written by David Steffen
Escape Pod is the weekly science fiction podcast, one of the Escape Artists family of podcasts, edited by S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty.
Escape Pod published a total of 41 stories in 2018, which is lower than it has been in some years because of a combination of longer stories that were split across multiple episodes, as well as mixing in “Flashback Friday” episodes this year, which are republications of stories published earlier in Escape Pod’s history–since Flashback Friday stories have already been considered for previous Best of Escape Pod lists here, they were not considered this time.
And let me say that Escape Pod has been in incredible form this year–it was very hard to winnow the list down to this length, and I had to cut stories that I would recommend to get it down to the length. If you like what you read in this list, there are many many more where that came from!
Every short story that is eligible for Hugo nominations this year which were first published by Escape Pod are marked with an asterisk (*).
1. “Failsafe” by Tim Chawaga, narrated by Tina Connolly*
Failsafes are legally required human components to automated systems that serve as impediments to machine uprisings by being able to refuse to participate if something starts happening. There aren’t many left and they are left and they are chosen specifically for their empathy.
2. “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz, read by Louis Evans
I love stories of artificial intelligences that do great things because they find new ways to apply their specialized programming, and this is one of those! In this case a drone designed to help the CDC stop disease outbreaks early.
3. “Optimizing the Verified Good” by Effie Seiberg, narrated by Trendane Sparks
Battlebots! This story is about a cleaning bot that operates in a battlebot arena cleaning up the damaged parts after battles to clear the way for the next battle. It decides that a more optimal way to keep the arena clean would be to reduce the amount of damaged robots–another in the subgenre of robots following their programming and doing unexpected things as a result.
4. “The Great Scientist Rivalry on Planet Sourdough” by Beth Goder, narrated by Divya Breed, Mur Lafferty, Adam Pracht, Alasdair Stuart, and Tina Connolly
Hilarious full-cast recording with multiple point of view characters all with their own clashing motivations.
5. “Flash Crash” by Louis Evans, narrated by Ibba Armancas*
Another in the robots following their programming and doing unexpected things, in this case an investment AI expanding as it goes.
“Spectrum of Acceptance” by Nyla Bright, narrated by Maxine Moore*