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Cast of Wonders 526: La Puerta (Staff Picks 2022)


La Puerta

by Ren Braueri

La puerta siempre estaba abierta. Just in case Javier ever came back.

But let me not begin there, because…if I started there – I’d have to tell you how it was all my fault. Instead, let me start with the day Papá brought La Puerta home. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 525: And I Will Make Thy Name Great (Staff Picks 2022)


And I Will Make Thy Name Great

by Louis Evans

Abraham, the potter’s son, was sweeping out the workshop late one night, the air hot, the sweat beading on his brow, the kiln still radiating the baking heat it had absorbed over the course of the day.

This was when he heard the voice.

“Boy!”

Abraham looked around.

No source of the voice was apparent. No person had stepped into the shed, nor were the flames of a djinn visible. Four copies of the idol of Suen, god of the moon and chief among gods, were cooling on the shelf opposite the kiln, and sometimes Suen spoke to believers, but the idols were not yet consecrated and certainly could not host the presence of the god. No raven perched in the workshop’s eaves, croaking out an imitation of speech. Abraham was baffled. (Continue Reading…)

Submissions Update


General Submissions: We’re currently ~80% through Stage 1 for our November general submissions, and hope to be making Stage 2 decisions in early February.

Seasonal/Holiday submissions: We’ll be opening to submissions again in the first half of February, seasonal/holiday submissions. This is to cover Halloween 2023, Christmas/Winter Holidays 2023, and any other special event that you have a story that you think would be a good fit for!

Full guidelines are here: https://www.castofwonders.org/submissions/

We look forward to reading your stories!

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Cast of Wonders 524: Forbidden Voices (Staff Picks 2022)


Forbidden Voices

by E.J. Delaney

The package isn’t for me.

Perfectly wrapped, it sits there in its velvet carry box–like a war medal or engagement ring–even its protective layers cushioned against damage. Inside, there lies the holy grail: gold leaf copyright.

And it’s for someone else.

Klent and I are parked in the Primăverii quarter, humble servants to the Haves of this world. Have-Not Couriers, they should call us. Minions to the Upper Crust. None of this Prompt and Personal business.

The rest of Bucharest seems a world away. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 523: A Full Set of Specials (Staff Picks 2022)


A Full Set of Specials

by Marguerite Sheffer

I’m not used to holding strangers’ hands, the way Miss Tina is. I don’t like how they go all soft and strange in mine, all vulnerable. Like anyone can walk in the door, their hands in any state, and they just let you touch them. The sharp tang of the remover is everywhere, not covered by the fake floral-smelling lotions at all, just blown around by the hum of the little drying fans. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 522: Ysarin (Staff Picks 2022)


Ysarin

by Simon Pan

On days when I came home crying, my grandmother was always there with her song.

It was a tune friendly and old as the roads that crossed Mazael: the sort you shared while you watched the land roll away on horseback, or sitting at a moonlit fireside among familiar faces. I would lean against my grandmother on our rickety porch and breathe in her scent as she sang to the street.

Magic lay in that song, the notes so delicate you could tell a story about each one. As the beginning strands of music twined together, I would be transported to a place that let me forget the ache in my chest, a city of an entirely different skin than our Lenniel. A place of worn streets and thatched roofs wrapped in the smell of woodsmoke and fresh ale. A sunset, a fire, the sky on fire and the streets ablaze with torchlight.

“This is our song, dear,” she would say as she smiled down at me. “Don’t listen to the other children. We will always have our home with us…” Her fingers would press against my chest just above my heart. Somehow she knew the exact place where her spell took root. “Here.”

Even after so many years, that is how I think of home. Sitting there on that porch with the wind stealing my tears and carrying away the sound of magic. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 521: Wind Settles in the Bones (Staff Picks 2022)


Wind Settles in the Bones

by Stephen Granade

Syn hated pre-race press conferences. Instead of mentally preparing for competition, she had to smile and answer every media outlet’s repetitive questions. Timm Yancy with One AU especially frustrated her. He unfailingly asked inane human-interest questions like “what did you have for breakfast this morning?” (a magnetocarbonate shake so she could sense magnetic fields, followed by protein-rich cricket bars for the nausea, same as every race day) and “is that a new haircut?” (as if it would be seen under her spacesuit helmet). But Syn hadn’t become the third-ranked solar wind racer by putting off unpleasant tasks, so she called on him first. And that was how Syn learned that her dad had died.

Syn’s teeth ached and her ears hummed from the cameras floating in front of her. Their magnetic fields were a hundred times stronger than the solar wind’s, and the magnetocarbonate made her bones thrum like bass strings plucked too hard. Then Syn realized how long she’d been silent, gaping at Timm. Her media training took over. She offered a sad smile calibrated just so. “It’s hard, but I know he’d want me to focus on the race.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 520: Shrine to the Ink Goddess (Staff Picks 2022)


Shrine to the Ink Goddess

by Monte Lin

Dana Liu took her weekly ten-minute walk to what she called the Shrine to the Ink Goddess. Stepping through the copse of trees that separated the apartment complex and the storm channel, she arrived at a large, hollowed-out eucalyptus tree, split into three parts ages ago from a lightning bolt. She ducked down and sat in the middle, placing an empty inkstone next to her, and took out a beat-up metal food container with a warm zòngzi, the twine still tightly wrapped around the bamboo leaves. With her multi-tool, she snapped the knife through the twine, unfurling the leaves. She grimaced at the soggy bottom (microwaving never seemed to heat them right).

“Ahem. You know you shouldn’t be here, Dana.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 519: Far From the Home I Love (Staff Picks 2022)


Far From The Home I Love

by Y.M. Resnik

“Let me get this straight. You were born on Earth, but your passport is Venusian?”

