Dissecting Dragons
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

Episode 283: Vanishing Acts and Secret Scandals - A Compilation of Author Mysteries

Episode 283: Vanishing Acts and Secret Scandals - A Compilation of Author Mysteries

July 16, 2021

And now, as they say, time for something completely different. Most authors draw from life experiences when writing and SFF/ mystery/ horror writers are no different. But some authors have peculiar episodes in their lives which rival their fiction. This week the dragons take a look at four writers who have at least one mystery attached to them. Why was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so taken with the Cottingley fairies? Was Branwell Bronte ever really involved in a scandalous affair? How exactly did Edgar Allen Poe die? And what happened during the missing days of Agatha Christie? Jules and Madeleine can't promise answers but they can certainly promise a thorough examination of the known facts and their own opinion on the most likely solutions.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 282: Mysterious Parcels and Mystical Cups - McGuffins, Plot Devices and Choosey Magical Objects in Speculative fiction

Episode 282: Mysterious Parcels and Mystical Cups - McGuffins, Plot Devices and Choosey Magical Objects in Speculative fiction

July 8, 2021

Most of us have heard the term 'McGuffin' applied to an aspect of a film or book, often with a tone of derision. A similar reaction is often prompted by the term 'plot device'. But are these storytelling accessories actually bad or, if used correctly, are they essential pieces of plot driving furniture? What's the differences between them? And just what is a choosey magical object? This week the dragons detangle the threads and explain the flaws and features of each. On the slab this week: The Lord of the Rings, Arthurian Myth, Infinity War and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 281: Mean Girls & Toxic Friends - Why Friendship Conflicts are Important in Speculative Fiction

Episode 281: Mean Girls & Toxic Friends - Why Friendship Conflicts are Important in Speculative Fiction

July 2, 2021

There are plenty of less than savoury tropes that probably need to be gently retired or at least adjusted and not used wholesale. The 'not like the other girls' trope for instance, or its close cousin 'girl on girl hate'. However, that doesn't mean that all friendship depictions in fiction should be passive and free of conflict. In real life and in fiction, we learn about ourselves via our relationships with others. Friendships are an important part of that. The dragons are generally against prescriptive writing advice and sweeping generalisations in what you can and can't include in fiction. With that in mind, is there a place for the 'queen bee/ mean girl' trope? What about female characters in competition with each other? Or friendships being depicted in an unhealthy way? This week Jules and Madeleine delve into the value of using these sorts of trope in speculative fiction. Under the microscope this week: Daredevil, Mean Girls, I am the Silence and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 280: Gentle Giants and Brick Outhouses - the Tank Character in Speculative Fiction

Episode 280: Gentle Giants and Brick Outhouses - the Tank Character in Speculative Fiction

June 25, 2021

The ranger, maverick, thief, healer and wizard are all well known, easily recognisable archetypes in a basic fantasy or sci-fi team. We're all familiar with the leader, the loner, the brains and the heart in a team-up. But there's one character who just doesn't get as much attention despite often literally holding a group together. This week, the dragons take a look at the 'tank', muscle or powerpack character. What exactly do they add to a team in sff? What storylines exploit their skill set best and how can you avoid over powering them? 

On the slab this week: The Justice League, Firefly, Farscape, The Avengers and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 279: We’re All in This Together - The Art of Collaborating in the Arts

Episode 279: We’re All in This Together - The Art of Collaborating in the Arts

June 18, 2021

This week Jules and Madeleine are delighted to welcome Liam Bowles, director of Enigmatic Studios, to the show. Liam has been overseeing the creation of 'Moko and the Seven Gates', a video game coming soon to Play Station and PC. Even more than books, video games tend to require a large crew to get them off the ground. In this episodes the dragons will be discussing the perils, pitfalls and joys of collaborating both writer to writer and as part of a large ensemble working on a single project.

On the slab this week: Moko and the Seven Gates, Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Episode 278: Sins of the Father - Inherited Curses, Crimes and Responsibilities in Speculative Fiction

Episode 278: Sins of the Father - Inherited Curses, Crimes and Responsibilities in Speculative Fiction

June 11, 2021

'Sins of the Father' in SFF is a trope that is very popular without many people really knowing what it is. But who doesn't love a bloodline curse? Or a hero who fears they will not be able to live up to an illustrious (potentially evil or erring) forebear? Who doesn't find narrative satisfaction in a main character being punished for something an ancestor did, rather than simply because the universe is unjust? This week the dragons dig deep on just why this trope appeals, linking it with revenge arcs, character development and just what we can all take away from the trope in real life.

On the slab this week: Lord of the Rings, The Little White Horse - Elizabeth Goudge, The Punisher and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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