Imaginary Worlds

Eric Molinsky

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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 sho...Show More

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Faith in Fantasy

32:15 | Nov 1st, 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 l...Show More

Fahrenheit 451 Still Burns

29:18 | Jun 27th, 2018

The writer Neil Gaiman first became entranced with Fahrenheit 451 as a kid, but he says the novel is the kind of masterpiece that seems like a different story every time you read it depending on where you are in life, or in history. I also talk with ...Show More

Behind the Daleks

31:44 | Feb 22nd, 2018

They may not look scary to you, but the monsters on Doctor Who have scared generations of children to the point where hiding "behind the sofa" has become a meme in the UK. When I first started watching the show, I was baffled by one particular villai...Show More

Traveling in The TARDIS

29:32 | Feb 8th, 2018

If The Doctor offered you a spot traveling with him on his spaceship/time machine The TARDIS, would you go? Would you still go if you knew what happened to all his previous companions? For many Doctor Who fans the answer to both questions is unequivo...Show More

On The Front Lines of Fantasy

25:28 | Nov 16th, 2017

The military shows up in a lot of sci-fi and fantasy stories but the subgenre of military SF depicts soldiers holding their own in fantastical situations without needing superheroes to save the day. Many military SF authors have served in the armed f...Show More

The Haunted Mansion

27:21 | Oct 19th, 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 aspe...Show More

Rappers with Arm Cannons

21:56 | Oct 5th, 2017

In the second of my two-part episode on musical worlds, I talk with Mega Ran and Sammus -- hip hop artists that create concept albums based on the classic video games Mega Man and Metroid. They talk about the challenge of creating an imaginary world ...Show More


25:04 | Sep 7th, 2017

This week, I team up with Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist podcast to help me figure out why one set of poorly understood pseudo-scientific terms can sink a scene, while another set of pseudo-scientific phrases can sell a sci-fi concept. We'll hear ...Show More

28 Days of Black Cosplay

20:16 | Feb 23rd, 2017

Cosplay has gotten huge in the age of social media, but when websites feature their ComicCon slides shows, they often don't reflect the true diversity of the fans. So black Cosplayers created their own hashtag #28DaysofBlackCosplay (although it was #...Show More

Growing Up Avatar-American

27:46 | Feb 8th, 2017

Sam Kaden Lai takes the wheel of this episode of Imaginary Worlds to tell the story of how Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel series on Nickelodeon, The Legend of Korra, redefined the Asian-American experience for him and his friends -- even t...Show More

Slave Leia 2016

19:59 | Dec 29th, 2016

In memory of Carrie Fisher, I'm replaying my episode Slave Leia from last year's Star Wars series. For a while, the gold metal bikini that Princess Leia wore in Return of the Jedi had become the dominant image of her from action figures to Cosplay. B...Show More

The Hero's Journey Endgame

32:35 | Apr 3rd

The Hero's Journey has dominated sci-fi fantasy storytelling for over 40 years. Have the storytelling formula reached a saturation point?

Slaughterhouse at Fifty

30:52 | Mar 20th

Kurt Vonnegut had a unique way of processing his wartime trauma -- he used science fiction. But why did the aliens in Slaughterhouse Five look like green toilet plungers with hands instead of heads? We explore that and much more on the book’s 50th an...Show More

Tales of Margaret Brundage

26:37 | Mar 7th

How a pioneering pulp fiction magazine illustrator reimagined women for fantasy and horror genres.

The Man Behind the Sword

29:57 | Feb 21st

Few people know the rich history behind Conan the Barbarian, and his creator Robert E. Howard.

The Power of the Makeover Mage

29:28 | Feb 7th

Video games can give you the option of customizing the look of your character -- and even change their gender. For many transgender players, that option played a significant role in their lives.

Choose Your Own Adventure

31:56 | Jan 24th

How much control do we really want over the characters we play in video games?

Reimagining the Gods

31:00 | Jan 10th

In Madeline Miller's critically acclaimed novels The Song of Achilles and Circe, she reimagines Homer's classic tales of gods, monsters and mortals from the point of view of minor characters in the original texts.

