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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 474: Little Free Library

Show Notes

“Little Free Library® is a registered trademark of Little Free Library LTD, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.”


Little Free Library

by Naomi Kritzer

Meigan built her Little Free Library from a kit, because she wanted to make it into art. She sanded the wood and painted it with primer, then glued on the rocks she’d picked up from the Lake Superior shore over the summer and used acrylics to paint indigo swirls around them. When she mounted it on the post outside her St. Paul house, she decided to paint the post, too, and painted a fuchsia road, winding around the post to the box at the top, and outlined the road in smaller pebbles. There was a little bit of glitter in the fuchsia craft paint, and she decided that the book cabinet should have some of that, as well. Finally she screwed on the sign that said “Little Free Library” with the instructions: take a book, return a book. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 473: IF Trans THEN Mogrify


IF trans THEN mogrify

by Hailey Piper

Rosalyn almost has the ladies’ room to herself when an intrusive hand jams the stall’s doorway, nails painted a dull red. The diner’s restroom has three stalls, the other two being empty, and Rosalyn hasn’t heard this stranger try either neighboring door.

“Privacy, please,” she says.

But the insistent hand shoves the stall open anyway. A scowling, middle-aged woman in blue jeans and a pale yellow coat fills the doorway, someone Rosalyn doesn’t know, and yet the look on this stranger’s face and the words out of her mouth have reared their ugliness more than once before.

“Excuse me, but I think you meant to go across the hall,” the woman says. She points at the ladies’ room door. “You know, the other restroom?” (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…)

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Cast of Wonders 471: The Storyteller’s Wife


The Storyteller’s Wife

by Eugie Foster

Janie Harper felt strange driving home with the sun so high, the tawny-gold of noon instead of the cool, buttery silver of early evening. Ten years of nine-to-five drudgery, lost weekends sacrificed to project deadlines, corporate double-speak, and mind-numbing boredom. All gone.

She’d hated her job, hated her days spent watching the clock and wishing the hours of her life would speed away while she was trapped in her cubicle. But even with three months to prepare for this day, her last one, the morning had passed in a surreal haze punctuated by queasiness and a peculiar chill, like her stomach was lined with ice. She remembered nestling the glass-framed photograph of Tom, her husband, into the box the secretary had provided for her personal effects, but not carrying it to her car. And she couldn’t remember driving out of the concrete monolith of the parking garage, or if she’d obeyed the speed limit in the school zone, or even if she’d fastened her seatbelt.

At least her supervisor had known about Tom, about their situation, and had taken Janie aside before the pink slips went out. Janie, through her upset, had remembered to be grateful. She had needed the head start to make arrangements, to prepare herself and Tom for the now-uncertain future. But even three extra months hadn’t been enough time. No one was hiring: not for secretarial positions, not for retail associates, nor food service, and certainly not mainframe programmers who needed full health benefits. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 469: What If We Remembered?


What If We Remembered?

by Amadin Ogbewe

“Osi, my boy, you’ve got it all wrong. Magic is simply physics with a soul,” Epa Osadolor said to his audience of one, gesturing dramatically, his eyes wide.

Osi’s eyes and mouth were just as wide, his little face frozen in anticipation. His breath stilled. He knew better than to interrupt Epa Osadolor in the middle of a lesson, but found he couldn’t help himself.

“What is Physics?” he asked, unable to hold back.

“Oh, yes, I suppose it’s still elementary science to you,” Epa Osadolor said, snapping abruptly out of character. He scratched his puffy beard as he looked at the boy.

“How best to explain this?” he pondered aloud. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 468: On the Tip of Her Tongue


On the Tip of Her Tongue

by Ember Randall

The days when new books arrived were Aquila’s favorite. Watching them rustle as she welcomed them, hearing their excitement and calming their fears. It was the best part of her job as Archivist of the Library of Gaia.

Tonight, she had almost two score new arrivals, all arrayed in a half-circle in front of the pool dominating the atrium. Their pages glowed under the light of the massive crystal light-globe resting in that pool. Mutters written in the smell of ink and the susurration of parchment rose from them, curious and nervous—Aquila, though not fluent in the language of books, could understand that much.

