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Words To That Effect
23 minutes | 3 days ago
46: Weird Westerns
In a way it’s maybe strange that the western is such a prominent genre. It's seemingly connected to a very specific time and place: the mid-to-late 19th century American west. And yet we are all so familiar with the many tropes of the western: cowboys and Indians, shootouts and saloons, cattle rustlers and sheriffs, tumbleweed and canyons? The western has a particular hold on the popular imagination, partly for reasons of historical and cultural influence, but ultimately because of its supreme adaptability, its capacity to mingle and merge with other genres. The weird western is a hybrid genre: space westerns, steampunk westerns, supernatural and horror westerns, time travel westerns, westerns drawing on Afrofuturism and indigenous futurism, and many, many more. For full transcripts, notes, links, and more head to wttepodcast.com/weirdwesternSupport the show on Patreon for bonus episodes and more!
25 minutes | 17 days ago
45: Mashups, Remixes, and Frankenfiction
Remix, mashup, sample, adaptation, parody, homage, knock-off. The lines between these, and so many other similar terms, are not always very clear. In one sense, all culture is a remix, nothing exists in a vacuum. On the other hand, some people may take a dim view of lifting almost the entire text of Pride & Prejudice and republishing it with additional zombie action. Which is where Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling 2009 classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, comes in.For lots more details, links, transcripts, and more, head to the Words To That Effect website
61 minutes | 8 months ago
44: Words Dunnit (WTTE + Shedunnit Live)
Last year Caroline Crampton (of Shedunnit) and I teamed up to create a joint live show, called Words Dunnit: a 200-year history of detective fiction in an hour. We performed the show live at the Dublin Podcast Festival in November 2019, and then again at Pod UK, in Birmingham, in Feb of this year. We had a lot of fun making and performing it, so here it is in full.For notes, links, pictures and more head to the WTTE websiteSupport the show on Patreon!
21 minutes | 9 months ago
43: Lost Books
There are countless great works of literature we have tantalizing glimpses of, works we know existed but are, as far as anyone can tell, lost to history. Huge swathes of ancient Greek literature, for example, or a lost Shakespeare play based on the story of Don Quixote. And then there are the works we rescue. Kate Macdonald, at Handheld Press, specialises in finding and reprinting lost classics, works that have fallen out of print but deserve another chance and a new audience. In this episode I chat to her about lost literature, the intricacies of reprinting old books, and authors who will never go out of print.
22 minutes | 9 months ago
42: The Missing Link
Sasquatch. Bigfoot. The Abominable Snowman. Yeti. The Yowie, the Yeren, the Almas Ape-men, cave men, wild men. The Missing Link. The idea of the missing link came about in the mid-19th century, with the rise of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. In 1859 Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, and it was radical, revolutionary, and highly contentious. The problem, though, was that the mechanism by which it all worked wasn’t really understood yet, and there was a need for some hard evidence that would clinch his theory. If evolution really did work as Darwin described it; if, most controversially of all, humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and other apes all had a common ancestor, it should all be there in the fossil record. There was a missing link in the theory. Support WTTE on at patreon.com/wtte and get bonus episodes and more
26 minutes | 10 months ago
41: Romance Novels
Mills and Boon to bodice rippers , Johanna Lindsey to Nora Robers (and a little bit of Fabio) Why read romance novels?
22 minutes | 10 months ago
40: Time Travel Tales
Time travel fiction is a small subgenre of science fiction. Science fiction is a small subset of all the many genres and types of literature. Time machines and time travellers are a niche interest. And yet, in many ways, all fiction is time travel fiction.On this week's episode I chart the history and development of time travel, with Prof David Wittenberg, from utopia to hot tubs. Support the show on patreon and get bonus episodes and moreFor full show notes, links, transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com
19 minutes | a year ago
39: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs is no longer a familiar name. Like many other authors, the fame of his greatest creation, in his case Tarzan, has long eclipsed his own. But Burroughs was far more than the creator of Tarzan. He was an early pioneer of science fiction, a master of the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century, an author whose books, across his lifetime and beyond, sold tens of millions of copies. He was also, among a bewildering array of other things, a journalist, a soldier and war correspondent, a businessman, and even a real estate investor: the ranch he bought and developed in the 1920s is, today, the aptly named neighbourhood of Tarzana, California. So who was Edgar Rice Burroughs? Why were his books so popular? And has his work had any real lasting legacy on our culture today? For notes, links, transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com/burroughs Join the WTTE community and support the show at patreon.com/wtte
