Posts Tagged ‘politics’

EP425: The Boy in Zaquitos


by Bruce McAllister
read by John Chu

Links for this episode:

Author Bruce McAllister

About the Author…
His literary and genre fiction has appeared in national magazines, literary quarterlies, college textbooks and ‘year’s best’ anthologies. His second novel, Dream Baby, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship winner, was called a “stunning tour de force” by Publishers Weekly. His fiction has been translated widely and received national awards and notable mentions in the New York Times, other U.S. newspapers, U.S. and foreign magazines and journals, and reference works. His poetry and experimental work have appeared in literary quarterlies and anthologies; he has co-edited magazines and anthologies; and his articles on popular science, writing craft and sports have appeared in publications like Life, International Wildlife, The Writer and newspapers across the country. – See more at: http://www.mcallistercoaching.com/#sthash.iZUdcA2z.dpuf.

About the 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

 

The Boy in Zaquitos
by Bruce McAllister

The Retired Operative Speaks to a Class

You do what you can for your country. I’m sixty-eight years old, and even in high school—it’s 2015 now, so that was fifty years ago—I wanted to be an intelligence analyst . . . an analyst for an intelligence agency, or if I couldn’t do that, at least be a writer for the United States Information Agency, writing books for people of limited English vocabularies so they’d know about us, our freedoms, the way we live. But what I wanted most was to be an analyst—not a covert-action operative, just an analyst. For the CIA or NSA, one of the big civilian agencies. That’s what I wanted to do for my country.
I knew they looked at your high school record, not just college—and not just grades, but also the clubs you were in and any sports. And your family background, that was important, too. My father was an Annapolis graduate, a Pearl Harbor survivor, and a gentle Cold War warrior who’d worked for NATO in northern Italy, when we’d lived there. I knew that would look good to the Agency, and I knew that my dad had friends who’d put in a good word for me, too, friends in the Office of Naval Intelligence.
But I also knew I had to do something for my high school record; and I wasn’t an athlete, so I joined the Anti-Communist Club. I thought it was going to be a group of kids who’d discuss Marxist economics and our free-market system, maybe the misconceptions Marx had about human nature, and maybe even mistakes we were making in developing countries, both propaganda-wise and in the kind of help we were giving them. I didn’t know it was just a front for Barry Goldwater and that all we were going to do was make election signs, but at least I had it on my record.
Because a lot of Agency recruiting happens at private colleges, I went to one in Southern California—not far from where my parents lived. My high school grades were good enough for a state scholarship, and my dad covered the rest. It was the ’60s, but the administration was conservative; and I was expecting the typical Cold War Agency recruitment to happen to me the way it had happened to people I’d heard about—the sons of some of my dad’s friends. But it didn’t. I went through five majors without doing well in any of them; and it wasn’t until my senior year, when I was taking an IR course with a popular prof named Booth—a guy who’d been a POW in WWII—that I mentioned what I wanted to do. He worked, everyone said, in germ warfare policy—classified stuff—at Stanford; and I figured that if I was about to graduate I’d better tell someone, anyone, what I really wanted to do in life: not sell insurance or be a middle manager or a government bureaucrat, but work for a civilian intelligence agency—get a graduate degree on their tab maybe—and be an analyst. (Continue Reading…)

EP343: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees


By E. Lily Yu
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Clarkesworld
All stories by E. Lily Yu
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 10 and up

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees
By E. Lily Yu

For longer than anyone could remember, the village of Yiwei had worn, in its orchards and under its eaves, clay-colored globes of paper that hissed and fizzed with wasps. The villagers maintained an uneasy peace with their neighbors for many years, exercising inimitable tact and circumspection. But it all ended the day a boy, digging in the riverbed, found a stone whose balance and weight pleased him. With this, he thought, he could hit a sparrow in flight. There were no sparrows to be seen, but a paper ball hung low and inviting nearby. He considered it for a moment, head cocked, then aimed and threw.

Much later, after he had been plastered and soothed, his mother scalded the fallen nest until the wasps seething in the paper were dead. In this way it was discovered that the wasp nests of Yiwei, dipped in hot water, unfurled into beautifully accurate maps of provinces near and far, inked in vegetable pigments and labeled in careful Mandarin that could be distinguished beneath a microscope.

The villagers’ subsequent incursions with bee veils and kettles of boiling water soon diminished the prosperous population to a handful. Commanded by a single stubborn foundress, the survivors folded a new nest in the shape of a paper boat, provisioned it with fallen apricots and squash blossoms, and launched themselves onto the river. Browsing cows and children fled the riverbanks as they drifted downstream, piping sea chanteys.

At last, forty miles south from where they had begun, their craft snagged on an upthrust stick and sank. Only one drowned in the evacuation, weighed down with the remains of an apricot. They reconvened upon a stump and looked about themselves.

“It’s a good place to land,” the foundress said in her sweet soprano, examining the first rough maps that the scouts brought back. There were plenty of caterpillars, oaks for ink galls, fruiting brambles, and no signs of other wasps. A colony of bees had hived in a split oak two miles away. “Once we are established we will, of course, send a delegation to collect tribute.

“We will not make the same mistakes as before. Ours is a race of explorers and scientists, cartographers and philosophers, and to rest and grow slothful is to die. Once we are established here, we will expand.” (Continue Reading…)