Posts Tagged ‘mur lafferty’

EP293: A Small Matter, Really


By Monte Cook
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
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Rated PG for violence

A Small Matter, Really
By Monte Cook

Only the Catholic Church of Osirus would have enough money to afford not one, but two black holes. Standing within the majestic narthex, Maria McNaki imagined the vibration of complex machinery under her feet, despite the fact that the nanosensors laced into her flesh revealed nothing other than the passing of the people in the crowd and the chanting coming from deeper within the cathedral.

The stone walls of the chamber slowly flowed with a liquid relief of gothic circuitry and religious hieroglyphic animations. The glyph depicting Setan as he tore the crucified Osirus-Christ into tiny fragments malfunctioned and remained static. Just as well. The petitioners around her made carefully devout hand signs over their hearts as they faced the ankh crucifix over the door into the sanctuary.

Religion was back in fashion this season.

Three identical priests stood next to the holy water fonts, welcoming the incoming congregation. Their white collars and black robes stood starched-still. Geneticists form-shaped all Catholic-Osirus priests into the gentle, fatherly form selected by church PR, but these three were special. The bright eyes and the shining hair indicated Aesthicel, the most expensive genengineering firm in the Earth system. This parish liked to spend money.

Perfect. That most likely meant that they were interested in obtaining more.

(Continue Reading…)

EP291: Shannon’s Law


By Cory Doctorow
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally appearing in Welcome to Bordertown (Available May 24!) Read it at Tor.com.
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Rated PG: language

[Update- HUGE apologies for former editing issues on this file. It’s fixed now!]

When the Way to Bordertown closed, I was only four years old, and I was more interested in peeling the skin off my Tickle Me Elmo to expose the robot lurking inside his furry pelt than I was in networking or even plumbing the unknowable mysteries of Elfland. But a lot can change in thirteen years.

When the Way opened again, the day I turned seventeen, I didn’t hesitate. I packed everything I could carry—every scratched phone, every half-assembled laptop, every stick of memory, and every Game Boy I could fit in a duffel bag. I hit the bank with my passport and my ATM card and demanded that they turn over my savings to me, without calling my parents or any other ridiculous delay. They didn’t like it, but “It’s my money, now hand it over” is like a spell for bending bankers to your will.

Land rushes. Know about ’em? There’s some piece of land that was off-limits, and the government announces that it’s going to open it up—all you need to do is rush over to it when the cannon goes off, and whatever you can stake out is yours. Used to be that land rushes came along any time the United States decided to break a promise to some Indians and take away their land, and a hundred thousand white men would wait at the starting line to stampede into the “empty lands” and take it over. But more recently, the land rushes have been virtual: The Internet opens up, and whoever gets there first gets to grab all the good stuff. The land rushers in the early days of the Net had the dumbest ideas: online pet food, virtual-reality helmets, Internet-enabled candy delivery services. But they got some major money while the rush was on, before Joe Investor figured out how to tell a good idea from a redonkulous one.

EP287 A Taste of Time


By Abby Goldsmith
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Deep Magic, May 2004
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Rated PG: references to infidelity

Show Notes:

  • No feedback this week because of site issues!
  • Next week… don’t drink the water.

A Taste of Time
by Abby Goldsmith

1.

On the night she turned twenty-nine, Jane sat on her narrow bed, watching TV and drinking alone. She’d gone through a bottle of wine and was mostly through a second bottle. Tomorrow morning would be painful.

Or she could stop worrying about tomorrow. The ibuprofen in her cabinet kept popping into her mind. Jane wasn’t sure if all those pills chased by alcohol would be enough to end her life, but the idea of looking up how to commit suicide online seemed just too pathetic.

The front door of her tiny apartment creaked open.

Jane leaned forward, peering through her bedroom doorway. A black wine bottle stood on the floor, with a placard dangling from its silver ribbon.

Her gaze immediately went to the deadbolt. It was in place, as she’d left it.

Jane shut the TV off and listened for noises from the hallway. All she heard were the sounds of Boston traffic outside. Several weeks ago, after she’d come home to find her boyfriend screwing a fat chick on her couch, she’d had the locks changed. No one could have gotten in.

Yet the bottle sat mysteriously on the wooden floor.

At last, Jane crossed her apartment, checking every shadow for an intruder.

