Category: 17 and Up

EP465: The Sky is Blue, and Bright, and Filled with Stars

by Edward Ashton
read by Andrea Richardson

about the author…

Edward Ashton is the author of more than a dozen short stories, as well as numerous technical articles and medical texts. His fiction has appeared in InterText, Louisiana Literature, and The Lowell Review, among other places. His first novel, Three Days in April, is currently in search of a good home. You can find his work online at smart-as-a-bee.tumblr.com.

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 – See more at: http://escapepod.org/2014/01/11/ep430-heart-joy/#sthash.zWMVsntv.dpuf

 

The Sky is Blue, and Bright, and Filled with Stars
by Edward Ashton

Dot reaches the summit of Mary’s Rock just after six, maybe an hour before sunset. It’s a clear, cool September day, with a scattering of tiny white clouds in a royal blue sky, and a soft, steady breeze from the west that brings the faint smell of burning things up from the ruins of Luray. She drops her pack at the top of the trail, pulls out a water bottle, and scrambles up the last thirty meters of broken granite to the high point. The trees on the north side of Thornton Gap a half-kilometer below are just showing the first hints of color, tiny flecks of red and gold mixed into a sea of dark green. Off to the west she can see the smoke now, rising from what looks like a brush fire far down the valley. She sits down, leans back against a waist-high block of stone, and drains half of her water in one long, lukewarm pull.

She’s been here once before, when she was years younger and there were still a few people raising goats and vegetables down in the valley. It was winter then, and she spent a crystal-clear, bitterly cold night out on the overlook, bundled into her mummy bag, sleeping in hour-long snatches, waking each time to a different dazzling pattern of stars and station-lights. The beauty was almost overwhelming, and she vowed then to come back some day, to see what it was like to spend a night on the summit when she didn’t have to worry about hypothermia.

As the sun begins to redden and dip toward the horizon, Dot climbs to her feet and makes her way back down to the overlook, a flat half-circle of stone maybe forty meters across, hanging out over four hundred meters of empty space. A hawk rides the breeze, floating almost stationary out over the drop. It looks at her, dips one wing, and falls like a stone, chasing something down below. Dot retrieves her pack, pulls out her food sack and her alcohol stove. She’s low on fuel. Four more days, maybe five, and she’ll be cooking over an open fire until she can find some more. As she measures out her supper, she realizes that she only has a few days worth of beans and noodles left. No point in cooking when you’ve got nothing to cook, and she’s at least a week’s walk from the nearest resupply. She sighs, and pours a third of what she’d taken back into the sack.

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EP463: Rockwork

by R.M. Graves
read by Angi Shearstone

author R.M. Graves

about the author…

I am an illustrator and fiction writer based in London, England.

This is the list of my published work so far:

“Ever Before Me”, on Everyday Fiction.

You might like to hear the Samuel Sebastian Wesley hymn that inspired it:  Wash Me Throughly.

“More Crackle Than Music”, upcoming on Stupefying Stories.

“Simulation”, appearing in July’sFlash Fiction Online. 

If you are interested in the science behind this, check out Silas Beane’s research   as well as  Matchright’s virtual babies.

narrator Angi Shearstone

about the narrator…
Angi Shearstone is an award-winning professional artist with an MFA in comics, a small herd of cats, strong geek tendencies and a fondness for ska-core.  She’s worked in children’s books with Mercer Mayer, in comics on Batman: Gotham County Line with Scott Hampton, collaborated with Mur Lafferty on Beyond the Storm: Shadows of the Big Easy, and otherwise has self-published a handful of comic book projects, two of which with Joe Sutliff Sanders.

She currently teaches nifty computer stuff to keep the bills paid while trying to get this epic-sized fully painted comic book series off the ground.  Pitches have been made, grants have been applied for, BloodDreams is to be released sometime in the unspecified but not-too-distant future.

