Tag Archive: “torstory”

Haiku Reviews 3

A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness by Tim Pratt (via Escape Pod 239)

Yes, the androids dream –
of equal rights, kinky sex,
and we human sheep.

Here we meet Kirby, robotic consort to the insatiable April, as he observes the symptoms of his adolescent step-daughter’s infection with an attitude-altering “happiness virus”. It is at first a matter of some concern to the couple, but thankfully it amounts to little more than a welcome respite from Wynter’s typical prickly temper. After a tense encounter with April’s ex, however, we realize that Kirby may be more than a mere observer. He’s wired for pleasure, yes – but who’s programming who? (Full text at Futurismic.)

Learning to Fly by Garth Upshaw (via Pseudopod 183)

Rodents, wings, and angst
with practice casts rats in flight
and traps lass in night.

I think anyone who has ever enjoyed poking around the library stacks has imagined discovering a dusty old tome full of forgotten knowledge. The teenage protagonist of Learning to Fly has found such a book, and has made a habit of sneaking out after curfew to practice its spells. She finally gets it down, but she gets more than she bargained for. Lord Rat is a crafty old bastard.

The Mermaid’s Tea Party by Samantha Henderson (via Podcastle 93)

Maid and sailor, prey,
serve sirens tea and escape
from their slaver way.

Shipwrecked by mermaids, a plantation owner’s young daughter is marooned by the “fishy bitches” on an island with another captive, the self-styled pirate Handsome Jack. The sailor was spared for his ability to tell fearsome tales, and Cassandra has bought some time by promising to serve tea to the mermaids if they recover any from the flotsam. (Mermaids get a kick out of lampooning high society.)

The story is not really about how the two defeat their captors, but about how the grim link of the slave trade connects Cassandra’s childhood naiveté with Handsome Jack’s circumspect remorse. Jack dies before the pair is found. His body is perfunctorily discarded by the rescuers as that of a lecherous knave, but we are left with the impression that his acquaintance has inspired Cassandra, the Pirate Queen, to chart a righteous new course through life.

Sir Hereward And Mr. Fitz Go To War Again by Garth Nix (via PodCastle 92)

Sworn to cull stray gods,
a knight and his wooden aide
slay shades and bear loss.

The titular characters (a man and a sorcerous self-motivated puppet) are mercenaries. As the story begins, they are en route to a city where they hope to find relaxing employment; it seems their gigs often develop into events of calamitous proportions. They have just barely arrived in Shûme when a minor gaffe leads to a duel between Hereward and Jessaye, a lieutenant of the city’s Temple Guard. They are well-matched, and the fight foreshadows romance.

Mr. Fitz soon learns something ominous about Shûme’s god, and we learn that the pair has a higher allegiance than to any local potentate. They execute their order’s mandate, but at cost to the prospect of Hereward’s love – and any hope of rest. What are the casualties of duty?

A great narration by Paul Tevis made this one a real treat to listen to. (Full text at Jim Baen’s Universe.)

The Clapping Hands of God by Michael Flynn (via StarShipSofa Aural Delights 122)

Affection, postponed,
becomes preventable grief;
act, or sacrifice.

A survey expedition passes through a gateway to a new world and sets up camp to stealthily observe the inhabitants. As might be expected, given the characters’ mission, the worldbuilding is enjoyably thorough. It is culture – both that of the natives and that of the humans – that is the central subject here. The expedition’s leader is challenged to maintain objectivity as his crew habitually anthropomorphizes the alien society. As a crisis facing the locals approaches its climax, Hasan succumbs to the anthropomorphic view: he hesitates to enforce evacuation, and even permits assistance to an alien who has struggled industriously to locate the crew. As a result, a woman he admires dies.

As Tony might say, a truly crackin’ narration by Mike Boris.

Down on the Farm by Charlie Stross (via Tor.com Story Podcast 11)

Men of the Laundry
hack math to weave their magic,
wrung out on the Farm.

The Matron, machine,
guards the stark minds held inside –
jail, weapon, or womb?

You can have your Harry Potter; I’ll tend to my English wizard needs at the Laundry, “that branch of the British secret state tasked with defending the realm from the scum of the multiverse, using the tools of applied computational demonology”. The protagonist is sent to investigate anomalies at the service’s “funny farm”, which is nominally a secure hospice for those damaged in the line of work. There is, perhaps, a bit more to it than that. (Full text at Tor.com.)

