Posts Tagged ‘Norm Sherman’

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Escape Pod 547: Ride the Dragon


Ride the Dragon

by Bojan Ratković

We were a band back then, in the bat-shit Wild West days of the game. We held our court at the Gentleman Boozer, the loudest pub on the big map. It was Haru, Flygirl, Black Boris, and me. And we had floaters, part-time comrades. Mostly kids who wanted to be like us, who did us favors. But Tony Rem was there too, the one that rode the dragon.

It’s hard to believe now just how big it was, when they launched True-Fantasy. It was the first MMORPG with MaTRiX immersion headgear―it jacked you in, made you really live it. Most of the players were funboys―kids who played for fun―and they paid the bills. But you could make RL coin if you were good enough―real life currency―and the rest of us wanted a cut.

Punchers punched the clock, putting in RL hours to work as barkeeps and innkeepers and helpdesk clerks. Gougers sold rare items for RL cash; there was a big black market and bigger gray area, and you could make a killing. We were glitchers―beta testers, top players. Exposing glitches in the game was our business, and admins paid top dollar to help them fix whatever bugs we could find. But it wasn’t about the money. All the top glitchers, the real cowboys, were after big scores. We proved ourselves by exposing the wildest glitches, the ones that got the map talking.

There was a group of mercenaries in the Boozer the day Tony came to us about the dragon. They sat across from us, up by the stain glass windows. They were the wrong kind of mercs, cutthroats. They helped the funboys on their quests, for a fee, but then they’d turn on them, cut their throats and take their items. And poof, back to beginner’s village. It wasn’t exactly legal, but they used proxies, rented avatars. Admins kicked them, they came back.

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Escape Pod 539: Squirrels, Foxes and Other Fine Specimens


Squirrels, Foxes and Other Fine Specimens

By Gareth D Jones

It was still dark beneath the trees, though the sun had risen half an hour earlier. It was cool too – even in midsummer the park woodland stayed shady. Yorick settled himself into a comfortable crouch leaning against the bole of a tree and enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the early morning. Birdsong and rustling leaves and the pattering of tiny, unseen feet. Hard to believe they were less than a hundred yards from the streets of central London. The streets would be almost empty at this early hour – the reason Sandy chose such an unsocial hour to take his clients into the park – but even in rush hour the sonic mufflers that encircled the park would keep that noise at bay. A grunting noise reached his ears and Yorick peered through the undergrowth to a large, dark shape that stood less than twenty feet away.

It was a wild boar. A massive, ugly brute of a boar that glared at him in a most unfriendly fashion. It grunted again, switched to a challenging snort. Saliva dribbled from its jaw as it thrust a pair of worryingly large tusks in his direction. Yorick had no idea if the creature was warning him off or saying hello, but it did not, on balance, appear too friendly. He had no real knowledge of wild boar behaviour. He only worked with dead animals generally.

The boar pawed the ground. Yorick glanced up. There were branches just about within reach. He was fairly sure boars could not climb trees. Where was Sandy? His clients were supposed to be hunting boar and wolves. Why weren’t they hunting this one?

With a final grunt and toss of its head, the boar charged.

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Escape Pod 408a: Eugie Award Re-Post of Immersion

Show Notes

Escape Artists would like to draw your attention to a fantastic event happening next week at DragonCon, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction. This annual award will be presented for the first time in 2016—for works published in 2015.

The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. It will shine the spotlight on stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and passionate. That change us and the field. The recipient will be a story that is unique and will become essential to speculative fiction readers.

The finalists for this award are:

  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsin Muir
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette De Bodard

To highlight how fantastic these authors are, we are re-running three stories on Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Pseudopod:

Escape Pod 408: Immersion by Aliette De Bodard

Podcastle 198: Urchins, While Swimming by Catherynne M. Valente

Pseudopod 492: The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong

Also make sure to check out Ursula Vernon’s story “Jackalope Wives” available to read for free at Mothership Zeta. And mark November on your calendar for an upcoming story by Tamsin Muir.


Ms Foster has been featured as an author and a narrator on all of the Escape Artists podcasts. We encourage you to revisit them all.

Escape Pod

Podcastle

Pseudopod

Cast of Wonders


Immersion

by Aliette de Bodard

[Editor: For the text of this story, please visit the page for episode 408.]

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Escape Pod 537: Honeycomb Girls


Honeycomb Girls

by Erin Cashier

Those were the days Geo couldn’t walk through the market without stepping on someone else’s shoe. If money wasn’t tied to waist it was zipped, and anything dropped — paper, panks, crumbs — zipped too. Geo sold junk there: stripped wires, sharp green-squares, transistors like pills. “Someone junk, someone treasure!” Geo call. Men come over to see what Geo had, comb over findings, and Geo with stick, ready to slap at zippers. Stand all day, stand half night, then walk home to hard mat shared on second floor. Kick junk man out, eat food, sleep, till day begin again.

