Escape Pod 822: Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, Oh My!

Show Notes

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, Oh My! originally appeared in Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology in October 2020.


Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, Oh My!

by Tina Connolly

day 183

dear permanent record of my deepest thoughts for posterity app,
today sucked.

The Captain of the Glorious Starship Rockety McZoomystars (never let the federated starspace internet name anything) has announced that there was a miscalculation with the wormholes or the FTL drive or whatever and now this trip is going to take THREE YEARS longer than expected. Everyone in my educational cluster was already hunkering down for 6 years (like, we made it through elementary, we can make it through this) but NOW there is a Lot of Discontent among the teenage ranks. Even the power clique students who’ve been like ExpansionHo!, New Planets Are Amazing! were grumbling loudly in the cafeteria.

I was already having a tough week because I was just remembering that back home it was time to audition for the new crop of spring shows at my high school and, STUPIDLY, Rockety McZoomystars has no drama department.

IDK, it’s just been a lot tougher than I expected.

So I wrapped myself in my black hoodie-cape and snuck off to a storage closet and watched my favorite ever Anya Patel holo, Dreams of a Starry Kind, (for precisely the 183rd time since boarding this ship, I admit) just so I could lose myself in studying her technique, especially her glorious dramatic monologue at the climax where she says she’s leaving and her breath does that little hitch thing and it ALWAYS makes me cry. But like what does it matter if I become the greatest actress of a generation if my generation is this ship to a brand new planet with nobody making holos at all?? And then I remember that my last acting teacher said I had “extraordinary promise” and I’m bawling all over again.

Oh crap some kid wants to use this storage closet for a cry now. I’m going to find somewhere else.

#

Okay, I went to the hydroponics wing. There’s this good part in the back with a bunch of experimental stuff crammed in and humming noises from everything working away, and if you go around the hanging squash vines no one can see you cry.

(Ask me how I know.)

So I swished my cape dramatically around the squash and then I absolutely tripped over another girl, kneeling next to the compost, having her own good cry.

Her face was all red and wet but she was also round and cute and had the most adorably half-shaved head. It reminded me of Anya Patel and Rosaria Chu’s meet-cute in Sweet Saturnalia, so I started to say that, but then I saw she was glaring at me, which Rosaria definitely did not do in the holo, so I shut up. And then I unshut up and said stupidly, “What are you crying about,” which Anya definitely did not do either.

“I. Am. Not. Crying,” she said, and there was a lot of glaring with it.

“I totally understand,” I said. I started to swoosh off and leave her in peace, but then I heard voices from the front and I did not want to deal with any adults, so I turned right back around, even though she was all *glare: intensify*.

“Look, there’s only one squash vine covered area to cry in,” I said. “which I’ll just be upfront, is what I was gonna do because it doesn’t do any good to keep the bad feelings in when you could emote them instead and move on. So if you don’t mind, I’m gonna, just. . .”

I plopped down on the compost bin (which creaked alarmingly) and burst into tears.

She looked startled.

But I did it anyway (I mean, I may have come here for a PRIVATE cry but sometimes you take what you can get.) I snorfled it all out while the girl pretended to be really interested in the progress of the squash and then I felt much better.

“I’m Kai,” I said.

She dropped the vines and turned back to me. “Charlie.”

“I’m having a tough time dealing with this ship right now,” I said frankly.

“SAME,” she said.

“I was going to grow up to be a holo star and now that part of my life is GONE. I can’t get back to it. I’ll just have to, like, grow squash or something.”

Her eyes widened. “Not the same.”

“Uh, what were you going to do with your life?”

“I mean, probably some sort of food science,” Charlie said, gesturing around. “My mother’s been doing veg-in-space her whole life, and I’ve been helping her.”

“Oops,” I said. “I mean. Growing squash is important.” She still looked miserable. “But why are you upset then? Your work is here with you.”

