Dec. 15, 2021

Build Better Worlds: Anthropology for Game Design, Film and Writing

Today we're diving into world building, the process of creating realized worlds for (mostly) fictional stories and how anthropology could literally change the game. Michael Kilman and Kyra Wellstrom stop by to discuss to their new book on anthropology for game design, fiction writing and filmmaking.

Have you wondered why fantasy stories mostly are just copies of Medieval Europe? Why pop culture has been so obsessed with zombies? Or why Black Panther and the Falcon and the Winter Soldier seemed to hit the right chord at the right time for American conversations on race? To answer these questions, we're diving into world building, the process of creating realized worlds for (mostly) fictional stories and how anthropology could literally change the game.

On this episode Astrid Countee joins Adam Gamwell to co-host a conversation with the very dynamic duo of biological anthropologist/archaeologist Kyra Wellstrom and cultural anthropologist Michael Kilman. Kyra and Michael are educators and authors, and their latest book caught our attention because it does two things at once. First, it serves as an introductory textbook for anthropology students, digging into key ideas like culture, ritual, food, power and death. But second, it’s premised around how to use anthropology for building better world for game design, fiction writing, and filmmaking.

Building a better worlds is about creating more authentic characters based on actual science and data on culture. Thus the book is both an introductory text for anthropology students and creators.

Loridian's Laboratory - Michael's online home base

Loridian's Laboratory YouTube - Check out the Anthropology in 10 or Less series, it's great!

Production: Adam Gamwell
Take 2 - Pro Rees
A Nifty Piece of Work - New Fools
Ragtime - peerless


What is it about storytelling and being human?

[00:00:06] Adam Gamwell: There's something about that I wanted to ask you both about just what your, in your perspective, you know, what is it about storytelling and being human? Like, why do we need to tell stories? And, we do it in so many different ways where you tell them about ourselves. Like we have culture, which is the story we write of ourselves And then we also create fictional worlds beyond that. I'm kind of curious your perspective why do we need to create

[00:00:19] Kira Walker: I think humans are just so hungry for experience. Like we want to, see and do and taste and touch as much as we possibly can. Story kind of allows us to do that because we're so creative and we're so imaginative that when someone is telling us their lived experiences, it's like we can live it too.

And so I think we love to just fill the world with all these amazing experiences that we haven't had or couldn't have, or, might have in the future. But I think it's a way to just give us more to do and to experience.

[00:00:48] Michael Kilman: Yeah. And to add to that stuff. I think there's two further points there, the curiosity, which you're kind of delving into that.

Right? So we're, we're innately, curious, and we're especially curious about things that we don't understand or things that were different that are different from us. I think that curiosity kind of spurs us to, to really understand it. And I think what storytelling does is it gives us.

Something to make sense of something to relate to. And it could, because if you think about it, you know, if you've ever read a historical account of a battlefield, for example, you know, you're only reading one very specific series of things that happened because an actual battlefield is just pure chaos.

it's kind of a miracle that anyone makes it through a battlefield because everything's coming at you from all directions and, you know, that's kind of life, you know, things are coming at you from all directions all the time, and it makes so much more sense. If you can compress that into a story, especially a story that you can feel a connection to, for example, and we don't really talk about this in the book, but a really important feature of building a good story is empathy with the characters.

[00:01:57] Michael Kilman: It's why, so many famous stories have orphans as kids, orphans or people who have been displaced or dispossessed of themselves. so it's easier to suddenly relate. And so good stories, you know, have relatable characters that satiate our curiosity that give us a sense of wonder and, that's really useful when we're trying to understand exactly how our life works.

And I think. That's not dissimilar from ritual. that's a lot of what ritual is trying to do. Give us some sort of sense of structure, explore these other ways of knowing, being in that state of liminality, uh, all that stuff, it, all these dynamics are kind of coming together into one narrative as it were so that we can really engage with it.

[00:02:42] Adam Gamwell: Yeah, I really like this interesting idea of storytelling as like its own form of liminality in this way, right? That it is this we kind of experience elsewise through them and they, you know, they both help us make sense, but then it is just, um, helping us kind of be itself, you know, betwixt in between as it were.

[00:03:01] Michael Kilman: Yeah. And if you think about what liminality does, right. This, the state of norm lessness, uh, you know, the middle state between the before and after, when you're reading a book or when you're watching a show or when you're playing a video game, if it's a good story, it changes you, it does change you. And so there is kind of a transformative process when we're taking in this story, especially if it's something that is deep and meaningful, you know, you're not the same after you finish a seven book series. You know new things even then, even if there are things that are not necessarily applicable, you know, you don't sit down and read seven, seven books in a series of it didn't touch you. If it wasn't meaningful you and in some ways, so there's this kind of storytelling can be transformative, just like a ritual can, you know, in a lot of ways, it's, it's like, you're, you're absolutely right. It is kind of a state of liminality to engage in a story. Maybe that's why it's so frustrating when people don't finish their, uh, talking to you, George RR Martin. You're leaving us in a liminal state dammit.

[00:04:02] Adam Gamwell: Come on man

[00:04:04] Astrid Countee: That was actually the reason why I never understood why I had to read Chaucer because I didn't get why I had to read something that was unfinished. It felt like what was the point? I mean, this is so fascinating, this conversation that we're having around storytelling and ritual, and I know that in the book you're talking really about like how to create worlds. A lot of times this would be like maybe a fictional world that you're writing, or maybe a world that you're, you want to shoot like a film. But as I was reading it, I was also thinking about just the current state of our real world and how lacking it is of having stories of a different kind of future. And I was wondering if these were things that you also were thinking about or sometimes even address sometimes because there is this aspect of, it's really hard to try to be something that there is no blueprint for. And stories are a great way of experimenting with what if we did things this way or what if we did things that way?

And it seems like in our world right now, there's not a lot of stories like that. And I'm just wondering if you think that there's some connection to like maybe not having ritual or maybe there's there's, um, research that shows that a lot of Americans are less religious, like some, some aspect of these touch points that have been around for so much of what, you know, our entire history of being human seemed to be kind of coming out of our normal everyday lives.

Do you think that's contributing to our inability to know, build better stories for ourselves?

[00:05:45] Kira Walker: I think a big issue with our storytelling though, is that we see the world from kind of a limited perspective. And particularly in like the United States and in a lot of sort of post-colonial societies, there's a very dominant narrative and that's kind of, we draw from that for our storytelling. It's like Michael and I talk all the time about how boring it is basically that like every fantasy world is just medieval England like that And that's our cultural context. And, you know, Americans are the ones creating a tremendous amount of content and we're pulling from our history books and from our experiences and what we read as children. And, but it leads to this very sort of narrow field to draw from.

