An issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet always lands in my mail with accompanying hearts, unicorns, flowers, and an unearthly music that wafts through the air and draws my mind and spirit into its pages. Not a planned event, it’s published irregularly, but it’s always a treat. Somehow this issue just called for the unicorns and flowers iteration first, because it put me in such a good mood.
The last story in the issue, “The Book of Judgment” by Helen Marshall is my favorite, not just because Jane Austen is my favorite writer, but because Marshall skillfully imagines an alternate world in which Austen marries young. The practical advantages of the marriage were just too great: a permanent home for her sister, assistance for her brothers in their careers. But the marriage seems loveless, and the husband dominating. Jane doesn’t need to explain all of this to the angel who visits her, but he explains it, and much more, to us. It’s a wonderful, dark story that is nonetheless full of light. I have Marshall’s collection of stories, Hair Side, Flesh Side on my Kindle; it’s clearly time for me to read it.
Andrea M. Pawley’s “Vanish Girl” is the strongest science fiction story among those offered. It’s about a girl who lives in an invisible building with an unpleasant roommate. Cora visits a shelter every day for a meal and a mesco tablet, and sometimes a lecture from a counselor who doesn’t think she should be taking the drug. But life for Cora essentially means earning just enough money by picking trash to get the mesco, and she can’t envision anything better — until one day, when change is forced upon her. The despair is palpable in this story of a bleak near future.
I also enjoyed Kamila Z. Miller’s “Neighbors,” an unconventional love story in which eggs — chicken eggs, that is — stationery, and a large tree play key roles. The narrator learns that men in real life are a good bit different from her romantic dreams of them, a lesson we all learn, sooner or later.
“Killing Curses, a Caught-Heart Quest” by Krista Hoeppner Leahy, falls firmly within the category of Weird. The narrator, Petech, loses his mother in the first few paragraphs, and grows metal teeth, his only inheritance, a symbol of his status and work as a curse-killer in the Loblolly watershed. He meets a Quixote who undertakes to hunt his death, falls in with Midas, who benefited from Petech’s mother’s work and no longer turns everything he touches to gold, and a walking tree who becomes his wife. It’s a marvelously strange story, with elegant descriptions of a world we’ll never see.
A magician picks a single individual as his audience in a coffee shop in “Coffee with Count Presto” by Michael Penkas. The magician reminds the narrator of the rule that a magician must never reveal how a trick is done — a rule the magician has apparently broken. There are penalties for that sort of thing, as we learn. It’s a clever story in which mere sleight of hand is mixed with true magic, but telling which is which is more difficult.
“Notes from a Pleasant Land Where Broken Hearts Are Like Broken Hands” by Kevin Waltman is a parable about working for large corporations and the growing divide between the rich and the poor. It posits a future world in which we no longer have CEOs, but Seeohs; no managers, but Mangers, who are always addressed as such; and laughter is known only to those who rebel.
Those who have wondered if androids dream of electric sheep might also wonder if robots ever play tag. Brain Baldi answers this question in “Springtime for the Roofer.” The robots don’t quite have the rules of the game down, and some of them don’t even seem to be trying. The human roofer who is watching them play as he finishes his work figures he can teach them a thing or two. The story becomes a celebration of running and touching, a picture of joy.
“Akashiyaki (Octopus dumplings, serves two)” by Erica Hildebrand is about an octopus who runs away from the restaurant where he was about to be converted to food. One of the restaurant workers chases after the octopus as it rushes down the street and into an arcade, and things get even weirder from there, if you can believe that!
The magazine is rounded out with a recipe for beans and rice in “Feeding Strays” by Nicole Kimberling (I believe LCRW is the only science fiction and fantasy magazine that regularly contains recipes) and a poem by John McKernan entitled “Prayer to Oatmeal,” which made me smile. Indeed, the entire issue made me smile. I’m looking forward to the next issue, whenever it may come.