The Audio File: Escape Pod

Guest post past times Sam McDonald.

In recent years the number of brusque storey journal podcasts has seen a pregnant increase. Consequently this way that at that topographic point are quite a few alternate history brusque stories available for free, but don’t live shy close dropping a donation or starting a subscription if y’all similar what y’all find.  Many of these magazines rely on their readers to pay their authors. So, beingness something of an practiced on podcast magazines, I decided to have got it upon myself to human activity as your guide inward the initiatory off of what I promise to live many smashing articles close the wonders of sound magazines.

In this installment we’ll live tackling Escape Pod, as well as earlier nosotros caput into the stories we’ll bespeak to embrace a flake of background. Back inward 2005, Escape Pod founder Steve Eley created the podcast as a way of showcasing some of the best talent inward the land of scientific discipline fiction.  At the fourth dimension Eley wasn’t sure only how long the podcast was going to last, but 10 years as well as over 400 episodes afterwards it’s prophylactic to state the podcast has proved to live to a greater extent than successful than Steve could perchance have got imagined. Escape Pod’s success helped essay out the viability of online brusque storey podcast magazines as well as led to the creation of ii other Escape Artists podcasts: Pseudopod for horror as well as PodCastle for fantasy (more on them inward afterwards posts).

Over the years Escape Pod has featured numerous host including Mur Lafferty, Norm Sherman, Alasdair Stuart as well as episode feedback past times Nathaniel Lee. It’s the lilliputian commentary the host gives earlier as well as after an episode that inward my opinion, gives Escape Pod (and all Escape Artists productions) a really individual touch.  They’ve  featured narrators from all walks of life, both professional person as well as amateur. The intro as well as outro music, provided past times monster surf stone band Daikaiju, is some other of those lilliputian personal touches I adore.

Originally, the text of the stories themselves wasn’t included, but after a sure indicate that changed. As much of a fan as I am, fifty-fifty I can’t tell y’all when precisely that was, but suffice it to state the to a greater extent than recent the storey the to a greater extent than probable it is the text volition live included on the website.  In whatever event, many Escape Pod stories were originally published elsewhere (though they have got their fair part of originals as well).  If they don’t have got the text they volition unremarkably link to it.

Escape Pod has surely left its grade on brusque storey podcast magazines, but similar a shot that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, let’s speak stories. Since this is an alternate history spider web log I’ve express myself to alternate history related stories.  Believe me, if it was only stories inward full general we’d live hither all day.  Remember, these stories are released on a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license; experience costless to part them all y’all like, only don’t alter or sell them.  Now, acquire ready, because it’s storey time…

Joe Steele” past times Harry Turtledove
Narrated past times Steve Eley
Originally published inward Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian

Those of y’all familiar alongside Harry Turtledove’s run have got likely heard of this one, but it’s soundless worth going over.  The basic premise is the Joseph Stalin’s parents immigrated to the U.S.A. during the 19th century, as well as Stalin grew upwardly inward Fresno, California.  Stalin eventually takes the to a greater extent than American scream Joe Steele as well as is afterwards elected president via some shady dealings.  This beingness Stalin, however, way that the side past times side few decades aren’t precisely sunshine as well as lollipops.

Now, the plausibility hounds inward the audience are likely complaining that Stalin ought to have got a dissimilar worldview if he was raised inward America. To live sure that’s likely true, but Steele soundless needed to human activity recognizably similar Stalin or else nosotros have got no story. Stalin or not, the Depression was a crude oil time, as well as I tin easily come across the atmospheric condition giving ascent to an extremist movement.  Especially if FDR were out of the picture, as he is inward the brusque story.

As for the writing, it has a really 1940s newsreel lineament to it, as well as Steve does a genuinely goodness chore of conveying that feeling. All inward all this was a really fun story, as well as as a bonus y’all acquire to hear the vocal that inspired this story, “God & The FBI“, inward its entirety right after the episode.

