The Best of Pseudopod 2015

written by David Steffen

Pseudopod has now been running for nearly 10 years, which makes it an old fogey in terms of fiction podcasts.  2015 marked a major moment in the podcast’s history–the podcast increased the amount that it paid its author’s to what is considered in the industry to be professional rates.  This is very exciting because not many podcasts have been able to afford to do this.  I hope this will bring in even better stories by an even broader set of authors, and that will hopefully help give the fiction podcast industry more respect when it comes to awards and such honors which have typically looked over podcasts.

Shawn Garrett is still the editor of the podcast, but he has taken on a new co-editor–Alex Hofelich.  In 2015 they published 67 stories (some in multi-story episodes)

The List

1. “The Last Bombardment” by Kenneth Schneyer
Adorable  toddlers parachuting from the sky.  This is a strange new kind of war.

2. “Comparison of Efficacy Rates for Seven Anti-Pathetics as Employed Against Lycanthropes” by Marie Brennan
Written in the style of a scholarly research paper focused on the important and practical research of fighting werewolves.

3. “The Bleeding Game” by Natalia Theodoridou
A man discovers that when he cuts himself, he can revisit past times before the death of his girlfriend.

4. “When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster
A story of dancing, and love, in the time of plague.

5. “Final Corrections, Pittsburgh Times-Dispatch” by M. Bennardo
Written as a newspaper corrections section the day after the beginning of the end of the world.

6. “Thing in the Bucket” by Eric Esser
Fair warning, this one gets pretty squicky in several ways.  The manufacture of a homonculus from menstrual blood.

7. “Lullabies for a Clockwork Child” by Shane Halbach
Parents always see the best potential in their children, don’t they?

 

Honorable Mentions

“The Godsmaid Clara and Her Many Smiles” by Sharon Dodge

“The Discussion of Mimes” by Michael Payne

“Hunger” by Caitlin Marceau

 

Long List Anthology Kickstarter: The Home Stretch!

written by David Steffen

A City On It's Tentacles (1)It occurs to me 20 days into a 26 day Kickstarter campaign for the Long List anthology that I have not actually mentioned the Kickstarter campaign on my own website.  It has been a crazy 20 days and so much has been happening this particular thing has been postponed while I was working on other factors related to the campaign.  Well, better late than never, and with 6 days left in the campaign there is still some time for those who are interested to back the project to get their rewards and to help push toward the couple of remaining stretch goals.

You can read more detailed information on the Kickstarter page, but I’ll give a brief rundown here.

Purpose

Every year the Hugo Awards celebrate short stories (and other content) related to SF fandom as nominated and voted by supporters of WorldCon.  The works on the ballot receive a great deal of attention as they are distributed in a packet to voters and the voters discuss them.  Every year after the awards are given out, the Hugo administrators publish a longer list of nominated works which receive much less attention though they are also works that were greatly loved by the voting fanbase.  The purpose of the Long List anthology is to publish as many of the works from that longer list as possible.

Goals

The campaign’s base goal was relatively modest–only covering the purchase of nonexclusive reprint rights for the stories in the short story category, with stretch goals to add novelettes and novellas.  The campaign got off to big start with the base goal being reached just 2 days into the campaign, and the stretch goals being reached only a few days later.  Since the stretch goals were reached so early in the campaign I got to work making ever larger and ever more exciting stretch goals.  This added up to three stretch goals to produce an expand an audiobook of those stories for which audio rights could be acquired, produced by Skyboat Media who you may know as the folks who produce the excellent award-winning Lightspeed Magazine podcast.  The first of those goals has been reached, so there will be an audiobook which will contain 8-9 of the short stories.  There are two stretch goals remaining to add novelettes and novellas to the production.  I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Skyboat Media–they have produced many of my favorite podcast fiction recordings and I am very excited to hear their productions.

Table of Contents

The following is the list of the table of contents of stories that will be part of the anthology.

Note that there will be 3 formats of the anthology:
1.  Ebook:  Will contain all of the stories (180,000 words of short fiction).
2.  Print book:  Will contain all of the short stories and all of the novelettes. May contain novellas depending on printing constraints. (around 140,000 words for short stories and novelettes)
3.  Audiobook:  Will contain at least 8-9 of the short stories (close to 40,000 words, which I think comes out to perhaps 4 hours of produced audio?), and if higher stretch goals are reached may contain novelettes and novellas which will add more content.

