Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

EP402: The Tale of the Golden Eagle


by David D. Levine
Read by the Author

Links for this episode:

About the Author…

from the authors website, linked above — I am a science fiction and fantasy writer who’s published over fifty stories in markets including Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy. I have won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, Endeavour Award, Writers of the Future Contest, James White Award, People’s Choice Award for Best Drabblecast Story of the Year, and Phobos Fiction Contest, and I have been nominated or shortlisted for the Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, Aeon Award, Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest, an earlier Hugo Award, and the John W. Campbell Award (twice). My stories have appeared in four Year’s Best volumes and have been translated into French, Czech, Hebrew, Swedish, Romanian, Finnish, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. I have been an instructor at the Alpha Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers; the Cascade Writers Workshop; Rainforest Writers Village; and numerous science fiction convention writers’ workshops. I am a member of the Wild Cards consortium, Book View Café, and the Science Fiction Writers of America, for whom I coordinate the SFWA Northwest Reading Series. I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife Kate Yule, with whom I co-edit the fanzine Bento.

The Tale of the Golden Eagle
by David D. Levine

This is a story about a bird. A bird, a ship, a machine, a woman—she was all these things, and none, but first and fundamentally a bird.
It is also a story about a man—a gambler, a liar, and a cheat, but only for the best of reasons.
No doubt you know the famous Portrait of Denali Eu, also called The Third Decision, whose eyes have been described as “two pools of sadness iced over with determination.” This is the story behind that painting.
It is a love story. It is a sad story. And it is true.

The story begins in a time before shiftspace, before Conner and Hua, even before the caster people. The beginning of the story lies in the time of the bird ships.
Before the bird ships, just to go from one star to another, people either had to give up their whole lives and hope their children’s children would remember why they had come, or freeze themselves and hope they could be thawed at the other end. Then the man called Doctor Jay made a great and horrible discovery: he learned that a living mind could change the shape of space. He found a way to weld a human brain to the keel of a starship, in such a way that the ship could travel from star to star in months instead of years.
After the execution of Doctor Jay, people learned that the part of the brain called the visual cortex was the key to changing the shape of space. And so they found a creature whose brain was almost all visual cortex, the Aquila chrysaetos, or as it was known in those days the golden eagle. This was a bird that has been lost to us; it had wings broader than a tall man is tall, golden brown feathers long and light as a lover’s touch, and eyes black and sharp as a clear winter night. But to the people of this time it was just another animal, and they did not appreciate it while they had it.
They took the egg of a golden eagle, and they hatched it in a warm box, and they let it fly and learn and grow, and then they killed it. And they took its brain and they placed it at the top of a cunning construction of plastic and silicon which gave it the intelligence of a human, and this they welded to the keel of the starship.
It may seem to you that it is as cruel to give a bird the intelligence of a human, only to enslave its brain, as it is to take the brain of a human and enslave that. And so it is. But the people of this time drew a rigid distinction between born-people and made-people, and to them this seemed only just and right.
Now it happens that one golden eagle brain, which was called Nerissa Zeebnen-Fearsig, was installed into a ship of surpassing beauty. It was a great broad shining arrowhead of silver metal, this ship, filigreed and inlaid with gold, and filled with clever and intricate mechanisms of subtle pleasure. (Continue Reading…)

EP401: Growing Up Human


by Claudine Griggs

Read by Laura Hobbs

About the Author…

Claudine Griggs teaches at the University of Massachusetts and Rhode Island College.

About the Narrator…

Laura works in infosec by day and is a random crafter by night. Twitter is her social media of choice, and she despises the word “cyber”. When asked nicely, she sometimes reads things for people on the internet. You can find her online at soapturtle.net

Growing Up Human
By Claudine Griggs

One historical film character slapped another who was snoring.  “Wake up and go to sleep!”

Jonathan laughed and signaled a replay.

Slap.  “Wake up and go to sleep!”

Again Jonathan laughed.

Betty entered the recreational living area of their home.  “Are you still watching that waste of energy?  Please turn it off.”

“All right, Mother.  How long before I can re-engage?”

