Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Quick Sips - Terraform August 2016


Among other things, this month's offerings from Terraform show the beginning of a project devoted to augmentation. To augmented reality and augmented humanity. To stories that explore, to mixed results, the blurry lines between humanity and machine, the virtual and the "real." That on top of a pair of stories that take a look at settings that delve into the bleak future of climate change and, in some ways, post-climate change, to what the planet might look like if we continue on the trajectory we're on now. All the stories follow through on Terraform's promise of showing startling visions of the future, though perhaps some I fine more compelling than others. In any case, to the reviews! 


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers August 2016


The Year of the Superhero keeps on soaring at The Book Smugglers with two new stories, one set in a novel universe and one all new and all adorable. These are stories that mix hope and fear, buried pain and the hope of healing. These look at powers but also powerlessness, about clawing to try and get what power you can and maybe finding that it's not enough, or it's not what you really wanted after all. These are stories with a nice depth and an uplifting stubbornness, and they are definitely worth some time and attention. That said, to the reviews! 

Art by Sparrows

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #206


The two stories in this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies look at politics and conflict and the ethics of action and inaction. Both stories look at complex situation, either global wars or mass uprisings, and how a single person has decisions to make in the face of such violence and uncertainty. And where the first story looks at the power one person can wield to shape events, the second story shows how sometimes the right thing to do is to walk away. These are stories that build vivid settings and populate them with complex characters and situations that live and breathe fantasy. So to the reviews! 

Art by Marek Hlavaty

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Quick Thoughts - The "Trouble" with SFF

So I was just writing up my review of Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott when an entirely new and deeper reading of the novel occurred to me, one that has everything to do with SFF and writing and fandom. One that I'm a bit surprised didn't occur to me as I was reading and is part of why I love to think about stories, why I like to write about stories. [SPOILERS FOR A FAIRLY OLD NOVEL] The novel is a cyberpunky tale about a group of queer hackers who have all brain worms, something that's dangerous to have installed (comes with a risk of brain damage as it is, after all, brain surgery and rather illegal in America where the novel is based in) and allows them to experience the web differently, more intensely. Now, these hackers are all part of the same clique because they're queer, because being queer doesn't really make them popular. They all have the brain worms essentially because they have nothing much to lose. For them they're already at risk and so the prospect of risking themselves further isn't that much of a stretch. And because of their talent and their drive to carve out a space for themselves, they're among the best hackers out there. Which, again, doesn't really make them popular. They’re "political," which for the straight hackers means they're not as good, that the brain worms are the only reason they can do anything.

And…and in thinking about that I'm struck by how resonant it is now, especially in SFF. Not just for queer writers but for really all marginalized writers. That we get labeled as "political" and, so the logic goes, inferior. People claim that we have an unfair advantage because of "PC culture" and affirmative action as if it still isn't more dangerous to be a non-dominant writer. A queer writer. A writer of color. A neurodiverse writer. Now, like in the novel, the danger might not be the same for all people. Certainly money has a lot to do with it. People who can afford to have the surgery done where it is safer are, well, safer. People who operate under the protection of large corporations are safer. There is definitely something to be said about the ways in which these queer hackers risk themselves. But regardless of their protections, they are not safe from people claiming that they haven't earned what they have. Not from "imposter syndrome," which is something completely different, but from their peers treating them differently and negatively because of a perceived advantage. They are not safe from the resentment and harassment of the larger community and especially from those who feel that their differences make them a stain on the landscape.

Of course, the novel is about this group of queer hackers overcoming the patriarchy and overthrowing the broken systems. Expelling the worst of the shitholes and setting up a new order that might not be perfect but is at least trying for something better. So of course I love it.

But it seems especially topical now, when people are coming out the woodwork to decry diverse writers as "special snowflakes." To claim that the success of marginalized writers is only because they get bonus points for being marginalized. Is only because of their brain worms. Not that being marginalized gave these writers the experiences and drive to succeed. Not that being marginalized made it even more important that they innovate, that they push forward, because they never would have been let in to the community as it was. They had to first build their own. They had to first be better. Better than the dominant group. Better hackers, better writers. And I think that the direction that SFF has gone reflects that. Why have awards moved the direction they have. Is it because "PC culture" dictates that inferior writers receive higher praise? That there's some large conspiracy at work to keep out straight white cis-men from being lauded? Or is it possible that the stories winning awards are just better?

