?
1.20.00: How did Méabh get into voice work?
1.23.50: A lot of horror audio dramas tend to reveal or overexplain — is it difficult to resist showing too much to the audience?
1.27.50: What parts of the new worldbuilding did you really want to get into for this season?
1.29.21: Jimmie – how do you feel about Hayward's journey from cop to rebel?
1.29.47: What inspired you to create Mercer, Gage, and the Beast Who Stalks In The Long Grass?
1.32.33: Is it possible that Carpenter’s behavior in season 2 is being influenced by the snare dog bite she got in season 1?
1.36.30: Daphne, what was your favourite scene to perform?
1.37.23: What was the thought process behind how Mercer and Gage's plotline wrapped itself up?
1.38.21: Did the way you think about Carpenter and Faulkner's relationship change between writing season 1 and season 2?
1.43.00: Are there any characters and or arcs that have been much better received than you expected, or conversely didn't get the expected love?
1.46.41: Could you talk a bit about the sound design for the final two episodes? (The battle)
1.52.17: Is Faulkner canonically trans?
1.56.49: Can we please have a very vague hint to the events of Season 3?
A moment’s silence. Then we hear MÉABH, voice of CARPENTER, talking to an unseen PRODUCTION ASSISTANT.
Hi, yeah. We've all signed the statement from my…the affidavit that I'm not, I'm not going to talk about the crab?
Have we all signed it?
I'm not going to talk about the crab. I'm not going to talk about the crab!
I'm not yelling!
Have you signed it? OK, thank you. Thank you.
Is that water tepid? Is it room temperature? OK.
A cassette tape is inserted. We hear it whir for a moment-
-then we hear light jazz music playing in the background and the murmuring of a crowd.
And finally, the voice of Mx William A. Wellman, of Hello From the Hallowoods.
Ladies, gentlemen, and indescribable beings! This is not the podcast I belong in, but you may recognize me from stranger woods.
I'm William A. Wellman of Hello From The Hallowoods and it is my absolute pleasure today to introduce Jon and Muna for the Season 2 Q&A of The Silt Verses! Welcome back.
Thank you for for joining us, and thank you for for spending some time with us today, William.
If anyone who's listening to this has not heard Hello from the Hallowoods, please go check it out. It is a an imaginative tour-de-force; like us, it's a show that I think sits in the weird margins between weird fiction, fantasy, and horror and very much does its own highly original thing. So please do check it out!
That, that is a space that I'm very happy to share, I think, with The Silt Verses! And really, you know, one of the things that I enjoy most about audio drama is how many sort of strange genre-bent shows can really, I think, go to places that I've never seen any story go.
And that's certainly something that we've seen with season two of The Silt Verses!
So we, we have some questions today from the fans.
From Prim (and Samakain), they ask:
Dear Jon and Muna - are there any gods that you wanted to show or use this season, but just didn't find an opportunity for?
Yeah - there was, there was one actually, when I saw this question, that really came to mind.
So in the lorebooks between Season One and Season Two, we told an old war story. So obviously in Season Two, we do a lot of foreshadowing that there's gonna be war between the Peninsula and the Linger Straits.
And one of the stories we told was about a god of air.
And it's those elemental gods that you really try and figure out; “How can I use this in a scary way that isn't just, ‘oh my God, it's a fire monster!’?”.
So I had this idea of a god of air that hearkened back to the the real-life propaganda leaflet drops in in World War II, where a plane flies over dropping pamphlets saying, you know, “surrender.”
And I loved the idea of doing this in a, in a world where you have prayer-marks that can instantly transform people, or disfigure people, or do terrible things to people. So we have this story where a plane flies over a village dropping leaflets, and if you happen to catch one and read one, you begin to rise unstoppably into the sky.
So you could have this image of this entire village, filled with people just rising higher and higher helplessly until they stop struggling, and they'll die somewhere in the stratosphere.
Um, lovely image, and we had the idea that we could get a barman in to just tell this story to Dennis in one of the later episodes of Season Two.
At a certain point you realise that what you're trying to do with the season is…ridiculously over-ambitious and stupid.
We didn't have any more voice actors available! We'd used some people for three different roles already! So we scrapped that entire monologue, but I'm very sorry that we didn't have a chance to include that. Just to give a sense of, I guess, the tension between the two sides, and to work in a cool little extra god.
I regret that not making the cut too! That sounds, uh, dreadfully ominous.
And I, I think something I really enjoy about The Silt Verses is that you, you don't just have a god in the terms of like a big water elemental or something - but that there's a usually some aspect of capitalism, or kind of our socio-political landscape that ends up kind of informing the darker nature of the god as well, and it makes every one of these interpretations so fascinating.
So I, I hope that even if we didn't get to see it in this season, it's still canon out there somewhere. And, you know – maybe fingers crossed we can see some after-effects stuff further down the line.
Jon has a really serious answer for this one and it's obviously really brilliant.
I think part of what we could do with The Silt Verses, particularly if we continue to expand out the world, or if we have some spin-offs, would be to also have a…have a bit of fun with it!
I think some of the comedic parts land really well, and I am a deeply deeply silly person - so for me, I would love to see a god…I personally like the gods that are in the margins of everyday life.
Like, you know, the god that Hayward speaks about, the god of lost things that are found again, and other gods like that.
I would love to see a chaos god or saint. One that turns up at the most crucial moments of your life. Just to, just to thoroughly embarrass you!
There was another one we had in the lorebooks you just reminded me of where it's a god for…its entire purpose is to have a really satisfying name.
So that when you something bad happens to you, when you hit your thumb with a hammer or you fall off a ladder, you can say it – like, “oh, shit!” “Oh, fuck!”
But this god's name is just so satisfying to say that it feels even better, and more cathartic.
I love these answers! Let's continue on.
So a question from both Samakain and regicidal-defenestration – what a name!
In terms of sound design, what was the hardest part to produce? What was the most fun?
I will say I'm very interested in this one, because the soundscaping for The Silt Verses this season is just…chef's kiss.
On the first couple of episodes we were working with Sammy, who worked with us on Season One, who's fantastic.
And gradually I've started picking it up myself, because...I really wanted to learn how to do it.
I really wanted to - I guess - have that closeness to, to the act of creation that comes with doing your own sound design along with your own writing.
But the hardest thing, I discovered…
Everyone always says it's going to be footsteps. “Footsteps are so hard!”
I haven't found footsteps so hard. We use a basic FX machine where, you know, you press a couple of keys and it gives you some vaguely realistic sounding footsteps - it's infuriating, but what I found most difficult was the blocking.
You don't think you need to worry about blocking, because it's audio! There's no actual physical space, the character's just wandering around in thin air. Why would you need to worry about the amount of time it takes for Character A to get to Character B?
The problem is we have so many walking monologues this season! We never solved that conundrum, basically. So if you go back and listen to the season, when a character is walking and talking, keep an eye on it. Because almost always, they're walking down a hallway that's impossibly long, or they're going down some stairs to the cellar and there are way more stairs than any cellar could possibly have.
It's as if they've entered some kind of bizarre, twisted, cosmic hell-dimension, and it's just going on there in the background, because we gave no thought whatsoever to “how do we fit a, a chunky three-paragraph monologue into a trip down one set of stairs?”
So, yeah. That's my tale of woe.
Uhhh, most fun? I think there was a…there's a scene in Episode Three where Hayward is investigating the mansion of the evil, twisted rich sadists.
And he ends up running to hide in a cupboard, the lady of the house Mrs Kenzie comes out and confronts him, and he accidentally stabs her with a prawn skewer and she stumbles around and then falls down and that was the most fun.
Not because it's the best scene in terms of either composition or writing or sound design…but just because it felt like a lightbulb moment of,
“Oh! Oh, we can do this. We can have a scene where there's this slapstick element to it, where we’re going quiet, and then suddenly going very very loud.”
And that just…it felt so exciting, all these possibilities opening up when you realize what can be done.
I'd, I'd agree on that!
The thing that impressed me the most - I think it's because I am aware of the process, and I hear the process through different stages before it reaches the finished product - that there are some scenes that I can hear the different layers that have been put on top of each other. So there's the scene, which I think it's episode 13 or episode 14, where Mercer and Carpenter are fighting and they rolled out a hill and then they splash into the water and they continue to fight in the water!
For me, it’s…the difficulty has always been, “How do you make all the different layers of everything that's happening in one scene sound seamless when you are layering them one on top of the of the other?”
And I mean, yeah, it's something that we're gonna have to continue to learn and Jon has just done…he's been very bashful, but he has done all of the mastering, sound design, the editing from I'd say episode…yeah, quite early on, I’d say.
I'd say I think there's something very special about getting to, kind of, design the soundscape that goes along with one's own writing! And I do a fair share of that over in the Hallowoods.
And, you know, one of the questions people ask occasionally is, like, “Hey, if you were going to make, like, your workload as a podcaster more efficient, would you ever outsource the sound design?”.
And to some extent that is one of those things I would really want to hang on to, because it can inform and add so much depth and believability to the writing.
And to the, to the question of distance? Tolkien - I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but - he said something to the effect of, “it is easier to start with a map and then tell a story rather than start with a story and try to construct a map.”
And unfortunately I'm very, I'm very guilty of starting at the story and trying to construct a map!
There's a lot of walking monologues, a lot of times where characters take an indeterminate amount of time to get between point A and point B, so that I don't have to figure out how many exact miles they might have traveled.
But, you know, I think with audio drama in particular you can get away with a lot! Because often you're getting these monologues that are these, you know, internal manifestations of the characters’ thoughts that we are privy to hearing. And especially The Silt Verses - I think you you have a number of these sort of internal narrations.
So you know, in a sense it's kind of like that anime thought-freeze where everything's in slow motion. You know, you're just going down one stair at a time, and you can take half an hour doing that.
That's awesome! That's a great justification.
Exactly. Exactly! Haters, back off.
Jon and Muna, were there any scenes you were particularly pleased with the outcome of?
Probably the chase scene in Chapter Six where Shrue, our politician, is in a car driven by Jeff and they are being chased by the saints of love.
And it was just such an inventive use of music! You know, if anyone has listened to this episode, Shrue puts on a pair of headphones and they listen to classical music and a voice sort of telling them, "stay calm, this is an emergency tape," while in the background you hear the crashing kind of of the car through sort of the woods and the the underbrush, all overlaid with Jeff shouting and grunting and it was just…you know, when I first listened to it, I thought it was just such a brilliant use of various noises.
And it's probably one of the very few episodes that I listened to and didn't go, “…you could make a few changes here.”
I was, I mean, I was really blown away when, when Jon kind of put it together and sent it over to me.
For me, I think, both episodes and individual scenes…it’s the ones that come in the back half where it's Paige and Hayward, working towards creating their new god together.
And I think I'm proud of how they turned out, because in the in the prep for Season Two we were doing lots of mapping out the expectations from Season One. So we naturally assumed, “OK, we’re, we are still a horror show - kind of - but we're delving now more into the politics of the world. We're telling more of a straight-up dramatic story. So we need to make sure that we're (still) having these big punchy scary episodes with a monster, and having plenty of them, and not too many quiet episodes which are just talking and nothing really happens.”
And both because of the the acting, and just…it was really reassuring and thrilling to get to these episodes and realize that people were enjoying Paige and Hayward's journey together just as much as they were the big splashy episodes.
And so I think we had some lovely scenes with them where it's just them in the fields, having quite emotional conversations. And so…yeah, again, I'm proud of those from an acting perspective, I think that the writing worked out OK, and then also just doing doing a lot with a little with soundscaping.
So I, I really feel like I've got a bit of a theory that…audio drama is a limited medium, but those limits start to fall away once a bit of pattern recognition comes into place.
Once the audience knows what a sound is meant to mean, once an audience knows what the space is meant to be like, you can start to accomplish almost anything.
