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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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Now displaying: Page 1
May 26, 2022

Brunch with writer Steven R. Southard as we discuss how an early meeting with Isaac Asimov had him hoping he could be just as talented and prolific, why it took him 15 years of working on a novel before he realized he was meant to be a writer of short stories, how Jules Verne's <em>Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea</em> changed his life, why alternate and secret histories attract him so (as well as the stories in that genre I never got around to writing), his "snowflake" method for plotting short stories, the secrets to coming up with good ideas for theme anthologies, what movie and TV depictions of submarines get wrong (and which ones get it right), and much more.

May 13, 2022

Join John Appel for a dry-aged burger as we discuss how pitching his debut novel as "<em>Battlestar Galactica</em> meets <em>Golden Girls</em>" got him an agent, why his background in table-top RPGs might be the reason he writes novels rather than short stories, how he deals with the "candy bar" scenes of his plots, the way critique groups and sensitivity readers can help make books better, how to juggle multiple viewpoints and still have them all be equally compelling, the political aspects of his novel which make it a different read than it would have been when it was first begun, his particular set of skills which helped bring fight scenes alive, and much more.

Apr 29, 2022

Eavesdrop on my lunch with Alex Segura as we discuss why <em>Secret Identity</em> could have been his first novel but wasn't, the reason he's so fascinated by the '70s comics industry (and how he was able to get it right), the purpose of the book's period-specific comic book illustration interludes, how Duffy Vohland (the guy responsible for turning me into a comics pro) almost played a much larger part in the story, how to make mysteries work, the way his editor helped to make the book better, what we can expect in the sequel, how Archie Andrews introduced him to comics (and how he felt writing that legacy character himself), writing an origin story for the Star Wars character Poe Dameron, and much more.

Apr 15, 2022

Chow down on butter chicken with Paul Kupperberg as we discuss which superhero starred in his first favorite comic book, the reasons we're in agreement when it comes to the Stan Lee vs. Jack Kirby debate, why his introduction to Superman had nothing to do with comics, what we each felt was lacking in our own early comic book writing, the surprising identity of the DC editor whose books sold the best, what caused legendary artist Don Heck to curse him out, the special challenges of writing comic strips, how he needed to get ready (or not) before writing all those legacy characters, what it was like rebooting Doom Patrol, which Archie character's death upset him so much he had to step away from the keyboard, and much more.

Apr 1, 2022

Pig out on pork BBQ with Paul Witcover as we discuss the reason the pandemic resulted in some of the best years of his freelance career, the way he thrives as a writer when dealing with the boundaries of historical fiction, why his new novel <em>Lincolnstein</em> is "exactly what you think it is," how he writes in yesterday's vernacular without perpetuating yesterday's stereotypes, what can and can't be taught about writing, the reasons he felt lucky to have attended Clarion with Lucius Shepard, the effect reading slush at <em>Asimov's</em> and <em>Twilight Zone</em> magazines had on his own fiction, what Algis Budrys told him that hit him like a brick, and much more.

Mar 18, 2022

Share deep-fried wontons with Library of Congress curator Sara Duke as we discuss the first piece of artwork she longed to get her hands on after a 13-month pandemic absence, our joint loathing of slabbed comics, the misconceptions many people have about the Library of Congress, the things most people no longer remember about <em>Blondie</em>, her comic book exhibit cancelled by COVID, the serendipitous way a PhD in 17th century Irish history led to her becoming a curator, her early (and continuing) love of MAD magazine, and much more.

Mar 4, 2022

Eat enchiladas with Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Paul Tremblay as we discuss his legendary hatred of pickles, what it was like writing a pandemic novel before a pandemic only to see it published in the middle of one, if reviewers would have reacted differently to his zombies had <em>Survivor Song</em> been published any other year, his feelings about the description of him as a postmodernist, our shared love of ambiguity in fiction, whether horror having a moment means horror will also have an end, the one passage in his most recent novel which caused an argument with his editor, what's up with the movie adaptations of his books, and much more.

Feb 18, 2022

Brunch with two-time Hugo Award nominee Natalie Luhrs as we discuss why I had a more optimistic outlook on her chances of winning last year than she did, the emotions which inspired her most recently nominated work and the doxxing that resulted from her offering up that opinion, her love for <em>Dune</em> even as she recognizes the classic novel's problematic parts, what she once said about the Lord Peter Wimsey continuations which caused a backlash, the ways romance and science fiction conventions differ, where she chooses to expend her spoons when controversies arise, the importance of making our shared fannish community a welcoming space for all, recent science fiction novels which blew her mind, and much more.

