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Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet No. 26
by Gavin J. Grant, Kelly Link

Category: Fantasy/Mainstream
Description: LCRW 26 December 2010

After issue no. 25, NewPages said, "More, more, more please." SF Revu suggested, "If you want to support some very wonderful fiction, than subscribe to Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet." Esubs will be available very soon. And Mr. John Klima declared on Tor.com "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." Which made us very happy as while we also very much enjoy our favorite writers we also love reading new (or new-to-us) writers.

This zine was almost published in October. And so nearly published in November. And here it is coming up to December and (insert chorus singing something striking but not at all holiday-like) and Lo! here it is. Eight stories: dread pirate ships, dread submersibles, dread sheds! Alice, Three-Hat Juan, and welders in love. Ted Chiang on folk biology. And a cover that should be reproduced on the side of a skyscraper. Yep, we liked it--hope you do, too.

All of this copiously illustrated with letters throughout. Sometimes as many as 2000 per page. Most arranged in forms known colloquially as "English."

No part of this zine was produced on a Freyfarm.

And now, the actual and real Table of Contents:

Harvey Welles and Philip Raines, The Cruel Ship's Captain
Patty Houston, Elite Institute for the Study of Arc Welders' Flash Fever
Carlea Holl-Jensen, Sleep
Rahul Kanakia, The Other Realms Were Built With Trash
Veronica Schanoes, Alice: a Fantasia
Sean Melican, Absence of Water
Jenny Terpsichore Abeles, Three Hats
J. M. McDermott, Death's Shed

Ted Chiang, Reasoning about the Body
Gwenda Bond, Dear Aunt Gwenda
The Patient Writers

Lindsay Vella, Thirst; The Way to the Sea; Spit Out the Seeds; The Seamstress; Poor summer, she doesn't know she's dying
Darrell Schweitzer, Dueling Trilogies

Sarah Goldstein, Broken Stick; Year: 2004; Size: 11" x 10. "Materials: acrylic medium, gouache on paper.

eBook Publisher: Small Beer Press, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: December 2010


1 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [198 KB]
Words: 43100
Reading time: 123-172 min.

The Cruel Ship's Captain

Harvey Welles and Philip Raines

* * * *

He was called the Cruel Ship's Captain, though the tales were too slippery to be exact on what that told. In portside sinks, sailors muttered into their pints of the cruel captain of a ship, while in the becalmed days of a long voyage, bored passengers fantasized about the captain of a cruel ship. But now, brought before the beau-nasty himself on the deck of his awful vessel, Settle could see that while the tales forked in the telling, they knotted in the truth, and the knot pressed into her throat like the invisible rope of her all-but-certain fate.

* * * *

The Cruel Captain prowled the foc'stle deck, round and round the fore topmast like a chained holiday bear, frothing the air with spittle and glee. Bedizened like the devil's dandy, he wore the articles of his faith: a purple frock coat off some frenchee admiral, a high guardsman hat with a dinner-plate shine and Good Queen Meg's insignia kiss, the long silver-buckled boots of a Londinium salon king, all raggedy and sprayed with the violence of their getting. His face was hazed with hairy straggle and a filigree branding of the skin whose marks were lost through the distance. And his eyes--to Settle, his eyes were pits and suns, alternating in her vision between inescapable midwinters and June dazzlers. Before such an impudent gaze, she should have stepped back and swooned with the propriety of a woman of her station--had there been the room for such graces, had she been foolhardy enough to display a station, had they known she was a woman.

The Cruel Captain only wanted one thing. "Yer ships," he slurred and growled, drunk and furious. "Ye're all for Hell now and I want my fleet of the damned. Ye can join us on devil seas or ye can swim back to Heaven and suck the lamb's cock for forgiveness."

The Cruel Ship showered the company with her own foul gob. The oak-carved figurehead tried to twist off her bowsprit spine, a right arch doxy with her face painted ruby-lipped and deathmask, her hair, autumn leaves tumbling gold into winter, her exposed bosom, pink petals in early snow. Furious at her fixture to the boat's forward cut, she mad-tommed the rest of the crew put together. And her eyes were as flat and lifeless as the engraved Jesus in a flotsam bible.

"Don't sauce the geesers!" she screeched. "Don't fedaddle with cooking and dinner manners and the like. Tear it out of them! Tear the ships from their geeser souls raw!"

The Cruel Captain joined his Ship on a high-pitched note of pure fury, the cry of wild things escaping from paradise together. Then he explained, "Right, now let's see if ye're the souls or the scraps."

But they should all have been souls. That was why Settle had set out on The Righteous Dream in the first place: to become souled, to return home shipped. The Minister of her home in Spithampton, Long Preston, had organised the voyage on behalf of a Crown charity dedicated to those who had come into maturity without their ships revealing themselves--for youngsters like Apple and Settle, old enough for parents to begin to worry about them, and for those like Doctor Wendell who had hid unshipped all their lives for reasons too private to divulge. The open sea was said to call out ships. As of yesterday, four had already manifested themselves aboard the Dream. Settle remembered the celebrations as the newly-shipped swam out to the fresh vessels, taking the tills while Long Preston roused the passengers in hymns. But all such memories had been overwhelmed by the sight of the Cruel Ship as it had relentlessly borne down on them during the six-hour chase.

"Fiendishness!" bellowed Long Preston. "Cursed man--do you think you can seize a man's ships like Jahweh at the Judgement?"

The Minister was the only survivor of the Dream who did not press back behind the other captives. When the Cruel Ship's sailors had seized the women and thrown them overboard, without pause for the plainly pregnant lasses, Long Preston had fought like the old lion he was in the pulpit, but had been cast back into the kirk of his fellow passengers. Still, he stepped forward again, his white beard electrified in an invisible storm, an accusing finger so bony that it could have been skinned.

But the Cruel Captain laughed and he spat, and where the spit landed, the nearest crew-member, a scrawny duke of limbs, took up the laughter, "Yer Captain is yer Jahweh now," he pronounced and with demon strength wrestled Long Preston over the edge of the boat.

The crew guffawed, raised their pistols and waited. Settle pressed deeper into the others. Applethwaite, who had pledged his protection, shielded her from sweeps of the Cruel Captain's gaze. "Apple," Settle began, but her lips were fossilized with fear. Her lips, but not her bowels, which pissed in a warm burst, or her legs, which vibrated uncontrollably. The boy's breeches she had thrown on as the fighting raged on the Dream's deck were dark enough to hide the stains, just as the scarf bound tight around her chest hid her budding womanhood. The boys and men around her--the sailors and passengers, now the Cruel Captain's chattel--did not see through her mummer, or at least, could not see beyond their own terror.

* * * *

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