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Imaginary Worlds


Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres -- how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. These are the backstories to our stories.

Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres -- how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. These are the backstories to our stories.
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Imaginary Worlds is a bi-weekly podcast about science fiction and other fantasy genres -- how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief. These are the backstories to our stories.




My So Called Evil Plan

Villains are having a moment. They’re getting their own movies. They’re inspiring hashtags that say they’re right. And they don’t want to take over the world. They want to save it -- at a very high cost. I talk with writers and podcasters Charles Pulliam-Moore, JR Forasteros and Bruce Leslie about woke villains, and what their popularity says about our frustrations in the real world. Part 1 of 2.


Under a Red Moon

Ronald D. Moore is probably best known for rebooting the TV show Battlestar Galactica as a gritty political commentary in the early 2000s. His latest show For All Mankind on AppleTV Plus imagines what if the Soviet Union had beaten the U.S. in the space race and planted the hammer and sickle flag on the moon. But Moore spins that nightmare scenario into a positive alternative history where a newly invigorated space race not only gives NASA the budget it wanted in the 1970s, but forces the...


From Outer Space

Think of an alien abduction. You know the story: humanoid creatures descend on people in a rural area, bring them on board their spacecraft for medical experiments, and the victims’ memories are wiped out until they’re brought back by hypnosis. But that narrative was largely unknown until Betty and Barney Hill went public about their alien abduction in the 1960s. Betty Hill’s niece, author Kathleen Marden, tells the story of how fame was just as traumatic to her aunt and uncle as the alien...


Talking to the Dead

Jason Suran wants you to know he can’t talk to the dead. Then he will convince you that he can. In Suran’s show, The Other Side, he recreates a theatrical type of séance that departed American culture almost a century ago. And David Jaher, author of The Witch of Lime Street, discusses how séances became all the rage in the 1920s, until Harry Houdini made it his life’s mission to debunk them. But Houdini may have met his match in a Boston socialite who performed supernatural feats that he...


Scoring Godzilla

We all know Godzilla’s iconic roar, but the musician who scored Godzilla's rampages is not as well known. The composer Akira Ifukube’s collaboration with the director Ishiro Honda is fascinating because the two men had different ideas of what Godzilla represented. Honda filmed Godzilla as a monster, but Ifukube saw Godzilla as an anti-hero. Erik Homenick, John DeSentis, and Reiko Yamada explain how this artistic conversation between the music and the visuals added layers of depth that helped...


Ends of Evangelion

One of the most popular anime series just became widely available when Netflix started streaming Neon Genesis Evangelion. The show ran only one year in Japan but more than 20 years later, it’s still creating ripple effects across global pop culture. Evangelion is also infamous for having several different endings -- and a fandom that has a contentious relationship with the series creator Hideaki Anno. Former Crunchyroll editor Nate Ming, Anime Feminist editor Vrai Kaiser, Aaron Clark of Eva...


Actors with Pencils

Walt Disney pioneered the art of hand drawn animation, but it was really his top animators, “The Nine Old Men,” who were responsible for developing the art form. As they used to say, an animator is really an actor with a pencil, and The Nine Old Men were like a theatrical company hiding in plain sight behind some of the iconic characters of all time. Andreas Deja, who animated Scar and Jafar, talks about being trained by The Nine Old Men and the pressure of living up to their legacy. John...


The Booj

Movie trailers have come a long way from the voice-of-God narrators in the ‘80s and ‘90s. So why do the big budget sci-fi fantasy trailers still all feel the same? This week, we're featuring a fun episode from the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, where their host Dallas Taylor talks with James Deaville about the history of trailers. Plus, YouTuber Craven Moorhaus breaks down the elements of blockbuster trailers to the point where you’ll never watch trailers the same way again.


Superheroes in the Ring

Masks, capes, secret identities – Mexican wrestling (aka Lucha Libre) has a lot in common with the superhero genre. But trying to be a superhero in real life has its own set of challenges. I visit two Lucha Libre matches in New York City and talk with wrestlers (aka luchadors) about the joy of being famous and anonymous at the same time. Photographer Lourdes Grobet reveals how she went behind-the-scenes with luchadors without exposing their identities, and professor Heather Levi reveals the...


