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Cast of Wonders 309: The Moon, the Sun and the Truth

Show Notes

From the author: In January 2017, Dan Rather “tipped his journalist Stetson” to Anderson Cooper. I had a brief fangirl moment in which I imagined them meeting on some desolate hill and nodding stoically at each other. And then I just kept asking myself questions about what that world would look like. Eventually, I found this story, in a very different time and place than its inspiration, with different faces that echoed very similar fears.


The Moon, the Sun, and the Truth

by Victoria Sandbrook

Dust rising over the next scrub-covered hill gave away the rider’s position even before the incoming trash-guzzler’s growl settled around Andy’s ears. She waited as patiently as you could on a jittery horse that didn’t know you well, in sun that’d singe any hint of bare skin.

They’d been waiting an hour. Time enough in the desert to dream up how many ways this data drop could go. Could be this rider had the data chip and she’d be drowning her sorrows at the tavern by sunset. Could be he was a Directorship plant and there would be a gun for her.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 308: Every Drop of Light


Every Drop of Light

by Rachel Delaney Craft

No one ever said no to Grace, because she almost died when she was a baby. That’s why we always did what she wanted to do, even though I was the older sister. That’s why, when we were kids, I followed her into the woods behind the old factory.

We had no business being there. But Grace just giggled as she skipped down the path alongside the eroded creek bank. “Anna, come on!”

I trailed behind her, imagining the knots in the tree trunks melding into stern eyes and puckered mouths. I felt I was in a giant, slow-moving lung: each rustling breeze was a deep breath in, each creaking branch a collective sigh. I felt the place might inhale me and never let me out. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 307: Sidekicks Wanted


Sidekicks Wanted

by Laura Johnson

**SIDEKICKS WANTED**

HERO HUNTERS INC.

JOB POSTING: SIDEKICK

Job ID: 09012015
Location: Various
Base Pay: To be discussed
Industry: Heroism/Villainy
Reports to: Hero

DUTIES:

  • Fighting evil
  • Protecting the innocent
  • Rescuing damsels in distress
  • Saving the city/world/universe from danger (as required)
  • Listening to the Hero explain his origins
  • Engaging in witty banter with the Hero

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Possession of a Sidekicking degree from an accredited university*
  • Prior Sidekicking experience preferred
  • Superpowers are an asset
  • Knowledge of weapons and technology
  • Sense of humour
  • Must be comfortable wearing spandex
  • Must be willing to endure rumours of romantic involvement with the Hero
  • Must be willing to be kidnapped so the Hero can stage a dramatic rescue

*May be substituted with appropriate experience

Underlings need not apply.

Interested applicants can send resumes to: Xenethera@herohunter.net (Continue Reading…)

2018 Sunburst Award Longlist


Congratulations to all the Sunburst Awards longlist finalists, including Rati Mehrotra’s Hacker’s Faire, narrated by Wilson Fowlie, and PodCastle associate editor Naru Dames Sundar’s The Weight of Sentience.

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is an annual award celebrating the best in Canadian fantastika published during the previous calendar year. Winners receive a medallion that incorporates the Sunburst logo. Winners of both the Adult and Young Adult Sunburst Award also receive a cash prize of $1,000, while winners of the Short Story Sunburst Award receive a cash prize of $500.

The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction. Past winners of the Sunburst Award include Ruth Ozeki, Guy Gavriel Kay, Cory Doctorow, Nalo Hopkinson, Charles de Lint, Thomas King, and last year’s winner Claire Humphrey.

For additional information about the Sunburst Award, the nominees, juries, as well as previous awards, eligibility, and the selection process, please visit the official website at www.sunburstaward.org.

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Cast of Wonders 306: The Poet and the Spider


The Poet and the Spider

by Cynthia So

You saw the Empress once, when you were still a pillow-cheeked and blossom-mouthed child. She was tall and severe, and the train of her yellow dress flowed behind her for miles and miles, a river of pure gold. You stood behind your mother and wanted to bathe yourself in that river, and the Empress turned, her crown twinkling like a cosmos of cold stars, and she looked at you. You told everyone in your village afterwards that the Empress looked at you.

