The final installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, is finally here, revealing the top ten. You can find  the individual posts as they were posted #41-50 here,  #31-40 here,  #21-30 here, and #11-20 here.  For those who just want to get to the Top Ten already I’ve listed that first.  For ease of reference, I’ve also included the entire list of fifty at the bottom of the post so if you want to refer people to the list, you can just link here.

These are (my opinion of) what is the best of the best, the most epic of the most epic.  Load them all up and have an awesome road trip, or ration them out over months of liistening.

I would love if other fiction podcast fans would comment here and say what their own favorites are and why.

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Stew. Beer. Earl Grey, Hot. I *know* there are more interesting science fiction and fantasy foods out there! With that in mind, here’s what we asked our panelists:

Q: What’s your favorite food or drink from the world of speculative fiction? Any thoughts on how you’d go about making it?

Here’s what they said…

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This is my second installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #31-40. You can find #41-50 here. The list is picked from thousands of episodes of the backlog of seventeen short fiction podcasts. There are many more episodes that I love, but these are the cream of the cream of the cream. All of the stories on this list are ones for which I have epic love, so it was a matter of trying to rank them based on fine gradations of that epic love.

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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Matthew Hughes writes fantasy and suspense fiction. he’s won the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, and has been shortlisted for the Aurora, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, A.E. Van Vogt, and Derringer Awards. He’s worked as a writer all his adult life, as a journalist, a staff speechwriter to the Canadian Ministers of Justice and Environment, and as a freelance corporate and political speechwriter in British Columbia. He’s also a former director of the Federation of British Columbia Writers. He is the author of several dozen short stories, some of which have been collected in The Gist Hunter and Other Stories (2005) and Nine Tales of Henghis Hapthorn (2013). His novels include Fools Errant, Black Brillion, several novels about a far-futuristic Sherlock Holmesian detective Henghis Hapthorn (Majestrum, The Spiral Labyrinth, and Hespira), The Commons, Template, the To Hell and Back superhero sequence (The Damned Busters, Costume Not Included and Hell to Pay), and Paroxysm. His latest is anotehr collection of short fiction,The Compleat Guth Bandar.

We had the chance to talk to Matthew about his writing, his influences and why his fiction is so damned funny.

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MIND MELD: The Books We Didn’t Love

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked about books you don’t love.

What books do people expect you to love or read, but you don’t?  Why?

This is what they had to say…

Jamie Todd Rubin
Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless living. His stories and articles have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land was not the first Heinlein book I read. I started with what is still, in my mind, one of his best, Double Star. Nor was Stranger the second Heinlein book I read. Or the third. Or the fourth.

Indeed, back in the days when my interests in science fiction were broadening and I would occasionally talk to people about them, Heinlein would inevitably come up. “You should read Stranger In A Strange Land.” I must have been told this a dozen times by a dozen different people. I even tried reading the book, but on two occasions, spaced years apart, I simply couldn’t get very far into it. I felt terribly guilty about this. Something must be wrong me. It seemed everyone who ever read a book had read and loved Stranger. But not me. I couldn’t even get through it.

It wasn’t Heinlein. Couldn’t be, right? I went on to read and enjoy Heinlein’s future history in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read and loved Podkayne of Mars. I read Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers and found those entertaining. (Although both movies were appallingly bad.) I adored Friday and The Door Into Summer.

It finally took jury duty for me to get through Stranger. In the fall of 2000, in a cavernous room within a Hollywood courthouse, I battled my way through Heinlein’s tour de force. And before my jury service was up, I’d managed to finally finish the book.

And hated it. Just plain didn’t like it. To this day, when asked if I’ve read Stranger, I reply with a world-weary, “Of course. I read it while suffering through jury duty in the fall of 2000.”

“And what did you think of it?”

And without skipping a beat, reply, “I couldn’t be picked for a jury soon enough. My how I suffered through that book!”

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A Witty take on the superhero genre.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Likable nebbish Chesney Arnstruther learns what it’s like being a superhero in the real world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Humorous, real-world take on superheroes; doesn’t take itself too seriously; many smile-inducing scenes and dialog, but…
CONS: …for something billed as a comedy, there weren’t really any laugh-out loud moments.
BOTTOM LINE: A witty superhero story that’s just plain fun.