Charlie sighed. “I left my girlfriend slash best friend on the last ship we were on,” she said. “And the news about the extra three years made it hurt all over again. Everyone in my educational cluster is dying to explore the new planet, and. . .well, I’ve never actually been ON a planet, and I’m secretly happy that I get more time before I have to do it? But that makes me feel really. . .” She whispered the last bit. “Alone, I guess.”

My heart went out to the wet-faced squash girl. Also my heart was kind of immediately interested in the news that at one point she had had a girlfriend, because that meant there was a greater than zero chance she might at some point be looking for a NEW girlfriend, and, as previously mentioned, she was really cute. Even with the crying, because that just meant she knew that crying was an important thing to do.

“Your cluster has all the academics,” I said. “The ExpansionHo! clique.”

“The Mutiny! clique, you mean. They were a little scary today,” Charlie said frankly. “Going around being all IF WE RAN THIS SHIP THINGS WOULD BE DIFFERENT and so on. Is that how your cluster was?”

“Not so much,” I said. “My cluster is all the non-mathy weirdo misfits, like me.”

“But surely they’re upset by the news?”

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, I assume. I mean. . .” I sighed. “To be honest I haven’t really made any friends, either. I’ve buried myself in watching all my Anya Patel holos and moping about not getting to audition for ANYTHING, not even like a commercial for space toilet paper.”

Charlie laughed. Then scrubbed her eyes again. Her face was less red, and she looked like the crying had helped her, too. “I wouldn’t mind if there was something like that to do,” she admitted. “My last ship was a cruise ship and my girlfriend was the daughter of one of the entertainers. I helped out with bit parts a few times. I liked it.”

“Oh, you’ve got a type then,” I said, before I could stop myself, which I totally would have if my brain had caught up with my mouth. “Um, in friends, I mean. A friend type. That’s a totally normal thing to say.” I was blushing, but I think she was too—it was hard to tell after the tears. “I mean, here we are, a couple of theatre geeks—”

And then I was struck with a profound idea.

Something that would give us something to do.

Something that would give EVERYONE something to do, so we didn’t think about those extra three years stretching ahead of us, and the scary unfamiliar planet at the end.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I said.

“That you’re gonna fall through that compost bin any second?”

“Let’s put on a show.”

#

day 184

I have life. I have renewed purpose. I have. . . .

no plays in the entire massive online ship’s library.

Okay, there’s three.

The works of Shakespeare, The Wizard of Oz, and something called The Complete Screenplays of Rick Moranis.

I’ve been reading through them all night. The latter looks like it’s gonna require a lot of props like man-eating plants and stuff, and I’m NOT gonna start a bunch of newbies on Titus Andronicus so. . . The Wizard of Oz it is!

I mean, here’s the thing. You can’t have a new settlement with no art at all. People NEED it. I think most of us need to DO it, but even the most stubbornly non-creative among us need to SEE it. Need to feel it. Even the Mutiny! students need art, even if they don’t know it.

Charlie and I have the chance to build something from scratch, that’s all. There’s no drama department? Very well, we will BE the drama department.

How hard can it be to mount a play?

. . .with no stage, no curtain, no costumes, no sets. . . .

(don’t worry about that stuff, Kai. theatre is in the IMAGINATION. inspire them and they will come.)

(if anyone comes to auditions tomorrow. what if no one shows?? WHAT IF.)

not gonna lie, being a producer/director/the entire drama department is nervewracking.

#

TO DO:
– find a space to rehearse/perform in (Observation Deck? Most people are bored with looking at stars by now.)
– invite all 47 students to audition, even the scary Mutiny! ones

#

ACHIEVEMENTS:- first! day!! without watching Dreams of a Starry Kind since I boarded McZoomystars!!
– (met a girl, I know it’s not a theatrical achievement but I have to put it down SOMEWHERE.)

#

day 192

wowowow WOW what a week.

Okay. Auditions were a bit rocky, not gonna lie.

