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Diabolical Pods: Boris’s Bar; The Punctuality Machine; Restless in R’lyeh


escapepod “Boris’s Bar” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, published in Escape Pod #483, March 2015
This story takes place in a future where love has deemed unnecessary by the spacefaring society colonizing the solar system–not just romantic love, but familial and platonic love.  There are sex-bots and then there are love-bots which are programmed to give you the kind of connection you crave.  The protagonist of this story is desperate for such love, and finds herself drawn to Boris, who peddles such wares, even though others view it as a sort of damaging addiction.

This story was really interesting.  Robot prostitutes have been around forever, but I don’t recall a story that focused on selling of familial love because the society that surrounds it has deemed it unimportant.  Really interesting worldbuilding, the scenes with Boris were particularly striking–creepy yet I could also understand how the character sees their appeal.

“The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” by Bill Powell, published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies podcast #150, May 2015
This audio drama is written as a Victorian Era time travel musical play.  The protagonist of the show is Whitlock Cartwright, an inventor.  He is tutoring the lovely Lady Cadence on the subject of Geometry and arrives late (as he so often does), shortly after hearing that aliens from another planet have visited but have been sent away.  Lady Cadence, frustrated with Whitlock’s constant tardiness declares that she no longer wishes to employ his services.  Whitlock, in an effort to win back her regard, invents a “punctuality machine” (as you do) to send him back to the time before he was supposed to have met with her so that he can arrive on time and she will not quit his services.  In so doing, he tries to fix the situation and all manner of things go awry.  The play is presented as a full-cast recording with many familiar voices.

This play was delightful.  That’s not a word that I use very often, but there’s no better word.  From beginning to end I enjoyed every moment of this story and found myself giggling at new developments.  Silly, absurd, but internally consistent and with a likeable protagonist and his likeable love interest.  It’s also available in text, but since it was written as a play I recommend hearing it performed.  The full cast treatment of this story was wonderful.

“Restless in R’lyeh” by Oliver Buckram, published in Drabblecast #368, August 2015
Every year in August the Drabblecast hosts a special Lovecraft Month.  The month starts off with an audio production of an HP Lovecraft story, and then continues with three original commissioned-just-for-the-Drabblecast stories inspired by Lovecraft–not necessarily in the Cthulhu mythos, not necessarily cosmic horror, but inspired in some clear way.

This story is one of those original stories, written by master of comedy Oliver Buckram.  It is formatted as psychologist’s advice column like you might find in the newspaper and chronicles the rising of Cthulhu from the depths of the ocean using only this format, with regular people calling in to talk about their disturbing dreams of dead Cthulhu dreaming.

This story was so much fun.  The advice columnist trying to rationalize all of the obviously paranormal happenings as they escalate was the best part.  This was written specifically with audio in mind and the full cast voice acting on it is perfect.


Welcome to Night Vale Novel Coming Soon
Welcome to Night Vale, the novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor based in the world of the popular horror/comedy podcast by the same name.  Read more or preorder here for the novel or here for the audiobook.  I’ll be posting a review in the coming weeks as well–short version, I loved it.

Podcast Spotlight: Welcome to Night VAle
I’ve posted a podcast spotlight on the excellent serial fiction radio-formatted weird/horror fiction podcast Welcome To Night Vale.

Cast of Wonders joins Escape Artists
YA speculative fiction podcast Cast of Wonders has announced that it has joined the popular Escape Artists podcast family.  Good news for authors: it will be paying professional rates once they open for submissions again.  That’s good news for readers too, since the new rates will draw even more great authors to submit their stories.

Strange Horizons fund drive
Strange Horizons’s yearly fund drive is almost over. They’re doing well, not right up against the wire, but you can still contribute.  Donations are tax-deductible if you’re in the US.

Escape Pod’s 500th Episode
Escape Pod, the granddaddy of speculative fiction podcasts, has reached its 10th year and 500th episode.  For this momentous occasion, the podcast has produced “The Man Who Lost the Sea” by Theodore Sturgeon, narrated by Anson Mount.  And if you want to hear from the voice of the phones, they set up a Skype voicemail number for a while and encouraged fans and contributors to the show to call in and say whatever they wanted about the show–all of which is collected after the story.

The Parsec Awards
The Parsec Awards for excellence in speculative fiction podcasting were awarded at Dragon*Con.  See this page for the full list of winners.

Pseudopod Flash Fiction Contest
The reading and voting portion of the Pseudopod flash fiction contest is underway.  If you want  to join the forum in discussing and voting for stories, just stop by forum and read the rules and go from there.  The contest has 212 horror stories written by 154 authors, each of them under 500 words.  The winners by popular vote will be published in Pseudopod.

Kenyan or Kenyan-Asian Narrators Wanted
Podcastle is looking for Kenyan or Kenyan-Asian volunteer voice actors to read a story.  Note that this is not a request for someone who can imitate a Kenyan accent, but is looking for actual Kenyans.  I can’t seem to find a public call for this in text, but it has been mentioned in recent episodes.  Contact the editorial team at if you fit the bill and would like to contribute a reading.

“Thus Spake Robby”
My story “Thus Spake Robby” was produced as episode #13 of The Overcast edited by J.S. Arquin, about a prototype android who inadvertantly invents a religion.  This is the story’s first publication.

Long List Anthology Audiobook
My Kickstarter campaign for the Long List anthology just ended, collecting stories from the longer list of works nominated by the Hugo voters this year.  The project was successful enough to reach some stretch goals, including production of an audiobook version of the anthology produced by Skyboat Media (who you might know as the producers of the Lightspeed and Nightmare podcasts.  I’ll have more news about that as the audiobook comes available.

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( David is also the co-founder and administrator of the The Submission Grinder(, a tool for writers.
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