SF Crossing the Gulf

Welcome to the SF Crossing the Gulf podcast. The podcast, hosted by Karen Burnham and Karen Lord, debuted in 2012 and ran for 18 episodes over the course of two seasons, originally hosted by the now defunct SF Signal (the text descriptions are still available there, but no audio). Episodes include fascinating discussions of notable contemporary hard science fiction, classic writers such as Cordwainer Smith and Olaf Stapledon, weird stories, and a focus on international science fiction, including but not limited to Mexican, Chinese and Caribbean literature. The Locus Online archive page features short descriptions of each episode and links to the full details at SF Signal, where these podcasts originally appeared. Currently we have Season One up, and will add the remainder soon.

We’re pleased to be hosting and excited to share that Karen Burnham and Karen Lord have plans to produce new episodes of SF Crossing the Gulf, focusing on international short fiction. As this new content becomes available links to the episodes will be added to this archive page, and will also receive individual entries on the Locus roundtable blog.


SF Crossing the Gulf: Season One

Episode 1: A Discussion of Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation” and Others

The first episode gives a little intro on what Burnham and Lord plan to do, and then they get into the meat of the matter, spending most of this first episode discussing “Exhalation” and the collection Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang.

See the original full description of Episode 1 at SF Signal.

Episode 2: Edgar Mittelholzer’s My Bones and My Flute

Lord first encountered this Mittelholzer ghost story in secondary school English Literature. Published in 1955, it is one of the classics of the Caribbean literary canon and a perfect start to any discussion of Caribbean speculative fiction. A ghost/thriller novel, it sparks discussions ranging from the craft of writing to expressions of racism and misogyny. A new reprint is now available from Peepal Tree Press.

See the original full description of Episode 2 at SF Signal.

Episode 3: Discussion of Greg Egan’s “Crystal Nights” and Others

Running out of time for Ted Chiang during Episode 1 proved an advantage as Lord and Burnham spent Episode 3 comparing and contrasting his work with Greg Egan’s “Crystal Nights”.

See the original full description of Episode 3 at SF Signal.

Episode 4: Discussion of Erna Brodber’s The Rainmaker’s Mistake

Lord feared this unapologetically Caribbean book would be too challenging for readers lacking the historical and cultural context, but Burnham took to it like a duck to water and offered some important insights from the point of view of a non-West Indian and a genre reader.

Click here for a reading and interview with Erna Brodber, and links to other interviews, reviews and resources. Dr Brodber won the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize in 2017 and has received several awards for her work throughout her career.

See the original full description of Episode 4 at SF Signal.

Episode 5: Discussion of Greg Egan’s “The Planck Dive” and Others

Lord urged Burnham not to be modest about the fact that she has spent over three years researching Egan’s fiction. With her knowledge of Egan’s entire fictional universe(s), she prevented Lord from making assumptions based on the snapshot of a single short story. They acknowledge that they omitted some of Egan’s best work because they chose stories available for free on the internet:

“The Planck Dive”

See the original full description of Episode 5 at SF Signal.

Episode 6: Discussion of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow

We loved the book, we were in awe of the author, and we spoke with fluid eloquence (relative to previous podcasts!) about our love and awe. There’s so much here: characterization, colonialism, theology, and even a good sense of humor. With all the rich detail contained in this novel it took our longest podcast yet to even begin to wrap our arms around it. Many thanks to Cheryl Morgan for helping to clean up the audio!

See the original full description of Episode 6 at SF Signal.

Episode 7: Discussion of Curdella Forbes’s Ghosts

Lord thought Burnham would find Ghosts more accessible than The Rainmaker’s Mistake, but she was wrong (though not badly wrong, thankfully). Nevertheless, Burnham was very appreciative of the author’s talent and put it into the slipstream category with The Rainmaker’s Mistake. Overall verdict on Caribbean SF? Readable, enjoyable, layered, literary and well worth the effort.

See the original full description of Episode 7 at SF Signal.

Episode 8: Season One Wrap Up

In their wrap-up episode Lord and Burnham reflect on their first season of podcasting. They ramble far and wide with discussions of POV, immigrant tales, slipstream fiction, hard SF, and much else, concluding with a determination to start a second season the moment their deadlines allow them to.

See the original full description of Episode 8 at SF Signal.