The Mutiny! students totes blew me off BUT. The good news is that 12!!! people came to audition. I guess they were sufficiently impressed by my silently-wearing-all-black demeanor that they wanted to see what I was up to.

(note to self: keep wearing swooshy black hoodie-cape, even tho significantly much less depressed.)

I told them that art was NECESSARY and we had a chance to build something NEW and IMPORTANT that would reflect on all our lives and like, they were RIGHT THERE WITH ME, EYES SHINING. For a moment I was like YES. This is DOABLE.

The bad news is that they’re mostly new to this and despite my EXHORTATIONS they still seem shy about jumping around like munchkins and lions so, let’s be real, I have my work cut out for me as Leader of this Ragtag Troupe.

Primary to-do: MAKE PEOPLE HAVE FUN. (why so hard.)

Also bad: the rest of my list looks like this:

#

TO DO:
– how to make silver shoes (requisition spray paint, is there any??)
– how to make witch “melt” (blue tarps could represent water, is that cheesy??)
– AND SOOOOO ON

#

anyway

The good news is Charlie’s totally just fine, for someone newish to acting, and I cast her as Dorothy. And the best of the rest is Bit, a hilarious theater geek I should have made friends with way before now, who wears sequins and plaid and does jazz hands a lot. I cast them as the Scarecrow and also made them my assistant director.

We spent all this week just working on basic stuff, and it was mostly going okay, but today we were working on our first big group scene (Dorothy landing in Oz) and Charlie seemed out of sorts. And I know the director should be thinking about everyone, not just the really cute girl playing Dorothy, buuut it’s hard to see her sweet face getting all frustrated with herself and not want to help.

So I nerved myself to surrender some responsibility and placed an excited Bit in charge of blocking the Munchkins, while I took Dorothy off to do some one-on-one scene work.

I found my heart beating faster as we went to the squash area to find a quiet place to rehearse.

Which is silly, right? We were here as a director and an actor and obvs I would never abuse my position of power, no matter what kind of ridiculously sexy haircut she has.

(note to self: could I pull off the half-shaved look, or would I get annoyed with it in like a week and then have to suffer through the tragic growing-out stage, investigate this.)

Charlie was looking at me like I was gonna say something smart, so I tried my best.

“So, here we are in the forests of squash,” I said.

“Huh?”

“I mean. Tell me how you’re feeling about Dorothy.”

Charlie closed her eyes and said in a rush, “Like it’s a really big role and did you just cast me because we came up with the theatre idea together and maybe I better quit now before I ruin everything.”

“Whoa, whoa,” I said. “That’s not why I cast you.”

She opened her eyes. They were a deep dark brown, really distracting, so it took me a moment to focus on what she was saying. “Then give me something smaller,” she said. “Like the Scarecrow. Bit’s got way more experience; they could take the lead.”

“Wait, suddenly nepotism’s okay if it’s just a different role? Besides, I need a really funny person for—”

(oh crap did I just say that, you’re an idiot, Kai)

“You don’t think I’m good enough for the Scarecrow,” Charlie said, realization dawning.

“That is NOT what I said,” I said. “I need a certain kind of person for the Scarecrow, and a certain kind of person for Dorothy, and I need you to play Dorothy, that’s all.”

“Because I am boring,” she said. “I’m just a boring old squash farmer—”

“Okay, I definitely did not say that,” I said. This director business was harder than I expected.

(turns out??? it’s a lot easier just being one of the actors??? but then we wouldn’t be having this show, so. learn how to be a better leader FASTER, Kai.)

I tried again. “You’re just feeling overwhelmed because it’s a lot of lines—”

“Don’t tell me how I feel—”

Charlie cut herself off as voices came nearer. It was the sound of footsteps, the hustle-jog of the energetic Mutiny! clique. Their voices grew louder as they came closer.

“I’m just saying, we’re not the ones who CHOSE to come on this ship,” a grumbly voice said.

“That’s not OUR generation. Our PARENTS did it, and now THEY’RE the ones screwing up our future.”

