Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech.
Honey and Bone
By Madeline Alvey
With each step she took, the girl’s leg hissed. Thump, hiss, thump, hiss, thump, hiss. Whenever she lifted her leg, the knee joint extended. Her thigh and shin pulled apart unsettlingly, reminiscent of something deeply broken. Her gait was slow, round, loping. She didn’t move with any expedience. It was a speed without rush, or any desire for such.
Her footfalls themselves were soft, a quiet–thup, thup, thup. Soft leather covered her feet as she padded along, her hissing knee the loudest sound there. Once, it had creaked, a creak reminiscent of breaking metal–or perhaps, nearly as much, a rusty hinge. Before that. . .she didn’t remember. (Continue Reading…)
My beloved waits for me in the flooded church. She’s died one time too many, and I can’t get her back without her help. At least, at last, it gives me a reason to see her again.
The church lies at the edge of the Mediterranean fracture, below cliffs barely eight thousand years old. Glacial melt pours down the precipice, filling the air with a fine frigid mist. Rime ice coats the façade, making the church look like a sharp-clawed hand locked in melting wax. Another fork drops me off in a flier, leaving me alone in the valley with my pack and what few memories I can carry.
Boulders and high water have turned the entrance into a scramble over icy stone. My lungs heave against thin cold air as I catch my breath in the nave atop a half-submerged pile of boulders. There’s just enough dry space for me to stand upright. I wish I’d taken a different body, but for this task—for me—only the traditional shape will do.
I first spot Emlune as a glowing line of blue. Her primary lamp cuts across the chamber, and the air glimmers with frozen mist. She clings to the vaulted ceiling with eight articulated limbs. Smaller lights spangle her teardrop-shaped chassis, as if she had swum in water rich with bioluminescent algae.
Abby was in control of the body the first time a glitch occurred. She was “home from college for the long weekend”—that’s what the imprinted memories showed, at least—and her mother was pouring dollops of blueberry pancake batter onto the sizzling cast-iron griddle.
Her father had found an excuse to go into work on a Saturday morning, as he often did ever since Abby “went off to college.” She assumed this was her father’s strategy for coping with empty nest syndrome and tried not to feel hurt by his avoidance. Her interpretation wasn’t entirely incorrect, but of course she did not comprehend exactly how empty the nest was.
When Abby stopped living with them full time, the body stopped being Abby full time. Leasing the body was quite expensive, so this was the only logical decision. But Abby’s father could not reconcile himself to the idea that Abby only existed on the weekends when they rented the body, never mind that the techs would fabricate memories for her so that she believed she had experienced all the intervening days.
The body shouldn’t have known this. The body should only know what Abby knew.
Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green. These days, she writes fiction (short and long) and works as a technical writer. Her short speculative work has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Deep Magic, and Cicada.
about the narrator…
Amy H. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History and specializes in the fields of Science Fiction/Fantasy and Native American Studies. She lives with her husband, Dr. Larry M. Hall, and their best friend, Virginia the Boston terrier, in the foothills of North Carolina, USA.
In a Manner of Speaking
By Charity Tahmaseb
I use the last of the good candles to build the radio. I still have light. The fire burns, and there is a never-ending supply of the cheap, waxy candles in the storeroom. I will–eventually–burn through all of those. My fire will die. The cold will invade this space.
But today I have a radio. Today I will speak to the world–or what’s left of it. I compare my radio to the picture in the instructions. It looks the same, but not all the steps had illustrations. This troubles me. My radio may not work.
I crank the handle to charge the battery. This feels good. This warms my arms, and I must take deep breaths to keep going. I shake out my hand and crank some more. When buzz and static fill my ears, I nearly jump. That, too, sounds warm. I am so used to the cold. The creak and groan of ice, the howl of the wind. These cold sounds are their own kind of silence. They hold nothing warm or wet or alive.
I decide on a frequency for no other reason than I like the number. I press the button on the mouthpiece. This, according to the instructions, will let the world hear me.
Effie Seiberg is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in San Francisco. Her short stories have previously appeared in PodCastle, Analog, and Lightspeed, among others. By day she’s a marketing and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. She likes to make sculpted cakes and bad puns. You can read many of her stories at effieseiberg.com, or follow her on twitter at @effies.
about the narrator…
Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin fantasy trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked YA series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and the Norton.
