Episode 85: Sarah Gailey!
This week, we talked with Sarah Gailey (of American Hippo and Fisher of Bones fame) about writing queer people back into history using genres (are they genres? What even are genres?) like alternate history and noir fantasy fiction and the various toolkits they provide. Not only was Sarah an absolute delight of a uman being to spend an hour with, but they were also full of the kind of thoughts that can open doors for authors looking to be the change they wish to see in the world of literature.
What does it mean to write alternate history when *all* recorded history remains silent on the marginalization and erasure of queer people and people of color—among many others?
How do we push back against static, reductive fascist takes on identity, when our identities—as young people coming of age, or as queer people, or more largely as human beings—are constantly evolving?
Sarah Gailey helps us navigate these questions and many others in this week's episode.
You can find out more about Sarah at http://www.sarahgailey.com, where you can also sign up for their twice-monthly newsletter. You can also find them on Twitter at @gaileyfrey. Their American Hippo duology (made up of the novellas River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow) is available wherever good books are sold—and Sarah's debut full-length novel, Magic For Liars, hits bookstore shelves on June 4, 2019. You can and should also totally order it through your local indie bookstore or at https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Liars-Sarah-Gailey/dp/1250174619/. It's a kickass noir fantasy featuring the kind of tortured sibling relationship that we can all relate to, even while it re-envisions those tropes which have made noir a hard place to land when looking for hope and faith in other peoople.
Sarah Gailey breaks the concept of genre wide open, and invites us all to stand in the midst of the ruins and build a better, more welcoming space for readers and writers and creators alike.
Episode 84: Space Clothes, aka SFF Fashion
What's this about clothing in science fiction and fantasy? Join us as we ask and answer questions about costuming, haute couture, armor, cosplay, skants, and the critical role clothing can play in both policing or enforcing gender as well as queering science fiction and fantasy. Can clothing make these works and worlds we love more welcoming, more rich, and more enjoyable?
Um, hell yes they can!
In this article, we make specific callouts to:
- E.K. Johnston's Queen's Shadow (a Star Wars novel)
- Zendaya's high-tech Met Gala gown
- THAT Twitter dress
- Annalee Newitz's 2008 opinions about science fiction fashion for io9
- Malka Older's "Crowdcutter"
For further reading, check out: THIS Fader article, THIS Buzzfeed article, THIS Guardian article, THIS Futurism article, and THIS Vanity Fair article, all of which helped inspire our episode this week.
We'd also like to thank Kend's cat, Sputnik, for doing a literal mic drop (and leap, and smash, and crash of the recording blanket fort) in the middle of our chat about Zendaya's Met Gala masterpiece. You certainly keep things interesting, cat.
Episode 83: Comedy!
What even is comedy, especially in a science fictional or fantastical context? What makes comedy itself--and does it have to be funny? We try to figure out what's what about comedic works, and we navigate our way into the topic by the guiding stars of Douglas Adams, Galaxy Quest, and Futurama.
Also, Kend makes some revealing confessions, and you might not like them for it. OOPS!
Episode 82 : Jett Stanton on Zombies, Gentleman Vampires, & What's Horrific About Horror (SWEARS)
What makes horror ... horrifying? Join us and special guest, musician, and horror aficionado Jett Stanton. Stanton's knowledge of horror runs deep, and our conversation ranges from frank discussions about what works (or doesn't) about classic works of horror (Bram Stoker's "Dracula," "The Fly," "Scream"), the works which shaped us as kids ("Flight Plan," "Scream," "The Thing"), and new forces at work in the genre/mode/cat ("Get Out," "A Quiet Place," "The Walking Dead"). Stanton knows so much, and we only just manage to scratch the surface when it comes to big questions like: Where do the fears at the root of horror come from? What do we do *without* fear? What roles do trauma and disgust play in our creation and reception of works of horror?
A couple of quick TWs: There are mentions of suicide and sexual assault in this episode as we discuss "Alien" and a number of other key works sporting the horror affect. Also there are lots of swears in this episode.
