Greg van Eekhout's "On the Fringes of the Fractal"

Back in October Escape Pod published a reading of Greg van Eekhout‘s “On the Fringes of the Fractal“, a science fiction reflection of reputation economy, meritocracy and capitalism. It’s a weird, fun and sad short story that’s worth experiencing with the great narration by Tina Connolly. It might not be easy to spot that it was inspired by the music of Rush, but that’s an extra treat.

In olden days, one of the worst punishments society could exact upon you was outlawing. It meant you were literally outside the law. You had no privileges, no protections, no rights. Anyone could just up and kill you without consequence. Being declared no-stat was a lot like that. Without stat, Sherman’s family would lose everything. Their house. The right to wear current fashions. To see the latest movies. To vote. And I could lose stat of my own just by being friends with a no-stat person.

Escape Pod 598: On the Fringes of the Fractal

Down and Out in R’lyeh

Catherynne M. Valente‘s Down and Out in R’lyeh is a millennial take on Lovecraft. The story mashes up politics, weird slang, and perversity into a delightfully weird short story. Be sure to listen to Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 18B to hear this story.

Pazuzu thumped his pustulant tail. “The whole system’s rigged,” he chanted, “by the time we’re Elder, there’ll be nothing left for us but the ash-end of the universe. We slobber and serve and ain’t nobody ever gonna serve us. It’s not right. They got it all stitched up nice the way they like it, Yog-Sogoth and Yig and Azazoth and Hypnos and that fat sack of shit down the chimney. Even Mom. Shub-Niggurath herself, I know we love her and all but she spends all day shitting out kids on the dole and fuck me if you and me will ever be able to afford a slavering brood of our own. And then they turn around and call us krugs and layabout shubs when they’re the ones who snooze all aeon instead of rending the mortal world like they always promise. It’s bullshit, Moloch. Bullshit.”

Shax’s three eyes shone hideous, thinking of all those mortal streets she shuffled in her precious bloodpuppets. “You don’t even know how right you are, Zuzu. The mundworld is totally shoggo, believe me. The best they could do against us is cry while they piss their pants. But the Old Ones? Oh no, they just gorge and giggle and yig themselves and dick around while centuries go by and those mundo fucks up there invent nuclear fission. They got everything dank there was to devour and we get squidshit because they were born at the dawn of existence and we weren’t. Because they’re entitled to the whole damn multiverse while we’re entitled to sit on our asses and clap for their crumbs. Why don’t they just fhtagn retire and let the Young Ones come up the ranks a little? I’d be a bloody yellow queen of everything. Come on, you know it’s true! Shax, the All-Devourer, Accursed Meretrix of the Nether Nebulae, Mother of Madness, Flayer of All Things Dun and Shoggo! I’d capture hearts and minds, you better believe. But no, I have to wait, because they love waiting, and maybe when I’m a shriveled old crone I’ll get to devour one measly asteroid if I ask real nice. Fuck that.”

 

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Everyone: Worlds Without Walls

Tony C. Smith, of the venerable science fiction audio magazine StarShipSofa, is putting together a science fiction anthology in response to the rampant xenophobia we see in evidence across the world and especially in the form of American fascism. He has brought together writers from countries across the world for the anthology, including Ken Liu, Lavie Tidhar, Eve Shi, Rajan Khanna, Margrét Helgadóttir, Carmelo Rafala, Yasser Bahjatt, Jonathan Dotse, Swapna Kishore, J Y Yang, Dayo Ntwari, Fábio Fernandes and Luis G. Abbadie, and with an upcoming stretch goal Samuel R Delany will join them.

Tony has been able to reach the first funding goal and now is promoting a second anthology, Everyone: Worlds Covered In Blood, which will feature diverse horror writers.

I’ve long believed that science fiction is at its best when it shines a light on what is possible, and even more so when more voices are filtered through its lens. What this anthology —and District of Wonders as a whole— will do matters and means more than just having thoughtful, entertaining stories. These possibilities, terrible and hopeful, offer us insight into what is and will be happening around us.

Visit the Kickstarter at Everyone: Worlds Without Walls to learn more and back the project.

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Tony C. Smith here, coming to you from the northeast of England, on this here planet Earth we all call home.

And what times we are living in on this world of ours. You can see it here in the UK, and even more coming across from America, news of division and injustice based on the notion that there’s an “us” and a “them”, and that those differences mean that “they” must be driven out or shut out by walls. We’re seeing so much happening that at bottom seems to be fueled by fear, manipulation, and hate.

Ten years ago I started StarShipSofa – just a little show featuring great science fiction authors of the past. We started out featuring the classics – the big names that everyone knows. Even then in those humble days we knew we wanted to shine a light on diverse writers – Ursula K. LeGuin, James Tiptree Jr., Samuel R. Delany, and other luminaries who helped create the tapestry of science fiction as we know it today.

