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Imaginary Worlds

Eric Molinsky

Society & Culture, Arts, Tv & Film, Fiction, Science Fiction

4.82.1K Ratings

Overview

Imaginary Worlds sounds like what would happen if NPR went to ComicCon and decided that’s all they ever wanted to cover. Host Eric Molinsky spent over a decade working as a public radio reporter and producer, and he uses those skills to create thoughtful, sound-rich episodes about science fiction, fantasy, and other genres of speculative fiction. Every other week, he talks with comic book artists, game designers, novelists, screenwriters, filmmakers, and fans about how they craft their worlds, why we suspend our disbelief, and what happens if the spell is broken. Imaginary worlds may be set on distant planets or parallel dimensions, but they are crafted here on Earth, and they’re always about us and our lived experiences.

255 Episodes

Books Under Fire

Book banning is hitting libraries across America, and many of the titles being banned or challenged are fantasy books or graphic novels – especially LGBTQ content. Malinda Lo has been tracking how her work is being targeted, like her novel Ash which is a queer reimagining of Cinderella. I talk with Malinda about how she’s been tracking the attacks on her work and fighting back. Plus, we hear a version of my 2018 episode Fahrenheit 451 Still Burns featuring Neil Gaiman, whose work is currently banned in several states. Go to incogni.com/imaginary and use the code IMAGINARY to get an exclusive 60% off an annual Incogni plan. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 5 June 2024

The George Lucas Talk Show

Did you know that in retirement, George Lucas decided to host a live talk show with his sidekick Watto? That’s the conceit of The George Lucas Talk Show starring Connor Ratliff (from the podcast Dead Eyes) as Lucas, and Griffin Newman (from The Tick) playing the alien character Watto. They’ve had famous guests on the show, including people who know Lucas in real life. The guests have to pretend that Connor is George. Over the past 10 years, the show had grown into a cult phenomenon to the point where there’s now a documentary about it called, I’m “George Lucas”: A Connor Ratliff Story. Connor and I talk about why he’s fascinated with what defines success or failure, and how it’s become a theme in his work. We also discuss his new podcast Tiny Dinos, which is like a combination of Jurassic Park and The Tonight Show on a micro-scale. This episode is sponsored by TodayTix, Incogni and Henson Shaving. Go to TodayTix.com/imaginary and use the promo code IMAGINARY to get $20 off your first Today Tix purchase. Go to incogni.com/imaginary and use the code IMAGINARY to get an exclusive 60% off an annual Incogni plan. Visit www.hensonshaving.com/imaginary to pick a razor and the use code IMAGINARY to get two years' worth of blades free with your razor – just make sure to add them to your cart. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 22 May 2024

How Nintendo Leveled Up

Over the past 40 years, Shigeru Miyamoto has been inventing the modern video game one pixel at a time. From Donkey Kong to Super Mario Bros to The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto turned wonder and exploration into game mechanics, and incorporated his personal experiences into his games. I talk with Illinois Institute of Technology dean Jennifer deWinter and Oakland University professor Sam Srauy about how Miyamoto changed Nintendo, and where his influence can be seen in big budget and indie video games today. Get up to 60% off at Babbel.com/IMAGINARY Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 8 May 2024

You Are Lone Wolf: A Father/Son Quest

When Joe Dever died in 2016, he hadn’t written the last several books in his Lone Wolf series. The Lone Wolf books take place in a deeply rich fantasy universe, and they’re written as a combination of choose-your-own-adventure stories and role playing games like D&D. Joe’s final wish was that his son Ben would finish the series for him. However, Ben was unfamiliar with his father’s books, and the legions of Lone Wolf fans he would have to please. I talked with Ben Devere (who spells his last name differently) about the creative, practical, and personal struggles he went through as a writer, and how he was able to get to know his late father by immersing himself in his father’s fantasy world. Jonathan Stark, co-host of the official Lone Wolf podcast Journeys Through Magnamund, explains why Lone Wolf means so much to fans like him, and how he ended up fulfilling his own dreams of writing a Lone Wolf book. Today's episode is sponsored by Henson Shaving, Magic Spoon and Miracle Made. Visit www.hensonshaving.com/imaginary and use the code IMAGINARY to get two years' worth of blades free with your razor – just make sure to add them to your cart. Get your next delicious bowl of high-protein cereal at www.magicspoon.com/imaginary and use the code IMAGINARY to save five dollars off. Go to www.trymiracle.com/imaginary and use the code IMAGINARY to claim your free 3 piece towel set and save over 40% off. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 24 April 2024

