Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Superheroes and Zombies

That was an attention-grabbing title, now, wasn't it?

No steampunks this time around, but Mur Lafferty followed her novel/audiobook/podcast Heaven with two further presentations exploring the supernatural. Both are well worth a listen.

First, Playing for Keeps - also available in book form - gives us superheroes, those do-gooders with special powers, such as the ability to fly; supervillains, the heroes' evil counterparts; and those with...lesser powers. Except that, in Seventh City, the myths don't exactly hold true to form: the heroes are jerks, the villains are just heroes who were expelled from the Academy, and sometimes the lesser powers turn out to be a little more impressive than even their owners thought.

Keepsie Branson - who earned her nickname because she has absolute control over anything that is hers - owns a bar in Seventh City where her friends and customers with equally "useless" powers hang out. These powers include: absolute power over elevators; the ability to detach and regrow legs; the power to make anyone sober instantly; the power to hold objects on a tray without spilling; the power to heal - one square inch at a time; super strength - for five seconds; and...the awesomely disgusting power to spray fecal matter. (Well, not everyone can have the strength of steel.)

When a villain gives Keepsie a container for safekeeping, she and her friends are thrown into a struggle between the heroes and villains, and ultimately learn something about the two groups, as well as themselves. The plot rolls along, and is a great deal of fun. The message - that we ought not make superficial judgments of abilities - is not new but is worth repeating. And, let's face it, who hasn't thought that superheroes often seem like jerks?

One can subscribe to the episodes through an RSS feed here, or subscribe directly via iTunes, or download individual episodes here, or buy the book from Amazon, or...no doubt I'm missing several ways to acquire the product.

Moving from superheroes to zombies, The Takeover is a ten-part podcast involving an Aetherweb design firm that has just merged with ZombInc, which is run by, yes, zombies. Will the corporate cultures clash? Will Maureen accept a management position, even though this requires her to become a zombie? Can love between a human and a zombie really last?

Like Playing for Keeps, The Takeover is a lot of fun. (Thanks, Hotspur, for the recommendation - I might not otherwise have taken a chance on a zombie book.) I imagine it was also a blast to write and record; unlike the prior book, in which Mur Lafferty read all the parts, this one has a cast reading the various roles. Anyone who has worked in an office environment will recognize the various archetypes: Buzzword Guy ("There's no 'I' in team"), Suckup-to-Management ("That's a mighty nice tie you're wearing today, boss"), and so on. Requiring managers to be zombies...well, that's an obvious but still very funny metaphor. The Politically Correct environment, inane team-building exercises, and squabbles over petty issues all make appearances. Subscribe via iTunes, or download here.

As an added bonus to these podcasts, both feature cool theme songs. (C'mon, you've gotta have a theme song, right?) Playing for Keeps has the song "Playing for Keeps," by Beatnik Turtle , while The Takeover features Jonathan Coulton (of the fabulous "Skullcrusher Mountain" fame) singing "RE: Your Brains."

Isn't the Aetherweb great?

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