The Best of Nightmare Magazine Podcast 2015-2016

written by David Steffen

Nightmare Magazine is the horror sister magazine of Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, and their podcast produced by the excellent Skyboat Media.  The podcast publishes about half of the stories they publish in text.  They didn’t publish enough stories in 2015 for a list, so this list covers both 2015 and 2016.  They published 46 stories between the two years.

2015 marked the publication of their Queers Destroy Horror special issue (guest edited by Wendy N. Wagner).  2016 marked the publication of their People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror (guest edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia).

The stories eligible for the upcoming Hugo and Nebula award seasons are marked with an asterisk (*).

The List

1. “The Modern Ladies’ Letter-Writer” by Sandra McDonald*
Written as a writing etiquette guide.  It gets weird.

2. “Golden Hair, Red Lips” by Matthew Bright
One of the stories in the Queers Destroy Horror special issue, this one is a modern take on the story of Dorian Gray during the breakout of the AIDS epidemic.

3.  “The Cellar Dweller” by Maria Dahvana Headley
“Buildings were built, in the beginning, everyone knows, to hold the dead down.”

4. “Where It Lives” by Nathaniel Lee
When your mental state has the ability to transform you physically, where does that lead?

5. “Bringing Out the Demons” by John Skipp*
For those haunted by demons, they can either learn to control them or to give in their power.  And who better to help someone whose demons are not under control, than others who know what they’re going through?

Honorable Mentions

“An Army of Angels” by Caspian Gray

“Vulcanization” by Nisi Shawl*

 

The Best of Drabblecast 2015

written by David Steffen

Drabblecast is a podcast of the weird and speculative.  It is the closest publication to consistently hitting my own personal tastes, with a tendency towards especially strange and often funny ideas.  Since its beginning it has been edited and hosted by Norm Sherman.  This year marked a big change with Nathaniel Lee taking over as editor in chief, though Norm is still the host (Norm is also the editor and sometimes-host of Escape Pod, so he certainly has enough stuff to do).  Drabblecast has continued their yearly tradition of Lovecraft Month in August, with one story by H.P. Lovecraft and three original stories inspired by Lovecraft written by contemporary authors.

Drabblecast published 39 stories in 2015.

 

The List

1. “Old Dead Futures” by Tina Connolly
A young man has been taught to see the possible threads of the future and choose the one that will happen.  He is exploited for this ability by an older man who can do the same thing.

2. “Restless in R’lyeh” by Oliver Buckram
One of the original stories for Lovecraft month. I love to read Buckram’s stories, fun and funny and thoughtful in turns.  This one is a full cast recording, taking the format of a radio psychologist’s talk show during the time when Cthulhu arises from the depths.

3. “Metal and Flesh” by Steven R. Stewart
Very short story, but I found it very touching that begins with a badly injured man and a badly damaged robot trying to repair each other before their own bodies fail.  I found it very touching.

4. “Why I Hate Zombie Unicorns” by Laura Pearlman
Love the title, and it fits the story well.  Fun, dark, and funny all at once.

5. “The Liver” by Andrew Kozma
The Greek myth of Prometheus ends with him being cursed to immortality with his liver eaten by an eagle every day.  This story casts a different light on the myth–what if the eagle is trying to help, rather than being there to punish him?  I thought it was interesting how it could cast a new light on a very old myth.

 

Honorable Mention

“Ten Wretched Things About Influenza Siderius” by Rachael K. Jones

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Best of Strange Horizons Podcast

written by David Steffen

Strange Horizons is a freely available online speculative fiction zine that also publishes nonfiction and poetry.  They publish a variety of styles of stories and have regularly attracted award nominations in recent years.

All of the stories and poetry in the zine are published in the podcast.

History

When Mary Anne Mohanraj founded Strange Horizons in the year 2000, online publications were often looked down upon in many circles as inferior to print magazines–not getting much attention come award season and that sort of thing.  Since then the attitude has shifted greatly and many of the award honors every year go to online publications.  I believe Strange Horizons is the oldest of those online publications that regularly draws that kind of honor, and Strange Horizons has done a lot to turn around fandom’s opinion about online publications.

Mary Anne Mohanraj was Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons until 2003.  Susan Marie Groppi was Editor-in-Chief from 2004 through 2010.  The current Editor-in-Chief is Niall Harrison and the current fiction editors are Julia Rios, An Owomoyela, Catherine Krahe, and Lila Garrott.  There have been other fiction editors in the past, but I’m honestly not sure where to find a full list.

