PodCastle 767: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – The Ant King

Show Notes

Rated PG

 

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 audio producer Eric Valdes.

“The Ant King” originally aired as PodCastle 005.

 

 


The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale

by Benjamin Rosenbaum

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.

 


Host Commentary

PodCastle, Episode 767, for Tuesday the twenty-seventh of December, twenty twenty-two.

Tales from the Vaults – The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale, by Benjamin Rosenbaum, read by then Steve Eley, now Serah Eley, and rated PG.

Greetings, friends, and welcome to PodCastle, the flying castle of fantasy fiction. I am your host, Eric Valdes, one of the castle’s sonic sorcerers and occasional bard. I am a fairly new arrival, taking on audio duties alongside Devin Martin since the departure of our most excellent predecessor Peter Behravesh. I am an Emmy nominated sound mixer, as well as a dad, musician, actor and improv performer, and while I have a degree in screenwriting, I can’t be bothered to scribble much down these days. I promise I’ll get around to it.

When I was given the opportunity to select a tale from the vaults, I took it as a grave responsibility and decided to head deep into catacombs to retrieve a treasure that had not seen the light of day in some time, something lost to the convenient summonings of the podcast aggregators. It didn’t take long to find one that resonated with me, and even after listening to many other brilliant tales, I kept coming back to the chaotic surrealism of this one.

It is is my pleasure to present for your enjoyment and dismay, The Ant King, by Benjamin Rosenbaum, narrated by Escape Artists legend Steve Eley, who has since transitioned and now goes by Serah. Credit for the narration remains with Steve, per Ms. Eley’s request.

This was baby PodCastle’s fifth episode, from April 29th, 2008. The story was previously published in “Fantasy & Science Fiction”, from Prime Books, and has since been published in Mr. Rosenbaum’s collection, “The Ant King and Other Stories” from Small Beer Press.

Benjamin Rosenbaum is an American science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction writer and computer programmer, whose stories have been finalists for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the BSFA award, and the World Fantasy Award.

Serah Eley is a software developer and writer who once, under the name Steve Eley, started a little science fiction podcast called Escape Pod. You might have heard of it. She was the original founder of Escape Artists, our parent company, before retiring from podcasting in 2010. She’s spent much of the past ten years exploring the frontier territories of multiple-identity and gender, and is just starting to write home about what she’s found. You can follow her exploits at serah.wtf/.

Yes, I promise, that’s correct, and it delights me.

And now, listen well, because our tale is about to begin, and trust me, you want to get in on the ground floor for this deal; it’s going to be the next hot pick. It can’t lose.

————

And we’re back.

What a ride! The ant king is a brazen pastiche of 90s and turn of the millennium techie culture, a beautiful fever dream beneath an unrelenting cascade of details that demand rapid and unconditional acceptance or threaten to leave the reader behind. This is a time and place populated by characters or caricatures that some of us who lived it feel like we know. Or, feel like we actually were.

And while it is partially a time capsule, frothing with the bubbles of some older technologies and attitudes, I find it remains thematically relevant.

In this age of what could be loosely termed extraordinary popular delusions, the ant king provides us a reminder, by turns comforting and horrifying, that people’s self-destructive excess optimism is nothing new, nor is feeling lost in a rapidly changing world. But this story has the courage NOT to ask the unproductive knee-jerk question, “what the hell is wrong with everybody?“ It asks, rather, “what am I even doing here? And is there a strategy guide?”

——

That was our show for this week. On behalf of everyone at PodCastle — your co-editors Shingai Njeri Kagunda and Eleanor R. Wood, assistant editor Sophie Barker, audio engineers Devin Martin and Eric Valdes (that last one’s me), forum moderator Ocicat and our many wonderful first readers…
Aidan Doyle
Andrew K. Hoe
Craig Jackson
Emmalia Harrington
Julia Patt
Kaitlyn Zivanovich
Kiran Kaur Saini
Ryan Cole
Sara S. Messenger
Srikripa Krishna Prasad
Tarver Nova
Tierney Bailey
Ziv Wities
and of course our usual host, Matt Dovey: thank you for letting us share another story with you.

The legal bit: PodCastle is part of Escape Artists Incorporated, and this episode is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license. That means you can share it, and please do!, but you cannot sell it and you cannot change it; if you want specifics, check creativecommons.org.

Our music is by Shiva in Exile.

Everything we do on PodCastle is 100% donor funded, and if you’d like to support what we and the rest of EA do, please join us on our Patreon at patreon.com/EAPodcasts. Prefer another method? There’s details for supporting us via Twitch, Amazon Prime, Ko-Fi and PayPal on EscapeArtists.net.

We’ll be back next Tuesday to start your new year with another fantastic tale. We can’t wait to see you then.

About the Author

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum is an American science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction writer and computer programmer, whose stories have been finalists for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the BSFA award, and the World Fantasy Award.

Find more by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Elsewhere

About the Narrator

Steve Eley

Serah Eley is a software developer and writer who once, under the name Steve Eley, started a little science fiction podcast called Escape Pod. You might have heard of it. She was the original founder of Escape Artists, our parent company, before retiring from podcasting in 2010. She’s spent much of the past ten years exploring the frontier territories of multiple-identity and gender, and is just starting to write home about what she’s found. You can follow her exploits at serah.wtf/.

Find more by Steve Eley

Elsewhere