I’ve gotten really into podcasts lately—they’re a nice way to keep yourself company while running errands, and you can either learn something interesting or hear a good story while you’re at it. I’ve found a number of fictional podcasts, but I recently decided to start looking for more non-fiction podcasts—I like when the hosts chat back and forth because then it feels like I’m listening to an informal radio program rather than a story that I have to pay 100% attention to. So it was that I stumbled upon Speculate!, a podcast about sci-fi and fantasy. I listened to their recent episode on The House of Shattered Wings, which I reviewed on this blog a while back, and was immediately hooked.
Speculate! labels itself a podcast “for writers, readers, and fans”, and it fulfills this through its triptych model. Co-hosts Greg, Brad, and Michael talk about sci-fi/fantasy books (and the occasional comic) by doing three separate episodes on one chosen source material. They start with a podcast episode that reviews the book or comic and gives their general thoughts its strengths and weaknesses. Then, in their next episode, they interview the writer and discuss what went into the writing and worldbuilding of the story. Finally, they finish up their triptych on the source material by breaking down how the story is written, discussing things like tropes, pacing, and prose. Unfortunately, the writing episode is for backers of their Patreon only, but even if you don’t have the financial means of supporting them at this time, there’s still plenty you can learn from listening.
What’s cool about Speculate! for me personally is the depth of knowledge that the co-hosts have about fantasy and fantasy writing. Like many communications majors in college, I had to take a writing course, but the teachers at my school blatantly refused to let us write any genre fiction whatsoever. Even our class discussions were solely focused on classic “literary” novels, and, at times, the romantic comedy du jour, I guess because that was what counted as “legitimate” writing. This seems to be the case for many writing majors across the U.S.—very few teachers believe that genre fiction is worth serious discussion.
However, when you look at the popular books and movies these days—Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Marvel’s whole shebang—it’s clear that that’s not the case. All of the co-hosts are genre writers—Greg is an English professor as well—and they break down many of the popular books in a way that’s extremely articulate, but never condescending. Listening to their chats about genre fiction isn’t just entertaining, it’s educational. If I had had teachers and mentors like these guys in college, I would have been a lot more enthusiastic about writing and analyzing writing as a career.