Gweek 064: Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine

Gweek 064 600 wide

Click here to play this episode. Gweek is Boing Boing's podcast about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

My co-hosts for this episode are:

Ed Piskor, the cartoonist for Boing Boing’s weekly Brain Rot comic strip. Has illustrated 2 graphic novels with Harvey Pekar (Macedonia, and The Beats). His first solo graphic novel, Wizzywig was released in July.


Joshua Glenn, a Boston-based writer, publisher, and semiotician. He is co-author of Significant Objects, published by Fantagraphics this month, and Unbored, the kids’ field guide to serious fun coming from Bloomsbury this fall. He edits the website HiLobrow, which as HiLoBooks is now publishing classics -- by Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others -- from what he calls science fiction’s Radium Age.


In this episode:

NewImageSignificant Objects. A book that "collects the results of a literary experiment in which a best-selling or popular author wrote a short fictional prose story about an object on eBay, raising its value; the profit from the object’s sale then went to charity."

Screen Shot 2012 08 14 at 10 06 08 AMUnbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, a 350-page guide and activity book for kids.

NewImageRadium Age Science Fiction Library: pre-Golden Age SF novels from 1904-33.

NewImageJoshua Glenn's science fiction picks for kids. "Science fiction frees our imagination from an enchantment, cast upon it by everyday life, which would encourage us to believe that the way things are is natural, permanent, and inevitable. Much of the media to which kids are exposed blunts their critical reasoning skills; but science fiction gives those skills a good workout. Matthew Looney's Invasion of the Earth." Heinlein’s Red Planet (1949), Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams’s Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine (1958), John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy (1967-68), Jack Kirby’s Kamandi (1972-78), Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), Monica Hughes’ Isis Trilogy (1980-82).

Corben eerieCreepy Presents Richard Corben. "Horror comics visionary and coloring pioneer Richard Corben has been a voice of creativity and change for over four decades. For the first time ever, Corben's legendary Creepy and Eerie short stories and cover illustrations are being collected into one deluxe hardcover."

DaltokyoDal Tokyo. Gary Panter began imagining Dal Tokyo, a future Mars that is terraformed by Texan and Japanese workers, as far back as 1972.

And much more!

Past episodes: 001, 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010, 011, 012, 013, 014, 015, 016, 017, 018, 019, 020, 021, 022, 023, 024, 025, 026, 027, 028, 029, 030, 031, 032, 033, 034, 035, 036, 037, 038, 039, 040, 041, 042, 043, 044, 045, 046, 047, 048, 049, 050, 051, 052, 053, 054, 055, 056, 057, 058, 059, 060, 061, 062, 063


  1. I appreciate the new “Past episodes:” list.

    I tend to load up my mp3 player with two or three episodes at once, and the Gweek page is a dog to load. (At least, last time I checked.)

  2. I used to love the Danny Dunn books as a kid, but they’re almost unfindable now. I have never seen one in a used book store, and the few times I’ve done searches for used copies online the prices have been exorbitant.

  3. YESSS, Danny Dunn was my childhood hero. I used to keep track of the stuff in my pockets, and imagine what wild uses Danny might be able to put them to use. And the books were so gosh darned prescient (I’m looking at you, invisible boy!!

  4. Cool Richard Corben – never seems to get enough recognition.  I actually had that exact issue of EERIE as a teenager.

  5. I read quite a few Danny Dunn books as a kid, but I found them annoying for a really nerdy reason.

    They often had SF-ish themes, like rockets to the moon and contacting alien life (really! Danny and SETI message). But they were mostly spy and action stories. The cool Macguffin was almost incidental. Like: They revcieve and decode the message from space, and it depicts an alien ship flying to Earth. The End. The rocket to the moon is simply a high speed missing which creates a cloud of dust on the moon. Hey, we reached the moon! The End.

    I was starting to read other YA books in which dramatic stuff with lasting implications happened. Actual space missions. (If only to invisible moon inhabited by mushroom people.) Terrifying alien invaders to stuck mind control caps on you.

    1.  That’s one of the things that I actually like(d) about them, both as a kid and as an adult–cool technology, but also with some sharp observations about how the tech could be used and misused. In the “Invisible Boy” adventure mentioned above, [SPOILERS] Danny doesn’t really turn invisible, but gains access to an insect-sized drone that he can use to spy on people… only a member of the military wants to use it to spy as well, not only on foreign agents but also Americans. Sound familiar? And his adventure in a world’s-fair-type House of the Future turns into a nightmare when he and his friends are trapped in it, the very picture of technology that you can’t access, modify or control taking control over your life instead. Pretty dramatic stuff, and with lasting implications that are still with us. If you want your space opera, you can still read some of Heinlein’s juvenile adventures from before he started taking himself a little too seriously.

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