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Speculative Sandbox

Speculative Sandbox

By Vickie Lan
Speculative Sandbox is your audio playground for speculative fiction lovers. Each episode, Vickie Lan workshops a trope with an industry professional. From dystopian governments to parallel universes, ghost therapy to interplanetary travel, let's speculate. Want to join the conversation? Answer fun polls and questions on our Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok.

Speculative Sandbox is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions expressed by individuals on the podcast are their own.
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Currently playing episode

15. Ghost Stories: Real-Life Hauntings and Fictional Tropes

Speculative Sandbox

18. The Chosen One: When the world really does revolve around you
The Chosen One is arguably one of the most loved or hated story tropes, and Author Lucy A. McLaren joins the podcast to explain why. We cover some famous examples, discuss how the Chosen One is the perfect setup for a villain, and how marginalized characters bring a fresh perspective to the trope. 
September 20, 2022
17. Corporatocracy: "The Warehouse" world-building tour
Author Rob Hart explores the horrors of working in an Amazon-esque corporation in his dystopian thriller “The Warehouse”. Learn about the real-world conditions and events that influenced this book, Rob’s world-building strategies, and how to create a complex billionaire villain. How far away are we from a corporatocracy? can we prevent one? 
September 13, 2022
TRAILER: Fall 2022 season
We're back! Get a sneak preview of the Fall 2022 season topics: Corporatocracy, The Chosen One, Fighting Words, Dragons, Sexuality in Speculative Fiction, Emergency Responders, Modern Gods, Runaway A.I., De-Stressing the Damsel, Maps, Taverns.
September 06, 2022
BONUS: Speculative Sandbox goes on summer break
Don't fret, we'll be back soon in the fall. Learn how you can participate in future episodes, or tell us what tropes you'd like to learn about next!
July 05, 2022
16. Drugs & Robots: "The Body Scout" World-Building Tour
"The Body Scout" by Lincoln Michel has been heralded as a “timeless and original” sci-fi thriller (New York Times) about a hardboiled baseball scout who must solve the murder of his brother in a world transformed by body modification. Sit back as Vickie Lan and author Lincoln Michel take you on a tour of this cyberpunk world. *NOTE!* Reading the book is not a requirement for following along with this episode. There will be world-building spoilers, but no plot spoilers. If you prefer zero spoilers, feel free to come back and listen when you're ready!
June 28, 2022
15. Ghost Stories: Real-Life Hauntings and Fictional Tropes
Vickie Lan and Author Bibiana Krall talk about ghost stories and real-life hauntings! Why do ghosts come back? How can writers capture a chilling encounter in an authentic way? And why should you ignore the shadow in the corner? Learn all this and more in this deliciously spooky episode. 
June 21, 2022
14. The Internet Is Dead: Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy theories seek answers for the patterns we see in everyday life. They can be fun, they could be important, and they can also be dangerous. Aspiring writer Mike Crawford joins the podcast to discuss Q-anon, Flat Earth, the Dead Internet theory, and more. 
June 14, 2022
13. Unhappy Endings: The Good, The Bad, and the Bittersweet
Have you ever finished a book and wanted to throw it across the room? Or have you ever left the theater with tears running down your face? Beta-reader Elizabeth Brown joins the podcast to talk about unhappy endings. What purpose do they serve? Do you love or hate them? And what famous happily-ever-after story should have ended on a low note? DISCLAIMER: we do talk about endings of popular fiction! If you prefer to not be spoiled, you may need to skip this episode or fast-forward at your discretion.
June 07, 2022
12. Shared Universes: Many Stories, One World
Middle Earth, the Wizarding World, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are just a few examples of shared universes where independent stories exist with interconnecting characters, locations, and events. Matthew C. Brown returns to the podcast to discuss the joys and challenges of writing a shared universe.
May 31, 2022
11. Space Cities: The Challenges of Leaving Earth
BSFA-Award-Winning Author Gareth L. Powell joins Speculative Sandbox to talk about space colonies! Will we ever leave Earth? Which planets would make good homes? And how can science fiction writers warn us of potential pitfalls? Go on a tour through our solar system with us.
May 24, 2022
10. Modern Heroes for Modern Problems
It's hard to look anywhere without seeing comic book superheroes. From Marvel's MCU domination to DC's attempt to reboot their characters again...and again...and again...maybe it's time to give superheroes an upgrade. Author Brad Allis revisits Speculative Sandbox to talk about the evolution of superheroes in pop culture and what superheroes would be like today if they took on modern problems with modern solutions. 
May 17, 2022
9. Doomed Mentors: Common Occupational Hazards
It's not easy being a hero. It's even worse being the mentor. Why do most mentors die a gruesome death right before the hero wins the day? Writer Jonathan Carlson and Vickie Lan unpack this trope, looking at popular examples from books and movies, and discuss ways to make this plot device feel fresh again.
May 10, 2022
BONUS: Query Letters and Analysis Paralysis
Vickie Lan answers questions submitted to the Speculative Sandbox Instagram or Twitter DMs.
May 09, 2022
8. Asian American Voices in Speculative Fiction
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Vickie Lan chats with editor and "Bookish Brews" blogger Amanda Khong about speculative fiction that is meaningful to them, magic, and the importance of representation in the book industry. 
May 04, 2022
7. Love and Death: Greek Myth Tropes and Archetypes
Greek mythology set the standard for many story tropes and character archetypes seen in today’s fiction. From tragedies to triumphant battles, petty arguments to unrequited love, the Greek Gods continue to leave a lasting impression because they are undeniably relatable. USA Today Bestselling Romance Author Carly Spade joins Speculative Sandbox to talk about the allure of the greek gods, their shadier pasts, and her approach for retelling their stories to a modern audience.
April 20, 2022
6. Crafting the Villain: Dark Triad Personalities
We watch them on TV. We read about them in books. We learn about their nefarious behaviors in the news. I’m talking about Dark Triad Personalities. Narcissists. Machiavellians. Psychopaths. They’re the villains of both our stories and our real lives. Author Marsheila Rockwell joins Vickie Lan in a discussion of what defines these three personality types, how they apply to both fictional and real-life people, and the ways writers can develop compelling Dark Triad characters. 
April 18, 2022
5. Chasing Utopia: The Horrors of Perfection
Thomas More coined the term "Utopia" in his 1516 book of the same name, but is it really the ideal place to live? Author Jacob Devlin joins Vickie Lan in a discussion about fictional utopian societies, what makes them wonderful at first glance, and what makes them terrifying once you read between the lines. 
April 06, 2022
4. The Immortality Dilemma: Legacy building gone wrong
Ghostwriter and editor Leslie Hinson joins Speculative Sandbox on the search for immortality. Like Dorian Gray and his aging portrait, how do different characters avoid death? How does legacy building ensure our future? And what happens when someone else takes control?
March 30, 2022
3. Cautionary Tales: Dystopian Societies
Not all Dystopian societies are terrible...right? Guest writer Brad Allis joins me in a discussion of the dystopian trope, why we love to read and write them, and their small silver linings (if any!) 
March 23, 2022
2. Am I the Drama? Problematic Protagonists
Good protagonists, evil protagonists, evilly good protagonists? Author Matthew C. Brown joins Speculative Sandbox in a chat about complex protagonists, the appeal of evil characters, and how story telling has evolved as our interactions on social media take center stage.
March 16, 2022
1. Introduction: A podcast for speculative fiction writers
What is speculative fiction? What can you expect from this podcast? Who am I? Learn all this and more in the introductory episode of Speculative Sandbox.
March 09, 2022