 

Rockwork
by RM Graves

Dog sat at her kit, in the cavernous dark at the back of the stage, with Meg’s kiss chilling on her lips. That hadn’t fixed her nerves at all. Now Dog’s chest shook worse than her hands, jacked up on the worry of letting her girlfriend down, again.

The crowd didn’t see or care. As Meg took her spot out front, they thrummed the darkness with their chanting, “Rock… Work! Rock… Work!”

Dog’s sticks were already slick in her palms as she snapped rubber bands around them. She shuffled in her seat, checked contacts, toggled switches and sensed Meg’s impatience, standing in the dark between the drums and hungry fans. Dog brushed trembling fingers over the kit and it twitched around her, jittery. It hated gigs.

“Come on, Rocky,” she whispered and cogs whirred back at her. She shook her head. “Purring? Seriously?”

The kit’s blind trust made Dog gulp an urge to up and run. No. This time. This time Meg would be proud of her. Proud of them. No screw-ups. No zoning out.

She took a deep breath and kicked a volley of hard thumps into the black. The audience hushed. Cannon-shot beats echoed, overlapped, and swelled like an approaching army. A machine-gun of rimshots and the lights, and the crowd, exploded.

Dog scowled into the glare of spotlights as the ‘Rockwork’ burst into life around her; a kit stretched beyond drums to form an entire robotic band. Butchered musical instruments twitched and writhed in a hellish chromed engine of noise. Cogs spun plectrums at wire. Hammers rapped on the broken teeth of piano keys. Thumbscrews wrenched raw electric scales out of strangled frets.

Dog set her features into maniacal control, sweat already trickling over her bald head, pooling in her eyebrows; her arms gleaming pistons at the snare and toms.

Meg swayed her hips to Dog’s driving cacophony; her playful nonchalance creating a tantalizing silhouette to the audience, but taunting Dog behind. Hinting at what she had to lose. The music press were in tonight, but there was more than the band at stake.

The Rockwork was autonomous to a point, but it relied on Dog to keep it in line. Left unchecked it would spin off on its own groove without regard to Meg. Or the audience. Dog pressed her lips, rolled an extravagant fill across the toms, thrashed out her anxiety in the splash and crash. Meg’s cue.

The fans bounced along with the opening bars. Meg tossed Dog a warning frown, the gobo’s lit her up, and her voice rang out. The crowd, already jumping, flung its hands in the air like antennae for more and howled in pleasure.

EP461: Selkie Stories are for Losers

by Sofia Samatar
read by Amanda Ching

about the author/narrator…

I am the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013). I edit nonfiction and poetry for Interfictions Online. You can find out more about me at sofiasamatar.com, or contact me directly at sofiasamatar@gmail.com.

EP460: The Ink Readers of Doi Saket

by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
read by Mat Weller

about the author/narrator…

Born in 1983, Thomas Olde Heuvelt is the much praised Dutch author of five novels and many stories of the fantastic. BBC Radio called Thomas “One of Europe’s foremost talents in fantastic literature.” Olde Heuvelt is a multiple winner of the Paul Harland Award for best Dutch Fantasy. His story “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” received the Honorable Mention in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards. His latest novel HEX is currently being translated into English.

EP459: The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere

by John Chu
read by John Chu

about the author/narrator…

John designs microprocessors by day and writes fiction by night. His work has been published at Boston Review, Asimov’s and Tor.com. His website is http://johnchu.net

SPECIAL EDITION: PG Holyfield

 

Music in this episode:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/All_These_Simple_Things/09_-_The_Idea_of_Space

EP458: If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love

by Rachel Swirsky
read by Christina Lebonville

author Rachel Swirsky

about the author…

Rachel Swirsky’s short stories have appeared in Tor,Subterranean Magazine, and Clarkesworld, and been reprinted in year’s best anthologies edited by Strahan, Horton, Dozois, and the VanderMeers. She holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and graduated from Clarion West in 2005. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, the Sturgeon, and the Locus Award, and won the Nebula in 2010 for best novella. Her husband is a dinosaur fanatic, but if he turned into a dinosaur, he wouldn’t be a T-Rex. He’d be a Therizinosaur.

