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Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary Worlds

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.

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The Book of Dune

Imaginary Worlds

How do Muslims readers feel about Dune -- a book which appropriates many aspects of Islam and Arab culture to tell an unconventional hero's journey?

27 Min

Jul 12, 2017

World War EVE

Imaginary Worlds

Players from around the world explain why they live a double life in a virtual galaxy called EVE Online.

26 Min

Jun 28, 2017

Imagining the Internet

Imaginary Worlds

How did sci-fi authors imagine social media and the Internet before they existed?

21 Min

Jun 15, 2017

Episode
Podcast
Time
Released
25 min
May 31, 2017
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What happens when an animation voice actress leaves the show that made her famous -- and her cartoon alter ego isn't happy about it?

22 min
May 17, 2017
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Twin Peaks may feel like an unreal place, but some people wonder if their hometowns share too much in common with David Lynch's show.

20 min
May 3, 2017
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Lisa Hanawalt explains how her love of drawing horse people lead to being creative director of the Netflix series Bojack Horseman.

23 min
Apr 20, 2017
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A writer and filmmaker explain why they love horror films not just for the thrills, but because the genre helped them mourn for lost loved ones.

20 min
Apr 5, 2017
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Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel imagines how New Yorkers would adapt to sea level rise by turning the city into a Super Venice.

25 min
Mar 22, 2017
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Soviet science fiction reveals the hopes and anxieties of people living behind the Iron Curtain.

33 min
Mar 8, 2017
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How Will Eisner became the "father of the graphic novel."

20 min
Feb 22, 2017
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A social media hashtag celebrates black Cosplayers and the spin they put on classic characters.

27 min
Feb 8, 2017
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How the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender captured the Asian-American experience.

22 min
Jan 26, 2017
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How did Live Action Role Play (a.k.a. Larp) become an obsessive hobby worldwide -- and a new kind of art?

22 min
Jan 25, 2017
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How did Live Action Role Play (a.k.a. Larp) become an obsessive hobby worldwide -- and a new kind of art?

18 min
Jan 12, 2017
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The book "The Art of Atari" is full of eye candy, but it's also about how Atari became a superstar company -- until it was Game Over.

19 min
Dec 29, 2016
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In memory of Carrie Fisher, I'm replaying my 2015 episode on the infamous gold medal bikini, and how its been interpreted over the years.

22 min
Dec 15, 2016
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The 1994 film Clerks posed a moral dilemma that Star Wars fans -- and George Lucas -- have wrestled with for decades.

26 min
Dec 1, 2016
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The creators of the Amazon series talk about building a world we don't want to imagine -- but we need to.

22 min
Nov 17, 2016
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"If Harry Potter were in our world, wouldn't he do more than just talk about how awesome it is to be Harry Potter?"

17 min
Nov 3, 2016
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Reading Harry Potter helps trauma survivors understand their experiences, and feel less alone.

18 min
Oct 19, 2016
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The Sorting Hat has transcended the Harry Potter books and become a phenomenon that makes us question who we really are.

22 min
Oct 6, 2016
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Fantasy novelists work hard to make us believe in magic, but scientists say we already do.

16 min
Sep 22, 2016
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What Google Maps and Middle-earth have in common.

18 min
Sep 7, 2016
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J.R.R. Tolkien was baffled why the counter-culture in the 1960s had embraced his world of Middle-earth.

21 min
Aug 24, 2016
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Stephanie D'Abruzzo reveals the craft of puppeteering on Sesame Street and Ave Q.

23 min
Aug 10, 2016
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This week, I revisit my origin story with a flashback to my superhero training (or at least how I learned to produce audio stories.)

17 min
Jul 27, 2016
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Ten years after the great writer passed, her work continues to be more relevant than ever.

20 min
Jul 14, 2016
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Scarlett Johansson's casting in a live-action remake of an iconic Japanese animated film stirs a debate over race in anime.

20 min
Jun 29, 2016
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How did a quirky low budget indie video game take the gaming world by storm?

17 min
Jun 15, 2016
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How a cataclysmic volcanic eruption inspired a teenage girl to write a literary masterpiece.

21 min
Jun 2, 2016
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An immersive theatrical show takes me inside the asylum of Alice in Wonderland

17 min
May 19, 2016
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How much does the legacy of slavery haunt our visions of the future, where we expect robots to do our bidding?

21 min
May 5, 2016
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The villains on the show Orphan Black are based on a real movement of people who want us to take control of our own evolution.

17 min
Apr 21, 2016
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Sci-fi and fantasy writers play with economics principles to imagine worlds of great scarcity and abundance.