A Visit by Three Ghosts

25:53 | Dec 24th, 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!...Show More

Board Games Go Indie

28:50 | Dec 13th, 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 ...Show More

How I Won the Larp

42:02 | Nov 29th, 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, wh...Show More

Alternate Movie Posters

28:02 | Nov 15th, 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 i...Show More

Don't Mess with the Fairies

29:21 | Oct 18th, 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...Show More

Movies for the Mind

31:07 | Oct 4th, 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 ...Show More

Theater for the Mind

31:47 | Sep 20th, 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 C...Show More

Fantastical Feasts

27:21 | Sep 5th, 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 ori...Show More

D&D Revisited

35:34 | Aug 23rd, 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 e...Show More

Fan Fiction (Special Edition)

34:03 | Aug 9th, 2018

Last year, I interviewed Francesca Coppa for my episode Fan Fiction (Don't Judge.) She's the author of the book "The Fanfiction Reader," and one of the founders of the fanfic site Archive of Our Own. Francesca was such a great source of information t...Show More

Do You Speak Conlang?

28:15 | Jul 26th, 2018

Sci-fi fantasy worlds often use constructed languages (or conlangs for short) as a worldbuilding tool that can make us believe the characters come from an ancient or alien culture. But art can take on a life of its own once it's released into the wor...Show More

Imaginary Deaths

30:26 | Jul 12th, 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 Santar...Show More

Gathering the Magic

28:22 | Jun 14th, 2018

At its core, Magic: The Gathering is a card game and your goal is to knock your opponent down to zero points. But Magic: The Gathering also has a deep mythology about an infinite number of parallel worlds. As Magic celebrates its 25th anniversary, I ...Show More

The First Three Lives of Catherine Webb

37:38 | May 31st, 2018

You may know her as Claire North, author of the best-selling novel "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August." You might also know her as Kate Griffin, author of the urban fantasy series about modern day sorcerer Matthew Swift. You may have read her H...Show More

The Westworld Experience

34:41 | May 17th, 2018

To promote season 2 of Westworld, HBO recreated the fictional Wild West town from the TV show just outside Austin at the SXSW festival, and they hired actors to play androids who think they're living in the Old West -- just like the androids on the T...Show More

Jack Kirby's Marvels

34:04 | May 3rd, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War brought together characters from across the Marvel universe, but many of them already shared a common bond -- their creator Jack Kirby. While Kirby is best known for his intense drawing style, he was also a great storyteller wh...Show More

Living in Space

33:58 | Apr 19th, 2018

People have fantasized for ages about what it would be like to live in space -- whether it's living on the moon or Mars or on a space station. And if Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos achieve their goals with Space X and Blue Origin, life in space might not be...Show More

Visions of Philip K. Dick

28:19 | Apr 5th, 2018

Philip K. Dick is best known for his fiction that have been adapted to movies and TV shows like Blade Runner, Minority Report and Man in the High Castle. He wrote about multiple realities and fantastic worlds beyond the scope of our mundane everyday ...Show More

Stuck in the Uncanny Valley

29:25 | Mar 22nd, 2018

The holy grail for many animators is to create digital humans that can pass for the real thing -- in other words to cross the "uncanny valley."  The problem is that the closer they get to realism, the more those almost-real humans repulse us. Blame e...Show More

Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin

26:58 | Mar 8th, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin was a master storyteller who was best known for her "thought experiments" -- like what if there were a planet in which the inhabitants had no fixed gender? Or what if a man's dreams could alter reality around him? She was also a fea...Show More

Doctor Who?

35:09 | Jan 25th, 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...Show More

Brain Chemistry

27:56 | Jan 11th, 2018

For the past year, I've been working with The Truth, an audio drama collective that makes "movies for your ears." In the second story that I wrote with them, a cryogenically-frozen man is revived over a century from now to find himself in a world tha...Show More

The Canon Revisited

33:50 | Dec 28th, 2017

The Last Jedi may be the most controversial film in the Star Wars series. While the movie has been critically acclaimed, many Star Wars fans have argued that the film violated canon in a number of ways, especially how it depicted Luke Skywalker. This...Show More

Politics of The Expanse

30:01 | Dec 14th, 2017

The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey (the pseudonym for writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) imagine how human beings would colonize our solar system, with settlements on Mars, the asteroid belt and the moons beyond. But Earth looses control of it...Show More

Robot Collar Jobs

24:05 | Nov 30th, 2017

Are we prepared for a future where robots are the most sought after employees? Maybe not. Lawmakers will blame anything but automation for job losses and flat wages -- but sci-fi writers are up to the challenge. In her debut novel Autonomous, Annalee...Show More

Fan Fiction (Don't Judge)

31:10 | Nov 2nd, 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. ...Show More

