The Lawn Fairy War, fiction by James Van Pelt

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“Figures hid everywhere behind the boulders, invisible from the street: scorpions, spiders, a weird half-bear half-man the size of a puppy, trolls, and by the porch, a pair of pale stone lions. Ashley had even painted the sidewalk black.”

 

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Detail from Füssli Die Elfenkönigin Titania und Zettel_der Weber mit Eselskopf, by Johann Heinrich, licensed under Creative Commons

GRACE LILY WHITE parted the curtain to peer through her kitchen window into Ashley Tombley’s yard. She squinted. Are those gargoyles? Yes, they are! It was bad enough that Ashley moved in, pulled up the grass, replaced it with black and gray gravel, and then tore down the nice, white picket fence so that she could erect a black, cast iron one, but now, gargoyles?

When Ashley repainted the house, Grace said nothing, although the house didn’t need new paint. The Dearborns had freshened the property when they decided to sell. It had been a beautiful robin-egg blue with slightly darker trim, but Ashley painted it a stark, yellowed white with black trim. It looked like a daguerreotype of the house that used to stand there. Cast-iron furniture appeared on the porch. Two cast-iron benches faced each other in the black-graveled back yard. Cast iron meant a lot to Ashley, Grace decided.

No plants in Ashley’s yard, just gravel, boulders and twisted hunks of driftwood. It looked like a nuclear wasteland as far as Grace was concerned. Read more »

A Review of Slipping: Stories, Essays & Other Writing, by Lauren Beukes

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh


slipping-coverrgbSlipping Southwards

Slipping is a collection from a writer who many readers will know only from one book: Shining Girls. That’s their loss. Because Lauren Beukes, judging from these tales, is one of the best fictional chroniclers of modern life per se. If many of the stories use science fiction tropes, it’s with a literary intent that mixes genres freely to get a far better purchase on the contemporary reality of South Africa, and the world at large. Beukes’s sci-fi South Africa seems far closer to post-Black Lives Matter America or post-Brexit Britain than many versions of their own land from native authors. Western readers may not want to face the implications of that parallel: Beukes makes it unavoidable. Read more »

A Review of Crosstalk, by Connie Willis

by William Grabowski

 

crosstalk_coverBrad and Angelina have had it done. And Kate and William…nobody’s had any bad side effects.

The proverbial Famous Last Words, “What could possibly go wrong?”, very much apply in Connie Willis’s new novel Crosstalk. Though not completely at odds, science fiction and humor are a difficult mix. Much like oil and vinegar in a tasty dressing, these genres can successfully mingle (see John Sladek, Karen Joy Fowler, Harry Harrison and a handful of others) if whipped together with a suitable emulsifier. In this case, that element is Willis’s cutting social observation.

Crosstalk chronicles in its players the various effects of 24/7 cyber-whelm only slightly ahead of our present day. Some—usually younger—seem to thrive on sensory overload. Protagonist Briddey Flannigan works for Commspan, a bleeding-edge tech company whose employees move and speak so quickly that dust motes probably angle away from them. Briddey manages this pace with ambivalence, infrequently ducking gossipy co-workers by slipping into nooks and copy rooms. Everyone seems to know Briddey and her love Trent Worth are an item, probably about to be married, and she is bombarded by texts, voice-mails, and face-to-face “inquiries” from her fellows, friends, and family. Read more »

Cabinet of Wonders: Beast, Circus & Song

Reviews of weird fiction on the web, by Lauren Colie

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The Sleeping Gypsy, by Henri Rousseau, public domain

Beast, Circus & Song

Open the door this week on a writer whose ideas are wild, blended beasts that strain to be free of the words binding them to the page – lyrical and fantastic. Maria Dahvana Headley returns with a favored topic – see if she can convince you to run off and join the circus.

Follow this with some spooky sorcery and the expressive power of song. You have every chance to know thyself this week – if you’re ready, just step into the spotlight.

A Review of See the Unseeable, Know the Unknowable by Maria Dahvana Headley at Lightspeed Magazine

A sword swallower steps through a metal detector and raises his hands in preemptive apology for the blade he’s substituted for his spine. An acrobat climbs through a window and into a museum’s upstairs bathroom looking for something that will fix the ache inside him, an elephant charges a train calling for its mate. Circuses dissolve. Carnivals collapse. Things get broken. Read more »

Big Feet, fiction by Leslie What

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“Though he empathizes with her predicament, it’s a struggle not to laugh at this pretty red monster beside him, at how she’s clad those humongous dogs in ridiculous Satan high heels.” 

"Walk" © Lilya Kouhan, 2016

“Walk” © Lilya Kouhan, 2016

(This story first appeared in Unstuck #1, 2011. Reprinted by permission of the author.)

 

MARVIN IS A giant. Giants die young. If A equals B, and B equals C, well…. His pop’s death two weeks ago reminded Marvin it could happen at any time. He’s an orphan now, without next of kin. When Marvin dies there’ll be no one left to write an obituary for the newspaper. Without an obituary, it’s as if you never were, an easy, if amateurish, way of becoming invisible. Marvin didn’t expect to outlive his pop and he’s grateful (not to God, because he is not a man of conviction) he got to live long enough to compose an obituary for the old man. Not that they were close—he hadn’t seen his pop in three years. Still, his pop deserved some written notice. Read more »