Words To That Effect

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There is no pop culture monster more written about, more critiqued and analysed, more portrayed and adapted and reimagined, than the vampire. So this episode is not about most vampires. There are no discussions of Dracula or Nosferatu, no True Blood or Twilight or Buffy, no Anne Rice or Stephen King, no Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee.  Instead, there is a single vampire, one you may well never have heard of. A vampire that, in Victorian times, was far more popular than even Charles Dickens at the height of his fame. A vampire that established many of the tropes of later vampire mythology and fiction.His name is Sir Francis Varney. Varney the Vampire. Find out how you can support the show and get bonus episodes at patreon.com/wtte For full show notes head to wttepodcast.com
The forest is a place we have very mixed feelings about. Forests can be calm and peaceful, full of ancient and natural beauty.  Until they’re not. The forest, in so many ways, is a place we fear. They are dark and dense and overgrown, all too easy to get lost in. They hold secrets and mysteries, and creatures we’d rather not meet alone, far from home. And if the monsters of the forest don’t get us, then the forest itself will. The strange, malevolent powers of the trees themselves. The forest can be a terrifying place. On this week's episode I'm joined by Dr Elizabeth Parker, who guides us through the deep dark woods.
How do we imagine and portray the desert? And what does it say about us and our relationship to each other and, crucially, to the planet we live on?In this, the second in a loosely connected series on places in fiction and popular culture, I chat to Dr Aidan Tynan about deserts in fiction and philosophy, from Mad Max to Burning Man, Nietzsche to Baudrillard,  Cormac McCarthy to China Miéville.
 In 1905 in Paris, the publisher Pierre Laffite had an idea. His new journal Je Sais Tout had just launched and he was looking for an author who could do for his magazine, what Arthur Conan Doyle’s phenomenally popular Sherlock Holmes had done for The Strand magazine, in London. He turned to the writer Maurice Leblanc and one of the most memorable and successful characters in French popular fiction was born: the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. Lupin is cunning, sophisticated, quick-witted, a master of disguise, always one step ahead of the police, and a thief of humble origins who steals only from the wealthy upper classes.   But why did this gentleman thief achieve such instant and lasting renown? How does he fit into popular crime fiction more widely and how, you may be wondering, did he end up as the basis for one of the most popular shows Netflix has ever made? 
Robots as high-tech labour-saving devices, and as usurpers of human jobs. Robots as distinctly Other and as dangerously indistinguishable from humans. Robots as a means of questioning what it is to be human, and highlighting the ethics behind the creation of artificial life. To help me explore all of this I chatted to a roboticist who also writes about literature, and a literature professor who has worked and published extensively on robotics.Support WTTE by becoming a member of HeadStuff+For links, references, full transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com
A quick update episode on the new HeadStuff membership platform, HeadStuff+Have a listen to find out more about what's on it and how you can join (although the joining bit is very straightforward - just click here). I'm really excited to be a part of this and I hope if you are a regular listener and would like to support the show, and the network it is a part of, you'll consider becoming a member. Plus you get a load of extra stuff so it's win-win really! 
 The continent of Antarctica was only discovered two centuries ago, even if it had long been theorized. It's a place shrouded in mystery with no human history and no permanent residents. It’s a land of superlatives: the coldest, the windiest, the driest continent. It is a grand scientific experiment, a habitat for animals, with spectacular icescapes luring tourists and scientists alike. And it’s somewhere that exists in the popular imagination in a multitude of ways, often contradictory and, it must be said, frequently confused with the Arctic.There’s a long tradition of gothic and horror stories set in, and inspired by, Antarctica. There are heroic adventure tales from the early 20th century onwards, thrillers and adventure tales, science fiction novels, and crime and detective stories set on this inscrutable continent. Joining me to talk about all these stories and more is Prof Elizabeth Leane.
In one sense alternate history is a very specific kind of story - sometimes seen as a subgenre of science fiction, more often as a genre onto itself. But in a broader sense alternate history is something we are all interested in. We all think about what might have happened differently in our live and in the wider world, we all feel relief and regret. What if?
