Artemis Rising Returns!

September 1st, 2015 by Posted in Announcements

The year-long orbit is about to end, and the good ship Artemis returns to Escape Pod’s skies. Artemis Rising is a month-long celebration of the voices of women in science fiction. It is also a collaborative effort across the Escape Artists podcasts, including PodCastle and Pseudopod. Last year we received so many awesome submissions that we ended up running another handful of them in later months. Some reminders:

Artemis Rising is not a contest. There are no “winners” except for our listeners. Artemis Rising is a focused submissions window, but stories sent for it are also in consideration for non-February episodes. The reverse is not the case, although if you have a story pending that you’d like to have us consider for AR, just drop us a note. You may submit a single story for AR. This is in addition to subs in the normal queue, so if you already have one pending and want to send us something else for AR, that is also fine.

Artemis Rising is explicitly for female-identified or nonbinary authors. AR is also more interested in original fiction than reprints. These are the only restrictions beyond our usual length limits and genre expectations.

Submissions are open as of September 1 and will close at midnight on September 30. Begin the countdown; it’s time to light this candle!

EP505: Falling Leaves

September 30th, 2015 by Posted in Uncategorized

by Liz Argall
read by Emily Hickson

about the author…

from the author’s website:

Liz often writes speculative fiction and interstitial work that explore spaces between genres. She is especially fond of gritty urban fantasy, thought provoking science fiction and fantastical literary fiction.

Liz carves out a diverse career as a freelance writer, working with organisations to build communities and running workshops. Liz has run creative workshops for a range of organisations, including the National Museum of Australia, Conflux and the Young Music Society. She works with organisations to prepare and acquit grants, and to build physical and online communities. She has worked on and off as an Artists’ Model for ten years. Before she became a freelancer she worked as researcher, union organiser, refuge worker, circus manager and provided consulting and support to the community sector.

Liz’s comics have been published in an array of publications, including Meanjin, The Girl’s Guide to Guy Stuff, Eat Comics, Something Wicked and her collection Songs, Dreams and Nightmares. Her anthology, Dreams of Tomorrow, won a Bronze Ledger Award for Small Press of the Year. In January 2009 her musical Comic Book Opera, written with composer Michael Sollis, was performed for the first time. Two of her short stories have been staged as plays.

She splits her life between Australia and America – some day she hopes to live in other parts of the alphabet. After serving as a Non Skating Official with the Rat City Rollergirls for three seasons she has transformed into skater and announcer. When she’s on the track you can call her Betsy Nails, when you hear her over the mic she’s Ichabod ‘splain.

about the narrator…

Emily Hickson is a newcomer in the voice acting world, an Australian student studying Fine Art and Illustration. Her techniques and past research endeavours include printmaking, sculpture, digging up dead languages and solving old codes. She once illustrated a book about Alfred Tennyson meeting the Kraken, and has always counted on sci-fi to inspire her when artist’s block attacks. Past works and future declarations can be found at

Falling Leaves
by Liz Argall

Charlotte and Nessa met in Year Eight of Narrabri High School. Charlotte’s family were licensed refugees from the burning lands and the flooded coast, not quite landed, but a step apart from refugees that didn’t have dog tags.

Charlotte sat on the roof, dangled her legs off the edge and gazed at the wounded horizon, as she did every lunchtime. Nessa, recognizing the posture of a fellow animal in pain, climbed up to see what she could do. The mica in the concrete glittered and scoured her palms as she braced herself between an imitation tree and the wall and shimmied her way up.

She had to be careful not to break the tree, a cheap recycled–plastic genericus — who’d waste water on a decorative tree for children? The plastic bark squished beneath Nessa’s sneakers, smelling of paint thinner and the tired elastic of granny underpants.

Nessa tried to act casual once she got to the top, banging her knee hard as she hauled herself over the ledge and ripping a fresh hole in her cargos. She took a deep breath, wiped her sweaty hands, and sat down next to Charlotte.

“‘Sup?” said Nessa.

“Go away.” Charlotte kicked her feet against the wall and pressed her waxy lips together.

“You gonna jump?”

“No. I’m not an attention seeking whore like you,” said Charlotte.

Nessa shrugged her shoulders, as if that could roll away the sting. Rolling with the punches was what she did. “You look sad.”

Charlotte bared her teeth. “I said, I’m not like you. Leave me alone.”

Nessa wanted to say, “Fuck you,” but she didn’t. Nessa wanted to find magic words to fix Charlotte in an impatient flurry. She couldn’t. Nessa scratched her scars for a while and felt like puking, but she didn’t think that would help either. Neither would hitting Charlotte’s head against a wall and cracking Charlotte’s head into happiness, although Nessa could imagine it so violently and brightly it felt like she’d done it. Nessa had banged her own head against walls to get the pain out of her head and chest, but it never worked — or rather it never worked for long enough, leading to a worse, moreish pain.

