Thursday, September 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - September 2018

It's that time again! I look back at some recent favorite reads, a lot of which feature weirdly specific but wonderful facets. Wise chickens, psychic detectives, romantic Death, and much more! The list and links to the stories is below, but check out the column at The Book Smugglers (with X-tra X-plorations)!

X Marks the Story - September 2018

“The Privilege of the Happy Ending”, Kij Johnson (Published in Clarkesworld #143, August 2018)

“The Barnum Effect” by Celia Neri (Published in Apex #111, August 2018)

“A Taxonomy of Hurts”, Kate Dollarhyde (published in Fireside Magazine #37, August 2018)

“What Man Knoweth”, Russell Nichols (Published at Strange Horizons, August 2018)

“Momento Mori”, Tiah Marie Beautement (Published in Omenana #12, August 2018)

“The House on the Moon”, William Alexander (Published in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction!, August 2018)


Quick Sips - Apex #112

It’s another rather large Apex Magazine this month, with three short stories and a novelette full of darkness, damage, and families. For most of the works, at least, the focus is on the pressures that people, especially women, face to blend in and accept a world that is so actively harmful to them, loaded against them. That they are pushed into participating in a system that harms and abuses them, without real help in dismantling that system. And for some, this is something to fight against, something to push back against, and maybe win some room, some progress towards a better world. And for others it’s something where any attempt to push back is met with brutal punishment and constant bombardment of abuse and humiliation. The stories map the complexities of desire and hope in settings where darkness holds sway, and they are all beautifully devastating. So, to the reviews!

Art by Joel Chaim Holtzman

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #260

The first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of September brings a pair of stories that certainly shake of the summer heat, opting instead of a colder, darker tone and feel. In each we find young women who make bargains that they don’t completely understand when they make them. About finally getting something they want in a setting where women’s desires are often the first thing suppressed in favor of survival and subsistence. Without anywhere else to turn, they get approached by witches, who in turn seek to take more than is offered. In one of the stories, though, the bargain’s toll goes much beyond even the steep price that was set, and in the other the price is still under negotiation, though a negotiation that now involves a gun. To the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #144

Clarkesworld keeps things a little light this month, maybe as a slight reprieve as convention season winds down, with two short stories and two novelettes. For me, the stories have a lot to with movement, with generations, and with harm. They find characters on the run because of the violence they were brought up to value, and having to decide to reject it or revel in its flavors. The pieces explore family and connections and hope, and the impulse to reach for the stars, be they celestial bodies or human celebrities. It’s a rather complex, moving, and sometimes hilarious issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Monday, September 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/03/2018 & 09/10/2018

Strange Horizons opens September with two new short stories and poems. And the feel of these pieces very much faces the bleak and desolate for me. People who are struggling against a world that seems like a hostile waste, where they can't find connection, where those people they care about don't seem to stick around, don't seem to really understand. Where they are pulled by ghosts, of those they have lost and by the ghosts of their past selves, toward ends that mean destruction or worse. It's a rather rending month of short SFF, so let's steel ourselves and get to the reviews!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2018

It’s a new short story for September’s GigaNotoSaurus, and it’s a dilly of a tall tale, complete with traveling librarians, horses that can ride galaxies, and whole lot of open desolation. The piece looks at the utility of tall tales, the function of them in places like the American colonial frontier, where people were coming across environments so unlike anything they had known that making larger-than-life figures seemed to give them a bit of security, knowing that somewhere out there someone was beating back the loss and the danger and the seemingly random catastrophe of the West. It’s a story of love and adventure and oh so much longing, and I’ll get right to my review!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Poetry]

And now for the poetry from Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! Now, in years past it has been flash fiction that rounded out the original offerings in the Destroy! issues. But, as Uncanny normally publishes a selection of excellent poetry, this special issue continues the tradition. Now, I find poetry some of the most difficult things to review, in part because they rely so much on what the reader brings to the piece. But I do find it valuable as a reader to approach poetry with a critical gaze, searching for meaning and seeking to understand and examine how I read and respond to poetry. And the selection here is amazing, moving from self and body outward into the universe, which can be beautiful and terrifying and freeing and confining and just, really, it’s a great celebration of speculative poetry that I’m going to do my best to review. So let’s get to it!

