Apr 12 2010 6:00am

GGG#015: The Black Death! Archimedes! Counterfactuals! (Guest: Dan Carlin)

Dan Carlin, host of the Hardcore History podcast, joins us to discuss the history of the future, the origins of the centaur legend, and what the Black Death can teach us about postapocalyptic fiction. Dave and John get medieval on your assumptions about historical fantasy.



0:00 Introduction by

0:38 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: Dan Carlin

04:56 Interview begins

05:02 Some of Dan’s science fiction and fantasy influences, and the connection between science fiction and history

06:23 How Dan got interested in history and his favorite history resource: Will Durant’s History of Civilization

07:45 The dinner table idea that became the podcast, and Dan’s philosophy on making history interesting

10:24 The origin of Centaurs

11:54 Imagining a distant post-racial future, and using that perspective to reexamine history

13:45 Controversial history!

14:49 The Black Death as a source of post-apocalyptic fiction

18:00 Dan’s view of some of the historical blockbuster films of recent years

20:53 Hollywood has nothing on reality: the untouchable violence of history

23:56 The imaginary histories of fantasy fiction

26:25 Time travel and “counterfactual” history

28:52 Dan speculates on the people of the past, and whether humans are becoming ‘better’

33:42 Audience feedback on the Hardcare History podcast

35:07 What lies ahead for Hardcore History?

36:42 End of interview

Dave and John discuss history, anachronisms, and curing the king's headache

36:47 Things that were invented long before they were ever used

39:02 How much do we really know about the things we take for granted?

41:12 Regarding Braveheart, and An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

42:52 Do not complain about historical films to Dave. Seriously. Just don’t.

43:36 Things that seem inaccurate in films but actually aren’t, and Donald Kagan’s lecture on Sparta

47:46 Oliver Stone’s Alexander

48:41 Anachronistic movies: A Knight’s Tale and Romeo + Juliet

50:23 The inspiration for Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South

52:16 Where it’s easy to run into trouble with historical fiction

54:04 Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast and HBO’s Rome

57:53 The kidnapping of Caesar and Empire of Blue Water

01:00:14 The Twelve Byzantine Rulers podcast and Norman Centuries

01:01:43 Educate yourself through podcasts! Because your history class probably sucks.

01:04:56 Show wrap-up

Next week: Musician Jonathan Coulton

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.

1. KurtRoedeger
Oh, the seeds of thoughts you two plant in my head. Now I want to see William Wallace running around with Gromit, having trouble with his trousers (wait, he inaccurately wore a kilt) and other mis-adventures while Gromit secretly saves him from evil penguins.
Josh Kidd
2. joshkidd
Speaking of growing into the podcast, I notice that the name of the second podcast has been retconned to fit the three exclamation title format.
Thomas Costick
3. Zerf
Excellent podcast.

I love A Knight's Tale. The soundtrack and the modern attitude. Great!
Steve (siznax)
4. siznax
another fascinating show. i know i speak for many, many (probably thousands of) others who simply can't be bothered to comment about how great the show is, how they just keep getting better, and that they can't wait to see it continue. forever.

Ryan North's (qwantz) "Time Travel Essentials" cheatsheet (or something like it) might be helpful to have with you when you go back in time.

i'd like to see a historically accurate film about Spartan warriors as DBK described too. along the same lines, i'd really like to to see Samurai material with more accurate detail. Samurai Champloo really added to my appreciation of Samurai, and hints at similar codes and practices.

hey, how about a show on Samurai in SF? ... and also Sumo. there's not enough Sumo in SF.

yes, throw out your textbooks - do it now!
5. BD Merz
the teaching company produces some very good educational audio courses taught by experienced professors. I have enjoyed many of them, in particular there are a couple by prof Eric Rabkin, one called masterpieces of the imaginative mind has really given me a lot of background and perspective on the history of fiction literature. also books that changed the world is an excellent series that introduced me to the main concepts of books that i did not know and have now sought out because of the lectures.

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