Imaginary Worlds

Eric Molinsky

  • 45 minutes 59 seconds
    The George Lucas Talk Show

    Did you know that in retirement, George Lucas decided to host a live talk show with his sidekick Watto? That’s the conceit of The George Lucas Talk Show starring Connor Ratliff (from the podcast Dead Eyes) as Lucas, and Griffin Newman (from The Tick) playing the alien character Watto. They’ve had famous guests on the show, including people who know Lucas in real life. The guests have to pretend that Connor is George. Over the past 10 years, the show had grown into a cult phenomenon to the point where there’s now a documentary about it called, I’m “George Lucas”: A Connor Ratliff Story. Connor and I talk about why he’s fascinated with what defines success or failure, and how it’s become a theme in his work. We also discuss his new podcast Tiny Dinos, which is like a combination of Jurassic Park and The Tonight Show on a micro-scale.

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    22 May 2024, 7:01 pm
  • 39 minutes 5 seconds
    How Nintendo Leveled Up

    Over the past 40 years, Shigeru Miyamoto has been inventing the modern video game one pixel at a time. From Donkey Kong to Super Mario Bros to The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto turned wonder and exploration into game mechanics, and incorporated his personal experiences into his games. I talk with Illinois Institute of Technology dean Jennifer deWinter and Oakland University professor Sam Srauy about how Miyamoto changed Nintendo, and where his influence can be seen in big budget and indie video games today.

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    8 May 2024, 7:01 pm
  • 35 minutes 54 seconds
    You Are Lone Wolf: A Father/Son Quest

    When Joe Dever died in 2016, he hadn’t written the last several books in his Lone Wolf series. The Lone Wolf books take place in a deeply rich fantasy universe, and they’re written as a combination of choose-your-own-adventure stories and role playing games like D&D. Joe’s final wish was that his son Ben would finish the series for him. However, Ben was unfamiliar with his father’s books, and the legions of Lone Wolf fans he would have to please. I talked with Ben Devere (who spells his last name differently) about the creative, practical, and personal struggles he went through as a writer, and how he was able to get to know his late father by immersing himself in his father’s fantasy world. Jonathan Stark, co-host of the official Lone Wolf podcast Journeys Through Magnamund, explains why Lone Wolf means so much to fans like him, and how he ended up fulfilling his own dreams of writing a Lone Wolf book.

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    24 April 2024, 7:01 pm
  • 41 minutes 23 seconds
    African Sci-Fi Looks to a Future Climate

    When the writer Nnedi Okorafor coined the term Africanfuturism, she wanted to distinguish sci-fi written about Africa from Afrofuturism, which is focuses on the experiences of Black people in the diaspora. Africanfuturism mixes the traditional with the futuristic in a way that resembles modern life in Africa, and many of these stories grapple with climate change. Although the writer Chinelo Onwualu says cli-fi isn’t a subgenre for African writers. It’s often baked into a lot of Africanfuturism because the continent is already at the forefront of climate emergencies. And the writers Suyi Davies Okungbowa and Wole Talabi explain that Africanfuturist cli-fi isn’t as dystopian as Western cli-fi. These visions of the future may feel daunting but there is often a sense of hope and the solutions are more community focused. The actress Nneka Okoye reads from their stories, and other works by African writers.

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    10 April 2024, 7:01 pm
  • 48 minutes 15 seconds
    When All Is Said in Dune

    Back in 2018, I interviewed language creator David J. Peterson about how he invented Dothraki for Game of Thrones and other fictional languages in fantasy worlds. David and his wife Jessie just finished a huge project – developing the Fremen language for Dune: Part Two. I talk with the couple about their creative process and the challenge of imagining simple English phrases in the Chakobsa language that Frank Herbert imagined in his Dune novels. We also hear my 2018 episode, “Do You Speak Conlang?” where I also talked with Marc Okrand, inventor of the Klingon language, and Robyn Stewart, a language consultant for Star Trek: Discovery. Plus, Jen Usellis -- a.k.a. Klingon Pop Warrior -- will give you a serious case of earworms (not the kind from Wrath of Khan.)

    For more episodes about Dune, check out my 2017 episode The Book of Dune, where I talked with Muslim fans of the series about the way Frank Herbert incorporated aspects of Islam into the books. And in 2021, I did an episode called The Ecology of Dune where I looked at the environmental messages in the books and whether Frank Herbert’s environmental sensibilities still hold up today.

