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
    • 4.6 • 475 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 764: The Science and Artistry of Snake Oil Salesmanship – Part 1

    PodCastle 764: The Science and Artistry of Snake Oil Salesmanship – Part 1

    * Author : Timothy Mudie

    * Narrator : Jairus Durnett

    * Host : Matt Dovey

    * Audio Producer : Eric Valdes

    *

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    Previously published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies





    Rated PG-13



    The soundtrack featured in this story was composed by our audio engineer Eric Valdes

     

    The Science and Artistry of Snake Oil Salesmanship

    by Timothy Mudie

     

    Aloysius P. McNutt arrives in town one-and-a-half days after the snake, as per usual. Earlier would be too suspicious, and later risks that the settlers will have attacked the snake themselves, which simply won’t do. Aloysius needs to sell the snake oil to them, which he can’t lay claim to unless he slays the snake himself.

    He grins lopsidedly as he sidles into the saloon. “Hear you got yourselves a snake problem.” In these settlements out in the territories, the heart of the community tends toward the saloon or the church, and Al has made a quick presumption that these aren’t a particularly churchly folk.

    Rough men and a lesser number of equally rough women line the bar and circle the tables. Clusters of prospectors and farmers sip brandy and rye and harsher libations. All lift their heads in Al’s direction when he pushes through the doors and declaims his customary opening. None respond.

    Al is wondering if maybe he should have tried the church after all when a man in a beaten hat wearily pushes himself from the bar. Maybe twice Al’s twenty-nine years, with eyes half again as old, this is a man who’s lived more than most. Despite the drink and the day’s problems weighing on him, the man carries himself with the posture of a lawman. This is Al’s mark. He strides across the room, ignoring the following eyes, and extends his hand in the man’s direction.

    “I know a sheriff when I see one,” he says. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir. Aloysius P. McNutt, at your service. But I recommend you call me Al. All my friends do, and I’ve a premonition that we’re to be fast friends, you and I.”

    The sheriff blinks at him slowly. “State your business, buy a drink, or keep moving. We’ve no time for charlatans in this town.”

    “Charlatan! Sir, you wound me.” Shaking his head solemnly, Al resumes his spiel. “Rumors travel quick round these parts, and when they’re of a titanic snake harassing industrious settlers, they fly faster still. Lucky they should happen to reach my wandering ears. Sir,” — here he stares hard at the sheriff, setting the hook  — “I am beyond familiar with this class of beast, a remnant from the savage land this was before the civilizing influence upon it of those such as yourself. From far-flung settlements across this frontier, I have pursued and battled these serpents, and I now proffer my services to your charming town.”

    Doubt flickers in the sheriff’s eyes. Al’s seen it countless times: knows the thoughts running through his brain. What’s the harm in letting this shabbily dressed dandy hunt the snake that’s taken a dozen sheep and half that many cattle in the last thirty-six hours? If the man fails, the town is in no worse position than it currently occupies.

    Al doesn’t need to hear the man’s confirmation; he plows ahead. “I ask but one thing in return,” he says, index finger raised with deep purpose. “Once I have slain the creature, I desire to take possession of the carcass, with intention of marketing the rare and valuable effluent that I shall extr...

    • 37 min
    PodCastle 763: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts

    PodCastle 763: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts

    * Author : Gabriella Buba

    * Narrator : Vida Cruz-Borja

    * Host : Matt Dovey

    * Audio Producer : Eric Valdes

    * Artist : Cindy Fan

    *

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    Previously published by Strange Religion: Speculative Fiction of Spirituality, Belief, & Practice (Strange Concepts: Big Ideas Explored Through Speculative Fiction)





    Rated PG-13

    Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts

    by Gabriella Buba

     

    Manila, Philippines, 1936

     

    Maria-Lucia had failed.

    In her hand, a freshly struck agimat burned. The copper amulet pressed with the image of the Virgin Mary was hot with the power the coven had gathered from the full moon. Golden light streamed between her clenched fingers.

    All eyes were on her, as her first meeting as leader of the Mallari witches after the death of her husband came to a close. The full moon sank into the black waters of Manila bay.

