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.