Jan 11 2010 10:26am

GGG#002: Dystopias! Global Warming! Thailand! (Guest: Paolo Bacigalupi)

Paolo Bacigalupi, author of the critically-acclaimed The Windup Girl (which was named one of Time Magazine’s top ten novels of the year) joins us this week to talk about global warming, the horrors of travel, the current state of literature for boys, and his own forthcoming YA novel, Ship Breaker. John and Dave discuss their own experiences with literature when they were growing up, and how they became science fiction fans.



0:00 Introduction by

00:38 Dave and John introduce the show

Dave and John discuss this week’s guest, Paolo Bacigalupi

01:00 About Paolo and his work

Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi

06:35 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi

0Paolo Bacigalupi6:55 How Paolo became a science fiction fan, beginning with Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

08:09 Becoming a science fiction writer, and the advice William Gibson gave him on breaking in

09:17 The pitfalls of instant success, and emerging from a slump

11:05 Developing his writing skills

13:23 Other books and authors that influenced his writing, From Hemingway to Cormac McCarthy.

15:24 About The Windup Girl

17:38 Researching The Windup Girl: why Thailand, and how the SARS epidemic influenced the development of the story

21:26 Paolo on travel: “Almost all of my travel experiences are horrifying.”

22:49 On global warming, geo-engineering, and what we can do

25:54 Will Paolo’s YA novel Ship Breaker be the “sweetness and light” story that reviewers predicted he would never write? “What I thought was an upbeat adventure story other people seem to find fairly devastating anyway.”

27:11 Bringing up the next generation and reasons to write for young adults

28:28 Science fiction as a predictive medium and a vehicle for inspiring progress and change

29:54 Finding gateways to reading for boys, and which medium is filling the role of “boys’ narrative” today

33:08 Paolo gives advice to John about editing the new online magazine Lightspeed

35:20 Paolo talks about what’s out, and what’s next: Pump Six and Other Stories, The Windup Girl trade paperback release, release of Ship Breaker in May of 2010, the sequel, and the secret project he won’t tell us about (but if we’re lucky maybe he’ll return to the show to tell us soon?)

Dave and John on science fiction at home and in schools

36:17 Dave and John talk about their families’ reading choices and how they influenced them as science fiction readers.

38:19 Dave talks about science fiction as a social adhesive among fans, and how collections get passed down

40:21 Further discussion of boys’ literature and the guys’ experiences of reading science fiction and fantasy in school

44:11 The storytelling lesson of Narnia’s lamp post

46:16 An example of passion for fantasy literature changing a person’s life

47:53 Literature in schools, the present and future of education, and the role the internet may play

52:32 The importance of supporting a passion for genre literature in kids

54:22 John and Dave give their recommendations for kids: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld; the works of Tamora Pierce, Holly Black, and Timothy Zahn; Robert Asprin’s Myth Series; William Sleator’s Interstellar Pig, The Green Futures of Tycho, and Singularity

Other works mentioned in this podcast

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Empire of the Sun, by J. G. Ballard
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
The White Mountains by John Christopher
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Short Story: "The Fun They Had" by Isaac Asimov

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Eugene Myers
1. ecmyers
Another great interview, guys, especially the discussion on boy's books.

Sleator's Interstellar Pig is one of the first (if not the first) SF books I remember reading as a child; it certainly left the biggest impression, anyway. He wrote a sequel a few years ago called Parasite Pig that was really pretty good. In addition to the ones you mentioned, I highly recommend his book The House of Stairs.

And that's a cool comment your teacher made about the lamppost in Narnia, Dave. I am so annoyed that publishers have reordered the books to make The Magician's Nephew the first in the series, though it's otherwise my favorite of them. I just think it takes away from the impact and sense of wonder from that first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe if you know where the lamppost came from. I was blissfully unaware of the Christian themes when I first read the books, but I still managed to enjoy them on my last reread.
David Barr Kirtley
2. davidbarrkirtley
Thanks! My other favorite Sleator book that I didn't mention would be The Duplicate. I also remember that Blackbriar scared the heck out of me as a kid, but I don't remember much else about it.

I agree with you that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe should be first. Laura Miller of recently wrote a book called The Magician's Book about loving Narnia as a child and then feeling betrayed when she began to notice the Christian allegory. I'd actually really like to get her on the show sometime to talk about that.
John Chu
3. JohnChu
*sputters* But I love both Paolo Bacigalupi and Peter S. Beagle! No, their stories aren't interchangeable, but it's totally possible to love them all anyway.
John Joseph Adams
4. johnjosephadams

I love them both too, but I can see what Paolo means when he says that they are SO different, that it can be odd to come across them in the same magazine or anthology, and that it could well be that MOST readers are not as interested in such stark variety as perhaps you or I am.
Matt Kressel
5. Matt Kressel
I'm really enjoying these podcasts, guys. Please keep up the good work!
Geoffrey Smith
6. mortalgroove
Thank you for the excellent interview with Paolo. I appreciate his interest in getting boys excited and engaged in reading. I think there are critical times when the right book, or books can really make a lasting impression and drive a continuing desire to read throughout life.

And wow! The White Mountains by John Christopher!

That was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I read whole Tripods Trilogy many, many times as a young geek. :)

Your podcast is really hitting a chord with me. First with zombies and video games, then Paolo. You are doing a really great job, and I am so glad I found the podcast!
Matt Kressel
7. einhorn303
This was a pretty interesting quote"

"A year or so ago I realized that I can write a lot of really powerful stories for adults...I can talk about things like endocrine disruptors, I can talk about global warming, I can talk about drought. I can talk about a lot of things and an adult reader listens and they think that I've said something powerful and important, and then they go on with their life, business as usual. And you realize that, eventually, writing for adults is, in the sense of becoming a change agent, or having some influence over the way that we order ourselves in society, it's pointless. You can't change adults. We're too set in our ways, and so it's very difficult for us to contemplate actual behavioral change that would matter."
Joshua Evans
8. JoshuaEvans
This was a great podcast!

I signed up for an American Literature class in HS. My teacher assigned us to read "Ender's Game" and "I am the Cheese". The rest of the class was filled with us reading whatever book we wanted, she would then read it too, and we'd discuss it. I was blown away that a teacher was assigning me something to read like Ender's Game. I cringe now to think about some of the books I had her read (Aliens (the movie) novelization).

I missed out on reading a lot of the essentials somehow like 1984 and Animal farm, though I have to agree with John in that it would have likely sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of it. I read 1984 for the first time a few years ago and of course loved it.
David Barr Kirtley
9. davidbarrkirtley
Hi Josh. Thanks! That's cool that your teacher assigned you Ender's Game in school. If only I had been so lucky. *sigh* A few years ago my aunt told me that at the college she works at they let the incoming first-years vote on which book they would all read, and the students picked Ender's Game. And I've heard that the Marines assign Ender's Game in Officer Candidate School, so that students can learn from the different leadership styles -- both good and bad -- depicted in the novel.
Matt Kressel
10. Robert Blouin
Hi guys,

Great interview with extremely interesting author. Thanks. Your Geeks Guide podcasts are great entertainment and very instructive. Congratulations.

David Barr Kirtley
11. davidbarrkirtley
Geek's Guide to the Galaxy is now being hosted by io9, starting with Episode 22, our George R. R. Martin episode:

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