Saturday, August 04, 2007

Crying Over Imaginary People

Escape Pod has done well recently with some really great stories.

There's Cinderella Suicide by Samantha Henderson, a treasure hunt tale in a cyberpunk alternate Australia on a world that had it's technological revolution almost concurrently with it's industrial one. It uses a dialect that, like A Clockwork Orange , might take you a while to slip into, but then you should spin with it all shipshape mine droogs.

Squonk The Dragon and Squonk The Apprentice by P.M. Butler are, strictly speaking, stories for children, but adults can enjoy them too. Squonk is a dragon, abandoned as an egg and hatched and brought up by Mrs Tweedle-Chirp, a redoubtable little bird. Their tree in the forest is shared with Wendel the Wizard who is, based on dragon's usual eating habits, initially not keen on his neighbours. The title of the second story should be enough to give you an idea of it's contents. Very funny.

The Giving Plague by David Brin is a clever story about a scientist who discovers a virus that might be considered 'good', it encourages generosity. And what happens when a 'good' virus meets a 'bad' person? It's a bit long but still worth a listen.

Then there's Conversations With and About My Electric Toothbrush by Derek Zumsteg. It's a funny and short story about a sentient electric toothbrush that wants more out of it's life than just keeping it's owner's mouth clean. It's the insane optimism that makes me laugh.

And the one I listened to most recently was Ej-Es by Nancy Kress and wonderfully read by Sheri Mann Stewart. It starts off on fairly standard lines, explorers find the remains of a human colony, long ago fallen apart and now just a few near savage survivors. But it is one of those stories where everything hinges on the last five minutes and the reversal of the usual trope, terribly logical based on the preceding story but still somehow unexpected and moving.

Escape Pod also tries to broadcast the nominees for the Hugo Awards, in the short story category, something I don't particularly care about. They tend to always sound weaker than the rest of the stories we get throughout the rest of the year. I enjoyed The House Beyond Your Sky by Benjamin Rosenbaum, which marries Iain M. Banks crazy science-fiction pyrotechnics with domestic abuse, although it's arguably a story easier to understand read rather than heard.

There was only one story they couldn't get the rights for, Neil Gaiman's How to Talk to Girls at Parties , but luckily Neil's done it himself and stuck it up at his site. It's a funny story about how boys are from Mars and girls from somewhere else that astronomers aren't even arguing over what to call it yet.

That should keep you out of mischief for a while. If, on the other hand, you're looking for mischief, you'll be wanting Air Out My Shorts.

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