"Three O'Clock in the Morning" by Nancy Jane Moore
"Pretending" by Ray Vukcevich
"Love Story" by Jeremy Cavin
"Going Private" by Eliot Fintushel
"Suspension" by Robert Wexler
"As If" by Carol Emshwiller
"Tato Chip, Tato Chip, Sing Me a Song" by Alex Irvine
"Faces, Hands: The Floors of his Heart" by James Sallis "Cuttlefish" by Alan DeNiro
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet is the occasional outburst of Brooklyn editor Gavin J. Grant, whose recent story, "Editing for Content," at scifi.com was reviewed here at Tangent Online. Although LCRW looks at first glance like any other photocopied, saddle-stapled 'zine, it publishes writers like Jeffrey Ford, Nalo Hopkinson, Kelly Link (who helps with the magazine, "kerning" to Grant's "leading" as the latest issue puts it), and James Sallis alongside newcomers and unknowns. Ellen Klages's story "Flying Above Water" in LCRW No. 7 made last year's final Nebula ballot.
LCRW No. 8 is the 52-page "text-heavy, extra fiction" issue. The two stories that form the thematic hinge of the issue are Nancy Jane Moore's "Three O'Clock in the Morning" and Ray Vukcevich's "Pretending." The Vukcevich story also appears in his collection Meet Me in the Moon Room, published by Grant's Small Beer Press. "Pretending" concerns three couples, reduced to two-and-a-half by a recent split, who celebrate Christmas each year by inventing a new tradition. This year Stuart rents a missile silo and persuades the others to pretend that his wife, Marilyn, is a ghost. We then watch Stuart's thoughts unfold when Marilyn actually disappears. Moore's "Three O'Clock in the Morning" tells the story of a woman who awakes to the sound of sirens as a mysterious and impenetrable Wall suddenly divides her city. Each day the Wall advances. She tries to continue her normal routine while her (constantly dwindling number of) co-workers ignore the Wall and her husband explains why it's a good thing. Eventually it splits even her house. Both of these are emotionally affecting stories of the relationship between love, loneliness, marriage, and society.
Three other stories in the issue form satellites around this pair. Jeremy Cavin's flash fiction "Love Story" about a diner customer and his waitress touches on these same themes, minus marriage, in a lighter but still poignant fashion. Elliot Fintushel's "Going Private" portrays Mirror Boy Nano, who always spells his name backwards. This is a stream of subconsciousness story told in one long, continuous paragraph. While the cadence of the language, the striking sensory details, and the repetition of totemic words and phrases propel the story forward, Nano's agressive emotional isolation and his lack of growth in either direction make for bleak reading. Still it's an interesting exploration of the way in which extreme tech-connectiveness may make the unmediated experience of flesh abhorent. In Robert Wexler's "Suspension," an awkward giant of a man with four unwieldy arms slips on ice and becomes trapped in the snow. Unable to rise alone, unaided by passers-by, and slowly freezing, he relives the memories of his life as a freak and outcast, despairing at the absence of love. "Suspension" develops slowly but has the quality of a whole life observed. Perhaps this is why, compared to the other four more incidental stories, Wexler's ending is the most hopeful, affirming that even strangers can connect with and care for one another.
The issue includes additional stories in a wider, and looser, thematic orbit. Carol Emshwiller's "As If" is a Kafkaesque tale of identity and confinement. Alex Irvine's "Tato Chip, Tato Chip, Sing Me a Song" is the most conventional story in the issue, a straight-forward romp involving secret military research and potato chip panic. James Sallis's "Faces, Hands: The Floors of his Heart," continued from LCRW No. 7, contains some striking observations on the potential deadliness of empathy. Its outcome contrasts interestingly with the premise of "Cuttlefish" by Alan DeNiro, where a boy's empathic ability to hear the voices of cuttlefish drives him to destroy them. The issue also features a thoughtful critical essay by L. Timmel Duchamp, as well as work by four poets.
As usual, some of the stories in this issue of LCRW remain as obscure and enigmatic as the zine's title (or am I the only clueless one in the world who has no idea what it means?). These are not plot-driven science fiction and fantasy stories that end with closure. Cavin's story has no genre element at all, while Vukcevich's makes only the slightest nod in that direction. Many of the other stories take fantastic or science fictional situations and spin out the implications without exploring what caused them; they feature characters who react to these improbable worlds without trying to control or change them. Yet they hang together; these are all idea stories, designed to make the reader think. Sometimes it's only to think "Huh, what was that?" More often, as with the Moore and Vukcevich stories in this issue, the stories in LCRW provoke meaningful reflections on our own world and circumstances.
Charles Coleman Finlay's first short story recently appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, and he has several other stories forthcoming there and in On Spec. His hobbies are reading widely and forming opinions. In a significant lapse of character, he rarely minds if people disagree with him.