PC003: Run of the Fiery Horse

By Hilary Moon Murphy
Read by Rachel Swirsky.
Introduction by K. Tempest Bradford.
First appeared in Realms of Fantasy, 2002.

His tongue flickered out, sniffing the river of dreams that swirled around him. He had studied humans long enough to be a connoisseur of their flavors: those born in the year of the Wooden Ox tasted faintly of wheat and nuts, Metal Pigs had the aroma of tart berries, and Water Dragons reminded him of the salty wines of Nippon. But the taste he sought remained elusive.

Then he found it: hot, almost peppery, with an underlying sweetness. Tsi Sha closed his eyes and hissed with pleasure. A female of the Fiery Horse, the rarest of flavors. Few of the girl children born in that year had lived past their first night. Tsi Sha had found them abandoned on country hillsides and city rubbish heaps as families rid themselves of their inauspicious newborn daughters.

They had tasted delicious.

Rated PG. Contains sensuality, serpentine twists, and a darting tongue that can taste your dreams.


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45 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Sylvan said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 8:27 am

    This is truly a great fantasy piece! It really made me want to read more about Chinese legends and perspective in writing fiction. If this is any indication of what kind of stories PodCastle has to come, I think I shall be looking forward to Tuesday mornings with great anticipation!

  2. 2

    m said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

    Interesting, but…somehow stereotypical both of “strong women” stories and stories about Asian characters. Well written, interesting and vivid characters, but I don’t like it.

  3. 3

    Vanamonde said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

    Well I’m getting about 12 seconds of the podcast and then nothing. Doesn’t matter if I stream the episode or click on the direct download link.

  4. 4

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Mandolin Reads: “Run Of The Fiery Horse” said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

    […] current episode of PodCastle features “Run Of The Fiery Horse,” by Hilary Moon Murphy, read aloud by our own […]

  5. 5

    admin said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 8:00 pm


    Try clearing your browser cache. There must have been a hiccup somewhere that interrupted your download, and my guess is that your Web browser now thinks the incomplete file is the whole thing. You could also try right-clicking the download link and doing a “Save As…” somewhere else.

    I’m sorry for the inconvenience. If you can’t get the file at all, send me an e-mail and I’ll do what I can.

    – Steve

  6. 6

    Katie said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

    Loved this story. Loved the fangirl intro with lots of yummy tidbits about the story, and the reading with great voices that weren’t cartoonish, but very different from each other.
    I thought the reversal of the father coming to care about the daughter, and his Chinese medicine allegory seriously rocked. There was something perfect about her love of running too, that captured that moment of girlhood that is magical and fierce. and I am seriously falling in love with podcastle. I like to listen while I am making dinner. Yum.

  7. 7

    Brian said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

    So, i haven’t finished the story yet, but i was wondering if there was a website that i could go to find out both of my chinese astrological symbols, cause now I’m interested.

  8. 8

    Ann said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 9:08 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_astrology is a good place to find the information you’re looking for. 🙂

  9. 9

    Opabinia said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 10:07 am

    Brian, if you look on the forum for this episode, someone linked to a site. I am an iron rooster; I find that pretty cool and much more evocative than just a rooster.


  10. 10

    Void Munashii said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 11:10 am

    I liked this story a lot more than last weeks. Well written and well read, although putting the image of a Pokemon in my head was bad as I kept seeing the snake as an Ekans.

  11. 11

    Tempest said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 11:43 am

    although putting the image of a Pokemon in my head was bad as I kept seeing the snake as an Ekans.

    Sorry about that! ‘course now I’m imagining him as Arbok.

  12. 12

    debergop said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    I *love* escape pod and pseudopod, and I really enjoyed Carrie Vaughn’s story. Must say that I’m seriously disappointed by the change in format with pod castle (as opposed to the quick and simple intros provided by the other two Escape Artists podcasts). I haven’t actually listened to this story because I’m not even remotely interested in sitting through to an intro to the intro, and then the intro, and then the story. Unfortunate given the positive feedback on the story. There’s a reason why the phrase “keep it simple” has been around for so long. This cast has also started off with (IMO) an unfortunate “by-women-for-women” overtone. I have to wonder whether there are male listeners out there who notice/are put off by this?

