Cover art for podcast Words To That Effect

Words To That Effect

61 EpisodesProduced by HeadStuffWebsite

Words To That Effect: Stories of the Fiction that Shapes Popular Culture.WTTE is a narrative storytelling show, hosted and produced by Conor Reid, that explores the intriguing places where fiction, history, science, and popular culture intersect and inspire. From the Victorian past to utopian future… read more

episodes iconAll Episodes

54: Underwater Worlds

July 21st, 2021

There is a complex and fascinating relationship between humans and the ocean, how people and cultures across the world know and understand the sea, …

53: Fiction & Food

June 11th, 2021

How do we use fiction in food? What does a character's choice of food reveal about them? Do you simply have to go and make a dish when it's described …

52: Gothic Forests

April 30th, 2021

The forest is a place we have very mixed feelings about. Forests can be calm and peaceful, full of ancient and natural beauty.  

Until they’re …

51: Desert Fictions

March 31st, 2021

How do we imagine and portray the desert? And what does it say about us and our relationship to each other and, crucially, to the planet we live on?

In this, the second in a loosely connected series on places in …

50: Arsene Lupin

March 9th, 2021

 In 1905 in Paris, the publisher Pierre Laffite had an idea. His new journal Je Sais Tout had just launched and he was looking for an author who …

49: Robots

January 28th, 2021

Robots as high-tech labour-saving devices, and as usurpers of human jobs. Robots as distinctly Other and as dangerously indistinguishable from humans. Robots as a means of questioning what it is to be human, and …

Announcement: WTTE & HeadStuff+

January 20th, 2021

A quick update episode on the new HeadStuff membership platform, HeadStuff+

Have a listen to find out more about what's on it and how you can join (although the joining bit is very straightforward - just click here). 

48: Fictions of Antarctica

December 22nd, 2020

 The continent of Antarctica was only discovered two centuries ago, even if it had long been theorized. It's a place shrouded in mystery with no human history and no permanent residents. It’s a land of superlatives: the …

47: Alternate History

December 8th, 2020

In one sense alternate history is a very specific kind of story - sometimes seen as a subgenre of science fiction, more often as a genre onto itself. But in a broader sense alternate history is something we are all

46: Weird Westerns

November 24th, 2020

In a way it’s maybe strange that the western is such a prominent genre. It's seemingly connected to a very specific time and place: the mid-to-late 19th century American west. And yet we are all so familiar with the …

45: Mashups, Remixes, and Frankenfiction

November 10th, 2020

Remix, mashup, sample, adaptation, parody, homage, knock-off. The lines between these, and so many other similar terms, are not always very clear.

Season 5 Trailer

November 4th, 2020


WTTE is back! Season 5 launches on Tuesday 10th November. Find out what's coming up this season.

44: Words Dunnit (WTTE + Shedunnit Live)

April 3rd, 2020

Last year Caroline Crampton (of Shedunnit) and I teamed up to create a joint live show, called Words Dunnit: a 200-year history of detective fiction …

43: Lost Books

March 11th, 2020

There are countless great works of literature we have tantalizing glimpses of, works we know existed but are, as far as anyone can tell, lost to history. Huge swathes of ancient Greek literature, for example, or a lost …

42: The Missing Link

February 26th, 2020

Sasquatch. Bigfoot. The Abominable Snowman. Yeti. The Yowie, the Yeren, the Almas 

Ape-men, cave men, wild men. 

The Missing Link.

The idea of the missing link came about in the mid-19th century, with the rise …

41: Romance Novels

February 11th, 2020


Mills and Boon to bodice rippers , Johanna Lindsey to Nora Robers (and a little bit of Fabio) Why read romance novels? 

40: Time Travel Tales

January 29th, 2020

Time travel fiction is a small subgenre of science fiction. Science fiction is a small subset of all the many genres and types of literature. Time machines and time travellers are a niche interest.

And yet, in many …

39: Edgar Rice Burroughs

December 10th, 2019

Edgar Rice Burroughs is no longer a familiar name. Like many other authors, the fame of his greatest creation, in his case Tarzan, has long eclipsed his own. 

But Burroughs was far more than the creator of Tarzan. 

38: Children's Picture Books

November 26th, 2019

Unlike modernist poetry or Shakespearean drama, when it comes to children's literature, everyone has an opinion. Most of us are exposed to kids' books in some shape or form and, crucially, 100% of us have been children. 

37: The Golden Age of Piracy

November 12th, 2019

Pirates have been around for a very long time. In fact, as far as the historical record seems to show, they have been around for as long as there have been property and boats.

What is it that attracts us to pirates …

36: Blood, Death, and Varney the Vampire

October 29th, 2019

There is no pop culture monster more written about, more critiqued and analysed, more portrayed and adapted and reimagined, than the vampire. 

