Dissecting Dragons
Dissecting Dragons: Episode 199: Troubled, Dead or MIA - Parent-child Relationships in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 199: Troubled, Dead or MIA - Parent-child Relationships in Speculative Fiction

December 6, 2019

Episode 199: Troubled, Dead or MIA - Parent-child Relationships in Speculative Fiction

 

There's no denying that parent characters suffer at the hands of authors, particularly if we're talking about MC's parents in SFF. Aside from the obvious reason (ie if a character is young enough for parental presence to impact on whether they fulfil their narrative destiny) there's really no reason for the casual removal of parents from a story. This week the dragons look at how and why parent characters are removed and why this can have a negative impact on the story. Weeding through the usual parent tropes, Jules and Madeleine discuss how the same stories can be told differently. On the slab this week; Game of Thrones, Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 198: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey - Time Travel in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 198: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey - Time Travel in Speculative Fiction

November 29, 2019

Episode 198: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey - Time Travel in Speculative Fiction

 

Time travel has been a staple of science fiction and slip stream since early in the genre's genesis. Whether it forms the basis of the story (Back to the Future) or an entertaining aside within a long running series (Star Trek), time travel is immensely popular. Perhaps this is due to our desire to be able to control the factors in our lives which are outside our control. Or maybe it's because most of us feel we chose wrongly on at least one occasion and would secretly like to go back and choose differently. However the time travel trope is one which can become overripe in a hurry, especially as adhering a story to realistic mathematical and quantum models whilst still remaining easily understandable to the lay person. This week the dragons take a look a popular scientific models and how they are used in speculative fiction. Under the microscope this week: Avengers End Game, Star Trek, Impossible Times and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 197: The Trouble with the Victorians - How a Single Era Influenced Our Opinions

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 197: The Trouble with the Victorians - How a Single Era Influenced Our Opinions

November 22, 2019

Episode 197: The Trouble with the Victorians - How a Single Era Influenced Our Opinions

The Victorian era is a goldmine for the writer of historical fiction or for writers of SFF who wish to draw inspiration from history. The records are largely complete and it's long enough ago for the 'past to be a foreign country' but recent enough that it doesn't automatically alienate a reader. However, the Victorians have a lot to answer for in terms of influencing our opinions of art, law, literature, history and simply how we interact with each other today. While we have been drawing inspiration from the Victorians, the Victorians have been telling us a very specific story - one in which fact and fiction have been carefully blended to suit a particular narrative. This week, Jules and Madeleine take a look where this becomes a problem, especially for a writer. On the slab this week - Gail Carriger's Souless, Kara Jorgenson's Ingenious Mechanical Devices and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 196: Tale as Old as Time - Why Fairytales Endure

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 196: Tale as Old as Time - Why Fairytales Endure

November 15, 2019

Episode 196: Tale as Old as Time - Why Fairy Tales Endure

 

Many writers draw on the huge body of myths, legends, lore and fairy tales when working on their own speculative fiction - the dragons have done so themselves. Fairy tales in particular are told, retold, reimagined, reinvented and rebooted. So what is it about fairy tales that makes them so eminently reusable? Why is it that some retellings soar, seeming to touch some hidden need within readers, while others flop completely? Jules and Madeleine have a theory. Going back to the origins of the fairy tale, they look at why these stories endure taking examples such as Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, and looking at various permutations; Naomi Novak - Spinning Silver, Beast - a Tale of Love and Revenge - Lisa Jensen, Deep and Darkest Red - Anna Marie McLemore and many others.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 195: Key & Codex - Secret Societies in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 195: Key & Codex - Secret Societies in Speculative Fiction

November 8, 2019

Episode 195: Key & Codex - Secret Societies in Speculative Fiction

 

The secret society trope in speculative fiction draws its inspiration from both historical and current real life counterparts. While on the surface these societies may be harmless or even benevolent, the route agenda of a secret society is always power - whether that's power to live in accordance with personal beliefs or power used for far less altruistic reasons. Potentially, this makes your average shadowy organisation somewhat dangerous and provide rich fodder for the the writers imagination. But why is this trope so widely used in fantasy and sci-fi? How does the reality compare to the fantasy? And what makes secret societies so unnerving? This week the dragons take a look beyond the secret handshake. On the slab - Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, The Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 194: Creaky Floorboards & Locked Doors - Learning Tension and Suspense from Gothic Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 194: Creaky Floorboards & Locked Doors - Learning Tension and Suspense from Gothic Fiction

