PodCastle 318: The MSG Golem

by Ken Liu
Read by Anaea Lay (of the Strange Horizons podcast)Originally published in Unidentified Funny Objects 2, edited by Alex Shvartsman.

On the second day after the spaceship _Princess of the Nebulae_ left Earth, God spoke to Rebecca.

“Rebecca Lau, listen to me. I need you.”

The ten-year-old girl took off her headphones. The cabin was silent save for the faint rumble of the spaceship’s engines. “Dad, did you say something?”

“It’s me, God.”

“Right.” Rebecca climbed onto a chair to examine the speakers in the ceiling. The voice did not seem to be coming out of them.

She climbed down and peered closely at her computer. “If I find out you had anything to do with this, Bobby Lee …” she muttered darkly. Bobby had been jealous when he heard that her family was going on this cruise to the vacation colony on New Haifa for winter break. It was entirely possible that he decided to play a trick on her by programming her computer.

“Bobby has nothing to do with this,” God said, slightly miffed.

Rated PG. Contains God, a Golem, and a Spaceship.

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PodCastle 317: Bee Yard

By Cole Bucciaglia
Read by Sue Brophy
Originally published in Timber Journal, Volume 3, February 2014

I grew up next to a fire-haired girl whose sister was made of paper. You can only imagine what sort of trouble this caused. My own sister and I built castles in our living room, castles of blankets and upright pillows, with the electric flame of a flashlight illuminating them from within. We bent our heads together, her golden curls against my straight, black hair, and we giggled into the night. Of course the fire-haired girl couldn’t do this with her paper sister. If they had bumped foreheads, the girl made of paper would have gone up in flames. It was difficult enough for them to be in the same room together. I don’t think they spoke much.

The girl made of paper was mild-mannered and well-liked. Her eyebrows, her nose, the braided strands that made up her lips: they were all made of paper. Her features were expressive: they folded and crinkled into all of the positions that people made of flesh would have come to expect. She ran and played with all of the other children in the neighborhood. She must have read a lot because she seemed to know a lot about the world for someone so young. On rainy days, everyone on our street would gather into one person’s living room, build a castle from blankets and upright pillows, and listen to her tell us stories about monsters as big as bridges who lived under the sea or birds that could turn into men once they had flown into their lovers’ bedrooms.

The fire-haired girl never joined us. Everyone was too afraid of her to invite her to play, and she never asked. Her sister rarely mentioned her. The girl made of paper did once tell us that the fire-haired girl had never learned to read. Every time she tried to hold a book, the orange flames that whipped around her shoulders sent the pages curling backward and away from her.

What the girl made of paper didn’t tell us—what we observed—was that her sister could play in the rain. Of course, this was something which was too dangerous for the girl made of paper: her paper eyebrows, nose, and lips would have turned to mush and fallen right off her face, I’m sure. The fire-haired girl, however, seemed to love the rain. We sometimes heard her singing while within our living room castles, and we lifted our eyes discreetly over the window sill to spy, like cats watching for a bird.

Rated PG. Contains Fire, Bees, and Sisters.

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PodCastle 316, Giant Episode: The Meaning of Love

by Daniel Abraham.
Read by M.K. Hobson.
Originally appeared in Rogues edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.


The name Sovereign North Bank referred to a strip of land along the river Taunis within the great city of Nevripal, but not of it. It existed first as an accident of politics. When, centuries before, the wizards of the Hanish Empire sued for peace after the War of Ten Emperors, the lands surrounding the slow, dark river were ceded to the Council of Nestripon, but an exception was made for the Hanish winter palace and its grounds which were the favorites of the Empress. In a sentimental gesture of good faith that often follows wars between monarchs who are also family, the land remained technically within the Hanish Empire, though no official or citizen remained there. The mayor and burgers of Nevripal, not sharing the familial fondness for their defeated enemies, declared that the Sovereign North Bank was, in essence, its own problem. With no Hanish to oversee it and no Nestripon willing to take responsibility, it became that rarest of all places: an autonomous zone where the law protected and enforced lawlessness.
Over the ages since, the north bank had become a curiosity. The detritus of a dozen cultures found their way there, or were forced to it when there was no other refuge. The sluggish, dark waters of the Taunis carried barges and rafts to the muddy shores. Criminals and debtors fled to it, refugees of wars national and domestic, the addicted and the poverty-lost. And like the vast and mindless organism that it was, the Sovereign North Bank grew.
That there were no magistrates did not mean there were no planners, no architects, no geniuses or madmen. Rather it meant there was no restraint to those who lived there and invented.

Rated R for violence, strong language and sex.

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PodCastle 315: Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy

by Jim C. Hines
Originally published in Unidentified Funny Objects 2, edited by Alex Shvartsman.

Read by a full cast!
Rish Outfield as the Narrator
Dave Thompson as Stranger
Big Anklevich as the Tumor
M.K. Hobson as Scaramouche
Wilson Fowlie as Jarhead
Marguerite Kenner as Kelly Kane
LaShawn Wanak as Dr. April Alexander
Nathaniel Lee as Officer Conroy
and Tina Connolly as The Halloween Princess
C.S.E. Cooney, Steve Anderson, Rish Outfield, and Peter Wood as various inanimate objects, reporters, fans, etc.

Stranger shifted in the armchair and forced himself to make eye contact with his therapist: a decapitated head floating in an oversized jar of blue-tinged nutrient fluid. Long gray-blond hair drifted like tentacles. The base of the jar was decorated in a red and yellow floral pattern, reminiscent of the Hawaiian shirts Jarhead wore back in his full-bodied superhero days.

“In all my time on this planet, I’ve never killed anyone,” said Stranger.
“I’ve never _wanted_ to before.”

Jarhead’s voice emerged, slightly mechanical, from a speaker below his chin. “Given your history with Scaramouche, it’s no surprise she knows how to press your buttons.”

Jarhead was a former speedster, a superhero from the seventies whose career on the east coast had come to an abrupt end when his nemesis strung a high-tensile wire across the road at neck height. Only the hyperquick actions of Jarhead’s sidekick Robogirl had allowed him to survive . . . if you could call it survival.

“When do I get to talk? I’ve got traumas of my own, you know!”

Stranger did his best to ignore the taunts, which was difficult, considering they came from within his own bowel.

“It’s talking to you again, isn’t it?” asked Jarhead.

Rated R. Contains F-bombs, potty jokes, superheroes, and cancer.

Please consider donating to the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund, Cancer Research Institute, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, or The American Cancer Society.

Thanks for the stories, and for bearing witness, Jay.

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