Archive for Miniatures

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 010: The Desires of Houses

Show Notes

Rated R. Contains desire.


The Desires of Houses

by Haddayr Copley-Woods

The floor is sulking. She almost always wears shoes in the basement, and the cement lies all day in agony listening to the first floor’s boards sighing loudly in ecstasy at the touch of her bare heels.

All it can hope for in its slow, cold way is that the woman will scoop the cat boxes, squatting on her heels, after she starts a load of laundry. Today oh joy oh joy she does. The floor is practically writhing at the smell of her (she always showers after the scooping, so her scent is thick)—the tangy rich odor. The cement feels (or maybe it’s just wishful thinking) just a bit of her damp warmth.

But then she is sweeping the floor, oblivious as always to the swooning house around her, ruining the floor’s pleasure with the horrible scented litter she sweeps up and tosses back in the box.

She yanks open the dryer, who feels violated and then guilty for enjoying it, dumps the hot, panting shirts and shorts into a basket, and heads back upstairs, carefully turning off the lights to avoid the lecture about electricity the man will give her later if she doesn’t. Even minutes later, the cords are still shaking in the darkness.

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 006: Eating Hearts

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains sex between humans and those who only appear so.


Eating Hearts

by Yoon Ha Lee

“It’s about not seeing,” Chuan explained to her just after he brought the meal to the table. “The perfect magician is all-blind, all-unknowing. No sound reaches a wall to wake an echo; no touch bridges distance.” He leaned back against the wall where, Horanga imagined, the cloth of his shirt hung over the hollow curve of his back. He lived in a house in the city, by the river, and long ago the sound of fish swimming endlessly in that river would have distracted her from her purpose.

“Then what do you do in this house?” asked Horanga, looking not at his face or his hands, but at the plate between them. The plate was heaped with tender vegetables, slivers of rare meat, and sliced nuts; over the vegetables and meat and nuts, he had drizzled three different sauces in a tapestry of taste.

“A perfect magician, I said.” He smiled.

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 005: Directions

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains a journey into rampant surrealism.


Directions

by Caleb Wilson

Some things you will need are a full tank of gas, a flashlight, an axe, a bicycle.

Heading north on Route 110, turn left onto Entwhistle. The street will be paved in dark, fresh asphalt and tree-lined. The web of shadows, light dark light, will fall through the teeth of the leaves onto the windshield. Drive through four lights and beneath an iron railroad bridge.

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 004: Hippocampus

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains immoral characters and crunchy dreams.


Hippocampus

by M. K. Hobson

I see a seahorse. It is curled like a question mark on the sand. I pick it up and show it to her.

“Ah!” she says, her delight surprisingly intense. She’s a woman who takes intense delight in very few things, I’ve found. “Your hippocampus! How clever of you to have found it!”

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 003: Pahwahke

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains spirits, violins, dusty bones, and an old man’s regret.


Pahwahke

by Gord Sellar

The smoke in my longhouse swirled thick, thicker still around their strange faces. They sat all around me on brightly-colored mats and frowned, wrinkled their big noses as they tried to speak our language. I offered them bone spoons and cedar plates loaded with salmon and seal oil and nuts and blackberries.

“We’ve brought many gifts,” they said, our words heavy like stones on their tongues. They opened the bags, and set down handfuls of colorful round beads, hard axes, pouches bursting with long-traveled pemmican, braided sweetgrass, and tobacco. They set these things down before me, and then one of them—their chief—stared across the fire at my eldest daughter.

They gave me so much that I couldn’t refuse their unsaid request. Pahwakhe wept and shivered when I offered her to them. Her sisters and mother beat their breastbones and cried, but what could I do? They could have stolen her away, or stolen all of them, if they wanted. I had no choice. So we married her to their young chief. Our women sang mourning songs as young men danced, feathers swirling in firelight as drums pounded in darkness.

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 002: Giant

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains a heart, once carefully hidden.

Why PodCastle miniatures? According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brevity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.


A few words on “Giant,” from Associate Editor Ann Leckie:

Today’s story is a riff on the classic trope of The Giant Who Had No Heart which you can take a gander at on wikipedia, if you happen to be unfamiliar.

Nearly every culture has fairy tales, and many of them are strikingly similar to tales told by other, very distant peoples.  That may be the long process of transmission between different groups, stories passed along in a game of telephone thousands of years long, or it may be that fairy tales spring from, and engage, something basic in human psychology. It’s hard to say, really.

The tales themselves are stripped down, very concise and economical. Close-in examination of a character’s psyche, or even more than rudimentary character development, doesn’t exist in fairy tales. Even in stories with little or no magic, strange things happen with no obvious reasons, let alone explanation. We may hear of beautiful maidens, perhaps even with hair of ebony or flax, shining dresses of gold or silver, mountains of glass–but without much in the way of detail.

And good and evil are clearly marked. We know which is which–one sister speaks, and jewels fall out of her mouth. The other utters toads. There are no qualifications, no mitigating circumstances, no shades of gray. It’s all very straightforward.

Today’s story is “Giant” by Stephanie Burgis. It plays on a tale that’s very popular, one that, like most fairy tales, has plenty of variants. It’s the story of the ogre who’s hidden his heart–or sometimes his soul–in an unlikely and hard to reach place. His vulnerability is in an iron box at the bottom of the sea. Or in an egg in the mouth of a fish inside a crow that came from a deer. Or else he can only be killed in very specific, very unlikely circumstances. But once the secret is known, he’s vulnerable.

What does it mean to have to hide one’s heart? To never be able to trust anyone — even one’s own beloved — with the secrets of one’s own existence? To always have to protect your heart from those closest to you within the egg, inside the crow that came from the deer?

But, of course, since we’re talking fairy tales, the ogre must be evil. Surely. Surely, he must deserve his fate.


Giant

by Stephanie Burgis

I’ve hidden my heart in an egg, in a box, in a well at the end of the world. My father taught me that trick a long time ago.

If I’d kept my heart, I would be in trouble now. This princess is too beautiful.

 

PodCastle logo

PodCastle Miniature 001: Stone Born

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains children, school buses, and elves.

An Escape Pod flash fiction contest submission.
Flash Fiction Contest thread for Stone Born

*According to wikipedia, the word miniature is derived from the Latin minium, red lead, and is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript. We thought it was a good way to describe very short stories with a fantasy theme: a word that indicates brievity, manuscripts, and a medieval atmosphere.


Stone Born

by Loreen Heneghan

They weren’t friends — she being a girl. Plus she had a crooked smile, a  snorting laugh, and a face like some stone-age ax. Even so, he and Brenda were the last kids on the bus route out past those cliffs. Mark let her sit with him when all the other boys were gone. He’d heard her parents were fighting over her, too. Fighting mean.

They never talked about that. As they rumbled along, Brenda taught him to look forward, never turning, even when the faces were like a crowd at the edge of the road. It was cool, like seeing into a strange, goblin world.