17 min
Apr 7, 2016
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A Godzilla superfan sets out to make a full body costume, and discovers what it takes to become a monster.

19 min
Mar 24, 2016
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Imaginary Worlds and Here Be Monsters team up to make a radio drama inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

23 min
Mar 10, 2016
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Dungeons & Dragons may have the answer as to why our most popular superheroes are fighting each other rather than the bad guys.

24 min
Feb 25, 2016
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The Amazon warrior princess is finally making her big screen debut. Can they get her right this time?

17 min
Feb 11, 2016
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In 2013, I co-produced this episode of 99% Invisible with Roman Mars about Maurice Noble, the artist who created many of the background (or "layouts") in Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1950s and '60s. Noble's work was revolutionary, but it got...

22 min
Jan 28, 2016
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We all know that novelist Bram Stoker based the character of Dracula off Vlad the Impailer, the Romanian prince who fought off the Turks -- or that's the urban legend. Stoker actually didn't research Vlad that much, or vampire folklore. So...

14 min
Jan 14, 2016
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Tom Fontana is a TV writer and producer who worked on St. Elsewhere in the 1980s. The show was a pretty straightforward hospital drama, but Fontana had a mischievous streak -- and a soft spot for crossovers. So when he came up with a trick ending...

25 min
Dec 31, 2015
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Warning: Spoilers ahead! When The Force Awakens came out, millions of fans flocked to the theaters to find out what happened to the characters in the 30 years since Return of the Jedi. But hardcore Star Wars fans knew what happened to them...

16 min
Dec 16, 2015
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In 1997, the Star Wars trilogy was re-released in theaters. Longtime fans were excited to see the new digital effects, while younger fans couldn't wait to experience Star Wars on the big screen. But George Lucas had made a fundamental change...

18 min
Dec 2, 2015
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The gold metal bikini that Princess Leia wears in Return of the Jedi has become the dominant image of her from action figures to Cosplay. But the context of that costume -- being a sex slave for a giant slug monster -- has sparked a debate...

20 min
Nov 18, 2015
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The epic battle between the Evil Empire and the Rebel Alliance has become a metaphor we love to use in sports and politics. But what happens when you realize that you're the Empire in someone else's story? Do you tell them they're wrong? Do...

23 min
Nov 4, 2015
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It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire...  Before those words crawled up movie screen screen in May 1977, what did people think the...

5 min
Oct 21, 2015
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In this bonus episode of Imaginary Worlds, I look at how Back to the Future Part II might have been a better movie if it took place in our 2015 -- yes, the one without flying cars. 

12 min
Oct 20, 2015
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They arrive out of nowhere in shockingly large ships, brandishing weapons we've never seen, offering false promises of peace when they really want our land, our resources and our labor. The alien invasion film is a...

19 min
Oct 7, 2015
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FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are reopening The X-Files in January. And the Internet couldn't be more excited. Every casting update, every on-set photos has sparked a dozen tweets or blog posts. Is this just nostalgia? Or is concept...

31 min
Sep 23, 2015
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SEASON 2 PREMIERE: I spent the last two months learning how to play Dungeons & Dragons. That's right, I never played as a kid. But I've been reading so many interviews with interesting creative people who credit D&D with their success, I kept...

21 min
Sep 9, 2015
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Season 2 of Imaginary Worlds will kick off on September 22nd. In the mean time, I wanted to play an interview my colleague Sean Rameswaram did with Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor on Game of Thrones. Sean hosts a podcast from PRI called Sideshow,...

17 min
Jul 29, 2015
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"The Strong Female Character" sounds positive, but it's actually a term used by culture critics to describe the token girl let into the boy's clubhouse of action-adventure movies. She's supposed to kick ass -- but she has no character...

15 min
Jul 15, 2015
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Superhero costumes used to be stand alone works of fashion that over time became dated or cringe-worthy. But lately, movie and TV superhero costumes have been looking good -- with fewer complaints from the fans. I talk with costume...

17 min
Jul 1, 2015
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I have a thing for doppelgangers. Partly it's because my brain always falls for this trick and believes on some level that the doubles are being played by different actors. Thanks to digital effects, it's easier to create doppelgangers on a TV budget...

27 min
Jun 17, 2015
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At the height of his career, Richard Williams was hailed as the next Walt Disney -- and he won two visual effects Oscars for Roger Rabbit. But Williams wanted to prove that animation was high art, not just something to sell toys. So he spent...

