drowning island

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Cast of Wonders 507: The Last Auction

Show Notes

Additional Editor’s note: At the time of this episode’s release, the people of Pakistan are struggling with the aftermath of devastating floods. The climate crisis affects all of us, but the brunt of the suffering is often borne by those with limited resources, and those who have contributed least to human-induced climate change.  There are many charities running appeals to provide aid for Pakistan: these are just a few: https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/pakistan-floods-appeal, https://donate.unhcr.org/int/en/pakistan-floods-emergencyhttps://give2asia.org/pakistan-flood-relief-2022/


The Last Auction

by Abhilash Jayachandra

When the last piece of land that was destined for the ocean was about ready to be swallowed by the waters, the last great auction was held.

The auction was handled by the Land Ho! Auction House (since defunct) and, as such, they were obligated to inform any and all interested parties who might want to participate. It was rumored that they had even dispatched an invite to the underwater town of New Atlantis, where the oldest of the old, those who still remembered the planet before the “Melt” and the “Submerge” still lived with their descendants. But whether the Grand Old Matriarch or any of her sisters would make an appearance or send a representative was not known. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 495: And I Will Make Thy Name Great


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…)

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Cast of Wonders 489: My Hilt Itches


My Hilt Itches

by Sydney Rivers

‘Innkeeper, another round!’ roared the Hero. Cheers of approval came from the other men at his table, dressed in pungent furs and armour. They paired copious drinking with heaped plates of roast meat. That and the body odour was enough to make me queasy.

Of course, it didn’t help that I was strapped against the Hero’s back. My jewelled sheath did little to protect me from the nauseating sounds and smells emanating from him. Regardless of his company, the Hero always ate the most, always drank the most. How I would love to teach him the meaning of moderation with some choice insults and a good knock on the head.

‘Show us Excalibur!’ yelled one of the self-professed ‘warriors’, quickly echoed by the shouts of his peers.

Standing upon the table, the Hero yanked me out of my cosy covering. I was held high, displayed for the entire inn’s enjoyment. I was really getting tired of his perpetual bragging. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 487: Let the Buyer Beware


Let the Buyer Beware

by Michelle Ann King

‘Is it done yet? Is it done, Gran? Is it?’

Willa Rafferty ignores the hopping child at her elbow and peers at the box in her hand. Its roughly printed label–Environment Expansion Kit! Need More Room? Create Extra Magical Space With This Quick And Easy Spell!–is now smeared with small, sticky fingerprints.  ‘Wait a second, Chloe, let me–’

‘I’m Evie, Gran. Is that bug supposed to be in the bucket? Shall I catch it?’

‘What? Oh.’ Willa flinches as a large, black-shelled beetle skitters past her foot. Did that come with the kit? Must’ve done. ‘Shit. I mean, yes. Get the bug, Chloe. I mean, Evie.’

The girl cups the fleeing insect between her palms and drops it into the bucket. It lands with a splash and an aggrieved-sounding hiss.

‘Are we going to set fire to it now, Gran?’

Willa hesitates. Not if there are bugs involved, surely? Aren’t there regulations about not setting bugs on fire? (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 475: Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar


Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar

by T Kingfisher

By all accounts, Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar should not have continued to operate. They were a very small operation as circuses went, they had no rides and their menagerie consisted of a single geriatric lion and a handful of obscure species, such as the Sudanese Crooning Lizards, who were obscure for a reason. Sure, Brendan the Mono-juggler could keep a single ball in the air for hours, but you got tired of watching after the first few minutes.

Lord Maggothaunch’s Carnival of the Un-Ordinary should have crushed them out of existence in the first year–indeed, that was among the lord’s stated goals–and its failure to do so was a source of intense frustration for him. Did he not have scantily clad women and a genuine, if sullen tiger? Did he not have a genuine freakshow, with real live freaks, including a pair of dubious Siamese twins and a two-headed calf in a jar?

Miss Tansybaum did not have a freakshow (at least not in the conventional sense, although the less charitable would argue that the entire operation qualified.) Instead she had Sister Rosemary’s Curious Convent. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 472: AP Practical Literary Theory Suggests This Is A Quest (Or: What Danny Did Over Spring Break)

Show Notes

The Annual Migration of Clouds is a “cli-fi” post-apocalyptic novella by author Premee Mohamed. It takes place in the distant future, after the climate crisis has entirely disrupted life as we know it, and a mysterious mind-controlling fungus has wormed its way through the scattered population. The story focuses on a choice: Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to move far away, to study in one of the few communities sustained by pre-disaster technology, but her mother is ill, and in a world where the planting season is planned down to the minute, every body counts. It’s not easy for her to leave her loved ones behind. To set her family up for life, Reid decides to take part in a foolhardy and dangerous mission. To accomplish this task, she must ask others to put great trust in her, but she can’t easily separate her own thoughts from the parasite’s will, making it difficult for her to even trust herself.

If you’re not yet familiar with Premee Mohamed, you’re sure to hear of her soon. She’s an Indo-Caribbean scientist and author based in Edmonton, Alberta, where this book is set, and a rising star in speculative fiction. Premee is a biologist and works in the field of climate science, so the depiction of Reid’s parasitic passengers is eerily plausible, and the climate disaster scenarios in the book are grounded in modern-day research predicting an all-too-likely future.

Yet there’s still hope to be found here: rather than doubling down on the hardships of life-after-technology as so many gritty apocalyptic novels do, this book’s focus is on connection and friendship, the things that bind us together. It shows the world moving forward after terrible hardships — including natural disaster and plague — and reflects upon the importance of community, our duty to take care of one another, and our collective ability to get through difficult times. In other words, it is exactly the sort of book we need right now.

