Archive for 10 and Up

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Escape Pod 667: The Best We Can


The Best We Can

By Carrie Vaughn

In the end, the discovery of evidence of extraterrestrial life, and not just life, but intelligence, got hopelessly mucked up because no one wanted to take responsibility for confirming the findings, and no one could decide who ultimately had the authority—the obligation—to do so. We submitted the paper, but peer review held it up for a year. News leaked—NASA announced one of their press conferences, but the press conference ended up being an announcement about a future announcement, which never actually happened and the reporters made a joke of it. Another case of Antarctic meteorites or cold fusion. We went around with our mouths shut waiting for an official announcement while ulcers devoured our guts.

So I wrote a press release. I had Marsh at JPL’s comet group and Salvayan at Columbia vet it for me and released it under the auspices of the JPL Near Earth Objects Program. We could at least start talking about it instead of arguing about whether we were ready to start talking about it. I didn’t know what would happen next. I did it in the spirit of scientific outreach, naturally. The release included that now-famous blurry photo that started the whole thing.

I had an original print of that photo, of UO-1—Unidentified Object One, because it technically wasn’t flying and I was being optimistic that this would be the first of more than one —framed and hanging on the wall over my desk, a stark focal point in my chronically cluttered office. Out of the thousands of asteroids we tracked and photographed, this one caught my eye, because it was symmetrical and had a higher than normal albedo. It flashed, even, like a mirror. Asteroids aren’t symmetrical and aren’t very reflective. But if it wasn’t an asteroid . . . . (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 663: Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus


Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus

By Bogi Takács

So let’s do it this way. I’ll show you whatever I want and you’ll believe me, because I’m an octopus. I might as well get some benefit out of it, not that we ever had much – especially not since you left. Humans, huh?

Humans. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 660: Hoping for Red


Hoping for Red

by Adam Knight

Vixen had just one question for the doctor:
“Can you do it?”

Doctor Fizzwinkle smiled and patted the fur on Vixen’s neck. Outside of the office, the winds whipped furiously, as they did most of the time north of the Arctic Circle. In the office, though, the glow of fluorescent light and the smell of rubbing alcohol made Vixen feel secure and cared for.

“I’m afraid not,” he said. “The procedure you heard about is simple in principle―I would take DNA samples of you and Mr. Vixen, then analyze the cells to see your genetic predispositions, and manipulate the chromosomes to produce the calf that you and your husband desire.”

“Then why not?” Vixen said, stamping her hooves in a little dance.

“Well, everything is simple in principle,” the Doctor said. “But I’ve never done it before.”

Vixen smiled and shook her antlers. She nuzzled against Doctor Fizzwinkle. All the reindeer, indeed all of the animals in the North Pole, loved the good doctor, the best veterinarian north of sixty-six degrees latitude.

“Have you and Mr. Vixen tried all of the techniques I presented? Did he take the pills I prescribed?”

“Yes, and yes,” Vixen replied.

“Give it time, and patience, and you can certainly have a healthy, normal calf.”

“But I don’t want a normal calf!” blurted out Vixen. The Doctor smiled sadly and shook his head.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 658: Beatrix Released

Show Notes

Termination Shock
Termination Shock

TERMINATION SHOCK is a new roleplaying game from Greg Stolze, chronicling your adventures as an ordinary human rescued from hellish war by disorganized aliens. What will you do as a refugee in a strange cosmos? Cling to your past, or find a purpose among inscrutable aliens? Will you just get by, or will you redefine humanity in the eyes of a million extraterrestrials? The choice is yours in this new tabletop game, on Kickstarter now.


Beatrix Released

By Shaenon K. Garrity

The lichen in the cupboard has at last begun to sing.  It sings in two-part harmony, bel canto, essaying a faultless duet with itself.  What a strange and lovely fairy!  I am convinced more and more that my earlier theory was correct, that the lichen is a bipartite organism comprising both fungus and an algae or bacterium.  A remarkable symbiosis, distinct I believe from any recognized taxonomy.  The love its halves sing to one another is profound enough to make one blush, and I soon retreated to the far end of the room to sketch my collection of English mice in the bone cabinet.  Papa and Mamma have allowed me to keep a few childhood specimens in my room again, to be used for art lessons only.

Dinner party tonight.  All the MPs got a clinical dissection, it was lively.  Papa and Grandpapa are appalled by Gladstone’s capitulation to the Irish Free Staters.  I agree entirely.  If it were me I’d turn them all out with a thrashing.  When the guests moved to the drawing room for dessert and coffee Mamma suggested I retire, as the conversation was likely to get too intellectual for a girl like myself.

(Speaking of conversation: I’ve decided to continue this diary in a new code.  The previous simple substitution code was v. solvable, and the thought of Mamma reading my less charitable observations was keeping me up at night.  She will go through my things!  Besides it is good mental exercise to practice a new writing system.)

A few new faces among the dinner guests.  One gentleman with an amusing gait, stiff and precise, like a spider.  He specifically resembles the Pholcus phalangioides or Daddy long-legs.  The cause of the distinctive perambulatory motion of spiders is hydraulic pressure, which assists them in flexing their limbs.  The cause of the distinctive perambulatory motion of the dinner guest is unknown. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 651: Impossible Dreams (Flashback Friday)


Impossible Dreams

By Tim Pratt

(Excerpt)

He went to the Sci-Fi shelf‚ and had another shock. I, Robot was there, but not the forgettable action movie with Will Smith‚ this was older, and the credits said “written by Harlan Ellison.” But Ellison’s adaptation of the Isaac Asimov book had never been produced, though it had been published in book form. “Must be some bootleg student production,” he muttered, and he didn’t recognize the name of the production company. But‚ but‚ it said “winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.” That had to be a student director’s little joke, straight-facedly absurd box copy, as if this were a film from some alternate reality. Worth watching, certainly, though again, he couldn’t imagine how he’d never heard of this. Maybe it had been done by someone local. He took it to the counter and offered his credit card.

