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Cast of Wonders 378: Banned Books Week – Common Grounds and Various Teas


Common Grounds & Various Teas

by Sherin Nicole

Mama’s fingernails are mesmerizing. They’re black and shiny as volcanic glass but not polished. Her skin is a deeper shade than North Carolina red clay, and her hair is pulled up high in two top knots. Long dreadlocks cascade down over both her ears. If she’s older than thirty  no one can tell. Right now, I’m giving her serious side eye. She won’t stop blabbering and babbling and telling her grifter tales.

“I told that man, you cannot sell me this bucket on wheels. It’s beneath me,” she says in an accent as brown as her skin. “He didn’t like that. Now, rather than me convincing him, he’s convincing me to lower the price. ‘Til I have mercy, I take this car from him for $45 and I let him buy the beers.”

I huff and turn away from her. “Can you stop now?” I mumble.

“I could,” Mama says, like she’s sharing secrets, “but I could also be swallowed and spit back out as something flavorless.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 377: Banned Books Week – This Is Not A Ghost Story


This Is Not a Ghost Story

by V. Medina

In the darkness of her bedroom, after her mother has gone to bed and she’s supposed to have done the same, she tells stories to the ghosts. She would do more for them but they never ask for anything else and she doesn’t know what more to do. They listen, gentle whispers all around her, urging her to continue, begging her for a few more words, just a little more of her time. They crave the stories she has to offer them and even when she is young, she feels the pull of narrative against her bones.

The ghosts are kind in their need, not pushing or screaming but quietly pleading, and she was not raised to deny anyone. She is the quiet kid, the good girl, the sweetheart. She knows her role, and it doesn’t matter what she wants because everyone already knows who she is before she ever gets the chance to show them.

People look at her, see the way she moves, the white cane in her hand, the way she holds books so close to her face. They all think they know her story, even before she says a word. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 371 – Knitting in English


Knitting in English

by Brit E. B. Hvide

Looping the thread over her needle, Kari caught the sun in her knit. It was an old spell: warmth trapped in rows of neatly patterned wool to stave off the winter wind. The first spell her pappa taught her. The only one she knew.

Ironically, the spell was supposed to be easier to cast here at the equator, but more useless for the same reason: the sun was strong enough. She let a long leg dip into the pool, imagining the chill of it as snow. At fourteen, she’d never seen winter outside of the movies. Above her, a gap in the tall tembusus and rain trees showed a clear blue sky with rain clouds off to the east. The cicadas chirped, their call vibrating against her skin, comforting as an old blanket. The rainforest was always full of noises. Silence didn’t suit her.

Kari bit her tongue and focused on the yarn in front of her: knit, perl, knit, perl. She wasn’t good enough yet to try anything more complicated than a seed pattern, still dropping stitches and backtracking to pick them up again. But it was a start. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 368 – If Only a Word for All Things


If Only a Word for All Things

by Jameyanne Fuller

I hunched my shoulders and leaned closer to the automatic ticket machine. I punched in the date and time with tense fingers, chose the train I wanted, and stuffed some crumpled Euros into the slot. At any moment a carabiniere would take one look at me, know I was somewhere I shouldn’t be, and march me right onto the train back to Assisi. But I wasn’t running away, not really. I was going to Paris to find Maman and bring her home. We needed her home. Her and her magic words. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 365: Blame it on the Bees


Blame it on the Bees

by Rachel Menard

I can’t find it. Digging through my drawer, shoving aside patchy band shirts and pilled hoodies, I feel for the soft fabric of one, very important Sex Pistols tank top. My fingers hit the base of the drawer. No shirt.

Maybe it’s in my bed.

For the first few weeks, I slept with it wrapped around my pillow, cheek pressed to the chipping paint on the logo. That was when it still smelled like Haley, like strawberries and her baby powder deodorant. When I closed my eyes, I could see her in it, the way the soft cotton hugged her body. She’d left it here because we’d gotten caught in the rain on the way home from the skate park. I’d slid it off her wet skin, around her draping curls of strawberry blonde hair, and kissed the lingering rain drops on her shoulders. She tasted like salt and cool rain.

A pain hits me in the gut. I need that shirt. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 362: Hare’s Breath

Show Notes

This episode is part of our 2019 Summer Spotlight, showcasing the work of the year’s major award finalists.

Shimmer is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine.