Geo hunt for junk at old places when junk run low. Sometimes old posters hidden from rain. Posters show things that not there. Happy men, metal cages. Men touching screens. Men smiling. Like said, old posters. No smiles now.

And sometimes, girls. Some cut out, but see where shape was left. Cut here, tear there. Reach out and feel where maybe curve had been. Hold nothing in hand. Imagine, if no one watching. Geo knew girls. There, but not there, like the sun, Never touch the sun, and never touch the girls, neither.

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Escape Pod 535: Bluejay


Bluejay

By Edward Ashton

Micah steps from the shuttle and onto the tarmac, eyes slitted against the hard north wind that whips across the empty runway. The sky is a flat, leaden gray, with high thin clouds too light for snow, but too thick to let the sun come through as anything more than a vague, diffuse glow near the southern horizon. Micah hunches his shoulders against the bitter cold, ducks his chin to his chest, and pulls his coat tight around him. He hesitates, glances up at the desolate stand of dead trees at the far end of the runway, then walks slowly toward the terminal building.

A sense of uneasiness, which has lurked deep in his belly since he boarded the shuttle, grows steadily as it becomes increasingly clear that he’s alone here. He hadn’t expected an honor guard, but he’d expected… something. As he reaches the terminal entrance, he looks back to see the shuttle wheel around and accelerate back down the runway. He pauses with his hand on the door. He can see through the glass that a half-dozen bodies are sprawled on the floor inside, perfectly preserved. He takes a deep breath in, then lets it out slowly as he enters the building. The scream of the shuttle’s engines fades as the door swings shut behind him.

As he climbs the frozen escalator to the arrivals lounge, Micah remembers the last time he passed through this airport. It was years ago, and he’d been on his way to visit a distant cousin in the North Country. He remembers stopping for a drink before heading to the rental car counter, intending to stay only long enough to take the edge off before a four hour drive, but instead spending most of the afternoon drinking crappy domestic beer and trading double entendres with the bartender. She was tall and lean and blonde, not young, but not yet old either, and her smile caught and held him long after he should have been on the road.

She’s dead now, of course. Lake Ontario was the epicenter. When the strike came, it was twelve thousand miles in any direction from here to safety.

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Escape Pod 533: 2016 Flash Fiction Contest Winners


Bona Fide

by Ben Hallert

The block’s turning into a rough neighborhood, the kind of place murder victims go to hang out.  It’s nasty and dirty but it’s home.  What’s got me pissed isn’t a little trash, it’s these stupid glasses everyone’s wearing.  Government wastes money on them instead of doing their goddamn jobs, drives me nuts.  The worst part: that dumb smile.  You know the one.  Bunch of fakers, walking around smiling at all the filth like it’s high art.

“Hey man, forget your specs?”  Crap, a cornerboy snuck up on me because I wasn’t paying attention.  He holds out a set.  “Free pair.”

“I pay my taxes, boy, it’s not free.  Bug off.”  I keep walking, the pest follows.

“Ok, then you’ve already paid.”  He waves ’em again.

“I don’t want ’em.  My taxes should go to REAL cleanup and maintenance, not…  those.”  I stop, point.  “They’re insulting, I’m not interested in fantasy.”  I walk again, faster.  The boy keeps pace, switching to that infuriating ‘reasonable tone’ parents use when they’re trying to con kids out of being monsters.  I don’t NEED to be handled, I just want him gone.

“Look guy…. if you don’t take these, someone’ll try again later, then again after that.  Might as well get it over with.”  He brightens.  “Hey, you can just turn off the overlay if you want, you know.”

I slow.  “I can turn ’em off?  And you’ll all leave me alone?”

“Sure, you can turn off any enhancement.  Click your tongue twi-”

“Yeah, I’m not a caveman.”  I grab the set.  “Ok, you win.  Go bug someone else.”  I scowl at the glasses as he leaves to find his next mark, then put ’em on.  Everything around me changes.

I ignore the pretty lies and start configuring.  I know if I don’t, the slums’ll look like new construction, the garbage in the street’ll be gone, and everyone’ll have the bodies of freakin’ supermodels.  After a minute, I’ve got honest, dingy reality back.  I’ll take true filth over fake clean anyday, but… everyone still has that dumb smile. I want to scream “It’s not real!  It’s a lie, they’re faking you out and you’re buying it!”  I want to, but they say I sound like a crazy person when I drop hard truths so sometimes I don’t.

They don’t care.  They get their shiny buildings and pretty people and nobody has to DO anything for it.