She picked up the bottle. The placard had gilded letters, making it a potentially expensive gift.

Tabula Rasa
Warning: There Is No Return

Jane flipped the placard over twice, but nothing else was written on it.

She listened, alert for any noise. Mystery had never been much a part of her adult life, and it gave her a strangely excited feeling. If the warning label meant something like _poison_, it seemed like a more dignified way to go than pills and alcohol.

Her reflection on the black surface of the bottle was disturbingly clear. There she was: Plain Jane, a frumpy woman with a double-chin and acne scars.

She unscrewed the cap and popped the foil underneath. A stringent smell wafted up, making her wrinkle her nose and salivate at the same time.

“Happy birthday, Jane,” she told herself, and swallowed a mouthful.

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EP282: You’re Almost Here


By Melinda Thielbar
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Bull Spec Magazine
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Rated PG-13: This story contains one F-bomb.

A&E are offering us a prize pack for a random drawing! So US residents, please email feedback at escapepod.org and put CONTEST in the subject line. We’ll do a drawing next week!

You could win both of the following:

Space 1999: The Complete Season 1

In the year 1999, a spectacular explosion at a lunar nuclear waste dump sends the moon out of Earth’s orbit. In this seminal sci-fi series from producer Gerry Anderson, the men and women of Moonbase Alpha are suddenly propelled on a treacherous journey across the universe in search of extraordinary new worlds.

The Prisoner
Since its CBS debut in the summer of 1968, the masterful British TV series THE PRISONER has captivated American audiences. Now A&E presents a definitive aficionado’s edition of the cult classic which is considered one of the most innovative TV series ever filmed, for the first time in breathtaking Blu-Ray.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 274
  • Next week… The grandfather paradox rears its violent head.

You’re Almost Here
by Melinda Thielbar

“Can I share your table?”

You look up to see your dream girl. Red hair, cream-colored skin, face just a little round, breasts just a little small. Not movie-star beautiful, not perfect just–nice. She smiles, and her cheeks dimple, and you’re in love. You gesture to the empty chair across from you with a grin of your own.

“Be my guest,” you say.

“Thanks.” She takes the chair and sets her coffee cup down. You close the notebook in front of you and open your mouth to say something—anything—to impress this girl.

Without looking at you, she turns in her chair, pulls a phone out of her pocket and bends over it. You watch her face in profile as she slips a pair of earbuds into her ears. Your mouth is still open, so you close it and look away. That’s when you see that every table is occupied. Men in suits, women in suits, a few people your age in khakis or jeans. They’re all looking down at their phones, laptops, or handheld game consoles. Sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and you watch people passing by on the street for a minute. They’re all looking straight ahead, faces set the way they have to be in a city this size. When it’s this crowded, the only privacy you can give a stranger is not to notice them. That idea interests you, and so you open your notebook to jot it down at the bottom of the second-to-last page. As you’re writing, a chair scrapes behind you, and a guy in a navy three-piece moves past. He flips his phone open and then closed again, checking the time, and hurries out.

The girl across from you moves almost as fast as he does. “Thanks,” she says and flashes that amazing smile again before she grabs her drink and hops to the newly-open table. You write FUCK across the top of the second-to-last page of your notebook, tuck it into your pocket, and go get another coffee.

The barristomatic (you call it this; no one else does), takes your thumbprint and opens a menu with your recent drink selections. They’re supposed to be sorted so the one you drink most is at the top. For you, it might as well be random. You do something different every time. This one’s a half-pump vanilla, half-pump strawberry, soy milk latte with a lousy espresso bean that still costs more than all the other ingredients put together because it’s fair-trade and organic. You once enumerated every combination, ranked them from most to least expensive and calculated how long it would take to try all of them. Assuming they add nothing to the line-up (unlikely), you’ll have to live to be eighty (likely) and drink four cups a day (near-certain). The machine hisses out your espresso and steamed milk. The menu pops up a new screen “People who enjoyed this drink also liked…” You hit Done and taste your drink. It’s perfect and artless.

You turn around and see someone sitting in the chair you just vacated. It’s a guy in jeans, probably another unwilling table-sharer. He’s sitting inches away from the red-haired girl. They’re practically back-to-back, both bopping to whatever’s playing through their identical earbuds, and neither one’s aware of the other. The guy’s t-shirt reads: “Steal This Shirt”. You put a lid on your coffee and head out the door.