Nessa didn’t know what to do, so she just sat there, feeling chicken shit, until the bell summoned them into class.

EP504: End of the World Community College

September 23rd, 2015 by Posted in 10 and Up, Podcasts

by Sandra McDonald
read by Joel Kenyon

author Sandra McDonald

author Sandra McDonald

about the author…

from the author’s website:

  • Writer, speaker, instructor
  • Lambda Literary Award for Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice, ALA Over the Rainbow book, and Rainbow Award win for Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories
  • Silver Moonbeam Award for Mystery of the Tempest
  • Former commissioned officer, USN
Narrator Joel Kenyon

Joel Kenyon

about the narrator…

Joel Kenyon is a veteran podcaster, writer, musician and artist. He’s currently a member of the 4 man comedy show, The Undercover Unitards and he also has a weekly independant music show called The Sunshine Happy Kpants Hour. When he’s not recording, he writes a movie review blog, occasionally draws an online comic, paints pictures, writes stories and attempts to make music with friends. Joel is not a fan, however, of writing in the third person perspective, so writing this bio was painful for him. Find him at:, or

End of the World Community College
by Sandra McDonald

The End of the World Community College (EWCC) strives to assist the residents of Port Clinton and surrounding areas with all of their educational needs, including farming, construction trades, radiation decontamination, emergency medicine, fine arts, and artisanal bread-making. Dean Hendershot’s parents once owned a bakery. He treasures the sourdough starter that has been passed down through his family for three generations. Students who complete their courses of study are automatically gifted with a delicious loaf of fresh bread. Unless, of course, your name is Abdul Howard.

Paper currency is useless, but the Registrar gladly accepts silver coins, diamond jewelry, gold teeth, and unexpired medicine. Fresh food, canned food, charged batteries, ammunition, livestock, and freeze-dried coffee are also welcomed with open arms. EWCC does not offer financial aid. Despite these desperate times, please do not attempt to rob the Registrar. He and his assistants carry pistols and mace at all times.

Your professors will gladly barter for additional lessons. Professor Shawl constantly needs cat food, Professor Ohara manages a yarn bank, and Professor Pfister collects pornographic material. In the old days Dean Hendershot would not have hired Pfister, but it is hard to find good math teachers and Pfister generously loans out his magazines upon request. Colonel Fisher, our ROTC director, trades exclusively for knives. The sharper the better. He does not read Professor Pfister’s porn.

Enrollment dates are ongoing. Please apply in person at the Registrar’s Office during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Refrain from appearing late at night at the Registrar’s house and pounding on his door in a drunken stupor, lamenting the loss of the old world and all its convenient ways. In his former life, the Registrar managed a hardware store in Sandusky, providing the very best bait, groceries, and ammunition to tourists on Lake Erie. He is an excellent shot.

Regular attendance is highly encouraged, but some obstacles are unavoidable. Rotting zombies often block the road near the Ottawa County Historical Museum. Aliens from Planet X lurk under the Port Clinton Bridge. You never know when a malfunctioning robot might show up in your front yard, demanding oil for its rusty red joints. Sustained ringing bells from our campus chapel indicate a solar flare forecast; please take cover. Expired sunscreen will not suffice. Do not just throw yourself on the ground with your arms over your head, June Li. In case of catastrophic snowfall, we expect to see you after you dig out or whenever spring arrives. If spring arrives.

Medical concerns are always paramount. We require students suffering from superflu or other communicable diseases to stay at home and not spread your filthy germs everywhere. The Registrar may be called to remove you permanently; he considers this a necessary if unpleasant part of the job. The old Marblehead Ferry site was long ago converted into a convenient mass grave.

College is a commitment and an opportunity that should not be taken lightly. In the old days, many students drifted in from high school with a lack of direction and atrocious study habits. They texted or surfed while their overworked professors strived to impart knowledge. They smoked illegal drugs and drank while underage. They focused on romantic hookups, frequent and brief and poorly thought out, with no consideration of sexually transmitted diseases or unanticipated pregnancies. Professor Shawl’s own daughter Allison trusted the wrong boys and look what happened to her. Professor Shawl only has cats now, and a quiet house near the water that rattles in the wind.

