The Coode Street Podcast

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

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Episodes

Sunday Sep 18, 2022

After far too many weeks of an unscheduled summer hiatus, Jonathan and Gary are back with a discussion of the recent Worldcon, which felt in many ways like a return to classic Worldcon form. But then we amble into a discussion that ranges from whether there are too many awards in SF to the question of whether “hard SF” is still a viable category that means what it once did—"playing with the net up”--and how the multiverse seems to have joined time travel and even moon colonies as narrative devices which has more or less escaped the rigours of SF to become features of mainstream novels and media franchises. Also, as always, a bit about who and what we’ve been reading.

Sunday Jul 31, 2022

For the handful of listeners who might be nostalgic for those earlier Coode Streets which were mostly just disorganized rambles, this week we return to form—or lack of form, as the case may be. We do mention Rich Horton’s recent re-reads of pre-Hugo SF classics, and his contention that 1953 was a high point in SF publishing, but then get into questions of why it was just an impressive year (partly due to a backlog of SF writing that hadn’t previously been widely available in book form), which in turn leads us to another discussion of the familiar periods of SF history still make much sense given the broadening of the field in the last half-century. Are there other Golden Ages? Are we in one now? How do today’s readers decide which earlier SF is worth reading? Is the overall quality of SF stronger today than ever, or are we simply applying different or more stringently literary standards? This leads to a digression about exciting books coming out later this year, and a number of other topics that we challenge you to even try to keep track of. But at least we had fun.  

Sunday Jul 17, 2022

This week we’re joined by the distinguished, multiple award-winning John Kessel, whose collection The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel is recently out from Subterranean Press, representing John’s four-decade career as an SF writer, teacher, editor, scholar, and workshop leader. We touch upon not only his short fiction, but novels like The Moon and the Other and Pride and Prometheus, his early studies under James Gunn, his thematic anthologies co-edited with James Patrick Kelly, and what really happened in SF during the 1980s. As always, we'd like to thank John for taking the time to talk to us and hope you'll enjoy the episode.

Monday Jul 04, 2022

For the first week in July, we’re joined by Nebula Award winner Rachel Swirsky, whose novella January Fifteenth ( just out from Tordotcom) is a provocative exploration of the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as it might play out in the lives of four women in very different circumstances. We touch upon Rachel’s decision to focus on characters rather than systems, to set the tale in a recognizable near future, and to deliberately restrain from many science-fictional bells and whistles. This leads to how SF deals, too rarely, with questions of economic policy and the effects on individual lives —in the case of January Fifteenth, a woman escaping from an abusive ex-spouse, a journalist covering the effects of UBI, a well-off college student whose friends deliberately waste their annual checks, and a young member of a repressive religious cult. As usual, we touch upon what’s next for Rachel, including an intriguing collaboration with Ann Leckie. As always, our thanks to Rachel for making the time to talk to us. We hope you enjoy the episode!

Sunday Jun 19, 2022

This week, Jonathan and Gary are delighted to chat with Kate Heartfield, whose thoroughly engrossing historical fantasy The Embroidered Book, already a bestseller in the UK and Canada, has just been published in the United States. We talk about the research that went into her fascinating tale of the sisters Antoine and Charlotte, who grew up to become Marie Antoinette and Queen Charlotte of Naples, and of how magical books of spells secretly helped shape the history of 18th century Europe. We touch upon her earlier Aurora-winning Armed in Her Fashion, the various ways of incorporating fantasy into history, the question of whether historical fiction might be received differently in different cultures and markets, and some hints about her current work in progress. It’s a pretty lively discussion, and we think a lot of fun. As always, our thanks to Kate for making time to talk to us, and we hope you enjoy the episode!

Sunday May 22, 2022

This week, Jonathan and Gary are joined by the brilliant Christopher Rowe, whose novella These Prisoning Hills appears next week from Tordotcom, revisiting the wonderful and bizarre world first introduced in his earlier stories “The Voluntary State” and “The Border State.” We cover quite a bit of territory, ranging from Christopher's own influences, what it means to be associated with a particular region (such as Kentucky and Tennessee in Christopher’s case), the nature of influence in SF, and Christopher’s own discovery of the work of Cordwainer Smith, whose stories he’s been assiduously collecting in their original magazine appearances. As usual, we would like to thank Christopher for taking the time to talk to us, and hope you enjoy the podcast.

Monday May 16, 2022

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.

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