Cabinet of Wonders: Letters from the Dead

Disappearing Dads, Time Traveling Doctors, and Letters from the Dead

Cabinet of Wonders, 8.28.15

Image courtesy of Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
The figure of a woman divided in two parts: half skeleton, half lady of fashion, standing next to a obelisk inscribed with biblical quotations. Etching, 17–, attributed to V. Green.
By: Valentine Greenafter: James HerveyPublished: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Web Fiction Reviews by Lauren Colie

It seems a little abnormal to find a Lauren and a Loren writing fabulous fiction this week (with reviews written by a Lauren). What is normal, anyway? Is it polos and boat shoes? Is it the desire to fix mistakes? Is it the humble town post office? Is it being named Lauren? I couldn’t tell you…but these authors can. Well, they can point you in the right direction. Once you identify what is normal, I hear them all asking, why?

A Review of Disappearing Dad Disorder, Excerpted from You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, by Alexandra Kleeman at Electric Literature

“What was at the root of Disappearing Dad Disorder? Sociologists said it was social, psychologists said it was psychological, and some religious nut said they had heard a call from God to leave behind their wicked lives. Biologists compared it to migration and to songbirds that become confused in the presence of skyscrapers. They compared them to honeybees who abandon their hives: maybe the fathers had been misled by cell phone signals, by highways, by toxins in the water supply.” Read more »

Butterflies, fiction by Zoe Fowler


“I am well versed in fairy tales where centuries skitter past in less than a sentence, but in reality, when one is lying all dressed up in one’s finest garments with whalebone corsetry digging deep in the spaces between one’s ribs, each day stretches out like a possible lifetime and all one can do is to listen, and discretely fidget.”

Butterfly Tongue, photo by Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility

Butterfly Tongue, photo by Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility

TIRED OF THE IMPOSSIBILITIES of my life, I made a dinner date with the Devil.

Station Hotel, seven o’clock.

I wanted to exchange what I had for a new world in which I might satisfy my thirst for independence, my love of lepidopterology, and my aversion to complications.

I dislike arriving early and entered the dining room as the chime sounded a quarter past the hour. The Devil was already engrossed in the menu and did not rise from his chair as I was seated. He was surprisingly conservative in his dress: fashionable enough, but not quite clean. His dark hair was slicked back from his forehead, his moustache was waxed, and the pallor of his face had been enhanced through the judicious application of face paint. A light smattering of dandruff covered the narrow shoulders of his black frock coat.

Even the most cursory reading of the Bible suggests the Devil must have some good stories to tell and I had hoped for an entertaining evening, but silence sweltered between us until I spoke some of the words I had practiced at home. Read more »

Cabinet of Wonders: Feral Mail, Hungry Curtains & Fork Phobia

By Visscher, Nicolao Iohannis (Universiteits Bibliotheek van Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Visscher, Nicolao Iohannis (Universiteits Bibliotheek van Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

web fiction reviews by Lauren Colie

I’m moving. Packing up all of my possessions, all of me, and claiming a new spot as my home. It only makes sense that I’m seeing signs of change all over the place — including this week’s Cabinet picks. See how relocating shakes up more than just coordinates and let these authors readjust what you know to be real.

A Review of The Apartments of Strangers, Excerpted from The Beautiful Bureaucrats, by Helen Phillips at Electric Literature

When she returned from her second Thursday at the new job, he wasn’t at the stranger’s apartment. She pulled a postal notice off the door and stepped inside just as she heard the three-headed dog heave itself against the door at the end of the hall. Her hands felt weak and her eyes hazy. She added the postal notice to the stranger’s feral pile of mail on the bedside table. She sat down on the futon. She called Joseph’s phone. It went straight to voice mail. She didn’t leave a message Read more »

The Conversion, fiction by Barry King


“…where Babylonians once dreamt of priapic bug-eyed daemons from the Seven Hells, and Mediaeval peasants of night-time violations by black-eyed, black-hearted, black-winged seducers and seductresses, in our current age and scientific culture, we now suffer a rash of abductions by grey, facet-eyed aliens in their glowing spaceships who probe our rectal cavities, presumably against our wishes.”

Illustration of The Missionary, short story by Barry King

“The Missionary” Illustration © Megan James

WHEN THE MISSIONARY FIRST stepped off the ship and onto the soil of our town, he kept the eye hidden behind a standard-issue opthalmological patch. “Like a Barbary pirate,” he was to joke, later, when bar-rail after-hours drinks emboldened one of us to ask about it, now that he was no longer keeping it hidden.

Neon gave its facets a special light, a magical glitter. All of us remember how, on that night, alcohol imposed its distancing effects upon perception and memory so that it seemed less out of place, less as if his head had been moulded from different colours of plasticine, the bulge of it and the inset of his face now a seam of quartz and garnet in dark marble, slightly puckered, slightly proud of the high arch of his cheekbone.

But he was affable, the Missionary, and bore our curious stares with humour. “Good grace,” Mrs. Hendergast whispered to her companion, Miss Emily, as they watched him saunter with an easy, confident stride down Main Street.

Despite the unbearable heat and the glistening sweat on her face, Mrs. Hendergast tried to hold herself more erect, coaxing some loft from her weary back as the Missionary walked by their screened porch. Boxwood scent blended with the jasmine and musk of the Japanese fan she used to shield whispered observations from lip-reading eyes. “Good grace is always attractive in a man, Miss Emily,” she concluded, continuing to follow his slender form as it retreated into the distance. Miss Emily mutely nodded her agreement and followed the Missionary’s passage, the whites of her eyes glinting in the deep shade. Read more »

Cabinet of Wonders: Fairies, Monsters and Chupacabras

Friedrich Feher in Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari dir. Robert Wiene, 1920

Friedrich Feher in Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari dir. Robert Wiene, 1920

web fiction reviews by Lauren Colie

Usually identifying a genre doesn’t take much work. Skim a bit and it’s clear whether or not it goes in the Cabinet. But, today, we’ve got a set of tricksters on our hands. I promise there are fairies, tiny monsters and a chupacabra or two in here somewhere…but it’s going to take you a minute to find them. There’s joy in these classic tropes, and delight in their reimagining. This week’s picks offer brand-new oldies-but-goodies.

A Review of Ana’s Tag, by William Alexander at Lightspeed Magazine

The furry, pointy-eared bag wasn’t moving. She pulled on the edges of the zipper and peeked inside. Her expedition supplies were still there. She poked through them with the capped tip of a Magic Marker, just in case there was also something else in there. The notebook lay open to the seventh graffiti-covered page. She tried to nudge it aside, but the tip of the marker went through the colored surface. She dropped the pen. It passed through the graffiti and vanished. The page rippled like a pond. Read more »