Art by Likhain

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Quick Questions - Aidan Doyle of Sword and Sonnet

Hello and welcome to a new Quick Questions, my interview series where I sit down with people in short SFF and talk stories! Today I'm joined by Aidan Doyle, co-editor of Sword and Sonnet, a new anthology of short fiction featuring battle poets. But don't take my word for it! Here's what the anthology's website has to say:

Sword & Sonnet is an anthology of stories devoted to the union of battle and poetry. We successfully funded in December 2017 through Kickstarter; the book features genre stories about women and non-binary battle poets. Lyrical, shimmery sonnet-slingers. Grizzled, gritty poetpunks. Word nerds battling eldritch evil. Haiku-wielding heroines.

Art by Vlada Monakhova

And before we get into the questions, first a little about my guest:

Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. His short stories have been published in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Fireside. He has been shortlisted for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and XYZZY awards. He has visited more than 100 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia, and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea. He co-edited Sword and Sonnet, along with Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler.

And now, the interview:

Quick Sips - Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Fiction]

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! is here!!! And with it comes a whole heck of a lot of fiction and poetry. To be specific, ten stories and ten poems. But, because this is also a regular issue of Uncanny, the work will be released publicly over two months. And so, to keep things manageable for me, I’m going to be tackling this extra-big issue in four parts—September fiction, September poetry, October fiction, and October poetry. So let’s dig in! The first half of the issue’s fiction is up and features five short stories touching on aliens, assistive devices, families, and a whole lot of disabled characters getting shit done. The work in these focuses primarily (for me, at least) on occupations and growing up. About facing down intolerance and violence and finding ways to find community, hope, and beauty in a universe that can often be ugly and cruel. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Likhain

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2018

It’s a very culinary issue of Flash Fiction Online, with three new stories all focused on food and the different ways people approach them. For some, eating is a way of finding comfort in a world that can be often cruel and uncertain. For others, it’s a form of seduction, a sensual experience of temptation. And for still others it’s a way of connecting with and putting to rest the past and the griefs of the dead. These are stories that revel in tastes and smells and strangeness, and though not all of them are necessarily speculative, they are all alive with flavors and very much worth checking out. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, September 10, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #40

The stories of the September issue of The Dark Magazine deal with a classic horror trope: The Sacrifice. In both stories, the characters are faced with having to sacrifice someone because of their own desires, their own wishes. It’s part of a deal, a bargain by which they hope to escape something or gain something. And for both stories, the sacrifices are supposed to confront the characters with the cost of their desires. Whether they decide that it’s worth it, though, is a bit different from piece to piece. Still, both do engage with what it means to be trapped by expectations, by place, by distance, and how desperate people can be to find some way to escape their circumstances. To the reviews!

Art by Abigail Larson

Friday, September 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #100 [part 2 - fantasy]

The anniversary fun continues with a look at the Lightspeed Magazine #100 fantasy fiction! By and large, the fantasy stories found in the issue range a bit shorter than the science fiction (with all five stories being short, and one of those crossing into flash fiction). They also deal a lot with ghosts, and loss, and longing. Indeed, a great deal of these stories focus on relationships and what happens when they end or are in danger of ending. They show people whose connections have been severed by death, by grief, by violence, and how those wounds can perhaps be healed by compassion and love. It’s a rather lovely if dark bunch of stories, heavy with sorrow but rising toward something lighter (though no less strong). And with all the fiction to look at, I should get right to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #100 [part 1 - science fiction]

