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EP212: Skinhorse Goes to Mars

by Jay Lake

Read by Mike Boris

When I met Skinhorse, my first thought was old. Which was weird. Nobody gets old these days. We all die young, some of us after living a long time, if we’re lucky.

He was in Piet’s Number Seven, a bar-cum-caravanserai in an illegal orbit trailing far enough behind Vesta to be ignorable. Piet’s had been instantiated in an old volatiles bladder that had done the Jovian run a few too many times before falling into the surplus circuit. You could store entire cities in Piet’s cubage, which made for a somewhat attenuated bar experience. Plus the place had one of those gravity cans — yes, those gravity cans — which meant your drink stayed stuck down long as you were near a Higgs carpet.

So there I was annoying myself with three perfectly disrespectable rock jocks, each of us out to fleece the others, when this cadaver starts to stand over me. We’re all forever young or forever dead, but this armstrong looked like he’d shaved about half a cent too deep across his whole body, then restored his dermis with spray-on thermal insulation.

Rated R for strong language, strong violence, and world-spanning tumors.

Comments (13)

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  1. [...] My short story “Skinhorse Goes to Mars” is live at Escape Pod — I’m quite enamored of their content rating. [...]

  2. matheuu says:

    great story + great reading + great site = HAPPY LISTENER.
    thank you

  3. MasterThief says:
    1. “…bug-humping, vacuum-frosted, bran-lesioned crazy” = me laughing so hard on the subway people were staring at me.

    2. Thank you for not making this a “Lady or the Tiger” ending.

    3. All space cowboy stories must have Texas accents in the future.

    4. This story was awesome.

  4. phignewton says:

    yes, good story, very good story. all stories that have central characters referred to as ‘rabbit’ are very good stories.

  5. scatterbrain says:

    This was so-so for me.

    I have a love-hate-”eh?” relationship with Jay Lake; for example, “A Conspiracy of Dentists” had wonderful Gilliam-esque imagery and amusingly surreal ideas, but I had no idea what was happening nor in the end did I much care.

  6. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    Hmmmm…looks like this wasn’t the week for ep to get back on track with good stories either. “I went to Mars and it was filled with clones of me and that made me sad,” sums up that story–of course I started dozing off during it, so maybe I missed it if something actually interesting happened. (And given that I can easily pass 30 minutes listening to the sonorous voice of Frank Key on Hooting Yard, the fact that this story bored me to sleep really says something about it.)

  7. Steven says:

    I’m not sure how I felt about the ending yet, but otherwise this story was very good!

    The author’s style was incredible: I love the flavorful way things were described, and the way you could infer what had happened though one cowboy’s extremely colorful descriptions.

    And it must be said that the narration was perfect for this story. The accent, the tone, the pacing and volume were all perfect for the setting.

  8. Mike Boris says:

    Thanks Steven.

  9. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    You know, just to give this story a fair shake I listened to it again, since I dozed off for some of the middle the first time around. And again, I nodded off, albeit for a shorter time, so I rewound and listened to that bit for a third time.

    And so, after finally hearing the whole thing, I still gotta say: Didn’t care for it. It was a poorly constructed story that never got around to explaining itself. (Why would killing Skinhorse save Venus? How does a planet become encased in a tumor? How was combining Rabbit and Skinhorse and GATTACA going to create a new image of Earth or whatever?)

    This story would have been a lot shorter and more palatable if the author had just replaced vast swaths of pointless paragraphs with, “And then some stuff happened,” and left it at that. It wouldn’t be any the worse for wear, I think.

    Really, the only bright spot was the reading. Good reading, bad words.

  10. Paul Fischer says:

    This is simply one of the best stories I’ve heard in a long time. The reading was awesome. You can serve me stories like this, week after week, and I’d be one happy puppy.

  11. paffy12 says:

    really nice story. Well put.

  12. TicFaiTasot says:

    Love reading your posts, well server!

  13. [...] ‘Skinhorse goes to Mars’ by Jay Lake was up next, a highly entertaining combination of demented pulp invention and grounded, almost Firefly-like universe building. [...]