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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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Dec 14, 2018

Slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski as we discuss how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.

Nov 30, 2018

Join Jo Walton for a seafood lunch as we discuss how Harlan Ellison's fandom-slamming essay "Xenogenesis" caused her to miss three conventions she would otherwise have attended, why Robert Silverberg's <em>Dying Inside</em> is really a book about menopause, the reason she wishes George Eliot had written science fiction, the ways in which during her younger days she was trying to write like Poul Anderson, her technique for getting unstuck when she's lost in the middle of writing a novel, why she loathes the plotter vs. pantser dichotomy, how she developed her superstition that printing out manuscripts is bad luck, the complicated legacy of the John W. Campbell Award (which she won in 2002), how she managed to write her upcoming 116,000-word novel <em>Lent</em> in only 42 days, and much, much more.

Nov 21, 2018

Savor a steak dinner with comics legend Paul Levitz as we discuss why even though in a 1973 fanzine he wrote he had "no desire to make a career for myself in this industry" he's spent his life there, how wild it was the suits let kids like us run the show in the '70s, the time Marv Wolfman offered him a job over at Marvel (and why he turned it down), what he learned from editor Joe Orlando about how to get the best work out of creative people, the bizarre reason Gerry Conway's first DC Comics script took several years to get published, how he made the Legion of Super-Heroes his own, which bad writerly habits Denny O'Neil knocked out of him, the first thing you should ask an artist when you start working with them, why team books (of which he wrote so many) are easier to write, our shared love for "Mirthful" Marie Severin, how glad we are there was no such thing as social media when we got started in comics, why Roger Zelazny is his favorite science fiction writer, and much, much more.

Nov 9, 2018

Taste tiramisu with Vina Jie-Min Prasad as we discuss why she didn't start writing any fiction until the release of J.J. Abrams' <em>Star Trek</em> reboot, the reason food has such a prominent place in her fiction, why she might never have become a writer if the Internet hadn't existed, the lessons she took away from her fan fiction days, what she meant when she wrote in her bio that she’s "working against the world-machine,” why her multi-nominated story "A Series of Steaks" was her first submission to a speculative fiction magazine, her fascination with professional wrestling and wrestling fandom, why her story "Pistol Grip" needed a warning for sexual content but not violence (and what Pat Cadigan called her after reading that story during the Clarion workshop), the reason she likes working in the present tense, and much more.

Oct 31, 2018

Chow down on fish and chips with the award-winning Steve Rasnic Tem as we discuss the importance of writing until you get to page eight, what he did the day after Harlan Ellison died, why even though he was a fearful kid he turned to horror, the thing which if I'd known about his marriage might have caused problems with my own, how crushed we both were when comics went up to 12 cents from a dime, why his all-time favorite short story is Franz Kafka's "A Country Doctor," the way joining Ed Bryant's writing workshop taught him to become a writer, how math destroyed his intended science career, why he made an early pivot from science fiction to creating horror, the reason it took him 48 years to take <em>Ubo</em> from initial idea to finished novel, how TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" had an effect on the way he writes action scenes, why beginning writers should consciously read 1,000 short stories (and what they should do once they're done), and much more.

Oct 18, 2018

Eat empanadas with Rebecca Roanhorse as we discuss the spark without which her award-winning short story would never have been written, the differing reactions her tale garnered from inside and outside of the Native American community, the compelling reason she chose to write it in the second person, what she learned as a lawyer that helped in writing her first novel, how she upped her game when she decided to be a writer for real, why she fell out of the reading habit and how a Laurel K. Hamilton novel drew her back in, what it was like to hear Levar Burton read her award-winning story, and much more.

Oct 5, 2018

Nibble naan with K. Tempest Bradford as we discuss how her Egyptian Afro-retro-futurism idea grew from a short story into a series of novels, the way she used crowdfunding to complete the research she needed, why her discovery of my <em>Science Fiction Age</em> magazine means I bear the responsibility for all she's done since, how an online writing community gave her the confidence to be a writer, the advice from Samuel R. Delany she embraces the most, why she set aside her goal of becoming an opera singer and decided to become a writer instead, the reason there are so many female monsters in Greek mythology, how she blew up the Internet with her "Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year" challenge, her extremely strong opinions about Steven Moffat's version of <em>Doctor Who</em>, and much more.

Sep 21, 2018

Binge on sushi with award-winning author Pat Cadigan as we discuss what it was like being Robert A. Heinlein's liaison at the 1976 Kansas City Worldcon, why John Brunner hated her when they first met and what she did to eventually win him over, her secret childhood life as a member of The Beatles, what she and Isaac Asimov had in common when it came to convincing parents to accept science fiction, her original plan to grow up and script <em>Legion of Super-Heroes</em> comics, what she learned about writing from her 10 years at Hallmark Cards, how editor Shawna McCarthy helped birth her first novel, what effect being dubbed the Queen of Cyberpunk had on her career, who's Thelma and who's Louise in her Thelma and Louise relationship with editor Ellen Datlow, our joint friendships with Gardner Dozois, how she came up with her stories in the <em>Wild Cards</em> universe, and much more.

Sep 7, 2018

Share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor as we discuss how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from <em>Naked City</em> creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future <em>Black Panther</em> artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the '70s wouldn't have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing <em>Lady Rawhide</em>, and much more.

