Many years ago at a science fiction convention, I met a young man named Gavin Grant. Among the many things that he did, was a zine he edited called Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (LCRW). It was an odd thing—nearly square in shape—and filled with strange stories and poetry. The first time I saw an issue it had a playing card glued to the front of it. What a strange and wonderful thing.
Not long after this fateful meeting, I decided to create my own fold-and-staple zine after the style of LCRW. Any enjoyment I get out of making Electric Velocipede to this day comes directly from the excitement I felt when I first saw and held a copy of LCRW in my hands.
LCRW was coming out two-three times a year (mostly two) and I was consistently pleased and surprised by its contents. Not quite science fiction, not quite fantasy, mostly speculative and slipstream stuff, well, it’s pretty much the kind of thing I like to read best.
The publication schedule has slowed down even more over the past few years as Grant has focused his energies on running his publishing company, Small Beer Press. And a little more than a year ago he and wife, writer Kelly Link, had a baby girl, and they’ve rightfully so pushed aside some of their publishing work to have time for her.
Earlier this year, LCRW very quietly published issue # 25. Now, for professional magazines, 25 issues is not necessarily something to crow about. You could hit twenty-five issues in two years or less. But for a small publication that was hand-grown by its editor/publisher? Well, 25 issues is practically unheard of.
I have to admit that I had fallen behind on my LCRW reading, but I eagerly opened the cover of #25 so that I could see what was inside. The issue is filled with a bunch of names I don’t know, but that’s always been true. And while I like reading work from my favorite writers, I like uncovering new (either brand-new or new-to-me) writers, too.
It is hard to write about LCRW’s stories as they often so strange and wonderful there’s a need for a lot of exposition just to set them up. By the time you’ve got the audience ready with the setup, you don’t want to spend more time on the story as you’ll give the whole thing away. I apologize for leaving you on the cliff with so many of these stories, but if the setup sounds good to you, pick up a copy of the issue and check it out. (See below for options on getting your own copy.)
A stand out story from the issue was from new-to-me writer Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud. This lead-off story, “A City of Museums” (translated from French) is a wonderfully atmospheric tale about homeless people who live in the town’s museums. Known as “rats” these homeless men occasionally pen sought-after poetry. A new rat comes to town and quickly pens a few poems, making the protagonist of the story nervous as he’s not penned any work of note. The language is very lyrical and full of imagery and in my mind, this story is essentially everything that makes up LCRW, if there were to be something typical about the magazine from story to story.
I also enjoyed Jennifer Linnaea’s “Fire Marrow” quite a bit. Her story is about a man who lives underground because if he leaves the cold and dark the sun will cause the fire of his bones to come out. He has this fire in bones due to having a giant in his bloodline. A woman named Estival sends him messages and food in tiny boats that float on the underground river that runs past where the man lives. But Estival has sent her last boat and the giants have come to take this man away with them, or perhaps to kill him. Regardless, they mean to capture this man. The man decides he has to leave his underground home as he will no longer receive sustenance from Estival and the giants will capture him if he stays. But the man is very old and blind and no longer remembers how to leave the cave. I loved this story.
Haihong Zhao’s “Exuviation” was also quite strong, and a great way to end the issue. To the world, Gong is a popular movie star, everyone’s desire. Except she’s not a girl, she’s something else. Her race goes through exuviation, that is, they molt…you know, shed their skin. At this point in her molting process, she looks like an attractive young girl. She’s famous. She has everything she wants. But she’s along until she encounters Tou, another of her race. The story sets off down a wild path as Gong wants to remain with her in this world of movies and fame. Tou wants her to finish her molting and take on her true form. You don’t typically get something so science fictional in LCRW, and that’s part of my fascination with the story. True, it’s character driven, so the science takes a backseat, but the biological aspects of Gong and Tou can’t be ignored.
Other good stories include Sean Adams tale of “The Famous Detective and His Telepathy Goggles,” Richard Gess’s “Circumnavigation, With Dogs,” and Richard Parks’ “The Queen’s Reason.” As always, the good outweighs the bad (and there’s nothing I would truly call bad in this issue) in LCRW, and honestly, if that happens with every issue? That’s a subscription to hold onto. Yes, I wish it came out more often, but what can you do?
John Klima is the editor of the Hugo Award-winning Electric Velocipede. His secret identity is a librarian.