300 episodes

PodCastle is the world’s first audio fantasy magazine. Weekly, we broadcast the best in fantasy short stories, running the gammut from heart-pounding sword and sorcery, to strange surrealist tales, to gritty urban fantasy, to the psychological depth of magical realism. Our podcast features authors including N.K. Jemisin, Peter S. Beagle, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Jim C. Hines, and Cat Rambo, among others.



Terry Pratchett once wrote, “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” Tune in to PodCastle each Tuesday for our weekly tale, and spend the length of a morning commute giving your imagination a work out.

PodCastle Escape Artists, Inc

    • Fiction
    • 4.8 • 37 Ratings

PodCastle is the world’s first audio fantasy magazine. Weekly, we broadcast the best in fantasy short stories, running the gammut from heart-pounding sword and sorcery, to strange surrealist tales, to gritty urban fantasy, to the psychological depth of magical realism. Our podcast features authors including N.K. Jemisin, Peter S. Beagle, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Jim C. Hines, and Cat Rambo, among others.



Terry Pratchett once wrote, “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” Tune in to PodCastle each Tuesday for our weekly tale, and spend the length of a morning commute giving your imagination a work out.

    PodCastle 700: Rulebook for Creating a Universe

    PodCastle 700: Rulebook for Creating a Universe

    * Author : Tashan Mehta

    * Narrator : Suna Dasi

    * Host : Eleanor R. Wood

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Previously published in Magical Women, an Indian speculative fiction feminist anthology, published by Hachette India





    Rated PG

     

    Novel promotion!

    The Annual Migration of Clouds is a “cli-fi” post-apocalyptic novella by author Premee Mohamed. It takes place in the distant future, after the climate crisis has entirely disrupted life as we know it, and a mysterious mind-controlling fungus has wormed its way through the scattered population. The story focuses on a choice: Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to move far away, to study in one of the few communities sustained by pre-disaster technology, but her mother is ill, and in a world where the planting season is planned down to the minute, every body counts. It’s not easy for her to leave her loved ones behind. To set her family up for life, Reid decides to take part in a foolhardy and dangerous mission. To accomplish this task, she must ask others to put great trust in her, but she can’t easily separate her own thoughts from the parasite’s will, making it difficult for her to even trust herself.

    If you’re not yet familiar with Premee Mohamed, you’re sure to hear of her soon. She’s an Indo-Caribbean scientist and author based in Edmonton, Alberta, where this book is set, and a rising star in speculative fiction. Premee is a biologist and works in the field of climate science, so the depiction of Reid’s parasitic passengers is eerily plausible, and the climate disaster scenarios in the book are grounded in modern-day research predicting an all-too-likely future.

    Yet there’s still hope to be found here: rather than doubling down on the hardships of life-after-technology as so many gritty apocalyptic novels do, this book’s focus is on connection and friendship, the things that bind us together. It shows the world moving forward after terrible hardships — including natural disaster and plague — and reflects upon the importance of community, our duty to take care of one another, and our collective ability to get through difficult times. In other words, it is exactly the sort of book we need right now.

    Rulebook for Creating a Universe

    by Tashan Mehta

    In an island that floats at the beginning of time, there is a Rulebook for Creating a Universe. This book is old, with instructions on how to make forever-worlds. It says, “When stitching a universe, think carefully about the kind of sun you want. Will it be hot or cold, moss or vein? Your sun will last forever and your planetary color palettes will depend on it. Choose wisely. Follow the blueprint.”

    Beloved, you know this story.

    You know Yukti is a weaver on this island-before-time and she hates weaving. Her mother must put the lotus stalk in her hand and even then she will scowl at the water until her mother says, Faster Mu-mu, we don’t own time! So Yukti—who also hates the nickname Mu-mu—will snap open the stalk to reveal filaments of silver that she thinks look like spit. These are the fibers of Time. She will rub them together to make a thread and begin stitching the banana leaf she is assigned.