Dirk Maggs

I talked with legendary audio drama producer Dirk Maggs for an episode about the history of radio dramas last year-- but a lot of great material ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. So I’m presenting a full version of our conversation, where we discuss how he brought major franchises like Batman, Alien and The X-Files to life with audio drama, and how he brought The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy back to radio. He also reveals a few secrets of audio production on how to trick the...


The Undertaker

He’s undead. He’s shot lightening out of his hands. He’s thrown his enemies into coffins. He's one of the most popular pro-wrestlers of all time. But Mark Calaway’s character The Undertaker is also an anachronism from a different era of wrestling. Today WWE performers rely more on their real life personalities than invented personas, and yet The Undertaker has continued his supernatural reign in the ring for nearly three decades. Journalist Chad Dundas and professors Charles Westmoreland of...


Hero Props vs. Fake Props

Imagine walking into your living room, and alongside your couch is a prop from one of your favorite childhood movies. Sure, it was costly but this is a piece of pop culture history, and it's right here in your home. Now imagine you found out that prop was a fake. I talk with prop collectors Tiana Armstrong of Hero Prop, Wesley Cannon of Hollywood History Online, prop appraiser Laura Woolley of Antiques Roadshow, prop designer Ross MacDonald, and Museum of Pop Culture curator Jacob McMurray...



Burlesque has merged with geek culture to form nerdlesque – where characters from Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who and other fantasy franchises strip down to pasties and g-strings. Nerdlesque is also a form of storytelling, similar to fanfiction or cosplay in the way it encompasses a diverse range of fans, and re-imagines the power dynamics of the original stories. We talk with pioneering nerdlesque performers Fem Appeal and Nasty Canasta, and we get a back stage tour of The Empire Strips...


Sidekicks: Harley Quinn

In the conclusion of our mini-series on sidekicks, we look at how Harley Quinn began as a sidekick to a villain, and found her way to the heart of the DC canon and fandoms around the world. Nicole Herviou of ComicsVerse and journalist Lux Alptraum discuss how the relationship between Harley Quinn and The Joker mirrors abusive relationships in real life. And I talk with comic book creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner about how they separated Harley from her toxic boyfriend, and set...


Rod Serling's Key of Imagination

Witness if you will a writer: Rod Serling. This is the story of a man with a vision -- a vision of what television could be if only men ceased to operate out of fear and greed. But Rod Serling has a plan. He will use the camouflage of monsters, both real and imagined, to reveal what cannot be said about society, and what Mr. Serling himself cannot say about his own fears and regrets. And those monsters dwell in a state of mind called The Twilight Zone. The cast of characters: Nicholas...


A Visit by Three Ghosts

In a special stocking stuffer of an episode, Stephanie Billman and I discuss why A Christmas Carol set the template for SF stories to come -- from Back to the Future to X=Men. Plus, we have a special announcement about the future of Imaginary Worlds! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Board Games Go Indie

We all grow up playing board games and card games, and now those games are growing up as well. I check out BostonFIG (festival of independent games), where a new generation of indie board game designers is reimagining what we can do with dice, cards and plastic game pieces. I also talk with Shari and Jenni Spiro of AdMagic -- the company that can make unorthodox games like Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens into household names. Plus, Dylan McKeefe at NYU's Game Incubator, and...


How I Won the Larp

In my 2017 episode Winning the Larp, I looked at the history of larps (live action role plays) and how the larping experience is deeply personal for each of the players. But I hadn’t done any larps myself. So this year, I delved deep into larping, where I discovered the thrill of stepping into someone else’s world, and the out-of-body experience of feeling emotions that aren’t yours. Featuring Ashwick Planation, DexCon and Sinking Ship Creations, along with readings by George Morafetis,...


Alternate Movie Posters

Long ago, before we found out about new movies from tweets about teaser trailers that advertised full-length trailers – the first glimpse of a new movie would be the poster. Movie posters used to be hand-drawn illustrations, and many of them became iconic. Not so much anymore. But a growing movement of artists, galleries and print companies are creating alternative movie posters that re-imagine ad campaigns for current and former blockbusters of sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. I talk...


Faith in Fantasy

Science fiction has not always been compatible with religion -- in fact many futuristic settings imagine no religion at all. But sci-fi and fantasy have long fascinated people of different faiths because the genres wrestle with the big questions of life. I recently moderated a discussion between Minister Oscar Sinclair, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Alwaez Hussein Rashid about why SF worlds intrigue and inspire them. List of References: "Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. TolkienX-Men comicsDoctor...