XO Reporting for Duty

Greetings, fellow Pod people!

I’m Valerie Valdes, the new co-editor here at Escape Pod. I’m extremely excited to be taking over the co-pilot seat from S.B. Divya, and I hope to ensure a continued smooth flight for all our passengers and crew.

But who am I? A riddle wrapped in an enigma? A miserable pile of secrets?

I’m a writer! My space (cat) opera trilogy starts with Chilling Effect, which was shortlisted for the 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award. I also commit poetry and short fiction and the occasional essay, some already published, some forthcoming. I mostly write stuff that is fun, funny and at least a little satirical. Every time someone compares me to Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, I hum the victory music from Final Fantasy.

Beyond writing, I volunteer as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month, which means I try to help other writers get words on page or screen. I also play video games on Twitch a few nights a week, which I call “Mandatory Fun” because otherwise I would simply not stop working. I’m Cuban-American and I spent most of my life in Miami, which seeps into my work in myriad ways, especially the cussing. Right now, I live in Georgia with my husband, kids and cats, all of us currently suffering from seasonal allergies.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about me is that I possess a firm and unwavering love of spreadsheets, which I am told will serve me well in this endeavor.

What can you expect from my tenure here? This magazine is called Escape Pod, not Sad Reality Pod, so my preferences will lean toward escapist fiction. Send me your fun, quirky, hopeful and heartfelt stories. Make me laugh, even if I’m also crying. Restore a little of my lost faith in humanity, even if you’re showing me the violence inherent in the system.

With that, it’s time to buckle up and take off. I hope we all enjoy the ride!


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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…)

CatsCast 1: The Cat Lady and the Petitioner

The Cat Lady and the Petitioner

by Jennifer Hudak

Laurie stands in front of a door. It’s old but solid, as many old things are. Whatever paint once covered it has long since worn away, and the wood beneath is striped, and furred with splinters. It is her very first door, of her very first day, of her very first job.

Her ankles wobble over brand-new high heels, and her smart jacket is slightly itchy and entirely unsuited for the warm weather. She lifts one aching foot and then the other out of her stiff, uncompromising shoes. Her life stretches out before her, a long walk down an endless road hemmed in on either side by door after closed, splintery door.

Reaching out two pink-lacquered fingers and one pink-lacquered thumb, she delicately lifts up the knocker—brass, cat-shaped, with a tail curled in a circle. When Laurie raps the knocker three times against the base, the tail twitches underneath her fingers.

Read the rest on Patreon.


Escape Pod 830: Rena in the Desert

Rena in the Desert

by Lia Swope Mitchell

It had to be a trick, Rena knew it. Even as she hit the brakes, stopped cold in the middle of cracked and empty Highway 50 and twisted around to check. Trick of the eye, trick of the mind, trick of some hidden enemy with evil agenda—the question was which. Rena hoped for the last. At least then the swimming pool would be real.

After ten hot days on waterless roads, though, she could be seeing things. The Solaire should’ve zipped across the Basin in eight hours, no problem. She’d expected to arrive at the Refugee Center in Tahoe by dinnertime, maybe talk to Jack that very night. But fifty miles out of Provo the battery ran down—that was as long as it could hold a charge. After a couple hours soaking up the sun it got going again, but now a scary shake vibrated the whole chassis whenever the speed nudged past thirty. Two thousand dollars she’d paid for this junker, to some creepy religious objector whose thou-shalt-nots apparently didn’t say shit about selling her a lemon. And here she was, creeping across the desert in fits and starts.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 829: Wild Meat

Show Notes

Hi folks! Our audience spans the globe, and this week’s author, narrator, and host are all from the Caribbean. We’re bringing you a hilarious story in authentic dialect. If you have any trouble keeping up, we suggest you read the story first or read along with the narration. You can find the full text on our website. We hope you enjoy it!

-S.B. Divya

Wild Meat

By Shari Paul

Girl, I have a story to tell you. Remember the wild meat competition I did tell you about? The one they was planning to have on the holiday weekend? Well, talk about bacchanal because Naresh and them decide that they wanted to cook dinosaur meat. Yes, dinosaur from the Reserve. These people, like they was trying to get we throw in jail. (Continue Reading…)


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…)

Flash Fiction Contest 2022

Beware the Ides of April: Escape Pod’s Flash Fiction contest returns on April 15, 2022!

Submissions will be open from April 15-30, 2022, via a dedicated portal on Moksha.

To be a valid submission to the contest, each story must adhere to the following rules:

