I have never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day, largely for the same reasons as other people who are not big fans of Valentine’s Day. Twenty years of marriage has done much to dull my sharp disdain for the holiday, but still… Call it a grudge, if you will.
One of the things I do like, however, is listening to science-fiction and fantasy podcasts while going for walks during my lunch break at work. Two podcasts I listen to regularly are Escape Pod and Lightspeed Magazine. Anyway, I thought I’d recommend some sci-fi stories appropriate to the holiday that you can download and enjoy (or not, depending on your disposition). They come in three flavors: Sweet, bittersweet, and so, so bitter.
(Incidentally, I recommended some of these stories last year on my Facebook page, but didn’t really have the space to talk about them.)
Sweet: The first recommendation under the heading of “sweet” is “Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt, Escape Pod Episode 105 from May 2007. This is the story of a film nerd who finds a video rental place with a very unusual selection of movies and the girl working behind the counter who doesn’t quite know what to make of him. Tim Pratt’s had a bunch of his short stories podcast on Escape Pod and this one was a 2007 Hugo Award nominee. This is a sweet story for how it captures how exciting it is to meet someone who shares your passions and really gets you, even before the possibility of romance arises.
Not playing anywhere
The second story in the “sweet” category is “My Wife Hates Time Travel” by Adam-Troy Castro, Lightspeed Magazine September 2012. As it turns out, my wife hates podcasts. Fortunately, the page includes a text-on-screen version in addition to the audio version so I was able to share it with her. And I really wanted to share it with her. It’s that sweet. In this story, a couple knows that one of them is destined to invent time travel. They don’t know which one of them it is; all they know is they can’t get a moment’s peace thanks to the non-stop interference of their future selves.
Bittersweet: “I Look Forward to Remembering You” by Mur Lafferty is a bittersweet story from Escape Pod, July 6, 2006. Mur Lafferty’s also had a bunch of stories on Escape Pod and was the site’s editor-in-chief for awhile. This is the story of a woman who’s reached a point in her life where all she has is her memories. That’s not entirely right; she also has wealth and access to time travel technology and hires a service to go back in time and give her better memories. I love this story but, fair warning, it made me cry.
It also references Ranma ½, which is awesome.
“I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll SeeYou in Reno” by Vylar Kaftan from Escape Pod episode 243, June 1, 2010, is a tale of love and time dilation and a couple who never quite makes it work but are never far from each other’s thoughts even over centuries and light-years. This is a pretty good story, but the definitive story of love (and war) and time dilation remains Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War.
Bitter: Finally, there are the bitter stories. “Love Might Be TooStrong a Word” by Charlie Jane Anders is from the August 2012 podcast of Lightspeed Magazine. If you think love stinks, especially this time of year, then imagine how much worse it might be with a rigid class system and four or five extra genders (and corresponding pronouns). Answer: Lots.
Then there’s Robert Silverberg’s “Ishmael in Love,” Escape Pod episode 113, July 5, 2007, originally published July 1970. So very bitter. It’s a story of a dolphin named Ishmael and the marine biologist he longs for. Anyone can tell at a glance that this is a relationship that will never, ever work except for Ishmael. Dolphins are supposed to be intelligent, but as Escape Pod host Stephen Eley notes in the afterword, we’ve all been the dolphin.
Here’s hoping you’re not the dolphin this year, but if you are, remember, February 15 is Discount Chocolate Day.