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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Dec 7, 2016

SF can attempt to predict the future, but since Jonathan Swift invented SF with Gulliver’s Travels, an adult political satire that I’d call the original Star Trek, SF has delivered its most enduring and provocative works by analysing the ethical content of the present. But Star Trek became so dominant on US TV through reruns and then resurrection as Star Trek: The Next Generation that it became a force stifling creativity.

The boldest, most innovative, and most influential counter to Star Trek dominance was Babylon 5, the 1993 to 1998 series that introduced the longform story arc with a predetermined beginning, middle, and end to US television. Set in the twenty-third century, the story was of the fifth and final Babylon station, a galactic UN created to end the cataclysmic wars and colonisations in which the cerebral and spiritual Minbari had nearly annihilated Humans, the humanoid Centauri whose empire was in advanced decline, and the reptilian and vengeful Narn who had thrown off Centauri subjugation.

Also involved were two mysterious races: the Vorlons, so alien they could barely be understood, and a shadowy race whose existence was unknown to most species, even while their power soon would be. Mixed into the five-year story arc were queer characters, old and new human religions, a Jewish funeral, a species change, political assassinations, allegories for racism, and the rise of fascism on Earth.

Babylon 5 offered stakes that Star Trek never had, and better yet, played them out for five seasons to results that television had never attempted. It was a long-overdue revival of science fiction TV.

From 1987 to 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation had presented a 24th Century humanity that, by means unexplained, had stripped itself of its most enduringly toxic social and individual problems. In the Next Generation world, humans didn’t wage war against other humans, did not practice labour, racial, or sexual oppression or exploitation, or destroy ecosystems. The Next Generation presented a future in which “we”—the assumed Euro-American audience for whom the show was created—could do no wrong as a society; only aberrant individuals could cause suffering.

So the major sources of misery, degradation, and tyranny were alien societies. Given that Star Trek’s major social allegory was that the Federation, or at least humanity, was the United States, and that the Klingon Empire was the Soviet Union, the view that it’s always the aliens’ fault is an inherently xenophobic, jingoistic, and racist vision of the real world.

But Babylon 5 didn’t accept such simplistic and ugly ideas, and the space epic shows that followed B5’s lead, especially Farscape and Battlestar Galactica, seem to have taken its lessons, including by having more female main characters who actually drove the plot and had significant backstories that also drove the story’s direction.

In the episode “By Any Means Necessary,” Babylon 5 presented labour struggle on its station a decade before Battlestar Galactica dramatised the issue; similarly, B5 presented its military personnel wearing civilian clothes when they were off-shift, which virtually never happened in Trek, but later happened in Battlestar Galactica.

B5 presented not just a multiracial but a multireligious future for humans and aliens. Commander Sinclair studied under Jesuits; Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova was not religious but culturally was Jewish-Russian, and after her father’s death, sat Shiva with her family rabbi in the episode “TKO.”

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, you’ll hear my conversations with two key figures behind B5: Joseph Michael Straczynski, and Mira Furlan. Joe Straczynski, or just plain JMS was a successful television writer on shows such as Murder, She Wrote before he launched B5. Before the days when creative producer/head writers were called show runners, JMS single-handedly wrote 92 of the series’ 110 episodes, and drafted the overarching plot for the entire five-year epic before the first frame was shot. He later co-created Sense8 with the Wachowskis, and wrote the screen stories for World War Z and Thor among other works.

Mira Furlan is the celebrated Yugoslavian stage and screen actor who played the Minbari Ambassador Delenn, after Furlan left her war-torn homeland. She’s best known in North America for playing Rousseau in Lost, and she’s also appeared on NCIS and Law & Order: LA.

Twenty-two years ago in 1994, JMS spoke with me by telephone from his production office in Los Angeles, just before season 2 began airing, and we recorded the call at CJSR FM88 in Edmonton. Mira Furlan spoke with me at the Earth Station Convention in 1997 in south Edmonton just before she left for the airport.

You’ll notice throughout today’s discussion, that JMS and I both say variations on the phrase “in other SF shows” when the SHOW THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED was definitely Star Trek. That deliberate phrasing was just as common in the Making of Babylon 5 half-hour special that aired when B5 launched, so as to avoid stoking the Trek-Always-and-Only kneejerk reaction of some fans.

While today it might seem laughable, twenty years ago SF screen fandom was infected with tribalism. Many fans couldn’t wrap their brains around the idea that you could publicly state that you liked two different story worlds at the same time. Maybe that began with Stan Lee hyping Marvel versus DC, as if liking DC was akin to pledging allegiance to a national enemy, or at least a group of stodgy idiots. But even now, of course, some of that lunacy remains. In fact, as Gamergate and the Hugo Wars demonstrated, it actually got worse. Some might say it metastasised into the US presidential election.

We began with JMS about why he wanted Babylon 5 to fall where it did on the predictive versus allegorical scale of science fiction.

To hear more than an hour of bonus content for this episode, including more discussion with JMS and Mira Furlan, and my feature-length conversation with Bob the Angry Flower cartoonist Stephen Notley—because he and I were both big fans of B5 when it came out--visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

And hey, with Christmas coming, how about sharing some of that holiday generosity by becoming a sponsor of MF GALAXY? Just go to MF GALAXY.org and click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for 99 cents or even 25 cents per show. You’ll be supporting my weekly work to bring you outstanding interviews with amazing authors, academics, activists, actors, avengers, artists, and Africentrists! And for a buck a show, you’ll get access to scores of extended editions of the show with tons of great advice for new and mid-career writers seeking to up their game. This holiday season, help a brother out!

