I’m running a bit behind, this was supposed to be my November Diabolical Pods post. I’ll try to catch up by doing two in December.
“So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld in November 2015
This story takes on the topic of a modern pandemic, the consequences of living in a city when often-fatal deadly diseases disrupt mobility and supply routes. Formatted as a cooking blog, the story progresses from the beginnings of the outbreak of a new deadly strain of flu in a Minnesota winter.
I wasn’t very excited about the cooking blog format to begin with, but it turned out to be a very clever way to explore this difficult situation. In the beginning of the story it is a fairly standard cooking blog focused on cooking ordinary, if sometimes complicated, foods. But as the story goes on the food distribution issues become increasingly evident as the protagonist has to get increasingly creative to fashion usable recipes out of increasingly scarce ingredients. And besides the recipes, the story lives in the situation where information exchange is abundant but basic material needs are becoming harder and harder to meet. Kate Baker, as ever, brings her wonderful emotive reading to make the story even better than it would be in text. I love a good emotional story, but it takes a pretty epic one to make me cry. This one did.
“Everyone Will Want One” by Kelly Sandoval, first published in Asimov’s, published in audio in Escape Pod #498 in July 2015
Many of us have had trouble fitting in at some point in our lives (probably especially true for SF fans historically, though SF is more mainstream-acceptable these days). Wouldn’t it be nice if there were just some way to coach you on what to say or do in a given situation so you’re not always doing the wrong thing? For Nancy’s thirteenth birthday, her father gives her a prototype of a product called a “reimager” meant to act as a social engineer for those who feel isolated in social situations. It sounds like a dream come true, but what if you don’t like what the reimager is making you become? What if you don’t agree with its choices but it refuses to allow you to change its course?
I think this story speaks to a lot of people because for many people the high school years are the worst of their lives, just trying to find a way to fit into an incredibly hostile social environment while being told these are the best years of your life. This story does well at showing how appealing that kind of product would be, to the point of being addicting, and the struggle with how to deal with that new controlling element of your life.
“Sticks and Stones” by Nathaniel Lee, first published in Crossed Genres, published in audio in Podcastle #366 in June 2015
Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. What if words could physically hurt you? They can in this story, a police procedural in a world where words really can hurt you–a cutting remark from someone you love who knows how to hit you in your most sensitive spot, a bludgeoning comment from a stranger.
The premise is a bit silly, perhaps, but the story plays it straight, never making light of itself. It’s an effective crime story in its own light, and it explores some interesting implications of the nature of this world, as well as leaving plenty of space for further contemplation on how we hurt each other with the things we say.
- Welcome to Night Vale novel on NYT Bestseller list!
- My Best of Strange Horizons Podcast post was published in November
- The Long List Anthology audiobook, edited by me, out later this month
- “My Wife is a Bear in the Morning”, written by me, published at Podcastle