Personal Essay: Matthew M. Foster
I was slow to leap into the world of audio-lit. It took something close to home: Eugie Foster’s sale of “The Life and Times of Penguin” to Escape Pod. A balloon animal filled with Voltaire and existentialism, “Penguin” was a perfect fit, and Escape Pod was something special. I suppose I wasn’t quite so slow after all, as Escape Artists changed genre podcasting and “Penguin” was episode seventeen. It was 2005 and the reader was Mur Lafferty, whose influence in podcasting is incalculable.
A year later, Mur would introduce Eugie’s “Returning My Sister’s Face” in episode four of the new horror-lit podcast, Pseudopod. A tale of ghosts, treachery, and revenge in ancient Japan, it was a story made to be read out loud, and I was hooked on another podcast.
From there, Eugie’s relationship with Escape Artists only tightened, with many of her stories popping up in the two, later three, and now four associated podcasts. She even acted as a reader, which, considering her aversion to public speaking, was astonishing and demonstrative of her affection for EA. Many people were introduced to her work not by reading it, but by hearing it.
Not that our connection to Pseudopod was all practical or related to Eugie as a writer. We became fans as well. I love to read. I love the language—the poetry of words. And Eugie was a voracious reader. But it is a solitary activity. Oh, you can read to someone, and Eugie and I have done so with each other, but there are limits, and even my voice, practiced in non-stopping talking, tires. Pseudopod (and its sisters) became a way for us to share the experience of horror and science fiction and fantasy stories. It was a joy to plop down on the sofa together and let the latest twisted tale wash over us. This lead to more discussions that I can count, sometimes on style, sometimes on ideas, and sometimes on just how creepy a piece was.
Long drives became a place for EA stories, which I suspect is the case for many people. I can’t image a long trip without Pseudopod or Escape Pod. The case that stands out to me is our drive to Florida during which we listened to EA podcasts, before arriving for the Nebula Awards weekend, where Eugie’s novelette, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” was up for the award, in part due to the incredible reception it had received when read on Escape Pod. What could be more fitting?
The world changes, but for the last decade, the best in short horror fiction has made its way to me via Pseudopod, and I trust that will continue for many decades to come.
Matthew M. Foster is a freelance film critic and film historian. He is Director of the Dragon*Con Film Festival, which annually brings filmmakers, features, and the best in Independent Short film to Atlanta. This year he started the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction. The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain.