All Summaries for Imaginary Worlds

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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 Nine Lives of Red Dwarf
35 years ago, Doug Naylor co-created a sitcom called Red Dwarf about the last human left alive in the far future. But the character is not alone. The rest of the crew aboard the ship Red Dwarf includes an annoying hologram, a very helpful android, a very unhelpful A.I. and a cat-person with a great sense of style. The show was considered a huge gamble back then. Sci-fi and comedy were not supposed to mix. But Red Dwarf was a hit – and Doug Naylor has continued to revive the show over and over due to popular demand. I talked with him about why this existential comedy works so well, and how it continues to inspire him to create “emotion bombs.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, September 13, 2023
Have You Watched....?
The writers’ and actors’ strikes have disrupted the pipeline of new shows and movies. We’re going to run out of new stuff to watch soon. Our listeners can help with that. They want you know about their favorite unsung gems of sci-fi and fantasy. Some of them were cult hits. Others underperformed at the box office or in the ratings. Maybe it’s time to give them a chance. In this episode, we hear about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Odyssey 5, Spaced, Erik the Viking, John Carter, Centaurworld and Wendell & Wild. Our guests also recommend The 13th Warrior, Jerimiah, Babylon 5, and the Syfy mini-series Alice. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, August 30, 2023
Ghosted by TV Shows
We’ve all had this experience. We get hooked on a show. We fall in love with the characters. We can’t stop thinking about them in between episodes. Then it gets cancelled or rushed to conclusion. When that happens to a show, it can feel like a relationship has abruptly ended – and a lot of them have ended in recent years. The streaming boom has gone bust. A lot of streaming services invested in sci-fi fantasy shows, hoping the for next Game of Thrones or Stranger Things. So, this wave of cancellations has hit SFF fans hard. We asked our listeners to tell us about the cancellations that broke their hearts in the recent or distant past, and how they’re trying to make sense of unresolved endings. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Thu, August 17, 2023
Extreme Makeover: Fairy Godmother Edition
Who wouldn’t want a fairy godmother to solve our problems with the flick of a magic wand? We know that’s not a healthy fantasy and yet, fairy godmothers aren’t going away. In fact, they’ve been proliferating in contemporary fantasy novels and reinterpretations of Cinderella. But they don’t look or act like you might expect. I talk with Butler University lecturer Jeana Jorgensen and PhD student Abigail Fine about the origin of fairy godmothers and why they’re ripe for reimagining. And I talk with author Gail Caron Levine about her groundbreaking novel Ella Enchanted, which broke the mold on fairy tales. Featuring readings from Aliza Pearl. Jeana Jorgensen's latest book is Fairy Tales 101: An Accessible Introduction to Fairy Tales. In this episode we discussed Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron and Kissing the Witch by Emma Donahue. Other contemporary novels with fairy godmother-type characters include Geekerella by Ashley Poston, Shadows on The Moon by Zoe Marriott, Ash by Malinda Lo, Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas, and Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, August 2, 2023
Warhammer - The Heavy Metal of Board Games
As the Warhammer franchise reaches its 40th anniversary, the company Games Workshop’s stated goal of “total global domination” is going swimmingly. But there’s one person who hasn’t gotten swept up in the war of miniature game pieces: me. I go to a Warhammer 40K tournament at The Brooklyn Strategist to learn why this tabletop role-playing game is so beloved and addictive. And I talk with game designer and author James Wallis about how a small company in Nottingham captured the zeitgeist of Thatcher-era Britain and infused their game with satire – even if some players missed the joke. James’ latest book is “Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made.” Curious what painted Warhammer miniatures look like? Check out the Instagram accounts for Tabletop Minions, David Nordquist, Vincent Venurella and Louise Sugden. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, June 21, 2023
Why The Gothic Keeps Gaslighting Us
Our culture is going through a Gothic Revival -- partly thanks to the influence of Tim Burton. Gothic literature may have thrived in the 19th century (and my high school English class) but a lot of contemporary writers are returning to the tradition, creating stories that reimagine the past or look at the present through a Gothic lens. I talk with Xavier Aldana Reyes of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies about how The Gothic is like a mode or a sensibility that can take over any genre. Kit Mayquist, author of Tripping Arcadia: A Gothic Novel, discusses why The Gothic feels like the right fit for a generation that was gaslit while coming of age during war and a recession. And Leila Taylor, author of Darkly: Black History and America's Gothic Soul, explains that America will always be haunted by its Gothic past until we confront it. Featuring readings by voice actor Tanya Rich. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, June 7, 2023
Haunted By Pepper's Ghost
A play by Charles Dickens. The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. A hologram of a famous dead pop singer. They’re all connected by a simple magic trick called Pepper’s Ghost. What’s most remarkable about this illusion is that it hasn’t changed much in over 160 years. I talk with Jim Steinmeyer and Ben Schrader, both designers of theatrical special effects, about why a Victorian magic trick is more popular than ever at modern theme parks and other live entertainment venues. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, May 24, 2023
Making The Muppets
When Jim Henson hired Bonnie Erickson to design Muppets in the early 1970s, Bonnie had no idea this experimental project they were working on – a prime time TV show with puppets – would evolve into the cultural phenomenon of The Muppet Show. I talked with Bonnie about how the crew tried several one-off specials where they figured out who the main characters would be, what they’d look like, and what they’d sound like. Bonnie explains how she came up with the designs for Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, Zoot and others. And we talk about one of the biggest challenges in making The Muppets seem believable – where to place the pupils in their eyes. This episode is sponsored by ExpressVPN. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, May 10, 2023
Miyazaki Imagines an Environment
This summer, Hayao Miyazaki will be releasing his final animated film before retiring. Environmental stewardship has been a consistent theme throughout his work, from My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away to Princess Mononoke. But what exactly has he been saying all this time about our relationship to the natural world? I gather a panel of experts to discuss the worlds that Miyazaki creates, and how his stories tap into current debates around the climate crisis. Featuring Yuan Pan, lecturer on Environmental Management at the University of Reading, and environmental journalists and authors Isaac Yuen and Emma Marris.   This episode is sponsored by ExpressVPN and Factor. Our ad partner is Multitude. If you’re interested in advertising on Imaginary Worlds, you can contact them here or email us at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Wed, April 26, 2023
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