EP066: The King’s Tail

By Constance Cooper.
Read by The Knitwitch (of Knitwitch’s SciFi/Fantasy Zone).

On one occasion–he flinched to remember it–the invaders had brought him Cthara eggs. Warm, fertilized eggs, likely ripped just that day from the hatching burrow of some poor herder family. It had been the greatest challenge the Creator had ever sent him. His fangs had unfolded without his conscious will, and only a lifetime of piety and self-control had kept him from sinking them into the small bodies of the terrified guards.

His venom had dripped onto the filthy floor, and after the guards left he had lain shuddering in the dampness, feeling the leathery eggs by his flank gradually cool and die. Over and over he repeated the litany of the Prophet: “People shall not sink fang into other speaking people. People shall not eat the flesh of other speaking people. People shall not make war…”

Rated PG. Contains slavery, heavy moral themes, and some violence.

Referenced sites:
Invasion: The Complete Series on DVD
Gradients of Sight
Dragon*Con: Atlanta, GA, September 1–4

Comments (14)

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  1. Jeff says:

    Great episode this week, Steve! Glad you’re keeping them coming. I didn’t mind the add for Invasion at all. It seemed very short and well, not invasive. If it helps keep you in business a little longer then keep them coming!

    Seems like every week Escape Pod gets shorter and shorter!

    Btw: I am NOT the “Jeff” that sent the e-mail about “Vicky”!

  2. Abizer says:

    Just a note about really alien aliens: how about Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem. The whole point of that was that we had not idea what Solaris was or what it wanted.

  3. SFEley says:


    True. But it communicated with the main characters via ghosts from their past, which caused them to respond in a variety of (morally diverse) ways. The hook that turned it into a story was even more human than average.

    I also can’t help observing that Solaris has made two _very_ boring movies. And even the novel is one of Lem’s slower ones.

    But thanks for the thought! That could make a good question for the comment thread: what are some of the most ‘alien’ aliens we can all think of?

  4. Simon says:

    I thought Solaris in response to that comment too.. To claim it “communicated” with the main characters would be to stretch Lem’s ambiguity to breaking point… And the chapters on Solaristics were a good examination of such.

    My favourite aliens in any fiction have got to be the Moties from Niven And Pournelle’s The Mote In Gods Eye. If a more thorough investigation of first contact exists, I haven’t read it. They (unlike solaris) were a believable product of evolution, but a very different evolution.

  5. onelowerlight says:

    Great story! I really liked how the narrative set things up very quickly and efficiently, was easy to follow in the beginning, and got right into the action. Sometimes, I find that when I listen to an EP story (and I’m usually mobile doing something else while I’m listening) I’ll miss something in the first two minutes and I’ll have to replay it just to know what’s going on. Not so with this story. And I liked the twist at the end – it gratified my sense of justice.

    My favorite alien character was Jane from Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead. Don’t know exactly how “alien” she would be on the spectrum, but just the idea of an AI becoming a life form through the philotic web of the interplanetary ansible connections was absolutely fascinating. An alien life form with a “human” mind, and yet no human physical form – or really ANY physical form – at all; instead, merely a consciousness within a computer network that could manipulate and be aware of MASSIVE amounts of data, whose eyes and ears were every computer terminal with an ansible connection, and who could “think” and process information at superhuman speeds – and yet acted and reacted, in her heart, not like a monster but like a human being. So, in a way, she wasn’t ALL that “alien,” but it was truly amazing how she could be so different from anything we’ve ever known – and yet so familiar at the same time. I suppose that if she didn’t have that “human” side to her, she wouldn’t have been as understandable or as complex, and therefore not quite as interesting.

    This was a great week for the show! Keep it up!


  6. shaved_goat says:

    Did not mind the Ad Steve. If it helps you out doing this wonderful thing you and Escapepod team bring then, I’m all for it.

    On the other hand [speaking of ads]. Scott Sigler seems to have gone a little too far. The difference between the experience of Earthcore and Infection is extreme.

    I like his work but his sponsorship is too intrusive to the experience. And [while I like Scott] Scott himself may also be a little to intrusive to the experience.

    I feel that your Ad was not out of place, unobtrusive and made me want to buy a copy of Invasion…uh, really!?

  7. James says:

    The ad was short, related to the interests of the listeners, and not in your face, and so didn’t detract from the story at all. If that helps pay the bills, I can’t see anyone complaining.

    I read this story in Asimov’s (you should all subscribe). This audio version was true to the story and reminded me that I liked it.

  8. a neuroscientist says:

    I loved the story and the reading! One slight quibble: In response to the excited reader getting his jollies from the computer voice, you joked that “Steve Jobs must have a direct line into your hippocampus”. The hippocampus is an area of the brain involved in forming new memories (e.g. the movie Memento portrays a man whose hippocampus is damaged). I think you meant either the hypothalamus (involved in sex, sleep, and hunger drives) or the ventral tegmental area and nuceleus accumbens (both involved in the dopaminergic “pleasure pathway”). Sorry to nitpick; I actually thought it was cool that you mentioned the hippocampus at all!

  9. crafty_pagan says:

    Great story. An occupation ended without an international peacekeeping force – BRILLIANT!

    I didn’t mind the sponsored plug at all. You handled it very naturally so it worked into your regular pre- and post-story flow very nicely.

  10. Lar says:

    The Ad: No issue. I think the key to successful advertising is context. The ad should be something I might be interested in or it will seem intrusive. An ad for a sci-fi series on DVD is a natural fit.

    The story: Great! I liked this one very much. Nice to see a race of intelligent beings that have evolved to that point without the instinct to kill anything that threatens them at the forefront of their minds. It is the kind of story that can give you hope.

    Most alien alien: The Horta from ST:TOS episode “Devil in the Dark”. You have to give Roddenberry his due on that one.

  11. Jeff says:

    Of course, I believed Steve when he said “hippocampus”, but I would like to thank the neuroscientist for the much more detailed information. I now have a much better understanding of the perennial forces that The Voice elicits within my obviously gangrenous mind.

    Naturally, discovering that The Voice is a component of Mac OS 10 is beyond disturbing. I don’t know (perhaps the neuroscientist can assist) what type of unwholesome psychosis must be in possession of my mind. To find the unholy union of unix and windows that is OS 10 to be sexual — well, that can’t be good. That just can’t be good for anyone.

  12. onelowerlight says:

    There was an ad in this weeks escape pod?

    Good job! It was so unobtrusive that I didn’t even notice it!

  13. Alan says:

    Hey I read this one! I still have the anthology it was printed in! You guys are hobnobbing big time! Keep up the good work!

  14. scatterbrain says:

    Nice twist.