In a way it’s maybe strange that the western is such a prominent genre. It's seemingly connected to a very specific time and place: the mid-to-late 19th century American west. And yet we are all so familiar with the many tropes of the western: cowboys and Indians, shootouts and saloons, cattle rustlers and sheriffs, tumbleweed and canyons? The western has a particular hold on the popular imagination, partly for reasons of historical and cultural influence, but ultimately because of its supreme adaptability, its capacity to mingle and merge with other genres. The weird western is a hybrid genre: space westerns, steampunk westerns, supernatural and horror westerns, time travel westerns, westerns drawing on Afrofuturism and indigenous futurism, and many, many more. For full transcripts, notes, links, and more head to wttepodcast.com/weirdwesternSupport the show on Patreon for bonus episodes and more!
Remix, mashup, sample, adaptation, parody, homage, knock-off. The lines between these, and so many other similar terms, are not always very clear.In one sense, all culture is a remix, nothing exists in a vacuum. On the other hand, some people may take a dim view of lifting almost the entire text of Pride & Prejudice and republishing it with additional zombie action. Which is where Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling 2009 classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, comes in.For lots more details, links, transcripts, and more, head to the Words To That Effect website
WTTE is back! Season 5 launches on Tuesday 10th November. Find out what's coming up this season.
Last year Caroline Crampton (of Shedunnit) and I teamed up to create a joint live show, called Words Dunnit: a 200-year history of detective fiction in an hour. We performed the show live at the Dublin Podcast Festival in November 2019, and then again at Pod UK, in Birmingham, in Feb of this year. We had a lot of fun making and performing it, so here it is in full.For notes, links, pictures and more head to the WTTE websiteSupport the show on Patreon!
There are countless great works of literature we have tantalizing glimpses of, works we know existed but are, as far as anyone can tell, lost to history. Huge swathes of ancient Greek literature, for example, or a lost Shakespeare play based on the story of Don Quixote. And then there are the works we rescue. Kate Macdonald, at Handheld Press, specialises in finding and reprinting lost classics, works that have fallen out of print but deserve another chance and a new audience. In this episode I chat to her about lost literature, the intricacies of reprinting old books, and authors who will never go out of print.
Sasquatch. Bigfoot. The Abominable Snowman. Yeti. The Yowie, the Yeren, the Almas Ape-men, cave men, wild men. The Missing Link.The idea of the missing link came about in the mid-19th century, with the rise of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. In 1859 Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, and it was radical, revolutionary, and highly contentious. The problem, though, was that the mechanism by which it all worked wasn’t really understood yet, and there was a need for some hard evidence that would clinch his theory. If evolution really did work as Darwin described it; if, most controversially of all, humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and other apes all had a common ancestor, it should all be there in the fossil record. There was a missing link in the theory. Support WTTE on at patreon.com/wtte and get bonus episodes and more
Mills and Boon to bodice rippers , Johanna Lindsey to Nora Robers (and a little bit of Fabio) Why read romance novels? 
Time travel fiction is a small subgenre of science fiction. Science fiction is a small subset of all the many genres and types of literature. Time machines and time travellers are a niche interest. And yet, in many ways, all fiction is time travel fiction.On this week's episode I chart the history and development of time travel, with Prof David Wittenberg, from utopia to hot tubs. Support the show on patreon and get bonus episodes and moreFor full show notes, links, transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com
Edgar Rice Burroughs is no longer a familiar name. Like many other authors, the fame of his greatest creation, in his case Tarzan, has long eclipsed his own. But Burroughs was far more than the creator of Tarzan. He was an early pioneer of science fiction, a master of the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century, an author whose books, across his lifetime and beyond, sold tens of millions of copies. He was also, among a bewildering array of other things, a journalist, a soldier and war correspondent, a businessman, and even a real estate investor: the ranch he bought and developed in the 1920s is, today, the aptly named neighbourhood of Tarzana, California. So who was Edgar Rice Burroughs? Why were his books so popular? And has his work had any real lasting legacy on our culture today? For notes, links, transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com/burroughsJoin the WTTE community and support the show at patreon.com/wtte
Unlike modernist poetry or Shakespearean drama, when it comes to children's literature, everyone has an opinion. Most of us are exposed to kids' books in some shape or form and, crucially, 100% of us have been children. For an academic working with children's literature, this can have its rewards and its frustrations. "Yes! I love that classic childhood book too!". But also: "Sorry, I don't know why your child doesn't like this one particular book"This week I'm joined by Dr Jane Carroll to chat about the children's picture book. How do text and image work together to create books that can spark wonder and imagination, that young children can completely lose themselves in? What's happening in children's fiction today, and what's the best children's picture book of all time?Find out how you can support the show and get bonus episodes at patreon.com/wtte For full show notes head to wttepodcast.com
Pirates have been around for a very long time. In fact, as far as the historical record seems to show, they have been around for as long as there have been property and boats.What is it that attracts us to pirates and why have we got such a well-developed set of pirate tropes? We all have the same picture when we think of pirates: peg legs and eyepatches, parrots and pirate accents, walking the plank, buried treasure, the jolly roger.Prof Manushag Powell joins me to discuss the Golden Age of Piracy, pirate literature, and the history behind the pirates of popular culture. For shownotes, links, transcripts, and more head to wttepodcast.comJoin the WTTE pirate crew and support the show at patreon.com/wtte
For most people today, the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has been reduced to a fairly straightforward allegory of the potential dark side within us all. But if you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s original tale, a short 80-odd page novella, you immediately realise there is so much to this masterpiece of 19th century fiction. There are so many reasons the story has become embedded in popular culture. It has everything: dreams and reality, psychology and medicine, good and evil, degeneracy and criminality, sexuality and self-identity, blackmail, murder, addiction, religion. Have I missed anything? For more details, links, and transcripts head to wttepodcast.com Join the WTTE community and support the show on Patreon!