It was only for a moment. Her head was briefly inclined in your direction, and then it wasn’t. She kept walking. The river of gold frothed sumptuously past for hours, until at midday a woman interrupted it. She wore a black dress that spilled from her shoulders like ink. She held a brush in one hand, and in her other she held aloft the yellow fabric, on which she wrote in decisive strokes. In her wake, the river was no longer pure, muddied by dense black columns of characters.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 305: All Systems Go


All Systems Go

by Gerri Leen

The spaceport at Norn Five is a shining ode to order, automation, and interstellar travel. State-of-the-art communication ports dot the walls, offering instant access to loved ones, bosses, or eccentrics offering revolution at bargain prices.

Travelers move across the floors, various forms of locomotion taking them from point A to point B. Walkers tends to be the most common, but there are also floaters, crawlers, slitherers, and the odd vaporous beings that just sort of waft.

And working around it all are the units of the robotic char force. One in particular moves slowly along the wall, sucking up the residue left by one of the slithering public. It gets stuck for a moment when it hits a point where one being’s slime has mixed with another’s, making a sort of glue of the noxious kind. The bot revs forward, then backward, sucking up goop up as it goes, spritzing solvent onto the floor and then wiping it up so no one slips.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 304: The Temple of the Whale


The Temple of the Whale

by Karissa Sluss

Late in the morning I find Terren in our palm tree shelter, packing his few possessions: his bone knife; a collection of coral carved into various whale poses; a square of cloth he uses as a blanket on rare, cool evenings; a flask of water; a day’s supply of food, enough to carry him until he reaches the village. His intent to leave me is clear.

I rub away budding tears and cough to clear the warble trapped in my throat. Stiffening my spine, I square my shoulders, a defense against the urge to melt into quivering lump. “I see you’ve made up your mind.”

Terren rearranges things in his satchel to keep his hands busy, to keep his attention occupied. A poor pretext to keep from having to face me. “I have.”

“And you’re set on going now? It can’t wait another day?”

“Safaro wants to leave tomorrow, at first light.”

Safaro is a peddler, a tinker who regularly visits the village at the other end of the tombolo connecting our small tied island. He has seduced my son with exotic trinkets and tales of travel and adventure in the big, grand world thriving beyond our self-imposed cloister. Terrren is almost eighteen. How can I expect him to resist?

“Who’s going to help me fish and forage?” A petulant tone creeps into my voice, something I would never allow under other circumstances, but I’ve temporarily misplaced my dignity. “Whose breath will lull me to sleep at night? What will I do with myself?” I haven’t been a wife for a long time. If Terren leaves, I’ll have no one left to mother. I’ll merely be a caretaker for the legacy of a ghost.

“You’ll still have the temple,” he says, but mutters something unintelligible under his breath.

“What did you say?” I put a hand to his arm to encourage him to face me.

Terren tosses his satchel over his shoulder. His eyes glitter, hard black stones reflecting a challenge. “I said you still have the temple, but I think you should let go of Bailene, too.”

I gasp and give into the tears I’d been trying to resist.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 303: What You’re Missing


What You’re Missing

by Allison Mulder

“Something’s missing.”

The words slipped past Anya’s lips, not for the first time. Most days she could keep them buried under other, safer thoughts. But on quiet, peaceful days like this one, when she’d successfully coaxed Colton past the fences to the off-grid hills, the words had a nasty habit of wriggling out to warm themselves in the sun.

“Of course something’s missing,” Colton said, staring back toward the sprawling gray city. Sun sparkled off the high chain link fences between the hills and town. “No Wi-Fi, no cell signals. The power grid’s scrapped out here. If it bothers you, let’s head back.” He fiddled hopefully with his loose tie, obviously ready and waiting to tighten it.