Of course, not all of our students were impulsive or immature teenagers making questionable decisions. Many of them came to our halls as adults who had spent several years away from formal education. Struggling in low-wage jobs or left adrift by divorce and single parenthood, they showed bitter awareness of how arbitrary fortune can be. They also possessed many practical real-world skills such as how to fix an engine, nurse a sick child, loot a pharmacy, or defend a home from armed robbers. Statistically, they survived in greater numbers than teenagers after Yellowstone blew and poisoned the atmosphere with a thousand cubic kilometers of ash. Speaking of statistics, how likely was it that just twelve hours later, those brown cliffs in the Canary Islands would sheer off and send that mega-tsunami roaring toward the U.S. coast? The 8.2 earthquake that split California into two states was almost anticlimactic by comparison.

Whatever your age, gender, military status, or previous life experience, the Code of Conduct (see below) requires students to maintain proper decorum at all times. This ensures a respectful and healthy community. As Dean Hendershot reminds us, the good of the many outweighs the Constitution. Constitution Day will still be observed annually, however, and attendance is mandatory.

Course Offerings
Our catalog changes frequently, but we offer several popular classes on an ongoing basis.

Construction Trades: Colonel Fisher was a Seabee for twenty years. More than anyone in Northern Ohio, he knows his pipes, wires, beams, and hoses. After that EMP pulse knocked out the world grid we all learned to live without electricity, but that does not mean you should suffer undue hardship. He will teach you to make an indoor light out of soda bottles and bleach, or a refrigerator from wet sand and clay garden pots. Whether you are building a new home or rehabbing an abandoned one, you’ll be able to keep it weatherproof, sanitary, and safe from plague-spreading bats. Colonel Fisher also leads our campus safety patrols for students who desire escorts at night. We have never had dormitories, but the RV trailers in the former faculty parking lot provide safe, affordable housing for students unable to find lodging after fire burned down half of town.

Apocalyptic Fashion: Certainly clothing is in no shortage these days. You can stroll into any former “supercenter” and pluck from bountiful piles of rotting goods. Armed with a willingness to scrub out the mold, ash, and insect feces, you can buy back into a dream of mass consumerism that no longer exists. Or, with the assistance of manual sewing machines that Professor Ohara salvaged from Rose’s Antique Nook, you can learn to make your own coats, baby blankets, wedding dresses, and burial shrouds. Professor Ohara also teaches knitting, embroidery, lacemaking, and lingerie design. The end of the world does not have to mean the end of feeling good about your wardrobe.

Astronomy for Optimists: Professor Ohara also teaches astronomy. On clear nights, she and her students climb to the roof of the auditorium and peer through old telescopes at whatever constellations still penetrate the ash and haze. How foolish, we tell her. She risks breaking an ankle or cracking her skull for the sake of a starscape beyond our reach. What is left to see since that rogue comet shattered the moon? More comets, she says. Like emissaries of heaven, bringing light and wonder to the huddled masses.

We know that Professor Ohara sometimes invites to the roof those sad, green aliens living under the bridge. She doesn’t blame them for the disastrous invasion of Earth. Her husband died in an overseas war long ago, and she understands that soldiers frequently pay a dire price for the follies of their political leaders. From the roof the aliens can maybe see a faint glimmer of whatever star they call home. They will never be able to return.

Arithmetic: Before the apocalypse, our students usually needed remedial courses in algebra. Whatever they learned in high school, it certainly did not include polynomials. They could only perform long division with the assistance of smartphones, and were unable to calculate basic interest rates on their exorbitant student loans. Sometimes it was better not to know. The select few who advanced to statistics and calculus were mostly taught by computer programs that engaged them in exciting video games or cartoon simulations. Math teachers like Professor Pfister bemoaned such technological coddling, but the software was cost-effective for the administration. We in administration liked to give ourselves salary increases each year.

These days, math exercises begin with correctly measuring wooden planks to nail over your windows and doors. Nothing says “amateur” more than mismatched boards. We calculate the effective ratio of water purification tablets to rainwater and convert prescription medicine into milligrams based on a patient’s body weight. Abdul Howard was expelled for sharing the formula and calculations for fertilizer explosives, but until then he was one of our sharpest students.

What we cannot teach you is how to formulate hope. We have no ways to measure fortitude, resolution, compassion, or any of the other qualities necessary for the rebuilding of civilization. We cannot number the dead. We can only educate the survivors.

Self-Defense: Speaking of survival, each of our professors can teach you a thing or two about defending yourself against rabid dogs, drunk neighbors, marauding raiders, wild zoo animals, and shotgun weddings. Our faculty was once much larger. Only the toughest and most resourceful made it through the tenure process. Job applicants these days are required to disassemble and reassemble a pistol, pass a marksmanship test, display proficiency in jujutsu or other martial arts, and do well on the obstacle course in Colonel Fisher’s backyard. Our faculty leads by example.