Feb 4, 2022

Nibble noodles with Daryl Gregory as we discuss how he celebrated the two books he published during the pandemic, what caused him to say about his latest novel, "I like to split the difference to keep everyone as unsatisfied as possible," the narrative technique which finally unlocked the writing of that book (and why it made <em>Revelator</em> more difficult to complete), how our mothers responded to our writing, the way marketing affects the reading protocols of our stories, how listening to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm argue about one of his stories freed him as a writer, the promise a murder mystery makes to a reader, his "Mom Rule" for Easter eggs, the way he tortured a comic book artist with an outrageous panel description, how to play fair when writing a science fiction mystery where anything can happen, what Samuel R. Delany told him which helped him make his first sale to F&SF, how he doesn't understand why everybody doesn't want to be writers, the way his writing gets better during the times he isn't writing, Gardner Dozois' "ladder of sadness," and much more.

Jan 21, 2022
Dig into duck with Usman T. Malik as we discuss why the first pandemic year was his most prolific period ever as a writer, how the Clarion Workshop helped him decide what kind of writer he wanted to be, our shared concerns over revising our early stories, the way his medical training gives him an intriguing advantage as a writer, how every love story is a ghost story and every ghost story is a love story, what it was like running Pakistan's first science fiction writing workshop, why he prefers Stephen King to Dean Koontz (and what that taught hm about his own writing), the cautionary tale told to him by Samuel R. Delany, how writers teach readers the way they should be read, and much more.
Jan 7, 2022

Breakfast on Eggs Benedict with Fonda Lee as we discuss what it was like finishing the final book in her Green Bone Saga trilogy during the pandemic, her secret for keeping track of nearly 2,000 pages of characters and plot points, why every book project is terrifying in its own way, how much of the ending she knew at the beginning (and our opposing views on whether knowing the ending helps or hurts the creative process), the warring wolves inside her as she writes the most emotionally difficult scenes, why she starts to worry if her writing is going too smoothly, the framing device that became far more than a framing device, why her natural length for processing ideas is the novel rather than the short story, and much more.

Dec 24, 2021

Nibble Neapolitan pizza with José Pablo Iriarte as we discuss their go-to karaoke song, why being a math teacher makes it even harder to write about math, what they learned from <em>Speaker for the Dead</em>, how their feelings about Orson Scott Card help them empathize with those struggling over J.K. Rowling today, why they trunked their favorite story until a friend convinced them to send it out, their method for writing successful flash fiction, why they had no problem keeping their Nebula nomination a secret, how to create a good elevator pitch, and much more.

Dec 10, 2021

Eavesdrop on a mid-'70s Marvel Bullpen reunion with Bob Budiansky as we discuss the vast differences between the hoops we each had to jump through to get hired back then, why the Skrulls were responsible for him liking DC better than Marvel as an early comics fan, the serendipitous day he attended a wedding and learned the origin of the Golden Age Green Lantern from its creator, why he stopped reading comics in high school ... and how Conan the Barbarian got him started again, which Marvel Bullpen staffer saw his art portfolio and suggested he consider a different career, what it was like to witness the creation of Captain Britain, how got his first regular gig drawing covers for Ghost Rider, his five-year relationship developing 250 Transformers characters for Hasbro, and much more.

Nov 26, 2021

Pig out on Peruvian with Lawrence M. Schoen as we discuss how he was able to release 12 books in a difficult year affected by both a pandemic and chemo, the pseudonym he was relieved he never had to use, what caused him to say "you find the answers to the problems of your life by writing a story about it," the RPG improv which led to the creation of his Barsk universe, what he learned at the Taos Toolbox workshop which caused him to completely rewrite one of his books, the all-important power of the subconscious, how transcription software affected his style, why he doesn't want people to read the final paragraph of his second Barsk novel, his relationships with the indie side of publishing, the many joys of mentoring, how he uses hypnotism to help other writers, and much more.

Nov 12, 2021

Take a break for baklava with Hugo Award-winning writer Suzanne Palmer as we discuss her recurrent dreams of accidentally impaling someone with her trophy during the ceremony, the Ray Bradbury story she copied out of a library book by hand word for word as a child, the differences between <em>The Hobbit</em> and <em>The Lord of the Rings</em> (and why some readers have difficulties with the latter), the way a friend's urgings she do NaNoWriMo caused her to take her writing more seriously, the spark that gave birth to her interstellar repo man Fergus Ferguson, how the pandemic affected the writing of her latest novel, and much more.

