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Story Matters

Story Matters

Story Matters with Nick and Heather is a podcast for book lovers. From literature, fantasy, and Sci-Fi, to every kind of fiction in-between. We review, we analyze, we critique . . . because we believe in the power of great storytelling, how it can affect our lives and the world we live in.

A little about the hosts of Story Matters: Nick Alimonos is the author of the Aenya Series and blogger over at Heather is a voracious reader, Migraine Health Advocate and researcher, and "Mother of Cats."

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Why MAUS Matters
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about MAUS, Art Spiegelman's moving holocaust graphic, which was banned by the Tennessee School Board. Schools in Tennessee are run by ninnies, apparently, because all seven members voted to keep the book from the hands of middle schoolers owing to the book's depiction of nudity (black and white images of nude mice) and a few uses of the word "bitch." Banning books, of course, always results in the opposite of its intended effect, and in no time at all MAUS shot to the top of everyone's reading list, selling out everywhere and jumping to Amazon's no. #2 spot in all book categories. MAUS isn't just a great book (**** out of 4 stars, easy) but an important one, something everyone should be reading. And, given all the hullabaloo, Heather and I knew we had to throw in our pennies. So in this casting of the pod, we talk MAUS while getting down and dirty into censorship, cancel culture, politics, and religion (all the good stuff, basically). Bored? Not easily offended? Easily offended? We don't care! Listen at your own risk!!!
February 20, 2022
East Side Story: The Wheel of Time vs. The Lord of the Rings
We're probably going to catch a lot of flak for this, owing to the immense popularity of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, perhaps the most sprawling epic ever written, rivaling even A Song of Ice and Fire in verbosity. But from what we (Heather and I) were able to assess from the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, Jordan's opus borrows a bit too heavily from Tolkien. While Jordan is a capable storyteller and a skillful wordsmith, his work is the epitome of everything I find wrong with the fantasy genre today. Basically, it's the problem of world-building getting in the way of storytelling. Call me old-fashioned, but what matters most to me is plot and character, particularly characters you can relate to on an emotional level. In The Eye of the World, we are introduced to a very large cast of players, none of whom seem particularly engaging. What's more, the conflict driving the plot is muddled, so you really never get a sense of urgency, a sense of knowing what it is the protagonists want or how they are meant to go about achieving it. To sum it all up, a village is attacked by orcish-like creatures, called trollocs, and a boy named Rand and his friends are convinced by a wizard named Moraine to follow her to a city, where some vaguely hinted at mystery is to be solved. In The Lord of the Rings, the destruction of the One Ring acts as an immediate focal point, with all of the emotional payoff and world-building centered around it. But in Jordan's, dare I say, "version," I am at a loss as to what the point is. To be fair, I only managed to get through the first 300 pages, so I can't leave an entirely honest review, but I don't think a reader should be tasked with digging through so many words just to get to the main idea. Agree? Disagree? Check out what Heather and I have to say in our latest podcast! We review The Wheel of Time and the new show it's based on, and sneak in a bit of nonfiction talk for a little-known title, Madhusree Mukerjee's The Land of Naked People.
January 27, 2022
Stephen King's 11/22/63
Heather and I discuss Stephen King's quasi-historical time travel story, 11/22/63! We also dip a little bit into Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World. What more do you need to know? Give it a listen!
December 30, 2021
Nick Alimonos: My Literary Journey
If you've ever wondered, "who's this Nick guy, anyway?" Well, this episode is for you! Learn all my dirty secrets as I reminisce about my long, winding, and sometimes harrowing literary journey, from my childhood days writing on pink pizza order tickets to kind-of inventing Power Rangers to dragging my dad to NYC to solicit comics to DC Headquarters. Did I mention I queried my first book for publishing at fourteen? Or that 9/11 played a role in subverting my literary ambitions? It gets pretty crazy, actually. Check it out. Visit     
November 18, 2021
IT part 2, Carrie, and Taboo Subjects in Literature
No discussion of Stephen King's It would be complete without tackling that scene---a scene not surprisingly omitted from every film adaptation---and if you don't know what I'm talking about, just read the book! Hint: sex + children. Historically, taboo subjects in fiction challenge readers to examine social norms, and forces us to consider whether anything should be off-limits to authors, or if well-intentioned creators should be free to tackle any topic, particularly today, in this age of rampant pornography, political outrage, cancel culture, and the death of nuance. We also discuss King's first novel, Carrie, how he developed as a young writer, and how he experiments with style, often bending the rules of grammar to get into the heads of his characters. And also, how King, as a middle-aged man, handles his pubescent protagonist, a girl dealing with an abusive mother, religious oppression, high school bullies, and the trauma of puberty. Please give it a listen!!!
November 04, 2021
In this episode, we discuss Stephen King's "IT". With its deep dive into the psychology of its characters, Stephen King proves that literature has a lot to offer that other media can't provide.     
September 09, 2021
Politics in Storytelling and Kevin Smith's He-Man
In this episode, Heather and I delve into the conservative YouTube/social media controversy. We talk about being "woke," "SJW," and what it means to be a modern-day feminist, and we examine what role politics has to play in film, TV, and literature. And of course, we also talk about our favorite thing growing up, the 80's cartoon show, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe," and how Kevin Smith's new incarnation became a lightning rod for right-wing talking points.    
