Wednesday, February 20, 2019

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The "There's Something in My Eye" Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

The 4th Annual Sippy Awards keeps right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for...

The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 
for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

When it comes to venues, it's once again a rather eclectic mix. I'm so happy to include a Shimmer story here, in part because it was the publication's final year and they've definitely given me a lot of stories over the years that have made me weepy. And there's the second story from Omenana to receive a Sippy, too. Seriously, if anyone is missing this magazine, reconsider. There's so much amazing work. Tor makes its first appearance in the Sippys this year, as does Terraform, two publications that are part of larger publishing bodies that definitely flex their reach to bring in some awesome stories each year. And the winner here is from what was probably my favorite publication of 2018, Strange Horizons (at least, it definitely led the pack with stories that made it to my recommended reading list). So yeah, a diverse bunch. To the awards!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #77

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
The two original stories from February’s Nightmare Magazine deal with death and life, hunger and desire. And the ways that those forces are corrupted and twisted so that they become prisons. So that a family is caught in the web of poverty and place as their town goes to the ghosts. So that a woman is caught in a marriage she doesn’t really like but that she’s unwilling to give up. So that all the characters end up making choices and hurting people because they just want what they were promised—security and safety—that might always have just been a carrot to keep them in line with a society that doesn’t actually benefit them. These are some dark and layered horror stories, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The "I'm Sleeping with the Lights On" Sippy for Excellent Horror in Short SFF

The 2018 Sippy Awards keeping rolling on! For those just joining, the Sippys are the "coveted" awards no one really asked for, celebrating short SFF across five categories grouped by theme, as picked by me. Last week I revealed my favorite relationships in short SFF, and this week I’m going in a much darker direction. So make sure you've brought your noise-cancelling headphones, all creepy doors to the basement are chained tight, and get ready for...

The “I’m Sleeping with the Lights On” Sippy Award 
for Excellent Horror in Short SFF

For me, horror is all about fear, about feeling. And certainly 2018 has been a year ripe with horrors great and small, global and personal, for probably most people reading this. It's probably no surprise that a number of the stories I've chosen to celebrate here focus on the climate and natural world, the ways that humanity it driven by exploitation that is unsustainable, cruel, and ignorant. But there are other horrors still. Some that dress themselves in the guise of virtue. Some that hide in the pillars fo society, in its laws, customs, and media. And some that can only be heard through the static hiss of a recording, waiting for someone to press play.

As for venues, Nightmare Magazine (as might be expected) had a very strong 2018, and comes away with two of the five spots this year. Apex, another publication devoted to dark SFF, also walks away with one. And the Book Smugglers and Fiyah both make the list as well, because while neither of them focuses specifically on horror, they certainly do a great job of it when their attentions draw in that direction. Many thanks to all the people who helped bring these stories into the world, from the authors to the editors to the people behind the scenes. So, to the awards!

Monday, February 18, 2019

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The "I'd Ship That" Sippy for Excellent Relationships in Short SFF

It’s 2019! Which means that I’m already behind on reviews (I will keep saying this until it's not true)! But it also means that it's time for me to put on my Serious Critic Hat (hahaha) in order to host THE FOURTH ANNUAL SIPPY AWARDS! That's right, I've been doing these things for four years already, and the formula hasn't changed. For those wanting to learn a little more, you can check out this recent post where I go through the basics. And I know, I know, I'm normally the first to hesitate about awards and attempts to be objective and all that, but keep in mind that these are just my subjective favorites, coming just from those venues that I cover here at QSR. There's a lot more out there, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate the stories that I loved from 2018. So let's begin, starting with the...

“I’d Ship That” Sippy Award for Excellent Relationships is Short SFF

I'm a sucker for a good relationship story. They don't have to be romantic. Or sexual. Though most of these stories do feature romance and sex, they also feature characters that interact and orbit each other in intensely beautiful ways. For some of the stories, the connections are between just two people, lovers or friends or something else. For others, the connections flow between more people, or did, and were severed. They feature people striving to find comfort and meaning in their own skins, knowing sometimes that takes help, and understanding, and compassion. And occasionally it takes kicking some ass. Whatever the case, the relationships explored in these stories have stuck with me through a very hard year.

In terms of venue, there's a bit from all over on display here, from the stalwarts publications of the genre as well as from some that are a little newer or less well known. But that's part of why I love reading outside just the publications that tend to get nods come awards season. Because Omenana and GigaNotoSaurus and Fiyah all produce stunning short SFF. So too do Strange Horizons and Uncanny, and it warms my reviewer heart a bit to be able to include pieces from all over here for your enjoyment. To the awards!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/04/2019 & 02/11/2019

Two short stories and two poems open up February’s Strange Horizons offerings. The fiction at least focuses on history and fairy tales. On the injustices that people layer onto those who don’t have power. On the children and peasants of the world. But how the truth and the dark realities that the powerful author and ignore have a way of coming back, of being felt in strange and haunting ways. The poetry mixes the wonders and chaos of creation and universe-exploding potential with…the wonders and chaos of day to day life and partnering and cohabitating. And it keeps in perfect harmony with my own feelings about the publication—often lyrical, often heartbreaking, always Strange. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #26 [February stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
It’s a full February at Uncanny Magazine, with two poems, two short stories, and a novelette to round out this shortest month of the year. The fiction is broken situations. People who have been abused and are looking for a place to belong. And yet finding that place isn’t always easy—often what might seem safe could be a new abuse in disguise, a sort of pitcher plant designed to lure in the desperate. For those who can avoid the traps, though, the pieces also focus on the joy that can be found in finding a place, and a people, who make you feel at home. With a purpose that rings true and the ability to live, even if it will always be tempered by the ways the world is broken or corrupt. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #149

Art by Arthur Haas
Clarkesworld hits February running with five short stories and a novelette, all taking on some big issues. From genetic manipulation to colonialism, from empathy to divinity, the stories tackle some Big Ideas, with some mixed results. The joy of reading SFF is that it can often make literal circumstances that would otherwise be purely figurative or philosophical. What if the world worked quite differently? What if people could experience an alien afterlife? It allows us to explore moral and ethical concerns without test subjects, but that’s not to say that means no harm is done. Though often careful, I find myself hesitating around many of the stories here this month, that seem to bring up some Big Ideas without fully examining how those ideas are in conversation with real world injustices and harms. But before I get too much into that, let’s get to the reviews!