Albert E. Cowdrey is known for his ghost stories. The Novelet, Falling Angel (published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2020) adds to Cowdrey’s portfolio.
The premise is somewhat Noir, in the sense that the murder in question took place back in the 1940s. Think The Black Dahlia type of case, but an echo or the ghost of the murdered woman’s scream haunts the hotel in which she perished. That’s what Butch and Roma are here to investigate. What happened to a struggling actress back in the 40s, how she died, and how to finally put her rest.
This piece is filled with the occult and the dark underworld of things that go bump in the night. It’s urban fantasy, well told, and well written. However, I didn’t see the ending coming–and not in a good way. It left me feeling a bit bemused since it hinged on some political/social commentary that was completely absent in the piece up until that moment. If there had been an inkling of politics in this piece beforehand, I think I would have found this ending more fulfilling. Still, up until that last page or so I found this an enjoyable read.
Elsinore Revolution is a science fiction short-short story written by Elaine Vilar Madruga, and translated into English by Toshiya Kamie. It was published in the Jan/Feb issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It centers on the character of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Without some foreknowledge of the Hamlet story, and the character of Ophelia this will be a much different piece of SF.
In the piece, Shakespear is nothing more than a robot, or algorithm writing masterpieces. However, a fatal error spreads throughout the system of Shakespears, corrupting them.
I am not a fan of loop stories. That is, I don’t particularly care for stories in which the beginning of the piece is a sort of–trick of light, or some such, that turns out to be just the ending of the same story readers have just read. Sadly, that is the unfortunate demise of this piece. While it’s a short piece and so doesn’t come with a hefty time commitment to read, the ending feels like a cheat to me, as, in the end, nothing has changed for the reader. Shakespear-robot has changed, but it seems to me that readers are left out of that change. Due to this, the piece falls flat.
Chisel and Chime by Alex Irvine is a low-fantasy novella published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s, Jan/Feb 2020 issue. It is both a cunningly crafted framed story, in which one story is told, bracketed by another–both of which are equally enthralling. In the end, both tie together in a satisfying conclusion of beautiful storytelling.
It’s rare for a piece of fantasy to tackle subjects of artistic beauty. The difficulty is stories about artists that are not writers can devolve into cliche descriptions of their paints, sculptures, etc, etc. While the protagonist of this piece is, indeed, a sculpture, the narrative of the artist at work is broken up into sections that alternate with an action-oriented story. I don’t mean action as in action-movie, but rather, a person moving from place to place, trying to confront their problems and find a place in the world.
The piece centers on two people of vastly different life experiences and throws in the third type of life on their periphery, though it is that peripheral life and the privilege it is provided that sticks the whole story together like with glue. In this way, Chisel and Chime is an exposition on the way the privilege of a few, or in this story’s case, one, dictates the life course of so many. It’s a timely and thought-provoking piece, wonderfully told. It’s definitely one of my favorite novellas I’ve ever read, and I encourage everyone to check it out if they can.