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PodCastle 700: Rulebook for Creating a Universe

Show Notes

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

Show Notes

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…)

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PodCastle 696: Tend to Me

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


Tend to Me

by Kristina Ten

Nora is a serial becomer. She has become many things in her life, though rarely on purpose. The first time, it just sort of happened. The second time, it was a coincidence. Now, it is a habit she cannot seem to break.

In the past, she has become a rock climber and a scuba diver, a beekeeper and a gardener and a mechanic specializing in European cars. For two months last summer, she was a stand-up comedian. Her senior year of college, she amassed New England’s largest collection of antique coins.

Nora has no interest in any of these things. She has, in fact, an acute fear of heights and depths and stages. Exhaust fumes make her sick, and she is allergic to bees.

But Nora cannot help herself: she is prone to absorbing the interests of whoever she is dating. She is caught in a pattern. She cannot get out.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


Black Wings, White Kheer

by Rati Mehrotra

The wings knock against the closet door on full moon nights, trying to escape. The sound terrifies Sarita, because if it wakes Amit, he might think there’s an intruder in the apartment. He might arm himself with something (what? Sarita settles on the kids’ baseball bat), throw open the closet door with a warrior’s scream, and pound the old bones of her once-beautiful wings, reducing them to a pile of dust.

Blood and feathers, why does she torment herself like this? Amit is a sound sleeper. He snores with his mouth open, spread-eagled on his back, taking up three-fourths of their bed. Besides, the wings can take care of themselves. Does she not know this better than anyone else? Far likelier that Amit will be the one in need of rescue.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 694: Excavate

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


Excavate

by Melody Gordon

The airplane hatch opened and the Pearsons, with guns on their hips and jetpacks on their backs, gathered as a family to look out at the plantation.

They were flying low to the ground. Too low. The hot air whipped at their jumpsuits and the ground rushed underneath them at a frightening speed. Danielle, the youngest and smallest Pearson, stood between her father and her big brothers who were glued to the floor like big brown pillars, watching the scene blur past. Danielle was shaking and sweating everywhere, from the bandana holding her braids back all the way down to the soles of her feet.

“Before we go, I have one more thing.” Their therapist, Dr. Greenwood, said, projecting her voice over the wind. She stood behind them in a jumpsuit with a jetpack but no weapon. A shovel protruded from the top of her backpack and over her shoulder. “We’re only a few seconds away from the fields.”

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 693: Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart

Show Notes

Rated R


Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart

by Louis Evans

Agent Heartbreak and the Misery Muse meet cute on a lonely-hearts cruise.

Their gazes lock above the brunch buffet.

She—let’s go with “she” for Agent Heartbreak, inaccurate though it is—she is a vision in a silk robe, bathing costume high to her neck and cut open just below her sternum, cheekbones like a jewel-thief’s kit. She is spooning a single deviled egg onto an undersized plate, objectively the most awkward food to serve at a buffet, but her muscular arms move it the way the hired dance virtuoso whirls an ingenue across the ballroom floor. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 692: When the White Bird Sings

Show Notes

Rated R


When the White Bird Sings

by KT Bryski

Bones show best in cold weather.

Sharp lines cut under skin; bare branches crack against the sky; snow drives on snow. In a land wiped clean, only the essential remains.

The village freezes, and hungers. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 691: The Healer of Branford

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


The Healer of Branford

by C. A. Barrett

After twenty years, Maud decided that it was safe to return to her hometown. She had never personally known a cat to live to the age of twenty, and even if someone had taken one inside and cosseted it into old age it would be too feeble to recognize her now. So Maud tied a scarf over her aching face and found a straight walking-stick. She went up to Branford by the old cobbled road. Her path rose alongside ample hills of heath spangled with flowers, bright purple and yellow reminders of the magic flowing underneath the soil. She saw a distant flock of birds wheeling in the air, and felt just as light. Branford, City of Magic-on-the-Moor, would be home again. Branford would take away her pain.

She was almost at the city gate when a small orange tabby-cat sprang up from his napping. He leaped to the top of a hitching-post and stared at her, blinked twice, then cried out “Maud Coffand! Maud Coffand, the cats know what you did!” (Continue Reading…)