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A Reader's History of Science Fiction
30 minutes | Apr 4, 2022
#46 - Science Fiction Today
In the final episode of Season 1, we explore the state of the science fiction genre in the present day. Book recommendation: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin Worlds Without End's list of sci-fi classics Worlds Without End's customizable list N. K. Jemisin on the Broken Earth trilogy Edit: corrected links. Other books discussed: The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
7 minutes | Apr 1, 2022
Bonus Episode: More Alternate History
I missed a few important books in the previous episode on alternate history. Here is an overview of those works. Recommendation: "If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg" by Winston Churchill (yes, really). Other works discussed: The Grasshopper Lies Heavy from The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick Fallen Axis from this Onion article. The United Colonies Triumphant from The Two Georges by Harry Turtledove. Proposed book by Abraham Lincoln from The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, along with remarks in the Southern Victory series. Insane alternate World War II from this XKCD comic.
27 minutes | Mar 21, 2022
#45 - Young Adult Dystopias
Dystopian fiction has been the core of young adult sci-fi for the past 15 years. In this episode, we explore how they got their start and what makes them so popular. Book recommendation: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins My analysis of Mortal Engines. Other books discussed: Unwind by Neal Shusterman The Maze Runner by James Dashner The Selection by Kiera Cass Uglies by Scott Westerfeld Maximum Ride by James Patterson The Chrysalids by John Wyndham The Giver by Lois Lowry Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
30 minutes | Mar 7, 2022
#44 - The Children's Sci-Fi Renaissance
Children's science fiction was pretty sparse historically, but it began to take off in the 1990s. In this episode, we explore how sci-fi for kids has changed and expanded over the most recent generation. Book recommendations: Middle grade (ages 8-12): Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke Chapter books (ages 6-10): Aliens for Breakfast by Stephanie Spinner and Jonathan Etra Picture books: How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk Farah Mendelsohn on children’s sci-fi. 1984 NYTimes article on book fairs. Frankie Thomas on Animorphs.K. A. Applegate on reposting her books. Other books discussed: My Teacher Is an Alien by Bruce Coville Animorphs by K. A. Applegate The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
18 minutes | Feb 14, 2022
#43 - Solar System Exploration
Hard sci-fi stories about the exploration of our solar system became more popular beginning in the 1990s. In this episode, we explore how these ideas rose to prominence and have developed over the years. Book recommendation: The Martian by Andy Weir. The Mundane Manifesto by Geoff Ryman et al. Kim Stanley Robinson on the Mars Trilogy. Other works mentioned: The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson The Grand Tour Series by Ben Bova The Expanse by James S. A. Corey Artemis by Andy Weir Gravity Interstellar Ad Astra
22 minutes | Jan 31, 2022
#42 - Blockbuster Films Part II: Superheroes Go Mainstream
As Hollywood moved into the twenty-first century, it found a new formula for superhero stories that catapulted them to some of the most popular stories in sci-fi. In this episode, we explore the history of superheroes in film and how their modern mainstream popularity has transformed the genre. Movie recommendation: X-Men Other works dicussed: The IncrediblesThe Dark Knight Trilogy The Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson Worm by John C. "Wildbow" McCrae Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts
20 minutes | Jan 17, 2022
#41 - Blockbuster Films Part I: The Rise of CGI
In the 1980s and '90s, blockbuster films became a staple of Hollywood and of science fiction, and their rise went hand in hand with the development of CGI technology. In this episode, we explore the ways CGI has contributed to sci-fi over the years. Movie recommendation: Jurassic Park Sheldon Hall on the origin of the term "blockbuster." Documentary on the making of Independence Day. Other movies discussed: Terminator 2: Judgment DayIndependence Day Avatar
20 minutes | Jan 3, 2022
#40 - Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton was a huge influence on science fiction in the 1990s and 2000s, particularly through the many movie adaptations of his work. In this episode, I given an overview of his writings and his work in Hollywood. Book recommendation: Sphere Luke McKinney on "The Malcolm Fallacy" Other works discussed: The Andromeda StrainWestworld Jurassic Park Timeline
52 minutes | Dec 20, 2021
Writer's History #6 - David Brin
In this episode, I interview David Brin, author of the Uplift Series, The Postman, Existence, and many more. David Brin's website. Advice for new writers. Sample chapters of many of Brin's books. Brin's recommended reading list. Brin on Robert Heinlein. Recommended essay: "The World, the Flesh, and the Devil" by J. D. Bernal.
