Saturday, October 31, 2015

Quick Thoughts - I Ain't Scared of No Erotica

I have, as I write this, actually read through all I wanted to for October 2015! It was an insane month for fiction, with over 80 stories and over 100 reviews for me (including poetry and nonfiction). At the same time, it has also been my busiest month for my stories coming out, with a story in Lamplight at the beginning of the month, another in Betwixt in the middle, and now a new m/m erotic story out just in time for Halloween!


The story, "A Friendly Ghostbusting," is available here.
The anthology it appears in, HAUNTED HOTTIES VOLUME 2, is available here.
A sample of my story can be read here.
A new release extra on the Torquere Blog will be here when it goes live.

Ah, erotica. Somehow I don't think I would write a story with an internet faux-celebrity named Caspar the Friendly Ghostbuster if it was for more "literary" audiences. Which is probably why erotica is fun to write at times. Not that it can't be deep and meaningful and layered, but that sometimes all I want to write is some fun drama with a sprinkle of puns and a lot of hot sex. I swear I want to write like an entire novel with these characters, because they are incredibly fun and because I love ghost hunting shows. I mean, they're all ridiculous but they are also entertaining and they all remind me of Ghost Facers from Supernatural.

As I think back on this story I can already see that with erotica I must have something of a pattern. Of a soft resistance, some sort of small perceived betrayal that turns out to be the product of confusion, guilt, and not being honest. The truth comes out, people have the choice to reconcile, and people normally do. With sex. This story is also kind of informed by reading erotica and the ridiculousness that it can be, sometimes. And loving it and wanting a bit to participate. Both this and "The Assistant's Contraption" were incredibly fun to write and spilled out of me mostly in one sitting, and I hope they are similarly fun to read.

Sometimes I feel very guilty about writing erotica. Because I don't have all that much time to write and this will never "count" toward SFWA membership or anything like that. It doesn't pay pro rates. But then, I'm not really at the point where all of my non-smut stories are pulling in pro rates, and these stories are so fun and I get physical books to hold onto and I will admit they're a lot easier to write and to get published than non-smut stories. I think the key will be balancing the smut at the non-smut. Because I don't think I can stop writing it now. I get too much out of it. It makes me smile and it does bring in some money and in the sea of rejections it's something that gives me some hope that my writing isn't utter rubbish.

So yeah, go check it out if you have the time, money, and inclination. Sadly, it is not free, but if it's something you don't mind spending on, you have my utmost thanks. Stay sexy, people!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, October 30, 2015

Regular Sips - Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef by Cassandra Khaw

Okay, so October might have been an incredibly full one for short fiction, but I couldn't resist when I was asked to look at this new novella. Cooking! Urban Fantasy! Gruesome Deaths! There are few things in this world that will entice me more, and as this is a novella it didn't exactly break the bank time-wise. It is the longest single story I've reviewed on this site, but I've been meaning to read more novellas and this was a great place to start. And just in time for Halloween! I'm rather new to novellas, and very new to Abaddon Books, but given the quality of this story I might need to go out and see what else they offer. To the review!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Quick Sips - Tor.com October 2015

October at Tor has actually seemed a bit of a reprieve from super-long stories, which is rather nice given the story-load for this month. That doesn't mean that they don't bring the quality, as these four stories are all rather dense reads, building some amazing settings and worlds that seem to flit and bend and dance. The settings are alive, characters in their own rights, and it is quite the treat to discover each one. From the alien world of the Cyclopes to the onion-like layers of interlocking dimensions, the stories bring some startling ideas, and do not disappoint in executing them. To the reviews!