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EP280: Endosymbiont


By: Blake Charlton
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Seeds of Change
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Rated PG-13: Swearing (one f-bomb) and disturbing hospital images

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 272
  • Next week… Horticulture, dermatology, and love

“Do you know what day it is? What year?”

“It’s like mid August, 2017?” her voice squeaked. Jesus, had she really lost her mind?

“That’s right.” She smiled. “Don’t be scared. I just wanted to be sure.”

“What do you mean don’t be scared?” she blurted. “Sure about what? Jesus! How long have I been here? How many times have you seen me before?”

Jani held up her hand. “Slow down; it’s okay…I’m not an oncologist, but I’m following your case. The cancer responded well to the treatment. And our research suggests that the side effects are temporary.”

Stephanie started to protest but then stopped. A terrifying memory flashed through her mind. “Mom said they might take me to a hospital for the dead.” She didn’t know what that meant but the memory was clear. “She said you’d keep me here to fool me into thinking I’m still alive.”

Jani was holding up both hands now. “Slow down. The survival rates are scary but they’re far better—”

“You’re not listening. She said they’d take me to a hospital for people who’ve _already_ died. I have to escape before—”

Stephanie started to stand but Jani put a heavy hand on her shoulder and said “Lullaby.”

The word opened a bloom of orange light across Stephanie’s vision. A static hiss exploded into her ears, and she felt herself falling. There was a firecracker yellow flash and then…nothing.

EP279: Conditional Love


By: Felicity Shoulders
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Asimov’s, Jan 2010 issue
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Rated PG-13: Swearing and disturbing hospital images

Show Notes:

  • Serious apologies – circumstances this week had me recording later than usual.
  • Feedback for Episode 271
  • Next week… A longer piece by Blake Charlton

The new patient was five or six years old, male, Caucasian, John Doe as usual.  Grace checked the vitals his bed sensors were feeding her board and concluded he was asleep.  She eased the door of 408 open and stepped in.

The boy’s head was tilted on his pillow, brown curls cluttering his forehead.  Sleep had flushed his cheeks so he looked younger than the estimate.  He seemed healthy, with no visible deformities, and if he had been opted for looks, it had worked—Grace would have described him as ‘cherubic’.  He wouldn’t have been dumped if nothing was wrong, so Grace found herself stepping softly, unwilling to disturb him and discover psychological conditions.

“Don’t worry about waking him, he sleeps pretty deep.”

Grace started and turned to the other bed.  “Hi, Minnie.”

The girl grimaced.  “I go by my full name now, Dr. Steller.”  Grace brought up her board to refresh her memory, but the girl said, “Minerva.  Had you forgotten they’re doubling up rooms?”

“Yep, you caught me.”

“Is the rise in numbers caused by a rise in opting?  Or is it a rise in surrenders, or arrests of parents?”

“Lord, Minn—Minerva, I don’t know.  Planning to be a reporter when you grow up?”

“No, a scientist,” Minerva said and smiled, pleased to be asked.

“Why the scalpel-edged questions then?”

“Just curious if my campaign had had any effect,” Minerva said, nodding toward the window.  The billboard across from the Gene-Engineered Pediatric Inpatient Center flashed a smog warning, then a PSA about eye strain from computer visors, but Grace remembered when it had borne a static image:  Minnie, one year old, a pink sundress exposing the stubs of her arms and legs.  _Babies should be born, not made._  The ad had stayed up until Minnie was eight, three years after her parents turned her over to GEPIC, and apparently she had seen it.  She was twelve now, with serious eyes and a loose ponytail, dark blonde.

EP278: Written on the Wind


By: David D. Levine
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Beyond the Last Star
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Rated PG: Talk of war elsewhere.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 270
  • Next week… A groovy strange kind of love

Written on the Wind
by David D. Levine

Thuren Nektopk peered down at Luulianni from above his massive desk. “I suspect you know why I’ve called you to speak with me in person.” He spoke in his native language, Ptopku Dominant, using the form of address for a subordinate or a child. It was a constant reminder that the Ptopku had built and largely staffed this station, and was one of the most powerful species in the Consortium.

“Yes, Supervisor,” Luulianni replied in the same language, knotting her tentacles.

“And that would be…?”

“Because of my side project.”