Anyone who has read Matthew Hughes’ Henghis Hapthorn stories knows that he infuses his stories with a healthy dose of wry humor. Such is the case with his novel The Damned Busters, the first book in his superhero series To Hell and Back, which features the accidental nebbish-turned-crimefighter, Chesney Arnstruther. As is par for the course for the beginning of many a superhero series, The Damned Busters is an origin story. And it’s a good one.
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REVIEW: Quartet & Triptych by Matthew Hughes

REVIEW SUMMARY: A wonderful science fiction caper novella by one of my favorite writers working today

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Luff Imbrey is a master thief working in the Archonate under the radar. He hopes to steal a fabled art object with the help of the essence of a woman dead 4,000 years.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: An interesting story with several good twists along the way.

CONS: At only 90 pages, it was a little short. I would love to have seen more of Luff, his stuff, and the worlds he is visiting/robbing.

BOTTOM LINE: Fans of Jack Vance, Clark Ashton Smith, Cordwainer Smith, or Donald Westlake should find this a wonderful time.

I love the work of Jack Vance. He wrote literate travelogues of interesting places and people across the universe and peppered them with fun stories. Matt Hughes has certainly taken on his role as Vance’s successor and made the best of it. His stories of the Archonate, particularly those featuring Henghis Hapthorn have been wonderful tales of cultures and planets far from our own. The mind of a schemer like Henghis is always interesting to watch as plans are made, altered, scrapped, and re-made to achieve the results he desires.

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REVIEW: Hespira by Matthew Hughes

REVIEW SUMMARY: Another enjoyable science-fantasy story that even sf purists can enjoy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Henghis Hapthorn, a far-future Sherlock Holmes, attempts to find the source behind a woman’s artificially-induced amnesia.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Excellent and intriguing world building; Hughes’ pitch-perfect writing style; story successfully carries forward the longer story arc.

CONS: Despite the multi-arc trend of the universe moving towards a foundation of magic, this adventure utilizes relatively little of it, making it seem a bit out of place in the timeline.

BOTTOM LINE: Another worthy installment in a consistently enjoyable series that mashes together science and magic.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: An excellent science-fantasy story in a fine setting even for fantasy-reluctant readers like myself.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Henghis Hapthorn, the world’s foremost discriminator, finds the world’s transition towards magic even more pronounced when he somehow travels centuries into the future and in the middle of a power struggle between five wizards.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Hughes writing style is atmospheric and witty; the story keeps moving in interesting places; surprise plot twists; it’s just plain fun.

CONS: One plot twist took a bit of time to grasp… a clarifying sentence would have gone a long way toward straightening out the story timeline.

BOTTOM LINE: A splendid story that wonderfully advances the series’ story arc while providing an entertaining, self-contained adventure-mystery in its own right.

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REVIEW: Majestrum by Matthew Hughes

REVIEW SUMMARY: Science-Fantasy that even a fantasy-hater (like me) could love.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While dealing with the world’s ever-impending slide from rationality to magic, futuristic detective Henghis Hapthorn is hired to investigate a conspiracy to overthrow the Archon.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Great worldbuilding; well-planned mysteries; perfectly captures the flavor of Sherlock Holmes; the pitch-perfect level of dry humor.

CONS: Deductions sometimes come too easily for Hapthorn.

BOTTOM LINE: Hughes’ writing will have me coming back for more.

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REVIEW: The Gist Hunter and Other Stories by Matthew Hughes

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fine collection that surpasses most anthologies in entertainment value.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: 13 short stories, 9 of which are set in Hughes’s Archonate universe (comprised of 6 Henghis Hapthorn stories and 3 Guth Bandar stories).

MY REVIEW:

PROS: 11 stories good or better, 5 of them outstanding; the Hapthorn stories make me want more.

CONS: 2 stories in the mediocre range.

BOTTOM LINE: A very good collection of science-fantasy stories that offers an enjoyable introduction to the Archonate universe and its creator.

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REVIEW: The Commons by Matthew Hughes

REVIEW SUMMARY: An interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy elements.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Guth Bandar explores the world of the human collective unconscious, which is becoming not so unconscious after all.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Intriguing world with mind-expanding ideas; cool science-fantasy setting; deals heavily with archetypes yet avoids cliché.

CONS: Needed stronger characters; some adventures weaker than others.

BOTTOM LINE: A good read that’s piqued my interest in other stories set in this universe.

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