The Best of Podcastle 2015

written by David Steffen

Podcastle, the fantasy branch of the Escape Artists podcast, has been running for almost eight years now.  And this has been an eventful year for the podcast for several reasons:

  1.  They upgraded their pay rate for new fiction to professional rates.  The other Escape Artists sister publications are now all pro-paying as well.  I’m hoping that will draw ever wider talent (and hopefully get more award interest).
  2. They are now paying their voice acting talent for the first time.
  3. Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind have stepped down from co-editor positions.
  4. Kitty Niclaian and Dawn Phynix were chosen to co-edit, but were unable to fill the roles.
  5. Finally, Rachael Jones and Graeme Dunlop are now the co-editors.

Podcastle published 69 stories in 2015.

After years of submitting, I finally sold a story to Podcastle, a flash story written as a brochure for adoptive parents of crash-landed alien infants: “So You’ve Decided to Adopt a Zeptonian Baby!”.

And, late in the year my second story appeared as well, another flash story, this one title “My Wife is a Bear in the Morning”.  That one is well described in the (literal) title.

The List

1. “The Sea of Wives” by Nathaniel Lee
A tale of selkies, where the fishing of selkies has become a major industry.

2. “Testimony Of Samuel Frobisher Regarding Events On Her Majesty’s Ship CONFIDENCE, 14-22 June, 1818, With Diagrams” by Ian Tregellis
First hand explanation of a ship’s encounter with the “tentacled bride”, a monster at sea.

3. “The Machine that Made Clothes” by Nathaniel Lee
Horror-ish story about the drive for fashion.

4. “Who Binds and Looses the World With Her Hands” by Rachael K. Jones
Two women, one a prisoner and the other a captive, are visited on their island by a stranger.  Interesting developing story, with deaf protagonist.

5. “Super-Baby-Moms Group Saves the Day” by Tina Connolly
Very fun full cast recording, about an online forum group of mothers of superpowered children.

6. “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones
Makeisha takes reflexive jumps back to random points in time, and each time lives a full lifetime before returning to the exact moment in the present when she left.

7. “Wet” by John Wiswell
Immortal helps a ghost girl move on to the other side.

 

Honorable Mentions

“Sticks and Stones” by Nathaniel Lee

“The Newsboy’s Last Stand” by Krystal Claxton

“Congratulations on Your Apotheosis” by Michelle Ann King

 

 

The Best of Podcastle 2014

written by David Steffen

It’s been a great year for Podcastle with some of my favorite episodes ever after they and their sister podcasts came back from the brink of having to close due to lack of funds. The podcast is still edited by Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind and they’re doing a great job.Just a few days ago there was a metacast that announced big new things coming up, including that Alasdair Stuart and J. Daniel Sawyer are now owners of the company. Just yesterday I learned that Dave and Anna are stepping down from their editorial positions early this year after five years in the position–I hear that the full details are in the most recent episode along with the story Rachael K. Jones’ “Makeisha in Time” but I haven’t had time to sync my iPod and listen since I heard this, so I don’t know much more about it yet.

On to the list!

The List

1. “Heartless” by Peadar O Guilin

2. “The MSG Golem” by Ken Liu

3. “Stranger vs. The Malevolent Malignancy” by Jim C. Hines

4. “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” by Saladin Ahmed

5. “Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future” by Keffy R.M. Kehrli

6. “Help Summon the Most Holy Folded One!” by Harry Connolly

 

Honorable Mentions

“The Old Woman With No Teeth” by Patricia Russo

“Underbridge” by Peter S. Beagle

“Ill Met in Ulthar” by T.A. Pratt

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of Podcastle 2013

written by David Steffen

Podcastle, and the other Escape Artists casts had a bit of a crisis to overcome this year–they realized that although they had a great listenership, only 1% of the listeners donated, and it wasn’t enough to keep the publications afloat. The good news is that when they revealed this there was a strong reaction to add subscriptions–if you read this and you like the cast, consider adding a subscription.

Podcastle published 57 stories in 2013, here are my favorites.