Strange Horizons is a nonprofit organization in the US and is run entirely run by volunteers so that all the money goes toward licensing the publication rights for the content.  Most of their funding comes from their annual fundraising drive, which ended a few days ago.

One of the rewards for reaching goals in their 2012 fund drive was to start producing a fiction podcast, which began publishing in January 2013.  Anaea Lay is the host and also narrates most of the stories.  There is also a poetry podcast if that suits your fancy–I am focusing on the fiction podcast here because I don’t understand poetry well enough for my opinion to be of much value.  Since then, all of Strange Horizons stories also appear on the fiction podcast.

Best Episodes

1. “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link
Wonderfully weird story of two siblings waiting on a strange planet for their parents.

2.  “Broken-Winged Love” by Naru Dames Sandar
Story of a dragon parenting a child with a damaged wing.

3.  “The Suitcase Aria” by Marissa Lingen
A castrato magician hunts an opera house murderer.

4.  “Why Don’t You Ask the Doomsday Machine?” by Elliot Essex
From the POV of a machine that outlasts civilization after civilization.

5.  “Din Ba Din” by Kate McLeod
Living days completely out of order, often years apart.

6.  “Such Lovely Teeth, Such Big Teeth” (part 1 and part 2) by Carlie St. George
A modern story of Big Bad Wolves.

7.  “What We’re Having” by Nathaniel Lee
A skillet serves the food that we’re having tomorrow.

8.  “ARIECC 1.0” by Lillian Wheeler
POV of AI meant to help people with traffic and weather issues.

9.  “Among the Sighs of the Violencellos” by Daniel Ausema
A very interesting and evocative mix of fun elements, including fantasy hero tropes.

10.  “Significant Figures” by Rachael Acks
Alien masquerading as human tries to protect Earth from other aliens. My favorite character is a waffle iron.

 

Honorable Mentions

“The Innocence of a Place” by Margaret Ronald
Cool epistolary tale trying to piece together evidence of a mysterious series of events that happened in the early 20th century, with a historian’s notes on the subject.

“Dysphonia in D Minor” by Damien Walters Grintalis
A world where music is used to build things, and a story about the people who do this as an occupation.

“20/20” by Arie Coleman
Time travel is used to change the result of medical treatment plans that turned out to be incorrect.

“The Visitor”  by Karen Myers
Very cool alien POV and its first contact with humans.

“Never the Same” by Polenth Blake
A sociopath who has learned to function even in a society that scans for sociopaths and treats them differently tries to make a positive difference in an SFnal world.

 

The Best of Toasted Cake 2014

written by David Steffen

Another great year of Toasted Cake, the idiosyncratic flash fiction podcast.  As ever, I am a huge fan, and when I was preparing to open Diabolical Plots’s slushpile I used my Best of Toasted Cake lists as an example of what I love to read.  There are fewer stories this year than usual because of Tina’s reduced schedule at the beginning of the year to spend more time with her newborn baby, the occasional technical difficulties, and novel publishing interfering with podcasting (the nerve!).

One of my own stories was published in the podcast this year, titled “Turning Back the Clock” which takes place in a world where crossing the boundary between time zones actually bumps you forward or backward in time by one hour–a man comes home to find his wife killed by robbers and tries to get across the boundary in time to save her.

On to the list!

The List

1.  “Safe Road” by Caroline M. Yoachim
Mother knows the best way through the screaming grass and all the other hazards.

2.  “Blood Willows” by Caroline M. Yoachim
You might want to skip this one if you have a high squick factor.  Parasitic willows root in your flesh.

3.  “The Shallows” by Nathaniel Lee
A girl’s reaction to alien visitors.

4.  “The Front Line” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
We all do what we must for the sake of the war, even when it’s not what we expect.

5.  “A Primary Function” by C.L. Holland
In some ways, a benevolent robot caretaker could be worse than a malevolent one.

Honorable Mention

“Last Band Standing” by Siobhan O’Flynn

 

The Best of Drabblecast 2014

The Drabblecast!  Still my favorite publication, hitting just the right level of weirdness.  Big editorial change recently at Drabblecast with Norm Sherman handing over the Editor-In-Chief position to longstanding head slushwrangler Nathaniel Lee–sounds like it might get episodes out with greater regularity which would be a great thing.  Norm will still be host and main producer, so his talent will still make the show what it is.