Many thanks to Shimmer for the use of their issue cover art for this episode.


Sweden Admit to Racial Purification (from The Independent)

“The so-called sterilization laws were instituted by the Swedish parliament in 1934 and 1941. Both allowed sterilization without consent under certain conditions. The reasons (indications) to perform sterilizations were threefold: eugenics (race/genetic hygiene), social and medical. Of the total number of sterilized individuals, 93 percent were women.”

From the report “Steriliseringsfrågan i Sverige 1935 – 1975” / “The issue of sterilization in Sweden 1935–1975,” issued by Socialdepartementet / Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Sweden, March 2000.


Hare’s Breath

by Maria Haskins

1947, Västerbotten, Sweden

It’s Midsummer’s Eve and even this close to midnight there’s no darkness, only a long, translucent dusk that will eventually slip into dawn.

Britt and I are fifteen, and she has just come back from That Place, the one the adults won’t talk about even when they think I’m not listening. Something’s happened to her there, but I don’t understand what it is, and she can’t find the words to tell me. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 359: Tiger, Tiger


Tiger, Tiger

By Drea Silvertooth

Echo had always thought that when the world ended, she’d either be running with a motley band of survivors or instantly vaporized. Not a single book, show or movie had prepared her for being apocalypse adjacent.

In the Tropical Asia building, protected by thick glass walls and a ventilation system designed to keep air warm in the winter and sticky in the summer, she hid with her animals. Warty pigs snuffled through the decorative undergrowth, a siamang family sung like sirens in the canopy overhead, and the Malayan tapir and small-clawed otters had taken residence around the cement-bottomed stream that wound through the exhibit. There was still no sign of the sloth bear or the orangutans. Echo wondered if, while she’d been lying face down in the public restroom fighting for consciousness, they might have been evacuated. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 357: Little Wonders 21 – 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runners-Up


Grounded

by J. T. Nilson

 

“I can’t,” Sophie sulked. “I stayed out past curfew last week and I’m not allowed to go out.”

“But the gnome army marches onward!” cried Aithne, flitting in circles within Sophie’s window frame, her glowing wings a hummingbird-like blur. “The pixie tribes need our human champion to bring forth the magic. We must triumph!” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 353: Artemis Rising 5 – With Cardamom I’ll Bind Their Lips


With Cardamom I’ll Bind Their Lips

by Beth Cato

In the spring after the war’s end, the soldiers’ spirits began to wander home, and Lady Magdalena bound their lips with cardamom so that they could not speak. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 345: Staff Picks 2018 – Pocosin

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders highlights some of our favorite episodes from the previous year. It’s a great chance for us to take a bit of a breather, and let you, our listeners, catch up on any missed back episodes with new commentary from a different member of the crew.

Today’s episode is hosted by assistant editor Alexis Goble.


Pocosin

by Ursula Vernon

This is the place of the carnivores, the pool ringed with sundews and the fat funnels of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the ground never dries out and the loblolly pines grow stunted, where the soil is poor and the plants turn to other means of feeding themselves.

This is the place where the hairstreak butterflies flow sleekly through the air and you can hear insect feet drumming inside the bowl of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the old god came to die. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 343: Staff Picks 2018 – Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders highlights some of our favorite episodes from the previous year. It’s a great chance for us to take a bit of a breather, and let you, our listeners, catch up on any missed back episodes with new commentary from a different member of the crew.

Today’s episode is hosted by associate editor Shawn Proctor.


Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse

by Shane Halbach

1. We didn’t prepare multiple contingencies

When Sunil and I made our plan, we always thought it would be zombies. I mean, we literally imagined nothing else. It just made sense.

Now that I think about it, there are tons of other ways the world could end: aliens from space, nuclear war, some kind of non-zombie disease, maybe nanobots or something. But even then, I wouldn’t have thought of portals to other worlds. I mean, I literally could not have imagined it. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 339: Staff Picks 2018 – The Penelope Qingdom

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders highlights some of our favorite episodes from the previous year. It’s a great chance for us to take a bit of a breather, and let you, our listeners, catch up on any missed back episodes with new commentary from a different member of the crew.

Today’s episode is hosted by associate editor Amy Brennan.


The Penelope Qingdom

by Aidan Moher

It was during the particularly frozen-solid Prince George winter of ’91, a few days after the new neighbours had arrived, that I first stumbled into the Penelope Qingdom. (Continue Reading…)