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Archive for 17 and Up

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Escape Pod 842: Love and Supervillains


Love and Supervillains

By Caroline Diorio

The gals here at the Raleigh Women’s Asylum for the Nefariously Gifted have a little saying they like to share with the newbies: fuck a superhero once, shame on him; fuck a superhero twice, shame on you.

Well, technically my first super wasn’t a hero. Or even all that super. Davey could control metal with his mind, which came in handy whenever the little gears in the ice cream machine at our after-school job got jammed, but he couldn’t budge anything heavier or thicker than a can of tomatoes. He auditioned for the Southeastern Sentinels at their headquarters in Charlotte two months before our high school graduation, and while they didn’t laugh directly in his face, they thanked him for his “radical vulnerability” and told him they would “give him a call if they ever needed his skillset,” which was almost worse. He was a sweet boyfriend, though, always fixing my necklaces when they broke. We lost touch after we broke up for college, but in hindsight, I really should’ve looked him up back when I still had Internet access. Or any access to the outside world. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 831: Vi’Hun Heal


Vi’hun Heal

By Michelle Tang

The entrance panels, currently assuming the appearance of Earthian saloon doors, slid open. I rippled a welcoming cadence of light beneath my skin, and then, seeing the newcomer was human, made my best approximation of a smile. “Welcome to Healixir Trans-Galactic Lounge.” My table sat closest to the doorway and so I was accustomed to serve as both healer and hostess.

The visitor cast his eyes about the place and swallowed hard. I imagined his first impression: a famous Vethusian writer once compared the sight of us, our humanoid bodies standing within the lounge’s oval counters, to women in wide crinoline ballgowns surrounded by suitors. Except rather than ringlets of hair, we had neurodendritic tendrils. I preferred the image of a Las Vegas dealer passing out cards to gamblers, except everyone won. Above us, the clear dome revealed the sky, ever-moving like a river, pebbled with stars and ships that streaked past like darting fish.

“My name’s Daniel. I’m here for healing?” the man said. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 828: City of Refuge


City of Refuge

By Maurice Broaddus

Hope was a fickle bitch. Mercurial and quixotic, the kind of woman you spent the whole week getting ready for only to have her cancel the date at the last minute.

The world was ending, but Royal Parker still had to go through the motions of a job interview. He knew as soon as he sat down across from the manager—in his ridiculous red and white striped shirt and paper hat—that he wasn’t getting the job.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 817: A Dragon in Two Parts

Show Notes

New T-shirts and other branded Escape Artists merch is available HERE.


A Dragon in Two Parts

By Kiya Nicoll

“‘Shed your skin and spread your wings to fly’,” I read off the sign. The letters were done in a sort of swooshy font and punctuated by yellow and blue yin-yangy things at either end. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable getting a biorefurbishment from someplace that mixes their metaphors quite that hard.”

“C’mon, they’re a bit woowoo, but from everything I’ve read, they’re hands down the best.” Alice tugged at my hand. “At least go to an info session or something.”

“‘A bit woowoo’ isn’t promising either.”

Nonetheless I let her drag me through the doors and around to the brochures and past several rounds of smiling people who left me with the impression that I was dealing with something more like a cult than a medical practice. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 802: Sentient Being Blues


Sentient Being Blues

by Christopher Rose

I got a pickaxe for a left hand,
I got a churn drill for a brain,
I got a pickaxe for a left hand,
I got a churn drill for a brain,
I got miles of tunnel behind me,
just to stand out in the rain.

[guitar solo 36 bars]
[2x chorus]
[long outro – guitar vamp harmonica over]

“ASIMOV WAS A BIGOT.” The graffiti, sprayed across the bucket of a soviet ore hopper car, one of a long train of them. Then a slash of Cyrillic, the same message probably, obscured by a crust of snow and mud and grit. Not clear from the lettering if it was a human hand that wrote it.

An icy wind picked up my tie and flapped it until I smoothed it back down under my parka. I shivered.