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    27 March 2024, 7:01 pm
  • 36 minutes 50 seconds
    Mother-in-Law of Oz

    The Wizard of Oz is deeply ingrained into our culture. While many people can practically recite the 1939 movie, the original source material isn’t as well known. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was published in 1900. There are a lot of theories as to what inspired Baum – but the answer may be who rather than what. Baum’s mother-in-law Matilda Joslyn Gage was a groundbreaking writer and activist who could’ve been in every high school history textbook if she hadn’t had a falling out with the leaders of the suffrage movement. But her ideas live on in The Land of Oz. I talk with historian Sally Roesch Wagner and UNC-Charlotte professor Dina Massachi about the politics of gender in Gage’s works and Baum’s stories. And I talk with therapist Dr. Gita Dorothy Morena who has a very personal connection to the books.

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    13 March 2024, 7:01 pm
  • 23 minutes
    Bonus: Turtles and Toys Outtakes

    In the previous episode, I interviewed documentary filmmaker Isaac Elliot-Fisher about He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Isaac had so many great anecdotes about the history of those franchises that I couldn’t fit in. In this bonus episode of outtakes, Isaac explains the history of the term toyetic, the haphazard way He-Man came together, and why the 1990 live action TMNT film was so much darker than the cartoon show.

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    6 March 2024, 8:01 pm
  • 40 minutes 56 seconds
    Class of '84: Turtles, Transformers and Toys Takeover TV

    In the final episode of our mini-series Class of '84, we look at two iconic franchises that launched in 1984: Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They came from opposite ends of the business spectrum. Transformers was a top-down marketing synergy between American and Japanese toy companies along with Marvel Comics to compete against He-Man -- another TV toy behemoth. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would eventually rival them in cultural dominance, but it began with two indie comic book creators making a black and white comic as a lark. But Turtles and Transformers both ended up wrestling with similar questions around what happens when you put the cart before the horse in creating content to sell products. Documentary filmmaker Isaac Elliot-Fisher and Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago talk about the incredible rags to riches story of the Turtles creators, and how success changed them. And I talk with Bob Budiansky, who created many of the original Transformers characters for Hasbro and Marvel Comics.

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    28 February 2024, 11:00 pm
  • 41 minutes 12 seconds
    Class of '84: When Cyber Was Punk

    In the second episode of our mini-series on groundbreaking works from 1984, we jack into the system and upload our minds into Neuromancer. William Gibson’s novel became a seminal work of cyberpunk, where he introduced words like “cyberspace” and storylines that would become tropes of the genre. Sci-fi writer Eileen Gunn, and professors Sherryl Vint of UC Riverside and Hugh O’Connell of UMass Boston discuss how Neuromancer not only predicted the future of technology with surprising accuracy, but it also imagined the way that high tech would help fuel a new type of hyper capitalism. I also talk with Chris Miller aka Silver Spook, creator of the game Neofeud, and Gareth Damian Martin, creator of the game Citizen Sleeper, about how they used indie games to bring cyberpunk back to its roots in Neuromancer. Also, Lincoln Michel discusses why in his novel The Body Scout, he wanted to bring cyberpunk out of cyberspace. Featuring readings by actor Varick Boyd.

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    14 February 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 22 minutes 17 seconds
    Bonus: Rise of The Villains Outtakes

    When I interviewed special effects artist Shannon Shea about The Terminator and other villains of ’84, we also discussed his experiences working on Terminator 2. He tells me about the many life-sized puppets of Arnold Schwarzenegger they built and how the industry has changed in the last 40 years. We also hear an outtake from my conversation with Neill Gorton about why the industry is moving away from depicting villains with scars and disabilities.

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    7 February 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 37 minutes 56 seconds
    Class of '84: Rise of The Villains

    This year marks the 40th anniversary of a lot of landmarks in pop culture, especially sci-fi and fantasy. So many franchises were born in 1984. Some came to define their genre or invent new genres. In this three-part mini-series, we look at how The Class of ’84 made their mark on the world. First up: the bad guys. 1984 was a great year for villains from The Terminator to Freddy Krueger to Gremlins and Ghostbusters. I talk with make-up and creature designers Neill Gorton and Shannon Shea (who worked on Terminator and Nightmare On Elm Street sequels) about why the '80s was a golden age of monsters. Criminal psychology professor Yannie ten Brooke analyzes the ’84 villains and why they scared us. And I talk with pastor and podcaster JR Forasteros about why they don’t make villains like they used to – for better and for worse. You can also find Shannon at Two Chez on Etsy.

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    31 January 2024, 10:00 pm
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