Archive for OK for Kids

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Escape Pod 630: Midnight Blue (Flashback Friday)


Midnight Blue

By Will McIntosh

He’d never seen a burgundy before.  Kim held it in her lap, tapped it with her finger.  She was probably tapping it to bring attention to it, and Jeff didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of asking to see it, but he really wanted to see it.  Burgundy (Kim had insisted on calling it burgundy red when she showed it at show and tell) was a rare one.  Not as rare as a hot pink Flyer or a viridian Better Looking, but still rare.

A bus roared up, spitting black smoke.  It was the seven bus–the Linden Court bus, not his.  Kids rushed to line up in front of the big yellow doors as the bus hissed to a stop.  A second-grader squealed, shoved a bigger kid with her Partridge Family lunch box because he’d stepped on her foot.  All the younger kids seemed to have Partridge Family lunch boxes this year.

“What did you say it did when you’ve got all three pieces of the charm together?”  Jeff asked Kim.  He said it casually, like he was just making conversation until his bus came.

“It relaxes time,” Kim said.  “When you’re bored you can make time pass quickly, and when you’re having fun you can make time stretch out.”

Jeff nodded, tried to look just interested enough to be polite, but no more.  What must that be like, to make the hour at church fly by?  Or make the school day (except for lunch and recess) pass in an eyeblink?  Jeff wondered how fast or slow you could move things along.  Could you make it seem like you were eating an ice cream sandwich for six hours?  That would be sparkling fine.

“Want to see it?” Kim asked.

“Okay,” Jeff said, holding out his hands too eagerly before he remembered himself.  Kim handed it to him, looking pleased with herself, the dimples on her round face getting a little deeper.

It was smooth as marble, perfectly round, big as a grapefruit and heavy as a bowling ball.  It made Jeff’s heart hammer to hold it.  The rich red, which hinted at purple while still being certainly red, was so beautiful it seemed impossible, so vivid it made his blue shirt seem like a Polaroid photo left in the sun too long. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 629: An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition

Show Notes

Author’s Notes:

For more on consciousness as compression, see:

Maguire, Phil, et al. “Is Consciousness Computable? Quantifying Integrated Information Using Algorithmic Information Theory.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1405.0126 (2014) (available at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1405.0126).

For more on natural nuclear reactor piles, see:

Teper, Igor. “Inconstants of Nature”, Nautilus, January 23, 2014 (available at http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/inconstants-of-nature).

Davis, E. D., C. R. Gould, and E. I. Sharapov. “Oklo reactors and implications for nuclear science.” International Journal of Modern Physics E 23.04 (2014) (available at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1404.4948).

For more on SETI and the Sun’s gravitational lens, see:

Maccone, Claudio. “Interstellar radio links enhanced by exploiting the Sun as a gravitational lens.” Acta Astronautica 68.1 (2011): 76–84 (available at http://www.snolab.ca/public/JournalClub/alex1.pdf).]


An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition

By Ken Liu

My darling, my child, my connoisseur of sesquipedalian words and convoluted ideas and meandering sentences and baroque images, while the sun is asleep and the moon somnambulant, while the stars bathe us in their glow from eons ago and light-years away, while you are comfortably nestled in your blankets and I am hunched over in my chair by your bed, while we are warm and safe and still for the moment in this bubble of incandescent light cast by the pearl held up by the mermaid lamp, you and I, on this planet spinning and hurtling through the frigid darkness of space at dozens of miles per second, let’s read. (Continue Reading…)

EP503: Undeleted


Undeleted

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.

(Continue Reading…)

EP470: The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province


The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province

by Sarah Pinsker

I. Options for an Imagined Pictorial Eulogy of Oliver Haifetz-Perec

IMAGE 1: The photograph depicts an unmade bed covered in gear and clothing. A military-style duffel, half filled, dominates the shot. A camera bag sits next to it, cameras and lenses and lens cleaners laid out neatly alongside.

IMAGE 2: Shot from the center of the bed. A shirtless man reaches for something high in the closet. He has the too-thin build of an endurance runner, his bare back lanky and muscled. There is a permanent notch in his left shoulder, from where his camera bag rests. A furrow across his back tells of a bullet graze in Afghanistan. The contrast of his skin and his faded jeans plays well in black and white. A mirror on the dresser catches Yona Haifetz-Perec in the act of snapping the picture, her face obscured but her inclusion clearly deliberate. Multiple subjects, multiple stories.

