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Escape Pod 669: Craphound (Flashback Friday)


Craphound

By Cory Doctorow

(Excerpt)

Craphound beat me out the door, as usual. His exoskeleton is programmable, so he
can record little scripts for it like: move left arm to door handle, pop it,
swing legs out to running-board, jump to ground, close door, move forward.
Meanwhile, I’m still making sure I’ve switched off the headlights and that I’ve
got my wallet.

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Escape Pod 668: The Harmonic Resonance of Ejiro Anaborhi


The Harmonic Resonance of Ejiro Anaborhi

by Wole Talabi

The spindly, sleek ship hurtled forward at hyperliminal speed, blurring its own intricately patterned design in six dimensions and wrecking the fabric of space–time in its wake. Its captain adjusted the dial on the control panel, accelerating the ship three thousand lightspeed units faster in Planck time. Reality shifted.

The sphere that was chasing the ship matched their maneuver and kept the distance—if it could still be called that—between them, unchanged. The sphere suddenly added an extra-dimensional rotation to its motion and burst ahead with a surge of energy that set off a singularity event behind it. It slammed itself against the ship finally, throwing off gigantic streams of pure energy, and latched on to it with long, spiny hydra-like tendrils that branched into manifold others.

The sphere began to consume the ship in a dazzling display of fractured light and twisted gravity, tendrils reaching into it like the fingers of some monstrous creature seeking sustenance. The ship’s captain, in a panic, condensed every aspect of themself into one place for the first time since they’d first gained super-sentience. They could not let the ship be taken. If the object it carried fell into the hands of the beings that controlled the sphere, every conscious aspect of the universe could become a weapon in their hands. It was better if all was lost; destroyed forever. The object pulsed a thought in agreement with them. They resonated with resolve. This would be the final act of the Great War. It had to be done.

The captain pushed a gray dot above the main control panel and the universe stood still for the most minuscule of moments before a bright azure stream of pure plasma tore its way through the core of the ship, expanding at imperceivable speeds. In a flash, it obliterated the ship, the sphere, and everything within a five-hundred-galaxy radius before finally pausing to allow something like an explosion occur. Time and space became shrapnel. Pressure and temperature became meaningless abstractions in a bubble of broken reality. The universe trembled.

(Continue Reading…)

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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 666: This Wine-Dark Feeling That Isn’t The Blues


This Wine-Dark Feeling That Isn’t The Blues

by José Pablo Iriarte

The Odyssey contains over three hundred mentions of color. Black. White. Red. Not a single blue though. Even the ocean is not described as blue, but as “wine-dark.” Likewise with the Koran and ancient Hebrew scripture: no blues, anywhere.

This is what I focus on during Savannah’s funeral. Otherwise, if I don’t keep my mind busy, I will think instead about how she didn’t keep her promise to me. And how I’m free of my promise to her.

If you can’t trust promises made by two girls in a psych ward, what can you trust?
I read somewhere that Elon Musk thinks we’re living in a simulation. Neil deGrasse Tyson too. It would explain impossible shit like Donald Trump getting elected president—just a bug in the code somewhere.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 665: The Man Who Lost the Sea (Flashback Friday)


The Man Who Lost the Sea

By Theodore Sturgeon

[EDITOR: This was originally released as audio-only, and we don’t have the rights to post the text of this story. It’s widely available online by searching.]

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Escape Pod 664: The Day Girl


The Day Girl

by Rivqa Rafael

Mother never wanted me to take the meteorology job. “Those high fences and secret regulations,” she said. “There’s something shady about Rubens’ Medicines” —dear Mother’s tone was sarcastic when she wished it— “mark my words, Genevieve. Dull work, too, and why don’t they use automatons?” But it was that or go in as a governess or lady’s maid, and that would have been a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

I smile wryly at my little medicinal joke as I smooth down the page of the logbook. In any case, testimonials prove the worth of Rubens’ medicinal tonic above our competitors across Britain (to say nothing of the endorsement of Queen Victoria’s Surgeon): Worth every penny to save Da from consumption… Jarvis’ Elixir did nothing but Rubens’ saved her… The only cure, everyone knows it…

The hours are long, true, but the nursery is a pleasant place to work, with its high glass ceilings. I like seeing the tidy berry crops from my laboratory bench. Besides, it’s warm in winter, if a little stifling in summer.

(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 662: Another Day in the Desert


Another Day in the Desert

by Mame Bougouma Diene

“I’ll trip you first abba!”

Tagedouchet teased her father as she leaped over the long stick he swung at her ankles, raising a puff of sand with her sandals, the gritty substance drifting between her toes, and landed, folding her knees, narrowly dodging the swing of her father’s Takuba sabre.

She swung her stick at his knees. He parried with his own and hammered her with his curved sword. The old, wiry man was still strong. Her blade blocked his attacks, but her shoulder bent almost to dislocation. She used a break in his thrusts to roll over to the side and sweep him off his feet with a sharp spin of her long stick. He hit the ground without a word, rolled over, and leaped back to his feet.

“Told you!” she said, the thick turban wrapped around her face muffling her words in the evening sun, setting behind the dunes around them.

“It’s important for trainees to build up some confidence, and…”

The beating wings of a Han Industries helithopter cut his words short, leaving a shadow across the sand like a giant firefly.

They instinctively covered their eyes, closed their mouths and stopped breathing. Some people said it did little good — whatever radiation seeped from the uranium transported from the mines would trickle in — but they did anyway, perhaps more in disgust of the corporation than for protection.