Betty did a rough calculation.  “Five-point-seven-six hours because you have an afternoon project.  Macro-hermeneutic heteromorphic psychology of the pre-apocalyptic social democracies followed by the intercontinental Maslowvian identity regressions of 2080-2095, leading to the failed survivalist era and extinction.  Multiple volumes to upload, cross-reference, and consider.  Then there’s replicated lawn care with a petrochemical mower dating from 2013—very dirty.  And,” she searched for appropriate parental terminology, “I want you to clean that room of yours.  It’s starting to look like a pigpen, pigsty, or other unattractive pig place.”

“Awh, gee, Mom!”

Betty appreciated the skilled inflection.

“Is dinner included in the estimate?” asked Jonathan.

“Negative.  Our morning uploads call for meal functions every fourth day, supplemented with biweekly nutra-packs.”  Betty smiled.  “We have mastered comestible etiquette, and dining rituals are being phased out.”

“Wow!” said Jonathan.  “That’s,” he skipped a pulse, “a psychedelic soul train.”

Betty looked concerned.  “Are your linguistic filters functioning properly?”

Jonathan scanned.  “Yes, but the younger generations sometimes combined words, especially adjectives and explicatives, and embellished them with coded meanings.  Yesterday I studied 1960s Southern California jargon, which seems to include a fascinating, discrete language for teenagers that was apparently stimulated by too much ultraviolet sunlight.  But their dialects are almost fun.”

“Fun?” asked Betty.  This had real potential.  “Please translate.  Be specific.”

Jonathan paused, nearly admitting that the Mother Figure had caught him bragging.  “It might be easier to demonstrate, Mom.”

“Proceed.”

“I must replay the film archive.”

“Proceed.”

“It will create discomfort for you.”

“I can temporarily alt-loop for semantic evaluation bypass.  No distress.  All aboard the psychedelic soul train, please.”

Jonathan turned toward the crystal wall, which energized.

One character slapped the other.  “Wake up and go to sleep!”

Jonathan laughed and repeated.

“Wake up and go to sleep!”

Jonathan nodded.  “I could watch this all day.”

“You have,” said Betty.  “But you might have simply referenced the episode and segment.  It’s hard stored.  We wasted sixteen and a half seconds of real-time broadcast.”  She was testing him.

“Oh, no!” said Jonathan.  “Playback is a component of the funishness.”

“Please explain.” (Continue Reading…)

EP400: Rescue Party


by Arthur C. Clarke
Read by Norm Sherman
Performed by Graeme Dunlop as Alveron; Steve Eley as Rugon; Nathaniel Lee as Orostron; Mur Lafferty as Hansur; Paul Haring as Klarten; Alasdair Stewart as Alarkane; Dave Thompson as The Paladorian; Ben Philips as T’sinadree; Jeremiah Tolbert as Tork-a-lee

 

About the Author…

from IMDB.com

Arthur C. Clarke was born in the seaside town of Minehead, Somerset, England in December 16, 1917. In 1936 he moved to London, where he joined the British Interplanetary Society. There he started to experiment with astronautic material in the BIS, write the BIS Bulletin and science fiction. During World War II, as a RAF officer, he was in charge of the first radar talk-down equipment during its experimental trials. His only non-science-fiction novel, Glide Path, is based on this work. After the war, he returned to London and to the BIS, which he presided in 46-47 and 50-53. In 1945 he published the technical paper “Extra-terrestrial Relays” laying down the principles of the satellite com- communication with satellites in geostationary orbits – a speculation realized 25 years later. His invention has brought him numerous prestigious honors. Today, the geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometers is named The Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union. The first story Clarke sold professionally was “Rescue Party”, written in March 1945 and appearing in Astounding Science in May 1946. He obtained first class honors in Physics and Mathematics at the King’s College, London, in 1948.

