One of my favorite ways to consume short stories (besides toasting them lightly in the oven) is via podcast. I can listen to a story when reading is impossible or not advisable. I'm not brave enough to bring my Nook into the bath, but I love to hear a great voice talent spin the story out for me, the speaker safely away from the water.
Thus, every second week of the month I'll give a shout out to my favorite short fiction podcasts in addition to the best short reads of the week.
Makeisha in Time by Rachael K. Jones | Crossed Genres
Makeisha has always been able to bend the fourth dimension, though no one believes her. She has been a soldier, a sheriff, a pilot, a prophet, a poet, a ninja, a nun, a conductor (of trains and symphonies), a cordwainer, a comedian, a carpetbagger, a troubadour, a queen, and a receptionist. She has shot arrows, guns, and cannons. She speaks an extinct Ethiopian dialect with a perfect accent. She knows a recipe for mead that is measured in aurochs horns, and with a katana, she is deadly.
Her jumps happen intermittently. She will be yanked from the present without warning, and live a whole lifetime in the past. When she dies, she returns right back to where she left, restored to a younger age. It usually happens when she is deep in conversation with her boss, or arguing with her mother-in-law, or during a book club meeting just when it is her turn to speak. One moment, Makeisha is firmly grounded in the timeline of her birth, and the next, she is elsewhere. Elsewhen.
After I highlighted Jones' Daily Science Fiction story last week a few folks in the comments recommended this story as a good read as well. And they're right. I really enjoyed reading about Makeisha's adventures, and as a bit of a history nerd I loved the idea of a woman popping off to live whole lifetimes while also attempting to live one in the present. It calls to mind one of Star Trek: TNG's most moving and effective episodes, "The Inner Light," yet goes so far beyond that (as the best written fiction does).
The City of Wishes by Sequoia Nagamatsu | Omni Reboot
In the small apartment where he grew up, he could see his wife, Ora, getting dressed. She always fussed over the holes in her antique scarves, sewing them shut with twine. A picture of herself and Dalen, taken not long before he was called to the tower, rested on her dresser by the letter he'd left behind. It was taken on Wishing Day—not long after their son, Enoch's, third birthday. They had wished for a child for years, and had all but given up when they found themselves, at forty-six, the parents of a baby boy (I wish for a long, healthy, happy life for my son/ I wish for my family to live long enough to see the sky). Ora brushed her hair, painted her lips with the homemade dye she used for lipstick, and said something into the mirror as she always did, the same few words, the same shape of her lips, the same four seconds. Dalen spent nights thinking about what those words could be: Where are you my love? Where have you gone? What are you doing today? But what Ora said everyday was: "How could you leave us alone?"
Omni Reboot is a strange webzine—not in the sense of what they publish (though I've mixed feelings about the stories) but the whole philosophy of the project. It's part archive and memory bubbler for the great stuff that graced the pages of Omni magazine back before it folded as well as a revival of the old magazine's spirit meshed with a new wave sensibility. I could go on for a while about the zine (and may do so on my blog, if you care), though the thing i want to point out the most is that the story page is littered with moving gifs. To the point it can be distracting. And this is not he kind of story you want to be distracted from.
The tale of Dalen, watcher in the tower, is simple yet unfolds in a series of complex scenes and remembrances. I found it hard to fully engage with it at first, but the characters pulled me forward until I became firmly ensconced. I was more satisfied by the emotional resonance at the end than the plot resolution—not a bad thing, though it makes my feelings about the story a little more knotted up than just: loved this, read it.
Ellie huddled in the corner of her daughter's room. She sang a quiet lullaby and cradled her swaddled infant in her arms. Lexi was four months old, or maybe thirteen months? Ellie shook her head. There hadn't been a birthday party, and thirteen-month-olds didn't need swaddling. She tried to rearrange the swaddling blankets so they didn't cover Lexi's face, but every time she moved the blankets, all she saw underneath was another layer of blankets.
Clarkesworld's podcast, hosted by the excellent and talented Kate Baker, has many fans among io9 readers for good reason, so I urge you to subscribe and check it out. If you want a sample before adding it to your feed reader, listen to this sad and haunting story. It pulled me in from that first paragraph and even made me tear up a little at the end.
Another favorite podcast: PodCastle
What There Was to See by Maria Dahvana Headley | Subterranean Magazine
When she was small, soon after the fever, Beate had escaped the attic and climbed onto the roof, her dress ballooned out upon the splintering shingles, the cat beside her, yowling.
She'd claimed she was following someone.
Beate's eyes had returned again and again to the figure she indicated, consternation spreading across her face as she looked more or less in her father's direction, following his furious voice, then back again with great precision at someone who was not there.
"There, father," Beate said, and pointed into the air just off the roof. "She's falling now. She'll fall again in a moment."
There was nothing, no one.
This issue of Subterranean is the last one, apparently, which is a sadness. For the past eight years or so it's been host to a number of really great fiction. It goes out on a high note.
This story is based on actual historical events, and I like how Headley blends what little the historical record gives us with her own invented truths. It's an ode to the many women who have assisted in medical breakthroughs, be it by doing the research and work or being experimented on, and whose names have been erased, accomplishments and assistance reduced, voices silenced.
Read or listened to any good stories this week? Call 'em out in the comments.