Short Fiction on Audio Reviews

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On most work days, I liven up my commute by listening to podcasts. They’re easy to listen to, because I can drift in and out of focus without too much trouble, and put together whatever I miss from context. Listening to audio fiction isn’t so easy. I need to focus on every word, or the thread of the plot is lost, and my enjoyment of the words themselves is lessened. I listen to short fiction on audio only rarely, and then only to very short things, twenty minutes or less. Still, I’ve found some remarkable stories online. These are three of them.

That hilariously short attention span aside, and ignoring for a second that sometimes depression prevents me from focusing on anything interesting, I like listening to short stories on audio on my phone. While waiting for the bus, on my commute, on lunch breaks, on the line at the supermarket… wherever I can squeeze in those twenty minutes of peace.

Dragon-Smoked Barbeque, written by M. K. Hutchins, read by Anaea Lay

Dragon-Smoked Barbeque is the kind of story that takes a very mundane, familiar situation and injects it with preternatural elements, and the effect created is to normalize the magic. The world depicted is one in which magic is a fact of life, a part of the natural world, and woven too tightly into the fabric of the world to be considered unnatural. As a twist on the theme of magic versus technology, dragon-smoking is presented as an old-fashioned technique in the process of going out of style. A heart-squeezing story about family traditions. Except with dragons.

Crocodile Tears written by Jaymee Goh, read by Judy Young

Crocodile Tears is a story of family connections, ambition, and regret. Also, crocodiles. The crocodile narrator is especially appropriate, as this story has a strong tone of the fable, more than a purely narrative-based story. It could fit in seamlessly with other animal fables of the same type. When knowing what to expect, the narrator’s voice is comfortable and the language feels very natural, in the vein of oral storytelling taken down in writing. It’s a neat trick, and not one any old writer could pull off.

Try catch throw, written by Andrew Neil Gray, illustrated by Chris Malbon, read by Miranda Keeling

Try Catch Throw is a particularly multi-modal story. You can find it in pure text, in audio format, or in the form of an illustrated graphic novel. Appropriately for a story appearing in Nature Futures, TCT maintains a very close tie to the scientific ideas that inspired it. If the role of science fiction is to speculate about how future technological developments will shape society, here is another story that chooses to frame that idea within a nuclear family. The “simulation hypothesis” has had a long and fruitful life in SF. It makes a compelling source for stories, and not just because it’s uncomfortably impossible to disprove. In a simulation world, plausibly, any day an any second could be the one when you suddenly realize that something is wrong.

This story, however, is told from the POV of someone who has already discovered the artificiality of their world, and more or less come to terms with it. Rather than being about the consciousness crisis of discovering that everything you know is false, it chooses to engage with the idea that progress cannot be rolled back. A dangerous knowledge threatens to escape into the world, and the narrator must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to keep that knowledge-bomb from erupting. It’s an exceptional story that needs experiencing first hand for the magnitude of the emotional implication to sink in.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth

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