Have You Heard? is where the Pod Bible team meet the people behind the podcasts you may not have heard of yet…
Imaginary Worlds is hosted by Eric Molinsky, who spent over a decade working as a public radio reporter and producer. He uses those skills to create thoughtful, sound-rich episodes about science fiction, fantasy, and other genres of speculative fiction. We heard about this podcast from Sam of 90 Minutes Or Less Film Fest, who recommended this one on episode 97 of the Pod Bible podcast. (We also learned the fun fact that Eric also used to work on the Rugrats TV programme!)
We caught up with Eric to ask more about why he moved over to podcasting,, and how Imaginary Worlds came to be…
What was the first podcast you ever listened to?
I started listening to podcasts on my click wheel iPod back in 2004. I was working at WNYC, and On The Media was one of the few shows at the station that put their entire program in their podcast feed. It felt like a big experiment back then, and I loved the fact I could listen to Brooke and Bob any time, even when I was underground on the subway.
Why did you decide to start podcasting in the first place?
I wanted to be a host, but public radio stations had so few slots for hosts. Podcasting felt like a revolutionary way to declare yourself a host even if you started without a built-in audience. I also thought that narrowcasting worked well in podcasting. So, I brainstormed what my focus would be and I remembered that I had a lot of ideas for radio stories which I didn’t even bother pitching because they were too geeky for a general audience. I wrote them all down and realized I had a first season of a sci-fi fantasy themed podcast.
Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?
My initial inspiration for Imaginary Worlds was 99% Invisible. I often found myself wanting to tell stories about fictional characters or works of culture. I admired the way that Roman Mars could turn a work of architecture or a piece design into a character that you cared about. But the show was still about people. They willed that inanimate thing into existence, they reacted to it negatively or positively, they changed it over time, and they ultimately gave it a character arc.
Who’s your dream guest for the podcast?
Having said all that about doing episodes on works of culture or fictional characters, I also enjoy doing full episode one-on-one interviews with novelists. Nnedi Okorafor is one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I’ve read all of her books, and I’d love to talk with her.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as a podcaster?
When I was working in radio or reporting for other podcasts, fact checking was something that would often happen organically throughout the writing, editing and production process with my editor or the team. In making episodes from start to finish, I’ve come to realize how important it is to constantly fact check myself or get someone to fact check my scripts. That’s especially true when reporting on subjects like Star Wars or Marvel that I know very well – or think I know very well.
Which episode would you say is the perfect introduction to your podcast?
My first episode ‘Origin Stories’ is still a perfect thesis statement for the whole show, and it sets up the tone of how I wanted to cover sci-fi and fantasy. Although when I started out, the episodes were much shorter with fewer guests, and I’ve learned a lot about mixing and sound design. A good recent episode to start with would be ‘Neurodivergent Futures‘, where I talked with autistic fans and writers about why science fiction feels particularly relevant or meaningful to them.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Shows like mine can fall into an uncanny valley where they’re big enough to be actual shows. Producing them is a full-time job, and the audience is sizable enough to attract advertisers. But the show isn’t at that superstar level. And as the podcasting landscape keeps becoming more corporate and celebrity driven, it’s harder and harder to be discovered by new listeners. So, I appreciate the fact that you’re spotlighting indie podcasts!