[00:06:34] Michael Kilman: Yeah we do talk a little bit about, uh, you know, future isms in, in our, uh, one of the final chapters of the book. but, you know, Afrofuturism and indigenous science fiction and indigenous futurism are, are really very interesting areas to explore because they do have different questions and uh, I write this, I'm writing a dystopian series currently. I, I'm writing the fifth book now, but, I signed kind of grapple with some of this too a little bit because, you know, you have kind of the European style futurism going on there, but you know, as they're going on in the series, they encounter people from different places. They encounter people who were a part of a coalition of refugees that included indigenous people and people from other places as well. And, and so there's all these questions of, you know, where are the limits of imagination, or what limits do you give yourself when you just don't explore much, if you just consume the same kind of content over and over, and I'm going to say right here, that part of that problem is capitalism, right?

And part of the problem is what gets made and what doesn't, you know, because there's, there's no limit to unique stories and unique futurism out there. You know, it's, it's also like if you're, you're reading a fantasy novel, that takes place in a completely different context than European culture part of the issue is that you're so used to the European culture, it's kind of an acquired taste, right? You may or may not at first really understand it.

And so I think part of our futurism is like, I mean, I grew up with Star Trek. I grew up with Star Gate, all these various different, uh, you know, standard futurism ideas and the ones that hit really hard are the ones that are, that are familiar to us. And so it's really hard to kind of bring in new story ideas. And, and I think that's one of the reasons we were trying to write this book is to say like, look, as long as you're making your culture holistic, you can do whatever you want.

You don't have to do some sort of standard script. And this is one thing I'm gonna, I rail on it all the time in the indie publishing community. Um this idea of writing to market, you want to write to market. And I was like, okay, I get, you're trying to make your books a business, but writing the market, doesn't open the possibilities for new ideas. It just recycles the same standard tropes over and over and over again. And so in my mind, at least if you're writing specifically to marketing, you're not playing with new ideas. You're kind of selling out a little bit. I mean, you know, there's a little about kind of a, uh, you know, a little bit of an arrogant statement there, of course but, um, but it certainly, I think that, you know, this is why you see, uh, you know, when you get one hit from the whole, you know, orphan post-apocalyptic savior female narrative, then you get 15 other stories immediately following that. Right. Um, and so you get Hunger Games and then you get like 10 other books series that hit big that are just like Hunger Games, or you get Harry Potter and then 10 other things that come out like Harry Potter, or you get The Expanse. And now there's this huge crave craving for, you know, hard science fiction, hard gritty science fiction. Right. And so, um, and so that's one thing that happens is something, you know, it gives you even just a little bit taste of something fresh, and then everybody has to do it because that's how the whole marketing and commercial system works.

and I think one of the major challenges too, is is that, It seems as though there's clearly an appetite to have a new kinds of stories, right. That we need to tell new stories, especially as we find ourselves entering these unprecedented eras of dealing with global issues like climate change and, you know, the resurgence of, societal level conversations around race and inequality in the United States and around the world. And what does health mean? You know, and how that's changed because of 2020 in COVID and in like, there's, there's this need for new kinds of stories, because there's a recognition that there are new kinds of realities out there. Um, and there's, and there's things that we need to address. And So it is really interesting to, contemplate these in conversation with what is, you know, pop storytelling in essence, right.

[00:10:39] Adam Gamwell: And like what can, what can get out there and become a story. And I mean, I'm remembering The Hot Zone from back in the day. Uh, that was like the, the, I guess the previous before Matt Damon's Contagion, um, like popular story around viruses, right.

[00:10:51] Astrid Countee: And Outbreak

[00:10:53] Adam Gamwell: and outbreak that's right.

And Yes,

[00:10:53] Michael Kilman and Kira Walker: outbreak with Dustin Hoffman back in the nineties.

[00:10:56] Astrid Countee: I think that was the first one I saw and that one scared me to

[00:10:59] Michael Kilman: And in the seventies, The Andromeda Strain with Michael Creighton

[00:11:02] Adam Gamwell: Oh, that's right. Yes, that's right. Yeah. So there we go. We have those, but it's interesting to even note that too. I mean, I mean, I guess, are we prognosticating? Are we going to see a proliferation of virus novels now?

[00:11:12] Michael Kilman: I think we have been, that's what zombie stories are. Most of them are viral driven. Right. And so you kind of see this on dead rising creatures who have been infected by this disease and destroying the world order with their mindlessness. I mean, you know, sounds like people who don't want to wear masks to me.

[00:11:30] Astrid Countee: Yes.

[00:11:32] Kira Walker: We've been afraid of this for a long time, I think.

[00:11:35] Michael Kilman: Yeah. I mean, w you know, we always have heard stories throughout history about pandemics, uh, you know, about how they've just, it's always kind of this thing, this fear of disease, I think in the back of our minds, I think it's, I think it's there in human society.

And I think the, the rise of zombie literature in the late nineties, you know, the resurgence I should say of, of zombie literature is a part of that is because we had scares like SARS and we had scares like, you know, bird flu and we saw, oh, this is a close call, and then it didn't happen. And then yeah, now it finally did happen right.

Where we have, or we have COVID and we're lucky that COVID, wasn't more deadly than it was, but, you know, like Contagion, we, I actually watched that, right in the beginning of the COVID because I guess I'm a glutton for punishment or something, but you know, that they're quarter of the population who get it dies in that movie, and that would just be i, I mean, you know, two to 3% is what we get with COVID and that has been pretty devastating. I mean, imagine quarter of your population suddenly gone.

[00:12:32] Adam Gamwell: Yeah.

[00:12:33] Kira Walker: And I think stories like fantasy stories, give us kind of a way to, to digest that. Cause like I love contagion. It's one of my favorite movies, but most like when I mentioned it to students, they're like, oh, it's so boring.

And this is obviously pre COVID, but like, oh, it's so boring. I'm like, no, it's amazing. But they all love zombie movies, the ones with the virus that takes over the world. So I think it fantasy gives us by, by sort of tweaking the perspective and allows us to digest those sort of really tricky and maybe hard to understand concepts.

[00:13:03] Michael Kilman: Yeah. And zombie movies are definitely hardcore liminal states. Right? So you just, re-upped all of society you just, you know, and so that's very much what disease does. So I think they certainly are kind of this. Manifestation of, of fears of pandemics or, or, you know, even social pandemics of sorts, you know, you know, outbreaks of, you know, this massive resurgence of white supremacy that's been going on, know, a lot of ways, that's very similar to zombie stories either because it's just raw rage, it's raw hate, you know, it's, it's these exposed nerves of, of, of deep xenophobia that we have in the back of our mind to, and zombies are mindless. They just attack and attack and eat and consume. And that's a lot what hate does to people too?

[00:13:47] Adam Gamwell: yeah, that's Something that struck me that you were writing about, um, early on in your book is just like reflecting on this idea too, with that, when we, when we might have first approach , telling a story or thinking about, you know, who it is that we're telling a story about, you're not even just articulating fears.