In Trouble and Her Friends, there is never a moment when Trouble gets to stare into the face of her opponent in triumph. He would quite literally rather die and take down as much as he can in the process than be held accountable for his own crimes. He would rather ruin the world and the community that he claims is important to him than admit that he had been bested by a queer woman. And that doesn't sound familiar at all, I'm sure, with the Puppies still trying to do as much harm as they can to the genres they claim to love. It's almost sad that a novel written over twenty years ago is so timely now. Almost sad, though, because by the time the antagonist of the story is trying to destroy everything rather than change, the heroes have almost won. As much as they can win. Theirs, and ours, is not a world where victory is going to look like 24/7 queer vodka parties. Both are worlds where victory means more work, more care, more craft, and more community. It means not making the same mistakes as those who held power so corruptly for so long. But it is victory all the same. A victory so many are fighting for. A victory, I hope, that's getting closer daily. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, August 26, 2016

Quick Sips - Nightmare #47


The two stories in this month's Nightmare Magazine offer up glimpses into what might have been. In the first, a woman is haunted by her past, by a loss she suffered and can't seem to get over. The same is true in the second story, as well, where the main character is prompted to action following the murder of his mother. In both instances the characters seek to deal with the nature of their losses. They both avoid and confront the specters of their lost loved ones and strive to do something about it. For the second story, that means trying to avenge a death. In the first story, that means trying to undo the death. It's a nicely paired selection of dark tales with a strong look backward into the past. To the reviews! 

Art by Jana Heidersdorf

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quick Sips - Apex #87


August has arrive and with it the approach of autumn, which means at Apex Magazine it's a month for stories about death, beauty, and the vastness of space. There's three fiction pieces and four poems in this issue and a solid theme of complicity, murder, freedom, and dissolution. These are stories that examine the morality of killing and the morality of letting others kill. The burden of living chained and the desire for freedom. The small ways that beauty grows and flourishes even in the darkness. It's an issue full of blood and hope, and I'm just going to get to those reviews! 

Art by Marcela Bolivar

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #29


The latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is out and represents the first full issue I'm reviewing of the publication. There's certainly a nice mix of prose and poetry, with almost more poetry words than fiction ones thanks to an epic poem that's at least novelette-length (though only the first part is available this issue). The poetry examines classics in fantasy, from knights to death to barmaids. And the fiction…well, the fiction is certainly an interesting collection of elements that twist expectations. Shadows and swords, ships and subterfuge, and…shit balance out the short stories and make for a memorable experience. So let's get to the reviews! 

Art by Vuk Kostic

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #5&6


The wait is over and Mithila Review is back with a double issue of content! Which, yeah, there's A LOT to read through. Just…just look at all the interviews. And fiction and poetry and nonfiction and… O.O Which is why this time I'm going to be sticking to my regular policy and reviewing just the original pieces. Which still leaves four short stories and six poems and is, well, still a lot. And is still amazing. There are a number of threads that weave the stories together, but I think the strongest is the ideas of loss and yearning. These are pieces that know what it is to hope but also know that hope alone is not enough. They are at turns brutal and tender, far reaching and intimate. And before I gush too much, I should get to the reviews! 

Art by Likhain

Monday, August 22, 2016

Quick Sips - Omenana #7


After a bit of a break Omenana is back with a full issue of fiction and nonfiction and art (my glob the cover is gorgeous!). The stories this issue seem to take a look at institutions. Not necessarily physical ones, but rather ideological institutions. Religion. Law. Parenthood. Masculinity. Employment. The stories examine the way these forces and concepts shape how people move through the world. How they interact and relate to each other. How they foster guilt and shame and violence and death. It's a rich issue that covers fantasy and science fiction, hope and loss and despair. And I should just get to those reviews! 

Art by Sunny Efemena

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Quick Thoughts - My Road to SFWA Eligibility

So I think I am now officially SFWA qualifying. I haven't applied or anything yet but I'm 90% sure that I've now sold 10k of SFWA eligible fiction. So yeah, balloons and streamers and beer time! This is something…well, something that I've probably complained too much about because it feels like it's taken a long time, probably because I shouldn't compare myself to other writers. But I figured that maybe I would share a bit of my journey to this point as a writer, complete with stats. So…yeah!

