Source: Escape Pod, Episode 27
Length: 35 minutes
Reader: Jonathan Sullivan
The story:Union Dues is a series of linked stories about an alternate version of our own world in which superpowers are real. People with these superpowers are kept separate of the "normals" by the Union, a extra-governmental organization which regulates the "supers." Supers who agree to certain conditions set by the Union become superheroes, with their own costumes and Union-produced comic books.
This particular story is the first in the series. Megaton, one of the Union's superheroes, has been arrested. The small-town sheriff begins to probe Megaton with questions, allowing DeRego a chance to throw in some expository dialogue. Yet, DeRego doesn't spend his entire story in world-building. He also manages to establish some of the themes and moral issues he will develop in later stories: the loneliness of being different, the manipulation of image in the media, and the right of the privileged to make decisions on behalf of the unprivileged. If it sounds like DeRego is trying too much, be assured that this is a a compelling story that introduces a fascinating world.
The reader: Jonathan Sullivan does an outstanding job with this piece. The story is told in the 1st person from Megaton's perspective, so it is this character's voice that dominates the story. Sullivan performs Megaton in a gravelly rasp, a more weary version of Batman's voice in Batman: The Animated Series. The other major character, the small town sheriff, is voiced by Sullivan with a Southern accent, but he avoids the Barney Fife caricature. As is typical with Escape Pod episodes, the production values are high.
Note: Jeffery DeRego, the author of this story, recently underwent heart surgery for a bypass surgery. The surgery reportedly went fine, but financial assistance would be welcome. If you listened to this story and liked it, consider donating via Paypal to Mr. DeRego and his family. The donation link is available through this Escape Pod link and will be open through the end of September 2008.