African Sci-Fi Looks to a Future Climate

When the writer Nnedi Okorafor coined the term Africanfuturism, she wanted to distinguish sci-fi written about Africa from Afrofuturism, which is focuses on the experiences of Black people in the diaspora. Africanfuturism mixes the traditional with the futuristic in a way that resembles modern life in Africa, and many of these stories grapple with climate change. Although the writer Chinelo Onwualu says cli-fi isn’t a subgenre for African writers. It’s often baked into a lot of Africanfuturism because the continent is already at the forefront of climate emergencies. And the writers Suyi Davies Okungbowa and Wole Talabi explain that Africanfuturist cli-fi isn’t as dystopian as Western cli-fi. These visions of the future may feel daunting but there is often a sense of hope and the solutions are more community focused. The actress Nneka Okoye reads from their stories, and other works by African writers. This episode is sponsored by Babbel, Surf Shark and Magic Spoon Get up to 60% off at Babbel.com/IMAGINARY Get Surfshark VPN at Surfshark.deals/IMAGINARY Go to MagicSpoon.com/IMAGINARY and use the code IMAGINARY to save five dollars off Reading list from this episode: Works of Nnedi Okorafor Wole Talabi’s anthology Convergence Problems Suyi Davies Okungbo’s novella Lost Ark Dreaming Chinelo Onwualu’s short story Letters to My Mother Dilman Dila’s story The Leafy Man from the book A Killing in the Sun Mame Bougouma’s story Lekki Lekki from Africanfuturism: An Anthology Omenana Magazine Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 10 April 2024

When All Is Said in Dune

Back in 2018, I interviewed language creator David J. Peterson about how he invented Dothraki for Game of Thrones and other fictional languages in fantasy worlds. David and his wife Jessie just finished a huge project – developing the Fremen language for Dune: Part Two. I talk with the couple about their creative process and the challenge of imagining simple English phrases in the Chakobsa language that Frank Herbert imagined in his Dune novels. We also hear my 2018 episode, “Do You Speak Conlang?” where I also talked with Marc Okrand, inventor of the Klingon language, and Robyn Stewart, a language consultant for Star Trek: Discovery. Plus, Jen Usellis -- a.k.a. Klingon Pop Warrior -- will give you a serious case of earworms (not the kind from Wrath of Khan.) For more episodes about Dune, check out my 2017 episode The Book of Dune, where I talked with Muslim fans of the series about the way Frank Herbert incorporated aspects of Islam into the books. And in 2021, I did an episode called The Ecology of Dune where I looked at the environmental messages in the books and whether Frank Herbert’s environmental sensibilities still hold up today. This episode is sponsored by Surfshark and Magic Spoon. Get Surfshark VPN at Surfshark.deals/imaginary and enter the promo code IMAGINARY for three extra months for free. Get a custom bundle of Magic Spoon cereal at magicspoon.com/imaginary. Enter the promo code IMAGINARY at checkout to save five dollars off. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 27 March 2024

Mother-in-Law of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is deeply ingrained into our culture. While many people can practically recite the 1939 movie, the original source material isn’t as well known. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was published in 1900. There are a lot of theories as to what inspired Baum – but the answer may be who rather than what. Baum’s mother-in-law Matilda Joslyn Gage was a groundbreaking writer and activist who could’ve been in every high school history textbook if she hadn’t had a falling out with the leaders of the suffrage movement. But her ideas live on in The Land of Oz. I talk with historian Sally Roesch Wagner and UNC-Charlotte professor Dina Massachi about the politics of gender in Gage’s works and Baum’s stories. And I talk with therapist Dr. Gita Dorothy Morena who has a very personal connection to the books. Go to https://hensonshaving.com and enter IMAGINARY at checkout to get 100 free blades with your purchase. Remember to add both the 100-blade pack and the razor for the discount to apply. Try Surfshark risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Get Surfshark VPN at Surfshark.deals/imaginary. Enter the promo code IMAGINARY for three extra months for free! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 13 March 2024

Bonus: Turtles and Toys Outtakes

In the previous episode, I interviewed documentary filmmaker Isaac Elliot-Fisher about He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Isaac had so many great anecdotes about the history of those franchises that I couldn’t fit in. In this bonus episode of outtakes, Isaac explains the history of the term toyetic, the haphazard way He-Man came together, and why the 1990 live action TMNT film was so much darker than the cartoon show. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 6 March 2024

Class of '84: Turtles, Transformers and Toys Takeover TV

In the final episode of our mini-series Class of '84, we look at two iconic franchises that launched in 1984: Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They came from opposite ends of the business spectrum. Transformers was a top-down marketing synergy between American and Japanese toy companies along with Marvel Comics to compete against He-Man -- another TV toy behemoth. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would eventually rival them in cultural dominance, but it began with two indie comic book creators making a black and white comic as a lark. But Turtles and Transformers both ended up wrestling with similar questions around what happens when you put the cart before the horse in creating content to sell products. Documentary filmmaker Isaac Elliot-Fisher and Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago talk about the incredible rags to riches story of the Turtles creators, and how success changed them. And I talk with Bob Budiansky, who created many of the original Transformers characters for Hasbro and Marvel Comics. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 28 February 2024

