Cabinet of Wonders: Letters from the Dead

Lauren Colie

Disappearing Dads, Time Traveling Doctors, and Letters from the Dead

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
The figure of a woman divided in two parts: half skeleton, half lady of fashion, standing next to a obelisk inscribed with biblical quotations. Etching, 17–, attributed to V. Green.
By: Valentine Greenafter: James HerveyPublished: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

It seems a little abnormal to find a Lauren and a Loren writing fabulous fiction this week (with reviews written by a Lauren). What is normal, anyway? Is it polos and boat shoes? Is it the desire to fix mistakes? Is it the humble town post office? Is it being named Lauren? I couldn’t tell you…but these authors can. Well, they can point you in the right direction. Once you identify what is normal, I hear them all asking, why?


A Review of Disappearing Dad Disorder, Excerpted from You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, by Alexandra Kleeman at Electric Literature

“What was at the root of Disappearing Dad Disorder? Sociologists said it was social, psychologists said it was psychological, and some religious nut said they had heard a call from God to leave behind their wicked lives. Biologists compared it to migration and to songbirds that become confused in the presence of skyscrapers. They compared them to honeybees who abandon their hives: maybe the fathers had been misled by cell phone signals, by highways, by toxins in the water supply.”

These cookie-cutter dads are vanishing and reappearing in the darndest of places…and A finds it to be a sign of the times. She’s uncomfortable eating dinner from a can, becoming a zombie on the couch in front of Shark Week and working a dead-end job. With each thought, it’s clear she yearns for more than khakis, polos, cheap furniture and all the markers of the American Average.

Alexandra Kleeman skewers some stereotypes by showing just how boring normal can be…hey, if you can wander into a home and begin living there because it’s so similar to your own, it’s obvious you don’t have enough weird. Or, the normal is what’s weird. A touch of humor, some deep thought and a hefty dose of frustration (heard loud and clear by this millenial) prove to be a potent excerpt that demands further study.

Read it HERE


A Review of 20/20, by Arie Coleman at Strange Horizons

“Here’s the thing: doctors fuck up sometimes. You practice medicine long enough, someone will get hurt and it’ll be your fault. You do your best to protect your patients from yourself and your human failings. When you can’t, you learn how to cope with the guilt. Or you don’t, and you quit. Or you overdose and you quit forever.

Or you respecialize.”

In this reality, popping back in time to fix a medical mistake is no biggie…but it sure is hard on the nerves. Loren’s got a score to settle, but time keeps shifting around her. Can she save Mr. Joseph? Will she? Is there a timeline where he makes it out OK?
It’s Schroedinger’s Cat with this sick patient. The Weird in Arie Coleman’s work isn’t in the premise, but how people work within it. If you could reach across time and make a change, would you?

Read it HERE


A Review of The Copperlin U.S. Post Office Manual, by Lauren Rudin at Crossed Genres

“Stacy’s gotten letters meant for her though – one from a great-grandmother that she didn’t even know. When she opened it, she held it up to me with a quirked eyebrow; it was just an unfilled-in crossword puzzle. A lot of the letters from the dead are like that: an uncolored page from a coloring book, a nonsensical poem. A photograph of your shower drain.”

The writers for Men In Black knew something about the post office…it’s a weird, wacky place. Here, normal means commercializing letters from the dead. They don’t make much sense, but people still want the service. For our narrator, it’s a pleasant gig, interrupted only by suspicious coughing fits. She did spend a little time up north, after all.

Lauren Rudin’s got a heck of a proposal here — what if the dead could and did talk, but mainly spouted jokes? Or what if it’s all just radiation going to our brains? This is one workplace story you won’t forget.

Read it HERE

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