November 1, 2019

Creaky Floorboards & Locked Doors - Learning Tension and Suspense from Gothic Fiction

 

Whether you write the grittiest crime, the goriest horror or the sweetest romance, if you want to keep a reader hooked until the end of the book,your story must include tension and suspense. This is not just for mystery novels and ghost stories! So how do you create suspense? How is it different to tension? What methods are employed to keep a reader engrossed? While you can learn these things from any genre, since it is the season of All Hallowtide, Jules and Madeleine decided that it would be fun to take a selection of Gothic novels and demonstrate how the authors use these techniques. You can then apply them to any genre you like. On the slab this week Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and man more. 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 193: Tragic Heroes and Unexpected Children - More Tropes We Love in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 193: Tragic Heroes and Unexpected Children - More Tropes We Love in Speculative Fiction

October 25, 2019

Episode 193: Tragic Heroes and Unexpected Children - More Tropes We Love in Speculative Fiction

 

A while back, the dragons discussed the tropes that they personally loved encountering in fiction - whether they were weirdly specific or widely adored. Since that episode they've dissected many tropes with a critical eye, so Jules and Madeleine thought it was high time that shared more tropes they enjoyed. On the slab this week Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix and many more. 

 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 192: Fitted Breastplates & Feminine Mystique - Sexist Absurdities in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 192: Fitted Breastplates & Feminine Mystique - Sexist Absurdities in Speculative Fiction

October 18, 2019

Episode 192: Fitted Breastplates & Feminine Mystique - Sexist Absurdities in Speculative Fiction

 

Gender roles in speculative fiction can be a trap for the unwary writer. In fact, we're so conditioned to seeing certain tropes as staples, that it takes a bit of conscious reviewing before we, as readers and viewers, realise just how many gender based absurdities exist in speculative fiction. Epic fantasy is often the biggest offender but other forms of spec fic are hardly blameless. The dragons fully acknowledge that some of their favourite books and films also fall down when it comes to sexism, and while there's nothing wrong with liking something with problematic elements, it's always worth being aware those elements are there. This week, Jules and Madeleine look at some of the worst of these absurdities with suggestions for how they can be avoided or changed. On the slab this week - Dune by Frank Herbert, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind, The Princess Bride and many more.

 

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 191: It’s Harder that You Think - Writing Sex Scenes in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 191: It’s Harder that You Think - Writing Sex Scenes in Speculative Fiction

October 11, 2019

Episode 191: It's Harder that You Think - Writing Sex Scenes in Speculative Fiction

 

Nearly three years ago, Jules and Madeleine took a look at an aspect of fiction writing that some writers find awkward - writing sex scenes. Both dragons have done a lot more writing since then and with more information, opinions shift, so this week they're revisiting the topic with the benefit of more experience in writing. The inclusion of sex scenes in fiction has been a hot topic of late, with readers, writers and fans arguing both for and against it. This is especially so in YA where the portrayal of healthy relationships and sex positivity has clashed with a certain amount of censorship. The dragons acknowledge that there is no single right answer because your mileage will vary on this subject as both a reader and a writer. That said they can be relied upon to have opinions on pretty much any subject, so they're sharing those opinions here. What should you consider in writing a sex scene? Must it move the plot on or reveal character development in order to avoid being gratuitous? Do sex scenes actually need to include sexual content? All this and more in this week's episode.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 190: Art and Artifice - What Jane Austen has to say to a Modern Readership

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 190: Art and Artifice - What Jane Austen has to say to a Modern Readership

October 4, 2019

Episode 190: Art and Artifice - What Jane Austen has to say to a Modern Readership

 

The dragons are not adverse to breaking their own rules on occasion. Particularly when it involves looking at the craft of a master writer like Jane Austen. Known as one of the world's favourite writers, whose books have hardly ever been out of print for the last 200yrs, all of which have spawned numerous adaptations, re-imaginings, spin-offs (both modern and contemporary set to the author's own time), and which inspired an entirely new genre. But there is more to Austen's work than light, amusing, regency romance dealing with morals, money, manners and marriage. All of her books are deeply political and subversive, something not immediately apparent to the modern reader. It's a testament to Austen's ability to write on multiple levels that these deeper themes shine through and capture readers, even when they only partly understand why, removed from historical context as they are. This week Jules and Madeleine take a look at what lies beneath the romance. Fair warning but this is a bumper episode at 1hr 40mins!

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic