Dissecting Dragons: Episode 156: Childcatchers and Trunchbulls - Portrayals of Abuse in Children’s Fiction

February 15, 2019

156: Childcatchers and Trunchbulls - Portrayals of Abuse in Children's Fiction

 

Something that all the best Mid Grade or Junior Fiction does, is portray an authentic child's experience of the world, whilst still couching the more difficult aspects in terms that a child can process. This is never more true than in the case of various types of abuse that children may unfortunately be subjected too. However, many adults find such portrayals difficult to access because they are 'cartoonish' and don't deal factually with what's happening. There is also the child censorship issue as to what it is appropriate to include in a children's book.

This week the dragons take a look at why difficult topics are presented the way they are in children's fiction. Why is it that children need that different portrayal that doesn't grip most adults in the same way? Why are portrayals of abuse and bullying so often paired with fantasy elements? How is it that some books contain a subtext accessible only for people who can look with a child's perspective? And why is it important that these unpleasant realities are reflected in children's literature at all? After all, isn't reading about escapism? On the slab this week Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine, Telling the Sea by Pauline Fisk, the Harry Potter series (naturally) and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

 

 

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 155: All in Your Head - Portrayals of Mental Illness in Modern YA Fiction

February 8, 2019

Episode 155: All in Your Head - Portrayals of Mental Illness in Modern YA Fiction

 

This week, the dragons are delighted to welcome Kayla Ancrum, author of The Wicker King, to the show. Kayla's debut novel is a dark, contemporary YA thriller that delves deeply into hard hitting issues such as mental illness and codependency, which is why Jules and Madeleine were thrilled to have her join a discussion about portrayals of mental illness in YA fiction. Still labouring under the Gothic tropes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as meeting resistance and misunderstanding in the modern day, mental illness can be a knotty issue. In a previous episode (You Fancy Me Mad) the dragons deconstructed the Gothic tropes surrounding MH. In this episode, they look at how literature can help normalise a health issue that is far more common than people realise, and how it can help combat misinformation. What is good mental illness representation in YA fiction? And where are the areas in which it falls down or could use work? Is mental illness in fiction suffering from being, in many cases, an example forced to bear the weight of an entire spectrum? 

Join us for a lively discussion and find out.

Title Music; Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

 

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 154: Death and Sex Appeal - Assassins in Speculative Fiction

February 1, 2019

Episode 154: Death and Sex Appeal - Assassins in Speculative Fiction

 

There are few archetypes in speculative fiction who capture our imagination like the assassin. This is matched only by the division between the fantasy and the reality. Assassins in fiction are depicted in a vastly different way to assassins in real life! (Although if there are superpowered, Lycra clad and very visible assassins out there enjoying successful careers, Jules and Madeleine would like to know!) This week the dragons take a look at the assassin in fiction and how male and female assassins are very differently depicted. Why are assassins so often portrayed as a very sexual figure? Why are (incorrect) shortcut words such as psychopath and sociopath so often used as lazy characterisation? And what exactly is the draw to character whose loyalties must always be suspect and whose morality is, at at best, dubious? Find out in this week's episode. 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 153: A Pirate’s Life for Me - Myths, Stories and Crime on the High Seas

January 25, 2019

Episode 153: A Pirate's Life for Me - Myths, Stories and Crime on the High Seas

 

The pirate is a controversial, often highly romanticised figure in fantasy and even science fiction. Connected both with the myths and ghost stories of the sea, and with the same connotations as the highwayman or outlaw in folk ballad, the pirate is a tricky archetype to pin down. Some speculative fiction readers have a knee jerk aversion to fantasy depictions of such characters when their real life counterpoints were often violent and unprincipled. This week, the dragons delve into both the history and the romanticised fiction of pirates. While historical pirates (and Jules and Madeleine have restricted themselves to 1600 - 1800s!) were hardly heroic figures, they weren't merely thugs who travelled by sea. From the oft broken 'Pirate's Code' of Captain Bartholomew Roberts' Articles to the little known and surprisingly progressive practice of 'matolage', historical pirates were far more multi dimensional that opinion, common record or fiction give them credit for. But just where did the romantic 'Pirates of the Caribbean' type figure come from? Tune in to find out. On the slab this week - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Peter Pan by J. M. Barre, Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and many more.