We have this idea, which I love the imagery that we tend to think that anything that's outside of what we typically know is kind of like the Borg, right. in Star Trek in that it's, it's kind of this seemingly unidimensional or one dimensional, you know, here to assimilate it all has the same thought process, even though we know the Borg are a little more complex than that, of course, but it was a great metaphor to think about, but then, so I guess I want to put this in conversation with this idea, because I think you're right on to that the zombie narrative and the appeal of those stories does actually have really interesting metaphorical, and perhaps beyond, implications and just questions around the resurgence of the white supremacy movement, for example, just they're, they're sort of in your face-ness this over the past year or so.

And that's, that's really interesting that, um, to kind of put these pieces together and then , how do we, how do we think about like, when we are looking at groups that are so different from ourselves, that, that it's very hard to kind of understand the potential nuance.

I'm not here to make a conversation about the nuances of white supremacists, but, um, you know, but just to kind of think about how do we, how do we put these pieces together in terms of what does it mean to ask these questions in terms of like, what is happening on a cultural level? How can we think about these and how the stories help us sort of see cultural nuance as it were.

[00:15:18] Kira Walker: I think it's, especially writing, but also reading allows you to practice empathy in a way that you don't get in the real world. And this was a big thing that we wanted to, or one of the main reasons that we wanted to make this a textbook is because you have to put yourself in somebody else's shoes when you're reading or when you're writing, because you're, you're sort of forced into that position.

And. That kind of practice, I think, allows you to be able to do that with real people as well. If you're sort of, if you can consciously say like, okay, just read this book. And I really felt what this person's feeling and understand the nuance of their lives and the nuance of their choices. Then you can say, all right, well, I'm going to go talk to my neighbor and apply that same kind of thought process.

Like it's sort of like working out a muscle. It allows you to have that strength and that ability and the more you read and the more you write, the easier it is to talk to real people and understand real people and their motivations.

[00:16:15] Michael Kilman: And we also did a textbook version of this, actually, this really began as kind of a well sort of, it was like a way of us trying to introduce world building into the classroom because you know, it is one thing to read about other cultures. It is one thing to learn about their struggles and the things they've gone through. And certainly. You know, I'm sure we've all been accused when we're teaching anthropology classes of how dismal and depressing they can be, because, you know, you're, you're reading about all these oppressive situations for these, these people who are just trying to, to keep their culture going or keep their lives going, or they're trying to get through their day-to-day experience while all these kind of external forces are, are pressing in on them.

And it's one thing to read about that stuff, but then it's, it's like a whole nother level or a whole nother kind of muscle to have to build a fictional world, you know, consider what privilege means. Because like, in my classes, they have to make a privilege chart, like we have in our, in our, in our textbook. And so they have to be thinking about, okay, what cause privilege. Isn't just an either or scenario it's, you know, it's got different levels, it's got different avenues and, you know, uh, tying this all into like intersectionality and stuff like that, you know, you might be privileged in some areas, but you're not privileged in others.

So then to build a, a fictional world that has some sort of situation with privilege, and then to see how complicated it is to try and navigate that privilege and then really see what happens then? Because my last part of my assignment is all right, change the world, throw it a change agent of some sort.

And so everything gets turned upside down. And one of the things they have to do is like, what happened to your character? Are they still privileged? Are they not? What did they face? What, what areas are they still the same? What are they different? And then the idea is, and that gets the mental muscles moving to try to understand how complex everyone's lives are.

Not just, not just you know, someone over here in this other country, but how complicated is in your everyday life and the various things you have to navigate, because sometimes just shining a little light on the complexities of your own life. And then recognizing that you're not the only one who goes through this.

That's a really powerful tool for trying to understand someone who is different than you. And I think building stories and reading stories and writing stories or video games, stories, all that stuff are just vital components for us to kind of, you know, understand each other socially, especially with this social media filter bubbles or what what's the confirmation bias and all that stuff, you know, all that stuff's going around.

And so we hear the stories we want to hear, you know, it's tailor made for us. And then suddenly, you know, you have to build a world or suddenly you have to read a book that says you didn't ever consider this other point of view. And that, yes, that's really powerful. You know, what is it like to suddenly be a blind person in the middle of the world?

You know, what's the, um, there's an old book where the there's like a, a, the alien plants invade or whatever that, um, Yeah, the, uh, the Triffids. Yeah. And then the day that the trip Day of the Triffids right. And so first, you know, everybody who is, um, you know, exposed and not in some sort of like sealed area suddenly goes blind and then these plants take over and start eating people.

So it's, you know yeah. But, but like, but there's this really powerful moment in there where, you know, you're kind of in the seat of seeing this world of blind people completely helpless who have never had any training whatsoever, and everybody is like that. And, and what would happen if you were suddenly struck blind and you know, how disorienting would it be?

[00:19:48] Kira Walker: And in this, you know, different, would it be if you were blind and had all of those skills, like how different would their experience be there in that new world like new reality.

[00:19:57] Michael Kilman: Totally. It's a suddenly, it's a privilege to have been blind before this disaster, you know, kind of an interesting thing.

[00:20:04] Astrid Countee: when I was reading that section in the book, it actually made me think of when I was in high school. And I saw the movie Gattaca, which I was super excited to see because I wanted to be a medical scientist. And the premise of it seemed like something we would want, you know, like this idea that you could fix your baby before it's born. So there would be no more disease and everybody would be able to be the healthiest best self. But I thought that like, as I was reading that section of the book, I was thinking about that one thing that's different, which is like, what happens if you don't get that treatment, which is what that movie is all about.

And then what happens if you do? And it's still not enough for you to have the perfect life or it is it create the happiness that you thought it would. And it is a really, I found like when I watched that film, that it made me ask questions that at that point in my life, I hadn't asked because I thought that life was about solving problems.

And I thought if we could solve the problem, then everything would be good. I really hadn't started to consider that what's a problem for one group is an advantage for another. And that when you solve the problem now you're disadvantaging another . Group. And how do you deal with.

[00:21:21] Michael Kilman: That's one of my all time favorite movies, by the way. I like that's that's yeah. I, I absolutely love that I've ever seen that movie like a hundred times. So, but it's just this idea that, I mean, of course there's a little bit of that, uh, you know, bootstraps kind of narrative in there going on, right.

Where guy goes through extreme measures to, to become an astronaut, despite the fact that he's been, you know, an augmented or whatever. Um, you know, and he has a kind of genetic, genetic discrimination against him. So there's a little bit of that stuff, but it's just so interesting and kind of predictive of, of the horrors of something like CRISPR, you know, it's a conscience and I think that's one thing that storytelling does do it, it, it, it forces us into conversations like that and doing applied anthropology is like that too. When you go into an area and you change something, even if it's something the community asked for, even if it's something the majority of the population wanted, there's still going to be pushback from people who are going to be the losers in this situation.