She ran her fingers over her communicator, a fine piece of parchment stretched inside a wooden frame. The copper backing it sparked as library magic filled it with words and symbols for her to choose from, and her fingers danced. “Welcome, all of you,” the communicator declared in a lilting voice. “I’m…”

The parchment went blank. A split second later, the light-globe in the pool flickered out, plunging the room into darkness. Moonlight poured in from the skylight above, turning the shallow pool silver, but its light couldn’t banish the shadows stretching out from the rows of bookshelves lining the walls. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 467: They Shall Find Home Once More


They Shall Find Home Once More

by Chelsea Obodoechina

The body is hidden beneath the yam plants. I did not see him the first couple of hours I toiled in the field, reaping the potatoes and cassava while watering the rest. I hesitated to draw near the yam plants, knowing they were slowly rotting in the ground, the once fertile soil growing black and knotted and putrid. The other farmers till the fields around this patch of land because to touch it would mean certain death. Many of us have been lost because of it.

I skim the sick land to uproot vegetables whose roots may have been poisoned. That is when I come across the boy. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 464: Cats of Fortune


Cats of Fortune

by Ivy Grimes

When I was a little girl, I thought Aunt Dee had everything. She had her own trailer, a video game console and six games, dozens of heavy pink-and-purple necklaces, and a yard full of cats. Ten, to be exact. They were all different colors, like the shoes in a rich woman’s closet, and they drank water from the birdbath and ate kibble from old pie tins. Best of all, Dee had a secret she shared only with me—the cats were lucky. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 462: Straw-Spun


Straw Spun

by Leah Cypess

‭Alina unfolded the letter slowly and with great care:‭ ‬it was very old,‭ ‬and‭ ‬felt thin and fragile under her steady fingertips.‭ ‬Her heart was pounding in a way unfamiliar to her,‭ ‬and not just because of the whispers she had heard on the way to the throne room:‭ ‬gold to straw from two passing courtiers,‭ ‬the end of‭ ‬the peace from a duke to a lady,‭ ‬Rumpelstiltskin‭ – ‬she hadn’t turned fast enough to see who’d said that.

She had come to the‭ ‬sitting room to ask her father about the whispers,‭ ‬but‭ ‬before she could say a word,‭ ‬he had handed her the letter.‭ ‬She smoothed out the last fold and‭ ‬focused on the ornate,‭ ‬flowing script‭ ‬so similar to her own.

The king was watching her.‭ ‬She‭ ‬composed her face and read. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 460: More Than One Zodiac in High School


More Than One Zodiac in High School

by Eliza Chan

“You were supposed to be a boy,” Amy’s mum said, attacking the raw duck with a cleaver. “The fortune teller said it was guaranteed. Aiyah, even then you don’t listen to your parents.” She tossed one half into an oven dish with a dash of salt, star anise, and cloves. Rice wine and soy sauce were massaged into the skin. And all the while, the other half was being surreptitiously dragged off the countertop by Amy’s dragon.

Her mum pushed the huge beast out of the way. “And born in the year of the dragon! Okay for a boy, but for a girl… no husband will want you! Too much fire to bear sons and every meal will be burned.” She clucked, exactly like her chicken spirit: tutting, fussing, and happiest when she had something to worry about. (Continue Reading…)

10th birthday image

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Cast of Wonders 459: Ten Years of Wonder


With so many episodes to choose from, how can we possibly decide on what to pick as our birthday encore story?

Marguerite’s favourite episode of all time is Kulturkampf by Anatoly Belilovsky, narrated by Hans Fenstermacher – we released this as an encore story, in episode 360.

Mine — at least this week — is episode 381, The Lie Misses You by John Wiswell, narrated by Athena Haq.

Jeremy, our long-suffering audio producer, would choose the marvellous Why I Spared the One Brave Soul Between Me and my Undead Army, by Summer Fletcher, narrated by Katherine Inskip – this was episode 355, and a staff pick for 2019.

However, the story we’ve chosen to highlight today is our founding editor Graeme Dunlop’s selection:

(Continue Reading…)