EP97: Cinderella Suicide

(Technical Note: There was an encoding error in the original that resulted in a few skipped seconds at 15:00. I’ve corrected it. If this bothered you, please download the file again. If you just want to know what you missed: Suicide asks “Split?” and Tintype replies “Each.” Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks to Thaurismunths for pointing out the problem.)

By Samantha Henderson.
Read by MarBelle (of Director’s Notes).
First appeared in Strange Horizons, May 2006.

List, then. 1788, New Holland becomes New South Wales, and dear England starts to send her slithies there, her dribs and drabs and pick-pocks and whores and cutthroats, to drain the cesspool Britannia’s become. And then we pin the gravitational constant, and solve Pringle’s Mysterious Logarithm, and then just when we’re ready for it there’s an explosion of a different sort (I’m a proud product of my state school, whoreboy though I became). From the skies over Van Diemen’s Land streaks a merry flaming angel arcing down to earth and boom! Kills most of the slithies, and their Bulls, and the Murri and the Nunga in their Dreamtime too, far as any know. Sky goes red from Yangtze to Orkney. A few Nunga are left, fishing the Outer Isles. And more slithies come soon, for England’s still all-of-cess, and we’d just as soon have them die.

But! Scattered all about, like Father Christmas tossing pennies, rare earth, yttrium and scandium in luscious ashy chunks. And soon there are Magnetic Clocks, and Automatons, and Air-Cars, and good Queen Vickie trulls about in a Magnetic Carriage like everybody else. But still there is cess, and ever will be, pretend as they might at home, so still the slithies are transported.

And a good thing for Merrie Olde too, because nowhere is there as much rare earth as Australia, being that’s where the Great Boom happened, and nothing so useful for gathering ore and jellies as a big jolly family of convicts. Work for the Squatters when you’re Docked; work for them after you serve your time and are pensioned, but on your own terms. Or whore-about. Or prentice to the tech gnomes. Or mine gold, which never goes out of style. Or wander the Nullarbor, looking for the Source, and die. Or fish with the Nunga, if they’d have you, which they won’t. Stick with your duet/triune mates, if you would live out the year.

Always something to do.

But don’t fly, not much, because the variable-mag will crash you deep, and don’t depend on Carriages to work all the time. Beware your metal, for it can betray you.

Rated PG. Contains violence, unsavory characters, and opaque slang.

Referenced Links:
Scott Sigler

Comments (40)

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  1. Waparius says:

    It took a couple of minutes to work out the slang, but after I did, I really liked this. I’ll have to listen again to work out whether it beats Little Worker as my Favourite Escape Pod Ever, but it’s good stuff.

    But I wouldn’t call it magna punk. This is (ferrous) metal. 😛

  2. Did you recently change your blogging/podcast software? The RSS feed’s gone all screwy in google reader.

  3. I swear he’s not using real words. 🙂

  4. l.m.orchard says:

    I’ll second the comment on the slang – it was thick, but rewarding to work out. With a theme close enough to 18th century steampunk to tickle my fancy, I’d say this one’s my favorite world building story so far on Escape Pod.

  5. Lee Cherolis says:

    I absolutely loved this reading. I can compare it to comics. Even with top notch writing, I need well crafted visuals to hold my interest. MarBelle gave an excellent read and I’d love to hear him on again to read others. You see I not only have a favorite stories list, but a favorite voices list as well.

  6. vburn says:

    I cheated and pulled it up on Strange Horizons site to read along. Interesting story, one of my EP favs thus far (I still have about 6 months of catch up to do). I think this story is an amazing read (like most everything I read on Strange Horizons, and I have a much bigger backlog there!) but it does not work in audio. At first I was blaming the reader, but it was just the slang and the dialect. The reader did a fine job and I hope to hear more of him.

  7. Japester says:

    The language was hard to penetrate. It reminded me a lot of “A Clockwork Orange”. Either the characters use words that are commonplace in their society (plausible as it’s a parallel universe) or they have invented them for their own clique, and use them regardless of whether others would understand them.

    The characters had a reality to them. They seemed to be a product of their environment.

  8. Loz says:

    I didn’t think the language was odd at all, what I took time to get used to was an English accent speaking Aussie slang, a London voice saying ‘dinkum’ is just weird.

    But I really enjoyed this story and the reader, more of both please!

  9. As a native Norwegian, I found this reading very hard to comprehend. Ten minutes into the story, when I still had no idea what was going on, I gave up and skipped to the outro. I bet it’s a great story, but personally I would get more out of it by reading it myself, at my own pace, perhaps not too far away from urbandictionary.com.

  10. Beth says:

    I loved this story. I loved the slang and the work it took to appreciate the writing. The reading was done very well, too. Definitely one of my favorite’s so far.

