Monday, April 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #249

April brings two tales of magic and pain to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, featuring characters very much looking for cures for something and finding that those cures might not exist. In each, the characters face something that makes them look at what they do in a new light. Their mission and their identity is complicated and altered. How they respond to that is very different, though, with one person running away from the implications of their decisions and the other person ready to meet the full weight of what’s happening. Both stories also feature an interesting take on make and some intense battles. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Stefan Meisl

Friday, April 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #42 [April stuff]

April brings an amazing one-two punch to Shimmer Magazine, with a pair of stories that at turns devastate and heal. The month begins with a heavy darkness and a sound like angels crying. It focuses on loss and love and injustice and the weight of all those on a child, on a young adult. But just as all hope seems crushed and the tears are flowing, the issue offers a reprieve, a fun little story about the avoiding injustice, about defying expectations, and about finding something truly wonderful. These are two very different pieces but they go together so well. So well. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #107

The April stories from Apex Magazine are all about the toxicity of place and the inability to make good decisions in a broken system. Especially when you are vulnerable. Especially when you’re not meant to be a person with power. The stories look at how people in these situations strive to gain the freedom to make their own decisions, to control their own lives, only to find again and again any attempt to resist the system from the inside is co-opted and corrupted. And any attempt to get away from the system is prevented or resisted. Because these systems want victims, what those who can’t fight back. People still do, though, and the issue has a great assortment of stories that look at how difficult it is to reach for change when every avenue for reform seems to lead back to the same old hurts. To the reviews!

Art by Chase Hensen

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

X Marks the Story - April 2018

It's that time again. My latest X Marks the Story is up at The Book Smugglers. Go check it out here.

For those just wanting the sweet, sweet stories, here's a list of the 6 I featured this month (note, there's plenty more I included in the further x-plorations). Cheers!

“A Priest of Vast and Distant Places”, Cassandra Khaw (published in Apex Magazine #106, March 2018)
“The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes”, Siobhan Carrol (published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #247, March 2018 )
“Don’t Pack Hope”, Emma Osborne (published in Nightmare #67, April 2018)
“Being an Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club”, Nin Harris (published in The Dark #35, April 2018)
“Pistol Grip”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (published in Uncanny #21, March/April 2018)
"The Sower”, Takim Williams (published in Fiyah #6, April 2018)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #67

Horror comes with a second person perspective in the April offerings from Nightmare Magazine. And, like a lot of great SFF horror, these stories are largely about fear. In one, how a being that strikes fear into almost everyone that they come across is made to feel a bit of themself. In the other, how a person who has felt fear for most of their life finds themself in a position where all that training is paying off in the face of something huge and terrifying. It’s a nice one-two punch when it comes to stories, the first a bit more meandering and slow, the second immediate and intense. And both do a nice job of examining fear and how we experience it. To the reviews!

Art by Sean Gladwell / Fotolia

Monday, April 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #139

It’s a phenomenal April of fiction at Clarkesworld Magazine, with four short stories and a translated novelette to bite into. And these are evocative, emotional stories that look at connections and cooperation. That look at people helping people in many different ways. To comfort one another. To protect one another. But also to push one another to do better. To reach a fuller potential. To push toward a better future where we aren’t defined by hate and loss and sorrow. The stories are at times tinged by grief and tragedy, but they shine with a lovely strength, and a flowing sweep of language and ideas. It’s just a fantastically strong issue, and I’ll get to those reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Friday, April 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Julia Griffin

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #21 [April stuff]

It’s a full March at Uncanny Magazine, with three original stories and four poems to kick off what in most places is the start of spring. And in many ways these are stories about cold and warmth. About numb moments and numbed hurts and the awakening that spring can bring. Not an erasing or easing of pain but a revealing of it. A thawing, and through that thaw a return of sensation. Not always free of pain (in fact, often full of pain), but also full of the hope that spring can bring. That healing is possible, that live can continue, even after the hurt and desolation of winter. It’s just a powerful issue and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Nilah Magruder

