Synthetic Voices Episode #3 – Selections from April 2012

The last month had a LOT of great fiction to choose from, so let’s jump right into the featured stories!

Take a listen to the episode here:

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*Featured Stories*

“The Womb Factory” by Peter M. Ferenczi
Clarkesworld Magazine Issue #67
36:26 mins
— This story is sure to ruffle some feathers.  Ferenczi plays upon the continuing Foxconn scandals and general exploitation of Chinese workers, but, being an SF author, takes it to a whole ‘nother level.  It’s not particularly gory, but I think it’s fair to say it plays with some “horror elements” because in this case, the human body is the “factory.”  I love stories that not only make you look inward at your “self” but also look inward at your physical body.  How can we sometimes feel so alienated from that ever-present, yet mysterious vessel for our consciousness?  Personally, I found the ending fairly predictable, but at the same time, it was the way I wanted the story to end.  As always, I leave final judgement up to you, the reader.

“Killing The Morrow” by Robert Reed
The Drabblecast Ep. 239
~37:00 mins
— Like so many weird fiction tales, I can’t go TOO deep into the details of this story for fear of ruining the gradual revelation of knowledge.  It plays with many different themes, not the least of which are mind control, primal urges, parenting, time travel, and engineered societies.  After you listen, I’m curious who you favored in the end: the main character and his new group, or what one might call “the invaders.”  Also, as a sidenote, if you’ve been watching Fringe lately, there seems to be a lot of overlap here with a recent, rather jarring episode on that show.
— This isn’t a “toot my own horn” podcast, but since a little work of mine was featured in the same episode as “Killing the Morrow,” I figured a little horn-blowing can’t hurt.  I wrote a 100 character story for The Drabblecast’s weekly twabble contest and guess what?  I won.  You can find my tiny story called “Thought Police” at timecode 43:00, just before the credits.

“The Steam Dancer (1896)” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Lightspeed Magazine April Issue
36:14 mins
— Ooh, I loved this one.  I’m neither an aficionado of burlesque or steampunk stuff, but something about the setting and tone of this story really did it for me.  It tells the story of a woman who is part flesh, part steam-powered, and all dancer.  The setting reminds me of a Storyville, New Orleans, slum from the turn of the century.  Despite some dark events, the story has an optimistic tone and really shows off how a determined spirit can find pleasure amid unpleasantness.  Be aware, there are some pretty intense sexual situations and there is also a fair amount of offensive language.  It’s not for the feint, but I will vouch for the darkness being worthy of the eventual sunlight.

“Outlander” by Samantha Henderson
Podcastle Ep. 205
60:20 mins
— Need a bit of escapism?  How about court intrigue and dueling?  Maybe some bizzarre social customs to round things out?  “The Outlander” delivers on all of these fantasy elements.  Occasionally it’s nice to jump out of reality and into some fantastical swordplay.  Podcastle doesn’t always go the medieval route, with lords, ladies, and boorish outlanders, but when they do, they usually choose well.

“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick
Starshipsofa Ep. 234 (timecode 9:50)
48:20 mins
— Of all the stories this month, I think this one stuck with me the longest — maybe that’s why it’s a Hugo nominee.  It takes on the oldest conflict known to man: the generation gap.  In this case, a young man returns to his father and ailing mother after years away on a planet circling a distant star.  The story focuses on the father — an interesting choice, I think you’ll agree, as the son has dramatically changed his appearance and has seen untold wonders…while his father stayed home on Earth and simply grew bitter.  Resnick explores family, identity, and loyalty.  I won’t spoil the conclusion, but if your mother is inclined toward SF, I suggest sharing it with her (even if it’s a tad late for Mother’s Day proper)!

*Very Long Short Stories*
A segment for the occasional audiobook.

The “Share” Series by Nathan Lowell
The Cheapskate Review by Adam Pracht (timecode 58:30) and Chapter One of Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell (timecode 01:11:00) on Starshipsofa Ep. 234
— One reason I LOVE Starshipsofa is their “magazine” quality.  Other podcasts try to do the same thing, but “the sofa” really resembles a magazine more than a coherent “show.”  The articles change with every new episode and they’re not afraid to try new material, either!  They’ve recently started a little segment called “The Cheapskate Review.”  It describes clever ways to get great fiction for little or no money.  Right up my own grad student way of thinking!
— In Ep. 234, they combined The Review with their “First Chapters” segment, where you can get a taste of a novel by listening to its first chapter.  This time it was the first chapter of Quarter Share, part of the “Trader Tales in the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper.”  I immediately homed in on this story because of its obvious nautical roots…despite it’s taking place in space.  Maybe I was a little biased because I recently finished listening to Moby Dick.  Quarter Share isn’t a perfect novel, but both the world and the relationships are very compelling.  If you miss reading the Ender’s Game books, this will be right up your alley.  I can’t give Nathan Lowell any higher praise than the fact that I listened to all SIX books in the series in only three weeks.  They’re quite addictive and you’ll really fall in love with some of the characters.  Also, I can vouch that while not all the books are equally good, I believe the sixth is the most enjoyable, so you have something wonderful to look forward to at the end of your voyage.
— If you too fall in love with Ishmael Wong within the first chapter, you can get the rest of Quarter Share on Podiobooks for FREE!  In fact all six books are up there, read supremely well by the author himself.  Just don’t forget to put something in the tip jar if you are of means!

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

“How to Deal” by Chris Schryer
The Drabblecast Ep. 240 (timecode 0:45)
— This 100 word story, also called as a “drabble,” made me chuckle in my car when I heard it.  Remember, every cloud has a silver lining!

Our closing quote for the week:
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” — Charles Dickens

*Credits*

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

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