  13. 13

    Barry Deutsch said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

    This cast has also started off with (IMO) an unfortunate “by-women-for-women” overtone. I have to wonder whether there are male listeners out there who notice/are put off by this?

    It’s commonplace for podcasts to be organized by male editors, with stories by male writers, about male protagonists, and read by male readers. It’s not uncommon for there to be several such episodes in a row.

    There’s nothing wrong with male writers, editors, readers, or protagonists, of course.

    What is problematic is the double-standard. That the large majority of published stories are by men, published by men, and about men is something we’re used to; it’s invisible, like water for seahorses. But even one or two podcasts that involve multiple female creators will be objected to, as Debergop did. I think that’s unfair.

  14. 14

    Jennifer said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 6:12 pm

    Hear, hear, Barry. It’s like, “how DARE there be three stories in a row featuring girls! That must mean PodCastle is for vaginas only! Get thee back, men, or ye shall be emasculated!”

    Women have to suck it up that most things out there are by-men-for-men and listen to them anyway. This is a nice change.

    (Which is not to say that I won’t listen to stories written by dudes on here, though.)

  15. 15

    homsar said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

    *penis falls off*

  16. 16

    Jeff said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 10:16 pm

    Thanks for this story, I really liked it. Looking forward to more podcastle.

  17. 17

    csrster said,

    April 17, 2008 @ 2:24 am

    I loved this story. I must admit the intro had me slightly set-up for a stereotypical strong-young-woman story – possibly a repeat performance of last week – and the very word “astrology” tends to get my hackles rising. But what we actually got was a beautifully crafted and subtle story which dealt with many interesting issues – love, destiny, death, freedom – but allowed them to grow naturally out of the story. I never felt hectored. I was especially impressed with the handling of the minor characters – the Po brothers, the father, even the dowager. There was a sense that these were all real people even though they were only lightly sketched in, and in fact the device of using chinese astrology helped to firm up the characters without turning them into cutouts.

    And on top of all this, we actually got a proper heroic conclusion (with obligatory tragic undertones) not one of those milksop modern not-really-an-ending endings 🙂

    As for the (alleged) female tendencies of this ‘cast … well my background as a reader is in old-fashioned male-dominated epic-fantasy. But even so, it has not entirely escaped my attention that modern fantasy has attracted a lot of talented women and I’m
    glad to see podcastle reflecting that. I’m sure you’ve got some macho male monster-slaying lined up for us in the future, and I just hope it’s of the same high calibre as “Run of the Fiery Horse”.

  18. 18

    scatterbrain said,

    April 17, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

    Beautiful–truly inspiring!

    I cannot remember coming across the work of Murphy before, but I hope her work, such as this great piece, is getting the respect it desevres.

  19. 19

    Katie said,

    April 18, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

    Hmm… as to the by ladies for ladies element, it’s interesting that this comes up immediately into the launch of Pod Castle, when I know, as a lady, I am used to giving a magazine/pod cast quite a bit of leeway before I decide it’s too classist, sexist, racist, etc for my tastes. Methinks part of the whole male-privilege thing is getting to be very impatient and critical of something that doesn’t fit the male-normative format from jump. It’s hard for me to imagine someone making that critique if the first three pod casts of say, Escape pod, by male authors and read by males. I think we would all say, well, that’s science fiction. Let’s wait and see if it gets a bit more expansive later on.

  20. 20

    eclipse said,

    April 18, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

    really, deeply loving this podcast so far.
    this was a fabulous story.

    also: it would be funnier if your invitation to comment said “say your right words” instead of “say your words”….to reference labrynth. 🙂

  21. 21

    Sonia said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

    Loved this piece — made me look up mine! 🙂

  22. 22

    Artem Baguinski said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

    now that i’ve figured out that i’m a fiery dragon keeping this subscription going is a must.

    nice story, reminded me of nights on elm street series. except here Freddy wasn’t as creepy, and a bit of a connoisseur among soul eaters. the traditional feet mutilation resonated yet again with what seems to have become a common theme in escape artists releases in recent months (weeks?) not complaining, but hoping to hear something entirely different soon.

