Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Tin House, LCRW, and The CSZ

Tin House Summer ’19
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Summer ’19
The Cascadia Subduction Zone Vol 9 No 2

Sadly, the Summer issue of Tin House is its last – they are closing up shop after 80 issues – a full 20 years of really first-rate fiction, essays, poetry and reviews. They were very hospitable to fantastika, and this holds true in this final outing. “The Gondoliers” by Karen Russell is set in a climate-ravaged future South Florida. Blister is one of three sisters who steer gondolas around Florida’s sunken cities who tells of a fare she agrees to take on a dangerous trip out to the old, failed, seawall. Her fare is an older man who remembers the days before the sea level rose cata­strophically, and that’s part of the story, but more important is the nature of Blister and her sisters and their adaptation to their new environment.

Even better is a new Kelly Link story, “The Girl Who Did Not Know Fear“. Abby is an academic who gets stranded in Detroit after a con­ference. For strange reasons, no flights leave for days and she spends her time in her hotel, miss­ing her wife and daughter, and then finally gets a flight home. Nothing could sound less fantastical – and maybe the story really isn’t fantastical. But there are details – for instance, the way Abby is marooned in Detroit begins to seem like a horror story. More, there is something implied but not said about the nature of this world…. Anyway, it’s a Kelly Link story, which by itself is recom­mendation enough, and it’s strange but homey in a very Kelly Link way. Highly recommended.

Speaking of Kelly Link, the latest issue of the magazine she and Gavin Grant edit, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, is out. This time I wasn’t quite as wowed by any of the stories as I often am, but there is some fine work here. “The Dynastic Arrangements of the Habsburgs, Washakie Branch” by Felix Kent is a really odd story set in hotel in which a number of (appar­ently) cloned samples of European royalty stay, for the entertainment of the paying guests. That doesn’t seem to be a smashing success financially, and it’s a pain for the narrator, who has to keep the Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns from causing too much trouble, and then deal with some guests who turn out to be plotting something awful… and who has her own personal past driving her. It doesn’t quite work: sometimes the story seems to want to be droll, sometimes profound, in a way that doesn’t mix well, but it’s quite original, and generally entertaining. There’s also a very short, quite effective, charming story by Eric Darby, “The Parking Witch“, about, well, a witch who can fix your parking problems.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is published by L. Timmel Duchamp’s Aqueduct Press, with editing responsibility spread between Arrate Hidalgo, Nisi Shawl, Kath Wilham, and Duchamp. I was aware of them primarily as a review ‘zine, and I think that remains their focus, but the current is­sue also includes a memoir of Carol Emshwiller by Eileen Gunn, some poetry and artwork, and a new piece of fiction, “Knife Witch” by Susan di Rende. “Knife Witch” is a fun, snarky story about a woman from a poor village who becomes a witch among savages after said savages, sort of Viking-like people, raid her village and decide she’s a witch after she more or less accidentally kills one of them with a knife. They grab her and tell her she’s their new witch, and in the end it seems a bet­ter deal than she was getting in the city. The story somewhat episodically tells of her first little while with them, raiding another few villages, learning her powers, getting an apprentice. It’s not terribly new, but the voice is nice, and the story is fun.

Recommended Stories

“The Parking Witch”, Eric Darby (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 6/19)
“Knife Witch”, Susan di Rende (The Cascadia Subduction Zone, v9n2, 2019)
“The Girl Who Did Not Know Fear”, Kelly Link (Tin House Summer ’19)
“The Gondoliers”, Karen Russell (Tin House Summer ’19)

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 August 2019 issue of Locus.

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