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Eating the Fantastic

I’ve been going to science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic book conventions since I was 15, and I’ve found that while the con which takes place within the walls of a hotel or convention center is always fun, the con away from the con—which takes place when I wander off-site with friends for a meal—can often be more fun. In fact, my love of tracking down good food while traveling the world attending conventions has apparently become so well known that one blogger even dubbed me “science fiction’s Anthony Bourdain.” So after toying for quite awhile with the idea of attempting to replicate in podcast form one of my favorite parts of any convention—good conversation with good friends over good food—it’s finally happening. During each episode, I’ll share a meal with someone whose opinions I think you’ll want to hear, and we’ll talk about science fiction, fantasy, horror, writing, comics, movies, fandom … whatever happens to come to mind. (There’ll also be food talk, of course.) Please note—this will not be a pristine studio-recorded podcast, but one which will always occur in a restaurant setting, meaning that mixed in with our conversation will be the sounds of eating and drinking and reviewing of menus and slurping and background chatter and the servers popping in … in other words, it’ll be as messy as life. And hopefully as entertaining, too. And now … please pull up a chair to the table and get ready to dig in.
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Eating the Fantastic
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May 22, 2018

It's time for a special lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic as 15 guests devour a dozen donuts while recounting their favorite Nebula Awards memories. Michael Swanwick explains how his love of Isaac Asimov impelled him to walk out on guest speaker Newt Gingrich, David D. Levine remembers catching the penultimate Space Shuttle launch, Daryl Gregory recalls the compliment which caused him to get yelled at by Harlan Ellison, Barry Goldblatt reveals what cabdrivers do when they find out he's an agent, Cat Rambo puts in a pitch for SFFWA membership, Fran Wilde confesses a moment of squee which was also a moment of ooops, Steven H. Silver shares how he caused Anne McCaffrey to receive a Pern threadfall, Annalee Flower Horne tells of the time John Hodgman stood up for her onstage during the awards banquet, and much, much more!

May 12, 2018

Chow down on chive dumplings with horror writer Mary SanGiovanni as we discuss H. P. Lovecraft's racism and sexuality (or lack thereof), how having grown up in New Jersey might have given her the toughness she needed to survive her early short story rejections, why she ended up writing horror instead of science fiction even though her father read her Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert when she was a kid, which novella she wrote that will never see the light of day, how watching <em>The Exorcist III</em> changed her life, why she's no longer afraid of vampires, the reason her motto if she founded a religious cult would be "doorways are meant to be opened," the first writer she met who treated her like an equal, the identity of "the George Carlin of Horror," and much, much more.

May 2, 2018

Share a pastrami sandwich with critically acclaimed horror writer/editor T. E. D. Klein as we discuss what he hated most about editing <em>The Twilight Zone</em> magazine, how he ended up scripting the screenplay for "the worst movie Dario Argento ever made," what eldritch action he took after buying a letter written by H. P. Lovecraft, which movie monster gave him the most nightmares, what he'll likely title his future autobiography, why he feels cheated by most horror movies, the secret origin of the T. E. D. Klein byline, his parents' friendship with (and the nickname they gave to) Stan Lee and his wife, what he learned (and what he didn't) when taught by Anthony Burgess, the bittersweet autograph he once obtained from John Updike, whether we're likely to see his long-awaited novel <em>Nighttown</em> any time soon, and much more.

Apr 18, 2018

Share spring rolls with Elizabeth Massie as we discuss why <em>Bionic Woman</em> Lindsay Wagner is the one to thank for her Stoker Award-winning first novel <em>Sineater</em>, how reading Robert Bloch's <em>Psycho</em> at a young age was like a knife to her heart, which episode of <em>Twilight Zone</em> scared the crap out of her, why you'll probably never get to read her <em>Millennium</em> and <em>Law & Order</em> novels, her nearly impossible task of writing one spooky book for each of the 50 states in the U.S, why <em>Kolchak: The Night Stalker</em> was her favorite franchise to play in, the great-great grandfather who cut off his own head with a homemade guillotine, which <em>Dark Shadows</em> secret was only revealed in her tie-in novel, and much more.