“And that’s why we should do something about it,” said a higher, raspy voice. “We find a way to strike when they’re least expecting it.”

“FINALLY,” said the grumble. “We get to FIGHT.”

“I already told you, not yet,” said the rasp. “First we need a solid plan. We’ve got to—”

The compost lid made a loud cracking sound under me.

“Crap,” said the grumble. “Let’s get out of here.”

I looked warily at Charlie as the footsteps died away.

“Bohai and Vynessa,” she said, shaking her head. Her frustration with me was momentarily forgotten. “I’m worried. They talk in my cluster. I think they’re planning something.”

“Something what?” I said, though my stomach was already clenched against the knowledge.
Charlie leaned in and whispered. “Overpowering the Captain.”

(oh crap oh crap oh)

The thought that the mutiny idea was inching closer to reality filled me with panic. I jumped up from the creaking compost bin and started pacing. “This is exactly the problem. How can I get people to focus on something like ART when this is going on? If everyone’s worried about, like, their lives, I can’t get them to act silly in a lion suit made of a space mop.”

“But art IS important,” Charlie said. “You said so at auditions, and I think you’re right—”

“Of course it is,” I shouted to the squash, even though neither they nor Charlie deserved that.

“Stories are how we make sense of things, not fighting! Stories! Ugh!” I waved my tablet around as I paced. “I’m trying to bring people together, but you have to TALK about things. You have to create, and reflect. And I. . .have to help you, and here I am just yelling.”

I tried to calm down, because Charlie looked a little stunned.

“Let’s go back to Dorothy’s motivation,” I said, as calmly as possible. “What does she want?”

“Um,” said Charlie. “I mean, she wants to stop the witch from doing bad stuff—”

“She wants to go home,” I burst out. “And she’s never gonna get to, never, never, never!”

#

DAY ONE NINE SIX

sooooooooo that was a thing that happened.

(note to self: can I please stop having dramatic break-throughs next to the squash.)

Catching up: Charlie agreed to stick with the role of Dorothy, and we agreed to keep an eye on the Mutiny! students while we tried to figure out what to do about them.

(We also immediately went to tell the Captain, because we’re not idiots, but he just laughed and told us not to worry, that complaining is just a thing teenagers DO. So yeah, that was a thing.)

So we do what we can do, you know? Take care of our own.

And still, morale kinda fell this week because even though both Bit and I are trying to be super patient and helpful, this is all new to the troupe. None of them have ever tried to memorize lines AND blocking AND face out to the audience AND speak up, and and AND!! We have DEFINITELY never tried to do it while a bunch of mutinous debate clubbers plot treason around us.

I’ve been leaning on Bit more for directing because it turns out producing takes a heckuva lot of time. Right now they’re running the big Emerald City scene while I try to organize my to-do list, which basically looks like this:

#

TO DO:
– silver shoes (there’s no spray paint, what about duct tape??)
– melt the witch (all tarps in use, what if the flying monkeys wave their arms and make water sounds??)
– (35 MORE ACTION ITEMS efffffff meeeee)
– find a way to boost morale
– STOP THE MUTINY!!!

#

But also, think about what came out of the last squash discussion between me and Charlie.

Namely, is The Wizard of Oz just 100% all wrong for the situation in which we find ourselves? I mean, it’s literally about Dorothy wanting to go home, and then GETTING TO.

But we’re NOT gonna go back to the way things were, and THAT’S what we’re all trying to adjust to, even the mutineers.

Should we change the ending? Make it a downer? Dorothy gives up on her dreams and settles for being a squash farmer?

I don’t know, I’ve been pacing around my tiny room all week, trying to figure out what I think. I don’t know if I’m getting any closer.

—hang on, somebody’s knocking.

#

OMG. So it was Charlie, at a run. “They kicked us out of the Observation Deck,” she panted, tugging my hand.

I hurried after her, running around corners. “Who did?”

