Hugo reading 2018: Escape Pod

Escape Pod turned out to be unexpectedly fantastic.  This is a Fanzine where they also produce each story as an audiobook, and I probably should have listened to some of the audiobooks, but I am running very low on time now, so I didn’t.  It contained five stories, two of which I loved and all of which I liked, so that might be the best hit rate yet.  Though there were a lot more stories in Uncanny, so it’s a hard call which should win.

The first story I loved was Run, by CR Hodges.  This is a really lovely, touching story about two teenage girls, one living in Denver and one on the moon, who are effectively on opposite sides of a war – the girl on the moon is Russian, and the nations are jostling for power, and nuclear shelter drills are increasingly common.  They are both fascinated by Morse code, and communicate with each other during the brief periods when the moon is in the right position relative to earth.  And then the first bomb strikes.  I love the relationship between the two girls; I love that the parents, despite having their own agendas (Ivana is pretty sure her mother is a Russian spy, and that her stepfather is a French one) still enable the friendship and, when it matters, help the girls to communicate what is important.

Texts from the Ghost War, by Alex Yuschik was also fabulous.  It’s the story of an unlikely friendship between a fighter pilot (I *think* – it’s a little hard to tell what he is piloting, though), and someone in a position of familial power, told entirely through text messages.  It’s funny and endearing and tense, and just enormous fun to read.  It’s also an interesting world, which we discover in bits and pieces through the comments in the messages – everyone seems to be under attack by ghosts, to the extent that mourning now requires approval and safety training, because it’s so easy to attract ghosts by accident.  But it’s the dialogue and characters who sell this.  I don’t know why it makes me think a little bit of Miles and Ivan in Bujold, but it does.

The other three stories are clever and fun and touching, and pack a good emotional punch.  I was also rather taken with Ms Figgle-DeBitt’s Home for Wayward AIs, by Kurt Pankau, which is not your average killer robot story. Also, there are so many ways to ruin a caramelised banana cake if you are a robot!  I had no idea. Also, now I really want to make caramelised banana cake.

I think my final order is going to be Uncanny first, then Escape Pod, then Fireside and Strange Horizons, then the Book Smugglers, and last of all Beneath Ceaseless Skies.