By Orson Scott Card; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
1 MP3 File – 9 Minutes 57 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show
Published: March 2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Fable / Dragons / 3 Wishes /Immortality /
This is the second “Audio Bonus” from Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show online magazine, the plan appears to be to offer one bonus MP3 story per issue. Cool!
Orson Scott Card’s short fiction is connected to people in ways that other speculative fiction often isn’t. Realistic character psychology always takes the lead over scenarios, but his scenarios always test his characters’ psychologies – it makes for a special completeness rarely found in Speculative Fiction. Combine this with a refinement of prose, where every word is perfectly placed, and you get a little piece of magic in every OSC story. In this case, “Middle Woman” is a fable style fiction, another variation of that old saw “the three wishes”. Originally published under OSC’s pseudonym “Byron Walley”, it takes the idea of moderation, something almost always absent from fables, and runs with it. It reminded me of a kinder, gentler version of Robert Bloch’s classic That Hellbound Train. Interestingly, it also offers a more restive solution to W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw. The setting is Eastern, and given the “middle” of the title I suspect it is working in the ‘middle kingdom’ style of storytelling. Whether I’m right about that or not you’ll have to check it out yourself to decide.
Quite short, only 9 minutes, this is ably read by Mary Robinette Kowal who manipulates her voice in all the right ways to lend classic fairy tale reading to this modern fable. In addition to being a terrific narrator, Kowal is a professional puppeteer who also moonlights as speculative fiction author. “Middle Woman” is the Audio Bonus found in Issue Two of the online magazine Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.
DISCLAIMER: Mary Robinette Kowal, when not reading stories aloud is an SFFaudio reviewer.
Posted by Jesse Willis
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