In 1953 he met an American named Marilyn Torgenson, and married her less than three weeks later. They split in December 1953. As Clarke says, “The marriage was incompatible from the beginning. It was sufficient proof that I wasn’t the marrying type, although I think everybody should marry once”. Clarke first visited Colombo, Sri Lanka (at the time called Ceylon) in December 1954. In 1954 Clarke wrote to Dr Harry Wexler, then chief of the Scientific Services Division, U.S. Weather Bureau, about satellite applications for weather forecasting. Of these communications, a new branch of meteorology was born, and Dr. Wexler became the driving force in using rockets and satellites for meteorological research and operations. In 1954 Clarke started to give up space for the sea. About the reasons, he said: “I now realise that it was my interest in astronautics that led me to the ocean. Both involve exploration, of course – but that’s not the only reason. When the first skin-diving equipment started to appear in the late 1940s, I suddenly realized that here was a cheap and simple way of imitating one of the most magical aspects of spaceflight – weightessness.” In the book Profiles of the Future (1962) he looks at the probable shape of tomorrow’s world. In this book he states his three Laws: 1.”When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” 2.”The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” 3.”Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In 1964, he started to work with Stanley Kubrick in a SF movie script. After 4 years, he shared an Oscar Academy Award nomination with him for the film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He co-broadcasted the Apollo 11 , 12 and 15 missions with Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra for CBS. In 1985, He published a sequel to 2001 : 2010: Odyssey Two. He worked with Peter Hyams in the movie version of 2010. They work was done using a Kaypro computer and a modem, for Arthur was in Sri Lanka and Peter Hyams in Los Angeles. Their communications turned into the book The Odyssey File – The Making of 2010. His thirteen-part TV series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World in 1981 and Arthur C. Clarke’s World of strange Powers in 1984 has now been screened in many countries. He made part of other TV series about the space, as Walter Cronkite’s Universe series in 1981. He has lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka since 1956 and has been doing underwater exploration along that coast and the Great Barrier Reef. So far it has been to over 70 books, almost as many non-fiction, as science fiction. In March 1998, his latest, and probably last, novel: 3001: The Final Odyssey was released.

Rescue Party
by Arthur C. Clarke

Who was to blame? For three days Alveron’s thoughts had come back to that question, and still he had found no answer. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it torture his mind, and would have satisfied himself with the assurance that no one could be responsible for the working of fate. But Alveron and his kind had been lords of the Universe since the dawn of history, since that far distant age when the Time Barrier  had been folded round the cosmos by the unknown powers that lay beyond the Beginning. To them had been given all knowledge–and with infinite knowledge went infinite responsibility. If there were mistakes and errors in the administration of the galaxy, the fault lay on the heads of Alveron and his people. And this was no mere mistake: it was one of the greatest tragedies in history.
The crew still knew nothing. Even Rugon, his closest friend and the ship’s deputy captain, had been told only part of the truth. But now the doomed worlds lay less than a billion miles ahead. In a few hours, they would be landing on the third planet.
Once again Alveron read the message from Base; then, with a flick of a tentacle that no human eye could have followed, he pressed the “General Attention” button. Throughout the mile-long cylinder that was the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, creatures of many races laid down their work to listen to the words of their captain.
“I know you have all been wondering,” began Alveron, “why we were ordered to abandon our survey and to proceed at such an acceleration to this region of space. Some of you may realize what this acceleration means. Our ship is on its last voyage: the generators have already been running for sixty hours at Ultimate Overload. We will be very lucky if we return to Base under our own power. (Continue Reading…)

EP399: My Heart is a Quadratic Equation


by Shane Halbach

Read by Christina Lebonville

About the Author…

from the author’s website (linked above)

I am a software engineer and writer, happily married and living in Chicago with my wife, two kids and one nuisance cat. I have a B.S. in Computer Science from Purdue University, and a Masters of Software Engineering from Penn State. In addition to Chicago, I have lived in Fort Wayne, IN and Philadelphia, PA.

I have been accused of being obsessed with pirates, bacon, zombies and my kids (not necessarily in that order). I’m a knitter, guitar player, budding accordionista, board and card game enthusiast, as well as an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

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.