Good Hunting” past times Ken Liu
Narrated past times John Chu
Originally published inward Strange Horizons

There are non nearly plenty words to depict how much I dearest Ken Liu. Every storey he makes is a masterfully crafted run of art.  He knows only how to tug on your heartstrings, brand y’all connect alongside his characters, acquire out y’all wanting to a greater extent than as well as hence many other things. Seriously, people are ever talking close who’s going to live the side past times side big thing inward speculative fiction; good behold the side past times side big thing people.  Need proof?  This is a adult man who has won pretty much every major scientific discipline fiction as well as fantasy award, as well as he’s solely been seriously writing since close 2009.

Okay, plenty gushing, onto the story. “Good Hunting” takes identify during as well as inward the years next the Opium Wars, but a steampunk version of the war.  There’s also magic inward this alternate Cathay featuring everything from hopping ghosts, spirits as well as huli jing (Chinese fob spirits that have got the cast of beautiful women).  Our storey follows a immature ghost hunter as well as a hulijing as they picket the basis around them alter alongside the coming of British colonization.  Besides the commons troubles that come upwardly alongside colonization there’s an added issue; the British have got built a railway right on top of a qi vein, as well as this is having extremely negative consequences on the supernatural world.

One of the things I dearest close Ken’s run is that no thing what storey he writes I ever larn something new. In this instance I got to larn what huli jing are, as well as as a lover of mythology as well as folklore that was a big plus. I also appreciated how Ken didn’t describe whatever punches alongside his depiction of colonialism as well as the darker side of steampunk. You could easily come across the blocked qi vein, as well as the touching it has on the supernatural community, as a metaphor for the touching that colonizers ofttimes have got on native cultures. Throughout the storey there’s a feeling of sadness for the passing of one-time traditions as novel ways are forced upon China.

However, the storey ultimately ends on an optimistic note. Without giving also much away I tin best summarize the ending similar this: sometimes forces beyond our command alter our lives inward major ways, as well as that way one-time traditions volition die, but nosotros tin accommodate as well as hold those one-time ways live inward a novel form. Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 flake of advice close the narration; John Chu tin seem a little…off, when y’all initiatory off hear his voice. Give your ears a infinitesimal or hence to acquire occupation to his narration vocalization as well as you’ll honor he’s the perfect adult man to select Ken’s story.

It starts as a whimsical Chinese fairy tale as well as ends as a gritty steampunk.  I couldn’t recommend it more.

Soft Currency” past times Seth Gordon
Narrated past times Melissa Bugaj
An Escape Pod Original 

This storey takes identify inward an alternate 1970s America inward which men as well as women occupation separate money. Men occupation dollars as well as coins piece women occupation coupons as well as stamps (they come upwardly inward the same denominations as dollars as well as coins).  For the sake of time, the cliff notes version is that this was started after World War II to aid returning GIs regain their one-time jobs; if y’all desire the total history you’ll have got to hear to/read the brusque story.  Certain businesses solely have got dollars piece other solely have got coupons; the organization is partially justified past times claiming that men as well as women purchase dissimilar things. Unfortunately, the telephone commutation charge per unit of measurement is non 1:1 as well as ofttimes favors the dollar to a greater extent than than the coupon.  As such many illegal currency exchanges have got popped upwardly over the years. Our protagonist Cassie, a clerk at a coupon solely grocery store, honor herself drawn into such an operation.

First of all permit me only state that Seth did as well as first-class chore alongside the world-building. I genuinely felt similar the basis was good explained, but that it also existed beyond the confines of the story. Also, hats off the Melissa for doing such a goodness chore juggling the cast of characters. Having said that, as well as keeping inward heed that I soundless recollect it’s an first-class story, at that topographic point were a few details that didn’t quite add together up.

For example, why the divergence inward value betwixt the dollar as well as the coupon? Wouldn’t it only live easier to hold things on a 1:1 ratio. Also, what’s hence bad close illegal currency exchanges? Surely the women running them must live losing money, as well as it’s non similar they’re counterfeiting or anything similar that. On the other hand, maybe the answers were closer than I initially realized.

It’s repeatedly implied throughout the storey that the systems truthful role is to reinforce traditional sex roles.  It’s also mentioned that America is the solely nation to occupation segregated money. The storey also hints that people are kickoff to to notice how the organization makes no sense, as well as the Women’s Liberation Movement appears to live purring right on schedule.  Come to recollect of it, the storey could easily live interpreted as an allegory for the continued wage discrimination against women.