Art by Tommy Arnold

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Quick Sips - Terraform October 2015

I'm probably missing one story from the October Terraform, but as it might be coming out on Friday (I'm pretty sure that's what their schedule has changed to, rather than the previous Monday releases), I'm just going to roll it into the November Terraform reviews. It's a nice mix of stories this month, with a look at income inequality and...pets. Which might seem a strange pairing but which work nicely here. There are a number of interesting plot twists (and not just that there is a 5K+ story at a publication that claims to stick to under 2K) and a fun range of characters. To the reviews!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #9

Well October is really trying to kill me, though perhaps with kindness if the new issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine is anything to go by. The publication normally puts out a pretty stacked ToC, but this issue has not a single reprint so far as I can tell, which means nine original short stories (only one of them flash) and a graphic story. I'd mind more if everything wasn't so good, once again proving that Fantasy Scroll knows how to satisfy regardless of speculative genre. Horror makes a bit more of a statement this month, perhaps because the issue releases so close to Halloween, but otherwise there is just about everything a person could ask for, from swashbuckling fantasy adventures to more ponderous and emotionally devastating science fiction. So without further ado, to the reviews!


Art by Jessica Tung Chi

Monday, October 26, 2015

Quick Sips - 10/05/2015, 10/12/2015, and 10/19/2015

Okay, here we are in the fourth week of October, and with these three weeks of Strange Horizons the month shows no signs of slowing down. The good news is that the fund drive that had been going on was fully funded! So there will be even more great stories, poems, and nonfiction next year. The other good news is that there is a lot of fiction and poetry that was released as part of the bonus issue. I say good news because, while it might destroy me, there is an awful lot to like about these pieces, many of which deal with the way we tell stories, and what we choose to tell stories about. And I just need to get to the reviews!


Art by Rachel Kahn

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Horror for the Holidays

So Halloween is fast approaching and it seems I don't have anything new out this week, so I'm back to my old tricks and old thoughts. And today I want to talk about horror. Because, well, Halloween obviously, but also because I seem to write horror from time to time without really knowing it. Or I guess sometimes I know. But horror is a strange thing to me, because some don't consider horror speculative, occasionally even when it really, really is.

Perhaps surprising no one, but I think the idea of horror as a genre is kind of weird. Because horror isn't exactly a set of tropes. It isn't spaceships or elves or anything like that, but horror can incorporate spaceships and elves. The movie Alien is a horror film, in my opinion, while also being science fiction. Aliens is a bit more action movie but still has a lot of solid horror. There are many movies that combine horror with something else. Because, at its core, horror is nebulous. It doesn't have firm edges, or edges at all. It is mercurial. You can't point at a collection of plot elements and say "Look, there's horror" the way you can with science fiction or fantasy or even "realistic fiction." Horror is defined, instead, by feeling.

I laugh to myself sometimes when people want to talk up horror as so great but put down stories that have "the feels." Because horror is all about the feels. Literally all about. A story that has a serial killer but no feeling of horror, not suspense or discomfort or any of that, is not a horror. A story about a possessed doll that kills people without the care to make the prose feel scary is not horror. I suppose here there's some subjectivity that could be argued, that I'm putting some sort of "It's not horror unless I say it's good enough" limit on the genre, but that's not what I want to be saying either. I mean that it has to be written to evoke a feeling. Revulsion or fear or awe or something. Something. The point of horror is to make the reader feel something, be confronted by something dark and unsettling. The idea of staring into the dark and being confronted there by something.

But as long as that criteria is met there horror can be anything. So horror, while kind of being nothing, is also everything, can be science fiction or fantasy, slipstream or Western. It's something that frees the genre but also makes it a bit fraught. Because apparently being wishy-washy about genre is not taken kindly to in some spheres. People want stories to pick a side. Be one thing. Categorize easily. And what I like about horror is that I can find horror that speaks to me, that I can find horror mixed in with all my other genres. You got sci fi in my horror. You got horror in my sci fi. And thus Peanut Butter Cup Aliens were born (I can't be the only one who likes pushing the middles up and out the top of the cup, thus making a great visual to go with my bad joke).