IMAGE 3: This photograph does not actually exist. A third person in the room might have taken an intimate portrait of the two alone in their Tel Aviv apartment, photographers once again becoming subjects. A third person might have depicted the way her freckled arms wrapped around his torso, tender but not possessive. It might have shown the serious looks on both of their faces, the way each tried to mask anxiety, showing concern to the room, but not each other. They have the same career. They accept the inherent risks. They don’t look into each other’s faces, but merely press closer. It would have been the last photograph of the two together. Eleven days later, he is beaten to death in Uganda. His press credentials, his passport, his cameras, his memory cards, and cash are all found with his body; it isn’t a robbery. Since the third option doesn’t exist, the last picture of Yona and Oliver is the one that she took from the bed: his strong back, her camera’s eye.

IMAGE 4: A Ugandan journalist sent Yona a clipping about Oliver’s death. A photo accompanies the article. It shows a body, Oliver’s body, lying in the street. Yona doesn’t know why anyone would think she would want to see that photograph. She does; she doesn’t. She could include it, make people face his death head on.

Instead she opts for

IMAGE 5: in which Oliver plays football with some children in Kampala, his dreadlocks flying, his smile unguarded (photographer unknown), and IMAGE 6.

(Continue Reading…)

EP464: Red Dust and Dancing Horses


Red Dust and Dancing Horses

by Beth Cato

No horses existed on Mars. Nara could change that.She stared out the thick-paned window. Tinted dirt sprawled to a horizon, mesas and rock-lipped craters cutting the mottled sky. It almost looked like a scene from somewhere out of the Old West on Earth, like in the two-dimensional movies she studied on her tablet. Mama thought that 20th-century films were the ultimate brain-rotting waste of time, so Nara made sure to see at least two a week. Silver, Trigger, Buttermilk, Rex, Champion—she knew them all. She had spent months picturing just how their hooves would sink into that soft dirt, how their manes would lash in the wind. How her feet needed to rest in the stirrups, heels down, and how the hot curve of a muzzle would fit between her cupped hands.The terraforming process had come a long way in the two hundred years since mechs established the Martian colonies. Nara didn’t need a pressure suit to walk outside, but in her lifetime she’d never breathe on her own outside of her house or the Corcoran Dome. There would never be real horses here, not for hundreds of years, if ever. But a mechanical horse could find its way home in a dust storm, or handle the boggy sand without breaking a leg. She could ride it. Explore. It would be better than nothing. Her forehead bumped against the glass. But to have a real horse with hot skin and silky mane…

“Nara, you’re moping again.” Mama held a monitor to each window, following the seal along the glass. “No matter how long you stare out the window and sulk, we can’t afford to fly you back to Earth just to see horses. They’re hard to find as it is. Besides, you know what happened when that simulator came through last year.” (Continue Reading…)

EP430: Heart of Joy


Heart of Joy

by Kate O’Connor

“How’s your ankle, Luci?” Feon Sen, High Chancellor of Carinae, leaned against the wall, watching intently as she braided her dark hair. Luscinia considered the question carefully, studying his reflection in the mirror. He was a man of many words, but his meaning was clearest in the surgically smoothed lines around his eyes and the rhythm his fingers absentmindedly tapped out on his arm. He was asking if she was up to the task he had for her tonight.

“Better, thank you.” She stood and danced a few quick steps to prove it. She was ready. The prism-glass walls sent the light they had collected from Carina’s dim sun scattering around the room in teardrops of scarlet and gold and sapphire. It was hard not to blame the cold and the hard crystal floors for the aches in her joints. Hot sun and soft ground were worlds away, but Feon was always ready with a good reason for her to stay whenever she mentioned returning to her home planet.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Even after more than a year in his company, Luscinia still found how young he looked and how old his expressions were disconcerting. She hadn’t asked him about whatever medical miracles or cosmetic alterations he’d had done over the long decades he had been in control of the three hundred and forty-seven inhabited worlds of the nebula. It was how things were on Carina Prime, especially for those in the public eye. She hated the scrutiny that came with being his lover. More than one helpful soul had mentioned a few of the currently fashionable options for elongating her legs or slimming her curvy body. The idea turned her stomach.