The condescension seeps through the plexiglass barrier separating me from the visa agent. It blankets me in icy disdain. Chides me for having the chutzpah to think that returning home could be easy.

I nod in the affirmative, trying to still my shaking hands as I retrieve the required documents out of my bag. I’ve followed the instructions meticulously, right down to bringing everything in triplicate. Ari helped me prepare the application. They’ve always been more detail oriented than I am.

The electronic Siddur in my bag grazes my fingers, reminding me why I am here. I pull it out and clutch the worn synthetic leather carrying-case to my chest as the agent shuffles through the paperwork. I am half tempted to recite one of the prayers found inside, but decide against it. What if the visa agent flags it as suspicious behavior? There aren’t many religious Jews on Venus. Ari and I probably make up a quarter of that population.

“Do you at least have your expired passport?” The agent is fumbling now, casting her eyes about frantically as if searching for the lost passport. Well, she can search until the Messiah comes. She won’t find anything. I didn’t have a passport when I fled. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 518: Simons, Far and Near (Staff Picks 2022)


Simons, Far and Near

by Ana Gardner

Days after a solar hurricane fried Western Europe, nations across the world gathered their brightest grade-schoolers, and they launched us into space with promises of glory and cake.

Solar storms were worsening ahead of schedule, said government men in wrinkled suits, as they pulled us from our underground shelters and stuffed us into armored tanks. The exodus ships, forced to launch early, weren’t ready to sustain endless space travel. They’d need places to land, shelters for their thousands of passengers, far from our ever-deadlier sun.

And someone had to travel on ahead and build those shelters.

Fortunately, we learned as we marched up the launch ramp, Earth had a few shuttles ready for immediate departure. Sure, they had poor radiation shields and leaky engines, but wouldn’t you know it? Shuttle travel damaged the body worst after puberty. Kids had great odds of surviving a trip across the solar system.

‘Great odds’—those were the words they used, and they loaded us into hastily-cobbled ships and chucked us from burning Earth like spores from a coughing fungus. (Continue Reading…)

Cast of Wonders Flash Fiction Contest


We’re now in the last few days of voting in the final round of our flash fiction contest, and the competition is fierce!
If you’re a forum member, you can read and vote on the finalists here (and if you’re not a forum member, why not join up, introduce yourself, and join in on the fun?).

The three winning stories will be published here in early 2023!

Introducing our new assistant editors!


Stagehands Assemble!

There’ve been some changes backstage in the last month, and two of our very talented and hard-working staff members have stepped up to join the editorial team at Cast of Wonders. Cup Jacob and Alicia Caporaso have both shown their skills as associate editors in the slushpile; their careful and supportive critiques and advice have helped shape many of our published pieces, and helped the team provide what we hope are useful and fair rejection letters. They’ve got to grips with all the nuts and bolts of the production process, and have taken the lead on several smaller submission windows. Now, it’s time to give them a moment in the spotlight to introduce themselves in their own words.


First up is Alicia Caporaso, who has been with the team for the last five years.

Hello! My name is Alicia Caporaso, and I am so happy to take on the role of Assistant Editor at Cast of Wonders. I first learned about Escape Artists around 2008 through listening to the French-language Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast Utopod, which, on Science Fiction blogs, was repeatedly and favorably compared to EscapePod. I had to check it out, and have been listening to EscapePod, Podcastle, PseudoPod, and Cast of Wonders ever since (that’s a lot of stories!). I was one of the winners of the first Podcastle Flash Fiction Contest in 2010 with my story The Water Sprite, and I still have my original Podcastle t-shirt that I won! In 2017 I applied to be an Associate Editor with Cast of Wonders and have loved every minute of reading stories submitted to us. I was honored to guest edit Banned Books Week 2022, which gave me an excellent introduction to the behind-the-scenes process of editing our podcast. I am blown away by the diversity and creativity of our authors. We have a true community of storytellers here.

I am a marine archaeologist with undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Engineering, a Master’s degree in Anthropology, and a Ph.D. in Oceanography (I love it when authors incorporate science into stories!). I work as a marine scientist for the U.S. federal government in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. My office is in New Orleans, but I work from Minnesota (yay remote work!). My two little Louisiana Swamp Monsters – they look like dogs, but you know – just experienced their first snow, and I can’t say that they like it yet. We are looking forward to getting to know the speculative fiction community here and I can’t wait to go to my first CONvergence!


And here’s Cup Jacob, with his thoughts about YA fiction and working with Cast of Wonders.

Young Adult Fiction is some of the most impactful literature because we read them at the age we started reading for ourselves. By this I mean we chose to read these stories instead of having an adult decide what we might like.

I wasn’t the nicest of kids and I would get into a lot of trouble in grade school. Detention where I went to school meant having our play hours replaced with library time. And I loved it! I started with the encyclopedias, then I discovered our school’s huge collection of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Three Investigators Mysteries. I eventually started going to the library outside of detention hours.

Soon after, I discovered the used book stores and with my student allowance savings I discovered Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, while high school literature classes introduced Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s This Earth of Mankind and Ceres Alabado’s Kangkong 1896.

For some condescending reason, many adults consider young adult literature as easy reading. I don’t see anything wrong with that. This ease in reading is often achieved by a musicality of language and a tightness of structure that many so-called adult stories aspire for. It harkens back to our early civilizations where stories are oral, they are recited to an audience, and they provoke conversation after, building community.

Nowadays, I am often stuck doing things I would rather not be doing and podcasts have helped make those times worth living. It seems that long commute hours and chores have replaced detention of my childhood, while podcasts like Cast of Wonders make these hours not just liveable but wonderful.

I look forward to more stories with you.