Archive for September, 2008

PC027: Red Riding-Hood’s Child

By N. K. Jemisin.
Read by Rajan Khanna.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fishnet Magazine.

Once upon a time in a tiny woodland village there lived an orphan boy. As his mother had been less than proper in her ways — she died unwed, known well to several men — the villagers were not kindly-disposed toward the tiny burden she left behind. They were not heartless, however. They reared young Anrin with as much tenderness as a child of low breeding could expect, and they taught him the value of honest labor so that he might repay their kindness before his mother’s ways took root.

By the cusp of manhood — that age when worthier lads began to consider a trade and marriage — Anrin had become a youth of fortitude and peculiar innocence. The villagers kept him at arms’ length from their homes and their hearts, so he chose instead to dwell within an eccentric world of his own making. The horses and pigs snorted greetings when he came to feed them, and he offered solemn, courtly bows in response. When the villagers sent him unarmed into the forest to fetch wood, he went eagerly. Alone amid the dappled shadows he felt less lonely than usual, and the trees’ whispers were never cruel.

Indeed, Anrin’s fascination with the forest was a source of great anxiety to the old woodcutter’s widow who boarded him at nights. She warned him of the dangers: poison mushrooms and hidden pitfalls and choking, stinging ivies. And wolves, of course; always the wolves. “Stay on the path, and stay close to the village,” she cautioned. “The smell of men keeps predators away… most of the time.”

Rated X. Contains sex and wolves.

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PodCastle Miniature 013: The Fable of the Ostrich

By Peter S. Beagle
Read by Stephen Eley (of Escape Pod)

Once upon a time, in a remote corner of Africa, there was a young ostrich who refused to put his head in the sand at the slightest sign of danger.  He strolled around unafraid, even when lions were near, cheerfully mocking his parents, his relations, and all his friends, every one of whom believed absolutely that their only safety lay in blind immobility.  “It makes you invisible, foolish boy!” his father was forever shouting at him in vain.  “You can’t see the lion — the lion can’t see you!  What part of Q.E.D. don’t you understand?”

Rated G. Hakuna matata.  (Except for ostriches.)

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PC026: Black Ribbon

By Dawn Albright.
Read by Heather Welliver.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine.

The woman measured three drops of poison into the milk and then poured the milk into the first baby’s bottle. She picked up the first baby, the twin wearing the black ribbon.

“Hush, sweetheart, hush,” she said, as she fed the baby girl the poisoned milk. The baby made a face at first, like she wanted to spit the cloth nipple out, but then she tasted the milk and drank everything in the bowl.

The woman gave the baby one of the last kisses she would ever feel and then she picked up the sister, the baby wearing the red ribbon, and fed her pure milk. The nurse wore no gloves, but in a few weeks she couldn’t touch the black-ribboned baby without protection.

Rated R. Contains poison and prostitutes. May not be suitable for the young or immature.

Intro Links:

Chasing the Bard by Phillipa Ballentine
Heather Welliver’s band The Shillas

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PodCastle Miniature 012: The Fable of the Tyrannosaurus Rex

By Peter S. Beagle
Read by Stephen Eley (of Escape Pod)

The Tyrannosaurus — an innocent in many ways — had never had a personal message in her life, and the notion was an exciting one.  Her forearms were small and weak, compared to her immense hind legs, but she was able to grip the nondescript little animal and lift him fifteen feet up, where she held him nose to nose, his beady red-brown eyes meeting her huge yellow ones with their long slit pupils.  “Be quick,” she advised him, “for I am hungry, and where there’s one of you, there’s usually a whole lot, like zucchini.  What was the message you wanted to give me?”

The creature, if somewhat slow of action, atoned for this failing by thinking far faster than any dinosaur.  “A large asteroid is about to crash into the earth,” it chirped brightly back at the Tyrannosaurus.  “So if you happen to be nursing any unacted desires, now would be the time.  To act them out, I mean,” it added, realizing that the Tyrannosaurus was blinking in puzzlement at him.  “It’ll happen next Thursday.”

Rated G. Contains controversial theories on climate change and evolution.  (I.e., that they exist.)

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PC025: Anywhere There’s a Game

By Greg Van Eekhout.
Read by Benjamin Manoochehri.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Realms of Fantasy.

I got a call from Sports Illustrated yesterday. They’re doing one of those sidebar pieces where they ask guys to name their starting five, the best basketball players they ever shared a court with. “You don’t want that,” I told the kid on the phone. “I was in the NBA for seventeen years. I could tell you about guys like Lon McGee, who wore one pair of sneakers his entire career, held together with tape and glue and sheer will-power. Or Pig-Iron Von Ziegler, who smelled like machine oil and whose joints screeched like a stepped-on cat by the end of his career. The best? Who cares about the best? Why settle for the best when I can give you the most remarkable?”

The kid thanked me politely, but he told me that wasn’t what he needed for his piece. He’d talk to his editor, though, and mention my idea to him. He’d get back to me.