“The mutiny,” she said, and then there the whole troupe was, exiting the floatylift, clustering around me like I was gonna fix everything.

(I don’t know how to fix anything! I can’t even figure out how to represent flying monkeys on stage! Maybe they just jump a lot???)

“Are they actually, like, mutineering?” I said. “Right now?”

“They’ve got a list of demands,” said Bit.

“But not for our troupe,” I said. “For the Captain, right?” I got on the floatylift and the whole troupe squeezed back in with me. I punched the button for the Observation Deck.

“Yes,” said Bit, and they thrust out their phone to show me a list of demands that was basically on infinite scroll.

“We need to stop them before they ruin everything,” said Charlie, eyeing me meaningfully.

I swallowed. She meant me. But how was I the right person to turn around a bunch of justifiably angry, super-driven, type-A students? I was just an actor, really.

The floatylift chimed arrival.

An actor who needed to figure out how to dig deep and rise above herself.

I remembered Anya Patel in Mission: Mayday. When the situation was the most dire, sometimes the best course was to be as honest and open as you could.

Maybe that was the one thing I could do.

I strode into the room full of angry students. The Observation Deck’s backdrop of vid-screens with their dramatic simulation of our trip through the stars helped me channel my hero Anya, brave and confident and determined.

“Listen to me,” I said, raising my hands to get everyone’s attention. “I know you’re upset.”

Conversations halted, and the students stopped, turning to look at me.

“Damn straight,” said Vynessa, from the center of the room.

“But we’re upset, too.” I looked around the Observation Deck at my troupe. At the mutineers. At all of us. “Look, some of us were excited to get to the end of our journey. Some of us were nervous.” I glanced at Charlie. “Some of us think the Captain is handling this setback correctly. Some of us don’t.” Bohai nodded.

“But the thing is, dealing with these sorts of complex situations is exactly what art does best. Theatre is about reflecting what we FEEL. It’s about bringing important questions out into the open. And honestly, I’ve been asking myself this week if we were even doing the right play. Dorothy gets to go home, and we don’t.”

Charlie raised eyebrows at me: Not inspiring.

“But what I should have been asking is: how can we CHANGE the story we’re telling, and make it exactly what we need, right now. The making of art is not something you leave behind as non-essential. You can’t take some frozen old stories and expect that to be the entirety of what helps you feel, and dream, and be. That’s not what art is for. Stories are how you get people talking. How you bring the problems to the attention of everyone else.” I took a deep breath. “How you do all this WITHOUT fighting.”

I saw I had some of them. The ones who had been swept along with Vynessa and Bohai’s vision, the ones who had the passion for change, but maybe, in the end, didn’t want to take it as far as physical violence.

“But. . .The Wizard of Oz?” asked Vynessa. “It’s a kid’s show.”

“It’s a beautifully clean slate,” I corrected. “It’s already about what you do when the people in charge aren’t everything you hoped they would be. The witches want power. The Wizard is a liar.”

“That fits,” grumbled Bohai.

“But it’s also about the power of teamwork,” I said. “Dorothy and her friends can’t get to the Emerald City without. Every. Single. One Of. Them.”

“The Emerald City is a metaphor for Planety McPlanetface!” chirped somebody in excitement.

“Ding ding ding,” I said. These students were the academic cluster. The future political leaders, the movers and shapers of our generation. They were just frustrated and upset, which I could understand, and they had energy and direction. Energy and direction we could use.

“But I just wanna fight,” said a guy in the back. “I was promised fighting.”

“There’s fighting in The Wizard of Oz,” I promised. Charlie stepped on my toe. I kicked her back. “In fact, we need people who know how to make action scenes look real—without people getting hurt. Do you want to be our stunt coordinator?”

His eyes lit up. “Can it be swordfighting?”