about the narrator…

Christina Lebonville is known by the online moniker, Evil Cheshire Cat, a tribute to her sense of sarcastically dark humor and toothy resemblance to the re-imagining of the classic Wonderland character in American McGee’s video game, Alice. She has done voice work and writing for skits and songs played on the now retired comedy podcast, The Awful Show, and is the co-creator and former co-host of the podcast Obviously Oblivious, a nearly four-year running comedy podcast with a science twist. Christina has since retired from podcasting to pursue a doctorate in Behavioral Neuroscience.

 

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love
by Rachel Swirsky

If you were a dinosaur, my love, then you would be a T-Rex. You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons. Your eyes would gaze gently from beneath your bony brow-ridge.

If you were a T-Rex, then I would become a zookeeper so that I could spend all my time with you. I’d bring you raw chickens and live goats. I’d watch the gore shining on your teeth. I’d make my bed on the floor of your cage, in the moist dirt, cushioned by leaves. When you couldn’t sleep, I’d sing you lullabies.

If I sang you lullabies, I’d soon notice how quickly you picked up music. You’d harmonize with me, your rough, vibrating voice a strange counterpoint to mine. When you thought I was asleep, you’d cry unrequited love songs into the night.

If you sang unrequited love songs, I’d take you on tour. We’d go to Broadway. You’d stand onstage, talons digging into the floorboards. Audiences would weep at the melancholic beauty of your singing.

EP456: To Waste

by Luke Pebler
read by Joshua Price

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Luke Pebler is a graduate of the 2012 Clarion Workshop at UCSD, and his fiction has appeared in the Sword & Laser Anthology and others.

about the narrator…

My name is Josh and I’m legally blind. I have a degenerative eye condition that claimed most of my vision while I was in college for film art and design. I now devote all of my free time to volunteering what skills I acquired in college to the blind community. I describe tv shows and movies for a website in England. For those of you who are not familiar with descriptive movies, it basically means that we lay an additional audio track over the film that explains what is happening when the characters aren’t talking. I also spend a great deal of time producing fully casted audio dramas of comic books. I don’t feel that it is fair for the comic book companies to provide an amazing art form for sighted people, but nothing for the blind community. I wrote to the big companies and asked them  to provide an audio form of their products or a text form of them, so a screen reader could read it for the blind, but none of the companies answered me. so, under the 3.0 creative commons license, I produce these free products. At this time, I mainly  focus on comics that use to be television shows. For example, Buffy the vampire slayer and it’s spin off series Angel, as well as Charmed, because these comics are intended to pick up right where the series left off. Again,  I don’t feel that it is fair that the blind community is cut off from the story line simply because the series has changed form and is no longer accessible. Often I am asked why I go through so much trouble to create such detailed audio projects for the comic books content, and I respond with “Comic books are supposed to be a visual art form. I could create a simple read through audio track, like an audio book, but I strive for something more. Comics are visual art form, not just written words.”  I try to change a visual art form into an audio art form, thus keeping the idea of comics as art. I make what sighted people see, into something that blind people can hear. It is my hope that the audio can create an image in people’s minds that resembles visual art.

 

To Waste
by Luke Pebler

When I wake, it is not yet hot.  But it will be soon.

I am already thirsty.

I get up from the cot and go to the machine.  I put my dick into the intake cup, and when my pee flows into the machine it clicks on automatically.  I stretch and reach out to snag my camera by its strap.  I review the shots I took yesterday while I finish going.  The machine whirs while it does its work.  I wait, still looking at photos.

When the machine beeps, it has produced almost eight ounces of clean warm water.  I sip some of it, just enough to wet my mouth, and put the rest into a second machine.

When the second machine beeps, it has produced five ounces of hot coffee.

I crouch in the corner of the room, where the rising sun cannot find me.  It is still cool here.  I inhale deeply, wanting not even the steam of the coffee to go to waste.  I sip.

