Tuesday, July 22, 2008


(Flickr image by psychofish)

George on Bike Riding Donut Guy wrote about You Look Nice Today, a “journal of emotional hygiene” that is subversively funny. I've been listening to the podcast for some time and it's become a favorite. But it's caused some problems at work. I had it loaded into my mp3 player and was listening with ear buds while I opened some boxes with a cheap Mexican switchblade. I was laughing uncontrollably at a funny bit, and turned around to find some management folks standing behind me warily eying the knife in my hand. I smiled and went back to hacking at cardboard.

George made a wonderful recommendation, so I want to return the favor.

Three of my current favorites are Escape Pod for science fiction, Pod Castle for fantasy, and Pseudopod for horror.

I grew up reading comic books from DC and Marvel, so Jeffrey R. DeRego's Union Dues series on Escape Pod was a natural. These stories are darker and far more complex than the squeaky clean superheros of my youth. The Union is an analog to the Justice League of America, but isn't entirely benevolent.

I have to preface the rest of this by telling you about my nightmares. Waves of zombies attack while I try to kill them with an endless supply of assault rifles, most of them loaded with blanks or incapable of firing at all. Surely there's something Freudian in this, but I'm not going to find out. Anyway, the dreams always end with me waking up, heart pounding, and unable to get back to sleep. Several times I've been combative, once going so far as to kick Mary in the butt. This does little to inspire marital harmony at 3AM, but that's another tale for another time. Zombies are a common thread in the following.

The first is a comedy by Patrick E. McLean, How to Succeed in Evil. Edwin Windsor lives in a weirder and much funnier universe where superheros are clownish buffoons, cops are corrupt, and super villains are hobbled by some serious oversights in their plans for global domination. Edwin is an evil efficiency consultant, assisting the super villains with their pension plans, investments, and all the other accouterments of modern business, until he goes off the rails himself.

One of these stories struck a chord with me. There's a brief bit of telephone conversation involving a call to a customer service number answered by zombies. The company downsized and cut costs, so the humans had to go. If you've made some of these calls, you may think that having a zombie answer the phone isn't much of a stretch, but I assure you it probably doesn't happen often in real life. Here's the download for Cheap Labor Part 2.

Then there's Mur Lafferty's Takeover, a story about a small company that's been acquired by a much larger one staffed, you guessed it, entirely by zombies. If you work in a big corporation, you already know the cast of characters, the management pep talks, the office romances, the HR policies intended to merge two wildly opposite cultures, and even the petty squabbles over coffee in the break room. I have to admit that the idea of an upper management staffed by zombies is darkly humorous. Good clean fun, with brains.

Tales of World War Z is the other end of the spectrum. The stories of the zombie apocalypse on this website are firmly in the horror category rather than comedy. There's a World War Z podcast available through iTunes and Audible also.

Between all the coffee and the walking dead, it's a wonder I get any sleep at all.



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