Podcast

Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres. Host Eric Molinsky talks with novelists, screenwriters, comic book artists, filmmakers, and game designers about their craft of creating fictional worlds. The show also looks at the fan experience, exploring what makes us suspend our disbelief, and what happens when that spell is broken. Fantasy worlds may be set in distant planets or parallel dimensions, but they are crafted here on Earth and on some level r...more

Episodes

  • The Power of the Makeover Mage

    Feb 07 2019

    In some video games, you can choose which characters you want to play, and you can customize the look of those characters -- including changing their gender. For many transgender players, that option has played a significant role in their lives. Reporter and podcaster Jaye McAuliffe co-hosts this episode, as she reflects on her own gender transition and the experience of others who discovered that they can use video game avatars to begin reimagining themselves in the real world. Also featuring J...more

  • Choose Your Own Adventure

    Jan 24 2019

    One of the unique aspects of video games is that you can control the characters. But game developers are often torn between wanting to give the players as much freedom as possible, and wanting to guide the players through a strong story. Adam Hines tries to crack the code with his indie game Oxen Free. Ryan Kaufman and Alyssa Finley discuss why the Telltale games were more like Choose Your Own Emotions. And Jamie Madigan of The Psychology of Video Games explains how clicking dialogue o...more

  • Reimagining the Gods

    Jan 10 2019

    Madeline Miller received critical acclaim for her novels The Song of Achilles and Circe – which reimagine The Iliad and The Odyssey told from the perspective of minor characters in the original texts by Homer. As someone who grew up loving Greek mythology, Madeline wanted to capture the sense of wonder she felt about gods and monsters, and the raw emotional truth inside those very human tales of immortal beings. But she struggled for years to find a modern voice for these classical characters, a...more

  • A Visit by Three Ghosts

    Dec 24 2018

    In a special stocking stuffer of an episode, Stephanie Billman and I discuss why A Christmas Carol set the template for SF stories to come -- from Back to the Future to X=Men. Plus, we have a special announcement about the future of Imaginary Worlds!  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Board Games Go Indie

    Dec 13 2018

    We all grow up playing board games and card games, and now those games are growing up as well. I check out BostonFIG (festival of independent games), where a new generation of indie board game designers is reimagining what we can do with dice, cards and plastic game pieces. I also talk with Shari and Jenni Spiro of AdMagic -- the company that can make unorthodox games like Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens into household names. Plus, Dylan McKeefe at NYU's Game Incubator, and Luke Cra...more

  • How I Won the Larp

    Nov 29 2018

    In my 2017 episode Winning the Larp, I looked at the history of larps (live action role plays) and how the larping experience is deeply personal for each of the players. But I hadn’t done any larps myself. So this year, I delved deep into larping, where I discovered the thrill of stepping into someone else’s world, and the out-of-body experience of feeling emotions that aren’t yours. Featuring Ashwick Planation, DexCon and Sinking Ship Creations, along with readings by George Morafetis, Nicole G...more

  • Alternate Movie Posters

    Nov 15 2018

    Long ago, before we found out about new movies from tweets about teaser trailers that advertised full-length trailers – the first glimpse of a new movie would be the poster. Movie posters used to be hand-drawn illustrations, and many of them became iconic. Not so much anymore. But a growing movement of artists, galleries and print companies are creating alternative movie posters that re-imagine ad campaigns for current and former blockbusters of sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. I talk with Rob...more

  • Faith in Fantasy

    Nov 01 2018

    Science fiction has not always been compatible with religion -- in fact many futuristic settings imagine no religion at all. But sci-fi and fantasy have long fascinated people of different faiths because the genres wrestle with the big questions of life. I recently moderated a discussion between Minister Oscar Sinclair, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Alwaez Hussein Rashid about why SF worlds intrigue and inspire them. List of References: "Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. TolkienX-Men comicsDoctor Who Se...more

  • Don't Mess with the Fairies

    Oct 18 2018

    Forget Tinkerbell or those Victorian paintings of spritely pixies with wings. Traditional fairy folklore is much darker and weirder. Irish storytellers Philip Byrne, Helena Byrne, Eddie Lenihan, and professor Martha Bayless explore how fairy folklore dominated Celtic culture for centuries, and why belief in fairies is not an unreasonable way of understanding the world.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Movies for the Mind

    Oct 04 2018

    There has been a renaissance of audio drama podcasts over the last several years, so picking up where I left off in the previous episode, I bring the history of audio dramas up to date with the help of Ann Heppermann, creator of The Sarah Awards for audio fiction. I also talk with Jonathan Mitchell of The Truth about the quest for realism and the pitfalls of fake interviews. Plus we hear the third audio drama that I wrote with The Truth, called "Nuclear Winter," about a pair of missile launch of...more

  • Theater for the Mind

    Sep 20 2018

    The "golden age of radio drama" may have been a stellar period for storytelling -- but the stories weren't all golden bright. Science fiction and horror were the ideal genres to explore the deep anxieties people felt from the Depression through the Cold War. And these radio dramas set the stage for fantastical stories that couldn't be told yet without advanced special effects. Dallas Taylor of the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz co-hosts this episode as we hear from radio historians Neil Verma and...more