She looked at the card dubiously. “Visa? Sorry, we only take Weber and FosterCard.”

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Escape Pod 650: Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier (LIVE)

Show Notes

This is a live reading from Worldcon 2018.


Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier

By Laura Pearlman

Dear Kevin,

I’m sorry I waited so long to tell you this, but I really hate your vacation cabin. Everything about it creeps me out. The sound of crickets at night makes my skin crawl. They sound like impending doom: like a critical piece of equipment being worn down by friction, or a thousand tiny voices, hoarse from screaming, reduced to a raspy warning chant in some ancient language.

The crickets aren’t the only problem. The smell of so much wood in one place makes my eyes burn. And is it really necessary to throw pine cones into the fireplace? Are the burnt-wood fumes not overpowering enough? I used to lie awake at night fantasizing about finding whoever came up with that idea, grinding them up, feeding them to the crickets, and then gathering up the crickets, stuffing them into the fireplace, burning the cabin down, and watching from a safe distance. Upwind, of course.

Do crickets even eat meat? You probably know. You grew up with all this. That’s why you’re comfortable with it. I’m not; to me, it’s alien and disturbing. I wish I’d told you this the first time you took me there, right after we started dating. But your friends were having such a good time. I wanted to be the fun girlfriend who liked what everyone else liked.

It must seem strange that I’m bringing this up now, when neither of us will ever go back there. I mention it because saying I loved your cabin set off the chain of events that led us to where we are today. It wasn’t the first lie I’d told you, of course, but the others were just my cover story.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 648: A Handful of Dal

Show Notes

Visit The Drabblecast Reborn on Kickstarter here.


A Handful of Dal

By Naru Sundar

200g Dal
300ml Water
Ghee
Turmeric
Coriander seeds
Whole black pepper
Cumin seeds

Start with the dal. Wash it like one washes the feet of ascetics entering a temple: with love, with care. Shake loose the dirt and twigs that inevitably stow away alongside it. Perhaps this note will stow away with you onto the Yatra, a tiny mote of the past to accompany you on your grand journey.

Then, a finger of coppery ghee in the pot, and seeds of coriander fattening in the heat. Let the dal swirl into the now fragrant fat. Watch it flush as red and bright as the stones in Fatehpur Sikri that we marveled at once. Let turmeric dust it in gold, as bright as suns. Drown the dal in water quickly, before it blackens to ash—like the protesters in Chandni Chowk. Who can blame them, our people carry the sin of division under our skin, and the selection process for the Yatra was not immune.

You were chosen, Rajiv. I can only hope that when you grind pepper and cumin, you will think of your children’s children, fated one day to smell the air of a distant world. When the dal is ready, soft and lush and swollen, let everything marry. A tapestry of flavors, a gift from your ancestors to your descendants. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 646: Subtle Ways Each Time


Subtle Ways Each Time

By Y.M. Pang

A man loses a woman.

It’s happened a thousand times before and it’s phrased like this nine hundred times. A man loses a woman. As if she were car keys, an umbrella, a scraggly doll in the arms of a child. A literal and grammatical object to be lost. Let’s find a truer cliché. It takes two to tango. Let’s try again:

A woman discards a man.

Raised voices in a summer-boiled attic. Old records, lovingly collected, smashed up like jagged pieces of skyscraper windows. They’re in his mother’s house, gazing down at the familiar yard, the scent of peach blossoms wafting through the window. They’d played there on wobbly toddler legs, cussed out teachers as teens wearing cut-off jeans and crooked baseball caps, shared their first kiss in the shadow of the peach tree and afterward neither could say who initiated it or who was more surprised. Little fights dogged them throughout those nineteen years, but children’s minds are better at forgiving and worse at carving scars.

Only during that fateful day in the attic did they say things that couldn’t be unsaid, voice words their adult brains forgot how to forgive. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 641: Flash Fiction Contest Winners


The Toastmaster

By Kurt Pankau

“Burnt the Pop Tarts again?”

“Yes,” Toaster responded over wifi. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Blender whirred with sympathy.

“Owner was upset,” said Toaster. “She picked me up and looked at my underside to make sure everything was okay.”

“That’s odd,” said Blender. “There’s nothing there but your crumb tray, though.”

“I know, and so does Owner. I don’t know why she did it. It was humiliating.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 640: Paradise Regained


Paradise Regained

By Edward Lerner

My head hurts. I expect it: this is winter. I want it to be spring.

Paradise does not ask what I want.

The winter is young, and I think the dogs are not yet so hungry as to attack me. Still, I hold tight to my spear. Dogs or no dogs, the spear helps me walk through the knee-deep snow.

Only trees show above the snow, and I do not know what is under. In winter, asleep, the plants cannot scream when I step on them.

Because they are asleep, Father told me. Long ago. Before Mother died. Before I left home. I did not understand what he meant. I do not now.

I think Father is gone, too. “Watch the flag,” Father told me, long ago, pointing at the tall pole that stood near Ship. “I will change the flag every day. Unless … I can’t. Then you must come. You must.” (Continue Reading…)