Posts Tagged ‘free fiction’

EP467: Trash


by Marie Vibbert
read by Tatiana Gomberg

author Marie Vibbert
author Marie Vibbert

about the author…

I live with my husband Brian, his brother John, and two adorable cats, in a 1930s neo-colonial that we unworthy slobs do not keep up.

I’m currently employed as the webmaster for the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

I’m a member of the Cajun Sushi Hamsters from Hell – a science fiction writer’s group. I sold a story to an online magazine (now defunct) in 2009 that garnered a Nebula nomination (probably from my friend Mary), and in 2013 I attended the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop in San Diego, CA. In 2014, I became a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America professional organization. You can find links to my stories and more about my writing at my author’s website: http://marievibbert.com

I’m also a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, squired to Sir Ephraim ben Shlomo.

Since 2010 I’ve been playing football for the Cleveland Fusion, a women’s tackle football team. I’m a lineman.

 

narrator Tatiana Gomberg
narrator Tatiana Gomberg

about the narrator…

    Tatiana fell in love with New York City when she took a school trip to the city at 16 years old.  Six months later she had her feet and a suitcase on the New York City asphalt as a new student accepted into New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts which began her New York career.  She adores traveling and counts her lucky stars that acting and dancing have taken her all over the United States, to Montreal, Vancouver, Ireland, and Holland… but she loves coming home to New York where it all started.

    Equally at home speaking heightened language in a corset, in a leather jacket spouting obscenities, and as a dancer she has been compared to such dark, vivacious heroines as Helena Bonham Carter, a young Winona Ryder and Ellen Page. This depth and facility with multiple genres garnered her a New York Innovative Theatre Award Best Featured Actress nomination for her work in The Night of Nosferatu. Her facility with accents has landed her quite a few audiobooks and numerous on- camera roles including the role of Evgenya in the award winning I am A Fat Cat.  Tatiana is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.

 

Trash
by Marie Vibbert

Nanlee was a woman with the sort of past that necessitated moving to a non-extradition treaty country, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t planned on enjoying her “retirement” on Luna Colony.  She was Facilities Manager – a polite term for the boss of all janitors.  Her staff jumped anxiously at her every glance, and waste was down nine percent since she had taken office.  She was still important; the life of the colony depended on her work.  No one bothered her.  Which was fortunate, given how she used to deal with people who bothered her.

Luna Colony concerned itself with maintaining the Ungodly Huge Array on the dark side of the moon and serving as a weigh station between Earth’s inconvenient atmosphere and the rest of the universe.  Nanlee concerned herself with minding her own business.

She was at her desk when the alarms started.  A male voice recorded long ago grunted “Evacuate.  Imminent danger of decompression. Evacuate.”  No doubt he had thought he sounded important and tough. Nanlee sighed and locked her workstation.

Vince, her assistant, fell to a halt against the door as she was picking up her cane.  “Boss! The station—”

“Yes, I heard.  I do have two working ears.  Probably a drill, but gather everyone to the garage.”

Vince’s hazel eyes just about vibrated, so wide open she could see the white all the way around the iris.  “It isn’t a drill!  This is ‘we could all die tonight’ bad news.”

Nanlee paused, half on her cane, half on the edge of the desk, pulling herself out of her chair.  She fell back into the seat.  She could feel her hot-tub calling to her.  “Metaphorical death or literal?”

“Literal.  Two tons of titanium on a crash-course with our dome.”  He tapped her desk surface, hurriedly typing in his password and pulling a document, which he rotated with a flick of his hand to point at her.

It was an orbit decay projection. They always looked the same.  “And this is too big for the dome to handle?”

“It’ll crack us like an egg!”

Vince sounded excited, almost gleeful, at the prospect.  He was young.

“What the hell is it?”

“The last stage of a Saturn V rocket.  Sucker’s been orbiting Luna for a hundred years.  Maybe it got hit by some other debris, maybe it’s just decided now’s the time to land.”

Nanlee stopped herself from asking “Saturn what?” because Vince was looking at her like he’d just won the lottery.  “Does Trey know about this?”

Trey was the mayor of the colony, Nanlee’s boss.

Vince rolled his eyes.  “Of course Trey knows.”  Like that was any less valid a question than asking her if she had heard the evacuation announcement.  Nanlee wasn’t going to waste breath pointing it out. “He sent me to tell you we’ve got a little less than a day.”

“Well pack shit up!”  She poked her cane against the wall behind her to get a little boost forward.  “Get Percy and take the organic filters off-line.  They won’t survive decompression. Also—“

“No. We’ve got a day to try and save the colony.”

Nanlee arched an eyebrow.  “We?”

“Trey has put waste management on this.  Everyone else is booking it.”

“Why the hell is this my jurisdiction?”

“Because,” he smiled ruefully, “it’s trash.”

With surprising strength, Nanlee pushed Vince out of her way and started down the corridor.  She didn’t bother playing up her limp like she usually did – it never hurts to be underestimated. “Where is he? Where is Trey?”

“Uh… he’s gone.  Central administration relocated before the alarm.”

“Damn.”  Nanlee bounced upward as she struck the floor with her cane.  Vince ducked as she whirled in place and started toward the equipment bays.  “If we’re staying, our gear is staying. Don’t tell me that coward commandeered a single maintenance vehicle.”

“Uh…” Vince bit his lip and ran after Nanlee.