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus April 2018

It’s a second world fantasy novelette that graces the pages of GigaNotoSaurus this month (err...graces the...screen?). And though I hesitate to compare stories to other stories, I think I will make an exception here because the story reminds me very much of the work of Guy Gavriel Kay. Building up a lush quasi-historical situation and populating that situation with people. Not heroes, necessarily, though history might remember them as such. Just people trying to live, trying to find ways to be happy amid a chaotic and turbulent world. The story explores cycles of violence and prejudice, and provides a touching and quiet take on a large and dramatic incident. To the review!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2018

Continuing the newer tradition of coming out with fairly thematically linked issues, Flash Fiction Online presents an April full of fools. Or maybe fooling. Also aliens. Yup, all three stories feature alien beings, and in most of them there’s also a vein of something...well, of someone pulling one over on someone else. Maybe it’s an actress tricking an alien monster to spare Earth, or a group of alien agents trying to set up first contact on the sly, or even the own paranoid post-drunken-weekend-in-Vegas thoughts of a man who might have just married an extraterrestrial. In any case, the stories are largely bright and fun, even when they brush against planet eating and possible invasion. So without further delay, to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, April 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah #6 [Big Mama Earth]

Entering into the meaty part of their second year of publication, Fiyah Magazine focuses on the theme of “Big Mama Nature,” exploring the natural world through the lens of black speculative fiction and poetry. There are four stories and one poem in the issue, and the genres range from eco-horror to science fiction to contemporary fantasy. They look at nature in many of its forms, as victim and as perpetrator of violence—as source of great power and home of great cruelty. In some of the pieces, the world is a living thing with a definite will, and in others it is a cold witness to the troubling events taking place on its skin. These are stories that reveal deep hurts—in people and in the planet—and don’t always offer pathways to healing. Through it all, though, I feel like hope hangs on, battered and bruised at times, but refusing to back down, and finding strength in community, family, and resilience. To the reviews!

Art by Jessica McCottrell

Friday, April 6, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #35

It’s March at The Dark Magazine and with spring comes two stories about women in isolation, surrounded by hunger and by darkness, and what they do to escape, to fall victim to it. Both stories find characters who are struggling with being on their own, either because their husband isn’t always around or because they don’t have one. The distance between them and other people becomes a place where dark things brew and ferment and begin to leak into their world, into their space. The characters must take action in an attempt to avoid the grasping hands of the dark, and yet not all actions will keep them safe. The stories explore the difference between waiting for the dark to come in and trying to get away from it. It makes for a tense, nail-biting issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Caro von Chaos

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #95

Two short stories and two novelettes mean a pretty full April for Lightspeed Magazine. And this month is certainly a strange one, looking at relationships and hurt and the prospect of finding happiness in a deeply imperfect world. The stories feature characters who are often witness and victims of corrupt systems—governments or extinctions or quasi-religious-magical-soul-mate timers. They find themselves struggling against the weight of the Way Things Are, whether that means the order of everyone knowing when they’ll meet their soul mate or the chaos of a world where elephants can incinerate themselves in grief. The stories point to a truth that even seemingly-ordered systems often hide a lot of chance, pain, and guesswork, and sometimes it’s important not to reach for what’s being offered and instead reaching for justice. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Elizabeth Leggett

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Glittership March 2018 [er...part 2]

Okay so I jumped the gun a bit on the March Glittership offerings. Instead of one original story and three reprints, there were an additional two original stories (one very very short) and an original poem as well. Which means that there’s enough for me to do a second review just for the ones I missed. And it’s a wonderful collection of Queer SFF, with a breath of weird and a sense of quiet longing. In many of the pieces, at least, we find characters who find value in a quest that might never really be over. Who realize that the quality of a journey is much more often about who you’re with and what you’re doing than it is about where you’re going. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #248

March’s last issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies finds a pair of stories that are very much about intimate exchanges and the way that desire is used by corrupt systems to compromise and ensnare people. The stories feature characters who are trying to reach for something they want—freedom from something, mostly—and instead find that by trying to use the system to get what they want, they end up being corrupted by the system and end up unhappy and ground under its wheels. At least, until they decide to try and break free by embracing the cycles of the system, by using its own cruelties against it. These are not overly pleasant reads, but it’s a strong issue all the same. To the reviews!