“So you’ll be able to dance for the Alshain Ambassador and his assorted cronies this evening? He’s been after me almost without ceasing since they arrived.” Feon’s carefree grin made her stomach flutter for entirely different reasons. “You’re still the talk of the nebula. Half the city shows up to parties without footwear because you dance barefoot. Not to mention how everyone goes on about what each dance means. It doesn’t help that you keep changing them.”

“I’d get bored if the routines were always the same. You wouldn’t use the same words in every speech you gave, would you?” Luscinia smiled back, taking note of the slight crease at the corner of his mouth. “And stop worrying. I’ll settle your diplomats for you.” There was so much more to say that never seemed to make it past her lips… or his. He was far more eloquent than she, except when it came to speaking with her. Alshain was dangerous, more so because of the allies the ambassador was gathering. Feon was old and wily, but she saw him plagued with the worry that he was slowing down, that he would miss something vital. They didn’t talk about that.

“I know you will.” He touched her newly braided hair lightly and she caught his intense expression in the mirror. It warmed her. Too many people thought he could have done better than a backwater dancer, even if she was the artistic sensation of the year. Feon kissed her hair and headed for the door. He stopped with his hand on the doorframe. “Make it a good one tonight. The Ambassador says he has a gift for me. I hate it when the slimy bastard gets smug.” He lingered a minute, body swaying between feelings and words.

“It will be all right.” She repeated firmly, saving him the need to give voice to his fears.

(Continue Reading…)

EP427: Samantha’s Diary

Show Notes


 

Samantha’s Diary

by Diana Wynne Jones

Recorded on BSQ SpeekEasi Series 2/89887BQ and discovered in a skip in London’s Regent Street.

December 25th 2233

Tired today and having a lazy time. Got back late from Paris last night from Mother’s party. My sister is pregnant and couldn’t go (besides, she lives in Sweden) and Mother insisted that one of her daughters was there to meet our latest stepfather. Not that I did meet him particularly. Mother kept introducing me to a load of men and telling me how rich each of them were: I think she’s trying to start me on her own career which is, basically, marrying for money. Thanks, Mother, but I earn quite enough on the catwalk to be happy as I am. Besides, I’m having a rest from men since I split up with Liam.The gems of Mother’s collection were a French philosopher, who followed me around saying ‘La vide ce n’est pas le neant,’ (clever French nonsense meaning ‘The void is not nothing,’ I think), a cross-eyed Columbian film director, who kept trying to drape himself over me, and a weird millionaire from goodness knows where with diamante teeth. But there were others. I was wearing my new Stiltskins which caused me to tower over them. A mistake. They always knew where I was. In the end I got tired of being stalked and left. I just caught the midnight bullet train to London, which did not live up to its name. It was late and crowded out and I had to stand all the way.

My feet are killing me today.

Anyway I have instructed Housebot that I am Not At Home to anyone or anything and hope for a peaceful day. Funny to think that Christmas Day used to be a time when everyone got together and gave each other presents. Shudder. Today we think of it as the most peaceful day of the year. I sit in peace in my all-white living room—a by-product of Mother’s career, come to think of it, since my lovely flat was given to me by my last-stepfather-but-one—no, last-but- two now, I forgot.

Oh damn! Someone rang the doorbell and Housebot answered it. I know I told it not to.

Did I say we don’t give Christmas presents now? Talk about famous last words. Housebot trundled back in here with a tree of all things balanced on its flat top. Impossible to tell what kind of tree, as it has no leaves, no label to say who sent it, nothing but a small wicker cage tied to a branch with a fairly large brown bird in it. The damn bird pecked me when I let it out. It was not happy. It has gone to earth under the small sofa and left droppings on the carpet as it ran.

I thought Christmas trees were supposed to be green. I made Housebot put the thing outside in the patio, beside the pool, where it sits looking bare. The bird is hungry. It has been trying to eat the carpet. I went on the net to see what kind of bird it is. After an hour of trying, I got a visual that suggests the creature is a partridge. A game bird apparently. Am I supposed to eat it? I know they used to eat birds at Christmas in the old days. Yuk. I got on the net again for partridge food. ‘Sorry, dear customer, but there will be no deliveries until the start of the Sales on December 27th, when our full range of luxury avian foods will again be available at bargain prices.’ Yes, but what do I do now?

