I first read this story a looooong time ago. I don’t even recall how long ago, but it’s entirely possible it was near the date of original publication. It stuck with me. It was one of the first stories I read that eschewed good-vs-evil in favor of “almost no one is evil, almost everything is broken.” I figured if the story had enough lasting power that I still occasionally thought of it, I could certainly podcast it here, and the incredibly generous Mark Rudolph was ok with me doing so. If you want to check out his other work, he has another story and a poem at Strange Horizons as well.
I’m kinda surprised I was able to find “Words of Love” actually. Not until recently have I started to retain the names of stories, novels, and authors. I grew up with a library card, and thus my reading materials were impermanent. They always disappeared when I was done. I didn’t have many friends as a child, so I didn’t have anyone to discuss the stories with and so no reason to be able to identify them with short labels such as Title or Author. If a related topic ever came up in conversation I’d simply describe a story’s plot or premise. I never realized what a disservice this was to the author, and never changed that habit. It wasn’t until I joined a book club a few years ago that I actually started to pay attention to such things as “Title” or “Author” and now I wish I’d been doing it all along.
Finding “Words of Love” was a process that came and went in fits and starts over a number of years, with much Googling and brain-wracking. I’m still surprised it happened. From vague memories of a plot and a world, to a direct link to the original publication is quite a feat, and one I haven’t been able to replicate often. The internet rocks.