I listen to a lot of podcasts, probably about 20 or so sci-fi, fantasy, and horror magazines containing thousands of stories in total. Most of these stories are forgotten soon after I listen to them, but for whatever reason, some stories stick with me, probably because they either pack an emotional punch of some kind or really made me think.
Here’s a list of my favorite podcast episodes. I’m putting this here mainly to help me keep track, but also to recommend them to anyone who happens to be reading this.
These made me laugh
“Punk Voyager” by Shaenon Garrity appeared on Escape Pod 380. This was actually the first episode of Escape Pod I listened to and what a great one to get started with! A group of punk rockers find out that the first music aliens will hear when they encounter the Voyager probe will contain the likes of Chuck Berry. Fearing that aliens will think that all humans are totally lame, the punks decide to launch their own Voyager containing punk music. Years later, humanity’s first contact with aliens turns out to be very punk rock indeed. An absolutely hilarious, laugh-out-loud story. I should add the caveat that you should really try to listen to this story rather than just read it, since a lot of the humor is in the delivery.
“Flying on the Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog” by Shaenon Garrity (You know, I actually didn’t notice that both of these stories were written by the same author until now. I’ll have to check out more of her work.) appeared on Drabblecast 298. Anger can be harnessed and used as an energy source in this hilarious tale about a man who really, really, really hates his neighbor’s dog. This won best story of the year on Drabblecast and with good reason.
“The Best Scarlet Ceremony Ever!” by Shaenon K. Garrity appeared on Drabblecast 415. It’s basically Judy Blume meets The Wicker Man. A small rural community is preparing to perform a sacrificial ritual to appease their Goddess, but our viewpoint character, Hazel, is more concerned about the fact that she hasn’t gotten her first period yet. Also, one of the families in the community, the Wakefields, don’t fit in with the rest of the town. Can you believe they actually showed up to the maypole dance fully clothed? And Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield don’t even take part in the sacred orgies!
“A Fine Night for Tea and Bludgeoning” by Beth Cato originally appeared in the anthology Little Green Men Attack, but I first heard it on Escape Pod episode 661. Rosemary Hardy is a proper Victorian lady by day, but by night she takes part in a precursor to roller derby in which she battles other women while roller skating. Her life becomes strange after she meets a green-skinned alien named Elvis Wibbles. There’s a lot of funny lines in this one. During a fight between toddlers, we’re told that “several baby teeth had made early exits.” There are several other funny lines as well, such as: “Mama, in her excitement, had managed to baptize her lap in lukewarm tea.”
“The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” by Bill Powell appeared on Beneath Ceaseless Skies 150. A man invents a time machine just to keep himself from being late. There’s a French robot, things that are steam-powered which shouldn’t be, aliens who are less advanced than you’d expect, and time paradoxes. A lot of fun.
These made me cry
“Grandmother’s Road Trip” by Cat Rambo appeared in Tales to Terrify 89. Not a horror story at all, so I don’t know why it appeared on Tales to Terrify. It’s a autobiographical story about a mother and her daughter taking grandma to a retirement home. This story actually annoyed me a bit at first, so I was pretty surprised when the ending made me burst into tears.
“The Man Who Lost the Sea” by Theodore Sturgeon was originally published back in 1959, but I first heard it on Escape Pod’s 500th Episode. It’s a classic sci-fi story about the first person to land on Mars. It’s one of those stories that makes me cry no matter how many times I hear it.
“Carnival Nine” by Caroline M. Yoachim appeared on Beneath Ceaseless Skies 196. It’s a surreal story about clockwork people whose daily activity is limited by the number of times the maker turns their key each morning. We’re told Zee’s entire life story (spanning about 1000 days) from her childhood in Closet City and her time in the carnival, to her motherhood and old age. The gut punch comes when she wonders how her severely disabled child will get by after she dies, a very real problem for parents of disabled children today.
These made me think
“Octopus vs. Bear” by Kendra Fortmeyer appeared in Lightspeed 84. A man wakes up as a woman and thinks it will be fun doing whatever he wants to in a female body for the day. However, it turns out being a woman isn’t as easy as he thought it would be.
“The Empire of Ice Cream” by Jeffrey Ford appeared on Starship Sofa 94. This story is told from the point of view of someone who has synesthesia, which I’ve heard about on non-fiction podcasts, but I don’t remember encountering in fiction before. Why aren’t there more stories featuring people with synesthesia? I actually thought it was non-fiction at first due to how realistic it was and how matter-of-factly the narrator read the story. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending, but the story overall is so good, I have to recommend it to everyone.
“The Venus Effect” by Violet Allen appeared in Lightspeed 79. A meta-fiction piece addressing the problem of police shooting black men. Like all good fiction, it asks questions without answering them, forcing the reader to think. It’s engaging and frustrating and keeps your interest throughout. This story also appeared in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, so you don’t have to just take my word for it.
“Fifty Shades of Grays” by Steven Barnes appeared in Lightspeed 73. The title says it all. Aliens come to earth to have sex with us. One of them likes to dress up and act like Elvis Presley. It’s funny, but it also made me think. I liked this quote in particular in which one of the characters is explaining what an aesthetic bridge is: “A blend of two different cultural or racial standards, much the same way that light-skinned black performers like Halle Berry helped de-inhibit negative responses to African facial characteristics. Whites considered them beautiful, so they could slowly accept and relish darker faces. You start with Lena Horne and end up with Lupita Nyong’o.”
“The Comet” by W.E.B. DuBois was originally published in 1920. I first heard it on PseudoPod 580. A disaster kills everyone in New York except a poor black man and a wealthy white woman who are finally able to overcome the racial barrier after everyone else is gone.
“The Sandman” by E.T.A. Hoffman was originally published in 1817. I actually didn’t hear this on a podcast, but on LibriVox which provides free public domain audio books. It begins by quoting from some letters. Nathanael recounts how as a child he was frightened by the Sandman, a figure said to steal the eyes of children who don’t go to sleep when they should. It gets freakier from there.
“I’m Bill Kurtis” by Victor Schultz appeared on Drabblecast 342. It starts out as a typical horror story. A couple stranded on the side of the road encounters a serial killer. I was annoyed with this story at first, but I’m glad I stuck with it to the end because what makes it memorable is the surreal ending.
“A Diet of Worms” by Valerie Valdes appeared in Nightmare 49. It’s a surreal story about a movie theater employee who never gets to leave work. A true nightmare.
“Vertep” by D. P. Watt appeared in PseudoPod 705. A man who collects jack-in-the-boxes becomes obsessed with the most recent addition to his collection and gradually loses touch with reality.
“Ant King” by Benjamin Rosenbaum appeared on Starship Sofa 42. A fun, hilarious, surreal tale about a man navigating the corporate world and coming into contact with a villain from a video game.
“Mr Morrow Becomes Acquainted with the Delicate Art of Squid Keeping” by Geoffrey Maloney appeared on Beneath Ceaseless Skies 57. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is mostly a sword and sorcery magazine, so this strange story about people switching bodies with aliens was a nice surprise.
“Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs” by Lauren Beukes appeared on Drabblecast 381. A fun surreal story featuring a protagonist who wears boots made out of a whale’s penis. What’s not to love?