And of course you have to be thinking about the ethical implications of being, you know, one of these change agents, again, even if you're welcome, even if it's what the, the entire culture wants, you're still going to change the world for somebody for the worse, no matter what you do. Um, and if that person is like really powerful in the first place, it might be really hard to make any change, you know?

So, you know, it's like, uh, electric cars versus gasoline cars. Of course, we, you know, the world, we want to go on to, to green energy. But, um, there's so many different situations of power brokers. And then of course, so many people who will be jobless, um, you know, that, that through that change, regardless of the fact that it's better for humanity in the longterm.

You know, humans have this problem of, short-term thinking a lot of times, because, you know, if you suddenly can't eat food, you have to worry about the short term because your bills, you know?

[00:23:13] Astrid Countee: and one thing that, that movie brought up that is now a huge part of our narrative is that there's always going to be somebody who will hack your system. And it's, you can't predict the ways they'll hack your system they're going to come through, and whatever their intentions are, you just have to hope for the best, because once that happens, then it's a vulnerability that you don't like.

It's like, whack-a-mole trying to fix it all.

[00:23:36] Michael Kilman: Yeah, and, you know, again, doing applied anthropology, work in the field doing or anything with it in the field, you start to realize that these systems are man, there's, you know, people talk about corruption and systems, but all systems are really wonky and corrupt all over the place.

You know, there's that, there's no such thing as kind of a free, uh, a system that doesn't have all kinds of little niches. It's it's, you know, it's, it's, it's just like evolution.

[00:24:01] Kira Walker: Yeah. All systems are infinitely complex. And especially when you're dealing with living organisms and ones as complicated as humans, there's no way you can account for every variable. It's just not possible.

[00:24:11] Michael Kilman: Right. Which is also why when you're making a social change and people point out the exception and not the rule in good social policy, all someone abused their food stamps. Well, yeah, but okay. But, but there's, but you know, so many other people who aren't and you're, you're always, you're always going to be people who are abusing the system. It doesn't matter what system you set up. So if you're you're planning policy on the exception and not the rule, you're really not doing very good planning.

[00:24:37] Adam Gamwell: Right and they tend to just call out the exceptions anyway right. Because it's like, oh, we see that, that looks different. Therefore, I want to talk about that versus actually right. That the majority is not working in, in a corrupt manner.

[00:24:46] Michael Kilman: well, yeah, you know, of course in media systems, what sell it, if it bleeds, it leads if it's an it's a controversy itself. And so, you know, you focus on the, the, those, the small extremes and the small controversy so that you can sell more, uh, average advertising, uh, minutes and revenue and all that other stuff so...

Creating space for new narratives while addressing Race, Colonialism

[00:25:06] Adam Gamwell: And back into shaping our confirmation biases. Cause that's what we get the ads on social media, right. That helped shape our thinking processes.

What's interesting too, is that on one level, it seems that there is a slow awakening happening that, that folks in a broader sense, there, there does seem to be kind of a growing appetite for providing more space for difference, right? And that's, I think on one level why we see such loud anti diversity narratives, um, is because the hornet's nest is getting stirred up in essence, right?

That helps us think of this back and forth where it's it's that, you know, one person's advantage is, is someone else's disadvantage and vice versa, depending on when the context changes, if the circumstances change.

So I was, I was curious to think about this in conversation with the chapter on race you put together, as well as colonialism. I, I appreciated the ideas in the chapters of trying to help designers and writers think about why are so many of our narratives around colonialism, right. We may not even call them that, but so many video games. Any 4X video game is about colonialism. Um, Age of Empires is the classic, right. So how, how could we, uh, you know, provide more space, uh, or open up more avenues for new kinds of narratives,

[00:26:13] Kira Walker: I think, I think the desire for narratives is shifting a little bit, because like when you mentioned colonialism, um, uh, one thing I've noticed is in Marvel of the difference between like the comics and the movies is the Kree and the Skrull and the Kree have always been this like you know, vast galactic empire in the scroll have kind of been on the fringes, but in the comics, the career very much billed as like, you know, the, the conquering heroes.

And there it's very much like the manifest destiny kind of narrative in American history where like they're going out and they're doing this good work and bringing civilization to the masses and the scroller kind of the terrorist on the outskirts, but in the movies, it's very much like it's the same sort of thing.

The Kree are still Imperial and the Skrull are still kind of on the fringes, but the perspective is just shifted a little bit. So the Kree are seen as sort of the bad guys and the Skrull are just trying desperate, like the refugees basically, uh, trying desperately to find a home. So I think the market is definitely shifting. People are starting to think a little bit differently. So hopefully because Michael was talking about capitalism earlier, like what sells, hopefully as people are kind of exposed to these differences in thought, and as more people want these different narratives, they will start buying them. And then hopefully it'll open up a little bit, just kind of naturally, so people can get these more diverse stories out there.

[00:27:35] Michael Kilman: Well, look, I mean, you've got Black Panther, right Black Panther was one of the most successful of all the Marvel Moody's movies. And it's really about the question of colonialism versus collaboration, right? I mean, that's the, you know, the, what's his name? Uh, the, the main antagonist, he's all Killmonger.

He's all let's go out and cologne, colonize everyone else with this technology, let's be realistic, right versus, you know, ultimately what they decide, which the better choices, collaboration let's work with communities, let's use our privilege and let's use our wealth, our technology to, to change the world for the better, rather than imposing our ideas and our ideologies on other people.

So it is definitely shifting. But it's, you know, and I think one of the things that's happened and, and, you know, and, and my, um, my background of research in grad school is looking at media systems. Um, And know, one of the things you're seeing that that has happened in the last two decades is, uh, with the internet, the one thing that the internet has definitely done well is it's removed the gatekeepers, right? So suddenly you have voices that, uh, you know, in first, or it was just chat rooms at first and forums at first. And then now, you know, we can post videos on Twitter and live stream on Facebook and, you know, and all that stuff.

But it, you know, in the early, early nineties, things began to change. Now, of course it's a double-edged sword, right? Because you might remove the gatekeepers for everybody, but that doesn't mean that everybody has the best of intentions, which is also why you see a resurgence of white supremacist groups online.

Just as much as you see these wonderful activist groups who are fighting back against. You know, terrible generations long of oppression. Uh, so, uh, you know, that removing those gatekeepers is kind of like, you know, that double-edged sword and then also removed the peacekeepers. Yeah. You remove the peacekeepers too.

Right? So you, on that doesn't mean that the peacekeepers are always doing everything that's right. But, but at least to some degree, you know, there is a lack of moderation and, and, and that's a lot of what's going on with Facebook right now, right? There's lots of really rally lots of really interesting things going on. And, but I, but I do think that the early nineties is when we, you know, when you see Zapatistas movement, uh, and you see the battle for Seattle in 99, and then you see occupy wall street in the Arab Spring.