24 minutes | a year ago
38: Children's Picture Books
Unlike modernist poetry or Shakespearean drama, when it comes to children's literature, everyone has an opinion. Most of us are exposed to kids' books in some shape or form and, crucially, 100% of us have been children. For an academic working with children's literature, this can have its rewards and its frustrations. "Yes! I love that classic childhood book too!". But also: "Sorry, I don't know why your child doesn't like this one particular book" This week I'm joined by Dr Jane Carroll to chat about the children's picture book. How do text and image work together to create books that can spark wonder and imagination, that young children can completely lose themselves in? What's happening in children's fiction today, and what's the best children's picture book of all time?Find out how you can support the show and get bonus episodes at patreon.com/wtte For full show notes head to wttepodcast.com
24 minutes | a year ago
37: The Golden Age of Piracy
Pirates have been around for a very long time. In fact, as far as the historical record seems to show, they have been around for as long as there have been property and boats. What is it that attracts us to pirates and why have we got such a well-developed set of pirate tropes? We all have the same picture when we think of pirates: peg legs and eyepatches, parrots and pirate accents, walking the plank, buried treasure, the jolly roger. Prof Manushag Powell joins me to discuss the Golden Age of Piracy, pirate literature, and the history behind the pirates of popular culture. For shownotes, links, transcripts, and more head to wttepodcast.com Join the WTTE pirate crew and support the show at patreon.com/wtte
28 minutes | a year ago
36: Blood, Death, and Varney the Vampire
There is no pop culture monster more written about, more critiqued and analysed, more portrayed and adapted and reimagined, than the vampire. So this episode is not about most vampires. There are no discussions of Dracula or Nosferatu, no True Blood or Twilight or Buffy, no Anne Rice or Stephen King, no Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee. Instead, there is a single vampire, one you may well never have heard of. A vampire that, in Victorian times, was far more popular than even Charles Dickens at the height of his fame. A vampire that established many of the tropes of later vampire mythology and fiction. His name is Sir Francis Varney. Varney the Vampire. Find out how you can support the show and get bonus episodes at patreon.com/wtte For full show notes head to wttepodcast.com
23 minutes | a year ago
35: Jekyll & Hyde
For most people today, the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has been reduced to a fairly straightforward allegory of the potential dark side within us all. But if you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s original tale, a short 80-odd page novella, you immediately realise there is so much to this masterpiece of 19th century fiction. There are so many reasons the story has become embedded in popular culture. It has everything: dreams and reality, psychology and medicine, good and evil, degeneracy and criminality, sexuality and self-identity, blackmail, murder, addiction, religion. Have I missed anything? For more details, links, and transcripts head to wttepodcast.com Join the WTTE community and support the show on Patreon!
1 minutes | a year ago
Season 4 Preview
Season 4 returns on Tuesday 15th October. Have a listen to what's in store!
33 minutes | a year ago
34: The Art of the Short Story
There are the celebrated authors: Checkov, Joyce, Mansfield, Munro. There are the big questions: “What makes a truly great short story?” “Where does the form originate?” “What can short stories do that other forms of literature can’t?” But before any of this, there’s a question that’s not that easy to answer at all: What is a short story? This week I’m joined by Dr Paul March-Russell, Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent, and author of The Short Story: An Introduction and Colin Walsh, an award-winning short story writer from Galway, Ireland. We discuss whether you can really define what a short story is, some great examples of the form, and what short stories can do that other forms of literature simply can’t. For more details, links, and transcripts head to wttepodcast.com Join the WTTE community and support the show on Patreon!
22 minutes | 2 years ago
33: The Noun of Nouns (The Rise of Modern Fantasy)
What do you think of, when you think of the genre of fantasy? Whether it’s fiction, TV, cinema, or games, are there certain elements you need to have for something to be considered fantasy? Well, you might say fantasy is medieval, or at least set in a time of swords and sorcery. Or that fantasy has to be epic in scale; there are always grand and noble characters. Or maybe fantasy has to be set in an imaginary world. Or, at the very least, there should be some magic. But, as I explore on this episode. Some, or all, or none of these might be present in a work of fantasy. There's more to fantasy than you might expect. This week I chat to Dr Gerard Hynes to try to get the core of fantasy. We explore Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and the pop culture behemoth that is fantasy right now. We also look at a hugely diverse array of fantasy that goes far beyond what many people imagine when they think of the genre. For more details, links, and transcripts head to wttepodcast.com Join the WTTE community and support the show on Patreon!
