Imagine a plague that ravages the world and impairs the ability of humans to communicate with one another. What kind of society would we have? Who would take power and how would they hold it? What would the world be like for the powerless? How would children adapt and survive? In “Speech Sounds,” Octavia E. Butler invites us to consider these questions – and helps us look for rays of hope in even the bleakest of landscapes.
Octavia Butler (1947-2006), the daughter of a shoeshine man and a housemaid, went from a poor but proud childhood to becoming “the grand dame of science fiction.” Known for her physically and mentally tough black heroines, her work combines the dynamism of invented worlds with astute observations of race, gender, sexuality, and power.
Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to email@example.com.
“Backbay Lounge” and “Magistar” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Special guest Carolyn Cohagan, author of the Time Zero trilogy and founder of the creative writing workshop Girls with Pens, joins Jacke for a discussion of her writing process, her origins in standup comedy and theater, and her early love for the fiction of Ray Bradbury (and her special appreciation for his short story “All Summer in a Day”).
For another look at a twentieth-century giant who broke down genre barriers, try Episode 141 Kurt Vonnegut (with Mike Palindrome).
Love pulp fiction? Hear about the efforts of a contemporary editor to bring back the heyday of the genre, including classic twentieth-century prose and beautiful painted covers, in Episode 140 Pulp Fiction and the Hardboiled Crime Novel (with Charles Ardai).
Writing a little yourself? Hear the interview that made Carolyn run out to buy the book that passes along the secrets of fiction in Episode 133 – The Hidden Machinery (with Margot Livesey).
Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The year was 2081,” the story begins, “and everyone was finally equal.” In this episode of the History of Literature, Jacke and Mike take a look at Kurt Vonnegut’s classic short story, “Harrison Bergeron.” In this 1961 story, Vonnegut imagines a world of the perfectly average, where no one is allowed to be too great – until a hero named Harrison Bergeron comes along. Along the way, we discuss Vonnegut’s life and works, what we think the story means, and Mike’s own attempt to limit himself in order to better function in society. SPOILER ALERT: THERE ARE NO SPOILERS! This episode is completely self-contained. We read the short story, so there’s no need to run out and read it on your own first (unless you want to).
For another self-contained episode on a classic twentieth-century short story, try Episode 139 – “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka.
For more about short stories in general, try Episode 57 – Borges, Munro, Davis, Barthelme – All About Short Stories (and Long Ones Too).
Kurt Vonnegut makes a cameo appearance in Episode 101 Writers at Work (you’ll never guess his surprising avocation).
And for another high school favorite, try Episode 119 – The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.
Help support the show at patreon.com/literatureor historyofliterature.com/shop. Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com or facebook.com/historyofliterature. Contact the host at email@example.com or via our new Twitter handle, @thejackewilson.