Class of '84: When Cyber Was Punk

In the second episode of our mini-series on groundbreaking works from 1984, we jack into the system and upload our minds into Neuromancer. William Gibson’s novel became a seminal work of cyberpunk, where he introduced words like “cyberspace” and storylines that would become tropes of the genre. Sci-fi writer Eileen Gunn, and professors Sherryl Vint of UC Riverside and Hugh O’Connell of UMass Boston discuss how Neuromancer not only predicted the future of technology with surprising accuracy, but it also imagined the way that high tech would help fuel a new type of hyper capitalism. I also talk with Chris Miller aka Silver Spook, creator of the game Neofeud, and Gareth Damian Martin, creator of the game Citizen Sleeper, about how they used indie games to bring cyberpunk back to its roots in Neuromancer. Also, Lincoln Michel discusses why in his novel The Body Scout, he wanted to bring cyberpunk out of cyberspace. Featuring readings by actor Varick Boyd. This week’s episode is sponsored by Ship Station, Henson Shaving and Babbel. Use the promo code “imaginary” at shipstation.com to sign up for a free 60-day trial. Visit hensonshaving.com/imaginary to pick the razor for you and use the code “imaginary” to get two years' worth of free blades. Get 50% off at Babbel.com/imaginary. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 14 February 2024

Bonus: Rise of The Villains Outtakes

When I interviewed special effects artist Shannon Shea about The Terminator and other villains of ’84, we also discussed his experiences working on Terminator 2. He tells me about the many life-sized puppets of Arnold Schwarzenegger they built and how the industry has changed in the last 40 years. We also hear an outtake from my conversation with Neill Gorton about why the industry is moving away from depicting villains with scars and disabilities. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 7 February 2024

Class of '84: Rise of The Villains

This year marks the 40th anniversary of a lot of landmarks in pop culture, especially sci-fi and fantasy. So many franchises were born in 1984. Some came to define their genre or invent new genres. In this three-part mini-series, we look at how The Class of ’84 made their mark on the world. First up: the bad guys. 1984 was a great year for villains from The Terminator to Freddy Krueger to Gremlins and Ghostbusters. I talk with make-up and creature designers Neill Gorton and Shannon Shea (who worked on Terminator and Nightmare On Elm Street sequels) about why the '80s was a golden age of monsters. Criminal psychology professor Yannie ten Brooke analyzes the ’84 villains and why they scared us. And I talk with pastor and podcaster JR Forasteros about why they don’t make villains like they used to – for better and for worse. You can also find Shannon at Two Chez on Etsy. Today’s episode is sponsored by Magic Spoon and Green Chef. Go to magicspoon.com/imaginary to grab a variety pack and be sure to use our promo code IMAGINARY at checkout to save five dollars off your order. Go to greenchef.com/60imaginary and use the code 60imaginary to get 60% off, plus 20% off your next two months. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 31 January 2024

Making Blue Eye Samurai

I was blown away by the Netflix animated series Blue Eye Samurai. I’m not alone, it has 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the supervising director and producer of the show, Jane Wu, began her career as an animation storyboard artist. In fact, we were working at different animation studios at the same time in L.A. We talk about why she took a live action approach to planning animated sequences in Blue Eye Samurai, and how she wanted to represent Japanese culture in a way that’s never been done in Western animation. Jane also discusses how her background in martial arts and how her personal history helped her understand the main character Mizu, a woman with dual identities on a quest for revenge 17th century Japan. Use the promo code IMAGINARY at shipstation.com to sign up for your free 30-day trial. Go to hensonshaving.com and enter IMAGINARY at checkout to get 100 free blades with your purchase. (Note: you must add both the 100-blade pack and the razor for the discount to apply.) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 17 January 2024

Prologue to Ursula K. le Guin

In the 1960s, Ursula K. le Guin represented a changing of the guard in science fiction literature. She was part of a generation of novelists who questioned the colonist mindset which had influenced American sci-fi for most of the 20th century. Le Guin came to this understanding not just as a moral stance or an intellectual exercise. Issues of racism and colonialism were personal to her. This episode, originally titled “The Word For Man Is Ishi,” comes from the podcast The Last Archive from Pushkin Industries hosted by Jill Lepore and Ben Naddaff-Hafrey. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 3 January 2024

@ChristmasCarol: A Holiday Tale

This week's episode is an original audio drama. In previous episodes, I’ve interviewed Captain Hook, vampires, colonists on the moon, and H.P. Lovecraft’s brain in a jar -- or at least actors playing those characters. Now I’ve expanded my roster of fictional interviews to include iconic characters from Christmas tales. In this 21st century holiday tale, I am visited by supernatural entities who warn me that humanity is in danger because we no longer believe they’re real. Featuring performances from Torian Brackett, Alexandra Reed and Bill Lobley. Get 55% off a Babbel subscription at www.babbel.com/imaginary To claim your free 3 piece towel set and save over 40% off Miracle Made sheets go to www.trymiracle.com/imaginary and use the code "imaginary." Give one annual membership of MasterClass and get one free at www.masterclass.com/imagine Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 20 December 2023