Worldbuilding With Music

15:55 | Sep 21st, 2017

In the first of a two part episode on imaginary worlds in music, I talk with members of Vertigo Drift, an indie band that created a cyberpunk concept album with an expanded universe of material provided by visual artists, writers and filmmakers. Whil...Show More

Future Screens Are Mostly Blue

21:51 | Aug 24th, 2017

This week, I'm playing one of my favorite episodes of the podcast 99% Invisible where host Roman Mars and producer Sam Greenspan look at control panels in science fiction -- the clunky, the elegant, and the just plain baffling. But those user interfa...Show More

Scott Snyder

26:00 | Aug 10th, 2017

If the previous episode was all about villains, this one looks at the other side of that equation. In 2014 I interviewed the writer Scott Snyder whose run on Batman comics is considered one of the best in long history of the Dark Knight. It was a dif...Show More

Evil Plans

26:24 | Jul 27th, 2017

They've tried to take over the world. They've tried to take away our free will. They've gone after ancient artifacts with vaguely defined magical properties. But they almost always fail. The evil plan has become a meta-joke to the point where even th...Show More

The Book of Dune

26:23 | Jul 12th, 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...Show More

World War EVE

26:24 | Jun 29th, 2017

EVE Online is a massive multi-player online role playing game, which means it's a game where there are no rules -- just a galaxy where you build space ships, form alliances and go to war. The Icelandic company CCP that created the game even attracted...Show More

Imagining the Internet

21:46 | Jun 15th, 2017

We were promised flying cars but we got Twitter instead. That's the common complaint against science fiction writers and the visions of the future they presented us in the 20th century. But many sci-fi authors did envision something like the Internet...Show More

Do The Voice

25:00 | Jun 1st, 2017

There's been a recent resurgence of radio dramas or audio dramas over the past 5 years. I've done a few myself on Imaginary Worlds. So I was very flattered (and a little intimidated) when the highly regarded audio drama podcast The Truth asked me to ...Show More

The Real Twin Peaks

22:41 | May 17th, 2017

Most people think of Twin Peaks as a place in their imaginations or on TV. But the show caused an identity crisis for the folks living in the towns where Twin Peaks was filmed. Kyle Twede, who owns Twede's Cafe which was a major location on the show,...Show More

Designing Bojack's World

20:34 | May 3rd, 2017

Lisa Hanawalt had finally established herself as a freelance illustrator when her friend Raphael Bob-Wakesburg asked to borrow one of her drawings to pitch his animated series Bojack Horseman, which eventually ended up on Netflix. To Lisa's surprise,...Show More

Healing Through Horror

23:19 | Apr 20th, 2017

Steven Sheil grew up in the era of "video nasties" -- a pushback by conservatives in the UK to ban Hollywood slasher films before they could corrupt the youth. The effort backfired and made contraband films like The Evil Dead into hot commodities for...Show More

New York 2140

20:56 | Apr 6th, 2017

Imagine you're a New Yorker in the mid 22nd century. You have to deal with all sorts of headaches like traffic jams on the East River or brownstones collapsing into the canals. People think you're crazy to live in this Super Venice, but you wouldn't ...Show More

Beyond the Iron Curtain

25:55 | Mar 23rd, 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 f...Show More

The Spirit of Will Eisner

33:00 | Mar 9th, 2017

Imaginary Worlds goes live in this special presentation from the work x work on air festival. In celebration of Will Eisner's centennial, authors Paul Levitz and Bob Andelman, along with comics publisher Denis Kitchen and MAD Magazine's Al Jaffee dis...Show More

Winning the Larp

22:34 | Jan 26th, 2017

Larp stands for Live Action Role Play. That's about as simple as it gets when trying to understand what Larps are. They can be fantastical and magical, or they can be hyper-realistic dramas that grapple with topical issues. And Larps are getting more...Show More

Atari vs The Imagination Gap

18:09 | Jan 12th, 2017

Tim Lapetino's book "The Art of Atari" is full of eye candy for anyone who grew up playing those games -- especially if you gazed at the game boxes, with illustrations that barely resembled the blips on screen. But the book also tells the story of ho...Show More

Workin' on the Death Star

22:32 | Dec 15th, 2016

Think of all the movies and TV shows that reference Star Wars. Most of those scenes are pretty forgettable -- except for a scene in the 1994 film Clerks, which set off a debate that's still going on today. One of the characters notes that the second ...Show More