The List

1.  “The Carnival was Eaten, All Except the Clown” by Caroline M. Yoachim
Starring a confectionary clown who acts as the seed for a magician to make carnivals.  The epitome of a Drabblecast episode–weird, fun, strong emotional story.

2.  “To Whatever” by Shaenon Garrity
Written as a series of notes from an apartment dweller to lurking horror that always stays just out of sight and also drinks the last of the milk from the fridge.

3.  “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon
A kind of a selkie love story, but with jackalopes.

4.  “Half a Conversation, Overheard While Inside an Enormous Sentient Slug” by Oliver Buckram
Happily, this story is exactly what it says on the tin.

5.  “My Hero: The Fisherman” by Jack Handey
Yes, this is the Jack Handey you may recognize from SNL’s Deep Thoughts and Fuzzy Memories segments.  Hilarious story.

Honorable Mentions

“On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy” by Desmond Warzel
This is one of those that was definitely elevated by the production–amazing narration by Dave Robison as the radio DJ and others playing callers.

“Seven Things that are Better in Blue” by Jason K. Jones

 

 

Interview: Nathaniel Lee

interviewed by Carl Slaughter

Me 2014Nathaniel Lee puts words in various orders. Periodically people give him money for this. The correlation is weak at best, but present. He lives somewhat unwillingly in North Carolina with his wife, son, and obligatory cats, where he maintains a vague sort of career that provides sufficient money to continue his writing and board game habits. Coincidentally, he is the Assistant Editor of both Escape Pod and the Drabblecast (the posts were each offered independently and without knowledge of the other). As a result, he has read enough stories about penises, serial killers, and time travel. He is also an assistant editor for the humorous anthology series Unidentified Funny Objects. Check out his blog at Mirrorshards where he does Very Short Stories. Exactly 100 words. No more. No fewer. Every day.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: HOW EXACTLY DOES ONE WRITE STORIES EXACTLY 100 WORDS?

NATHANIEL LEE: Start writing and stop when you hit a hundred.

No, okay, seriously, flash fiction is a tricky row to hoe because here’s so little space. Microfiction almost always has to sacrifice some of the key “pieces” of a story: plot, setting, character, theme. Sometimes you shade them out in proportion, sometimes you just do away with one altogether (resulting in “character study” or “world fragment” type stories). If you can use tropes and narrative conventions to make your audience fill in the blanks for you, so much the better.

One thing that it will train you to do is absolutely and brutally trim all ornamentation. If there’s a bit of description that’s just pretty words but that doesn’t advance the core concept of the story, you’re going to feel it bulking against you like a two-liter soda in a snow jacket pocket. You’ll learn very quickly what is absolutely necessary to a story. (And sometimes you’ll find that you need those extra words; I’ve had several full short stories that grew from the fact that the 100-word story they started out as was just too cramped a space to explore them or generate their full effect.

 

HOW EXACTLY DOES ONE ACCOMPLISH THIS FEAT EVERY DAY?

Don’t ask me. I’ve lapsed. 😛 I’m down to one a week at best, now that we have a toddler, and when I do have energy to write, I’m usually working on salable short fiction. So I guess the answer is: free time.

When I’m alert and rested and ready to be creative, it takes as little as ten minutes for me to polish up a new flitterfic. It’s taken up to and over an hour, though.

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION AT ESCAPE POD?
WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION AT DRABBLECAST?

At this point, they’re nearly identical. I manage our teams of slushers, making sure they get the stories and give the basic thumbs-up/thumbs-down in a reasonable timeframe, and then I filter the thumbs-up pile down to the 1-5% that make it to the editor’s desk. Other duties include whatever Norm needs me to do at the time, including emergency audio recordings, working with authors on rewrites, pestering people to send me stories I’ve read elsewhere, etc.

 

WHAT EXACTLY ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE PODCAST SITES?