05/21/2012 – My first fiction submission
This is where I mark the official "start" of my journey because, while it's slightly arbitrary, it's when I started submitting to pro SFF markets and that's something.

01/25/2013 – My first sale [24 submissions / 15 rejections]
$10!!! To a publication that shuttered just three months later. But that first taste of sweet, sweet sales.

01/22/2015 – My first Pro sale [360 submissions / 320 rejections] [3519 words toward SFWA]
"Spring Thaw" [7 rejections prior to pub] was my pro first sale and appeared at Nightmare in 2015 (so I'm still Campbell eligible in 2016 fwiw). I still really like this story and I still very much love Nightmare.

03/22/2015 – 2nd Pro sale [398 submissions / 361 rejections] [4791 words toward SFWA]
"Rubbing is Racing" [0 rejections prior to pub] was picked up by Lightspeed as part of their Queer's Destroy Science Fiction special issue. It was the first time I sold a story on my very first submission.

09/05/2015 – 3rd Pro Sale [496 submissions / 453 rejections] [5791 words toward SFWA]
"Pushpin and Pullpin" [0 rejections prior to pub] was picked up by Unlikely Story for Clowns 2.0: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix. I tend to have very good luck with shorter word-count open calls. This was my first pro sale that didn't appear for free online and I'm guessing few people have read this one. I think that under the old rules this is where I would have been eligible to join the SFWA.

02/03/2016 – Pro rate but not SFWA qualifying sale [546 submissions / 503 rejections] [5791 words toward SFWA]
"Medium" [8 rejections prior to pub] was taken by The Book Smugglers for their first Quarterly Almanac. It was a pro-rate sale but I was informed by the SFWA that it wouldn't count toward qualification. Another print only sale so again, not sure how many people have actually read this one.

04/24/2016 – 4th Pro sale [578 submissions / 533 rejections] [7141 words toward SFWA]
"Burning Day" [either 0 or 5 rejections prior to pub, depending how you look at it] was taken by Unlikely Story to appear in their Journal of Unlikely Observances. After the disappointment of my last sale not counting this one was a way to build up momentum again.

06/06/2016 – 5th Pro sale [586 submissions / 542 rejections] [9841 words toward SFWA]
"The Death of Paul Bunyan" (working title) [5 rejections prior to pub] sold to Lightspeed for a regular issue, which I am super excited about! But I think I almost cried when I saw I was 160 words away from qualifying. Seriously.

08/13/2016 – 6th Pro sale [599 submissions / 555 rejections] [12218 words toward SFWA]
"???" [5 rejections prior to sale] sold but hasn't been announced yet. But it has pushed me over the edge and I am firmly into SFWA Land. This also comes during something of a slump in submissions as I had been shit at writing for a while there. I'm hoping my submissions will get better soon, and I'll be able to sell even more!

And there you go. Obviously there's a bit to unpack in all that, as I have zero idea how typical I am as a SFF writer. It took roughly 2.5 years from my first submission to my first pro acceptance, and about 360 submissions. It took 4.25 years and just shy of 600 submissions for me to reach SFWA qualification. Now, in that time I did have a number of semi-pro sales, and continue to have those. I just wanted to look at Pro sales for purposes of SFWA qualification because that was the hurdle I just managed to clear. I'm not sure when I'll apply for membership, as I have to look into all of that, but I imagine that I will fairly soon.

I think when I started doing this back in 2012 I thought it would take like a year tops to reach SFWA. I had…no idea of how it worked. I was isolated and with only other writers who didn't know the process. Since then my metric of success has certainly changed. I did no great dance when I got my last sale. I mean, it's amazing and I'm very excited about it, because I am about every sale. But I definitely see how hard it will always be and how…conflicting being a writer of SFF is now. I've said this elsewhere but I still very much love SFF. As a reader I find so many great stories. As a writer…well, I try to do the best I can. I don't know what that means, most of the time. I'm tired and frayed and almost too afraid to hope for too much anymore. But I'm still here.