You can look for Jett on Twitter and Instagram at @jettsetforlife, and on YouTube at youtu.be/ShKFJ9Uy_RA!
Episode 81 : Deji Bryce Olukotun on Dinosaurs, Advocacy, and Making Room for Others
This week on the cast, we talk with author and activist Deji Bryce Olukotun, whose books "Nigerians in Space" (2014) and "After the Flare" (2017) both enriched science fiction as a whole and the conversation about the immigrant experience in Africa. In 2019——with films like "Black Panther" making a splash and authors like N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and yes! Deji Bryce Olukotun zeroing in on glass ceilings in publishing——new avenues for social, authorial, technological, and civic engagement are opening up, but what is the state of things, really?
Olukotun brings us thoughts on the influence of technology on his own writing as well as his work with Access Now and PEN America. He talks about obscure NASA publications about tracking stations, the narrative function of dinosaurs, and advocating for other authors and storytellers. We ask the big questions: What does science fiction allow or make possible or manifest in respect to these topics that other genres might not? Are we really making progress on finding and boosting #OwnVoices stories? Are dinosaurs supposed to be people?
Deji and the cast mention a number of works looking up after listening to this episode, including:
Sunny Tsiao's "'Read You Loud and Clear!' The Story of NASA's Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network" (https://history.nasa.gov/STDN_082508_508%2010-20-2008_part%201.pdf)
Nicola Griffith's "Bending the Landscape" anthologies with Stephen Pagel ("Fantasy" in 1997, "Science Fiction" in 1998, and "Horror" in 2001)
Avery Brooks' 2013 interview with K. Tempest Bradford (http://dailydragon.dragoncon.org/interviews/far-beyond-deep-space-nine-a-conversation-with-avery-brooks/)
The "Queers Destroy Science Fiction!" June 2015 special issue of "Lightspeed" edited by Seanan McGuire (http://www.destroysf.com/queers/)
"A People's Future of the United States" (2019) anthology edited by John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle (http://www.johnjosephadams.com/projects/peoples-future/)
Deji Bryce Olukotun's "Insights" page on his website (https://returnofthedeji.com/revamp/insights/), which links to his short pieces "We Are the Olfanauts," "How to Create Your Own Jurassic Park," and "Utopian and Dystopian Visions of Afrofuturism"
You can look for Deji Bryce Olukotun's books wherever good books are sold, and you can look for his work to appear in upcoming issue of "Lightspeed" this summer.
Episode 80 : Scott Selisker on What Makes Science Fiction Beautiful
Meet Scott Selisker, Associate Professor at the University of Arizona and resident expert on science fiction and *teaching* science fiction. His book, "Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons, and American Unfreedom" (2016) is worth checking out on its own merits. He is also the unlucky human responsible for introducing US to Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.'s "The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction," which has spawned not just a seven-episode series on this podcast, but also reshaped our conversations about science fiction (and fantasy) on a macro level. We invited him to come and join us for a conversation about the very macro question of "What makes science fiction beautiful?" Excited words follow.
Side note: Selisker's voice is a sonorous ear-worm you NEED in your life.
Our conversation includes references to a number of formative works of science fiction criticism and fiction, including David Wittenberg's "Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative" (2012), Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" (2010), Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" (2005), Max Barry's "Lexicon" (2013), as well as Marina and Sergey Dyachenko's "Vita Nostra" (2008). We also discussed the "Alien" and "Star Trek" franchises (of COURSE), Ursula K. Le Guin, Nnedi Okorafor's "Binti" series, and Nalo Hopkinson's body of work. Selisker also references Dan Sinykin's article "The Conglomerate Era: Publishing, Authorship, and Literary Form, 1965–2007" in the journal Contemporary Literature and Joseph Campbell and Darko Suvin's competing definitions of science fiction; to read more about these, just look for the Wikipedia page on "Definitions of Science Fiction."