And there's, there's all these events that, that really kind of rise up and, and they, they remove these gatekeepers and they use this non traditional media form of the internet to really tell different stories. And so of course what's going on in the wider world, is it reflected in our storytelling.

It's why you can get something like Black Panther now where you couldn't, that that movie would have never worked in like, say the 1980s. It would never have been made. It never been made. I've done it never, ever, right. I mean, you think about one of the very first scenes, you know, they're in the, that was at the, what museum was it? They were in. Yeah. Um, the museum of London, I was at the British museum, British museum, the British museum and Killmonger walks in and he's just like, What's up colonizer, you know, it's like, you're never gotten away with that, that, that, uh, you know, back in the day.

[00:30:38] Kira Walker: So, and you even see it as like, um, uh, Stan Lee wanted to make a series, like Shang-chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings. He wanted to make a TV show of it in the eighties and they wouldn't let him, he like went to the, to the board of directors and whoever and pitched this. And they said, no, it will never sell. So you, yeah, the internet and kind of just the broader conversation is opening up these avenues. So now there's there's a space for this kind of storytelling, like an official space for this kind of storytelling. It doesn't have to just be on the fringes and like on the internet now, it's, it's kind of branching into the broader world.

[00:31:15] Michael Kilman: And you know, this goes also with self publishing. I, you know, there's anyone who writes books like myself, we have a complicated relationship with Amazon because you know, Amazon is really a terrible, terrible corporation. There's never a doubt about that at all. But also Amazon gave people, anyone who wants in the entire world, they were the first ones to do this, this space to publish their own story. And so anyone's stories could get out there and that's. That's an amazing thing to do. And, uh, but of course at the same time, you know, the context of, you know, the very terrible corporation that does all kinds of horror harm all over the world.

Um, but it's, you know, it's, it just shows the complexities of all this stuff, but all gray, all gray areas. And I think, I think it's a lot of what we wanted to get across in the book is just how much gray there is out there, you know, because, uh, you know, empires are terrible things, but empire is also give you the internet, they give you advanced science and technology and medicine, univeresities and knowledge and libraries.

[00:32:21] Kira Walker: Yeah. There are good things that come from them, even from them, even if they are themselves like an agent of harm.

[00:32:29] Michael Kilman: Yeah. So it's messy for sure. Everything is nothing.

[00:32:34] Adam Gamwell: Everything is messy. And that that's that's, I mean, this is actually one of the things that I have enjoyed, um, seeing evolve in the Star Wars universe to give a bit of my own nerd card away. Um, and that, like, you know, when the original Star Wars came out, the empire was just the bad guy. Right. It is interesting that and to see franchises, like over time as they then begin to like evolve their stories. And then we do see that, uh, they are on one level responding to how we are thinking about the world more today.

And that You know,A New Hope, which was the original Star Wars, was premised on basically giving folks a sense of wonder and awe, and that we can step away from actually the harsh realities of the world, which is one of the reasons that there's such a backlash against The Last Jedi, uh was it was actually trying to put Star Wars squarely in a very troubled world in its own way. And so if we can debate all that later if we want, but the just the broader point in terms of what, uh, you know, what people even think their, their favorite mythos or stories were supposed to do. And that like, if these are modern myths in essence, how they shape throw that we live in.

And so it is interesting just to think about this for me, at least in terms of the Star Wars evolution from being this very clear, good and bad to now a much more morally ambiguous and kind of gray world in the center.

[00:33:44] Michael Kilman: Well, my favorite is Rogue One. That's my favorite. I just like seeing the complexities of rebellion and how, you know, they aren't great people, you know, . I can't remember where I read this or watched it or something, but I, I read that, uh, ISIS was using A New Hope as a recruiting film. If they were, and they were actually, you know, talking about the evil empires of Europe coming in here and we're fighting back again, you know? So it's just talking about even the complexities of, of narratives,

or Avatar I remember, uh,

[00:34:13] Kira Walker: Which Avatar?

[00:34:13] Michael Kilman: The, uh, not the Last Airbender, the, uh, the

[00:34:16] Adam Gamwell: but not as good one.

[00:34:17] Michael Kilman: Yeah. They're not as good. The, uh, the rip off of Ursula K LeGuinn's, uh, The Word for World is Forest, that Avatar. Dances with Smurf as South Park calls it. Right. So, um, but, uh, you know, there's this, um, there's a series of pictures of, uh, Palestinians, uh, dressing up as a form of protest as the blue aliens from avatar.

So, you know, it gets, it gets very interesting in how people view, who is the evil empire and who is the rebellion.

[00:34:44] Kira Walker: Yeah, well, cause everybody sees themselves as the good side and the other is the bad side. So, and I like when you have this very clear, like A New Hope where it's like very clear, good and bad, you can, you were meant to step into the good side. Yeah. No one sees themself as the empire faced. Probably not. I mean, I'm does, but yeah.

[00:35:06] Michael Kilman: Yeah. I mean, I, I, it was a meme going around. It was like, uh, a picture of a Luke Skywalker is like young rebel recruited by a, you know, a dangerous organization, the top of the empire, you know, it's like, you know, it gets really interesting with that stuff, for sure.

[00:35:24] Adam Gamwell: Yeah, no, I I appreciate that too. We are, we're entering this new, interesting space, you know, I mean, you guys were already there. Um, but yeah, as, as we are trying to have these new, these kind of new stories that we might even recognize, even to your point before that Black Panther, um, is one of the, these smash hits.

And I dunno if I don't want to give spoilers away, but, um, the, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier was excellent. But it also tackles some very, very important issues, that very much stem from, from Black Panther's success as a film. And then also just, just takes us a bit to the heart of some conversations happening in the United States right now, uh, around race and, and who gets to be a hero. And and so given that too, it's that like Marvel even thought about the responded by making this new series, um, you know, post Black Panther, post, Endgame, uh, Avengers, and it's interesting just to even think about this, like they're using TV as a, as a slightly faster, medium than a film, but Kira did you, did you get that sense too? That they're, it's almost this. They want to continue the momentum?

[00:36:18] Kira Walker: Yeah, absolutely. And they clearly, I think with the move to TV, they want to tell more complex narratives. And like, if you watch the making of special, the, what is it assembled at the end the year, they talk about that. Like we, you know, normally we're in this hour and a half or two hour format, and like, you can tell a good story in that amount of time, but they wanted very specifically to tell a much more complicated narrative.

they wanted to talk about like the impact of half of the world coming back, like what happens to the people who were displaced and the people who lost their homes and do they lose their homes again. And it does an excellent job of kind of showing everybody's perspective and still coming down on the side of right and wrong, but showing just how complicated an issue right and wrong is. Yeah, I thought it was just a fantastic series and the fact that they didn't shy away from any of those conversations, they just took them straight head on. I thought that was wonderful.

