Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

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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 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 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 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 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 298: Pocosin

Show Notes

From the author: Pocosins are a type of raised peat wetland found almost exclusively in the Carolinas. The name derives from an Eastern Algonquian word meaning “swamp on a hill.” They are a rare and unique ecosystem, today widely threatened by development.


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 297: Artemis Rising 4 – Where You Get Your Ideas

Show Notes

Cast of Wonders is proud to present the fourth annual Artemis Rising event through March 2018! We have four original stories for you this year, guest-edited by assistant editor Katherine Inskip and associate editor Alexis Goble. This year’s artwork by Geneva Barton.

Artemis Rising is an annual month-long event across all four Escape Artists podcasts, celebrating the voices of women, non-binary, trans, and marginalized gendered authors in genre fiction. The resulting lineup is an incredible collection that celebrates the strength, ingenuity, and brilliance of the artists, the characters they create, and the performers that bring these stories to life. It also features the hosting, editing and production talents of a rotating cast. Part of the project’s mission is to give opportunities and experience in these publication roles traditionally held by men.

Don’t miss the full month of Artemis Rising stories across the Escape Artists podcasts!


Where You Get Your Ideas

by Megan Lee Beals

Bells chimed in the empty storefront that waited for us at the top of the stairs. The boss closed her eyes and tilted her head to assess their tone.

“Iron, pitched low, minimal tuning. It’s probably high fantasy up there.”

I shrugged over the collection of banshee skulls I was cleaning for a future wind-chime. “Cool.” I was her subordinate, and the fantasy upstairs would need a young apprentice to cast aside before she could make a grand entrance as some wizened old shopkeeper.

Were it the eerie insectoid hum of space-opera, I’d answer as the rookie, but the roles are pretty much the same. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 294: Artemis Rising 4 – Earn Your Breath

Show Notes

Cast of Wonders is proud to present the fourth annual Artemis Rising event through March 2018! We have four original stories for you this year, guest-edited by assistant editor Katherine Inskip and associate editor Alexis Goble. This year’s artwork by Geneva Barton.

Artemis Rising is an annual month-long event across all four Escape Artists podcasts, celebrating the voices of women, non-binary, trans, and marginalized gendered authors in genre fiction. The resulting lineup is an incredible collection that celebrates the strength, ingenuity, and brilliance of the artists, the characters they create, and the performers that bring these stories to life. It also features the hosting, editing and production talents of a rotating cast. Part of the project’s mission is to give opportunities and experience in these publication roles traditionally held by men.

Don’t miss the full month of Artemis Rising stories across the Escape Artists podcasts!


Earn Your Breath

by Jaime O. Mayer

Liith had fought the Snake Island raiders every summer since her fifteenth year and had yet to taste defeat. She had dueled the boat-men of the north with their fish-belly white skin and won the pair of metal knives envied by many a man in her village. Yet, it was the sight of the latch on the cookshack door that filled her with dread. Gray Stone’s village elders said fate could not be changed, and she would rather die than prove them right. But each passing day brought her twentieth year closer, and her throat remained bare of a breath mark. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 292: Little Wonders 17 – True Selves

Show Notes

February is Women in Horror Month, an international initiative which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Check out the hashtag WiHM9 for plenty of suggestions. Or if you have the stomach for stronger fair, our sister show PseudoPod.

You can find all our own Women in Horror episodes here!


Silver Things

by Dagny Paul

The first time Leah turned into a fish, she had been small, maybe four, and she’d been sitting with her daddy on the rock that overlooked the lake. He had turned to her with his stubbled smile and his bright blue eyes and asked her if she’d wanted to dive. She didn’t know how to swim, she’d said, and he had said that’s okay, sweetheart, because we’ll be fish.

He’d stripped off his shirt and pulled her to her little feet, and before she’d even had time to think about it they had jumped. She’d never hesitated, never worried. He had never let her down.

