204 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 • 1.8K 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.

    Paper Girls on Bikes

    Paper Girls on Bikes

    When the artist Cliff Chiang co-created the comic book series Paper Girls, about four suburban kids in the ‘80s who get caught up in forces that can break space and time, he thought they’d come up with something totally original. But soon after the comic book came out, Stranger Things debuted on Netflix. Both creative projects are part of a genre that’s more popular than ever: Kids on Bikes. I talk with Cliff about why he wanted Paper Girls to stand out from other Kids on Bikes stories. Screenwriter Stephany Folsom discusses how she adapted Paper Girls into an Amazon Prime Video live-action show by pitching it as “anti-nostalgia.” I also talk with game designers Jon Gilmour and Doug Levandowski about how they distilled the elements of Kids on Bikes stories into a role-playing game, and whether the genre is ready to outgrow its 1980s setting.
    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
    Charting Strange New Worlds

    Charting Strange New Worlds

    It’s not often that I’m watching a TV show and I think, “I should ask the writers about that.” Luckily, I was in the same undergraduate film program as Henry Alonso Myers and Bill Wolkoff, who are writers and producers on the Star Trek series Strange New Worlds, and they were happy to chat. We cover the challenge of telling new stories about legacy characters like Spock and Uhura, the need for Star Trek to stay politically relevant, why Captain Pike is really into cooking and hijinks are the most logical course of action during a Vulcan courtship.
    This episode is sponsored by NordVPN. Grab the NordVPN exclusive deal at https://nordvpn.com/imaginaryworlds. Try it risk-free now with a 30-day money-back guarantee. 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
    Guys and Dolls

    Guys and Dolls

    I’ve long been fascinated by automatons – wind up mechanical beings that create the illusion of life. People have been making automatons for centuries, but how many automatons get to sing opera? This week’s episode comes from the podcast Aria Code from WQXR, WNYC Studios and The Metropolitan Opera. The show breaks down famous arias and looks at the meaning behind them. Host Rhiannon Giddens, along with Soprano Erin Morley, conductor Johannes Debus, machine learning researcher Caroline Sinders, and psychologist Robert Epstein explore Jacques Offenbach’s 1881 opera The Tales of Hoffmann and how its automated character Olympia echoes current day concerns about A.I. technology.
    This episode is sponsored by Nord VPN. Exclusive deal -- grab the NordVPN deal at https://nordvpn.com/imaginaryworlds. Try it risk-free now with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
    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

    • 35 min
    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

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.8K Ratings

1.8K Ratings

Dejiridoo ,

Delightful sci-fi storytelling

I have listened to and enjoyed almost every episode. Eric is a fantastic host who draws out incredible stories and themes in sci-fi and fantasy. As a sci-fi writer myself, this is required listening for me because of his insights and passion. (Also recognizing Stephanie Billman, his co-producer.)

craigory_t ,

Good but not without some flaws

I really enjoy this show - the production quality, interviews, topics, and most of the questions raised are so interesting and make every single episode worth listening to.

However, I have to go with 4 stars because (saying this as a fellow liberal) there are a lot of liberal tropes at work without much impact. For example, many episodes decry the lack of representation in decades-old stories and series. While it’s great to present these critiques, it does get tiresome hearing repeatedly about how shows from the 60s or books from the 90s are problematic.

It gets annoying at times because it seems like the host and guests are patting themselves on the back for pulling apart a popular piece of pop culture when they actually offer no real solutions or even credit to the creators who might have done revolutionary things for their time, just not revolutionary enough to satisfy underrepresented audiences in the 2010s and 2020s.

Like I said, there’s definitely an importance to recognizing shortcomings to past creations, but it becomes less helpful and even annoying to listen to multiple people using hindsight to rip apart things often created by one or two people who’s outlook on life was limited to a time with poor representation and a lack of tools like the internet which has educated so many of the people who recognize the need for it now.

At the end of the day, it’s just strange to me to say you’re a fan of something then eviscerate it without context of the time or person who created it, offer no solutions, then still call yourself a fan.

Not Lee. ,

Love it

I always look forward to new episodes.

Top Podcasts In Arts

NPR
The Moth
Roman Mars
Snap Judgment and PRX
Rusty Quill
Milk Street Radio

You Might Also Like

Dallas Taylor
Helen Zaltzman
Roman Mars
Roman Mars
Benjamen Walker & Radiotopia
David Barr Kirtley and John Joseph Adams