    Pasig, the sea-dragon of Manila Bay, had not come to renew her pact with the Mallari Witches, nor to accept Maria-Lucia as their new leader. The dragon went by many names. She was a bakunawa to the sailors from Cebu. In Manila she was a laho, the moon chaser.

    “Is it because of me?” Maria silently asked her witch-heart Lucia, “Because I’m not truly a Mallari Witch — only married-in?”

    Lucia, normally euphoric after soaking up moonlight and magic with her coven, was hesitant. “I don’t know. She’s come to our call before, why not now?”



    Her mother-in-law raised her hands from her seat on the edge of the circle, which was on the balcony below.

    “It’s not unprecedented for the bakunawa to decline to appear until a new coven leader has introduced themselves properly,” she reminded the three dozen assembled witches.

    Some stood down in the courtyard of the home. Some, like Maria-Lucia, were up on the tiled roof. Maria-Lucia had no memory of such a story about the great sea-dragon. The laho was the coven’s patron saint from before the Mallari witches adopted the concept of saints from the Spaniards. Still, no one dared nay-say the eldest witch present, not even Maria-Lucia’s brother-in-law, the second-eldest Mallari son. He firmly believed he should’ve been named coven leader, rather than his eldest brother’s wife.

    Maria-Lucia would’ve conceded the title, if it wouldn’t have meant being cast from the coven and homelessness for herself, her ten-year-old daughter, and her four-year-old son. But she’d had a son, and so her branch of the Mallari line would hold precedence as soon as her son’s witch-heart named itself. She’d promised his father she wouldn’t give away his birthright.

    She swallowed down her own and Lucia’s terrified uncertainty. “Forgive me. I’ve been so caught up in the funeral preparations; I did not think to reintroduce myself to Pasig. I will remedy my oversight without delay, and she will heed our call on the next full moon.” Maria-Lucia hung the rejected agimat offering around her neck. It scalded her sternum, full as it was with so much power.

    She urged the assembled witches back inside the Mallari home, helping the titas and cousins lay out food and drink on long tables. The smell of crisp pork skin from lechon stuffed with crab and lemongrass filled the kitchen. Heaps of fresh white rice and garlic shrimp sat in large bowls.

    As her mother-in-law hobbled to her place at the head of the table, leaning on her coral-inlaid cane,

    • 39 min
    PodCastle 762: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Witching Hour

    PodCastle 762: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Witching Hour

    * Author : Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

    * Narrator : Shingai Njeri Kagunda

    * Host : Matt Dovey

    * Audio Producer : Devin Martin

    * Artist : Cindy Fan

    *

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    Previously published by Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores





    Rated PG-13

    The Witching Hour

    By Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

     

    I stood balanced at the top of the oldest palm tree, the one that grew at the south end of the village. I was in my element — pitch-black night. This was my dawn. The murmurs of glowing spirits mixed with the chitter of living insects.

    The hoot of an owl reminded me there was work to be done, battles to be fought — silent, undeclared, but raging all the same. And old Mama Ishaka was on the other side of them. With a sigh, I leapt from the tree, fell free, and caught one of the power lines that led to a human spirit. The link was strong. The call of this spirit sang the music of its soul to me. It called me back home.

    We sat in my hut, bare as it was, Ejiro and I, on the even barer floor. The kerosene lamp hung from a nail on the wall, its flickering yellow light the only illumination. I didn’t need much, being a creature of the night.

    I had chosen my apprentice for her goodness. Shy and quiet, she was my sister’s child. Like other old-world witches I was glad to recruit from family, where they were cut closest to us. Blood was more than just a symbol.

    She was still learning to manoeuvre the delicate currents of the other side.

    I rubbed the ori ointment on her eyes to ease the transition and make visible the other realm — the beauty of it along with the denizens that drive normals mad with fright. We moved freely among it all — the souls of sleeping humans, shining shapeshifters, headless spirits drifting along upside down.

    I took hold of her hands and invoked the deep black sleep that let us travel to the other side. Our bodies slumped, and we passed over. We floated, translucent and unbound by gravity. We had power in this state. A power that was intoxicating.

