Dissecting Worlds Podcast & Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide To Fantasy Land (1996)

Well, this time I’m the one on vacation, mostly hitch-hiking, but also reading. And listening to audiobooks & podcasts, because in the forest it’s risky to walk while holding a book 😉

But I’ve already admitted that I don’t have specific “summer reads”… so, just two recommendations, Dissecting Worlds Podcast & The Tough Guide To Fantasy Land:

Dissecting Worlds


Probably the best genre fiction podcast out there. At least until Patrick Hester prepares us some new panels.

Hosts, Matt nad Kehaar, in their own words:

pick a topic and debate the real-world influences and parallels that feed into that worlds creation, and on how it may function. Rather than trying to pick holes in someone elses creation (although there may be a bit of that!) its about trying fill in the blanks; see how things could work, or how vast breadth of history and cultures that humanity has produced have made similar things work already.

And how they do it… series finished so far include empires, war, espionage, now they’re going through fantasy creatures – with orcs and dragons done, elves to come. Guys are extremely well-read, eloquent, funny and… heh, imaginative. In “dragons” podcast they delved into supposed activities of Smaug, when he got lonely under the mountain, that created some mental images in my head I can’t get rid of 😉

To conclude – they are great and there really is an added depth of social science background that makes “Dissecting Worlds” unique among many available genre podcasts. It was already recommended on this blog before, but I wanted to add my praise.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones


Xerostomia, otherwise extreme dryness of the mouth, has many causes but only one cure: the nearest inn.

Excellent little book by an author you all know. Even if you don’t know it. That’s why. “The Tough Guide…” has everything a guidebook needs. Maps, lexicon, helpful tips for travellers and even small icons that help if you only skim it looking for something specific. It is written as a guide to a land of fantasy tropes, where every fantasy stereotype walks free.

Ironic, witty, but also warm. It’s not an attack mocking derivative character of fantasy, but a gentle satire on a genre author clearly loves. No longer entirely up-to-date, because fantasy does change and she makes fun of the likes of Shannara, but still a great read. And all it really needs to regain its freshness is a couple of entries on grimdark and paranormal romance 😉

It’s a one-volume version of tvtropes.org, written by single author. A small (especially a hardcover pocketbook Gollancz 2004 edition I have) gem of a book that you can re-read multiple times, in its entirety or just favourite entries. Some of mine:

Evil (…) is generally around somewhere in Fantasyland and seems to cast quite a blight (…) is usually connected with the Dark Lord, and must be overcome in the course of the Tour [quest]

Beer always foams and is invariably delivered in tankards. The Management [author] is not concerned with the taste of it.

Stars are quite unlike those of Earth. For one thing, they seem to predict the future much more accurately than our own

and remember:

When the night of the wolf waxes strong in the morning, the wise man is wary of a false dawn.

Tough Guide to Fantasyland

One thought on “Dissecting Worlds Podcast & Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide To Fantasy Land (1996)

  1. I have long wanted to lay my hands on Jones’ Guide. “Dissecting Worlds” – what to say? I don’t listen to many podcasts – but I do listen to them 🙂


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