PodCastle 571: The Guitar Hero

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


The first time Bella, Alice, and I exorcised a demon it was an accident: a pentagram doodled backstage, some quotes from The Exorcist, and suddenly that vocalist from the band we were opening for wasn’t quite himself anymore.

Who knew hellfire was so damn hot, anyway?

There have been other moments that altered the shape of my life: that afternoon in 1978 when I heard Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and hit puberty in the same instant; or that Friday night at age fourteen when I switched on my first electric guitar in the garage, next to Bella’s drum kit, and heard Alice’s bass rev up beside me. But nothing beats an accidental exorcism for short-term shock value and long-term impact. The scarred fingers on my left hand (barely able to pick out even the simplest chords) and the death of Bella (who stood closer to that demon than any of us) forever twisted my life in a new direction.

I don’t play guitar anymore, but according to my spreadsheet, Alice and I have dealt with close to four hundred entities (demonic, fae, malevolent spirits, and others) on the indie music scene since Bella died, turning our pain and grief into a part-time job and eventually a career. With all that experience under my Motörhead-buckled bullet belt, I don’t usually get nervous, but tonight is different. I’m sweating, even though I’ve stripped off my leather jacket, and my hands are shaking on the laptop — every muscle in my body in flux between fight and flight. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 570: Elegy for a Slaughtered Swine

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

The PodCastle forums flash fiction contest is on! Visit our Submittable for more details. Submissions are open until April 30.


Elegy for a Slaughtered Swine

Rafaela Ferraz

Men do not often cook, out behind these hills. It’s women’s domain, the kitchen, but they’ve shown me the ways of all that is theirs to rule. I could cook up a soup or a curse without leaving this room. The former is simple. Cabbage and potato and smoked sausage and olive oil. The latter is simpler still.

Your mother is expecting. Her womb is the first ingredient. Already you have six older brothers to race you for her love, or six older sisters. When she names you, she is careless with her choice. Later, the priest cannot untangle his prayers, his tongue slips on the edge of the baptismal font. We’re cooking, remember: stir it all with a wooden spoon and the devil will know you are unwanted. Your mother, she doesn’t care for you, for this mistake she’s made in the marriage bed, or out behind the church with her skirts hiked up, or up on the moor wearing as little shame as sin itself. Neither does your father. They have six other, older mouths to feed. They’ll let you feed yourself, may the devil bless them. You will hunt. You will run with the wolves. You will grow hackles and claws and eyes the color of burnt sugar, and you will be gone from their concerns. You will cross seven cemeteries and seven streams and seven hills and seven sins from your ledger every night before Sunday dawns. (Continue Reading…)

Flash Fiction Contest V Opens Today!


The Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest opens today! The contest will be taking submissions from today, April 15, 2019, and ending on April 30, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Remember, each author may submit one original fantasy story of 500 words or less. Stories will then be sorted into categories, anonymized, and posted by an administrator on our forums for all to read and vote on in a tournament-style contest!

The three winning stories will be purchased for USD $30 each and run together as a single episode of PodCastle. Note that stories will be published on a members-only section of the forums, so first publication rights will not be expended by participating in the contest. To become a member first, go to the forums and start there. All the pertinent details and rules are posted under “The Arcade” section of the forums; voting will commence May 15, 2019!

Here’s the Submittable link for your submissions!

Good luck!

PodCastle 569: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — The Yew’s Embrace

Show Notes

Rated R.

This episode is a part of our Tales from the Vaults series, in which a member of PodCastle’s staff chooses a backlist episode to rerun and discuss. This week’s episode was chosen by associate editor and social media manager Matt Dovey. “The Yew’s Embrace” originally aired as PodCastle 227.

Dream Foundry

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The Yew’s Embrace

by Francesca Forrest

We could still see the old king’s blood in the cracks in the flagstones beneath the new king’s feet when he announced to us all that this was a unification, not a conquest, and that we had nothing to fear from the soldiers that fenced us round. The new king said that my sister the queen would become his wife and that he’d make the old king’s baby son his very own heir. That’s how much he loved and honored our people, he said.

A month later, on a stormy day when the rain blew in at the windows and puddled on the floor, and we were huddled round the hearth, spinning by the light of oil lamps, the king burst in, soaking wet. Eyes a-glitter, he told my sister that he had caught Lele, the wet nurse, down by the stream at the edge of the grove of the gods, drowning the baby prince.

“She said she wouldn’t permit him to grow up under my authority,” he said. “I tried to save him, but I was too late.” He held up his dripping hands. River weed clung to his arms above the elbows.

“She’ll be punished, though,” the king continued, and you could see his whole body trembling like a struck bell as he spoke. It was anger, red anger, that caused him to shake. None of us dared to move. “I’ve ordered her flayed alive in the grove of the gods. It will stand as a lesson,” he said, catching us each by eye, one by one, lingering on my sister. “No one may cross me. I will show no mercy to those who oppose me.”


Continue reading this story at Strange Horizons.