Season 4 returns on Tuesday 15th October. Have a listen to what's in store!
There are the celebrated authors: Checkov, Joyce, Mansfield, Munro. There are the big questions: “What makes a truly great short story?” “Where does the form originate?” “What can short stories do that other forms of literature can’t?”But before any of this, there’s a question that’s not that easy to answer at all:What is a short story?This week I’m joined by Dr Paul March-Russell, Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent, and author of The Short Story: An Introduction and Colin Walsh, an award-winning short story writer from Galway, Ireland. We discuss whether you can really define what a short story is, some great examples of the form, and what short stories can do that other forms of literature simply can’t.For more details, links, and transcripts head to wttepodcast.comJoin the WTTE community and support the show on Patreon!
What do you think of, when you think of the genre of fantasy? Whether it’s fiction, TV, cinema, or games, are there certain elements you need to have for something to be considered fantasy? Well, you might say fantasy is medieval, or at least set in a time of swords and sorcery. Or that fantasy has to be epic in scale; there are always grand and noble characters.  Or maybe fantasy has to be set in an imaginary world. Or, at the very least, there should be some magic. But, as I explore on this episode. Some, or all, or none of these might be present in a work of fantasy. There's more to fantasy than you might expect. This week I chat to Dr Gerard Hynes to try to get the core of fantasy. We explore Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and the pop culture behemoth that is fantasy right now. We also look at a hugely diverse array of fantasy that goes far beyond what many people imagine when they think of the genre. For more details, links, and transcripts head to wttepodcast.com Join the WTTE community and support the show on Patreon!
An English country estate. A detective pacing the room, explaining how they have solved the crime, revealing the solution to a puzzle and the clues which were there all along. It’s so easy to parody this scene because it’s so familiar. It’s Reverend Green in the billiard room with the candlestick. It’s a shocking murder in a cosy English village or the country estate of a well-off family…where everyone is as suspect. It’s the locked room mystery, where the puzzle is always the centre of the story. So, where do all these familiar ideas come from exactly? What do we mean when we talk about Golden Age Detective Fiction? And are our assumptions about the tropes and rules of this fiction really all the accurate? For full transcripts, links, pictures, and more head to the wttepodcast.com Find out how you can support WTTE at patreon.com/wtte
One way of thinking about steampunk is to divide it into two parts – the steam and the punk. The steam is the Victorian element: the fascination and engagement with the 19th century – whether satirizing or poking fun at Victorian conventions and ideas, dealing with problematic aspects of empire and colonialism, celebrating the people and places, or utterly rethinking the science and technology of the era. The punk, on the other hand, is very much about building collaborative communities in resistance to contemporary capitalist consumer culture and technology. It’s about maker culture and a DIY aesthetic, about fan groups, conventions and meetups. There’s a strong connection, as we’ll see, with other non-mainstream areas of performance culture: cosplay, circus arts, street performance, burlesque. And all of these different areas come together in the rapidly growing number of guests I’ve spoken to about this topic. For full details, links, transcripts and more head to wttepodcast.com
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Podcast Details

Created by
HeadStuff
Podcast Status
Active
Started
Jun 22nd, 2017
Latest Episode
Apr 30th, 2021
Release Period
2 per month
Episodes
59
Avg. Episode Length
22 minutes
Explicit
No
Order
Episodic
Language
English
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