And I still have goals. Right now they are pretty simple, I think. I want to write some longer stories. My longest pro sale is under 4k and I'd like some longer, not just because it pays more but that, too. There's still a long list of dream publications that I need to keep submitting to. Maybe some time I can do a collaborative story. That would be weird. But yeah, for now at least I can check off "Qualify for the SFWA" from my list of things to do. On to the next thing. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, August 19, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #205


The stories of this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies look at violations. Abuses. The ways in which consent can be perverted, that relationships can become harmful. The stories look at how situations can become tainted, can become toxic. How, in the end, sometimes the best option is to escape. Sometimes the only hope is in escape. And perhaps to some extent in taking steps to remove the abusers from power. These are complex stories with that examine power and abuse and hope. Time to review! 

Art by Marek Hlavaty

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Quick Sips - Orthogonal SF: Code


The second issue of Orthogonal SF is out and this time it's focusing on the theme of codes. Not necessarily in the traditional sense of puzzles and ciphers, though. Instead, these stories seem to rely more on language as code. As sensation as code. About interpreting what is foreign, what is alien, and trying to make sense of it while realizing that our lives are codes, are narratives, and how we shape those narratives shapes just not our perception of the universe but the actual shape of the universe as well. These stories are at times opaque and quite stylistic but pointedly so and movingly so and so, without further delay, I will get to reviewing them! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Quick Sips - Shimmer #32 (August Stuff)


The two stories that make up Shimmer's August offerings are…well, in some ways they are incredibly different. One's a contemporary story light on speculative elements and heavy on fun and the other is a solidly fantasy piece steeped in death and violence and tragedy. And yet, for all their differences, the two stories are also about being swept away by desires. By illusions. About having to make the decision to take something or keep yourself. And in both cases, when the people lose themselves it's not a good thing. It's an end to the adventure. An end to the fun. It's a tragedy, a death, a lament. What also links these stories is that they're incredibly good, and close out another excellent issue of the publication. So to the reviews! 

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Quick Sips - Uncanny #11 (August Stuff)


The August content of Uncanny Magazine certainly doesn't pull its punches, with two stories, two poems, and two pieces of nonfiction that all hit with a power that leaves a lasting impact. Oh, and if you didn't realize, they're funding Year Three RIGHT NOW! IT IS THE LAST DAY GO!!! Ahem, but anyway...the fiction and poetry especially seem to come from places of hurt and hope. From a world that has failed in a rather fundamental way, that has let people down. That only works for some and for others not at all. Where people struggle to find some plan, some frame that makes it make sense only to have the rug pulled out from under them. These are uncomfortable pieces, mainly, but ones that don't allow the reader to look away, that confront them with the knowledge and the feeling of those hurt. So yeah, to the reviews! 

Art by Javier Caparo

Monday, August 15, 2016

Strange Horizons 08/01/2016 & 08/08/2016


Well, I'll try not to be too sad that Our Queer Planet is done with and instead focus on the fact that Strange Horizons continues with two more weeks of SFF fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. There's a return of the multi-part story (and a nicely subverted fairy tale, at that) which clocks in just into novelette range (by my count), two poems that really don't pull their punches, and two nicely paired nonfiction pieces that examine popular art and what to do when certain aspects of a text don't seem to work quite as well as others. All in all it's a great two weeks of content and helps to relieve a bit of the sting left by Our Queer Planet only having lasted a month. To the reviews! 

Art by Melissa Pagluica

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Quick Thoughts - 500 Strong

So those math-inclined out there, you may have noticed that Quick Sip Reviews is now over 500 posts old. I'm not even sure what to call this. Not exactly an anniversary (though this moment comes I think almost exactly one year and seven months after QSR first lanched) or a birthday or anything like that. More like…a milestone. At the very least, it seems like an excuse to take a break from heavier thoughts and just sort of…check in.

Sometimes I wonder what I would think if I looked back at my earliest reviews and compared them to what I'm doing now. Note: I do not often look back at my reviews outside about a month (because they help me pick my favorite stories for the Monthly Round). And I know that so much has changed since I changed that QSR now is…well, considerably different from how I started out. The reviews are certainly longer. And maybe more intelligent? Or more thoughtful? Or…something? It's hard to say because when I started doing these reviews I thought that they'd be shorter than my Monthly Round reviews and now…well, if anything they tend to be longer. I also tend to do more reviews per post now. And I review more publications.