Well, at least the cornerboys’ll stop hassling me.  I squint, it’s bright out.  Re-open the editor, make ’em sunglasses.  Not bad.  For funsies, I flip one of those idiot mouths upside down.  Oh, this is rich, the simp looks so messed up.  I flip a setting so everyone’s like that.  That’s better, now I don’t have to look at the grins anymore.

Fine.  They can have their illusions, I’ll stay in the real world.  I know the score, I’ve got my integrity.

I keep walking, the last honest man in a world of lies, and I smile.

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Escape Pod 530: City in the Wound

Show Notes

This episode also featured an excerpt from Ecko: Endgame by Danie Ware which you can get more info about on her website: http://danieware.com/tag/ecko-endgame/ and you can tweet her @danacea


City in the Wound

By Michael Buckley

In the middle of the night Eztli decides to burn The Mothers. He’s a block down and they’re visible through a sliver of space between two corners, drapes of light kelping back and forth slow in the darkness.

Eztli runs, safe for the moment ‘cause it’s his street, Da is watching, but then off his block, out into the middle of the road.

A brick flies past him. He hears shouting in the rooms above The Mothers, but their boys and girls don’t make it out in time. Now it’s just him standing in front of The Mothers. There’s three in a row, their dresses shimmering and lovely, and they stare down at him, so kind and gentle. The one in front is actually crying as Eztli sprays stolen gasoline in a wide arc across them. Eztli hates her for it. He could burn her a thousand times.

The lit match hits the wall and The Mothers go up. The children scream from the second floor. Feet bang on the stairs. Eztli runs, the warmth of the fire behind him, listening to the other screams, the ones coming from beneath the flames.

That night he sleeps next to Da, the composites moving about slowly behind him, lulling. And he doesn’t dream at all.

Da wakes him the next day. The composites reach finger-like to brush his cheek. Feels like lizard skin, or what he’s heard of The Native’s hide.

“Wakee,” Da says. His voice makes Eztli’s lips go cold. “Wakee. Food for the others. At the farthest pit.”

Eztli stands in the morning light. The street is dead quiet and Da behind him moves across the wall, ticking and groaning and hissing.

“You slept close to Da last night for burning The Mothers,” Da says.

Eztli gets it: But today you gotta work.

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Escape Pod 529: Of Blessed Servitude

Show Notes

This is a story set in the same world as “To the Knife-Cold Stars,” which ran in Escape Pod in February 2015.


Of Blessed Servitude

By A. Merc Rustad

The sacrificial cross threw a long shadow across the road at Bishop’s dust-caked boots. He halted sharp at the sight of it. Wind hummed through wildseed bushes strung along the ditch, yellow buds as bright as radiation seals. Bishop clenched his jaw and looked along the shadow to the cross itself. It gleamed in the sunset, a steel post with a fused crossbeam, packed dirt the color of old blood at its base. And the cross wasn’t empty.

Well, shit. 

The offering was a pretty one—young, work-muscled body, a day’s stubble scuffing his jaw. He’d been shackled naked to the cross, arms spread against the top beam. The dusty wind tugged unkempt hair across his eyes.

Bishop slapped the film of red dirt from his duster, his shoulders tense, and checked his knives from habit. He knew he shouldn’t have traveled past Providence Circle. If chokevine hadn’t overrun the only bridge across Unrepentant’s Canyon, he’d never have come near this territory. He’d never have come within sight of the town of Blessed Servitude.

He hadn’t been home in ten years.

“You should get off the road, stranger.”

“Mighty courteous of you to warn a man,” Bishop said. He shouldn’t look at the man chained against steel, shouldn’t stir up old memories. He never saved the offerings, and he didn’t try.

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Escape Pod 527: Plural


Plural

by Lia Swope Mitchell

The aliens come in peace, as they always do, bearing gifts and a banner printed with hopeful messages. Universal understanding, sharing and collaboration, the usual thing: three-hundred-year-old language cribbed from the Bebo time capsule. We install them in the quarantine tank and let them alone. We’re still processing the previous group.

The predecessors were large, their plump thigh muscles well marbled with fat. We’re dressing them in herbs and slow-roasting them, and the flavor is good, rich and unctuous, the fibers softened by their long voyage in low-G. The rest we’re making into sausage, confit, and stock. We’ve been lucky this year, with three groups since spring. Sometimes we go a long time without meat; at least real meat, better than the crawlers and birds, tiny dust-flavored things full of bones.

These new ones aren’t impressive, as aliens go. Maybe reptilian: small and sweet-fleshed. Ten forlorn figures in blue smocks, they sit on the sterile-sheeted beds and do not speak or gesture much, exchange only occasional glances. From this we conclude that they communicate telepathically. After a few hours, though, one falls ill, probably from some unfamiliar bacteria. Greenish saliva drips from its mouth onto a pillow. Soon enough they might all be infected, and already this is no great harvest.

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