Art by Stefan Meisl

Monday, April 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform March 2018

Terraform is firing on all cylinders for March, bringing four original stories that reveal futures that…well, that we don’t really want to experience. That show the cost of injustice and conflict and prejudice and war. The stories feature characters who are trying to find ways to cope the various levels of corruption their worlds are riddled with. Some are more successful than others, but the message that becomes clear as the month’s works synergize is that there can be no good outcome from a terrible system. There can be no happy ending when the world is a nightmare. And that’s something to take to heart, that none are spared when the system is corrupt. Even when you’re sure you’ll be the exception. To the reviews!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com March 2018

It's a relatively light month from Tor dot com this March, with only two short stories to look at. The pieces excel, though, at building worlds that are gritty and yet border on the magical. That feature characters struggling with difficult moral decisions and having to make choices that might help them sleep at night but might lose them everything. The pieces are a mix of genres and styles, but they look at people making unexpected connections and contemplating doing things that might be out of character. Because they don't want to lose more. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!
 
Art by Brent Hardy-Smith

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine March 2018

March brings a feeling of oppression and strength to Fireside Magazine, which features four original short stories. From fantasy-tinged history to a future full of ongoing natural disasters, the pieces focus on empathy, loss, and captivity. They show characters who want to live their lives and who all fall into systems that don’t really allow them to be free. They are bound by obligations and restrictions, by ignorance and by prejudice. And in their attempts to push back against those forces they come up against resistance, violence, and exploitation. These are stories that do not flinch away from difficult depictions, and readers should go in prepared to confront some general unpleasantness, to put it mildly. But these are also stories that glow with beauty and power and should definitely be savored. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/19/2018 & Samovar 03/26/2018

It’s a full two weeks from Strange Horizons and Samovar, which released a new issue full of translated SFF. With three stories and two poems to look at, the overall feeling this week is, once again, strange. Especially with Samovar, I feel like there is a wonderful vagueness to some of the work, a touch of surrealism that makes the pieces pop. They are works that are first viewed through the lens of translation, but further than that they are also pieces that don’t seek to explain themselves, offering up rather literary takes on genre while still definitely retaining a strong speculative weirdness. Plus the pieces from the regular Strange Horizons week mix history, the unknown, and some deep feelings of grief and despair. This is not a light offering of short SFF, but the publications really hit hard with their variety and complexity. To the reviews!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Quick Sips - Glittership March 2018

March brings one new and three reprint stories to Glittership (well, maybe more if they release again before the end of the month, but for now...). And can I just say that it's a delight to find a whole series of stories that don't really delve into the tragedy so often paired with being queer. Not that the stories are free of pain, or hardship, or loss, but that most of them imagine positive outcomes for the queer characters. Lifetimes to spend with the people that they love. Love blossoming. Resistance burning bright. And it's just a great assortment of settings and characters, most of them leaning fantasy but not entirely (time travel ftw!). To the reviews!


Monday, March 26, 2018

Regular Sip - "The Owls of Juttshatan" from Prime Books

With the end of the month approaching, I’m taking a quick diversion today from regular releases to look at another short story from Prime Books. Like the two I reviewed a while ago, this one takes a military science fiction seed and grows an entire galaxy of ships, wars, and women kicking ass. It features sharp prose, a gritty setting, and a poignant ending. So let’s get right to the review!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #274

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is back to its regularly scheduled fantasy with two new stories exploring memory and nested narratives. In both, a character tells a story about a war. About battle. About death. And about a decision. A shift. A rebellion. Perhaps not always a huge one, but one that has far reaching consequences. In both stories there’s a focus on the decision to step away from following orders and embrace something different. Something uniting. Be it food or a faith in people, the stories show characters putting down their weapons and striving for a deeper understanding and compassion for those who would otherwise be their enemies. It’s a wonderful issue, and one I’m excited to review!

Art by Stefan Meisl

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

X Marks the Story - March 2018


Here's the list!

