Paula Guran Reviews Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet,, and PodCastle

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 7/22 8/10/2022
PodCastle 6/7/22, 6/14/22, 6/21/22, 6/28/22

If you enjoy truly original fiction, you’ll ap­preciate Lady Churchill’sa Rosebud Wristlet #45. Anna O’Connor’s “The Rattling Seed” features a young man who meets a stranger and accompanies him to a strange ritual in the woods. The protagonist of “This World Will Be True” by Ellen Rhudy is struggling to hold onto the custody of her child and her career. Demoted to outside sales, her boss sends her to North Macedonia to sell virtual reality googles and haptic suits. Virtual realities become, for her, “not a way of discovering new worlds, or connecting across the world, but of clinging to the one she lost.” Julie A. Hersh’s “Snakes and God” is a trippy semi-theological story that defies further description. Maggie, in “The Crack” by Christopher Yin, keeps reas­suring folks she’s fine, “just going through some things.” Maybe, but as she contemplates a crack or a spider or both in her bathtub, things get surreal. Dillen, in Robert P. Kaye’s “The Subrogation of the Internal Messenger”, is convinced that the company she works for as an internal messenger (mail clerk) has “something to do with death. And insurance.” But, desperate for a job, she accepts a new position there and things get even stranger. Agnieszka lives at the bottom of the city in Olga Niziolek’s “To the Bottom” – except she appears to be dead, so I suppose that’s not living. The city is an old animal. If she could draw it, it would look like a huge dinosaur. More, even darker surreality.

Compared to the other stories here, “Teenage Demons” by Laura Wang is fairly “normal.” High school students are bearing up under the weight of ghouls that are invisible to their teach­ers. The teachers, mired in testing, assessments, and other academic challenges, are oblivious. If you are looking for unique literature, you can’t beat LCRW.’s single recent original is “Porgee’s Boar” by Jonathan Carroll. Artist Ruth Rus­sell’s work attracts the attention of the very rich, powerful, and dangerous gangster Andrey Por­gee. Both despite her fear and hatred of the man and because of it, she accepts his commission to paint a picture based on an old photograph of a wild boar Porgee fed stale baked goods to as a child. As she accomplishes her task, a man returns an earlier painting also based on a child­hood photo. Ruth comes to realize her work is powerful in ways that transcend art. Carroll is always an immaculate writer and doesn’t disap­point here.

Originals on fantasy-based PodCastle have taken a turn for the dark of late. In PodCastle 741’s “Between the Island and the Deep Blue Sea” by Jaxon Tempest, an islander kills any scientist or investigator seeking the answer to why his concrete island can defy physics and float in the Atlantic. “Beck’s Pest Control and the Case of the Drag Show Downer” by Abra Staffin-Wiebe in #740 features an angry poltergeist who wants to be a star wreaking havoc. There’s a gothy vampire tale, “’Til Death” by C.J. Lavigne for #739. Bones begin to rise from the earth as a country deteriorates in #738’s “The Bones Beneath” by Vanessa Fogg. All are entertaining.

Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron OH, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.

This review and more like it in the October 2022 issue of Locus.

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