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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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Now displaying: 2022
Dec 30, 2022

Take a seat at the table in Little Italy with Al Milgrom as we discuss our time working together on '70s Captain Marvel, how he responded when Gerry Conway asked him to provide cover sketches for Jack Kirby, his memories of meeting Jim Starlin in middle school (and what Joe Orlando said about the duo when they brought their portfolios up to DC Comics), what he learned working as a backgrounder for the legendary Murphy Anderson, the day Marie Severin and Roy Thomas sent him on a wild motorcycle ride to track down Rick Buckler, how the artists on Marvel's softball team always played better than the writers, why (and how) he works best under pressure, how he became a triple threat writer/artist/editor, the conflicting advice Joe Orlando gave him about his DC Comics covers, what not to talk about with Steve Ditko, how Jim Shooter got him to edit at Marvel, and much more.

Dec 16, 2022

Dive into dim sum with Randee Dawn as we discuss the way her soap opera and gaming backgrounds led to the creation of her fantasy debut novel <em>Tune in Tomorrow</em>, what made her decide it was time for her to write funny, why her first instinct is always to turn her ideas into novels rather than short stories, how <em>Law & Order</em> fan fiction conquered her fears of showing her writing to others (and eventually led to her appearing as extra on the franchise), the reason she doesn't read her reviews, and much more.

Dec 2, 2022

Bite into blood sausage with Tim Waggoner as we discuss whether being a horror writer gives him any special insights into the pandemic, the true meaning of his latest novel's very specific dedication, the patience the writing life requires, what his agent doesn't want him to let his editors know, the reason ghost stories have never struck him as scary, how to write about people unlike yourself and get it right, the unusual way he decided which characters would live and which would die, why <em>Psycho</em> was one of the best movie experiences he ever had, the most difficult thing a writing teacher can teach, and much more.

Nov 17, 2022

Eavesdrop on the award-winning Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki as we discuss the reason "shocked" seemed an inadequate word to describe his feelings about winning a Nebula Award earlier this year, what he considered the true prize he won over his Worldcon weekend, how growing up next to a library changed his life, how writing fan fiction helped him get where he is today, the way reading the struggles of a certain character in a Patrick Rothfuss novel helped him deal with his own struggles, what caused him to say "the law cannot help you change the law," when he decided his novella "Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon" deserved to be a trilogy, the way he does his best work when backed into a corner, how it's possible for three editors to edit an anthology, and much more.

Nov 4, 2022

Munch Carnitas Benedict with the award-winning Michael Swanwick as we discuss his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkien turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend's story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn't want to talk about <em>Playboy</em> magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.

Oct 21, 2022

Dig into dim sum with the Nebula Award-winning Eileen Gunn as we discuss how it's possible to write when you always have writers block, the Ursula K. Le Guin story which convinced her she could have a career in science fiction, the two most important things she wants aspiring writers to know, her early advertising career writing funny ads for shoes she didn't like, the reason she believes "I don't decide what the story is until after I've finished it," which famous science fiction writer wrote the box copy for Screaming Yellow Zonkers, the question Kate Wilhelm asked her at Clarion which unlocked the unknown ending of a story in progress, the way her years in the ad business helped her become a better writer, how Carol Emshwiller made her a person of interest with a sheriff's department, what she said on a Worldcon panel which was so outrageous the audience had to be told she was joking, how <em>Psychology Day</em> magazine was almost sued over Frankenstein because they didn't listen listen to my advice, and much more.

Oct 7, 2022

Come to Chicago for lunch with Carol Tilley as we discuss how we each first learned about the Comics Code, the mostly forgotten rich kid origins of <em>Blondie</em>'s Dagwood Bumstead, the unsettling inconsistencies she discovered while going through 200 boxes of Fredrick Wertham's papers, what those documents reveal about how he came to believe what he came to believe, what it means to research with the brain of an historian, the proper pronunciations of Potrzebie and Mxyzptlk, her efforts to track down those who wrote letters to the Senate protesting comic book censorship during the '50s (including one of the founders of the Firesign Theater), the enduring power of EC's "Judgment Day," why she believed comic book censorship would have occurred even without Wertham's input, what she thinks he'd make of today's comics, how Wertham felt about the way comic book fans felt about him, and much more.

Sep 23, 2022

Chow down with Wesley Chu as we discuss why his new novel <em>The Art of Prophecy</em> has him feeling as if he's making his debut all over again, the reason his particular set of skills means he's the only one who could have written this project, why creating a novel is like trying to solve a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box as reference, the heavy lifting a well-written fight scene needs to accomplish, why you'll never get to read his 180,000-word first novel, how to make readers continue to care when writing from the POV of multiple characters, the benefits and pitfalls of writing bigger books, why he decided to toss 80,000 words from the second book in his series, the ways in which environments are also characters, and much more.