And there's a scene where they're just hocking stones into the water. And so you have a a throwing sound, a splash, the voice actor grunting - and when you do that a couple of times, and the audience understands it's two people by the side of a pond hocking stones…
…then you can really start to play. If a character pauses for a moment longer. If they throw a stone particularly hard. If they don't throw at all.
All of that subtext can start to come out, and you can do almost as much as you could if you're watching a film with those voice actors on screen in front of you.
So, yeah! Those are the the segments, actually, I think I'm most proud of.
I like that your favorite moments of the of the season come down to which sound design you've gotten to play with the most!
And definitely I think when it comes to audio drama, these…although it may feel (otherwise), sometimes especially for new folks who are just getting into audio editing, there's not like a, a class you go to for soundscaping often!
And so I think these little details and these questions of, “what are these two people doing during this extended conversation?”
You know, these can really help you give the audience something to latch on to with their imagination.
I think it's much more interesting to get, you know, this big long conversation of exposition during a scene where they're chucking these stones and kind of adding that extra aspect.
So, yeah, I think that's one of the really fascinating things you can do with audiodrama, and there's a, there's a craft to it for sure.
A question for anyone and everyone in The Silt Verses cast: what was your Season Two moment where you just looked at the script and went, “Oh, that's a lot!”
Oh, my God, this whole season has been absolutely wild. It's been wild.
Uh, I mean…I was reading through scripts and there were so many things that even in the first couple of scripts I was like, “Wow, this season is so ambitious. I love it!”
You know, um, you're talking about the span of events. The events themselves. The characters. The emotional arcs we were having, y’know. Which characters were meeting each other. The showdowns, confrontations. The insights we were getting into each character.
Just those things alone were incredible. But then…the actual events within the storyline itself! The drama, the drama, you know?
So like, the, uh, the axe murder rampage in the laboratory! That's a whole…that, like, that is something that happened!
That, it's a lot. And it's such an incredibly dark moment for Carpenter and it really demonstrates the extremes of our character…but as an event in and of itself,
There was an axe murder rampage in a laboratory!
That's a lot. Wow, this season is ambitious. I love it, you know?
So I'm still reading, I'm still reading…and then I get to the shootout at the holiday village! A shoot-out! And I'm like, “wow, this season is ambitious, I love it,” and then the explosive crescendo of a finale! We end with a full-on battle! A full-on, actual battle via audio!
Season was wild. I love it. Uh, it was incredible. It was a lot, it was all a lot in the best possible way.
And I was reading the scripts, thinking, “How are we gonna do this?” But it was great because I didn't actually have to do anything! It was all Jon and Muna, and they nailed it, and I got to scream and shout and be violent a lot…which is all I ask of any script.
So thank you, Jon and Muna, thank you very much.
I think, personally, to bring it way back down to me, as an individual actor…definitely, I suppose, it's got to be the episode where Carpenter is trapped in her childhood trauma reliving the same night over and over.
You know, I did read that, and I went, “Oh, this is…I'm gonna push the boat out for this one.”
Which I hope I did! Uh, it was a…it was an incredible privilege to be able to flex my acting muscles like that.
Again, terrible notion-y thing to say. Didn't like saying it; you didn't like hearing it, but you know, it's happened and we all need to move on.
But it was, and it continues to be, a privilege to portray Carpenter, and have the opportunity to really reach those emotional highs and lows! And that was a script where I looked at it and went, “Oh, that's a lot and I'm delighted.”
So all I can do is thank Jon and Muna for having faith in me to pull it off.
B., voice of FAULKNER, cuts in.
OK, this is gonna sound wild - but it was actually the ending of Season Two! Like, this show is perpetually a lot. That's our whole thing.
But oh, good lord. When I got to the last episode, like the ending of the last episode? I hollered. I hollered.
That…it was crazy. I loved it, but oh my God. That was so much.
JIMMIE, voice of HAYWARD, comes next.
“Was there a moment in the script when you were like, ‘Oh, that's a lot?’”
Oh, man, that's like…that's like every single beat!
Uh, I guess, when the whales got impaled upon giant spikes and got lifted out of the water.
I've seen some of the art that people have done just of that scene – amazing! If you're listening, to those of you who have done the art, and there's - there's a couple of you that have done different forms of art - you're all amazing!
I feel so bad for the whales. They're just like,
“We're gonna migrate south! It's gonna be fine! You know, water's warm. Ted, I'm telling you, the beaches are beautiful. You're gonna love it- uh! Giant spikes! Uhh, it was a nice one, guys. I guess the crab monsters win or whatever new monstrosity this is!”
Then DAPHNE, voice of MERCER.
This is…let's see…there…there are a lot of moments in Season Two, let's be honest!
But I remember the first one that I ever was like,
“…oh, oh, this is the kind of person Mercer is!” That moment for me was…I won't go into too much detail, because it's a little, it's a little scary. But it involves industrial-grade drain cleaner, and not using it for the purpose that it's intended to be…
That was a moment where I was like, “Oh, oh, this is…damn. Yeah.”
I think I'm gonna have to go with Episode Three again, you know? When I first listened to Hayward plunging the prawn skewer into Mrs Kenzie's mouth, and the sounds of her…sort of tongue being pierced, and…yeah!
I read that and I listened to it and I thought, “…this is really disturbing.”
I mean, really, you should…a lot of the times when I first read the scripts, my face is quite shocked, and then - you know - the first iteration of it, I often go…
(Worried and uncertain noise.)
You, uh, shuffled all the prawn skewers out of the house after that!
Basically! No more prawn skewers, no more chopsticks. None of that.
The irony is, I'm, I'm quite soft! And when we did I Am In Eskew, even though that was just me and Muna reading stories out loud, there were often scenes where I'd go…
“…ohh, I think we went a bit too far, though. That's a little bit mean, isn't it ?”
But this season is meaner than Season One, I think! In Season One, there are maybe only a couple of occasions where voice actors would be playing a character who is horribly transformed, or who dies under upsetting circumstances.
Whereas, yeah - Episode Two, where Cole Weavers of the Town Whispers is playing someone who's getting bleach poured down his throat and gets horribly drowned, I thought,
“Ah that's a a bit mean, isn't it? I don't know if I like that.”
Pip Gladwin having his stomach ripped open and hot coals being stuffed inside his stomach.
And then the poor political aides in the episode where they're getting hypnotized by the the Love Saints, and then something very horrible happens to them.
When you, when you list this stuff, you go,
“Yeah, I've got a problem! This is, this is pretty…pretty grim, isn't it?” So, yeah, those are my answers.
Lots of scenes made me go-
(Blows out cheeks in shock.)
-did you forget when we also killed Jonny Sims?
But he was just set on fire. I didn't see that as particularly grisly or gruesome. That was…anyone can get set on fire!
Just a casual arson!
That was great fun, though, doing it with with him! And we…we've made a habit of killing off horror podcasters.
It’s not…not trying to send a message or anything like that!
It is, uh, it is just…I think we've really started building up a really lovely informal network of folks who are helping each other out with guest voice acting.
And for us in particular, we have an endless stream of relatively small roles that are there to get horribly murdered.
And so being able to call on the talents of some lovely, friendly folks who can help us out with that…it's just, yeah. Massively appreciated.
One of my favorite things, especially, as I get to know this community more and more, is getting to have the people who really, like, make shows that I think in some way or another are fairly transformative for the genre…and, you know, getting to have them in bit parts.
I certainly enjoy it, you know, over in The Hallowoods and I'm just delighted every time I see another familiar face crop up in The Silt Verses! Because in some ways, you know, while it's a catalogue of saints and horrors, it's also a catalogue of, like, most of the modern faces of horror podcasting!
And so it's, I think, you know, it's a, it's a journal on multiple fronts.
In that sense…well, you had you had Steve Shell as a demonic train, didn't you? Which I thought was inspired casting!
It was a little bit of a Ghost Rider type, yeah!
And, uh, the – I was, again, like, the other thing is that when you bring in these talents that have done so much creative work on their own shows, I think, and maybe you've experienced this with your kind of bit-part actors, but I, I think they find ways to surprise you, you know?
This role for instance, with Steve, I pictured as, you know, kind of a menacing, you know…sort of like that trope of the Spawn character!
You know, this thing that comes out of hell, and grabs souls and pulls it back.
And Steve brought such a softness of the humor to this character that caught me completely out of the blue. But it made that scene work so much better, it added so much depth to the character, and I think, like, it's lovely to see what someone else's imagination can do with the canvas that you've written.
I think if it's a character you haven't written, you, you…actually, there's almost more freedom with it, because you can have more fun with it and you can really interpret it in a way that the the writer or the podcast, they just didn't see it going in that direction at all.
So, yeah, it can give you a lot of freedom!
Actually, you did that yourself with us, William! So when you, you played one of the disciples in the Echo Angel episode –
-I never said this to you, but it really surprised me. because I'd written them all as these fairly generic callow young things who are having their first mission, and they're all gonna get killed.
And you did this lovely gruff voice for it, that had…it was a bit older, it sounded a little bit more world-weary and wise, and suddenly I was thinking, “Oh, well, maybe this one disciple actually has been around for a while. Maybe they've seen some stuff,” and I was imagining a backstory that hadn't been there before! So, yeah, you were very much part of that.
Jonny Sims, though, was funny, because obviously you've got a huge, huge Magnus Archives crowd, and there's there's a a fair bit of crossover. And so you could see people reacting to the episode in real time, going,
“Oh my God, Jonny Sims! I-
…oh no, never mind, he's dead, he's dead.”
Because it's such a short role that they couldn't even get over their surprise before he was horribly immolated.
Is there part of you that thinks… “Huh. Maybe I should have let him live a little bit longer and drive up some clicks?”
That might have been, you know, savvy in a marketing sense, a promotional sense…no, we just we murdered him without a second thought.
That’s what we love to hear.
All right, wrap tape, we got it.
Are there countries other than the Linger Straits and Peninsula? Or are those two simply the only two that have organized on any real scale?
It’s a funny one, because I haven’t gone into – in my head, a big Risk-style expanded map of countries.
And partly that’s because for me that’s almost besides the point. All the characters in the various nations in The Silt Verses are living under the same system.
The whole joke of the Linger Straits and the Peninsula is that there are no real significant differences between them. The characters talk a lot about different cultural practices; sports, foodstuffs, the long shared history between them. But really, besides the different gods that are worshipped in each country, the point and the joke is that they’re meant to be pretty much the same.
So in a sense, I particularly didn’t want to keep coming up with extra countries to make that same joke over and over again, which is why we’re really honing in on these two, just to make the point.
Yeah, and I think you end up having the Game of Thrones issue, isn't it, where you have to rush from country to country or land to land? Checking in here!
OK, what's happening here? - and yeah, our show is relatively long for audio drama, you know?
40 minutes…30 to 40 minutes in Season Two, and in Season One some of them were 60 minutes long…so there comes a point where you kind of have to prune it back, because there is already so much happening in in the plot itself.
I am constantly amazed, in writing 30/40 minute episodes, how fast that time flies! And it's like…it's because when you're reading something aloud, like, you know, you can get through a page quite quickly in your, in your head, reading off paper.
But when you're presenting, out to an audience, it takes time to get through, you know, every piece of text! And so I find even with 40/50 minute episodes, I am still at the end of like a, a season, but fighting for elbow space for, like, all the different storylines and ideas, and, you know, characters and plot threads I'd like to pursue.
Um, I'd like to ask a question that's not in our roster but…
How do you cope with managing an increasing number of plot lines and characters throughout The Silt Verses?
Because, as you said, it has expanded over time, in scope.
We're quite practical in the way that we plan it out!
