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TSS: Short Story Podcast Reviews: June 2012

July 15, 2012

The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, all!

So this past month was not a great one for me, audiobook-wise: I didn’t have a ton of time to listen, and I didn’t love the one I did listen to. That’s unfortunate, but the upside is that instead of listening to my audiobook, I spent a fair amount of time listening to short story podcasts. Which means: time for another installment of mini-reviews! Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4

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!

…and also because I am apparently incapable of consuming fiction of any kind without blathering my opinion about it all over the internet.

All of my mini-reviews today are for fantasy short story podcasts from Podcastle.

Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge by Richard Parks is a story of imperial politics and inheritance in a feudal-Japan-esque setting. It involves a letter of questionable provenience being used to prove that the imperial consort had a lover and her son, who now stands to inherit, was illegitimate. This story felt more historical fiction-y than fantasy (there were a few spirits/ghosts, but they weren’t at all pivotal to the story), and reminded me quite a bit of Across The Nightingale Floor, in tone and setting if not in plot. I also figured out several of the twists well ahead of time, but even so, I found the story engaging and enjoyed it overall.
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It Takes a Town by Stephen V. Ramey is a story about a small town that’s determined to build a rocket on its own, despite the naysayers. This story is definitely more science fiction than fantasy (and maybe not even science fiction). It was a little light on the plot, but the combination of a small Midwestern town and a rocket ship made it appealingly reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s work, which means I couldn’t help but be charmed by it.
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Anywhere There’s a Game by Greg van Eekhout proves that there is a way to write a sports story that will interest me, despite me being not at all a fan of organized sports. It’s set up as the reminiscence of a basketball player being asked about the best people he’s played with, but in his case, “best” might be a synonym for “strangest”. It’s more of a series of character sketches rather than a story proper, but I still found it really engaging.
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Black Ribbon by Dawn Albright is the story of an assassination attempt years in the making, involving twins, one of whom has been given a mixture that makes her poisonous to the touch. I thought this was an interesting idea with some really interesting implications; unfortunately, most of those implications were not explored in any depth. The motivations behind all of the characters’ actions, and the plot in general, were similarly not really discussed. I did appreciate the darkness of the ending, though.
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Red Riding-Hood’s Child by N. K. Jemisin is a dark deconstructed fairy tale, about puberty, and sex, and wolves, starring the son born to Red Riding Hood as he is on the verge of becoming a man. Jemisin’s got a definite power to her prose, and it’s just as evident in this short piece as it is in her full length novels. But while I’m not usually particularly squeamish about sex in my fiction, there were aspects of this story that made me a little uncomfortable… which I suspect was her intent.
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The Tanuki-Kettle by Eugie Foster is a cute little story about a Japanese trickster spirit who takes refuge in the kitchen of a lowly tea girl after tormenting the lord of the land. This had the feeling of a child’s fairy tale or fable, which meant that it was a little predictable, but it was too cute and charming for me to care. Also, I learned that the Tanooki-suit from Super Mario Brothers is based on a real bit of Japanese folklore (albeit with some aspects slightly bowdlerized). Who knew?
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Dead Languages by Merrie Haskell involves a woman who gets badgered by a friend into participating in an independent film about vampires and vampire hunters, only to have the special effects become a little too real. This story was great – very reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not only in the obvious vampire hunter sense, but in particular the episode where everyone becomes their Halloween costumes. There are enough parallels that in someone else’s hands I might have been complaining about a rip-off, but Haskell’s version has enough unique little tweaks, and is funny enough that I thoroughly enjoyed it anyways.
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Grand Guignol by Andy Duncan is the story of a small Parisian theater that produces only the most gross and gory of plays, and the tensions that exist between owner, playwright, and actors. It’s structured as a short section from the viewpoint of many people within the theater, which made it difficult to follow since the narrator didn’t change his voice much regardless of who was speaking. I’d class this one as horror rather than fantasy, and really gory stuff is not normally my cup of tea, but it was all so over-the-top as to come back around to funny again.
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Colin and Ishmael in the Dark by William Shunn is another story that’s primarily horror with only the barest touch of fantasy. It’s written almost entirely in dialogue between a prisoner, who has been kept in pitch-blackness for years, and his guard, when the tables have turned and the prisoner gains the upper hand. I liked this one a lot; very psychologically twisty and dark (and literally dark as well, heh), with some definite Silence of the Lambs-type overtones. Being able to tell a complete story entirely through dialogue is an impressive feat as well, and the narrator did a nice job of differentiating which character was speaking.
Listen to it

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

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2012 6:06 pm

    I am awful when it comes to reading/listening to short stories. In fact, I’m currently listening to an audiobook, a collection of Steampunk stories, and although I adore most of the authors, I still can’t get into the stories themselves. I do admit, though, the fairy tale one looks intriguing, so I’m going to check that one out.

    • July 20, 2012 9:47 am

      christina – I find I have to be more present when I’m listening to short stories than when I’m listening to a full-length book, since books tend to hit their key points a few times, whereas a lot of these stories are so short that if your attention’s not on full blast, you miss the one critical detail and are lost. The N. K. Jemisin story is really short, though – maybe 20 minutes? Enough to get through on a quick walk around the block. Hope you like it!


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