So …

35: Jekyll & Hyde

October 15th, 2019

For most people today, the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has been reduced to a fairly straightforward allegory of the potential dark side within us all. 

But if you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s original tale, a …

Season 4 Preview

October 8th, 2019


Season 4 returns on Tuesday 15th October. Have a listen to what's in store!

34: The Art of the Short Story

June 4th, 2019

There are the celebrated authors: Checkov, Joyce, Mansfield, Munro. There are the big questions: “What makes a truly great short story?” “Where does …

33: The Noun of Nouns (The Rise of Modern Fantasy)

May 21st, 2019


What do you think of, when you think of the genre of fantasy?

Whether it’s fiction, TV, cinema, or games, are there certain elements you need to have for something to be considered fantasy?

Well, you might say …

32: Golden Age Detective Fiction

May 7th, 2019


An English country estate. A detective pacing the room, explaining how they have solved the crime, revealing the solution to a puzzle and the clues …

31: Steampunk, Pt 2 (Even Greater London)

April 23rd, 2019


One way of thinking about steampunk is to divide it into two parts – the steam and the punk.

The steam is the Victorian element: the fascination and engagement with the 19th century – whether satirizing or poking …

30: Steampunk, Pt1 (Fetch Me My Fighting Trousers)

April 8th, 2019


Note: This episode is Part 1 of a double episode on steampunk.

There are cultures, and subcultures, and sub, sub, sub

There’s science …

29: Travels in Four-Dimensional Space

March 11th, 2019


We have no problem thinking mathematically about four-dimensional space.

Where a 3-d cube has 8 vertices, a 4-d hypercube has 16 vertices.

Where a cube has 6 faces, like a dice, a 4-d hypercube has 24 faces.

28: Pulp Fiction (Amazing Stories of the Sisters of Tomorrow)

February 25th, 2019


If you want to understand how we ended up with anything from Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Batman, intergalactic travel to microscopic worlds, profound meditations on the nature of being human to thrilling tales …

27: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

February 11th, 2019


What would happen if humanity ceased to exist?

Well, assuming, of course, that earth itself has not been destroyed in this hypothetical …

26: Unwrapping the Egyptian Mummy

January 28th, 2019


In the 19th century, a very popular form of entertainment was the mummy unwrapping party. Yes, you could go to a private or public event at which an …

25: Dinosaurs (Palaeontology to Pyjamas)

January 14th, 2019

In 1842 a Victorian anatomist looked at some unusual fossils and, noticing they had something in common, he decided we needed a word to describe these strange creatures. He called them dinosaurs. 

Cut to the present …

Season 3 Preview

January 10th, 2019


Words To That Effect is back! Season 3 kicks off next Monday, Jan 14th. In the meantime, have a listen to a preview of what's in store for the season.

24: WTTE Live at Liberty Hall

December 31st, 2018


Words To That Effect is back! Episode 24 is a recording of September's live show for the Dublin Podcast Festival.

This episode is a story about a long-forgotten nervous disease. But it’s also a story of science and …

23: Adaptation (How Does a Book Become a Film?)

July 30th, 2018

The book is always better than the film. 

Or so they say. 

But there are obviously quite a few problems with this, as there tends to be with any sweeping generalisation. For some, the book is always better than …

Two Announcements and an Update

July 16th, 2018

No episode this week unfortunately, but I do have two exciting announcements. Have a listen and find out!

More at

22: Book Clubs: Revolution and Politics

July 2nd, 2018

The Rick O'Shea Bookclub is Ireland's largest bookclub. It has 17,000 members and is growing fast. Book clubs have never been more popular. But where …

21: The Invention of Time

June 18th, 2018

Time, as we understand it today, was only really invented in the Victorian era. 

We take it for granted today that our phones and watches and other devices are accurate to the second. 

That time zones are clear …

20: Domestic Noir

June 4th, 2018

Why Are There So Many Crime Thrillers With 'Girl' in the Title? 

Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, Luckiest Girl Alive, Final Girls... There's no shortage of crime novels with 'girl' in the title since the huge …

19: Climate Change Fiction (Utopia, Pt2)

May 21st, 2018

This week's episode continues on from the last episode. So, if you haven't listened to that, head on over to Episode 18 first. From the history of utopia in the last episode, we move to the future of the planet and the …

18: What Is Utopia? (Utopia, Pt 1)

May 7th, 2018

This is a story of three journeys, by three people, in three very different times. But each of the journeys ends in the same area in the west of Ireland. And each journey is founded on a search for a more perfect world, …

17: The 10% Brain Myth

March 26th, 2018

Do we use only 10% of our brain capacity? (Hint: No) 

“It is estimated that most human beings only use 10% of the brain’s capacity. Imagine if we …

16: Transhumanism, Fiction, and Immortality

March 12th, 2018


This is an episode about who we are as humans. And, more importantly, where we are going. About a future in which technology and biology have merged …