 

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Nov 28, 2016

If you’re not from Alberta, you may not know that the province has been, functionally, a one-party state for decades at a time. Thirty-six straight years of Social Credit rule collapsed to forty-four straight years of Progressive Conservative control.

2015 saw the unexpected election of the New Democratic Party under the leadership of Rachel Notley, leap-frogging over the right-wing splinter party Wild Rose led by former Conservative MP Brian Jean, and crushing the PC party led by former Conservative MP, the late Premier Jim Prentice.

But no one expects the NDP to continue the tradition of four decades of rule, whatever its ambitions. And if party turn-over remains a reality, then Alberta will at last have become a modern Western democracy.

It’s been a rough ride for the NDP, despite the enormous popularity of Premier Notley, herself the daughter of the former provincial NDP leader Grant Notley. After the election honeymoon was over, the reality of low oil prices, a high deficit, and the handling of Bill 6 have threatened the party’s chances of re-election.

Bill 6 sought to protect farm workers by granting them Workers Compensation Bureau coverage and thus freeing farmers from liability, but the Bill 6 consultation and communications plan met widespread criticism spearheaded by the Wild Rose opposition. The defeat of the federal NDP, the former official opposition at one point seen as the next government, further dampened hopes for the provincial party.

But it’s not only the NDP facing a difficult future. The Alberta Liberal Party was reduced to a single seat and the defeat of its former leader Raj Sherman, himself a former PC. The former PC leader Jim Prentice immediately resigned and then died in a plane crash in 2016. Wild Rose leader Brian Jean’s attempts to discipline his own MLA Derek Fildebrandt seemed to have backfired and weakened his own position.

Worse still for Brian Jean is the former Conservative MP and Stephen Harper lieutenant Jason Kenney leaving federal politics to seek the leadership of the ailing provincial PCs to collapse it into the Wild Rose, topple Jean, and become the leader.

The only two women in the PC leadership race, Donna Kennedy-Glans and Sandra Jansen, both quit after being targets of what Jansen called “Trump-style politics” from Kenney supporters, whose harassment included calling Jansen a “baby-killer.” Jansen said:

“My social media has been filled with filth, my domain name purchased to direct people to smear pieces on me and … the final straw… Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms. Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women's reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children’s rights to a safe school environment.”

The result of such intimidation? Jansen crossed the floor to join the NDP.

Joining me to analyse all the above is David Climenhaga.

From his official bio: “David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet, and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at the Toronto Globe and Mail and Calgary Herald. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from the Carleton University School of Journalism in Ottawa. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians.” Climenhaga blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Climenhaga is also a 4th-degree black belt in Uechi-Ryu, a traditional style of karate from Okinawa, and during the course of our conversation he and I both make reference to the Eastern martial arts.

We spoke last week on November 25 at Climenhaga’s office in downtown Edmonton to discuss the present for Sandra Jansen, the legality and morality of floor-crossings, what Climenhaga calls “sleazy” tactics of the Kenney campaign, and how in his opinion the NDP is failing to put its star player on the field in the Grey Cup of provincial politics, possibly at the cost of its own future.

Full disclosure: I have volunteered for the provincial and federal New Democratic Party, and have also provided paid public speaking training for some of its members.

albertapolitics.ca

Contact: albertadiary@gmail.com

Etymology of Tory: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Tory

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Nov 22, 2016

Called “Violent, poetic and compulsively readable” by Maclean’s, science fiction author Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling writer born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, and the islands he lived on influence much of his work.

His Xenowealth series begins with Crystal Rain. Along with other stand-alone novels and his over 50 stories, his works have been translated into 18 different languages. He has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. His latest novel is Hurricane Fever, a follow up to the successful Arctic Rising that NPR says will ‘give you the shivers.’

He currently lives in Bluffton, Ohio with his wife, twin daughters, and a pair of dogs. He can be found online at www.TobiasBuckell.com

Buckwell spoke with me about:

  • Growing up on a boat with TV but with a literal boatload of books
  • The impact of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov on his young imagination
  • The significance of foundational adventure novelist African writer Alexandre Dumas
  • Using a 23+Me genetic test to uncover stunning revelations about his family
  • How he turned his reading disability into an authorial superpower
  • How to supercharge a sleeping-pill plot into an electrifying page-turner
  • How not to end a chapter
  • Reasons for academic bias against discussing the craft of entertainment

tobiasbuckell.com

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Nov 15, 2016

Anthony Q. Farrell is an amazing cat. He’s from Toronto, went to actual comedy school, and ended up writing for one of the most influential US comedy series ever, The Office on NBC, which is also one of my favourite shows.

He wrote two of its most enduring  episodes: “Casual Friday,” in which Dunder Miflin former district manager Michael Scott returns to his old job with also former-ex-employees Pam Beesley and Ryan Howard, and the emotional “Employee Transfer,” in which Michael Scott breaks up with Holly Flax, the love of his life, during a road trip to her new home.

Farrell also served as the Canadian culture consultant on “Business Trip,” in which Michael Scott, Andy Bernard, and Oscar Martinez go to Winnipeg.