Doctor Who's Power of Regeneration

In honor of Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary, I’ve rewritten my 2018 episode about Doctor Who with updates on how the series has evolved, and new insights I’ve had about Doctor Who since I made this episode -- and since The Doctor has become one of my personal favorite characters. Media critic Emmet Asher-Perrin explains how the history of The Doctor’s regenerations over 60 years is a story about an alien being who is striving to be better but keeps overshooting the mark. I talk with Emmet’s partner Sylas K. Barrett and comedian Riley Silverman about how The Doctor’s gender transitions have been an apt metaphor for the transgender experience. Also, Nick Randall of the BBC and SNS Online, historian Robin Bunce, and playwright Mac Rogers talk about the show’s significance culturally, and what it means to them as fans. Get two memberships for the price of one at MasterClass.com/Imagine. Go to ShipStation.com and use the code "Imaginary" to sign up for a free 60-day trial. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 6 December 2023

How One Piece Became King of the Backstories

One Piece is one of the biggest franchises in the world. The manga and anime have broken records in sales and viewership. The live action adaptation on Netflix was a hit. And the series holds a special place among fans who feel like they’re part of the Straw Hat pirate crew. But it may be the tragic backstories of the characters which tie it all together. I talk with co-host of the One Piece podcast Shannon Strucci, YouTuber Jordan Silva, artist Steve Yurko and Crunchyroll writer Daniel Dockery about how One Piece’s creator Eiichiro Oda is able to combine zany humor with emotional gut punches, and why so many fans identify with aspects of the characters’ backstories, even when the storylines are completely fantastical. Go to www.TryMiracle.com/imaginary to save over 40%. And use the code “imaginary” at checkout to get 3 free towels and save an extra 20% Get 55% off at www.Babbel.com/imaginary Go to www.HelloFresh.com/imaginaryfree and use the code “imaginaryfree” for free breakfast for life Give One Annual Membership and Get One Free at www.MasterClass.com/imagine Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 22 November 2023

Bonus: Norse Myths Outtakes

My guests from the previous episode, Carolyne Larrington and Ada Palmer, had so many interesting things to say about Norse mythology and how much of it is still a mystery to us, I decided to compile sections of their interviews in this bonus episode of outtakes. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 16 November 2023

Seeing Ourselves in Norse Myths

Thor and Loki have become pop culture icons thanks to Marvel. But the influence of Norse mythology on contemporary fantasy runs through Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and so much more. University of Chicago professor and author Ada Palmer explains how people misunderstood Norse mythology for centuries, and why it’s so hard to capture the mindset of the Vikings in pop culture. And I talk with University of Oxford professor Carolyne Larrington, author of The Norse Myths That Shape the Way We Think, about how a light Marvel movie and a grimdark fantasy film like The Northman each capture aspects of the mythology in their own ways. Ada Palmer's a capella album is Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarök by Sassafrass. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 8 November 2023

Creating Hindu Fantasy Worlds

Kritika H. Rao, Shveta Thakrar, Roshani Chokshi, and Ram V are helping to create a new genre. They use elements of their Hindu backgrounds to write fantasy books primarily aimed at a Western marketplace. I talked with them about the challenge of drawing on a diverse religion of beliefs and gods that many Western readers and publishers might be unfamiliar with. Our panel discussion also turned out to be an opportunity for the authors to bond over their favorite deities, the Hindu comics they grew up reading, and the questions they’ve faced about who gets to tell their stories. Roshani Chokshi writes the middle-grade series, Aru Shah, and she’s the author of The Star-Touched Queen trilogy of YA novels. Kritika H. Rao is the author of The Surviving Sky, which will be part of The Rages Trilogy. Shveta Thakrar is the author of Star Daughter and The Dream Runners. Ram V is a comic book writer, and the author of the graphic novel, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Today's episode is brought to you by HelloFresh. Go to HelloFresh.com/50imaginary and use code 50imaginary for 50% off plus free shipping. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 25 October 2023

Haunted Housing Market

We all know the scenario. A nice young family moves into a new house. It’s haunted by an evil spirit. Mayhem ensues. These movies have been reliable box office hits for decades, but they might also be telling us something about the real anxieties of home ownership. I talk with Alexandra West, co-host of the podcast Faculty of Horror, and Dahlia Schweitzer, author of Haunted Homes, about how the history of the American suburbs made their mark on movies like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist. George R. Olson, showrunner of the Syfy series SurrealEstate, discusses why the heroes of his show are ghost whispering real estate agents. And realtor Cindi Hagley explains how she became an expert in selling stigmatized properties with haunted pasts. Also check out the Faculty of Horror episode House Warning. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 11 October 2023

Making the Sounds of Make-Believe

John Roesch is a legend in the field of foley sound effects. He mastered the art of creating bespoke sound effects using props or just his body on films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Back to the Future, Frozen, Toy Story, The Matrix, The Dark Knight, Inception, and much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And John was at the forefront of a revolution in foley sound effects starting with his work on classic Lucas and Spielberg films. We talk about the art of acting with props, the challenge of building upon sounds in an established universe like Star Wars, how they found the sound of Thor’s hammer, the grind of playing Batman’s body double in a video game, and the famous sci-fi film he wished he had worked on. Today's episode is brought to you by HelloFresh. Go to HelloFresh.com/50imaginary and use the code 50imaginary for 50% off plus 15% off the next 2 months. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 27 September 2023

