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Author Topic: PC347: Flash Fiction Extravaganza: Great Power, Greater Responsibilities  (Read 3486 times)

Ocicat

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PodCastle 347: Flash Fiction Extravaganza: Great Power, Greater Responsibilities

Look, Up in the Sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Flash Fiction Extravaganza! Containing:

“The Sea City Six (Where are They Now?),” by Jenn Reese
Read by Mur Lafferty

Originally published in Flytrap.

We find Florence Collins in the most unlikely of places: a dive bar called Tyko’s Haunt on the edge of Sea City’s factory district. Gone is her silver spandex, shimmering like frost, her white leather boots and gloves, the blue crystal necklace nestled in the hollow of her neck. She stands behind the bar slinging drinks, a dark flannel shirt hanging loosely over a stained black t-shirt, her jeans held up with a wide leather belt and a massive Sea City Stags belt buckle. We make sure to get some closeups.

“The Colors,” by John M. Shade
Read by Sean D. Sorrentino

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction. Read it here!

In the main tent, around the sand and dirt floor of the arena, a wooden wall is erected eight-feet tall. The worn, angled seating rises from there. A makeshift gate sits on the side where the opponents emerge, and another across from it from where I emerge. Real boulders dot the floor for cover or weapons, or both. Everything is wood or stone, nothing metal.

“I’ve had plenty enough experience with magnetic controllers to know that a little fire ain’t so bad,” Mother Circus would say.


“So You’ve Decided to Adopt a Zeptonian Baby!” by David Steffen
Read by Rish Outfield (of the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine)

A PodCastle Original!

Whether you are adopting by chance because you found the smoking crater on your property or whether you volunteered for the Zeptonian Childcare Service, congratulations and thank you!  There is no more rewarding choice you will make in your lifetime.  

Rated R. Contains violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 04:49:31 PM by Talia »



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The Sea City Six (Where Are They Now?)
Cool story, well told.  I like how it comes from an angle where you're expected to have already know about these people and what happened, and it never quite tells us what actually happened on that disastrous day because the audience would already know in this kind of retrospective.  Coincidentally, I just finished reading Watchmen for the first time days before listening to this, so it felt familiar in a good way, as Watchmen also has a component of the superhero retrospective of a couple generations of retired heroes.

The Colors
I also liked this one a lot.  Am I wrong or was this kind of staged fighting a brutal training ground to prepare heroes to battle real threats on a military level?  I'm not totally sure, I just got hints of it.  Like Dave said, I liked the mythic feel of this one and the carnival fight show aspect of superheroing that I never saw before.  And, yes, turning the old trope of heroes fighting heroes on its head and making it into something really compelling instead of the goofy stupid thing it usually was in the comics--inevitably it would turn out that the two heroes just had a misunderstanding and both were too proud to admit it because apparently they are toddlers in the brain and can't consider the concept of compromise.



jkjones21

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Like Dave said, I liked the mythic feel of this one and the carnival fight show aspect of superheroing that I never saw before.  

It makes sense when you think about it though, since the archetypal superhero design is based in the costuming of sideshow performers from the turn of the nineteenth century.  It's easy to forget with all the re-imagining and urbanization of contemporary versions of superheroes that their four-color aesthetic did have a real world counterpart way back when (and in another hundred years, assuming superheroes are still a thing, there'll probably be conversations like this one about what influenced their look).
« Last Edit: January 29, 2015, 12:25:00 AM by jkjones21 »

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RE: The Colors

I saw it as a world where the supervillans won, and they've subjugated the remaining heroes to a traveling luchadore show. A four-color version of Joe Lansdale's The Pit.

Also, there was a whole lot of dark hidden under that whimsy in the last one. It seemed to me that humanity had been subjugated to raise cuckoos.

Dark, dark, dark.

I think I'll go relisten to the Union Dues to cheer me up.

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Devoted135

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The Sea City Six (Where are They Now?)”
This was my favorite of the three, lots of hinting at a varied and interesting past but still enough to keep my interest in the present narrative.

“The Colors”
Wow, so dark! I liked that there was a truce, however temporary, where everyone worked together to save her. It, and the subsequent re-fracturing of the group felt very believable.

“So You’ve Decided to Adopt a Zeptonian Baby!”
I have to wonder whether people were really volunteering to adopt the zeptonians, given how destructive and terrifying they apparently are. Nice balance of light-hearted tone to match the title and ominous undercurrent...