“The Emotionless, In Love”, Jason Sanford (published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #246, March 2018)
“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (published at Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
“Five Tangibles and One”, D.A. Xiaolin Spires (published at Terraform SF, February 2018)
“Traces of Us”, Vanessa Fogg (published at GigaNotoSaurus, March 2018)
“Of Warps and Wefts”, Innocent Chizaram Ilo (published at Strange Horizons, March 2018)
“From the Womb of the Land, Our Bones Entwined”, AJ Fitzwater (published in Pacific Monsters, Fox Spirit Books, November 2017)

Plus there's more X-plorations to be found. Cheers!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #21 [March stuff]

March brings a bit of spring to Uncanny Magazine, with three stories and three poems that feature music and rebirth and love and hope. These are also stories and poems that look at places, though. At haunted houses and magnificent cities and hometowns. That look just as closely at relationships. At the way that interactions build. How in big cities inspiration can seem to grow out of the creativity concentrated in one spot, synergize into something bigger and bigger. How in smaller towns isolation can give way to resentment and fear and depression, but where single gestures can come to mean the universe. These are stories of friends and family, poems of art and love and prayer. And without further delay, the reviews!

Art by Nilah Magruder

Monday, March 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #42 [March stuff]

It’s…well, it’s a bit of a strange month of stories from Shimmer Magazine. From a train-riding competitive eater to a woman transforming into a deer, the stories are heavy on the odd and magical. In both stories, the main characters deal with a setting that forces them into a role that they resist. But that, ultimately, seems too strong to just shrug off. These are stories of family obligations and the weight of cultural norms. For me, at least, the stories use the strange to highlight how surreal the world can be at times for some people, how it’s logic shifts and twists to suit the wills of those with power. It makes for an interesting experience, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, March 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/05/2018 & 03/12/2018

Strange is indeed part of the name of Strange Horizons, so it should be no surprise that early March brings a bounty of weird stories and poems to the publication. From people living split lives between night and day, between genders, between husbands and wives, to a collector of moons, to a poem that’s also a game, to the boredom of immortals, the SFF on display in these two issues all take the familiar and give it a healthy twist. And yet in these strange takes on the world as we know it there’s a sort of carnival funhouse glimpse at humanity seen through new and interesting angles. Angles that might give us better insights into what it means to love and to yearn for. What it means to be alive, and be human, and struggle against all the ways we might fail, and dissolve. It’s a lovely collection of pieces that I’m going to get right to reviewing!

Art by Youheum Son

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #66

March is apparently a month for doomed dogs at Nightmare Magazine, where the pair of original stories explore systems of oppression, cycles of violence, and young girls who just want to have fun with their doggos. Which…doesn’t really work out well for them. At least, both stories look at the ways that societies can almost passively abuse young girls. The ways that expectations and obligations (girls always lie, girls must sacrifice, etc.) merely create opportunities for predators to prey on them. These are two uncomfortable reads, that feature a looming and omnipresent threat of violence from beings very willing (gleefully so, in fact) of following through. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Vukkostic / Fotolia

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #106

Three original stories bring a strange and decidedly dark flavor to March’s Apex Magazine. And front and center in many of the stories this month is the idea of observation. Of perspective. Of seeing and being seen. Of how large a role perception has in mapping reality, and how large a role it has in creating reality. The stories feature characters caught between larger forces. Trying to reach for a human connection while being pushed and pulled by very inhuman forces. It makes for a number of unsettling and grim moments, when humans fall victim to the machinations of others, where how people view the world doesn’t match how others want the world to be, and the results are violent and swift. And even when a person seems to hold out, there is an inevitability about the stories, that sometimes (perhaps often) humans just can’t stand up to the forces arrayed to steer the universe. To the reviews!

