Here is my short-list from listening through episodes 180 to 280. I am now over a quarter of the way through listening to all the EscapePod episodes!
There are a couple of episodes that made it on to this shortlist more because I now feel like all my shortlists should have roughly the same number of episodes (24-25) for consistency between posts than because I think they’re really particularly strong. I also have to say that there are stories here (and in past posts and probably in future posts too) that I enjoyed without agreeing with their points of view or conclusions or stances on life in general. I think it’s great when stories can do that for you, entertain you while you’re ultimately disagreeing with them – and maybe they’re also working on changing your mind, a little, or at least reminding you that different points of view might be opposite to yours (you might even say they’re wrong!) but that does not make the people having them ‘bad’ and their stories worthless. (Unless they’re…really bad, I guess. I mean, there are some things that are really hard to tolerate, even in stories.)
There were also a couple of episodes that I crossed off from my long list this time due to their narrators. I’d listened to probably a couple of hundred of hours of narration from various places and times even before launching on this particular listening project, and I have developed some personal quirks when it comes to narration preferences. There are voices that are good for me, and voices I’d just rather not listen to. Sometimes that means I don’t include an episode on a short list not because the story isn’t interesting, but because the narration wasn’t to my liking. I am also fairly demanding in terms of production quality.
There are a few times when I just refuse to listen to a story all the way through because of the lack of appeal of the narration. So, if you have a favourite story that does not make it to my short-lists, it might be because I didn’t like the story, or it might be because I didn’t like the narration. I have to like both at least a little bit. This is, after all my short list of ‘best episodes.’
Without further ado, my short-list of EscapePod episodes from episodes 180 to 280
We are Ted Tuscadero for President – written by Chris Dahlen and narrated by Cheyenne Wright – in case you hadn’t had enough of American politics to last you a lifetime already, this episode is about political clones!
Harry the Crow – written by John Kratman and narrated by Norm Sherman – Rated R – oooh look, this one sounds like a western! You know, a western with a robot or something like it, and in the future, or maybe it’s an alternative now? I don’t really know. But it’s lots of funny, too.
Evil Robot Monkey – written by Mary Robinette Kowal and narrated by Serah Eley
N-words – written by Ted Kosmatka and narrated by Kim the Comic Book Goddess – no, of course, not that n-word, although the analogies in the story are pretty strong.
Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store – written by Robin Sloan and narrated by Serah Eley
Come All Ye Faithful – written by Robert J. Sawyer and narrated by Mike Boris
The Hastillan Weed – written by Ian Creasey and narrated by MarBelle – one for gardeners.
Beans and Marbles – written by Floris M. Kleijne and narrated by Serah Eley – coffee and madness out in space.
29 Union Leaders Can’t Be Wrong – written by Genevieve Valentine and narrated by Chris Lester – Rated R
This is How It Feels – written by Ian Creasey and narrated by FNH – the second Ian Creasey story on this short list, this one is much more serious than the Hastillian Weed, but I found it quite poignant.
Skinhorse Goes to Mars – written by Jay Lake and narrated by Mike Boris – Rated R – I am somewhat confused about what actually happens in this violent and sort-of-western-ish story.
An Almanac for Alien Invaders – written by Merrie Haskell and narrated by Sara Tolbert – a lower-key alien invasion story.
Sleepy Joe – written by Marc Laidlaw and narrated by Ben Phillips – Rated R – at first I wasn’t sure about this episode, but it grew on me. Deals with, among other things, the place for war veterans in civilian society.
The Ghost in the Death Trap – written by Marjorie James and narrated by Serah Eley – this is actually a sequel to a much earlier episode, episode 7, in fact, but it also stands alone. A light, fairly fun pick.
The Bride of Frankenstein – written by Mike Resnik and narrated by Julie Davis – this story is sort of silly, but you can’t say it’s not science-fiction, since, you know, many people consider the Frankenstein story one of the first science-fiction stories. (I always think of it more as a horror or fantasy story, though.)
Hard Rain At the Fortean Cafe – written by Lavie Tidhar and narrated by Sara Tolbert – Rated R – There are famous dead people in this one. Sign me up. I like me some famous dead people.
Little Blossom Makes A Deal with the Devil – written by S. Hutson Blount and narrated by Eugie Foster – set in what was once probably China. And in winter.
A Talent for Vanessa – written by David W. Goldman and narrated by Dave Thompson
The Mermaids Singing Each to Each – written by Cat Rambo and narrated by Christiana Ellis – Rated R –
God of the Lower Level – written by Charles M. Saplak and narrated by Steve Anderson. An entertaining tale about a man and his non-human-intelligence work companion.
Five Flash Fiction Episodes:
Betting the Family Farm – written by Wenonah Lyon and narrated by Elie Hirschman – a new golfer comes to town one day.
It Was Death by a Bullet, But I Was Killed by a Woman – written by Michael Bekemeyer Rated R, but mostly a comedy?
Skyscrapers – written by Rachel Swirsky and narrated by Ann Leckie – very short. It seems there was a contest for very short stories, and this one took second place. It’s an interesting take on mythological creatures and their place in the modern world.
Silence – also written by Rachel Swirsky and narrated by Ann Leckie, also very short.
Mission to Dover – written by Gideon Fostick and narrated by Lyle Merithew – This episode won first place in the very short flash fiction contest EscapePod was holding at the time. Although I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, it took me a minute after the ending to figure the trick out. Ah, history!
I also took an hour or so to try out listening to an old science fiction anthology series, Exploring Tommorrow – but I found it’s style too heavy-handed to enjoy or recommend.
On to further Escape Pod episodes!