Her father spit a gob of black phlegm into the sand at the thopter’s passage, traces left from his own years working the mines around Arlit.

“Let’s get going,” he said “the drones’ll start flying soon.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 661: A Fine Night for Tea and Bludgeoning


A Fine Night for Tea and Bludgeoning

By Beth Cato

Summer 1901

Upon my arrival at the Durham’s dance, it was quickly apparent to me that their daughter’s new purebred fiancé was not the evening’s star as gossip had foretold. Instead, a dashing green-skinned gentleman had garnered a pack of giggling admirers.

I had never encountered a person of such fascinatingly verdant coloration before, and yet I immediately had an odd pressure upon me to accept this man and not question his visage.

How peculiar.

I retreated to a far wall. My brow furrowed in thought; the motion hurt. My face was caked with powder adequate to make an elephant sneeze, all to obscure the final, yellowed vestiges of what had been a black eye.

Such a blemish would have been abhorrent to the flibbertigibbets filling the room, but then, they also had the mental acumen of chocolate éclairs. They prowled these parties for husband material the way big game hunters stalked moose, each seeking to bag something brag-worthy and best kept stuffed in a parlor. This green-skinned man was fresh meat, though it seemed no one else had noticed his greenness at all. (Continue Reading…)

2018 Year in Review and Awards Eligibility


In 2018, Escape Pod published a number of original and reprint science fiction stories. If you are nominating and/or voting for these awards, please consider our original publications for the Short Story category of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, among others. The full list is below!

Escape Pod is eligible for the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award. 2018 staff include Co-Editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, Assistant Editor Benjamin C. Kinney, and Audio Producers Adam Pracht and Summer Brooks.

Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya are also eligible for the Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo Award. (Please nominate both on same ballot.)

A full list of current Escape Pod staff is available here, including our Guest Editors for Artemis Rising 4, S. Kay Nash and Laura Pearlman, and our Guest Hosts, Tina Connolly and Alasdair Stuart. We are very proud of our crew and the work we’ve done, and we thank you for joining us in this orbit around the sun.

— Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya


Original Short Stories

Wasps Make Honey (3500 words) by Penelope Evans
Sweetness at the End (2600 words) by Jenny Rae Rappaport
The Sixes, The Wisdom, and the Wasp
 (5500 words) by E.J. Delaney
A Cure for Homesickness (5970 words) by S. L. Scott
All Profound and Logical Minds (5900 words) by Bennett North
A Study in Symmetry, or the Chance Encounter of an Android and a Painter (4300 words) by Jamie Lackey
Promise (5400 words) by Christi Nogle
Assistance (5500 words) by Kathryn DeFazio
Surveillance Fatigue (2200 words) by Jennifer R. Donahue
Humans Die, Stars Fade (3700 words) by Charles Payseur
After Midnight at the Zap Stop (5200 words) by Matthew Claxton
Me, Meg, and The Thing (6000 words) by Gian-Paul Bergeron
Toastmaster (500 words) by Kurt Pankau
Dollhouse (500 words) by Karen Osborne
Kaiju Outside Hope (500 words) by Maria Haskins
So Sorry You’re Going Extinct! (470 words) by Paul R Hardy
Subtle Ways Each Time (2100 words) by Y.M. Pang
Loyalty Test (2500 words) by Andrew Gudgel
Beatrix Released (6000 words) by Shaenon Garrity
Hoping for Red (3800 words) by Adam Knight

Reprint Short Stories (first published in 2018)

Heart of Ash, Heart of Steam (3500 words) by Malon Edwards – first published in Steampunk Universe, Jan 2, 2018
Mother Tongues (3700 words) by S. Qiouyu Li – first published in Asimov’s, January 2018

Reprint Short Stories (first published in 2017 or earlier)

When We Fall (5200 words) by Kameron Hurley
Cat Pictures, Please (3400 words) by Naomi Kritzer
Sparg (2000 words) by Brian Trent
Lonely Robot On A Rocket Ship In Space (4300 words) by A. Merc Rustad
My Generations Shall Praise (5500 words) by Samantha Henderson
Anna and Marisol in Time and Space (7200 words) by Tim Pratt
Fandom for Robots (3600 words) by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Fire Rode the Cold Wind (4400 words) by Aimee Ogden
The Endangered Camp (4000 words) by Ann Leckie
An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition (46oo words) by Ken Liu
Lucky Shot (13400 words) by Gerri Leen
At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia) (4800 words) by Maurice Broaddus
Paradise Regained (5900 words) by Edward Lerner
Oracle (3600 words) by Dominica Phetteplace
The Revolution, Brought to You by Nike (9900 words) by Andrea Phillips
A Handful of Dal (1500 words) by Naru Sundar
Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier (1700 words) by Laura Pearlman
And Then There Were (N-One) (19350 words) by Sarah Pinsker
The Big So-So (5200 words) by Erika Satifka
Caesura (3700 words) by Hayley Stone

Flashback Fridays

Herd Mentality By Jay Caselberg
Midnight Blue By Will McIntosh
On a Clear Day You can See All the Way to Conspiracy By Desmond Warzel
Ulla By Daniel Schwabauer
Disarm By Vylar Kaftan
Imma Gonna Finish You Off by Marina J. Lostetter
Impossible Dreams By Tim Pratt
Into the Breach By Malon Edwards