This week DSRA is back and tackling one of the most ambitious works in the English language–John Milton’s Paradise Lost. James starts us off by going through early cultural interpretations of Satan. He traces how versions of the Devil in folklore and medieval theatre lead to Milton’s famous take on him. Claire talks about the life of John Milton and what people, world events and institutions lead him to write one of the English language’s greatest poems. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on Paradise Lost, their preconceptions of it, and why it’s so important. They also discuss how it will tie into our next topic, The Golden Compass, book one of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
We’re continuing our pairing of influential sci-fi radio dramas by following up our War of the Worlds episode with the BBC’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Joining us is Eli McIlveen, the creator of the scripted podcast Alba Salix and the improv podcast Civilized. Claire begins by discussing satire, breaking down its many forms and some of its earliest iterations. James discusses some of Douglass Adams’ influences (whether they were intentional or not) from the sketch group Monty Python to the author Robert Sheckley. Eli talks about the production behind the famed radio drama, including how the Radiophonic Workshop used sound effects to bring Douglass’ vision to life. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on the drama, how it has influenced Eli’s work and why we paired it with War of the Worlds.
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is one of the first and greatest science fiction novels of all time. The radio drama adaptation performed by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre is perhaps the most acclaimed and infamous broadcast of the medium. James begins by taking us through the time period surrounding “The Black War” that the British Empire waged in Tasmania and how that conflict inspired H.G. Wells to write about Martians that had similar invasion plans for England. Kyle (that’s right–Kyle Willoughby!) continues with a more light hearted segment about the beginnings of drama on radio, and the process of adapting the classic sci-fi novel into a radio program that may or may not have panicked millions. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on the show, and why we’re pairing it with BBC Radio’s production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This episode includes a promo for The Once and Future Nerd podcast.
Halloween is almost here! It’s time for Coraline. The film was directed by Henry Selick, and is based on a novella by Neil Gaiman. James begins by explaining that the story borrows from a long line of coming-of-age fairy tales. He then compares stories from the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Madam d’Aulnoy, and Gaiman’s primary inspiration — Victorian author Lucy Clifford. Next, Claire discusses the career of Henry Selick and why Neil Gaiman entrusted him with the movie rights. She also describes the hurdles that Laika Studios overcame to survive, and the difficulty they faced making something so technically and commercially challenging. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on the film, and the Victorian connections between Coraline and Dracula. This episode features an ad from The Sartorial Geek podcast.
Dracula by Bram Stoker is one of the most influential books of horror ever written. It’s October, and right now, that’s what we’re about. Claire begins with an overview of vampire legends across the millennia. Next she focuses in on the real life conditions and circumstances that led to such widespread belief in the bloodsucking monsters. James takes a look at the life of the notoriously private and secretive author, Bram Stoker. He then considers the particular influences in contemporary literature and folklore that helped Stoker give birth to the character of Dracula. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on the book and what’s so compelling about vampires. This episode features an ad from the Dear Murder Street podcast.
We’re following up our episode on Mobile Suit Gundam with another one of the most pivotal anime ever made– Neon Genesis Evangelion. Claire starts by exploring why giant robots are such a huge part of Japanese culture, including the powerful idea of the samurai. She then goes through the different genres that make up Neon Genesis Evangelion. James explains why it was unlike the other critically acclaimed anime that came before it. He also discusses creator Hideaki Anno’s career and psychological themes. Our host’s conclude with their thoughts on the inner lives of the characters, the show’s fan service and how the series is a response to its era.
When Mobile Suit Gundam came out in 1979 it changed Japanese pop culture and the perception of what Giant Robots could be. The team at DSRA couldn’t be more excited to delve into one of the most beloved animes. James starts off by going through all of the different genres that led to creator Yoshiyuki Tomino creating the first real robot mecha. Claire then talks about why Gundam is such a popular work and the themes that Tomino explored in the show. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on how the series holds up today, and how it pairs with our next episode on Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Die is a comic book created by writer, Kieron Gillen and artist, Stephanie Hans, about five adults in our world compelled to return to the horror of a fantasy world that they barely escaped in their youth. The series is published by Image Comics and was released to rave reviews in 2018. James uses this opportunity to tackle a set of questions about the role of fantasy that came up in our discussion of The NeverEnding Story: Why do people enter imaginary worlds? How does it change them? And why does this activity cause some to fear? He begins by discussing the paracosms (detailed imaginary worlds) created by children. Claire jumps in and describes Gillen’s collaboration with Stephanie Hans, the revelation that sparked the series, and how his fears, about the life lost in his youth to role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, shaped the characters and world of Die. Our hosts conclude by discussing the shared themes of The NeverEnding Story and Die, and how a love of imaginary worlds has shaped their own lives.
This year marks the fantasy film’s 35th anniversary, and it’s a great opportunity for us to talk about escaping to magical lands. The NeverEnding Story is about a grieving, bullied boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux and his heroic alter ego Atreu’s quest to save the land of Fantasia, a world made of hopes and dreams. Claire begins our show by looking at how and why modern fantasy stories have so often been dismissively viewed as escapist and without literary value. James picks up by talking about the director Wolfgang Petersen’s adaptation of author Michael Ende’s German bestseller, the decorated design team behind the special effects, and why Ende was so passionately against the final product. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on how the film holds up all these years later. They also take a moment to consider how it may connect to Die, the Image Comics series by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, and our next story of real world people entering magical lands.
We are so thankful to have published one hundred episodes! Thank you to all of our listeners! We’ve had the pleasure of discussing so many great pieces of nerd history and we’re looking back at some of our favorites and why they’ve had such a lasting effect on us. In addition to responding to listener feedback, Claire and James discuss takeaways from Black Panther (episode 64), The Big Book of Science Fiction (episode 15), Journey to the West (episodes 89/68), Princess Mononoke (episode 80), Avengers: Infinite War (episode 69), Black Mirror (episode 63), and Blade Runner 2049 (episode 55). Check out our social media for our 100th Episode Giveaway!