We get a bunch of post-it notes together, we have a whiteboard at home on the wall, and we kind of go through a very rough outline of what should be happening in each episode. And then as I kind of have the first read of the, of the scripts as they come in…I can be quite ruthless!
I can say, you know, “this isn't exciting enough,” or “there's too much happening; it's not necessary for this, you know, detour for the characters,” so it is about just keeping it really, really tight.
I obviously do the producing and the directing, and I'm not as emotionally close to a lot of the characters as he is. So there are…there is some headbutting!
But it is about making sure that we are just sticking to the core story and always thinking about, you know, “where do these characters need to end up? What are their motivations? Why are they taking this detour?” and, and really asking the why each time. What do you think, Jon?
It's interesting, because with indie audiodrama, you have so many natural inhibitors. If you start to have too many voices, people are starting to…are going to start losing track much more quickly than they would in a visual medium, where they can put a face to a name.
You also obviously have no money, so you can't afford that many voice actors anyway! So you're always feeling constrained! In Season Two, I think it's interesting that - to me - it felt like we were on the edge of it being too expansive, even though ultimately we only really had four or five plotlines going on throughout the season.
So we're following Carpenter, following Faulkner, Paige and Hayward are together most the season, and then Mercer and Gage.
So, yeah, it was really interesting to me that for a novel that might…that might have felt quite cramped, actually! But it definitely felt like we wouldn't want to go any bigger, necessarily, than we have.
Well, while we're talking about them...A Spooky Red Lobster asks,
I love what Paige and Hayward have going on. How would you describe their dynamic?
I saw someone online talk about the, “the paladin and the prophet.” Which I think is a really nice way of looking at it!
Whereas I saw them as two people who…both of them have come to the end of the road in their old lives.
Paige obviously knows that she's never going back to the the job that she had, Hayward has lost everything, and they're desperately looking for someone and something to keep themselves afloat. And so you have Paige who really needs a disciple, and Hayward who needs a cause, and so they, they're coming together in this way!
As two people that are taking very different things from each other, but nevertheless are forming into an eccentric but basically functional team, in the same way that we've seen with Carpenter and Faulkner.
I think maybe there’s also an implicit question there about whether there’s something romantic going on – maybe I’m reading into it, but that is something that’s on my mind a lot, so I’d love to talk about it more.
Because shipping is fantastic and it’s wonderful and it’s cool, but as a writer who’s way too online in a parasocial world, I’m really wary of how I respond to it and how I process it.
I personally, I don’t like writing fictional characters where the most important moment in their narrative arcs is when they get together with the person they were always meant to get together with.
Generally, it’s just a bugbear of mine in fiction and I’m not sure I agree with the underlying message.
But I think if any writer who’s way too online sees, hey, people are getting excited about these two characters hooking up and falling in love and they keep coming back to this idea of them hooking up and falling in love, there’s a real rodent voice in the back of your head whispers, "give the people what they want. Get those likes, get that fanart."
Which is the wrong response! Because we don’t understand that maybe people are just having fun exploring these characters or their own interpretations of these characters, we think they must be anticipating a pay-off from us.
And again, I think it can send you in the wrong direction, one that ends up being essentially flattening – we don’t think, "if these characters hook up, OK, what new opportunities does that give us to explore them, to understand them in greater depth?"
Instead we think we need to perform a climactic moment of love and comfort and happiness to get the audience’s approval. Which can be very much to the detriment of the complexity of the characters, but also, afterwards, where do you go with it?
And after we released maybe one episode of The Silt Verses, I saw a couple of folks online going ‘oh, god, I hope this isn’t going to end with Carpenter and Faulkner hooking up,’.
And you go, "oh my god, I hadn’t considered that as a possibility for a second, that’s not who they are and that’s not what the relationship is here" - but of course all of us are primed for it, that enemies-to-lovers thread that is so common.
So what was really freeing with writing Paige and Hayward this season was having them be more emotionally open and connected and direct with each other than I've ever allowed characters to be; they’re playful with each other at times, they’re sometimes a little bit flirty with each other, and Lucy and Jimmie just do have great chemistry as performers.
Because it was freeing because after Season 1, nobody is expecting or hoping that Hayward gets together with anybody. No-one wants that particularly!
So it felt like I could introduce a connection there and we could see a different way that they begin to be around each other that hopefully feels like it’s adding new dimensions to both of the characters without me looking over my shoulder going, “Am I in danger of turning this into something a bit stock by turning it into quite a straightforward romantic situation?”
Alrighty! A question from mielebit, and this is a question for everyone on The Silt Verses team.
Favorite line or favourite line read in Season Two?
Oh, favorite line? Oh, man, I have one that just sticks with me that isn't one of Hayward's.
And it's simply because it's so peacefully human, I suppose. There was one line very early in the season that Acantha gave, and it was, “Do you think you could be happy, living here in the garden?” And it caused Carpenter to, like, pause for a second.
And if I personally was Carpenter? I would have taken it too. Because everything Carpenter had gone through at that point…I personally would have been like, “You know what? This is a good simple life.”
And it just…it's even one of those lines, it's not as profound as it seems. There's no huge plot reveal. There's nothing crazy that happens.
It's just one of those things that sits with you, and it's still a line I even contemplate, like, when I'm driving in my car. Maybe I've been watching too many of those van-life or live-off-the-grid videos!
As for my favourite Hayward line, it is definitely, definitely, “We keep plowing on through the dark and polluted waters - my prophet and me!”
When I was doing the line for the first time, I actually started to choke up a little bit!
Oh, you know, the favourite line has got to be I'm taking the axe.”
(As a Greek chorus)
Yeah, she's taking the axe! I wonder what she'll do with it.
It's pretty clear and I do love it.
Let's see… favorite line, slash favourite read, from Season Two?
Those are…it's so hard to pick a favourite, but there's there's a couple instances where I do say this, it's in multiple scenes…
…but when I'm when I'm shooting a target, Mercer goes,
And it's just, it just sends chills down my spine, it's so cool! Like, Mercer is so cool.
And so evil, oh my gosh.
“Isn't my daughter clever? Isn't my daughter something?” Ohh, that one had me, y'all.
Oh, my goodness, Graham was out here making me cry.
OK, my favourite line has to be in chapter 11, and it's spoken by Dennis. He's speaking to, to Paige, and he's being quite emotive, and he says, “I know why you hate me. I get it, I use you all the time. I use your brilliance for all it's worth. I ask you for money when I need it because I know you can't say no. But the thing is, kid? Brilliant people, they get eaten up every day.”
I know that's more than one line, but…I just love that! And, and the delivery of our VA Graham was just so powerful, quietly devastating, that…yeah, I would definitely say that's my favourite line.
Mine…mine is actually Dennis as well.
Uh, so Dennis was a really interesting character, because we knew we wanted to introduce Paige's dad, and we wanted to walk this really difficult line of…Paige is right to hate him. He is, he's a bad man! He's a difficult man!
But nevertheless, we can empathize with him without it feeling like one of those dreadful forced redemptions that you get with villainous characters - Skylar in Heroes - one of those characters where we go, “OK we need to make him the goodie now, so time to forcibly do some narrative lifting so that we don't hate him as much.”
So we wanted to have this journey where, by the end, we kind of appreciate him and we're very sorry when – spoiler - he dies, but we don't forget what he's done and the complexity of who he is as a person.
So that was a huge journey we wanted to get someone to do in just three episodes, and Graham Rowat just does an incredible, incredible job - amazing person to work with.
And there’s the final line he gives, where he's lying bleeding to death in a basement, and just for the first time he really stops thinking about himself, stops working the angles and trying to come up with an eloquent way of getting himself out of the situation.
And he just, in his dying moment, focuses on his daughter and says, “My daughter came up with that. Isn't she brilliant? Isn't she something?”
And that final line gave me a lot of pause. Because at first, it made a lot of sense to me that he's running out of words. He's not even trying to be eloquent anymore, he has no way to describe his daughter other than just…she's not just brilliant, she's indescribably brilliant.
And that made sense to me and then I read it back and I was like…
“…she's something? What the hell does that mean? That's so vague, that's so weak!”
And then we got the lines back from Graham, and he delivered it so perfectly that you go, “Yeah, of course! Of course it makes sense that he says, ‘She's so brilliant, isn't she something?’”
So, yeah. I love that line. I love his delivery of it.
Oh, that's fantastic! And, and that is something that as a storyteller, I really value as well.
Because so often any truly evil and miserable character in a narrative, sort of, sees the light!
There's this transformation, and they get to redeem themselves by the end, or at least - you know - hoard a couple sympathy points before they, you know, are killed by The Narrative.
It works in certain situations, but I think there is an art to a villain that is does not want to be redeemed as well.
And so I think especially in audiodrama, I get to see these wonderful characters that are really, I think, loathsome but at the same time don't have to, I guess, be remedied by the narrative.
I was really interested in the idea of a character who come to the acceptance that you may not understand your daughter's attempts to overthrow society…but you can support her.
And, you know, giving that sense of hope for…actually, a parent who comes around to understanding that maybe not everything in the generation beneath them is for them, but they can still care and make an effort and be kind.
But we wanted to do that while also being accepting of the fact that we've set up this character as someone that gaslights, and causes trauma without being openly abusive, and how that is a form of abuse, too.
It was a very, very hard line to tread, and I think Graham really really helped to make it happen.
I think that's exactly it! The balance between, you know, the humanity that can be part of a character while also not conveniently forgetting about the atrocities they've committed in the first half of the narrative.
And I think Silt Verses in particular does a wonderful job with that complexity of people and I think, especially…
…not that you should be listening to this QnA before you've gotten into the series!
But one of the things that continually sort of astounds me about the storytelling, is that the longer you spend with each character, the more layers you begin to understand that they have.
And that rarely - I hate to say it, Jon - but rarely is anyone in The Silt Verses a good person. I feel like beneath every smile there is, like, some veneer or some plots or some scheme that people have.
We've got to have one good person, though! Surely. If we think back…I don't know…
Brother Wharfing in Episode Four? The guy who's literally dedicated to the god of pustules and boils and is falling apart to try and help people? I think he's, he's pretty morally…
Really? But why is he worshipping…?
Because he takes the diseases away from sick people, okay? It's, it's all...
In order to be rewarded by the god!
OK, well, by that logic none of us are righteous-
There is a rich theological discussion that gets into...that is perhaps beyond the scope of this Q&A!
Jimmie. How are you so good?
“How are you so good?”
You - you really are too kind! Thank you, thank you so much, I'm really glad that you're enjoying this.
But the, uh, the truth of the matter is that…um, my roommate is the Watcher In The Wings.
(The sound of flapping wings that absolutely is not Jimmie with a sheet of paper.)
(To the Watcher, annoyed)
What? No, I didn't eat your audience. Why would I eat your audience? I don't eat people, you eat people - check in the back of the fridge.
(To the Watcher, annoyed)
Look, I'm at least a decent roommate. If I ate your audience I would at least replace the audience. How did you even fit an audience in the fridge?
Anyways, so they've been giving me lessons.
Are the hunter twins as young or younger than Faulkner? And why did you decide they should be as young as they are?
And I love these kinds of questions that are just…”Why did you decide to do this?”
Sometimes the answer is, “…I'm not sure.”
No, uhh, they're definitely younger!
Why did we decide that they should be as young as they are, Jon?
Uh, a few reasons! So originally they were written in the script as older. We were going to have them as people in their 50s or 60s.
And I think you realise a couple of things – uh, one of which is the VA community around audio dramas is by and large quite young, so it's much harder to find - we find, certainly - an older voice.
But also…I didn't know what good that would do, making the characters these grizzled old wolves, other than the imagery of them being such.
And the more I thought about it, the more interesting it was if these are, effectively…these are two horrible kids who are the end result of the system.
They are orphans whose parents were sacrificed, and they've ended up coming up with their own utterly awful god, and they are now loose in the system, because there's no one to take care of them.