Maybe it was the author’s intent to acquire out sure questions unanswered as well as the audience wanting more. All things considered soundless an first-class storey as well as really much recommended.

Southpaw” past times Bruce McAllister
Narrated past times Brian Liberman
Originally published inward Asimov’s Science Fiction 

The myth that Fidel Castro was given the take away chances to play baseball game for the New York Giants has long been discredited. Suppose, however, that non solely was he given the chance, but that he’d said yes. In this storey that’s precisely what happens. Castro plays for the New York Giants as well as has a wonderful lady friend named Nancy. Life seems good, but Republic of Cuba is on his heed hence much lately, especially 1 time he begins having visions of a foreign basis where he, non Batista, is the leader of Cuba.

For those of y’all concerned close the plausibly of this story, the writer himself admits that he’s fully aware Castro never got a take away chances to play baseball game for America. Nevertheless, he thought it would brand an interesting story. Admittedly I’m non much of a sports person, but I experience similar this storey is written good plenty to live enjoyed fifty-fifty if sports isn’t your thing. At the hazard of sounding similar a broken record, I thought the narrator did an first-class job. What tin I say?  Escape Pod knows how to pick narrators.

Without giving away also much I tin state that at that topographic point was a flake of this storey that reminded me of The Man inward the High Castle and I enjoyed that. I also appreciated how Castro was depicted as a really human character.  He knows only how lucky he is to have got risen through the ranks of society, as well as he’s keenly aware of how much suffering his swain Cuban are going through. At the same time, there’s no clear respond for fixing this problem.

For a expression at a dissimilar side of Fidel Castro I’d recommend giving this storey a try.

The Eckener Alternative” past times James L. Cambias
Narrated past times Mur Lafferty 
Originally published inward All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories

This story’s a lilliputian dissimilar than the ones we’ve talked about. It’s non initially laid inward an alternate history, but follows someone’s endeavour to brand one. Our protagonist, John Cavalli, is a educatee at a academy for preparation fourth dimension travelers. He’s also a lover of airships as well as is determined to relieve them from dying out. After a few failed attempts to alter history his path becomes clear. He’s going to forestall World War II from ever happening, but is that genuinely such a goodness idea?

Admittedly this storey was to a greater extent than activity than dialogue, but since it features a manlike individual protagonist I initially wasn’t sure if Mur was going to live the right jibe for this story. All things considered, I recollect Mur handled the narration of this storey excellently. The storey itself made some pretty goodness observations such as why airships, cool as they are, were ultimately replaced past times airplanes.

There this scene inward the cafeteria I constitute peculiarly amusing. The students are all talking close what they’d go dorsum inward fourth dimension as well as change. You acquire the criterion answer: halt Cortez, relieve Lincoln, but hence there’s the guy wanted to give auto guns to the Confederates. It appears Harry Turtledove volition soundless live read fifty-fifty after nosotros invent fourth dimension travel.

This 1 was short, sweetness as well as to the point. I recommend it.

The ’76 Goldwater Dime” past times John Medaille 
Narrated past times Norm Sherman 
Originally published inward Residential Aliens

Okay, this 1 powerfulness non precisely live alternate history per say, but it’s soundless pretty fun. Our protagonist is a numismatist trying to convince someone that he has come upwardly into possession of coins from alternate universes. Instead of the commons presidents, these coins depict figures such as Barry Goldwater, Benedict Arnold as well as Eugene V Debs.

Norm absolutely nailed it alongside his performance of the crazed money collector; if y’all recollect this is goodness y’all should come across him inward his native habitat over at the Drabblecast.  I also similar how the storey is presented inward the cast of a conversion, but nosotros never hear the other person, only the narrator’s reactions as well as remarks. It was fun imagining the kinds of world’s these coins powerfulness have got come upwardly from.

All inward all a really fun lilliputian story. Definitely worth checking out.