I sort of went through my stats for the first seven months of the year. I have reviewed (through July) 440 short stories, 105 poems, and 24 nonfiction works. For comparison, in 2015 I reviewed 742 short stories. Which means that I've reviewed 1182 short stories since I've begun, and with nonfiction and poetry probably close to 1500 individual works of SFF. Which, hey, not bad I hope. Probably I'll sound like a broken record because I tend to return time after time to say basically the same thing but with new numbers. Probably to help me stay sane. I'm still here. I'm still reviewing. And I still love it. SFF still inspires me and I continue to believe that the absolute best SFF ever produced is coming out now. In terms of representation and complexity and fun? Yeah, right now. I tend to be in the camp of thinking things get better over time, which means we're always on the cusp of something amazing. And I really do see that reflected in short SFF.

When I think about what I'm doing now in reviewing SFF I'm…actually fairly okay at the moment. I mean, there are projects that I want to do. There are other publications that I'd like to review. And maybe at some point I'll be looking into what I review and might have to make some decisions there. But for now…well, I'm busy. I'm writing over 30k of reviews a month and have been since sometime in 2015. It's been…well, as I said, busy. I'm not even sure that I thought I'd last this long when I started. I still worry about burnout, but I've been doing this for so long that I don't think I could stop. Not with things as they stand. I just like doing it too much.

So let me just say thank you. For all who read and enjoy these reviews, thank you. For any who have helped signal boost or pointed others in my direction, thank you. I hope that people enjoy what I do here, and I hope that I'll be doing it for quite some time to come. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Monthly Round is Up!

Go over to Nerds of a Feather and check out my favorite stories of July 2016 paired with alcoholic beverages and reviewed for your amusement and enlightenment. Or, if that's too much work, just a list is below. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - July 2016
"The Sound a Raven Makes" by Mathew Scaletta (GigaNotoSaurus)
"Postcards from Natalie" by Carrie Laben (The Dark #14)
"Her Sacred Spirit Soars" by S. Qiouyi Lu (Strange Horizons)
"The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles" by Rachael K. Jones (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #203)
"The Automatic Prime Ministers" by Kate Heartfield (Lackington's #10)
"Painted Grassy Mire" by Nicasio Andres Reed (Shimmer #32)

Shots:
"Love Out of Season" by Caroline M. Yoachim (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #235)
"War Profiteering" by M. Darusha Wehm (Mothership Zeta #4)
"Old Customs" by Rajiv Moté (Unlikely Story #12.5)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #119


It's a month of surprises at Clarkesworld this August, as there is an extra original story plus a story in translation from German instead of the usual Chinese translation. So there's definitely a lot to see with four short stories and two longer novelettes. The good news is that it's all weird. Seriously, these are stories that push at the boundaries of the imagination. That conjure up strange worlds and uncertain realities and the vastness and power of both space and violence. Stories that set aliens next to 50's greasers and mix time travel, tragedy, and immigration. And through it all there's a sense of yearning that pervades. For a brighter future, a peaceful cooperation, and the comfort of another presence. To the reviews! 

Art by Jaroslaw Marcinek

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus August 2016


This month's offering from GigaNotoSaurus is probably the least speculative story I've read from the publication so far, but is still solidly a historical fantasy that blends adventure, intrigue, and just a hint of magic. In many ways it reminds me more of early weird fiction, set in a past where things seem historical but with just a bit of a twist. Some dark corner of the world that you can almost believe exists, though this story foregoes trying to frame itself as a found text. What it does, though, is fun and well paced, a mystery in a musty manor complete with hungry hours, suspicious servants, and creepy crawlers (some of whom walk about on two legs and are complete assholes). So yeah, to the review!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2016


This month's stories at Flash Fiction Online do a nice job of capturing in bite-sized servings the charm and potential of SFF. Both in how they handle classic tropes like time travel and the Fae and how they innovate through novel uses of narrative, plot structure, and voice. The stories manage to do a lot in the short confines of their flash lengths, and they provide compelling tastes of these various settings, these various genres. What results are three stories that are at turns tragic and touching, hellish and hopeful. So yeah, let's get to the reviews! 

