It seems David Barr Kirtley ’00 was destined to become a science fiction writer.
Before he could even read, Kirtley was writing stories, dictating them to his mother. His father was a sci-fi-loving physics professor. An avid reader growing up, Kirtley published his first story at 16.
Kirtley went on to find a place in the genre as a short story writer. He has published stories exploring time travel, shapeshifting, and cloning, among other things. His work has appeared in magazines including Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales.
In 2010 Kirtley added another title to his resumé: podcast host.
Kirtley is cohost of the popular Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. According to the show’s website, it receives 25,000 downloads per month. In April it was ranked as the top podcast in iTunes’ literature category.
The epiphany to do a podcast came after Kirtley and his friend, John Joseph Adams, finished a short interview about a zombies anthology book Adams edited, for which Kirtley was a contributor. Adams “did a radio interview but realized that he still had a lot more to say,” Kirtley recalled. “With a podcast, you can talk as long as you want to.”
Creating the podcast is a two-week process for the pair. Adams schedules the guest, and then the research begins. Kirtley reads the guest’s book and listens to interviews the guest has done elsewhere to prepare for the interview. They also arrange a panel discussion on a topic. Both the interview and the discussion are conducted via Skype. After sessions are recorded, the editing process begins. Then it’s time to upload.
According to Kirtley, one of the best parts of the podcast is having the chance to explore so many different fields. “I have a broad range of interests,” he said. “It gives me a reason to learn something new every week. It’s an intellectual challenge. When we interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson, I got to read up on black holes.”
The list of people who have appeared on their show includes luminaries of science and science fiction. George R.R. Martin has discussed his Game of Thrones series. Another episode featured Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club.
Kirtley finds it fascinating to peer inside the minds of writers. In fact, before there was an Internet, he would read writers’ introductions over and over to glean clues to their craft. Now he—and thousands of listeners—go right to the source.
“I’m fascinated,” Kirtley said, “to know how they do what they do.”