Anya shook her head, enjoying the unfamiliar feeling of unbound hair swishing against her cheeks. “Not what I mean.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 302: Restoring the Magic


Restoring the Magic

by Ian Creasey

When I had climbed high enough that my breath came in great panting gasps, and the sheep in the valleys looked like tiny flecks of fallen cloud, I heaved off my backpack and looked for the best spot to plant the final sapling. Birch and goat-willow dotted the exposed slopes, hardy species that withstood the storms and chills of the High Tatras. My oak required a more sheltered home. I saw a south-facing escarpment, and scrambled across to investigate. The grey rock felt warm under my hand, retaining the heat of the autumn sun. Behind an outcrop, in a small gully, the wind dropped to a light breeze. I pulled up tussocks of grass to inspect the soil, and found it damp but not sodden, thin but not barren. An earthworm crawled away into the moss and leaf-litter. Instinctively, I felt that a dryad would thrive here. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 301: Ana’s Asteroid


Ana’s Asteroid

by M.K. Hutchins

I raced Cornelius home after school, through the corridors of the Platinum Phoenix. He took the right hand side, I took the left. The dents in stainless steel walls made our reflections wobble.

“I’ll beat you this time!” Cornelius called from behind. He was eleven — two years younger than me.

I laughed. “I doubt — ”

But my feet slipped out from under me. I skidded across the floor. Like all the other kids on this asteroid mining colony, my clothes were sewn from surplus mylar blankets — slick stuff. I crashed into a sealed-off door. There were plenty of unused corridors like that, leftover from better days when the Platinum Phoenix actually had passengers. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 300: The Death Knight, the Dragon and the Damsel

Show Notes

This week’s episode art is from Le livre et la vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre. It details Alexander the Great battling against two-headed, eight-legged, crowned dragons with multiple eyes along their torsos (Royal MS 20 B XX, f. 78v). It dates to between 1420 and 1425 CE.

Music attribution: Village Consort by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.


Escape Pod’s Flash Fiction contest returns to the Solar System this year, running April 15-30, 2018.


The Death Knight, the Dragon and the Damsel

by Melion Traverse

Cold afternoon light stretched in thin patches on the stone floor of the great hall. Jaw and guts tight and trembling, I stood at attention with twenty other squires, armor clean and new as our hopeful futures. For four years, we had trained with sword and shield under the patronage of Duke Amlick. Four years tinged in blood and exhaustion. All for the hope that one of the knights roaming among our lines would pick us from the group like a hound pup plucked from its litter. Twenty squires and only twelve knights—Duke Amlick believed his knights ought to have options. Eight of us would go home with tails between our legs.

One by one the knights claimed their squires and I watched my companions go to their new lives, eyes bright with the glory they would win. I stood with eyes half-closed against the fear that I would be left. I, Cori Forsmire, from one of Duke Amlick’s oldest houses, would have to sell my sword as a common guard. What was I going to tell my father? (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 299: All Them Pretty Babies


All Them Pretty Babies

by Alexandra Renwick

Esmè step careful in the pretty grass. Grass on the hillside is green just how she like it; not all yellow, not all brownish purple like grass past the base of the mountain.

Them grasses, them yellow and purple grasses, make Esmè think on her old mama, who yell and slap and bite and kick at her. Only good thing Old Mama ever done for Esmè, she done let Esmè know just how ugly Esmè is. Ugly enough to stop her wind-up watch, say Old Mama. Ugly enough to stop a train, like train what done stopped on other side of the mountain when them bio-bombs fell so close, sent that train bucking like nasty old three-headed milk cow so it buck right off its track and into the gully.

Of course, that train done crashed long before Esmè was born. That train done crashed without Esmè ever having seen a train a-go full of people, with all them people’s pretty jewelries and pretty clothes, and them pretty little babies bouncing on they’s laps. No, Esmè never seen a train a-go, but she sometimes climb down into the gully, ignore bruised grass and glowing sludge, and she play in that wrecked train what now filled so full with all them clean, clean bones, and she think how pretty all them ladies and gentlemens must’ve been; so pretty that if ugly Esmè lived back then they would’ve chased her off with sticks like Old Mama done when she got so sick-and-tired of looking at Esmè all day long. That’s what Old Mama done told her: I’m so sick-and-tired of your ugly face. Now get gone, girl. Go try the other side of the mountain. (Continue Reading…)