In addition to having written for two years on The Office including the Office short films “Taste the Ice Cream” and “Money Trouble,” Farrell wrote for The Thundermans, Originals, In Gayle We Trust, and was the series creator of Dwelling and The Secret Life of Boys. He also wrote and was executive story editor for the CBC sitcom hit Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Did I mention that Farrell is an African-Canadian? And given that there aren’t many African-Canadian writers who’ve hit it big in Hollywood, as soon as I knew Farrell existed, I was determined to hear what he had to say.

In today’s episode, Farrell speaks with me about his career in comedy television, including:

  • The impact that Office showrunner and executive producer Greg Daniels had on him as a writer and later as a showrunner
  • The artistic and collegial environment for writers and actors on the show and what made it so effective
  • What is was like working with series stars such as Rainn Wilson who played Dwight Shrute and Mindy Kaling who played Kelly Kapoor, and what it was like to pitch a joke to Steve Carell
  • What it feels like to write fat jokes about actors you’ll be seeing every day at work, and why some actors stop getting comedic moments in their scripts
  • And which Office actors were most like their characters.

Farrell spoke with me by Skype on June 10, 2016.

We begin with Farrell discussing how attending comedy school gave him the training and the contacts he needed to build an outstanding career.

 

Anthony Q. Farrell on IMDB

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Nov 7, 2016

Brandon Easton is a super-accomplished creator. In addition to having made the must-see documentary Brave New Souls about African-American writers and artists in science fiction and fantasy novels, comics, and movies, he’s also a:

 

Easton has received the 2015 Disney-ABC Writing Program, a 2014 nomination for the Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Single Issue or One Shot, and four Glyph Awards. He was also a semi-finalist for the 2013 Hollywood Black Film Festival's Project Stargazer, which was a collaboration with NASA to find and develop science-fiction writers of color.

Easton spoke with me on June 27, 2016 by Skype, about:

  • How the Disney ABC Writing Programme works
  • Pro writing for the market with big money at stake
  • The pressure of writers rooms and how they made him smarter
  • How showrunners choose their writers
  • How to break an episode
  • The art and science of bottle shows
  • The penalties for going over budget

 

While I mention that we’ll be talking about writing for Marvel, that’ll be coming in a future episode of MF GALAXY, so keep subscribing.

Buy Brandon Easton’s Brave New Souls documentary on African-American science fiction and fantasy film makers, authors, and comic creators. It’s a great doc and it’s only 8 bucks. 

 

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Oct 31, 2016

Culture commentator Robert Monroe Jr. joins me to discuss the film, its historical and political content and context, the campaign against the film, and the controversy about its writer, director, and star Nate Parker.

The Birth of a Nation – HD Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i18z1EQCoyg

 

The Birth Of A Nation Cast Discuss The Film | BUILD Series

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6ciC2tFA28

 

Gabrielle Union & Birth Cast Defend Nate Parker's Powerful Film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG5TWJfz4YQ

 

Gabrielle Union Turns Her Back On The Birth Of A Nation Film & Nate Parker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzLw1_1Pi-Q

 

Anderson Cooper vs Nate Parker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hty2mqIaA0I

 

Nate Parker’s Alleged Sins Won’t Keep Me from Seeing ‘The Birth of a Nation’

For decades, black people have been fed a Disney-fication of our struggle. So, even as a sexual-assault survivor, I am going to see Parker’s film.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/26/nate-parker-s-alleged-sins-won-t-keep-me-from-seeing-the-birth-of-a-nation.html

 

Nat Turner by Kyle Baker

http://www.qualityjollity.com/Nat_Turner.html

 

Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust – Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4PEcVK6gbM

 

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Oct 25, 2016

Sylvia Feketekuty has written for Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, two of the most successful video games in history. Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction, and the acclaimed novelist of numerous zombie novels. Each spoke at Authorpalooza in Edmonton.

Feketekuty discussed:

  • The craft of writing for VGs including plotting, dialogue, and world-building
  • Game design
  • Ergodic writing vs linear writing
  • The enormous costs of triple-A games that writers must understand to to avoid “blowing up a level”
  • Writing in a team
  • How to break into a major studio as a writer
  • The tools available for indie game writers
  • Toxic vs. progressive VG workplaces for women

Free video game writing tool: https://twinery.org

 

DiLouie discussed:

  • How horrific is too horrific
  • How horror holds up a fractured mirror to the human soul

For the rest of DiLouie’s conversation, download the extended edition from the MF GALAXY Patreon page, where DiLouie discusses:

  • Getting started as a tech writer + specialising young
  • The joys of a home office
  • Learned a work ethic from nonfiction writing
  • Attempting the Great American Novel
  • The dangers of swallowing advice from an agent
  • The art and science of book trailers
  • Why to evoke feelings instead of facts

Craig DiLouie book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdYgy8vYayU

craigdilouie.com

 

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Oct 13, 2016

Sweet Christmas! Luke Cage, the Marvel Comics Blaxploitation D-grade hero from the 1970s is now a massive on Netflix—so anticipated the Netflix crashed in Europe. Series creator Cheo Hodari Coker has spoken revealingly about his own life as an African-American fanboy and his commitment to presenting excellent African-American women characters.

