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Diabolical Pods: The Lady’s Maid; The Semaphore Society; Fairy Bones

Since I missed my November post, here’s a 2nd December post to catch back up.

STORY TALK

“The Lady’s Maid” by Carlea Holl-Jensen, published in Fantasy Magazine‘s “Women Destroy Fantasy!” special issue, simultaneously published in audio at Podcastle

This story is told from the point of view of the titular lady’s maid.  The lady is a powerful woman who takes the head of other women to use as her own, switching from one to the other whenever she pleases.  Her maid assists her in these conquests as well in other matters more mundane.  This story explores the relationship between the two of them (it’s not entirely accurate to call the lady a single person here since she takes on traits of the woman whose head she is wearing).

This story is super creepy and unsettling, perhaps closer to horror.  I would tread carefully if you are very sensitive to squick in fiction.  I think it’s well worth it, and the weirdness of the imagery and the exploration of the characters gave plenty to digest besides the squick.

“The Semaphore Society” by Kate Heartfield, first published in Crossed Genres, published in audio at Escape Pod

This is a near-future science fiction story centered around a community of people who have disabilities that make computer interface tools like mouses and keyboards unusable.  Eye-tracking technology has developed to the degree that there are now tools designed specifically for them.  This technology is still relatively new, and the members of this online community that calls itself the Semaphore Society has been exploring its utility in faster conversations than is possible using the interface to simply type on a keyboard, instead using the technology to draw and develop a language made mostly of pictograms and other non-textual communication.  Gia, a paralyzed teenager, has just joined the community and is learning about it and interacting with her new friends.

This was a really touching story for me.  I get really frustrated when I see articles complaining about the distancing nature of online social networks because they tend to miss the strengths of the Internet in forming communities that otherwise could never form–people with mobility issues, for instance, who can participate on the same level as anyone else online.  I thought this story took a great tack on it, exploring a new community and the development of an entirely new language based around a new technology that gives a huge communication boost for certain disabilities so that instead of painstakingly slow and frustrating conversations that have been the best form possible in recent years (and still much better than not having those technologies, mind you), they are able to talk to each other directly at a banter-quick speed.  The setup here was very plausible and very heartening, and was used well to make a satisfying story arc.  The reading was very well done by Christiana Ellis who made me feel for the character even more.

 “Fairy Bones” by Guy Stewart, published in Cast of Wonders

This story follows wildlife biology professor Clementine Dresden as she works on an owl pellet survey.  Her grandson, after some family drama, has come to join her for a while.  In an owl pellet she discovers what appears to be a tiny human skull.  Her grandson says that it must be a fairy, but ever the skeptical scientist she is certain this cannot be the case.  He helps her continue the investigation, as they dialog between her rigorously scientific viewpoint and his more fantastical viewpoint that is largely based on the fantasy novel he is reading that features owls.

The characters in this one really made the story for me.  I love to see women scientists represented in fiction, and represented as competent intelligent insightful people, because it isn’t as common an element as I like.  I also like it when women characters don’t strive to be likeable, when they simply are what they are and accept it as such.  Clementine is very good at her job, though she has not gained much recognition for it, and I quite enjoyed her focused unsocial nature.  Partly because a lot of media would have you believe that that’s not allowed for women.  And partly because it reminds me of some of my own tendencies (depending on the scenario).  The grandson played a nice counterpoint to her, not exactly an opposite viewpoint but a very different one and they had a very cool rapport between them as they discussed the possibilities of the situation, and the possibility of the unreal alongside the scientific.

 

PODCAST NEWS

“Makeisha in Time” audio from Long List audiobook published in StarShipSofa
On December 15th, the audiobook of The Long List Anthology produced by Skyboat Media will be published.  For a free sneak the production of “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones (narrated by Stefan Rudnicki) from the audiobook has been published in an episode of StarShipSofa.

About David Steffen (64 Articles)
David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. The first piece of fiction he's edited is now available, "Taste the Whip" by Andy Dudak on Diabolical Plots(http://www.diabolicalplots.com/dp-fiction-1-taste-the-whip-by-andy-dudak/). David is also the co-founder and administrator of the The Submission Grinder(http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/), a tool for writers.

1 Comment on Diabolical Pods: The Lady’s Maid; The Semaphore Society; Fairy Bones

  1. Thanks for the review, David! It was fun to see you codify Clementine — I made her that way, but subconsciously! Thanks, again!

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