Varda

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Awesome trifecta all around! And I agree with Fenrix: very dark on the balance--more DC than Marvel, if you will.

I think my favorite was "The Sea City Six", which was right up my alley, thematically. I loved it as a portrait of the different ways people struggle to handle the aftermath of a calamity. I already posted a long ramble recently on this topic on the "Axiom of Choice" thread, so I won't rehash, except to say I can't imagine how much worse the impulse to replay this stuff over and over in your head would be if you were a superhero genius who believed time travel might be an option. I'm not sure you'd ever be able to move on.

"The Colors" was suuuuuper creepy and pulpish, and I especially enjoyed the reading.

And "Zeptonian Baby" was adorable. I've been thinking about the mechanics of this new superbaby ecosystem. I feel like this story finds the Earth right at the start of the problem, when the new arrivals (hah!) vastly outnumber the grown Zeptonians. Ideally they'll reach a point where there's enough Zeptonian adults around to take over the task of adopting the newcomers, and the people of earth can regain their sanity, and maybe only opt-in to adoption if they really, really feel up to the task.

I got the cuckoo vibe too, Fenrix, although with the voicework here, I was more inclined to let my cynicism take a backseat. It's certainly an interesting take on an alien invasion, except it's so scattered. If you send babies that have the potential to grow up to be either superheroes or villains, it's not a very coordinated or focused invasion, is it? Unless, of course, the Zeptonians are unable to control their children any better than Earth can, in which case this story is a nice parable to the quality of Earthling parenting. :)

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Thanks for the past and future comments on Zeptonian Baby.  :)  This one was super fun to write and hit just right in the sort of dark humor that I tend to love--it's an interesting challenge to write something that makes an inevitable early and violent death into something funny. 

My own toddler is at such an age that this story is never far from my brain and I'm thankful that when he has a tantrum I am very thankful that he is not stronger than I am--at this age when he's constantly testing boundaries AND has only rudimentary language skills, being able to restrain him from petting the dogs too hard or diving headfirst down a stairway is very important.

Oddly, the cuckoo angle didn't occur to me until after I'd written the story--I'd started with the idea of baby Superman, but for there to be any justification for the pamphlet format there has to be many recurring cases of meteor-babies.  But I do agree that, given the circumstances, this is the most plausible explanation.  I figured the every X years thing had to do with planetary orbits and how close Earth comes to whatever the origin point of the Zeptonians is--so the Zeptonians launch the babies to meet with Earth when it's at its nearest point.

I feel like this story finds the Earth right at the start of the problem, when the new arrivals (hah!) vastly outnumber the grown Zeptonians. Ideally they'll reach a point where there's enough Zeptonian adults around to take over the task of adopting the newcomers, and the people of earth can regain their sanity, and maybe only opt-in to adoption if they really, really feel up to the task.

I think that that's probably true.  Even at the point of this story, the setting is not as bleak as it would've been 10 years before.  The Super Au Pair service is only available because the originaly superbabies are all grown up now.  When the babies first started landing there was no bounty, no superpowered nanny force, no education materials.  Just, boom, suddenly you have an infant on your property and if you don't nurture the baby then it might have no love of you or anyone else.  It will get easier.  Though at some point I think that the impervious Zeptonians will end up being the dominant species through imperviousness and steadily increasing numbers,  and especially when more and more superbabies grow up and start having superbabies of their own (especially the Super Au Pair service which at this point is a bunch of 20ish year old Zeptonian men and women all living on a barren continent watching babies).



RDNinja

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I loved the narration on The Colors. I'd like to see hear more from him.



albionmoonlight

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All enjoyable.

I have to wonder whether people were really volunteering to adopt the zeptonians, given how destructive and terrifying they apparently are. Nice balance of light-hearted tone to match the title and ominous undercurrent...

I think that the $10,000,000 was meant to encourage volunteers.  But I do wonder if there was also a bit of stick in addition to that carrot.




sdsorrentino

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"The Colors" was suuuuuper creepy and pulpish, and I especially enjoyed the reading.

As the reader, I thank you very much. It was kind of an accident. I just started reading it aloud and it came out.



sdsorrentino

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I loved the narration on The Colors. I'd like to see hear more from him.

Thanks!

Rachael K Jones apparently agreed with you. She had me read Episode 376, Ink. It's a full short story, and I used basically the same voice, which isn't my normal speaking voice. I also read a short one for Pseudopod, The Bleeding Game which is on Pseudopod Episode 429 Flash on the Borderlands XXIV: Femme Fatales. That's my normal speaking voice.