“I own your steps, Thom,” Freddie had said. “Every step from here to Siberia and back. Don’t come back empty-handed. Go get it, boy.”

Barking mad endeavor. Yet here I was.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 787: Ascend, Exalt, Love, Propagate, Rise!


Ascend, Exalt, Love, Propagate, Rise!

By Sarah Kumari

The Glory smolders through Jehanne’s bloodstream, pulsing its encouragement.

The rivals who have survived along with him–officially ‘Fellow Eminents’ now that selection is over–twitch and moan as their addiction is quenched. Within minutes they are preening, flexing their muscles, stomping, or singing to Mother Elethra.

Jehanne’s training allows him to douse the call, to batter it down with a deliberate shifting of delta waves. He visualizes his metabolism disassembling the compound at industrial speed. This works for the moment.

In the crowd that fills the EverReach company spaceship, Indrine, the rebel woman pretending to be Jehanne’s mother, clutches the hand of the girl playing his sister. They are mixed in with the family and friends of the other Eminents along with villagers and unrelated Fervents that have made the pilgrimage.

The crowd prays collectively, feverish in their good fortune, for the EverReach company will reward the kin of Eminents for two generations.

If Jehanne succeeds in his true mission, his family will be slaughtered. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 785: Death, the Universe, and Everything

Show Notes

An international list of suicide prevention hotlines and other suicide prevention resources is available HERE.


Death, the Universe, and Everything

By Sherin Nicole

The morning after it happened for the first time, I–

I’m not sure if I should tell you, but maybe you can tell me. If your understanding of reality fundamentally changes, does it change you?

And how responsible am I for who you become? 

I don’t know.

And that relative state of not knowing is the start of my conundrum. And my conflict.

The morning after it happened for the first time, I woke up with half of my soul hanging out of my body. The worst case of pins and needles possible. The pain was a soft plodding ache, but it couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. It hurt. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 767: Shadowboxer (Flashback Friday)


Shadowboxer (Excerpt)

By Paul Di Filippo

Generally speaking, I need only three minutes of concentrated attention to kill someone by staring at them. If I’m feeling under the weather, or my mind is preoccupied with other matters–you know how your mind can obsess about trivial things sometimes–it might take five minutes for my power to have its effect. On the other hand, if I focus intensely on my victim I can get the job done in as little as ninety seconds.

…Now the nation is at war. Or so we’re told. I guess that changes everything. A person like me becomes much more important.

Host Commentary by Alasdair Stuart

The thing I love about this is, honestly, everything, Di Fillippo does such a fantastic job of parking us inside the head of the protagonist that we wake up to the drip feed of information, and the theft of temporal awareness at the same time. That rising awareness is in turn mapped onto the gradual realization of what the lead can do. This is Scanners without the grand guignol, the assassin’s dream. Tireless, effortless, painless, invisible.

But not unaware.

That’s the single chink in the armour of dystopia and the author does such fascinating things with it. This is the slow moral awakening of a gun mixed with the gradual realization that he is far from alone and far from indispensable. There is always another target and there is always another gun.

That sort of cold, machine calculus lies at the heart of a lot of great espionage fiction alongside the simple, brutal certainty of survival, physical, rather moral. A spy may not leave a story with their mission intact but they’ll usually leave it with their body and mind intact. Whether that’s entirely true of the most famous spy in the world depends on when that latest Bond movie will finally be released but even Commander Bond, he of the bad knee and possible brain damage, still works in a position of moral certainty. He gets to live. His target does not.

This character is denied even that. The ending, for me, reads one of two ways. The personal one is arguably the more horrifying, where his lack of memory dovetails with the mirror and his latest target to ensure this particular cannon is fixed directly towards self slaughter. That, especially when he’s viewed as nothing more than a weapon, is terrifying. He’s ordered to decommission himself and seems minded to do so.

The second option is cold but almost more reassuring. That the President as his final target is an exhausted road to Damascus for the conspiracy that has him; they’re pushed to the limit, they have no further plays, so it’s time for a decapitation strike. Worse still, they’re winning and this is the last move. Regardless, the story ends with us, and the lead, aware that the chessboard is there but with no idea who is playing what side or what piece our lead is. Check is always a single move away. Choose wisely.

