PodCastle Miniature 003: Pahwahke


By Gord Sellar
Read by C. G. Furst.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fantasy Magazine, 2008 (full text at link).

The smoke in my longhouse swirled thick, thicker still around their strange faces. They sat all around me on brightly-colored mats and frowned, wrinkled their big noses as they tried to speak our language. I offered them bone spoons and cedar plates loaded with salmon and seal oil and nuts and blackberries.

“We’ve brought many gifts,” they said, our words heavy like stones on their tongues. They opened the bags, and set down handfuls of colorful round beads, hard axes, pouches bursting with long-traveled pemmican, braided sweetgrass, and tobacco. They set these things down before me, and then one of them—their chief—stared across the fire at my eldest daughter.

They gave me so much that I couldn’t refuse their unsaid request. Pahwakhe wept and shivered when I offered her to them. Her sisters and mother beat their breastbones and cried, but what could I do? They could have stolen her away, or stolen all of them, if they wanted. I had no choice. So we married her to their young chief. Our women sang mourning songs as young men danced, feathers swirling in firelight as drums pounded in darkness.

Rated PG. Contains spirits, violins, dusty bones, and an old man’s regret.

Why PodCaslte miniatures? According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brievity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.

PC005: The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale


By Benjamin Rosenbaum
Read by Stephen Eley.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction (Prime Books).
Also by the Author: The Ant King: and Other Stories (Paperback)

Sheila split open and the air was filled with gumballs. Yellow gumballs. This was awful for Stan, just awful. He had loved Sheila for a long time, fought for her heart, believed in their love until finally she had come around. They were about to kiss for the first time and then this: yellow gumballs.

Stan went to a group to try to accept that Sheila was gone. It was a group for people whose unrequited love had ended in some kind of surrealist moment. There is a group for everything in California.

Rated PG. Contains surrealism, involuntary cohabitation, strong language and characters with unconventional genders. Also, an extremely large number of geek culture easter eggs.

Please visit this story’s thread in our forums. 

PC004: Goosegirl


By Margaret Ronald
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fantasy (Prime Books).

“You came with the Princess Alia, didn’t you?” says a tall man with an understeward’s chain. “They must have low standards up north if you’re the sort of thing she brings along.”

I shake my head; the world slides in and out of focus. “I didn’t come here for that. I’m not — help.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Oh, so you’re not with the help? You must be one of the nobility, then?” He tweaks my skirts, and a ragged hem tears. “So what did you come here for, if you’re not with the princess?”

The words sound wrong even as I think them, but I say them nonetheless. “To be married.”

He bursts out laughing. “Poor girl,” a woman at the back of the servants’ hall says. “She’s simple. Can’t tell between herself and the princess.”

Rated PG. Contains sorcery, blood, and theft of memory.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

PodCastle Miniature 002: Giant


By Stephanie Burgis
Read by Jonathan Sullivan.
Outro by Ann Leckie.
First appeared in Lone Star Stories, 2004 (full text at link).

A few words on “Giant,” from Associate Editor Ann Leckie:

Today’s story is a riff on the classic trope of The Giant Who Had No Heart which you can take a gander at on wikipedia, if you happen to be unfamiliar.

Nearly every culture has fairy tales, and many of them are strikingly similar to tales told by other, very distant peoples.  That may be the long process of transmission between different groups, stories passed along in a game of telephone thousands of years long, or it may be that fairy tales spring from, and engage, something basic in human psychology. It’s hard to say, really.

The tales themselves are stripped down, very concise and economical. Close-in examination of a character’s psyche, or even more than rudimentary character development, doesn’t exist in fairy tales. Even in stories with little or no magic, strange things happen with no obvious reasons, let alone explanation. We may hear of beautiful maidens, perhaps even with hair of ebony or flax, shining dresses of gold or silver, mountains of glass–but without much in the way of detail.

And good and evil are clearly marked. We know which is which–one sister speaks, and jewels fall out of her mouth. The other utters toads. There are no qualifications, no mitigating circumstances, no shades of gray. It’s all very straightforward.

Today’s story is “Giant” by Stephanie Burgis. It plays on a tale that’s very popular, one that, like most fairy tales, has plenty of variants. It’s the story of the ogre who’s hidden his heart–or sometimes his soul–in an unlikely and hard to reach place. His vulnerability is in an iron box at the bottom of the sea. Or in an egg in the mouth of a fish inside a crow that came from a deer. Or else he can only be killed in very specific, very unlikely circumstances. But once the secret is known, he’s vulnerable.

What does it mean to have to hide one’s heart? To never be able to trust anyone — even one’s own beloved — with the secrets of one’s own existence? To always have to protect your heart from those closest to you within the egg, inside the crow that came from the deer?

But, of course, since we’re talking fairy tales, the ogre must be evil. Surely. Surely, he must deserve his fate.

I’ve hidden my heart in an egg, in a box, in a well at the end of the world. My father taught me that trick a long time ago.

If I’d kept my heart, I would be in trouble now. This princess is too beautiful.

Rated G. Contains a heart, once carefully hidden.

Why PodCastle miniatures? According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brevity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.

 Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.