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Alienating the Audience

Author: Andrew Heaton

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Andrew Heaton and an army of nerds plunge deep, deep into films, books, and TV shows to ask: what's science fiction really about? What is The Twilight Zone really exploring? What are the underlying themes of Star Trek? What is the worldview of Star Wars? Also sometimes Heaton performs comedy on other planets.
79 Episodes
Michael Weiss, editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, joins the show to discuss Darth Vader: why he’s such a compelling malefactor, the deep inner conflict and tumult which motivates him, and the mythological figures the dark lord of the Sith represents.
"Watchmen" kicks off with the Tulsa Race Massacre, which defines the central theme of the rest of the series: race. Hannibal Johnson is the author of “Black Wall Street 100–An American City Grapples With Its Historical Racial Trauma,” as well as the host of "Black Wall Street Remembered."  He joins Heaton to discuss the Greenwood Massacre, racial animus, and reparations.
Brian Brushwood joins the show to discuss "Watchmen," the televised sequel to the film and book, "The Watchmen." Topics include: underlying tensions in the show, is Dr. Manhattan a stupid character, and was Ozymandias right?  This is Part One of a two-part episode; episode two will go deep on the Tulsa Race Massacre which kicks off the series, and its unresolved racial tensions.
"Demolition Man" is a cult classic, wherein Sylvester Stallone gets thawed out in the near future to stop Wesley Snipes from destroying Los Angeles. Society is bifurcated into infantilized virginal technocrats up top, and rat-eating, free-thinking punks beneath. Economist Steve Horwitz joins to discuss.
In "Clans of the Alphane Moon" by Philip K. Dick, a planet is colonized as an insane asylum, then abandoned, so that its inmates develop their own society and cultures. Tom Merritt, host of "Sword and Laser" joins to answer: what happens when pathologies become the basis of civilization, rather than its aberrations? You can check out "Clans of the Alphane Moon" as well as the other books and films discussed on the show by going to 
"Mad Max: Fury Road" is the height of post-apocalyptic wasteland glam--everyone is really getting into skulls, cars, and neo-Viking lore. Not to mention it may be the greatest feminist film in science fiction.  Scott Johnson of Frogpants Studios joins to discuss!
Why is "The Mandalorian" so popular with Star Wars fans, yet the latest films are so divisive? Where does it veer from the traditional beats and themes of Star Wars, and where does it embrace that unique George Lucas flavor? Jack Helmuth and Nick Sperdute join to unpack everyone's favorite bounty hunter.
“The Stepford Wives” (1975) is a satirical horror film about spunky urban wives getting replaced by their husbands with submissive, ornamental robots. Chris and Cristi Moody come on to talk about the unease captured by the movie in a time of gender roles tumult, 1950s conformity, Second Wave Feminism, and parallels to “Get Out.”
Nick and Heaton visit Kashyyyk to work as mall santas for Life Day on the Wooki homeworld. "Silent Night" care of "How it Should have Ended" on YouTube:
Is the robot in "Ex Machina" a self-aware entity or just a stack of cold, complex algorithms which appear such? If we knew super intelligent A.I. could curse cancer (but also wanted to kill us) would we even attempt to build it? Ashland Viscosi and Jay Mutzafi rejoin to discuss. Topics covered: the Turing Test, "The Chinese Room" thought experiment, and "Mary in the Black and White Room."
Lord Martin Rees is a cosmologist, mathematician, and the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom. When he's not busy running the Centre for The Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, he's authoring books on science and astrophysics. He joins the show to discuss his latest work, "On the Future: Prospects for Humanity." Click here to see this and other books featured on the podcast!
We beat Hitler. Whew! But what if we hadn't? What if the Nazi regime had prevailed? Science fiction repeatedly approaches the topic, either to guess geopolitics or just to gawk at the horror of it. On today's episode Andrew Young and Josh Jennings join Heaton to talk about "The Man in the High Castle" by Philip K. Dick, "Fatherland" by Robert Harris, and "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth.
Confronted by an alien probe which can only speak the language of an extinct species, Nick and Heaton must journey back in time to save Earth.
The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman


If an asteroid were poised to wipe out all life on Earth, would you still go to work? In Ben Winters' novel, a detective investigates a homicide in the pre-apocalypse, while many of his colleagues think it's pointless. Tim Sandefur returns to discuss "The Last Policeman," existentialism, and finding purpose in life against our inevitable mortality.
The Matrix is actually quite a lot deeper than simulation theory and some cool fight scenes with black trench coats. The Wachowski sisters put a modern, techy spin on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, with ample helpings of Descartes, Hilary Putnam's "Vat in a Brain" and Robert Nozick's "Experience Machine." Andrew Young and Nick Sperdute join Heaton to discuss.
Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is simultaneously the most beautiful and hideous post-apocalyptic prose ever written. It follows a father and his son as they make their way through hellish wasteland, witnessing the horror of civilization's last wheeze en route. Josh Jennings joins to discuss.
Robin Hanson is an economist and the author of "The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth." He joins the show to discuss his theory that in the future the most intelligence and productive people in society will be uploaded to computers and indefinitely duplicated, to supercharge the economy.
Gays in Starfleet

Gays in Starfleet


How does Star Trek handle gay characters, and what's the balance between representation and tokenism? Andrew Young rejoins the show to discuss homosexuality in the Star Trek universe. (And get into a bunch of digressions involving John Stossel's Emmy, and Cambodia.)
What would happen if you were reincarnated. . . to the exact same life you just lived? What would happen when you were reborn to the exact same life fifteen times in a row? Ashland Viscosi and Nick Sperdute rejoin for another book club episode about "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August" by Claire North. 
"The Black Hole" is Disney's 1979 answer to Star Wars--which didn't work out quite as well. It's a fun romp, involving telepaths, snarky robots, and a spacey Captain Nero. Although it has... some issues. Nick Sperdute and Andrew Young join to discuss on ATA's first inaugural Movie Club!
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