Story Time Reviews “Kin”

Story Time Reviews remembers that special time when an adult reads to a child and recognizes that as a grown-up, we need to reward ourselves with a story time now and then. I’m reviving this blog series that offers reviews of stories read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister read on “LeVar Burton Reads.” This podcast originally posted on June 13, 2017. It runs 36:46 minutes in length.

The Amazon cover is a close up of an alien eye. It is the cover for the story Kin by Bruce McAllister.

The Story

“Kin” by Bruce McAllister appeared in the February 2006 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It received a nomination for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. The story appears in multiple anthologies and is an Amazon “short read.

The story is about a meeting between a young boy who has a need and an alien assassin. Their meeting yields unexpected results.

The principal character, a twelve-year-old boy, is convincing. The author’s words paint the alien assassin in scary otherworldly details.

The story starts in a third person omniscient viewpoint that quickly switches to a closer third-person viewpoint and shatters conventions by relaying the story from three different viewpoints.

One might think three viewpoints would make the story flabby and difficult to follow. Yet, the story, the boy’s need, grabs you and sweeps you forward relentlessly to the end.

The Voice Talent

Photo portrait of LeVar Burton
Image by Super Festivals from Ft. Lauderdale, USA –
Photo_Ops-LeVar_Burton_20181202_0024, CC BY 2.0,

LeVar Burton is an actor, presenter, and author know by many of us. He is best known for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and his role as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots.

Mr. Burton has long been an advocate of reading. He hosted the long-running PBS show for children, Reading Rainbow (1983-2001 and 2002-2006). He started his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads in 2017. (Read his Wikipedia bio.)

In every episode of his podcast, he reads a short story aloud. He says the only thing these stories have in common is that he loves them.

The Author

Bruce McAllister, author of literary and genre fiction, was born October 17, 1946, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Worlds of If magazine published McAllister’s first short story, “The Faces Outside,” in the July 1963 issue. He was sixteen. The story appeared in Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25 (1963) and The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF, 1964.

Known for his short stories, he has published novels, poetry, short stories and articles, been a consultant to writers on film and TV projects for studios and production companies. He taught literature and writing. Currently he’s a writing coach in Southern California where he lives with his wife. He has three children.

My Opinion

In the Air is a blog post about recent podcasts, livestreaming, and YouTube videos Lynette M Burrows enjoyed recently.

I love listening to Mr. Burton. I think he could entertain me by reading the dictionary. In this story, his delivery of a unique voice for each character worked perfectly for me. But this story is as satisfying to read silently as to listen to it.

You know why this story appealed to me if you’ve read My Soul to Keep. Specific details and an emotional resonance make this story a satisfying read, and Mr. Burton’s wonderful voice makes it an enthralling listen.


Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister receives 5 out of 5 stars.

I hope you like the Story Time Reviews posts. They will make occasional appearances on this blog. Did Story Time Reviews “Kin” help you decide you’d like to read or listen to this story? Why or why not?

Do You Discuss Dystopias In The Making

Sometimes the well goes dry. When this happens to a creative, she must refill the well. This creative turns to informational podcasts (among other things). Recently I discovered a podcast of absolute golden inspiration for lovers of dystopian stories. The Good Code discusses dystopias in the making.

image of lines of green code on a black screen--digital dystopias in the making

Chine Labbe is the host of the Good Code in collaboration with DLI at Cornell Tech. It’s a weekly podcast on ways in which our increasingly digital societies could go terribly wrong. (Yes! Story fodder.) You may subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, GooglePlay, and other sites.

On Net-States

This week’s episode is Alexis Wichowski on Net States Chine and her guest, Alexis, discussed Wichowski’s recently released book The Information Trade: How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Transforms Our World.

The premise of the book is that big tech companies like Google and Facebook act like national governments. She implies that this is dystopias in the making. Our world is no longer divided by nation-states (like the United States, Canada, Italy, etc.) and non-states (ISIS, al Qaeda). And she proposes a new term for the era, net-state.