Apr 4, 2018

Polish off Portuguese in Providence with Victor LaValle as we discuss the lunch during which his editor and publisher helped make <em>The Changeling</em> a better book, the graphic novel which made him fall in love with the X-Men, which magazine sent him the best rejection letter he ever received, why reading Clive Barker's "Midnight Meat Train" for the first time was glorious, the differing reactions his readers have depending on whether they come from genre or literary backgrounds, the unusual way a short story collection became his first publication, why he was so uncertain of his critically acclaimed "The Ballad of Black Tom" that he almost published it online for free, the reason so many writers are suddenly reassessing H. P. Lovecraft, how his graphic novel <em>The Destroyer</em> came to be, and much more.

Mar 23, 2018

Chow down on calamari with Paul Di Filippo — author of more than 200 works of fiction — as we discuss why the first story he ever wrote was <em>Man from U.N.C.L.E.</em> fan fiction, the pact he made with a childhood friend which explains why he owns none of the Marvel Comics he read as a kid, what caused the editor who printed his debut story to make the bold claim it would be both his first <em>and</em> last published piece of fiction, how his life changed once he started following Ray Bradbury's rule of writing at least 1,000 words per day, why he's written so much alternate history and for which famous person he's had the most fun imagining a different life, why after a career in science fiction and fantasy he's begun a series of mystery novels, what happened to the never-published Batman story he sold DC Comics which we never got to see, and much more.

Mar 9, 2018

Polish off a Persian dinner with David Mack as we discuss the weird ways his life entwined with the famed comic book artist who shares his name, how worrying about the details of <em>Star Trek</em> canon helped him when it came time to unravel the secret history of WWII, how a near-death experience led to him working for the Syfy Channel, why it was so important for necromancers to pay a heavy price for the magic they choose to wield in his new novel <em>The Midnight Front</em>, how <em>not</em> making a pitch to a book editor resulted in him selling TV scripts to <em>Star Trek</em>, his unabashed love for the Beat author Richard Brautigan, the reason that after 27 <em>Trek</em> novels and a ton of other tie-in work he's chosen to publish his non-franchise breakout book <em>now</em>, and much more.

Feb 23, 2018

Gobble fried green tomatoes with Bram Stoker Award-winning writer/editor Thomas F. Monteleone as we discuss the tricks he teaches to transform writers at his famed Borderlands Bootcamp, the 200+ rejections he received before he finally made his first fiction sale, how Theodore Sturgeon helped him realize it was possible for him to become a writer, why he ended up as a horror icon after his big start in science fiction, which horror writers you'd want on your team when you're choosing sides for softball, the reason his live readings have become legendary, the way Peter Straub reacted when Tom put him on a list of most overrated writers, how a challenge from Damon Knight changed his life, and much more.

Feb 9, 2018

Scarf down Szechuan crispy beef with two-time Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Norman Prentiss as we discuss the day he wowed the other kids on his school playground by reading them Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the movies a Catholic Church newsletter's warnings made him want to see even more, the supernatural superhero comic that led to a lawsuit against Harlan Ellison, the upside and (surprising) downside of having won a $35,000 college writing prize, how the freebies he got at a Horrorfind convention goosed him to start writing fiction again, why he wrote the last part of his novel <em>Odd Adventures with Your Other Father</em> first, how he's been able to collaborate with other authors without killing them, what can be taught about writing and what can only be learned, why he ended up writing horror instead of science fiction, and much, much more.

Jan 26, 2018

Sink your teeth into Sicilian with Barry Goldblatt as we discuss why he ended up as an agent rather than an astronaut, the happy accident that led to him being taught by the legendary science fiction writer James Gunn, the time Lloyd Alexander caused him to burst into squee-filled tears, J. K. Rowling's first U.S. book signing and how she changed children's publishing forever, what everybody thinks they know about agents that's totally wrong, the sorts of things he's told authors to help take their work to the next level, why it sometimes makes sense for him to submit a less than perfect book, whether the YA market is doing a better job with diversity than adult fiction, what he's been looking for that he hasn't been getting, and much more.

