Yeah, it SAYS #33, but this shoulda been #30.  But. Of course. When we invite a science fiction writer on our podcast, that’s the ONLY time the tech stuff goes wrong and a digital gremlin gobbles up our show…  Oh, irony.

daveheadshotjune2012cBut we had a great guest (who’s also a fellow podcaster with several tech disasters under his belt).  We asked him back and he graciously accepted, and we’re stoked to share our conversation with you.

This week on the show, we’re talking science fiction, geek culture, world-building, genre-blending, the lack of girls in Lord of the Rings, and lots of other cool stuff.  Our expert and guest on today’s show: David Barr Kirtley, science fiction writer and host of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, sponsored by Wired.


  • David talks about his background and influences from his parents that encouraged his interest in science fiction and how he came to write it.
  • Jordan shooting Jenna with shieldWe delineate the differences between science fiction and fantasy, and David gives us some really nuanced ways of looking at both genres.
  • We bring up Margaret Atwood’s idea about speculative fiction not being the same as science fiction; David tells us there’s a long tradition of literary writers wanting to write sci-fi but not wanting to call it sci-fi.  Vonnegut’s in that camp.  (By the way, David interviewed Margaret Atwood on his podcast.)
  • We talk about the Turkey City Lexicon, an important resource for sci-fi writers and hear a story of how the difference between sci-fi and literary fiction is really arbitrary.
  • The Fiction School hosts all confess that we love sci-fi and read it, but we all think it’s damn hard to write.  David talks about how hard it is to do the world-building of sci-fi, like in Lord of the Rings.
  • What’s the relationship of sci-fi and romance?  Is there more of a love story element in modern sci-fi?  We talk about the YA influence in sci-fi, but Dave notes the classical sci-fi not having that element.  Tommy can’t stand the movie versions of sci-fi because they add in all this “love stuff.”
  • tolkien tombstoneTolkien was maligned for not having enough of that romance in his stories (such as in Lord of the Rings, where there’s like zero girls), but he was romantic on a deep level. The Ballad of Beren and Luthien was a great love story, and on his tombstone with his wife, they had Baron and Luthien written.  Awwwwwwwwwwww, sweet.
  • Ah, and we all love a good genre blending.  We get Dave to talk about the way science fiction writing is evolving and incorporating elements of fantasy or romance these days.  Dave mentions how Dean Koontz wanted to put supernatural elements in his detective story.
  • There’s a long history of hostility in science fiction toward progress and new technologies.  Like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley–maybe the first science fiction novel–has a lot of warnings about progress run amok.
  • Tommy asks a theoretical question: take the swords of Game of Thrones and put in laser guns, and is it science fiction instead of fantasy?  George R. R. Martin has “The Furniture Theory” of genre: what determines the genre of a story is just the furniture in the rooms of the story.
  • Jody asks more about the process of world building for science fiction writers.  The deeper you get into it, the harder it is.
  • We talk about short stories that dabble in sci-fi–Tommy notes how hard it is to establish that world quickly with short fiction.  Dave mentions how you can reference classic settings and worlds in sci-fi and tap into a known world for readers.
  • Baker gushes about David’s bio on his website.  We talk about his practice of copying novels out by hand and what that taught him about writing.  (Yup. Dave copied Ulysses.  By hand.  One Hundred Years of Solitude.  By hand.  Lolita.  By hand.)
  • Tommy tries to work his way into Geek Culture with some tips from Dave.  We have high hopes for Tommy.
  • Felicia Day’s interview with Dave spoke to geek culture and gave some interesting perspective on it.
  • Jody asks about Dave’s experience at the screenwriting program and whether there was any resistance to science fiction in screenwriting classes there.
  • We end the show with Dave’s recommendations for some great works of recent and emerging science fiction.

Thanks again to David Barr Kirtley for coming on the show (twice!) and sharing his amazing knowledge of science fiction with us.  Get more of Dave at his podcast, The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy or at his website.