What is a Net State? 

image of the google sign taken at a close angle

A net-state is a digital, big tech company that expands its role to include protective or supportive services to citizens. These companies exist primarily online. They have millions of international followers (like Google and Facebook). And they pursue agendas separate from the law. Out of necessity, some big tech companies created huge departments or companies to deal cyber threats.

Google has an anti-censorship initiative called Project Shield, an online safe-haven for news sites censored by their national governments. They laud this project in some countries but other countries (China, Iran, etc) could see this as illegal and a disruption of their government.

Other actions appear humanitarian. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, they had no power and no internet. FEMA sent fifty representatives with mediocre results. Wichowski stated that as a nation-state any government attempts to respond with fairness.

image of Facebook buttons

Big tech doesn’t care about being fair to all states or all situations. Google and Tesla quickly and efficiently provided Puerto Rico with temporary power and internet access.

Is This a Problem?

Wichowski says it is. She points out that no one votes for the leadership at a big tech company. That means there is very little oversight. And she points out that there is little transparency in these companies. Who has your personal information? What are they doing to protect it? What are they doing with it?

Not everyone thinks this is a situation of dystopias in the making. According to Wired, the world needs net-states. They occupy the same territory as the non-states: the digital sphere. And they understand their norms and tactics far more than a land-war, Cold-War era strategist ever could.

How Do We Fix it?

People need to be more aware of who owns the tech they buy. An example is that Amazon owns the home security system Ring. And Amazon has had data breaches where personal information is at risk. Wichowski says people need to bring pressure on big tech companies to be more transparent and police themselves better.

Wichowski also suggested we establish something like the Geneva Convention for the digital world. She says we should create some basic ethical rules for big tech companies to follow. In this short podcast, she did not go into how this might work. 

If she could change one thing, she says she’d choose for companies to be transparent. She said that somewhere in the world someone knew more about her personal information, browsing history, and shopping habits than she does. She wants to know what all that information is.

Net-Nations in Fiction

While the term net-nations is new, the idea isn’t. Big bad corporations create dystopian societies in many novels.  The tech in 1984 by Aldous Huxley isn’t as advanced, but the idea is similar. 

The Warehouse by Rob Hart, The Circle by David Eggers, Orbital Decay by Allen Steele, and Immortality by Robert Sheckley are a few dystopian novels with tech-ruled societies.

What novels can you think of with this tech-dystopia set up?

What Is the Worst That Could Happen?

image of an atom bomb explosion

Do you play dystopian mind games? I do, endlessly. For more fun dystopian discussion material, read why we love reading dystopias.

Do you agree that big tech or net-states are a bad idea? Do you think a Geneva-like set of rules can stave off severe abuses? Is discussing dystopias in the making inspiration for dystopian authors and readers? Or is it the stuff of nightmares?

Story Time Reviews: A Japanese Fairy Tale

Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale told on the Myths and Legends podcast, episode 161 titled Japanese Folk Lore: Karma.  The orginal story, “The Old Woman Who Lost her Dumpling,” may come from Hearn, Lafcadio, translator. Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy Who Drew Cats. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1898. This podcast includes two stories. “The Old Woman who lost her dumpling” is the first story told on the podcast. Duration 16 minutes and 14 seconds. 

The Story

Image of a page of from the story "The Old Woman Who Lost Her Dumpling" on for her Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale post.

Making Dumplings Making Dumplings. The old women liked to make dumplings and laugh. One day she drops a dumpling to the floor. It rolls through a small hole in her home’s floor. She reaches into the hole and the dirt beneath her cracks open. She drops. She survives a long drop and though the land is weird, she sees her dumpling rolling away and she runs after it. She stops and catches her breath leaning against a Jizo-san statue. (Weiser gives us an aside at this point explaining the relevance and meaning of a Jizo-san statue in Japanese culture.) The statue warns her not to follow her dumpling because a wicked Oni lives down there, who eats people. But the old woman doesn’t heed his warning. 

True to it’s fairy tale genre there’s a lesson learned. 

The Author

Image of Lafcadio Hearn, translator of Japanese Fairy Tales on for her Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale post.