Lightspeed Magazine has reached issue #100 and is celebrating with an issue stuffed to the gills with short fiction. And, well, because ten stories (many of them novelettes) would be a bit much to fit in a single review, I’ve decided to split the offerings up into two posts. The first will cover the science fiction (that’s this one) and the second (tomorrow’s) will cover the fantasy. Not that there isn’t a bit of a fantasy touch to some of the science fiction on display, with a few stories playing with history and at least one with a strangeness that could almost be magic. These stories are about how humans interact with the universe, though. How we make stories, how we form communities, how we accept and exclude from those groups. It’s an issue that really does get at some big ideas but never loses sight of the character who anchor the narratives. So yeah, there’s a lot to get to, so let’s tackle these reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Omenana #12

Omenana’s second issue of the year is out and it contains four new SFF short stories. Things are leaning rather dark in these pieces, too, where characters must navigate situations where they must struggle against powerlessness. For most of them, who they are makes for some difficulties. They must deal with the world not really being set up for them, not really fair for them. They must deal with other people’s expectations on how they act and what they do. And each of them must decide whether to accept that or whether to push back and try to take back what power they can. Not always kindly. But with strength and resilience and cleverness. With kindness and cruelty and hunger and hope. It’s a wonderful bunch of stories, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Tamara Reddy

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform August 2018

Motherboard's Terraform seems to be going through a new transformation of sorts. Not in its schedule or really even in the themes and genres it publishes, but rather in the length of works it focuses on. For a little while now, the bulk of the work it's been publishing has been ranging less into the flash fiction length and more solidly into short stories. Which means a bit of extra space to explore the futures these authors imagine—which can be both a good and a not-so-good thing, given how dark and gritty a lot of those future are. This month five short stories reveal futures full of slavery and corruption, drugs and borders. They star characters trying to heal the fissures they've opened up in their lives, or falling headlong into them. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #259

It’s something of a strange issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories that strike much more of a science fantasy feel than is standard. In both, characters struggle with loss and with injury. With hope and with community. In one, it’s a community that is systematically dismantled, while in the other it’s a community that seems able to heal, or at least that is still in a place where it can try. The stories are tonally rather different, though both center their action on an unexpected arrival, and on a rather wide cast of secondary characters. It’s stories about violence, flight, and confrontation of the fantasy variety, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Friday, August 31, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com August 2018

Two short stories and a novelette round out the SFF originals from Tor this month, with a definite focus on science fiction, on futures of humanity interacting with the universe and, perhaps more importantly, with the Earth. Whether that means dealing with the touch of climate disaster and change, or working to move beyond the bounds of our terrestrial home through uploading and flight, or gaining a new and non-human presence to co-inhabit the planet with, the pieces look at how humans see the Earth, and how that perspective shifts as the gaze becomes less incorporated in a human body. It's a month full of strangeness and longing, risks and looming dangers, and it makes for a fascinating bunch of stories. To the reviews!

Art by Victo Ngai

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #58

August brings two short stories and two very short flash fictions to Fireside Magazine, each of them circling around memory and difference, hurt and acceptance. In each of the stories, a character is dealing with being put into a hostile situation, where they aren't wholly sure of the rules. For some, this means they try to define those rules, to give them shape when it seems there isn't any. For others, though, it means deciding to act regardless of what rules they might be breaking, and forging their own ways forward despite the danger and oppression. It's a rather wrenching month of stories that have a definite fantasy lean, and a fantasy where magic is pushing in on the "real world" to varied results. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Kevin Tong

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers August 2018

There’s two new Awakenings season novelettes at The Book Smugglers! The first evokes and complicates fairy tales and specifically a fairy tale romance, and is cold and in some ways very cruel. As cruel as reality, at least, which it turns out is quite cruel indeed. It’s a story that in some ways embraces what it means to be a fairy tale, full of darkness and magic and hope. But at the same time, it seems to me to hesitate short of providing a completely expected experience. Instead, it challenges the reader about their assumptions about what these kind of stories look like, and how they should end. And the second looks follows a young girl growing up, reaching for an adulthood where she can finally take control of her own life after years and years of dealing with waiting, abuse, and a pressure to conform. Both stories do a lot of interesting things, and build maintain very different styles while still pairing well, showing the world in all its complex, beautiful cruelty. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Jennifer Johnson

