I was very impressed the last time I saw a Joanna Ruocco story in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and her latest such, “Stone, Paper, Stone“, in #38, does not disappoint, either. It’s about Sara Kasp, who lives in a town known for its limestone quarry. She is a hard worker, for a member of a seemingly privileged family, but when the time comes for her to marry, she becomes enchanted with Carrick Cask, the orphan son of outcast parents. In a way the story follows the standard arc of such tales, but that arc is oddly shaped and decorated withal, and as we follow it we learn hints of an unexpected past and a stranger than obvious present, leading, no doubt, to a weird future.
Also in LCRW is S. Woodson‘s first sale, “Lime and the One Human“, and it’s rather a delight. Lime is a lonely fairy, who emerges in a not-very-welcoming fairy wood, and ends up captured by A.E. Erskine, the one human of the title, who is an adventurer, having just found a shred of hippocampus skin, which leads to consequences. Plot is nothing here, of course – the delight is the characters, and the description of the fairies’ nature, and Erskine’s, and the funny and tart narration.
Ryan Row‘s “Superbright” (Interzone, July-August) is a quite remarkable (and quite beautiful) variation on the deconstructed superhero trope so popular these days. Superheroes (and villains) seem extremely common in this world, with widely varying powers. Tom has fairly weak powers, bequeathed apparently by a superhero’s dalliance with his now alcoholic mother – he can light up, fairly brightly, to perhaps dazzle a villain. He has a crush on Alyssa, who has impressive powers, and eventually she forms a minor team with Tom and a couple others. Their story is intertwined with Tom’s life story, and the tension in their minor-league superhero group, paired with Alyssa’s major powers, leads to revelations about Tom that illuminate his human character, well, brightly – and devastatingly.
In the July Galaxy’s Edge I thought the leadoff story, “The God Egg” by R K. Nickel, a quite clever variation on the theme of an AI achieving consciousness and taking over the world (benignly) … as such an AI wakes up in another dimension. Why and with what result she does so I’ll leave for the story to explain, but it seemed a worthwhile and original variation on an old idea.
Sonya Taaffe is one of the best poets in our field, and no mean short story writer either. Forget the Sleepless Shores is her second full-length collection. It shouldn’t be missed: the stories are beautifully written (the voice of her poems comes through consistently here – not all poets write their prose as well as their verse, nor indeed vice-versa), the characters are affectingly limned, and the mysterious impinges on the mundane to great effect. There is one new story here, “The Face of the Waters“, in which Julian, depressed after a quarrel with his boyfriend, nearly drowns drunkenly, only to be saved by a person in the water – and what sort of person? Fine work – and there is even better work here, stories like “On the Blindside” and “The Boatman’s Cure”.
“Superbright”, Ryan Row (Interzone 7-8/18)
“Stone, Paper, Stone”, Joanna Ruocco (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 7/18)
“Lime and the One Human”, S. Woodson (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 7/18)
Rich Horton works for a major aerospace company in St. Louis MO. He has published over a dozen anthologies, including the yearly series The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy from Prime Books, and he is the Reprint Editor for Lightspeed Magazine. He contributes articles and reviews on SF and SF history to numerous publications.
This review and more like it in the September 2018 issue of Locus.
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