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PodCastle 700: Rulebook for Creating a Universe

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Rated PG


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The Annual Migration of Clouds is a “cli-fi” post-apocalyptic novella by author Premee Mohamed. It takes place in the distant future, after the climate crisis has entirely disrupted life as we know it, and a mysterious mind-controlling fungus has wormed its way through the scattered population. The story focuses on a choice: Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to move far away, to study in one of the few communities sustained by pre-disaster technology, but her mother is ill, and in a world where the planting season is planned down to the minute, every body counts. It’s not easy for her to leave her loved ones behind. To set her family up for life, Reid decides to take part in a foolhardy and dangerous mission. To accomplish this task, she must ask others to put great trust in her, but she can’t easily separate her own thoughts from the parasite’s will, making it difficult for her to even trust herself.

If you’re not yet familiar with Premee Mohamed, you’re sure to hear of her soon. She’s an Indo-Caribbean scientist and author based in Edmonton, Alberta, where this book is set, and a rising star in speculative fiction. Premee is a biologist and works in the field of climate science, so the depiction of Reid’s parasitic passengers is eerily plausible, and the climate disaster scenarios in the book are grounded in modern-day research predicting an all-too-likely future.

Yet there’s still hope to be found here: rather than doubling down on the hardships of life-after-technology as so many gritty apocalyptic novels do, this book’s focus is on connection and friendship, the things that bind us together. It shows the world moving forward after terrible hardships — including natural disaster and plague — and reflects upon the importance of community, our duty to take care of one another, and our collective ability to get through difficult times. In other words, it is exactly the sort of book we need right now.

Rulebook for Creating a Universe

by Tashan Mehta

In an island that floats at the beginning of time, there is a Rulebook for Creating a Universe. This book is old, with instructions on how to make forever-worlds. It says, “When stitching a universe, think carefully about the kind of sun you want. Will it be hot or cold, moss or vein? Your sun will last forever and your planetary color palettes will depend on it. Choose wisely. Follow the blueprint.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 699: The Last Petal

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Rated PG

The Last Petal

by Anna Madden

Miss Lily Dale preferred hands to faces. Hands told a story that faces could hide.

Her father’s hands had become so gaunt, so fidgety. A shipping merchant without ships was a man without a livelihood. He spent his days inside their new home writing letters to the port master. The ink looked like dried blood under his fingers.

A good daughter wore a smile, but Lily’s lips faltered, betraying her. “I’m headed to market, Papa. I’m going to—”

“Go along then, child. I must finish this.” His attention barely wavered from his parchment.

Lily drew back. Better she had been born a son, destined to build rather than hinder. As matters stood, her father had sold off their valuables to pay off the debt collectors, and there was little she could do to help. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 698: Solace of the Keeper

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

Solace of the Keeper

by Woody Dismukes

If you watch the wind for long enough, you may find yourself a wisp. And though we call ourselves the Keepers, not even we can keep what is not there.

We tell the living that we keep the dead, but only because that is what they want to tell themselves. Some of us believe it too, perhaps even many. Yet the most disciplined of us know this is not the case. It is the living that are kept from the dead.

I first arrived at the monastery under these same delusions, and in no hurry to upturn my faiths. I came to find solace, though not from what you think, for there are far worse punishments than exile among the dead. I took solace from my peers — I never liked them much — and solace from my future. I was destined to be damned, either as an urchin of the streets or an urchin of the graves. And so, by my life of petty crime, it was chosen for me that I should perish as the latter.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 697: Down to Niflhel Deep

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

Down to Niflhel Deep

by Maria Haskins

The dog’s name is Roan.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been running. Maybe it’s been hours, or days, or maybe it’s only been fifteen minutes since he slipped out of the backyard through the open gate, but however long it’s been, he hasn’t stopped running since. The streets are going dark, but Roan is running steady, nose to the ground, skimming asphalt and concrete. Ragged currents of scent tug at him from the ditch and the grass and the road and the yards—urine, feces, raccoon, squirrel, cat—but underneath it all is the straight and narrow path he’s following: the girl. (Continue Reading…)