the Little Red Reviewer

Enjoying some Clarkesworld short fiction by Reed and Chandrasekera, Narrated by Kate Baker

Posted on: June 10, 2017

 

 

Me and audio fiction have a tenuous friendship. I tend to get distracted while listening to audio fiction, which means I have to listen to the same stories over and over and over again, almost like they are long musical pieces. Do I listen to the occasional audio book? Sure do. Are they something I seek out? Not really.   But . . .  long commute to work through beautiful farmland is the perfect setting for some audio short story podcasts.  And Clarkesworld has the amazing Kate Baker.  So there’s that.

 

If you’re not sure audio short stories are for  you, find something narrated by Kate Baker.  Her voice is warm and welcoming, drawing you in to the inflections and pauses. When I listen to her, I feel like it’s just the two of us having an intimate conversation in a dark pub where the bartender knows us and lets us hang out at that table in the back as long as we’d like. She’s not reading me a story, she is telling me a story. My brain responds to her voice the same way my brain responds to music, even though she’s not singing. All that to say that Kate Baker’s voice has absolutely spoiled me.

 

Still, I stick with the shorter of the short stories that she narrates.  Maybe the more I listen to, the more I will want to listen to and will download longer stories? Time will tell, I guess.

 

Last week, I listened to “Left of Bang – Preemtive Self-Actualization for Autonomous Systems” by Vajra Chandrasekera from the April issue (issue #127) of Clarkesworld, and “Two Ways of Living” by Robert Reed from the March issue (issue #126) of the same magazine. Both were narrated by Kate Baker, and by “listened to”, I mean I listened to them each at least 3 times.   Only today, as I’m writing this blog post  am I actually looking at the text versions on the Clarkesworld magazine website, mostly to just check the spelling of character’s names.  How strange the shapes of the text seems, after having heard the stories on audio.

 

“Left of Bang” is an ultra short flash piece,  about a prototype android who is being put through the paces so the programming can be perfected before the androids go into mass production. Able to pass for human, the tests include infiltrating office buildings, stopping assassinations, and saving lives.  All of this is incredibly easy for the android.  As the stakes get higher, and the tests get more complicated, the android develops some very human behaviors. Flash fiction is an art, how to tell a complete story in such a limited space. Chandrasekera succeeds wildly, building something very large and effective that fits into such a small space.

 

Baker draws this story out as she tells it, letting each sentence tell an even smaller, but just as important story.  She’s not speaking slowly by any means, but she teases the words out, gently prodding them to expose the more subtle meanings underneath.  By giving the extra time and care, I feel like she’s giving the android something the scientists and engineers and project managers would never think to give to their creation: authentic and caring attention.  Pulling up the text of the story, I was surprised to see it written in large chunky paragraphs.  Reading it, my brain wanted to rush from the first word of the paragraph to the last word, barely breathing the whole way. Baker doesn’t rush. She lets you find your own way through the story.  This is an excellent story to start with if you are completely new to audio short fiction.

In “Two Ways of Living”, at first I thought the man telling the story was a vampire. He “sleeps” a lot, hates leaving his condo, and eats as much as he possibly can while he’s awake.  He’s not a vampire.  He’s just very patiently waiting for something, and to prolong his life, he goes into a sort-of hibernation, often for months or years at a time. His neighbor, Glory, is overly curious and rather pushy, and he’s not interested in becoming her friend, or even talking with her more than he absolutely has to.  Glory’s up-lifted dog, Salvation, on the other hand, seems to be a pretty bright doggie (if he is, in fact, a dog).  But the man simply wants to to sleep,  fill his kitchen with food, eat all of it, and go back down again, without some increasingly and suddenly aggressively nosy neighbor pestering him about the whats and whys of his lifestyle choices.

 

What’s wonderful about this story is the observations and assumptions the human characters make about each other, and that it ends up being the dog who knows exactly what’s going on. I would love to hear this story from Glory and Salvation’s point of view. Of course, in that story, Glory would assume that she’s the main character, and she’d be wrong.

 

 

I had randomly chosen these two short stories to listen to, so their commonalities are interesting. The point of view characters in both stories aren’t the person that things are happening to, they aren’t the main character.  Although the android in “Left of Bang” is running around doing things, it’s all the other people involved with the project who are running the action and making these things happen. Actions are taken out against these other nameless people, whom the Android hasn’t a single care for.  In “Two Ways of Living” the man is certainly telling us  his side of the story, but things are happening around him or to him, he doesn’t seem to control much of anything.  Glory, or maybe her Dog, are the main characters of this story.

 

And with that,  it’s time for me to go download some more goodies off the Clarkesworld  podcast site!

 

 

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6 Responses to "Enjoying some Clarkesworld short fiction by Reed and Chandrasekera, Narrated by Kate Baker"

Sweet! On issue 127 you should read Juliette Wade story. That was like a miniature epic thing swirling in my mind days after I read it. I decided the story should be turned into a a play. Patrick Stewart should play the lead. It could be played out like the “Lion King” meets “Cats”…I’m not really sure I just love the story.

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you had me at “miniature epic thing swirling”!

I downloaded the audio, but it’s nearly 2 hours long? Forrice, you challenge my listening attention span, but in a good way! 🙂

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I like reading clarkesworld. Sometimes I like it when Kate Baker tells me the story.

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I am the same way though I have recently added short novelettes to the possibilities but still under 10k words and 75 minutes (a one way drive to Dayton!)

Kate was the reader that got me hooked and I even emailed her a thank you though I also really like Stefan Rudnicki who does a lot at LIghtspeed.

If interested, four of my favorite shorter podcast stories from 2017 so far (think all are under 30 minutes)
In the Shade of the Pixie Tree: Rodello Santos (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
Welcome to Astuna: Pip Coen (Apex)
Yosemite: D. S. McNab (Escape Pod)
Paradox: Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny) (starts around 8:15 of podcast and under 10 minutes)

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I do like a lot of Stefan Rudnicki’s narrations at Lightspeed as well, he’s done some wonderful ones. But Kate Baker is consistently super amazing.

Thank you for the recommendations! I’m off to download them. I assume the more I listen to, the longer stories I’ll want to listen to? I know it’s nothing to do with the stories themselves, that my issue is an attention span issue, so hopefully it’s something I can train my brain for.

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Paul, I listened to Welcome to Astuna, liked it so much I listened to it twice more!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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