Want to find out more about Scott Selisker? You can find his book "Human Programming" on Amazon, his faculty webpage at https://english.arizona.edu/users/scott-selisker, and his Twitter handle is @sselisker.
Episode 79: The Technologiade (aka The Techno-Gatorade) (aka The Seventh Beauty of Science Fiction)
The day has finally arrived, dear friends, when we get to finish our longest-running series of episodes. Istvan Csicsery-Ronay's The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction may have taken two-and-a-bit years to journey through, but every step of that journey has been rich (or dare we say, RIFE) with conversation. About what, prey? About what makes science fiction ... well, science fiction! We are so grateful for this book and the many new ways it has given us to frame this evergreen debate, and to move forward in critically and creatively engaging with this thing (genre/mode/cat) that we love.
So, thank you, Csicsery-Ronay!
What is the seventh beauty of science fiction? Well, Tony really struggled to pronounce 'Technologiade,' so we're going to call it the Techno-Gatorade. We hope you don't mind.
We do also want to give shout-outs here in the show-notes to our previous episodes on the subject:
Beauty #1: Fictive Neology (Episode 5)
Beauty #2: Novums (Episode 12)
Beauty #3: Future History (MIA, hard drive failure)
Beauty #4: Imaginary Science (Episode 34)
Beauty #5: The Sublime (Episode 55)
Beauty #6: The Grotesque (Episode 71)
Episode 78: The Socioeconomics of the Post-Apocalypse
with special guest Suyi Davies Okungbowa!
What are the socioeconomics of the postapocalypse? Suyi Okungbowa has a book coming out this summer that defies Western genre expectations of godpocalypse and urban fantasy and dystopic postapocalypse narratives ... and instead moves into——and helps to create——a new space within science fiction and fantasy. His book is titled David Mogo, Godhunter, and yes, the word Afrofuturism provides one way to look at what it's up to; but Okungbowa draws upon contemporary realities and the landscape of present-day Lagos to interrogate privilege, social norms, and our economic assumptions of disaster. David Mogo, Godhunter is conversant with works like Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Rebecca Roanhorse's Trail of Lightning, and yes, The Dresden Files too.
This week, Okungbowa joins us on the podcast to talk about all of these things as well as the nature and effects of migration, community building in the aftermath of devastation, and why science fiction and fantasy are so congenial to dealing with these issues.
In the podcast, Okungbowa mentions several works worth further exploration:
- Clayton Alderfer's ERG theory of motivation
- Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black
- Jess Rowe's Your Face in Mine
Episode 77: Single-Gender Utopias
When it comes to tackling gender as a subject in science fiction and fantasy, one approach has been to sort everybody out into single-gender societies. Whether we're talking about one of the earliest progenitors of this approach, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, or the kinds of worlds second-wave feminists built in The Gate to Women's Country, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Left Hand of Darkness, or perhaps even the weird gender-bending works by writers working in science fiction and fantasy today, such as The Stars Are Legion, Ancillary Justice and Lumberjanes and many others—no matter who we're talking about, there's much to be said. Join us for a tour of the three (or more?) stages of single-gender utopias and arguments about Alderman, Atwood, Gilman, Hurley, Leckie, Le Guin, Russ, Tepper, Tiptree, and ... Wonder Woman? Yeah, Wonder Woman!
Questions are our forté: Who is writing these stories and who gets permission to make big science fictional or fantastical statements about the relationship between gender and society? What expectations and assumptions does a single-gender utopia lay bare? What happens when you take a binary understanding of gender *out* of the equation? And also, where are all the not-white people? Single-gender utopias seem to have some blind spots. We put big question marks around the words "gender" and "utopia" as we dig into this legacy novum of our favorite genres/modes/cats—so be forewarned, this episode gets very queer.
Episode 76: Solaris
with special guest Chris Cokinos!
