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Escape Pod 796: One Hundred Seconds to Midnight


One Hundred Seconds to Midnight

By Lauren Ring

I wake before the plane lands. It’s static-dark, the kind of hazy late night where the air itself seems full of shadows and my eyes refuse to focus. For a moment I feel as though I am stuck in my dream of great heights, dangling weightless above the earth in a kaiju’s monstrous claw, but the steady thrum of the engine grounds me in reality. I’m still high above ground, but the only kaiju on this flight are the profiles tucked in my folder from this afternoon’s insurance pitch. Next to my travel receipts are dozens of photos of those hulking beasts. Their files are neatly sorted, alphabetized by incident location and color-coded by average damage severity. That folder is as close as I have ever gotten to a kaiju.

(Continue Reading…)

Joy: A Themed Submissions Window


This September and October, Escape Pod is opening our general submissions for a themed call: we would like to see joyful stories that celebrate positive futures (or positive alternate pasts). We would especially love to see stories that embrace joy for demographics where we often see pain centered (including but not limited to: people of marginalized genders or sexual preferences; people from historically oppressed or colonized cultures; people with disabilities). Happy endings are not mandatory, but some part of the story should evoke a smile.

Starting in November, we’ll be back to our standard submissions guidelines.


FAQs

Will there be separate portal for this call?
No, we will use our general submissions portal, but only themed submissions will be accepted.

What if I mistakenly submitted a non-theme related story?
You’re welcome to withdraw it and submit a themed story or resubmit it at a later time.

If my story is rejected, can I submit it again after the themed window ends?
No.

Does this theme apply to the novelette reprint submissions?
No.

Are there any changes to word count or pay?
No, all other standard guidelines apply.

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Escape Pod 795: Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right


Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right

By Sarah Gailey

Vladislav Argyle rested his head on the cool titanium surface of the plaintiff’s table. It dipped a little under the sudden weight of his skull, then hummed as the antigrav lifts adjusted their power to accommodate their new burden.

“Mr. Argyle? Are you alright?” The bandage-swathed tip of Argyle’s client’s primary tentacle crackled near his ear, and he knew that she was touching his temple in a gesture of inquiry. The people of Ursa Vibrania were very skull-oriented in their communications. It was sweet, really, how they wanted to know what was happening inside every other endoskeletal vertebrate creature’s head. How much they wanted to understand.

Argyle clenched his fists in his lap. The Vibranians were so kind, and they had trusted him to help them, and he was failing. As always.

“I’m fine,” he said through his teeth. “Just a little ritual I have after opening statements.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 794: Episode 4: The Deflection of Probability


Episode 4: The Deflection of Probability

By Premee Mohamed

The tent billowed in the hot, humid wind, and Harriet thought if the canvas made that gun-crack noise near her head one more time she’d go mad—simply abandon her project and flee screaming into the meadow.

She took a deep breath, ignoring the hovering cameras that hummed in her peripheral vision. They’d make something of that in final production, she thought gloomily. That sigh. The plucky lass from Berwick-upon-Tweed, a clear shoo-in during the first three episodes, has done very poorly indeed today, and seems to be feeling the pressure… Well, and it would have to be ‘plucky,’ wouldn’t it? Harriet was sure the judges had an approved list of adjectives in their scripts. Some contestants were brilliant. Some were confident. Some…

Another gust of hot air roared in like the furious breath of a dragon. Her palladium microtorus setup spun on its little mirrored platform, reflecting glimpses of her startled gaze, her hair frizzed in the humidity. A skiff of pollen had dirtied the molecule-thick coating. Keeping her face still, she got out the nanofiber brush and cleaned the surface again.

It had all begun so well. Or at least it probably looked that way to viewers. Were episodes being aired already? Harriet didn’t know. But two weeks ago, her synthetic prions had gone about the place (well, the slide) like proper gangsters, knocking the other proteins aside and neatly recruiting only the ones they were meant to. Last week, only four contestants had managed to produce the correct crystal matrix in the final experiment—and hers had been the tallest of all, rising high and green as envy above their stations, nearly touching the ceiling. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 793: A Little Bit of Kali (Part 2)


A Little Bit of Kali (Part 2 of 2)

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi

I can’t tell you how long I wandered. A failed soldier going home when India needed us the most. I knew I should have gotten back to my parents—but truth be told I couldn’t make myself go back. I ditched my gear, worked odd jobs, mostly bicycle repair. India is a country of motorcycles, and every village and every junction, those days, had a dusty little shop with a pile of half-rusted bikes outside and three grease-covered men inside screwing something onto and engine. I was one of those nuts. I worked in a two-bit town so nameless that you couldn’t find it on a map even if you wanted to.

One day a man brought in a bike I instantly recognized—a Royal Enfield Bullet. An ancient design, built to jump out of planes in the second World War, left to India when the British withdrew; now a stolid, reliable workhorse of a bike, one of the few capable of handling everything India could throw at it. I spent a bit more effort than I usually put into it.

The man who came to pick it up arrived in a long white Chrysler, kicking up fine dust. A floral print shirt stretched over an ample belly. Gold chains glistened on his neck. Two thugs got out with him—one swarthy and sweating in the heat, one pale and thin and unafflicted. Both wore white.