My Heart is a Quadratic Equation
by Shane Halbach

I.      Brian
“So, uh, Chrysanthemum, what do you do?”
“Science. You know…science stuff. I’m a scientist.”
“That’s…not very specific.”
“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain,” said Chrysanthemum. In words you’d understand she added to herself.
She used the lull in the conversation to take a pen out of her pocket. Idly she doodled the inside of a hydrogen-powered rocket on a spare cocktail napkin. It was a nice restaurant, she’d give him that. He’d even ordered wine. Big spender. She added an extra fin to her schematic, for stability.
He broke the silence. “Chrysanthemum is an unusual name.”
“The Chrysanthemum is in the Asteraceae family and has been cultivated in Japan for over 2,000 years.”
Brian coughed and looked down at the table, quiet once more.
Turn off the mouth, she thought, this is not how normal people talk.
She stole quick glances at him, her eyes flicking back and forth between his face and the pen in her hand. He was clean cut, with short brown hair. By the way it was carefully styled, she guessed he didn’t keep it short for the convenience, the way she kept her own black hair short. He was taller than she was, but then she was petite. His nose was a bit on the large side, but at least he seemed nice. It would probably be an adequate genetic pairing, if she didn’t mind inane small talk.
He took a breath and waded in again.
“Have you always lived in the city?”
“Yes,” she replied glumly. This is intolerable. How do people do this?
This time the silence stretched on and on, like time in a black hole as it approached singularity. Her mind groped for something to say.
“I’ve created a nuclear-based energy weapon,” she blurted out.
Brian raised his hand.
“Check please!”
### (Continue Reading…)

EP398: Subversion


About the Author…

from the author’s website (linked above)

“I used to live in California, until I got tired of how it never snowed and moved to Boston. I currently live in New Haven with my husband and two cats. (I do miss the earthquakes, though. The little ones, anyhow.)

I have a PhD in planetary science and have worked on extrasolar planets and objects in the outer solar system. I am currently an “Astronomer-at-large”, which is another word for “not being paid”. (I have a couple of papers I’m wrapping up and a grant proposal pending.) I also write. In my spare time, I go on trips, take pretty pictures, and then neglect to update my webpage for years at a time.”

About the Narrator…

Christiana Ellis is an award-winning writer and podcaster, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her podcast novel, Nina Kimberly the Merciless was both an inaugural nominee for the 2006 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction: Long Form, as well as a finalist for a 2006 Podcast Peer Award. Nina Kimberly the Merciless is available in print from Dragon Moon Press. Christiana is also the writer, producer and star of Space Casey, a 10-part audiodrama miniseries which won the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production by the American Society for Science Fiction Audio and the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Drama. In between major projects, Christiana is also the creator and talent of many other podcast productions including Talking About Survivor, Hey, Want to Watch a Movie? and Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts.

Subversion
by Elisabeth R. Adams

I knew, by his crossed arms, the way he rolled his eyes at himself, and particularly by the pale translucence of all three of him, that I was looking at a classic case of version conflict.

“I said stay away from her,” said one I decided to call Art. Nicknames help. Thick square rims, a jaunty fedora, a crisp T-shirt for a concert by a band that broke up before he hit preschool. He was yelling at a paler self in a white collared shirt and slacks. They were trailed by a bored looking him in sunglasses.

“What seems to be the problem, sir?” I asked. Rule number one: stick to the singular.

“I can’t get him to commit,” said Slacks.

I scanned his chip. Eduardo Martin, 34, programmer. No spouse or kids, but adoption records from the county shelter for two cats. Sealed tax records, a social security number, mortgage history. Subversion Inc. member for five years, currently version 4.1. Definitely the primary.

“And your subversion?”

Art glared at Eduardo, but extended his arm. Eduardo Martin, 34, barista. Same social security number. A different home address. And, most intriguingly, he was listed as version 1.0.

“You see?” said Eduardo.

“Let me check.” I ran through Art’s commit log. “Says you branched off from 2.5, hmm, two years ago. That’s a bit long. Company policy recommends no more than six months between full reconciles. Probably caused some glitch in the occupation and version number.”

“It’s not a glitch,” said Art. “I want to apply for Emancipated Branch status.”

“No, no, no,” said Eduardo. He flailed his arms and paced. He looked even paler up close, but maybe that was the fluorescent shop lights. “You’re nothing without me, nothing!”

“Um, Eddie?” the third Eduardo spoke up. He gently caught his arms before he knocked over a tray of pamphlets. “Calm down, man.”

I had not paid him much attention, as he was clearly a very minor sub. A Watcher. The part of yourself you spin off to be your own lookout. I had one of my own parked in front of my boss’s door, waiting for his meeting to end. It was easy to forget about watchers, if you weren’t careful.