    This is how a single universe is made—on this island, one leaf at a time. Leaves make a tree. Trees and rivers make a planet, planets create a galaxy, and galaxies form a universe. Small to large.

    • 37 min
    PodCastle 699: The Last Petal

    PodCastle 699: The Last Petal

    * Author : Anna Madden

    * Narrator : Eliza Chan

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Originally published in DreamForge Magazine.





    Rated PG

    The Last Petal

    by Anna Madden

    Miss Lily Dale preferred hands to faces. Hands told a story that faces could hide.

    Her father’s hands had become so gaunt, so fidgety. A shipping merchant without ships was a man without a livelihood. He spent his days inside their new home writing letters to the port master. The ink looked like dried blood under his fingers.

    A good daughter wore a smile, but Lily’s lips faltered, betraying her. “I’m headed to market, Papa. I’m going to—”

    “Go along then, child. I must finish this.” His attention barely wavered from his parchment.

    Lily drew back. Better she had been born a son, destined to build rather than hinder. As matters stood, her father had sold off their valuables to pay off the debt collectors, and there was little she could do to help.

    The floorboards shifted beneath her feet. She skirted the warped planks lest she fall through them and into the empty larder below. At the counter, she scraped three pennies from the bottom of a jar, planting them in her apron pocket. Lily stared at the two coppers left. She bit into her inner cheeks, then counted again.

    Her father’s quill stopped scratching. “There, there,” he said, his eyes on the table. “Things will be as they were again. You’ll see.” His words were as empty as the jar.

    “Of course, Papa.”

    Lily tied her bonnet. She would find work in town and earn her worth in copper, she promised herself, closing the front door quietly behind her.

    She set out on the lane beside their cottage with an empty basket clasped between her gloved fingers. Her knuckles were swollen beneath the cloth, the skin sore and dry and itchy. Her hands had once been as white and fresh as her namesake. Whose hands were these?

    Switchgrass and lemon-colored buttercups surrounded the path she walked, the tall growth rippling back and forth. Ahead, a rose-gray roan stood tied by the manor house near the village’s entrance.

    At the market square, the villagers eagerly peered into her white bonnet, their eyes thirsty.

    “A sweet flower,” she overheard. “A shame, that.”

    Lily gritted her teeth and bought small items at a stall: some thread, more lye soap. “Do you know of any work?” she asked, handing over a penny. The woman who palmed it had hands more worn and gnarled than her own. Seeing this, Lily blushed.

    The woman shook her head, her cheeks a pair of withered petals.

    Two pennies bought stale loaves from the baker’s tray. “Can I work here, Mr. Hemlock? I could learn how to bake.”

    The baker snorted. He leered over his table and pinned her with soot-black eyes. “You know, you’d be prettier if you smiled,” he said. “My son still talks of you. He could make you smile, I reckon.” He rubbed his hands together. “It’s time Ashton settled down now he’s bought the manor house.”

    Picturing the estate brought back memories from when Lily hadn’t needed gloves. A brief season of ease and brashness and unappreciated sunshine. Many of the young men had tried to court her then, the baker’s son among them. She swallowed once, then twice.

    The baker touched her arm. His dough-covered palm clung to her sleeve. “You aren’t sick are you, girl?” he asked. “It’s been awhile since you returned to town.”

    • 34 min
    PodCastle 698: Solace of the Keeper

    PodCastle 698: Solace of the Keeper

    * Author : Woody Dismukes

    * Narrator : Roberto Suarez

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    PodCastle 698: Solace of the Keeper is a PodCastle original.





    Content warning: Arachnids





    Rated PG-13

    Solace of the Keeper

    by Woody Dismukes

    If you watch the wind for long enough, you may find yourself a wisp. And though we call ourselves the Keepers, not even we can keep what is not there.

    We tell the living that we keep the dead, but only because that is what they want to tell themselves. Some of us believe it too, perhaps even many. Yet the most disciplined of us know this is not the case. It is the living that are kept from the dead.

