I have created a short list of thirty from these 119 episodes.
There were several hour and hour plus episodes in this ‘section’ of the EscapePod back catalogue that I simply didn’t listen to. They were so outside the usual standards I’ve come to expect from the show, length wise. If I want to listen to an audiobook, I will, I don’t look for short audiobooks here… longer short stories/novelettes are different constructs than short stories, and shouldn’t be directly compared, or at least that’s my retro-justification for this decision. Honestly, the in some cases double-the-usual length stories felt like an ambush imposition upon my journey to listen to at least a little of each EscapePod episode and I got cranky and stubborn and refused to listen to most of them. They might be great. But they didn’t fit into my quest now – to sample all and listen to most EscapePod episodes and come up with a mostly complete ‘best of’. It’s starting to feel a bit like work, but I am making excellent progress and expect to have it completed well before the end of this year. I have dropped the idea of alternating between Escape Pod and other science fiction podcasts or radio shows, I might listen in and report back on other shows later, or I might not. I’ve had the idea for a different (non-science-fiction-related) radio reviewing project which is calling louder at the moment.
Sometime between their beginnings and their 400th or so episode, Escape Pod stopped providing clear ratings for their stories. Now they have little statements to say when a story contains obscenities or ‘mature situations’ and so forth. It may be my imagination but it seems as though they also stopped buying so many stories that would have likely been ‘rated X’ earlier. The dropping of the rating system makes it more difficult for me to put warnings on my short lists. You’ll have to listen to the little statements at the start of the stories about content yourselves.
I want to make special mention for episode 400, Rescue Party due to it’s multi-cast production values. And I also made a length exception for episode 490, the EscapePod presentation of Flowers for Algernon, because I recognized the title as a “very famous story I’m not sure I’ve read or heard before.” I appreciated the opportunity to hear it. (Even if it was longer than the average episode.)
I did not listen to Episode 397, a presentation of A Gun for Dinosaur, so I can’t say if I recommend it or not. I didn’t listen to it because I am well acquainted with the X-Minus One dramatic presentation of this story and didn’t feel compelled to listen to a narration at this time. But if you listen to it, let me know what you think of this EscapePod reading.
Here are the 28 other episodes that I’m shortlisting in this update:
Episode 384 – The Tamarisk Hunter written by Paolo Bacigalupi and Narrated by Caith Donovan
I was excited when I learned I was going to get to listen to a Bacigalupi short story, as I really enjoyed his world building in the dystopian-future novel The Water Knife a few years ago. This short story is set in a similar future of (greater) water scarcity in the western states.
Episode 386 – Finished – written by Robert Reed and narrated by Joel Nisbet
Episode 392 – Aftermaths – written by Lois McMaster Bujold and narrated by Mat Weller
Episode 393 – Red Card written by S.L. Gilbow and narrated by Heather Bowman-Tomlinson
Episode 396 – Dead Merchandise written by Ferrett Steinmetz and narrated by Kathy Sherwood
Episode 399 – My Heart is a Quadratic Equation by Shane Halbach and narrated by Christina Lebonville
This one is short fun. You don’t need to understand math to understand the story.
Episode 403 – Saving Alan Idle written by Katharine Mankiller and narrated by Kyle Akers
Episode 407 – Mono No Aware – written by Ken Liu and narrated by John Chu
Episode 411 – Loss with Diagrams written by E. Lily Yu and narrated by Eleiece Kraweic
Episode 409 – Mantis Wives written by Kij Johnson and narrated by Heather Bowman-Tomlinson
Episode 418 – The Dala Horse written by Michael Swanwick and narrated by Michael Liebmann
A Red Riding Hood story, in a future Sweden, with a troll as well as a Dala Horse.
Episode 425 – The Boy in Zaquitos – written by Bruce McAllister and narrated by John Chu
This one, a story, in part, about plague, felt somewhat timely despite being first released upon the world in 2006.
Episode 433 – That Other Sea written by William Ledbetter and narrated by Shaelyn Grey
According to the commentary on the EscapePod forum, I may have wildly misinterpreted this story’s setting, (I thought it was about cephalopods exploring the surface of our ‘Earth’s’ ocean, it might really be about aliens on a distant moon) but it’s still a quite great story!