The Nine Lives of Red Dwarf

35 years ago, Doug Naylor co-created a sitcom called Red Dwarf about the last human left alive in the far future. But the character is not alone. The rest of the crew aboard the ship Red Dwarf includes an annoying hologram, a very helpful android, a very unhelpful A.I. and a cat-person with a great sense of style. The show was considered a huge gamble back then. Sci-fi and comedy were not supposed to mix. But Red Dwarf was a hit – and Doug Naylor has continued to revive the show over and over due to popular demand. I talked with him about why this existential comedy works so well, and how it continues to inspire him to create “emotion bombs.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 13 September 2023

Have You Watched....?

The writers’ and actors’ strikes have disrupted the pipeline of new shows and movies. We’re going to run out of new stuff to watch soon. Our listeners can help with that. They want you know about their favorite unsung gems of sci-fi and fantasy. Some of them were cult hits. Others underperformed at the box office or in the ratings. Maybe it’s time to give them a chance. In this episode, we hear about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Odyssey 5, Spaced, Erik the Viking, John Carter, Centaurworld and Wendell & Wild. Our guests also recommend The 13th Warrior, Jerimiah, Babylon 5, and the Syfy mini-series Alice. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 30 August 2023

Ghosted by TV Shows

We’ve all had this experience. We get hooked on a show. We fall in love with the characters. We can’t stop thinking about them in between episodes. Then it gets cancelled or rushed to conclusion. When that happens to a show, it can feel like a relationship has abruptly ended – and a lot of them have ended in recent years. The streaming boom has gone bust. A lot of streaming services invested in sci-fi fantasy shows, hoping the for next Game of Thrones or Stranger Things. So, this wave of cancellations has hit SFF fans hard. We asked our listeners to tell us about the cancellations that broke their hearts in the recent or distant past, and how they’re trying to make sense of unresolved endings. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 17 August 2023

Extreme Makeover: Fairy Godmother Edition

Who wouldn’t want a fairy godmother to solve our problems with the flick of a magic wand? We know that’s not a healthy fantasy and yet, fairy godmothers aren’t going away. In fact, they’ve been proliferating in contemporary fantasy novels and reinterpretations of Cinderella. But they don’t look or act like you might expect. I talk with Butler University lecturer Jeana Jorgensen and PhD student Abigail Fine about the origin of fairy godmothers and why they’re ripe for reimagining. And I talk with author Gail Caron Levine about her groundbreaking novel Ella Enchanted, which broke the mold on fairy tales. Featuring readings from Aliza Pearl. Jeana Jorgensen's latest book is Fairy Tales 101: An Accessible Introduction to Fairy Tales. In this episode we discussed Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron and Kissing the Witch by Emma Donahue. Other contemporary novels with fairy godmother-type characters include Geekerella by Ashley Poston, Shadows on The Moon by Zoe Marriott, Ash by Malinda Lo, Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas, and Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 2 August 2023

How to Go to Infinity and Beyond

These ships feel like old friends – The Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon, Battlestar Galactica, Serenity, The Rosinante. But would any of them actually work in space? I talk with NASA astrophysicist Jessie Christiansen, JPL planetary scientist Kevin Hand and Boeing engineer Eric Primm talk about how we would get to the stars, what those ships would actually look like, why the Millennium Falcon probably couldn’t have made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, and whether the X-Wing fighter should be a drone. This week's episode is sponsored by Express VPN. We’re proud to be featured on Podurama this month. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 19 July 2023

Welcome Our New A.I. Overlords

Science fiction has primed us for this moment when artificial intelligence starts to take on a life of its own. ChatGPT has baffled and surprised even computer scientists in terms of how it works. Now a lot of us are asking, “Which movie are we in?” Is ChatGPT going to be a benign intelligence like Samantha from Her, dangerously neurotic and emotionally unstable like HAL from 2001, or a malevolent force like Skynet from The Terminator series? I talk with Erik Sofge, senior editor at MIT Horizon, about whether any of these scenarios are accurate, or if sci-fi is distracting us from seeing the problems that A.I. could create in our daily lives. We also revisit my 2016 episode The Robot Uprising, where I looked at how our feelings about A.I. and robots are influenced not just by sci-fi but also unresolved historical guilt. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 6 July 2023

Warhammer - The Heavy Metal of Board Games

As the Warhammer franchise reaches its 40th anniversary, the company Games Workshop’s stated goal of “total global domination” is going swimmingly. But there’s one person who hasn’t gotten swept up in the war of miniature game pieces: me. I go to a Warhammer 40K tournament at The Brooklyn Strategist to learn why this tabletop role-playing game is so beloved and addictive. And I talk with game designer and author James Wallis about how a small company in Nottingham captured the zeitgeist of Thatcher-era Britain and infused their game with satire – even if some players missed the joke. James’ latest book is “Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made.” Curious what painted Warhammer miniatures look like? Check out the Instagram accounts for Tabletop Minions, David Nordquist, Vincent Venurella and Louise Sugden. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 21 June 2023