So, yeah - it felt like we could do a lot more with making them feel like they were younger, because then they could be the the end product of this awful, awful setting we've established.
I think that's excellent!
Does Faulkner have combat training? He whips ass more than anyone in the Verses, well beyond what the skill of the Parish's training is implied by other devotees.
Are his talents taught? Is it religious fervor powering him like adrenaline? Is he just a healthy country boy who got and gave his licks with two older brothers?
I actually had to go back and check this because I wanted to make sure I wasn't mistaken!
I, I think, Marceline, you are overplaying the amount of arse-whipping that Faulkner does.
So in the the entire second season, he…obviously at the very end of the finale, he attacks Mason and Thurrocks.
In Season One, he knocks out the motel owner from behind, and then he manages to uh knock down Carpenter who is already horribly wounded in the leg and using a crutch.
I don't think he does that well for himself! By contrast, Reverend Toes knocks him out in this one. Mercer takes him by surprise and beats him up - lots of surprise attacks happen in The Silt Verses - and of course he gets beaten up by a giant crab monster in in Season One.
So I think on average he he's about 50/50 for success and failure when it comes to physical combat! I didn't see him as being particularly combat-savvy or certainly disciplined.
I think in those scenes we’re just meant to take it that people underestimate him! He takes them by surprise, and he gets the upper hand, because he is full of fervor and self-love enough to be rather reckless and aggressive when he needs to be.
Speaking of the finale:
A question to Jon and Muna:
Is the Season 2 finale the last we'll see of Gage? With the parallels and foils that Mercer and Gage have with Carpenter and Faulkner, I can't help but feel like there's a similar 'journey' to speak of that Gage would embark on to discover who they are.
So this is an interesting one!
And we've actually gone back and forth over this quite a few times even, before Season Two ended, and now that we're planning for Season Three…it is a difficult one because it harks back to what we were just saying earlier about keeping the season a little bit tighter, keeping the script contained, because there are already so many different plot lines.
You disagree, don't you, Jon?
Not necessarily! So this is something we're still mapping up for Season Three, but I think I'm very much aware that we have a few fan favorite characters who are AWOL but definitely not dead.
And I know that there's going to be some people who are really hoping that we'll see them back in the the final season…and I want to be very careful that we we pick our moments carefully with those and it doesn't turn into cheap, easy fan-service.
(action movie voice)
“I'm getting a team together! Everyone's coming back! Charity, Sid Wright, all these characters are going to converge!”
So…yeah, I'm not certain if Gage is going to come back.
And partly that's because I agree completely that they are now on a journey that's quite in parallel to Carpenter at the start of the season, but that journey is almost about figuring out how to do something that's away from this this violence and these mad gods and all these awful things. They talked about just having some time away to figure out what they’re good at.
And, so yeah, maybe they need to have their little moment away from this story of gods and violence, and that's where their their narrative should end.
There is a quote from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - of all things!
But it's always stuck with me, where this, this admiral who's been sort of shamed and humiliated as the antagonist of a couple previous films, he's finally in the dirt.
He's kind of hit his rock bottom, and he says to to one of these, one of these characters,
“My story is the same as your story - just a couple chapters behind.”
And I love seeing, you know, in in action when sometimes a character's story arc ends, they hit that rock bottom - and they realize that they are on, like, the same trajectory as someone who is already in the narrative, but just a little bit later on in that journey.
Very interesting to see when you begin to parallel your own story arcs, just sort of at different stages of development.
Absolutely, and that…that quote is a beautiful quote! That has to be up there with Steve Buscemi in Spy Kids 2 for ‘beautiful quotes in a not very good film.’
(As Steve Buscemi):
“Do you think God stays in heaven out of fear for what he’s created?”
Regarding the Glooming Guest, the way Grandmother Kensey spoke of it and the family legacy working in coal reminded me distinctly of the rhetoric surrounding the miners' strikes in England in the 80s.
Putting aside the fantastical qualities of the god, itself, just the sentiments of mining as being the more honest profession gave me the same sense of fierce pride I get watching documentaries about the strikes. Was the Glooming Guest inspired by this at all?
Yeah, he definitely was - in fact, the Glooming Guest is a concept that heralds back very directly to the Knockers or the Tommyknockers, which originally for miners were the sounds that you'd hear to lead you towards a rich seam of gold or whatever you're mining for…but over time as industrialization took over and the scale of mining increased it became more of a warning sign, giving an indication that the walls are about to tip in.
So yeah, absolutely very much directly inspired. But…when it comes to the sentiment, I do, I feel like we missed a trick with that episode.
Because the whole episode is about this generational kind of capitalism, where you've got Grandma Kensey, who was the old-school person who managed the mine directly, who was getting her fingers grubby, looking at her progeny who is now distanced from the product, and existing only as a kind of brand ambassador.
And she sees this as a betrayal, and obviously ends up bringing that old mansion down on top of them, and I felt like we never challenged the implicit idea there that Grandma Kensey is right to see a huge distance from...between what she does, and between what her son does.
Where she's critiquing her own brand of rapacious capitalism for becoming distanced from the the product and the material…but nevertheless, she's the source of all this.
So I wish we'd had a chance, really, to at least have a line or two in there that maybe pointed out that she's not quite so high and mighty and righteous when it comes to any of this stuff.
I think, you know, this is one of those things that I see fairly often with listener comments as well.
And often you can write something and commit it to paper and then send it out as part of the story, but whatever you do whether it's audiodrama or writing in general you know you've provided 50% of that experience, and then the person listening or reading takes another 50% from their own life and experiences and memories and knowledge.
And, you know, that becomes the experience of the story.
And so sometimes the connections that they're able to make based on their own knowledge and based on what they've been through to your work can lead to connections that surprise you!
And, you know it, you get people asking like, “Hey, this deeply interesting or personal thing for my life, were you talking about this when you wrote that?”
And sadly, y’know often the answer is,
“No, that that wasn't where I started…but I'm glad that I've written something that allows you to connect with the material in that way.”
You bring a part of your own meaning to, y’know, any story that you connect with, I think.
To the VAs:
If you could play any other character in this podcast or another one who would it be?
That's a very hard question! Could I be someone in Reverend Toes’ cult? Because Harlan, like, absolutely killed it, and he kind of had me convinced.
They seem like fun people to hang with. So is Buzzsaw Woman looking for a Buzzsaw Bud?
Oh, my God, I just loved Mercer and Gage this season! Murder siblings. They had the most tongue-in-cheek dark humor to their lines - they had me absolutely cackling.
Oh, I love some good murder siblings! Would have loved to have had a crack at a couple of their lines. Just brilliant stuff.
And you know what? Buzzsaw Woman from chapter 10. Also a big favorite for me too.
MVP of the snuff cult.
I wouldn't pick another actor's role. What I would actually really like to do is get a little bit of training first, do a bunch of the monsters.
Hey, maybe, even voice, uh…maybe even voice the Trawler-man.
You know, I did work pretty closely with JV when we were doing some of our scenes, and it's so interesting to see Mercer and Gage go from like sharing the same mind to divergent, completely opposite from each other.
So I guess I would have really liked to play Gage, actually, just to kind of get into that …into that headspace, and see like, what, what made them change their mind, you know?
I think that would have been really fun to play.
…who…who would I play?
Hmm…see the thing is, I have a living character! Most of the horror podcasters you've injected into this show are not so lucky.
But Chuck Harm over in Nesh is doing well for himself at the moment!
So I I've envisioned, you know, that Chuck has a complicated, nuanced personality and life that we have not gotten to, you know, just barely touch the surface of in his newsanchor appearance.
I love taking a bit character and in a sort of a Dungeons and Dragons light, adding a complex backstory for that bit character! So, you know, I'll continue on with the news from Nesh.
William actually came up - I believe, didn't you? - with the name Chuck Harm, which was a perfect Silt Verses name! It was just silly enough.
I tossed in that line as, you know, just a throwaway! In the spirit of Anchorman, I had to do like some kind of signoff - and the the fact that you chose to accept this silly name as roughly canon for this character continuously amuses me.
Back to the good stuff!
There was a distinct shift in foley usage this season, letting it do more narrative legwork rather than monologues.
S1 was very monologue heavy, but especially toward the latter half of S2 we're taken less and less out of the immediate action to hear it narrated to us. Was this intentional, or did you find in writing it was the more effective style and it just happened naturally?
Umm…well, I'd be interested to know what you think, Jon, but I think much of the setup and character background needed to be done in Season One.
And in Season Two, the characters could actually get on with much of the plot, in a way that they couldn't in Season One, where we had to explain who they were, what their background was, their relationship with each other…
I'm not sure if we set it out to have that way from the very beginning, but of course when we were planning Season Two, we thought about, "How can we make sure the plot is developing, moving, and expanding, and most of all being exciting?"
So I think that drove a lot of the action. What do you think, Jon?
Yeah, I think that's pretty much it.
So I think there were two main drivers for that, one of which was just us going from I Am In Eskew - which was purely monologues and one rain sound effect - to Season One of The Silt Verses, where…expanding to Season Two, gradually becoming aware of what was possible, what we could do.
Becoming a bit more ambitious and confident with audio play-style drama, but also the…we just kept finding that once we've explained the world and once we've really got to know the characters, there's less and less that we need to have those confessional monologue sequences.
And so with Carpenter and Faulkner, there are a few monologues that ended up in the cutting floor for the season. Because you listen to them, you go, “We don't need this! We understand Carpenter, we understand in Méabh’s performance where she's coming from and what she wants to do, and it's there in the dialogue and the subtext. We're just repeating ourselves and this is redundant.”
Whereas the characters that we know a bit less - so Paige, Hayward, Mercer and Gage - have been the ones doing most of the monologue in the season. So yeah, I think it has been fairly deliberate - at the same time, we would never want to lose them completely.
And I think there's a couple of episodes - the one with Hembry and Nana Glass - where characters are talking, but they are effectively still delivering narration. It's just audible to the characters.
I do love my purple prose, and I find especially with the early episodes of The Silt Verses, what really grabbed me was that you had these monologues that were in a sense almost kind of prayers, or self-meditations, you know, from these characters.
And that particular, like, style of exposition, really, I had never quite seen before ,and especially not in audiodrama! So I definitely love, to be honest, much of The Silt Verses’ rhythmic cadence and these excellent monologues.
The the last thing I'll add on this is…that I think this is something you see with most podcasts as well.
Just that, for most of us we are not - you know short of being on, like, Jordan Peele’s crack creative team - we are not paid much for our work if at all. And so often we're coming into this as enthusiastic storytellers and learning on the fly!
And so really, like…even for, I think, some of the most iconic shows out there, if you listen to Episode One, and listen to where they're at today, they've come very far. In the way that they narrate, at the way that they approach sound design, just in sound quality, in writing quality.
Part of making a podcast is that you are going to have a chronicle of how much you've improved over time.
I love that! and I feel like it hearkens back to the glory days of network TV where you could say, “this show is really great, but you've got to wait for one season and 26 episodes. And then it gets good but only for two episodes. Then skip to the next season and then it gets amazing.”
You know, it's beautiful to have these shows where we can be learning as we go and finding our feet and and then get to somewhere really special.
People - and you know, this is a, this is an added topic as well, but - people ask, “you’ve come like a long way since episode one-“
Personally, my voice just has developed quite a bit in two years of constant practice, and people ask, you know,
“Would you ever go back and fix the original episode? Would you ever go back and sort of remaster your old content to match what it is today?”
And at least personally, I don't think I would - simply because for whoever is like getting started out there right now, you know, whoever is drafting in school notebooks the next Silt Verses or the next Hello from the Hallowoods, I want them to see that you can start with rough edges and something that is less polished and to find your way into that craft over time. I think, really, that's that's one of the beauties of audiodrama for me.
