Episode: Making Moonrise


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Making Moonrise

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins went to the moon, it’s hard to shake off the afterimage of the Saturn V rocket rising into the sky on a column of flame, and remember that the astronauts' bold adventure was also the product of decades of work by engineers, politicians, propagandists, and even science fiction writers. That’s the gap Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post set out to fix in her podcast, Moonrise. And she’s here with us today to talk about how the show got made, what she thinks the Apollo story can teach us about the power of imagination, and how the stories we tell help us to write the future.

Cunningham has been at The Washington Post for nine years, and in addition to creating Moonrise, she produced and hosted the limited-run podcasts Presidential and Constitutional. She spoke with Soonish from the Post's studios in Washington, D.C., on October 29, 2019, and in this episode we're sharing a version of the conversation that's been edited for length and clarity.

See the episode page on the Soonish website for full show notes. And for an even deeper dive, including a chat about Lillian's writing process, the music for Moonrise, and the new Apple TV+ series "For All Mankind," check out this bonus segment at our website.

Chapter Guide

0:00 Hub & Spoke Sonic ID

01:31 Soonish Theme

01:45 The Golden Age of Limited-Run Podcasts

02:48 A World-Changing Podcast about the Moon Race

05:08 Welcoming Lillian Cunningham to Soonish

05:45 Lillian’s Journey to Podcasting

08:53 Why Make a Show about the Moon Race?

12:21 Beginnings: Why Start the Moon Story in 1933?

17:58 The Role of Science Fiction and Futurism in the Moon Program

20:52 The Soviet Side of the Moon Story

24:10 Midroll Message: Recommending Words To That Effect

26:07 What Makes an Expert an Expert?

31:14 The Story Never Stops

35:19 Will We Ever Go Back to the Moon?

39:14 End Credits and Patreon Thank-Yous

41:38 Promoting Hub & Spoke Newest Show, Subtitle

The Soonish opening theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay.

Additional music is from Titlecard Music and Sound.

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Please check out Subtitle from Patric Cox and Kavita Pillay. It's the newest addition to the Hub & Spoke audio collective. The premiere episode Not So Anonymous is about the remarkable power of forensic linguistics software to unmask writers who'd probably rather stay unknown.



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