“Constant Companion” published at the Drabblecast

written by David Steffen

This marks a big milestone for me, publication in my favorite magazine, the Drabblecast! My story, “Constant Companion” was published there as part of their Drabblecast’s 23rd Trifecta special, with 2 other stories, one of those stories by my friend Sandra M. Odell.

It’s a story about a wooden boy and the carpenter who made him, but the story doesn’t go where you’d expect.

The story came from an effort to write a 2nd-person story that I didn’t hate. Really, I guess it’s 1st-person, but that person is primarily telling a 2nd person what they have done, but done in a way that makes sense in the story instead of being a gimmick like 2nd-person generally strikes me.

IF you get a chance to listen, feel free to comment!

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


The Best of The Drabblecast 2010-

written by David Steffen

And here’s the last of my Best of 2010 lists. This’ll be another short one, covering a bit more than half a year (the rest of 2010 after the last Best of Drabblecast) covering episodes 169-193. Big news for Drabblecast this year: they won a Parsec award!

Also check out my other Best Of posts.

1. Mongoose Part I and Part II by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

This story is just plain awesome. Space opera setting with Lovecraftian beasties and Louis Carroll tie-ins. And it all works. Just, wow.

2. The Wheel by John Wyndham

By the author of the well known “Day of the Triffids”. An interesting story in a far future low-tech world, and a story which sparked many interesting lines of thought.

3. Rangifer Volans by Tim Pratt

Wildly successful cryptozoologists begin their newest project, to hunt flying reindeer.

4. Floaters by David D. Levine

Have you ever noticed that, in certain lights, if you move your eyes very quickly you can see a little line trailing behind your eye movement? Finally, the truth about those weird little enigmas.

5. The Reenactment by Ben H. Winters

This surly, unpleasant teacher loves nothing more than the re-enactment of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. This year, it doesn’t go so smoothly.

The Best of The Drabblecast

If you like this “Best of” list, check out my lists for other podcasts.

Strange stories by strange authors for strange listeners (such as yourself). This is the aptly chosen opening tagline for the Drabblecast. Founded and narrated by Norm Sherman, the Drabblecast is an audio showcase of the weird. It doesn’t restrict itself to any particular genre, just so long as it’s weird, so there’s a mix of what could be called science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, mainstream, and some stuff that just defies any sort of classification–it’s all welcome on the Drabblecast as long as it’s weird.

Every week Norm provides a whole set of features to entertain and confuse. Every week there’s a feature flash story, approximately 2000 words or less. On top of this there is a weekly drabble (story of exactly 100 words) and a twitfic (story of less than 100 characters). On top of this there is often a Drabble News segment in which he discusses some strange news article like the celebration of Dead Duck Day in the Netherlands. As if that weren’t enough, Norm also includes some music segments written and performed by Norm himself. The most notable of these are the Bbardles–a donation incentive, if you donate a certain amount of money he will write a song in the style of your choice on the topic of your choice and turn it into a funny and entertaining piece of music. These are really fantastic pieces of work.

I don’t mean this as a slight to the other fiction podcasts I frequent, but the Drabblecast is more tuned in to my tastes (both as a reader and a writer) than any other magazine/podcast I’ve come across. It’s actually kind of creepy. I think that Norm has hacked into my mind and has downloaded some kind of insidious spyware tool directly into my brainstem which is both judging and altering my tastes to ensure complete control of my mind. This would make me worried if I weren’t enjoying it so much. So I say “Bring it on, Norm. You may be using unethical mind control techniques to ensure my continued listening, but I don’t mind. Maybe I only like it because your brain-virus is telling me to like it, but that’s okay, because I like it.”

Part of what sets the Drabblecast apart is their audio production. Many of the stories add dramatic music and sound effects at appropriate places. I’m not sure if I like this better than just a straight reading, but it offers some nice variety at the very least and it sounds really good.

By the way, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way to download the audio files directly from Drabblecast’s main site. I can listen to them there, and there’s a hyperlink to sign up for their mp3 feed, but not an actual download option. There is a Drabblecast archive, but it’s not updated as often as the main site. In any case, for my weekly download I’ve been downloading from other sites that re-post the episodes, usually CastRoller.

Without further ado, here is my Best of Drabblecast list. For the purposes of the list, I’ve only included the feature stories in the list. It’s not that I don’t like drabbles or twitfic, but even though I enjoy them, fiction that short doesn’t leave a long-lasting impression because it’s over before I’ve really gotten the story congealing in my brain. So, of all of the Drabblecast’s feature stories to date, these are my favorites:

1. Teddy Bears and Tea Parties by S. Boyd Taylor
Don’t be fooled by the title; this is not a chlidren’s story. Amazing, creepy, disturbing, weird. Teddy bears that bleed grape jelly. ‘Nuff said.

2. Babel Probe by David D. Levine
Time traveling AI visits the Tower of Babel to find the truth of the myth. It’s just as cool as it sounds.

3. Annabelle’s Alphabet by Tim Pratt
Is anyone surprised that Tim Pratt is on the list? This is a great piece of writing. I read this in print a while back and I loved it there too. The story is about a little girl, Annabelle, and it goes through the alphabet letter by letter, tying them into the story. This approach works surprisingly well, and Pratt does a great job of filling in backstory in bits and pieces so that the big picture coalesces smoothly and poetically.

4. Snowman’s Chance in Hell by Robert Jeschonek
This is a very recent one, but I’m glad it aired before I made the list. I love creation stories, especially ones which take a bizarre and irrational take on it all. This is the best one that I’ve ever read.

5. The Wrong Cart by Bruce Holland Rogers (in Doubleheader IV)
A short one, which is part of a Doubleheader special, which has two stories by the same author within the same episode. The other story is relatively good, but The Wrong Cart is a real gem, a perfect example of Drabblecast weirdness. You know how, when people realize that they’ve made a mistake, there’s a tendency to just go with and pretend like there was no mistake? Well, imagine that concept taken to the point of absurdity, and you have this episode.

6. The Fine Point by Gary Cuba
Ooh, existential philosopy of the best sort. The scary part is that these particular ideas have crossed my mind, but I never wrote a story about it, so Gary wins. 🙂

7. The Food Processor by Michael Canfield
A bizarre story, which gets weirder and weirder. Children living with their mother and their never-seen overbearing father. If, early on, you think you know where this story is going, you are wrong.

8. Charlie the Purple Giraffe was Acting Strange by David D. Levine
I never realized this, but it appears that I’m a fan of David D. Levine, since he got two entries in the top 10. This is another one that sounds like a children’s story but isn’t. It’s philosophy in a toon suit.

9. The Society of Eccentric Moustaches by Daniel Lemoal
If the title alone doesn’t make you laugh, then you may be a zombie. Odd facial hair always makes for quality entertainment–especially mustaches with funny names such as the pushbroom, handlebar, or walrus.

10. So You’re Going to Die by Robert Reed
Another very recent one, structured as a sales pitch, a former assassin selling a sort of death insurance. Good stuff.

Honorable Mentions:

Performance Anxiety by Weldon Burge (in Trifecta II)
I’ll let this one speak for itself. Just listen to it, and stick around til the end. It’s worth it, trust me.

Jelly Park by Aliya Whitely
Don’t expect any deep and profound meaning. This is one is cute, and sweet, and has an insanely catchy song.

2084 by Tom Williams
A glimpse of a risk-taker in the future. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat.