Time doesn’t work the same for Billy Pilgrim as it does for the rest of us. He keeps jumping from one moment in his life to the next -- and always back to the bombing of Dresden. 50 years ago this month, Kurt Vonnegut introduced Billy Pilgrim and the aliens who gave him strange time traveling powers in his novel "Slaughterhouse Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death." Many critics were baffled as to why Vonnegut used sci-fi tropes to explore the horrors of World War II. But the novel was deeply personal to Vonnegut, who struggled for years to figure out how to talk about his wartime experiences. Vonnegut scholars Marc Leeds, William Rodney Allen and Julia Whitehead of the connect the dots from the author’s real traumas to the fantastical adventures of Billy Pilgrim. And professor Philip Beidler explains why the novel speaks to him as a Vietnam veteran.
Tales of Margaret Brundage
She’s mostly forgotten today, but in the 1930s Margaret Brundage was the hottest pulp fiction magazine illustrator. She created covers for Weird Tales magazine, which published the works of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and other pioneering genre writers. But Brundage herself was something of a mystery. I talk with experts George Hagenauer, Lauren Stump and Steve Korshak about why Brundage’s art was so alluring, and how it taps into current questions about how women are depicted in fantasy worlds. And I visit tattoo artist Mary Joy Scott, who believes that Brundage also had an influence on the art of tattooing. Click to see images of Brundage's Weird Tales covers.
The Man Behind the Sword
Conan the Barbarian doesn't get much respect. He's generally thought of as a muscle-bound brute who fights his way through a made-up ancient world. But the character actually has a deep, rich history -- and his creator, Robert E. Howard, was a misunderstood genius. I talk with experts Rusty Burke, David C. Smith, Jeffrey Shanks, Jonas Prida, and Nicole Emmelhainz about why Conan the Barbarian is more relevant than ever, and how the character's journey reflects real world issues that Robert E. Howard struggled with in his own lifetime.
The Power of the Makeover Mage
In some video games, you can choose which characters you want to play, and you can customize the look of those characters -- including changing their gender. For many transgender players, that option has played a significant role in their lives. Reporter and podcaster co-hosts this episode, as she reflects on her own gender transition and the experience of others who discovered that they can use video game avatars to begin reimagining themselves in the real world. Also featuring Julie Tjalas, Brynmore Ruiz, Anne Bazarnic and Bonnie Ruberg.
Choose Your Own Adventure
One of the unique aspects of video games is that you can control the characters. But game developers are often torn between wanting to give the players as much freedom as possible, and wanting to guide the players through a strong story. Adam Hines tries to crack the code with his indie game Oxen Free. Ryan Kaufman and Alyssa Finley discuss why the Telltale games were more like Choose Your Own Emotions. And Jamie Madigan of explains how clicking dialogue options can help strength our sense of morality.