The following is the full list of stories:

Short Stories

  • “Covenant” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet
  • “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster
  • “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone
  • “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones
  • “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher
  • “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik

Novelettes

  • “The Magician and LaPlace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill
  • “The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys
  • “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • “The Bonedrake’s Penance” by Yoon Ha Lee
  • “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
  • “We are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy” by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu
  • “The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson

Novellas

  • “The Regular” by Ken Liu
  • “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky

 

Rewards

There are a variety of backer rewards left for those who might be interested, listed briefly here.

  • Copies of ebook, print book, audiobook or combinations thereof.
  • A sonnet or sestina written by Ruthanna Emrys
  • A question for Rachel Swirsky which she’ll answer in a blog post
  • A “Women Destroy Science Fiction” (Lightspeed Magazine special edition) audiobook autographed by Gabrielle de Cuir
  • Special thank you within the audiobook
  • 11×17 poster prints of the wonderful cover art for the anthology “A City On Its Tentacles” by Galen Dara)
  • Custom digital art by Sam J. Miller in which he will sketch an animal of your choice in the occupation of your choice
  • Studio recording copy of the Long List anthology with director notes and narrator autographs
  • Audio recording of your story by voice actors Stefan Rudnicki, Wilson Fowlie, or Graeme Dunlop
  • Voice mail recording by voice actor Stefan Rudnick (of Skyboat Media)
  • Story critiques by Yoon Ha Lee, Anaea Lay, or me
  • Consultation with Skyboat Media regarding suitability of book for audiobook format
  • Lunch with Skyboat Media at WorldCon 2016 in Kansas City
  • Breakfast and watching recording session at Skyboat Media in Los Angeles
  • Audiobook co-producer credit

The Best of Drabblecast 2011

written by David Steffen

And, here’s the list for one of my favorite publications–the Drabblecast. It’s great for my weekly fix of weird. They’ve been of consistently high quality, and I look forward especially to Lovecraft Month in which they solicit original cosmic horror from recent popular authors.

I’ve gotten more involved in the Drabblecast in this last year as well. A few months ago Norm asked me if I’d be interested in reading slush for the Drabblecast (due to the time spent commenting on their story forum, I suppose). Also, their art director Bo Kaier organized the Drabble Art Reclamation Project (DARP) in which fans could volunteer to produce art for past episodes before Drabblecast had art. If you want to hear more, check out the link to this page, where I showed each artwork that I finished, step by step. And check out Drabblecast’s new website.

Okay, on to the list. This covers all the episodes published in 2011. This covers episodes 194-229. Many of those were Trifects and Doubleheaders, so the total number of stories is about 47.

Without further ado, the list:

1. The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk by Eugie Foster
This was one of Drabblecast’s commissioned stories for what is now the traditional Lovecraft month. The demon Achtromagk crosses over into our world from its own dimension and takes the fearsome form of… a little girl’s teddy bear.

2. Death Comes But Twice by Mary Robinette Kowal
A classic style of writing reiminiscent of H.G. Wells. A classically told yarn, masterfully narrated by Larry Santoro, in which a scientist discovers an elixir of immortality, but there’s a catch.

3. In the Octopus’s Garden by James S. Dorr
This one bothers me a bit in that I had already written a story with a very similar premise (though it went in a very different direction). You are what you eat, or in this case, what eats you is you.

4. The Last Question by Isaac Asimov
Classic science fiction story that has aged surprisingly well. Which is especially surprising, since it contains humor, and it’s very hard to write humor that works across decades. In the tradition of golden age SF, it is built much more around the science fictional idea than around characters, but that’s okay–the idea is enough to carry it.

5. The Heroics of Interior Design by Elise R. Hopkins
Have you noticed that all of the “empowered” beings in superhero comic books, those powers are always useful in some way? This is incredibly improbable, considering most of them got their abilities by freak mutations, caused by radiation or other causes. Where are the people with the less useful abilities? Well, here is one such, a “super” who can turn blue things yellow, and what they choose to do with their power. I found this one fun for the things it pointed out, and found it very relatable.

Honorable Mentions:

At the End of the Hall by Nick Mamatas

Broken by Steven Saus
This one was particularly exciting for me in a unique way. Since I’ve been taken on as a slushreader, I’ve voted up a few stories for Norm to take a look at. This is the first one that ended up being published, so I was very excited to see it appear.