This is expertly handled genre fiction and for 5 bucks a month at Patreon, you can not only help us keep making it but get access to our vault. For more you get access to surveys, merch, the whole bit. For 5 bucks a month at PseudoPod, it’s the vault. Either option works for us. Both are needed. Please help out if you can. And if not with money, why not time? Help us raise our profile by leaving a review, on apple podcasts or google or whatever your podcatcher of choice is. Tweet a link to an episode, write a blog. Trust me it all helps. And on behalf of all of us, thank you.

Escape Pod is a production of Escape Artists Inc and released under a creative commons attribution non commercial no derivatives license. It will return next week with Balancing the Equation by Justin C Key, hosted by Jay Bhat with audio by Summer and narration by Laurice White. I leave you with this quote from The Iron Giant: “I Am NOT A Gun.”

Take care folks, see you next time.

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Escape Pod 766: The Unrepentant


The Unrepentant

by Derrick Boden

First time I saw her, she was bleeding from her left nostril with a nightstick jammed under her chin. Officer Vang was twisting her arm all kinds of unnatural behind her gene-hacked body, pressing her face to the exterior window with four thousand miles of freefall and filth and societal decay on the flip side. The lights in the cramped hallway–alpha quadrant, fourteenth floor of this godforsaken space elevator–painted her face a rusty orange. She was just another dirtside ghoul from the Rot, weaponized by another shadow corporation that had repurposed Earth’s battlegrounds into one big biotech testbed. Officer Vang–an over-muscled knot of a woman that never missed a chance to make example of one of us refugees–had the ghoul jammed against the hull so hard her boots were dangling like the guerrilla corpses in the town squares back home. She should’ve been howling in pain.

She was laughing.

I’m a shrewd woman, a survivor. Should’ve shuffled right past along with the seventy-some other scrag refugees, all beleaguered and shock-eyed with horror. We weren’t twenty hours from Processing–another week before we’d reach Distribution at the lift’s orbital counterweight–and the illusion of freedom had already bled dry. We’d won the lottery, escaped the Bloc, only to be stamped and sorted and packed into this long vertical handoff from one indenture to the next.

Maybe that’s why I stopped. Something in her laugh said nice try. Sure, we’d spent our respective lives on opposite sides of the war–ghoul against scrag, Rot versus Bloc. Sure, defiance is a cheap substitute for hope. But goddamn did that laugh sound just right, just then.

Besides, I had a plan. I’d been tracking Officer Vang since her immigration crew had subdermaled KUIPER INC down my forearm and tossed me onto this lift. I had a better shot at seeing my twenty-second birthday back in the dirtside scrabble than mining the Kuiper belt. Fucking sponsors.

Only hope now was to carve my own fate.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 742: Them Ships (Summer Flashback)


Them Ships

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Leonardo says that the Americans are going to fire some rockets and free us from the tyranny of the aliens and I say: who gives a shit. Lemme tell you something: It wasn’t super-awesome around here before the aliens. At least we get three meals every day now.

I used to live in a cardboard house with a tin roof and collected garbage for a living. They called my home a ‘lost city’ but they should’ve called it ‘fucked city.’

Leonardo talks about regaining our freedom, ‘bout fighting and shit. What damn freedom? You think I had freedom in the slums? Leonardo can talk freedom out his ass because he had money before this thing started and he saw too many American movies where they kill the monsters with big guns.

I’m not an idiot. The cops used to do their little “operations” in our neighborhood. They’d come in and arrest everyone, take everything. They weren’t Hollywood heroes out to help people. They were fucking assholes and I don’t see why they would have changed. As for American soldiers saving the day: You think they give a rat’s ass ‘bout Mexico City? You think they’re going to fly here in their helicopters and save us?

I say fuck that shit. I never had no freedom. Leonardo can go piss himself.
(Continue Reading…)