15: The Scarlet Pimpernel & Baroness Orczy

February 26th, 2018


The Scarlet Pimpernel is a character now long disconnected from his origins in a 1903 novel. The Pimpernel is a mysterious Englishman who uses elaborate disguises to heroically rescue French aristocrats from the …

14: Weird Fiction & HP Lovecraft

February 12th, 2018


The American writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote weird fiction. His work is both weird, in the conventional sense of the word, and Weird, in a more specific sense. His tales are not typical horror stories, but instead invoke a …

Season 2 Preview

February 6th, 2018


A preview of what's to come on Season 2 of Words To That Effect. There will be utopias, immortality, secret superhero identities, weird fiction and …

13: The Ghost Stories of MR James

December 18th, 2017

This week’s episode is a Christmas Special. It’s a collaboration with the disturbingly good horror podcast, Down Below The Reservoir. The result is …

12: The Horrifically Complicated History of Zombies

November 27th, 2017

 Whether we like it or not, the zombies are coming for us all. Films, books, computer games, comics and TV shows. From historical and mythical zombies to claims to have proven the scientific truth behind zombification. …

11: Cesare Lombroso & The Born Criminal

November 13th, 2017

Cesare Lombroso was an Italian doctor and psychiatrist and he was one of the first people to really consider “criminality” a subject worthy of scientific study. His ideas were groundbreaking and, despite that the fact …

10: The Endless Influence of Robinson Crusoe

October 30th, 2017

Robinson Crusoe’s influence has been so powerful that this single work of literature has spawned an entire genre: the Robinsonade. This is the name …

9: Imaginary Countries and the Ruritanian Romance

October 16th, 2017

Writers make up imaginary countries all the time, and for a variety of reasons. It’s relatively straightforward to slip in a familiar-sounding name into a part of the world your reader or viewer may not be too familiar …

8: A Lawyer, an Author, and a Murderer

October 2nd, 2017

 The case of William Edward Hickman went to trial in Los Angeles in 1928. The accused was charged with the gruesome murder of a 12-year-old girl, and …

7: Overpopulation from Malthus to Manila

September 18th, 2017

A baby girl was born in a hospital in the Philippines, on 30th October, 2011. However, unlike all the other children born that day, the arrival of Danica May Camacho was witnessed by a crowd of photographers and …

6: Neurasthenia, Cowboys, and Feminists

September 4th, 2017

In 1881 an American neurologist named George Miller Beard published a hugely influential book: American Nervousness. In it, he laid out the symptoms, …

5: Canals on Mars

August 20th, 2017

For as long as humans have been looking at the night sky, the planet Mars has fascinated us. But while astronomers had charted the movements of the planet for hundreds of years, there had never been a chance to see the …

4: What is Popular Literature?

August 6th, 2017

What is popular literature? Walk into most bookshops and you will find fiction categories like “Crime”, “Science Fiction”, and “Horror”. You will …

3: Irish Science Fiction

July 20th, 2017

What is Irish Science Fiction? Ireland is not, it is fair to say, the first country that springs to mind when you think “science fiction”. When aliens land on Earth, we tend to assume they’ll land in New York, or …

2: Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and Spiritualism

July 10th, 2017


Sherlock Holmes is the most rational and scientific detective of them all. So why did his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, passionately believe in …

1: Invasion Fiction, William Le Queux, and Fake News

June 25th, 2017


What is invasion fiction? Who was the mysterious William Le Queux? Why did a group of famous British authors secretly meet at the outbreak of World War I? And what did “fake news” look like a century ago?   Episode 1 of …


June 22nd, 2017

An Introduction and a Preview. 

Welcome to Words To That Effect, a new podcast that tells stories of the fiction that shapes popular culture. This …
Loading ...

Listen to Words To That Effect


A free podcast app for iPhone and Android

  • User-created playlists and collections
  • Download episodes while on WiFi to listen without using mobile data
  • Stream podcast episodes without waiting for a download
  • Queue episodes to create a personal continuous playlist
RadioPublic on iOS and Android
Or by RSS
RSS feed

Connect with listeners

Podcasters use the RadioPublic listener relationship platform to build lasting connections with fans

Yes, let's begin connecting
Browser window

Find new listeners

  • A dedicated website for your podcast
  • Web embed players designed to convert visitors to listeners in the RadioPublic apps for iPhone and Android
Clicking mouse cursor

Understand your audience

  • Capture listener activity with affinity scores
  • Measure your promotional campaigns and integrate with Google and Facebook analytics
Graph of increasing value

Engage your fanbase

  • Deliver timely Calls To Action, including email acquistion for your mailing list
  • Share exactly the right moment in an episode via text, email, and social media
Icon of cellphone with money

Make money

  • Tip and transfer funds directly to podcastsers
  • Earn money for qualified plays in the RadioPublic apps with Paid Listens