The Coode Street Podcast

Discussion and digression on science fiction and fantasy with Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan.

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6 days ago

Earlier this week, we were all stunned by the news of the tragic death of World Fantasy Life Achievement Award winner Patricia McKillip, whose luminous works have influenced and moved generations of readers and writers for nearly half a century. Jonathan and Gary are joined by McKillip’s longtime friend, Ellen Kushner, herself a winner of World Fantasy, Locus, and Mythopoeic Awards, and by Campbell Award winner E. Lily Yu, We talk some about Pat’s personal modesty and sharp wit, but mostly about her astonishing body of work, not only in fantasy but (as Lily points out) in her less familiar forays into SF. Like all tributes, it’s probably inadequate to the work, but it’s deeply felt by all of us.

Sunday May 01, 2022

This week’s discussion begins with Gary wondering about what he tentatively calls the use of absurdism in some recent novels, mentioning Kelly Barnhill’s When Women Were Dragons and Sunyi Dean's forthcoming The Book Eaters, each of which features a powerful central metaphor that refuses to resolve itself into traditional SF or fantasy systems—somewhat like the old Theatre of the Absurd playwrights like Ionesco. This leads to yet another discussion of what may be happening with the notion of genres, and how an earlier generation of gatekeeping editors has given way to editors more welcoming to a variety of voices and approaches. We more or less conclude that, while this reinvigorates the traditional genres, there are plenty of options for readers who still prefer the familiar formulas and traditions. Finally, we talk a bit about getting together for a possible live podcast at Chicon later this summer. 

Friday Apr 15, 2022

It's only been a week since Jonathan and Gary sat down to chat with Nicola Griffith about her new book, Spear, but in a bid to get back on schedule, they took a moment to record a new episode for the coming long weekend. They kick off chatting about travel during the pandemic and the coming WorldCon, before Jonathan admits he's only just read Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, and they then go on to talk about Le Guin's work, the oddities of book buying and collecting, and then our hosts attempt to answer the age-old questions: do you need to read a book? if so, why? do you need to keep book? which ones can you get rid of, and how?  Really, it's a ramble that kicks off with Earthsea and ends up chatting about books. It's a Coode Street podcast. As always, our thanks for your patience with our rambles. We hope you enjoy the episode, and see you again pretty soon!

Sunday Apr 03, 2022

This time out, Jonathan and Gary are joined by the brilliant Nicola Griffith, whose Spear, out this month, revisits Arthurian tales from an entirely new perspective. We chat about how the novel came about, Arthurian literature as fan fiction, the wonderful illustrations by Rovina Cai, and what it was like to record the audiobook. We also discuss its similarities to and differences from her well-received historical novel Hild and its forthcoming sequel Menewood, as well as Nicola’s classic early novels Ammonite and Slow River, her recent So Lucky, and forthcoming reissues of her Aud Torvingen novels, beginning with The Blue Place.

Sunday Mar 27, 2022

With Gary just back from ICFA in Florida, he discussed whether this will really be the year of re-emergence, with both the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago and World Fantasy Convention in New Orleans in the offing. This led, as it does, to discussion of the Hugos, whether small categories with few nominations should be dropped, whether other categories should be added, and whether major historical studies such as Mike Ashley’s five-volume The History of the Science-Fiction Magazines really have a chance of being seen because of availability issues, as compared to the increasingly broad definition of “related work.” Inevitably, we chatted about new or forthcoming books we’re excited about. We both liked Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World, Alix E. Harrow’s A Mirror Mended, and Christopher Rowe’s These Prisoning Hills, while Jonathan is tempted by Karen Joy Fowler’s new novel Booth and Gary’s about to start Samit Basu’s The City Inside.  Of course, there are lots of digressions in between, including the nature of historical fiction and nostalgia for printed books in the age of e-books (at least for reviewers and critics).

Sunday Mar 06, 2022

After reminding listeners that the deadline for Hugo nominations is fast approaching on March 15 (and reminding them once again of the eligibility of this podcast for Best Fancast and of Jonathan for Best Editor, Short Form), we move on to the much-discussed, record-setting Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter, and the question of whether it really matters to anyone other than Sanderson and his readers. Acknowledging that Sanderson readers are fully likely to get exactly what they are expecting, this led us into a brief discussion of reader expectations, also the topic of a recent essay by Molly Templeton on While occasionally we come across a book with almost no prior knowledge or publicity, most books come with expectations based on the author’s previous work, or even the publisher’s reputation. Some of the authors discussed here, and some that Jonathan and Gary are currently reading or expecting to read, include Guy Gavriel Kay, R.F. Kuang, Kelly Barnhill, Nghi Vo, John Crowley, and Karen Joy Fowler. At the end, we touch briefly upon the question of history in fiction, and the different strategies of using entirely fictional characters, almost entirely historical figures, or a mixture of both.