The List

1. Scry by Anne Ivy
Seeing the future, like time travel, is one of those story elements in which it’s hard to find new permutations which some other hasn’t already thought of. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for stories, but most attempts at using these elements novelly will result in something much like another existing story. This story managed to feel novel despite all that, giving interesting limitations to the main characters ability to scry the future, ways to make it both a strength and a weakness. She has been captured by a creature incapable of lying who has vowed to kill her, but she makes the most of what seems to be a bleak situation. Very cool.

2. Wuffle by Chantal Beaulne
Beard humor! A wizard rids himself of his beard that has soaked up so much magic it has become sapient.

3. Mermaid’s Hook by Liz Argall
A great nonhuman POV, a mermaid rescues a man who’s been thrown off a ship and does her best to try to understand his perspective.

4. The Sunshine Baron by Peadar O Guilin
An unlikeable narrator done extremely well. Cool worldbuilding, and even though I hated the POV character, I wanted to see how it turned out, and I could understand his decisions even if I hate him for them.

5. Excision by Scott H. Andrews
I’ve heard time and time again that there is a conflict between magic and science. But there really isn’t–science is the study of the universe through measurable and repeatable tests. If magic exists, science would strive to understand it and catalog it. This story embraces that concept, trying to rigorously find new methods of healing magic.

6. The Discriminating Monster’s Guide to the Perils of Princess Snatching by Scott M. Roberts
I don’t much care for the title of this one, making it seem like it will be a whimsical lighthearted adventure story for children, but the story is very good, voiced by Dave Thompson, a perfect choice. The POV character is a monster who abducts people with great destinies to steal away their destinies as a source of energy, but this time he’s abducted the wrong princess.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

The Red Priest’s Vigil by Dirk Flinthart

Rumor of Wings by Alter S. Reiss

Beyond the Shrinking World by Nathaniel Katz

 

 

The Best of Podcastle 2012

written by David Steffen

In 2012 Podcastle published 51 feature stories, with 8 miniatures. This is the one of the Escape Artists podcasts that I haven’t managed to get a story into yet, but I listen on! Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind continue their tenure as editors, and there were plenty of good stories to pick from.

1. In the Stacks by Scott Lynch
A full cast recording, unusual for Podcastle. A story about magicians-in-training going into a violent magical library as a test of their abilities.

2. Recognizing Gabe: Un Cuento de Hadas by Alberto YaÃ’ ez
This one surprised me. I felt like I knew where it was going, but it surprised me in a very good way.

3. The Tonsor’s Son by Michael John Grist
“I knew from the moment I saw him that his beard was full of evil.” There’s one scene that many of the forumites found hard to take, but I think everyone who kept listening was okay with it in the long run.

4. Another Word for Map is Faith by Christopher Rowe
There are few things more frightening than religious zealotry.

5. Accompaniment by Keffy R.M. Kehrli
A kickass dark flash.

6. Destiny, With Blackberry Sauce by David J. Schwartz
I’ve seen stories before where someone tried to avoid their destiny, but never as hard as in this story.

 

Honorable Mentions

Fable From a Cage by Tim Pratt

A Window, Clear as a Mirror by Ferrett Steinmetz

Machine Washable by Keffy R.M. Kehrli

 

 

 

 

The Best of Podcastle 2011

written by David Steffen

Podcastle’s going strong under the continued editorship of Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind. In 2011, they published 52 feature length episodes (from episodes 138-189), and 9 flash episodes (flash episodes 58-66), as well as 4 special feature stories from the Alphabet Quartet.

Generally, it was a pretty strong year, I think. I had plenty of material to fill the list with. There was one episode that got under my skin in a bad way, that I had trouble shaking, but I want to keep these lists about the positive, so that’s all that I’ll say about it here.

1. As Below, So Above by Ferrett Steinmetz
I’m surprised this one didn’t appear on the Drabblecast. Bloodthirsty giant squid point of view character, mad scientists, all with a nice mix of theology.

