Dissecting Dragons
Episode 293:  Goblin Fruit and Faery Cobblers - The Horror of Getting What You Truly Want in Speculative Fiction

Episode 293: Goblin Fruit and Faery Cobblers - The Horror of Getting What You Truly Want in Speculative Fiction

September 24, 2021

Everyone is familiar with the expression 'be careful what you wish for' but how many people recall the folkloric figure whence such warnings originate? The 'faery cobbler' archetype is a devious and mercurial character in folklore and fairytale, often showing that the things we desire are not what we actually need, with disastrous consequences. This week, Jules and Madeleine look at some of the original 'faery cobblers' in myth and folktale, moving on to examine how the character is still making regular appearances in modern fiction. Getting exactly what you want is often not what's best for you and there's a genuine horror in it. On the slab this week: Needful Things - Stephen King, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 292: With Friends Like These - Reunions Reprises and Encores in Speculative Fiction

Episode 292: With Friends Like These - Reunions Reprises and Encores in Speculative Fiction

September 17, 2021

This week, the dragons are delighted to welcome special guest Elijah Menchaca. Elijah's debut novel - They Met in a Tavern - explores the complexities of returning to the friendships and relationships of your youth with the added pressure of having to perform a quest or defeat a great evil when the original gang has moved on. This makes him the perfect addition to today's discussion: reuniting an sff team in fiction. We're all familiar with the typical fantasy team's origin story, but what about after the adventures when everyone goes their own way? Maybe not parting on the best of terms? Jules and Madeleine take a look at why this is such a compelling trope. On the slab this week: The Umbrella Academy, Kings of the Wyld - Nicholas Eames, It - Stephen King and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 291: Absent Saints and Cruel Caretakers - How Parents Shape Characters in Speculative Fiction part 2

Episode 291: Absent Saints and Cruel Caretakers - How Parents Shape Characters in Speculative Fiction part 2

September 10, 2021

Continuing on from last week's episode, Jules and Madeleine pick up the thread on how parents affect who a person grows to be, and how this can be utilised in character development in fiction. The dragons delve once more into creating nuanced characters by knowing who their parents are and what effect they have had on a character's life. On the slab this week - Tangled, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, Steven Universe, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex Harrow and many more.

 

Part two of a two part episode.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 290: Absent Saints and Cruel Caretakers - How Parents Shape Characters in Speculative Fiction part1

Episode 290: Absent Saints and Cruel Caretakers - How Parents Shape Characters in Speculative Fiction part1

September 3, 2021

Both in real life and in fiction, parental figures are the most important early relationship any of us form. Even by dint of being entirely absent, parents will affect who a character grows to be. This week, the dragons delve into creating nuanced characters by knowing who their parents are and what effect they have had on a character's life. On the slab this week - Tangled, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, Steven Universe, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex Harrow and many more.

 

Part one of a two part episode.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 289: Women, Swords and Trauma - the Backstory of the Female Warrior in Speculative Fiction

Episode 289: Women, Swords and Trauma - the Backstory of the Female Warrior in Speculative Fiction

August 27, 2021

The dragons have discussed how a thinly characterised 'female warrior' has become a slightly cringey trope in previous episodes. This week, Jules and Madeleine zero in on a specific aspect of the character - her backstory. Female fighter type characters are often given specifically gender-related violence as background, which is partly why when the trope is poorly done, it's really poorly done. The dragons take a look at why this often happens and how to avoid it yourself so that your own sword wielding warrior woman is a fully rounded character. On the slab this week - Black Widow, Red Sonia, Game of Thrones and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 288 - Battle of the Animated Feature Films - Disney vs Don Bluth vs Studio Ghibli

Episode 288 - Battle of the Animated Feature Films - Disney vs Don Bluth vs Studio Ghibli

August 20, 2021

Cartoons and animated features films are often one of the first (visual) ways children encounter a full character journey. Not that animated feature films are just for children - some of the most successful studios are masters of making a story work on many layers so that adults, teens and children are all equally entertained and engaged. There is also something enlightening about coming back to an animated feature film which affected you as a child once you are an adult, and examining whether it affects you in a different way. This week Jules and Madeleine take a look at how Disney, Don Bluth and Studio Ghibli all handle the same themes very differently in their films. Are some explorations of theme more suited for children or adults? Does any particular studio do it better or are they all necessary because everyone needs different stories?  On the slab this week - Frozen, Princess Mononoke, Fern Gully, The Last Unicorn, When Marnie was There, An American Tale goes West and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 287: Its All About Me - the Strange Appeal of Narcissism in Speculative Fiction

Episode 287: Its All About Me - the Strange Appeal of Narcissism in Speculative Fiction

August 13, 2021

Some of the most compelling characters in fiction are those you wouldn't actually want to meet in real life. This is certainly true of characters fitting the narcissist trope. But what is it about a fictional narcissist that we find so fascinating? Why do they provide such good story arcs? This week Jules and Madeleine take a look at why a charming, often immoral self-obsessed character keeps you reading. On the slab this week - Dr Strange, Iron Man, Good on Paper and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 286: The Road to Hell - Moral Quandaries and Impossible Choices in Speculative Fiction

Episode 286: The Road to Hell - Moral Quandaries and Impossible Choices in Speculative Fiction

August 6, 2021

This week the dragons are delighted to welcome Lorraine Wilson as a guest. Lorraine is the author of multiple pieces of short fiction and the debut dystopian thriller with dark folk fantasy elements - This is Our Undoing. Her main character faces an impossible choice throughout the novel which makes Lorraine the perfect person to join this episode's discussion. 

 

All characters must at some point make decisions - there wouldn't be much plot in a book if they didn't. But what happens when you make all a character's choices equally bad? How does this trope vary across genres and why do we find it so compelling? Join Jules and Madeleine as they dig into the many ways an impossible choice can be used to drive a story. On the slab this week: Dune - Frank Herbert, The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson, Sophie's Choice, This is Our Undoing - Lorraine Wilson and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 285 Challenging Expectations vs Wokewashing - Blindcasting, Diversity USPs and Nuance in Speculative Fiction

Episode 285 Challenging Expectations vs Wokewashing - Blindcasting, Diversity USPs and Nuance in Speculative Fiction

July 30, 2021

Never the duo to shy away from more contentious topics, this week the dragons take a look at diversity inserted into well-known and largely non-diverse properties. While Jules and Madeleine are all for good representation in SFF, they acknowledge that bad representation can detract from the story and even do harm to a franchise and its actors. Is blindcasting helpful or harmful? How does this impinge on new stories designed to have diverse protagonists being created? Is it possible that not enough attention is being paid to those whose opinions really matter? 

On the slab this week: Shadow and Bone, Luthor, The Umbrella Academy, Disney's The Little Mermaid and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 284: From Tea Houses to Taverns - Tea, Coffee and Intoxicating Substances in History and Speculative Fiction

Episode 284: From Tea Houses to Taverns - Tea, Coffee and Intoxicating Substances in History and Speculative Fiction

July 23, 2021

It's finally happened: Jules has finally persuaded Madeleine to talk about tea. Have no fear, however, because tea, coffee, tobacco, opium and many other substances have had a profound and tangled effect on history, human development and even literature. This week the dragons unravel how a seemingly innocuous substance such as a coffee bean or a tea leaf can in fact completely change the trajectory of a culture, which is reflected in poetry, prose and science. From there the dragons discuss how you can use this in your own work in terms of worldbuilding - the addition or subtraction of a single substance can change everything. Under the microscope this week - His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, Jodi Taylor's Time Police Series and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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