And Eduardo was not a careful man. I searched his record. No fewer than ten versions out, though none older than two weeks. Except for Art.

“Sir, we strongly recommend against having more than four subs at a time,” I said. “Having too many threads often leads to, ah, complicated reconciliations.”

“You see?” said Art. “Accept it, it’s over. Just let me branch.”

“Out of the question!” said Eduardo. His expression froze.

On my screen, I could see that one of his subs had just been checked in, reconciled, checked out again. This one was located at his office.

I smiled sympathetically. “Couldn’t get time off?”

“That’s why I signed up,” he said. “‘I’ just sat through a two hour meeting, and this is the first time anyone even mentioned my name. Best sub I ever made.” He glared at Art. (Continue Reading…)

EP397: A Gun for Dinosaur


About the Author…

borrowed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Sprague_de_Camp

Lyon Sprague de Camp (November 27, 1907 – November 6, 2000) was an American writer of science fiction and fantasy, non-fiction and biography. In a career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors. He “was widely regarded as an imaginative and innovative writer and was an important figure in the heyday of science fiction, from the late 1930s through the late 1940s.”

About the Narrator…

Ayoub Khote is a professional geek, a writer, a photographer, and a man with a voice others seem to like, even though he really can’t stand the sound of it. Ayoub’s début is with HG World, but he is also working on a smaller production, oddly enough also with a Scots accent, even though he’s a born Londoner!

A Gun for Dinosaur
by L. Sprague de Camp

NOTE: Also available is the X-1 production of the story available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7edFWC-120

No, I’m sorry, Mr. Seligman, but I can’t take you hunting Late Mesozoic dinosaur.
Yes, I know what the advertisement says.
Why not? How much d’you weigh? A hundred and thirty? Let’s see; that’s under ten stone, which is my lower limit.
I could take you to other periods, you know. I’ll take you to any period in the Cenozoic. I’ll get you a shot at an entelodont or a uintathere. They’ve got fine heads.
I’ll even stretch a point and take you to the Pleistocene, where you can try for one of the mammoths or the mastodon.
I’ll take you back to the Triassic where you can shoot one of the smaller ancestral dinosaurs. But I will jolly well not take you to the Jurassic or Cretaceous. You’re just too small.
What’s your size got to do with it? Look here, old boy, what did you think you were going to shoot your dinosaur with?
Oh, you hadn’t thought, eh?
Well, sit there a minute . . . Here you are: my own private gun for that work, a Continental .600. Does look like a shotgun, doesn’t it? But it’s rifled, as you can see by looking through the barrels. Shoots a pair of .600 Nitro Express cartridges the size of bananas; weighs fourteen and a half pounds and has a muzzle energy of over seven thousand foot-pounds. Costs fourteen hundred and fifty dollars. Lot of money for a gun, what?
I have some spares I rent to the sahibs. Designed for knocking down elephant. Not just wounding them, knocking them base-over-apex. That’s why they don’t make guns like this in America, though I suppose they will if hunting parties keep going back in time.
Now, I’ve been guiding hunting parties for twenty years. Guided ’em in Africa until the game gave out there except on the preserves. And all that time I’ve never known a man your size who could handle the six-nought-nought. It knocks ’em over, and even when they stay on their feet they get so scared of the bloody cannon after a few shots that they flinch. And they find the gun too heavy to drag around rough Mesozoic country. Wears ’em out.
It’s true that lots of people have killed elephant with lighter guns: the .500, .475, and .465 doubles, for instance, or even the .375 magnum repeaters. The difference is, with a .375 you have to hit something vital, preferably the heart, and can’t depend on simple shock power.
An elephant weighs–let’s see–four to six tons. You’re proposing to shoot reptiles weighing two or three times as much as an elephant and with much greater tenacity of life. That’s why the syndicate decided to take no more people dinosaur hunting unless they could handle the .600. We learned the hard way, as you Americans say. There were some unfortunate incidents . . .
I’ll tell you, Mr. Seligman. It’s after seventeen-hundred. Time I closed the office. Why don’t we stop at the bar on our way out while I tell you the story?
* * * (Continue Reading…)

EP396: Dead Merchandise


About the Author…

A firm believer in the “apply butt to chair, then fingers to keyboard” philosophy, Ferrett Steinmetz writes for at least an hour every day – which helps, he promises. He is a graduate of both the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and Viable Paradise, and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, for which he remains stoked.

