Galaxy!

A podcast about the science fiction novels and stories of Isaac Asimov. Jason Stark, a seasoned reader of Asimov’s novels, joins Stephanie and Jacob Junker, newcomers to the material, and together they investigate the themes and meanings behind the stories of one the most famous Sci Fi authors of all time. From positronic brains to psychohistory and beyond, join Jason, Stephanie and Jacob as they look for the relevance that these stories have for today, and how they speak to big questions and ideas.

Special Episode: “The Measure of a Man”

March 17th, 2021

In between books, we've decided to take a moment and talk about one of our favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Measure of a Man." Given all the conversations we have had about Asimovian robots and the question of robotic personhood, this episode of Star Trek is a great conversation piece to further examine those questions, with our beloved Data's future and agency on the line. Enjoy this episode, which also starts off with an important announcement. 

An Ending, Not a Conclusion (Foundation, Part 5)

March 3rd, 2021

The conclusion to Foundation is a mixed bag for us. It is stronger than the previous part of the book, and yet it still feels a little removed from the flow and pacing that characterizes the book's first half. On this episode we talk about Part 5, "The Merchant Princes." We discuss the way in which the Foundation has changed since the days of Salvor Hardin, the application of the mystery genre to this reading selection, and some guesses as to where Asimov's narrative universe is heading from here. Read the rest of this entry »

Money for Nothing (Foundation, Part 4)

February 17th, 2021

While the Foundation is put on the map by bigshots like Salvor Hardin, it wouldn't get far without the efforts of the everyday Joes. In this case, that means the traders, who venture out beyond Foundation territory and introduce advanced technology, as a gateway to expanding the Foundation's sphere of influence.

On this episode we discuss Part 4 of Foundation, "The Traders". We talk about money and trade as a source of power, as well as the way that seemingly everyone, at some point or another, resorts to a bending of the rules in order to get what they want.  

Longest Long Game in History (Foundation, Part 3)

February 3rd, 2021

On this episode, we discuss Part 3 of Foundation, "The Mayors". The story of Salvor Hardin reaches its climactic moment, as he manipulates the societal forces of the four kingdoms, and ensures that Anacreon will never again constitute a threat to the Foundation. We discuss religion as a source of societal power, how well that concept is handled in the book, and contemporary ways in which such power is used.

The Rise of Salvor Hardin (Foundation, Part 2)

January 20th, 2021

Desperate times call for desperate measures. As the Foundation faces its first major crisis, a power struggle will break out between those who are dedicated to the Encyclopedia, and a man who knows that it is time for the Foundation to grow up. But in his desire to lead the people of Terminus, how far will he go to achieve his goals? And how far is too far? Today, we talk about Part 2 of Foundation, "The Encyclopedists." 

A Delicate Moment in History (Foundation, Part 1)

January 6th, 2021

When you think Isaac Asimov, what book comes to mind most readily? For many, that would be Foundation. On this episode we begin our analysis of what has been considered one of THE quintessential science fiction novels, and has been an inspiration to countless readers and sci-fi creators. We talk about about Book 1, "The Psychohistorians," and we discuss the concept of Galactic Empire, the extent to which Psychohistory is realistic (or hopelessly doomed to fail), and how we respond to figures of authority and expertise when our interests are on the line. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a Galaxy! Christmas (”Christmas on Ganymede”)

December 18th, 2020

Can a podcast about Asimov's sci-fi swing a Christmas episode? You bet it can! We talk about Asimov's early story "Christmas on Ganymede," a corny, short and sweet Christmas misadventure. Based on the themes of the story, we talk about how Christmas can turn from a joy into a source of exhaustion, as well as how we handle the idea of Santa Claus with our kids. Also, stay tuned for a special announcement during this episode. AND WARNING: Do you listen to Galaxy! with your kids? And do your kids believe in Santa Clause? If so, you may want to give this a listen before they do. 

“Was Not All the Galaxy His?” (Pebble in the Sky, Part 2 of 2)

December 2nd, 2020

Today we finish off our discussion of Pebble in the Sky. Asimov's first published volume of the Galactic Empire Trilogy offers a fascinating story of time unexpected time travel, and deals with themes like how we make big life transitions, and how we overcome prejudices and assumptions about others. In this episode, we talk particularly about how truly making a new place ones home involves developing a sense of responsibility, ownership, and care for that place. We also investigate the romance aspect of the book between the characters of Bel and Pola, and discuss its implications for how Asimov develops and uses his characters.

No Place Like Home (Pebble in the Sky, Part 1 of 2)

November 18th, 2020

Pebble in the Sky is a fantastic example of how sci-fi examines important questions by moving them out of their normal context, so that they can be seen in a new light. In our first episode on this volume of the Galactic Empire Trilogy, we focus on themes like the struggles of the immigrant, the plight of the marginalized, and the ways in which value is ascribed to human life. Read the rest of this entry »

Robot Wrap Up (Our First Live Episode!)

October 21st, 2020

We talked a lot about the individual stories from I, Robot. But what does the book, disjointed as it is, communicate as a whole. We share our final thoughts on the book before putting it to bed and moving on to the next one. We also share some of the social media responses we've gotten to the conversation starters we've put out there.

Thanks to everyone who has been listening. This is our first live episode, and in it we take a little time to express our appreciation to everyone who has been listening from around the world (26 countries so far!)

Asimov: Some Biographical Context

October 7th, 2020

As we begin to transition toward the next book in our Asimov journey, we wanted to take some time and talk a little about Asimov's life. Like how he grew up, what got him into science fiction, and a general look at how his career unfolded. By looking into this, we hope to add a little context to the books we are reading, by seeing how Asimov's life informs his ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

Rise of the Machines! (I, Robot, chapters 7 thru 9)

September 22nd, 2020

In the last section of I, Robot, which we cover in this episode, some tables start to turn. Robots seem to exercise much more control over people, whether individuals, or populations, or even the course of humanity. The question is, as we allow artificial intelligence to run more and more aspects of our lives, what is it of our humanity that we start to lose? Will we find ourselves, eventually, in a trap of our own making, with technology in the lead?

Thinking, Feeling Entities (I, Robot, chapters 5 & 6)

September 8th, 2020

On this episode, we explore how Asimov's robots develop feelings, desires, and ambitions which can work against the well-being of the humans in their midst. What do the stories of Herbie and Nestor-10 say about our temptation to live in fantasy, or the resentment that we feel when undervalued by others? We analyze chapters 5 & 6 of I, Robot, "Liar!" and "Little Lost Robot," to bring you our thoughts on those questions.

Jumpin’ Jupiter, It’s Greg and Mike! (I, Robot, chapters 2 thru 4)

August 21st, 2020

Any good technology needs a lot of troubleshooting before it's ready for the market. In the case of the robots we're discussing, that's where Greg Powell and Mike Donovan enter the picture. In this episode, we discuss this unlikely pair and the robots that they have to deal with. From Speedy to Cutie to Dave, we look at what makes them tick, how and why they break down, and the ways in which Asimov's robots speak to the human condition. We also take a good look at the three laws of robotics and discuss whether or not they are actually realistic. 

Robbie (I, Robot, Introduction and chapter 1)

August 21st, 2020

Our exploration of Asimov's Sci Fi novels begins with I, Robot. This is a fascinating book, woven together from several of Asimov's short stories, in which landmark ideas like the positronic brain and the three laws of robotics originate. On this episode, we discuss the first chapter, "Robbie," which tells the story of a little girl and her robot nursemaid. What are we to make of Robbie? Can a robot be an effective caretaker? What are the implications of this story for our children's relationship to technology. Join in the conversation with us!

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