I do often think, though, that the the sheer instant updatability of RSS feeds means that podcasts are in a unique position to go ultimate George Lucas and just completely change our properties in retrospect.
Gaslighting our entire audience, you know? We could, we could just completely redo The Silt Verses, where Carpenter dies in episode one and gradually over time people online would just get more and more confused. It would be incredible.
I will be honest, I do enjoy that feature! And I'm not sure that many people know that you can go back and edit old podcast episodes. But occasionally people point out certain unforgivable errors of canon, and I can quietly go fix those things.
So for anyone who thought - you know, maybe there was an error, and then it turned out that there wasn't…
…uh, there might have been at one point. There is not now.
Who is the coolest god? Like, they're all eldritch monsters that consume innocent life for unknown purposes, but which one could you get a beer with?
Oh I'd probably say…I'd say the Glooming Guest.
Only because we don't know this god too well, it's been taken over by the Petropater, and…yeah, you know? He deserves his time to explain, you know, himself and his motivations, and just have a bit of...a bit of a chat.
I’d probably go for the Cairn Maiden, who is written in that Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman tradition of a gentle Death figure.
And she'd work for me because, you know, I like to be left alone. So the, the Cairn Maiden obviously only reaches you when you die, so I'd like to imagine that unless I was in the bar moments from my last sip of the pint she'd be off on the other side of it. She'd be hanging out, minding her own business.
We just, kind of, you know, lock eyes occasionally and go, “Yeah, you’re there, mate, you’re there,” and we could both enjoy ourselves without her crowding me too much.
I enjoyed this complex meet-cute that you have with the Lady Death!
Is there a future where we can see side story episodes not tied directly to the story? The three way standoff in the prison is a story I would love to see, the fallout of Mr Finch and his husband as they understand the Hollow comes to mind.
This is a brilliant question - and again, I kind of have to go back to making sure that we are not…that we have room to tell the story of our current characters, as well as…without needing to pad out the season, if that makes sense.
So I...yes, I think there is a future where you can see side story episodes, but it would probably have to be a spin-off.
I mean, what do you think, Jon?
For me, this is definitely…this is a story that's going to have a fixed end.
Obviously, it's really tempting with podcasts to just keep it rolling on forever, because a podcast is something where just…your audience keeps growing with momentum.
Your listenership keeps growing the more episodes you have. But it's a world where its expansion is contingent on us always coming up with fun or interesting or inventive concepts for new gods.
And I know there's going to come a day where you just go,
“…ah, okay, it's a god of metal. And he turns you into a…metal monster. I don't know.”
God of aluminum.
Exactly. And so it's really important to me that we just…we find a fixed point and end it, before we start really going full Walking Dead and milking out every last ounce of meat in this carcass.
(To herself, thoughtfully)
God of duvets.
Definitely appreciate the power of a strong end! And I think it brings much more to a story to have a conclusion that matches the journey that you've been on, rather than fizzling out into an eventual hiatus.
Which, it's…you know, when people set out to make a Podcast That Never Ends, the truth is it will end somewhere! I think you can do a lot more with that ending if you know roughly where it's going to be.
Something I feel like I've become very aware of is that this is a new era of serialisation for creators, it’s both a lucrative and demanding time for a steady stream of linear content creation.
Self-evidently, it would be the right pragmatic decision to keep releasing new seasons or new spin-offs of The Silt Verses, instead of ending it and trying to come up with something new, and that was probably exactly the same case with I Am In Eskew.
And that – I don’t even feel like it’s like Arthur Conan Doyle trying to kill off Sherlock Holmes and then reluctantly bringing him back because the audience demanded it.
I don’t think our audience – probably – I don’t really think the majority of our audience wants seven seasons of a suspiciously immortal Carpenter having adventures with increasingly poorly-conceived gods. It’s much more about the mechanical longevity.
Longevity means more listens, it means more opportunities for press and PR by folks in the mainstream media who are just gonna be out there googling “What’s popular right now?”, it means more word of mouth – shows do vanish remarkably quickly from Reddit communities or forums or anywhere where people give recommendations, so there’s a short shelf life there.
And ultimately…we’re all fucking desperate out here. I am desperate to be able to write full-time and desperately grateful for everyone who listens and supports the show, so why wouldn’t you want to keep that going?
But the thing is, I think…I always want to do new things.
I really, in a perverse way, love that I can go on Apple Podcasts for The Silt Verses and someone said, “I liked it but it wasn’t as good as I Am In Eskew.”
Or you can go on the reviews for I Am In Eskew and someone’s going, “Ehhh, it was OK, but, you know, they went on to better things with The Silt Verses.”
I’d love nothing more than to be able to keep coming up with different stories that a particular subset really gets and no-one else. I find that really enjoyable and really exciting.
If you listen to I Am In Eskew, you’ll know I have a lot of anxiety going on under the hood, and the longer the show goes on the harder it gets.
It’s so fucking hard working with all of these really talented performers and artists and people who I admire and think are wonderful, and I’m thinking with every moment, ‘make one mistake too many and this entire machine’s going to collapse.’
I fear like our characters and their gods, I’ll let the story drag on too long and I’ll come to resent it. I’ll come to resent it for having lost its way, for characters I no longer love and enjoy writing as I used to.
And that resentment will make me sloppy or sullen or make bad decisions, and people will say it should have ended a long time ago, but by then it’ll be too late.
And I don’t think that’s uncommon at all with online creators right now, whether it’s, it’s podcasters or Youtubers or artists, the constant cycle of worry and depression behind the need to keep the damn thing going at all costs, and to focus on the thing that clearly is going to have the most demonstrable impact on your bottom line.
But I’ve loved these characters and this world and working with these incredible people, and I really just wanna make sure I can do it justice by coming to the finish line at the right time in a way we can all be proud of.
Marceline - again with the thought provokers – asks,
I would love to hear Muna, Jon, or B. talk more about the echo angel episode. Anything at all really, process, emotions, reactions, development. "One final fall from grace" is one of my favourite episodes of media across all genres and mediums and I'd just love to know more.
Muna and Jon are going to have much much more detail and articulate thoughts on this than I will, I just know it!
But I will throw in my two cents - it was a really fun episode to do, for one, because Faulkner goes through a whole spectrum of emotions in one episode. And it's a literal katabasis! Like, we go to an underworld and emerge, but it's not a heroic ending.
It's kind of an Orpheus-type ending, because he fails so utterly and completely to do what he set out to do! And by the time it's all over, he's gone from talking to the Trawler-man fervently to pretending to pray, and wishing Carpenter was there to guide him instead.
And I was like, “Oh, I love this character development! I love that journey. I need a What Would Carpenter Do bracelet, stat.”
So this is actually one of those occasions you talked about earlier, William, because Marceline…I think I remember she actually wrote an incredible beat-by-beat analysis of the Echo Angel episode in comparison to Episode One.
And actually what that was doing was taking something very deliberate - where we were looking at The Wire Season Five-style generational development, where suddenly Faulkner is the new Carpenter, he's got a Faulkner of his own. And so we're looking at him observing a sacrifice just like the start of Episode One and we're feeling like everything's all moved on a bit.
And Marceline’s incredible analysis was looking at - second by second - what was happening in the two episodes, and finding lots of stuff that matched up that we absolutely did not intend!
A brilliant piece of analysis, and I'll see if I can find the link and drop it in the the show notes or the transcript for this, because it's really worth a read and really insightful.
But as as to what's left to say next to that…I don't know, really!
The Echo Angel episode was a lot of fun, because we wanted to get in that real sense of Faulkner and how he's developing the empathy, he's learning a sense of stewardship he feels over the people around him…but also how that's leading him closer and closer to this this messianic vision he has for his own life.
While also getting in some foreshadowing that Sister Thurrocks is asking a lot of questions about the Wither Mark - hint hint - while also having a big spooky monster at the end to rip some people's faces off.
No, I…I really enjoyed making it. For me, it was just a…it's just a great fun episode from start to finish. We had an ambient sound effect uh plug-in that had a lovely cave setting for echoes and caves, and I hadn't really got a chance to use it.
So I was so thrilled to have this episode, where we just got to be underground all the way.
A violent shade of purple asks,
Hi, Muna and Jon and everyone; is ethical necromancy possible under divine capitalism? How would one go about reorganizing the economy to make it safe for necromancers, if not?
If not, there's a vested necromancer on the other side waiting urgently for your answer.
So if necromancy existed within capitalism, it would probably instantly be used for the purpose of slave labor, or prison labor, or…
…you know, imagine being convicted of a crime in perpetuity forever, even after one passes away…
So for me, personally, I don't think it's possible under capitalism.
But I say that because I am a massive anarchist.
So, yeah, I'm…what do you think, Jon?
Well, something we we did do quite deliberately was have the, uh, the most ethical faiths that we see in the setting - whether it's the the Cairn Maiden or whether it's Brother Boil and Sister Sore - depicted as scavenger gods.
So they're preying off things that are already extant, whether it's diseases that someone has, whether it's using a dead body...
So yeah. If anything can be ethical in this setting, then necromancy might as well be - because at least it's taking what's been left behind and not real human lives being stripped away.
There's certainly a number of people who listen and are inspired to create their own podcasts after listening to The Silt Verses.
What resources would you recommend to aspiring podcast teams with respect to the production pipeline and showrunning? And are there any underrated pieces of advice that you could give us?
I would probably say, in terms of resources…you don't need something shining if you are aspiring or if you are starting out.
We do almost all of our recording – actually, all of our recording - remotely unless it's the two of us recording in the same house.
We don't have a studio; we use Audacity which is free. And again, I would say you don't know what you don't know. So figure it out as you go along, but don't wait for it to be perfect; because as we all know, nothing is ever perfect to our own eyes or to our own ears.
Horrific confessions of The Silt Verses team QnA!
Uhh, no, we do still use Audacity. I am very much someone who learns a platform and then spends an inordinate amount of time learning how to work around the kinks rather than actually learning something new. That’s why I do a lot of visual design on Microsoft Powerpoint, of all things.
No, Audacity actually – it works fine for me, and we use a lot of plugins.
So RX Elements is definitely one I recommend. We use Walker; Walker is a very good footsteps plugin which I recommended earlier. There’s a new version out, I think, which does animal footsteps, which I really wish we’d had in this season because when you listen to Mercer and Gage on the horses it is pretty much just the same stock effect being repeated again and again, so being able to do dynamic hooves would have been absolutely fantastic.
But that’s another great one, and I find that’s very useful when you’re trying to map out an action sequence.
EW Spaces is one we use for ambient effects – so to get a sense of echo or reverb in a particular space – that one we started using on Season Two and I personally found it a bit of a lifesaver in terms of covering your tracks and any failings you might have as a sound designer in trying to normalise the voices and give the sense of everyone being in the same room.
So definitely recommend that one as well.
For stock sound effects we work with Epi-Epidemic Sound and Envanto Elements – between the two of those they normally have us covered – I sometimes check in on Freesound to see what they have there as well.
In terms of underrated advice, I think that something I’ve really come to value is…unless you’re really lucky and you have a big team or a production company that’s working with you, you’re gonna be doing most of this by yourself, so revel in that.
Revel in being a jack of all trades and a factotum, because really…it is an incredible privilege. Imagine being a film director who’s also a lighting expert, an editor and a make-up artist and actually can approach the work from so many different angles at once.
It is really valuable to do a bit of voice acting. I’m not a very good voice actor! But it’s a really good idea to practice it, because then you can try and recommend some halfway-decent USB mics to other actors in future, because you can spot the shape of an UMMMMM in the wavelength and get a pretty idea of how you can take that out of the sound design files.
It's really useful even if you don’t intend to be the main sound designer for your project to have a bit of a go, so then you can become a better writer and think in more depth and around different angles about how you can make a scene work in really interesting and inventive ways.
