Synthetic Voices #20 – July 2013 Top Picks

No podcasted episode this month due to my moving to a new apartment, but you can see the list below.  It’s an abbreviated list, as I just wanted to get the top picks out quickly, but overall, not the strongest month for podcasted fiction anyway.  There were a few interesting episodes I’m sorry to have excluded, but hopefully by now listeners will know how to seek out some solid fiction on their own…right?

I hope to have the August episode up sometime in early September (barring technical problems in my new abode).


No announcements, but look for a new meeting location next month (if I can find one, that is!).

*Top Picks from July 2013*

“Mars Opposition” by David Brin
StarShipSofa Ep. 298
~1hr 20mins
— This was an interesting story of alien invasion that left everyone on Earth scratching their heads.  The Martians arrive, give generous gifts, and then dole out unexpected violence to very specific humans.  I loved following this story’s development and trying the underlying motives of the Martians.  It does use the “super smart protagonist” device a little too heavily for my taste, but it does move the story along.

“Immortal L.A.” by Eric Czuleger
Pseudopod Ep. 341
~45 mins
— First of all, fair warning…it’s a vampire story.  But that said, I think the author has found a way to tease out just a little bit more blood (pardon the pun) from this well-wrung stone.  I don’t want to reveal too much, as I think the plot gives a lot of the juice to the story, but I will say that the vampire-ness is generally overshadowed by an “outlaws” vibe mixed with a wistfulness from the past.  Writing this review, I feel like I’ve described some kind of art piece, but at the same time this IS from Pseudopod, so expect a bit of gore alongside the art.

“Cancer” by Ryan North
Lightspeed Magazine’s July Issue
~40 mins
— This third story named “Cancer” in the Machine of Death universe has a lot of great things going for it.  First of all, it builds wonderful characters which the reader should genuinely care about.  Second, there is a recurring mystery throughout the story as the protogonist’s Death Machine readings continuously fluxuate.  I found the resolution extremely novel as well as fulfilling.  After the story, there is a nice author’s note about where the seed of the story originates.  Any molecular biologists out there will already know this one!

“Saving Alan Idle” by Katherine Mankiller
Escape Pod Ep. 403
~45 mins
— This was another neat science fiction story.  It plays on internet identities, strong AI (artificial intelligence), and the struggle for disabled people to get by whenever things go awry.  I found both the diabetic programmer and her companion AI, the story’s namesake, to be believable and even loveable.  The narrator also does an excellent job with this one, skillfully distinguishing one character from another with accents and vocal cues.

“Vestigial Girl” by Alex Wilson
Escape Pod Ep. 405
~38 mins
— Following on with the theme of tenacity overcoming disability, here we see an extremely young child fighting her own body, a gangly, uncoordinated prison.  Her two fathers bicker among themselves throughout the entire story while she desperately tries to perform an extremely bizarre form of operation on herself.  I loved the speculative-yet-possible setup for this story, as the only fictional element is a small bit of aberrant human biology.  The tension is palpable all through the story and the final resolution may have you on the edge of your seat.

*Jimmy’s Rant*
I’ll stow my planned rant/editorial for another time when I’m in full 3-D audio :P

*Excellent Past Fiction*
Here are some great stories from years past, recently read into audio.

“The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin
The Drabblecast Ep. 289
— If this story doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will.  While this is a classic and likely well-known to long-time science fiction fans, this was my first exposure to it.  Essentially a lonely space captain is forced to make a terribly decision on board an ultra-light space plane.  Keep your tissues handy, as this story will both trim your nails and jerk your tears.

“Lure” by Harry Turtledove
“Gladly Wolde He Learne” by Harry Turtledove
“Clash of Arms” by Harry Turtledove
“Not All Wolves” by Harry Turtledove
“The Barbecue, The Movie, and Other Unfortunately Not So Relevant Material” by Harry Turtledove

StarShipSofa Ep. 300
— From the titles above I’m sure you can tell that you’re in for a treat.  For their 300th episode, Tony and the gang over at StarShipSofa put together 5 story marathon of Harry Turtledove stories.  Several of the stories were fantastic and I recommend you listen to all of them.  I will warn you, there is a MASSIVE pun floating about at the end of one of them.  I hope it shocks you like it did me!

“The Pit” by Joe. R. Lansdale
Pseudopod Ep. 344
~50 mins
— This last story is reserved for those needing a little more horror in their lives.  It’s a sick, twisted story of a man who finds himself battling for his life in a bit.  There are mountain folk, snake handlers, and a pit champion who intends to hold his title.  I will warn you that there is a TON of gore, language, violence, and general “eww” in this story.  The reason I “liked” it enough to include is that the terror is almost real.  The speculative elements described are really more like “it hasn’t happened yet” not that “it couldn’t.”  Read at your own risk and cringe away when necessary.

*That’s all folks!*

Leave a Reply