Spellman Mathers’ Travelling Show & Zoo of Ordinary Creatures, fiction by Edoardo Albert

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“Sure, back in England Tom would be the wonder of the age and we’d—he’d—be rich and meeting royalty and such like. But what’s a man with a donkey head in a place where wishes come true?”

Scene from “A Midsummer Nights Dream. Titania and Bottom” by Edwin Landseer, 1851. Image courtesy of Google Art Project.

SPELLMAN MATHERS’ TRAVELING Show & Zoo of Ordinary Creatures was shut up for the night. Tasks completed, Spellman kicked back a chair, lit a smoke and, hands behind his head, stared up at the sky. He breathed out, wreathing the stars with smoke, then, holding the cigarette between thumb and forefinger while inspecting its glowing core, said, “I was like you once, kid.”

In his hiding place, in the deep dark beneath the bales of animal feed, Sadhu, his skin as brown as a nut and his eyes black as the sky, all but cried out. Spellman couldn’t have seen him. Couldn’t have! In the hiding place, dark and deep, he was invisible so long as he did not move and made no sound.

“I had no home, no folks. I snuck into the circus one night, and when the circus left town, I went right along with it.” Apparently satisfied with the cigarette, Spellman drew on it again, then breathed the smoke out, and it billowed and writhed until it became a little smoke boy, hiding behind a cage while peeping out fearfully at a frightening world.

“But that was back then, when I were little, and the world’s moved on. The circus ain’t the right place for a youngster to be growing up no more.”

The smoke boy dissolved slowly away. Sadhu, deep in the dark place, moved only his eyes. He was not coming out. Read more »

A Review of She Said Destroy, by Nadia Bulkin

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Destroying Your Certainty

Nadia Bulkin’s debut collection comes roaring out of the gate with one of the strongest titles of the year. As far as I know, the title is nothing to do with Marguerite Duras’s Destroy, She Said. Nor, fortunately, is it anything to do with the song by Death in June. But it does demonstrate a gift for titles also evident in the 13 stories in the collection. All of the stories but one have appeared in other publications, but given their quality, that’s no surprise. Quite a few of those appearances are in “Year’s Best” anthologies – again, no surprise. Three of the stories were nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. And that title immediately gives you some idea of why. Read more »

Announcing the Winner of the 2016 New Voices Contest, Benjamin C. Jenkins

We are pleased to introduce the winner of the 2016 New Voices Contest, Benjamin C. Jenkins. What follows is a short essay by Ben, about writing about his winning story, “Headdressing,” and his perspective as a Native American writer. 

 

I didn’t set out to write “Headdressing” with any Native American elements in mind, but somehow they found their way into the story. While I am a card-carrying, tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, I never grew up on the reservation. I wasn’t a member of any tribal clubs during school, and didn’t even attend a pow-wow until I was in my thirties. None of these were conscious decisions, it was just something that was part of my life—and not part of my life.

My grandfather, Jesse, had all of those experiences. He was sent away to a boarding school. He was told not to speak his language. He must have experienced prejudice, but he never talked about it—at least not to me.. Whether his silence was out of some sort of shame, or because he wanted to protect his children from the experiences he endured, I’ll never know. Regardless, by not talking about it, his kids and his grandkids lost an immediate connection to their own story. Read more »

Announcing Release of See the Elephant, Issue 3: Slipping Through the Cracks

 

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See the Elephant, Issue 3: Slipping Through the Cracks explores what it means to slip through a crack, intentionally or not, into oblivion or freedom; how it feels to be threatened by some terrible, broken thing, or to break ourselves. These stories range from the darkest impulses of human (and inhuman) nature, to humor, love, and the possibility of change that can come when we dare to look at broken things in a new way, and painstakingly fuse the pieces back together with some finer stuff.

New stories by Genevieve Williams, Michaele Jordan, Mathew Scaletta & Rebecca Brewster, Kyle E. Miller, Edoardo Albert, Rachel Verkade, Rose Szabo, S. Kay Nash, and Matthew Sanborn Smith, and reprints by H. V. Chao and Marleen S. Barr, and a foreword by editor Melanie Lamaga.

Available in ebook and paperback. 115 pp.

Review copies available in mobi, epub, or PDF formats by request from editors (at) metaphysicalcircus.com.

Buy it here!   

 

 

A Review of Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Inescapable Origins

I already had the pleasure of reviewing Stephen Graham Jones’s superb short story collection After the People Lights Have Gone Off, so it’s an equal pleasure to renew acquaintance with his often very domestic focus. But that’s domestic in an entirely different sense than you might think. Here, it’s a 1140 square feet modular house, where the protagonist Junior, then age 12, first sees the form of his dead father, in full Indian fancydancer regalia with “spikes coming out from his lower back,” step out of the kitchen. The family have left the Blackfeet reservation where his father died, yet “you can leave the reservation, but your income level will still land you in a reservation house, won’t it?” And that’s where the family are stuck. With something mysterious, and potentially very malign, coming after them. Read more »

A Review of The New Voices of Fantasy, Edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman

 

Review by William Grabowski

By the time Aiko leaves, her footsteps echoing down the hallway, I’ve dug deep gouges in the door’s paint with my nails and teeth, my mouth full of her intoxicating scent.

