The Best of the Dunesteef

written by David Steffen

And so ends my latest stop on my world podcast tour, this time with Rish Outfield and Big Anklevich of the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. I highly recommend listening to this podcast for your fiction fix. Not since the Drabblecast has any publication given me a stream of stories that I so consistently enjoyed. Their choice in style does remind me somewhat of the Drabblecast, though they take longer stories, but Rish and Big have instilled the podcast with their own brand. This Best Of list covers the episodes from Episode 0 all the way to the current Episode 114.

They pick good stories, but where they shine the strongest is in the production values. Most episodes have a full cast recording, often with full-on Foley effects. The result sounds completely professional. In more recent episodes, they’ve taken volunteer producers, and the result has been consistently great from these guests, as each puts their own (but all hard-working) spin on it.

What makes The Dunesteef really unique is the after-story talk. After the story, Big and Rish talk about whatever they feel like talking about. Movies, or writing, or pet peeves, or about the making of the show. Very little of it is scripted, which makes it feel like hanging out with friends. They say they put the banter after the story so that listeners can easily skip it, but I have found it consistently entertaining. I’ve never skipped past it (nor any of the stories for that manner). This is what morning radio comedy shows are supposed to be like, but Big and Rish are actually funny, and they actually talk about stuff that I give a crap about. Besides Big and Rish, the other two regular staff members are the always entertaining Announcer Man (who always reminds me of Stan Lee for some reason), and their robotic production assistant R080T.

Another feature that makes this podcast particularly interesting is the “Broken Mirror Story Events” they held in 2009 and 2010. For this event, they give a short prompt for a speculative fiction premise, and all entered stories must follow that premise. Entrants can all read each other’s stories and vote on their favorites, and the top voted few make it onto the podcast. For instance, the 2009 event was based on the line “”Someone arrives in town, and discovers that everyone there is exactly the same.” I hope they do another one now that I’m a member, because this sort of writing exercise really gets me excited!

“That’s all well and good,” you say, “but what the heck does ‘Dunesteef’ even mean?” I wondered that myself. Oddly, Big and Rish have never explained what it means. I did the liberty of doing a bit of research so that I could share it with you good people, and you wouldn’t be frustrated while listening to the backlog that you don’t know what it means.

It turns out that Dunesteef is the common name for Clupea sanguis, a rare fish. The Dunesteef fish is easily marked out by its distinctive smell of freshly soiled sweat socks, and it reputedly tastes much like burnt hair, but it is considered a delicacy among the world’s mega-elite for its extreme rarity(only 12 people alive today have tasted of its meat) . Decades-long wars have been ended by the gift of a single plate of boiled Dunesteef given from one leader to another as a sign of great respect, creating a nigh unbreakable bond between the nations for centuries after. I don’t know exactly what Big and Rish had in mind with this name, but I’d guess they were trying to say how much they respected their audience, and how they intend to provide only the best for us. Or maybe it’s some kind of obscure satirical commentary on the plight of the noble Komodo Dragon. Or maybe it’s a joke about body odor. Really, with these guys, there’s no telling.

On to the list!


The List

1. This Must Be the Place by Elliot Bangs
What would you do if you could travel through time? This one gives a plan that I had never seen coming. Great story, great characters, well told.

2. Hang Up and Try Again by Derek L. Palmer
Who would you call if you could call anyone and talk to them for three minutes? Anyone, real or not, contemporary or not. What would you ask?

3. The Day Hypnotism Died by Kevin David Anderson
Four teenage boys go to a hypnotist act. They just want to kill a little time, but the show isn’t at all what they expected. A hell of a dark story.

4. Peacemaker, Peacemaker, Little Bo Peep by Jason Sanford
Jason Sanford is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. He has a varied style, and an incredible imagination. In this story, normally quiet and peaceful people have turned suddenly violent. It’s not a zombie apocalypse, it’s something different, something like I’ve never seen. “Peeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaccccceeeee!”

5. Anakoinosis by Tobias S. Buckell
Awell-told alien point of view, telling of a race of furry little aliens that have become the new workforce for a crashlanded ship’s crew.

6. ÒŔberman by John Medaille
This one is very dark, and definitely not for everyone. It is told as an interrogation of indestructible Ã’Å”berman, Nazi Germany’s superhuman soldier, captured in the midst of World War II.

7. Plague Birds by Jason Sanford
Yup, another Sanford story. This one in a post-apocalyptic wilderness filled with human-animal hybrids and AI vigilantes. I love this guy’s imagination.

8. Whelp by Damon Shaw
A horror story about a dog, not for the squeamish. I’ll leave you to discover the rest.

9. Tattletale by Christopher Fisher
A father makes up a scary story to scare his kids, but sometimes a lie goes further than you could ever anticipate.

10. Tupac Shakur and the End of the World by Sandra McDonald
Post-apocalyptic story where the world’s population has been afflicted by a condition where the slightest bruise will cause your entire body to turn rigid in a matter of hours. Don’t worry, you don’t have to like Tupac to like the story.


Honorable Mentions:

Good Day by Saul Lemerond
Not for the easily offended. One that manages to be very dark and funny at the same time.

Open Twenty-Four Hours by Edward McKeown
Welcome to Earth Mart!

Casts a Demon Shadow by Derek J. Goodman
A Weird West tale with curses, gargoyles, and six-shooters.

Raising Archie by Michael Stone
Michael Stone is a regular contributor to the Dunesteef. This is my favorite of his stories here.

Emmett, Joey, and the Beelz by Ralph Sevush
Golems. ‘Nuff said.