Atlanta podcast Hugo Girl! nominated for a Hugo Award of their own

The team behind the Atlanta-based podcast Hugo, Girl! (Holly Symolon)

If you’re a science fiction fan, you’ve most likely heard of the Hugo Awards dating back to the early 1950s. The awards are presented in connection with the World Science Fiction Convention, and winners are declared in various categories, including Best Science Fiction Novel, Best Comic, Best Series, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast (as in podcast). Hugo, Girl!, an Atlanta-based fancast, is one of this year’s nominees, and ahead of their trip to the awards ceremony, Hugo Girl podcasting team Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, and Lori and Kevin Anderson joined “City Lights” producer Kim Drobes for a conversation via Zoom. 

Interview highlights:

A funny, feminist look into the sci-fi world and its pitfalls: 

“We frequently see, I would say, two main things,” said Lori Anderson. “Number one is a complete absence of women in early and not even so early, even what we would consider relatively recent works of science fiction. Maybe there’s one female character; she’s a girlfriend, a sidekick, just almost kind of a blank, or someone for the hero of the story to sort of play off of. Or, in many cases, we just don’t see any women at all. They might be mentioned as part of the background, but there are actually no female characters or female characters that don’t have any sort of speaking role.”

A “fantasy apologist” and a fantasy/true crime crossover:

“Well, I think of everybody in the group; I’m probably the most into swords-and-sorcery fantasy. I think this podcast mostly started out as an appreciation for sci-fi, but as we have taught Haley with her love for ‘Star Wars,’ even science fiction can be fantasy, and so I think I’m slowly winning everybody over,” said Salley.

“We really wanted to get Haley some exposure to ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and this was definitely when true crime was certainly super popular. Amy and I both listened to true crime podcasts, and Haley had the very funny idea to say ‘My Favorite Mordor,’ as kind of a pun on the popular true-crime podcast ‘My Favorite Murder.’ And running with that, we decided to look at ‘Lord of the Rings’ from a true-crime lens, and so we did our podcast in the style of a true-crime podcast,” explained Lori Anderson. “We characterized it as a famous jewelry heist that had permeated the popular imagination, and we did the whole episode in character as true crime podcasters.”

“Misogynist Moments,” “Feminist Favorites” and other segments:

“My favorite segment is ‘Boob Talk,’ and I hope I can say that on NPR,” said Salley. “One of the things that we talk about a lot in our podcast is how the male gaze factors into what’s happening in the book. So if there are books that have female characters, are we evaluating them on their looks before we learn anything about them as a character? As we go along in the book, is a lot of emphasis put on their bodies? Is it appropriate? Is it not? So that’s all covered in our ‘Boob Talk’ segment, and I think that is, frankly, where we shine.”

“I love ‘Is it ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Lord the Rings?’” said Zapal. “We’ve kind of turned it into our own little mini legal case. For me personally, if I don’t like a book, I’ll try to make it into ‘Lord of the Rings’ even if it’s not like ‘Lord of the Rings’ just because I don’t like ‘Lord of the Rings.’  But we’ll have objections. We’ll have cross-examinations of each other. The most recent episode we did was on ‘The Terror,’ which is a supernatural horror book based on the Franklin expedition, and I decided that it was ‘Star Wars’ because it’s in the snowy Arctic, so I was like, ‘Well, this is obviously Hoth from ‘Empire Strikes Back.’ There’s a monster that’s like a wampa. But there were other arguments to be made.”

“Hugo Girl” is available for streaming at and Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and other major podcast platforms.