Her narrations have appeared in Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, John Joseph Adams’ The End is Nigh series, and more. She co-hosts Escape Pod and runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake.
By Effie Seiberg
The AdChip technician’s rubber-gloved hand was cold on my chin. “Now hold still, Mi-kay-la.”
“It’s Mi-KEE-la,” I grumbled. My mother, leaning on the beige metal door, didn’t look up from her smartpad.
“Right.” He nodded, uncaring. “This is going to sting a bit, but don’t you worry. It’ll be over before you know it.”
He didn’t know how right he was – it would be over soon, once Sivvy found out.
He pushed my chin to the side, exposing my left ear, then swiped an alcohol-infused gauze in the soft area behind the star-shaped earring I’d bent from a paper clip the other day.
“Now, do you want to be BlueChip or RedChip?” He busied himself with the metal tray of instruments sitting next to me on the ugly green table. An enormous syringe-like tool lay there next to two tiny Chips and a graft gun. Both Chips were black – I guess the color names weren’t literal.
“Shouldn’t my papers already tell you that? Haven’t you already decided everything for me?” There were posters on the walls advertising Coke and Pepsi and IBM and Apple and Honda and Toyota. Stuff for each Chip.
My mother finally glanced up. “Mikila, be nice.”
“Oh it’s fine,” he said with plastered-on cheer. “The papers are only for backup, in case you don’t choose. We just want you to be happy!”
“OK, fine. I’ll choose not to have a Chip at all – that’ll make me happy. Can I go now?” I hopped off the green metal table and moved to grab my worn messenger bag.
He moved to block. “Ha ha.” His smile stiffened on his face. “A funny one!” (Continue Reading…)
Help support the Pseudopod Kickstarter to support pay for narrators (… and get this awesome Tiki mug with a donation of $40 or more).
about the author…
Natalia Theodoridou is a media & cultural studies scholar currently based in Exeter, UK. She is also the dramaturge of Adrift Performance Makers
(@AdriftPM). Her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere. Find out more at her website or follow @natalia_theodor on Twitter.
about the narrator…
Raised by swordfighters and eastern European freedom fighters, Ibba Armancas is a writer-director currently based in Los Angeles. Her darkly comedic genre sensibilities are showcased in two webseries and a feature film forthcoming later this year. One day she will find time to make a website, but in the mean time you can follow her projects and adventures on Twitter or Instagram.
When They Come Back
By Natalia Theodoridou
They were called Maria, and Michael, and Siobhan, George, Elise, and Sarah, and Violet, Daisy, Jasmine, Rose–
no, perhaps these were not people names, these were flower names, weren’t they?–
and Gabriel, Raphael, Bacchus, Athena, Io, Muhammad,
but these were mythical names, and god names, and prophet names, so hard to tell them apart all these years after the–
all these years after they–
and Natalie, Vasilis, Dmitri, Ousmane…
The angel is rotting. He’s leaning against the trunk of an olive tree. I examine his body but avoid his eyes, as always, just in case. I would like to have been a man, he’d said once, so I always think of him as one, no matter what his body looks like. Today he has a mane of dark curls that reach all the way down to the roots of his wings. No beard. No breasts. No hair on his body except a little around his crotch.
Caroline M. Yoachim lives in Seattle and loves cold cloudy weather. Her fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Daily Science Fiction, among other places. She is a 2006 graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and her 2010 novelette “Stone Wall Truth” was nominated for a Nebula Award. Caroline’s debut short story collection, “Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories,” is coming out with Fairwood Press in 2016.
about the narrator…
Nicola Seaton-Clark has worked professionally as an actress for over fifteen years in TV, film and radio. She started her career as a jazz singer and later a singer in a rock band. Her voice-over experience includes TV and radio advertising, singing jingles, film dubbing and synchronization, training videos, corporate films, animation, and Interactive Voice Response for telephone menus. She is also a qualified TEFL teacher and has extensive experience as a vocal coach specializing in South African, Australian and New Zealand accents. http://www.offstimme.com/
Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Rock crushes scissors. Nicole sat on a crowded bus to Spokane, knitting a turquoise scarf. The gray-haired man sitting next to her stared obsessively at his wristwatch. He was travelling with his son, Andrew, who sat across the aisle. She offered to trade seats so they could sit together, but both men refused. The bus wound around the sharp curves of Stevens Pass, and Nicole made good progress on her scarf.