Uh, legion? Escape Pod plays it straight; we do science fiction of a fairly middle-of-the-road style, presented as stories read to you by a narrator, with brief intros and editorial comments. Drabblecast is a Weird market, liable to come at you with body horror or high-brow lit-fic or poetry or goofy cartoons, anything and everything that generates that frisson of “wait, what?” that makes a story Drabblecastian. It’s also much more of a show, if you catch my meaning, with Norm’s big personality rampaging all over every segment and putting a personal stamp on everything that happens, a bit like the old late-night movie shows with the colorful hosts. (Yes, Norm, I am explicitly comparing you to Elvira.) I feel like people listen to the Drabblecast specifically because it is Norm’s show. (Basically, Escape Pod has had four editors and at least as many hosts in its run, and they’ve all done a good job and maintained a recognizable show, but if the Drabblecast ever lost Norm, it wouldn’t be the Drabblecast anymore.)

 

HOW EXACTLY DOES ONE GET CASTED BY THESE PODS?

What, like get your stories on? Uh, well, write a really good story and then send it to us. submissions@drabblecast.org. Advanced players can sell it elsewhere first, since we do a lot of reprints, and thus get paid twice on the same piece.

The other route is to write a story so amazing that when we read it after you have (of course) published it elsewhere, we then hunt you down and demand to give you additional money for it. If you want to make sure we see it, though, best to send it in to the submissions address.

Once we’ve bought a story, we line up a narrator from our stable of volunteers and get an audio file, and then Norm does whatever he does into a microphone and he and Tom chop it up real fine and bring it to a simmer, after which it gets spewed all over the Internet.

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION AT UNIDENTIFIED FUNNY STORIES?

Unidentified Funny *Objects*, please. (U.F.O. – geddit!?) [ Just testing you. ]

Anyway, for Alex I just do volunteer slushing. He has about a dozen people he uses to help filter and sort stories every year. Also sometimes he buys stories off me. (I assume he doesn’t take my slush feedback on them into account. :-D)

 

HOW EXACTLY DOES ONE GET PUBLISHED BY THIS ANTHOLOGY?

Twenty dollars, same as in town. (You send it to the submissions address: ufoeditors@gmail.com. Preferably while submissions are open, which they are not. If the money continues to roll in accordingly, I’m sure there will be a fourth installment next year. Try ’em then. :-P)

 

WHAT EXACTLY GOES ON OVER THERE AT MIRROR SHARDS?

One word, plz. Mirrorshards. [ I knew that. ] And what goes on there is I write flash fiction and post it. Also when a new story of mine comes out elsewhere, I link to it there and update my bibliography, which is a sub-page on the Blogger interface. Real authors maintain actual sites with blogs about their lives and writing habits. I periodically post bizarre surreal snippets and the occasional hyperlink. This is how you can tell I am quality.

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS/WAS YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THE CRITTERS WORKSHOP?

Uh, not much? When I was a wee young author, back in 2008, I joined a bunch of writing workshop groups and found out that most of them are terrible and are full of amazingly bad advice. Critters is a decent site if you need a feedback forum (and I think some fairly major names still use it), but the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty bad because your story is literally sent out to a random subset of the membership, of whom a further subset will decide to read it and critique it. I received some comically bad critiques there and at one point had someone threatening me with physical harm because I did not like his (terrible) story. It’s also very slow; you’re waiting a month or two for a critique unless you have the free time to earn the jump-the-line passes by critiquing a dozen stories a week (which I used to have but no longer do). I eventually found myself treating Critters critiques as an aggregate, where if *everyone* was saying the same thing, I’d look into it as an apparent problem with the story, but on the whole, it’s very hit-or-miss. I did meet some very nice and competent writers there as well, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that once you find a smaller group of folks whose taste you know and trust, I’d rather use that group of reliable beta-readers than trust to the whims of fate and the general Internet population. Additionally, since I now read slush for two magazines, I have a lot less energy and interest to devote to detailed critiques of random strangers’ fiction. (As King of the Slush Monkeys, I can read a terrible story and just go “No, this is crap, get out of my inbox” and I don’t have to be nice or friendly or find constructive things to say, just formal and polite “no.”)

 

EXACTLY WHAT WISDOM DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER ASPIRING WRITERS BASED ON YOUR EXACT EXPERIENCE?

Get used to disappointment? No, seriously. There are multiple orders of magnitude more hopeful authors than there are open and available slots in all paying markets combined. While it’s theoretically possible for a wunderkind to immediately flare into Guest of Honor status at all local conventions and instantly quit their day job to write fiction full-time, it is not going to happen to you, dear newbie author (statistically speaking). You’re going to have to keep head down and butt in chair, cranking out stories and improving your skills, and you’re going to have to send your stories out and get them back with form-letter rejections, a LOT, and it’s not much fun and doesn’t really pay much of anything. It’s a lot of hard work and a long, slow process, and for most people it never will become a career in the sense that it can pay the bills.