Music: Professor Shawl grew up in a household of pianists, violinists, and ukulele players. She no longer plays any instrument herself, but she knows by heart an impressive amount of folk music. She can teach you how to hit the high note in the former national anthem or bang Copland’s Appalachian Spring on empty oil drums. The student band’s handbell rendition of I’ll Be Home for Christmas had many of us in tears last Yuletide. Huddled around the town bonfire, watching the last municipal tax records burn, we sipped more of Professor Pfister’s moonshine and watched a golden comet blaze overheard. Some of us fired holiday bullets at it. Colonel Fisher bemoaned the waste of good ammunition but Secret Santa brought him an ivory-handled machete that made him smile.

Meanwhile, every spring Professor Shawl offers a class in making phonograph players out of recycled parts. Old vinyl records have proved surprisingly resilient to time. Come summer, the sweet scratch of music drifts from wedding parties, barn raisings, and very small family reunions. Sometimes you might see a malfunctioning robot alone in a barren field, clanking and swaying to Patsy Cline. You never see them in pairs. Mechanical people lead lonely lives.

Women’s Health and Midwifery: Students are often surprised to learn that Dean Hendershot teaches these classes himself. Even in these unusual days, we feel more comfortable with women as our guides to operating a vagina. Professor Shawl is extremely modest, however, and Professor Ohara is showing signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Some days she can barely remember her name or the name of the alien she is hiding in her basement. (Its name is Oooo4ooo. It’s handsome in its own tentacled sort of way.)

The most frequent medical complaint among female faculty and students is the common yeast infection. Dean Hendershot knows much about yeast. Not only the kind that ferments in his bread but also its cousin, Candida, which can so messily overrun a woman’s pelvis. If prompted correctly, he can lecture for hours on the resilience and history of organisms, including yeasts, molds, fungi, and mushrooms. For home treatment of Candida infections, he usually recommends application of vinegar, yogurt, or garlic. Female students, please do not allow Professor Pfister to show you how to insert the garlic.

Dean Hendershot also knows a great deal about babies. He and his wife Katherine have had three of them since our local nuclear power plant started leaking. He cradled each beautiful infant’s head as he or she debuted in the world and carefully tied off each pasty-white umbilical cord. Each child was swaddled and nurtured, their breaths counted as blessings until the blessings came no more.

Little John, the youngest, is still with us. He comes to school every day with his father, quiet and solemn in his stroller. You barely notice his hands. Any day now he will start speaking. The other infants are buried in Dean Hendershot’s yard, the tiny crosses visible from the kitchen window.

Dean Hendershot also teaches grave-digging. The secret, he says, is always go deeper than you think you need to. A proper depth keeps the wild animals from tearing things up, and dead things from climbing out of the dark, irradiated soil.

Code of Conduct
Students shall refrain from promoting, endorsing, or advocating for cannibalism. This means you, Avery Unger. Other students and faculty are discomfited by your graphic retelling of how you survived last winter, and no one believes your parents “accidentally” killed themselves with that emergency generator. You were a mean little kid to begin with and multiple disasters have not improved you at all.
Students shall refrain from publicly promoting religion. Certainly you can privately thank any deity you choose for your ongoing survival. Say grace in the school cafeteria if you wish, and a little pleading to the divine about your midterm grades would not hurt either. No one is going to make you take off the crosses around your neck, Angie Sawyer, but it is not kosher to bully Bob Gerstein about his yarmulke. Keep in mind that many of us harbor vehement feelings toward any Creator who either brought down so many disasters into this world or otherwise failed to stop them. We are surprised that locusts have not arrived yet, and we are waiting for forty days and night of rain.
Students shall not try to institute their own civics classes to promote the study of democratic ideals. We hope you are listening, Abdul Howard. The fact that your grandparents immigrated to the United States decades ago in search of democracy does not make you an expert. If you want a representative government of, by, and for the people, you are welcome to scoot on down to Columbus and see what’s left there. You think they didn’t have to make hard decisions, just like we did? You think they sit around every day contemplating portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson instead of fighting for scarce food and other necessities? Maybe you should hike your way down to our new national capital in Houston. If you can make it past the barricades without being shot, perhaps you will find a kindly old judge with nothing better to do than discuss constitutional law. Until then, there is no mayor here in Port Clinton, no city council, no open town meetings. There is only the college, and we are in charge.
Students shall dress appropriately: we do not permit thongs, flip-flops, strapless bras, low-hanging pants or other symptoms of a youth culture run amuck. Do not make us put a sweater on you again, June Li. Refrain from any garb that promotes hate speech. Bulletproof vests, weapons belts, and helmets are welcome but rarely necessary. That incident last spring during Career Day was an anomaly: usually our barbed wire fences do a better job keeping out starving golems.
EWCC does not allow any discrimination based on gender, orientation, or sexual proclivities. Surely Professor Shawl was once a man. She wears scarves around her throat every day and her hands are abnormally large. We think she is beautiful. Colonel Fisher lives with our town dentist, Dr. Slater, in a charming colonial they remodeled themselves. Dr. Slater is the only man for a hundred miles who can fill a cavity, extract a tooth, or fix your dentures. We don’t care what he and Colonel Fisher do together as long as we get our annual cleanings. The Registrar keeps a trunk in his bedroom filled with lacy red nightgowns. Students watching his window from below have seen him strap on a garter belt and silk stockings. Does this make him any less qualified to protect the assets of the college? Certainly not. As Professor Pfister often insists, creative exploration is a healthy part of the human sexual experience.