Out of nowhere, Andrew’s father grabbed her and shoved her across the aisle, into Andrew’s arms. There was a loud crack, and a roar like thunder. A boulder the size of a car slammed into the side of the bus. Nicole stared at the wall of stone that filled the space where her seat had been. The red handles of her scissors stuck out from underneath the rock, the blades crushed underneath. Andrew’s father was completely lost beneath the stone.
Love shreds paper. After the accident, Nicole met Andrew for coffee. She returned his father’s watch, which had somehow ended up in her jacket pocket, though she couldn’t figure out how or when he’d put it there. Andrew gave her a pair of red-handled scissors, identical to the pair she had lost. She invited him for Thanksgiving dinner with her parents, since he had no other family. They took a weekend trip to Spokane, and when the bus reached the site of the accident, they threw handfuls of flower petals out the window.
Andrew was an engineer and a poet. He built her a telescope that folded spacetime so she could see distant exoplanets, and he wrote her scientific love poems. At their wedding, they gave the guests bags of confetti made from shredded strips of his poems, so they could be showered in love.
Rock destroys love. Two years into her marriage, Nicole suspected Andrew was cheating. He stayed late at work, went out late with the guys, took weekend business trips. He was gone more than he was home, and he got angry when Nicole asked him about it. She already knew what she’d see when she followed him out to Beacon Rock, but she had to see it with her own eyes, if only from a distance. She was surprised to see him with an older woman, rather than a younger one. She filed for divorce, and he didn’t argue.
Scissors cut paper. A few years after the divorce, Nicole sat in the swing on her front porch and cut love poems and photographs into thin strips. It was her therapy, letting go of the memories she’d kept boxed up after Andrew moved out. There was something satisfying about the snip of the scissors. Words flew everywhere. Eternal. Heart. Devotion. True. Paper piled up on the porch, and a breeze sent a few strips swirling. It reminded her of the confetti at their wedding, and suddenly cutting paper wasn’t as satisfying. She hurled her scissors into the front yard.
Death steals scissors. Nicole went out into the yard the next morning to get her scissors. She didn’t want to run them over with the lawnmower later, and she wasn’t quite ready to let go of the first gift Andrew ever gave her. The poems were gone from her porch, and she couldn’t find the scissors in the yard, even after an hour crawling on her hands and knees. The common link between the poems and the scissors was Andrew. Had he taken them? Against her better judgment, she drove to his apartment. The door was open, and there were cops inside. Andrew was missing, and he’d left a note. A suicide note.
The body was never found. Neither were her scissors.
Kristin Janz is a Canadian speculative fiction writer who has lived in the Boston area since 1998. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, On Spec, and Crowded Magazine, and she is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop.
My husband Donald S. Crankshaw and I have edited and are independently publishing an anthology of speculative fiction stories that engage with Christianity in some way–Christian characters, themes, or cosmology. Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith will be available in both paperback and ebook in August of 2016, and includes stories by Nebula-nominated authors Beth Cato and Kenneth Schneyer.
about the narrator…
Raised by swordfighters and eastern European freedom fighters, Ibba Armancas is a writer-director currently based in Los Angeles. Her darkly comedic genre sensibilities are showcased in two webseries and a feature film forthcoming later this year. One day she will find time to make a website, but in the mean time you can follow her projects and adventures on twitter or instagram.
As Travelers in Sky Boats
by Kristin Janz
My sister blames the Travelers. Before they came, she says, we were content within the small world we knew. No one wondered what lay beyond the flat blue horizon where ocean met sky, or who journeyed between the stars. Children never complained that there was an easier way to mend fishing nets, that they did not like the taste of seaweed. Men did not abandon responsibilities to pursue the impossible fantasy of becoming Travelers themselves.
One rainy night, when both she and the water leaking through our roof were keeping me awake, I told her that she sounded like a Traveler when she spoke that way. Who was she–or they–to tell me how I should live, what I could know or not know?
She did not speak to me the rest of that night or most of the day that followed. I did not enjoy her silence as much as I had expected to.
“May I hold that?”
Traveler Jarrett hesitated before answering me, as Travelers often did. Unable to understand our words, they relied on their tools to tell them what we said and how to answer. But I did not think Traveler Jarrett’s hesitation came from not understanding, not this time. I had pointed to the tool on his wrist while asking and then held my hands out, palms facing up. How could he not understand that?