[00:37:12] Michael Kilman: Well, I think that the success of Black Panther probably gave them permission to, to do that kind of stuff. If you really think about it, I mean, they were the, if you, cause I'm rewatching the Marvel movies right now, uh, so it's just grind very slowly because there's so many of them, but, but you know, watching the early ones, they are more simplistic, but as in phase, one are all very simple, very hero's journey kind of stories.

And then the phase two of Marvel, when you get into, you know, Captain America, Winter Soldier, and you get into the Civil War and you get into all these other stuff, they start asking way more complicated questions about the nature of power, about responsibility, uh, you know, about colonialism empire, all of this stuff, and it just gets incredibly more complex.

but it makes sense that this is the next logical step that they can now open up these wider conversations on a long form medium.

[00:38:07] Kira Walker: Yeah. And I love that. Cause comics have always done that. Like they've always gone into these like really like gritty and complicated depths of humanity, but you haven't really seen that in film, at least not on this scale before, like you'd have films like Gattica that we talked about, like they really kind of delve into these complex issues, but it's still that shorter format. So having this extended world and like the Star Wars extended universe now is branching into all sorts of different levels of media. You can really, really kind of explore that. And I think it's just wonderful cause it, it reaches a much wider audience. Comics are still a little bit niche, so things like films and television can reach just about everybody.

[00:38:46] Michael Kilman: Well, you see this too with the evolution of Star Trek, right? So you have the original series, which does ask political questions absolutely, but the very simplistic political questions in the beginning, right. You know, um, you know, the, the famous episode of the black face white face people on each side is different.

You know, that that's such an obvious metaphor, but then you get into next generation starts to ask some more complicated questions, but it's really deep space nine. That that really is like, Hey, uh, you know, we are a colonial empire, aren't we, you know, the Federation isn't so great that maybe we don't always aren't the best people. Right. And of course that was carried on and in Enterprise, uh, and then now the, the, uh, Picard series and of course Discovery. Yeah. So And then, you know, again, if you look at the timing of those things, Deep Space Nine, really didn't take its critical turn until the internet comes in full swing and people are having these conversations, you know? So as you see, if you look at the mid nineties, that's where media begins to make a, make a big, big change.

[00:39:49] Kira Walker: It doesn't just go off of Nielsen ratings anymore. All of a sudden people can actually like respond to the things that they are watching and have these conversations. And people can hear that like the, the, the creators of media

[00:40:01] Michael Kilman: and the internet can kill or reboot a show like a Firefly, uh, you know, it's got its fi finale or Family Guy, you know, and I'm not huge Family Guy fan, but like they brought family guy back from the dead, the internet, you know? So the arrested development, right. I mean, um,

[00:40:18] Kira Walker: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I believe is getting rebooted or like imagined. Yeah.

[00:40:23] Michael Kilman: Okay. I never, I never did watch that series.

[00:40:26] Astrid Countee: I love that series.

[00:40:27] Kira Walker: Yeah. Joss Wedon questions aside Buffy has an excellent,

[00:40:31] Astrid Countee: Yeah. We can just love it and not think about Joss Wedon but I loved that series because it was one of the first times I saw a girl be strong and not have to rely on a guide of save her, which was awesome. And I could relate to that a lot better.

[00:40:44] Kira Walker: yeah. Yeah. It really groundbreaking in a lot of, I guess, bizarre ways now that we know a lot more about Joss Weden, but yeah, really groundbreaking in a lot of respects.

[00:40:53] Michael Kilman: Well, I remember he's just one, one person in the whole. Hey, I think that's one thing that people forget sometimes is when you have one asshole in the bunch, you forget that, you know, there's several hundred other people who are making that shift.

who are contributing as writers and editors and actors and actresses and all that stuff. Right. It's not just, you know, we tend to look at something and say, oh, this person's a bad person. I don't want to ever consume their media again. You know? Uh, but you're forgetting that all the, you know, hundreds or thousands of other people who significantly contributed to that and, you know, they may or may not agree with that, what that person did.


[00:41:30] Astrid Countee: so true. I, I did see something a while back that was saying that shows like Buffy and even movies, like Legally Blonde, like over time have made it possible for there to be female driven characters that are much more complex, not just moms or like girlfriends and that it has helped to change the way that society thinks about what women can do. So I think television is a really interesting medium, because film is great. It can be a really beautiful escape, but television makes these people a part of your life in a different way. And they start to feel like friends that, you know, or people you hang out with and it starts to make it easier to bring in that empathy that we were talking about like, I dunno, 30 minutes ago.

[00:42:14] Michael Kilman: Yeah, I think the one exception to that is the Marvel movies, because you know, you're with these characters for 20 plus they feel a little more like TV shows are serialized, and they've actually, they've done studies where they've done brain scans and showing people, pictures of their friends and then pictures of the television characters they love and your brain lights up in the same way.

So when you say that, we start to think of them as friends. I mean, They're literally like friends to you, they have the same kind of impact on your physical brain that they do when you're that you have when you're hanging out with a friend. Yeah. And when I listened to a lot of audio books and fiction, cause I, you know, drive door dash and stuff. Yeah. It living there, the sweet anthropology well-paid life. But, uh, I also, I listen to a lot audio books and stuff and uh, I start to actually pick up like character quirks and accent sometimes or certain slang. And I'm like, oh man, listen to too much of this series. Like, you know, I'm a, I'm a bit at the end of the expanse right now so, so I catch myself using belter or belter terms. Once in a while.

[00:43:18] Kira Walker: Yeah. We really, we assimilate a lot of that. A lot of what we take in and yeah, TV isn't like those, those longer cereal formatted things are like long books series. They really deeply impact us.

[00:43:28] Michael Kilman: I think we forget that. You know, writing or reading or consuming a story is a social act. It's social act, very similar on par to sitting around the table and sharing stories around Thanksgiving. Right? I mean, it's, you're, you're sitting except you're sitting with a book there by yourself, or maybe you're reading to somebody else or something or watching with other people. It's a social act. You know, you know, people talk about being introverts extroverts all the time. But the fact is is that everybody is highly social. It's just that, it's how you, how you are social. Not if you are social.

it's a way of participating in the social world. it's interesting just to think about that too, that, that even when we consume them, you know, to Kira's point our brains light up the same way as if they are our friends. And so there's, there's a re a realness to them, right? what we consume, you know, shapes our perception of the world and why it's so important for us to get world-building right. And it seems that in this broad sense, like anthro helps us do that in unique ways, you know? And even why y'all put this book together, the way you did to help other creators think about worlds and more realistic ways.