Why The Gothic Keeps Gaslighting Us

One of the hottest literary genres is also one of the oldest. Gothic literature may have thrived in the 19th century (and my high school English class) but a lot of contemporary writers are returning to the tradition, creating stories that reimagine the past or look at the present through a Gothic lens. I talk with Xavier Aldana Reyes of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies about how The Gothic is like a mode or a sensibility that can take over any genre. Kit Mayquist, author of Tripping Arcadia: A Gothic Novel, discusses why The Gothic feels like the right fit for a generation that was gaslit while coming of age during war and a recession. And Leila Taylor, author of Darkly: Black History and America's Gothic Soul, explains that America will always be haunted by its Gothic past until we confront it. Featuring readings by voice actor Tanya Rich. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 7 June 2023

Haunted By Pepper's Ghost

A play by Charles Dickens. The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. A hologram of a famous dead pop singer. They’re all connected by a simple magic trick called Pepper’s Ghost. What’s most remarkable about this illusion is that it hasn’t changed much in over 160 years. I talk with Jim Steinmeyer and Ben Schrader, both designers of theatrical special effects, about why a Victorian magic trick is more popular than ever at modern theme parks and other live entertainment venues. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 24 May 2023

Making The Muppets

When Jim Henson hired Bonnie Erickson to design Muppets in the early 1970s, Bonnie had no idea this experimental project they were working on – a prime time TV show with puppets – would evolve into the cultural phenomenon of The Muppet Show. I talked with Bonnie about how the crew tried several one-off specials where they figured out who the main characters would be, what they’d look like, and what they’d sound like. Bonnie explains how she came up with the designs for Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, Zoot and others. And we talk about one of the biggest challenges in making The Muppets seem believable – where to place the pupils in their eyes. This episode is sponsored by ExpressVPN. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at [email protected] Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 10 May 2023

Miyazaki Imagines an Environment

This summer, Hayao Miyazaki will be releasing his final animated film before retiring. Environmental stewardship has been a consistent theme throughout his work, from My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away to Princess Mononoke. But what exactly has he been saying all this time about our relationship to the natural world? I gather a panel of experts to discuss the worlds that Miyazaki creates, and how his stories tap into current debates around the climate crisis. Featuring Yuan Pan, lecturer on Environmental Management at the University of Reading, and environmental journalists and authors Isaac Yuen and Emma Marris. This episode is sponsored by ExpressVPN and Factor. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at [email protected] Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 26 April 2023

Entering Discworld. Population: Terry Pratchett.

Discworld might be the most popular fantasy series you’ve never heard of. The late Terry Pratchett wrote 41 novels in the Discworld universe. To honor the 75th anniversary of his birth, we look at what fueled his satire, how he put himself into his characters, and why so many Discworld fans find solace and inspiration in his worldview. I talk with Pratchett’s former assistant and biographer Rob Wilkins, dramatist Stephen Briggs who adapted many Discworld novels to the stage, cultural critic Emmet Asher-Perrin and Professor Jacob Held, author of Philosophy and Terry Pratchett. Also featuring readings by Pavel Douglas. This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp and ExpressVPN. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at [email protected] Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 13 April 2023

The Blazing World

Margaret Cavendish was a pioneer of modern science fiction – except she didn’t intend to write science fiction. In the 17th century, Cavendish was a noblewoman who wanted to be taken seriously as a philosopher. In her poetry and her landmark work, The Blazing World, she imagined parallel universes, microscopic cities, human animal hybrids, zombie armies and flying vehicles. I talk with professors Emily Thomas (Durham University), Lisa Walters (University of Queensland), Lisa Sarasohn (Oregon State University), and Lara Dodds (Mississippi State University) about why Cavendish wrote for future generations that she hoped would understand and appreciate her ideas. Featuring readings by Tanya Rich. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at [email protected] Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 30 March 2023

100 Years of Weird Tales

When the March 1923 issue of Weird Tales hit newsstands, many people didn’t know what to make of this new magazine. But 100 years later, Weird Tales has had a huge influence on modern day sci-fi, fantasy and horror. I talk with authors John Locke and Will Murray, former Weird Tales editor Darrell Schweitzer, current Weird Tales editor Jonathan Maberry, and art collector Steve Korshak about how a scrappy publication often on the verge of bankruptcy inspired a cultural revolution. This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp and ExpressVPN. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at [email protected] Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 16 March 2023

Catching the Mind Virus

The town of Ong's Hat in New Jersey may have been the site of a top secret experiment that brought scientists to a parallel world in another dimension. Or it's the subject of a big inside joke and perhaps the first alternate reality game on the Internet. This week’s episode comes from the Slate podcast Decoder Ring, where the host Willa Paskin explores questions that have haunted me for a long time. When a fantasy world and the real world blur together, does it matter if we don’t know the difference? What happens when we suspend our disbelief too much? This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email [email protected]. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 2 March 2023