  11. Steffen says:

    Not being native to English, I come from Germany, it was very difficult for me to follow the story. The slang was to much for me, although I think I got the major plot. For fully understanding this story, I’d like to read it myself. Is there a place I can find it?

    Escape Pod is great, good job, Steven!

  12. Tony says:

    I loved this story it’s one of my escape pod favourites. The language did take a few minutes to mesh and I’m Australian. On the second listen with my ear attuned to the rhythm the opening scenes became so much clearer and the story deeper. I see your problem classifying this piece it is alternate history, convict punk clearly an excellent piece that doesn’t fit in a box and I like that.

  13. Chris says:

    Huge fan of this myself. Loved the slang, loved the reading – incredibly immersive. I read along though, I’m a cheater. 🙂

  14. Michelle says:

    Steffan, English IS my native language and I am having a difficult time with this one. Love the accent, but think that a story this full of slang and jargon is maybe the wrong combination. Will read for myself this evening. Thanks Haakon for the link to the text. Steve, love the podcast! I look forward to it every week (my complaints this week notwithstanding).

  15. DKT says:

    I’ve listened to this one twice now, the second time reading along. It’s easily one of my favorite pieces on Escape Pod, slang and all. For me, the slang adds another layer to the world-building of the story and even if I can’t decipher it (like when I first read it), I still got the gist.

    The reading was perfect — great casting.

    Hope we get some more steampunk-ish stuff in the future!

  16. steve says:

    This was an Excellent Story, and SteamPunk is a very good classification,
    I was thinking it was Space1889 Meets CyberPunk with an Aussie spin, But SteamPunk Works for me.

    Great Stuff.. More Please 😉


  17. Janice in GA says:

    I could deal with the slang, but the accent and the reading in general were a little tough. I was having to concentrate so hard to figure out what was going on through the accent that I missed some of the action. I’ll have to read it myself and see if it makes a little more sense.

    From what I could understand, it seemed like a neat story concept though.

  18. CharlesP says:

    Like at least one other person it reminded me of clockwork orange. It took a couple minutes to get into the rhythm of the slang but once there it was brilliant. Enjoyable story, and I’ll chime in an agreement that it probably fits closest to steampunk, though not exactly.

  19. Adam B says:

    I too thought of Clockwork Orange, especially when I read the excerpt in the show notes.

    I’m Swedish so English isn’t my native language. I can’t say I understood everything, far from it but I understood enough listening to it. Maybe it comes from having seen movies like “Billy Elliot” and “Beautiful Thing” as well as the original version of “Queer as Folk” which all are thick on english dialect and slang, and I usually see those movies and shows without subtitles.

  20. Mike R says:

    I, too, loved this story. I think it’s probably the best one I’ve heard on Escape Pod. I was initially slightly put off by the combination of the author’s unfamiliar accent and the author’s strange vocabulary, but I warmed up to it very quickly. I would really, really like to hear more from the same author.

    As for the genre of the story, I don’t think “Magnet Punk” is the right term. To my mind, this is a clear example of a “New Weird” story. Compare it to the works of China Mieville, the prototypical New Weird author, and I think you’ll find a lot of similarities: a deep hybridization of fantasy with science fiction, elements of horror, lots of body modification, strong implied social commentary, and a general I-know-it-when-I-see-it weirdness.

    I really hope to hear more from Samantha Henderson. This story was supberb.

  21. Mitch says:

    Same here. The first 5 or 10 minutes, I swear I couldn’t understand 2 words in a row. Whatever was being said sounded so cool that I stuck with it. The accent was fun, but the slag had me totally lost. About half way through I started to get a little of what was going on. I only really started to enjoy it for the last 1/3 of the story. I felt like a Star Trek translator slowly translating more and more as people kept talking… 🙂

    Good story, great reading. I would have liked a brief oz to yank dictionary for 5 or 6 words before starting though…

  22. Sean says:

    I listened to the first 10 minutes of the story, not understanding anything, and turned it off in disgust. However, after reading the glowing reviews in this forum, I think I’ll try again.

  23. Dutchmonkey says:

    I agree that it was very hard to understand. It may have been the environment I was in at the time (evening commute home) but I could not piece enough of it together to form a cohesive story. As others said, it SOUNDED interesting, but I had to stop after 10 minutes or so. I plan to revisit this piece at a later date, most likely with the text in hand.

  24. Scooter says:

    This one was very strange in that it was one of the most captivating, interesting Escape Pod episodes that I’ve heard. It’s definately in the top five, but I also had a very hard time following it. I had to pull it up on Strange Horizons as well. The combination of the accent and the vocabulary was a really thick barrier. The rewards were immense for penetrating it, but I’m afraid that some may not have gotten that far. I actually had less of a problem with the first draft of ‘Ulla’

  25. jp says:

    OUTSTANDING story! The reading and the slang made it so much richer.