ÂKillipedes by Jens Rushing

 

Interview: Eugie Foster

Eugie Foster is a Nebula-winning, Hugo Award nominated author of speculative fiction living in metro Atlanta. In fact, if you read this interview right away, the Hugo ballots are still open for a few days until July 31, 2010. Her story “Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” is up for best novelette. It’s an amazing story and I encourage you to vote for it. If you haven’t read it, you can listen to it for free on Escape Pod with an amazing reading by Lawrence Santoro. She has also had many stories run on the other two Escape Artists casts (Pseudopod and Podcastle) so check out her other work there as well.

She also released a short story collection last year titled Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice. Check out her website and LiveJournal page as well, get a full list of her publications on her bibliography page.

David: I’m always interested in hearing origins of a particular story. Where did the idea for “Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest…” come from?

Eugie: I had the idea for the story,a society where people change their identities and their societal roles, even their personalities, based upon masks they don,rattling around in my creative subconscious for a while. But it took me a couple years to get around to writing it. I’ve always found masks so evocative. They’re universal icons, found throughout history and spanning nearly every culture. The donning of another face, or the corollary, the relinquishing of one’s own, is a transformative act, an unambiguous exchange of identity.

Fundamentally, “Sinner” is an examination and exploration of themes of identity and self: who we are against a backdrop of societal roles and expectations, the external and internal influences that affect our sense of self, and the choices we make that reflect who we truly are.

David: If you could give just one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?

Eugie: Keep writing and read; read a lot. Oh, wait, that was two pieces, wasn’t it?

Okay, how about: take the time to acquaint yourself with how the publishing biz works. How it’s depicted in Hollywood and pop culture is so wrong: you rattle off a story or novel, it gets picked up by the New Yorker or one of the big publishing houses, you hit the best-seller list in a week and become a millionaire, and la, all your troubles are over. ÂThe reality is long waits, form rejections, interminable lead times, and really crappy pay.

David: When you were getting started writing, were there any times when you were sure you wouldn’t make it? How did you get through those times?

Eugie: I made it? Really? Sweet!

Honestly, I still get all excited and amazed whenever I hear that someone who isn’t a family member or close friend has read my work. As a short story writer, I don’t expect to have much name recognition, or financial success, for that matter. Someone actually asked me whether I was getting rich now that I’d won a Nebula Award. Can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

David: What is your first memory?

Eugie: It’s something terribly boring and unexciting, eating a cookie when I was three. But here’s an interesting bit of trivia (well I think it’s interesting): our brains aren’t really developed enough to form memories until we’re around three years old. People’s first recollections have been pretty consistently documented coming in at around three years.ÂÂ But then, recent studies in memory indicate that it’s possible that we write anew our memories each time we experience them.

David: What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?

Eugie: Hmm, sleeping and eating? Also editing,I’m a legal editor for the Georgia General Assembly for my day job and I’m also the director and editor of the Daily Dragon, the on-site newsletter of Dragon*Con,although editing sorta counts as writing.

I also do website design on the side, pandering to my tech geek proclivities and all. That began as an occasional project to provide a bit of extra income here and there, and I’ve found it actually eats a big chunk out of my writing time. Coding is easier and provides instant gratification, which writing rarely does. Bad writer me, no cookie.

David: If you were the first human to establish first contact with an alien, what would you say?

Eugie: Please excuse the mess; we’re still…actually, why don’t you take a leisurely cruise around the solar system and come back in about a century?

David: Do you have any works in progress you’d like to talk about?

Eugie: As always, I’ve got several short works I’m working on in various states of completion, and I’ve been plugging away at a novel for a while now, although I keep getting sidetracked by various other projects.

David: Any upcoming publications?

Eugie: Lessee, The Dragon and the Stars anthology from DAW came out in May which includes my story, “Mortal Clay, Stone Heart,” and “A Patch of Jewels in the Sky” will be reprinted in the anthology Triangulation: End of the Rainbow, due out any day now. There are also Spanish, Czech, French, and Italian translations of “Sinner” forthcoming in CuÃ’ sar, Pevnost, TÃ’ nÃ’ bres, and Robot, respectively.

David: What was the last book you read?

Eugie: The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. One part psychology, one part language (two of my favorite subjects) and a big ole dollop of “ooo!”