So here, sort of like with humor (whose point is also to provoke feeling, but a much different kind), horror isn't exactly something that exists free of other descriptors. It might be the largest emphasis, the most important or appropriate descriptor, but horror kind of always has to exist along something else. A crime horror. A sci fi horror. A fantasy horror. So I strongly resist the idea that horror isn't SFF by definition. It doesn't have to be SFF, but it still often is. At least, when I write it I tend toward SFF horror. Many writers do. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So lift a glass of appropriately Halloween-themed grog to horror, the genre that is not a genre, the genre of feelings, the genre of me hiding under the blanket until the scary part is over. To horror! Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, October 23, 2015

Quick Sips - One Throne JOUST Writing Contest

For this special contest of One Throne Magazine, writers were given the first and last line of a story, provided by Tendai Huchu, whose fiction I've reviewed a few times and quite enjoyed. Writers then had a day to write a flash fiction story using those lines. The top four stories were released to the world, and they are an interesting mix of stories, funny and tragic and everything in between, stories about escape and stories about performance and stories about finding the logic in madness. They are quite different in how they take on the prompt, but they're all worth checking out. To the reviews!



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #184

The second issue of the month from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is (much) shorter than the first, but still manages to pack in a lot to think about. These are some challenging stories, both addressing (among other things) the way societies stifle women, and how women struggle against the constraints that grow to imprison them. Some dream of the sky, and some dream of alien worlds. For many, though, the stories are fraught with loss and tragedy, as these two stories show so well. To the reviews!



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Quick Sips - Urban Fantasy #12

This month's Urban Fantasy Magazine might not bring stories that deal directly with the spookiest of months, but does get into the ghouliday spirit with a story about ghost fish and a story about a fortune teller that does get plenty dark. Both stories involve women, young or old, dealing with circumstances getting a bit beyond their comfort zone and having to try and handle themselves. Both do, and rather stunningly so, though not perhaps without some harm being done. But both stories have a strong core of healing, if not always in the way that was most expected. To the reviews!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Quick Sips - Apex #77

October is actually a fairly light month for Apex Magazine this year. Not when it comes to the number of stories, with four original fiction pieces as well as four poems, but the stories lean slightly on the shorter side. Which is completely fine by me, in part because of the busy month and in part because, by and large, the stories are quite entertaining. There is a feeling that this month is keeping things a bit more action-oriented, with stories where things happen and don't really stop happening. These are not exactly ponderous tales, but faster, more entertaining tales. And it works pretty well, providing smiles and laughs even while keeping things dark. Time to review!

Art by Joshua Hutchinson

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quick Sips - Nightmare 37 - QUEERS DESTROY HORROR!

There is an incredible amount to take in with this issue of Nightmare Magazine. Why? Because it just so happens to be QUEERS DESTROY HORROR! Woo! Which means loads of stuff to read. Five original stories, plus reprint fiction, plus a lot of excellent, amazing, very very good reprint poetry that you should definitely read but which I don't quite have time this month to look at. But I was quite impressed by the fiction selections, which show how to be dark, how to be scary, and how to be downright good while celebrating queer writers, queer characters, and queer stories. More of this, world!!! To the reviews!

Art by AJ Jones

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Quick Thoughts - The Something of "Nothing"

Hey, my story, "Nothing," is out at Betwixt right now. Maybe go check that out. Then, perhaps, come back to get a bit more about the story.

Okay, so "Nothing." I think this is one of the very, very few stories that started with an idea for an ending where I kept the ending in more or less as I imagined it going. That idea of the main character, exhausted, frayed, saying that last line was in my head for most of when I was writing and, for once, seemed to work when I got to it. The story was something an experimentation in voice, trying for a more..."punk" feel, I guess, and also I wanted to play with the idea of nothing. Nothing to mean, of course, something. Which is something that I find rather interesting. That nothing, as a concept, is something like an absence, but that absence is in itself a something. So in some ways there are no nothings. In other ways, yes of course there are nothings. Because when we define what "something" is, what is left out is relegated to that state of nothingness. And this is perhaps getting a little confusing.