Ever since then, StarShipSofa has sought out and celebrated diverse writers and stories. That dedication to diversity has only grown stronger over the years, and we will keep working to do even better. On top of that, we’ve shone a light on the value of exploring and sharing knowledge – everything from science, culture, history, music, art and more – because truth is what inspires us, and makes us better citizens of the world.

And that’s what it’s about – our vision of a better world. Along with our sister podcasts Tales to Terrify and Far-Fetched Fables, I really believe we have brought that vision to life in the District of Wonders.

The District of Wonders is a world where we know that diversity makes us richer. It’s a world where there are no walls, no barriers, no guns, no hatred. The District of Wonders is a world that values equality, and seeks to recognize and welcome people of all backgrounds, religions, races, cultures, and expressions of humanity. It’s a world that values truth. Everyone has a story in the District of Wonders – and every story is important. Everyone is important.So what I’m asking now is that you join me in standing against injustice and discrimination in the way that the District of Wonders does best – by sharing stories.

If successful, this Kickstarter will fund an e-book anthology of stories that offer a greater representation of ALL the people of this beautiful rich world.

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An Owomoyela’s “Unauthorized Access”

An Owomoyela’s “Unauthorized Access” was published in Lightspeed Magazine’s September issue and it’s a fun take on cyberpunk. The narration by Jayme Grant cemented it as among the best podcast episodes from Lightspeed this year.

Prison 17 had been built long enough ago that it got next to no natural light—before all the studies that said that light was good for prison behavior and morale. And of course the rest of its district had been remodded in the past ten years, so the view from outside was a phalanx of solar panels over heat-reflecting paint, making a headache-inducing pattern of black and white. Prisons and hydroponics. That was about all that called this district home.

Which didn’t stop three dozen gawkers from gathering outside the prison gate.

Aedo had expected it, but it still caught her up short. She froze on the sidewalk and saw the flashes of ocular implants and handheld cameras; that was probably going to be the picture on the newsfeeds, above the fold.

She drew a hand back through her hair, impulsively.

A quick-and-dirty breakdown of the crowd by age and dress suggested that probably a quarter of them were for legitimate news streams. She didn’t recognize most of the ones in ratty shirts with the logo of the counterculture of the month. She met their eyes first, though: allies. Then she cleared her throat and made herself walk forward, holding up a hand like she was holding court.

“Thanks for being here,” she said. She’d practiced her statement in prison, with the sympathetic ears she’d just worked her way around to thinking of as friends, and fell back on that without thinking about how completely nil it’d sound as a soundbyte. “I have stuff to say on Government data, but right now I want dinner, a shower, and a nap. I’ll post a blog in the next few days, and if you want an interview, message me.”

Opplopolis

Kit Roebuck‘s Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life was one of my favourite webcomic reads as it was being published, and I was thrilled when Kit started publishing the followup project, Opplopolis. The comic a wonderful mashup of alternate history, retro futurism, strange happenings and mystery.

An esoteric ensemble of characters scour the city of Opplopolis for clues to the mysterious Marvedyne. 

Kit has brought the cast of characters and their world so vividly to life that the very strange events in the story remain grounded in the superbly rendered environment and well developed characters. Little touches such as having a boy demand a Sega Saturn in exchange for information reveal the story’s time, while clones, shapeshifters and other oddities are fun, surprising and meaningful.

Opplopolis is published twice each week in instalments of two pages. So far, issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 have been completed and issue 5 is underway.

Moon Town

Steve Ogden‘s Moon Town has the feel of a classic pulp science fiction story. It features a space pilot and miners on the moon, and is peppered with oversized characters and situations. The art has a sketchy feel but is still very polished. It’s an utterly absorbing and charming take on space adventure.

Steve is currently re-releasing pages weekly as he updates the original strip that ran from 2009 to 2011 and plans to continue the story on into a full graphic novel.

The first print issue of Moon Town is available now and the first 39 pages of the remade comic can be read online. An interview with Steve about his work on the comic and elsewhere was published as “Steve Ogden: To Moon Town and Back” at Don’t Pick the Flowers.

The year is 2087. Earth has been mined into a shell, so mankind is mining the moon. But when ore shipments begin vanishing amid rumors of pirates, a new sheriff comes to town in the form of rookie security guard Cassandra Quinn. When she meets a hallucinating lunar miner and discovers a race of aliens living in the shadow of the refinery, can she solve the mystery of the missing ore? Or will she find out too much? Some secrets can get you killed…

Questionable Content

Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content has been one of my favourite daily reads for a few years due to its relatable characters, sharp art style and sly science fictional elements. Jeph describes QC as “an online comic strip that is ostensibly about romance, indie rock, little robots, and the problems people have,” while its Wikipedia article expands that the “storytelling style combines romantic melodrama, sitcom, humor about indie rock music, and sexual humor while considering questions of relationships, futurism, artificial intelligence, sexuality and dealing with emotional trauma”.