# (Continue Reading…)

EP466: Checkmate


by Brian Trent
read by Mat Weller

author Brian Trent
author Brian Trent

about the author…

I am a novelist, screenwriter, producer, poet, actor, and freethinker who supports both imagination and rationalism. I am an advocate for film and the written word and possibility.

I am a recent (2013) winner in the Writers of the Future contest and have since had work accepted in Escape Pod (“The Nightmare Lights of Mars”), Daily Science Fiction, Apex (winning the 2013 Story of the Year Reader’s Poll), Clarkesworld, COSMOS, Strange Horizons, Galaxy’s Edge, Penumbra, and Electric Velocipede.

about the narrator…

Mat reads stuff. Sometimes he voice acts too. Oh, and he just beat Metroid II for the first time since 1991.

 

Checkmate
by Brian Trent

The black steamrotor chugged noisily beneath the maze of damp brick arches, cutting a frothy wake in the underground canal.  Edward Oakshott stood rigidly at the bow, leaning against his silver cane. The dank stink of London’s forgotten netherworld perspirated over the vessel’s wood, the humidity visibly beading like a spate of glassy insect eyes on the many green lamplights they passed.  Edward drummed his fingers against one clammy hand.  His sense of direction, precise as his fashionable gold pocketwatch, reckoned they must be passing directly below the evening crowd at Charing Cross’ Hungerford Market.

Yet he wondered at their boatman’s skill in navigating these dark, labyrinthine channels.  How often were customers ferried to Thoth’s subterranean bazaar?  Edward grinned in nervous anticipation and peered from beneath the rim of his hat at the constellation of green lamps marking the canal’s many twists and turns.

“We shall be late if this continues,” Sophia Westbury said behind him.  Her folded parasol looked like a pale sword against her shoulder. “Really, Edward, was there no earlier date you could meet him?  It had to wait until the very eve of war?”

“The party shall wait for me.”

“It will be a scandal,” Sophia said, though her bell-like voice belied the smile on her lips.  Edward was already the scandal of the decade. Chessmen were synonymous with shadowy, secret shufflings in the night; living legends who could be your banker, teacher, butcher, parent, or carriage driver during times of peace.  Edward’s public antics had shocked Europe into a buzzing hive.

Sophia sighed and looped her arm round his.  “What do you know about this Thoth?  Any man who dwells like a spider beneath London, spinning mechanical webs beyond the Ministry’s sight…”  She shivered.  “I feel like Faustus!”

“Henry sent a Bishop here last autumn, darling, the one who defended Cornwall.  If Henry says Thoth is trustworthy, that is good enough for me.”

At these words, the boat banked sharply through a new arch, throwing up a huge wake.  Edward steadied himself with pressure to his cane, but cast a ghastly glare at their boatman in the ship’s small cabin.

“Edward!”   (Continue Reading…)

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.

# (Continue Reading…)

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. (Continue Reading…)

EP462: Women of Our Occupation


by Kameron Hurley
read by Mur Lafferty live at LonCon3

 

author Kameron Hurley
author Kameron Hurley

about the author…

Kameron Hurley is an award-winning author, advertising copywriter, and online scribe.  Hurley grew up in Washington State, and has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago. She has degrees in historical studies from the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, specializing in the history of South African resistance movements. Her essay on the history of women in conflict “We Have Always Fought” was the first blog post to win a Hugo Award. It was also nominated for Best Non-Fiction work by the British Fantasy Society.

Hurley is the author of God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture, a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She has won the Hugo Award (twice) and been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Additionally, her work has been included on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Hurley’s short fiction has appeared in magazines such as LightspeedEscapePod, and Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as The Lowest HeavenThe Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women and Year’s Best SF. Her fiction has been translated into Romanian, Swedish, Spanish and Russian. She is also a graduate of Clarion West.

In addition to her writing, Hurley has been a Stollee guest lecturer at Buena Vista University and taught copywriting at the School of Advertising Art. Hurley currently lives in Ohio, where she’s cultivating an urban homestead. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, will be published by Angry Robot Books in August 2014.

If you’d like to contact Kameron, click here. To inquire about rights to remix her work, please contact her agent.

 

narrator Mur Lafferty
narrator Mur Lafferty

about the narrator…

Winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 2012

“one of the worst-kept secrets in science fiction and fantasy publishing.” – Cory Doctorow via BoingBoing

Mur Lafferty is an author, podcaster, and editor. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and 11 year old daughter.

  • Books: Starting with podcast-only titles, Mur has written several books and novellas. Her first professionally published book, The Shambling Guide to New York City, is in book stores now. The sequel, The Shambling Guides 2: Ghost Train to New Orleans came out this year. She writes urban fantasy, superhero satire, afterlife mythology, and Christmas stories.
  • Podcasts: She has been podcasting since 2004 when she started her essay-focused show, Geek Fu Action Grip. Then she started the award-winning I Should Be Writing in 2005, which is still going today. She was the editor of Escape Pod from 2010-2012, and she also runs the Angry Robot Books podcast.
  • Nonfiction: Mur has written for several magazines including Knights of the Dinner Table, Anime Insider, and The Escapist.

In January, 2014, Mur graduated from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine with an MFA in popular fiction.

Mur is represented by Jen Udden at Donald Maass Literary Agency.

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

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. (Continue Reading…)

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.

(Continue Reading…)

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?

(Continue Reading…)