    I felt like I was listening in on a story told by real people, who weren’t concerned about outsiders understanding them. The narrator was telling a story to his mates.

    It is absolutely worth the effort to listen to the story. A real Escape Pod highlight.

  26. Jane says:

    I loved this story when I read it at Strange Horizons last year, and am glad to hear it here. The slang is dense, but I think hearing it spoken is more fun than reading it. So, thanks putting this challenging piece on EP.

  27. Thomas says:

    OK, any fan of scifi should be used to strange slang (Clockwork Orange) and odd english/aussie/other foriegn accents (Mad Max, Terminator, etc).

    So get over it.


    love the accent the slang the concept, etc.

    keep ’em coming

  28. Costyn says:

    I had a hard time following this story at first, but when I finally got most of the slang, it’s easily my favorite EscapePod episode. I’ve started listening to it for the second time, something I don’t usually do. It’s as good the second time as the first. I really hope to see more of this genre. The reading with the accent really brought out this story. I tried reading the online version at Strange Horizons and it just wasn’t the same as hearing the English accent.

    Thanks, EscapePod!

  29. ChrisHibbert says:

    I loved this. As several others have said, it was very much like the first time I read “A Clockwork Orange”. (That connection was what finally brought me to post on the forums after listening since early ’06.) After I had heard the first 5 minutes and was getting all the dialect, I went back and listened to the beginning again to see if I had missed anything in the first minute. I picked up some additional nuance, but I hadn’t missed any action.

    The other story this reminded me of was Sheri Tepper’s Six Moon Dance, which I read recently. Similar concept about a natively space-faring alien stuck on a planet, but a very different treatment.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the story. If you have more in this vein, I’d certainly like to hear it.

  30. Jonathan says:

    This story is now one of my favorites. It exemplifies (along with “Paul Bunyan and the Photocopier”) a beautiful marriage of story and storyteller. The language used forces the listener to concentrate on the metre and feel of the story more than the words that make it up. A great read! Thank you.

  31. avashy says:

    fantastic story! i had to listen twice to catch everything because of the accent and slang but i ended up feeling that both added to the atmosphere of the story. go out on a limb for a story like this anytime, steve~many thanks

  32. Scott says:

    I didn’t mind the slang, but I couldn’t get past the Reader’s slurred thick accent. I finally had to give up and skip to the next EP on my iPod.

    Next time you have a story with odd slang words, please have a reader with a clearer speaking voice.

    I am from the American Midwest, so I’m not used to accents (mine is news anchor-neutral). Usually I can compensate, but my language recognition circuits really overheated on that one.

  33. Linus says:

    Wow, just listened to this story — brilliant. I’m Australian, so I probably had it easier than many with some items of slang, but I’d say only 40% of the slang had any relation to contemporary Australian. Also, English cockney was probably a good choice considering the “period”, but he did muck up the pronunciation of Uluru (better known as Ayer’s Rock). OO-luroo not oo-lOO-roo. A lot of words like that (which come from native Aboriginal languages) for places can be difficult for foreigners. For instance, there’s a suburb here in Brisbane called Wooloongabba. Try to work that one out! (It’s Wool-ung-gab-ba, but you hear out-of-towners say Woo-loon-gah-bah.)

    Anyhow, great to see you taking a chance on something so different.

  34. […] “EP097: Cinderella Suicide” by Samantha Henderson (Escape Pod Episode 97) […]

  35. Sean says:

    brilliant, best EP ever, no worries with the lingo, more please Sam, and more from your reader, just great.
    some word were a little off the mark just made it better.

  36. scatterbrain says:


  37. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    Save your time. The entire story sounds like this:

    “Suicide and Tintype scoped the Pinkertons down by the slans with their dinkum VM. My implant told the gnomes that wallaby bumfuddle poopace gruntbuggly.”

    I’m pretty sure this is Vogon poetry.

    “Clockwork Orange” = great, intelligent use of slang

    This story = overblown, hamhanded, incompetent use of slang.


  38. Steven says:

    I was absolutely mesmerized by the layers of slang, accent and story. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the story if I’d read it, but it was 1000 times better because of the reading.

    I actually came here to comment about how this reminded me fondly of the linguistically interesting slang used in “Clockwork Orange,” but it looks like quite a few people beat me to it.

    About the only thing I couldn’t follow on my first listen was the ORIGINS of the slang. In context, it was clear and evocative.

  39. Wes B. says:

    After reading many comments on this story, I find I have little original to say. Yep, it has the flavor of “A Clockwork Orange.” The denseness of the story left me just following the words and not really comprehending what was going on. Sounded good, but made no sense as a story. I had the same feeling after reading some of the stories in Ellison’s “Again, Dangerous Visions.” I guess I’m part of the long tail of EP listeners, I have no clue what Cyberpunk it. But hey, I’ve been to a Holiday Express once.