 

 


AP Practical Literary Theory Suggests This Is A Quest
(Or: What Danny Did Over Spring Break)

by Isabel J. Kim

Danny died on a Tuesday which was a real bummer because he was supposed to go on a road trip on Wednesday with the gang, and if he was dead then there was no way his mom was going to be cool with him going. Instead, Danny would have to spend the next three weeks on a mythic journey to regain his life from the demons that dwell below, play dice against a three-headed chthonic judge sitting on an opalescent throne, or ask his mom for one of the GET OUT OF DEATH FREE cards she got comped from work.

And then he’d be grounded for, like, six months.

Danny spent ten minutes lying on the asphalt feeling sorry for himself. Then he sighed and picked his broken body up off of the street. He took out his phone and called the gang.

The dead don’t text. They lack the fine motor skills. Fumbling, he poked his way to a group call.

“Bad news, gang,” Danny said when his friends answered. “I’m dead.” (Continue Reading…)

Cats Cast

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CatsCast 341: Bargain


Bargain

by Sarah Gailey

Malachai loved his work. He loved wandering among the trappings of enormous wealth and influence, seeing the baubles that humans excreted to express their status. He especially loved watching those wealthy, influential mortals tremble before the might of his inescapable superiority.

Malachai worked exclusively with those humans who had found themselves at the limit of how much power they could possess. They called him to bend the rules of time and space around their whims, so that they might be even more feared and loved by the other mortals. Their desires were predictable—money, knowledge, talent, authority. These were the kinds of people who hunted down ancient parchments with the Words of Invocation inscribed upon them. These were the kinds of people who did not concern their consciences with the compensation Malachai required for his services.

They appreciated a bit of theatrical flair.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 431: Little Wonders 27 – Old Ladies


The Soup Witch’s Funeral Dinner

by Nicole LeBoeuf

One morning, late March, Sammy Tailor visited the soup witch. He hadn’t planned to. He was busy wrestling with his father’s crankiest sewing machine when the good smell from the soup witch’s cauldron yanked him out the door by his nose.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 426: The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz – Part 2


The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz (and her Exceedingly Tiny Dog)

by Alex Acks

Part 1 – Part 2

They met Elijah among the warehouses not too far from Union Station. He’d brought one of the more innocent looking railcars down from the mountains and thus was able to berth it along the public tracks. Elijah Masterson was a man of medium height and untidy habits, though today he seemed particularly untidy, perhaps because he’d been called down so abruptly. His brown hair stuck out in untamed curls and a shadow of stubble decorated his chin. He wore a rumpled brown-checked shirt, one sleeve half rolled-up, and a vest he hadn’t bothered to button, no jacket in sight.

Or, Simms thought upon a closer look at the younger man’s rather red eyes, today he wasn’t so much untidy as quite hung over. This really only served to affirm Simms’s decision to give him this task. It’d certainly keep him out of trouble.

Elijah still offered the Captain a snappy salute, after first glancing around to confirm that they were alone. “Sir, I was told you had an important task for me.”

Captain Ramos waved a hand dismissively. “Oh indeed, Mister Masterson. Simms?”

Obligingly, he held Chippy out toward Elijah. The tiny dog began to squirm, yipping excitedly at the prospect of making a new friend. “Here you go.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 425: The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz – Part 1


The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz (and her Exceedingly Tiny Dog)

by Alex Acks

It was a perfectly ordinary parlor, nicely decorated, pale lace doilies sitting atop furniture done in heavy brown and gold brocade. The general color scheme was maroon and brown, with enough pink and yellow accents to keep it all from seeming too heavy or dark. While many such parlors were given to clutter as the wealthy owners attempted to display both their taste and overflow of cash with countless bits of frilly golden bric-a-brac, this one was neat and carefully tended, enough empty space around objects to draw the eye and invite inspection without being overwhelming. It was austere and quietly dignified.

The careful effect of the decorating was, quite unfortunately, spoiled by the body majestically putrefying in the center of the rich carpet, a petite pistol with a mother-of-pearl grip still sitting in its lax hand. Even more disturbing to the serenity of the parlor was the shockingly tiny dog that stood next to the body, the white fur of its muzzle rusty with old blood. The little animal growled in what was presumably a threatening manner, though it sounded more like a teakettle burbling than anything else. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 419: Little Wonders 26: Fathers’ Day


The Last PoMatic
by Amanda Helms

Rain dripped down PoMatic!365’s chassis and occluded its camera. Running its tiny wiper over the lens, it continued the Standard Enticement Protocol.

“Step right up, folks! No visit to Blue Seas Boardwalk is complete without a customized poem from PoMatic! Love poems, haiku, sonnets, sestinas, free verse, all tailored to you, from a simple scan of your identichip! No two poems are ever the same!” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 412: Eight to the Eighth


Eight, to the Eighth

by Liam Hogan

Spider was fed up. Fed up, and upside down. She hung from a web in the darkest corner of Witch’s cottage, swinging back and forth in the most fed up manner she could fashion.

Each time she swung she scowled with all eight eyes at the torn open envelope with the Royal crest on the side table below. Witch’s gilt-edged invitation to the Palace Ball, the social spectacular of the year, had arrived that very morning.

Spider knew exactly how things would go. How the annual event always went. Witch would not, of course, RSVP. If pressed, she would say how terribly busy she was, and how she definitely hoped to make it, but she really couldn’t say for certain until much closer to the date. But she wouldn’t RSVP later on, either. Instead, Witch would turn up at the Summer Palace of the King and Queen of Freyen-Noyen, on the night of the Ball, invitation in hand, and claim she’d found herself unexpectedly free of an evening and she trusted her gracious hosts wouldn’t mind her unannounced attendance?

(Continue Reading…)