Dissecting Dragons
Episode 250: The Usual Suspects - Cast Calling for your Novel

Episode 250: The Usual Suspects - Cast Calling for your Novel

November 27, 2020

In order to tell a story effectively, a writer needs the right set of characters, including the correct protagonist. But how do you find the right cast and what should you be looking for in both your protagonist and your secondary and tertiary characters? Not to mention your antagonist! This week the dragons take a look at how you can facilitate telling the best version of your story possible by casting your book correctly. They also take a look at what happens when authors mis-cast or ignore signs that a supporting character is more compulsive. Drawing on their own work and speculative fiction behemoths such as A Song of Ice and Fire, Jules and Madeleine discuss how to create a set of characters best fitted to your story and your target audience.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 249 - The Goddess’ Chariot - Myths and Folktales of the Moon

Episode 249 - The Goddess’ Chariot - Myths and Folktales of the Moon

November 20, 2020

The moon has had a profound effect on the development of the human psyche. When we first became conscious of ourselves as sentient creatures and began to track the passage of time, the moon and the sun became inextricably linked to the process. It's no surprise then that every pantheon and culture has its own set of moon myths, deities and superstitions - many of which resonate in the way speculative fiction is written today. This week the dragons take a look at some of the moon mythos and just what this reflects in terms of the changing perceptions humans have held of themselves and their societies. 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 248: All the Feels - Emotion and Characterisation in Speculative Fiction

Episode 248: All the Feels - Emotion and Characterisation in Speculative Fiction

November 13, 2020

All fiction requires capturing a reader's interest and one of the best ways to do this is to create sympathetic and empathetic attachments between the reader and your characters. But how can writers ensure they do this effectively every time? Understanding and being able to process your own emotions effectively is a skill that transfers readily to writing. Character arcs are built in part from a character's ability to respond to an emotion in a positive or negative way, and choosing to act accordingly. This, in turn, can shift and redirect the plot. This week Jules and Madeleine take a look at a more advanced lesson in character creation, drawing on their own work and that of their favourite authors.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 247: Sweet, Awkward and Tongue-tied - The Unromantic Hero in Speculative Fiction

Episode 247: Sweet, Awkward and Tongue-tied - The Unromantic Hero in Speculative Fiction

November 6, 2020

We're all familiar with the fairy tale prince and the various genre permutations of said character, culminating in the 'alpha male' of paranormal romance. It's not that the dragons think there's anything wrong with readers/ viewers liking these characters, it's just that they personally find them less interesting. This week's episode is dedicated to looking at the atypical romantic hero in speculative fiction - forget rippling abs and a domineering presence, Jules and Madeleine are all about the sweet, nerdy, awkward characters who often get relegated to the sidelines.

On the slab this week: The Haunting of Bly Manor, The Oaken Throne by Robin Jarvis, The Last Unicorn and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 246 - Casting Long Shadows - How Horror Influences Other Genres

Episode 246 - Casting Long Shadows - How Horror Influences Other Genres

October 30, 2020
For their final Halloween Season episode, the Dragons are delighted to welcome special guest Claire Waller. Claire is the author of the dark YA thriller 'Fugly' and wearing her alter ego's hat, also authored the creature feature 'Predator X' and the Lovecraftian flavoured 'Nine Eyes'.
 
This week the dragons take a look at exactly why horror is so effective and popular, despite its propensity to examine the darker aspects of human nature. It's a little recognised fact, but horror makes its way into almost every genre, adding dark contrast to even the cosiest story. Jules and Madeleine delve into why this works. Under the microscope this week - Fugly by Claire Waller, Alien, The Thing and many more. 
 
Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic
Episode 245: Old Gods & Ancient Stones - What Folk Horror has to say to a Modern Audience

Episode 245: Old Gods & Ancient Stones - What Folk Horror has to say to a Modern Audience

October 23, 2020

Continuing their Samhain trail in the run up to 31st October, the dragons are pleased to welcome Phil Breach as a guest on this week's episode. Phil is the author of various pieces of weird fiction, dark fantasy and folk horror, both in prose and verse, which makes him the perfect addition for this week's topic. 