Part of what I wanted to do with the story was to write the main character as something of an absence, or at least as someone who, in the society they live in, is unseen. Non. There's a lot of information about them but also a lot missing. They grew up rough and their mother and probably whatever other family they had is dead. They're a bit cocky but that serves them. They exist, and yet they are largely invisible. They use that from time to time, but it's an obvious sign that the city is not exactly working for the majority of its inhabitants. It's a place where violence from police is normalized, where people can't really argue about it out of fear, out of powerlessness. Most of the people in the city, or at least the lowlies, are hanging on by a hair, are, in effect, nothing. There are some perks, if the merest of human dignities like Mercy can be considered perks, but they are forced on the city from outside and very much resented.

I will be honest and say that there is the part of me that sees this story as something of a tale of futility. There was a part of me asking why white suit was running only one con, and such a simple one, but I hoped to wave that away by thinking that he'd be limited to one at a time, in order to be adapt in case something went wrong (as it did here). And there is a part of me that wonders if he still won't just use the same ruse a second time, targeting Mercy again. There really is no answer to that other than things might have changed very quickly with the police got hit by the weapon. Politics being politics, maybe they'd think about trying again with something that just blew up in their face. Not to say they won't try something, but there is that hope, perhaps, that the attack on the station was just the start of something, a spark that would light something more widespread. I'd almost be interesting to return to Non at some point, which is strange for stories that I don't really start out thinking will be part of a series. But as none of my series stories have been bought, maybe I just need to make a series out of a standalone. Hmm…

Anyway, the story is also more science fictional than I normally go, a sort of punk dystopia story which I know are fairly common but that I was drawn to here. Obviously the time and place are nebulous. Who knows if this is Earth or not, the future or not, and there's a bit of a closed-in feeling to it, the idea that Non has never see the sky, that things don't sound all that good anywhere but that the best things are obviously organized with the rich at the top. And I don't know, it was a story that I felt worked all right around that idea of nothingness. At least I hope it does. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, October 16, 2015

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #65

More than anything, this issue of Lightspeed prompts me to examine my definition of strange. Because these stories are all a bit...well, some of them get very abstract. Surreal. From the science fiction to the fantasy, this month is about outlines and sketches, about things that jar and upset and beg to be examined deeply. Four stories, as normal, and all of them with a nice heaping helping of strange. Of Weird. And all the better for it. So time to review!

Art by Blaithiel

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Quick Sips - Shimmer #27 (October Stuff)

I have some mixed emotions about Shimmer this month. Firstly, it's good. Damn good. Secondly, it's short. Damn short. Which fills me with both immense joy and immense sorrow. Joy because this month is slowly (or not so slowly) killing me with all the fiction out. But sorrow because I want to read more of this. I want more stories like these. Dark and unsettling and yet focused on relationships that shine, that make me all warm inside. About the redemptive power of relationships in the face of loss, these stories to a great job hitting hard despite their short lengths. So to the reviews!



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Quick Sips - Uncanny #6 (October Stuff)

In a month that is dominated by the spooky, the dark, Uncanny Magazine presents a nice array of stories, poetry, and nonfiction that are...reaching. Not light, perhaps, but dense rather than dark, yearning rather than scary. Most of the works have a delicious way of not offering closure, not really offering answers. The endings are all lingering promises. Even the nonfiction doesn't offer a solution to everything, more highlights a problem and a possible direction to go and allows the reader to follow onward, to make the steps themself. It makes for a lovely issue that I should just get to reviewing.




Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #109

Keeping with the theme of tons of fiction in October, Clarkesworld is new and offering five pieces of new fiction. I'd be angrier with the story-load as a whole except the month has managed to be mostly incredibly good so far. Seriously, there have been some amazing stories, and this month's Clarkesworld is no exception, taking some mostly science fictional views of the world. Indeed, I think all of these stories swing much more science fiction than fantasy, though there are of course elements in some of them that could be a bit more magical. Whatever the case, most of the imagine futures, imagine situations, where people see the need for action and act. Not always with the greatest of outcomes, but with a strength to take control of their presents and their pasts, to try and reach for a better future. So to the reviews!
Art by Shichigoro-Shingo



Monday, October 12, 2015

Quick Sips - Unlikely Story #12 - The Journal of Unlikely Academia

Hot off becoming the latest SFWA-qualifying market, Unlikely Story is finally out with its new issue, the Journal of Unlikely Academia. And, well, it is not a small issue. Eight stories, with many over 6,000 words. The good news? They fucking rock. The issue shows why Unlikely Story deserves that SFWA seal of approval, with stories that run from bawlingly tragic to fist-pumpingly inspiring with many stops in between. The theme is about learning, about school, and these eight stories do a hell of a job exploring those ideas. So to the reviews!


Art by Patricio Beteo

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Send in the Clowns (part 1)

My story, “Tramposo,” is available now in the latest issue of Lamplight Magazine. I’m super excited to be in such illustrious company, sharing the issue with none other than Tim Waggoner, whose licensed fiction I have quite enjoyed (his Lady Ruin Eberron tie-in is quite good). Also his blog, which I find really helpful. Anyway, the story is a science fiction horror and well…I have something to confess about it. Something that might not really come as a surprise but something I feel kind of guilty about.

I was not expecting it to sell. Like, at all. Not because I don’t like it but because I thought it was way too obviously written for a call that had nothing to do with Lamplight. And, I’m guessing, when people realize you’re sending them a story that was written for something else, they get a little grumpy. I’ve seen it on a list of “don’t do this” things for authors submitting to places. And I ignore this. All. The. Time. Because, really, many of my stories start as ideas for themed calls. And when they get rejected, what, I’m supposed to just give up on that story forever? So I send them back out, but I normally think their chances are greatly reduced in selling. And especially so because “Tramposo” is a clown story.

I actually have a different story, “Pushpin and Pullpin,” coming out at Unlikely Story for their Unlikely Clowns Redux. And, to be honest, I didn’t actually submit “Tramposo” to either of their calls. I wrote it for the first call along with another which I ended up submitting, which ended up getting rejected, which involved Clowninjas and was sort of insane. But I had “Tramposo,” which is science fiction horror involving clowns, and I thought I might as well start sending it around. In my mind it’s like Clownthulhu in space (spoilers?). I had a lot of fun with it, and I wanted to see it find a home, I just never really thought it would.

So surprise surprise it did and now I have this slight guilt that I somehow deceived Lamplight by not including in my cover letter that it was written for another call (even if I never actually submitted it to that call). Probably I’m just all sorts of nervous about submitting. Still, after three years of constant submitting. I still get a bit squeamish about sending things out, worried that they’re somehow against the rules. And I guess I have a weird guilt about actually getting paid for doing something that at least some venues specifically ask writers not do. But the editor liked the story, and maybe that’s the important part? That if you have a story, regardless of where it came from, you should try to send it out? Maybe?

In any event, I hope people like this, which will be my first clown flash fiction story out this month, but not the last. So much clown flash! Anyway, maybe check it out. It’s very short and I tried to write it tense and weird and perhaps a bit unsettling. Did I succeed? Read to find out!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, October 9, 2015

Quick Sips - Crossed Genres #34 - Sport

So the theme for this month is sport over at Crossed Genres, and wow do these stories take that in some interesting directions. From uplifting to shattering to funny as hell, there are some very different moods from story to story. But all of them work, and all of them are fun and show people at their best and worst, straining for greatness while plagued by the possibility of defeat. This month's issue is all about overcoming hardship, and I'm going to follow suit by overcoming the enormous pile of things I have to review this month. Onward!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Quick Sips - Omenana #4

The cover says September but apparently I missed it at the end of the month so I'm considering the new Omenana issue an October release. And, as always, it is damn good. The stories are a rather even mix of fantasy and science fiction, with an toward the weird and unsettling. I love reading these issues because invariably I am left a bit shaken by it, in part because these stories do defy expectations and go places that I'm not always ready for. But the ride is always worth it, and so I'm going to get to reviewing!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #183

Well Beneath Ceaseless Skies is celebrating again! What exactly? Being around of seven years! But I don't need an excuse to drink--I mean, celebrate. It means some extra fiction. I'm skipping over the reprint but the rest of the fiction is...well, there's a lot of it. About 30,000 words of original fiction. So no joking. And it is emotionally devastating. Devastating. I am in ruins over here, trying to type this. It's...it's good. But wow, I don't know how much my heart can take. I better get to the reviews.