Enjoy the Moment – Episode 438 – written by Jack McDevitt and narrated by Sara Tolbert
Episode 439 – Cradle and Ume written by Geoffrey W. Cole and narrated by Jeff Ronner
Episode 450 – Valedictorian – written by N.K. Jemisin and narrated by Stephanie Malia Morris
Episode 453 – The Grotto of the Dancing Deer – written by Clifford D. Simak and narrated by Norm Sherman
This one was both longer and older, but it made it to my short list anyway
Episode 456 – To Waste – written by Luke Pebler and narrated by Joshua Price
Episode 458 – If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love – written by Rachel Swirsky and narrated by Christina Lebonville
A short powerful one
Episode 461 – Selkie Stories are for Losers – written by Sofia Samatar and narrated by Amanda Ching
Absolutely not a selkie story.
Episode 464 – Red Dust and Dancing Horses – written by Beth Cato and narrated by Marguerite Kenner
A tale about a girl on Mars who dream of horses, so she builds one, incorporating the remains of a certain horse called Trigger.
It appears that someone actually does have the taxidermy remains of Trigger. Maybe he will make it to Mars some day.
Episode 465 – The Sky is Blue, and Bright, and Filled with Stars – written by Edward Ashton and narrated by Andrea Richardson
Episode 470 – The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province – written by Sarah Pinsker and narrated by Amy Robinson
You know those lost tribes of Israel? A photographer is invited to meet one of them.
Episode 473 – Soft Currency – written by Seth Gordon and narrated by Melissa Bugai
Episode 475 – Homegrown Tomatoes – written by Lara Elena Donnelly and narrated by David D Levine
Episode 485 – Supply Limited, Act Now – written by Helen Marshall and narrated by Graeme Dunlop
Episode 487 – New Folks Home – written by Clifford D. Simak and narrated by Norm Sherman
Another older tale, this one about an oldie. I think I may have read this a long time ago.
And I enjoyed episode 497 – A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide – written by Sarah Pinsker and narrated by David White.
This is set in the province of Saskatchewan, where I have spent some time. I did note, without knowing anything about the narrator, that his pronunciation didn’t sound quite right for Saskatchewan, and then I found that he graduated from a university in Tennessee, which doesn’t eliminate the possibility that he’s Canadian, but it suggests that he’s… maybe not. He does a good job anyway, really. Also, the author does not seem to be Canadian either. Canada – you don’t have to be from here to make stories set here. Go ahead. We’ll love it at the same time as we’ll mock your pronunciation.
And that’s it for EscapePod for now!
I want to comment about the ‘Artemis Rising’ event – a month set aside by EscapePod for stories by women and non-binary authors for the first time during this episodic block. While my gut reaction is to react negatively to the notion of such events, I was curious to see if it had made a noticeable difference to the percentage of stories written by women on my short list. So I went back and sorted through Parts 1 through 4 of these posts as well as analyzing this short list segment based on apparent gender of authors. (I probably got someone’s gender wrong along the way, it’s likely not a perfect anaylisis.) Here is what I discovered:
Shortlist Part Five, Includes Artemis Rising Event : 18 Male Authors – 12 Female Authors = 40% Female
Shortlist Part Four: 16 Male Authors – 7 Female – 1 Non-Binary = 30% Female (rounded up)
Shortlist Part Three: 17 Male Authors – 7 Female – 1 Unknown = 30% Female (rounded)
Shortlist Part Two: 15 Male Authors – 10 Female Authors = 40% Female
Shortlist Part One: 13 Male Authors – 11 Female Authors – 2 Unknown = 42% Female (rounded down)
So far, I would say that Artemis Rising has little impact on gender representation in my personal shortlists, but I’ll keep track of the gender representation from now on since my curiosity around this question has been aroused.
P.S. – If you think 30% female in a genre podcast seems like awfully poor gender representation and is probably the result of oppressive patriarchs and discriminatory male-gaze bias, etc., well, maybe, but let’s just say for now that my general sense is science fiction does at least as well and probably better than the western genre in terms of encouraging and promoting female authors and readers. I have ideas about addressing this in another post some day.
So many posts to write, so little time.