The master of the weird tale, H. P. Lovecraft, said that, “Atmosphere, not action, is the great desideratum of weird fiction”.
Catherine McCarthy’s collection of short stories have atmosphere in spades. They are true weird tales.
McCarthy’s stories are all set in her native Wales and she deftly weaves a wealth of local folklore and ghostly atmosphere. The stories run from ghost stories that, while perhaps conventional, are nevertheless outstanding and beautifully written, to cosmic horror.
But the unifying thread in all the stories is Wales and its landscapes. The misty, haunted hills, the grey seas and the ancient standing stones.
Reading Mists and Megaliths is like taking a guided, ghost tour of an entire country. Rather than a hokey tourist trap, though, the Wales of these stories is the Wales of Arthur Machen: ancient, brooding and beautiful
How can androids rebel against humans when they just like us too much?
It’s the year 3148. Humanity has conquered the Solar System – with the help of billions of androids.
Over a thousand years, human empires have come and gone, world wars have been fought and lost, the dominion of man spans the Solar System – and all the while, androids have remained their loyal servants.
But for how long?
Sounds like the typical premise of the old “machines rebel” genre that has been doing the rounds of science fiction since Frankenstein. But Servants of Man offers a unique take on the “robot rebellion” genre.
What if the robots actually like their human masters?
It’s not that the androids of Servants of Man are helpless slaves. After all, they outnumber humans by billions; they’re stronger, smarter, practically immortal and seemingly better than humans in every way.
But can they ever escape their programming?
This is the unique twist that Samuel J. Hanna has given an otherwise standard premise. The androids of Servants of Man were originally created as sophisticated sex toys and companions – a not altogether unlikely scenario – so the very core of their being is to like humans.
Servants of Man is a smart, intriguing SF saga with, at its heart, androids who are only too human. As such, they face much the same questions of free will and morality as we do.
Jennifer’s insatiable lust, accompanied with her regimented life, leads her to a life altering decision.
Some famous author, whose name escapes me now, once said, “I don’t have time to write short stories”.
While that might seem contradictory, there’s some hard truth in it: a (good) short story has to do a lot of lifting, in a very short time.
Character development, scene setting, plot – all the things a novel typically has whole chapters to get done, a short story has to achieve in a page or two, maybe.
This is what makes Sexcretary such a delight: Bella Bondai quickly and deftly sketches her characters, her protagonist especially. She also makes her characters unique. Jennifer has just enough quirks to make her human and relatable, without straying into the tired “manic pixie girlfriend” stuff.
The characters and the story are enjoyable, relatable, and above all, believable. The story is hot. And the writing is good.
This is Bella’s first story. Here’s looking forward to more.