Posted on Sunday, March 7th, 2010.

Listen to fiction / instead of in-depth reviews / enjoy my haikus

The City Quiet as Death by Steven Utley and Michael Bishop (via Tor.com Story Podcast 9)

Don Horacio:
abandoned by God and Man,
mad as the old stars.

The universe reverberates in Horacio Gorrión’s ears, a grand clamoring neurosis of action, stasis, and scale. Counseled on one hand to find purpose through investment in the new physics of Genesis, and counseled on the other hand to accept the benevolent disinterest of a distant Prime Mover, Horacio ultimately succumbs to the briny discord of the squid in the locket.

Existential dread is the fundamental ingredient of Lovecraftian horror, and The City Quiet as Death delivers a compelling portrait of an aged bachelor overwhelmed by the incessant continuity of Creation. The well-realized setting of his Caribbean household provides plenty of calories – and the threat of tentacles is an appropriate garnish.

Morris and the Machine by Tim Pratt (via Drabblecast 150)

Today love grows cold –
travel back to set things right;
time is no arrow.

Morris is a tinker who has built something in the basement. His wife is become weary of his work and wary of his absences. Morris has made a great breakthrough, but it is a bittersweet victory. He returns from each test of his machine and of himself to find no progress towards his heart’s goal, which slips further away with each day.

Good story. Sad stories often are.

Biographical Notes To “A Discourse On The Nature Of Causality, With Air-Planes” By Benjamin Rosenbaum by Benjamin Rosenbaum (via Podcastle 90)

Aboard an airship,
the Plausible Fabulist asks
in whose plots we act.

Set in a fanciful alternate reality populated with zeppelins, assassins, and helpful mechanical Wisdom Ants animated by the Brahmanic field, this story’s endangered protagonist – a writer – considers how his protagonist – an inhabitant of a rational “materialist” world like ours – might reason his way out of such improbable peril. Through the lens of fiction, the fictional Benjamin Rosenbaum discerns a solution to his plight.

We, too, can view fiction as more than mere entertainment. Each story is a pattern; equipped with the memory of many patterns, more situations become recognizable and more challenges become tractable. This is how imagination enhances experience. (But don’t forget to vet intuition with reason.)

Posted on Saturday, February 13th, 2010.

Audio Fiction Limericks Volume 2

Catch ‘Em in the Act by Terry Bisson (via Tor.com Story Podcast 7)

There once was a dude whose name was Lou
who lived alone with nothing to do.
He bought a camcorder,
which caused some disorder,
yet after it all he still felt blue.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ads for those Crimestoppers™ cameras myself. Catch ‘Em in the Act is written in a repetitive pattern pleasantly reminiscent of a folk story.

The Twa Corbies by Marie Brennan (via PodCastle 82)

Thanks to ravens whose speech he did dread,
a peddler found a knight who was dead.
He told the knight’s lady
who seemed a bit crazy;
later she died and birds ate her head.

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010.

Reviews in Rhyme: Podcast Fiction Edition

Continuing the theme from yesterday’s book reviews, here are limericks about some short stories I listened to today. (Spoiler warning!)

Another End Of The Empire by Tim Pratt (via PodCastle 88)

The dark lord ruled the land with no ruth,
but his doom was to lose it to youth.
To escape prophesy,
he ruled graciously,
and in peace came the oracle’s truth.

Sometimes audio narrations make me cringe (especially when men attempt to deliver female dialogue in falsetto), but Cheyenne Wright’s reading of this story was great fun.

The Last Great Clown Hunt by Chris Furst (via Drabblecast 148)

On the Plains roam the tribes of the clowns,
the Bozos who were banished from towns.
A clown hunter-cum-cop
who’s tasked to the big top
meets his brother, the chief, which confounds.

I don’t like clowns, but I love the “native” clown names in this story, such as Runs With Scissors. Hilarious sound effects complement the somber telling of this tale.

The Cat Who Walked A Thousand Miles by Kij Johnson (via Tor.com Story Podcast 6)

In Japan lived a cat who was small
with her aunts by a gardened old hall,
but the earth shook and turned
and the garden was burned
so the cat ran away from it all.

The encounter with the monk at the end of this story nearly brought a tear to my eye. (Actually, it seems the narration was abridged, so the story continues after that scene. Fortunately, the beautifully-illustrated full text is available in a variety of formats.)

Posted on Monday, February 1st, 2010.