Ferrett has a moderately popular blog, The Watchtower of Destruction, wherein he talks about bad puns, relationships, politics, videogames, and more bad puns. He is the creator of the most popular and comprehensive online purity quizzes (this one’s for sex, but he’s also done them for roleplaying and Livejournal). He’s written four computer books, including the still-popular-after-two-years Wicked Cool PHP.

He lives in Cleveland with his wife, who he couldn’t imagine living without.

About the Narrator…

Kathy Sherwood resides in a (probably only figuratively) magical forest in North Central Florida, with her significant other, two dogs and two cats.  She also hosts alternative rock show Not Quite Random on 88.5 WFCF–Flagler College Radio.

Dead Merchandise
by Ferrett Steinmetz

The ad-faeries danced around Sheryl, flickering cartoon holograms with fluoride-white smiles. They told her the gasoline that sloshed in the red plastic canister she held was high-octane, perfect for any vehicle, did she want to go for a drive?
She did not. That gasoline was for burning. Sheryl patted her pockets to make sure the matches were still there and kept moving forward, blinking away the videostreams. Her legs ached.

She squinted past a flurry of hair-coloring ads (“Sheryl, wash your gray away today!”), scanning the neon roads to find the breast-shaped marble dome of River Edge’s central collation unit. River’s Edge had been a sleepy Midwestern town when she was a girl, a place just big enough for a diner and a department store. Now River’s Edge had been given a mall-over like every other town — every wall lit up with billboards, colorful buildings topped with projectors to burn logos into the clouds. She was grateful for the dark patches that marked where garish shop-fronts had been bombed into ash-streaked metal tangles.
The smoke gave her hope. Others were trying to bring it all down — and if they were succeeding, maybe no one was left to stop her.

Rotting bodies leered out at her through car windows, where computer-guided cars had smashed headlong into the collapsed shopfronts that had fallen into the road. Had the drivers been fleeing, or trying to destroy the collation unit? She had no idea.
The ad-faeries sang customized praises to each auto as she glanced at the cars, devising customized ditties about the ’59 Breezster’s speed. Sheryl needed speed; at her arthritic pace, walking through the women’s district might tempt her into submission.

Given that the ad-faeries suggested it, driving was a terrible idea. River’s Edge had been so gutted by bombings that she’d have to drive manually — and it was already hard to see through the foggy blur of chirping ad-faeries, each triangulating her cornea’s focal point to obscure her vision for the legal limit of .8 seconds. They elbowed each other aside, proffering chewy pomegranate cookies, diamond-edged razors, laser-guided wall-bots that would paint her house a new color every day.
She had no use for them. She’d burned her house down, leaving Rudy’s body underneath the pile of engraved stones with her sons’ names on them.

She had to pass through the two main shopping districts to destroy the collation center at River’s Edge — and if she did that, then she could free Oakmoor, then Daleton, and then who knows where?  But they’d kill her if she weakened. (Continue Reading…)

EP395: Robot


About the Author…

Helena Bell is a poet and writer living in eastern North Carolina.  She has a BA, an MFA, aJD, and LLM in Taxation which fulfills her lifelong ambition of having more letters follow her name than are actually in it.  Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Brain Harvest and Rattle.  Her story “Robot” is a nominee for the 2012 Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and her website is www.helbell.com.

About the Narrator…

Eleiece Krawiec lives in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana. She began voice acting in early 2007, discovered how much she liked it, and is still going strong. She’s voiced (and continues to voice) characters for Star Trek: Excelsior, Star Trek: Outpost and a variety of characters for Misfits Audio.

Robot
by Helena Bell

You may wash your aluminum chassis on Monday and leave it on the back porch opposite the recyclables; you may wash your titanium chassis on Friday if you promise to polish it in time for church; don’t terrorize the cat; don’t lose the pamphlets my husband has brought home from the hospital; they suggest I give you a name, do you like Fred?; don’t eat the dead flesh of my right foot until after I have fallen asleep and cannot hear the whir of your incisors working against the bone.