Bookstore: Our campus bookstore carries EWCC mugs, T-shirts, and key chains, along with a limited number of textbooks salvaged from libraries and houses and the Book Barn before it flooded. Otherwise we expect students to furnish their own supplies: pipe and solder for plumbing workshop; seeds and dung for fieldwork; flour and yeast for bread-making; scalpels, bone saws and strong stomachs for the required lab on flesh-eating bacteria. You will need paper of any kind for your cursive-writing classes. Sometimes we teach calligraphy. It’s a dying art, but what isn’t?

Refunds: Tuition is nonrefundable. The learning you acquire within our hallowed halls will last you a lifetime. Even you, Abdul. When Dean Hendershot found you, you were a muddy teenager starving in a ditch. He gave you a bed in his attic and food from his table and tried to channel that anger inside you into something productive or useful. You repaid him by fomenting discontent and rebellion. You wanted elections. You demanded a voice. What you failed to get, you decided to take. He had no choice but to send you away. Isn’t exile a finer fate than a midnight walk with the Registrar from which only one of you would return?

Campus Alert: Astronomy students would like to inform the community that based on their latest observations, Jupiter has recently shifted its orbit. According to Oooo4ooo, the most likely cause is a traveling black hole skirting the Kuiper Belt and pulling the outer planets toward infinity like a pizza pie stretched too thin by overeager hands. This would also explain the number of comets hurtling overhead these days.

We hesitate to bring it up, as the death of our world is not necessarily imminent. The supermassive collapsed star may zoom by quickly, with only fractional effect on the inner solar system. Or it might hurl itself toward Earth so quickly that we will barely feel our own deaths as the planet rips apart beneath us. Who can say? Rest assured that there is nothing anyone can do against a black hole. You cannot shoot it, blow it up, set it on fire, fill it with cement, or board up your windows against it. Still, it always pays to be prepared. Hug your children tight tonight. Make love to a person or robot or alien, if it will make you happy.

Final note: Dean Hendershot appreciates your concern about the rumored death of his sourdough starter. Just before this brochure went to press, he trudged home from a hard day’s work to find the lamps unlit, the nanny distracted by her boyfriend, and his wife Katherine still huddled in the bed she rarely leaves these days. Young John had managed to free himself from his playpen, climb up onto the kitchen counter, and break open the large glass jar that Dean Hendershot’s grandmother kept in her own kitchen for so many decades. The pale and watery starter was everywhere–the sink, the floor, the walls, Little John’s hair. It was dirty and sad, utterly unsalvageable.

But Dean Hendershot didn’t despair. Any dean of a post-apocalyptic community college must be resourceful and strong. He fired the nanny, cleaned up the kitchen, and fed Little John his supper before tucking him in bed with his mother. Then he walked on over to the Registrar’s house. He was surprised to find Professor Shawl there, her cheeks flushed and neck scarf loose, but did not worry much about it. More important to him was the small plastic bag that the Registrar had stored in his pantry since summertime. Dean Hendershot thanked him profusely and cradled the treasure all the way home.

Alone in his clean kitchen, he added flour and water to the dried starter in a new glass jar. He wrapped the jar in a battery-powered heating pad and carefully carried it upstairs to where Katherine and Little John lay sleeping in the darkness. He kissed them both. Katherine’s sad eyes fluttered open.

“It’s all right,” he told her. “Everything’s going to be just fine.”

All night long he sat in a rocking chair, the jar warm and secure in his lap. Through the window he could see the white perimeter lights of the campus and hear the occasional shots as security guards warned off zombies. A comet burned a bright arc across the sky. Dean Hendershot thought about the doula class he would teach in the morning, and how to nurture life despite the grueling odds against survival. He was glad to be a teacher. He felt strangely lucky. He wished he could feed the whole world with fresh and sour bread.

Fan Film Review: Star Trek: Renegades

September 14th, 2015 by Posted in Reviews

Tim Russ is probably best known for his role as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. However, since the end of that series, he’s devoted his time to producing fan films that extend the story of Star Trek independent of both the reboot and novel universes. His first foray, Of Gods and Men, shows us what might have happened in the Mirror Universe after Kirk Prime tried to convince Mirror Spock to change things for the better.

