Death at the Blue Elephant by Janeen Webb
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars
My favorite unscripted moment from the 2016 Word Fantasy Convention occurred as Janeen Webb recited on a panel, from memory, the beginning to E R Eddison's Mistress of Mistresses. Her voice and tenor were beautiful and it sounded like a blend of poetry and song. Her point being that many of these works are more easily understood, and enjoyed, if read aloud. I knew then that I had to track down more of her work, leading me here.
Death at the Blue Elephant is her 2014 collection of eighteen, fantasy-adventure stories: thirteen published previously in various publications and the remaining five are new. Table of Contents listed below; the notes indicate the tales span most every type of tale imaginable: from Lewis Carroll-like fairytales, to contemporary horror (the titular story), to Lovecraftian Mythos, Arthurian legends, historical fantasy, Faustain deals, and Phillip-Dick-like Sci-Fi.
She writes for mature readers, usually sprinkling in a dose of eroticism. Tales often take turns that are darker or happier than expected, so readers will always be on edge. My favorites were the Lovecraftian, contemporary mystery of “Lady of the Swamp,” the sci-fi thriller-romance “Niagara Falling” which blurred reality and fantasy like a Phillip Dick story, the weird fiction "Fire-Eater's Tale" that is emotionally charged with revenge-fear-and-performance anxiety, and the weirdly-inspiring-yet-sad “Blake’s Angel” which appealed to the artist in me (for the record, I would never cage an Angel).
As her bio below details, Janeen Webb is an accomplished writer and editor (once winner of World Fantasy award among others). Death at the Blue Elephant shows that she can spin a good tale from about just about anything.
1. “Velvet Green.” *new* -- Lewis Carroll-like with call-outs to Dunsany's Queen of Elfland
2. “Manifest Destiny.” First published in Baggage (Eneit Press, NSW, 2010) -- A pioneering adventure horror, not like Howard’s Conan in substance, but the barbarian-may-be-more-civil-than-settler theme abounds
3. “Death at the Blue Elephant” First published in Enter… , (HarperCollins Flamingo, Sydney, 1997) and HQ Magazine, November/December, 1997 -- Contemporary Erotic Horror
4. “Red City.” First published in Synergy SF: New Science Fiction (Five Star Press, Maine, USA, 2004) -- Sci-Fi Mystery Historical fantasy– Elizabeth Peters like?
5. “Paradise Design’d” First published in Dreaming Again (HarperCollins, Sydney, 2008, and Harper EOS, New York, 2008) -- Angels playing design in the Garden of Eden
6. “The Lion Hunt.” First published in Conqueror Fantastic (DAW Books, New York, 2004) -- Greco-Roman Historical Fantasy
7. “Incident On Woolfe Street”. First published in HQ Magazine #68, Jan/Feb 2000 (HarperCollins, Sydney, 2000) -- Horrific retelling of little red riding hood.
8. “The Lady of the Swamp” *new* Forthcoming reprint in Cthulhu Deep Down Under, edited by Steve Proposch, Christopher Sequiera and Bryce Stevens -- Splendid, contemporary Lovecraftian Mythos.
9. “A Faust Films Production”. First published in Little Red Riding Hood in New York (DAW Books, USA, 2004) -- Contemporary Faustian tale, obviously
10. “Gawain and the Selkie’s Daughter.” First published in The Road to Camelot (Random House, Sydney, 2002) -- Classic Arthurian legend
11. “Niagara Falling” with Jack Dann, First published Black Mist and Other Japanese Futures (DAW Books, New York, 1997) -- Phillip Dick -ish
12. “The Fire-Eater’s Tale” with Jack Dann. First published in Strange Attractions (Shadowlands Press, USA, 2000.) -- Weird fiction ; very good.
13. “Skull Beach” *new* -- another original tale with Faustian undertones
14. “Tigershow” First published in Agog: Terrific Tales (Agog Press, Wollongong, 2003). -- PTSD tragic horror
15. “Hell Is Where the Heart Is” First published in Next (CSFG Publishing, Canberra, 2014). --Horror–Romance following transplanted organs
16. “Full Moon in Virgo”. *new* -- Ghost-Romance story
17. “Blake’s Angel” First published in Gathering the Bones (HarperCollins, Sydney and London, 2003 and Tor Books, New York, 2003) -- Weird Artistic Horror
18. “The Sculptor’s Wife” *new* -- Modern Arthurian Legend
About Janeen Webb
Janeen Webb is a multiple award-winning author, editor, and critic who has written or edited ten books and over a hundred essays and stories. She is a recipient of the World Fantasy Award, the Peter MacNamara SF Achievement Award, the Australian Aurealis Award, and is a three-time winner of the Ditmar Award. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, as well as a number of Best of the Year collections. Her longer fiction includes a series of novels for young adult readers, The Sinbad Chronicles, (HarperCollins, Australia). She is also co-editor, with Jack Dann, of the influential Australian anthology Dreaming Down-Under. Janeen has also co-authored several non-fiction works with Andrew Enstice. These include Aliens and Savages; The Fantastic Self; and an annotated new edition of Mackay’s 1895 scientific romance, The Yellow Wave. Janeen is internationally recognised for her critical work in speculative fiction. Her criticism has appeared in most of major journals and standard reference works, as well as in several collections of scholarly articles published in Australia, the USA, and Europe. She was co-editor of Australian Science Fiction Review, and reviews editor for Eidolon. She holds a PhD in literature from the University of Newcastle. Janeen divides her time between Melbourne and a small farm overlooking the sea near Wilson’s Promontory, Australia.
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