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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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Now displaying: May, 2017
May 29, 2017

Plenty of aspiring writers think writing for children is easy, and getting published that way is even easier. Wrong! As almost any writer will tell you, unless you’re a star, the business is never easy and is definitely never a sure thing. On May 20, 2017, a group of children’s writers met at the Capital City Press writers conference in Edmonton for a panel called “From Aliens to the Zodiac: The A-Z's of Writing for Kids and Teens.”

Who organised the event? Why, the outstanding Katherine Gibson of the Edmonton Public Library and author S.G. Wong who’s Capital City Press’s featured writer, and they assembled terrific writers to help you learn what you need to break into Kidlit or advance your career there. Those panelists are Marty Chan, Joan Marie Galat, and Tololwa Mollel, and they’ll be introducing themselves. The moderator is author Natasha Deen, best known for her Guardian and also Retribution series.

During the panel they discuss:

  • Whose advice is worthwhile, and whose is worthless, when it comes to changing your writing—and why
  • The surprising reality about just how little publishers know about selling books, and
  • Why you shouldn’t start writing whatever is hot in the market right now

Many thanks to Katherine Gibson and SG Wong for arranging my recording opportunity. And now on MF GALAXY, Natasha Deen introduces the Capital City Press forum on writing and publishing for children.

http://martychan.com

http://www.natashadeen.com

http://www.joangalat.com

http://www.tololwamollel.com

May 23, 2017

Jacob Banigan is one impressive cat. He knows more about how to build and refine stories than anyone I’ve ever met, and I know a lot of writers. And yet Banigan doesn’t see himself as a writer and writes only occasionally.

So how and why does he grok story like no one else? Because he’s a master improviser who’s been studying the craft since 1990 when he joined Rapid Fire Theatre in Edmonton. Sure, he also gained skills in years of creating and performing sketch comedy, including in The 11:02 Show which is where we worked together for a season, and in Gordon’s Big Bald Head, where I also worked with him one summer.

But Banigan kept growing in the field, serving as Rapid Fire’s Artistic Director from 1995 to 2004, creating news plays, launching improv festivals Nosebowl and the long-form improv show CHiMPROV, and helped make Rapid Fire’s reputation go international by winning competition after competition. Now he lives in Austria where he works with Theater Im Bahnhof of Graz and English Lovers of Vienna, and he wanders the planet like David Banner, performing and teaching improv wherever people need him.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Jacob Banigan discusses:

  • What the fundamental core of improv has to teach writers and all story-tellers
  • Why improvisers should never focus on “being funny”
  • The most important thing to know about how to get your audience to care about your characters and plot
  • Why it’s absolutely indispensable to screw up and even fail at your art, and when you should disrupt a system that’s working
  • How to harness randomness to improve your creativity
  • How falling in love with your process can cost you the quality of your product
  • How he runs the best critique sessions I’ve ever seen—which is why I’ve asked him to advise me on two screenplays—and how to learn his method, and
  • How to know if you can trust your fellow creators.

Banigan spoke with me over food at Edmonton’s Route 99 diner on August 24, 2016. He begins by introducing himself. I seriously overestimated how well my microphone would pick up my voice and seriously underestimated how much ambient noise it would collect. So sometimes I’ll be cutting in to rephrase my question, and at other times I’ve boosted the gain so you can hear me.

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May 16, 2017

Today on the show we’re talking about 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix series based on the Jay Asher novel. My guests are librarian Ashley Cain and policy manager Jinting Zhao, both of whom attended the high school where I taught for most of my teaching career, and where Cain was one of my English students.

I asked them to come onto MF GALAXY because they each posted insightful and powerful remarks following a Facebook thread I started discussing the series and asking about its accuracy.

In Edmonton, a school principal banned out-of-class discussion of the series. In the following show you’ll hear me incorrectly say to Jinting Zhao that the school was a junior high, but Ashley Cain correctly noted that it was an elementary school. The school emailed to parents to state its ban, but failed to encourage parents to discuss the series’ issues with their children. However, according to an online CBC news report, many schools across North America did just that. Other sources including The New Yorker magazine have attacked the series, leading series star Katherine Langford to defend it.

In today’s MF GALAXY, Zhao and Cain discuss:

  • The ethics of how the series depicts sexual assault and suicide, and whether such depictions encourage those actions
  • The accuracy or inaccuracy of the series and how its events relate to their own harrowing experiences of junior and senior high school
  • How social media harassment can traumatise teens in ways that are totally foreign to their parents’ experiences
  • Why many teens don’t know where sexual boundaries should exist to keep them safe socially and physically, and to prevent them from ruining the lives of their peers
  • The responsibilities of peers, teachers, and parents to young people to prevent the worst of what the series dramatises, and how some authorities inadvertently escalate the crises some teens are facing
  • How some young people can escape social persecution that could destroy them, and
  • Whether teachers and parents should be watching the series with their teens—and what questions they should ask afterward, and how.

 

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May 16, 2017

Today on the show we’re talking about 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix series based on the Jay Asher novel. My guests are librarian Ashley Cain and policy manager Jinting Zhao, both of whom attended the high school where I taught for most of my teaching career, and where Cain was one of my English students.

I asked them to come onto MF GALAXY because they each posted insightful and powerful remarks following a Facebook thread I started discussing the series and asking about its accuracy.