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/20/2018 & 08/27/2018

The second half of August brings two poems and a novelettes to Strange Horizons, as well as other nonfiction content that is well worth checking out but that I’m not looking specifically at. The fiction is intense, a noir mystery that’s really a revenge story, but circles around justice and guilt, denial and tragedy. The poetry is actually very nicely linked, as both pieces are framed as advice, as instructions. For very different things, it turns out, but still very important things. And the issues as a whole have a rather bleak feel to them. Of harm that cannot be erased or ignored. Of the slow approach of death, and fragile beauty of voices raised against the tide of time, holding on to what they can. To the reviews!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Regular Sips - Lost Objects by Marian Womack

I’m switching things up a bit today with a look at a slender collection of short SFF from Spanish author Marian Womack, Lost Objects. And in doing so I hope to sort through my own hesitation to look at short fiction collections here at Quick Sip Reviews. I will not be looking at each story individually, but rather will try to wrap my thoughts around the project as a whole, with special attention to perhaps some of the stories that I found most appreciated or challenging. That all said, I’ll go ahead and dive right in to this luminous and haunting book!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #37

August brings a new Heroic Fantasy Quarterly into my greedy hands, with four stories (one novelette and three short stories) plus three poems, all diving into myth and magic, war and longing. The pieces have a bit more of a battle focus in this issue, moving from battlefield to battlefield and finding knights, giants, dragons, and necromancers aplenty. The stories do more than just provide an action-packed fantasy read (though they do that, too). They dive into the realities and horrors of battle, and the reasons people have for entering into them anyway. It’s a varied and resonating issue, and before I give too much away, I’ll get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #258

These two new stories from August’s Beneath Ceaseless Skies turn the action up to eleven with stories of teamwork and fighting against horror and oppression. In both works, the settings are defined by loss, by conflict. In one, people must live above a storm that ravages the ground below because of a war that involved separation and enslavement. In the other, a world must sacrifice its future to an alien creature in exchange for a twisted taste of immortality. And in both, people find that talking doesn’t work, and so resort of fists and blades and magic and flight to fight back against the tyranny and reach for a future that people tell them is impossible. To the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #44 [August stuff]

Shimmer brings a pair of stories this month that deal with memory and time. In two very different ways, the stories feature characters looking back on their lives and what they’ve accomplished. For one of them, the view is a rather idyllic one, where their art has touched lives and continues to touch lives. Where they can feel the warmth they inspire in others. For the other, though, the reverse is true, and they are trapped in a sort of hell rather than a sort of heaven, transfixed by the gazes of those they have wronged or allowed to be wronged. The stories look at age and justice, on the rewards of what people do in life. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #71

The August issue of Nightmare Magazine offers an effective one-two punch of dark SFF focused on family, weight, and the (sometimes) futile efforts to escape from a bad situation. Both situations feature characters who have suffered, and who are dealing with that. Who are holding onto someone else in the hopes of overcoming the darkness swirling around them. But who, ultimately, learn to make the bargains they can to save who they can, even if it means losing themselves to the dark. These are two rather unsettling and moody stories, full of longing and fragility that cannot withstand the knee-jerk force of the quick pull of the noose or the terrible chaos of a car crash. But even there, the stories find beauty, and meaning, and something even more terrible. To the reviews!

Art by Itskatjas / Fotolia

Monday, August 20, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Reviews of Goosebumps #10: THE GHOST NEXT DOOR

Well, I continue to stand firmly in my belief that R.L. Stine just sort of...gave up trying to make these make sense. I mean, if you thought that The Girl Who Cried Monster was weird and kind of messed up—JUST WAIT! Though before I get to far I should say I’m drinking Banjo Cat today, which is a black IPA from a Madison brewery and pretty darn good. Given how fucking dark this book gets, I think this is a fitting drink. Anyway, let the horror commence!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/06/2018 & 08/13/2018

Two short stories and two poems flesh out the first two weeks of Strange Horizons' August offerings. And, to be honest, the pieces would have to be really trying to be more thematically different from one another. The fiction starts off with something lighter and fun and then veers sharply into the bloody and horrific. The poetry is a bit more linked, circling around relationships, the first blush and long contentions and the hope and the way that society sometimes gets in the way and fucks things up. It's a varied and interesting collection of short SFF, showing how such disparate works can be united by the speculative and the strange, in every shape that takes. To the reviews!

