Some listeners are so psyched about 7th Son that they volunteer their time and talents to spread the word. Hutchins has dubbed 185 fans agents of his ¨Ministry of Propaganda¨ because their plugs infiltrate blogs, e-mail inboxes, and MySpace pages. The true fanatics are members of the ¨Beta Clone Army.¨ More than 40 have sent Hutchins pictures of themselves sporting T-shirts they purchased from the official 7th Son store at GeekLabel.com. There´s Robin riding the metro in Seoul, Andy Dudley hoisting a pint from a U.K. pub, and Jocelyn on a Hong Kong balcony.
Martin Parrot, a 49-year-old technology buff from Dallas, is an extreme example of a 7th Son cyber fan turned collaborator. After hearing his first 7th Son podcast, Parrot decided that very night to make a screensaver for the author. ¨The creative juices just started flowing,¨ Parrot says. ¨I decided to do a mock-up of the 7th Son logo as a thank you to J.C. for such an enjoyable podcast.¨
Hutchins encouraged Parrot to do more. After a segment in which the clones meet the machine that spawned them, Parrot began a three-dimensional model of the birthing room, dubbed ¨The Womb.¨ In that rendering, green globes are suspended in air, grasped tightly by metal claws.
He has since designed graphics of 12 rooms inside 7th Son´s hive-like government bunker, spending at least 40 hours on each model. Parrot estimates he´s dedicated the equivalent of 20 days, free of charge, to bring Hutchins´ visions to life. The two have never met.
Dozens of other listeners have drawn inspiration from 7th Son for artwork, screensavers, essays, and short fiction.
At dark moments, Hutchins can always find encouragement in the break his friend and fellow podcaster Scott Sigler caught this year: a three-book deal with Random House imprint Crown Publishers. The deal is reportedly worth $500,000 (Sigler declined to confirm those reports).
Sigler, 37, set out to write his first science-fiction novel 15 years ago, but like Hutchins, he fell flat on his face. ¨Both of us knew that if we could just get it out there, people would like it,¨ Sigler says by phone from San Francisco.
Listeners are generally excited not just about the content of the podcast books but also about getting to know the person behind it. Sigler remembers that his favorite writer, Stephen King, never responded to any of his three fan letters. But podcast fans feel like they´re part of the process, even offering tips on plot and characters. ¨These people [the fans] become evangelists for the printed work,¨ Sigler says, ¨and some even buy multiple copies.¨
Sigler´s still in a mad dash to eke all the momentum he can out of podcasting before countless aspiring and established writers realize its marketing potential.
¨There´s a very narrow window of opportunity,¨ he says. ¨All the big publishers are going to try to flood this great little medium we´ve found and whore it out. We can sleep later.¨
Hutchins and Sigler joke that they´ll print T-shirts with their surnames on the front and on the back these words: ¨Sleep Is for Pussies.¨ ¨We´re joined at the hip in many ways, but he´s getting ready to take off,¨ Sigler predicts. ¨Within three to five years, he´s going to have a big book deal.¨ Literary agent Kristin Lindstrom hadn´t even heard of podcasting when an envelope with the first few chapters of 7th Son arrived at her house in Virginia in March. After reading a few pages, she was hooked on the story line. Hutchins had finally found an agent. ¨I think Chris has what it takes to make it,¨ Lindstrom says. ¨It´s his attitude -- he´s willing to try anything new.¨
Lindstrom has represented many people with fine books that never sell. ¨Everybody has a story,¨ Lindstrom says, ¨but not everybody gets to tell it.¨