  23. 23

    Mari Mitchell said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

    I love stories that wrap themselves in myth.

    Give me a story steeped in a time or far away place, and I will happily journey.

    The intor is still a bit stiff. I am sure that will.

  24. 24

    Audita Sum said,

    April 19, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

    This was really well-written. I loved the descriptions of what people tasted like. And it was just… it was just good.

  25. 25

    Hoyajon said,

    April 20, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

    As in most great works, this one allowed the reader/listener to reach a greater self-understanding through the characters involved. I now understand my wife (a fire rabbit) and myself (a fire horse) just a little better.

    Was Shi Hsa Morpheus’ pet?

    One criticism — the three main selections so far have had a definite feminist fiction feel to them. I’m sure you have a full variety with wonderful balance planned for the future. May your Paypal Cup overfloweth.

  26. 26

    Hoyajon said,

    April 20, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

    Checked the wikipedia — my wife’s a water rabbit!

  27. 27

    Lyonside said,

    April 21, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

    >One criticism — the three main selections so far have had a definite feminist fiction feel to them

    And this is a criticism WHY?

  28. 28

    Heradel said,

    April 21, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

    Quoting Hoyajon: “One criticism — the three main selections so far have had a definite feminist fiction feel to them. I’m sure you have a full variety with wonderful balance planned for the future. May your Paypal Cup overfloweth.”

    There’s a fairly lengthy topic on that in the forums, I’d suggest you look at it: http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1519.0;all

  29. 29

    yicheng said,

    April 22, 2008 @ 10:09 am

    Great story! My only criticism is that “chinese-ness” is ultimately not very authentic. The father figure, for example, is not very realistic for a traditional patriarch, and seems to be tinged with a fair bit of modern “feel-goodness”. If the main character was *really* playing the part of a horse, she’d be a lot more socialized, and probably less of an outcast, than what was portrayed. Horses tend to be vain, popular, easily-flattered, and love showing off. She would have probably had the boys chasing after her for a different reason.

  30. 30

    The Blow Leprechaun said,

    April 22, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

    I haven’t listened to Goosegirl yet, but while all the stories so far have been female-centric, I can’t criticize their selection. They’ve all been excellent stories. I didn’t enjoy For Fear of Dragons as much as Come Lady Death and this one, but it was still good.

    If these stories had been female-centric and BAD, maybe there should be criticism for it, but c’mon! These have been good stories! Who cares what the main characters’ naughty bits are?

  31. 31

    life lemons said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

    This was an amazing story. It is one of the few stories that I have kept on my iPod after listening to them. I found it interesting that even though Shi Hsa was in Chi’s thoughts, and she was in his mind, he had no clue that she could possibly trick him.

    Well said, The Blow Leprechaun. The fact that three amazing stories all have a similarity is not that big of a deal.

  32. 32

    Joe Arndt said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

    This wonderful piece had all the makings of a semi-modern rural parable. I rate this piece an overall A.

  33. 33

    sidelobe said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

    Absolutely delicious story!

    So very Asian. Reminiscent of many stories more familiar to those of us in the West, yet … not. More powerful than Faustian tales.

    I’m dating a Fiery Horse. She fits much of what her horoscope suggests. It’s uncanny. I believe I should be thankful that she has no interest in marriage 😉 For other Metal Rats out there, I highly recommend finding yourself a Fiery Horse. Trust me, it’s sure to be exciting.

    Podcastle was well worth waiting for!

  34. 34

    omly said,

    April 24, 2008 @ 11:12 am

    Rated PG. Contains sensuality, serpentine twists, and a darting tongue that can taste your dreams.