  • Fantastical Feasts

    Sep 05 2018

    What is the role of food in worldbuilding? Characters usually have to eat to stay alive -- but food is also culture, and if you're creating a fantasy culture, food will be an expression of those values. Chef Chelsea Monroe-Cassell talks about the origin of her fantasy cookbooks while chef Jenn de la Vega makes us a dish based on the novel "The Lies of Locke Lamora." Authors Elizabeth Bear and Fran Wilde break down the tropes and cliches around SF foods. Chef and author Jason Sheehan talks about ...more

  • D&D Revisited

    Aug 23 2018

    Stubborn Lippi a.k.a. Stubbs is a halfling, a bard, and a sorcerer. He's also the character I've been playing since I produced my 2015 episode "Rolling the Twenty Sided Dice," where I learned how to play Dungeons & Dragons. This week, I discuss the epic and surprisingly personal journey I've been on over the past three years with my co-player Adam Boretz and our Dungeon Master Arlin Foley. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Imaginary Deaths

    Jul 12 2018

    Have you ever mourned the loss of a fictional character? It can be tough to get over, and difficult to convince people not caught up in that fictional world that your sense of mourning is valid. I talk with Tim Burke, Dawn Fancher, Maria Clara Santarosa, Megan Knox, Stephanie Billman, Leigh Foster and Daniel Skorka about how they've grieved the loss of their favorite characters from video games, novels, TV shows and movies. Plus Professor Jennifer Barnes explains the psychology behind why we fee...more

  • Doctor Who?

    Jan 25 2018

    We don't know his real name. We don't know who he was before he stole the TARDIS -- a spaceship/time machine that looks like a police box on the outside, but is really a cavernous ship on the inside. He's thousands of years old, but wears a different face every few years. He calls himself The Doctor, but Doctor who? In the first of my three-part series, I look at how a restless intergalactic time traveller became a global pop culture icon, and why The Doctor's knack for physical regeneration res...more

  • Fan Fiction (Don't Judge)

    Nov 02 2017

    Sci-fi and fantasy have always been a big part of fan fiction, but fan fiction hasn't always gotten respect in return. My former colleague at WNYC Stephanie Billman guides me through the landscape of fan fiction, debunking many of my preconceptions. We talk with Francesca Coppa, author of The Fanfiction Reader and one of the creators of the fan fic site Archive of Our Own. Britta Lundin, a writer on the CW's Riverdale, explains why writing fan fiction was a great way to train for writing TV. And...more

  • The Haunted Mansion

    Oct 19 2017

    The Haunted Mansion is one of the most beloved rides at the Disney theme parks, yet its development was anything but smooth. Walt Disney himself could never decide if the ride should be funny or scary, so he assigned "Imagineers" to develop both aspects. But the team fell into competing groups that argued for over a decade. Author Jeff Baham of the site Doom Buggies and David Mumpower of the site Theme Park Tourist explain how this tortured creative process lead to a masterpiece in theme park de...more

  • The Book of Dune

    Jul 12 2017

    Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune and its sequels tackled a lot of big themes. The books are about ecology. They're about journeys of self-realization through mind-altering substances. But religion is at the core of the series, since the main character Paul Atreides transforms from a teenage aristocrat into a messianic revolutionary leader of a nomadic desert tribe. And the real world religion that Frank Herbert borrows from the most is Islam. Khalid Baheyeldin, Salman Sayyid, and Sami Shah discus...more

  • Beyond the Iron Curtain

    Mar 23 2017

    Comrades! The USSR pioneered the craft of science fiction long before the decadent West. This is not an opinion - this is a scientific fact. Noted intellectuals Anindita Banerjee, Sibelan Forrester, Asif Siddiqi, Gregory Afinogenov and the author's father Steven Molinsky discuss how the glorious Soviet people brought the Revolution to Mars, and used science fiction such as Aelita and Solaris to explore existential questions. Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live forever in outer space!Learn ...more

  • The Year Without a Summer

    Jun 15 2016

    June 16, 2016 is the 200th anniversary of the night Mary Shelley began to write, "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus." Scholars have long speculated what Frankenstein can tell us about scientific hubris or "playing God." But Professors Gillen D'Arcy Wood and Ron Broglio think the book has just as much to say about how we adapt to "acts of God." In other words, Frankenstein was imagined in a year when the Earth's climate was thrown off balance and the weather was wildly unpredictable. Sound f...more

  • Rolling the Twenty Sided Dice

    Sep 23 2015

    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 wondering what I missed out on -- and whether it was too late to figure it out. Helping me on my quest are Lev Grossman (author of The Magicians trilogy), Paul La Farge, Richard Valazquez and the staff of The Brooklyn Strategist. Learn more about your ad ch...more

  • The Mysterious James Tiptree

    Mar 11 2015

    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 she was an up-in-coming writer. But James Tiptree Jr. didn't really exist. He was the pen name of a 60-year old suburban housewife named Alice Sheldon. Biogrpaher Julie Philips says Sheldon's real life story was even more surreal than her alter ego. W...more

  • Origin Stories

    Sep 10 2014

    What makes a good origin story? University of Oregon professor Benjamin Saunders explains how retelling origin stories is a way of returning to childhood wonder. The best origin stories are not a one shot deal, they transform characters like Spider-Man or Buffy – and keep transforming them. I see a psychologist, Dr. Robin Rosenberg, who specializes in helping her patients figure out their powers and their mission. And I unpack my own origin story, or at least a story that explains how I got from...more

  • Find Full Archive of Imaginary Worlds on Stitcher Premium

    May 25 1977