Sweating to Books on Tape*

A few years ago when I was living alone in China, my job gave me a significant amount of free time. I taught either one or two classes per day (biology and pre-calculus), had no official office hours — I was able to make it to the gym most weekdays (morning or afternoon depending on my schedule) and had all my evenings free save Tuesday nights when I ran a sort of phys ed program until about 5:30 or 6:00.

What I didn’t have were friends. That may be part of the reason I started listening to audio podcasts. Craving the human voice (in English, rather). I listened to Escape Pod and enjoyed it quite a lot, though I stopped being able to keep up after a few months back in Canada, particularly once I was working a genuine full-time teaching job.

I do like audio fiction, and it’s particularly ideal for short stories, which I am also fond of. Not everybody is, even avid readers. Or at least, it doesn’t occur to a large segment of the reading population to pick up an anthology or collection. This is a shame, really.

Certainly there’s a place for novels and short works, both, but there are a number of advantages to short fiction, including the ability to read it in one sitting, the chance to get a number of neat and unique ideas in a single book instead of focusing on just one, the ability to see a basic narrative idea stripped bare and not buried in an overwritten novel (it’s harder to overwrite a short story and still get it published).

All of which is to tell you I was thinking of a short story I “read” some time ago (I realize I heard the audio version only), and tracked it down, and if you’re interested, perhaps you’ll give it a listen. It’s called “Usurpers”, it’s hosted on Escape Pod, and it’s about a stubborn runner in the future who refuses any sorts of bodily enhancements, but still dares to compete against modified humans. He’s kind of a jerk but the story makes an important (and legitimate) point about “grit”. It’s more important than you think. For anyone who strives for greatness, physically, intellectually, artistically. . . .

*The title is a reference to a Family Guy cut-away gag.