201 episodes

Imaginary Worlds sounds like what would happen if NPR went to ComicCon and decided that’s all they ever wanted to cover. Host Eric Molinsky spent over a decade working as a public radio reporter and producer, and he uses those skills to create thoughtful, sound-rich episodes about science fiction, fantasy, and other genres of speculative fiction. Every other week, he talks with comic book artists, game designers, novelists, screenwriters, filmmakers, and fans about how they craft their worlds, why we suspend our disbelief, and what happens if the spell is broken. Imaginary worlds may be set on distant planets or parallel dimensions, but they are crafted here on Earth, and they’re always about us and our lived experiences.

Imaginary Worlds Eric Molinsky

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 113 Ratings

Imaginary Worlds sounds like what would happen if NPR went to ComicCon and decided that’s all they ever wanted to cover. Host Eric Molinsky spent over a decade working as a public radio reporter and producer, and he uses those skills to create thoughtful, sound-rich episodes about science fiction, fantasy, and other genres of speculative fiction. Every other week, he talks with comic book artists, game designers, novelists, screenwriters, filmmakers, and fans about how they craft their worlds, why we suspend our disbelief, and what happens if the spell is broken. Imaginary worlds may be set on distant planets or parallel dimensions, but they are crafted here on Earth, and they’re always about us and our lived experiences.

    The Art of Piracy

    The Art of Piracy

    Our Flag Means Death is a hilarious anachronistic pirate comedy on HBO Max. But the backstory of its main characters is surprisingly real. I talk with pirate historian Jeremy Moss, Purdue professor Manushag Powell and Jamie Goodall, staff historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, about how the historical figure of Blackbeard used theatricality to become a media phenomenon, and why it was an easy transition for people to believe he was a fantasy character versed in the dark arts. And we look at whether the endearing portrayal of the bumbling “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet in Our Flag Means Death is leaving out a crucial aspect of his backstory. To learn more, check out these books:
    British Pirates in Print and Performance by Manushag N. Powell
    The Life and Tryals of the Gentleman Pirate, Major Stede Bonnet by Jeremy R. Moss
    Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay: From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars by Jamie L.H. Goodall
    This episode is sponsored by Mint Mobile, Squarespace and Riverside. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 34 min
    200 Imaginary Worlds

    200 Imaginary Worlds

    When I began this podcast in September 2014, I couldn’t imagine myself someday celebrating 200 episodes of Imaginary Worlds. It feels like a momentous occasion, a moment to reflect and celebrate. So, I put together a super-sized episode where I check in on creative people that I’ve interviewed in the past. We also hear from listeners about where they listen to the show, and how those places evoke imaginary worlds for them. Featuring Caro Murphy, Jason Suran, Tim Lapetino, Shari Spiros of AdMagic, and Scot and Jane Noel of DreamForge magazine. You can learn more about Jason's show Reconnected here.
    This episode is sponsored by Backblaze and Squarespace. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 40 min
    Mystery Science Theater Reopens

    Mystery Science Theater Reopens

    Mystery Science Theater 3000 or MST3K is back once again. The show was first created by Joel Hodgson, then a stand-up comedian who was ambivalent about the career path laid out in clubs or maybe a sitcom. His premise -- that he and a few robot pals are trapped by mad scientists on a spaceship and forced to watch bad movies – turned the show into a cult classic and helped define a snarky, self-aware sense of humor for pop culture in the ‘90s. I talk with Joel about why he left the initial run of the series, and how he's brought it back on his own streaming service called Gizmoplex. We also explore how his sense of humor has changed, and whether he might have been too harsh on some of the films they lampooned.
    This episode is sponsored by Mint Mobile and Squarespace. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 28 min
    Snow Crashing Into The Metaverse