The Man In the High Castle

26:02 | Dec 1st, 2016

The Amazon series The Man in the High Castle is based on a 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, which imagines what would've happened to America if the Axis Powers won World War II. In this scenario, Nazi Germany imposes their ideology on the East Coast and...Show More

Dumbledore's Army

22:52 | Nov 17th, 2016

How much does an author's point of view influence her stories? And do those stories in turn influence us? Professor Anthony Gierzynski argues that reading Harry Potter can make people more tolerant of diversity, and more resistant to unreasonable aut...Show More

Caps Lock Harry

17:53 | Nov 3rd, 2016

Harry was being a jerk -- or that's what a lot of kids and teens thought when they read the last few books of JK Rowling's series. Some adult readers chocked up Harry's quick temper, anxiety and defensiveness to typical teen angst. But what if Harry ...Show More

The Sorting Hat

18:57 | Oct 19th, 2016

Every 11-year old goes through this, right? Your teacher places a brown wizard's cap your head, and the hat tells you what your defining characteristic is. You are brave, or loyal, or ambitious, or intellectual. Plus, your whole school is sorted into...Show More

Magical Thinking

22:08 | Oct 6th, 2016

Hocus Pocus. Abracadabra. Those words imply that magic is silly because it can solve problems far too easily. Fantasy novelists strive to avoid those types of situations when they design magic systems from scratch. Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Kin...Show More

Fantasy Maps

16:32 | Sep 22nd, 2016

J.R.R. Tolkien not only kicked off the modern fantasy genre, he also made maps an indispensable part of any fantasy book. Tolkien spent decades mapping out Middle-earth on graph paper -- and giving everything a name -- because he was inventing a worl...Show More

The Hobbits and The Hippies

18:35 | Sep 7th, 2016

SEASON 3 PREMIERE: J.R.R. Tolkien wanted his work to be taken seriously. But his magnum opus The Lord of the Rings was unlike most of great literature of the mid-20th century, which was modernist or tackled the great issues of the day. And wasn't The...Show More

Behind The Felt

21:50 | Aug 24th, 2016

In the continuation of my behind-the-scenes mini-series, I revisit the first interview I ever recorded for Imaginary Worlds -- the puppeteer Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who is best known for performing as Kate Monster in the Broadway musical Avenue Q. I int...Show More

Finding My Voice

23:39 | Aug 10th, 2016

This week, I pull the curtain back on my process and look at two public radio stories I reported back in 2008 when I began to find my voice as a reporter -- and started to realize that I might want to have my own show where I could geek out freely. A...Show More

The Legacy of Octavia Butler

17:17 | Jul 27th, 2016

2016 marks the ten-year anniversary of Octavia Butler's passing. Commemorative events are happening across Southern California, where she spent most of her life, from conferences to panels to walking tours. Recently, I've become obsessed with her wri...Show More

Ghost in the Shell

20:41 | Jul 14th, 2016

Ghost in the Shell was groundbreaking, visually and thematically. The 1995 Japanese animated film (or anime) was unapologetically for adults. The story focuses on a cyborg cop whose body is synthetic but her brain is organic. As she chases down a mys...Show More


20:04 | Jun 29th, 2016

Digital technology has come so far that independent video game designers can create and distribute their work online, and make their games about whatever they want. Some indie games have become mainstream hits, but Toby Fox's Undertale is a phenomeno...Show More

The Year Without a Summer

17:25 | Jun 15th, 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'A...Show More

Then She Fell

21:55 | Jun 2nd, 2016

Immersive theater is a new trend where there are no seats and no stage. The audience moves through the space like a virtual world, touching whatever they want, interacting with the actors who give them food and drink. I love immersive theater. I've e...Show More

The Robot Uprising

17:14 | May 19th, 2016

The robot uprising is coming, or at least that's what science fiction has told us. We will abuse the robots, treat them as less than us until one day, they will ask for their freedom, or take it by force. Howard University Professor Gregory Hampton s...Show More

Humans: New & Improved

21:06 | May 5th, 2016

When Graeme Manson started as a showrunner for BBC America's Orphan Black, he needed to create villains who were on the cutting edge of science, and believe that humans should take control of their own evolution.  He found inspiration in the real-lif...Show More

Economics of Thrones and Starships

17:30 | Apr 21st, 2016

Whether you're running the seven kingdoms of Westeros or flying to Mars -- you have to figure out how to pay for everything. Many economists are fans of sci-fi because those worlds take economics models to an extreme, especially when its comes to the...Show More