Oh hooray. Housebot has solved the problem by producing a bowl of tinned sweetcorn. I shoved it under the sofa and the creature stopped its noise.

Do trees need feeding? (Continue Reading…)

EP426: Flash Fiction Special

Show Notes

See HalleRt’s current project here: http://timetravelreference.com/

Feeling adventurous enough to read all of the contest submissions? Have at it!


Four Tickets

by Leslianne Wilder

Four Tickets, by Leslianne Wilder


Life Sentence

by Ben Hallert

Life Sentence, by Ben HalleRt


The Future Is Set

by C. L. Perria

The Future Is Set, by C. L. Perria

EP419: Expediter

Show Notes

Mentioned in this episode – Roadside Picnic


Expediter

by Mack Reynolds

His assignment was to get things done;
he definitely did so.
Not quite the things intended, perhaps,
but definitely done.


The knock at the door came in the middle of the night, as Josip Pekic had always thought it would. He had been but four years of age when the knock had come that first time and the three large men had given his father a matter of only minutes to dress and accompany them. He could barely remember his father.

The days of the police state were over, so they told you. The cult of the personality was a thing of the past. The long series of five-year plans and seven-year plans were over and all the goals had been achieved. The new constitution guaranteed personal liberties. No longer were you subject to police brutality at the merest whim. So they told you.

But fears die hard, particularly when they are largely of the subconscious. And he had always, deep within, expected the knock.

He was not mistaken. The rap came again, abrupt, impatient. Josip Pekic allowed himself but one chill of apprehension, then rolled from his bed, squared slightly stooped shoulders, and made his way to the door. He flicked on the light and opened up, even as the burly, empty faced zombi there was preparing to pound still again.

There were two of them, not three as he had always dreamed. As three had come for his father, more than two decades before.

His father had been a rightist deviationist, so the papers had said, a follower of one of whom Josip had never heard in any other context other than his father’s trial and later execution. But he had not cracked under whatever pressures had been exerted upon him, and of that his son was proud.

He had not cracked, and in later years, when the cult of personality was a thing of the past, his name had been cleared and returned to the history books. And now it was an honor, rather than a disgrace, to be the son of Ljubo Pekic, who had posthumously been awarded the title Hero of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship.

But though his father was now a hero, Josip still expected that knock. However, he was rather bewildered at the timing, having no idea of why he was to be under arrest.

The first of the zombi twins said expressionlessly, “Comrade Josip Pekic?”
(Continue Reading…)

EP387: Perspective


By Jake Kerr
Read by Julian Bane

Discuss on our forums. 

 

PERSPECTIVE
By Jake Kerr
 

The worst part about picking my son up from the police station was the walk to get there. I hadn’t been outside in years, but it was still the same–the drab gray of the smog-stained overcast sky, the decaying concrete, the stench of gasoline, urine, and who knew what else. But thanks to Jeffrey there was a new assault to my senses–black molecular paint permanently defacing an already wretched city.With every step I could see his work–his “tags” as the police called them. They were all different, and there was no rhyme or reason as to what he would vandalize–the sides of buildings, street surfaces, retailer kiosks, even windows. The randomness made catching my son a difficult task for the police, but catch him they did, and now I had to walk these vile streets to bring him home.

I paid the bail, followed the directions to processing, and waited for my son. The policewoman there was polite and offered me a seat, but I stood. I wasn’t in the mood to relax, and Jeffrey needed to see how angry I was. So I waited, arms behind my back, staring at the door that led inside.

His head hung low as he walked out. He glanced up at me and then lowered his head again. “Hi, Pop,” he mumbled. I didn’t move. He walked over and added in a whisper, “I’m really sorry.”

“You lied to me.” I grabbed his right hand and pulled it up between us. “These black stains aren’t paint, Jeffrey. That is your _skin_. It was the price to pay for your job, you said. I’m painting ships with a new kind of paint, you said. You made the stains sound like a worthy sacrifice.” I tossed his hand down.

“Pop, please. Let’s talk about this at home.” He looked around the room, shifting from one foot to the other.

“Yes, we will discuss this at home.” I turned and walked out the door. He followed. I walked the streets again, Jeffrey shuffling behind me. I focused on the concrete at my feet, unable to bear looking at his work. My hands were clenched tight enough to turn my knuckles white, so I shoved them in my pockets.
(Continue Reading…)