208 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

    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.
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    • 32 min
    Mentors: Balance of The Force

    Mentors: Balance of The Force

    In part 2 of our mini-series on mentorships, we travel to a galaxy far, far away. Amy Richau (co-author of Star Wars; I am Your Father and other Star Wars-related books) talks about her favorite partnerships between the Jedi and other characters in the Star Wars found family. Blogger Angry Staff Officer explains why the rigid rules for Jedi mentorships may have led to the downfall of the Jedi Council. And Ryan Arey of ScreenCrush says we can see how the rival philosophies of The Jedi and The Sith would play out in the real world on the show Cobra Kai, which imagines the rivalries from The Karate Kid being passed down to the next generation.
    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
    Mentors: Dynamic Duos

    Mentors: Dynamic Duos

    In the first of a two-part episode on mentors in fantasy genres, we look at the roles of superheroes and their protégées. Matt Fraction talks about the inspiration for his acclaimed comic book series Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon, which was adapted into a Disney+ series. University of Oregon professor Ben Saunders explains why Peter Parker needs an endless series of mentors. Hellenic College Holy Cross professor Stamatia Dova explains why all these fantasy mentors can be traced back to the character of Mentor in The Odyssey. And Julie Nugent, senior VP of learning and advisory services at Catalyst, discusses how superhero mentorships reflect the way mentoring plays out in the workplace.
    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

    • 29 min
    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.
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    • 34 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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