Art by Feliks Grzesiczek

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Monthly Round is Up!

You heard it right, the Monthly Round is up at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together!

September recommendations include:

Tasting Flight

"The Occidental Bride" by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Clarkesworld #108)
"Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions" by Gwendolyn Kiste (Nightmare #36)
"Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World" by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed #64)
"The Oiran's Song" by Isabel Yap (Uncanny #6)
"Mountain" by Liu Cixin, translated by Holger Nahm (Apex #76)
"Bodies Are the Strongest Conductors" by James Robert Herndon (Strange Horizons)

Shots

"The Attic of Memories" by Sunil Patel (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)
"The Wedding Gig" by John League (Flash Fiction Online)
"Homesick" by Debbie Urbanski (Terraform)

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online October 2015

This October issue of Flash Fiction Online certainly brings the spooky. Or at least the dark as hell. Because yeah, most of these stories are a bit light on the...uh...light, I guess. They are moody and dark and somewhat bleak, but mixed in there is also a sense, however fleeting, of hope. Of trying to get to a better place. And, maybe, by the end, of getting there. So let's get to some stories!


Art by Dario Bijelac

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Quick Links - 10/04/2015

So you know how I said I was behind on some reviews. Well, I (mostly) caught up on them. So hurrah! Also had some go up elsewhere so those are here as well. Again, I've had the good luck of liking most of these, with no "negative" scores. It's actually been a little while since I read a book I disliked, which is nice, but some of these had some problems that were harder to ignore, so yeah. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Secret Coders Vol. 1 by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - This was a rather cute start to a series but didn't really feel whole to me. It ends on a cliffhanger and while I think that can work from time to time, I wasn't completely sold. Still, not a bad read.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (Goodreads, my score 5/5) - I LOVED IT! It was amazing and examined sexuality and choice and freedom and systems of power and yes, this one fully lived up to my hopes after The Left Hand of Darkness. Go read this one!

Making Wolf by Tade Thompson (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Another great book and one whose grittiness surpasses anything I've read before. It's not perhaps the kind of book that I seek out but it is brutal and good and provocative and another one to challenge yourself with.

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - This one did not really live up to the others in the series. It's a fine book, and super short, but it didn't really do as much as the other books in the series. Next to The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness it's...well, good, but not on the same level.

Pluto Vol. 7 by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Finally I got back to reading this series after having waited for a while to get the last two books. It's a great series, and the mystery here is finally wrapping up. Another rather heartbreaking installment.

Secret Coders Vol. 1 by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (Kidsreads) - Same as above, but a bit more polished because it's for a site and not for just me. Still, glad I read it so I could enjoy the extra at Tor that much more. Indeed!

And there you have it. Pretty much entirely Goodreads reviews, but I managed to mostly caught up on things. Now to get behind again! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Quick Thoughts - The Hungry and the Full

So occasionally I see posts up about the state of short SFF. I see complaints and warnings and, for the most part, I think "huh, okay." I see things about how people don't read short SFF. Which is...well, I read about as much short SFF as is humanly possible and I know, I know, I also write and review so I'm not like a casual reader of short SFF and where are those guys anyway? I mean, come on, SFF novels get tons of casual readers, so the same should be true for short SFF, right? Right?

Now I'm going to say a few things that are going to be controversial. One is: I think that people, given the choice, gravitate more toward novels than short fiction. In general, because novels offer more pay off, because novels offer the larger landscape to explore, the greater depth. Now, I love short SFF, but I love SFF novels as well. And I hear that short SFF needs to do more to attract novel readers. But...