It is…so tiring, certainly, but so so valuable, being able to do absolutely everything, and having access to the tools that let you approach the work from every single angle.
And the advantage is that when burnout comes upon you – and it will come – at the very least, you can always pick up a job that’s different. If you’re really burnt out on writing you can always say, “Ah, to hell with it, I’m gonna pick up the sound design tools and start work on editing,” or vice versa.
So that would just be my advice. Try and enjoy the colossal challenge of having way, way too many things to do!
What about you, William? I’m sure you’ve got some brilliant advice on this.
What to say to someone who is just out there, like getting started with their first podcast or audiodrama, is something I could probably spend an hour on alone! However, if I had to pick one I would say, “Know your own pace.”
It is relatively easy to feel like at the very start, “Oh, I want to make a weekly show,” but that is going to then at some point necessitate either a big enough break to work on it, or that you will have to make one episode in a week every week, as is the case for The Hallowoods.
And you definitely want to look at that mass early on, and figure out, “What is something that is going to fit with my existing life, work-life balance, that I could reasonably invest, you know, a certain amount of time to create this?”
The other part of that is that you should also understand – and this is part of why we see what's called pod-fade, where so many shows start, get, you know, eight episodes in, and then drop off the face of the earth - part of that is due to just…
…they started more they kind of bit off more than they could chew! In terms of their schedule, in terms of their production, and then realize, like, “Actually, this has taken up all my time; I can't keep up this pace.”
But the other aspect of it is that, you know, if you're thinking about starting a podcast; you should know, statistically, it can take up to a year before you actually get even, like, a small target audience that is tuning in regularly to your show.
Some of us, like, might luck into an audience a little bit faster than that - but even for Hello From The Hallowoods, it took probably about four months before the first person mentioned it on social media, like, outside of our marketing.
It takes time for people to find these things. It takes time for a community to develop, and it takes time for a fandom to like gather around the show.
So you…if you are starting one of these stories, take it easy on yourself. And be prepared that it is going to be a long haul to get to where you want to be. And enjoy the journey! Like, as, as slow as it is.
Because, you know, again, I think there's a lot of good and a lot of personal development you'll find in those early stages along the way.
Yeah, absolutely, and I think for I Am In Eskew…how many episodes were we in before we realized people were actively listening?
Maybe 30 listens this week, and then 50 listens the week after. So I couldn't agree more with what you've just said, William.
We've got a question from Leo here to the writing team:
To the writing team: how did you come up with Paige's god? Was there a design process a la Black Crow Inc., or was it divine inspiration?
Great question! Go on, Jon.
(Caught off guard)
Uh, yeah, sorry. I am the writing team!
(In a dramatic voice)
“To the writing team.”
To the writing team! I’m the whole team!
I’m the editing team! I’m the ‘come in and throw the script out’ team.
Ummm…so, a lot of what Paige and Hayward say when they're brainstorming,
is effectively us brainstorming the god itself.
We faced a real challenge where we'd set up Paige as potentially this figure for a bit of a revolution, talking about how she wanted to make a god that was better than the gods that were in existence in the setting.
Uh. How the hell do you do that?
So there was a lot of time and a lot of worrying over - what is a god that cannot be corrupted, that cannot be turned against us?
Before we hit upon the idea that, well….this is a world that treats real-life human sacrifice as…as capital, effectively.
So in a world like this, where industry is contingent on human sacrifice, then actually an act of suicide and act of martyrdom becomes an act of industrial sabotage.
And so out of this grew this quite fun - we thought - idea that you could have a god that is a god of martyrs. It activates when you’re killed, and it blows everything to shit, and causes havoc all around it.
And so this was a god with room to explore, you know? Certainly it's not a perfect ethical solution to the problem of the setting, nor should it be.
But there was lots in there that we felt we could play with, while it also seeming like - within the rules of the setting as established - a genuine way to defeat the powers that be at their own game.
Your depiction of the Cairn Maiden and conversations around death has been one of the most moving parts of the show for me. The care shown for the dead by Acantha, and the final conversation with the Homesick Corpse gave us these beautiful moments of empathy that really grounded the story.
Could you talk about your inspiration for these parts of the show?
I mean, I love these parts of the show.
I was raised Muslim and there's a lot of care in that religion when it comes to the dead - you know the washing of the body, and the wrapping in cloth and so on.
But you can see this care that we've written about and I'd love to know Jon's thoughts on this – as it’s actually, you know, reflected in lots of different cultures across the world?
Yeah, definitely to some extent, and a bit of Ancient Egyptian too.
I guess for me, it was really just…as someone that used to be fairly religious and now doesn't consider himself that way, doesn't know if there is anything waiting for us out there, I was really thinking hard about what would I want to hear.
What words of reassurance would I hear upon dying, if we can be confident in nothing?
And so that…the words in the prayer that Carpenter repeats where she's, she's saying, you know, just, “There's nowhere left to go; you can stop fighting now; you can stop struggling, it's okay. This was the place you were always meant to get to.”
Those struck me as being the words I'd want to hear if I were to die on a lonely road. And likewise the the Homesick Corpse’s final words to her, when she's saying, “What do you regret?”
That was me thinking about, what would I regret if I were to to die prematurely?
So, yeah, it was it was a very personal god. I really enjoyed writing it, and found it quite meaningful to do, so…
It is some deep, like, personal content - y’know, really, really from our own heart and spirits - that makes its way into these shows sometimes, for people around the world to listen to.
All the voice actors on the Verses are tremendously talented, but the nuance, idiosyncrasy and emotion Méabh de Brún delivers as Carpenter is so immersive and complex that I listen to VO in cartoons, podcasts and dubs with much more respect for and awareness of the art.
I would love to know how Méabh discovered and got into voice work.
Well, let me start by thanking you profusely for those wonderful words!
As an actor, one of the best things about playing Carpenter is the opportunity and challenge to portray this incredibly complex character. I love acting; it's so necessary to me. It's like breathing.
And you know, like anything you love doing, you hope you're good at it!
I always hope that I'm up to portraying Carpenter’s incredible layered character in the highs and lows of her emotional journey; so as an actor to hear that my performance does her justice, that's the greatest compliment I could receive. So thank you so much!
Regarding how I got into acting, I have been an actor since day one. I have been performing since I was 12 - younger maybe - so it's an integral part of my life. It's part of who I am.
However, due to day-job commitments at the time, I was living in a town that didn't have a theatre, and acting opportunities were kind of limited, and if I don't have a performance outlet I get a bit strange! I get a bit odd in the head, to be frank!
So it was for the good of everyone around me that I found an alternative means of pursuing…
…the craft, would we say? Christ, that's a notion-y statement if ever I've made one. Uh, no, but I have always been a huge fan of audiodrama and it was my great fortune that Omen - the audiodrama from the producers of Girl In Space - advertised for voice actors around the time that I was seriously considering giving voicework a go.
I bought a Snowball mic just to audition for Omen, and I kind of treated the deadline for the audition as an impetus to get myself out there as a voice actor, and I got the role!
I was cast in the role of Lola - which was a great bit of validation that I could do it, you know? And it wasn't ridiculous that I might just give it a go.
Around that time - I think it was it was before we even started recording for Omen, but the the world went into lockdown. And we were all confined to our homes so voicework quickly became my only means of performing! And it was like fate that I binged the entirety of I Am In Eskew, and then I went to follow their Twitter and I saw they were casting their new audiodrama.
I read the script samples online, and just went absolutely feral - rabid foaming at the mouth, absolutely had to be in it as…anyone. Carpenter was a dream, obviously, but I've said it before, I'll say it again, I would have played a creaking door just to be involved.
And…but that is the wonderful thing about audiodrama! If you have a mic and can find the auditions online, it's a very accessible medium for performers, you know?
I knew so little when I started, and I know marginally more now thanks to the professionals I have worked with. I have become better at prepping my recording space, I know more about the software involved, and I have invested in more professional recording equipment.
I still have more to learn - I hope to, for example, put together a demo reel in the coming year, you know, things like that. But you don't need any of that starting out!
Which is fantastic, you know? You don't need headshots, you don't need a showreel; audiodrama is a wonderfully accessible world, filled with just the nicest, kindest people I've ever met.
I urge anyone who is interested in performing in audiodrama to get yourself out there.
Question for Jon and Muna:
A lot of horror audio dramas tend to reveal or overexplain too much about things that are scary precisely because they are hard to mentally grapple — is it difficult to resist showing too much to the audience, or is it more rewarding as the creators to keep the secrets?
It's an interesting question! I don't know if I believe our show does solve it.
Number one, because - although I think it is accurate to call this a horror show, because we've got lots of grotesque body horror in there and horrific concepts - I don't see this as a scary show.
I think there are far scarier shows out there in the podcasting world, so I don't know if we face that challenge of explaining too much.
And also, our world is nakedly open from the start! If in the show the characters come across a scary saint or an angel, we know how this works; “Okay, someone was worshiping a god there and something's been turned into a saint.”
So mechanistically there's no…there's no mystery to it. But that is something that I struggled with, I think, with Season Two.
You can see in the first half, where we've just dotted the spooky standalone episodes in. And I know for Season Three where there's obviously a lot of drama to to get through, some big stories to include, we'll still be looking for,
“Where are the stories we can tell, where there's just a big interesting monster and we can have fun running away from that for 40 minutes?”
I have likewise in The Hallowoods struggled to find a genre to categorize - it takes all these tropes from horror’s history: as early as, like, you know, Universal monsters, from the Stephen King era, from the classic Dracula and Frankenstein.
And it takes all these, you know, tropes, and then kind of adds something queer to them, adds something heartfelt to them, you know? Adds a…adds a humanity to them, and ultimately comes away not as a show that will scare you and keep you up at night, you know, make you shiver.
But a show that hopefully goes to these dark places and then gives you a little bit of a feeling of hope. That, like, we are gonna get through these dark places. And I don't have a genre name that describes that.
The problem is…horror is, horror is right. And horror suits it.
But then I know that I will see sometimes a list that says “Spooky Fun For Halloween!” And it's our show or your show.
"I don't think you've really listened to our show! Because it's not about spooky fun for Halloween, necessarily. We're doing something a bit different there."
Absolutely! And likewise, people who tune in and then kind of back out, and they're like,
“…Well, this actually wasn't scary, though! More, more feels than I was expecting for this experience.”
There's…there's a genre I - and I'm curious if this has crossed your radar - but I've seen this term floating around a little bit, New Weird.
As kind of a ballpark for, like, certain shows that walk this very odd line where, like, you know, maybe no story has gone yet - I don't know how you would feel about that term for the Silt Verses.
I think it fits! I'm not a huge fan of being boxed into a particular genre because takes away the freedom to be able to play, and I love what you know you do with with your work William, and I love having the freedom on our show to to go off into folklore and fantasy and horror and drama in many episodes.
So I think having that ‘New Weird’ is…is wonderfully opaque, and you know, you can't quite put your finger on what is it exactly and and yeah I'm happy with that categorization. What do you think, Jon?
Yeah, I agree. The other term that sometimes gets used is Slipstream, and I think that's probably…it's a good term, but it's less marketable.
Whereas New Weird, at least we understand - it's not necessarily horror, but it probably has tentacles. I know people, for both of our shows, sometimes use China Mieville or M John Harrison as touchstones and, yeah, I think, I think that's fair.
Those are writers that we we love and are emulating to an extent here.
(To the listener)
While we're talking about New Weird and prose - if you haven't read This Is How You Lose The Time War, people, get on that. It’s a, it's a great example.
But Lee - and also Gabriel - asks:
For Jon and Muna! This season featured a significant expansion of The Silt Verses world, from gods to politics to the threat of war on an international scale, and this was accompanied by a more complex plot for the season overall.
