Escape Pod 212: Skinhorse Goes to Mars


Skinhorse Goes to Mars

By Jay Lake

When I met Skinhorse, my first thought was old. Which was weird. Nobody gets old these days. We all die young, some of us after living a long time, if we’re lucky.

He was in Piet’s Number Seven, a bar-cum-caravanserai in an illegal orbit trailing far enough behind Vesta to be ignorable. Piet’s had been instantiated in an old volatiles bladder that had done the Jovian run a few too many times before falling into the surplus circuit. You could store entire cities in Piet’s cubage, which made for a somewhat attenuated bar experience. Plus the place had one of those gravity cans — yes, those gravity cans — which meant your drink stayed stuck down long as you were near a Higgs carpet.

So there I was annoying myself with three perfectly disrespectable rock jocks, each of us out to fleece the others, when this cadaver starts to stand over me. We’re all forever young or forever dead, but this armstrong looked like he’d shaved about half a cent too deep across his whole body, then restored his dermis with spray-on thermal insulation.

Escape Pod 211: Carthago Delenda Est


Carthago Delenda Est

By Genevieve Valentine

Wren Hex-Yemenni woke early. They had to teach her everything from scratch, and there wasn’t time for her to learn anything new before she hit fifty and had to be expired.

“Watch it,” the other techs told me when I was starting out. “You don’t want a Hex on your hands.”

By then we were monitoring Wren Hepta-Yemenni. She fell into bed with Dorado ambassador 214, though I don’t know what he did to deserve it and she didn’t even seem sad when he expired. When they torched him she went over with the rest of the delegates, and they bowed or closed their eyes or pressed their tentacles to the floors of their glass cases, and afterwards they toasted him with champagne or liquid nitrogen.

Before we expired Hepta, later that year, she smiled at me. “Make sure Octa’s not ugly, okay? Just in case—for 215.”

Wren Octa-Yemenni hates him, so it’s not like it matters.

Escape Pod 210: The Hastillan Weed


The Hastillan Weed

By Ian Creasey

“Since we have so many new faces,” I said to the half-dozen volunteers, “I’ll start with a tools talk. Safety points for the spade — the most important is that when you’re digging, you push with the ball of your foot.”

I picked up a spade from the pile, and demonstrated by digging up a bluebell growing by the hedge. From the large bells all round the stem, I knew it was a Spanish bluebell, a garden escape that if left unchecked would hybridise with the natives. Too late now, though. You can tell the British bluebell because the flowers are smaller, deeper blue, and they’re usually
on one side of the stem, so the plant droops under their weight as if bowing down before its foreign conqueror. There’s hardly a wood left in England where you’ll see only native bluebells.

“Or you can use your heel on the spade.” I heaved the invader out of the earth and tossed it aside, knowing it would safely rot. “But you should never press down with the middle of your foot. The bones in the arch are delicate, and you can injure yourself.”

Genres:

Escape Pod 209: On the Eyeball Floor

Show Notes

Closing song by Andrew Richardson


On the Eyeball Floor

by Tina Connolly

We’ve got robotic arms to put the eyeballs in. Metal clamps to pulldown the eyelids. Tony, on Four, keeps the grease vats filled. Oil squirts nineteen times a minute to keep the eye sockets from squeaking. Tiny slick needles stitch on the lashes, while millions of different irises get stamped in magenta and yellow and cyan, so no two will ever be alike, just like us.

All that, and they can’t engineer anything—or anyone—to take over my job. People in Organs go home coated with grease and vinegar; people in Bones have lost fingers to the machines, and still nobody wants the job where a hundred half-live cyborgs line up in rows, twitching when your back is turned. Waiting for someone to talk to them, feel for them. Transcend them to life.

There are safety signs around the factory. “Scrub Up.” “Know Thyself.” “Don’t Blink.” That last is the best piece of advice, here on the eyeball floor.

Genres:

Escape Pod 208: An Almanac for the Alien Invaders


An Almanac for the Alien Invaders

By Merrie Haskell

In January, there will be an annular solar eclipse, with the path of annularity moving through the Indian Ocean and into Sumatra and Borneo. Two days later, aliens will invade Earth.

No spaceships will loom large in blue skies, nor hover over our cities. At night, though, when we see blinking dots of light near the horizon, as small and pale as any star, we’ll think they’re planes or satellites of human origin. They won’t be. These are alien ships, come for conquest.

