Magical short story podcast about Google Book Search, data visualization and the Olde Curiousity Shoppe

This week's story on the Escape Pod science fiction podcast is a remarkable tale called "Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store" written by Robin Sloan and billed as a "short story about recession, attraction and data-visualization" and it is fabulous. It's a fantastic, magical realist tale about Google Book Search, magick with a K, an olde curiousity shoppe, and the power of data-visualization. The story was initially self-published on Sloan's blog and was recommended to the Escape Pod editors by a friend, who read it, loved it and bought it. If you enjoyed Ben Rosenbaum's The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale, you'll love this.

I'm sitting in a book store next to a strip club.

Not that kind of book store. The inventory here is incredibly old and impossibly rare. And it has a secret--a secret that I might have just discovered.

I am alone in the store. And then, tap-tap, suddenly I'm not.

And now I'm pretty sure I'm about to snap my laptop shut, run screaming out the front door, and never return.

* * *


I lost my job in the slumped-over spring of 2009. I applied for dozens of replacement gigs but was rebuffed, again and again. And I took only the coldest comfort when the companies doing the rebuffing were, themselves, forced out of business months later. I probably couldn't have turned them around single-handedly. Probably.

The job I lost was at the corporate headquarters of the New Amsterdam Bagel Bakery. I designed bagel marketing materials. Menus, coupons, posters for store windows, and, once, an entire booth "experience" for the bagel industry trade show.

I also ran the website.

Now, months into my unemployment, I'd started watching for "help wanted" signs in windows, which is not something you really do, right? I was taught to be suspicious of those. Legitimate employers use Craigslist.

EP215: Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store (podcast)

Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store (text)


  1. Eerie. I was just looking at this story last night before going to bed. Nice to see it make an appearance on Escape Pod.

  2. that was fabulous, I adored the story. I’m a “Read or die” type of book lover, but i like computers and technology too.

  3. Wonderful story. I’ve contributed to Robin Sloan’s upcoming novella on because of this! Can’t wait to read more of his work.

  4. Thanks Cory, that was great. I’ve passed the story on to others. Now I’m going to Click on the kickstart link above.

  5. Nice story.

    Not great but hey, whose demanding great.

    Come to think of it, it was a great way to pass some of the midnight hour tonight :)

    There was a google-takes-over-the-world story a while back. I think it was on BB that I saw it. Anyone remember? I think it started with a guy arriving in Immigration…

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