I've read all the submissions, I've made my selections, and now it's time to announce the 2021 podcast fiction line-up! (Well, technically, it's "the rest of 2021 and the first story of 2022" because once again, one of the stories I bought this year will have to wait until next January to air.)
Selecting stories is a complex process. Is the story well written? Is the prose solid and competent and good at communicating the author's ideas? Does the story fit with the theme of the program? You might think that would be a given, but there's a lot of room for interpretation and differences of opinion. Does the story grab me and keep me reading? Does it start and end at the right places and is the chunk of story the right size for the word-count? And finally, does the language of the story sing to me? I'm a sucker for just plain beautiful writing. And by that I don't necessarily mean "pretty" writing, but the ability to use words not just to explain what's going on, but in the way that an artist uses brush strokes. This one can be very much a matter of personal taste, and very often it's the feature that helps me make that difficult choice between two excellent stories. And finally, how does the story fit into the overall program? Do I have a balance of settings and themes? Have I made the series as diverse as possible, given the available materials?
So: here are the stories that sang to me from this year's crop.
This was the first year that I commissioned one of the stories. Catherine Lundoff has been such a consistent standout among the submissions I receive, and such a staunch supporter of the podcast, that I decided it only made sense to spare us both the suspense and simply contract for whatever she wanted to write for me. I wish that I could afford to publish more stories, so that I could commission more pieces from favorite authors without compromising from my commitment to encourage more authors through open submissions. Spread the word about the podcast and support our Patreon, and maybe someday I will be able to add more stories!