That is all we can see. What we hear is just as faint and difficult to resolve: we hear rumors. Or rather, one persistent rumor: “the aliens want volunteers.”

Naturally, I and my junior faculty friends need to drink quantities of beer to discuss this in detail. I expound that it’s a hoax.

Escape Pod 207: Wonder Maul Doll


Wonder Maul Doll

By Kameron Hurley

We set down in Pekoi as part of the organics inquisition team, still stinking of the last city. We’re all muscle. Not brains. The brains are out eating at the foreigners’ push downtown, and they don’t care if we whore around the tourist dregs half the night so long as somebody’s sober enough to haul them out come morning. When the brains aren’t eating, they’re pretending to give us directions in the field, telling us where to sniff out organics. They’re writing reports about how dangerous Pekoi is to the civilized world.

We’re swapping off some boy in a backwater push the locals cleared out for us. We’re sitting around a low table. I pass off another card to Kep. Luce swaps out a suit. She has to sit on one leg to lean over the table. It’s hot in the low room, so humid that moths clutter aroundour feet, too heavy to fly.

The boy’s making little mewling sounds again. Somebody should shut him up, but not me. This is my hand. I’m ahead.

Escape Pod 206: Rogue Farm

Show Notes

Recorded at Balticon 43, May 23, 2009

Read by:

Joe – Jared Axelrod (of The Voice of Free Planet X),

Maddie – J.R. Blackwell (of Voices of Tomorrow)

The Farm – Evo Terra and Sheila Dee (of Evo at 11, et al.)

Brenda the Barkeep – Dee Reed (of Nobilis Erotica),

Wendy the Rat – Laura Burns,

Art the Boy Toy – John Cmar,

Bob the Dog – Earl Newton (of Stranger Things),

Narrator – Stephen Eley

Special Thanks To:
Paul Fischer (of The Balticon Podcast) for instigating and organizing
Nobilis Reed (of Nobilis Erotica) for engineering


Rogue Farm

By Charles Stross

“Buggerit, I don’t have time for this,” Joe muttered. The stable waiting for the small herd of cloned spidercows cluttering up the north paddock was still knee-deep in manure, and the tractor seat wasn’t getting any warmer while he shivered out here waiting for Maddie to come and sort this thing out. It wasn’t a big herd, but it was as big as his land and his labour could manage – the big biofabricator in the shed could assemble mammalian livestock faster than he could feed them up and sell them with an honest HAND-RAISED NOT VAT-GROWN label.

“What do you want with us?” he yelled up at the gently buzzing farm.

“Brains, fresh brains for baby Jesus,” crooned the farm in a warm contralto, startling Joe half out of his skin. “Buy my brains!” Half a dozen disturbing cauliflower shapes poked suggestively out of the farms’ back then retracted again, coyly.

“Don’t want no brains around here,” Joe said stubbornly, his fingers whitening on the stock of the shotgun. “Don’t want your kind round here, neither. Go away.”

Worlds of Tomorrow: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


Welcome to Worlds of Tomorrow, an occasional feature we’ll be running looking at some of the best in science fiction cinema. From acknowledged classics to forgotten gems we’ll be covering them all. Some of them you’ll have seen, some you won’t, some you’ll agree with me on and some you’ll wonder what I was drinking when I watched them but that’s half the fun. Spoilers abound so if you haven’t seen the movie and want to be surprised, go rent it now, we’ll be here when you get back. Otherwise, prepare for a good night’s sleep and pay no attention to the nice men from Lacuna Corp…

Escape Pod 205: Requiem in D-minor (for prions, whale and burning bush)


Requiem in D-minor (for prions, whale and burning bush)

By Ian McHugh

Kevin switched the audio over to the projector. The lecture hall was filled with outdoor noises. Wind hummed softly over the microphone, cattle lowed nearby, a truck accelerated in the distance.

A roan steer staggered around a concreted yard, its mute distress accompanied by clattering hooves and the fleshy slap of its thigh striking the ground when it fell. A new sound was introduced – incongruous, but familiar to Kevin’s audience.

Whale song.

Gradually, the cow’s shaking stilled, until it could stand securely. Its muscles continued to tremble, but not enough to upset its equilibrium while it listened.