Monday, January 26, 2015

Podcastle Best of 2014 nominations

I posted last week about Pseudopod's nominations; this week, I'm sharing what I wrote on the Escape Artists forum about my nominations for Pseudopod's sister podcast, the fantasy-oriented Podcastle. It was another really good year for the podcast, one of my favorites, so I have quite a few honorable mentions too. I'm linking to the podcast pages, but they don't autoplay. Some were published elsewhere first and so those pages have links to their original text versions.

... [My] top pick for the year:
305: Heartless by Peadar Ó Guilín
This had a fascinating basis for the system of magic, with a well explored sociology; a strong female protagonist with the courage of her convictions, fighting to save her sister; and choices with real consequences. And the ending blew me away.

My second pick is a story that I didn't entirely understand, nor did I agree with all the protagonist's choices, but it was really powerful. 
302: Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints by Alex Dally MacFarlane
It's still in my head, like it is for [another forum member].

But Podcastle is not always heartwrenching and heavy, thank goodness! A lot of the episodes are just fun. Partly because of Alasdair's delicious delivery, partly because of the Wodehousesque worldbuilding, partly because of the charmingly not-strong protagonist, my third pick is the one story I went back and re-listened to later in the year when I needed cheering up:
322: Saving Bacon by Ann Leckie

Honorable Mentions:
328: The Old Woman With No Teeth by Patricia Russo -- great fun; I loved how the old woman kept interrupting the storyteller to make him revise the narrative.
324: Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy by Saladin Ahmed -- wonderful style and a really fresh perspective on an old tale.
320: Baba Makosh by M.K. Hobson -- Russian mythic figures during the Russian revolution, neat!
316, Giant Episode: The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham -- I loved the worldbuilding and the dialogue about the meaning of love.
315: Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy by Jim C. Hines -- fantastic fun, fighting despair, and turning weakness into strength.
307: Out of the Deep Have I Howled Unto Thee by Scott M. Roberts -- the Easter werewolf!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pseudopod Best of 2014 nominations

One of the free podcasts that I regularly listen to, Pseudopod, provides narrations of horror short stories, plus excellent, insightful intros and outros. The site's discussion forum recently called for nominations for its Best of 2014 episodes. After submitting my thoughts to the forum, I'm sharing them here, too.

Top Three:
Pseudopod 400: The Screwfly Solution by James Tiptree Jr. read by Matt Franklin, Tina Connolly, Anna Schwind, Matt Weller, Rish Outfield, Eric Luke, George Hrab & Jarus Durnett 
        (sadly feels as though it were just as plausible and terrible now, if not more so, than it probably did when originally published)
***Pseudopod 399: The Wriggling Death by Harold Gross read by Veronica Giguere
        (disgusting, disturbing, fascinating worldbuilding, and a twisted sisterly relationship -- highly memorable)
Pseudopod 418: Shadow Transit by Ferrett Steinmetz read by Marie Brennan
        (that poor mom, struggling with her reluctance and guilt as her daughter seems happy training to fight eerie doom)

Honorable Mentions:
Pseudopod 393: West Gate by Mitchell Edgeworth read by Ron Jon
        (intense snapshot of panic in flight from an unknown menace)
Pseudopod 394: Summer Girls by Caspian Gray read by Robert A.K. Gonyo
        (mixture of uncanny yet taken-for-granted floater-ghost with real-life creepiness of an entitled-feeling guy)

As for best narrators, I'm afraid I rarely think to take note of the narrator when the reading is great but the story is only good, although that does uplift the experience and makes the story itself give a better impression. All of the above readers are great, but there are many other award-worthy readers, so I guess I won't nominate in this category.

I can't think of any stories this year that were less than good! Horror isn't my usual thing, and I only came to this podcast because of listening to the siblings, Escape Pod and Podcastle; however, Pseudopod selections are always interesting and often very evocative, and the characters and their reactions to impossible, horrific situations seem very real. I value the fresh perspectives I get from these "true" stories, even if they aren't comfortable listening!

*** The three asterisks in front of Pseudopod 399 indicate that the story was a podcast original. All others are podcast narrations of stories that were originally printed elsewhere (cited on the linked pages).

James Tiptree Jr. was a pseudonym adopted by a woman to help sell her stories (since women read both genders but men are more likely to read works by men). Much of her work explored gender issues; "The Screwfly Solution," which was published in 1977 and won the Nebula Award for best novelette, certainly did this. I don't want to spoil the plot, so I won't say more about that, other than to emphasize that all the conflicts over gender issues during the past year make it seem more horribly relevant than ever.
Bonus: It's in epistolary form, which is always neat when done well. (That's why so many narrators are listed.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

That skiffy and fanty thing

Although I've been tweeting links, I haven't mentioned here on my own blog that most of my writing activities lately have been for another blog,, which covers science fiction and fantasy. So far, I've written reviews about the Z Nation TV show (and a certain loaded phrase), Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith, and Zombies & Calculus by Colin Adams. Here's my author page. 

Update, 1/17/2018:
After the skiffy and fanty website got redesigned, the above link doesn't include my old reviews, just things I wrote in 2017. Here are the individual links.

Also, here's a humorous "book review" I wrote in 2017, for the A Book By Its Cover category at skiffyandfanty, where we take a book and make up a review based solely on what we see on the cover, and what we speculate about it. I used the cover of Grady Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism as the launching point.