 

Folk Horror has existed as a genre far longer than the phrase used to describe it. It's a nebulous sub-genre without firm boundaries but done correctly, it holds a dark mirror up to society and to our connection, or lack thereof, with the natural world. What are the key components of folk horror? How does it reflect and distort our expectations of community? Why is landscape such a huge influencer? Join the dragons for a lively discussion and stay to hear two of Phil Breach's beautifully atmospheric poems. On the slab this week: The Wicker Man (1973), Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series, In the Company of Wolves, Alan Garner's The Owl Service and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Ep 244 - Of Fates and Phantoms - The Anatomy of the Ghost Story

Ep 244 - Of Fates and Phantoms - The Anatomy of the Ghost Story

October 16, 2020
Continuing their Hallowe'en Season themed selection of episodes, this week Jules and Madeleine discuss how ghost stories work. While simple on the surface, ghost stories are fiendishly difficult to write effectively, despite being one of our oldest story forms. The dragons delve into why and how to plan and structure a ghost story, as well as looking at the difference between ghost stories and more main stream horror, before considering some of their favourite tales. On the slab this week - The Woman in Black, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and many more. 
 
Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic
Episode 243: The Mother of Science Fiction - The Life of Mary Shelley

Episode 243: The Mother of Science Fiction - The Life of Mary Shelley

October 9, 2020

At nineteen years of age, Mary Shelley (then Mary Godwin since she had not yet married her poet) invented a new genre of literature. Not that anyone was aware of it at the time of course but then hindsight is a wonderful thing. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus went through several reprints during Shelley's own life time and its intense, disquieting and all too relatable themes have influenced many hundreds of subsequent writers in SciFi, Horror and the Gothic. What many may not be aware of is how Mary's own unconventional and often tragic life influenced her work. From an unusual, rather macabre childhood to a scandalous affair with a married man; from the events of the summer of 1816 at Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva to the tangled threads of her family life, Mary Shelley lived a life that ran contradictory to the socially acceptable mores of the time. Like many outsiders, this meant she saw more clearly than most. This week the dragons take a look at one of the Gothic genres heavyweight champions and how her strange and remarkable book shaped an entire genre.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 242 - Chairs, Dolls & Diamonds - Cursed Objects in Fact and Fiction

Episode 242 - Chairs, Dolls & Diamonds - Cursed Objects in Fact and Fiction

October 2, 2020

After much merriment, followed by more mysterious random tech failures than the dragons have ever experienced before, Jules and Madeleine are pleased to present for your entertainment, this episode on Cursed Objects. Perhaps you've heard of the Hope Diamond? We are certain you'll find the true history even more interesting, not least the works of literature it inspired. Or maybe you didn't realise that a famous story about a cursed ring, originated from a young professor of Old English assisting with translations at Dwarf Hill near Lydney Camp in Gloucestershire. The real object's history is an interesting tale. And anything can be cursed, apparently, mundane or fabulous, old or new, innocuous or sinister. Stones, dolls, chairs, jewellery...you name it. Join the dragons on a trip through the histories of a selection of cursed objects and the speculative fiction inspired by them.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 241 - Vampires, Incubae and Goblin Kings - The Daemon Lover in Myth and Speculative Fiction

Episode 241 - Vampires, Incubae and Goblin Kings - The Daemon Lover in Myth and Speculative Fiction

September 25, 2020

The dark and supernatural seducer of myth and folklore tells us a lot about a culture's tendencies and viewpoint when it comes to sex, marriage and forming a society. It also explains at least partially how that group of people view and treat women. Almost every culture in every time period has or has had a 'daemon lover' myth but the moral behind these stories varies greatly. Today, it can be found reflected in the huge body of paranormal romance. In the 1920s, if found its reflection first in films such as the 1922 'Nosferatu' and then followed the progress of the film industry - the daemon lover becoming more suave, sophisticated and appealing with each incarnation. Before the daemon lover ever touched the silver screen, he (and it almost always is a 'he') starred in literature and, in particular, in the gothic novel. This week Jules and Madeleine dig into the archetype - why is the presence of such a character so prevalent? Why has his image gone through so many permutations? And what exactly does his presence in speculative fiction say about our mindset today? 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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