Tor.com Story Podcast March – May 2010

It seems the Tor.com Story Podcast has been cancelled. Producer Mur Lafferty took over Escape Pod in early May, and simultaneously the Tor.com Story Podcast went silent. I did notice that many of the Tor.com stories have a listen download, where the authors read their stories. I think Tor.com was using that to make the podcasts. So the audio is still there, just not being podcast. Anyhow, if it’s not coming through via podcast, I ain’t getting it. Using a podcatcher is so much easier than downloading individually.

In my walks around Green Lake last week, I caught up on all the podcasts from Tor.com. So here’s my thoughts.

The Final Now by Gregory Benford

Episode 12 contains Gregory Benford‘s The Final Now. All I can say is ugh. Hate this kind of meta-story.

Eros, Philia, Agape by Rachel Swirsky

Episode 13 has Eros, Philia, Agape by Rachel Swirsky, narrated by the author. Pretty good story about loving a robot. It’s not so much the love thing that made this interesting, though that’s the bulk of the story. It’s that the robot has truly strange motivations that regular people just won’t get. It made the Hugo final ballot, and deservedly so I think.

The Next Invasion by Robert Reed

Episode 14 has The Next Invasion from Robert Reed, narrated by the author (I believe). A decent but average story that kind of explores the idea of but what if the aliens are already here!

Errata by Jeff VanderMeer

Episode 15 contains Errata from Jeff VanderMeer, again narrated by the author I think. I don’t really remember exactly what VanderMeer sounds like, so I could be wrong. I do not get this story at all. I listened to it twice even. Self-referential slipstream like stuff. Alternate reality Jeff VanderMeer goes to Lake Baikal to write a story. Also contains a penguin and an assassin. Sometimes I love experimental. Normally though, including this time, I just don’t get it.

Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction by Jo Walton

Episode 16 had Jo Walton‘s Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction, narrated by Charles Stross. Walton’s created an alternate history for her Small Change series where the Nazis did significantly better than they did in real life. I forget what the point was where that history diverged from ours. I’ve only read Farthing and I have to say I don’t remember it too well. This short story is set in the United States instead of Britain, in the same universe. The United States is somewhat fascist too, from what I can tell. A woman faces a temptation to denounce her employers as closet Jews. Other events happen to show that it could have happened here. And it could have. Interspersed with news headlines, from which the story gets its title. Liked the story. Won’t re-read it.

The Film-makers of Mars by Geoff Ryman

On to Episode 17 with Geoff Ryman’s The Film-makers of Mars. Vampires meet Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series. Very well written, but pretty gimmicky.

First Flight by Mary Robinette Kowal

Episode 18 has the first story I’ve ever read by Mary Robinette Kowal, First Flight. Time travel story that doesn’t add much to the time travel trope, but it is quite well written from the character perspective. Louise is a time traveler because she’s old; time travel only works as far back as a person has been alive. Louise is old enough to have been alive before the Wright brothers first flew. And the time travel company’s investors want to get footage of that historic event. One of the few stories I’ve read with a particularly aged heroine. Recommended.

Four Horsemen, at Their Leisure by Richard Parks

Episode 19 contains Richard ParksFour Horsemen, at Their Leisure, narrated by Mur Lafferty. Definitely not my kind of story. Much like Gregory Benford’s The Final Now, this is also an end-times philosophic bent story. In other words, navel gazing thoughts about the nature of reality. Bleah.

Firstborn by Brandon Sanderson

Episode 20 appears to be the last Tor.com Story Podcast, for the moment at least, and it contains Firstborn by Brandon Sanderson. This is a fairly long old-school style space opera short story. Dennison Crestmar is the son of a high-ranking naval guy, and the 20 years younger brother of Varion Crestmar. Varion’s been off subduing the provinces for decades as a military commander that never loses. Dennison is expected to be like his brother, but doesn’t have the skill. He loses all the time. The ending is absolute crap though.


Obviously, I didn’t have a lot to say about most of these. I thought most of the podcasts were pretty uninspiring. Having listened to a few Mur Lafferty-produced Escape Pod episodes, I think they are much better work than these done for Tor.com. The story selection was limited to ones that had already appeared on Tor.com, so I can’t really fault her for that. But her chit-chat on Escape Pod is much more engaging than anything she did on Tor.com. And the audio quality of the narration for this podcast was generally sub-par. Authors aren’t always the best choices for reading their own work. Plus, in more than a few cases, someone should have edited the flubs out. If the Tor.com Story Podcast comes back from hiatus, I will probably only check it out to see if the production has improved.

Categories: Short Fiction Reviews.

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