David: Your favorite book?

Eugie: *Wail!* I can’t pick just one! Um, here’s some of my favorites: Candide, The Lord of the Flies, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Silver Metal Lover, Winnie-the-Pooh, Fahrenheit 451, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Journey to the West, and The Velveteen Rabbit.

David: Who is your favorite author?

Eugie: See above regarding *wail!*Â Some the ones that have influenced me the most as a writer include Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, and Ursula K. Le Guin. ÂThe lush prose and vivid imagery in their stories is so evocative; I can lose myself for days on end in their writing. ÂI also adore Neil Gaiman and A.A. Milne,Winnie-the-Pooh remains one of my all time favorite books,as well as Roald Dahl and George Orwell.

David: What was the last movie you saw?

Eugie: I saw Inception the week it came out and found it disappointing. For being the big SF film of the year, it was terribly predictable with uninteresting characters and lackluster FX. The main conceit which everyone is oohing and aahing over, being able to enter other people’s dreams, is an old SFnal one. It’s not even the first time that Hollywood has explored it. Inception did introduce a few clever premises, but the main one was an obvious plot device and when it became inconvenient, the filmmakers broke their own rules.

David: What is your favorite movie?

Eugie: See above regarding favorite author and favorite book. But a few of my top picks include American Beauty, Forgiving the Franklins, Fight Club, and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

David: Eugie, thanks for taking the time for the interview.

Eugie: Thanks for interviewing me!


The Best of Escape Pod

Escape Pod is the mother ship of speculative fiction podcasts. Five years ago, Steve Eley posted the very first Escape Pod episode, and set out with the goal of providing a weekly audio speculative fiction story. He did not want to charge for it, and he didn’t want listeners to be annoyed by constant advertisements. And he’s kept to these goals remarkably well for nearly half a decade. He’s created a company to run it, Escape Artists Inc., which has spawned two sister podcasts, Pseudopod for horror and Podcastle for fantasy, while refocusing Escape Pod’s tastes to focus on science fiction. All three are supported by user donations. You can make a one-time payment or set up a monthly payment, whichever makes the most sense to you. They prefer reprints, though they do run original stories from time to time (like mine), so they’re sort of like a “Best of” podcast themselves, taking high quality stories that have (usually) appeared elsewhere, and breathing new life into them by having them read aloud.

I’m eternally grateful to Steve Eley for starting this venture because Pseudopod was the very first market to ever buy my fiction. If it weren’t for the success of Escape Pod, that sale would never have happened. After I received the Pseudopod acceptance letter, I set out to listen to Pseudopod’s backlog to find out whose footsteps I was following in, and I loved it!  If you’re like me and you rarely take the time to just sit down and read, podcasts are the perfect medium. I listen to stories while driving to and from work and while doing low-cognitive tasks around the house like washing dishes or raking leaves. So I listened to all of the Pseudopod stories, and then wrote a Best of Pseudopod list. I did the same for Best of Podcastle. And now, to complete the Best of Escape Artists trifecta, this is the Best of Escape Pod list.

I’ve listened to every single Escape Pod story that’s been published to date, 239 full length episodes and many flash fiction extras. iTunes estimates 6.5 days of audio for all of this. And from all of those stories, I’ve picked my top 10 ranked favorites, along with 6 more that almost made the list. In truth, there were a lot more that I would’ve liked to put on the list, but I really wanted to keep it at a top 10, not a top 100 or 200. Trimming it down to just these 16 was extremely difficult, but these are what I consider the cream of the crop and I hope you agree. And the good news is that there are plenty more quality episodes to listen to after this.

By the way, Escape Pod is on hiatus for the moment because Steve Eley’s second child was born a couple months ago. He’s resigning from his position as editor of Escape Pod, but EP will be returning with new episodes and a new editor on May 12th.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough, on to the list!

1. Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster
Read by Lawrence Santoro

Another world very different from our own, where masks define who you are. The worldbuilding in this is among the best I’ve ever seen, easing you into this strange world at just the right pace so that it’s neither boring or too confusing. The first section or two are a little hard to grasp, but just keep listening, it should start to come together. This one is nominated for this year’s Hugo award, and I really think it deserves it. And, as if that weren’t enough, this is one of those cases where a narrator transforms a great story into something even more outstanding. Lawrence has a very versatile and emotional voice and it fits perfectly with this story.

