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Short Stories Review Roundup: May 2014 – April 2015, Part 2

May 6, 2015

Back for part 2 of all of the short story podcasts I’ve been listening to lately! This post is all flash fiction miniature podcasts from Podcastle.

Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 (People reading free fiction to you! For free!)

In Up the Chimney by Cat Rambo, our protagonist follows a magical creature to the land of Faerie – except in this case, it’s the cat version of Faerie. This was cute enough, but I’m not really a cat person, so stories that rely on “cats: aren’t they something!” don’t do a whole lot for me.
Listen to it | Read it

Faery Cats: The Cutest Killers by Lucy A. Snyder is written as a news report, involving the latest fad pet, flying faery cats, and some of their hidden dangers. This was funny – I thought the news story format was an interesting twist, and this played on some of the stereotypes about cats without assuming everyone has one and loves them.
Listen to it | Read it

Elf Aware by K. Tempest Bradford is told in the second person, a short little piece about believing yourself to be an elf. I like the punny-ness of the title, but the story is not like that at all, and the piece itself didn’t quite connect for me.
Listen to it | Read it

Birthday Wish by Tina Connolly is a very effective short piece about what would happen if the things that kids wished for when they blew out the candles on their birthday cake actually came true.
Listen to it

Rotations and Consequences by Katherine Sparrow is a story about a middle aged woman who goes outside, lies down, and becomes untethered by gravity and floats away out into the universe. It kept reminding us that even when we’re “still”, we’re always moving at a thousand miles per hour, but I didn’t quite get the story part of things.
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In Down in the Flood by Nisi Shawl, the mother of the gods has to deal with her unruly offspring doing things like creating mankind when she wasn’t watching. That makes this story sound like more of a romp than it was; it was pretty serious although it did have a few splashes of humor. But I like me a good creation myth, so I was on board.
Listen to it

In Chu-Bu and Sheemish by Lord Dunsany, a new idol is placed in another god’s temple, and much to the displeasure of the previous god. For being an old story, it felt surprisingly modern.
Listen to it | Read it

In The Short History of the Tearless Onion by Ann Leckie, a plant breeder designs an onion that doesn’t make you cry when you cut it, but instead invokes other emotions… with unforseen consequences. Very cute, and I liked the image of teenagers having parties to get high off the hysterical giggling one of the onions produced.
Listen to it | Read it

In Loose Drawers by Charlie Allery, a tool box wants you to put your… ahem… tool into her drawers. Eh. I like my sexual innuendo to be a little more subtle, and a little less “heh heh, that’s a slutty toolbox,” thanks.
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To-Do List by Nick Mamatas is a list of instructions – a little less fantasy world and a little more political than Neil Gaiman’s poem “Instructions”, but fantastical nevertheless. There’s definitely a small part of me that wants to try these instructions out – would make for an interesting life! At the very least, I know what book I’ll be checking the pages of the next time I’m at the library.
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In Hall of Mirrors by Bruce Holland Rogers, a man begins describing what he sees in paintings at the art museum on his lunch break… and is soon being asked to provide interpretations of other things he sees – which makes mirrors a dangerous prospect. I feel like I knew where this story was going from very early on, and then it went there, and then it went meta about going there, and then I sighed, because of COURSE it did, but how can I critique a story about critiquing things for being too meta without being meta myself? It’s a conundrum.
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Accounting for Dragons by Eric James Stone is accounting advice for dragons regarding taking inventory of their hordes, saving treasure to pay as taxes to the Dragon King, whether virgin sacrifices count as income, whether knight insurance is deductible, etc. Very cute.
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In Carnival Park by Greg van Eekhout, Carnival Park’s balloon animal man is a fixture in the lives of the townspeople, but one day a challenger blows into town… Well written, and some great visuals of battles between magical balloon animals.
Listen to it

In Incubus by Tim Pratt, the incubus and the succubus get to talking over drinks one night about how their relationships never quite seem to work out they way you might want. A short little snippet, but one that seems so obvious that I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it before.
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In In Order to Conserve by Cat Rambo, first the world’s color starts running out, so measures are taken to conserve what’s left… and then the sound starts to go. Even though my brain was going “that’s not how vision works you can’t run out of color like that” I still really enjoyed this story.
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In East of Chula Vista by Samantha Henderson, a man’s house receives nightly visits from those that have died in the desert, including unwary or unlucky hikers, and those trying to cross the border from Mexico. A sad but very human story, although what I thought it did best was conjure up the feeling and the danger of the Southwestern desert.
Listen to it | Read it

In Uchronia by Tim Pratt, Clio, the Muse of History, decides to make all of the silly erroneous things people believe about history true. I like the premise a lot, but premise was all it was; there wasn’t a payout other than “Yeah, it made things weird.”
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In Change by Greg van Eekhout, a man gets a call from his ex-wife convinced that she saw a kid trying to break into the shed; he maintains that that’s impossible. This one pulled off its twist really effectively; starts very mundane and then you slowly realize that it’s actually not mundane at all…
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In When Shakko Did Not Lie by Eugie Foster, a fox must perform a service for a powerful fox spirit – to recover her soul globe that has been stolen by a powerful king – but he must do it without telling a lie. This was an interesting twist on the trickster tale – can a trickster still be a trickster if they can only speak the truth?
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In Debris by Kiini Iburra Salaam, Skeleton-beings visit a cemetery during Day of Dead festivities, but they risk getting dust or debris on them, which will cause them to deteriorate. Kind of ambivalent about this one – By the time I figured out what was going on, who these characters were, etc., the story was practically over.
Listen to it | Read it

In Chinatown by Greg van Eekhout, our narrator’s favorite lunch spot is threatened when a man comes looking for the secret of Madame Sei’s thousand-year-old soup. Clever and fun.
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In An Invitation Via E-Mail by Mike Allen, an e-mail between colleagues, inviting them to a series of weekly get togethers in which their group works to further the careers of its members… by summoning occult dark powers. Funny, but the premise of why this person was sending the e-mail in the first place didn’t quite work.
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In Dead Letter by Samantha Henderson, a woman is plagued by disturbing dreams, after which she wakes, draws a picture, and mails that picture to an address in Arizona. It slowly emerges what the pictures are of, and what happens when she doesn’t send them, and the answers are brutal and creepy and horrifying. The ending is slightly ambiguous, which in this case I didn’t entirely like. It’s hard to say whether or not I liked the story as a whole, given the subject matter, but I can absolutely say that it was effective as hell; even weeks later, thinking about it is still creeping me out.
Listen to it | Read it

Mario’s Three Lives by Matt Bell is the musings of a plumber who must make his way through the strange world, until he dies, his actions guided by the God Who Continues. I played a lot of Nintendo as a kid, so I absolutely loved this one, and really enjoyed it’s philosophical take on what it’s like to be a video game character.
Listen to it | Read it

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

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