His second, Star Trek: Renegades, is intended to be a pilot for a new fan series about a crew of… well… renegades.

I just wish it had lived up to my expectations.

EP503: Undeleted

September 12th, 2015 by Posted in 10 and Up, OK for Kids, Podcasts

by Aidan Doyle
read by Austin Learned

author Aidan Doyle

author Aidan Doyle

about the author…

from the author’s website: I’m an Australian computer programmer and science fiction writer.

I live in Melbourne and love travelling.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than 80 countries.

I’ve always been interested in writing science fiction and made my first sale when I was 18. I’ve had short stories and articles published in magazines, newspapers and web sites.  I have been a finalist for the Aurealis Awards, several of my stories have received honorable mentions in Year’s Best SF anthologies and I was the youngest writer to have an entry in the Encyclopedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In 2009 I attended the Clarion South science fiction writing workshop in Brisbane.

I did a computer science degree at Monash University in Melbourne.  After university I worked for an Australian computer games company as a programmer and designer.  I’ve also worked as a software consultant and web site programmer.

I  have an entry in the Internet Movie Database.  (For a computer game I worked on).

Some of the interesting places I’ve visited include: North Korea, Belarus, the Galapagos and Transnistria (not officially a real country).  I worked in Bolivia for a short time as a journalist for a Bolivian English-language newspaper.  I lived in Osaka in for 4 years and worked as an English teacher.  Now I’m working as a web site programmer.

I’ve had articles and stories translated into Finnish, Mandarin, Romanian and Polish.

about the narrator…

Austin Learned is an Asian-American aspiring actor/singer/voice actor who would probably appreciate your comments and encouragement on this fine piece of work.

Twitter @alearnedman00


By Aidan Doyle

One of Saito’s guys led Kentaro through the arcade. They passed row after row of black game pods, silent except for the hum of their cooling systems. The idea of crawling into a pod and letting the rest of the world deal with its own problems was tempting, but Kentaro had spent thirty years hidden from society. He needed his old job back. Saito sat in an office in the back of the arcade. He was flicking through a document on his tablet and didn’t acknowledge Kentaro’s presence. Kentaro had plenty of practice at being made to wait. A young guy Kentaro didn’t recognize lounged on a chair in the corner of the room. Saito finally glanced up and motioned to the chair in front of the desk.

“Thank you for making the time to see me,” Kentaro said. He also had plenty of practice of being polite to jerks. Saito’s gaze strayed back to his tablet. “My wife’s goal in life is to visit every world heritage site. Which do you think would be less boring, Angkor Wat or Petra?” “I don’t travel much,” Kentaro replied. Saito laughed. “I guess not. I think we’ll go to Angkor Wat. It says they filmed Audition for Death there. Maybe I’ll meet Akita Yumi.” The young guy guffawed appreciatively. Kentaro had never heard of Audition for Death or Akita, but tried his best to make his chuckle sound authentic. “So you’re supposed to be some superhacker?” Saito said. Kentaro didn’t like boasting, but he needed the money. “I’m good with computers.” “I already have guys that are good with computers.” The young guy looked as though he was ready to explode with smugness. “How long were you away?” Saito asked. “Thirty years.” Yamamoto would have told Saito all this. “Technology has changed a lot since then,” Saito said. When Kentaro went inside, a tablet was something your doctor gave you. “I wasn’t allowed to use computers, but I learned other skills.” Most of the other inmates had complained about missing sex and alcohol, but Kentaro missed programming above all. The world no longer responded to his commands. He set about furthering his education in other ways, learning how to pick locks and forge signatures. The first thing he’d done after his release was wander through the electronics stores in Osaka’s Den Den town. “Yamamoto used to go on about that Mizutomo job,” Saito said. “What was your hacking name again?” “Sabayomu.” Sabayomu was an abbreviated form of an old expression that literally meant to read the mackerel. It referred to fish traders who confused customers by counting fish faster than the customers could follow and short-changing them. The expression also referred to someone who lied about their age. Mackerel had such a short shelf life it wasn’t worth counting them accurately. Saito smiled. “How old are you?” Kentaro knew better than to lie. “Sixty-two.” Saito handed his phone to Kentaro. “You just got someone’s phone. Show me what you’d do.” The screen requested an unlock pattern, but Kentaro didn’t know anything about smartphone hacks. He pressed what he assumed was the power button and the phone again prompted him for a pattern. He experimented with some of the other buttons. Saito sighed and took the phone from him. “I’ll make it easy for you.” He swiped the screen down, then across. The home screen appeared and he handed the phone back. Kentaro flicked through screen after screen of icons. What was he supposed to do? Saito probably didn’t want him searching through his address book. A Mizutomo banking icon caught his attention. He glanced over at Saito, who nodded. Kentaro pressed the icon and a new screen appeared, prompting him to enter a username and password. He tried entering Saito and password, but the onscreen keys were too small and he kept touching the wrong ones. How did anyone use these stupid machines? Saito took the phone back. “Maybe phones aren’t your specialty. Nakagawa is going to ask you some questions.” “When would you use an SQL injection attack?” the young guy asked. “A what?” “What stops rainbow table attacks?” Kentaro should have done some research before he came to see Saito, but he wanted to start work as soon as possible. His reputation should have meant he didn’t have to suffer these kinds of challenges. “I might be a bit out of date, but I have experience.” “You should enjoy your retirement,” Saito said. “I’ll earn my keep,” Kentaro said. In the old days he would have been looked after when he got out, but young ones like Saito had no sense of tradition. When Kentaro had been inside Yamamoto had announced he was leaving the organization and becoming a Buddhist priest. Kentaro assumed, along with most of the media, that this was a ploy, but when he got out, his former boss insisted the move to the priesthood was genuine. Yamamoto gave him enough money to last a month and told him he could no longer afford to pay the fees for Kentaro’s mother’s nursing home. Saito opened a desk drawer, took out an envelope and handed it to Kentaro. “Enjoy your retirement. Take a trip to Thailand.” One of Saito’s guys showed him out of the office. As he was leaving, he overheard part of Saito and Nakagawa’s conversation. Sodai gomi. Big rubbish. An expression used to describe retired salarymen that were good for nothing.