Authors Sheree R. Thomas and Zig Zag Claybourne join me to talk about the show that has gotten me more excited than almost any show in recent memory.

 

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Oct 11, 2016

Andrea Hairston is amazing. She’s a novelist, essayist, playwright, and the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre. Any science fiction plays in the bunch? Let’s see—how about Soul Repairs, Lonely Stardust, Hummingbird Flying Backward, Dispatches, and Archangels of Funk.

But who’s produced her plays? Oh, only Yale Rep, Rites and Reason, the Kennedy Center, StageWest, and US public radio and public television. Can she translate German plays into English? Yup.

Any awards? Just a few… for playwriting and directing awards: a National Endowment for the Arts Grant to Playwrights, a Rockefeller/NEA Grant for New Works, an NEA grant to work as dramaturge/director with playwright Pearl Cleage, a Ford Foundation Grant to collaborate with Senegalese Master Drummer Massamba Diop, a Shubert Fellowship for Playwriting, and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for 2003.

What about books? Well, there are Redwood and Wildfire, winner of the 2011 Tiptree Award and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award, and Mindscape, shortlisted for the Phillip K Dick and Tiptree Awards, and winner of the Carl Brandon Parallax Award. Plus the collection Lonely Stardust, and her play Thunderbird was published in the SFF drama anthology Geek Theater.

Okay, we get it. Except there’s also teaching and literary criticism: she’s the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies at Smith College, and she won the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award for outstanding contributions to the criticism of the fantastic.

So what’d we talk about by Skype on September 12, 2016?

  • Why SFF novelists and playwrights appreciate plot in a way that literary writers and academics almost never do
  • What a Drama department offers students, teachers, and writers that they can’t get anywhere else
  • Why there’s liberation in understanding that talent is a myth
  • How any writer can improve dialogue by using the standard toolbox of playwrights

Check her website here.

And if you want to hear all the amazing stuff she told me about how her favourite teachers changed her life, and how, then just sign up on Patreon for a buck or more per show.

 

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Sep 15, 2016

Award-winning writer Jennifer Cockrall-King is a journalist and the author of Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution, a book on global movements in urban food production.

Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers including the Chicago Sun-Times, the National Post, Maclean’s, and many more. She spoke with me live onstage at Authorpalooza #2 in Edmonton at Cha Island on November 26, 2014.  She talks about the business and the craft of being a freelance journalist and how the skills for both can help other writers boost their careers, and what her A-game is, what it means to physicalise her writing, and how to learn from other writers.

Next up, award-winning fantasy novelist Eileen Bell. Her debut novel was the paranormal mystery Seeing the Light, which won the 2014 Book Publishers Association of Alberta award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Bony Blythe Award for Light Mystery. She’s also the author of Drowning in Amber and Meeting the Parents, edits for On Spec Magazine, and wrote one of the novellas in Women of the Apocalypse. She spoke with me at Authorpalooza #3 on March 11, 2015 live at Devaney’s Pub in Edmonton.

 

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Sep 1, 2016

London-born Jenn Brissett is one of those classic overnight success stories who was decades in the making. Her first novel, Elysium: Or, The World After, was the runner-up for the 2015 Philip K. Dick Award and a finalist for the 2015 Locus Best First Novel Award. She’s currently completing the sequel called Eleusis and has had stories published in The Best of Halfway Down the Stairs.

She has a Master degree in Creative Writing specialising in Speculative Fiction, and also an Electrical Engineering degree with a concentration in Visual Art. Prior to winning literary accolades, she owned and ran Indigo Café & Books in Brooklyn.

In today’s MF GALAXY, we discuss:

  • Her strategies for creating intimacy for readers
  • How, why, and where she takes careful observation of her fellow New Yorkers
  • Why she uses analogue methods in a digital age for editing her work
  • Her take on using the five senses and, yes, extra senses, in order to make her work the best it can be, and
  • How to defeat imposter syndrome

And along the way, Brissett cites fantasy author David Anthony Durham.

She and I spoke on July 22, 2016 by Skype, and we began by discussing which teacher had such a huge impact on her, and why.

 

jennbrissett.com

 

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Aug 8, 2016

To be alive is to eat. To enjoy life is to eat. To meet with family and friends and reminisce and plan the future is to eat. And of course, all of human culture, in one way or another revolves around our basic need to stay alive through producing, consuming, and loving food.

So why do so few novelists, poets, lyricists, and other writers talk about food in their work?

I’ve been cooking since I was a kid and have always loved everything about acquiring, making, and consuming food, and in recent years I’ve become an enthusiastic and productive gardener. I’ve relished (ba-dum-ching) my conversations with other people, but especially other writers, about food. This episode features the sparkling ideas about food, culture, science, feminism, social justice, technology, and more of three delightful human beings and celebrated writers:

SG Wong is the creator of the Lola Starke hardboiled detective series (Die on Your Feet, In For a Pound, and Devil Take the Hindmost), set in Crescent City, California, in an alternate history in which China colonised North America. An Arthur Ellis Award finalist, Wong is also a sparkling stalwart of Edmonton’s literary scene as an organiser of writer conferences. She’s one of those outstanding individuals whose endless energy benefits everyone in the community. 