Sunday Feb 20, 2022

This week, in our more-or-less annual discussion of the Locus Recommended Reading List, we are delighted to be joined by Locus Editor-in-Chief Liza Groen Trombi. We talk about the purpose of the list, how it has changed over the years, how books or stories get on the list, and a few thorny questions about how to decide whether a novel is SF or fantasy if it contains substantial elements of both. In addition to mentioning some of our own favourite works of the year, we touch upon the importance of the First Novels list, which might be a harbinger of what's to come, and how story collections and YA novels have grown in importance over the years. Toward the end, we pay a brief tribute to two Locus Magazine pioneers, reviewer Faren Miller (who was also the magazine's first full-time employee), and bibliographer William G. Contento, who helped establish resources that remain crucial to anyone interested in the SFF field.

Sunday Feb 13, 2022

This week (episode 3 of season 13) we return to our tradition of almost entirely unstructured rambling. Jonathan and Gary consider such questions as to whether a novel can be good SF, but not much good in literary terms, or a good literary novel not much good as SF. While we recognize that many popular subgenres, from military SF to heroic fantasy, have plenty of readers loyal to the old traditions, we muse about whether many of today’s writers feel some pressure to meet both traditional literary and SF standards, and Jonathan namechecks R.F. Kuang. Some writers we mention, such as Arkady Martine, seem to effortlessly do both. On the other hand, why were several genre mystery readers of the 1930s and 1940s, like Hammett and Chandler, were later recognized as major literary figures, the same didn’t seem to have to SF writers of the same period. Toward the end, we touch upon Paul Kincaid's provocative new essay, "A Taxonomy of Reviewing" and his book on Brian W. Aldiss, amongst other things.  As always, we hope you enjoy the episode. 

Monday Jan 24, 2022

This week Jonathan and Gary are back, a little early, to talk about the annual science fiction calendar, the awards season, how there are so many awards, what books they’re reading, and what books they’ve worked on.  Oh, and for a short moment, they touch on movies and TV too. All in all, episode two of season 13, sounds pretty much like most of the other episodes we've recorded over the past twelve years, so if they were your jam, this might be too.  As always, we hope you enjoy it and are very grateful to everyone for listening in...

Saturday Jan 15, 2022

Welcome to The Coode Street Podcast. With 2021 barely in the rearview mirror, it's time to kick off season 13 with a brand new episode. A little over a month ago we sat down with James Bradley, Alix E. Harrow, and Ian Mond to discuss 2021: The Year in Review in Episode 568. At the end of that chat, we all said we'd back to discuss the books we're looking forward to in 2022, and here we are! This week we discuss 25 or so books that we are looking forward to or, maybe, have read already and can recommend that you check out (along with a few strays). Pre-order links are below. We also are clear we've definitely missed books we'll end up loving. As always, our sincere thanks to James, Alix, and Ian for making time to chat with us.  We hope you enjoy the episode and that you'll see us again in a couple weeks.   JAMES The Candy House, Jennifer Egan To Paradise, Hanya Yanigihara Goliath, Tochi Onyebuchi Sea of Tranquility, Emily St John Mandel A History of Dreams, Jane Rawson ALIX Siren Queen, Nghi Vo Saint Death's Daughter, C.S.E. Cooney How High We Go in the Dark, Sequoia Nagamatsu Nona the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir Spear, Nicola Griffith IAN The This, Adam Roberts Dark Breakers, C.S.E Cooney The Last Blade Priest, Will Wiles Booth, Karen Joy Fowler Hard Places(1), Kirstyn McDermott JONATHAN The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest, Felix Salten (trans. Jack Zipes) Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution,  R.F. Kuang The Landing, Mary Gentle All the Seas of the World, Guy Gavriel Kay Devil House, John Darnielle GARYA Mirror Mended, Alix E. Harrow Aspects, John M. Ford High Times in the Low Parliament, Kelly Robson The Daughter of Dr. Moreau, Silvia Moreno-Garcia Boys, Beasts, and Men, Sam J. Miller (1) Pre-order not yet available.

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