The best SF short story I read in 2018 was Chike Deluna’s Stark!!!
Picture this: an implacable spider god, the Lady Genevieve Desdemona, lounges in the bowl of a communications dish, idly watching a cat-burglar go about his business on a neighbouring skyscraper. She sees the thief successfully break into an apartment before, once inside, triggering an impossibly fiendish booby trap, a melange of pendulums, pulleys and automatons called the “Stark Enigma,” that will surely kill him…
It’s a great set-up, and the means by which the thief thereafter cheats death is satisfyingly memorable.
The path by which I reached this point, lounging in front of the fire at home, reading an e-copy of Deluna’s Mistress of the Web: The Black Book, is almost as fascinating.
Many on the Irish SF scene know that from time to time, I assist the Michaels Scott and Carroll in curating the Irish SF, Fantasy & Horror Writers Pinterest board. The qualification for inclusion is simple: writers either Irish born or resident in Ireland. Even so, George Chyke Udenkwo (b. 1967, Newry) is one of the more enigmatic entries, the author of one work, Golgotha Falls: Genesis (2008).
The first thing you notice about Golgotha Falls: Genesis, when you start googling around, is how consistently good the star ratings are. They hit percentages uncommon even for the big boys and unheard of for most bargain basement self-published doorwedges. My curiosity was officially piqued. Coming to the book cold, my first instinct was to expect a little Hiberno-Nigerian Afrofuturism but Golgotha Falls (the titular city) is rather a classic science fantasy setting: an ultra far future megalopolis, ruled by gods, yet with the sort of near future noir vibe more associated with Blade Runner. The overarching theme of the interlinked stories is the interactions between the human denizens of Golgotha Falls and the implacable spider god Lady Genevieve Desdemona…
As the Lady Genevieve D. does over Golgotha Falls, so Udenkwo leaves clues about himself at various locations over the Internet, in particular a nice little biography here. From these traces one can glean both that he was dissatisfied with the production quality of the initial release of Golgotha Falls: Genesis and that he was writing further volumes.
Fast forward to 2012 and another ephemeral website and horror and fantasy author Chike Deluna is offering, inter-alia, several volumes of the adventures of Lady Genevieve Desdemona, the first of which is Mistress of the Web: The Black Book, the content of which, including the short story Stark!!!, corresponds to approximately the first half of the material in Golgotha Falls: Genesis. The other volumes comprise MotW: The White Book, MotW: The Red Book and MotW: The Blue Book.
Fast forward again to 2018 and Chike Deluna, now based in India, appears to have cracked this self-publishing lark and is offering six or seven excellent looking horror and fantasy novels (but not, so far as I could tell, the Mistress of the Web series) for sale from a shiny new website. Fair play indeed. I must add The Cosmic Foot Masseur to my reading list.
Now I can’t say for certain that George Udenkwo and Chike Deluna are the same person. For all I know, the latter discovered the decomposing remains of the former in an alley somewhere, clutching a portmanteau stuffed with thousands of manuscript pages of the adventures of the aforementioned Lady Genevieve D. But whatever the truth of it, I did have fun unravelling the thread. And reader, do yourselves a big favour in 2019 and track down a copy of Golgotha Falls: Genesis or the Mistress of the Web ebooks and get stuck into some of the finest science fantasy out there.