Ekaterina Sedia is the author of The House Of Discarded Dreams, The Secret History of Moscow, and The Alchemy of Stone. She’s a short story writer who also occasionally edits anthologies, and was an interim non-fiction editor for Clarkesworld Magazine in the fall of 2008. She blogs television, books, fashion, food, and even cats, with a focus on the intersection between fashion industry and feminism. She encourages readers to contact her at katsedia@hotmail.com.

Nalo Hopkinson, whom the Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls a luminary in the science fiction community. She is widely known for her Africentric science fiction and fantasy novels exploring the experiences and cultures of African peoples in the Caribbean and ultimately into the galaxy. She’s the author of ten celebrated books including Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and her explosive debut Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the orisha gods of Nigeria and Benin.

The bonus edition for Patreon subscribers features an extra 40 minutes of conversation, so sign up, why doncha?

For more information including recipes, visit MFGALAXY.org.

Jul 28, 2016

Thirty actors, writers, film makers, cartoonists, singers, MCs, DJs, and academics answer the question: Does racial tension ever disappear for you?

 

  • T.E.D.D.Y.
  • Wes Borg
  • Joy Lusco Kecken
  • Michael Muhammad Knight
  • Thomas Wharton
  • DeWayne Copeland
  • A Lee Martinez
  • David Simon
  • Ishmael Reed
  • Scott Wilson
  • Waymatea
  • Robert Chew
  • Shawn Taylor
  • Isaiah Washington
  • Sonja Sohn
  • A Peter Bailey
  • Wendell Pierce
  • Lisa Yaszek
  • Abdi Samatar
  • Lester Kenyatta Spence
  • Jamie Hector
  • Amir Sulaiman
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • Stephen Notley
  • Jitu tha Jugganot
  • Ann Vriend
  • Runoko Rashidi
  • Sharon Lewis
  • Seith Mann, and
  • Clark Peters

 

A couple of important links:

David Simon refers to conflict with Charles Roc Dutton while making the miniseries The Corner. For further reading, check this article.

I asked A. Peter Bailey about African youth in the US (and Canada) believing that education is “White,” and learned later for the outstanding sociologist Algernon Austin and his book Getting It Wrong that such claims are mostly a myth. Listen to my interview with Algernon Austin here.

 

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Jul 19, 2016

I've been asking the question for over two decades. Now here the responses in part one of a special two-part series on MF GALAXY featuring, in part one (be sure to download parts 1A and 1B):

Angela Davis

Billie Jean Young

Billie Jean Young

Ernest Dickerson

Lorraine Monroe

Chuck D

Reginald Hudlin

Michael Parenti

Mario Van Peebles

Ralph Nader

Andre Royo  

Bill Fletcher

Vern Thiessen

Kenneth T. Williams

K Tempest Bradford

Jim True-Frost

David Barsamian

David Mills

Neil Grahn

Darryl Lenox

Wendell Pierce

William B. Davis

Robert Wisdom

Ted Bishop

Charles Saunders

Clark Johnson

Titilope Sonuga

Juan Cole

John Jennings

Ron Pederson

Seth Gilliam

Ed Burns

NK Jemisin

Christian A. Brown

Janine Jackson

Algernon Austin

Wab Kinew

 

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Jul 12, 2016

John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Mur Lafferty is the author of the six-volume Afterlife series, the Shambling Guides series, Playing for Keeps, Merry Christmas from the Heartbreakers, and Marco and the Red Granny. She’s been a podcaster since the beginnings of podcasting, starting in 2004, and she’s won the Podcast Peer Award and three Parsec Awards. Last year, she was inducted into the Podcaster Hall of Fame for shows such as Geek Fu Action Grip, I Should Be Writing, and her writing business show Ditch Diggers. She holds an MFA in popular fiction. She’s also an avid pro-attendee of fiction conventions, and annually publishes a beginner’s guide to preparing for con season.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Mur Lafferty discusses:

  • What it is about novel proposals that is so profoundly unsatisfying she might switch to writing on-spec permanently
  • The craft of revision, and her latest method for jumpstarting a stalled manuscript
  • Cloning vs. inventing for character creation, and her favourite book to explore character archetypes
  • Why she’s hate-watching The Bachelorette
  • Why she says that reality TV is populated by narcissists and extremist TV pundits are sociopaths
  • Why working with an editor is like experiencing the five stages of grief, and
  • What happened when an editor asked her to make a sex scene more graphic

 

Lafferty spoke with me on July 07, 2016 by Skype from her home in North Carolina.

 

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Jul 9, 2016

Gail Sidonie Sobat is a singer, teacher, author of eleven books, and organiser of YouthWrite, one of Canada’s most successful and enduring creative writing workshops for young people. She’s taught internationally and at the post-secondary level, and is profoundly devoted to writers, the writing community, and teens and kids in distress.

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Gail Sobat discusses:

  • How YouthWrite encourages students to develop writing skills and experience across writing disciplines
  • Mental hacks to overcome writing blocks and guarantee page output
  • How being a teacher has helped her create better and more truthful characters
  • Why she says she has an ethical duty to listen, and
  • Her excellent business advice for writers seeking to build a career for the long run

 

Continuing from the previous episode of MF GALAXY, is part 2 of my conversation with comic book and video game writer Andrew Foley. Andrew Foley writes for Beamdog Game Studio in Edmonton, and wrote the graphic novels Parting Ways (illustrated by Scott Mooney and Nick Craine) and Done to Death, illustrated by star-artist Fiona Staples. He’s also the writer of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens.