What was planning all of this out like and what parts of the new worldbuilding did you really want to get into for this season?
I particularly was…really excited about, yes, the geopolitical side of it - but for me, I was really interested in exploring smaller foes that are, that were, very terrifying.
So exploring Mercer and Gage was really interesting to me, because as you go through each season you don't want it to become…you know, and there is the bigger boss ,and then there is the more dangerous villain, and then there's the, you know, and it goes on and on and on.
We're very conscious that we don't want to do that. So having these individuals who are terrifying and can completely derail our main characters’ lives, without needing that sort of increase in stakes every season, I think I was really excited to explore.
Yeah, I love that sentiment, and I think that's something it’s very good to be conscious of - lest you run, you know into the Monster Of The Season problem.
Jimmie – how do you feel about Hayward's journey from cop to rebel?
Now, it was great having him be a police officer, but now? The whole world is his oyster.
…if he can manage to get it together for more than five minutes.
And Leslie asks,
What inspired you to create Mercer, Gage, and the Beast Who Stalks In The Long Grass?
It was a couple of things, so - and they're all very strange! So first off was The Duke Of Burgundy which is a Peter Strickland film, where you've got these two characters who are in, essentially, a sub/dom relationship.
And one of them is starting to feel it chafing a little bit, and wants out a little bit…but it’s the problem of, “How do you negotiate the terms of this act of play when it encompasses everything?”
When you've got two people who are both engaged in the same very serious game that is taking over their lives, how is one person meant to communicate to the other, actually, “I want to dial this down a bit; I want to have some freedom and some space from this very, very constricting thing that we’ve built together?”
And that really reminded me of the Gibbons sisters, who were two girls who lived in Wales.
And they were bullied intensely, and as a result, June and Jennifer Gibbons would talk to each other in sped-up Creole.
So they'd make sure that they couldn't be understood by anyone else; they became more and more insular. They were both talented writers, they wrote a lot - and they ended up sadly also committing some acts of arson, and ultimately being institutionalized.
But it's it's a really fascinating – sensationalized, often - quite horrible, tragic story. I think it's now being made into a film.
But the the upshot is, according to at least one biographer, that there was a day that both of them realized that they couldn't go on living like this. But they also couldn't get apart from each other as long as they were together.
One of the girls simply made the decision to die, and then passed away a few weeks later - and the other Gibbons sister is now living quite happily and quietly elsewhere, having finally been freed from that person that you're so close to.
So again, I think with Mercer and Gage we were looking at the idea of - what does it mean to be so close to someone that you can't tear yourself away without tearing off chunks of yourself in the process?
What does it mean when two of you have created this thing together - you've both committed so fully to this thing! And now one of you is having second thoughts about it but the other one is desperate not to see the her sibling pull away.
So those are all ideas we really wanted to explore in the context of what I believe TV Tropes refers to as Those Two Guys - so whether it's Croup and Vandemar from Neverwhere…
(instantly unable to think of a second example)
…uh, you know, it's the pair of assassins who always seem to be completely in agreement with each other.
So we wanted to take a pair of antagonists that seemed like they were going to be Those Two Guys. And then gradually make the reveal that, really we're doing the the Gibbons sisters instead.
I'm glad to see someone else is also tossing in some of the Croup and Vandemar love! Because I adore those two.
Is it possible that Carpenter’s behavior in season 2 is being influenced by the snare dog bite she got in season 1? She’s a lot more aggressive and I wonder if it’s urging on some of her more violent urges.
I love this question, because I love that we've seen Carpenter be violent this season!
But I don't think that it's a result of the snare dog. I think we are getting to see the Carpenter that was a legend amongst the followers of the Trawler-man.
Because I don't think Carpenter has violent urges.
I think she sees a job that needs to be done, and she does it, because she's perfectly capable of doing it. It's simply dirty work which needs to be carried out, and if no one else is using this axe, Carpenter will.
But is it the best way to go about these things? No. Like, her behavior is not good. And I love it!
So in Season One we meet Carpenter at the peak of her crisis of faith. She's worn down and weary, but we are given hints as to her legendary reputation through Faulkner's questions and comments, and her own description of her past missions.
So then in Season Two, we get to see what Carpenter is capable of, and what I believe she has always been capable of.
We see her casual familiarity with violence, with killing. We see her tactical prowess and the ease with which she condemns the complex morals of others in the moment.
But to me that's not Carpenter giving into violent urges, that's Carpenter falling back into old habits. So now instead of acting on the Trawler-man's behalf in Season Two, we do see her exercising that violence. For ostensibly good reasons, but it makes us stop and think about…well, if this is what she's capable of doing now, what did she do in the past? What did she do in the name of the Trawler-man?
So Carpenter's reasoning is off. Her mode of approach to things is incorrect. And she learns this; she realizes that she is a monster of the old ways.
And by the end of Season Two, we see her affirm that she no longer wants to be an attack dog of the faith, and I think that's true of any faith that she might affiliate herself with – although, of course, sometimes it doesn't count.
So, yes - so to answer your question, for me we're seeing Carpenter handle issues the way she has long handled them, and she realizes that's not how she wants to deal with them anymore.
It's an interesting one, because I think this connects back to the Faulkner question about “Why is he such a badass?”
And there's there is a a challenge, definitely, for any budding action sound-designer, right?
That it's very hard to deliver a partial failure at something via sound design. If you want to have two characters struggling for ages, just barely getting the upper hand, it's very hard to do that without it being cacophonous noise and lots of grunting.
So inevitably when you're portraying a bit of action, characters tend to be fairly successful at what they're trying to do. It doesn't take them too long to do it, because the action needs to move onwards. We need the sound to be very very clear and sharp.
So that's what we do with the the episode this season with Carpenter, where she takes out the unarmed scientists one by one. And that's quite exciting and she certainly seems very competent.
But for me that wasn't so much about making her suddenly a lot more of a badass, or making her overpowered.
For me, that was stuff we set up in Season One; we established that she'd, she'd been a lure. She'd been someone who would go out by herself on behalf of the Parish of Tide and Flesh and trap people into becoming sacrifices.
So for me, we knew that she was physically capable even if she hadn't shown too much of that during Season One. And I wanted a chance in Season Two for us to show her in action; show the full capabilities what we know she can do, and then interrogate the violence of that.
We know she's got violence in her, and violence behind her. We know she's got a lot of anger in her. And so then we have the the episode with Nana Glass, where we start to dig into how it feels to have the weight of all this this horrible shit she's done, and all these people she's killed, in her conscience.
Yeah, so for me I didn't see her as more violent. More that we are addressing the violence that has always been implicit in her character.
Jay asks for Daphne:
Absolutely blown away by your colourful performance as Mercer (and much love from your Filipino listeners!). What was your favorite scene to perform?
Thank you so much for the compliments on my performance and hello to my Filipino listeners!
If I had to pick a favorite scene to perform…that's a hard one, but like honestly any scene where I got to laugh maniacally was so much fun.
I just had a blast just letting loose in the booth, and going crazy and being wild and just being unhinged and going ham.
Just any scene where I got to laugh nightly it was awesome I had I had so much fun it was great!
One thing that especially stood out to me in this season was the direction of Gage and Mercer's characters over the season and how it contrasted with the other plotlines occurring.
I find myself curious because it was probably one of my favorite parts of the already incredible finale, what was the thought process behind how their plotline wrapped itself up?
As I said, for me this storyline was always going to be about the collision course of someone that's very committed to their path, and someone that's starting to peel away.
Which would always go back and mirror Carpenter and Faulkner's relationship, the relationship between faith and doubt, the relationship between the two people who simply cannot escape each other's orbit.
So I was surprised, because we started to see online, there were some people going,
“Oh, I can't wait for Mercer and Gage to unleash their god upon the world!”
And you go…"we're never going to get there. There's never going to be a moment where they unleash this kind of horrible, Zoid monster-god."
So, yeah. That was always the plan, I think.
That we're going to end with a moment of anti-climax; one sibling turning on the other, and then this would have echoes onwards about what was going to happen to Carpenter and Faulkner.
To me, it reads like Faulkner and Carpenter are trying hard to break free from each other in season 1, but in season 2, they finally understand each other, and they actively reach out to each other.
Did the way you think about the centrality of that relationship change between writing season 1 and season 2, or has this always been the place you saw this act of the overall story going?
And there's a little addition here that might help as well:
And if 'found family' feels too sweet or too cheerful to describe Faulkner and Carpenter's intense and ambivalent bond, how would you describe it instead?
Yeah, so this was something that we were to an extent always going for!
And I think rather than found family, there are ways that we've talked about this within the body of the show: whether it is the the chapter title where they reunite, which is “We'll never be rid of each other."
Or in Chapter Five in Season One where Hayward talks about, again, just being entangled with barbed wire to someone. Being unable to pull yourself free, being unable to to work your way out without causing grievous harm.
For me…I think back in the Season QnA, someone asked about found family, and I did have a grumble, saying, “That's not what we're going for.”
For me…found family is not really about the intensity of the connection. I understood that as being - rightly or wrongly - about the characters arriving at a state of resolution.
I saw a found family show as being very much…the characters start off as strangers, then they become family, and then the rest of the show is…that character arc is done.
They're going to keep being ride or die for each other until the end of the show, and that becomes quite static and boring.
Whereas I did see Carpenter and Faulkner as family, in the sense that…they will be friends, they will be enemies, they will be in and out of each other's orbits, but they will always be central to each other, and unable to pull themselves away.
So, yeah, that's that's how I would basically depict them. It is a little different because at the start of Season One, we saw Faulkner as being pretty much straight-up outright villainous!
And it was only really B’s amazing performance that made us think…actually, there's a lot more humanity to him that we need to unpick.
So I guess originally, he would have just ended up where he is now - but with a lot less equivocation and and ambiguity along the way.
There's also…there was a really interesting interview that the showrunner of Andor was saying recently, where he was talking about the the empty calories of unearned sentimental moments.
And that's something that I'm always paranoid about. So I get, I get tense about found family, because I don't want to go…
Well, I don't want to throw out a cheap unearned moment where the characters are friends now and everyone feels good about it, but it's not very original or interesting!
So it was very freeing this season to go, “We can have some lovely moments where Carpenter and Faulkner have a hug and say how much they mean to each other because he's going to betray her later on.”
So, you know, my cynic, inner cynic could rest easy with those moments. Knowing that we could enjoy them because it's all going to go horribly wrong by the end.
Who hurt you, Jon? Who hurt you?
There is a controversial line of dialogue that has…ever since I've heard it, though, I've always kind of kept it in the back pocket because I think there's something useful there.
In the much-maligned last season of Game of Thrones, there's a scene where - I believe it's Mr Jamie Lannister - backtracks on all of his character development over the last couple seasons and goes back to this really, you know, kind of terrible relationship that was where he was at the start of Season One.
And his line in doing that is, “She's hateful but I'm hateful too.”
And I've ever since always enjoyed the idea that two characters can be entwined - not in a wholesome way necessarily, but because they both have these deep rooted problems and they can find a kind of common ground within the depths to which they have found themselves.
Actually, strangely I ended up listening to a lot of Mountain Goats for this season, and that was because someone had posted, I think, about Carpenter and Faulkner with a quote from No Children. Which is that sentiment of, “We’ll go down together, hand in unlovable hand.”
Maybe I would have enjoyed Game of Thrones Season 8 a lot more if we'd had John Darnielle, playing a lute as another Ed Sheeran-esque cameo, doing some Game of Thrones-style No Children as Jaime Lannister runs off-
Take notes, House of Dragons! Because you've got a chance to mend your mistakes.
Jon: are there any characters and or arcs that have been much better received than you expected, or conversely didn't get the expected love?
So…character arcs that went down better than I expected, I would say it's the episode with Hembry.