Second controversial thing: the reason we don't see a huge overlap between casual SFF novel readers and casual short SFF readers is because casual SFF novel readers are full. They are sated. Really, look at how many science fiction and fantasy novels are out every year. That make no real attempt to be "literary" or anything like that. Not like the Puppies had to try had to find a slew of novels to promote. A reader wanting "fun SFF stories" (regardless of how much I dislike that description) need only walk into a box book store to find dozens. An entire section of books geared just for them, to their tastes. What cause have they to seek out short SFF? Why should they bother when their needs are being met?

Now, if I wanted to go into a big box bookstore and looked around I'd find a lot of books I might enjoy. But I will likely not find the books that make me the most excited. That might be starting to change. Maybe now I can find one or two. But I'd be better off turning elsewhere, because I'm hungry for stories. Where do I turn? Third controversial thing: short SFF seems disproportionately "literary" or "diverse" or "whatever-the-fuck-you're-complaint-is" because within short SFF that's exactly what is wanted. Because short SFF is where the hungry go to be fed. It's where people who are turned off by most of what they see at the novel level of SFF go to find things that maybe, maybe provide some representation and voice and presence.

Is there an abundance of publications of short SFF? Maybe. Some days it seems that way and some day it seems so far from the truth that it's not funny. But I hate, hate, the call to pull short SFF in a more "mainstream" direction. Not only is that not what most short SFF readers seem to want, but it's not what most mainstream SFF readers want. They could honestly mostly not be assed to seek out short fiction. They'll wait for Gaiman's next collection. They'll wait for the god damn book. Because they are so full and secure in their fullness that they are basically guaranteed a book for their favorite author. Seeking out short SFF would be to garnish their steak and potatoes. For the rest of us? Short SFF is more like our bread, and there's really no steak to be seen.

Might there be a market correction at some point? Maybe. It's possible that there will come a time when the people who have flocked to short SFF to find the stories that aren't getting published as novels, or in collections at the big Houses, will finally be fed. There are more novels from short SFF authors that are considered "too literary" and "too diverse." I don't necessarily think that such a time is right around the corner. I see a lot of people who don't otherwise have a lot of power, who might not have a lot of funds, still hungry for stories, and finding it in short SFF is still their best bet. So I imagine we will continue to see new projects, and that some will fail, and some will stay. I imagine there will be corrections, but as long as there are those hungry not getting fed by novels, they will find their way to short SFF, which is, by and large, ready to welcome them with something to eat, something to read.

So yeah, this is why when things happen to denigrate short SFF, especially by "SFF fans," I get a bit angry. Like they can't stand that there is a place the hungry can go to read what they want. That they want more garnishes, even if they aren't going to eat them. Like someone seeing a vegetarian table at a buffet and wanting to shit on it because they don't like it. When they have an entire buffet of other things. When they can eat from that table as well and maybe like the food. That the mere existence of something catering to someone else is offensive. And it's...well, it's just pretty awful. That's what the Puppies were. To which I always want to say, it's not that these people are unwelcome in short SFF, it's that they don't want to be there. They want their steak and potatoes and bacon-wrapped sausages. And they get them. Maybe they could not shit all over what to some is the only food available to them.

Anyway, metaphor's probably long dead, so I'll stop. But there it is. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quick Sips - Tor.com September 2015 (part 2)

Here is the second part of my review of this month's Tor stories. And yes, I am glad that I broke these up, because not only is there more fiction but another graphic story that I wanted to review, having just read the thing that it spins out of. All in all, it's another fine month from Tor, with a lot of fun and some darker and more poignant moments as well. Most of the stuff in this installment, though, is tie-in material, or at least stories that seem to fit within larger narratives. Interesting work, and for those looking for some new series, maybe the tastes will be tantalizing enough to seek further. Anyway, to the reviews!


Art by Goñi Montes