Unfortunately the podcast does not identify where the story came from nor who the author was. I made an assumption that that the story was from Hearn, Lafcadio’s translation Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy Who Drew Cats

From  Encyclopaedia Britannica online, “Lafcadio Hearn, also called (from 1895) Koizumi Yakumo, (born June 27, 1850, Levkás, Ionian Islands, Greece—died Sept. 26, 1904, Ōkubo, Japan), writer, translator, and teacher who introduced the culture and literature of Japan to the West.”

Another assumption I make is that Hearn translated this story as told by storytellers and not the original author. 

Hearn did the world a great service by translating many works, particularly those of Japan. However, since he’s not the author of the story it’s not appropriate to give more of his biography here. If you wish to learn more, read this.

The Voice Talent

From the Myth and Legends podcast description: Jason Weiser tells stories from myths, legends, and folklore that have shaped cultures throughout history. Some, like the stories of Aladdin, King Arthur, and Hercules are stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard, but really should. All the stories are sourced from world folklore, but retold for modern ears.

These are stories of wizards, knights, Vikings, dragons, princesses, and kings from the time when the world beyond the map was a dangerous and wonderful place.

Weiser’s short bio includes this line:  “In addition to history and world folklore, he’s a fan of his wife and child, dachshunds, hiking, Batman, and cake (the dessert, but the band’s ok, too).”

Weiser’s voice is pleasant and his story telling engaging. 

My Opinion

I was not prepared for Weiser’s storytelling presentation style. It took me by surprise when he “interrupted” the story for an aside about the Jizo-San statue. Despite needing to adjust my expectations, I enjoyed the story and Weisner’s interpretation of the fairy tale.

He related this rather old story with some modern word choices. For me, that did not enhance the story. Those asides and modern expressions pulled me out of the story. I believe I would have enjoyed the story more if he’d given it a more traditional presentation. YMMV

His style became less intrusive as he got further into the story.

My biggest disappointment is that he did not identify where the story came from, who the author was, or even title the story. This is a major flaw in my opinion.


I’m glad I listened to the story. It’s sweet, engaging, has mystical lands and creatures, and the ending allows the listener to make an interpretation as to the meaning of the story. (Hint, it may be deeper than it appears.)

I am only slightly familiar with the Eastern story telling traditions and this story definitely made me want to learn more. And now that I’m aware of the style of the podcast, Myths and Legends, I will probably listen to more of these tales. However, if the telling of the stories continues to ignore details of the story title, the author’s name, or some indication of the story’s origin–I will recommend the podcast for further listening.

Did you enjoy Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale? Have you missed past episodes of Story Time Reviews? Check out Story Time Reviews Operation Haystack or Story Time Reviews The Last Question. Do you listen to stories? I hope you find Story Time Reviews helpful. Please, share your favorite stories in the comments. 

Listen & Learn: Science and History Podcasts

Science and History podcasts are a fun, easy-to-digest way of learning. I’ve mentioned before that I love podcasts. Lately, I’ve listened to fewer because I no longer have a commute. But I try to listen to at least one of the science and history podcasts. They are always fascinating. I always learn some new detail. Often, I find a bit of inspiration for future stories.

A black and white graphic of a pair of headphones illustrates this month's Listen & Learn: Science and History Podcasts.
Wikimedia Creative Commons

Science Friday

This podcast, hosted by Ira Flatow, covers everything science. From the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies. Every year they host Cephalopod Week (beginning June 21). You’ll learn fun and cool stuff about cephalopods.  The Science Friday Initiative, a non-profit organization, dedicated to increasing the public’s access to science and scientific information, produces this podcast. Science Friday videos are available on Youtube. The podcast is available on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, Sound Cloud, Podbay, Tune in, and the website

You Are Not So Smart

Host David McRaney says the You Are Not So Smart podcast is “a celebration of self-delusion that explores topics related to cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies.” It’s always fascinating. McRaney interviews scientists about their research into how the mind works. At the end of every podcast, he eats a cookie. There are transcripts of the podcasts on the website. The podcast is available on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, SoundCloud, and the website

