Category: OK for Kids

EP464: Red Dust and Dancing Horses

by Beth Cato
read by Marguerite Kenner

author Beth Cato

author Beth Cato

about the author…

I reside in Buckeye, Arizona, on the outskirts of Phoenix. My family includes my husband Jason, son Nicholas, and elder-cat Porom. I’m originally from Hanford, California. If I wear ruby slippers and tap my heels three times, that’s where I go by default.

My literary agent is Rebecca Strauss of DeFiore and Company.

 

narrator Marguerite Kenner

narrator Marguerite Kenner

about the narrator…
Marguerite is a native Californian who has forsaken sunny paradise to be with her true love and live in Merrye Olde England. She frequently wears so many hats that she needs two heads. When she’s not grappling with legal conundrums as a trainee solicitor or editing Cast of Wonders, she can be found narrating audio fiction, rockclimbing, studying popular culture (i.e. going to movies and playing video games) with her partner Alasdair Stuart, or curling up with a really good book. You can follow her at her personal blog, Project Valkyrie, or on Twitter via @LegalValkyrie.
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.”

EP430: Heart of Joy

by Kate O’Conn0r
read by Andrea Richardson

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Kate O’Connor was born in Virginia in 1982. She graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott in 2009 and now lives (and occasionally works) in the New York area.

Kate has been writing science fiction and fantasy since 2011. In between telling stories, she flies airplanes, digs up artifacts, and manages a kennel full of Airedales.

Narrator Andrea Richardson

Narrator Andrea Richardson

about the narrator…

Andrea Richardson is a British singer and actress.  With extensive stage and film performances to her name, she began narration and voice over work fairly recently, but enjoys using her existing skills in a different way. You can find Andrea at www.andrea-richardson.co.uk and www.castingcallpro.com/uk/view.php?uid=507734

 

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.

EP427: Samantha’s Diary

by Diana Wynne Jones
read by Emma Newman

Links for this episode:

Author Diana Wynne Jones

About the Author…

from the wiki about the author – Diana Wynne Jones (16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011) was an English writer, principally of fantasy novels for children and adults, as well as a small amount of non-fiction. Some of her better-known works are the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series; the novels Howl’s Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm; and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Narrator Emma Newman

About the Narrator…

Emma Newman is the author of the Split Worlds series published by Angry Robot Books and is also an audiobook narrator. She has her own podcast called Tea and Jeopardy which is a combination of guest interviews, geekery and abject silliness. You can find her online at www.enewman.co.uk.

 

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?

EP426: Flash Fiction Special

Four Tickets, by Leslianne Wilder
Life Sentence, by Ben HalleRt
The Future Is Set, by C. L. Perria
read by Nathan Lee, Angela Lee & Norm Sherman

Links for this episode:

EP419: Expediter

by Mack Reynolds
read by Corson Bremer

Links for this episode:

About the Author…

from the wiki about the author… From 1946-49, Reynolds worked as a national organizer for the SLP. In 1946, he made his first fiction sale, “What is Courage?”, to Esquire magazine. A year later, he met a woman who shared his radical politics, Helen Jeanette Wooley. They were married in September of 1947, and Jeanette agreed to support Reynolds for two years while he pursued a career as a writer for the detective pulps. After searching for a place with a low cost of living, they moved to Taos, New Mexico, where Reynolds met science fiction writers Walt Sheldon and Fredric Brown. Brown, later one of Reynolds’ frequent collaborators, convinced Reynolds to shift from writing detective stories to writing science fiction. Reynolds’ first sale of a science fiction story, “Last Warning” (also known as “The Galactic Ghost”), sold to Planet Stories in June 1949 but was not printed until 1954. His first published science fiction story, “Isolationist” appeared in Fantastic Adventures in June of 1950.[3] His career soon took off, resulting in a sale of 18 stories in 1950 alone.[1] In 1951, he published his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, a mix of the murder-mystery and science fiction genres that became “an instant classic of science-fiction-fan related fiction.”

About the Narrator…

Corson loves audio drama, dramatic readings, everything BBC 4 produces, SF, fantasy, horror, and tropical beaches.  (He doesn’t like Pina Coladas, but vodka straight up, turns him on.)  Corson works as a professional voice artist in a variety of fields but (occasionally) moonlights as a techncial writer or a French-to-English technical translator.  His website is HCBVoice.com but he is astonished and proud to be also listed as an actor on the IMDB website and also proud to give his time whenever possible to Escape Artists!  Quote: “Contribute to EA guys!”

 

 

 

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?”

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.

EP378: Scout

By Bud Sparhawk
Read by Corson Bremer

Discuss on our forums. 
All stories by Bud Sparhawk

 

Scout
By Bud Sparhawk

Captain Sandels came in during prep.  “Falcon,” he said, but softly, as if he didn’t want to disturb the techs working on squeezing me into the bomb casing.  I twittered our channel and winked: Kind of busy right now. Something come up?