August 11, 2021
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
In this episode of the Story Matters podcast, I sit down with my 11-year-old daughter, Sophia, to discuss Christina Soontornvat's A Wish in the Dark. While this book was required reading for her middle-school English class, we definitely didn't regret it! A Wish in the Dark is set in an alternate-history, Asian-inspired world, with only subtle references to magic. While meant for young readers, the story can be enjoyed by just about anyone at any age, as it deals with universal themes of crime, poverty, and politics, as seen through the lens of its child protagonists. It's a definite must-read for any young reader who loves an engaging story and uplifting characters.
August 05, 2021
Graceling and The Man in the High Castle
What does Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, Terry Pratchet, The Promised Neverland, the Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Grey, X-Men, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, Alice in Wonderland, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Testaments ALL have in common? Answer: THIS EPISODE!   But seriously, in this episode of Story Matters, Heather and Nick give their in-depth take on Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. Give it a listen!
July 17, 2021
ICEFALL by Matthew J. Kirby
I picked up Icefall at a book fair at the University of South Florida. I came as an alumnus to talk to my old professors and to showcase The Princess of Aenya. They accepted two autographed copies of my book and offered me one of their autographed titles in return, and since I love Norse mythology, I couldn't pass up on it, despite its lower lexile. While Icefall is suitable reading for middle school children, a good story is a good story, and I found Mathew J. Kirby's Icefall to be a pleasant surprise, especially since I knew nothing about it going in. The story takes place during the Viking Age, with the king of the Nords sending his family into hiding in a small steading in the frozen fjords of Norway. Solveig, his youngest, is an engaging and likable heroine with an interesting character arc, growing into her own from a shy and frightened princess into a skald, or storyteller, who helps inspire her companions during the worst of hardships.
June 13, 2021
The Book of Lost Things and Circe
It's our second podcast! Today we discuss John Connelly's The Book of Lost Things, a young adult novel about a boy who finds himself in a fairy-tale-inspired world after the death of his mother; and Madeline Miller's Circe, a reimagining of Greek myth and a sympathetic look at Circe, the titular witch who turns men into pigs from Homer's The Odyssey.  
June 02, 2021
Hey, it's our FIRST EPISODE and we're excited!!! Story Matters is a podcast for book lovers. From literature, fantasy, and Sci-Fi, to every kind of fiction in-between. We review, we analyze, we critique . . . because we believe in the power of great storytelling, how it can affect our lives and the world we live in.  In this episode, we go over some of our favorites, including A Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, The Once and Future King, Dune, The Last Unicorn, Dracula, Frankenstein, and My Name is Red, to name just a few. A little about the hosts of Story Matters: Nick Alimonos is the author of the Aenya Series and blogger over at Heather is a voracious reader and bookshop operator.  
May 12, 2021
We are the dystopia
There is something wrong with the world today. I know you feel it, deep in your bones, and I feel it too. But maybe it’s just me. I mean, how can you really ever know how good life could be? Or should be? Every civilization has had to deal with its share of problems. We no longer need to worry about saber-toothed tigers, or an Ebola outbreak, or a tribe of cannibals riding over the next hill to eat our children. But while technology has managed to solve the majority of our prehistoric worries, the 2000s has given us a slew of new ones. But the dystopia of today is difficult to define. It’s like the way Neo felt in the Matrix, before meeting Morpheus. Neo also felt like there was something wrong with the world, he just couldn’t explain what it was. This episode is also available as a blog post:
April 10, 2021
It’s time to end race.
Let me make this perfectly clear: there is no such thing as forced diversity, only diversity that happens to bother you. If you’re saying to yourself, “why’d they have to put a black guy in this?” but you’ve never asked, “why’d they have to put a white guy in this?” guess what? You probably wear a MAGA hat! This episode is also available as a blog post:
April 03, 2021
Stardust Review
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors writing today. In this podcast, I discuss and review his modern take on the fairytale story, "Stardust." 
April 02, 2021
Objectifying Women in Art and Literature: A Deeper Look
Is every heroine in a skimpy outfit inherently sexist? Is objectification directly proportional to the amount of skin on display? Or is it all about the pose? Do male heroes like He-Man exist solely as a projection fantasy? Or can women enjoy looking at scantily-clad men in the same way, and do they also harbor their own projection fantasies? Finally, can a female character like Thelana, written by a man (me), have her own agency? In this podcast, I tackle all of these subjects and more, taking a deep dive into the sexist/objectification character debate. So please sit back, take a listen, and please excuse all the “ums” and “sos.”
April 01, 2021
How Amazon Hurts Authors
This episode is also available as a blog post: I used to have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I considered them a necessary evil. Sure, they have monopolized both the music and the literary industry, making it almost impossible for local music and book stores to survive, but on the other hand, they provide an outlet for independent creators who otherwise would not have a platform to share their content. But lately, I have found the cons of Amazon greatly outweighing the pros, and here’s why.
April 01, 2021