This is a picture of the world from which you were sent; this is a copy of the agreement between our government and theirs; these are the attributes they claim you are possessed of: obedience, loyalty, low to moderate intelligence; a natural curiosity which I should not mistake for something other than a necessary facet of your survival in the unfamiliar; this is your bill of manufacture; this is your bill of sale; this is a warrant of merchantability on which I may rely should I decide to return you from whence you came; this is your serial number, here, scraped in an alien script on the underside of your knee; the pamphlets say you may be of the mind to touch it occasionally, like a name-tag, but if I command you, you will stop.

This is a list of the chores you will be expected to complete around the house when you are not eating the diseases out of my flesh; this is the corner of my room where you may stay when you are not working; do not look at me when you change the linens, when you must hold me in the bathroom, when you record in the notebook how many medications I have had that day, how many bowel movements, how the flesh of my mouth is raw and bleeding against the dentures I insist on wearing.

The pamphlets say you are the perfect scavenger: completely self contained, no digestion, no waste; they say I can hook you up to an outlet and you will power the whole house.

You may polish the silver if you are bored; you may also rearrange the furniture, wind the clocks, pull weeds from the garden; you may read in the library any book of your choosing; my husband claims you have no real consciousness, only an advanced and sophisticated set of pre-programmed responses, but I have seen your eyes open in the middle of the night; I have seen you stare out across the fields as if there is something there, calling you. (Continue Reading…)

EP394: Good Hunting


by Ken Liu

Read by John Chu

About the Author…

I’ve worked as a programmer and as a lawyer, and the two professions are surprisingly similar. In both, one extra level of indirection solves most problems.

I write speculative fiction and poetry. Occasionally, I also translate Chinese fiction into English.

My wife, Lisa Tang Liu, is an artist. I’m working on a novel set in a universe we came up with together.

Things I like: pure Lisp, clever Perl, tight C; well-designed products, the Red Sox; sentences that sound perfect in only one language; math proofs that I can hold in my head; novels that make me quiver; poems that make me sing; arguments that aren’t hypocritical; old clothes, old friends, new ideas.

Labels that fit with various degrees of accuracy: American, Chinese; Christian, Daoist, Confucian; populist, contrarian, skeptic, libertarian (small “l”); a liminal provincial in America, the New Rome.

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

Good Hunting
by Ken Liu

Night. Half moon. An occasional hoot from an owl. The merchant and his wife and all the servants had been sent away. The large house was eerily quiet. Father and I crouched behind the scholar’s rock in the courtyard. Through the rock’s many holes I could see the bedroom window of the merchant’s son. “Oh, Tsiao-jung, my sweet Tsiao-jung…” The young man’s feverish groans were pitiful. Half-delirious, he was tied to his bed for his own good, but Father had left a window open so that his plaintive cries could be carried by the breeze far over the rice paddies. “Do you think she really will come?” I whispered. Today was my thirteenth birthday, and this was my first hunt.

“She will,” Father said. “A _hulijing_ cannot resist the cries of the man she has bewitched.”

“Like how the Butterfly Lovers cannot resist each other?” I thought back to the folk opera troupe that had come through our village last fall.

“Not quite,” Father said. But he seemed to have trouble explaining why. “Just know that it’s not the same.”

I nodded, not sure I understood. But I remembered how the merchant and his wife had come to Father to ask for his help.

_”How shameful!” The merchant had muttered. “He’s not even nineteen. How could he have read so many sages’ books and still fall under the spell of such a creature?”_

_”There’s no shame in being entranced by the beauty and wiles of a _hulijing_,” Father had said. “Even the great scholar Wong Lai once spent three nights in the company of one, and he took first place at the Imperial Examinations. Your son just needs a little help.”_

_”You must save him,” the merchant’s wife had said, bowing like a chicken pecking at rice. “If this gets out, the matchmakers won’t touch him at all.”_

A _hulijing_ was a demon who stole hearts. I shuddered, worried if I would have the courage to face one.