Thirteen years ago, on March 27, 2006, Stanislaw Lem went to meet the ultimate Unknown. We are joined by poet and professor Chris Cokinos to commemorate Lem’s death and to dig into what is perhaps his most well and widely-known work Solaris. What keeps us coming back to this weird little book? What is up with those adaptations? In what ways can we as readers in 2019 better tangle with this work in all of its incarnations? Cokinos, who is currently teaching Solaris as part of his larger curriculum at the University of Arizona, and who is currently refining a manuscript of science fictional poetry, unpacks what Lem means to him—and maybe, just maybe, he means to all of us.
In today’s episode, we reference two analyses of Solaris, both well worth tracking down:
- Istvan Csicsery-Ronay’s 1985 “The Book is the Alien: On Certain and Uncertain Readings of Lem’s ‘Solaris’” (available on JSTOR); and
- Roger Ebert’s review of the 2002 Soderbergh/Cameron adaptation: www.rogerebert.com/reviews/solaris-2002
You can find Chris Cokinos’ books wherever good books are sold.
Episode 75: Becoming
What does Michelle Obama's 2018 memoir Becoming have to offer in conversation with science fiction? Quite a lot, as it turns out. When we look at her reflections on identity-building and personal transformation, we see a perfect template for examining these same subjects in science fictional works ranging from Annalee Newitz's Autonomous and Martha Wells' Murderbot series to Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation and Nnedi Okorafor's Binti.
And let's be honest, we both really wanted to talk about Michelle Obama's book, too!
Looking for the link to the Annalee Newitz article we mention in the cast? You can find it on under the headline "Six Good Habits I Learned From Being Bullied as a Geeky Kid" or at io9.gizmodo.com/six-good-habits-i…s-a-geeky-5966749. Enjoy!
Episode 74: Sidekicks
Join us this week for a rollicking good look at sidekicks in science fiction and fantasy. What are they doing there? What functions do they serve? What do they bring to the table--both in terms of furthering the plot as well as deepening our understanding of the relationships they inhabit with the main character or characters? We’re here to tackle the Heroic Helper, the Comic Relief, the Gal Pal™ or Bromance™, the Cute Factor, and many more sidekick archetypes. We’re here, too, to mess with your head a bit. When things get messy, we’re at our absolute best!
For further reading, if you’re comic-inclined, take a look at Morris’ “The League of Regrettable Sidekicks: Heroic Helpers from Comic Book History”--a part of Quirk Books’ growing stable of comic-related anthologies.
Episode 73: Science Fictional & Fantastical Music, Part 3
We are BACK for the third and final (for now) episode in our series on science fictional and fantastical music! Here we wrap up our conversation with a quick survey of science fiction music videos, the transition from analog to digital, and the transition from digital to an unknown future medium. We dig into works blurring the line between music video and film, performance art, and more. We tackle generative music apps like Brian Eno's "Bloom," which may be one kind of future open to science fictional and fantastical music, music videos, and musicianship.
Check out the previous two episodes in this series in our backlist, and our music video playlist (linked from our Twitter account)! If you're looking for a little light reading on some of the musical subjects we've examined in the series to date, check out "What does progressive rock owe science fiction?" on The Portalist (theportalist.com/songs-that-refer…e-sci-fi-fantasy) and "32 of the most mind-blowing sci-fi music videos ever" on Syfy.com (www.syfy.com/syfywire/32-of-the…-music-videos-ever).
Playlist coming soon!
Episode 72: Science Fictional & Fantastical Music, Part 2
Are you into science fictional or fantastical music? Yes? Good. Let's talk (some more).
This week, we return to our ongoing series about science fictional and fantastical music, focusing on space rock and its intersections with progressive rock, shoegaze, and more.
If you think that list looks incomplete, never fear! This is just part two of a series in which we will tackle more. MORE, we say. Watch this space in future weeks as we tackle concept albums, multimedia extravaganzas, the Internet of (Musical) Things, and eventually, yes, soundtracks and scores galore.
Check out our accompanying playlist, too!