In two weeks we’ll be recording our 100th episode! This calls for a celebration.
The final Toy Story film has been released. Let’s talk about Pixar and magical toys. James discusses how the theme of transformative love explored in the Toy Story films, and in other toys-coming-to-life stories, depends on an idealized view of childhood playtime that began in the Age of Enlightenment, and how that sentiment might now be fading away. Claire takes us through Pixar’s origin as a part of LucasFilm called the Graphics Group and its purchase by Steve Jobs of Apple fame. She then describes how a technology company became known for some of film’s best storytelling beginning with the first Toy Story. Our hosts concluded with their thoughts on the film and the changing ways that children spend their time.
With the release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix and its disappointing reception, it’s time to take a look back… In the wake of the film, X-Men: Apocalypse, Kyle and Claire get into the origins of the X-Men and the rivalry between Marvel and Fox Studios. Kyle breaks down the creation of the X-Men comics in the 1960s and 70s, and explains how the Civil Rights Movement influences their stories to this day. In addition to the juicy gossip of Marvel versus Fox, Claire examines the contributions of director Bryan Singer — “The Godfather of Superhero Movies”. They end the show with a discussion of the film itself, and how the talented Michael Fassbender can’t keep them from missing Ian McKellen.
With the series finale behind us we’re finally talking about HBO’s Game of Thrones! Based on George R.R. Martin’s bestselling and critically acclaimed book series A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO’s flagship series put big budget fantasy back on screen and at the center of pop culture. Kyle begins by looking at the intervening years between Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films and the premier of Game of Thrones, noting Hollywood’s many failed attempts to capitalize on what could have been a boom. Claire jumps in to explain how, despite the seemingly dry well of support, show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss successfully pitched HBO on investing millions into a new fantasy adaptation. She then describes the struggle to actually produce such an ambitious project and grow it into the cultural focus it became. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on the show, the books, and GoT’s shared creative and production lineage with The Lord of the Rings.
Our latest pairing is one of epic fantasy and the visual representation of celebrated novels. We begin with The Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. Claire takes us on a tour of fantasy in film starting with earliest works in the medium, up through a relative boom of fantasy films in the 80s. Kyle then takes us on a very different film tour: the early works of Peter Jackson and his work/life partner Fran Walsh. He explains how this pair of indie filmmakers without a hit to their name came to be trusted with hundreds of millions dollars and the simultaneous production of three films. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on our new pairing and the relationship between printed and filmed versions of the two works.
Dungeons & Dragons is a beloved pastime of our entire podcast team. And with the fantasy roleplaying game’s continued renaissance in popularity it’s a great time to look at how it got here. Claire begins with a look at 19th and 20th century war games before getting into the development process of creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Kyle picks up with the tale of Gygax’s company Tactical Studies Rules–it’s rapid rise and dramatic fall, and explains the role that Wizards of the Coast has played in the game’s current success. Our hosts conclude with their thoughts on both DnD and Three Hearts and Three Lions, and the value of an imaginative game in today’s world.
DSRA is ready with a new pairing and we’re tackling one of our favorite subjects, the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. To start off we’re looking at a fantasy book from the 1950s that influenced the game, Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. Kyle starts by taking a look at the fantasy stories of Medieval Europe and how the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne influenced many of the fantasy stories we know and love today. Claire then takes a look at Poul Anderson ‘s life and career and explores how fantasy became a genre. Our hosts conclude with their favorite parts of the book and why they paired it with DnD.
Avengers: Endgame is just around the corner, and we thought now is a good time to re-release our Avengers: Infinite War episode. Our next pairing will be around Dungeons & Dragons, but in the meantime here’s one more look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe…
In 2008 Marvel Studios released their first film, Iron Man. 10 years and 18 films later, in Avengers: Infinity War, the heroes of the MCU will face their most formidable villain yet, Thanos. This movie, which involved over 60 characters and took 19 movies to build up to, is the largest cross over event in the history of cinema. Claire delves into the definition and history of “crossovers”, discussing their roots in mythology, literature, and eventually the monster movies of the mid 20th century. Kyle takes a look at the path of the man who brought this ambitious idea of a shared cinematic universe together, Kevin Feige. The hosts wrap up with their thoughts on the film, and a reflection on their favorite MCU movies.
Well, friends, it happened. The Marvel Machine, which kicked off in 2008, has finally made a female lead superhero film with Captain Marvel. James starts off with a history of the character, Carol Danvers, and Captain Marvel’s roots as a character created for trademark reasons. He goes on to describe the highs and lows of Carol Danvers portrayals. Claire kicks off her production segment with a look at why it has taken so long for the highly successful Marvel Studios to make a film about a female superhero. She continues by asking (and answering) the question of “why Captain Marvel?” and how that ties back to comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and her recent run with the character. The hosts rap up with their opinions on the film and how this episode connects with the previous Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan episode.
Our new episode pairing will be Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel with Carol Danver’s Captain Marvel. And Kamala’s up first! Joining us are the critically charming Merri and Missy from the Fake Geek Girls podcast. Claire begins by discussing the involvement of women in comics as fans and creatives, and explains the factors that have both welcomed and shunned them from the industry. Kyle continues the theme by talking about Marvel’s diversity initiative in 2011. The Fake Geek Girls help us tie it into the creation of Kamala Khan and what characters like her mean for our culture. Our hosts and guests wrap up with their thoughts on the initial run of Samana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jamie Mckelvie’s Ms. Marvel.