Art by Benedick Bana

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #138

March brings four short stories and a new novella to Clarkesworld Magazine. Which means for the second month in a row, the publication is bringing an original novella. It certainly continues the trend of including longer works at online (primarily, for there is a print edition) venues. The stories overall are, well, rather dark. To me, they focus a lot on corrupt systems and how sometimes there’s no real fixing them all at once. How what often happens is that people live and die, are crushed and ground to powder, for a long time before a bad system starts to improve. Not that it can’t improve, but that for many vulnerable people it doesn’t improve fast enough. Which makes for a slew of often very difficult stories, but ones that do hold onto a hope that things will get better, even if we don’t all live to see it happen. To the reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Monday, March 12, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus March 2018

GigaNotoSaurus offers up a beautiful short story for March that might have been a bit more appropriate for February and Valentine’s Day because it is adorable and wonderful and sweet and just good! I’m a sucker for romance, and so the focus of this story for me is refreshing, especially because it refuses to tread the same tired paths of angst and powerlessness that seem to dominate so many romantic story lines. It’s not without darkness or sadness, but it’s a story to me about the triumph of love and humans over despair, loss, and death. To the review!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online March 2018

A rather unprecedented four original stories mark Flash Fiction Online’s March offerings, ushering in the official spring months (though where I am there’ll still be snow into May) with a heavy issue full of abuse, grief, and fear. Which, hey, these are the times we live in. The stories are beautiful, exploring a rich variety of themes while maintaining a tone and mood that’s a mix of shadows and the singularity of a black hole. Characters reach of escapes from their pains, from their abuse, from their grief and despair. They stand transfixed between hope and destruction, between the thinnest thread leading toward a better place and the vast avenues leading toward ruin. It’s not a particularly happy month of very short fiction, but these are stories that bring a moving power and driving impact. They aren’t messing around, and I guess I shouldn’t either—to the reviews!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark Magazine #34

A pair of weird stories anchor the original fiction from March’s The Dark Magazine. Full of the oppression that places can bring, that cities can nurture and let fester. In both, the main characters find themselves trapped. For one, by a relationship. For the other, by a city. But for me, in both, the focus is on how toxic environments can perpetuate cycles of violence, abuse, captivity, and death. These are not the easiest of stories to read, both because they come with interesting styles and because they are unsettling and (if the name of the magazine hadn’t tipped you off) very dark. These are stories of the ways that hurt leads to hurt, that victims seem to be interchangeable, separated by time but linked by their common plight and common location. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Laura Sava

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #94

March brings four new stories to Lightspeed Magazine that all seem to be about age, growth, and endings. In each, the characters are dealing with growing up in some ways, whether that means physically coming of age, or growing out of immortality, or running into the end of the universe. There’s a sense of uncertainty in each, too, about what to do next. What happens when the next leg of the journey is unknown, and frightening, and full of potential annihilation? The stories find different answers to that question, different directions for the characters to move. Some are dark and pitch, while others shine with hope. Whatever the flavor, though, it makes for an interesting exploration of transformation and adventure perfect for the dawn of spring. To the reviews!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com February 2018

February brought something of a return to Tor dot com, which has been going through a rather sporadic publishing schedule since November. Three novelettes and a long short story makes for a lot of words of fiction to get to, and the pieces move from post-disaster SF to horror to SF-Horror to contemporary fantasy. The stories carry with them a lot of darkness, too, from a world where doctors are struggling to stay neutral in the face of a change in everything to a war with an unknown enemy from the sea. All of the stories stay rooted on Earth in these pieces, but that doesn't mean that they lack for weird and imaginative takes on what Earth can look like and contain. So yeah, let's jump right into the reviews!

Art by Jon Foster

Monday, March 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Glittership February 2018

Glittership is back after a short delay with new 2018 content! Woo! First up is an original story, a reprint, and a poem, all of which are gloriously queer. The fiction is set in the "real" world with a heavy emphasis on death and with people generally occupying space bordering both the living and the dead. Especially for queer people who are in a state of constant danger, it's a precarious space, but it can also be a powerful one that allows them to face the larger world and its mysteries more directly. These are rather wrenching pieces, and the the poetry doesn't let up, looking at shapeshifting and portrayal and it's just wonderful work all around that I should get to reviewing!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine February 2018

Things have settled down a bit at Fireside Magazine, and the month finds four new short stories for our reading pleasure (plus some nonfiction that, while I'm not looking at it specifically here, is very much worth your time and attention). The stories have a bit of a dark bend to them this month, contrasting the more traditional romantic feelings of February. Instead, the stories reveal injustices and settings ripe with destruction, pain, and loss. From alternate history to future societies created to be the perfect audience, these worlds contain deep shadows and wounds that cannot heal clean so long as the corruption at their hearts are left untreated. It's an interesting mix of stories, and let's get to them!