[00:44:36] Adam Gamwell: what's what I'm taking away from this conversation too is this, this idea that, that this is a social act of story creation and consumption. And then also that the characters have a real impact on us, right. Even though uh Black Widow may not be real my relationship with her as a character I look up to affects my perception of the world in essence, right. And how I think about heroes and what a hero can do and how to face adversity. And so I think there is something really powerful about that to, digest or to sit with, I suppose, that there's more to it than just, you know, how do we tell a story well? It's, it's actually, we have to respect the social aspect of this work and that it actually does have an impact on people's lives.

[00:45:16] Michael Kilman: yeah. Building a world is a profoundly social act, right? I mean, it's, there's, there's no question about it. You're, you're creating a, a society and of course there's there's levels, right? I mean, there's a lot of people who do pretty good world building and get away with it because their characters are really compelling and interesting and, and that's fine and there's some people who do just terrible world-building and it's so bad that you can't, they never do anything with it. Like the world just never takes off. And I think most often you see that with video games, you see a lot of really great ideas, but poorly executed video games because the world-building just isn't there.

Um, but you know, it doesn't have to be perfect. It never has to be perfect, but having a little anthropology in your toolkit and understanding just that, you know, social systems are holistic, that when you change one arena, it's going to ripple out everywhere. It's going to create new systems of privilege and experiences and discrimination and, you know, some, uh, new kinds of luck even, you know, because you can be born into you, maybe this new technology comes around and you happen to have the right DNA to access it. Right. So suddenly your, you went from being an oppressed person to a privileged person. I mean, there's all kinds of really interesting ways you can, uh, go with it. Yeah.

Wrap up question - two versions of the book

[00:46:32] Adam Gamwell: Yeah. I think that that that's right on. And I guess one, one question I'm curious as we, as we wrap, in terms of your own world-building you wrote two versions of this book for two different audiences. I think that's super interesting. And I've had not heard of people doing this before, so I'm just curious, and this it's a bit of a practical question, but, uh, you know, why did you decide to make it like what they tell us a bit about what are the two kinds of the two versions you wrote and why did you why'd you kind of bifurcate how you put the book together?

[00:47:01] Kira Walker: I think it was because we, we had two really clear goals. Cause we're, I mean, we're both educators, so we both really, really wanted to, to use this as a tool for education, but we're also both nerds. Like we, we love world-building and we love reading. We love writing, so we really wanted it to to kind of inform how people create the media that we might consume.

So it really early on, we kind of made this split. We realized that the aims for both of those things were going to be just a little bit different. So we needed to, to kind of make that split so we could kind of tailor it to, to both arenas that we wanted to work. Yeah.

[00:47:41] Michael Kilman: And we also lost two publishing companies who didn't want to do this with us. They were like, well, why don't you just self publish then? You know? So, you know, we, we were trying something different because we wanted the knowledge to be accessible. Yeah,

[00:47:54] Kira Walker: we also, we lost the first publishing company because we didn't want to charge enough for the text.

[00:47:59] Michael Kilman: Yeah. They wanted to charge like 150 bucks or something.

[00:48:01] Kira Walker: Yeah. And we didn't want that at all because we wanted students to be able to afford it. And especially with the, the commercial version, we wanted people to be able to afford it. Like we didn't want it to be out of anybody's reach. So we wanted basically as many people as possible, including our students to be able to, to access this material.

[00:48:20] Michael Kilman: Yeah. So, I mean, we just wanted this to be out in the public, but we also wanted to use it for the classroom. So we want it to have a more formalized version for the classroom and then, you know, have built in quizzes and like the textbook, for example, has additional content like there is a methodology chapter and also a much deeper chapter on the history of anthropology and some of the major theorists and stuff.

And you know what we were thinking about the public version, they don't care.

[00:48:48] Kira Walker: No one outside of the anthropology cares about how you write an ethnography or like with the medical anthropology chapter, I cut it in half for the public version because like they don't care. It's just not, not what you need to know to build a world. And we wanted it to be very accessible, as accessible as it possibly could be because we know we're, we're writing from an academic perspective, so right. People outside of that realm to still be able to. Understand it and to, to, to enjoy it really

[00:49:19] Michael Kilman: when we re edited every chapter to have less academic feeling about it, because you know, of course there's lots of citations and the, the textbook version. I mean, I don't remember how many 30 or 40 pages of citations in the academic version. So, okay. um, you know, between the two of us in all of our various sources, but, um, you know, so we actually, what we did is each of us had our different areas of expertise, for the textbook version,

but then the opposite person edited it for the commercial version because we have different arenas of knowledge. So like Kira knows more about biological anthropology. I know less about biology. So the hope was is that we know more, we're more like a lay person in that arena.

So perhaps we could better translate that idea for the commercial version. So it'd be less jargony.

[00:50:09] Adam Gamwell: but I love this idea. It's like, that's something you don't see it it's, it's funny. Cause it's like quite innovative, but also it makes perfect sense. It's like you like have a sense of who your audience is and you have two distinct audiences. So why not craft the book to work for both? Um, it's great. I mean, again, it's like kudos to y'all for doing that.

Cause it's like, we don't see that enough, especially not from anthropology focused writing, which is crazy.

[00:50:33] Michael Kilman: The other thing too, is like, we don't have enough anthropology out in the real world. I mean, I still, when I tell people I'm an anthropologist get, oh, dinosaur bones are really cool, you know, or Indiana Jones. Right. I mean, it's, it's one of those two it's Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, I guess.

[00:50:48] Kira Walker: Yeah. But people have no understanding of what it actually is. And we really wanted people to know. Cause we think it's the coolest thing in the world.

[00:50:54] Michael Kilman: Right. Of course, we're nerdy anthropologists, but besidesThis Anthropological Life and a handful of other things out there, you know, there's podcasts and blogs. I mean, I have my YouTube series Anthropology in 10 or less, but like there's real.

If you look at YouTube, there's almost nothing on anthropology, almost nothing. Right? There's, there's a couple of lectures here, but they're lectures. There's just someone talking and, you know, even like Crash Course, which has done every topic under the sun has still not done anthropology, you know,

[00:51:24] Astrid Countee: I'm glad that somebody else is upset about this because it is one of my pet peeves.

[00:51:29] Michael Kilman and Kira Walker: Yeah.

Where do we need to see anthropology influence world building?

[00:51:29] Adam Gamwell: cool.

Yeah, this is, this has been great. I'm curious, what are you hopeful in terms of the future of how do we get anthropology into more world building? Like, are going to see it and more tabletop games and video games, maybe more on YouTube, you know? Like where are you excited to see anthropology be implemented more in the future.

[00:51:45] Michael Kilman: I think video games is the one that's for me, because video games are, they have a lot of potential and they fuck it up so much. Sorry. I don't know.

[00:51:53] Astrid Countee: that's that's I totally agree. I agree.

