212 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 Imaginary Worlds Ad-Free

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 1.9K Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

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.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    True Crime Fairy Tale

    True Crime Fairy Tale

    Was the tale of Hansel and Gretel inspired by a real crime in German history? It would make for a great story, if it were true. This week’s episode comes from the podcast Cautionary Tales, where host Tim Harford looks at how misinformation can cast a spell on us like a fairy tale, and he connects the dots from The Brothers Grimm to The Coen Brothers.
    This episode is sponsored by Brilliant and Nord VPN. Visit brilliant.org/imaginaryworlds to get 20% off Brilliant's annual premium subscription. And go to nordvpn.com/imaginaryworlds to get a discount off your NordVPN Plan and one additional month for free. 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

    • 39 min
    Indigenous Futurisms

    Indigenous Futurisms

    From TV and film to novels and video games, the artistic movement of Indigenous Futurisms has been gaining momentum and breaking cultural barriers. I talk with professor and author Grace Dillon, filmmaker Danis Goulet, fiction writer Stephen Graham Jones, and visual artist Virgil Ortiz about what defines a work of indigenous futurism and why telling stories about werewolves, spirits, A.I., and time travelers can be an act of resistance.
    This episode is sponsored by Mr Ballen Podcast and D&Tea. 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
    Songs in the Key of SF

    Songs in the Key of SF

    Jeff Russo has composed music for sci-fi fantasy shows like Star Trek Discovery and Picard, The Umbrella Academy, Altered Carbon, For All Mankind, and Lucifer. But he didn’t set out to be known as a composer of SF projects, or even a composer at all. He began as a rock musician, and found he had a knack for writing music for the screen because he understood that music plays a crucial role in grounding unreal stories in the emotions of the characters. We talk about his approaching to scoring and why it’s so challenging to write a theme song.
    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
    Generation VTube

    Generation VTube

    There is a booming culture of VTubers – people who create content online, but their fans rarely see their real faces or know their names. VTubers use motion-capture technology to appear as animated characters they designed, and many of these characters are otherworldly from robots to aliens to demons. I talk with VTubers named Xinebi Ven, Pandora Arktos, GloopQueen and D-36-5908 Ω (a.k.a. Omega) about the joys and challenges of becoming a VTuber, and whether inhabiting an animated character allows them to be their more fully authentic selves.
    Xenebi Ven’s YouTube and Twitch streams
    Pandora’s YouTube and Twitch streams
    GloopQueen’s YouTube and Twitch streams
    Omega’s YouTube and Twitch streams
    Also mentioned in this episode:
    Ironmouse’s YouTube and Twitch streams
    Mori Calliope’s YouTube and Twitch streams
    This episode is sponsored by Aspiration debit card and D&Tea. 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
    Befriend The Reaper

    Befriend The Reaper

    One of the most common tropes in fantasy genres is personifying Death – turning this abstract and often terrifying concept into a character that people can interact with. Sometimes Death is portrayed as a Grim Reaper, but Death doesn’t have to be grim. Death can be compassionate, and even funny. And more often in recent years, Death has been depicted as someone with deeply ambivalent feelings about their job. I talk with listeners about their favorite portrayals of Death from Discworld to Sandman to Dead Like Me, and why imagining Death as a character changed the way they felt about death and grief. 
    Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here.
    List of media mentioned in this episode:
    The Sandman comics and Netflix series
    Dead Like Me
    Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
    Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago
    On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    Critical Role podcast
    The Seventh Seal
    Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
    Monty Python and The Meaning of Life
    Personification of Death academic study from 2019
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    • 41 min
    Postcolonial Worlds

    Postcolonial Worlds

    The stories we tell about the past can determine the way we understand the present. But what happens when we combine tales of magic and fantasy with some of the most traumatic chapters in history? I talk with novelists P. Djeli Clark, Nisi Shawl, and Zen Cho about how speculative fiction can be a useful tool to reimagine the legacy of colonialism and imperialism. Plus, we hear readings from actress Nneka Okoye.
    Books mentioned in this episode:


    A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark


    Everfair by Nisi Shawl


    Sorcerer to The Crown by Zen Cho


    Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R. F. Kuang (author of The Poppy War series)


    A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine


    Nisi also recommends:


    A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar


    The Dominion of the Fallen series by Aliette de Bodard 

    The works of L Timmel Duchamp and Margaret Killjoy



    This episode is sponsored by Aspiration Zero credit card. 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

    • 32 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.9K Ratings

1.9K Ratings

dingdong12344568 ,

Love this podcast, Ads are too loud

I’ve loved this podcast for years. I listen to it at night but recently the ads have been so much louder than Eric’s calming voice and it really takes you out of it.

Yankee CJD ,

It started out great, but it’s wearing thin now.

I’ve been into sci-fi for 45 years, since I was young enough that no responsible parent would have taken me to see 2001 and Star Wars as many times as mine did.

So this podcast was *freaking awesome* for years. It deconstructed sci-fi and fantasy while still celebrating it, and recast the classics and the classic themes in terms that made them relatable to our lives as well as our imaginations.

Molinsky is a genre fan, but he’s not an uncritical fanboy. He doesn’t just gush about his favorites; he analyzes and criticizes. Tropes and cliches get roasted; great themes and characters are celebrated. At his best, he makes them universal.

And this is where the podcasts have lost their tone in the last few years. They’re less and less about sci fi and fantasy, and more about fans and fandom and personal stories. These are not literary, and they are anything but universal.

The recent podcastabout dramatic personifications of Death as a character is an unfortunate exemplar. It spends too little time unpacking the actual literature and films that feature Death as a character; in fact it does little more than name-drop some of them.

Instead Molinksy spent most of his time getting personal with several of his fans/listeners. They were all very eager to talk about themselves, but offered little insight into the topic beyond ‘this is what it meant for me when I was a teenager.’

I guess that’s fine, but ‘personal stories of fans who happen to like genre fiction’ isn’t what made this podcast outstanding and it’s not why I subscribe.

Please, Mr. Molinsky, bring the focus back to the subject. Your fans are nice folks (and I’m one of them) but we’re not the subject of the podcast, and few of us are either the eloquent speakers or insightful literary/social critics that you are.

If you spent a podcast talking about how much time I spent reading LOTR and playing D&D in junior high school, for example, your other listeners (other than my friends) would justifiably be bored to tears.

Don’t make the podcast about us. Make it about the genre and the literature. Make it awesome, like it was!

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.)

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