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, August 8, 2016

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #75


Following a very tightly knit July issue, I hesitate to say that Lightspeed's August stories lack such a driving theme. There is the sense that many of the stories deal with reconciliation and reconnecting. But the thematic connections are a bit fainter than last month. The worlds revealed are no less fantastic, though. From an Earth on the verge of alien contact to a fantasy world nearly ripped apart by war, the stories take stock of setting and mix in some rather large philosophical ideas. And at the core of each is the beating heart of humanity. Afraid, yearning, hurt, healing…these are stories that reveal something deep about how people interact and how they dream. And they're lots of fun. So to the reviews! 

Art by Elizabeth Leggett

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Quick Thoughts - The WFC and the Road of Canon

So maybe you heard about the kerfluffle surrounding the programming at the World Fantasy Convention. I must say, it looks a bit grim. And by that, of course, I mean that there's probably a panel about how the Brothers Grimm are a recent example of innovators in the field of fairy tales. And hey, this does give me the chance to get on my soapbox and talk a bit about one of my favorite terrible subjects—canon. Because what's at the heart of this discussion, to me—what's at the heart of a lot of what's going on in SFF, surrounds the SFF canon. Who gets to define it and who gets immortalized by it and who gets erased by it.

To me, the canon is a web. Or a tree. Or, for the purposes of this discussion, a system of roads. These roads have beginnings outside of SFF and lead in. To pull an example from this latest episode, they start with Aesop and Chaucer and lead in to Richard Adams and to…whoever is still doing that whole animal-fantasy thing these days. It starts with Tolkein and leads into Jordan and Martin and other straight white men. The WFC lays outs its map of SFF quite plainly, and uses as its justification for its choices that these works are the SFF canon. Done and done. Wipe your hands, walk away, because the argument has been victoried. I mean, no one would argue that Tolkein is canon, right? That people need to read Lovecraft in order to understand fantasy, right? I mean, only an idiot would argue with that.

I dislike shitting on other people's inroads into SFF. I myself trace my interest to Goosebumps. From there to The Dark is Rising. From there to Oz and Narnia and, yes, Tolkein and Jordan and pretty much all the authors who appear in Tor's Legends anthology. I was pretty strongly white and straight and male in my inroads to SFF. Which, I have to say, did me no real favors as a reader or writer (and especially as a queer reader and writer). It wasn't until I branched out, until I essentially left SFF and then worked my way back in through different roads that I came to better understand the genres and better appreciate the landscape of SFF. My problem with canon is that it paves only certain roads. It makes those roads easy. You move fast and there are gas stations and restaurants and other incentives for staying on. Maybe occasionally you can exit to check out little towns or scenic byways, but you are pressured to always get back on the main roads. To keep things running in this one direction.

Which completely overlooks the vastness of the genres. Which completely invalidates other people who might enter into SFF without every knowing or caring who Lovecraft was. Who Tolkien was. Or who knew who they were but had no interest in reading their works. More and more often people are entering SFF not through "classic" and canonical texts but through those overlooked by the canon. By texts that are not eligible. Films and video games, paranormal romance and YA. These are not the paved highways into SFF. These are the backroads where when you arrive to a discussion you're treated like you smell of dirt and dead skunk. These are the roads where when you maybe try to get onto the highway you find there's a toll you can't pay, or there's no exit for where you want to get off.

What the WFC is doing with its programming (or what the people in charge of that programming are doing) isn't surprising. It's been happening more and more of late, because with the rise of technology it's like having your own GPS so that you can navigate the backroads and still get to where you going. You can suddenly meet other people who know the same sights as you, who maybe have been to similar places. You can maybe start having discussions about books you care about, stories you'd rather be reading than anything in the SFF canon. And that isn't good for the people who have stayed on the highway their entire lives, who saw diverging as stupid and maybe a bit immoral. Suddenly they're the ones being left out of discussions. Suddenly they're the ones feeling like they're having a hard time. Which is bullshit because their roads are still paved, their books still in every goddamn bookstore. Just because there's a choice now to read other things doesn't mean it's the easier choice. There's a thousand people tripping over themselves to sell people things on the highway. Off the highway…not so much. The distance between places is greater in the backroads. And more places close down. It costs more to travel there. But for many that's much preferable to the shit they have to deal with on the highway.

