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Imaginary Worlds

Panoply

Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres -- how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. These are the backstories to our stories.

Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres -- how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. These are the backstories to our stories.
More Information

Location:

United States

Networks:

Panoply

Description:

Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres -- how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. These are the backstories to our stories.

Language:

English


Episodes

Living in Space

4/18/2018
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People have fantasized for ages about what it would be like to live in space -- whether it's living on the moon or Mars or on a space station. And if Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos achieve their goals with Space X and Blue Origin, life in space might not be science fiction anymore. I look at two different dreams of living outside the Earth and how close they are to becoming reality, from the impossibly curved space habitats of Gerard K. O'Neill to a city on the moon that might split apart....

Duration:00:32:03

Visions of Philip K. Dick

4/4/2018
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Philip K. Dick is best known for his fiction that have been adapted to movies and TV shows like Blade Runner, Minority Report and Man in the High Castle. He wrote about multiple realities and fantastic worlds beyond the scope of our mundane everyday lives. But he also believed that he experienced one of those alternate realities in the winter of 1974. The problem is, he couldn't figure out which paranormal experience he had. Professor Richard Doyle, author Erik Davis and playwright...

Duration:00:26:24

Stuck in the Uncanny Valley

3/21/2018
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The holy grail for many animators is to create digital humans that can pass for the real thing -- in other words to cross the "uncanny valley." The problem is that the closer they get to realism, the more those almost-real humans repulse us. Blame evolution for that. I talk with Hal Hickel from ILM who brought Peter Cushing to life on Rogue One, Marianne Hayden who worked on games like The Last of Us and Uncharted for Naughty Dog studios, Vladimir Mastilovic from 3Lateral studios who...

Duration:00:27:50

Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin

3/7/2018
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Ursula K. Le Guin was a master storyteller who was best known for her "thought experiments" -- like what if there were a planet in which the inhabitants had no fixed gender? Or what if a man's dreams could alter reality around him? She was also a fearless critic, and a trailblazer. But she wasn't all that comfortable being on camera. That was the first of many challenges facing filmmaker Arwen Curry, who was determined to make a documentary about the author. I talked with Arwen about her...

Duration:00:26:08

Behind the Daleks

2/21/2018
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They may not look scary to you, but the monsters on Doctor Who have scared generations of children to the point where hiding "behind the sofa" has become a meme in the UK. When I first started watching the show, I was baffled by one particular villain -- The Daleks. I didn't understand why they were The Doctor's arch nemesis, or why they were such a cultural phenomenon. After I learned more about their backstory, I began to realize that Doctor Who wouldn't work without them. Featuring...

Duration:00:29:49

Traveling in The TARDIS

2/7/2018
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If The Doctor offered you a spot traveling with him on his spaceship/time machine The TARDIS, would you go? Would you still go if you knew what happened to all his previous companions? For many Doctor Who fans the answer to both questions is unequivocally yes. Traveling in the TARDIS will blow open your knowledge of the universe -- but you'll change in ways you can't begin to predict. In the second of my three-part series on Doctor Who, I look at whether The Doctor's companions are better...

Duration:00:28:48

Doctor Who?

1/24/2018
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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 every few years. He calls himself The Doctor, but Doctor who? In the first of my three-part series, I look at how a restless intergalactic time traveller became a global pop culture icon, and why The Doctor's knack for physical...

Duration:00:33:14

Brain Chemistry

1/10/2018
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For the past year, I've been working with The Truth, an audio drama collective that makes "movies for your ears." In the second story that I wrote with them, a cryogenically-frozen man is revived over a century from now to find himself in a world that's not quite what he expected. How do you forge ahead in a future that considers you a relic? Featuring Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Amy Warren (Boardwalk Empire), Billy Griffin Jr. (Black Mirror) and Ed Herbstman (The Big Sick). Learn more about...

Duration:00:27:25

The Canon Revisited

12/27/2017
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The Last Jedi may be the most controversial film in the Star Wars series. While the movie has been critically acclaimed, many Star Wars fans have argued that the film violated canon in a number of ways, especially how it depicted Luke Skywalker. This week, I revisit my 2014 episode "The Canon," and I have a follow-up conversation with Rabbi Ben Newman about the state of the Star Wars canon. Until now, Ben and I had been on the same page about the new films, but like many fans, we found...

Duration:00:33:34

Politics of The Expanse

12/13/2017
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The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey (the pseudonym for writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) imagine how human beings would colonize our solar system, with human settlements on Mars, the asteroid belt and the moons beyond. But Earth looses control of its vast empire, and the colonies break into warring factions. The books are international best-sellers and the TV adaptation on the Syfy network has been critically acclaimed. Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham and one of the show's producers Mark...

