If you enjoy science fiction and aren't listening to Escape Pod, you really should. It's a weekly short story anthology with a wide variety of themes and styles. The host, Steve Eley, reads many of the stories in addition to providing intros and commentary, but guest readers are not uncommon. It was Steve's blog entry about going on hiatus for a few weeks which prompted me to write about Escape Pod. I noticed last week that a new story hadn't gone up, so I went to check if something was up, and indeed there is.
The mere fact that I noticed the lack of an episode shows how much I look forward to this podcast. I don't always enjoy the stories, but every week there something which causes me to reflect. That probably sounds harsher than I actually feel - most of the time the episodes are a good way to spend 20 to 40 minutes, some of the time the story is one that I really enjoy, and less often than that I feel it's either so-so or hard to get into (and those could have been because of my state of mind when I was listening). But no matter whether the story resonated with me, I do hang in there to listen to Steve's commentary, where he gives good insight into how things are going with him and Escape Artists, the production company for Escape Pod and its sister podcasts, the horror anthology Pseudopod and the fantasy anthology PodCastle.
There are a few episodes which stick in my mind:
- Reparations by Merrie Haskell (episode 175), which is about people who go back into time to give aid to the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I happened to be reading Nisei: The Quiet Americans by Bill Hosokawa (still am, actually; it's the book I'm reading between library books), and the two seemed to dovetail well for me, one about Japanese and Japanese Americans in the US, the other about Japanese in Japan, and how both were affected during WWII.
- Conversations With and About My Electric Toothbrush by Derek Zumsteg (episode 115), about an electric toothbrush with aspirations to become a milk frother. Yes, it's lightweight comedy, but the banter between the owner and toothbrush struck me as just right. Also, Derek is one of the people behind USS Mariner, a Seattle Mariners blog.
- Poet for Hire by Sue Burke (episode 47), about a poet whose verse could steer the future. The concept isn't new, and you can probably guess how the antagonist is handled, but I enjoyed the way the story proceeded. Also, this is the type of story that Mur Lafferty is really good at reading.
Of course, there are many more stories I could mention, but part of the fun is in the exploration, finding which authors, narrators, and kinds of stories you tend to like.
I mentioned that the show is on hiatus for a couple weeks, and part of that is to give Steve Eley time to recharge. He hadn't missed a week since the first episode, and he felt he was in danger of losing sight of why he started the podcast in the first place, to bring short story SF to people for free. Steve is one of the most honest and generous people in podcasting, and in just a week his blog entry about the hiatus has over 100 entries of people wishing him well.
My recommendation would be to pick a story which sounds intriguing (the beginnings of each story are in the postings) and, as Steve would say, "Have fun".