    Ejiro moved towards the door. I smiled and pulled her toward the wall. I flowed through it and she followed. Outside the protection of my hut we felt the pull, the dreams, the thoughts of sleeping normals. Those souls connected to us pulled the most, sending out strong lines of power.

    There was one we set out to find. I had established a connection with her in the physical world and could see her soul cord faintly shimmering. We flowed along it, shifting shapes — I an old brown owl, Ejiro a nightjar. We sailed swift and sure, alighting on a palm tree beside a darkened house.

    I shifted back and floated to the roof. My fledgling followed. We sifted down through the thatch. I looked at Ejiro. She nodded and threw a shroud over the home’s sleeping occupants, to keep them still until our work was done. She fastened on their sleeping forms and they choked, gulping for air, struggling vainly to wake. In the morning they would say they had been pressed and they would shiver.

    I drew close to the one we were here to help, a girl of eleven. She tossed and turned, feeling the energy of the other side but unable to wake to it. I slipped my hand into her chest and cradled the pulsing spirit heart of her being. She gasped. I gathered my energy and pulled. Her body convulsed and she held back, frightened at the pull to cross over,

    • 29 min
    PodCastle 761: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Bone Pickers

    PodCastle 761: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Bone Pickers

    * Author : Kelsey Hutton

    * Narrator : Laurie McDougall

    * Host : Sofía Barker

    * Audio Producer : Eric Valdes

    * Artist : Cindy Fan

    *

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    PodCastle 761: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Bone Pickers is a PodCastle original.





    Content Warning for themes of genocide





    Rated PG

    The Bone Pickers

    by Kelsey Hutton

     

    My last day picking buffalo bones, stooping and flinging and splintering tibia among the tall grass, was the day I lost the smell of freshly tanned leather.

    The buffalo gave us so many gifts, but the finished hides were my favourite. Rich and musky-smelling, hair scraped off, with only the hide left — I remember one side was always slightly glossier than the other. Soft, supple, broken in. Ready for a skilled seamstress to transform into intricately embroidered moccasins, leggings, vests, a thousand beautiful things.

    Or, there were the great shaggy buffalo robes my parents used to roll us children up in at night, tucked safely into our corner of the cabin to sleep. Those were large enough I could lie down in the middle, fan my arms and legs out like a great grey owl descending on its prey, and still not touch the edges. First thing in the morning, or last thing at night, I remember closing my eyes and inhaling huge swelling lungfuls of the scent left behind by the great animals, lii bufloo, who lived alongside us. Whose lives were twined so intimately with ours.

    And of course, there were the herds themselves. As many as there were seeds in the spring, as there were stones in the riverbed. On the first day of the fall hunt, we could follow their smell more surely even than their hoofbeats. Kneeling beside a freshly killed cow, grown fat on sweet summer clover, I would bury my fingers deep in her shaggy ruff. Curled up in the warmth still emanating from her massive form, I breathed in my thanks.

    These were the things I still let myself remember, around and in between the spitting-grease-hot memories of my parents, my brothers, my sisters. Those ones I never touched.



    But that spring day, I realized I could only remember what the hides smelled like —  earthy, smoky, slightly spicy. I couldn’t feel the smell of it in my nose, couldn’t conjure up the taste of it in my mind, beyond just . . . words.

    That feeling, that slip of my memory, made me stumble where I was. Just as I thought there was nothing left for them to take from me, in fact, there was.

    My knee hit the scrubby ground hard and I lurched towards the great wheel of the cart beside me, tangling myself in my skirts as I threw out a hand to stop myself. The cart’s wheel normally came as high as my nose when I stood straight; now, laden with a few hundred pounds of bones, the cart rolled by an inch from the pinky on my splayed right hand. Only a narrow rut was left behind to tell the tale.

    Despite all this, the world around me moved slow, like the earliest trickles of a tapped sugar tree. I could have lost a finger, maybe more. I could have lost my hand.

    I repeated that to myself a few more times, trying to care. Failing to.