    I first arrived at the monastery under these same delusions, and in no hurry to upturn my faiths. I came to find solace, though not from what you think, for there are far worse punishments than exile among the dead. I took solace from my peers — I never liked them much — and solace from my future. I was destined to be damned, either as an urchin of the streets or an urchin of the graves. And so, by my life of petty crime, it was chosen for me that I should perish as the latter.



    I was not angry when my sentence was imposed, at least not at the sentence. I was angry at life itself: that which had conjured us into being without leave or explanation. We are told that life is a gift, but I never saw it as such. I saw life as a curse, and I wanted it to burn.

    There was little to do about the desert plateaus. If one could not find some joy in hunting or the menial games played around the dinner table after supper, there were few other options than to read. That or drinking oneself into a state where you could forget the place you were.

    My favorite place to read was among the graves. The cliffside catacombs were more intriguing and offered shelter from the wind and sand, but they offered little torchlight during the night. When the moon was large and bold enough I could read by moonlight alone, and even when it wasn’t, I could still set a lantern atop the stones and sit peacefully outside the fervor of the drunken home.

    It began there, in silence, on a night when the air had grown thin with nowhere for the warmth to hide save the towering Kákkaro cactuses and the shrubs of brackenbush blossom. I didn’t mind the cold so much, as I had wrapped myself in a blanket of thick hide and preferred the chill of night over the searing sun of day.

    I had already been sitting with my back against an unassuming stone, on which the name and dates had been whisked away by the desert sand to the point where the engravings were nearly indistinguishable. Had the Matron or any of the Elder Keepers been around this would have been taken as a considerable grievance but, seeing as many Keepers before me had let the stone be carved away by the wind for years, I assumed that if I should be found out my disciplining wouldn’t be very severe.

    The hours of the night had already lifted the moon almost to its precipice and my lantern was beginning to dull. Although I had nearly finished my reading of Mariana de Valéctro’s A Case Study in the Behaviors of the Southern Sand Wolf, I could see that I didn’t quite have enough fuel left in my lantern to both finish the book and make my way back to the monastery dorms. Still, I was not ready to return yet, so at the end of the penultimate chapter I marked my page a...

    • 50 min
    PodCastle 697: Down to Niflhel Deep

    PodCastle 697: Down to Niflhel Deep

    * Author : Maria Haskins

    * Narrator : Eleanor R. Wood

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Originally published in Kaleidotrope.





    Rated PG-13

    Down to Niflhel Deep

    by Maria Haskins

    The dog’s name is Roan.

    He doesn’t know how long he’s been running. Maybe it’s been hours, or days, or maybe it’s only been fifteen minutes since he slipped out of the backyard through the open gate, but however long it’s been, he hasn’t stopped running since. The streets are going dark, but Roan is running steady, nose to the ground, skimming asphalt and concrete. Ragged currents of scent tug at him from the ditch and the grass and the road and the yards—urine, feces, raccoon, squirrel, cat—but underneath it all is the straight and narrow path he’s following: the girl.

    By now, he’s left his house far behind, that and the streets and the park he knows. He’s left the man and the woman, left them crying, pacing the kitchen and living room, and he’s finally free from their tangled smell of anger, tears, and dread; free from the chafing tightness in their voices as they clutch their phones:

    “Where is she? Where could she have gone? Has no one seen her?”

    Roan smells future / past / present: where the girl walked and where she rode her bike, the dwindling of it telling him she’s still far away, the future of it slipping into the dusk ahead.

    Day fades, night comes. Trees are closing in, blackberry branches stabbing through sagging wire fences—grass, forest, shadows. Roan slows, sniffs the tall weeds, the remnants of wasted summer nights: empty cans and bottles and slithering condoms. He circles back to the fence and starts again. There is a new smell here. Not girl, not animal, not man, not woman, nothing he has smelled before, yet it is familiar. It is the smell of dead rats beneath the shed—claws clutching at the dirt; it is the smell of rot and grubs beneath the leaves in autumn, the smell of sickness beneath the bark, beneath the skin. It is deception, sorrow, cold—twisted and turned into something else, something worse.