In this episode, Foley discusses:

  • How comic book scripts are similar to screenplays
  • The Marvel Method of writing as a scam to make artists do most of the work
  • What makes Alan Moore an insane genius
  • How a car accident led Foley to create his graphic novels Parting Ways + Done to Death
  • Why working with superstar artist Fiona Staples wasn’t enough to guarantee their graphic novel stayed in print, and
  • His career advice for anyone who wants to enter and stay in comics.

Andrew Foley spoke with me live onstage at Authorpalooza 1 in October 2014 at the University of Alberta.

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Jun 29, 2016

SG Wong is the creator of the Lola Starke hardboiled detective series set in Crescent City, California, in an alternate history in which China colonised North America. Arthur Ellis Award-finalist Wong is also a sparkling stalwart of Edmonton’s literary scene as an organiser of writer conferences. She’s one of those outstanding individuals whose endless energy benefits everyone in the community. In this episode of MF Galaxy, SG Wong discusses:

  • How a major publisher of her first novel did almost nothing to sell their own book
  • The impact of going indie on her work and creativity
  • How writers must view their own work
  • Under what conditions writers should conduct seminars in schools
  • Her approach to world building her magnificent alt-earth setting of Crescent City, and
  • How writers should approach writing characters who possess an ethnic, racial, or other identity unlike their own.

Along the way, Wong refers to Gail, meaning the novelist, writing teacher, and literary organiser Gail Sidonie Sobat. SG Wong spoke with me live onstage at Authorpalooza 3 at Devaney’s Pub in Edmonton in April, 2015.

SG Wong reads from Die On Your Feet

Next, from Authorpalooza 1 from October 2014, is comic book and video game writer Andrew Foley. Andrew Foley writes for Beamdog Game Studio in Edmonton, and wrote the graphic novels Parting Ways (illustrated by Scott Mooney and Nick Craine) and Done to Death, illustrated by star-artist Fiona Staples. But to some, Foley is best known as the writer of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens, and that’s the subject of “Andrew Foley’s True Hollywood Stories.”

Jun 24, 2016

Here’s what Stephen King has to say about Tananarive Due’s best known novel, My Soul to Keep: It’s “an eerie epic [that] bears favourable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. I loved this novel.”

When one of the best-selling and most-loved novelists of all time praises your work like that, you know you’ve arrived. But success wasn’t overnight for Tananarive Due. After working for years as a journalist, she took a leave to co-write Freedom in the Family, a memoir of the 1960s US human rights struggle from the perspective of her mother, Patricia Stephens Due, who’d been an activist in it.

Due is the author of twelve novels, including The Living Blood, Devil’s Wake, and Joplin’s Ghost, and the short story collection Ghost Summer. Due has won the American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Kindred Award. In 2004, along with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Due received the “New Voice in Literature Award” at the Yari Yari Pamberi conference co-sponsored by New York University's Institute of African-American Affairs and African Studies Program and the Organization of Women Writers of Africa. In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism's Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University.

With her novelist husband Steven Barnes, Due writes the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series in partnership with actor Blair Underwood. She holds a journalism degree and an M.A. in English literature from Leeds, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar.

She currently teaches screenwriting at UCLA and in the MFA programme at Antioch University ,Los Angeles.

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Tananarive Due discusses:

  • How learning screenwriting can make you a better novelist
  • Why anyone aspiring to be a novelist should master the short story first
  • Why, even as a creative writing teacher, she won’t read your novel
  • How novice writers mis-use so-called witness narrators
  • Ongoing racist barriers in Hollywood, but a surprising breakthrough in some writers’ rooms for women, and The origins of psychological realism in contemporary science fiction and fantasy

Due spoke with me on June 6, 2016 by Skype from her home in Los Angeles.

 

Writing blog www.tananarivedue.wordpress.com

Website www.tananarivedue.com

Jun 14, 2016

The “brain drain” from Africa’s 55 countries is the cause of much lamentation—sending legions of doctors, engineers, and other professionals to serve the West at the exact moment they can lead economic growth at home.

But Titilope Sonuga is part of the unheralded but very real “brain train,” the expatriates who are moving back home with education, skills, and networks they’ve gained abroad.

Sonuga has ridden that train. She’s lived on two continents, had a career in Canada as a civil engineer, co-founded Edmonton’s thriving Breath In Poetry performance collective and hit stages with her work across the country, relocated to her family’s home country of Nigeria, become an Intel spokesperson to encourage women to use information technology, performed her verse at the inauguration of Nigeria’s president, and ascended to television stardom in Nigeria.

Not bad for a thirty-year-old, huh?

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Titilope Sonuga discusses:

  • How she came to perform at the presidential inauguration for a country of 180 million people
  • Her approach to rehearsals for spoken-word poetry performances and how she addresses anxiety
  • The purposes of Intel Nigeria’s campaign She Will Connect, and why the tech giant asked her to be its spokesperson
  • The many reasons that artists should embrace science and technology, and how her engineering mindset lives in her poetry aesthetics, and
  • The perks of getting famous by being a star on one of Nollywood’s most beloved television shows.

Sonuga spoke with me by Skype from her apartment in Lagos, Nigeria on November 15, 2015.