This Spotify list has 27 songs that we talked about in the second music podcast or that we think complement this episode really well. We also can’t include music snippets in the episode itself, so this is a way around that restriction…
Episode 71: The Grotesque (the Sixth Beauty of Science Fiction)
Interrupting our series on music (thanks, TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES!), we return to our ongoing journey through Istvan Csicsery-Ronay's wonder of a work, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. This week, we tackle Beauty #6 (the Grotesque). What exactly *IS* the Grotesque, and how does it relate both to science fiction at large as well as to Beauty #5 (the Sublime), which we discussed way back in Episode 55? We set out to answer this question, with deliberate pushback against the urge to get all academic up in here. Which is to say, if you *haven't* read The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, that's alright! You don't actually need to have done so in order to listen to this episode, or to enjoy our general bonkers-ness.
And yes, if you're wondering, we *do* talk a lot about Alien in this episode. And the intersection of queer and science fiction and the Grotesque.
Episode 70: Science Fictional & Fantastical Music, Part 1
Are you into science fictional or fantastical music? Yes? Good. Let's talk.
This week, we muddy the waters as we always do by tackling a difficult-to-tackle subject: music inspired by science fiction and fantasy, as well as music that is science fictional or fantastical in *affect*, which may or may not be related. We're here to talk about Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Florence + The Machine, M83 and more bands of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and other decades Kend and Tony may or may not have lived through. We tackle musical genres (subgenres, modes, cats) including prog rock, psychedelic rock, space rock, synthwave, synthpop, downtempo, synthetic and electronic sounds in music, and all sorts of music that ... well, let's just say it's a bit out of this world, if you catch our very *on the nose* drift.
If you think that list looks incomplete, never fear! This is just part one of a series in which we will tackle more. MORE, we say. Watch this space in future weeks as we tackle concept albums, multimedia extravaganzas, the Internet of (Musical) Things, and eventually, yes, soundtracks and scores galore.
Guess what? We have another playlist!
This one is 39 songs long, so almost time and a half on the playlist for the second part in this series. In this playlist, you’ll find a ton of SFF musical history and all the electronic music you could want, too.
Episodes 68 & 69: An Introduction to the Last Decade in Science Fiction & Fantasy
Are you looking to get into science fiction and fantasy for the first time, or are you a purveyor of bygone epochs of the science fictional and fantastical looking to refresh your reading list? This is the episode for you!
Join us this week as we take a look at the last decade in science fiction and fantasy both in print and on the big and small screen--at what's new, what's emerging, what's changed for good or ill, and what we think might yet be waiting in the wings. We're here for the feminists, for the LGBTQIA+ reader, for those who found themselves in drought in the early 2000s, and for those on both sides of our culture-wide love-hate relationship with superhero franchises. We talk novellas, protest fiction, works in translation, short-form science fiction television, and where all the market has shifted. Best of all, we lay the groundwork for discussing specific works that have shaped and reformed the genres (or cats) in the last decade.
This is not an episode to be missed!
Episode 67: The 2018 Imaginary Awards
Looking for the absolute BEST in science fiction and fantasy released in 2018? We've got you covered. Join us for our special annual award episode covering everything from best SFF novel of 2018 to best television show to best book cover art as determined by our *totally impartial* (and *totally humble*) dynamic duo.
Episode 66: Comfort Reads
Why talk about holidays on this podcast? Are we drunk enough to really get into it? Join us for this week's cozy sweater of a cast as we dig out the same books we dig out each year to bring ourselves back to ourselves, and to remind of us all good things in the world. Tony makes an argument for the Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Animorphs, The Old Kingdom, Kingkiller Chronicles, and Wayfarers series, while Kend glares from over the top of a stack of Sarah Gailey, Alessandro Baricco, Ian McDonald, Sheri Tepper, K. Arsenault Rivera, and Robin Sloan. We talk about lifelong faves and problematic faves alike. Tony lavishes endless praise on Chabon's Kavalier & Clay & Kend bemoans the loss of childhood favorites undercut by maturing awareness.
As you uncork your winter cider, mull over these comforting favorites!
