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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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."

Jul 7, 2017

Chow down on chicken and waffles with five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Nancy Holder as we discuss her somewhat secret origin as a romance novelist, why her first horror convention made her burst into tears, how she got off on the wrong foot with acclaimed editor Charles L. Grant, what caused her Edgar Allan Poe obsession to begin, why she was a fan of DC Comics instead of Marvel as a kid, what Ed Bryant might have meant when he called her “the first splatterpunk to chew with her mouth closed,” and more.

Jun 23, 2017

Crack open fortune cookies with award-winning horror legend Dennis Etchison as we discuss how Philip K. Dick staged scenes as he wrote his stories, Ray Bradbury's baffling advice which helped Etchison make his first fiction sale, whether he'd still have become a writer had he not been an only child, why most writing workshops don't work, how he came to write his best-selling <em>Halloween</em> novel for John Carpenter in six weeks, the speech he <em>really</em> wanted to give when he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and more.

Jun 9, 2017

Share a grilled snook to die for with award-winning author Elizabeth Hand as we discuss why she probably won't take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of <em>Man's Search for Meaning</em>, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

May 29, 2017

Listen as 13 guests begin Balticon’s second half-century with a dozen Diablo Donuts and reminisce about the time George R. R. Martin pretended to beat one of them to death with a cane, how a live birth almost ended up as part of the science programming, why it's so wonderful to be able to make a <em>Star Trek</em> joke and have people <em>get</em> it, Allen Steele's wonderful depiction of the 1939 Worldcon in his novel <em> Arkwright </em>,  Marty Gear’s indispensable  rule for self-care during convention-going, plus more.  Guests include K. M. Szpara, Dave Slusher, Karen Osborne, plus 10 more.

May 26, 2017

Gobble glass noodles with William F. Nolan as we discuss how Ray Bradbury helped him sell his first short story in 1954, the way a slush pile sale to <em>Playboy</em> convinced him to abandon a successful career as a commercial artist, why his <em>Twilight Zone</em> episode was never filmed, the difference between the real truth and Charles Beaumont's "greater truth," why he only acted in only one movie (and got punched by William Shatner), how Stan Freberg pranked diners aboard the Queen Mary and made them think the ship was sinking, which novel he thinks is his best (and it's not <em>Logan's Run</em>), and more.

May 17, 2017

Dine with Cynthia Felice at the Watergate Hotel as we discuss how Frank Herbert's <em>Dune</em> made her say, "Hey, I can do that," the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

May 5, 2017

Nibble soup dumplings with Brenda Clough as we discuss how Superman started off her science fiction life, whether she's a steeplechase horse or a Kentucky derby horse, the time Harlan Ellison phoned to tell her she wrote like an angel, how surrendering to the concept of "false endings" helped her become a better writer, why she'd never want to be one of her own characters, which Anne McCaffrey book she threw in the trash, why she decided to knit a life-sized giant squid, and more.

Apr 25, 2017

Listen in to my lunch with K. M. Szpara and learn about his formative years writing Hanson and Harry Potter fanfic, which darlings he had to kill to complete his first novel, why rewrites are like giving a floofy poodle a haircut, what he didn't know about short stories when he began to write them, the many ways conventions are like big sleepovers, the reason he was able to eat one of George R. R. Martin's dragon eggs, and more.

Apr 14, 2017

Dig into BBQ with best-selling horror writer Brian Keene as we discuss why the ending to <em>The Rising</em> isn't as bewildering as some seem to think it is, whether new horror writers should try to replicate his career path, the shady way Brian amassed the largest comics collection in the sixth grade, how Marvel Comics creator Steve Gerber is responsible for him becoming a writer, if he's a Scully who changed into a Mulder as he got older or if he's been a Mulder all along, and more.

Apr 3, 2017
We discussed the best writing advice they've heard, how being named the most promising author of 2013 messed with their mind, their favorite Ray Bradbury story (which is one of their all-time favorite stories period), why they write <em>Walking Dead</em> fan fiction, the contradictions of writing a breakout book, how they decided their trilogies were meant to be trilogies,  and more. (They refused, however, to tell me for whom the bell actually tolls or why birds suddenly appear every time you’re near.) Plus&#8212;I reveal how Tim Burton prevented me from eating a perfect sticky toffee pudding!
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