2. The Parable of the Shower by Leah Bobet
Modern Biblical story that begins with an angel visit… in the shower. Fun stuff.

3. The Ghost of Christmas Possible by Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw
I’ve seen so many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that I’d thought I’d never see another one that really seemed original. But this one pulled it off. It’s a mashup of the original and William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Hunter who is called in by Ebenezer to investigate the strange visitations.

4. The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
Fair warning: this is a very sad one. A son’s story about growing up with an immigrant mother. The characters in this one seemed especially genuine.

5. Abandonware by An Owomoyela
A boy finds an apparently prophetic computer program in his dead sister’s belongings.

6. Stereogram of the Gray Fort, In the Days of Her Glory by Paul M. Berger
Two perspectives on a set of events taking place after the humans have lost the war with the Fae.

7. Hart and Boot by Tim Pratt
This story is based on the known life of Wild West outlaw Pearl Hart and her mysterious partner in crime, Joe Boot. This takes the known events of her life and fills in the gaps.

Honorable Mentions

A Hunter’s Ode to His Bait by Carrie Vaughn

Balfour and Meriwether in the Adventure of the Emperor’s Vengeance by Daniel Abraham

Beyond the Sea Gates of the Pirates of Sarskoe by Garth Nix

 

 

The Best of Podcastle 2010-

My first Best of Podcastle list was posted back on January 4th, 2010. This list picks up where that one left off, and includes the rest of 2010. So it includes all of Podcastle’s publications except for “When Shakko Did Not Lie”. Including flash fiction, there were 67 stories included in this set, and I’ll be listing out my favorite 7.

There have been some major events at Podcastle in the last year. They reached their 100th episode. Rachel Swirsky stepped down about the same time of my list last year, and was replaced by dual editors Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind (who I interviewed last year after they took over).

If you like this list, check out my other “Best Of” articles.

1. The Mermaid’s Tea Party by Samantha Henderson
read by Tina Connolly

Don’t be fooled by the title into thinking that this is Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The mermaids in this story are evil, spiteful creatures and the story hits on all cylinders from the first moments in which a young girl, a survivor of a shipwreck, is feigning enjoyment of seawater “tea” to keep the sharp-toothed mermaids from eating her. Very dark.

2. Creature by Ramsey Shehadah
read by Norm Sherman

A lovely, well-told non-human perspective. Creature is a near-invincible blob living in a post-apocalyptic world. The story follows his travels across the wasteland, as he meets and befriends a young girl.

3. The Warlock and the Man of the Word by M. K. Hobson
read by Bob Eccles

An awesome “weird west” tale, in a world where demons exist among cowboys in the wild west, and the power of prayer can generate a sending from God with unpredictable results.

4. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
read by Eric Luke

This is probably my favorite Poe story, and it’s good to hear it on the podcast. This is one of those stories we had as required reading that convinced me that required reading does not necessarily suck.

5. Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum by Benjamin Rosenbaum
read by Graeme Dunlop

No, the doubling of the name “Benjamin Rosenbaum” is not a mistake, the first is part of the title. This is a long philosophical adventure in a parallel world starring a parallel version of the author. Most of it takes placeon a dirigible in a world where airplanes are nothing but imagining. In this world philosophy is more prevalent than scientific rigor, so the perspective is very different and interesting.

6. The Alchemist’s Feather by Erin Cashier
read by Dave Thompson

Another well-told non-human perspective. The point of view is an Alchemist’s simulacrum, a little wooden doll without a voice who is kept only for his value in experiments.

7. Songdogs by Ian McHugh
read by Amanda Fitzwater

And, another “weird west” type tale, this one in a mutated post-apocalyptic Outback starring a bounty hunter mage bringing in her captive for her pay.


Honorable mentions

1. The Christmas Mummy by Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt
read by Rish Outfield

Interesting note: This was included with Heather and Tim’s Christmas letter last year. What a fun idea!

2. Fetch by Nathaniel Lee
read by Peter Wood

3. Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz Go to War Again by Garth Nix
read by Paul Tevis