Episode 0: An Introduction and a Preview
Welcome to Words To That Effect. Episode 0 is a short intro and preview of what’s to come
Episode 1: Invasion Fiction, William Le Queux, and Fake News
What is invasion fiction? Who was the mysterious William LeQueux? And why did a group of great writers gather together in a room at the outbreak of World War I to aid in the British war effort?
Episode 2: Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and Spiritualism
Sherlock Holmes is the most rational and scientific detective of them all. So why did his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, passionately believe in ghosts, fairies, and telepathy?
Episode 3: Irish Science Fiction
Ireland is not, it is fair to say, the first country that springs to mind when you think “science fiction”. When aliens land on Earth, we tend to assume they’ll land in New York, or London, or Tokyo. Definitely not Dublin or Cork. But why not?
Episode 4: Popular Literature
What is popular literature? Walk into most bookshops and you will find fiction categories like “Crime”, “Science Fiction”, and “Horror”. You will also tend to find a section called “Literature”. But how does a book get placed here? Is there really such a thing as “Literature” (with a capital “L”)?
Episode 5: Canals on Mars
For as long as humans have been looking at the night sky, the planet Mars has fascinated us. But while astronomers had charted the movements of the planet for hundreds of years, there had never been a chance to see the planet in any detail. Then, in 1877, everything changed.
Episode 6: Neurasthenia, Cowboys, and Feminists
In 1881 an American neurologist named George Miller Beard published a hugely influential book: American Nervousness. In it, he laid out the symptoms, cures, and implications of what he called “neurasthenia”, essentially what one might call nervous exhaustion. If you read books or newspapers from the 1880s right through to at least the 1930s you find numerous accounts of neurasthenia. Characters in fiction are constantly suffering from it. Every newspaper ran ads claiming to cure the disease. But what was it exactly, and why was it called the “national disease of America”?