Schemers is the latest genre-crossing anthology of new short fiction from Stone Skin Press. From the classic myths to the pages of the Bible, from Shakespeare’s stage to the yellowed pulps of yesteryear, literature runs red with tales of plotting and betrayal. Yet a sinister strategem can delight as well as shock he senses.
In the knowingly theatrical “A Scandal with Bohemians,” Jonathan L. Howard twirls a finely kempt Victorian mustache, playing on the super-villain iconography that coalesces in that era. His mock-Moriarty reminds us that the easiest target for deception is always oneself.
To Richard Malengine she was always that bloody woman.
He was a man of simple tastes which, where women were involved, were sometimes energetically exercised. Yet that monstrous regiment presented few others interests to him by and large until Fate saw fit to broaden his education by introducing him to Miss Elodie Vesperine. The details of that introduction are a matter for discussion elsewhere; the reader need not be concerned with them upon this occasion. Suffice to say, where Malengine walked she followed, and commented, frequently with irony. Where he paused she hovered, still commenting.
Richard Malengine had once been the toast of the London stage, particularly respected for his Shakespearean work, more particularly for his portrayals of the blackguardly. His Richard III, Shylock, and Macbeth were the talk of the West End, and he was lionised by society both high and low. He brought to these monsters a sympathy hitherto barely touched upon by previous interpreters of the canon, a sympathy that illuminated and vivified these villains. Audiences streamed from his performances appreciating that the deaths of the Princes in the Tower had been no more than unavoidable duty; that Antonio was the true scoundrel of Venice; that Macbeth was a victim of circumstances, of horrible women in the forms of witches and wife, and of perambulatory trees.
Tastes change, however, and a more vigorous interpretation of good and evil became the norm. Richard and Macbeth were to deserve the sword points upon which they fetched, and Shylock was there to be spat upon. Malengine found himself superannuated in a less nuanced age, and fell upon hard times. There he might have quietly rotted away as so many other unfashionable actors have, had he not sought to present to the public an excitingly reinvention of an old blight now made fulgent as a form of entertainment. Crime.
For the rest, get Schemers from Stone Skin Press.
Jonathan L. Howard has been a game designer and scripter for the last twenty years, and a full-time author for the past four. He is the author of the Johannes Cabal novels and the Russalka Chronicles series. He lives in the south-west of England.
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