Until now. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 291: If Only Kissing Made it So

Show Notes

PodCastle wants you to nominate your favs! We’re asking fans and frequent listeners of the podcast to nominate up to five of your favorite-ever PodCastle episodes. These nominations will be used to create a “Best of PodCastle” ballot so everyone can vote for their favorites in the final round, starting on February 14th. The top five PodCastle episodes, as voted by fans, will be featured in a special later this year!

Nominations will close at 11:59 p.m. PST on February 13. What are you waiting for? Get nominating!


The Hugo Awards have these things they call nominations tallys but they are commonly referred to as The Long Lists. These include the top fifteen nominees, and show who just missed making the finals. For example, Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Mothership Zeta all made the long list last year for Semiprozine.

One of the great values of these long lists is that it allows readers even more excellent works to add to their “to read” pile. David Steffen has worked to make mining those lists significantly more convenient for you. For the third year in a row, David has published a volume of The Long List Anthology. In this most recent version are included works from names familiar to fans of Escape Artists. Lavie Tidhar, Ursula Vernon, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Ken Liu, among a host of amazing others.

Want to know what sort of story makes it to this anthology? Go listen to episode 607 of Escape Pod and catch Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo. Been procrastinating picking up Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw or Run Time by Escape Pod’s S.B. Divya? This anthology will assuage your guilt. You can find The Long List Anthology Volume 3 at all the usual purveyors of books. If you’re already the proud owner of this book, become a subscribing supporter of Diabolical Plots which is also edited by David Steffen. Subscribing there puts you in line early for not only the ebooks of the original stories published in Diabolical Plots, but also gets you in line early for The Long List Anthology Volume 4. Go support this fantastically creative human being.


If Only Kissing Made It So

by Jason Kimble

This afternoon, the boy I’ve had a crush on for years told me two things: he loves me, and he’s a time traveler. I’m not sure if I feel crazier believing the first or the second.


If I’d known Lucas Medina had rung the doorbell, I would have thrown on a good shirt. At the very least, I would have dumped my snack in the garbage. Instead, I opened the door wearing a stained Atari T and sucking on a bright green ring pop, and instantly wanted a do over. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 290: Everything You Have Seen

Show Notes

February is Women in Horror Month, an international initiative which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Check out the hashtag WiHM9 for plenty of suggestions. Or if you have the stomach for stronger fair, our sister show PseudoPod.

You can find all our own Women in Horror episodes here!


Everything You Have Seen

by Alisa Alering

I went outside to get away from Chung-hee.

The snow in the courtyard was coming down in thick flakes, making that special kind of silence like the whole world has been wrapped in a cotton bojagi cloth and put away for the night. I thought at first that the guns had stopped. Then a flash lit the sky over our empty chicken coop. The boom traveled through the snowy ground, up my legs and spine and into my skull. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 288: Staff Picks 2017 – Lost in Translation

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge, plan the year ahead and highlight some of our favorite episodes. Throughout the month, different members of the Cast of Wonders crew will present their favorite story of 2017.

This week’s episode is hosted by assistant editor Katherine Inskip.


Lost in Translation

by Afalstein Kloosterman

“It turns out,” said the High Ecclesiarch of the Writ, “that when the prophecy says ‘the hero’s body shall stand resilient against the flame,’ a more accurate translation would be ‘resistant against the flame.’”  He gave a pained grimace.  “Ancient Nearnoxian can be… ambiguous, at times.”

Phillip Stalford, Hero of Nearnox, Chosen One of the Golden Age, Bastion of Chastity and Valor, Banisher of the Dark Torch, V’lthaern d’Sng’ssn, and Paladin of the Holy Writ blinked back from within the mass of bandages that healer Ziva was carefully tending to.  “Oh.”  He said.  “Well, I suppose that’s better than finding out I hadn’t been ‘pure of heart’ enough.   Or that the Great Scriptor had taken a dislike to me.”

(Continue Reading…)