Art by Odera Igbokwe

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/19/2018 & 02/26/2018

Closing out the month, Strange Horizons brings a new original story and two new poems. The story features magic and feeding, faith and community, and the poems deal with the monstrous and the terrible. And in many ways, all three piece deal with beings who are dealing with the darkness of others, with the darkness around them. The pieces are about confrontations, about overcoming something terrible and powerful, and they make for some powerful reads. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #246

The science fantasy month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with three more stories (one short story, one novelette, and one novella). Where the last two issues focused (in my opinion) on AI and apocalypses respectively, these stories feel a bit more about corrupt systems and violence to me. Each features a world where things…well, they work, to some extent. Unless they don’t. There is a balance, but it’s not a balance that benefits everyone. It requires some people to forego their freedom, to be subject to violence and perhaps death at the whims of some larger power or purpose. In each, there is a resistance to just letting things go the way they have been. And in each, the result is much different, showing how these systems deal with threats, and how much people are willing to risk to escape them. To the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform SF February 2018

There's a lot to enjoy with Terraform's February lineup, which includes four short stories (including a SFF short in translation). As always, the themes vary quite widely, from climate change to authoritarianism to death to robots in love. And also as always, the stories are short, sharp, and reveal near-futures that offer more in warnings than perhaps they do in optimism. These are stories to provoke thought and discussion, yet, but also action, to get people up and protesting, to resist the urge to let things go, to take the safe path that heads directly for corruption. The stories are about hard truths, and having the strength to face them. So let's get to the reviews!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q35

The first issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has landed and brought with a trio if fantasy novelettes and a trio of poems. The stories are a mix of historical fantasy (with a new Carvajal story and what could be the beginning of a series of Victorian-era investigations) and second-world fun. The poetry is rather narrative, revealing battlefields of various sorts, whether literal or more symbolic. There’s dragons, monsters, demons, and usurpers to deal with, and the pieces as a whole show characters trying to make things right, trying to lead and to follow their own hearts. It’s a nice mix of pieces, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Checking in with Short SFF Reviewing - early 2018 edition

I wrote a version of this post late in 2017, when I was not in a great headspace to do it. My own journey into and through short SFF reviewing is...complicated and full of some rather intense feelings, so please excuse me (and also you’re welcome) for not posting that and instead probably having a drink and venting to my partner instead (maybe petting a cat?). I have weird feelings writing something like this, because I dislike reducing things, and I know that no matter how complete I try to be, I’ll miss a lot of people doing amazing work and if those people see this post, it might hurt. I know from experience (a certain post still haunts me because of how it struck me and continues to strike me) that it’s an awful feeling. But I do want to take a moment to check in with short SFF reviewing, because I love it and because I think it’s important, and because I want to cheer a bit at some of the things I’ve been noticing.

Mainly, I want to take a moment to collect here a taste of what’s out there, to list some of the amazing projects where people are reviewing short SFF. Some of these things are very new, but for me it paints a much fuller and more vibrant picture of what’s going on in the reviewing field. So first, a list (fyi, all of these people qualify as Fan Writers if you’re looking for people to maybe nominate for Hugos. I've also included links where I could find them on where you can support these people and their work):

A.C. Wise does amazing work with Words for Thought at Apex Magazine (as well as Women to Read at The Book Smugglers and even more work at her blog). Her reviews are deep, considered, and substantial, and she is a champion of short SFF and short SFF reviewing. (ko-fi)

Brandon O’Brien has begun The Jewelry Box at Strange Horizons, which looks at short fiction and poetry (something I am so excited to see). It’s very new but already has me hooked, and I can’t wait for more. (Patreon, ko-fi)

Bogi Takács is a phenomenal reviewer of long and short SFF, and works prolifically both on eir blog, Bogi Read the World, and on Twitter with #diversestories and #diversepoems (again, I love to see poetry reviews). (Patreon, ko-fi)

Maria Haskins has a monthly recommendation/review column called Salute Your Shorts at Barnes & Nobles SFF site, spinning out of her tireless work on her blog, and it casts a wide net, capturing the essence of a lot of excellent short SFF. (ko-fi)

Vanessa Fogg’s It’s a Jumble blog has been running for a while now, and I always love to see her insights into stories.