2. Friction by Will McIntosh
Read by Stephen Eley

There’s some great philosophy on this one and some great characters as well. Told from an alien point of view, I really felt for the characters and this story left me pondering long after it was done, about finding a purpose in life.

3. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Read by Ray Sizemore

Another great philosophical one. Another alien point of view, this story leans more toward the hard science fiction side of things than I usually care to go, but manages to tie in the science in such a way that it’s interesting to hear about, it’s relevant to the plot, and makes me sink into a delightful philosophical stupor.

4. Connie, Maybe by Paul E. Martens
Read by Wichita Rutherford

The funniest Escape Pod episode, this one had me rolling. This is another case where the perfect choice of narrator made the story transcend above the words it contained. Wichita Rutherford’s exaggerated backwoods accent fits perfectly with this story about identity and alien abduction.

5. Lachrymose and the Golden Egg by Tim Pratt
Read by Stephen Eley

Don’t look so surprised. You knew that Tim Pratt had to be on the list after he got 3 spots in the Best of Podcastle top 10. I don’t know how he does it, but with every story he manages to create an interesting and unique setting and populate it with compelling characters and keep me on the edge of my seat up until the end. A great story about parallel worlds and the ties between them, and the price you’re willing to pay to help others.

6.ÂÂ I Look Forward to Remembering You by Mur Lafferty
Read by Daisy Ottman, Anna Eley, and Stephen Eley

A great example of a time travel story done right. A woman hires a time-traveling consort to travel back in time to help herself lose her virginity in the hopes of improving her current life. Heartfelt and wonderfully done. Also includes a mention of Ranma 1/2, which was a great show.

7. His Master’s Voice by Hannu Rajaniemi
Read by Peter Piazza

A tale of cyberhumans and clones as told by cyborg dog. Can it get any better than this? Yes it can–the cyborg dog also has a cyborg cat friend! The first few minutes can be a little confusing as you try to sort out the setting, and I’m not entirely sure that I understood everything that happened. But whether or not I did, I enjoyed the ride!

8. Barnaby in Exile by Mike Resnick
Read by Paul Fischer

Resnick has a reputation on the Escape Pod forums for writing tearjerkers, and this is definitely one of those. Barnaby the ape talks to his handler about various and sundry things, all filtered through his very limited point of view. If this doesn’t make you feel any emotion, then you may very well be a robot.

9. Reparations by Merrie Haskell
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal

A worthwhile use for time travel! I dug this story mostly for its premise. The story’s compelling as well, but just the idea itself had me so in awe of Merrie Haskell’s creative powers that I was too awestruck to nitpick the story much. I’d like to think that I would volunteer for this program if such a program existed.

10. How I Mounted Goldie, Saved my Partner Lori, and Sniffed out the People’s Justice by Jonathon Sullivan
Read by Stephen Eley and Jennifer Bowie

Another canine point of view. What can I say, I like dogs! Told as a debriefing of a K-9 cop. Steve Eley outdoes himself with the voice on this one, sounding like a perfect dog. Keep in mind while you listen to this one that Pixar had not yet release UP when this story was published, so he is not just copying Dug. I like to think that someone at Pixar heard the story and that Dug is a copy of Steve Eley’s voice. Also, for anyone who’d like to get a peek behind the scenes of podcasting, EP also released an unedited version which includes multiple takes, and just BSing between Stephen and Jennifer. I wouldn’t listen to it before the final cut, but I got some laughs out of it listening to it after.


Honorable Mentions:

Impossible Dreams by Tim Pratt
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick

A hugo winner, and perfect for media lovers.

Cinderella Suicide by Samantha Henderson
Read by MarBelle

Full of weird slang, a little hard to follow at times, but fun.

Pennywhistle by Greg van Eekhout
Read by Anna Eley

Flash fiction. Dark, very dark, but oh so great.

When We Went to See the End of the World by Robert Silverberg
Read by J.C. Hutchins

A bit dated, written decades ago. A vision of the future that had me laughing for odd reasons.

Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley
Read by Mur Lafferty

A world where monsters are commonplace, people carry swords, but knights and pirates never existed. Fun!

Off White Lies by Jeffrey R. DeRego
Read by Scott Sigler

Just one of the many Union Dues superhero stories by Mr. DeRego that ran on EP. I like most of them to some extent, but this one has some actual action.