“If you figure out how to build space swords,” I said. “Look, we need people to take on all pieces of this. So it can be the best socio-political critique it can be.” I held up my phone, showed them my own endless scroll of the to-do list. “Art is a team effort. We need everyone’s thoughts on what we want to say with this show. But we also need to figure out how to make the flying monkeys, well, fly.”

“We could rig up flying harnesses,” said Vynessa instantly. “Several of us have our climbing certifications and have logged hundreds of hours.”

“My mom’s in charge of the gym gear,” said Sanjay, one of our actors. “I bet we could convince her we need to requisition it.” They both looked at each other.

“Excellent,” I said. “That flying gear is going to be a real help, so Vynessa and Sanjay, get on that stat. The rest of you, I’m texting you my to-do list so you can start thinking of ways to help. Report back to Assistant Director Bit with any ideas.” I wanted to get the mutiny group disbanded and integrated with us before they had a chance to reform.

“Got it,” said Bit, with a flash of jazz hands.

“But most importantly,” I said. “Tomorrow, first thing after school, we’re going to tear this whole show apart and put it back together in a way that makes sense to us, here and now. This is our moment. So get thinking!”

The students went off chattering energetically as the mutiny dispersed.

“A socio-political critique?” said Charlie, once we were alone with the stars. “And where the heck is there fighting in The Wizard of Oz?”

“Didn’t you know the munchkins have an elite combat force?” I said with a straight face. “They clash with the flying monkeys several times.”

“I did not know that,” said Charlie.

“Well, you’ll definitely know it after you help me write those scenes tonight,” I said. “Besides, I meant everything I said. Art needs to be alive. We all need to figure out what we want to say together. And frankly, I feel confident the mutineers will bring ideas we wouldn’t have had without them.”

Charlie stepped back and looked at me. “You really mean that, don’t you? That you WANT them to join us.”

“Of course I do,” I said. “You need all kinds of people for a community. Rebels have energy and drive, that’s all. You need the movers and shakers to push things forward.”

“Just like you need someone to grow the squash,” she said, a little sadly.

I took her hand before I thought. “Do you know why I cast you?” I said. “It wasn’t because I had no options.”

“It wasn’t?”

“The whole reason I need you for Dorothy is because I need someone kind, and honest. Someone whom everyone will rally around. Someone who can get us to the Emerald City. And when you got up on that stage, all those things were like a light shining through.”

She looked like she didn’t know what to say, and I thought oh crap, I sound like a dope and also I shouldn’t have taken her hand, so I started to pull away, but she held on tight.

“I’m not sure I entirely believe you,” Charlie said. “But it also doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t?”

“Because just that you would say something so wonderful to me is like the whole reason that everyone’s rallying around YOU. You’re just starting out with all this, but YOU’re the one who’s bringing everyone together. You’re one of those movers and shapers, too. You’re making everyone realize what they had in them all along.”

I blushed, because that was WAY too much praise for an ordinary actor geek. “I’m just, uh. Trying to help everyone become a team, I guess,” I said.

“What about the squash farmer?” she said.

“I mean, she’s definitely on the team?” I said, flustered by Charlie’s raising eyebrows.

“Oh, I’m terrible at metaphors,” said Charlie. “What I mean is: kiss me.”

#

day 221….!!!!!!!!

dear permanent record of my deepest thoughts for posterity app, I kissed her.

Or she kissed me.

There was kissing.

There had not been any kissing for the 200 or so days prior and it’s entirely possible that my outlook is vastly improved when there is kissing in my life.

I won’t pretend it was all smooth sailing after that. It took a lot of work to integrate the mutineers into the show. We spent an entire week where we analyzed the themes to death and tried to decide if the Captain was better represented by the Wizard or by the Good Witch, if Dorothy should have a manifesto when she arrived at the Emerald City, and just how many people would get to swing through the air as fighting flying monkeys.

But all that got everyone talking. And communicating. And helping each other.

So by the time we got to performance night, it wasn’t about the weirdness of stopping the show to have elaborate swordfights, or the fact that the Lion looked like they had mange, or the way that the Tin Person still mumbled all her lines at the ground.