The key word in this anthology’s title is new, and if that doesn’t quicken your heart, a sampling of the impressively diverse voices will. Editors Beagle and Weisman, both top-tier in their own right, seem to have absorbed the generous reach and flexible sensibility of Ellen Datlow who—like them—knows that a writer’s name and/or present level of accomplishment have little to do with storytelling. No one needs to be reminded that common expectations of plot and originality crumble into ash when handled by masterful writers. Read more »

A Review of The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, by James Morrow

 

Review by William Grabowski

Now he began spinning in circles—like a deranged dancer, or a whirling dervish, or a man inhabited by devils….

James Morrow explores ideas with visionary audacity and a satirical (yet nonetheless disturbing) bent perhaps unequaled since Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld series—as if directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. I like to imagine eavesdropping as some curious stranger—hearing Morrow’s profession—blurts, “Ooh, an author! What do you write?”

“Well,” says a stoic Morrow, “one of ’em features the divine half-sister of Jesus Christ. She’s been reincarnated in Atlantic City. Another one picks up after the death of God, and no one knows what to do with the 2-mile-long corpse. Bummer.” Read more »

Cabinet of Wonders: Toxic Hate, Invisible Sadness & Love

Reviews of weird fiction on the web, by Lauren Colie

“Ethical Conduct,” by Ralle. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Examine your feelings this week. Reflect on the wholesome (if obsessive) glow of a mother’s love, the writhing hate of love gone sour and the echoing loneliness of love that is pale and shallow. We’re traveling the whole spectrum – grab some tissues and a comfort object, you’ll need it.

A Review of “Seven Permutations of My Daughter,” by Lina Rather at Lightspeed Magazine

I arrive home in a whirlwind, a mess of broken universal constants and transdimensional flimflam. Somehow my shirt’s torn and my hair tie is missing. It’s a small price.

I stagger out of the portal onto the concrete floor and Dahlia is waiting in the office chair I scavenged during the last departmental remodel. She is wearing my bunny slippers and her hair is as long as it should be.

She does not seem surprised to see me tumble from the six-foot arc of wires and rebar I constructed next to the water heater. Maybe this is marriage—loving someone so well that nothing they do surprises you anymore. Read more »

A Review of Wicked Wonders, by Ellen Klages

 

Review by William Grabowski

“We had not planned for children,” Mission Control’s message ended. “We’re sorry.”

 

With an Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler, author Ellen Klages takes so-called hard Science Fiction, clasps its rigid hand, and leads it into fantastical narratives haunted by childhood summer camps, science projects, a Mars settlement, a corrupt 20-year-old Smithfield ham (that’s not product placement), and spaces where time folds and unfolds releasing (even relocating) prisoners of torment and mundane reality alike.

 

With the deeply moving “Amicae Aeternum,” Klages pays homage to and equals Bradbury, but absent the ever-present sentimentality which sometimes blunted the effect of his short stories. A small-town girl sneaks from home and, walking the neighborhood, inventories objects, textures, and other common sensory details. Pausing at her best friend’s home, the two ride bicycles through pre-dawn hush to a park. Klages’ vivid, but unobtrusive, prose charges the story with immediacy, flowing as naturally as the gurgling creek into which the girls ease their feet. Only in the last paragraphs do we realize the purpose of this clandestine tête-à-tête, and its crushing sadness. Some of us weep not because we’re not celebrities, musicians, poets, or exciting explorers—but because we don’t want to be, and earthly life is all we need. Read more »

A Review of The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Un-Broken

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy needs no recommendation. The first book, The Fifth Season, won a 2016 Hugo Award. The second, The Obelisk Gate, is on this year’s Hugo shortlist. The third title, The Stone Sky, is due August 2017. I, like many others, am waiting on tenterhooks to see how it ends.

N.K. Jemisin told John Scalzi how the whole series originated in a dream: “A few years back, I had a dream of a woman doing a Badass Power Walk towards me, with a mountain floating along behind her. I knew she was about my age – early forties, that is – and I could see that she wore dredlocs as I do, but it was very clear in the dream that she was not me. She was angry with me, in fact, because of something I’d done or hadn’t done, and if I didn’t find a way to appease her quickly, I knew she was going to throw that mountain at me. Why was she so pissed off? No idea. How was a mountain following her around like a geological puppy? She was controlling it through some unknown means. I woke up from this dream in a cold sweat – and fascinated. That was the moment the Broken Earth trilogy, of which The Fifth Season is book 1, was born.” Read more »