What Do Aliens Eat? Food in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Whether you’re an adorable, candy-loving alien, a lost hobbit, a Federation starship captain, or the King in the North, you still need to eat. This episode, Gastropod is exploring the weird and wonderful world of food in science fiction and fantasy, from well-loved standards like Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, to modern favorites like The Expanse, and all of the esoteric cult classics (parasitic frozen desserts, anyone?) in between. We talk to some of our favorite writers about how food helps them build worlds both foreign and familiar, chat with a legendary Hollywood food stylist to see how she brings stomach-turning Klingon meals and peacock-laden fantasy feasts to life on screen, and catch up with some of our listeners about the imagined tastes they’ll never forget. Fire up the replicator, pour yourself a glass of blue milk, and enjoy a bite of Lembas bread as you join us at this buffet of imaginary foods.

Episode Notes

Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers is a science fiction writer and the author of the Hugo Award-winning Wayfarers series, the first of which is The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet. Her newest book, the second in the Monk and Robot Series, is the novella A Prayer for the Crown-Shy.

Matthew Johnson

Matthew Johnson is a science fiction and fantasy writer, as well as the Director of Education for Canada's MediaSmarts. You can find his work published in magazines like Asimov's Science Fiction and Strange Horizons, as well as in his short story collection, Irregular Verbs and Other Stories. He's kindly posted one of his most food-centric short stories online here for Gastropod readers to enjoy! He also wrote this piece for Clarksworld, called "From Farm to Fable: Food, Fantasy, and Science Fiction."

Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde is an essayist, poet, and author of multiple science fiction and fantasy books, including Updraft. In her podcast and blog Cooking the Books, Fran talks to genre authors about food in their work. She directs the Genre Fiction MFA concentration at Western Colorado University.

Left, Janice styling a feast for the TV show "Foundation" around a fantasy creature called a Ghillie Raptor, created out of Rice Krispies and marzipan. Right, a Klingon centerpiece Janice created for Star Trek: Discovery, made of octopus legs wired in place.

Janice Poon

Janice Poon is a novelist and a food stylist whose work can be seen on the tables of fictional characters in Foundation, Star Trek: Discovery, Hannibal, and The Shape of Water, among others. She is the author of Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur's Cookbook.

Listeners Like You!

Thanks to listeners Claire Setz, Frank Patterson, Valerie Tan, Wayne Gile, Adam Jones, Sally Jenks, Rachel Martin, and Lesley Kat for speaking with us, and to all of you who shared your favorite science fiction and fantasy foods with Gastropod.

Reading & Watching List

Books & stories mentioned in this episode: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury; The Tough Guide To Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin; Intracom (short story) by Ursula K. Le Guin; The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin; the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin; American War by Omar El Akkad; Dune by Frank Herbert; the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.

TV shows mentioned in this episode: The Jetsons; Star Trek: The Original Series; Star Trek: Strange New Worlds; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Star Trek: Discovery; The Expanse; Firefly; Foundation, Snowpiercer.

Movies mentioned in this episode: 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; ET: The Extraterrestrial; The Stuff; the Star Wars series; Soylent Green.