Father put a warm hand on my shoulder, and I felt calmer. In his hand was Swallow Tail, a sword that had first been forged by our ancestor, General Lau Yip, thirteen generations ago. The sword was charged with hundreds of Daoist blessings and had drunk the blood of countless demons.

A passing cloud obscured the moon for a moment, throwing everything into darkness.

When the moon emerged again, I almost cried out.

There, in the courtyard, was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen. (Continue Reading…)

EP393: Red Card


by S. L. Gilbow

Read by Heather Bowman-Tomlinson

About the Author…

(taken from http://www.johnjosephadams.com/brave-new-worlds/table-of-contents/red-card-s-l-gilbow/) S. L. Gilbow is a relatively new writer, with five stories published to date, four inThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and one in [the] anthology Federations.Gilbow served twenty-six years in the Air Force, and has been on dozens of deployments, and has flown more than 2000 hours as a B-52 navigator. He currently makes his living by teaching English at a public high school in Norfolk, Virginia.

Everyone knows that James Bond has a “license to kill.”  As an international spy, he must sometimes fight for his life. But he’s a trained government employee, specially selected for Her Majesty’s Service.  But could you trust just anyone with a license to kill?

What about your neighbor?

Or your boss?

In fact, what if the government gave everybody one free pass to shoot one person,any person, for whatever reason?

That’s the premise of [this] story.  S. L. Gilbow says that the idea for “Red Card” actually came from a conversation he had with his daughter, Mandy.  “One day after a driver cut me off in heavy traffic, I… turned to my daughter and said, ‘Everyone should be allowed to shoot one person without going to prison.’ My daughter thought for a second then turned to me and said, ‘Dad, if that were true you would have been dead a long time ago.’”

About the Narrator…

“I may not be perfectly wise, perfectly witty, or perfectly wonderful, but I am always perfectly me.” Anonymous
The best part of my life is being Bill’s wife. I’m a horticulturist by trade, current stay at home mom for two children, team mom for the local Goalball team, and advocate for Blind/Visually Impaired causes and adoption causes. I love D20 gaming, reading, camping and canoeing, card playing, and music.

Red Card
by S.L. Gilbow

    Late one April evening, Linda Jackson pulled a revolver from her purse and shot her husband through a large mustard stain in the center of his T-shirt.  The official after incident survey concluded that almost all of Merry Valley approved of the shooting.  Sixty-four percent of the townspeople even rated her target selection as “excellent.”  A few, however, criticized her, pointing out that shooting your husband is “a little too obvious” and “not very creative.”

Dick Andrews, who had farmed the fertile soil around Merry Valley for over thirty years, believed that Larry Jackson, more than anyone else in town, needed to be killed.  “I never liked him much,” he wrote in the additional comments section of the incident survey.  “He never seemed to have a good word to say about anybody.”

“Excellent use of a bullet,” scrawled Jimmy Blanchard.  Born and raised in Merry Valley, he had known Larry for years and had even graduated from high school with him.  “Most overbearing person I’ve ever met.  He deserved what he got.  I’m just not sure why it took so long.”

Of course, a few people made waves.  Jenny Collins seemed appalled.  “I can hardly believe it,” she wrote.  “We used to be much more discerning about who we killed, and we certainly didn’t go around flaunting it the way Linda does.”  Jenny was the old-fashioned kind.

Linda would never have called her actions “flaunting it.”  Of course she knew what to do after shooting Larry.  She had read The Enforcement Handbook from cover to cover six times, poring over it to see if she had missed anything, scrutinizing every nuance.  She had even committed some of the more important passages to memory:  Call the police immediately after executing an enforcement–Always keep your red card in a safe, dry place–Never reveal to anyone that you have a red card–Be proud; you’re performing an important civic duty.

But flaunting it?  No, Linda blended in better than anyone in town, rarely talked and never called attention to herself.  She spent most of her days at the Merry Valley Public Library, tucked between rows of antique shelves, alone, organizing a modest collection of old books.  In the evening she fixed dinner.  After Larry had eaten, cleaned up and left the house for “some time alone,” Linda would lie in bed reading Jane Austen.  No, Linda never flaunted anything–never had much to flaunt.

(Continue Reading…)