Book Review: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

September 7th, 2015 by Posted in Books, Reviews

On September 1, my Kindle automatically downloaded my preordered copy of The Shepherd’s Crown. By September 3, I’d finished reading the final Discworld novel. How do I feel about this?

Empty. Satisfied, but empty. The book is closed on the Discworld, at least in this form, and… well… I don’t think I can wrap my head around that.

But anyway, here’s my review of the novel. Spoilers beyond this point for The Shepherd’s Crown by the late Sir Terry Pratchett, and for the rest of the Discworld.

EP500: The Man Who Lost the Sea

September 4th, 2015 by Posted in 10 and Up, Podcasts

by Theodore Sturgeon
narrated by Anson Mount

author Theodore Sturgeon

about the author…

(from Wikipedia)  Theodore Sturgeon born Edward Hamilton Waldo; February 26, 1918 – May 8, 1985) was an American science fiction and horror writer and critic. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database credits him with about 400 reviews and more than 200 stories.
Sturgeon’s most famous work may be the science fiction novel More Than Human (1953), an expansion of “Baby Is Three” (1952). More Than Human won the 1954 International Fantasy Award (for SF and fantasy) as the year’s best novel and the Science Fiction Writers of America ranked “Baby is Three” number five among the “Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time” to 1964. Ranked by votes for all of their pre-1965 novellas, Sturgeon was second among authors, behind Robert Heinlein.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Sturgeon in 2000, its fifth class of two deceased and two living writers.

narrator Anson Mount

narrator Anson Mount

about the narrator…

Anson Mount is best known for his role as Cullen Bohannan on AMC’s hit series HELL ON WHEELS.

Born in White Bluff, Tennessee, Mount holds a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Columbia University, where he now serves as an Associate Adjunct Professor.  Mount is a proud humanitarian, and in 2012 he completed a 200-mile relay to help raise funds for Team Rubicon in support of the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  He currently resides in New York.

Anson Mount was most recently seen in the feature films NON-STOP opposite Liam Neeson, SUPREMACY opposite Julie Benz, and THE FORGER, opposite John Travolta.  He will next be seen in the horror thriller VISIONS opposite Isla Fisher.

Although Mount is best known for work in film and television, he continues to build his theater career, most recently having performed in VENUS IN FUR at Singapore Repertory Theater.

More information on IMDB at

Flash Fiction Contest 4: Bloodlines

August 27th, 2015 by Posted in Blog, Meta

The original paraphernalia for the Flash Fiction Contest had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Stuart, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Lieberman spoke frequently to the forum members about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as little tradition as was represented by the black box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here.

Mr. Garrett and his oldest son, Nick, hold the black box securely on the stool until Mr. Lieberman can stir the papers thoroughly with his hand. Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Lieberman had been successful in having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations. Chips of wood, Mr. Lieberman had argued, had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was more than three hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was necessary to use something that would fit more easily into the black box.