What the WFC is doing with its programming (or what the people in charge of that programming are doing) is throwing a fit because slowly their sterilized past is changing. Shown to be not only inaccurate but unjust. People want to change the canon, want it to represent the great strength of SFF, and some people's reaction to that idea is to feel threatened. To feel like things will flip and that people will treat them as they have treated others. That they will be turned out into the backroads and told to walk. Which I don't think will ever happen. Most marginalized people I know don't want to marginalize others quite so much as they want to stop being marginalized. They don't want to oppress so much as they want to stop oppression. What the WFC could have done was embrace a vision of SFF that includes everyone. Instead they chose to double down on the harm being done, on the erasure and the marginalization of people who have always been a part of SFF. Maybe that wasn't their intent. But I sure as shit didn't feel like I was welcome when I read their panel descriptions, and I can't believe that wasn't in part the point of how it was written.

So how does this change? People know how this changes. At this point it's about more than just listening. It's about getting the fuck out of the way. Standing still in a genre that's changing, that should change, that needs to change, is standing in the way. If this is the best the WFC can do, then new people need to be in charge of the WFC. This is not the first con that's had issues. Other cons have been made to account for their shit and have improved their policies and worked to be more inviting and inclusive. We need to build better roads. We need to build a better canon. Bros are always on about killing their darlings and how great it is. Maybe they can start with their literary darlings by making room for a more representative SFF discussion.

Sorry, got kind of ranty there. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, August 5, 2016

Quick Sips - The Dark #15


The stories from The Dark Magazine this month seem to focus on families. Mothers and daughters. Or stepmothers and stepdaughters. These are stories about how things are inherited. How the darkness that the mother grows can reach for the daughter. Or how the stepmother can feed the stepdaughter to the darkness only to find it…doesn’t go to plan. As always with this publication the stories are filled with uncomfortable moments, unsettling silences, and some unforgettable horrors. Tackling fairy tales and apocalyptic destruction, they don’t pull their punches and are not for the faint of heart. To the reviews! 

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quick Sips - Mothership Zeta #4


With this, its fourth issue, Mothership Zeta celebrates its first year of publication. And it's quite a celebration, though also in some ways more restrained than some of its other issues. These stories are fun, yes, and hopeful yes, but more than that I think they show a bit more emotion, a bit more reaching toward compassion and understand. Many of the tales are romantic, showing two people coming together through difficult circumstances. Showing people starting new chapters in their lives, ready for some change, ready for something new and beautiful. That even in the dark of space or the sunless night there is some trace of warmth to be had, some hope to share in. So without further delay, to the reviews! 

Art by Wendy Xu

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2016


Politics are dominating the news of late, but the July Terraform stories take a bit of a step back from that. Sort of. These are glimpses of possible futures and they're definitely not bright, from a report on how humanity might be viewed through archeology to the nightmare of the future of online privacy to blood and chaos at the Olympic Village to a world where things are definitely not Okay. These are not overtly political pieces, in that they don't feature any political candidates, but at the same time they are deeply ideological, about what is at stake with the current conversations about privacy, against individual versus corporate rights, and about where we're steering our planet. It's a fascinating bunch of stories that I'm going to get to reviewing! 


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2016


Four stories anchor Tor dot com’s SFF short fiction offerings this month, and if I had to find a commonality between them I think I would choose a sort of wandering feeling. Or maybe wandering with a purpose. All four tales are a bit on the slower side, pacing-wise, making for some cerebral and rather philosophical stories. About loneliness and desperation. About purpose and meaning and the direction of life. About finding something to be happy with and something to struggle against. The stories all excel at place, at revealing a strange world. The inside of Abraham Lincoln’s head. An abyss that might be an alien portal. A distant world and a town by a haunted city. A busy hotel next to one of the world’s busiest airports. And in these worlds the readers are invited to learn something, to see something, and to take something with them when they go. So to the reviews! 

Art by Chris Buzelli

Monday, August 1, 2016

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/18/2016 & 07/25/2016

I think Strange Horizons is trying to kill my feels with Our Queer Planet, which keeps right on rolling along with double the poetry, double the nonfiction, and some excellent, amazing fiction. Seriously, I'm pretty sure these works have reduced me to a small puddle of feels that has sunk into the earth, become one with the stone, and then risen as some sort of Geodude of resolve. AND GEODUDES DON'T CRY! <breaks down weeping> Okay, I might not have recovered so well as I implied. But keep a box of tissues nearby and prepare for some reviews!
 
Art by Slimm Fabert