A Nation Dreams to Survive

As we near the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I check in with the Ukrainian writers I interviewed for my 2022 episode A Nation Dreams of Itself. Maria Galina tells me about the difficulties of trying to create during wartime. Svitlana Taratorina and Volodymyr Arenev talk about why writing isn’t just a form of therapy or escapism, but it’s also a patriotic duty to keep Ukrainian culture alive in a war that’s also being fought in libraries, bookstores and publishing houses. Borys Sydiuk talks about why science fiction is making a comeback over fantasy during the war. And I talk with Max Kidruk, the new breakout star in the Ukrainian sci-fi scene. You can watch Svitlana’s YouTube channel Fantastic Talks at: https://www.youtube.com/@fanttalks Ukrainian Red Cross: https://donate.redcrossredcrescent.org/ua/donate/~my-donation?_cv=1 Mercy Corps: https://www.mercycorps.org/donate/crisis-ukraine-give-now International Medical Corps: https://give.internationalmedicalcorps.org/page/99837/donate/1?ea.tracking.id=DP~UA22~DPHHU2202 Save the Children: https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5751&mfc_pref=T&5751.donation=form1 This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp and Bombas. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email [email protected]. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 16 February 2023

The Human Touch

I’ve been following parallel media stories about visual artists in two different fields. Each story is about artists who create fantastical images, but they’re worried they can no long practice their craft or earn a living. First, a visual effects artist who worked with Marvel explains (as read by the actor Peter Grosz) why Marvel is so dysfunctional, and how the studio may be pushing the effects industry to the brink. Former VFX exec Scott Ross discusses how the system is set up to exploit visual effects companies and pit them against each other. Shifting focus from Hollywood to Silicon Valley. I talk with artist Steven Zapata about why AI image generating programs are an existential threat to artists, especially freelance fantasy illustrators. And Orbit Books creative director Lauren Panepinto explains why she doesn't think AI will be putting her, or the fantasy artists she works with, out of work yet. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email [email protected]. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 2 February 2023

Magic of Nghi Vo

Nghi Vo's novels Siren Queen and The Chosen and the Beautiful have gotten widespread critical acclaim, which was a pleasant surprise to her because she only started expanding beyond short story writing in the last several years. Both novels are set in the same magical early 20th century America where a Hollywood studio or Jay Gatsby’s mansion could be places of treachery and wonder. I talk with Nghi about the inspiration for her main characters, who are both queer Asian American women navigating white spaces with style and attitude. And she explains why in her world, magic is just another form of power. Also featuring readings by the actress Shannon Tyo. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 19 January 2023

The Set Jet Crowds

When a fantasy or sci-fi story is set in a real location, what happens when fans go to that place looking for a glimpse of magic? How do the locals feel about their hometowns turning into fandom destinations? I talk with tour guide Jen Cresswell about why Edinburgh has become a mecca for Harry Potter tours, even though the city is never mentioned in the books. Jelena Šimac is a tour guide in the city of Dubrovnik – a.k.a. King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. She explains how fantasy tourism changed the trajectory of Croatia after years of war and strife. Catherine Farry looks at why the town of Broken Hill has drawn filmmakers to the Australian Outback. And Adrian Bennett tells the story about how he became so enamored with Mad Max, he moved his family 10,000 miles to start a Mad Max Museum in a remote area of The Outback where the post-apocalyptic franchise is filmed. This episode is sponsored by Bombas. Go to www.bombas.com/imaginaryworlds and use the code imaginaryworlds for 20% off your first purchase. s Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 4 January 2023

Octavia Butler Revisited

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Octavia Butler’s birth. There have been commemorations nationwide, and I wanted to join in by replaying my 2016 episode, “The Legacy of Octavia Butler.” I produced that episode early in the history of my podcast, when I was still discovering the world of sci-fi literature. I became obsessed with Butler’s writing – even though at times it can be disturbing. Nisi Shawl, Ayana Jamieson and Cauleen Smith explain how Butler came to tell stories about power imbalances between humans and other worldly beings, and what her work means to them. And we hear actress Aliza Pearl read a passage from Butler’s 1987 novel “Dawn.” This episode is sponsored by Brilliant and D&Tea. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. To get started for free, visit brilliant.org/imaginaryworlds to get 20% off Brilliant's annual premium subscription. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 22 December 2022

Monsters in the Static

In the subgenre of analog horror, there’s something sinister or supernatural lurking in the horizontal lines and vertical holds in those old VHS tapes. Filmmaker Chris LaMartina explains why he wanted his movies WNUF Halloween Special and Out There Halloween Mega Tape to seem like live broadcasts taped off local TV news in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I talk with podcasters Perry Carpenter and Mason Amadeus from the show Digital Folklore about how The Internet became our new campfire to tell spooky stories. Plus, we hear from Alex Hera, director of the documentary The History of Analog Horror, and folk horror lecturer Diane A. Rodgers of Sheffield University about why people born in the digital age want to tell horror stories set in the distant yet familiar era of VCRs. In this episode we also discuss The Mandela Catalog, Local 58, and The Backrooms. This episode is sponsored by Birds of Empire, and Brilliant. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Visit brilliant.org/imaginaryworlds to get 20% off Brilliant's annual premium subscription. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 8 December 2022

