A “drabble” is a short story of exactly 100 words. Drabblecast is a 13-year-old weekly audio fiction podcast featuring short, quirky speculative fiction.
Founder and editor Norm Sherman loves the punch and impact of flash fiction, along with brief short stories that deliver in a quick 10-minute read to leave people laughing or crying, “and definitely wanting to share and talk about the piece as original or crazy or funny or interesting,” he explains.
The stories appear in both text and audio versions on Drabblecast’s website. Sherman narrates some stories alone. For others, he brings in multiple voice actors. Episode 424 (4/14/20), for example, offers a full-cast audio production of Rachel K. Jones’ and Khalida Muhammed-Ali’s science fiction comedy, “On the Feeding Habits of Humans: A Firsthand Account.”
Tone, editorial content of Drabblecast
The stories on Drabblecast’s website are sometimes playful, often poignant, and always very strange. Each year Sherman hosts a month-long “Women & Aliens” celebration, showcasing science fiction stories by female authors. The podcast commissions original pieces and reprints like Margaret Atwood’s “The Martians Claim Canada” on Episode 423 (3/31/20).
“It embodies the kind of story we like to run,” Sherman explains. “It’s about three aliens that come down to earth and try to study musical theater, but they only speak a type of fungus conversation, and a mushroom ends up convincing them to take over Canada. It’s ridiculous and engaging and funny.”
Drabblecast also observes H.P. Lovecraft Month annually, to honor what Sherman describes as the author’s “weird awesome fiction.” Episode 416 (10/1/19) features a story by Bryan Miller, titled “Necessary Cuts,” about an editor who comes across a manuscript so “squicky and gross” that he’s not sure how to handle it. Miller writes:
“I reread the first few pages of the file hoping to get a sense of how to even start editing it. It appeared to be part rant, part confession, and part instructions for a ritual. Certain names and phrases repeat at odd intervals like atonal choruses. Run-on sentences spliced with Frankenstein commas devolve into vulgar invective. The sickly prose is liberally spiked with a word I won’t type here, one I only use occasionally in heavy traffic.”
Past contributors include Mike Resnick, Ben H. Winters, and Mur Lafferty. Hugo-award winning science fiction and fantasy writer Tim Pratt is a frequent contributor to Drabblecast. His short story “The Bodies” in Episode 427 (5/20) is about a non-descript white-collar worker who keeps finding dead bodies – or pieces of them. “Being the first person to discover a body is terrifying to think about,” Sherman says. “[The worker’s] really disturbed by what is causing this plethora of dead bodies until a twist at the end of the story.”
Author Vincent Eaton has a piece titled “The Worm Within” on Episode 25 (8/15/07) about being diagnosed with an extremely long tapeworm after consuming a plate of raw beef and egg. “His style is to go off on tangential, hilarious side stories, and then loop around to the main story again after the doctor gives him a pill,” Sherman explains. “It was one of our really early episodes – and we did it again on January 20th last year as a director’s cut.”
One of Sherman’s favorite stories is Aliya Whiteley’s “Jelly Park” on Episode 43 (12/20/07) about clown eggs that wash up on the beach in a parody of a survival-of-the-fittest nature documentary.
“It’s a fun little gem about a woman having an existential crisis,” Sherman explains. “She gets on a bus after a breakup and ends up in a weird little factory where everyone’s singing these weird little lyrics. When we produced it, we included all sorts of musical elements and sound effects. It’s cinema for the ears.”
Advice for potential contributors
Sherman reminds potential contributors to read Drabblecast’s submission guidelines carefully before submitting work. “It’s crazy how often people overlook these,” he says. “Some editors don’t care all that much about bios or whether you’re published in a million different places. It’s the story that has to grab you, but if it’s too long or too short or submitted in the wrong format, it ends up in the rejection pile. It’s kind of sad.”
Writers who have followed all submission guidelines and still receive a rejection should cultivate patience and diligence, he says. “So many times, we get great stories that just aren’t the right fit for us. I do my best, sometimes, to recommend another market for that story. You’ve got to be OK with getting rejection letters, though. Keep pumping stuff out, and you’ll hit gold.”
As far as off-limit topics and themes, Drabblecast has none. “Every time I’ve decided that a genre or a topic like zombies has been played out to death, I’ll get a submission that completely shatters that perspective – say, with an original take on the undead,” Sherman says. “People are always trying to experiment and think of things differently. As long as it’s well written, with good characters and tension, I’m game for it.”
Drabblecast at a glance
“Strange stories for strange listeners.”
Reading period: Year-round.
Length: 100 to 4,000 words.
Submission format: Email with short bio.
Contact: Editor Norm Sherman, [email protected], drabblecast.org
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Twitter/Instagram @WildMelissaHart