PC006: Hotel Astarte

By M. K. Hobson
Read by Paul Tevis of (Have Games, Will Travel).
Introduction by Ann Leckie.
First appeared in Realms of Fantasy (full text online here).

There is a loud knock on the door of the farmhouse.

The Queen of the Midwest glances at her husband; strangers at night may bode ill, foreshadowing assassination or traveling salesmen.

“Who could it be?”

The King lifts his rifle from above the fireplace; the look on his face indicates that the visit is expected, but is no more desired for being so.

The Queen tucks away her yarnwork and goes to sit close to her son. Her son does not stir, but continues to stare out the window.

“A dark man,” he murmurs to his mother, without looking at her. “A dark man from the east. Walking through the corn. He has been summoned.”

The Queen’s breath seizes. She cannot swallow. Her hands become ice. The palace shudders with her anxious dread; muffin tins and cream separators and sheaf binding machines rattle.

But when the King opens the door, there is no one there, only the miles and miles of fields all around.

“Come in,” the King speaks to the darkness, gruffly. “Come in, damn it. I have been waiting for you.”

Rated PG. Contains hotel rooms where lovers tryst and spells are cast.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

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23 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Stuart Dewar said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    Thanks for the story – I enjoyed it. I like that old gods in a new world thing and this put me in mind of both Powers’ ‘Earthquake Weather’ and Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’.


  2. 2

    David said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

    This is a good story. I like the idea of how the “Gods” of the different regions caused the different problems of the depression. Since I have recently studied this portion of history, it makes a little big of irony, considering people seemed to worship the almighty dollar at the time.

  3. 3

    The Blow Leprechaun said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

    I love stories of this type, that take real history and apply to it a sheen of fantasy, as though the world we know really is underpinned by magic. I don’t know if this genre has its own definition, really, or if it’s just considered a subsection of alternative history, but I like it.

  4. 4

    Elizabeth GM said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

    What a fantastic story. I especially loved how bizarre and intractable this world seemed at first – and how it gradually came to seem like this story provided the most obvious explanation for why the real world is the way that it is. The reading by Paul Tevis was wonderful, too – appropriately understated.

  5. 5

    M.K. Hobson said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

    Thanks for your kind words, everyone!

    Note to The Blow Leprechaun: I’d categorize this story as a mix of “Historical Fantasy” and “Secret History”, both of which are sub-genres I find extremely compelling.

    Mary (M.K.) Hobson
    http://www.demimonde.com | mkhobson.livejournal.com

  6. 6

    geekinco said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 1:00 am

    Wow, I could smell apples and burning ticker tape.

    Great storytelling I was transported right out of my car into another America.

    Thanks to Escape artists and authors.

  7. 7

    The Blow Leprechaun said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 11:47 am

    Thanks for the genre tip!

  8. 8

    Sci-Fi Podcast Roundup #5 | Solar Flare: Science Fiction News said,

    May 9, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

    […] PodCastle #6 – Hotel Astarte by M. K. Hobson, read by Paul Tevis. […]

  9. 9

    Blaine Boy said,

    May 12, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

    Paul Tevis: great reader. Nice story, well put together. Always cool to hear about an alternate Earth (or was it?) Anyways what I really want to talk about is the real historical connections. Of course, everyone is going to realize the connections to the Great Depression, but come on…I’m fifteen and I see the connection in the newspaper!!! Wake up people! It’s happening again! Granted this time the war happened first and that’s what put us in a slump, dividing us instead of uniting.

  10. 10

    scatterbrain said,

    May 13, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

    Probably the first story Gaiman can claim was the biggest influence had from his work. It’s the beginning of an era…

  11. 11

    Spork said,

    May 14, 2008 @ 5:42 am

    Based upon this story, and the one immediately preceding it, I think it needs to be said that confusing isn’t the same thing as clever.

  12. 12

    Audita Sum said,

    May 14, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

    This is exactly the kind of story that I like. I thought it was neat how the stuff that the gods did was interconnected with real historical events, like the stock market crash. It was a little… not confusing exactly, but weird, because I’ve been reading Gaiman’s American Gods and my brain kept wanting to mix up the storylines. But it was a good story nonetheless.

  13. 13

    Ethernight said,

    May 16, 2008 @ 12:38 am

    I enjoyed this story, it is one of the better ones yet. But please, can we have a story that is not in its entirety some comment on modern culture, values or morals?

    I like fantasy (and sci-fi) because it is so far away from modern life. Tell me stories about things I /don’t/ know!

  14. 14

    Willow Fagan said,

    May 19, 2008 @ 12:38 am

    I really enjoyed this story, and the way it changed regional stereotypes into mythology. The magic used was also very evocative–the empty eggshell, burning the ticker tape, crushing the shells. My favorite part was probably the opening. Oh, and many of the descriptions were wonderful–the section with the strange new flowers and sensual cloud shapes stands out in my memory.

  15. 15

    Curtis said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

    What a beautiful telling… old kings/gods in a new world. I lost myself in the old, then realized I was still in a new world… The details of the author are so vivid and well told I could see it and smell the story!
    that is what I like to hear, take me there and leave me changed!

  16. 16

    Archie said,

    June 17, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

    This was brilliant. I have been a long standing fan of Escape Pod and I am now working through CastlePod’s offerings. This gets a permanent place in my podcast collection and congratulations to the author on a fabulous linking of magic and ‘reality’.

    Like the best of puzzles the answer unravelled slowly before me and ended on a high. Oh and it was a love story at it’s heart for which I am eternally a sucker for!

    Great reading to. Perhaps the best on CastlePod so far. I look forward to more from either the author or the reader any time!

  17. 17

    Zapatos said,

    June 26, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

    I absolutely adored this story. The writing was so rich and vibrant, I could feel the prairie wind on my face and smell the streets of New York. Even though it was a short story, I came away feeling as if I’d gotten a taste of a vast, deep mythology; the way the author deftly wove it into modern history made me want more!

  18. 18

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: May 2008 said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 7:37 am

    […] “Hotel Astarte” by M. K. Hobson is a long story of the fantastic kind, where fantasy elements (such as dead characters) are present for what appear to be no good reasons. Confusing and involved, this was one I couldn’t get into, despite repeated attempts, as the different settings, the magic, and the motivations of the characters made little sense to me. I found it well written but obscure, though well read by Paul Tevis. […]

  19. 19

    Aoife said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

    My favorite story yet! Keep them coming!

  20. 20

    More Of My Euphonious Voice » paultevis.com said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

    […] Hotel Astarte by M.K. Hobson […]

  21. 21

    Review of (and plug for) Mary Hobson’s NATIVE STAR | Alas, a blog said,

    August 31, 2010 @ 3:27 am

    […] read her blog, or maybe you’ve read or heard her many fine stories, such as “Hotel Astarte” (and if you haven’t, go […]

  22. 22

    Book Plugs! With Initials! « How To Kill Your Imaginary Friends said,

    November 8, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

    […] an example, go listen to The Hotel Astarte on Podcastle. Seriously. Do […]

  23. 23

    best selling books of 2011 non fiction said,

    February 1, 2015 @ 9:40 am

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    PC006: Hotel Astarte | PodCastle

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