“No,” the captain responded, again so softly that I knew he definitely didn’t want the techs to overhear.  The only reason I could hear him was that my acoustic enhancements were so sensitive that I could hear a mouse fart from a klick away.  “I just wanted to wish you luck.”

For making it back? I answered.  Not likely.

“That’s brutal,” he replied and I heard his pain. “I thought that, after all we. . .’

I stopped him there.  I’m not Falcon; just a revised edition.

“So it’s just goodbye, then?”

Sure.  I closed the channel before he could say anything else.  What I don’t need now is some damn puzzling reference to a past that no longer concerned me. Better not to dwell on the past.  Given humanity’s precarious state, sentiment was dangerous.  Besides, I had to concentrate on my scouting mission. We had to learn more about the aliens on the planet below.

I shut everything but the maintenance channel as they oozing the cushioning gel around me.  Its plasticity enfolds me in a warm, soft embrace that creeps into every crack and crevice, sealing me off from sight and sound and every sense save an assurance of my own humanity.  My form might be much reduced, to be sure, but nevertheless I retain my inherent humanity.

“We’re closing the lid,” the tech reports over the maintenance channel.

It’s time for sleep.  Landing will wake me up.

EP377: Real Artists

By Ken Liu
Read by Ann Leckie

Discuss on our forums. 
All stories by Ken Liu
All stories read by Ann Leckie
Rated 10 and up

Real Artists
By Ken Liu

“You’ve done well,” Creative Director Len Palladon said, looking over Sophia’s résumé.

Sophia squinted in the golden California sun that fell on her through the huge windows of the conference room. She wanted to pinch herself to be sure she wasn’t dreaming. She was here, really here, on the hallowed campus of Semaphore Pictures, in an interview with the legendary Palladon.

She licked her dry lips. “I’ve always wanted to make movies.” She choked back _for Semaphore_. She didn’t want to seem too desperate.

Palladon was in his thirties, dressed in a pair of comfortable shorts and a plain gray t-shirt whose front was covered with the drawing of a man swinging a large hammer over a railroad spike. A pioneer in computer-assisted movie making, he had been instrumental in writing the company’s earliest software and was the director of _The Mesozoic_, Semaphore’s first film.

He nodded and went on, “You won the Zoetrope screenwriting competition, earned excellent grades in both technology and liberal arts, and got great recommendations from your film studies professors. It couldn’t have been easy.”

To Sophia, he seemed a bit pale and tired, as though he had been spending all his time indoors, not out in the golden California sun. She imagined that Palladon and his animators must have been working overtime to meet a deadline: probably to finish the new film scheduled to be released this summer.

“I believe in working hard,” Sophia said. What she really wanted was to tell him that she knew what it meant to stay up all night in front of the editing workstation and wait for the rendering to complete, all for the chance to catch the first glimpse of a vision coming to life on the screen. She was ready.

Palladon took off his reading glasses, smiled at Sophia, and took out a tablet from behind him. He touched its screen and slid it across the table to Sophia. A video was playing on it.

“There was also this fan film, which you didn’t put on your résumé. You made it out of footage cut and spliced from our movies, and it went viral. Several million views in two weeks, right? You gave our lawyers quite a headache.”

Sophia’s heart sank. She had always suspected that this might become a problem. But when the invitation to interview at Semaphore came in her email, she had whooped and hollered, and dared to believe that somehow the executives at Semaphore had missed that little film.

EP372: Flash Collection

Awkward– Miscommunication between editor, host, and producer caused us to, within the audio, proclaim these stories as the winners of the flash contest, and they’re not, they’re stories we’ve purchased through the year. We will be showcasing the flash contest winners on their own in future episodes. I apologize for the embarrassing mistake.

Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 10 and up

Health Tips for Traveler
by David W. Goldman

Since the short time from mutual greetings of worlds, many Earther wish to visit the lovely world of the Pooquar peoples. This explainer before so will bring yourselves a voyage most lovely.

Within The Transit

The travel via cross-continuum portal will be novel to many Earther. Hydration is a paramount for not having the small problems of liver, marrow, blood tubes, and self memory. Also good before your trip is to make fat, especially under the skin. The scrawny traveler should begin preparation many week prior.

Portal going is sudden and then done. But many Earther say after that they think the journey is very very very long and never to stop. Thus is Earther brains supposed bad attuned to one or more of the interim journey continuum. For thus, non-conscious makes for most lovely travel. Means of non-conscious both pharmacological and percussive are on offer by helpful Pooquar portal agents.

EP345: The Paper Menagerie

By Ken Liu
Read by Rajan Khanna
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
All stories by Ken Liu
All stories read by Rajan Khanna
Rated 10 and up

 The Paper Menagerie
by Ken Liu

One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.

Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.

Kan, kan,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.

She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.

She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.

Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

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