Archive for May, 2010

PodCastle 105: Honored Guest

Show Notes

Rated PG for Evil Grandmothers and Music from the Heart

Honored Guest

by Ellen Kushner

I have met very few evil people in my life, but my grandmother is one of them.  When my mother died, Omama told my father that she would support him and my brother and me, but only if he gave up all his and my mother’s friends, her family and his work in their studio, to return to Omama’s family compound.

There was no reason for this.  She already had other sons and cousins working for her.  There had been one more, but my Uncle Great Light had taken his own life right before the Harvest Festival.  Maybe she needed father back to make up a propitious number.  That’s not what he says.  When I asked why we could not visit my weaver grandmother and all the cousins anymore, he sighed, “Omama has never learned to share.”

“She’s so rich she never had to.”

“Wealth is not a disease, Bright Phoenix,” my father said sternly.  “You may be rich yourself some day, so I want you to remember that.”

That may be so, but I think being rich can make you selfish. It’s like a cold: you have to fight it off by wrapping up warm and keeping your head covered.  I don’t care so much about being rich, but I might like to be famous.  I think I have a pretty good shot at it, because since I was five I have played the kchin, and even my brother Great Joy, who is good at games and doesn’t like to lose, knows that I play better than he does.  I like to practice.  When I kneel before my instrument, and my fingers bend and dance on the strings, I feel as if I know things no one has every known before.  It isn’t just pretty sounds, it’s like entering another world.  Some of the great kchin players played for years in solitude before letting anyone else hear them, but I don’t mind playing for others. I like their admiration well enough, but even better I like to think that somehow my music has changed them, as it changes me.

PodCastle 104: The Dog King

Show Notes

Rated R For Wolves in the Fold, No Matter Their Manners

The Dog King

by Holly Black

Each year, wolves are caught in traps or, very occasionally, a litter is discovered and they are brought to the city to die spectacularly. Arn wolves are striking, black and slim as demons, with the unsettling habit of watching the audience as they tear out the throats of their opponents. City dwellers are made to feel both uneasy and inviolable by the dog fights; the caged wolf might be terrible, but it is caged. And the dog fights are majestic tented affairs, with the best bred dogs from all parts of the world as challengers. Expensive and exotic foods perfume the air, lulling one into the sense that danger is just another alluring spice.

Not to be outdone by his subjects, the king of Dunbardain obtained his own wolf pup and has trained it to be his constant companion. He calls it Elienad. It is quite a coup to have one, not unlike making the son of a great foreign lord one’s slave. The wolf has very nice manners, too. He rests beneath the king’s table, eats scraps of food daintily from the king’s hand, and lets the ladies of the court ruffle his thick, black fur.

PodCastle 103: Attar of Roses

Show Notes

Rated PG for roses which may smell sweet but still have their thorns.

Attar of Roses

by Sharon Mock

They say that when I was born, blossoms spread on the rose bushes outside my mother’s birthing chamber. They say that where I step, blood-red petals spring from the earth. The first, my father tells me, is a legend. The second has been known to happen on occasion, though only by my design.

I was born deep in the northern mountains, far from the great confederacies, where my father nurtured his magic without interference. His was the power of earth, roots of stone and springs of water. My gifts, on the other hand, were merely decorative—grace and beauty and youth forever born anew in spring. Sorcerers traveled from the tradelands to court me, Rosalaia, Blossom of the North. I would have none of them. My father sent them all away. Far better for me to grant my grace at my father’s side, take my consorts from the young men of the city, make our land a well-defended paradise.

For centuries I believed that this was the life for which I was intended.

PodCastle Miniature 50: Mario’s Three Lives

Show Notes

Rated PG for plumbers, philosophy, and good ol’ fashioned shrooms

(Hey! Look at us! Fifty miniatures!)

Mario’s Three Lives

by Matt Bell

The plumber always dies with the same surprised look on his face, his mouth hanging open as he flies upward through the air before being born again at the beginning of the world. He’s tiny and frightened without his mushrooms and his fireballs, desperately banging his head against blocks, looking for more. Sometimes, between reincarnations, the plumber thinks he senses God trying to decide whether to give him another chance or to just bag the whole thing. He’s scared then, but who wouldn’t be? He prays for continuation and then God says Continue and the music plays that means the plumber will live again. Back in the world, he realizes that the God he senses between deaths is there when he’s alive too, guiding his motions. His triumphs are God’s triumphs but so are his failures. It bothers him that God can fail but he doesn’t show it. He is a stoic little plumber, looking for mushrooms and jumping on turtles. He is not a philosopher, or at least not until after the Princess is safe and he has the time to think things through. Still, sometimes when he’s alive and running or, heaven forbid, swimming, he realizes that the God Who Continues is possibly not the only god there is. Surely, that god isn’t the one who put all the collapsing platforms and strange, angry wildlife everywhere. At first he thinks it’s the Turtle King, the one who captured the Princess and started him on this whole adventure, but then he thinks, Who made the Turtle King? Not God, or at least not his God. Does this prove the existence of the Devil? He doesn’t know.