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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Strange Horizons -- September 9, 2019

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Strange Horizons, September 9, 2019

"And Now His Lordship is Laughing" by Shiv Ramdas

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Set in British-ruled India during the Second World War, "And Now His Lordship is Laughing" by Shiv Ramdas features a woman who makes dolls from jute fiber. There are hints, early in the story, that her creations are full of magic. A British officer arrives, demanding that she weave such a doll for the wife of the Governor of Bengal. She refuses, stating that she only gives her dolls away when she chooses, and not to the conquerors of her people.

British policies intended to prevent the Japanese from obtaining food lead to mass starvation in Bengal. (The famine is an historical fact. The role that the British played is still a matter of controversy.) The woman's grandchild starves to death, and she nearly succumbs as well. The British officer returns, offering to keep her alive if she will make the doll for the Governor's wife. She agrees, but has plans of her own.

At this point, it is clear that this is a tale of supernatural revenge. The form it takes is unexpected, however, and the story reaches a dramatic conclusion. The author's style is vivid, clear, and elegant, adding power to its anticolonial theme. Even those who question its historical accuracy will be likely to admire it as a chilling work of fiction.

Victoria Silverwolf will not discuss historical controversies at this time.