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About this episode

18 September 2023

You’re in the volcano lair of an evil supervillain, hellbent on taking over the world. In anger, he hurls one of his minions into the molten lava bubbling beneath them, as the unfortunate lacky swiftly sinks into the river of molten rock. If you’ve ever watched a James Bond-esque film, you’ll be able to picture the scene. The problem is - the science doesn’t stack up.

John Scalzi is an American science fiction author, and in his new book ‘Starter Villain’ he injects a dose of realism into many classic tropes about villains, humorously poking holes in some of the flaws of logic we see on TV - including their penchant for volcano lairs. They’re still useful, just maybe not in the way you’d think. The novel follows the journey of Charlie, who is unwittingly thrust into the dangerous world of supervillains, forced to take up his late uncle’s mantle.

In this episode of CultureLab, Christie Taylor asks Scalzi what an evil mastermind would actually look like in the real world, why the genetically engineered dolphins in his book are such jerks and how he gets away with leaving some of the science unexplained.

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