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Jun 9, 2016

Although Saskatchewan-born songwriter, piano player, bassist, and singer Colleen Brown now lives in Ontario, she spent most of her musical education and career in Edmonton. She’s released five albums, including her 2004 debut A Peculiar Thing, 2008’s Foot in Heart, and 2015’s Direction. Brown has opened for acclaimed musicians including Randy Newman, Jim Cuddy, and Hawksley Workman, and she’s toured the United Kingdom and Germany. While she’s often compared to Joni Mitchell, her voice and her musical approach are truly her own.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Colleen Brown discusses:

  • The horror of what recording artists call demo-itis
  • The Canadian artistic tradition of competitive hoop-jumping, otherwise known as applying for grants
  • The importance of the right kind of feedback from the right kind of person
  • Learning how to deal with con artists and overpromisers, and
  • How best to help fellow musicians trying to earn a living

Colleen Brown spoke with me by Skype from her home in Ontario on April 26, 2016. We began by discussing the turmoil of recording studio disasters.

Jun 1, 2016

Vancouver-based comics artist and writer Faith Erin Hicks has been publishing graphic novels since 2007, and her best known books include Brain Camp, Friends with Boys, and The Last of Us. She’s just released the historical adventure work The Nameless City, set in medieval China. Her work features girls and boys in contemporary, realist, and horror scenarios, and is funny, heartfelt, and exciting. Part of the energy and character in Hicks’s drafting comes from her animation training, which also emphasised the importance of what animators call “acting” in pictures. In 2011, she won the prestigious Eisner Award for The Adventures of Superhero Girl.

Hicks’s latest work is The Nameless City, published by First Second. It’s the first volume of a trilogy set in Mongol-occupied China. It’s about a street girl named Rat and a military brat named Kai who learn from each other about how much bigger life is than their own deprived worlds, and how they run head-first into a plot to assassinate their city’s ruler.

In spring 2016, Hicks was touring North America to support The Nameless City, and in April she came to Edmonton as the guest of Happy Harbor Comics, through which she conducted workshops around the city and in St. Albert.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Faith Erin Hicks discusses:

  • The intended audiences of The Nameless City trilogy
  • The remarkable speed at which she created the thumbnails—or prototype comic pages—for The Nameless City
  • Her switch from contemporary realist and horror to historical fantasy adventure
  • Reactions from East Asian readers and creators to the book’s Chinese context, and
  • The significant difference between the “girl stories” that female and male graphic novelists are creating

 

Hicks spoke with me by Skype on April 29, 2016. She began by discussing the superstars of animation and graphic novels who’ve raved about The Nameless City.

faitherinhicks.com

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May 24, 2016

The core contradiction of North American science fiction and fantasy fandom is that while often describing itself as a bastion for people who faced rejection from small-minded people, for decades it offered plenty of rejection of its own.

North American fan culture was dominated by European men and boys, predominantly middle class and straight, with Western, Northern, and ancient Southern European cultural reference points. While obsessed with physical sciences and militarism, it was largely ignorant of social sciences and popular struggles for justice.

Even to this day, as plenty of fans attest, fandom was a closed shop where alleged outsiders could ride the starship in small numbers, but could never by the helmsman or the captain.

While some abusive and oppressive fans still cause havoc for others as with the Gamergate and Hugo Award Rabid Puppies scandals, many fans have brought many changes. And inside that fan-vanguard are feminist participants and creators who are changing the culture and changing the content.

Cosplay has moved from mass-produced and monotonous Star Trek uniforms to superbly hand-crafted costumes from thousands of storyworlds. Convention artists tables are no longer simply sales-spots for a few men, but rows and rows of women with outstanding art, particularly of female characters in exciting, fun, and non-sexist portrayal. Women are creating science fiction, fantasy, and superhero comics, graphic novels, documentaries, feature films, costumes, video games, conventions, and more. They’ve evolved the scene from what it used to be, into where it’s going for the 21st Century.

In E-Town, that leadership belongs to the Lady Geeks Unite. On the first Thursday of every month, they meet at Happy Harbor Comics for Lady Geek Nite. They host a range of events that include table top gaming and role-playing games, documentaries and discussions, and costume creation workshops, and annual events such as a Christmastime fan-craft sale.

For a few months I was embedded at Happy Harbor Comics to write a play about it for Workshop West, and I got to attend many meetings of the Lady Geeks and learn of their mysterious ways. So on May 14th, 2016, I sat down at the store with lady geeks Sylvia Douglas and Sylvia Moon to talk about what they do.

Sylvia Douglas is an arts administrator, writer, and indie filmmaker who works for FAVA, the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta, and she’s a board member for the Alberta Media Artists Alliance Society. Sylvia Moon is a graphic designer who helped organise Lady Geek Nite since its inception; she even designed its logo. She was one of the artists who created the World’s Biggest Comic during the final two days of the Royal Alberta Museum’s original location.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, the two Sylvias discuss:

  • How Lady Geek Nite began and why it’s so important
  • How Lady Geek Nite empowers women and girls who’ve otherwise found themselves silenced in male-dominated fandom
  • The illogic of sexist snobbery against cosplay
  • The debate of self-expression vs. objectification
  • Who’s better: Ripley or Barbarella, and
  • The evolution and devolution of Wonder Woman over the decades

 

www.LGNYEG.wordpress.com

 

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May 17, 2016

Malcolm X is an icon of Pan-Africanism. Born May 19, 1925 to a Pan-Africanist family active in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, Malcolm survived the racist murder of his father and his own descent into crime and prison. He emerged as a minister for the Nation of Islam, one of several organisations born from the US government’s destruction of Garvey’s UNIA.