Sep 9, 2022

Meet Max Gladstone for a Mexican meal as we discuss what a Godzilla movie has to tell us about the way future art will likely deal with the pandemic, our differing ideas over what we mean when we say we've written another draft of a story, how we'd be willing to dispense with the art inspired by tragedy if we could only skip the tragedy as well, the differences between his early and final drafts of <em>Last Exit</em>, how to make us care equally when writing from multiple points of view (and how doing so could cause the reader to trust the writer even more), what it is about science fiction that attracts dystopias, how our dreams have changed due to COVID-19, what we get wrong when we write about civilizations lasting thousands of years, and much more.

Aug 30, 2022

Join writer David Ebenbach for cheesecake in D.C. as we discuss the way he started writing science fiction without realizing he was writing science fiction, the final line of the worst thing he's ever written, how his first scribbling as a kid was a violent spy novel about The Smurfs, why it's important to root for an author and not merely our own reading experience, the cliches some in the literary and science fiction worlds believe about each other, the newspaper article which sparked his novel <em>How to Mars</em>, the way he's managed to carve himself out a bifurcated writing life, the philosophical differences between those writing novels and short stories, and much more.

Aug 19, 2022

Brunch on Eggs Benedict with Michael Jan Friedman as we discuss the comic book he refused to trade for <em>Fantastic Four</em> #1 as a kid, how the X-Men might actually be a deconstructed Superman, whether it mattered the Marvel Universe was set in New York rather than DC's series of fictional cities, why his two favorite superheroes are Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, the lesson he took from an early encounter with Issac Asimov, how he easily solved a stardate conflict which allowed him to keep Chekov in one of his Star Trek novels, what it was like helping Hulk Hogan write his autobiography, and much more.

Aug 5, 2022

Catch up with Sam J. Miller over khachapuri as we discuss the 1,500 short story submissions he made between 2002 and 2012 (as well as the one story which was rejected 99 times), the peculiar importance of the missing comma from the title of his new collection <em>Boys, Beasts & Men</em>, his technique for reading collections written by others, why the Clarion Writing Workshop was transformative, how Samuel R. Delany gave him permission, the way his novels and short stories exist in a shared universe, the impossibility of predicting posthumous fame, the superpower he developed via decades of obscurity, the differing ideas of what writers block means, and much more.

Jul 22, 2022

Dig into dumplings with Patrick O'Leary as we discuss the way his new novel <em>51</em> is similar to <em>The Great Gatsby</em>, why he believes his books will crumble if he attempts to describe them, the perils and pleasures of pantsing (and how his stories often don't get any good until the 15th draft), the tragedy of being an invisible creature, our mutual fears of what aging might bring, his love for Marvel Comics (and especially the Silver Surfer), how Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced him to literature, the way reading Kurt Vonnegut taught him there were no rules, the two science fiction greats who literally left him speechless, and much more.

Jul 8, 2022

Join David Gerrold for a breakfast buffet as we discuss what he means by "humility in the face of excellence," the curse of fame and why J. D. Salinger may have had the right idea, how the more you know the slower you write, the challenge of living up to having won the Robert A. Heinlein Award (and why Heinlein once called him "a very nasty man"), the scariest story he ever wrote, how Sarah Pinsker helped him understand what he really felt about Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," the kind of person he might have been had he not moved to L.A. as a kid, the fannish way he found out he'd been nominated for a Hugo Award, how it feels to already know what the headline of his obituary will be, and much more.

Jun 24, 2022

Grab dinner with Gwendolyn Clare as we discuss the important lesson COVID taught her about her career, whether her most famous short story reads differently during these pandemic times, the identity of the science fiction writer I was startled to learn had been her high school geometry teacher, what the novels of Elizabeth Bear taught her about writing, the short story concept she decided to instead turn into what became her first published novel, how she gets into the mindset to write in the Young Adult genre, the amazing cleanliness of her first drafts, the pantsing fingerprints she sees on Stephen King, the many iterations recent writers have made to John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?," and much more.

Jun 10, 2022

Share sushi with the award-winning writer Wen Spencer as we discuss her origins as a writer of <em>Pern</em> fanfic, the similar faux pas we each made during our early days of fandom, how a friend inspired her professional career by lending her a stack of poorly written books, the dream which gave birth to her Compton Crook Award-winning first novel <em>Alien Taste</em>, the true reason the novel is her fiction form of choice, the impossibility of ever making something perfect, what her agent really means when he says "well, you <em>could</em> do that," why it's so important to be able to write more than one type of book, whether she knows how her series will end, and much more.

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.

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