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Short Story Podcast Reviews: November 2012

November 30, 2012

Time for another installment of podcast mini-reviews! As I’ve said before, I’m doing these mini-reviews partly because I just think it is so neat that there is all of this fiction available for free, online, and that people will read it to you! For free! If you’ve got holiday traveling to do this year, I’m going to put in a plug for podcasts, which are perfect for car trips that are not long enough for a full-blown audiobook. Also good for baking cookies, wrapping presents, etc.!

Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

My reviews this time are almost all of fantasy short story podcasts from Podcastle.

Nine Fingered Maria by Hilary Moon Murphy is a story about a young boy whose mother’s allergies keep her housebound. The family has a habit of spying on the neighbors, and then a family moves in down the block with a daughter who keeps her finger in a jar and claims to be a witch. A sweet story about the cost of doing magic and the source of magical power.
Listen to it

In Ashes by Helen Keeble is a story about a young girl and her brother can only eat raw food and are not allowed in the cottage, due to the brother’s strange attraction to fire, and its deadly consequences. I liked this story a lot; it was bizarre at first but the various pieces fell perfectly into place as the story went along. I also thought the fantasy elements were a nice blend of originality and familiar fairy-tale feeling.
Listen to it | Read it

Shard of Glass by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a story of the 1960s, of a mixed-race girl whose mother steals a family heirloom – a shard of broken glass that can see memories – from her wealthy white father, and their subsequent multi-country flight from his powerful political allies. I liked just about every element of this story – the settings, the characters, the time period, the idea of the glass that can see into the past – but I didn’t think they all quite came together in the end.
Listen to it | Read it

The Dreaming Wind by Jeffrey Ford is a story of a town where once a year, a strange wind blows in, making everything surreal for a day… but one year it stops coming, and the residents of the town stop dreaming. Surrealism isn’t always my cup of tea, but I thought this was an interesting take on it, and I liked the residents’ solution.
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Bottom Feeding by Tim Pratt was one of the best stories from this batch. A guy whose brother has recently died becomes obsessed with a giant catfish living in the pond behind his house, who will only take as bait objects belonging to a person, and will return other objects. This story unavoidably reminded me of the movie Big Fish, but I still quite liked it. I thought it was being a little precious about warning us that it was going to leave things unexplained, that magic in the real world is not like magic in the stories… but at the same time, I was okay with the ambiguousness of the ending. I liked playing around with the idea that if salmon are the fish of wisdom in the ancient legends, are catfish the fish of forgetting? Or something else?
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In On the Banks of the River of Heaven by Richard Parks, the celestial herdsman lives on one bank of the River of Heaven, and his wife, the celestial weaver lives on the other. Once a year he is permitted to cross and visit her, but for the past two years, it has rained on the appointed day, and so he has been unable to form the bridge of birds. Now both husband and wife are pining, and shirking their duties, and so it falls to the otter to figure out how to stop the rain so that balance might be restored. A fun little trickster story that had the feel of a good myth, plus: otters!
Listen to it

The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change by Kij Johnson: So much fantasy depends on the idea of animals being able to speak, but if our pets and farm animals really could speak to us (the “change” of the title), would we like what they’ve got to say? How would our relationship to dogs change if we were suddenly on equal footing? This story was beautiful and sad and insightful and totally fascinating, and although it hasn’t stopped my desire to have a dog, it will for sure make me look at that dog, when I am able to adopt one, in a totally new light.
Listen to it | Read it

Captain Fantasy and the Secret Masters by Tim Pratt is a superhero story about a shapeshifter who has to impersonate the sidekick of his childhood hero, who has both the power to influence the reality of his personal surroundings, and a serious memory retention issue. This was an interesting take on the golden age of superheroes. I saw a lot of the twists coming, but I thought it tapped into some interesting emotional places.
Listen to it

The Fiddler of Bayou Teche by Delia Sherman is the story of an albino swamp girl who gets stuck in a bet with a fiddler who everyone thinks has sold his soul to the devil. The story itself was fun, and had the authentic feel of a tall tale. The reading of this one was also amazing and added to the feeling of the story.
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Daughter of Botu by Eugie Foster is the story of a rabbit whose family is dying in a drought. She prays to the rabbit god, and turns into a human and falls in love with a young lord, but that is just the beginning of her troubles. I don’t know if The Little Mermaid was a stated influence on this story, but it definitely hits a lot of similar notes. Enjoyable, but nothing that really grabbed me.
Listen to it

I’d read Castor on Troubled Waters by Rhys Hughes before, in Fast Ships, Black Sails, but it was just as fun to listen to it.
Listen to it

Foam on the Water by Cat Rambo does draw inspiration from The Little Mermaid, and is the story of two men on vacation in Thailand who find a beautiful but mute naked girl down by the water. I like Cat Rambo’s writing style, and her story ideas are always interesting, but this, like a lot of her other stories, seems too short to really build or explain much, more like sketches than stories proper.
Listen to it | Read it

One Paper Airplane Graffito Love Note by Will McIntosh is the story of a young man who falls for a young woman who won’t go to movies because she believes that scenes from her life appear in fiction. I liked the central story well enough, although there was a whole secondary bit about how in the town, poetry appeared as graffiti. It’s an interesting image, but I didn’t think the two meshed together as well as they could have.
Listen to it | Read it

Kissing Frogs by Jaye Lawrence was a good story, a take on the Frog Prince that involved the frog in question taking out a personal ad, and the unlikely respondent. This story was not particularly subtle about some things (namely, its moral and its ending), but the characters felt very human (even the one that was a frog), and I think it tapped into the truth that even outside the realm of fantasy, everyone feels a bit like a frog sometimes, and dreams of transformation so that their outside matches their inside.
Listen to it

I also listened to one podcast from Clarkesworld:
Gift of the Kites by Jim C. Hines was another one of my favorites this month. It involves a young boy whose stepfather is teaching him the art of kite-fighting when his mother dies, struck down by a sinister spectral black kite. The boy’s father reclaims custody, and tries to keep the boy away from outside influences, but the boy has an affinity with the kites that cannot be denied. While the boy’s father was somewhat of a caricature, I thought this story was very moving, and extremely well-done.
Listen to it | Read it

What about you, readers? Read or listen to any good short stories this month?

© 2012 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2012 8:38 am

    Shard of Glass and In Ashes are two of my all-tim favorites from Podcastle. I think everyone should be listening to Podcastle, even people who don’t really care for fantasy. Their stories are wonderful and wonderfully done. People who don’t really care for fantasy should just pretend that the stories are really mythological. ;-)

    I notice no Sir Hereward stories. Are you not a fan of Sir Hereward?

    • November 30, 2012 12:22 pm

      I’ve been listening to these in order, so I just haven’t gotten to any yet! I’ve read one, in Fast Ships, Black Sails, and liked it.

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