written by David Steffen
I’ve been having some technical problems with my podcast listening, with my iPod crapping out of me all of a sudden just before WorldCon. After 6 weeks of falling behind on podcasts as I tried to keep up while listening to mp3 CDs instead. But now I’m back in business, and catching up quickly!
As with my previous Best Of podcast lists, I listened to all the episodes of Cast of Wonders, and have picked a few favorites, which I attempted to list in order of how much I liked them. Cast of Wonders calls itself a YA science fiction/fantasy podcast. Just because it’s YA doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by adults, as well as their young adult counterparts. I’ve always been a little fuzzy on the exact definition of YA, but if all-knowing Wikipedia’s explanation is accurate, I think that the differentiating factor might be that “YA literature shares the following fundamental elements of the fiction genre: character, plot, setting, theme, and style. However, theme and style are often subordinated to the more tangible elements of plot, setting, and character, which appeal more readily to younger readers.” That seems like a reasonable description. But there’s a lot of interesting, fun stuff here for folks of all ages.
Cast of Wonders produces an episode every week, though some stories are produced across multiple episodes. They’ve been around for a little more than a year, since July 2011, and by my count have produced about 44 stories in that time (often multiple episodes per story, occasionally multiple stories per episode). Cast of Wonders was founded by Barry Northern who also created Cast Macabre (I’ve also done a Best of Cast Macabre), and has producer, host, and narrator Graeme Dunlop.
As always, when I post a Best Of list, I disqualify my own stories from being in the list because I don’t think I can objectively judge my own work compared to the work of others. I will, however, shamelessly post a link in case people would like to listen to it. My story, The Quest Unusual , was produced by the podcast not too long ago. If you get a chance to read it, feel free to drop me a comment.
Now, on to the list!
1. I Kill Monsters by Nathaniel Lee
Nathaniel’s stories tend to hit the sweet spot for me. They tend to have fun ideas, good writing, interesting themes, compelling characters, and keep up enough of a pace that I don’t get bored. He also writes a child’s point of view in a way that seems particularly authentic to how I remember thinking as a child. This particular story is probably my favorite of his, and embodies all of these qualities. It tells of a boy who has taken it upon himself to root out the monsters in his own house, and starts to offer his monster hunting service for the other friends at his school.
2. Alienation (Part 1 and Part 2) by Katherine Sparrow
I love a well-written non-human point of view, and this one was so much fun! Shapeshifting aliens visit Earth and try to establish solidarity with the human race by taking on human forms (albeit very accelerated aging to speed up their life experience). The aliens are very funny, and Graeme Dunlop’s reading of the story made it so much better than the text, speaking with a strange cadence and uttering the alien’s strange “uh uh uh” laughter in a very entertaining way.
3. Same-Day Delivery by Desmond Warzel
A magic-user protagonist engages in black market business deals using his ability to teleport objects. Good stuff.
4. To Be True (Part 1 and Part 2) by Jess Hyslop
A rebellious new recruit of a religious order unexpectedly meets a holy warrior of the religion entering the grounds as she is sneaking out at night. He tells her that her temple has become corrupted and that he is there to cleanse the taint.
5. The Cruel Sister by James Breyfogle
A magical bard prepares to play a song to induce love which she intends to play at her sister’s wedding. She is experienced and talented, but she has quite a challenge ahead of her.
Damnation by Chris Stamp
I love reading unusual variations of mystical characters. Meeting Satan on an asteroid flying through space is one I hadn’t seen before!