written by David Steffen
Escape Pod, 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.
They published 54 stories in 2013, and they are better than ever. Norm Sherman’s still in the editor’s chair.
Let me tell you, trying to decide which of the top two should be #1 was grueling.
1. Dead Merchandise by Ferrett Steinmetz
In a future where advertising has gone feral, driving people to suicide or ruinous self-neglect, and civilization has fallen apart, one woman tries to get to their broadcast dome and take it down for the good of the world. This story is scary as hell in its plausibility. The only thing missing is some mind-reading technology. I don’t know how Ferrett did it, but he’s done it again, so often writing just amazingly emotional stories with original neat ideas at their core. I won’t post anything spoilery in this article, but I did go on at length about why I loved the story in spoilery fashion on their forum.
2. They Go Bump by David Barr Kirtley
I could easily call this a tie for #1. We are fighting a war against aliens who can make themselves invisible. We have just developed the technology to cloak our own soldiers, and are sending a squad of cloaked soldiers across a wasteland from base to base where invisible aliens are believed to reside, to test out the tech. What I really love about this story is how many different interpretations can be taken from it, because the lack of visual confirmation of anything throws so many things into doubt. Again I went on at length in spoilery fashion on their forum.
3. The Shunned Trailer by Esther Freisner
Fair warning, I don’t think there’s a speck of science fiction in this story. It would’ve been a perfect fit for Drabblecast, a quite fun parody of Lovecraft that never takes itself seriously. It operates by the tried and true Lovecraft plot of a man being stranded and coming across a cult of Cthulhu. But it’s just over the top weird and fun, and read perfectly by Norm Sherman.
4. Nutshell by Jeffrey Wikstrom
A ship is traveling through the space between stars controlled by an AI and filled with cryogenically frozen passengers who weren’t supposed to remember anything. They do, however, and they have control over their environment. The AI comes to visit them from time to time to try to work on details of the trip and colonization planning. Up to now this all sounds like a familiar SF story, but this story took a slant on it I hadn’t seen and added some great humor and events. Great stuff.
5. The Future is Set by C.L. Perria
Why would a supervillain who can see the future try to take over the world in a way that is doomed to fail? Read and find out.
The Very Pulse of the Machine by Michael Swanwick
Freia in the Sunlight by Gregory Norman Bossert
Arena by Fredric Brown