The Best of Escape Pod 2019

written by David Steffen Escape Pod is the weekly science fiction podcast, one of the Escape Artists family of podcasts, edited by S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty. Escape Pod published a total of 41 stories in 2018, which is lower than it has been in some years because of a combination of longer stories that … Continue reading The Best of Escape Pod 2019

DP FICTION #60A: “Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau

The water towers never showed up on film. That should have been a sign. In the before times, there were water towers on every rooftop. They were highly visible, distinct from the rest of the landscape, cylindrical bodies with conical heads and long spindly legs. Maybe if we hadn’t been so busy whining about work … Continue reading DP FICTION #60A: “Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau

TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Pass the Pigs: Pig Party

written by David Steffen Pass the Pigs: Pig Party is an expanded version of the game Pass the Pigs. In case you haven’t played Pass the Pigs (which I’m guessing you haven’t) it is a simple game where you score points based on how the pigs land. For instance, a single pig on its feet … Continue reading TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Pass the Pigs: Pig Party

TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Uno: Super Mario Edition

written by David Steffen Uno: Super Mario Edition is a special edition version of the familiar Uno game much-beloved by generations (which in itself I’m guessing is based on the existing game Crazy Eights, but with trademarks and special cards). For those not familiar, the goal of Uno is to get rid of all of … Continue reading TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Uno: Super Mario Edition

BOOK REVIEW: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

written by David Steffen written by David Steffen Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a 2004 fantasy novel by Susanna Clarke conveyed as a historical account of two magicians interested in the revival of English magic in the 19th century. English magic has been on the decline for centuries, to the extent that those who … Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

DP FICTION #59C: “Gorilla in the Streets” by Mari Ness

He’s hairy. He grunts a lot. He can be – there’s no kind way to put this – a little clumsy, and even his best friends say his table manners could use a little work.

But at barely the age of 30, he’s become Wall Street’s best performing hedge fund manager, with an estimated fortune of $36 billion, and with bankers, CEOs and even – it’s rumored – a United States president and several prime ministers jumping at the mere twitch of his finger.

Despite being a – there’s no way to put this politely – a gorilla.

How, exactly, a lowland gorilla managed to claw his way to the top of the financial industry is one question that’s brought me here today, to this charming New York café overlooking Central Park. Trees have a calming effect on Magot Stanton, I’ve heard, and “calming” is definitely the mood you want when you are about to meet up with a five foot, 10 inch gorilla who can easily rip your arms off, if he wants. At the suggestion of one of his extremely efficient personal assistants, I’ve ordered one of the café specials for both of us: a New York version of a full British high tea. The assistant has assured me that Stanton is particularly fond of the finger sandwiches created with freshly baked banana bread, with strawberries and cream for dessert.

ESSAY: Tadashi Hamada’s Legacy

written by David Steffen This is an essay contemplating the Marvel/Disney movie Big Hero 6 (reviewed here), an excellent animated superhero mystery comedy with one of my favorite characters of all time: Baymax, the inflatable healthcare companion android who gets (improbably) recruited to be part of a superhero team by teenage genius Hiro Hamada. I … Continue reading ESSAY: Tadashi Hamada’s Legacy

BOOK REVIEW: Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler

written by David Steffen Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler was the second book published in the Patternmaster series (preceded by Patternmaster), as well as the second book in the chronological order (preceded by Wild Seed). I read the books as a collection that included the four main books in chronological order, rather than … Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler

DP FICTION #59B: “Beldame” by Nickolas Furr

I never had a driver’s license, you see. Instead I was born blessed with epilepsy. The doctors said it was bad form to put a two-ton vehicle into the hands of a young man who could seize at any time, medication be damned. Grand mal, tonic-clonic—whatever you wanted to call it, it was the big one, and I grew up afraid to be responsible for running off the road and killing someone because of it. I tell you this simply to explain that I was completely at the mercy of the bus line when we stopped at the small town in Kansas where all the houses faced west and I met the whispery old crone who sat at the intersection of two worlds.

At the time I was suffering through a crisis of identity and ennui. It was more than just the listless, relentless boredom of youth. The side effects of the Dilantin I popped to keep the seizures at bay made me irritable, anxious, and dark—sometimes at different times, sometimes all at once. I came from a good family in Kansas City, with two parents who loved me and supported me and a sister who put up with me. I was holding down a 3.88 grade point average at the University of Kansas, and I’d just met a guy.

James was from Pueblo, Colorado. We met at school and were looking into whether or not we wanted to pursue a relationship. He brought a beautiful pair of stark blue eyes, a lingering echo of the English R.P. accent he’d developed during the first 10 years of his life, and a tolerance for my nervous flutters. We weren’t exactly dating, but there was something between us. He wasn’t the first guy I fell for, or the first that I’d had sex with, but he was the first I really started to love. When you’re already pharmaceutically primed for nervousness, anxiety, and agitation, worrying about falling in love really adds to the stress.

GAME REVIEW: Undertale

written by David Steffen Undertale is an RPG game developed by indie developer Toby Fox published by 2015. Its based on a familiar format to many gamers–the RPG, walking around the map and contending with random monster attacks and boss fights as you go fulfill your quest. You can fight the monsters, like you’d expect. … Continue reading GAME REVIEW: Undertale