Episode 65: Road Trips
Hit the road, jack, and don't you come back no more no more no MORE NO MORE
Okay, serenades aside, this week as you're preparing to undergo your own road trips and holiday journeys, we're back with a deep dive into the various manifestations of road trips in science fiction and fantasy. We ask all of the important questions, like: journey or destination--how do they relate? What separates a "road trip" from a standard "journey narrative"? What does a poem by Margaret Atwood have to do with ANY of this craziness? And why do we love road trip narratives as a whole, and why do we love some specific stories ... specifically?
Some of the many texts we interrogate include: David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, JRRT's The Lord of the Rings, Brian K. Vaughan's greater body of comic work, Catherynne Valente’s Space Opera and its inspiration, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide, Richard Powers' The Overstory, Jacqueline Carey's Starless, Seanan McGuire's Ghost Roads series, Mad Max: Fury Road and ... yes, a whole lot more. Even The Epic of Gilgamesh (the FIRST RECORDED STORY, WHAT) gets some brief, and laughing, love.
Episode 64: Found Families
Some people are born into families, some people make their own, and some people stumble onto theirs in the dark. This week, we're here for the found families which gave us a home in science fiction and fantasy. You'll know many of the titles and many of the worlds: Star Trek, Harry Potter, Firefly, Lumberjanes, Avatar the Last Airbender & The Legend of Korra, Steven Universe, Jacqueline Carey's Starless, Becky Chambers' everything, Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and many many (MANY) more.
There's something inherently queer about the found family trope, or perhaps more rightly we should say that found families make critical space for the queer conversations which have informed our lives as readers and authors and commentators on science fiction and family. We find ourselves in these books, and we want to dig into all of the reasons why!
Episode 63: The Legacy of the Harry Potter Series
What exactly is the legacy of J.K. Rowling's boy wizard, and in what ways has the Harry Potter series transformed or transmuted the SFF landscape? In what ways have we, Rowling's readers, gone off-script and gone about making space for ourselves as newly minted adults and tastemakers and, yes, occasionally, as academics? And what about those prequels, that weird stage play, and all the other canon Potterverse ... things ... which have cropped up since the original series was published?
As you can imagine, we have a lot of questions about what The Boy Who Lived has gotten up to in the years since that last weird epilogue, and we have some thoughts on hat he's done to a brace of genres and our brains and the publishing industry. 80s and 90s kids, this is not one to miss!
Episode 62: Jess E. Owen
with special guest Jess E. Owen!
A noisy but important episode, we bring you an interview with fantasy author Jess E. Owen, whose now-completed Summer King Chronicles series leaned into the legacies of Ursula K. Le Guin, Tamora Pierce, and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in junior and young adult literature. Owen met with Kend at a coffeeshop in Kalispell, Montana, where a nearby young family alternated between being very excited about life (you'll hear that in the background) and sidling closer to hear this author expound on what it takes to publish successfully by kickstarter (or any other publishing route), how furries make an awesome fanbase, and the important role fantasy plays in shaping our internal and external worlds. You have our apologies for all of the background noise, but as to the rest? You're welcome. You're welcome to this instantly better life you now have with Jess E. Owen and her nuanced thoughts in it!
To learn more about Jess E. Owen, check out her website at www.jessowen.com, and we're going to make good on her many suggested TED talks by having her back in future podcasts. Join the #GryfonPride on Twitter at @authorjessowen!
Episode 61: Body Horror
What's more horrifying than the body? When it comes to body horror, deep-seated assumptions about who we are and on what we build our identities come to the fore. Some of those assumptions are unstintingly problematic. Others provide a crack through which fresh ideas can flourish. Authors as diverse as Octavia Butler, Jeff VanderMeer, Annalee Newitz, Ann Leckie, Brian K. Vaughan and Nnedi Okorafor have found new ways to infuse their works with fresh takes on body horror, and franchises as diverse as Alien, Star Trek, Twilight, Game of Thrones, Stargate SG-1, and The Magicians have become entangled with the subject.
This episode, we tangle with all the tangles. It's ruinous. It's messy. It's delightful.