In Edmonton, a school principal banned out-of-class discussion of the series. In the following show you’ll hear me incorrectly say to Jinting Zhao that the school was a junior high, but Ashley Cain correctly noted that it was an elementary school. The school emailed to parents to state its ban, but failed to encourage parents to discuss the series’ issues with their children. However, according to an online CBC news report, many schools across North America did just that. Other sources including The New Yorker magazine have attacked the series, leading series star Katherine Langford to defend it.

In today’s MF GALAXY, Zhao and Cain discuss:

  • The ethics of how the series depicts sexual assault and suicide, and whether such depictions encourage those actions
  • The accuracy or inaccuracy of the series and how its events relate to their own harrowing experiences of junior and senior high school
  • How social media harassment can traumatise teens in ways that are totally foreign to their parents’ experiences
  • Why many teens don’t know where sexual boundaries should exist to keep them safe socially and physically, and to prevent them from ruining the lives of their peers
  • The responsibilities of peers, teachers, and parents to young people to prevent the worst of what the series dramatises, and how some authorities inadvertently escalate the crises some teens are facing
  • How some young people can escape social persecution that could destroy them, and
  • Whether teachers and parents should be watching the series with their teens—and what questions they should ask afterward, and how.

 

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May 8, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014 and blew me away. I’ve called it the best Star Wars since Star Wars of 1977 for stunning imagery and action, and the feature film version of TV’s FarScape, for its gonzo humour and pop culture self-awareness.

And like both of shows, Guardians has outrageous, memorable characters that make fans wish we could hang out with them. That film made a billion dollars globally and now the sequel is out, and as of recording today on May 8, 2017, just four days after opening, Volume 2 has already earned $430 million dollars around the world.

Guardians is a giga-successful series and if we’re lucky, will bring the fun, great characters, and wonder back to science fiction filmmaking. Returning to the show today to discuss Volume 2 are author Krista D. Ball and filmmaker Ben Dobyns.

Krista D. Ball is an Edmonton-based science fiction and fantasy author who was born and raised in Newfoundland where she learned how to chainsaw and chop wood before getting a degree in History from Mount Allison University. She’s also a tough online brawler against the alt-Right, and is basically the Gamora of Edmonton. She’s also the author of more than a dozen novels and novellas including the Spirit Caller and The Dark Abyss of Our Sins series.

Ben Dobyns is a film producer, editor, cinematographer, composer, writer, and director, and one of the founders of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, or ZOE. While he’s from the US he’s now living in British Columbia, and he and ZOE have just completed their third season of their indie-TV comedy-fantasy series JourneyQuest. They’ve also produced Strowlers, a forthcoming series about a world in which magic is suppressed and regulated by a xenophobic, oppressive government.  

Today on MF GALAXY, we look at the sequel which is not even a week old, discussing the familiar cast of Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, Baby Groot, Nebula, and Yondu, as well as Kurt Russell’s new character, all their interwoven personalities and arcs, modern screenwriting, the music of the film, its amazing cameos, its surprising and hilarious social satire, saving the galaxy, and whether my guests think it’s as good as the original. They spoke with me on May 7, 2017 by Skype.

Note that today’s discussion is 100% PACKED WITH SPOILERS. Listen at your own risk. If you’re listening on community radio and would like to hear the full 80-minute version, go to MF GALAXY.org to download it. Also, please note that Dobyns was Skyping at a public playground where his children were playing—you’ll even hear the sounds of swings later on—so some of his audio was difficult to discern. Therefore my virtual assistant M.O.I.R.A. will be voicing his missing words, as with Dobyns’s very first comment and again later on.

kristadball.com

zombieorpheus.com

 

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May 2, 2017

Science fiction has always been a male-dominated literary genre, right? All about steel braziers on submissive women serving—and servicing—Euro-American alpha males on a colonial power trip in space? Where all the authors and editors were men and women were allowed in only to tidy the office and deliver sandwiches and backrubs?

Guess again. According to my guests Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp and their new book Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women Of Science Fiction, when it comes to women, the accepted history of SF is all wrong.

Lisa Yaszek is Professor and Associate Chair in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, and past president of the Science Fiction Research Association. Her areas of expertise include science fiction, cultural history, critical race and gender studies, and science and technology studies. She’s written for numerous journals and is the author of books including Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction.

Patrick Sharp is Professor and Chair of the Liberal Studies Faculty at the California State University at Los Angeles. He researches the cultural dimensions of and beliefs about science and technology, and how they cross-pollinate with beliefs about race and gender. He’s the author of Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture, and he co-edited the anthology Darwin in Atlantic Cultures: Evolutionary Visions of Race, Gender, and Sexuality. He’s also the faculty chief of

EagleCon, CSULA's annual convention dedicated to diversity in comics and science fiction sponsored by the Art Directors Guild and the Costume Designers Guild.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Yaszek and Sharpe discuss:

  • The key women authors and editors who blazed a comet trail across the sky of early science fiction and opened up the genre to what it could one day be
  • The early male editors who were allies in egalitarian SF creation
  • The sexist backlash that ended the Feminist Golden Age of SF, led by an editor whose name is still spoken with honour today, and
  • How women writers changed the content of SF, even while male editors were eliminating them from the canon that they were building

My guests spoke with me by Skype from their offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles on April 24, 2017.

Please note that the US publisher Resurrection House has just released my acclaimed novel The Alchemists of Kush about how boys lost at war fight betrayal and oppression to transform themselves and the world. If you'd like to buy the book, please get it from your favourite independent local bookstore or Resurrection House. Barring that, there's Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

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