Traveler Tess murmured a warning in Traveler Speak, but Traveler Jarrett unfastened his wrist tool anyway and placed it in my outstretched hands.
Traveler Tess moved her finger around in the air in front of her, listened for a moment to a voice no one else could hear, then looked directly at me and said, “Please be careful with that.” As if I were a small child and might start bashing the wrist tool against the packed earth floor of the Travelers’ house! Traveler Tess tried to act like a mother to the other Travelers, like my sister did with me. I did not think they heeded her any better than I with my sister. (Continue Reading…)
Jonathan Edelstein is 44, married with cat, and living in New York City. His work has appeared in Strange Horizons and the Lacuna Journal and is forthcoming in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. When not writing, he practices law and hopes someday to get it right.
about the narrator…
James Odcombe is a writer and storyteller who loves imaginary worlds and unusual characters. He’s British but grew up in Tanzania, East Africa. Now living in the UK, he pens tales of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror.
by Jonathan Edelstein
It took two years for Faji Doumbia to travel from Madankoro to Mutanda on the free trader Mweshi: two years of sleeping in cargo holds fragrant with spices and scented woods, two years of waiting on each world as the captain concluded his business, two years of jumping through the ichiyawafu and dreaming of the dead. He worked his passage, and there was time enough to learn the dead language that the ship’s computers spoke and discover how to tend machines that no living person could build. There was time enough to contract two ship-marriages, and by the time Faji came at last to Chambishi Port on the forty-ninth day of the Year of Migration 30,891, he had given a son to the ship-clans.
What he found when he took his leave of the Mweshi was both more and less than what he expected. Ninety thousand people lived in Chambishi Port, far more than any town on Madankoro, but forty million had lived there once, and the new city seemed like a collection of villages amid its former glory. Some of the towers north and east of the port were four kilometers tall: the war that destroyed the Union had gutted them, and after six hundred years forests grew in their upper stories, but they loomed over the thatched houses that lay between them, and from a few, the remnants of the High Streets and High Gardens hung crazily.
It was minutes before Faji could bring his eyes down from the towers to the ships – the ships hundreds and thousands of years old, that the Union had built and that now served its children. By then, the dockmen were well started in unloading the Mweshi. He stopped one and asked where the numusokala was, and when he got no answer, he remembered that the people here used different words. “Where are the… washiri?” he asked, remembering the word he’d been taught. “The blacksmiths?”
The dockman turned to the north. “You’re one of them?” he said. “Yes, you’ve got the look of one. That way, through the old city. You’ll hear the place, and even before that, you’ll smell it.”
There was a hint of distaste in the dockman’s voice, and he walked away as if he couldn’t leave quickly enough. That, too, wasn’t what Faji had expected. (Continue Reading…)
about the narrator… Multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer, and heliocentrist George Hrab has written and produced six independent CDs and a concert DVD; published two books; recorded hundreds of episodes of an award-winning podcast; emceed countless science conferences; been a TEDx speaker; and has even performed for President Clinton. He’s traveled to four continents promoting critical thinking, science, and skepticism through story and song. George is considered one of the preeminent skeptic/science/atheist/geek-culture music icons currently living in his apartment. www.GeorgeHrab.com
Prophet to the Dogs
by Bethany Edwards
A long time ago, in another life, when there were so many billions of us that 382 of them were small change, I worked in an office building. I was the graphic designer for a community arts magazine—circulation 382—on the top floor.
Across the street from this office building was a tiny, nameless park. It contained a few trees, some scraggly bushes, four benches, and just enough grass so that people thought they could hide their cigarette butts in it. I would always put my butts in the trashcan on the corner like a civilized person, but no one else ever took after my good example.
Despite being small, the park attracted a very diverse crowd. People in my building took their lunch break there, college students read or tapped away on their devices, teenage skateboarders attempted to skid across the backs of benches, moms let their young kids burn off some energy, and homeless people curled up with their dogs in the evening.
But by far the most interesting people in the park were the protestors. There were no huge corporate or political headquarters in that part of town, so we didn’t get organized protestors. We got lone Don Quixotes, tilting solo at the windmills of modern evils. They were usually spreading the message that the end was nigh if we didn’t stop global warming or come to Jesus. I got a big kick out of them when I first started my job, but over time they all faded into the background of my everyday life.
Until the day I noticed the “YOU ARE ALL F&@^%D” girl.