While committed to the NOI’s religious doctrine, Malcolm X developed a secular, revolutionary, political ideology that combined Garveyism with the Original World liberation struggles raging against imperialism throughout the 1950s and 60s. So respected was he that after he broke from the NOI in 1964, Malcolm X formed the united front Organisation of Afro-American Unity and won observer status on behalf of African Americans at the newly-formed Organisation of African Unity. While Nation of Islam assassins murdered him in Harlem on February 21, 1965, extensive evidence points to involvement of the United States government as Karl Evanzz details in his monumental work The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X.

On today’s episode of MF GALAXY, we’ll hear from Evanzz and also from Malcolm X associate A. Peter Bailey, who was the editor of Malcolm X’s newsletter The Blacklash, later the editor of Ebony magazine, and eventually the co-author with Malcolm X’s nephew Rodnell Collins of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X. I spoke with Evanzz and Bailey in 2005 for the 80th anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday. They’ll offer their responses to the then-unfinished final work by Manning Marable, later published as the controversial Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Marable claimed, among other things, that Alex Haley, the author of Roots and co-author of Malcolm’s Autobiography, was collaborating with the FBI against Malcolm X’s interests. We’ll also hear Evanzz and Bailey on three chapters deleted from the Autobiography, whose contents Marable claimed were explosive.

Karl Evanzz is one of the planet’s leading Malcolm X scholars and also the author of The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad. He was once an online editor at The Washington Post. Both men spoke to me by telephone from Washington DC in May 2005.

But first we’ll an excerpt from a February 21, 2005 Democracy Now! interview with Manning Marable, former head of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He authored a dozen books, including How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. We’ll then hear Bailey’s and Evanzz’s reactions.

For links to Malcolm X books, including a discount ebook offer for The Judas Factor, and a video of editor Jared Ball discussing his book A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, visit mfgalaxy.org.

And to hear the half hour patrons-only extended edition of this focus on Malcolm X, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes:

  • Malcolm X discussing his political ideology and why he urged people to keep their religious life private
  • Karl Evanzz on Malcolm X’s final political evolution and how he thinks some biographers have misrepresented it.
  • The disturbing case of an attempt to auction an item literally stained with Malcolm X’s blood for $50,000, and
  • Director and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson discussing the aesthetics and effects of the 1992 Spike Lee feature film Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington, for which Dickerson was director of photography

 

May 9, 2016

Although best known for her role as the Baltimore homicide investigator Kima Greggs, Sonja Sohn is also a performance poet; her second film role was in Marc Levin’s 1998 indie film Slam, which she also co-wrote. She went on to appear in John Singleton’s Shaft reboot, and in Martin Scorcese’s Bringing Out the Dead. Of combined African-American and East Asian heritage, she won a 2008 television supporting actor Asian Excellence Award for her work on The Wire.

In 2008 she campaigned for Barack Obama, and in 2009 she founded reWIRED for Change (http://rewired4change.org), a Baltimore-based NGO that seeks to help at-risk youth. In 2011, she won the Woman of the Year award from the Harvard Black Men’s Forum.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Sohn discusses:

  • How she as a writer responds to the scripts she’s given to act
  • The experience of inclusion in and alienation from African Americans and Asian Americans
  • How her character Kima Greggs was a badass at work but a kitten at home
  • Her opinion of author Walter Mosley’s self-appointed mission to create what he calls Black Male Heroes, and
  • How The Wire characterises African American women

Sohn spoke with me by telephone on September 11, 2008. She began by discussing her experiences and influences as a poet, and the poetry scene in the US as she knew it in 2008.

 

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May 2, 2016

Joy Lusco Kecken began her professional screenwriting career as an intern and script coordinator for NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, and went on to freelance for the show. She served as a script coordinator for HBO’s The Wire, for which she also directed one episode and wrote three; she served as a story consultant on the 50 Cent bio-pic Get Rich or Die Tryin’, wrote for Standoff and The Division, directed the documentary We Are Arabbers, and wrote and co-directed the award-winning short film Louisville starring Andre Braugher.

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Lusco Kecken discusses:

  • How the multifaceted role of script coordinator on Homicide and The Wire helped her build her writing career
  • How her experience as a script coordinator partly interfered with her work as a director for The Wire
  • How a teleplay “beat sheet” works
  • The research she conducted with police, in the community, and even in jails, in order to serve her material faithfully
  • How she used her own life experiences in some of the most powerful moments of her scripts, and
  • Why a beloved character from The Wire was slated to die and who stopped the killing

Along the way, Lusco Kecken cites Wire series co-creators and writers David Simon and Ed Burns, both of whom I’ve interviewed about their work on The Wire. Keep listening for those conversations on upcoming episodes of MF GALAXY. She also cites The Corner, the controversial collaboration between Simon and the late David Mills whom I also interviewed, the miniseries that depicts the miseries of people with addictions on a Baltimore street corner.

Lusco Kecken spoke with me by telephone on January 25, 2008. She begins by discussing the work of a script coordinator and how it shaped her career.

 

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