    Snow Crashing Into The Metaverse

    For the last 30 years, the real world has been catching up to Neal Stephenson’s vision of the future in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, which influenced the creators of Google Earth, Second Life, Oculus Rift and more. Now the centerpiece of the novel, a virtual world called The Metaverse, may become a daily part of our lives thanks to Facebook (renamed Meta) and other big tech companies. I talk with Meta’s director of A.I. policy Kevin Bankston, Silicon Valley engineer Stephen Pimentel, Australian National University School of Cybernetics director Genevieve Bell, Yale professor Lisa Messeri, and Grace Ng of the DAO Crash Punks about whether it’s a good idea to use a satirical cyberpunk novel as a blueprint for the future. Plus, actor Varick Boyd reads from Snow Crash.
    ‪Our 200th Episode is coming up! We’d love to hear from you, especially if you have listened to Imaginary Worlds in a place that's evocative of imaginary worlds, or if a particular episode spoke to you and maybe inspired a creative work. Leave us a voice mail at 732-743-8255, and we might use your audio in the 200th episode. You can also send a voice memo to the show’s Facebook or Instagram accounts. 
    This episode is sponsored by Backblaze, VAST Horizon, and Squarespace. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 31 min
    De-Aging Well

    De-Aging Well

    There’s an old saying that everyone wants to live long, but no one wants to get old. The same can be applied to our favorite sci-fi fantasy franchises. As familiar faces return to Star Wars, Star Trek, and other movies and shows, some franchises have embraced stories about aging and mortality, while others have used digital technology to erase those issues with mixed results. In a roundtable discussion, I talk with Christina Valeo of Eastern Washington University, Shawn Taylor of San Francisco State University and podcaster and pastor JR Forasteros about who is aging well, or de-aging poorly. Spoiler alert, we discuss the Picard series and older Star Trek movies, The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Black Mirror, and Upload.
    This episode is sponsored by Mint Mobile, Podboard and Squarespace. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
     
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 37 min
    Neurodivergent Futures

    Neurodivergent Futures

    One of the most common requests I've gotten over the years has been to do an episode about why so many autistic people are drawn towards science fiction, and these suggestions have come from listeners who are autistic or have autistic children. Fiction writer Ada Hoffmann, writer and professor Dora Raymaker, YouTube presenter Quinn Dexter, and author and professor Nick Walker, who co-runs the publishing company Autonomous Press, have each given this subject a lot of thought. Their experiences and perspectives as autistic sci-fi fans and creators overlapped in many ways, from the joy of complex worldbuilding, to identifying with fictional characters like Data or Spock, to wanting to imagine a future where aliens, humans and A.I. can coexist without a hierarchy of neurotypical perspectives. Featuring actress Shannon Tyo reading passages from Ada and Dora’s novels.
    Dora Raymaker’s new novel Resonance has just been published through Autonomous Press. Dora and Ada have also contributed short stories to Autonomous’ anthology series Spoon Knife. Quinn Dexter’s YouTube channel is Autistamtic.
    This episode is sponsored by Backblaze, Echoes of History: Ragnarök and Squarespace. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
113 Ratings

113 Ratings

HeyFootballhead! ,

Great company for background, hugely fun to focus on

This podcast was mentioned on another podcast I love, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’ve been continually delighted and surprised by the direction the episodes focus on especially with well discussed topics. It leans heavily on North American culture and content, it leans heavily on cartoons and animation, yet it manages to elevate a diverse series of voices for experts and there’s only two episodes I’ve skipped in the entire archive (whedon and snyder, recorded long ago before the abuse allegations and highjacking by rapid anti amber heard fans). Stephanie in particular is a delight in interviews, and the show is worth supporting financially for access to the full length interviews.

Listener from Australia ,

Like the world’s best summer college elective

Thank you so much to the makers of this show, it is completely amazing

Frau Schneee ,

Everything „serious“ literature is too afraid to tackle

It‘s like being back at uni in my literature classes. Only that the podcast doesn’t shy away from my favorite genres science fiction and fantasy. Thanks for taking them seriously, for discussions and interviews that open up new perspectives, for well researched content and for sparking a lot of imagination.

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