34 minutes | 2 years ago
32: Golden Age Detective Fiction
An English country estate. A detective pacing the room, explaining how they have solved the crime, revealing the solution to a puzzle and the clues which were there all along. It’s so easy to parody this scene because it’s so familiar. It’s Reverend Green in the billiard room with the candlestick. It’s a shocking murder in a cosy English village or the country estate of a well-off family…where everyone is as suspect. It’s the locked room mystery, where the puzzle is always the centre of the story. So, where do all these familiar ideas come from exactly? What do we mean when we talk about Golden Age Detective Fiction? And are our assumptions about the tropes and rules of this fiction really all the accurate? For full transcripts, links, pictures, and more head to the wttepodcast.com Find out how you can support WTTE at patreon.com/wtte
33 minutes | 2 years ago
31: Steampunk, Pt 2 (Even Greater London)
One way of thinking about steampunk is to divide it into two parts – the steam and the punk. The steam is the Victorian element: the fascination and engagement with the 19th century – whether satirizing or poking fun at Victorian conventions and ideas, dealing with problematic aspects of empire and colonialism, celebrating the people and places, or utterly rethinking the science and technology of the era. The punk, on the other hand, is very much about building collaborative communities in resistance to contemporary capitalist consumer culture and technology. It’s about maker culture and a DIY aesthetic, about fan groups, conventions and meetups. There’s a strong connection, as we’ll see, with other non-mainstream areas of performance culture: cosplay, circus arts, street performance, burlesque. And all of these different areas come together in the rapidly growing number of guests I’ve spoken to about this topic. For full details, links, transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com
30 minutes | 2 years ago
30: Steampunk, Pt1 (Fetch Me My Fighting Trousers)
Note: This episode is Part 1 of a double episode on steampunk. There are cultures, and subcultures, and sub, sub, sub cultures. There’s science fiction, there’s alternative history, there’s steampunk. There’s hip hop and there’s chaphop. There’s an anachronistic Victorian gentleman wearing a pith helmet with an orangutan butler, dissing a fellow chaphop artist for parodying, rather than engaging with, the genre. What, you may quite reasonably ask, is going on? Well, over this episode, and the next – because this is part one of a double episode - I’m going to take a really, really deep dive into the world of steampunk. Steampunk is a lot of things: an aesthetic, a genre, a fashion, a lifestyle. And to really understand it, and to see how influential it is on mainstream popular culture and a whole host of different areas, you need to look at it from several different angles. Which is why I have some very exciting guests lined up across these two episodes. In this instalment I’ll be talking to two very different professors: Dr Rachel Bowser is Associate Professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College, in the U.S. and has written extensively about steampunk. Professor Elemental is the Victorian gentleman whose music you’ve just heard, the chap in the chaphop. He’s a hiphop musician, performer, and voice-over artist, and he provides a another, very different angle in looking at the world of steampunk. This podcast tries to answer the question: what, exactly, is steampunk and how has it become so popular? For links, pictures, transcripts, and more head to wttepodcast.com/steampunk
26 minutes | 2 years ago
29: Travels in Four-Dimensional Space
We have no problem thinking mathematically about four-dimensional space. Where a 3-d cube has 8 vertices, a 4-d hypercube has 16 vertices. Where a cube has 6 faces, like a dice, a 4-d hypercube has 24 faces. The problem is imagining what that actually looks like. We live in a three-dimensional world. We can’t see a fourth dimension. We simply can’t imagine what a 4-D world would look like. However, that doesn’t mean that lots and lots of people haven’t tried to, in a huge variety of ways: mathematicians and physicists, philosophers and theologians, occultists and mystics, artists, architects, designers, authors. The fourth dimension, when you start to look for it, is everywhere. On this week’s episode I’m joined by Professor Christopher White who has just written a book with a fascinating central premise: in the U.S, and in many parts of the Western world, the number of people identifying as Christian has been consistently falling, for about 30 years now. Yet the number of people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”, people who still believe in a god of some sort, has remained very high. So, if people believe in spirits or angels, in God or life after death, in heaven or another world of some sort, but not in traditional religious institutions, how are they constructing these supernatural worlds? Well, in many ways, as Professor White explains, they are relying on science and maths. On other dimensions, multiverses, quantum entanglement, string theory, parallel universes. There is, and has been for well over a century now, a type of scientific supernatural. For links, pictures, full transcripts and more, head to wttepodcast.com
25 minutes | 2 years ago
28: Pulp Fiction (Amazing Stories of the Sisters of Tomorrow)
If you want to understand how we ended up with anything from Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Batman, intergalactic travel to microscopic worlds, profound meditations on the nature of being human to thrilling tales about Martian princesses, you have to look at pulp fiction. Argosy, Blue Book, Adventure, Black Mask, Horror Stories, Flying Aces…there was a lot of it. The 1920s and 30s was the age of pulp fiction, the time when genres truly became genres. Science fiction, detective stories, war stories, horror, westerns, fantasy. Everything. All those categories that we use to divide up fiction and film and TV came together in the pulps at this time. But what I want to do in this episode in particular is to look at some of the commonly held ideas about pulp fiction, and about science fiction more particularly. So here are a few things that we all know: 1: Science fiction was, and continues to be, mostly consumed by men 2: Science fiction is, for the most part, aimed at 12-year-old boys 3: There were very few women writers of science fiction between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the new feminist sf of the 60s and 70s 4: Those few women who did write SF were forced to write under male or androgynous pseudonyms in order to make it in an utterly male-dominated industry So you can probably guess where I’m going with. Yes, all of these are myths. They’re ideas that are completely, demonstrably false. This week Professor Lisa Yaszek joins me to discuss the history of the pulps and the many myths around early women’s science fiction. For links, pictures, full transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com/pulpfiction
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