With more than two thousand pages and 5 new pages added each week, I can understand why someone might be intimidated by Questionable Content, but the strip has become so polished and well-rounded that it’s worth the effort of getting into the ongoing story. Jeph’s art has improved tremendously since the first pages were made and so have his storytelling techniques. While the comic started in indie rock space, it has grown to be one of the best webcomics being published.

Dicebox

Jenn Manley Lee‘s Dicebox has been one of my favourite comics for a few years. It has compelling characters, complex and fascinating interactions between those characters and an approach to dealing with important subjects that works very well. Its art is rendered with great intimacy, warmth and thoughtfulness. All of this makes the story flavourful and engaging throughout.

Dicebox is exceptionally good at presenting advanced technology and social understanding as normal. People who have lived with space elevators, gender fluidity and space travel wouldn’t react strongly to having these things in their lives any more than we do to the internet, having neighbours or air travel, and too often writers forget that we adapt incredibly well to new situations. Dicebox is a great example of science fiction that can embed what might be surprising to readers in the context of everyday life. By emphasizing character interactions, the story makes ideas accessible, tangible and realistic.

Dicebox, an online graphic novel by Jenn Manley Lee, tells the story of an eventful year in the lives of Griffen & Molly, a couple of itinerant factory workers in a space-travelling future.

Dicebox updates on a weekly basis, mostly Tuesdays and sometimes again on Saturday.

Dicebox has its fair share of adult themes: sexual situations, innuendo, nudity, and bad language

 The first volume of Dicebox is available in ebook and print formats. The entire comic is available to read on its website, and is available at Comic Rocket for RSS serialization from page one or for automated bookmarking.

Jenn also has a process journal that sheds light on the behind the scenes work of the comic, a portfolio that is a joy to explore and a sketch blog.

Some of Them Closer

When I read science fiction I usually am drawn in most by tiny aspects of daily life. Important changes impact the minutia of our lives just as much as they reshape our societies in shocking ways.

In October, Escape Pod published and ‘cast Marissa K. Lingen‘s “Some of Them Closer“, a beautiful short story that captures the best elements of small scale science fiction. It’s a simple story of isolation and culture shock in which a woman returns to Montreal after years away in space.

“I can deal with them putting pears in everything now,” I said, “but I can’t get my head around the squashy floors in the Metro.”

He peered at me, and then a smile broke over his face. “All right, Mireille, come in.” As he made us tea and set out some grapes, he said, “You should feel grateful you’ve come home to a place where there’s snow. In all the cities where they don’t have to clear snow, the squashy floors are everywhere. They’ve decided they’re more natural.”

I tried to smile. “Natural. Everyone wants to call their pet theories natural but us, Stephane.”

District of Wonders

I have been listening to StarShipSofa, the Hugo Award winning science fiction podcast, for years. It has always thrilled me with great science fiction audio stories, fact articles and Tony C. Smith’s contagious enthusiasm for the genre. Tony has launched three companion podcasts for horror, pulp and mystery stories and they all have the kinds of high quality production values and great story selection that have made StarShipSofa the best science fiction podcast being produced.

The four ‘casts are showcased at District of Wonders, a landing page featuring recent episodes from each. The tagline, “Everyone has a story in the District of Wonders, come find yours,” is a suitable invitation for these celebrations of genre fiction.

Tales to Terrify, the horror ‘cast, is hosted by Larry Santoro, one of my favourite narrators. His story “So Many Tiny Mouths” was featured in the most recent episode and has long been a favourite of mine.

Tales to Terrify host Larry Santoro has the perfect voice for horror. He’s the Vincent Price of podcasts! -Jason Sanford

Protecting Project Pulp revisits classic adventure stories from pulp magazines. So far, the stories have featured pirates, floating bread, Jack London’s romantic vision of nature and fish people. “Bread Overhead” by Fritz Leiber is the one story I enjoyed most.

Do you feel your pulse quickening, that heady rush of excitement? That is the call to Adventure! Each week, Dave Robison opens the door to danger, thrills, and suspense through the tales of legendary storytellers from the glory days of pulp fiction.

StarShipSofa has provided hundreds of hours of science fiction content and was very deserving of the Hugo Award it received. The narrated stories are expertly done, but the fact articles that explore genre history and science fact set it apart from other audio fiction magazines. Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Timpanist of the Berlin Philharmonic” was a recent highlight of the sofa.

Climb aboard the StarShipSofa and let intrepid Captain Tony C. Smith take you on a voyage of wonder! This vessel’s cargo hold is filled with the latest & greatest in science fiction short stories, and her engine is fuelled by the finest narrators in all of known space.

Not being a mystery or crime buff, I have to admit that I haven’t delved into Crime City Central yet. I do trust in Tony’s stewardship and have no doubt it’s of the same quality as the others.

Step into the world of Inspector Jack Calverley who spends his time reviewing cases, new and old, solved and unsolved, intriguing and sometimes shocking. Every week he introduces you to the stories he uncovers from a wide range of authors and narrators from the files at CrimeCityCentral.