“The Wine on Your Lips Is Ash on Your Tongue” by M. Bennardo
Reviewed by Robert L Turner III
“The Wine on Your Lips Is Ash on Your Tongue” by M. Bennardo starts with a writer/taxi driver who sees a tourist he knows from a visit seven years previously arrive on the tourist island in Lake Erie where he summers. On her previous visit, the narrator found himself drawn to the woman, despite her being pregnant and married. On the previous visit, she and her husband go to a fairy haunted lighthouse and her husband has to decide whether to accept the fairies’ offer. Now that she has returned with a seven year old daughter, the narrator has to reevaluate the experience. Bennardo writes well and the language is suitable for a fantastic setting, but the open ending doesn’t mesh well with the metaphor about writing that forms the secondary level of discourse. The story is a nice read, but lacks more.
In “A Mundane Encounter with a Civilized God” we are introduced to the narrator, the “least insane” of the inmates of the Arkham Sanitarium. Set in a world where all Lovecraftian horrors are real, they eke out their existence until a man named Bernard Jones arrives. Unlike the other inmates, his experience was with a kind god and that leads to unexpected results. In this brief piece Samuel Marzioli plays with the expected horror tropes and inverts them in a clever and refreshing way. I can’t say that I have read anything similar, but in retrospect it seems such an obvious step that I am amazed that I haven’t seen it before.
“Collecting Jessup” starts with the kidnapping of the unwanted titular Jessup, a young girl shuffled from the home of one distant family member to another. Before long she realizes that Rodney, her erstwhile kidnapper, has magical ability to attract unwanted objects and to find those who will value them. Allison Mulder deftly combines her two themes as Jessup finally finds her place. While predictable, the story is warmly told and enjoyable.
“The Sea of Ghosts” by Anna Zumbro is set in a lighthouse in the far north where the spirits of the dead fill the water with a green glow. One day Liam, the thirteen year old son of the lighthouse keeper, finds a conch shell with a spirit inside. The rest of the story deals with the anxiety of choice and fear of the unknown. The story has a gentle lyrical feel and did a wonderful job of painting the locations and persons from the story. The ending is both expected and satisfying.
“The Five Stages of Grief” by Michelle Ann King is set in a world of super beings with unique talents. When a group of unknown kids kill the world’s most powerful super villain, her nemesis, and brother, has to adjust to the new reality. The story is an interesting idea, and the twist is decent, but overall the story isn’t particularly engaging.
“A Century of Princes” by H.L. Fullerton is a take on the Sleeping Beauty myth in which Briar and Rose wait, once again, for a prince to come and rescue Rose, who is, in theory, sleeping until her prince comes. The writing is solid but the twist is predictable and the story feels like one of the many, ‘let’s twist up a fairy tale’ made popular 30 years ago with Into the Woods.
Robert L Turner III is a professor and longtime SF fan.