SONJA HAMMER’s live radio show on JOY 94.9 in Melbourne, Sci-Fi and Squeam, turns five on December 10, making it one of the longest running dedicated LGBTIQA speculative fiction shows on air. Sonja has edited and uploaded about 290 podcasts of the show, including one-off interviews with writers to media personalities, film makers, comics artists and video games developers. Her passion for the horror film genre has led her to support organisations and events for the annual Women in Horror Recognition Month, and to developing Queer Geeks of Oz – the first LGBTIQA pop culture panel, held at Armageddon Melbourne 2013 and Oz Comic-Con Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney in 2014. Its manifesto is to support and encourage diversity in geek culture and to be a voice for LGBTIQ geeks and nerds in Australia.
1. What drew you to become a radio broadcaster? And why spec fic?
I always wanted to talk to people and listen to what people have to say about interesting things, and so radio was the perfect medium to do that: talk and be heard, and meet and talk with fascinating people about subjects I want to hear more about … passionate people talking about science fiction and horror fiction, all fit perfectly in a radio show in my mind! Even though everyone turns more and more to television and webcasts and web TV, everyone in the world still has a radio somewhere! And so Sci-Fi and Squeam was born!
2. You ran a great interview with comics writer Gail Simone when she was out last year about how important she felt it was to have minority groups in her work, whether of race, sexuality or ablement. Are there any shows or books that you think have done a brilliant job of portraying such characters?
Yes, I am excited and genuinely enthused by the past few years efforts in particular with television shows made in Canada (though not always exclusively so), SyFy TV has done ground breaking stuff when it comes to representation of the ‘other’ or with normally marginalised or ‘minority’ peoples, shows like Lost Girl particularly for lesbian and bisexual female inclusiveness, and even more recent shows like Orphan Black with its sexually diverse characters and its normalising of pan and omni sexuality as well as gay and bisexuality: very satisfying when it comes to that sort of content, let alone that it is well crafted and has intriguing plot lines.
On on the topic of Gail Simone, even though she has left writing Bat Girl now, she has left a great legacy with her introduction of one of the first transgender characters in a mainstream comic franchise: well done to her, she is a fantastic advocate for LGBTIQ rights.
3. Since you started doing Sci-fi & Squeam on Joy 94.9, have you noticed any themes or changes in the material that’s been coming your way?
Yes, since beginning Sci-fi and Squeam in 2009, one of the biggest shifts I have seen and that has affected the show and its content more and more, is the growing influence and strength of women in genre, in particular horror film making, and the visibility of transgender characters in genre, and this also becoming apparent in the guests on the show and the fantastic ongoing contributors to the show’s content as well.
Video games and the changes in that community have been more influential in the last year or so, and that is generally due to the inclusion and the debate around inclusiveness of LGBTIQ characters in games.
It is certainly a wonderful time to be doing the show as more and more positive things are happening in genre for the LGBTIQ communities. Definitely more visibility!
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Well, it would have to be in comics, Aussie comics! Australian comics is another growth area in genre that I have watched go through so many changes, and the work and quality of it is terrific. I am most impressed by Home Brew Vampire Bullets – an anthology of comic artists and writers done here in Melbourne. Ambitious, adventurous and daring and … very Aussie.
Here is the link to PODCAST with the man who put it all together, Garth Jones: Home Brew Vampire Bullets
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
I think more and more artists, creatives and comic artists especially, are self-publishing their works, and online publishing is also growing faster too; micro-publishing is the future and independent publishers are being recognised for their ingenuity, hard work and talents, which is awesome! Gestalt Comics are one of the success stories of what can happen to a micro-publishing house, and an Aussie one at that! This is a good move, as the creative can have more control over their work and there is also more variety for the collector/reader. I hope to publish a comic too one of these days, based loosely on the show, and it will include the experiences of a queer zombie unicorn going to its first pop culture convention and … and just what happens next? Well, we will have to wait and see!!