(Yes, yes, self-publishing revolution and etc. Me, I just don’t have the energy to promote myself quite that frenetically, and frankly the folks that have the skills to hack it as a salesperson and maximize their profits are often not the same folks who have the ability to make me tear up with the beauty of their prose. And even there the success stories are egregiously outweighed by the people who took a shot at it and failed so badly that no one even noticed they were trying. Browse the free and 99-cent books on the Kindle store sometime if you want to feel depressed. About yourself, about humanity, your choice.) (The self-published erotica is particularly good for the latter. My wife reads me excerpts sometimes. She likes them, but then, she is a demonic entity who feeds on human misery and draws strength from the pain and humiliation of others.)

As for actual writing advice, well, honestly, almost all of it is useless because almost all of it has at least one amazingly good counterexample, and more pertinently, what really works for one person (as writer or as reader) sounds dumb to another. I avoid statements about the nuts and bolts of writing because if you’re good enough, you can make anything sing. My advice is to read a lot, and not just idly, but actively teasing apart how and why a story was written the way it was. A good author is thinking about (or better still, has ingrained instincts about) everything down to the specific order in which the adjectives describing a character are placed in a sentence; the better you understand why each word ended up in the place it did, the better you’ll do when trying to sort different words into order yourself.

Read a lot, read actively, and keep butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. The more you write, the more you assess and revise and read and incorporate and revise and write some more, the better you will get. It’s boring, but it’s the only advice I’m willing to guarantee.

 

Note: Diabolical Plots reviewer Frank Dutkiewicz is also associate editor of the above mentioned Unidentified Funny Stories, I mean Unidentified Funny Objects, I mean, well, you know what I meanâ€

 

Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

The Best of Cast of Wonders

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.

 

Honorable Mentions:

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!

 

The Best of Escape Pod 2011

 

written by David Steffen

And here is the final of my “Best of” lists covering the year 2011. Escape Pod published steadily over the year, publishing 59 short stories. Among their usual fare, they also published winners and runners-up from their 2010 Flash Contest, whose winners were decided by forumite polling.

Recently they’ve announced that Nathaniel Lee (of Mirrorshards fame) has been given the position of Assistant Editor. I am very happy to hear this. He has already whipped the Drabblecast slushpile into shape, and he has done an admirable job with the Escape Pod slush as well. So if anyone had been frustrated at slow response times or lack of response to queries when trying to contact Escape Pod, you should give them another try.

And on to the list!

 

1. Rejiggering the Thingamajig by Eric James Stone
read by Kij Johnson
An intelligent spacefaring vegetarian Buddhist Tyrannosaurus Rex, a trigger-happy smartgun that talks like Yosemite Sam, and an ill-defined quest with an incomprehensible talisman at the end of it. Awesome.

2. For Want of a Nail by Mary Robinette Kowal
read by Mur Lafferty
Social and maintenance problems on a generation ship. The title doesn’t tie into the story all that well, but very good stuff.

3. Movement by Nancy Fulda
read by Marguerite Kenner
The protagonist in this story has what her society has labeled as temporal autism (which as even she points out may not have much relation to autism but such are public buzzwords). A very compelling story in a world not quite like our own and told by a very interesting POV.

4. Honor Killing by Ray Tabler
read by Mur Lafferty
This rather reminded my of Tobias Buckell’s Anakoinosis, with fuzzy little aliens demanding to be oppressed. In that case, it was slavery, in this case, murder.

5. Captain Max Stone Versus DESTRUCTOBOT by Angela Lee
read by Josh McNichols
One of the great entries to the flash fiction contest, overall this has a great feel of old-timey radio fiction, pulpy and fun and worth some great laughs.

6. London Iron by William R. Halliar
read by Andrew Richardson
Another entry from the flash contest. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s an action-packed flash story.

 

Honorable Mentions

Wheels of Blue Stilton by Nicholas J. Carter
read by Christian Brady

Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever by DK Latta
read by Josh Roseman
A robot protagonist who is an incarnation of temporal culture clash.

Many Mistakes, All Out of Order by M.C. Wagner
read by Wilson Fowlie

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