Ada Hoffmann runs Autistic Book Party, which looks at SFF works of all lengths, including a lot of short SFF. The reviews look at representation of autism as well as larger themes within works and are in depth and are just all around invaluable. (Patreon)

SFF Reviews is a relatively recent venture from Dr. Sara L. Uckelman and Sarah Grace Liu, among others, and brings a whole team of reviewers together to look at an impressive number of short SFF venues and stories. They’re releasing daily content now, and are very much worth checking out.

Natalie Luhrs’ In Short brings a sharp and critical eye to look at a number of short SFF stories. It’s also always worth it to check out the larger blog, Pretty Terrible, and the links roundups and other coverage of SFF as a field. (ko-fi)

Short & Sweet is a excellent column from forestofglory (who also does recommendations on her blog) at Lady Business, and covers a great range of stories, often focusing on positive SFF stories. (ko-fi)

There’s also Short Business at Lady Business as well, which is run by bookgazing and which provides a great range of reviews.

Jason Sanford has started #JasonReadsShortStories on Twitter and it is a great source for a lot of reviews/recommendations, set around the goal of reading/reviewing a short a day. These are also being collected at his blog in monthly posts. (Patreon)

Inspired in part by the above, A. Merc Rustad is collecting A Few Favorite Fictions at their blog, Robots With Keyboards. Lots of awesome thoughts. (Patreon, ko-fi)

My own work both here at Quick Sip Reviews and at The Book Smugglers with X Marks the Story is a lot of my own contribution to the field. (Patreon, ko-fi)

And there are many, many more talented reviewers and recommenders out there that I am missing but this might be a good place to start. I am aware that many amazing reviewers aren’t as active or have lost their venues, too (K. Tempest Bradford at io9, Gillian Daniels at Fantastic Stories, and Haralambi Markov’s Innumerable Voices at Tor are a few that spring to mind). Which is partly why I am so happy to see more paying venues for short SFF reviews, and more short SFF reviewers able to try and fund themselves through Patreon, ko-fi, and more. Because reviewing/recommending does take a lot of time and energy and skill and it’s sort of important to eat and have a place to live.

And, of course, there are still venues around like Tangent and Rocket Stack Rank that I don’t often mention or like to highlight because of my own deep ideological differences and grievances with both places.

I could go on and on about short SFF reviewing and my particular approach to it. I’m not going to right now. It’s messy, and it leads me to the occasional Twitter rant, but for now I want to just leave this list here and say that I’m humbled to be able to read so many excellent thoughts by such a diverse and wonderful group of reviewers. I think the field can be even larger, and I’m so excited to see the ways that it might grow further in the coming months and years. If you ever want to start your own reviews, I welcome you and hey, I even have a post about that. If you just want to check out what’s being written about current short SFF around the internet, that’s fine too. Thanks for checking in.

Cheers!

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #105

The two original stories from February’s Apex Magazine mix hope and fear, rules and confinement. They show two very different takes on isolation and regulation. In one, characters push against a system that stifles and oppresses, that denies and demands sacrifice when none might be necessary. It shows the drive for freedom and the joy and hope that can produce. In the others, characters push against a system that might be the only thing standing between them and an unknown devastation, that demands sacrifice when none might be necessary but when it might indeed be necessary as well. It shows the drive for freedom and the terror and tragedy that can produce. These are two very different stories that take two very different looks at the unknown, and it makes for a fascinating one-two punch of short SFF. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Justin Adams

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #245

Science Fantasy Month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with a special double issue, featuring four stories the bend genres and expectations. And these stories look very much at worlds that have suffered. That have gone through some sort of disaster or apocalypse or major fucking event that have left them more damaged. And the stories explore these broken worlds, revealing how that damage was done, and why, and in some instances how it can be healed (but in most of them it's more about how they cannot be). These are stories of people struggling to survive and, more than that, struggling to find meaning in places where bare survival often takes every possible effort. But they're about reaching for more, and perhaps helping each other get to someplace better. To the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #20 [February stuff]