Flash Forward

Flash Forward is a podcast about the future. Each episode host Rose Eveleth leads us into a possible (or not so possible) future scenario. From the existence of artificial wombs, to what would happen if space pirates dragged a second moon to Earth, Rose will discuss it. After a brief, imaginative interpretation of what that future might be like, Rose interviews scientists and other experts to find out why that future is or is not possible. Available on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, Podbean, SoundCloud,, and the website.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

This podcast features thirty-minute stories about events in American history. From a gold rush in Georgia to a disastrous steamboat fire to the history of doughnuts the information is fascinating. Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey list their sources on the website. Available on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, Podbay,, and the website

I hope you take the time to enjoy one or more of these podcasts. I like to listen to them while doing housework or other tasks where my hands are busy but my brain needs more. Science and history podcasts are only a portion of the scads of subjects covered by podcasts. You can also read about the writing podcasts I recommend in my post, Listen & Learn: Podcasts on Writing and In the Air.

Story Time Reviews Ray Bradbury

Story Time Reviews remembers that special time when an adult reads to a child and recognizes that as a grown-up, we need to reward ourselves with a story time now and then. This blog series will offer reviews of stories read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews Ray Bradbury.

Image of pen finishing writing "once upon a time" the beginning of story time reviews

LeVar Burton Reads

Mr. Burton, an actor, presenter, and author, has long been an advocate of reading. He hosted the long-running PBS show for children, Reading Rainbow (1983-2001 and 2002-2006). He started his podcast, LaVar Burton Reads in 2017. (Read his Wikipedia bio here.)

In every episode of his podcast, he reads a short story aloud. He says the only thing these stories have in common is that he loves them. 

The Author

Headshot of Ray Bradbury.
Photo by Alan Light

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and poet. Mr. Burton says Bradbury shaped the way we see the world today. Bradbury’s stories, words, and vision definitely influenced many readers and science fiction and fantasy fans. You can read more about Ray Bradbury on his website or in my review of The Martian Chronicles.

Story Time Reviews

“The Great Wide World Over There” is part of the anthology Golden Apples of the Sun. The story was originally published in 1952.

As many of Bradbury’s stories are, this one is deceptively simple. It is not a science fiction story. The time period is a while ago. The story is set on a Missouri farm.

An illiterate farm woman feels she is missing out on the great wide world. When her educated nephew comes for a visit, she sees a way out of her isolation, a way to learn more of the world. 

No spoilers here, it’s a well-told story you’ll want to enjoy yourself.

The story expresses joy and wonder and nostalgia. It’s visual, emotionally evocative, and bittersweet. 

It aired as an episode of “The Ray Bradbury Theater” October 29, 1992.

Words Matter

In this story, Bradbury creates a protagonist who is jealous enough to lie, “It was not Cora herself, but her tongue that lied.”

You feel her joyousness when she greets her visiting nephew, “They ran to each other like partners at a summer dance.”

Her longing for a taste of the greater world is clear when she says, “her horizon was this valley in the Missouri mountains.”

And when she figures out how to get a small taste of that greater world, her joy is contagious. 

There are descriptions that will surprise and delight you. Read or listen to Bradbury for a demonstration on how to use words to visually illustrate a story.

The story’s conclusion is moving and true to the character and her situation. Perhaps it will make you think. It might make you grateful for what you can do to connect to the great wide world.

If you love simple, descriptive prose, you’ll love how every word, every sentence adds to the character, her world, and her plight.

The Podcast

Bradbury’s writing is full of visceral descriptions and relatable characters. LeVar Burton’s narration of this story adds another layer of power to Bradbury’s words. His character voices are spot on and the emotional resonance of his reading will touch you.

The recording was broadcast on the LeVar Burton Reads podcast May 6, 2018.


Story Time Reviews gives this story and performance 5 out of 5 stars. 

Did Story Time Reviews Ray Bradbury help you decide if you’d like to read or listen to this story? Is there something else you’d like included in the review? If you have a story you’d like featured in Story Time Reviews, list it in the comments below or email Lynette.