Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary Worlds
A show about sci-fi fantasy genres - how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief.
Rod Serling’s Key of Imagination
Apr 17 • 35 min
Rod Serling’s voice is still speaking to us well beyond The Twilight Zone.
The Hero’s Journey Endgame
Apr 3 • 32 min
The Hero’s Journey has dominated sci-fi fantasy storytelling for over 40 years. Have the storytelling formula reached a saturation point?
Slaughterhouse at Fifty
Mar 20 • 30 min
Kurt Vonnegut had a unique way of processing his wartime trauma — he used science fiction. But why did the aliens in Slaughterhouse Five look like green toilet plungers with hands instead of heads? We explore that and much more on the book’s 50th…
Tales of Margaret Brundage
Mar 6 • 26 min
How a pioneering pulp fiction magazine illustrator reimagined women for fantasy and horror genres.
The Man Behind the Sword
Feb 20 • 29 min
Few people know the rich history behind Conan the Barbarian, and his creator Robert E. Howard.
The Power of the Makeover Mage
Feb 6 • 29 min
Video games can give you the option of customizing the look of your character — and even change their gender. For many transgender players, that option played a significant role in their lives.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Jan 23 • 31 min
How much control do we really want over the characters we play in video games?
Reimagining the Gods
Jan 9 • 31 min
In Madeline Miller’s critically acclaimed novels The Song of Achilles and Circe, she reimagines Homer’s classic tales of gods, monsters and mortals from the point of view of minor characters in the original texts.
A Visit by Three Ghosts
Dec 24, 2018 • 23 min
In a special stocking stuffer of an episode, Stephanie Billman and I discuss why A Christmas Carol set the template for SF stories to come — from Back to the Future to X=Men. Plus, we have a special announcement about the future of Imaginary Worlds! Learn…
Board Games Go Indie
Dec 12, 2018 • 26 min
We all grow up playing board games and card games, and now those games are growing up as well. I check out BostonFIG (festival of independent games), where a new generation of indie board game designers is reimagining what we can do with dice, cards and…
How I Won the Larp
Nov 28, 2018 • 39 min
In my 2017 episode Winning the Larp, I looked at the history of larps (live action role plays) and how the larping experience is deeply personal for each of the players. But I hadn’t done any larps myself. So this year, I delved deep into larping, where I…
Alternate Movie Posters
Nov 14, 2018 • 26 min
Long ago, before we found out about new movies from tweets about teaser trailers that advertised full-length trailers – the first glimpse of a new movie would be the poster. Movie posters used to be hand-drawn illustrations, and many of them became…
Faith in Fantasy
Oct 31, 2018 • 30 min
Science fiction has not always been compatible with religion — in fact many futuristic settings imagine no religion at all. But sci-fi and fantasy have long fascinated people of different faiths because the genres wrestle with the big questions of life. I…
Imaginary Deaths
Jul 11, 2018 • 28 min
Have you ever mourned the loss of a fictional character? It can be tough to get over, and difficult to convince people not caught up in that fictional world that your sense of mourning is valid. I talk with Tim Burke, Dawn Fancher, Maria Clara Santarosa,…
Doctor Who?
Jan 24, 2018 • 33 min
We don’t know his real name. We don’t know who he was before he stole the TARDIS — a spaceship/time machine that looks like a police box on the outside, but is really a cavernous ship on the inside. He’s thousands of years old, but wears a different face…
Fan Fiction (Don’t Judge)
Nov 1, 2017 • 28 min
Sci-fi and fantasy have always been a big part of fan fiction, but fan fiction hasn’t always gotten respect in return. My former colleague at WNYC Stephanie Billman guides me through the landscape of fan fiction, debunking many of my preconceptions. We…
The Book of Dune
Jul 12, 2017 • 26 min
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune and its sequels tackled a lot of big themes. The books are about ecology. They’re about journeys of self-realization through mind-altering substances. But religion is at the core of the series, since the main character Paul…
Beyond the Iron Curtain
Mar 22, 2017 • 26 min
Comrades! The USSR pioneered the craft of science fiction long before the decadent West. This is not an opinion - this is a scientific fact. Noted intellectuals Anindita Banerjee, Sibelan Forrester, Asif Siddiqi, Gregory Afinogenov and the author’s father…
28 Days of Black Cosplay
Feb 22, 2017 • 20 min
Cosplay has gotten huge in the age of social media, but when websites feature their ComicCon slides shows, they often don’t reflect the true diversity of the fans. So black Cosplayers created their own hashtag #28DaysofBlackCosplay (although it was…
The Year Without a Summer
Jun 15, 2016 • 17 min
June 16, 2016 is the 200th anniversary of the night Mary Shelley began to write, “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.” Scholars have long speculated what Frankenstein can tell us about scientific hubris or “playing God.” But Professors Gillen D’Arcy…
Rolling the Twenty Sided Dice
Sep 22, 2015 • 31 min
SEASON 2 PREMIERE: I spent the last two months learning how to play Dungeons & Dragons. That’s right, I never played as a kid. But I’ve been reading so many interviews with interesting creative people who credit D&D with their success, I kept wondering…
The Mysterious James Tiptree
Mar 11, 2015 • 24 min
Science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr. wouldn’t talk on the phone or appear in person. He developed friendships with contemporaries like Ursula le Guin and Philip K. Dick purely through letters. And he became a mentor to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro when she…
Origin Stories
Sep 10, 2014 • 15 min
What makes a good origin story? University of Oregon professor Benjamin Saunders explains how retelling origin stories is a way of returning to childhood wonder. The best origin stories are not a one shot deal, they transform characters like Spider-Man or…
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May 25, 1977 • 1 min