True Crime Fairy Tale

Was the tale of Hansel and Gretel inspired by a real crime in German history? It would make for a great story, if it were true. This week’s episode comes from the podcast Cautionary Tales, where host Tim Harford looks at how misinformation can cast a spell on us like a fairy tale, and he connects the dots from The Brothers Grimm to The Coen Brothers. This episode is sponsored by Brilliant and Nord VPN. Visit brilliant.org/imaginaryworlds to get 20% off Brilliant's annual premium subscription. And go to nordvpn.com/imaginaryworlds to get a discount off your NordVPN Plan and one additional month for free. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 24 November 2022

Indigenous Futurisms

From TV and film to novels and video games, the artistic movement of Indigenous Futurisms has been gaining momentum and breaking cultural barriers. I talk with professor and author Grace Dillon, filmmaker Danis Goulet, fiction writer Stephen Graham Jones, and visual artist Virgil Ortiz about what defines a work of indigenous futurism and why telling stories about werewolves, spirits, A.I., and time travelers can be an act of resistance. This episode is sponsored by Mr Ballen Podcast and D&Tea. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 10 November 2022

Songs in the Key of SF

Jeff Russo has composed music for sci-fi fantasy shows like Star Trek Discovery and Picard, The Umbrella Academy, Altered Carbon, For All Mankind, and Lucifer. But he didn’t set out to be known as a composer of SF projects, or even a composer at all. He began as a rock musician, and found he had a knack for writing music for the screen because he understood that music plays a crucial role in grounding unreal stories in the emotions of the characters. We talk about his approaching to scoring and why it’s so challenging to write a theme song. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 27 October 2022

Generation VTube

There is a booming culture of VTubers – people who create content online, but their fans rarely see their real faces or know their names. VTubers use motion-capture technology to appear as animated characters they designed, and many of these characters are otherworldly from robots to aliens to demons. I talk with VTubers named Xinebi Ven, Pandora Arktos, GloopQueen and D-36-5908 Ω (a.k.a. Omega) about the joys and challenges of becoming a VTuber, and whether inhabiting an animated character allows them to be their more fully authentic selves. Xenebi Ven’s YouTube and Twitch streams Pandora’s YouTube and Twitch streams GloopQueen’s YouTube and Twitch streams Omega’s YouTube and Twitch streams Also mentioned in this episode: Ironmouse’s YouTube and Twitch streams Mori Calliope’s YouTube and Twitch streams This episode is sponsored by Aspiration debit card and D&Tea. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 13 October 2022

Befriend The Reaper

One of the most common tropes in fantasy genres is personifying Death – turning this abstract and often terrifying concept into a character that people can interact with. Sometimes Death is portrayed as a Grim Reaper, but Death doesn’t have to be grim. Death can be compassionate, and even funny. And more often in recent years, Death has been depicted as someone with deeply ambivalent feelings about their job. I talk with listeners about their favorite portrayals of Death from Discworld to Sandman to Dead Like Me, and why imagining Death as a character changed the way they felt about death and grief. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. List of media mentioned in this episode: The Sandman comics and Netflix series Dead Like Me Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Critical Role podcast The Seventh Seal Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey Monty Python and The Meaning of Life Personification of Death academic study from 2019 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 28 September 2022

Postcolonial Worlds

The stories we tell about the past can determine the way we understand the present. But what happens when we combine tales of magic and fantasy with some of the most traumatic chapters in history? I talk with novelists P. Djeli Clark, Nisi Shawl, and Zen Cho about how speculative fiction can be a useful tool to reimagine the legacy of colonialism and imperialism. Plus, we hear readings from actress Nneka Okoye. Books mentioned in this episode: A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark Everfair by Nisi Shawl Sorcerer to The Crown by Zen Cho Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R. F. Kuang (author of The Poppy War series) A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine Nisi also recommends: A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar The Dominion of the Fallen series by Aliette de Bodard The works of L Timmel Duchamp and Margaret Killjoy This episode is sponsored by Aspiration Zero credit card. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 14 September 2022

Mentors: Balance of The Force

In part 2 of our mini-series on mentorships, we travel to a galaxy far, far away. Amy Richau (co-author of Star Wars; I am Your Father and other Star Wars-related books) talks about her favorite partnerships between the Jedi and other characters in the Star Wars found family. Blogger Angry Staff Officer explains why the rigid rules for Jedi mentorships may have led to the downfall of the Jedi Council. And Ryan Arey of ScreenCrush says we can see how the rival philosophies of The Jedi and The Sith would play out in the real world on the show Cobra Kai, which imagines the rivalries from The Karate Kid being passed down to the next generation. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Transcribed - Published: 1 September 2022

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