Entering the Slipstream: A Quirky and Surreal Little Zine
Bound with staples, and a black-and-white paper cover, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristet feels like a literary magazine from long ago. And at only 60 pages, this issue (No. 27) feels slim – a quick read, I thought at first. But this small magazine is dense with speculative works, most of them short stories.
This issue includes a story by the late Joan Aiken, the prolific English writer best known for her children’s novels. Aiken’s wry, fable-ish story, “The Sale of Midsummer,” tells of a man who stumbles into a village that’s been put under a spell.
A dreamy tone applies to other stories here, such as K.M. Ferebee’s “Thou Earth, Thou,” which offers a wonderful first line: “Dunbar set to work at once in the garden.” The story describes a move to the (apparently English) suburbs for Mason and Dunbar, and the slow unraveling of their relationship. Dunbar’s garden, preternaturally productive, takes him into its strange clutches. There’s a Twilight Zone feel to the story’s end, but the story also reveals narrator Mason’s inner life, his struggles, along with beautiful details about his work as a theatrical costumer.
Likewise, A.D. Jameson’s “The Wolves of St. Etienne” gives us a world where wolves smoke cigarettes, drink Heineken, play the board game Othello. They’ve taken over a French city and want to take over the life of Lewis, the main character. The wolves’ dialogue is funny, and plural: late in the story, they talk about the moon: “We’ve never been there,” they continued. “Sometimes people go there, but wolves have never gone. But we dream of it, Lewis, of flying there. If we did we would stay; we wouldn’t allow humans to come: they could have the earth, if we could have the moon. We would cultivate the thin soil, build gardens and forests…”
Jessy Randall’s “The Hedon-Ex Anomaly” is a sci-fi-ish tale with a terrific first sentence: “The announcement came over the tubes almost immediately after it started: two whirling dervishes in room 204 of the seventh grade building.” In this take on adolescence, the young narrator recounts her last day of school, when she and her classmate Zed experienced the Hedon-Ex Anomaly (an apparent mix of hormone surge, adolescent love, and drug trip) and got sent to detention. A brief story that raises questions – what kind of a world is this? A dystopia? – but has a memorable premise.
Karen Heuler’s “Elvis in Bloom” is tough to categorize, but strange and funny, with a great voice. It imagines Elvis Presley as an otherworldly, plant-like being, who grows bigger and bigger, cared for by well-meaning Southern women. From late in the story: “One day he swelled up to the breaking point, and burst….Split wide with a puff and a whoosh…. And out spilled little Elvises, tiny, in clear casing, and they bent gently and rode out the air through the windows and the door.”
“A Sackful of Ramps,” by M.K. Hobson, also has a Southern feel. Unlike the cheerfully strange “Elvis in Bloom,” this story puts Toby, the main character, in an impossible dilemma. His wife Lita has lost her mind, but she’s the only thing in his life. She’s also pregnant. Toby may have to give up his baby to the cruel white spinster, Miss Gothel, whom Lita thinks is a witch.
The two brief nonfiction pieces include “Sending All Your Love – In the Form of Brownies Through the Mail,” a brownie recipe from Nicole Kimberling, a novelist and professional cook; and Gwenda Bond’s “Dear Aunt Gwenda,” an advice column with an occasional zombie theme.
This issue features a handful of poems by Sarah Heller and David Blair. From Heller’s “After the Apocalypse:” “How will I wind up in the desert? / Maybe it’s NYC, after the apocalypse, desert-like / and solitary, the wax hands at Madame Tussaud’s / melting in the sun, taxi cabs covered in sand except / for a / yellow corner of a door…” And from Blair’s “May Day, at the Somerville Community Gardening Center:” “What happens when / one of the brokers / goes to the Renaissance / Fair without Blistex? / Lives change. / Contracts, / transactions, semen and stamen.”
There are two things I wish for LCRW. One is a little more explanation. I now know, from the Small Beer Press website, that LCRW is no flash in the pan, but has been publishing since 1995, and that the magazine’s name is intended to reflect the post-Victoria, pre-World War I Belle Epoque era (though I still don’t know whether Lady Churchill refers to Jenny, Lady Randolph Churchill – yes, Winston’s mother). But even so, I’d like to know more about this journal, and what editors Kelly Link and Gavin Grant are looking for. A more informative and streamlined web presence would be very helpful. (Find LCRW samples online.) The other thing I wish for LCRW is more money – in order for editors Link and Grant to give each story and poem more white space and better paper, and to toot their LCRW horn a little more.