“Bad customer,” said the owner’s wife, and bustled out of there as fast as she could.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 792: A Little Bit of Kali (Part 1)


A Little Bit of Kali (Part 1 of 2)

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi

Where do old gods go to die?

Not to Mother Ganga, no. Not for us the fire that strips our sins from our bones, turns our bones into ashes, turns our ashes into a constellation of dust on the holy river. They say Ganga once took the seed from the fire-god Agni, which would have otherwise burned this world to a cinder, and cooled it in her waters: but even she will not take our kind. Ganga only takes the flesh and blood. Leaves the metal behind.

They tried. The government of India lay one of us down in the waters—a prototype Vishnu, I think, ’20, maybe ’21. A thing too difficult to burn it, so they lit a ritual pyre and let Him slide into the waters. He lies there still, decades of human rot piling upon His frame. Sometimes His eyes light up, throwing mocking shadows at those who come to worship him from the dead river-banks, and those of us who know Him shudder, because underneath the ceaseless filth something still lives.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 791: Rights and Wrongs


Rights and Wrongs

By Brian K. Lowe

“Tell me again who I pissed off to get this job?” Carefully unwrapping my roast beef on wheat, I used the paper as a holder to keep mustard off of my lap.

“I thought you wanted the job,” Rusty said. “I thought you were taking it as some kind of personal challenge.” Russ Becker and I ate lunch together almost every day. “Rusty” was another assistant district attorney, and we’d bonded over a mutual disdain for other lawyers. Things being what they were, though, sometimes we got drafted to work the other side, and I’d drawn the short straw here, with Rusty as my prosecutor.

“Hell, no, I didn’t want it! The Jan’i killed my parents, Rusty. I had to break into their house and found them on the floor, blood coming out of their ears. I couldn’t even bury them; they had to burn down the house with them still inside.” I stopped to pull myself together. “This is somebody’s idea of payback, probably Bertoli. She’s still mad at me because she thinks I screwed up the Andelson case.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 790: AirBody


AirBody

by Sameem Siddiqui

Amazing how all Desi aunties are basically the same. Even when separated by vast oceans for a few generations. I mean, they fit into a few basic archetypes. There’s the genuine-sweetheart proxy mother who, in between her late-night work shifts, always makes sure you and your friends have all the snacks you need. The manipulative gossiper, who conveniently keeps details of her own children’s scandals nestled under her tongue. The nervous fidgeter who has spent three decades so worried that her basic thirty-year-old son won’t ever find a wife, that she forgets to teach him how to speak to women. The late-life hijabi, who pointedly replaces “Khuda-hafiz” with “Allah-hafiz” and “thank you, beta” with not just “jazak-allah” but the full on “jazak allahu khayran.” But which of these archetypes would find it appropriate to rent the body of a grown man halfway across the world?

I pull the AirBody request from Meena Khan into view in my contacts. She’s 59 years old and from Karachi. Her short wavy hijab-less hair and her relaxed smile makes her seem content with life, so maybe she’s the genuine-sweetheart type. Her only notes on the request are a list of Desi groceries and some cookware, which only reinforces the archetype. Maybe she’s too ill to travel to visit family for Eid and wants to surprise them with a feast? It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten a taste of such a spread. I hit accept and watch the usual legalese flash before me:

You acknowledge that you have the ability to observe, regain control and remove your guests at any time and therefore may be complicit in any crimes committed or responsible for any damage caused by your guests.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 789: The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity


The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity

By Tobias S. Buckell

On a boat on the way to the Galapagos Islands to visit the world’s oldest tortoise, I got a call that the Central Park Human Reintroduction Center had been bombed.

I’d read somewhere that the point of travel was to see the thing yourself. To expose yourself to new points of view and to have new experiences. Before the call I’d spent two point seven seconds regarding the sweep of the Himalayas at the roof of the world and take a backup of my memory of the entire panorama. In Pattaya, I lounged at the beach and watched the aquamarine water lap the sand.

Ten years I’d planned this trip. A time to let my thoughts settle before the big push on the Central Park project.

My life’s work.

A mechanical butterfly perched on my hand with the message. To deliver it, the butterfly had wafted its way over almost two thousand kilometers of ocean boundaries, negotiated with air currents for overflight permissions, and applied for fifty different visas until it tracked my boat down.

The Institute had paid a small fortune to recall me from vacation. (Continue Reading…)

2021 Award Voters Packet


Here’s where you can find our offering for 2021 award consideration in one convenient download, or check it out episode by episode. The zip file includes all three ebook formats, the PDF in A4, and MP3s (335 MB).

 PDF Link    EPub Link 

  • Ignyte Awards: Voting is open to the public and closes May 21st.
  • Hugo Awards: Members of DisCon III are eligible to vote on the 2021 Hugo Awards. You can check your membership status, or become a voting member, at the 2021 DisCon III registration page. Voting closes November 19th.

Voter Packet Episodes

Special thanks to Matt Dovey and Jen Albert for their invaluable assistance preparing the voter packet!