Monday, June 18, 2018

Podcast Review: Literary Wonder and Adventure Show

I found the Literary Wonder and Adventure podcast last year while searching for something to keep me company on a fossil-hunting trip to the Catskills. After listening to a few episodes I discovered that host Robert Zoltan and his snarky companion Edgar the raven make perfect travel companions.

Zoltan (who is also the show’s producer, writer, composer, sound-mixer, editor and a dozen other occupations) travels the multiverse with Edgar (who is, well, a black-feathered bird. Voiced by Zoltan. I’m sure he does other things too. Maybe ), in their dimension-hopping domicile, the Dream Tower, in quest of speculative fiction authors to interview.  Interview, though, may not be an accurate description,  because the show is more than simple question-and-answer.   Each episode is a full conversation with many asides and much meandering. But it is meandering in an interesting way, leading you places you might never have thought to look.  Zoltan and his guests discuss the art of writing speculative fiction, often via the works of classic authors like Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J. R. R. Tolkien, and more. They illuminate the lives of classic pulp and fantasy authors in ways that you might not have seen.

Zoltan’s guests also talk about their own writing and creative inspirations, which can become quite personal at times. I was especially drawn to author Scott Oden’s description of that timeless, almost child-like feeling of discovery one gets from the creative process. I also related all too well to his past struggles with dark feelings and how writing was a life raft in that tumultuous sea.  

I’m interested in the history of speculative fiction, so I also quite enjoyed Zoltan’s two-part conversation with author Allen Steele about the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Though SF has its roots in the works of Jules Verne, J.-H. Rosny,  H. G. Wells and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (and, one could argue, Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World), Steele suggests that the genre’s modern incarnation really began with Hugo Gernsback’s 1926 publication of Amazing Stories and fully crystallized with the 1939 issue of Astounding Stories, which featured some of the first stories from early SF legends like A. E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, C. L. Moore and others.

 As I drove through upstate New York in search of stromatolites and petrified Devonian trees, I felt as though I was listening to old friends having a scintillating conversation in the back seat.  The podcast’s format may not be for everyone, especially those looking for a typical Q & A, but it is greatly rewarding if you are a fan of more casual, discussion-format shows. Episodes warrant a second- and a third and fourth- listen to pick up and follow all the places Robert and his guests go.
Each installment is bookended with vignettes from Robert and Edgar’s latest adventure across the dimensions. In the course of the show, they’ve fended off vicious pterodactyls, tricked a revenge-seeking orc, dealt with a high-tech vacuum cleaner that has achieved inconvenient sentience and lived through even stranger oddities.

Zoltan spices the podcast with audio adventures, usually featuring his Leiberesque sword and sorcery rogues Dareon and Blue. These are fully realized productions brought to life with full sound effects and ambient music on par with classic radio dramas,. In their first adventure, Dareon and Blue tangle with a strange merchant and his eerie, sorcerously cerulean lamp. In their second outing, the pair protects a ship of traders on a journey through a sweltering river delta choked with mangroves, flies and dormant eldritch horrors.

The show’s theme song (composed and performed by Zoltan, of course. I doubt Edgar has the dexterity to work a synthesizer) is appropriately big and bombastic. It is the overture to a lone rider and horse galloping across the steppes to clash swords with a demon awakened from eons-long slumber in a forgotten tomb. Or perhaps it is the accompaniment to an Art Deco rocketship trailing fire as it launches from a Martian outpost to explore the star-dappled infinite night. Whatever it is, it’ll definitely get stuck in your head.

 Coming in at over an hour each episode, the Literary Wonder and Adventure Show is a great podcast for listening to on a long trip in quest of ancient sawtooth sharks (or any other type of quest, really), or while you’re writing, drawing or engaged in more esoteric creative pursuits.

You can find the Literary Wonder and Adventure Show at the Dream Tower Media website.

Episodes are also available on Youtube. On Itunes. Or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.


  1. Wow. Thanks so much, John. Your review was just
    as entertaining and interesting as my show, in my opinion.
    I enjoyed reading it.

    In what can be a very lonely occupation, you have made
    mine feel a little less so. Reading your blog, I realize that
    Edgar and I are not alone on our travels. We have not
    only the guests and strange visitors, but wonderful thoughtful
    people like you along for the ride.

    Much thanks. You’ve made my day.

  2. BTW, the theme of the show (which is the Rogues of Merth Main Adventure Theme) was produced using Vienna Instruments, a German software consisting of millions of samples of a real German symphony orchestra. So, although the actual piece was not recorded by real classical musicians (which would have cost me about $10,000), the sounds were. It sounds real because it is!

  3. Very nice review. I too have enjoyed the show in all its forms. Robert Zoltan is a man of many talents.