[00:51:58] Michael Kilman: But it's like, they're so formulaic in their worlds because they're so focused on game mechanics and cool ideas that they don't, that they have, like, um, you know, they have these narrative designers who have no background in sociology or anthropology or any kind of social science whatsoever. And so they build these worlds that don't make any sense.

You know, that there's no, or there's no ramifications for actions because you know, all the gamers always like, oh, I want real ramifications for my actions. Well, you can't really do that unless you understand that, cultural systems are holistic and if you're interrupting them, then if you're you as the hero are interrupting them, , it's going to cause a variety of different impacts.

So, you know, I think, I think that's the area that needs it most currently. Plus there's all the problems of, you know, racism and sexism and video games. And, and while those problems are prevalent in other mediums, they're orders of magnitude worse than video games still. So video games would be really important fields for a anthropology to kind of infiltrate as it were.

[00:52:58] Kira Walker: Yeah, absolutely. I guess in kind of a more old-school and niche arena, I would love better fantasy books because like, I was a voracious reader of high fantasy when I was younger and I kind of got bored of it. Like I mostly went into like Sci-Fi and kind of other areas cause after all, after reading the same fantasy universe is over and over and over again.

I'm like, okay, I'm done now. Like, I've read this so many times I'm bored and I would just love like more diversity in books and like diversity of environment and diversity of systems. And yeah, like I would just love that cause I, I miss reading high fantasy and being excited by high fantasy and

[00:53:35] Michael Kilman: yeah, look, look, I love Dungeons and Dragons. I play Dungeons and dragons with my kids and, uh, it's, it's great. But if I have to pick up another book that just basically copies and pastes the Dungeons and dragons world system, I'm going to puke. So I'm just so tired of it. Probably almost every fantasy book that comes out is just another copy and paste of Dungeons and dragons magic system and class system and race system over and over and over.

And of course, that's, we can blame Tolkien for that, but, but I guess when you have a, you have a person who's a genius, uh, and they, uh, they do something amazing and groundbreaking, of course you can't be blaming everybody else for trying to copy it.

[00:54:14] Kira Walker: Yeah, I know. But I would like, I would like there to be more ground broken, please.


[00:54:19] Adam Gamwell: There is an interesting new flourishing, just that, that reminded me of we're seeing indigenous created content more so like there there's a Coyote and Crow, which is an RPG tabletop story world that was created by an entire team of, indigenous Americans. And it's, it's interesting because it's a basically post-apocalyptic but non colonial narrative and the entire premise of the game is, is based around, your skill trees are around healing and communication.

And that's super interesting. Cause it's like, when we finally see pieces like this, it, it does feel so refreshing. And so, yeah. So I I'm with you about that. I'm hopeful for the future of storytelling. Astrid, what do you, what are you hopeful for in the future of anthro storytelling?

[00:55:01] Astrid Countee: I feel like so much of what we've talked about today. Like we, we were talking in the beginning about how it came to anthropology and I know for me, it was through epics actually, cause I was little, I used to read like Greek and Roman mythology. Then I went to college and I learned that those were not the only stories.

And when you read like the Ramayana or I read the epic of Gilgamesh, it was so cool to see stories that I recognized, but we're not told the same way. And I think that's what I wish we had more of is like, not just have more and different stories, but also remember the stories that already exist and tell them because there's so many cool ones and it's really hard to find them, especially like we were talking about earlier in the United States where we produce so much content. I mean the continent of Asia has so many stories. There's like 800 different types of cultures just in Africa. I mean, there's so much to tell that already exists. I wish we could retell them because I also notice that when we retell stories, they're always the same stories. And sometimes there's even familiar stories like the epic of Gilgamesh, but it's told differently and that's also really illuminating to help us see another person's perspective, which I feel like is really missing right now.

[00:56:31] Michael Kilman: Well that's absolutely. Yeah. That's even the Bible. I mean, the epic Gilgamesh, you know, you have the flood narrative with Utnapishtim and then you get Noah with the ark and it's the same exact story, right? I mean, so we've been recycling, old stories forever. Yeah.

[00:56:47] Kira Walker: But with every, like when you retell them, if you retell them in a fresh way, it becomes almost a different story. Like same part, but a very different approach. And I love that.

[00:56:58] Michael Kilman: Yeah. Because we are, we are at some point running up against the fact that we're humans. That we have certain kinds of experiences. So what's important is getting fresh eyes on those experiences. I think. And that's, that's one of the things we really wanted to do with this book too, is give people the space to build a cultural system, and here's a series of tools that you can use to build a unique cultural system and get a fresh perspective and fresh eyes.

[00:57:29] Adam Gamwell: well then folks, this is your mandate. You got to get out there. You got to check out these books. You can get either one, you can get the,, the learning academic version, you can get the commercial version, and dive in either way depending how deep you want to go.

And so, um, now we're super excited to share these books with the good world and help you get the word out about them. And so Michael and Kira huge, thank you for talking with us today. This has been super fun. We should definitely do a sequel and, and continue on.

[00:57:51] Kira Walker: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much.

[00:57:53] Michael Kilman: Thanks so much, Adam. It was great talking to you and Astrid.


Michael KilmanProfile Photo

Michael Kilman

Author and Anthropologist

Michael Kilman is an anthropologist and a lecturer at the University of Colorado at Denver and host of the YouTube series Anthropology in 10 or Less. His graduate research focused on the Romero Theater Troupe, a community organization that seeks to address stereotypes in media and gives a space for individuals to share their stories and represent themselves. After teaching anthropology for 6 years and working with 25 native American Tribes over the course of ten years, Michael published four science fiction novels in a series called The Chronicles of the Great Migration. As a documentary filmmaker Michael has produced several documentaries including the short form pieces titled Native American History in Colorado and the Language Hunters. His long form documentaries include Unbound: The Story of the Romero Theater Troupe and The Crossroads at Stonewall. Michael Gave a Ted Talk in September 2021 titled, Anthropology, Our Imagination, and How to Understand Difference. Michael was elected President of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology in 2020.

Kyra WellstromProfile Photo

Kyra Wellstrom


Kyra Wellstrom earned a Bachelor's Degree in anthropology from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a Masters Degree in forensic anthropology from the University of Edinburgh. The Applied Anthropologist published her paper Forensic Anthropology and Facial Reconstruction as Applied Anthropology in Vol.35.No.1 She has taught at Front Range Community College and other schools since 2014, where she has composed courses in biological anthropology and human evolution, forensic anthropology, and medical anthropology. She currently teaches archaeology, cultural anthropology, forensic anthropology, and biological anthropology, always with a focus on biocultural interaction and holism. Kyra has a passion for teaching and enjoys helping students engage with material by encouraging their creativity. She designs her courses with a focus on game play, multimedia interaction, and world building.