Socialist Worker

Levar Burton Reads—fantastic tales of past and future

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2570

Levar Burton

Levar Burton


Three months in, this new podcast is proving a reliably delightful source of short stories with a twist of fantasy.

If host Levar Burton’s voice is familiar to listeners in Britain it’s probably for his acting roles. He played Kunta Kinte in slave drama Roots and Geordi La Forge in Star Trek The Next Generation.

But in the US he’s equally well known for Reading Rainbow, his long-running show aiming to encourage child literacy through the joy of storytelling. The podcast continues the fun for fans who have now grown up, with a new story every week.

The first episode sees a strange alien forced to pick sides in a boy’s conflict with callous bureaucracy, in Kin by Bruce McAllister.

Other tales avoid such heavy science fiction tones. A surreal Haruki Murakami story centres on a couple’s manic heist at a McDonald’s. Neil Gaiman’s light comedy Chivalry finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop.

Burton’s choices will dispel any sense that science fiction is a white boys’ club.

Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky is masterful. It explores a future Nigeria of refugee camps and mathematicians with uncanny powers.

Black US author Percival Everett sets his sad, playful mystery Grahame Greene in a Native American reservation.

Laura Chow Reed’s 1,000-Year-Old Ghosts and Ken Liu’s devastating The Paper Menagerie tell the painful family histories of Chinese migrants to the US through magical realism.

At 30-50 minutes long the episodes are just right for turning a stressful commute into a trip to another world.

Listen on iTunes or at levarburtonpodcast.com

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