Well, I’m not going to live forever, and I can’t wait for his editor. I’ve got tales to tell, and I’ve got to tell them while I’m still kicking. So here it is, my starting five. Not the most talented guys I’ve ever played with, but instead, the dirt workers and edge cases and oddballs and sideshow escapees. These are the guys that I’ll never forget. These are the characters.

Rated PG. Contains locker room talk (and bouncing balls).

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PodCastle Miniature 011: The Fable of the Moth

By Peter S. Beagle
Read by Stephen Eley (of Escape Pod)

Once there was a young moth who did not believe that the proper end for all mothkind was a zish and a frizzle. Whenever he saw a friend or a cousin or a total stranger rushing to a rendezvous with a menorah or a Coleman stove, he could feel a bit of his heart blacken and crumble. One evening, he called all the moths of the world together and preached to them. “Consider the sweetness of the world,” he cried passionately. “Consider the moon, consider wet grass, consider company. Consider glove linings, camel’s hair coats, fur stoles, feather boas, consider the heartbreaking, lost-innocence flavor of cashmere. Life is good, and love is all that matters. Why will we seek death, why do we truly hunger for nothing but the hateful hug of the candle, the bitter kiss of the filament? Accidents of the universe we may be, but we are beautiful accidents and we must not live as though we were ugly. The flame is a cheat, and love is the only.”

Rated G. Contains philosophical meanderings.

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PC024: It Takes a Town

By Stephen V. Ramey.
Read by Bill Ruhsam.
Introduction by Deborah Coates.
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text online).

“They ain’t really going through with this,” Tom said. “Are they?” The pig smell intensified, driving off more pleasant fumes of paint and honest sweat. “First the casino. Then the amusement park. Now a rocket?” He chuckled. “Won’t you crazy townies never learn?”

“This is different. This will really put Thornhope on the map.” Anthony turned back to his work. “The whole town is pitching in.” He finished outlining the final T and selected a sash brush from his tool belt. The brush’s upper portion was crusted but the tips were flexible enough. He dipped it into black paint.

“What about materials?”

“Folks are donating–”

“And what about the rocket? Where you gonna get that?”

Anthony licked his lips, trying not to lose concentration. “There’s talk about that old silo on your property–”

“My silo!” Tom laughed hard and slapped his thigh. “What in hellfire makes you think a bunch of morons and a queerball crossdresser can launch a silo to Mars?”

Anthony rolled his eyes. This was exactly the attitude he hoped to escape. “Who’s to say we can’t?”

Rated PG. Contains impossible science and a skyward thrust.

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PodCastle Miniature 010: The Desires of Houses

By Haddayr Copley-Woods
Read by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text online)

The floor is sulking. She almost always wears shoes in the basement, and the cement lies all day in agony listening to the first floor’s boards sighing loudly in ecstasy at the touch of her bare heels.

All it can hope for in its slow, cold way is that the woman will scoop the cat boxes, squatting on her heels, after she starts a load of laundry. Today oh joy oh joy she does. The floor is practically writhing at the smell of her (she always showers after the scooping, so her scent is thick)—the tangy rich odor. The cement feels (or maybe it’s just wishful thinking) just a bit of her damp warmth.

But then she is sweeping the floor, oblivious as always to the swooning house around her, ruining the floor’s pleasure with the horrible scented litter she sweeps up and tosses back in the box.

She yanks open the dryer, who feels violated and then guilty for enjoying it, dumps the hot, panting shirts and shorts into a basket, and heads back upstairs, carefully turning off the lights to avoid the lecture about electricity the man will give her later if she doesn’t. Even minutes later, the cords are still shaking in the darkness.

Rated R. Contains desire.

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PC023: Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge – PodCastle Giant

By Richard Parks.
Read by Steve Anderson.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Realms of Fantasy.

Note: This PodCastle Giant is longer than a normal episode. PodCastle Giants will air once every three months. Other episodes will remain our customary length.

The full moon cast the man’s shadow across the thin screen that was my doorway. It wasn’t a mistake; he wanted me to know he was there. I pulled the screen aside, but I was pretty sure I knew who would be waiting.

He kneeled on the veranda, the hilt of his sword clearly visible. “Lord Yamada? My name is Kanemore.”

“Lord” was technically correct but a little jarring to hear applied to me again. Especially coming from a man who was the son of an emperor. I finally realized who he was. “Prince Kanemore. You were named after the poet, Taira no Kanemore, weren’t you?” I asked.

He smiled then, or perhaps it was a trick of the moonlight. “My mother thought that having a famous poet for a namesake might gentle my nature. In that I fear she was mistaken. So, you remember me.”

“I do. Even when you were not at Court, your sister Princess Teiko always spoke highly of you.”

He smiled faintly. “And so back to the matter at hand: Lord Yamada, I am charged to bring you safely to the Imperial compound.”

Rated PG. Contains adventuring.

For those listeners looking for a good point to pause the episode, Steve Anderson recommends minute 48 as a good time for an intermission.

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