  1. The story must be no more than 500 words long, not including its title. Do not use the title to skirt around the word count. Word count will be determined using Microsoft Word.
  2. Each author may submit only ONE story.
  3. The story must adhere to the general Escape Pod submission guidelines. Most importantly, it needs to be a science fiction story; other genres, including horror and fantasy, are discouraged. As a general rule, we will take a very liberal view of what constitutes science fiction, but authors should note that experience shows that stories that attempt to skirt the genre restriction tend to fare badly in the voting.
  4. The story must be original and previously unpublished. If your story was published on your public blog or your Patreon or in your newsletter, it is considered previously published and is ineligible. If it has been posted only to a private critique group, it has not been previously published and is eligible. If you have a question, send a query to phoebe@escapeartists.net with the subject line “QUERY” and ask before submitting. Please do not submit stories that have been entries in any previous Escape Artists contest. Note that contest stories will be posted on a members-only portion of the forum, so first publication rights will not be spent by entering.
  5. The person submitting the story must be the story’s author (or acting for the author with express permission) and hold full publishing rights to the story.
  6. The story must be submitted in its final form, as the author intends it to be read by the voting public. We will not allow authors to submit changes to stories.
  7. The title, byline, and text should be included in the submission. Any byline will be stripped when the stories are posted in the contest, and will be revealed when the story does not advance, or at the close of the contest. Feel free to use a pseudonym for the byline, but we will need a legal name if you win for the contract.
  8. Authors under 18 are welcome. By submitting, any author under 18 asserts they have obtained the permission of a parent or guardian with whom Escape Artists, Inc. can enter into a contract on behalf of the author.

The three stories with the highest votes will be published on Escape Pod. Authors will be paid $40 USD, making this a pro sale of at least eight cents a word.

Please share widely and loudly!

A Shift Change On the Bridge

It’s been my great privilege and pleasure to work on Escape Pod for the last 7 years, but it is time for me to say goodbye. Unfortunately, due to my health problems, I no longer have the energy to juggle 3 jobs plus family responsibilities, so April 8, 2022, will be my last day as co-editor.

When I joined the crew of the pod in 2015, I had two flash fiction credits to my name. I knew very little about the publishing world, and even less about podcasting. I started out as an associate editor, reading from the “slush pile,” which helped me hone my own writing. When I became assistant editor, my understanding of magazine publishing grew exponentially, and when I became co-editor, I realized I had taken a very privileged position.

Since then, Escape Pod has been thrice (!) nominated for the Hugo Award, and Mur and I have been finalists for Best Editor, Short Fiction. We put together an amazing print anthology for our 15th anniversary. We’ve run special events like Artemis Rising and Black Future Month, as well as episodes to highlight International Non-binary People’s Day and holidays like Diwali, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. 

Being an editor carries a lot of responsibilities, and I take those very seriously, especially as one of the few BIPOC and genderfluid people to hold that position for a major SFFH magazine. Editorial staff are the gatekeepers who decide which stories get published. Movements like #weneeddiversebooks are important, but we also need diversity among editors and publishers, both at the top of the decision-making trees and throughout the supporting staff.

That’s why I’m very pleased to say that Valerie Valdes will be taking my place in the co-pilot’s chair at Escape Pod. Valerie is an amazing writer who embodies the spirit of fun science fiction that we’re known for. (She also shares my love for spreadsheets and to-do lists.) You’ll be hearing directly from Valerie starting in April, and I’m sure you’ll agree that she’s awesome.

Escape Artists is very much my 2nd family. Alasdair and Marguerite are amazing people, as are Rachael K. Jones and Norm Sherman, who were instrumental in starting me on this path. I couldn’t have come this far without the support of our awesome staff – Ben, Premee, Adam, Summer, Tina, and our associate editors – the unsung heroes of short fiction publishing; as well as the editors of our sibs, PodCastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders. I’ve grown with them, learned so much from them, and will miss them all dearly. 

As for Mur, words will never be enough. Getting to know and work with her has been an honor, and getting to call her my friend an even bigger one.

This is definitely a bittersweet moment for me. Saying goodbye is never easy, but I’m glad I’m leaving my responsibilities in good hands. I have no doubt that Mur and Valerie will make a fabulous team, and I’m eager to see where they take the pod. Thank you for supporting Escape Pod, for reading and listening, and enjoy your adventures through time and space.


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Escape Pod 827: The Wrong Side of the Sky

The Wrong Side of the Sky

By Raymond Roach

There’s an old woman who lives in the desert, and who has lived in the desert a very long time. So, too, have her people, but many of them have gone, while she remains. She’s old enough that she should have a child on her back, or even a grandchild, but she doesn’t. When she was a girl, her people crossed the desert back and forth in an intricate network of traveling families, constantly intersecting; so many of them are gone, now, that the old woman can spend days at a time in perfect solitude without ever seeing another traveler cross the horizon, much less her own path.

So she flies alone, the fat brown barrel of her body slung easily between wide black wings, over the desert. It isn’t an endless desert, but it’s broad enough that even from the thin cold ceiling of the sky, this woman can’t see the edges. What she’s looking for—what she finds—are the far-flung speckles of green that make constellations of the smooth and trackless sands, those points which turn a formless emptiness into meaningful space.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 826: This Is Our Get-Along Brainship

This Is Our Get-Along Brainship

by Kristen Koopman

The brainship Coraje spent its captain’s first walkthrough determinedly ignoring the anomalous sensor data, cold spots, plumbing breakdowns, and spots of visual noise in the hopes that if it just tried hard enough to not believe in ghosts, the ghost would go away.

The ghost did not agree. As Captain Salas and First Mate Teixeira came aboard the Coraje for the first time since the operating consciousness’s installation, the lights frantically flickered on the bridge. The Coraje took two-thirds of a second to clamp down on the behavior—just long enough to translate the flickering, in binary machine-code, into the text characters for “I’M STILL HERE.”

The Coraje hated the fucking ghost. Or would, if it believed ghosts existed.
(Continue Reading…)