Why I left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” past times Lawrence Watt-Evens
Narrated past times Jonathon Hawkins
Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story

This 1 is also debatable as to how much it counts, but it won the Hugo Award, hence that’s got to count for something. Our protagonist gets a chore at a hamburger articulation inward West Virginia, but this isn’t only whatever hamburger joint. Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers serves as a hub for travelers from dissimilar alternate universes; it seems West Virginia is ever out of the way as well as unassuming no thing what the universe. Our protagonist before long faces a choice; go along life as it is, or move to novel as well as exotic universes, but hazard never seeing this 1 again.

You’re likely expecting me to state I liked the narrator at this point. Well…you’d live absolute correct.  As for the storey itself, I enjoyed getting to come across glimpse of the dissimilar world’s as well as letting my imagination create total inward the blanks. I was mildly amused at how 1 of the graphic symbol came from a basis that sounded rather similar to the plot of Bioshock: Infinitebut hold inward heed this storey was written good before Bioshock: Infinite came out. I also enjoyed the advice the protagonist received on how to resolve his dilemma. I’m struggling to honor the right words, but seriously this is an first-class story.

Defiantly earned its Hugo, as well as should likely earn your fourth dimension as well.

Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe” past times Carole McDonnell 
Narrated past times Steve Eley
Originally published inward Jigsaw Nation

Well, they can’t all live winners. There had to live at to the lowest degree on rotten apple tree inward this bushel. Hey, at to the lowest degree this proves I tin genuinely non similar something as well as have got a negative opinion. First some background, Jigsaw Nation is a collection of brusque stories alongside the primal premise that around 2004, Red as well as Blue States (or inward some case, Red as well as Blue districts) became ii separate nations.  All the stories have got at that topographic point ain have got on the how this happened as well as what the results were. Most of them are rather interesting as well as though provoking, but this one…I was seriously considering leaving it out all together.

Okay, I’ll essay my best to live as neutral possible. So the basic laid upwardly is that Red States are known as the Confederacy as well as Blue States are called Columbia.  I know what the writer was trying to do here, but Columbia as a scream has already been taken. Anyway, our protagonist is a Confederate cafe possessor talking alongside some recent immigrants from Columbia. The twain is mixed race, but the Confederacy is a heavily segregated society, but the narrator assures us its all separate but equal. I genuinely promise that was inward graphic symbol as well as non the author, herself a dark woman, doing the talking.

So why would a mixed race twain knowingly displace to such a racist society? You see, Columbia soundless allows Christianity, but has banned the Bible for beingness homophobic. The government were also going to have got the couple’s nestling away if they educated it alongside the Bible. No seriously, that’s what the storey says. Look, if the premise is that things split upwardly inward 2004 you’re non going to acquire anything similar that without diving into strawman territory. It’s a strait upwardly illustration of the Golden Means Fallacy/Balance Fallacy. Atheists (and I state this as 1 myself) don’t desire to have got away your Bibles, your kids or ban religion. What nosotros desire is to live treated as as well as nosotros desire everyone else to live treated as as well. We powerfulness non take away hold alongside what y’all say, but we’ll struggle to the decease for your right to state it.

I don’t know if I should consider Steve Eley commendable or insane for running this story. Either way, don’t waste materials your fourth dimension alongside this stinker. Pick 1 of the other stories I’ve featured.


I don’t desire to halt on a sour note, hence I’ll have got a minute to reverberate on all the goodness stories nosotros discussed.  From Harry Turtledove to Ken Liu, from Castro as a baseball game thespian to coins from some other world. I promise y’all enjoyed these sampling as well as give them a try. And hey, these as only the alternate history related stories, there’s hundreds of other amazing stories only waiting to live listened to as well. Remember, if y’all similar what y’all hear don’t live shy close dropping a donation, Escape Pod is funded past times its fans.  Hopefully, I tin do this 1 time to a greater extent than some other fourth dimension as well as speak close some other smashing brusque storey podcast. If so, I volition come across y’all then.

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Sam McDonald is a college educatee from Shreveport, LA.  When non involved alongside his studies he tin live constitute making as well as posting maps across the spider web as well as working on brusque stories that he hopes to have got published inward magazines such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, as well as the Escape Artists Podcasts.
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