33 minutes | Dec 6, 2021
#39 - Postcyberpunk and Transhumanism
After cyberpunk had its day, a more mature, less countercultural successor to it emerged, known as postcyberpunk. In this episode, we explore what makes it distinctive and how it ties in with the ideas of transhumanism. Book recommendation: Existence by David Brin. Other books discussed: Permutation City by Greg Egan The Imperial Radch/Ancillary trilogy by Ann Leckie Accelerando by Charles Stross (free download) Blindsight by Peter Watts Charles Stross's "crib sheet" on Accelerando.
24 minutes | Nov 22, 2021
#38 - Cyberpunk Derivatives
Cyberpunk has produced many offshoots over the years as new authors have applied the style to other historical eras and new technologies. In this episode, we tour the wide spread of these diverse subgenres. Book recommendations: The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson Other works mentioned: too many to name. Full list here.
22 minutes | Nov 8, 2021
#37 - Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk was the big new subgenre of sci-fi in the 80s--the combination of "lowlife and high-tech." In this episode, we explore the highlights of this subgenre. Book recommendation: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson Other works discussed: Akira Neuromancer by William Gibson The Matrix Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan Ready Player One by Ernest Cline My review of Ready Player Two.
25 minutes | Oct 25, 2021
#36 - Alternate History
Alternate histories, where events in the past unfolded differently, are a fairly new genre, but it's made large strides since it first became popular in the 80s. In this episode, we look at an overview of these works. Book recommendation: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. My companion blog post on The Calculating Stars. Other books discussed: The Domination by S. M. Stirling "The Road Not Taken", The Guns of the South and Harry Turtledove in general. The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
60 minutes | Oct 11, 2021
Writer's History #5 - Annie Geever Interview
In this episode, I interview Annie Geever, the author of the Undead Age trilogy of zombie novels. Annie's website. Annie's book recommendations: Thirteen or Black Man by Richard K. Morgan Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder
31 minutes | Sep 27, 2021
#35 - Time Travel Part II: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey
Time travel has used in many different ways by many different writers across history. In this episode, we take a whirlwind tour of ten common time travel tropes to see how they have contributed to the genre. Book recommendation: The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter. TV recommendation: "Blink" from Doctor Who. Other works mentioned: too many to name. Full list here. PBS Space Time on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
23 minutes | Sep 13, 2021
#34 - Time Travel Part I: The Classics
Time travel had a long history in science fiction, but it noticeably ramped up beginning in the 80s. In this episode, we explore some of the classic and iconic time travel stories of recent decades. Book recommendation: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Other works discussed: Timescape by Gregory Benford Eon by Greg Bear Back to the FutureThe TerminatorBill and Ted's Excellent AdventureDoomsday Book by Connie Willis Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger See also the Jimmy Kimmel Back to the Future sketch.
21 minutes | Aug 30, 2021
#33 - Military Science Fiction
Sci-fi stories about wars and military service in the future are widespread throughout the genre. In this episode, we explore a few of the highlights from this wide field. Book recommendation: Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Honorable mention: Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. Other books discussed: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
24 minutes | Aug 16, 2021
#32 - Galactic Civilizations
With the release of Star Wars, sci-fi became more mainstream than ever, and in its wake came many stories about a galaxy filled with many kinds of alien life. In this episode, we explore a few of these stories of galactic civilizations. Book recommendation: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge James W. Harris on 80s sci-fi. Charlie Jane Anders on 80s sci-fi. David Brin's website. Other works discussed: OG Star Wars Uplift Universe by David Brin Culture series by Iain M. Banks Zones of Thought series by Vernor Vinge
19 minutes | Aug 2, 2021
#31 - Alien Artifacts and Alien Contact
Stories about the discovery of mysterious alien artifacts, and the similar challenges of first contact, became prominent in the 70s and 80s. Some of them we have discussed before, but many are new. In this episode, we see an overview of these stories. Book recommendation: Contact by Carl Sagan Other works discussed: Gateway by Frederick Pohl Hyperion by Dan Simmons Stargate Close Encounters of the Third Kind E.T. the Extra-terrestrial The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
55 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
Writer's History #4 - Daniel Bensen Interview
Daniel Bensen is an author of science fiction, alternate history, and stories of speculative evolution. In this interview, we discuss his new book, Interchange, sequel to his debut novel, Junction, and other writings. Dan's website. Dan's book recommendations: The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold Greg Egan The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker
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