Oct 29, 2021

Feast on kabobs with award-winning writer E. Lily Yu as we discuss why she was glad that when she first came up with the idea for her novel <em>On Fragile Waves</em> she had no idea how long it would take to complete, what she learned through each successive draft of the novel before she was satisfied, why it can be exhausting to see people as they are rather than as you want them to be, the effort required to make the effortful appears effortless, the reasons rejection can be a blessing (especially during the early part of your career), what she learned reading slush for <em>Fantasy</em> magazine, how writing interactive video games helped her write better short stories, and much more.

Oct 15, 2021

Join writer Sam Maggs as we discuss the <em>Stargate SG-1</em> convention that was her gateway drug for fandom, why her debut comic book story turned out to be a <em>Star Trek</em> tale, the way the arcs of our careers ran in completely opposite directions, what it was like releasing six books during a pandemic, how <em>The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy</em> was born though complete serendipity, the audition that got her the gig to write an <em>Unstoppable Wasp</em> novel, how she dreamed up her pitch for <em>Captain Marvel</em>, and much more.

Oct 1, 2021

Snack on shredded jellyfish with Renée Witterstaetter as we discuss how Jerry Lewis launched her interest in comics, the way science fiction fandom led to her first job at DC Comics, the differences between the Marvel and DC offices of the '70s and '80s, what made Mark Gruenwald such an amazing editor, her emotional encounter with Steve Ditko, the inflationary info we learned about the writing of letter columns during the '70s and '80s, her work with John Byrne on <em>She-Hulk</em>, how <em>Jurassic Park</em> caused her to leave Marvel, the prank Jackie Chan asked her to help pull on Chris Tucker, and much more.

Sep 17, 2021

Join four comic book cognoscenti at the 2021 Steve Ditko mini-con in his hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania to hear Javier Hernandez analyze the hypnotizing choreography of Spider-Man's fight scenes, Zack Kruse explain how Ditko's early work for Charlton held the seeds of everything the artist did later in his career, Carl Potts reveal what happened when he returned to Ditko an original page of Creeper art after he learned it had been stolen, and Arlen Schumer declare Ditko to be more than just a great comic book artist, but instead a great American artist who happened to create comics.

Sep 10, 2021

Break bread with Veronica Schanoes as we discuss what it's been like trying to write her first novel during a pandemic, why she can only read Jane Yolen's intro to her new collection half a page at a time, how she makes sure her fairy tale-inspired fiction works even for those who don't catch the allusions, the joy which comes from putting the right words in the right order, how Kelly Link convinced her she should take herself seriously as a writer, whether research inspires stories or stories inspire research (and how writers make sure they don't force readers to suffer for that research), the way fairy tales take place "outside of historical space-time," the importance of Joe Strummer and the Clash, and much more.

Aug 27, 2021

Bite into a Baltimore camel burger with Michael R. Underwood as we discuss how his tango past impacts his writing of action scenes, his early love for Star Wars and Spider-Man, how reading Joseph Campbell ignited his desire to write fiction, what he learned about publishing as a kid and how that affected his career expectations, the lessons the late Graham Joyce taught him about the best way to revise novels, the balance you must keep in mind when inserting Easter eggs into your stories, how he constructed his Genrenauts universe and why he returned to it after a long absence, the importance of found family, his advice for successful collaborations, and much more.

Aug 13, 2021

Three recent second novelists — Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara — discuss why “second books are weird,” what (if anything) they learned writing their debuts which made book two easier, why pantsing is a thing of the past, whether book two had them concerned about creating a brand, how writing acknowledgements for second novels can be strange, the way deadlines made taking time off between books impossible, the dangers of being abandoned by debut culture, the fear of fewer pre-publication eyeballs on book two, how the pandemic will affect the creation of future novels, and much more.

Jul 30, 2021

Binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King as we discuss the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today's environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

Jul 16, 2021

Nosh with Nebula Award-winning writer John Wiswell as we discuss his motivation for giving one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever, how he learned to build meaning out of strangeness, the way writing novels taught him to make his short stories better, his dual story generation modes of confrontation vs. escape, why what we think we know about the Marshmallow Test is wrong, the reason we're both open online about our rejections, how the love of wallpaper led to him becoming a writer, why we've each destroyed our early writing from time to time, what he learned writing a story a day for six years, and much more.

Jul 2, 2021

Dig into dolmades with agent extraordinaire Joshua Bilmes as we discuss how the COVID-19 lockdown impacted the publishing industry, what he learned by visiting 238 Borders bookstores, the offer he's made to bookstore employees he's surprised has never been taken up, how writing letters to <em>Analog</em> led to his career as an agent, what life was like at the famed Scott Meredith literary agency, the fact which had he but known he might not have gone out on his own as an agent, why he's had to redefine what "pleasure" means, what he has to say to people who think they don't need agents, the sixth sense he possesses which helps him choose new clients, and much more.

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