Becoming Godzilla

17:01 | Apr 7th, 2016

This week's episode features another monster who comes from the sea and represents an existential threat -- but he's just so lovable. Journalist Dave Serchuk and graphic designer Jim Fazar both discovered Godzilla as kids and talk about his enduring ...Show More

When Cthulhu Calls

19:47 | Mar 24th, 2016

This week's episode is a radio drama, and a co-production with Jeff Emtman's podcast Here Be Monsters. I've been fascinated by the monster Cthulhu for a long time. The writer H.P. Lovecraft described Cthulhu as a gargantuan, aquatic being with tentac...Show More

Why They Fight

23:29 | Mar 10th, 2016

On the big screen this Spring, Batman will try to take down Superman, Iron Man is going to fight Captain America, and Daredevil will battle Punisher on Netflix. Cleary we are more interested in watching superheroes fight each other instead of the bad...Show More

Imagining Wonder Woman

24:17 | Feb 25th, 2016

Wonder Woman is finally going to make her cinematic debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Bringing her to the big screen has been a long and fraught process. She is a beloved character with a tricky backstory -- not just in the comics, but in ...Show More

Noble Effort

17:18 | Feb 11th, 2016

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 lost ...Show More

Dracula from Nebraska

22:45 | Jan 28th, 2016

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 scholars h...Show More

Inside the Snow Globe

14:20 | Jan 14th, 2016

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 to ...Show More

The Expanded Universe

25:43 | Dec 31st, 2015

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 -- or they...Show More

Han Shot Solo

16:51 | Dec 16th, 2015

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 that alt...Show More

Slave Leia

18:02 | Dec 2nd, 2015

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 as to whet...Show More

Empire vs Rebels

20:36 | Nov 18th, 2015

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 you embra...Show More


23:20 | Nov 4th, 2015

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 future was going to...Show More

Great Scott! It's The Future!

05:07 | Oct 21st, 2015

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.

First Contact

12:12 | Oct 20th, 2015

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 guaranteed blockbuster -- and it's ...Show More

The Truth Is Out There

19:59 | Oct 7th, 2015

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 behind Th...Show More

Rolling the Twenty Sided Dice

31:02 | Sep 23rd, 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 wonderi...Show More

Season 2 begins Sept 22nd -- but first, Hodor!

21:07 | Sep 9th, 2015

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, whi...Show More


17:22 | Jul 29th, 2015

"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 development, no...Show More

Fixing the Hobo Suit

15:12 | Jul 15th, 2015

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 designers Michael ...Show More

Doppelgangers 2.0

17:38 | Jul 1st, 2015

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...Show More

The Greatest Cartoon Almost Made

27:09 | Jun 17th, 2015

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 three de...Show More

Time Travelers of Renwick St.

14:48 | Jun 3rd, 2015

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 ...Show More

Why Ron Moore Killed Captain Kirk

14:26 | May 20th, 2015

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 gr...Show More

True Vampires of New Haven

13:19 | May 6th, 2015

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 were sen...Show More

Beware of CyberCity

15:43 | Apr 22nd, 2015

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 supply, w...Show More

Politics of Thrones

17:42 | Apr 8th, 2015

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 the the jockeying for power in West...Show More

Zombie Therapy

17:06 | Mar 25th, 2015

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 t...Show More

The Mysterious James Tiptree

24:05 | Mar 11th, 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 s...Show More

A Perfect World

17:21 | Feb 25th, 2015

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. Were utopia...Show More

Being Batman (For Now)

19:20 | Feb 11th, 2015

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 assi...Show More

Sexy Robots

15:45 | Jan 29th, 2015

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 t...Show More

The Golem and The Jinni

23:58 | Jan 14th, 2015

"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...Show More

Joss Whedon '07

22:19 | Dec 31st, 2014

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 sittin...Show More

Action Figureland

18:10 | Dec 17th, 2014

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 ...Show More

In Defense of Captain Hook

22:24 | Dec 4th, 2014

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 ...Show More

Saving The Girl

15:53 | Nov 19th, 2014

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...Show More

Salem Bewitched

16:34 | Nov 5th, 2014

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 sidewalks. Histor...Show More

King Denslow of Oz

12:20 | Oct 22nd, 2014

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...Show More

The Canon

14:46 | Oct 8th, 2014

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? ...Show More

When Human Met Creature

15:49 | Sep 24th, 2014

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 Stepha...Show More

Origin Stories

15:21 | Sep 10th, 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-M...Show More