Episode 9: The end… for now, plus thoughts on Charlottesville

The season one finale was supposed to be about The Handmaid’s Tale and some soon-to-be released dystopian movies, but Toby and Meg decided to talk about #Charlottesville instead.

Here’s the Vice News video Toby and Meg discuss:

P.S. You’ll notice that this episode is short. That’s because we’d like you to spend some time listening to a few podcasts that will help you better understand structural racism in America. Meg suggests you start here, here, here and here.  And, if you want more on how journalists have responded to the story, listen to this episode of Columbia Journalism Review’s The Kicker.





Episode 8: Young adult edition… or why dystopian novels are so popular among teens and tweens

It’s peak summer reading season, so Toby and Meg spent some time thinking about why books with dystopian themes appeal to young adults. They get help from YA author Susan Moger and Book Riot contributor Liberty Hardy. Also: Actual kids with great book suggestions, a look ahead to new dystopian titles coming this fall and a tangent about a little New Hampshire town with a (very) interesting history.


Here are some of the book’s Liberty mentioned:

  • After the Bomb by Gloria Miklowitz
  • Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
  • Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
  • Warcross by Marie Lu
  • All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
  • Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh
  • The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins


Episode 7: This Perfect Day and our imperfect relationship with technology

The relationship between human beings and technology is ripe with dystopian undercurrents – so ripe that Toby and Meg talked to two guests instead of the usual one. Together, they ponder parallels between modern technology and This Perfect Day, a 1970 technocratic dystopian novel by Ira Levin. Also: Wardrobe advice from Alexa, emerging issues in civil liberties and a whopper of a News from Dystopia segment.

P.S. We’re still looking for suggestions from you (or your kids) about dystopian novels that appeal to teens and tweens. Send us an email or voice memo at radiofreedystopia@gmail.com.

Episode 6: A propaganda primer

downloadPropaganda is a key ingredient in dystopian narratives. It’s also present in many aspects of real life. To learn more, Toby and Meg talk to award-winning filmmaker and author Paul Fischer. His book – A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power – is a fascinating look at how the North Korean regime builds and rebuilds its own version of reality.

We also discuss other types of propaganda and how emerging technology is changing the way propagandists practice their craft.

P.S. We’re planning a show about young adult dystopian fiction, and we’d love to hear from you (or, even better, your kids.) What are some great kid-friendly dystopian books? Why are dystopian stories so popular among teens and tweens? Send us an email or voice memo at radiofreedystopia@gmail.com or leave a comment under this post.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Episode 5: Is good journalism the anti-dystopia?

If you want to avoid dystopia, you’re going to need plenty of independent journalists. Why else would so many great works of dystopian fiction make a point of describing how the press has been muzzled, marginalized or eradicated?

To learn more, Meg and Toby talk to Clay Wirestone, the news editor at the Topeka Capital-Journal in Topeka, Kansas and a writer whose work has appeared in Mental Floss and many other places. We discuss the importance of independent watchdog journalism and run through the many recent threats to press freedoms in the U.S.

Also: Clay explains why, sometimes, facts just aren’t enough. Toby talks about why he used a reporter as a character in his novels. Meg recommends It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis … and tells listeners about a Radio Free Dystopia drinking game that’s apparently becoming a thing.

Episode 4: The Handmaid’s Tale

Is Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale feminist? Hell yes! But it’s also a story about patriarchy, misogyny and a society built around state-sanctioned rape. Toby and Meg get help exploring these themes and others from Dr. Robin Hackett, an associate professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire. Robin’s specialities include literary modernism, Virginia Woolf, feminist theory, queer theory and LGBTQ literature – so she’s pretty much perfect for this episode.


We also talk a little about the often-overlooked 1990 film adaptation and get insights via emails from listeners Mary, D’Anne, Cameron and Laurie.

Also: Toby gets in a fight with his microphone, Meg runs through the first-ever Fact Check Edition of The News from Dystopia, and Robin recommends we all read Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin.

P.S. Robin isn’t on Twitter, but you can find out more about her work here.

P.P.S. We’re now on Stitcher! 

Episode 3: Going Rogue

Secret messages and subversive communication are nothing new, but when social media gets added to the mix things become – as Toby would say – interesting.

In this episode, we get help understanding this phenomenon from Mark S. Luckiethe former head of media for Reddit and, before that, manager of journalism and media for Twitter. We discuss the real-life rise of rogue and alt Twitter accounts, plus how Toby uses secret messages in his own novels.  We also kick off what’s sure to be a long conversation about The Handmaid’s Tale and talk about what happened when a marketing campaign for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle went just a little sideways.



THE FICTION: In addition to Toby’s first book, The Vaults, we talked about The Handmaid’s Tale (spoiler: subversive communication turns out to be a pretty big thing in the book), The Man in the High Castle (both Philip K. Dick’s novel and Amazon’s adaptation), the Black Panther reboot and The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard.

IRL: Here’s more on the legal battle between Twitter and the federal government over @ALT_uscis. Also: This story from The New York Times with some great quotes from Twitter’s court papers and how Amazon’s clever #resistanceradio marketing campaign was misunderstood.

P.S. Mark S. Luckie has a really cool (and decidedly non-dystopian) new project underway. It’s called SouledOut Cinema, and you should check it out here.