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Short Story Podcast Reviews: December 2012-January 2013

February 8, 2013

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! I listened to a lot of podcasts while I was moving; they were super convenient for variety in digestible pieces on the long drive and as I’ve been working to get settled.

Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

My reviews this time are almost all of fantasy short story podcasts from Podcastle, plus a few from Clarkesworld Magazine.


In A Heretic by Degrees by Marie Brennan, the king has decreed it heresy to acknowledge the existence of other worlds, but then he falls ill, and the only source of healing magic is one of those other worlds. An interesting story, with a good twist, but it mostly made me want to know more about Driftwood and the apocalypse that happened to get the counselor’s world there in the first place. Luckily, Brennan has written more stories about Driftwood, so I’ll have to check them out.
Listen to it

The Olverung by Stephen Woodworth is a sleight-of-hand artist and thief is hired to steal the king’s olverung, a rare bird with a beautiful song used to entertain the nobles. This started off like a crime caper but then went to some seriously dark (but very interesting) places.
Listen to it

The Dybbuk in the Bottle by Russell William Asplund stars a lazy farmer who wants to be a rabbi and work wonders, but instead of doing it himself, he finds a genie. However, as might have been expected, the genie is not super interested in performing his tasks, and the farmer soon finds himself in over his head. This story was a lot of fun. It’s maybe a little predictable in parts for anyone who has ever heard a “be careful what you wish for” story, but the solution to the problem was original, and the story is clever and funny.
Listen to it

I’ll Give In by Meghan McCarron involves a bored suburban housewife who starts fantasizing about the next-door neighbor… who happens to be a minotaur. I thought the story’s angle on how fantasy can intersect with mundane reality, and whether that fantasy is in our head or manifest in the world was really interesting. But it’s got some pretty explicit sex scenes, which ordinarily wouldn’t bother me, but made for uncomfortable listening with a parent in the car.
Listen to it

The Exit Sign by Ursula Pflug is a story of generations who live out their lives on separate floors of a large windowless house. Two young people from different floors find love in the stairway, but are the cultural differences too much to overcome? The more I read/listen, the more I realize that surrealism is just not my thing, and the surrealist elements of this story tested my patience enough that I can’t evaluate the actual story parts with any fairness.
Listen to it

Rapunzel by Tanith Lee is a cute retelling of the fairy tale from the prince’s point of view. I love fairy tale retellings, and this was a good one. The familiar story elements were there, but the motivation for them had just enough of a twist to be new. I thought Lee could have taken things a little bit further away from their origins, but overall I really enjoyed it.
Listen to it

The Firemen’s Fairy by Sandra McDonald is a story of a recent graduate of the firefighter’s academy, who wants to be assigned to a firehouse with one of the cool mascots, like a phoenix or a dragon… but instead he gets assigned to the house with a live-in fairy. I enjoyed this story; firefighters aren’t something I read about often, and I liked the incorporation of fantasy elements while still keeping the story pretty grounded. It was maybe a little bit longer than it needed to be, but overall worth a listen.
Listen to it

The Curandero and the Swede by Daniel Abraham was a story-within-a-story, primarily involving two stories about a Native American and an African American, and how their rage over their treatment at the hands of white people manifested itself. The individual pieces of this story were okay, and nicely American tall-tale feeling, but I didn’t really get how they went together, or how they related to the framing story, which made the whole thing feel like a bit of a muddle.
Listen to it

The Man Who Carved Skulls by Richard Parks is a story about the son of the village’s most talented skull carver, the man responsible for making sure the legacy of the village’s ancestors is remembered, and a pact made between his parents before he was born. I liked this story, primarily because it did not go in the direction I expected it to, either from the title or from the beginning of the story. The places it does go, though, pose some interesting questions about love and loyalty and promises.
Listen to it

In The Worm Within by Cat Rambo, the last human woman has to cope in a world surrounded by robots. A very short short story, but pretty effectively done. Like most of Cat Rambo’s pieces I’ve read so far, it didn’t have a plot per se, more of a character sketch, but I liked this one better than the others, even though I guessed the ending.
Listen to it | Read it

Idle Roomer by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn is the story of a maid who has cleaned the room of a long-term boarder at a boarding house. She’s never met him, but she feels like she knows him… until things in his room get even stranger than normal. This story was a nice change of pace; it was quick (23 minutes) but still got in a effective story, with some cool sci-fi elements in a believable setting.
Listen to it | Read it

A Woman’s Best Friend by Robert Reed is a take-off on It’s a Wonderful Life, in which George Bailey is sent to an alternate universe… not the one from the movie, but one slightly further into the multiverse. This story was well-done, but I am embarrassingly not that familiar with It’s a Wonderful Life (I’ve seen it, but only once), so I feel like I was maybe not the target audience.
Listen to it | Read it

Stone Born by Loreen Heneghan is a quick piece about a young girl who goes missing – taken either by elves or an estranged father. I like changeling stories, and this one was neatly ambiguous.
Listen to it

Giant by Stephanie Burgis was a short piece about a giant who can’t be killed as long as he never tells anyone where he’s hidden his heart. He can never trust anyone with this information, but this princess is different… isn’t she? This story was great, highly recommended.
Listen to it | Read it

Pahwahke by Gord Sellar is a story about an Indian chief whose daughter goes off with the white settlers and comes back strange. This story was pretty forgettable; the fantasy elements weren’t developed enough to really distinguish them from vague non-European mysticism.
Listen to it | Read it

Hippocamus by M. K. Hobson is a weird little piece about memory and seahorses. Like I said about surrealism: not my thing, but this piece was so short it didn’t really bug that badly.
Listen to it

Directions by Caleb Wilson is what it sounds like, a set of driving directions that you won’t get from Google Maps (probably). I thought it was okay, but I liked the Neil Gaiman poem of the same name better.
Listen to it | Read it

Eating Hearts by Yoon Ha Lee is the story of a sorceress who gains power by consuming hearts, and now she’s got her eye on magic, so she needs to find herself a magician. This story had an interesting idea but didn’t really ever grab me.
Listen to it

What about you, readers? Read (or listened to) any good short stories lately?

© 2013 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.

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