    “Emmaline!” Rosemarie croaked out, but her own throat was too coated in dust to raise above a barked whisper.

    “I’m all right, it’s all right,” I lied, although I suppose it was also the truth. Was I well enough because I was no worse off than I had been a few moments before,

    • 45 min
    PodCastle 760: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Tree Whisperer

    PodCastle 760: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Tree Whisperer

    * Author : Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

    * Narrator : Somto Ihezue

    * Host : Matt Dovey

    * Audio Producer : Eric Valdes

    * Artist : Cindy Fan

    *

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    Previously published by Xenocultivars: Stories Of Queer Growth





    Rated PG-13

    The Tree Whisperer

    by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

     

    The trees are getting restless. I walk down the beaten forest path, trying my best to ignore their murmurs, but they are too many and their words crowd my mind.

    The green will perish . . .

    You must warn the people . . .

    Call down the wrath of Ileh . . .

    I do not reply to any of them. They will only slow me down if I do, and I must be back in the village before nightfall. I duck under a low-hanging branch and crawl till I emerge in a clearing. At the far end stands a tall iroko tree, the oldest in the forest and the leader of the trees: Auzyvre, the tree that was planted by Ileh herself.

    Kola.

    Auzyvre’s voice is deeper than the voices of the other trees, and immediately as they speak, the entire forest falls quiet. They wave their leaves gently, even though there is no wind. Somewhere in their tall branches, a bird sings an ode to the ending day. I incline my head respectfully when I reach their base and a fresh green leaf falls to my feet, a sign of approval and acceptance.

    “Auzyvre. I come with news,” I say.

    I can feel the other trees tensing, their branches quivering with anticipation. Auzyvre betrays no emotion like the others, but I can tell that they’re expectant as well.

    What news do you bring from the world of men?

    “Tarim won’t send the foreigners away,” I say.

    The trees howl in disappointment. Yellowed leaves fall to the ground all around me. Their branches shake aggressively and I can feel the ground rumbling a little as some of them move their roots, threatening to rip them out of the earth in their anger.

    Enough! Enough!

    Auzyvre’s voice cuts through the din, and gradually the trees quiet down. When the last yellow leaf has fallen and the earth has stopped trembling, Auzyvre speaks again.

    Kola, you know what will happen if the foreigners do not leave. You know what we must do.

    I know. I know what they must do. People will be hurt, or worse. They have done it before, but I cannot let them do it again. The last time the trees acted, innocent people died. This time, if anyone should suffer at all, it should be the ones who have betrayed the earth only.

    “Tarim plans to address all of us tomorrow morning at the village square,” I say. “I will try to persuade him then.”

    Good. We thank you, Kola. You are a good man. May Ileh be with you.

    I bow. “May Ileh be with you.”

    Then I turn and walk out of the clearing, guided back to the village by the birds singing to welcome the night.



    Jimi is waiting for me outside my hut.

    He is seated on a bench, dressed in his hunting leathers. His bag of traps lies at his feet, as does his dog Nabi, who raises his head as I approach before returning to his canine dreams. A long knife strapped to Jimi’s slim waist is the only weapon on him. When I draw closer, he gets to his feet and spreads open his arms. I smile and embrace him, inhaling his smell of boiled leather and animal skin and several other wonderful things. He smells like a hunter; I draw a deep breath before pulling away.

    “You tarried in the woods,” Jimi says.

    • 35 min
    PodCastle 759: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Anu and the Vetala

    PodCastle 759: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Anu and the Vetala

    * Author : Srikripa Krishna Prasad

    * Narrator : S.B. Divya

    * Host : Matt Dovey

    * Audio Producer : Eric Valdes

    * Artist : Cindy Fan

    *

    Discuss on Forums







    PodCastle 759: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Anu and the Vetala is a PodCastle original.





    Content Warnings for references to sexual assault





    PG-13

    Anu and the Vetala

    by Srikripa Krishna Prasad

     

    The marble-tile floor of King Vikramaditya’s throne room is cold against Anu’s forehead. As she prostrates herself before him, body curled into a ball as her forehead meets the point of her hands, she can’t help the contempt that rises in her throat like vomit. Such riches, while she has to beg in front of the court for a chance at life.