Jan 12, 2018

Share flash-fried cauliflower with <em>Asimov's</em> editor Sheila Williams as we chat about her first day on the job more than a third of a century ago, meeting Isaac Asimov at an early <em>Star Trek</em> convention when she was only 16, which writer intimidated her the most when she first got into the business, what she learned from working with previous <em>Asimov's</em> editors Shawna McCarthy and Gardner Dozois, the most common problems she sees in the more than 7,000 stories that cross her desk each year, the identities of the only writers she's never rejected, what goes through her mind in that moment she reads a manuscript and arrives at "yes," and much more.

Dec 29, 2017

Share cannoli with Charles Sheffield and Arlan Andrews, Sr. in a 1994 flashback episode as we discuss the end of the world, including the (then) coming millennium and whether that would be thing which took us out (hint: it wasn't), whether the only way to survive might be for our species to evolve into something more, how strange it is that we worry more about changing the past than changing the future, whether we're likely to destroy the planet ourselves before nature does it for us, why personal extinction might be all that really matters, whether cryonics will be the thing that saves us, why the process of dying is more frightening than death itself, why aliens coming to kill us is not a likely end, whether even if we do survive the end of the world, we can survive the heat death of the universe, why it makes no difference whether we choose to live as pessimists or optimists, and more.

Dec 15, 2017

Eavesdrop on lunch with Tor Books art director Irene Gallo as we discuss what it was like the first time she realized she wasn't the only one in the world who cared so strongly about art, how she felt the day she discovered Harlan Ellison as well as the title of his that made her go "whoa," why seeing book covers as thumbnails started long before the trend of Internet bookselling, how a manuscript moves from cover concept through to final cover, whether the cliche that an author is the worst possible designer of their own book cover is true, how self-published authors who create their own books can get the best possible covers, and much more.

Dec 1, 2017

Lunch on lasagna with legendary comic book writer/editor Marv Wolfman as we discuss his horrifying early job as a DC Comics intern destroying (and in some cases rescuing) original art, why he loves the science fiction writer Alfred Bester, how his writing back when he started out was a blend of John Broome and Stan Lee, what he learned from binge-reading 181 issues of <em>Spider-Man</em> before starting to script it himself, what it was like returning to DC after his years at Marvel, why he felt he could write <em>Tomb of Dracula</em> even though when he was handed the assignment he'd never read the Bram Stoker novel or seen any of the movies, his secret to making the Teen Titans seem like actual teens, why he owes his career to Gene Colan, and much, more.

Nov 24, 2017
Chow down on stromboli with six amazing horror writers and listen in as Brian Keene passes on the best writing advice he ever got, Mary SanGiovanni compares your social media presence to singing in your underwear, Lesley Connor explains what most writers don't realize about first serial rights, J. P. Sloan recommends the small press, while at the same time recommending you watch out, Damien Angelica Walters shares why you need to overcome your fear of saying no, and Eric Hendrixson points out why contracts are like a superpower.
 
Join Brian Keene (author of more than 40 novels, and winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award), Lesley Conner (managing editor of Apex publications and author of the novel <em>The Weight of Chains</em>), Mary SanGiovanni (author of the <em>The Hollower</em> trilogy, whose most recent novels are <em>Chills</em> and <em>Savage Woods</em>), Damien Angelica Walters (Stoker-nominated writer of the short story collection <em>Sing Me Your Scars</em> and the novel <em>Paper Tigers</em>), J.P. Sloan (author of <em>The Dark Choir</em> urban fantasy series),  and Eric Hendrixson (bizarro author of <em>Drunk Driving Champion</em> and <em>Bucket of Face</em>) for a fascinating afternoon as they share what they've learned about the business of writing horror.
Nov 17, 2017

Nibble frozen cranberries with award-winning author Amal El-Mohtar as we discuss the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you'll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and more.

Nov 3, 2017

Sink your teeth into samosa with Karin Tidbeck as we discuss the serious nature of Live Action Role-Playing games in Nordic countries, the way pretending to be a 150-year-old vampire changed her life, how discovering Neil Gaiman's <em>Sandman</em> comics made her forget time and space, the most important lesson she learned from the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Workshop, how she uses improvisational exercises to teach beginning writers, why <em>Amatka</em> grew from a poetry collection into a novel, what made her say, "I'm not here to answer questions, I'm here to ask them," and more.