Uncanny Magazine lands with four original stories and two poems in its February release. And throughout the works the theme I think I feel plays through is visibility. Is release. In most of the pieces, there are characters who are struggling against a system, against a world and culture, that has erased them. That has covered up uncomfortable pasts. That have demanded that those who are different censor themselves and constrain themselves so as not to offend the dominant. And the stories explore how the characters push back against that, how they are seen, how they are freed. In some, that freedom comes with a heavy price, with the destruction of something, maybe everything. And yet the stories seem to ask if that destruction might actually be necessary, to wipe away the corruption and the abuse. To unravel the mess of hurt and fear and exploitation. It’s an issue that covers science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and does a great job of giving fans of SFF a lot to experience. To the reviews!

Art by Tran Nguyen

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - February 2018

Hello! My latest column for The Book Smugglers is now live! It's full of (mostly) recent short SFF that I loved, so be sure to go and check that out. For those who just want the recs, here's a list of the stories I featured:

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire,” Jamie Berrout (Strange Horizons) (Short Story)
“The Starship and the Temple Cat,” Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) (Short Story)

Umberlight, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld) (Novella)
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow (Apex) (Short Story)
"The Fisher of Bones," Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine) (Novelette)
“Try Looking Ahead,” Jason Rodriguez (Try Looking Ahead, Rosarium Publishing) (Short Story)

I also give some further reading, but I'll let you X-plore that on your own. Cheers!

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https://www.patreon.com/quicksipreviews

Monday, February 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #41 [February stuff]

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, February 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/05/2018 & 02/12/2018

February brings a touch of the weird and rather literary to Strange Horizons, and the first two issues each feature a story and a poem that explore violation, bodies, and exposure. For me, the stories have a dense, rather poetic quality to them, the sense of reality bent around metaphor and pain. There's a heavy weirdness to them as well, with people becoming bears, bodies becoming art, and an all around just kind of uncomfortable/icky feel to things (I know icky is like the most literary of terms, right?). But there's a sharpness to the discomfort, an edge to the disturbing that these pieces reveal. And the poems are as always deep and layered and interesting and let's just get to the reviews!

Art by Dan Rempel

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #65

February brings a pair of stories to Nightmare Magazine that deal with violence and with magic and with women. With adaptation in the face of oppression and the threat of violence. It’s a very nicely paired issue that sees characters who change in the face of the difficult environment where misogyny is a force stalking them, hoping to devour them. In both stories, though, women find ways to take a power to themselves, to embrace perhaps a different way of being, a different way of organizing and valuing the world. In both, the pressure begins to become whether or not these women will betray each other, if men can convince them to embrace a system that has only marginalized and destroyed them. They’re not the easiest of reads, poised as they are between erasure and freedom, but I love the resonance of the issue and let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Kevron2001 / Fotolia

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2018

Perhaps appropriate for the month, GigaNotoSaurus brings a rather romantic piece for its February release. Or, at least, a story very interested in love and trust, hope and freedom. It’s a story that features two very different characters finding a common language, a common purpose, and staying true to each other in order to do something they couldn’t do alone. It’s a touching and beautiful piece, for all that it’s dominated by the weight of captivity and the desire for release. But before I spoil everything, let’s get to the review!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #137

February brings four stories to Clarkesworld Magazine (2 short stories, 1 novelette, 1 novella) that explore humanity’s future, its hopes, and its failures. The pieces all explore future in which humanity has suffered great losses. For almost all of them, the loss comes from space, from forces that wreck humanity’s satellite net, or fry all its electronics, or see humanity set up on a distant and hostile world, or just manage to take out one person’s stored data. Whatever the case, the stories look at misfortune and winter, with people who find themselves (through no real fault of their own) living in times they very much would rather have avoided. And showing how they deal with it, how they deal with corruption and with the injustices small and large that plague them. It’s an issue with a lot of action that moves with a power and tight pacing and I should just get to those reviews already!

Art by Artur Sadlos