Duration:00:29:09

Robot Collar Jobs

11/29/2017
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Are we prepared for a future where robots are the most sought after employees? Maybe not. Lawmakers will blame anything but automation for job losses and flat wages. However sci-fi writers are up to the challenge. In her debut novel Autonomous, Annalee Newitz imagines humans taking designer drugs to try and compete with A.I. for jobs. Lee Konstantinou writes about the last worker at a pit stop for self-driving trucks. And the authors of The Expanse depict a future where under-employed...

Duration:00:21:12

On The Front Lines of Fantasy

11/15/2017
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The military shows up in a lot of sci-fi and fantasy stories but the subgenre of military SF depicts soldiers holding their own in fantastical situations without needing superheroes to save the day. Many military SF authors have served in the armed forces and bring a sense of verisimilitude to depicting their experiences, even if the stories are about futuristic high-tech or alien invasions. I talk with authors Myke Cole, Linda Nagata and Taylor Anderson about whether military SF has a...

Duration:00:23:34

Fan Fiction (Don't Judge)

11/1/2017
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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 talk with Francesca Coppa, author of The Fanfiction Reader and one of the creators of the fan fic site Archive of Our Own. Brita Lundin, a writer on the CW's Riverdale, explains why writing fan fiction was a great way to train for writing...

Duration:00:29:47

The Haunted Mansion

10/18/2017
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The Haunted Mansion is one of the most beloved rides at the Disney theme parks, yet its development was anything but smooth. Walt Disney himself could never decide if the ride should be funny or scary, so he assigned "Imagineers" to develop both aspects. But the team fell into competing groups that argued for over a decade. Author Jeff Baham of the site Doom Buggies and David Mumpower of the site Theme Park Tourist explain how this tortured creative process lead to a masterpiece in theme...

Duration:00:25:57

Rappers with Arm Cannons

10/4/2017
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In the second of my two-part episode on musical worlds, I talk with Mega Ran and Sammus -- hip hop artists that create concept albums based on the classic video games Mega Man and Metroid. They talk about the challenge of creating an imaginary world in music from someone else's source material, and why they identify with the struggles of 8-bit characters that fight their way through the world with arm cannons. Also, please fill out Panoply's annual survey -- it helps the company know how...

Duration:00:24:04

Worldbuilding With Music

9/20/2017
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In the first of a two part episode on imaginary worlds in music, I talk with members of Vertigo Drift, an indie band that created a cyberpunk concept album with an expanded universe of material provided by visual artists, writers and filmmakers. While the group is influenced by concept albums of the past like The Who's Tommy or Plastic Beach by Gorillaz -- their true inspiration comes from sci-fi fantasy worlds, especially tabletop role-playing games. I visited Trevor Walker, Mark Ayesh...

Duration:00:18:48

Technobabble

9/6/2017
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This week, I team up with Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist podcast to help me figure out why one set of poorly understood pseudo-scientific terms can sink a scene, while another set of pseudo-scientific phrases can sell a sci-fi concept. We'll hear from physicist Katie Mack -- who hates technobabble -- and Jennifer Ouellette who plays matchmaker between scientists and Hollywood directors that want to sell their mumbo jumbo with real science. And "Timescape" author Gregory Benford tells...

Duration:00:28:12

Future Screens Are Mostly Blue

8/23/2017
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In 2013, Roman Mars and producer Sam Greenspan produced a great episode of the podcast 99% Invisible about control panels in science fiction. It's one of my favorite episodes, and I'm going to play it this week. They talk with designers and sci-fi aficionados Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff about the real-world lessons that designers can, should, and already take from science fiction. And they come up with an intriguing theory as to why some of the most risible sci-fi user interfaces may...

Duration:00:24:45

Scott Snyder

8/9/2017
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If the previous episode was all about villains, this one looks at the other side of that equation. In 2014 I interviewed the writer Scott Snyder whose run on Batman comics is considered one of the best in long history of the Dark Knight. It was a difficult interview to pare down, and a lot of good material ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. So this week, I'm playing a fuller version of that conversation, which has always been one of my favorites. I was interested in Scott's...

Duration:00:28:32

Evil Plans

7/26/2017
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They've tried to take over the world. They've tried to take away our free will. They've gone after ancient artifacts with vaguely defined magical properties. But they almost always fail. The evil plan has become a meta-joke to the point where even the villains themselves can't help but comment on all the tropes. And yet we keep watching movies and TV shows to see more evil plans hatched.. Honest Trailers head writer Spencer Gilbert and Vulture.com writer Abraham Riesman talk about why...

Duration:00:28:58

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