REVIEW: “Conversation, Descending” by Richard Dansky

Review of Richard Dansky, “Conversation, Descending”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 25-28. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Reading Richard Dansky’s profile in the magazine, I fully expected to like this story. He’s a veteran video game writer and has seven novels and a story collection under his belt as well. Do I think this is a bad story? Not necessarily. All I can say for sure is this one was a bit of a dud for me, but I’d still recommend reading it yourself and forming your own opinion.

“Conversation, Descending” is a steampunky fantasy that opens with a fellow falling through the sky after he’s ejected from an airship. As tends to (in my opinion, unfortunately) come with the territory there’s a lot of pseudo-Victorian/Romantic era stilted language that in other subgenres might be pegged as thesaurus abuse. The first page is almost all repetition of the fact that our main character is falling and he’s just in his underwear.

There is a conversation with another character further in, as well as a few moments that would have struck me as particularly humorous or clever if the writing style, particularly that of the main character didn’t remind me so much of Harold Lauder from The Stand, chock full of m’lady-ish phraseology that I could all but see this character in a trench coat and fedora, fingerless gloves grasping the edge of his hat as he talked to other damsels along his way.

There is a nice sort of bait-n-switch toward the end but I hate to admit by that point I’d sort of half checked out. I do still recommend checking this one out for yourself, as hopefully you don’t have my hangups. There is humor and wit in here, so I hope you are able to appreciate that more than I was.

REVIEW: “The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor” by Fraser Sherman

Review of Fraser Sherman, “The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 17-23. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Remember Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or that one movie with Brad Pitt and the cartoon cat. This story is a lot like that, though definitely better than the Brad Pitt movie. The world has ended and everyone seems to have “come back” as movie characters of some sort or another. There’s some cheesiness involved, but it comes with the territory when some of these realms are straight out of B-movie schlock.

There are black and white B-movie horror characters, blacksploitation nods, film noire, but not so much by way of “modern” cinema nods other than a few name drops. Still if you grew up watching schlocky films, especially if you watched some of those by way of Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you’ll get a few chuckles out of this.

The story is fairly clever and tongue in cheek, though for me personally it doesn’t stand out as much as other Space and Time Magazine stories I’ve read before. However, like everything else put out by this publication, it’s still an interesting and well-written story and I’d still recommend giving it a read.

REVIEW: “Done, not Undone” by Patricia Russo

Review of Patricia Russo, “Done, not Undone”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 11-16. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

What if shape-shifting was a genetic trait, one that was highly frowned upon at that? This story follows a shape-shifter and their friend (who desperately wishes they could shape-shift) as they are about to undertake some shady business in the name of grocery money and get pulled into something rather unexpected.

The premise of shape shifting, while old hat, is given a fresh take with this story, and Patricia Russo has given us characters that we care about within a short space and a page-turner of a story. Recommended.

REVIEW: “Long for This World” by Esther Scherpenisse

Review of Esther Scherpenisse, “Long For This World”, Space and Time #130 Winter 2017 pp. 3-10. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

One thing I like about Space and Time magazine is that they always keep things interesting and this story is no exception. Esther Scherpenisse is a Dutch SFF writer, and in this story she tells of a young man who is about to die, but whose family is lucky enough for Death to answer their call.

The main character gets taken by Death to a realm where his life is extended, though things aren’t necessarily what they seem at first glance. Death in this story is fairly kind, though firm, much like Neil Gaiman’s Death in the Sandman series, though here they are at least presented as male. Some parts of the story may be hard to face, such as the main character getting swept up in his family’s inability to say goodbye to him, despite the fact that chemo has made him more than ready to accept his death when it comes. Or his faimily’s forced ignorance of the fact that their son is wasting away in front of them, their absolute need to act like nothing is wrong.

The story keeps things short and sweet and packs a great punch when it comes to the main character’s choices. Fans of Persona may also enjoy the description of Death’s tower. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: “Windhorse” by Zhao Haihong

Review of “Windhorse”, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #36 Early Autumn pp. 47-51. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

This story has a couple footnotes, but they’re much appreciated, especially if you’re not familiar with everything about Chinese geography or Tibetan culture. The main character is traveling from China to the mountains of Tibet, where they will get windhorse pennants from the monks there in order to help them mourn their deceased lover.

“Windhorse” is short and sweet, a lovely tail about grieving and loss, acceptance, and it’s a great story to finish up this magazine.

REVIEW: “The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future” by Christi Nogle

Review of “The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future”, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #36 Early Autumn pp. 39-46. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

Another story in this issue that is at least partly written in second-person, but this one works a lot better for me than “Children of Air” did. My instinct is that this is due to the story giving commands on what to visualize versus chronicling what I, the reader, am supposedly doing. There’s not as much of a hurdle to relating with the writing.

“The Best of Our Past” is a coming-of-age story about a young woman who falls in love with her step-cousin, chronicling life as they grow with and apart from each other, and a frightening power comes to light. It commands you to sit down and fall into its imagery, to see everything happening in the lives of these two young people. For me, at least, the command worked.

I wouldn’t say the ending is a happy one, and I’m not sure I’d say it’s a bad ending either. It just simply is, and sometimes that’s all you need. Another winner in a magazine that has so far had no duds. Quite an accomplishment.

REVIEW: “Cunning” by Laurel Lanthrop

Review of “Cunning”, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #36 Early Autumn pp. 32-37. Purchase here. Review by Ben Serna-Grey.

This story is a fairy tale about a man who has lost his wife, and the witch he meets after saving her from drowning. The witch offers him a single wish and in his grief he wishes either for his wife to come back from the dead, or a woman who would be such a good wife to him that he would no longer remember his sorrow. Of course the witch offers to become his wife, beautifying herself with magic and going home with the man to meet his daughter and housekeeper, taking her place as the new woman of the house.

Like any fairy tale worth its salt, it has a moral or two to teach. Also like any fairy tale worth its salt, it isn’t dumbed down in order to be “kid-friendly.” “Cunning” keeps up the level of quality present throughout this entire magazine, though it was slightly harder for me to latch onto partly due to the dialogue in the story being peppered with thees and thous, seeming just a tad off. Don’t let that keep you from reading this story, though, because it’s great, and I’m very interested to see what other work Laurel comes out with.