 

 

 Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 152: The Universe in Motion - Expanding Series & Reader Opinion in Speculative Fiction

January 18, 2019

Episode 152: The Universe in Motion - Expanding Series & Reader Opinion in Speculative Fiction

 

As readers and consumers of Speculative Fiction, there's nothing worse than a beloved series coming to a satisfying conclusion...and then finding out that despite all previous assurances, it's being continued in the future or a spin off is happening. Or is it really that bad? We all have 'don't touch' fandoms for books and films that have special meaning for us and it can be very annoying when an author or producer retcons situations, world or characters, but just how vocal about this is it reasonable to be? And isn't it a good thing for fans to be given more of what they already love? This week the dragons delve once more into the world of fandoms, looking at growing series and spin offs of popular franchises and shared universes. And finishing with a few tantalising hints about their own shared fantasy universe for future projects. Under the microscope this week; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, DC, Marvel and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 151: Reading Like a Writer - How Critical Reading Informs the Writing Process

January 11, 2019

Episode 151: Reading Like a Writer - How Critical Reading Informs the Writing Process

 

The dragons kick off the new year with an episode for writers. There's much (and somewhat prescriptive) opinion on how much you should read in order to be a functional writer. But what if you just don't read very fast or have a disadvantage that makes it difficult? Does that count you out of the running? Jules and Madeleine take a look at what 'reading like a writer' really means before branching out into how reading different genres and challenging yourself with media you wouldn't normally consume, all adds value to your creativity. Spoiler - you don't have to finish 100s of books a year. You don't have to enjoy the classics. You already have everything you need, here's how to recognise it. (Sidebar, when Jules says how many books she's read, she means in 2018 - not even she is that fast!)

 

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 150: The Twilight Zone - When Fandoms are Attacked in Speculative Fiction

January 4, 2019

Episode 150: The Twilight Zone - When Fandoms are Attacked in Speculative Fiction

 

It's a strange fact but liking something so much that you form a fandom is generally treated with derision. This is never more true that when the subject of said fandom hits a level of success that the 'default audience' considers inappropriate to the subject matter. So exactly who is this generally understood 'default audience' supposed to represent? And why is there a negative knee jerk response to other audiences forming fandoms? The Dragons did consider starting the year with a nice, safe topic for about 45 seconds and then said 'nah' and dove straight in the deep end with something meaty and contentious instead. Join Jules and Madeleine as they grapple with this strange phenomenon and the rage it naturally inspires.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 149: 2018 - The Good, the Bad and the Utterly Bizarre

December 28, 2018

Episode 149: 2018 - The Good, the Bad and the Utterly Bizarre

 

Happy New Year to all our listeners!

 

 

Another year ends and in preparation for 2019, Jules and Madeleine are looking back on what they loved and hated, as well as found totally nuts, over the last year. From Marvels Cinematic universe to Broadway plays, from soap shaped like genitalia to political farce, the dragons have got it covered. Naturally plenty of books make the list too! Plus as the pair look back on what they have accomplished in 2018, they also provide tantalising hints of their project line-ups for the next year. Join them for an hour of light-hearted reflection.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 148: The Holly and the Ivy - The Root of the Carol

December 21, 2018

Episode 148: The Holly and the Ivy - The Root of the Carol

As we near the end of another year, the dragons turn their enquiring minds to more festive matters - like the rampant use of very pagan imagery in Christmas carols. The word carol has come to mean a specifically festive song with religious overtones, but once the word carol - derived from a verb in Old French - simply meant a circle dance with singing. Intrigued by this and other avenues of interest when it comes to Christmas songs, Madeleine and Jules delve in to the history of carol singing, examining the repeated motifs and themes and looking at just where the tradition came from. Naturally there will be folklore in this episode! 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 147: Trading Capes - When Villains become Heroes

December 14, 2018

Episode 147: Trading Capes - When Villains become Heroes

 

Characters changing their allegiances is a staple of all types of fiction, especially those of the speculative stripe. A popular trope expressing this is when a character discovers that they are the villain and has some kind of moral epiphany, resulting in them changing sides in a conflict.  This week the dragons take a look at this very specific kind of redemption arc. Why is it such a satisfying trope? What insight does it give a reader or viewer into the character? And why is this type of protagonist much easier to engage with than a more typical 'chosen one' or 'hero'? On the slab this week; She-ra, The DC and Marvel universes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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