We constantly discuss themes, stereotypes and assumptions in popular culture, but we don’t often stop to look more closely at the way those issues are expressed. I’m talking about language, and its ability to explore ideas in a highly nuanced way. Phrases like “bad language”, “common parlance” – even “trigger warning” – all carry social weight and an inherent bias. Because who determines what language is considered bad, what words can be labelled common – experience being as diverse as it is?

Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library series, joined us to unpick some of these complex questions. Can you weaponise language? How do we fight the popular social narrative, defang clichés? And how bookish is Disney’s Belle, anyway?

Mentioned in this episode:

  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
  • Shakespeare
  • Doctor Who
  • The Avengers
  • Beauty and the Beast (Disney)
  • The Librarians
  • Dude, Where’s My Car?

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author, who has written for several role-playing game companies. Her work includes GURPS Vorkosigan and contributions to the In Nomine role-playing game line for Steve Jackson Games: contributions to Exalted 2nd Edition and other contributions to the Exalted and Orpheus lines for White Wolf Publishing: Hearts, Swords and Flowers: The Art of Shoujo for Magnum Opus: and contributions to the Dresden Files RPG for Evil Hat Productions. She currently works for the NHS in England in the HSCIC as a clinical classifications specialist.

The latest book in The Invisible Library series, The Dark Archive, is published November 2020 by Tor UK.