Oct 20, 2017

Bask in Basque beef stew with Xia Jia as we discuss how reading science fiction gave her the courage to take risks; what it means when she says she writes not hard SF, nor soft SF, nor slipstream, nor cyberpunk, but “porridge sci-fi;” why Ray Bradbury matters so much to her; the challenges of writing in Chinese, writing in English, and translating from one language to the other; our mutual love for Italo Calvino's <em>If on a Winter's Night a Traveler</em>; how <em>The Three-Body Problem</em> changed the perceptions of science fiction in China, why she has faith she'll eventually get to Mars, and more.

Oct 11, 2017

Eavesdrop on breakfast with Chen Quifan as we discuss why his favorite character from all of science fiction is Mr. Spock, what kept him going during the seven years between the sales of his first and second stories, the reasons H. G. Wells is a genius, why he believes science fiction is the greatest realism, the differences in reading protocols between Chinese and non-Chinese readers, why he hopes his own upcoming science fiction movie will defy his prediction there'll be many bad SF movies to come in Chinese cinema, and more.

Sep 29, 2017

Ruminate over reindeer with the award-winning Johanna Sinisalo as we discuss what she learned in advertising that helped her be a better writer, how Moomins helped set her on the path to becoming a creator, why she held off attempting a novel until she had dozens of short stories published, the reason the Donald Duck comics of Carl Barks were some of her greatest inspirations, the circuitous way being an actor eventually led to her writing the science fiction film <em>Iron Sky</em>, and more.

Sep 15, 2017

Join award-winning science fiction writer John Kessel for a seafood feast as we discuss why he suddenly has two novels coming out within a year two decades after his last one, how attending the 1969 St. Louis Worldcon changed his life, the ways in which his objections to "The Cold Equations" and Ender's Game are at their heart the same, his early days attempting to emulate Thomas M. Disch, the time-travel short story he couldn't whip into shape for Damon Knight, which author broke his 26-year Nebula Awards record for the longest gap between wins, the secret behind the success of his many collaborations with James Patrick Kelly, and more.

Sep 1, 2017

Eavesdrop on Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writer James Patrick Kelly as we discuss the reason he needed to attend the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop <em>twice</em>&#8212;and why the rules were then changed so no one could ever do it again, the suggestion Kate Wilhelm made that saved one of his short stories, why his reaction to comics as a kid was "Marvel, yes, DC, feh," how the science fiction field survived the Cyberpunk/Humanist wars of the ‘80s, why he takes an expansive view of fanfic, how Cory Doctorow inspired him to enter the world of podcasting early, what allows him and frequent collaborator John Kessel to work together so well, his advice for how writing 10 endings to a story in progress will help writers find the <em>right</em> ending, and more.

Aug 23, 2017

Brunch on Eggs Benedict with A. Merc Rustad as we discuss some terrible writing advice which messed with their head and the way they got over it, how the <em>Redwall</em> series by Brian Jacques turned them from a reader into a writer, why some fan fiction doesn't get labeled fan fiction while other fan fiction does, the reason the animated television series <em>Beast Wars: Transformers</em> was such a major influence both professionally and personally, why they almost destroyed their Nebula-nominated story “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door," the secrets to assembling a short story collection, and more.

Aug 4, 2017

Share shawarma with Brooke Bolander as we discuss how she ended up as a writer rather than a paleontologist, why the videogame <em>Ecco the Dolphin</em> terrified her but taught her to love science fiction, her early days writing fan fiction, how anger over the electrocution of Topsy the elephant and the deaths of the "radium girls" inspired her newest novella, why she avoids rereading her own writing, what broke the writers block that had gripped her for several years, and more.

Jul 21, 2017

Down drunken noodles with George R. R. Martin as we discuss why he was annoyed Marvel Comics printed his letters but DC never did, the reason Gardner Dozois was responsible for his first science fiction short story sale, how the rock 'n' roll novel <em>Armageddon Rag</em> got him a job on the rebooted <em>Twilight Zone</em>, what he learned from the arc of Stephen R. Donaldson's career, how losing the John W. Campbell Memorial Award got him his first editing gig, why he almost became a realtor, the time Harlan Ellison convinced him to apply to be the editor of <em>Analog</em>, and more. PLUS: Hear a snippet from an interview I did back in 1993 in which he makes an amusing admission about "a fantasy novel I've been working on off and on for awhile."

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