    “Rise,” intones the king.

    Teeth clacking as she fights back shivers, Anu painstakingly lifts herself to her feet and meets his eyes.

    “What brings you here?” he asks, courteous.

    Anu breathes in deeply, taking the opportunity to look around the throne room. The marble walls are gilded with gold and tall, carved pillars support the ceiling, which is painted with figures of the king in various battles. Cushions and mats surround the throne where the ministers and court musicians would usually sit — once a week, the king banishes them from court in case they are the subjects of a civilian’s complaint. The throne itself is just how the stories describe it — carved into it are the figures of the thirty-two apsaras, the virtuous spirits who recognized King Vikramaditya as the most noble of kings. The king’s wives are absent; Anu wonders if they are even allowed to be present when the king holds court.

    Allowed to. Anu’s mouth curls, and she quickly controls herself. You need him, she reminds herself. He is the most generous of all kings.

    “Your Majesty,” she begins at last. “I come at the behest of the many stories told all around the nation of your grace and benevolence. Tales of your generosity and courage have been recited loudly enough to reach even my small village, far in the south.”

    The king smiles, pleased. Anu swallows, then continues. “Your Majesty, I have journeyed for one month to bow before you and make a request. You see, I am very ill.” Anu curbs the roll of her eyes as the guards conspicuously move away from her. “The physicians in my village could not find a cure, nor could the ones in the cities around me, until one finally revealed my condition is one that can only be cured by great magic.”

    “This is truly unfortunate,” the king says. “What ails you?”

    “Intermittent fevers,” Anu replies. “They used to come on every few months, but now they have been occurring weekly. I fear for my life, Your Grace.”

    “I see,” the king says, thoughtful. “What is it that you seek from me?”

    “I have heard that you employ a sorcerer.”

    The king’s eyebrow arches. “Indeed, I do.” He gestures towards a man standing in the far corner of the throne room, who comes forward. He carries a wooden staff and is dressed in a plain, white dhoti. Something about him reminds Anu of a coiled snake about to pounce.

    “Speak, sorcerer,” says the king, “and tell this woman if you may assist her.”

    “Your Majesty,” the sorcerer says, lying flat on his stomach and bowing to the king before getting to his feet. His eyes turn to Anu, assessing. “I have indeed heard of the illness of which you speak.

    • 53 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
475 Ratings

475 Ratings

bevillej ,

Fantasy in all its forms

The Castle takes you on a journey through all forms of fantasy. I learn so much about the brilliant variety of writers. With the sister podcasts, EscapePod (SciFi) and PseudoPod (horror), there are hours and hours of auditory joy.

DavidCFar ,

Fantasy mixture

Great mix of high literary fantasy and some fun low brow stuff. Good audio quality.

Caitla ,

Racial discrimination

One star for racial discrimination. Podcastle is actively accepting submissions from any race BESIDES white people. Marginalizing white authors and black-tarring the publishing industry is as racist as any segregating policy. “Whites need not apply.” And I won’t be listening either, for that reason. I’m over it with the publishing industry’s racism. This is why I no longer purchase new books or listen to literary podcasts. Equal opportunity for all races is justice. Discriminating towards white authors - while patting yourself on the back for how progressive you are - is racism, and anyone who participates in this is racist. The POC authors published during this submission period of racial exclusion are actively choosing to benefit from racism, and I’ll be happy to give their other published works 1 star on any platform available. I’m exhausted by the anti-white racism in the publishing industry. I want an equal playing field for all. Talent, not skin color, should be the main determining factor in whether or not a writer is published. Period. And no, POC don’t need to be catered to because they’re “underrepresented.” POC have been published in demographically white-majority countries for decades and decades. They’re not underserved - POC are over-represented in Western publishing. The white majority is being underserved, because we are actively being discriminated against based on the industry’s proud racial and political bias. “BIPOC only” submission periods is code for “giving the country’s published narrative away to those who despise the majority of its people.” I’m not supporting or normalizing this racist movement. I want justice and equality. Nothing more, nothing less.

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