14 min
Jun 3, 2015
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New York City real estate is not usually a hotbed of fantasy, except the fantasy that you could afford that $20 million condo 50 stories up. But an unusual ad campaign for 15 Renwick St. in Hudson Square defied conventional thinking and focused on a...

14 min
May 20, 2015
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Ronald D. Moore is best known for rebooting Battlestar Galactica for the post-9/11 era, but he got his start writing on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, he really got his start in science fiction by watching the original Star Trek as a kid...

13 min
May 6, 2015
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A few years ago, I reported a story about a safe house program for vampires in New Haven, CT. The city supplied the vampires with blood if they agreed to live under police supervision. But the funding for the program got cut and the vampires...

15 min
Apr 22, 2015
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Ed Skoudis built a different kind of imaginary world. It's a three-dimensional model of a town that the military uses for cyber war games. Ed's team plays the role of the terrorists who keep trying to hijack a train or contaminate the water...

17 min
Apr 8, 2015
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Game of Thrones is huge in every way. Why does this medieval fantasy with knights and castles speak to our time? Politics. There are a surprising number of international relations experts that see parallels between...

17 min
Mar 25, 2015
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Zombies. I hate them the way Indiana Jones hates snakes. I know it's a ridiculous phobia -- they're not real, and zombies are a classic genre full of rich ideas. So I decide to undergo zombie immersion therapy. My friend Patrick O' Connor forces me to...

24 min
Mar 11, 2015
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Science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr. wouldn't talk on the phone or appear in person. He developed friendships with contemporaries like Ursula le Guin and Philip K. Dick purely through letters. And he became a mentor to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro when...

17 min
Feb 25, 2015
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A French philosopher is certain his ideas will help human beings evolve -- not just emotionally or psychologically. We will start to grow tails. And that inspires his disciples to start a socialist commune in the Wild West of 1850s Texas....

19 min
Feb 11, 2015
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They say you shouldn't meet your heroes because you might be disappointed.  What happens when you're told from now on you are your childhood hero? For many people that would be a metaphor but that actually happened to Scott Snyder when DC Comics...

15 min
Jan 29, 2015
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The desirable robot has been a trope in science fiction for almost a century. American University professor Despina Kakoudaki (author of "Anatomy of a Robot") says watching actors play robots is a wish fulfillment -- imagining what it would be like to...

23 min
Jan 14, 2015
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"The Golem and The Jinni" by Helene Wecker is one of my favorite novels in recent years. It's about two mythological characters meeting in late 19th century New York -- one from Arab culture and the other from Jewish folklore. The inspiration for the...

22 min
Dec 31, 2014
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In April 2007, I interviewed Joss Whedon for a public radio story about how he was continuing Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a comic book. I only got to use a few sound bytes for that piece, but I always liked the interview itself, which has been...

18 min
Dec 17, 2014
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Kids may be aging out of action figures earlier than ever, but action figure collectables for adults is booming. I visit two of the leading toy shops, NECA and Sideshow Collectables, and I talk with psychologist David Shim, who has an impressive man...

22 min
Dec 4, 2014
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Peter Pan is never supposed to grow up, but Illinois State University professor Karen Coats says the character has grown over time from a Victorian symbol of immaturity to a celebration of the inner-child. Either way, Captain Hook got a raw deal. He...

15 min
Nov 19, 2014
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What exactly is the role of the love interest in a superhero story? Is she just the emotional stakes for the hero? Can she ever be anything more? I talk with screenwriting guru Pilar Alessandra, and screenwriters Craig Fernandez and Carr D'Angelo. It...

16 min
Nov 5, 2014
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Salem is like something out of a Grimm fairy tale for many people -- it’s not a real place. But Salem always felt visceral to me growing up in Massachusetts. I love the ancient graveyards and the colonial houses flush up against the...

12 min
Oct 22, 2014
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz started as a perfect partnership between writer L. Frank Baum and illustrator W. W. Denslow. But they became bitter rivals, with each owning half the copyright to the 1900 book. Baum put his nose to the grindstone trying to...

14 min
Oct 8, 2014
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Every sci-fi fantasy world comes with a canon of rules and back stories. Fans can be fiercely protective of their favorite canons, but canons are often patchworks created by people with conflicting ideas. Does a dense canon make better storytelling?...

15 min
Sep 24, 2014
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Computer animation vs. puppets. Fans have been debating for years which is more believable -- especially when a creature is sharing a scene with a human actor. I talk with ILM animator Charles Alleneck who worked on the Star Wars prequels, and...

15 min
Sep 10, 2014
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To kick off the series, I look at what makes a good origin story, whether you're fighting super villains or going on a job interview

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