As a researcher into ‘the connections between the weird and ecological fiction’ (her words) or ‘climate-change fiction, in particular its Gothic and weird aspects’ (Anglia Ruskin University, where she is a PhD student) Marian Womack is evidently working to her core interests, and to her strengths with this book. She is a Clarion alumni, writing in both Spanish and English, and is involved in the translation of speculative fiction as well as in publishing it as co-editor of Ediciones Nevsky/Nevsky Books.
Lost Objects, her first collection of short stories, was published by Luna Press; a number of her stories have also been published in magazines and other collections, including in ‘The Year’s Best Weird Fiction’.Besides the expected dystopian and degenerative ecological angle you would expect given her interests and background these stories also at times present interesting windows into promising futures, unusual takes on SF tropes, and evoke both the inevitable New Weird touchpoints like LaLumiere or Tidbeck (whom she translated) but also literary classics like Borchert in her portrayal of slightly hallucinatory states of the mind.
Below I run through the stories in the collection, 4 of which were previously published in magazines and books – if you would rather approach this without all the spoilers this entails then stop here, with my recommendation that I think this collection is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in unusual/weird fiction; even if I found not all stories equally/entirely engaging.
Hallucinatory story, following a scientist who studies butterflies – Papilionidae – huge, alien, poisonous ones, and whose wife is about to give birth. Set in a Cambridge befallen by an unexplained environmental catastrophe, the story renders his unravelling mind, flashing back the last flood and his wife’s stillbirth in a dizzying cascade of impressions which reminded me of Borchert’s writing in some of his stories.
Little Red Drops
Parallel worlds, eternal winter, a cure for love sickness, and the consequences of our choices. A fascinating fragment, a slice of life without much explanation. On the one hand I’d like to hear more. And on the other I suspect that it would spoil the magic.
Set in Scotland, under a domed Black Isle. Or set in a world trying to stave off ecological collapse by re-introducing genetically modified animals. The settings is fascinating, and I’d want more of it. The story itself, though, and the protagonist’s struggles didn’t do as much for me, I have to say.
Thatcherite, futuristic-victorian (nope, not Steampunk) and dystopian love/coming of age story of a girl born into a family with strange powers, and in charge of operating the nearly-all-seeing camera obscura in this society with a strange mix of permanent supervision and free spaces.
It somehow feels hollow. Again, the setting is grand, evocative, more-ish. I would have wanted more on the politics, sociaty, Raven’s family, and their powers. And again, it feels like something is missing. Somehow the characters no coming to life for me. Not sure if it’s the wrong window for slice of life, maybe? Not sure what gives…
Love (Ghost) Story
A fragment. Minimal, disorienting. Sad.
The Ravisher, The Thief
Set in a post-apocalyptic world derived from ours, in a fallen civilisation. There are remnants of the old territories, languages, with black holes (not explained) opening up in the world. It’s the End Days.
People now pair with raptors, in some kind of mental link. New religions have sprung up, end times ones as well as preservation ones.
There seems to be a promise, real, imagined, religious? of migrating to a different world/planet, by drinking a potion.
Emotionally affecting, and with believable humans you connect with this time.
A lost expedition, exploring a new world. Now fighting for survivial, seeking for lost members, waiting for rescue. Claustrophobic, haunting, and fascinating. Golden age SF meets the New Weird a la LaLumiere via classic YA adventure stories.
Marvels Do Not Oftimes Occur
A fragment of an alien incursion into/above a medieval town, reported in contemporary style. Charming.
A longer story, I presume Novella, set in a future world where most animals are extinct, technology and mobility have reduced/regressed, and the world has shrunk accordingly. The protagonist is an abortive academic, a continually failling writer, who has an obsession with birds, especially Kingfishers (which are nearly extinct).
The story heavily mixes the real with the hallucinatory in the narrators mind (it’s all 1st person view) – this is engrossing and disorientating stuff. And it has power.
A Place for Wild Beasts
A fragment on our gardens, and the wildlife we find there, in the middle of our cities. And what said wildlife does to said gardens, and the gardener.
Oh, don’t get me started…
- Lost Objects’ book launch will be Saturday 20th of October at 2PM, during Fantasycon 2018, in Chester.
Title: Lost Objects
Author: Marian Womack
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Luna Press
Publisher URL: http://www.lunapresspublishing.com
Publication Date: July 2018
Review Date: 180821
Topic: Short Stories
Topic: New Weird
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
Markus Thierstein is a former professional skater and editor for Diversebooks. These days he pretends to work for a living, and only do sport for fun. He blogs, mainly in review form, on thierstein.net.