Archive for March, 2010

PodCastle 97: Smokestacks Like the Arms of Gods

by Ben Burgis.
Read by Ben Phillips.
A PodCastle original.

At the time, it was pretty exciting stuff. The flaming torches on the tunnel walls as me and half a dozen of my fellow inductees rushed to the ceremony. The older guys who’d known my Da all standing around and beaming down at me as I pricked the drop of blood from my fingertip and pledged eternal loyalty to my fellow workers. Then the singing of the Anthem of the Red Flag and my first taste of whiskey.
Raise the scarlet standard high,
Beneath its folds we’ll live and die…
I knew Guilds weren’t exactly legal, but everyone still seemed to be in one. I’d heard some talk of Guilds sabotaging machinery when conditions got really bad, even walking off the job. In the excitement of the induction ceremony, I didn’t realize just yet that Guilds didn’t do that sort of thing any more.
In our grandfathers’ era, they might have gone on strike. Now that the companies have smartened up and started using drinkers instead of regular humans for plant security, we pretty much drink whiskey and hold induction ceremonies and sing. Good jaunty song, though, real nice beat to it.
Let cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here…

Rated R because those unionbusters don’t play around, and they might just be genuine bloodsuckers.

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PodCastle Miniature 48: An Invitation via Email

by Mike Allen.
Read by James Trimarco.
Originally appeared in Weird Tales.

Some of the asides in your article made me realize (Gods, can I be dense sometimes) that when you spoke of concerns about “arcane rites” in response to the invite to my Halloween party the next evening, that you possibly weren’t kidding and perhaps had some genuine anxieties. I really should stress that my wife and I had planned for the Halloween party to be occult-free — no spirits other than the liquid sort!

Rated PG for warlocks in your inbox.

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PodCastle 96: Love Among the Talus

by Elizabeth Bear.
Read by Diane Severson.
Originally appeared in Strange Horizons.

You cannot really keep a princess in a tower. Not if she has no brothers and must learn statecraft and dancing and riding and poisons and potions and the passage of arms, so that she may eventually rule.

But you can do the next best thing.

In the land of the shining empire, in a small province north of the city of Messaline and beyond the great salt desert, a princess with a tip-tilted nose lived with her mother, Hoelun Khatun, the Dowager Queen. The princess‚ whose name, it happens, was Nilufer‚ stood tall and straight as an ivory pole, and if her shoulders were broad out of fashion from the pull of her long oak-white bow, her dowry would no doubt compensate for any perceived lack of beauty. Her hair was straight and black, as smooth and cool as water, and even when she did not ride with her men-at-arms, she wore split, padded skirts and quilted, paneled robes of silk satin, all emerald and jade and black and crimson embroidered with gold and white chrysanthemums.

She needed no tower, for she was like unto a tower in her person, a fastness as sure as the mountains she bloomed beside, her cool reserve and mocking half-lidded glances the battlements of a glacial virginity.

Rated R for fierce princesses, bloody warlords, and living rocks who will grind you down.

This episode was brought to you by audible, your destination for the widest selection of digital audiobooks available for download.

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PodCastle 95: Fulgurite

by Vylar Kaftan.
Read by Cunning Minx.
Originally appeared in Sybil’s Garage.

“It has a horn,” I say, pushing my plate aside. “That makes it a unicorn.” I go to the window and stare at the sky. It smells like a storm. Clouds stack on top of each other in thick blankets. Lightning flashes in the west. It fires an electrical impulse into my body, and I push the window open. I’m on the fourth floor. “Hello!” I call out the window, leaning forward into the hundred-degree heat. The blast of hot air buoys me up like boiling water, burning me but supporting me, and I’m sure I can fly away if I just let go.

Maddoc hauls me back in the window. “Are you crazy? Get back in here. You’ll fall and kill yourself.” It’s like Maddoc, to make sure everyone and everything is safe.

Rated R for unusual unicorns and deflowered virgins.

Stay tuned for the announcement at the end. More details on our forums here:

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PodCastle 94: A Light in Troy

by Sarah Monette.
Read by Ann Leckie.
Originally appeared in Clarkesworld.

Since she was literate, she had been put to work in the fortress’s library. It was undemanding work, and she did not hate it; it gave her something to do to fill the weary hours of daylight. When she had been brought to the fortress, she had expected to be ill-treated‚ a prisoner, a slave‚ but in truth she was mostly ignored. The fortress’s masters had younger, prettier girls to take to bed; the women, cool and distant and beautiful as she had once been herself, were not interested in a ragged woman with haunted half-crazed eyes. The librarian, a middle-aged man already gone blind over his codices and scrolls, valued her for her voice. But he was the only person she had to talk to, and she blurted as she came into the library, “I saw a child.”

“Beg pardon?”

“On the beach this morning. I saw a child.”

“Oh,” said the librarian. “I thought we’d killed them all.”

Rated PG for feral children and the winners who write history.

This episode was brought to you by The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, out now from Orbit. You can read the first three chapters of the book at

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PodCastle Review 1: Unseen Academicals

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Reviewed by Bill Peters

PodCastle’s very first review!

It is remarkably hard to review Unseen Academicals, what Terry Pratchett says will likely be his penultimate work. Most people who’ve read Pratchett and liked it have gotten attached to him in a way they don’t to other authors. Part of this is certainly due to the regular and breakneck pace at which he writes, averaging at least one book a year since the first Discworld novel was published in 1983, twenty five years ago. The other part is that many of us would like to live in his world, and we know it will soon be robbed from us.

Minor Spoilers Ensue! (Don’t worry – we don’t tell you how it ends or anything!)

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PodCastle 93, Giant Episode: The Mermaid’s Tea Party

by Samantha Henderson.
Read by Tina Connolly.
Originally appeared in Helix.

The mermaid barely slowed her breakneck pace as she approached and ran herself halfway up a yellow beach, belly-down and arching her back so her torso was almost upright. At the same time, she flung Cassandra casually upon the sand, half-knocking the breath out of her. Cassandra gulped for air, then scrambled as best she could up the beach, out of reach of the mermaid’s grasp — or so she profoundly hoped.

The mermaid watched her and made no move towards her, a nasty grin on her face.

“I’ll find the tea, and you’ll make us a party,” she said. “Then, maybe, I’ll bring you some food.”

Cassandra stared. Then the import of the creature’s words struck her and she looked around, beginning to panic. The island was perhaps a mile around and very flat, save where white ridges were raised above the surface. A large wave would have swamped it. A few trees she recognized from picture books as palms clustered off-center, a green haze underneath them. There was not much else.

Nothing to eat, certainly.

The sand clung in a fine film to her dress and bare legs, and itched. Miss Murchinson would have been scandalized.

Rated R for carnivorous mermaids, sexual shenanigans in the presence of a minor, and near death experiences. This one’s not for the kiddies.

This episode was brought to you by The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, out now from Orbit. You can read the first three chapters of the book at

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