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 highlight and discuss. This week’s episode was chosen by associate editor Devin Martin. “A Hollow Play” originally aired as PodCastle 277.
A Hollow Play
by Amal El-Mohtar
So, I’m here, but Anna’s not, and I awesomely left Memoirs of a Space Woman at home in spite of knowing I’d have two hours to kill, so I figure I’ll just keep writing to you.
Cabaret! I have no idea what to expect. Have you ever been to a cabaret show? I wasn’t sure how to dress for it either — when I asked Anna she just laughed and told me to use my imagination — so I’m wearing the red top you gave me, the button-down one with the sleeves that flare out and curl from the elbows. I can’t believe I still have it — it’s been, what, ten years, three moves? It’s not fitting so great now — since I started taking derby more seriously (I’m EMILY THE SLAYER now! Strong like Buffy!) my arms have gotten huge, and you should see the butt on me — but it’s still pretty and I love it, and it still matches my favourite earrings best.
I should probably tell you more about Anna, since obviously there’s more to her than being trans and my co-worker. She’s really great, and really cute — she just cut her hair short last week and dyed it bright orange-red, so she looks kind of like Leeloo from The Fifth Element. She’s vegan (sometimes I swear she likes the fact that I’m not, because it gives her an excuse to play “Meat is Murder” on loop in the cafe for the duration of my lunch break, which no one notices, because it sounds like every other Smiths song except the good ones, which she refuses to accept no matter how many times I explain it), an amazing cosplayer, and getting into burlesque. She hasn’t performed in public yet, just for friends in her living room, but she’s been developing this number that involves a chef’s hat, mixed greens, and oversized serving implements.
We’re not dating or anything. I’ve only known her for about a month, though it feels like way longer — and I refuse to entertain a crush, because she’s been in a closed poly triad for a while and they’re kind of going through a rough patch that she hasn’t told me much about. So I’ll tell you more about this cabaret thing instead.
About the Author
Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning author and critic. She is the science fiction and fantasy columnist for the New York Times Book Review and the co-author, with Max Gladstone, of This Is How You Lose the Time War, which to date has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards for Best Novella. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa, and you can find her on Twitter @Tithenai or subscribe to her newsletter at amal.substack.com.