When I look up, the boy is in the doorway, watching.  I do not know how long he’s been there.

“He wants you,” the boy says.

EP455: Keep Your Shape

by Robert Sheckley
read by Nathaniel Lee

author Robert Sheckley

author Robert Sheckley

about the author…

(from Wikipedia) Robert Sheckley was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1931 the family moved to Maplewood, New Jersey. Sheckley attended Columbia High School, where he discovered science fiction. He graduated in 1946 and hitchhiked to California the same year, where he tried numerous jobs: landscape gardener, pretzel salesman, barman, milkman, warehouseman, and general laborer “board man” in a hand-painted necktie studio. Finally, still in 1946, he joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Korea. During his time in the army he served as a guard, an army newspaper editor, a payroll clerk, and guitarist in an army band. He left the service in 1948.

Sheckley then attended New York University, where he received an undergraduate degree in 1951. The same year he married for the first time, to Barbara Scadron. The couple had one son, Jason. Sheckley worked in an aircraft factory and as an assistant metallurgist for a short time, but his breakthrough came quickly: in late 1951 he sold his first story, Final Examination, to Imagination magazine. He quickly gained prominence as a writer, publishing stories in Imagination, Galaxy, and other science fiction magazines. The 1950s saw the publication of Sheckley’s first four books: short story collections Untouched by Human Hands (Ballantine, 1954), Citizen in Space (1955), and Pilgrimage to Earth (Bantam, 1957), and a novel, Immortality, Inc. (first published as a serial in Galaxy, 1958).

Sheckley and Scadron divorced in 1956. The writer married journalist Ziva Kwitney in 1957. The newly married couple lived in Greenwich Village. Their daughter, Alisa Kwitney, born in 1964, would herself become a successful writer. Applauded by critic Kingsley Amis, Sheckley was now selling many of his deft, satiric stories to mainstream magazines such as Playboy. In addition to his science fiction stories, in 1960s Sheckley started writing suspense fiction. More short story collections and novels appeared in the 1960s, and a film adaptation of an early story by Sheckley, The 10th Victim, was released in 1965.

Sheckley spent much of 1970s living on Ibiza. He and Kwitney divorced in 1972 and the same year Sheckley married Abby Schulman, whom he had met in Ibiza. The couple had two children, Anya and Jed. The couple separated while living in London. In 1980, the writer returned to the United States and became fiction editor of the newly established OMNI magazine. Sheckley left OMNI in 1981 with his fourth wife, writer Jay Rothbell a.k.a. Jay Sheckley, and they subsequently traveled widely in Europe, finally ending up in Portland, Oregon, where they separated. He married Gail Dana of Portland in 1990. Sheckley continued publishing further science fiction and espionage/mystery stories, and collaborated with other writers such as Roger Zelazny and Harry Harrison.

During a 2005 visit to Ukraine for the Ukrainian Sci-Fi Computer Week, an international event for science fiction writers, Sheckley fell ill and had to be hospitalized in Kiev on April 27. His condition was very serious for one week, but he appeared to be slowly recovering. Sheckley’s official website ran a fundraising campaign to help cover Sheckley’s treatment and his return to the United States. Sheckley settled in Red Hook, in northern Dutchess County, New York, to be near his daughters Anya and Alisa. On November 20 he had surgery for a brain aneurysm; he died in a Poughkeepsie hospital on December 9, 2005.

about the narrator…

Nathaniel Lee is Escape Pod’s assistant editor and sometime contributor.  His writing can be found at various online venues, including Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and all of the EA podcasts.  He lives somewhat unwillingly in North Carolina with his wife and son and their obligatory authorial cats.