The fourth incarnation of the Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest is coming. Pseudopod is leading the charge this time. Every author may submit up to two original stories of 500 words or less for consideration. Submissions are open now until September 15. Head to Pseudopod’s special Submittable portal to exercise your civic duty in the lottery.

The competition will begin in October 2015. The three winning stories will be purchased and run as an episode of Pseudopod. Payment will be $30 so this will be considered a pro sale. Stories will be published on a members-only section of the forums, so first publication rights will not be expended by participating in the contest. It’s easy to be become a member. Sign up for a forum account and make a single post so we know you’re not a bot. This is a good thread to start with. From there, all the pertinent details will be posted under “The Arcade”. Visit for rules and details.

EP502: Gorlack the Destroyer’s All You Can Eat Adventure

August 6th, 2015 by Posted in 10 and Up, Podcasts, Uncategorized

by Robert Lowell Russell
read by Ethan Jones

author Robert Lowell Russel

author Robert Lowell Russell

about the author…

Robert Lowell Russell* is a writer and trophy husband (obviously). He is a SFWA member and a member of the Writeshop and Codex writers’ groups. He is a former librarian, a former history grad student, a former semi-professional poker player, and is now pursuing nursing degree (say “ah!”).

Rob has also just noticed how outdated and lame his website has become and will be modifying it in the near future here:

His stories have appeared (or will appear) in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Penumbra, Digital Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction (thrice!), Stupefying Stories (fice? what’s the word for five?), and a whole bunch of other places (see complete list on the right side).

*RLR finds it a bit silly to write about himself in the 3rd person.

about the narrator…

My name is Ethan Jones, I live in Melbourne, Australia. I have a passion for audio drama, and this passion led me to create my own. All on my lonesome, I have created ‘Caught Up’, an audio drama about three men who are unwillingly thrust into a world of crime after a shocking encounter with a hardened criminal. You can find this podcast on iTunes by searching my name or ‘Caught Up’, or find more info and subscribe via RSS on the website:


Gorlack the Destroyer’s All You Can Eat Adventure
by Robert Lowell Russell

Seven hundred battered cases of “Unleash Your Inner Awesome!” mega-nutri-bars dotted the purple grass for kilometers in every direction. Pelle the Silicate rested his rocky body on one of the battered metal crates and sighed.
Noxious smoke from the wrecked “Do-It-Yourself and Save!” cargo lander wrinkled Pelle’s nose. He wondered if the “environmentally friendly materials” the lander was constructed from were in fact sarki beetle shells and dung.
Pelle had bet the Silicate colonists on this distant world would trade their exotic spices and rare materials for a little taste of home. Now, those little tastes were baking in their crates under an alien sun, a thousand kilometers from the nearest settlement.
“I’m ruined,” he muttered.


Gorlack the Destroyer fixed his gaze on the rough-skinned alien sitting on the metal box.
“Bah! Zarg, my friend, it is only another of the stone creatures.”
Zarg shook his head. “These are trying times.”
The troop of warriors and women gathered behind Gorlack murmured its discontent.
“A number three fusion blade will pierce the creature’s hide,” said Zarg, “but leave its soft, inner flesh intact. They taste like kana.”
Gorlack spat on the grass. “Everything tastes like kana. I long for a proper meal.” He turned to Zarg and rested a furred paw on the other’s shoulder. “The number three blade it will
be, but first, honor demands I offer the creature challenge.”
“The coward will refuse.”
Gorlack nodded. “Undoubtedly.” He strode boldly through the grass, approaching the alien. The murmurs turned to silence.
Gorlack addressed the alien telepathically. “I am Gorlack the Destroyer. You are my prey.” He waddled forward, flaring his hips. “Observe the size of my genitals. My many children will feast on your flesh.”
He opened his eyes wide and wiggled his rounded, furry ears. “If you flee, I will find you. If you hide, I will hear you.”
He flexed his fingers. “The Goddess did not give my people pointed claws, yet I will rend your flesh.” Gorlack opened his mouth, showing smooth, rounded teeth. “The Goddess did not give my people sharp teeth, yet I will consume you.”
Gorlack held his arms wide. “Look upon your doom and despair!” Then he filled his lungs, and he screamed aloud the ancient war cry. “Hagmay!”

Film Review: Mr. Holmes

August 5th, 2015 by Posted in Blog, Reviews

Sherlock Holmes occupies an interesting intersection in the genre fiction universe. While he appears strictly in mystery stories — at least in the Conan Doyle canon — he is much-beloved by the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror community, to the point that there are multiple genre-flavored non-Conan Doyle stories in print.

I’ve read a lot of them. Most of them are quite good.

However, one genre I’ve never read for Sherlock Holmes is what happens at the end of the Great Detective’s life. In the new film Mr. Holmes, we uncover one possibility for what might happen after his retirement.