Synthetic Voices Episode #2 – Selections from March 2012

March was kind of a mixed bag for me.  I actually stopped in the middle of a few stories, which I rarely do even once most months.  That said, I still found a number of stories that I’m sure will light up those creative parts of your brain.  Plus there’s alien monkeys and an old-timey rocket story.  Enjoy!

Take a listen to the episode here:

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*Featured Stories*

“Electric Rains” by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Lightspeed Magazine March Issue
and StarShipSofa Ep. 230
–  This somewhat near-future story about growing up, terrorism, and aggressive singularity ideologues has a lot of moving parts.  The story focuses on a little girl growing up with an older woman.  We see a Washington, DC (coincidentally where I live) that has been destroyed by a strange phenomenon called Electric Rain.  It’s a great story because it takes a look at the singularity trope in a fairly novel way and questions whether or not it’s better to give in to fate or fight for your own identity and future.  The story was featured in Lightspeed and syndicated by StarShipSofa.  I like this kind of cross-polination because it indicates that the various podcasts are more of a community than isolated islands.
–  I’d also like to make mention of the Cheapskate audio article on the same episode of “the Sofa.”  It compares Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars to the new John Carter movie.  The segment does a very nice job both discussing the media AND describing how to listen to the book via a free reading by LibriVox.  I too happen to have just written about these two topics, John Carter and LibriVox, on my blog, so you can check those out on ScienceIsMagic.com if you like!

“From Their Paws, We Shall Inherit” by Gary Kloster
Clarkesworld Magazine Issue #66
–  I don’t want to mess up the premise of this story by explaining it overly, but basically it involves an extraterrestrial object falling to Earth and some subsequent human-to-nonhuman conversations.  The family featured in the story comes across as fairly realistic and seems to come from a real place.  I enjoyed the hopeful tone throughout the story.  It also had monkeys, so you can’t beat that!

“From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7″ by Nnedi Okorafor
The Drabblecast Ep. 238
–  I first heard this story on Clarkesworld Magazine’s podcast, narrated by Kate Baker.  While she did her usual job, this version is also nice.  Variety is the spice of life, right?  I actually listened to the whole story again because I wanted to have it fresh in my mind for this podcast.  It wasn’t a chore…”TreeFrog7″ is a high-tech, jungle adventure tale that will suck you right in!  The story is in journal entry form, but this isn’t at all grating.  In fact, it really helps to convey the passage of time.  I will say the ending didn’t do a lot for me, but I will let you make your own decision on that one.

“In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch
Podcastle Ep. 200
–  Despite some inconsistent audio quality (which frankly makes sense with all the various contributors), this was one of the most fun stories I listened to all month.  To celebrate their 200th episode, Podcastle ran “In the Stacks” as a cast recording, featuring every single member of their recording and production team in some way.  This was a great story for such a cast reading, as there were numerous characters and sounds that needed to be voices throughout.  The story essentially follows the “wizard school” trope, but it’s a little less British boarding school and a little more sword and sorcery.  It also takes place in a living library, so that’s intriguing unto itself.  I heartily recommend giving this one a listen.

*Much to My Chagrin*
This is a module where I talk about a story that stuck with me, that maybe I enjoyed, but something BOTHERED me about it.

“Beauty” by David Barr Kirtley
Lightspeed Magazine March Issue
–  ”Beauty” was interesting and original (complete with a pretty nice zinger ending), but it was a FRACTURED FAIRYTALE.  Now I don’t mind the odd fairytale remix here and there, but it’s beginning to get ridiculous how many there are floating about out there.  The plot and character development of “Beauty” kept me engaged, but in the back of my mind I just couldn’t relax and enjoy things with yet another Beauty and the Beast redux.  This type of story can absolutely be done well.  In fact I’m kind of looking forward to the Snow White and The Huntsmen movie when it comes out in theaters…hopefully it will bother me less than this story.

*Dusty Tomes*
This module features public domain fiction that was either originally or recently recorded into audio format.

“Atom Drive” by Charles Fontenay
StarShipSofa Ep. 228 (timecode 1:30)
–  I enjoyed this pulpy story of two space pilots competing to show their Earth-to-Mars hauling company is superior.  The story focuses on the pilot representing an upstart company hoping to acquire a contract to make the Earth-Mars run.  As you might expect, there is subterfuge, sabotage, and the excitement of a race in space.  Some of the neater aspects of this story are the relationship between the two pilots (who respect one another, despite their rivalry), the quality of the narrator, the use of physics, and the anachronistic use of a slide rule on a rocket ship!  A fun bit of escapism if there ever was.

*A Bit of Flash*
This module features flash fiction in podcast form.

“Mark and Shelly’s” by Steven R. Stewart
Toasted Cake Ep. 12
–  Toasted Cake is a brand new podcast that features weekly flash fiction, that is, fiction from a few hundred to under 1000 words.  Tina Connolly, who may be familiar to you from Podcastle recordings such as this month’s “The Rugged Track,” is the podcast’s quirky host.  ”Mark and Shelly’s” is a twisted little piece of fiction that mixes relationships, restaurants, and relativistic effects.  I didn’t love it, personally, BUT it did stick with me for a little while afterward and THAT is my condition for inclusion on Synthetic Voices.  Who am I to break the rules?

Our closing quote for the week:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

*Credits*

Synthetic Voices is by Jimmy Rogers, distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike (3.0) US license.

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