 

Keep Your Shape
by Robert Sheckley

Pid the Pilot slowed the ship almost to a standstill, and peered anxiously at the green planet below.
Even without instruments, there was no mistaking it. Third from its sun, it was the only planet in this system capable of sustaining life. Peacefully it swam beneath its gauze of clouds.
It looked very innocent. And yet, twenty previous Grom expeditions had set out to prepare this planet for invasion—and vanished utterly, without a word.
Pid hesitated only a moment, before starting irrevocably down. There was no point in hovering and worrying. He and his two crewmen were as ready now as they would ever be. Their compact Displacers were stored in body pouches, inactive but ready.
Pid wanted to say something to his crew, but wasn’t sure how to put it.
The crew waited. Ilg the Radioman had sent the final message to the Grom planet. Ger the Detector read sixteen dials at once, and reported, “No sign of alien activity.” His body surfaces flowed carelessly.

 

Noticing the flow, Pid knew what to say to his crew. Ever since they had left Grom, shape-discipline had been disgustingly lax. The Invasion Chief had warned him; but still, he had to do something about it. It was his duty, since lower castes such as Radiomen and Detectors were notoriously prone to Shapelessness.
“A lot of hopes are resting on this expedition,” he began slowly. “We’re a long way from home now.”
Ger the Detector nodded. Ilg the Radioman flowed out of his prescribed shape and molded himself comfortably to a wall.
“However,” Pid said sternly, “distance is no excuse for promiscuous Shapelessness.”
Ilg flowed hastily back into proper Radioman’s shape.
“Exotic forms will undoubtedly be called for,” Pid went on. “And for that we have a special dispensation. But remember—anyshape not assumed strictly in the line of duty is a foul, lawless device of The Shapeless One!”
Ger’s body surfaces abruptly stopped flowing.
“That’s all,” Pid said, and flowed into his controls. The ship started down, so smoothly co-ordinated that Pid felt a glow of pride.
They were good workers, he decided. He just couldn’t expect them to be as shape-conscious as a high-caste Pilot. Even the Invasion Chief had told him that.
“Pid,” the Invasion Chief had said at their last interview, “we need this planet desperately.”
“Yes, sir,” Pid had said, standing at full attention, never quivering from Optimum Pilot’s Shape.
“One of you,” the Chief said heavily, “must get through and set up a Displacer near an atomic power source. The army will be standing by at this end, ready to step through.”
“We’ll do it, sir,” Pid said.
“This expedition has to succeed,” the Chief said, and his features blurred momentarily from sheer fatigue. “In strictest confidence, there’s considerable unrest on Grom. The Miner caste is on strike, for instance. They want a new digging shape. Say the old one is inefficient.”
Pid looked properly indignant. The Mining Shape had been set down by the Ancients fifty thousand years ago, together with the rest of the basic shapes. And now these upstarts wanted to change it!
“That’s not all,” the Chief told him. “We’ve uncovered a new Cult of Shapelessness. Picked up almost eight thousand Grom, and I don’t know how many more we missed.”
Pid knew that Shapelessness was a lure of The Shapeless One, the greatest evil that the Grom mind could conceive of. But why, he wondered, did so many Grom fall for His lures?

EP454: Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One

by KC Ball
read by Dani Cutler

Links for this episode:

about the author…

I live in Seattle, a stone’s throw from Puget Sound, with my life partner, Rachael.

I began writing fiction professionally in 2008 and now write full-time.  I’ve sold almost fifty short stories, for publication in various print and online magazines, including AnalogLightspeedFlash Fiction Online and Murky Depths, the award-winning but now defunct British fantasy magazine.

In addition, my novel,  Lifting Up Veronica, was published in January 2012 by Every Day Publishers as an online serial. E-book and print versions are forthcoming.  My first short-story collection, Snapshots from a Black Hole  & Other Oddities, was published in January 2012 by Hydra House Books.

I won the 2009 Writers of the Future competition with my short story,Coward’s Steel, graduated the Clarion West writers workshop July 2010 and attended Mike Brotherton’s Launch Pad workshop July 2011 at the University of Wyoming. I have also studied with SFWA Grand Master Jim Gunn.