It was about the way, when the Lion forgot his line about how worried he was to arrive at a new planet, the Scarecrow whispered it to him.

It was about the way, when a flying monkey’s rope slipped and she started to fall and the audience gasped—the Good Witch stepped in and caught her.

It was about the way that Dorothy, shining like light, turned to me in my arms and said, “It’s over, we did it, now kiss me.”

(not gonna lie, my squash girl is the best thing about this ship, 1000%!!!!)

So I’ve got a date. And I’m running off to that, and any more updates will have to wait for another day. We’re going to spend some time eating reconstituted chocolate and some time talking about the show (theatre people, what do you expect) and some time wandering up and down the hydroponics bay, pretending to look at her plants but really just (you know) kissing next to the squash.

But then, I think I’ll talk to her about our future plans. After all, this show absolutely cannot be a one-off, now that we’re turning this ragtag band of individuals into an actual troupe.

There’s more art to create. More discussions to be had.

So I’m gonna take the list of plays to Charlie to see what she thinks we should do next.
Right now, I’ve got my money on Ghostbusters.

Host Commentary

by S. B. Divya

Tina says: “As a theatre kid myself, I started wondering what would happen if I was stuck on a generation ship with ~ gasp ~ absolutely no theatre. I also wanted to write another happy queer story, and of course, being from Kansas, the odds are good that eventually I would write about the Wizard of Oz. The funny thing is, I wrote this story the month right before the pandemic started. But when I revised it a couple months later, all I could see were parallels – chiefly, the importance of making art even when you’re stuck inside on a VERY long trip.”

For me, this story encapsulates what I love about Escape Pod – a sense of fun and adventure with a focus on an often-neglected type of character. We don’t usually consider the lives of ordinary teenagers stuck on a generation ship. Our focus is on the people in power – captains, science officers, or exceptional children like Ender Wiggin or Westley Crusher. What about the masses of families who live on the ship and support its everyday function? Their children will have to go to school, make friends, and entertain themselves.

There are so many wonderful themes that Tina explores: how vulnerability can lead to love; how honesty can drive leadership; the sense of purpose and social responsibility that blossoms in adolescence; the ennui of consumption that’s relieved by being creative. But most of all, I love the theme of art and stories as living things.

Like language, which changes over time, so does the meaning of a story in the context of the audience. This explains why retellings are so popular. We love the original narrative, but we need to reframe it in a way that makes sense from a modern standpoint. Stories resonate when they have relevance. Sometimes that means taking them in directions that the original creator didn’t intend, but that’s okay. The instant that story found a reader or listener or viewer, the creator has already lost control of it. It became something else in the mind of the person experiencing the story. Our protagonist really gets this. Kai understands that art exists to give voice not only to the artists but also to the audience.

And our closing quotation this week is from Octavia Butler, who said, “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

Thanks for joining us, and enjoy your adventures through time and space.

About the Author

Tina Connolly

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin and Seriously Wicked series, and the collection On the Eyeball Floor. She has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Norton, and World Fantasy awards. She co-hosts Escape Pod, narrates for Beneath Ceaseless Skies and all four Escape Artists podcasts, and runs Toasted Cake. Find her at tinaconnolly.com.

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About the Narrator

Bria Strothers

Bria Strothers is an educator, amateur DJ, orator, and sonic storyteller based in the Bronx, NY. Her current work involves blending speculative prose with storytelling soundscapes along with developing a Black mythological webcomic series. She holds a BA in English from George Mason University as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from Pratt Institute. She has appeared in Apparition Literary Magazine’s Issue 5: Resistance and will also be featured in an upcoming Speculative/Horror issue of midnight & indigo literary journal. You can also find her work in the fourth and fifth edition of Pratt Institute’s physical publication The Felt. You can find her at www.fordarkfigures.com and on twitter/instagram at @freely_poetic.

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