    Roan’s hackles rise as he stops, considers, hesitates. The smell of the girl is stronger here. That smell is in his veins, as close and true as his own heartbeat: it is chase and fetch in the backyard, it is running in the park together, it is treats hidden in tiny fists and dispensed beneath the table. It is his world, and everything in it.

    Roan heads into the woods, warily examining every leaf and blade of grass, inhaling blood and decay, dirt and mouse bones, pine and spruce. The darkness comes alive around him as he moves, furtive feet and sharp talons rustling through the underbrush.

    He’s walking now, not running, nose pushing / pulling on the scent, reeling it in, until the woods open up and he is standing on a precipice. A ravine yawns below: creek, rocks, dirt. Roan can smell the water, can smell the girl’s last footsteps where the grass and mud slip and crumble underneath his paws. He stops. Barks. That other scent is close here, too. The menace of it makes him want to cower and growl and whimper, but the girl’s scent is stronger, pulling him forward to peer over the edge.

    She is down there, in the dark. So close. Everything else is far away.

    His paws step and shuffle, lose their grip: he’s slipping, falling, just like the girl did, tumbling head over tail, a crack of bone knocking the wind out of his chest.

    • 32 min
    PodCastle 696: Tend to Me

    PodCastle 696: Tend to Me

    * Author : Kristina Ten

    * Narrator : Nicola Seaton-Clark

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Originally published in Lightspeed.





    Rated PG-13

    Tend to Me

    by Kristina Ten

    Nora is a serial becomer. She has become many things in her life, though rarely on purpose. The first time, it just sort of happened. The second time, it was a coincidence. Now, it is a habit she cannot seem to break.

    In the past, she has become a rock climber and a scuba diver, a beekeeper and a gardener and a mechanic specializing in European cars. For two months last summer, she was a stand-up comedian. Her senior year of college, she amassed New England’s largest collection of antique coins.

    Nora has no interest in any of these things. She has, in fact, an acute fear of heights and depths and stages. Exhaust fumes make her sick, and she is allergic to bees.

    But Nora cannot help herself: she is prone to absorbing the interests of whoever she is dating. She is caught in a pattern. She cannot get out.



    “How wonderful that you two share hobbies!” say friends of the couple, whatever couple she is part of at the time.

    Or: “You must never run out of things to talk about! I wish my Philip and I had so much in common.”

    It is not an equal exchange, Nora knows, nor a lasting one. Do you think the rock climber asked about her interests? He did not. While they dated, she scaled sheer cliff faces in his presence, then went home to her apartment and sank weeping to the floor. She spent hours flat on her belly, clawing at the horizontal surface beneath her calloused palms. All the jargon she had learned—quickdraw, hand jam, pitch—tumbled out of her mind. Alone, she was completely vacant. The next time they saw each other, he would fill her all over again.

    The same with the comedian: she pantomimed laughter for him until her cheeks ached, then went home and stared at her blank expression in the mirror, as if trying to commit it to memory.

    The same with the gardener, the beekeeper. Nora is trapped in malleability. It is an uncomfortable transformation each time. She wakes up tired, eats a bowl of bland cereal, then she goes to meet her lover and she becomes.

    Currently, Nora is dating an amateur acupuncturist. They met at a bar, where he told her a bad joke about why acupuncturists shouldn’t be trusted, something something something because they are a bunch of backstabbers.

    He turns out to be neither of these things: a backstabber or an acupuncturist, professionally speaking. He is sincere and loyal, and he performs acupuncture only at the hobbyist level, though he hopes to get an apprenticeship soon. For now, he practices on himself often, on her less often, and most frequently on the bumpy, porous skin of grapefruits.

    When Nora becomes this time, she is reclining on his living-room sectional, the amateur acupuncturist focused on the cap of her knee.

    “Do you feel anything?” he asks, inserting a fourth needle experimentally. “More relaxed, maybe?”

