EP131: Hesperia and Glory

By Ann Leckie.
Read by Frank Key (of Hooting Yard).
First appeared in Subterranean Magazine #4.

He told me then of the antiquity and superiority of Martian
civilization, and of Hesperia, which was the greatest of Martian
nations. Each Hesperian learned, from his mother’s knee and
throughout his schooling, the importance of right thinking. “On
Mars,” he said, “we understand that what one thinks makes the world.”

“Do you mean to say that each of us makes our own world with his
thoughts?” I’d heard the idea before, usually at two in the morning
from young men drunk with a heady mix of champagne and philosophy, and
whose lives had yet to run up very hard against reality.

“No, no,” said Atkins testily. “Nothing so trivial. There’s only one
universe. But that universe is formed by thought. If it were left to
undisciplined minds, the world would be chaos.”

Rated G. Contains classic Martian action/adventure and potentially hazardous philosophy.

Comments (19)

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  1. Baus says:

    Loved it. Good set-up, good action, interesting characters, interesting view of fi-reality, provocative ending, well read.

    p.s. I’m praying for you, Steve. Thanks for continuing to do what you do.

  2. Adam says:

    Reminded me a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs Princess of Mars series. Very well read

  3. al saiz says:

    A mashup of several wonderful genres. Edgar Rice Burroughs came to my mind as well. Left me wanting more and I have thought about the tale several times since I heard it.

  4. Shane says:

    Wow, best story in a long time. Definitely resonated of Edgar Rice Burroughs. (More from this author?)
    Additionally, the narration was spot on.

  5. […] plugged the science-fiction short story podcast Escape Pod before, but this week’s episode was particularly good, in my […]

  6. Bill Ruhsam says:

    Great story. It was a perfect matchup with Frank’s voice.

  7. Fred says:

    I somehow missed the story the first (and second) time around in print, but I listened to it this afternoon on my iPod and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t often find the time to listen to the Escape Pod stories, much to my disappointment, so I’m glad I made the time today. And I’m definitely now wondering why I haven’t been reading anything else by Ann Leckie, if this is the sort of story I’ve been missing.

  8. chornbe says:

    I found this to be a decent-enough light story, but not terribly original or exciting (though I did like the rotating temple room).

    It was K-Pax, but from another angle.

    Unfortunately, I think the writing was a little too directed; each part took me so fluidly into the next that it felt like I was following a map from a high-level view. There were no surprises, nothing new, nothing not predicted well in advance.

  9. Chris Hobart says:


    This comment is about Escape Pod in general, not this story in particular. (Though I can’t wait to get around to it!)

    I discovered you 6 or 8 weeks ago, and couldn’t believe that original narrated fiction was actually available free; as a result I had very low expectations for what I’d find. (I’m just now picking my jaw up off the desk. ‘Nightfall’? Really? Holy Expletive, Batman!)

    And I’ve been amazingly impressed with what you do. Excellent stories, excellent narration, and on and on. I’m over the moon. I started pushing my office’s broadband lines to the limit, and I’ve pulled in nearly your whole library. I’m going through them 3 or 4 a day. Clearly this can’t go on forever; your archives are finite.

    So I went looking for others. If you’re doing donation-fed fiction maybe others are too, right? And yes, they are! Yay!

    But here’s the thing. The more other feeds I find, the more I try, the more I’m impressed by Escape Pod. The quality of your stories, the quality of your narrators, the quality of the moral values expressed in your intros and outros (Shutting down donations for Katrina and Christmas? Low whistle of awe)

    Anyway, after all this gushing, it pains me not to leave a donation. I owe you big. But my mortgage company seems to feel more entitled. But one day soon some significant funding will come in, and I’ll make good on my debt. Meanwhile, I’m spreading the good word to co-workers, friends, and online acquaintances. Your link is in my AOL sigline. I wait anxiously for the next story.


  10. DJ says:

    I loved the tone, though it felt like the coolest part of the story was touched only through hypothesis. What if the story had been told from Atkins’ perspective? What if we’d gotten to actually go into the basement and down the well? Maybe I’m a just a sucker for concrete abstractions. I felt like the story left off with a cool question when I would have loved to see a cool answer.

  11. Oh, man. NOW we’re talking.

    Attention: All authors submitting to EP- THIS is how you do an ambiguous ending.

    You see, because we don’t KNOW if the guy who wrote the letter was right about his view of the world, OR if Atkins was right, or if BOTH of them were (are?) right; or even maybe neither of them. It remains to the listener, not to FINISH the story, that’s been done, but to ponder the story. To wonder about it. To savor it long after they read or hear it. THAT is how you write compelling fiction.

    NOT by just getting bored or frustrated or running out of ideas and tacking on some lame “well, why don’t you all just guess what this ending means!” or worse “decide for yourself what happened!” arbitrary nonsense that I keep hearing in EP and PP “stories”.

    So, yeah. This story rocked. Well written, well designed, well read, and most importantly, well ended.

    Good pick, Steve. Thanks!

  12. Graydon Patterson says:

    “There is not now, nor has there ever been, a well in my cellar” – I, at first, thought the quote referred to an acknowledgment that there might be existences we are unaware of.

    After hearing you quote that phrase today, after listening to later story, I am thinking it might be not a good phrase to quote.

    It now seems to me the quote exemplifies that the person stating this, does not have the imagination, nor the realization that there are things in existence that we are unaware of; but vehemently denying its existence, does not make it impossible – it only makes it impossible for you to see it yourself.

    btw: great, great stories

  13. europas_ice says:

    I loved this story, thanks! I even mentioned it on my blog. I really liked the narration too. I liked the combination of something weird happening in the real world, combined with the fantastic story of what happened on Mars.

  14. rubso says:


  15. scatterbrain says:

    Excellent science fantasy.

  16. dense says:

    Could someone explain the deal about the ice? The narrator offers Atkins a drink. Atkins refuses, but asks for ice. The narrator tells him he’s out, but tells us he bought extra that day because he had guests. Later, he tells us there was no ice.

  17. The voice was fantastic!, i want more stories done by him.
    The ending perfect, that’s exactly how you should do it.
    But the story did nothing for me.

  18. […] of the past two centuries. And so it was with great pleasure that I listened to Ann Leckie‚Äôs “Hesperia and Glory,” read by Frank Key. Shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne haunt the tale, which takes the […]