Aug 24, 2018

Dive into Vietnamese Seafood Noodle Soup with Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning writer Rachel Pollack as we discuss why Ursula K. Le Guin was such an inspiration, the reason celebrating young writers over older ones can skew sexist, what Tarot cards and comic books have in common, how <em>2001: A Space Odyssey</em> isn't a science fiction movie but an occult movie, why Captain Marvel was her favorite comic as a kid (Shazam!), the serendipitous encounter which led to her writing <em>Doom Patrol</em>, how she used DC's <em>Tomahawk</em> to comment on old Western racial stereotypes, the problems that killed her <em>Buffy the Vampire Slayer</em> Tarot deck, how she intends to bring back her shaman-for-hire character Jack Shade, and much more.

Aug 15, 2018

Join Bram Stoker Award-winning writer John Langan for fish and chips as we discuss how reading <em>Conan the Barbarian</em> comic books as a kid made him hope he'd grow up to be a comic book artist, why his evolution as a writer owes as much to William Faulkner as it does to Peter Straub, what he learned about storytelling from watching James Bond with his father and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with his wife, the best way to deal with the problematic life and literature of H. P. Lovecraft, the reason his first story featured a battle between King Kong and Godzilla, his process for plotting out a shark story unlike all other shark stories, why a writer should never fear to be ridiculous, what a science experiment in chemistry class taught him about writing, his love affair with semicolons, that time Lucius Shepard taught him how to box, the reason the Shirley Jackson Awards were created, and much more.

Aug 3, 2018

Eavesdrop on a Sunday brunch with JY Yang as we discuss why they consider themselves "a master of hermitry,” the catalyst that gave birth to their award-nominated Tensorate Universe, why they think of themselves as terrible at world-building, how their dislike of the Matt Damon movie <em>The Great Wall</em> gave them an idea for a novel, the surprising results after they polled fans on which of their works was most award-worthy, their beginnings writing <em>Star Trek</em> and <em>Star Wars</em> fan fiction, why they never played video games until their 30s, the Samuel R. Delany writing advice they hesitated to share, and much more.

Jul 20, 2018

It's time to taste Toad in the Hole with Ellen Klages as we discuss why it took 40 years from the time she wrote the first sentence of her Nebula Award-nominated story "Passing Strange" to finish the tale, what a truck filled with zebras taught her about the difference between storytelling and real life, how cosplaying helped give birth to her characters, what she finds so fascinating about creating historical science fiction, why revising is her favorite part of writing, the reason she's the best auctioneer I've seen in my lifetime of con-going, what she teaches students is the worst mistake a writer can make, how her collaboration with Andy Duncan gave birth to an award-winning novella, whether she still feels like "a round peg in genre’s polyhedral hole" as she wrote in the afterword to her first short story collection, and much more.

Jul 11, 2018

Time travel to 1993 for lunch with Arlan Andrews, Sr., Gregory Benford, Geoffrey A. Landis, and Charles Sheffield as we discuss how <em>Gilligan's Island</em> gave TV viewers the wrong idea about scientists, the ways in which most science fiction isn't actually science fiction at all, but rather <em>engineering</em> fiction, what's wrong with portraying scientists as if they're any different than non-scientists, why Stephen King's <em>The Stand</em> gave such a negative picture of science and technology, the dangers of letting governments control science, why real science, like real art, is work, the reason scientists need to be more aggressive about the ways in which they're portrayed, and more.

Jun 29, 2018

Share BBQ brisket with Matthew Kressel as we discuss the story of his accepted by an editor within an hour and then praised by Joyce Carol Oates, the ways in which famed editor Alice Turner was the catalyst which helped turn him into a writer, why after publishing only short stories for 10 years he eventually published a novel, how comments from his Altered Fluid writing workshop helped make his Nebula-nominated "The Sounds of Old Earth" a better story, why a writing self-help book made him swear off those kinds of self-help books, the secrets to having a happy, heathy writing career, why he's grown to be OK with reading bad reviews, what he learned from reading slush at <em>Sybil’s Garage</em>, and much more.

Jun 15, 2018

Eavesdrop on an Italian lunch with award-winning science fiction author A. M. Dellamonica as we discuss how a long list of random things she liked eventually grew into her first novel, the intricate magic system she created for her series, how her novel <em>Child of a Hidden Sea</em> taught her she was less of a plotter and more of a pantser than she'd thought, the doggerel she wrote when she was five years old (which you'll get to hear her recite), how discovering Suzy McKee Charnas at age 15 was incendiary, which run of comics made her a Marvel fan, what it was like attempting to live up to the pioneering vision of Joanna Russ while editing the anthology <em>Heiresses of Russ</em>, which YouTube series happens to be one of her favorite things in the world, the way John Crowley's teachings might have been misinterpreted by her class during the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, the three mystery novels of hers you'll hopefully be reading in the future, and much more.

Jun 1, 2018

Nebula Award-winning writer Kelly Robson had a little lamb (and you can eavesdrop) as we discuss how the first Connie Willis story she read changed her brain, the way a provocative photo got her a gig as a wine reviewer at a top national magazine, what she learned from the initial Taos Toolbox writers workshop, why completing <em>Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach</em> was like giving birth to a watermelon, how reading a <em>Battlestar Galactica</em> tie-in novel helped teach her how to write, where she would head if time travel were real, why she's contemplating writing a "frivolous" trilogy (and what that really means), the reason the story of hers she most likes to reread is a professionally published James Bond fanfic, and much, much more.

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.

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