I am fanatic about the written word, oral story-telling, corny jokes, traditional jazz, open water, lighthouses, sad country songs and all things to do with motion pictures.

about the narrator…

Narrator Dani Cutler

Dani Cutler last narrated for EP in 389: Keeping Tabs. She has been part of the podcasting community since 2006, hosting and producing her own podcast through 2013. She currently works for KWSS independent radio in Phoenix as their midday announcer, and also organizes a technology conference each year for Phoenix residents to connect with others in the podcast, video, and online community.

 

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One
by KC Ball

Lori Meeker pushed her hair out of her eyes and leaned back against the sink. She squeezed the cold porcelain edge to still her trembling hands and focused on the pair of plainclothes cops shoehorned into the women’s can with her.

The space was hardly bigger than a closet but the restrooms were the only private spaces in the bar, and the detectives had insisted on questioning her alone.

“The restrooms always this clean?” Detective Gayle asked.

“Yeah. Augie’s bat-shit crazy about dirt and germs.”

Gayle raised an eyebrow. “Bat-shit crazy, huh? Is that your professional opinion?”

“Pardon my French,” Lori snapped.

Lori had met women just like Gayle. Always judging, always pretending they could do anything a man could do. Always looking down their perfect nose at girls who had to work in joints like Augie’s Bar & Grill.

And Augie was bat-shit crazy about germs. A damned phobia, that’s what she should have said. It was a bar, for god’s sake, not some fancy restaurant. The place was cleaner than it had any need to be.

“Tell us what you saw and heard,” Detective Osbourne said.

Osbourne looked like a nice man, the kind of guy who would listen without judging. Lori decided to talk to him. She weighed how much to tell him, though. She was afraid he might call her crazy, might laugh and stop listening to her, if she said she didn’t think the dead body out on the bar floor was human.

Lori fished her cigarettes from her sweater pocket, shook a fresh one from the pack and sparked it with her butane lighter. Gayle turned her head away and coughed. Lori smiled.

“You going to talk to us?” Gayle asked.

Lori blew more smoke toward Gayle and focused on Osbourne’s big, brown hound-dog eyes.

“I unlocked the door at eleven,” she said. “Right off, this little guy strolled in, just like he owned the place. Augie gave him the once over, went back to stocking the cooler with a case of Red Hook.”

“What did you make of him?” Osbourne asked.

“I saw right off that he was slumming. I can tell the type. But Augie always says it doesn’t matter where a customer is from or what they look like, long as they have money.”

Gayle jumped in. “And this guy had money?”

Lori nodded. “A wad of bills would choke a horse.”

“Did he sit at the bar?” Osbourne asked.

“Uh huh,” she said. “He crawled up on one of the stools. Could barely see over the edge. If we had booster seats I think I would’a offered him one.”

Her cigarette had burned down to the filter. Lori flipped it into the toilet, listened to it hiss, and popped her butane lighter to spark another one. A skinny job with lots of filter and not much tobacco. Her mother called them coffin tacks.

“What did the fellow look like?” Osbourne asked.

“Bald, a big head. Glasses on a little nose, not much chin. He ordered one drink. Straight-up scotch. Never touched it. Most times, that sets Augie off. This time he never say a word.”

“Any idea why?” Osbourne asked.

“They told each other jokes.”

“Jokes?”

Lori nodded. “Augie loves jokes, can tell them all night and not repeat himself. This little guy could tell them, too.”

“What sort of jokes?” Detective Gayle asked.

“All kinds. The one about the farmer’s daughter and the salesman. The golfer and the dead priest. The special pig. That one makes me laugh, but I can’t remember it to save my life.”

Gayle leaned in close now, ignoring the cigarette smoke. “Tell us what happened at the end.”

“I’d almost finished setting up the tables, when I heard the guy say, ‘Augie, you ever heard the one about the little green man that walked into the bar?'”

She could feel tears welling. She tried to push them back.

“Go on, Lori.” Osbourne said, kindness in his voice.

Lori closed her eyes, held on to his words. “Augie yelled, then I heard the shotgun. Almost peed myself. When I looked, the little guy was on the floor, his face shot all to pieces.”