    “Sure,” she responds, feeling nothing, though maybe a slightly less dulled version of the nothing she usually feels.

    Suddenly, a patch of rough, faintly green skin blooms in the space between the needles. It is thicker than the surrounding skin, and when she pokes it, it has a bit of give.

    She looks up at the amateur acupuncturist. “Is that supposed to happen?”

    • 19 min
    PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer

    PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer

    * Author : Rati Mehrotra

    * Narrator : Suna Dasi

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer is a PodCastle original.





    Rated PG-13

    Black Wings, White Kheer

    by Rati Mehrotra

    The wings knock against the closet door on full moon nights, trying to escape. The sound terrifies Sarita, because if it wakes Amit, he might think there’s an intruder in the apartment. He might arm himself with something (what? Sarita settles on the kids’ baseball bat), throw open the closet door with a warrior’s scream, and pound the old bones of her once-beautiful wings, reducing them to a pile of dust.

    Blood and feathers, why does she torment herself like this? Amit is a sound sleeper. He snores with his mouth open, spread-eagled on his back, taking up three-fourths of their bed. Besides, the wings can take care of themselves. Does she not know this better than anyone else? Far likelier that Amit will be the one in need of rescue.



    Still, she cannot help but think of the promises she’s broken, along with her wings. The recipes she’s forgotten. The family she’s left behind. And all for what?

    A small snuffling sound alerts her to the presence of her younger daughter in the corridor outside the door. For them, she thinks as she scrambles out of bed. For them.

    Ayla stands with her thumb in her mouth, her eyes large and anxious in the dark. At the sight of her mother, the thumb falls out, and she puckers her face to cry.

    “Hush, darling.” Sarita swoops down on Ayla and lifts her up. “What are you doing, awake at this hour?” Although she already knows, has known for a while. Ayla is only five, and Sarita had hoped desperately to have more time than this. To have a normal life, safe from hunters, even if that normalcy came at the cost of freedom and so much else. It isn’t fair. Chia, Ayla’s sister, is older by two years and—so far, at least—perfectly ordinary.

    “My back hurts,” says Ayla tearfully. “And I had a bad dream.”

    “Oh sweetie,” murmurs Sarita, “dreams are not real,” hating herself for the lie. But really, what choice does she have?  Is she going to explain the blood-soaked history of her family to a five-year-old? Is she going to say, honey, I used to have wings. You’re hurting because you’re growing them too—rather earlier than I did. And if I don’t cut them off, evil creatures will come for you, just like they came for my mother. And they will do things to you that are too terrible to contemplate.

    No, that is obviously not an option. Nor can she try sending Ayla back to bed; that will just bring the dreams back, stronger than ever. So Sarita does what she always does when one of her children is scared or upset. She cooks.

    She goes to the kitchen of their tiny tenth-floor apartment and sits Ayla down on the counter.

    “Guess my favorite childhood dish?” she says.

    Ayla beams, delighted with this turn of conversation and the indefinite postponement of sleep. “Chocolate cake?” she hazards.

    “No,” says Sarita. “That’s your favorite. Try again.”

    “Chocolate pudding?”

    “It’s not chocolaty at all. Though it is sweet.”

    Ayla scrunches her face in concentration. “I know,” she shouts. “Ice cream!”

    “Hush.” Sarita gives a quick glance at the corridor behind. “You don’t want to wake Papa, do you?”

    Ayla shakes her head, pursing her lips tight.

    “I’ll tell you my favorite dish,

    • 44 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
37 Ratings

37 Ratings

AvantGarden___ ,

Brilliant

I always enjoy tuning in to discover new writers to follow. Excellent production values!

Phil Whole ,

Beautiful escapism.

A lovely mix of fantasy from across the board, with a great mix of narration. Thanks to the escape artist team, you do a fantastic job.

Cronan ,

Fantasy short fiction done well

Great fantasy stories with great narrators. Along with Pseudopod and Escape Pod, they're all the short fiction I need for my daily commute.

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