“Yes.” Nektopk suddenly released the bar from which he hung, caught himself on another handhold, and with two swift strokes of his arms swung down to where his six slitted eyes were level with Luulianni’s. “Your little side project.”

Luulianni cringed. “I don’t understand why it’s so much of a problem.” She straightened and tried to meet his gaze. “I put in my full quota of time every day.”

“Yes, you do, and not one moment more. But I know you are capable of so much more than that. Any work you do on this pointless little side project of yours constitutes theft of resources from the Section — from the whole Project!”

“Theft?” she squeaked. Angry at herself for the loss of control, she brought her voice down. “Theft of resources? But I don’t use any data storage space, or any other Section resources! I write my notes on the backs of old printouts.” She did not mention how much more natural it felt to work on paper.

“You are stealing the most valuable resource of all!” Nektopk pointed at her with one limber foot. “Your own time and attention!”

“But it’s my time!”

“You have been sent here by your people — at considerable expense, I might add — to assist in the Project, to learn the ways of the Consortium, and to demonstrate your species’ unique skills.” He leaned closer to her. His smell was bitter. “And if I find that your species, as represented by yourself, does not demonstrate any unique skills, your application for Consortium membership could very well be denied.” He swung himself up to the edge of his desk, the better to glare down at her. “Therefore, your time is not your own. You owe it to the Section, to the Project, and to your own people to put every bit of available time into your assigned task.”

Luulianni hung her head. “Yes, Supervisor.”

“You may return to your work.”

“Thank you, Supervisor.”

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EP275: Schrödinger’s Cat Lady


By: Marjorie James
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
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Rated PG: For quantum theory and brief violent description.

Show Notes:

Schrödinger’s Cat Lady
By Marjorie James

I got out of the car, smoothed my shirt down over my bulletproof vest, and contemplated the cats. They contemplated me right back. I sighed. I hated these jobs.

I opened the tiny gate to the front walk (no fence, just a gate) and made my way to the door. The house was small and tidy, a light blue bungalow with green trim and yellow curtains pulled across the windows, through which the cats were peering. It didn’t smell, which was a relief. And something of a surprise, considering the heat. It was one of those days when the world seemed to be actively rejecting human habitation, where the smog and the humidity made the air feel like warm mayonnaise. On a day like this, a cat overpopulation should be stinking to high heaven. Maybe this wasn’t for real, I hoped. It might just be some neighbor with a grudge. Couldn’t be more than a dozen cats here, max. Maybe this one wasn’t going to be that bad.

I have never been very good at predicting things.

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EP274: Angry Rose’s Lament


By: Cat Rambo
Read by: Mur Lafferty
First appeared in Abyss & Apex (read the text here!)
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Rated R: for strong language and addiction discussion.

Show Notes:

“Not one of the Big Three? Thought CocaCorp would want a piece of that.”

Rutter had wondered that himself. By all accounts, Solin was a plum piece of real estate, the kind one of the big companies like General M or Bushink would snatch up as an asset. Across the galaxies, they’d grabbed small systems every chance they got. Solin did have a native intelligent race tp be wooed, but there was a surplus of impoverished races deep in debt to the Companies. Very few, the ones who knew to hire themselves savvy (and expensive) legal counsel, managed to keep themselves free.

There was, Rutter figured, something out of the ordinary about Solin. Not out of the ordinary in a valuable way, but something tricky, something slippery or scandalous, some taint the Big Three wanted to avoid. He’d find out soon enough, he guessed.

EP269: Élan Vital


By: K. Tempest Bradford
Read by: Mur Lafferty
First appeared in Sybil’s Garage no. 6
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Rated PG: For adult topics of parental death

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 261: Only Springtime When She’s Gone
  • Next week… The future of corporate America

Élan Vital
By K. Tempest Bradford

The few minutes I had to spend in the Institute’s waiting room were my least favorite part of coming up to visit my mother. It felt more like a dialysis room, the visitors sunk into the overly-soft couches and not speaking, just drinking orange juice and recovering. There were no magazines and no television, just cold air blowing from the vents and generic music flowing with it. I’d finished my juice and was beginning to brood on my dislike for overly air-conditioned buildings when my mother arrived attended by a nurse.

I kissed and hugged her, automatically asking how she was, mouthing the answer she always gave as she gave it again.

“I’m fine, same as always.”

It wasn’t strictly true, but true enough.

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