Which is the classic theatre kid experience of “he's in a room narrating everything as it happens and controlling reality.”
So that was…that was one of the episodes we were trying to go, “OK, let's just pause the narrative for a moment and have a standalone sidequest episode with a spooky god.”
And the more we brainstormed it, the stranger it got, it became this very meta very I Am In Eskew story of a man who's warping reality and just can't stop himself from doing it.
And we we got to work with with David Ault as Hembry who gives a great performance; Lucy and Jimmy both did fantastic stuff.
But I kept stalling on the production of it, because I thought it was terrible!
I just thought this was such a shit, dreadful episode! Like, pretentious, and we had this little trick where Hembry would narrate something, then it would happen…I thought, “This is so naff and redundant and slow, and the audience could get sick of it in 10 minutes!”
But people loved it. It's…we did a poll to ask, “If we should submit any episode of the season for awards, which one should we pick?”
And overwhelmingly that was the the top choice!
And I'm absolutely thrilled, and still a little suspicious.
Like at any point someone could go, “Ohhh, actually this is terrible, and no one realized it before-“
I have to jump in here for a second, because it's really interesting.
Because usually when the episodes go out, Jon's nervous. And I'm nervous too, but he's a lot more nervous!
But for this one…oh, my God, he hated this episode! He thought it would, you know…I really don't think, you know, you can understand how much he thought it would bomb.
I thought it was a great episode. I loved it from the beginning and obviously working with someone like David Ault - I'm not sure it could have worked with anyone else.
David Ault was just incredible; he just brought so much passion to the role.
Even before the sound design, even when I was directing that episode, just having him read it over Zoom just gave me the shivers!
So I knew it was going to be a great episode, and maybe because I saw it quote-unquote live with David, actually, obviously acting it out…maybe that's why I had more faith in it? But yeah - it's my favorite episode, I would say.
There's - there's the bit at the end of Guardians of The Galaxy where, um, Dave Bautista's character says, “I was seeking revenge against the villain that killed my family - now we’ve defeated him, I know it's actually Thanos I must kill.”
And that that's me with every season, where I go, “Muna, I know I said the last episode was terrible, and people would hate it. But now I've realized it's this one.”
With regards to stuff that doesn't go down as well as you expected…something I've learned and I've come to terms with is action sequences.
And I don't think it's that we have bad action sequences! But there is something very funny about that. These are the the segments that you spend so much time on.
You spend hours painstakingly getting all the sounds in place for these 30 seconds of violence and you go,
“Wow, this is incredible! This is - this is original! No-one’s done things like this! This is fantastic!”
…but, but ultimately the way that audio drama fans disseminate their enthusiasm is is text-based. People are sharing their favorite quotes from characters, and their favorite speeches and monologues.
No one is out there going, “Oh, I really loved this bit in the stage directions where there's a fight.”
So you just don't get the same response for that! And that can feel quite funny when you expect that the big, exciting, splashy action sequence is gonna get all the attention, and everyone's very focused on a quiet emotional moment instead.
Well, speaking exactly of that!
Could you talk a bit about the sound design for the final two episodes?
I thought you did an amazing job of conveying the atmosphere and tension of the battle which highlighted the brilliant performances from the whole cast really well. What were your thoughts and plans going into those final episodes? How do you feel about how they turned out?
Well…tense, I would say!
The final two episodes, there was so much to wrap up, and there were there were going to be so many different scenes all taking place at the same time.
There was just so much happening! It was about, “How can we put all of this together and not make it sound cacophonous or confusing? How can we keep the listener with us as we move from, you know, scene to scene and action point to action point?”
There was so much to keep track of that it was really, really tense and and particularly for Jon, who kind of had to keep it all together in terms of the the sound design – what do you think?
Uh, yeah! There's tons I could say on this, because – yeah - it really was a labor of love, and also really stupid.
Because we said from the start, “Yeah, we're going to end the season with a big battle scene!” and other than We're Alive, I don't know how many audio dramas have tried to do that…because it's stupid.
It's really easy to say, though, isn't it - in the planning stage?
It is, yeah. It’s like,
“Yeah, yeah, gonna end with a big siege. Helm’s Deep-style!”
It was really, really interesting as a learning experience. Because in that sequence we have seven voice actors: so we've got Carpenter and Faulkner, and Mercer and Gage, the two twins played by Stephen and Mark, and Cait as Thurrocks.
And for an audiodrama that's a huge cast! But to try and convey a battle scene in multiple locations, that's nothing. And I think with a battle scene, as well, you start to really test the limitations of stock SFX. There's only so much you can do when it comes to crowd sequences, giving the sense of many people in the same space.
You can't just use gunshots over and over again, because that becomes chaos and noise so quickly.
So a lot of what we did was based on two principles: one of which, again, was pattern recognition. So making sure the battle took place in a location we’d visited before.
We know from Episode One that you can keep going underground down a bunch of steps, and at the bottom there's a fish tank with a big jellyfish in it. Having scenes prior to the battle where, again, the characters are exploring the choreography.
So if we hear the sound of a window latch, we understand where we are.
Trying to make it as clear as possible, so that when all the chaos starts, the listener hopefully has a good…a good journey through it.
And the second principle was…I guess you could call it masking. So something that we both really enjoyed over the past year was HBO's Barry, and that has some genius action sequences on a relatively small budget, that are all about exciting stuff happening in the background.
A character is being murdered in a sound booth, so we can sort of see what's happening, but we can't hear anything - it's just silence as someone's murdered.
It's all about using a little bit of concealment for comedic purposes, but also to create something very fun and inventive.
So if you follow the battle sequence, we get away with a lot. We get away with a lot, because often stuff's happening in the background. We cut to Carpenter on her walkie-talkie, hearing what's happening and some vague explosion sounds.
Then back to Faulkner. We're never staying too long in the center of things, and that really enabled us, I think, to get away with far more than we we should have been able to.
I've also had to grapple with at least a couple big battle sequences throughout the course of this story – surprisingly!
And I actually find myself referencing Helm’s Deep on a couple of occasions.
Because one of the things that battle does very nicely is pan between different perspectives and places in that battle, so that you see different things from the emotional perspective of different characters.
And rather than having one big crowd versus one other big crowd, you get to see these two characters hanging out on the battlements and their dynamic and what they're seeing!
You go beneath to the one character who's down there, and what the experience is like down there. And I think for audiodrama, and something that you've done, you know, in these sequences…is fairly similar!
You break it down into smaller groups that you could work with, and show off this huge scene from a bunch of different perspectives, to give it the sense of scale and scope that it deserves.
That's really really insightful and thoughtful! Yeah, I completely agree. For us, I think Helm’s Deep was my bugbear because it is the big siege scene par excellence that everyone will refer back to.
So I really…I really wanted to have rain, because rain is fantastic. It establishes when characters are outside versus inside. Instant contrast as we move from these different locations.
But of course you can’t have rain in a siege sequence. Everyone's going to think you're ripping off Helm’s Deep!
So yeah, I was gutted that we couldn't uh we couldn't have that.
We used rain a lot in I Am In Eskew! So I'm claiming it as a signature move.
Jake asks an interesting question.
Is Faulkner trans? A quick yea or nay would suffice.
I’ve actually re-recorded this a couple of times now, because how we handle representation in all its forms is something that really, really matters to us both and when I don't think I've got it right I do tend to spend a lot of time obsessively thinking over the things I could have done differently.
And for me there's also a lot of time spent turning over the challenges. Around how to best work with a diverse cast and diverse characters in this horribly dystopian, anti-human setting where pretty much every character is a fanatic, a pawn of the system, or gets horribly and immediately murdered.
About how to support representation meaningfully where you don’t have lived experience, about the risks of patting yourself on the back and declaring yourself an Ally with a capital A for doing the bare minimum in a limited medium like audiodrama, and how as a creator you can know when you’re being clear and direct enough in your representation - because more than once now I think I’ve been very upfront about a character, but it turns out I actually haven’t.
All of which meant that I originally spoke about all this stuff that didn't directly answer Jake's question for about a solid twelve minutes and no-one really wants to hear that, so let’s try again, and I'll try and go shorter.
Short answer is yea! That’s very much how I’ve come to understand Faulkner, canonically as a trans man, and in the final season we're gonna give that some space and explicit acknowledgement in the text.
But I also do just want to be perfectly honest; when we originally cast for the show and when we were starting to record, that wasn’t something we’d decided upon or which we'd intended to spell out in the script.
We ran the casting call for Faulkner originally as a universal role, we had some alternate scripts with different pronouns, and B. just sent in this amazing audition for Brother Faulkner.
B. was brilliant and we really, really wanted to work with them. But in those early stages, Faulkner hadn’t been written explicitly as a trans man or as queer.
And I think if you go back to his backstory in Episode 2 and you listen to that, and you think, hey, his childhood is actually a bit ambivalent or confusing as written or there are aspects there that don’t ring true to me, or "you’re actually just sort of glossing over the specific experience of what it might feel like to be a teenage trans boy accidentally killing his older brother in the remote backwoods of this hellish dystopia far from any apparent community or support", if you think that you are absolutely not wrong, and that’s a very fair criticism.
We were just working with the voice actor we liked best, and at that time we hadn’t delved into much of the character’s identity beyond ‘murderous fanatic and would-be messiah who killed his brother.’
And to an extent that's an approach I don't want to let go of as part of the wider picture of representation, because as a producer, the priority and the privilege is to get to work with amazingly talented queer voice actors in as many varied roles as possible.
Which should be joyfully limitless. Which should include but not be limited to access to the roles that weren't originally written as explicitly queer and the roles that are written as explicitly cis, and the roles where the character's gender identity simply isn’t going to enter the text of the story because they’re too busy murdering people.
But then as a writer, your priorities become very different when you see the impact of your work on an audience. You do really feel the weight and importance of having clear and explicit representation for a character like Faulkner in the text, because you start to feel the damage that comes when it feels like you’re hedging or you're queerbaiting, or you're willing to commit to more in the commentary than you are in the text, or when what you believe was a light touch starts to feel hesitant or clumsy or afraid.
Umm, so I do often think back that I should have just given a firm and clear nod in those first couple of episodes.
But in short; I’m really happy to confirm Faulkner canonically as a trans man to answer your question, Jake, which I think most people have very fairly understood him as already, but more importantly we do want to make sure we give that some considerate acknowledgement within the text in our final season. So thank you for asking!
Listeners, rejoice! Stay tuned for Season 3.
And lastly - and our last question of this lovely QnA for the Silt Verses Season Two - a question from Charlie to Jon and Muna:
Can we please have a very vague hint to the events of Season 3?
Vague! Vague hint!
There will be…
JON begins laughing uncontrollably.
What- go on, Jon. Just go on.
Somehow, Palpatine returned!
Yup, the Fortnite wars brought him to our setting as well.
Uhhh…a big theme for this final season is going to be about legacy and what we leave behind.
Which is one of the very first sentences Carpenter says, in that very first scene when she says, “We leave no trace that can’t be swallowed up.”
I think all of our characters are fast approaching a position – where, whether they have started a new revolutionary anti-capitalist god, or whether they have murdered their way to the top of a pantheon of an existing god, they are all starting to realise that…
...they may be approaching a state where they’re gonna die! They’re gonna leave this world behind.
And when you do that, what are you leaving behind you?
Thank you so much for having me on as the host for this QnA, and thank you to the folks tuning in for continuing to support Jon and Muna as they make this wonderful show.
Thank you so much, William!
Thank you, William!
Really appreciate you spending some time with us – and thank you so much to all the listeners, the fans, the Patreon supporters.
Without all you, we would have slunk off quite a long time ago, so thank you so much for supporting us.
Silt Verses Season 3, coming to a theatre of the mind near you – very soon.
The music comes to an end and the tape cuts out.