    Although I see a rating here on the site, it might be helpful to put it at the beginning of the podcast. I loved the story, though a warning about the minor description of sexuality at the end might have been nice. I hate to sound like a prude, but I do tend to listen with my daughter, and it would be helpful to be able to screen episodes of Pod Castle in advance.

  35. 35

    yicheng said,

    April 24, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

    @sidelobe: Sorry to say, but according to traditional chinese astrology, Horse & Rat are very bad combinations, a lot of sparks perhaps but ultimately not meant to last. Fire to Metal is also not a good combination, as Fire destroys/melts Metal according the Fengshui 5-elements destruction cycles. Nothing personal, if you believe/disbelieve that stuff. I’m just saying.

  36. 36

    Rachel said,

    April 26, 2008 @ 3:21 am

    Hi omly,

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention. I’ll see what I can do about getting some ratings information into our podcasts.

    I have an idea which I’m going to consult with our audio editor about. If it’s workable, it may take us a couple weeks to implement.

  37. 37

    PodCastle Has Girl Cooties! at Feminist SF - The Blog! said,

    April 28, 2008 @ 7:01 am

    […] have been poking my head in the forum topic and the post for the third episode, “Run of the Fiery Horse” because Rachel, the editor, asked me to […]

  38. 38

    What I’m Saying Elsewhere at K. Tempest Bradford said,

    April 28, 2008 @ 10:30 am

    […] PodCastle Has Girl Cooties! I have been poking my head in the forum topic and the post for the third episode, “Run of the Fiery Horse” because Rachel, the editor, asked me to do the […]

  39. 39

    David said,

    May 2, 2008 @ 5:06 am

    The Chinese mythology is quite fascinating. Writing a story based in that mythology makes for something magical and fantastical.

  40. 40

    Ra'uf said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 11:41 am

    I loved the story. It was fresh because it was set in a world outside the overdone psuedo middle ages, but the mythic qualities made it seem like an old story that I had just never heard before.

    As to the gender issues. Silly. I am man. I loved the story. The sex of the protagonist is irrelevant. I love speculative fiction because of the imagination of the writers and worlds I am transported to. I wish more stories with male protagonists were this well told.

    Cheers to Podcastle.

  41. 41

    Curtis said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

    I spent a month in China and ever since then feel a strong love for anything from their deep rich culture. So this story did well at portraying much of the beliefs and results of those beliefs in their culture. Even if at times the story felt predictable, it was always very enjoyable!

  42. 42

    Podcast Round Up, 6/28 « Strange Latitudes said,

    June 29, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    […] Podcastle 003: Run of the Fiery Horse by Hillary Moon Murphy […]

  43. 43

    Hyperion said,

    September 17, 2008 @ 4:12 am

    There might be bigger stories, grander and more epic (Cup and Table comes to mind), stories that reach for more and perhaps even attain it. That said, I am not sure if I have heard one more perfect here on PodCastle.


  44. 44

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » PodCastle Stories I think Alas Readers Will Like said,

    October 25, 2008 @ 5:02 am

    […] “The Run of the Fiery Horse” by Hilary Moon Murphy “The Ant King: a Fairy Tale” by Benjamin Rosenbaum “Hotel Astarte” by M. K. Hobson “Magic in a Certain Slant of Light” by Deb Coates “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” by John Schoffstall “The Yeti Behind You” by Jeremiah Tolbert “Cup and Table” by Tim Pratt […]

  45. 45

    TSS: Short Story Podcast Reviews, Sept-Dec 2011 « Fyrefly's Book Blog said,

    September 19, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    […] Run of the Fiery Horse by Hilary Moon Murphy. Girls born under the sign of the Fire Horse are rare, and temperamental. The protagonist loves to run, and thus is dreading having her feet bound, so she makes a deal with a dragon… but the price he asks might be more than she is willing to pay. Another story I enjoyed a lot; I like when my fiction is infused with mythology of any flavor, so basing a story around the Chinese zodiac was completely fascinating. Listen to it […]

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