Art by Shel Kahn

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #111

It’s a special Zodiac-themed double issue of Apex Magazine this month, guest edited by Sheree Renée Thomas (who also just guest edited the SEUSA Strange Horizons special issue in late July). There’s A LOT of fiction and as with most of the Apex special issues, poetry is back! There’s actually six short stories and well as six poems in this issue, making it perhaps the biggest I’ve read from the publication. And it all swirls around the idea of the Zodiac, of divination, of astrology. Not always literally, though the actual signs and horoscopes make an appearance or two. Instead, the stories look very much at the stories that we tell. At the ways these stories then become everyone’s stories, our minds making them personal, intimate, and topical. Because our lives have a way of getting into the stories we tell and the stories we take in, and then we might mistake our pulling them out again like a bit of magic and mysticism. But there’s a lot of different takes on stories and truth to find in these SFF works, and I should just quit talking about reviewing them and get to reviewing them!

Art by Stacey Robinson

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

X Marks the Story - August 2018

My monthly short SFF review column, X Marks the Story, is up now at The Book Smugglers, and features a host of ghostly stories to check out. For those wanting to find out all my thoughts on the spectral and haunting stories, definitely go check it out. For those just wanting the list, it's below. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #143

Three short stories (including one translation) and two novelettes round out Clarkesworld’s August, with a bit more fantasy that I was expecting. Or what would have been more fantasy than I was expecting, except that a number of the stories this month play with that in subtle ways, slowly revealing that what seems like magic is actually something different, something much more technological in nature. Not that the issue is completely sci fi, but I feel like the uniting thread is more that each story plays with expectations in interesting ways, and leading the reader through worlds where they must piece together the rules, only to occasionally find that the final piece of the puzzle is a leap of faith. It makes for an interesting bunch of stories, which I will!

Art by Luis Carlos Barragán

Monday, August 13, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus August 2018

August brings a short story to GigaNotoSaurus, though a fairly long one. And it’s a piece that looks very candidly at pain and at trauma. Unfolding after a devastating war, it looks at two survivors in particular, and the ways that they’ve been touched by what’s happened. It’s a piece that explores ways to keep moving, to relieve the pain that comes with being in one place for too long, and before I give too much away I guess I should just review it!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257

I am sorely tempted to guess that the link between the two latest stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is that their both authored by a Christopher. Because, at first glance, these two pieces are very different in terms of character, tone, and theme. Looking closer, though, and the stories seem paired not because of how well they work in harmony, but in how well they contrast, showing two sides of the same coin. On one, we get to see a man on a quest realize that he’s in danger of losing something of himself and pause, take stock, and find comfort and guidance in another person. In the other story, though, we find a man who has fully embraced his quest, regardless of who he needs to destroy or hurt. Both stories feature mostly conversations and philosophy, but in one a lesson is learned, and in the other it is utterly destroyed. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2018

I wasn’t sure if I was going to review this issue of Flash Fiction Online, because it is entirely made up of reprints. But because these reprints are from Flash Fiction Online, making up something of a “Our Favorites” issue chosen by the editorial staff, and because I don’t want to skip the publication this month, I’m going to do ahead and review the stories that I haven’t already reviewed (all of them but the Samantha Murray piece, which I did very enjoy). Many of the stories are about families or children, though in very different ways, and many of those feature a focus on the ways that adults impact young people, for good and for ill. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #39

August brings two stories of hauntings to The Dark Magazine. In one of the stories, the haunting is of an exorcist who thinks he has lost everything. In the other, the haunting is of a man wandering a ruined world. In both, their special sight gives them a power and perhaps a way out of the darkness that surrounds them. Only for one of them that way out might well be a terrible trap, while for the other it might require a confrontation with some difficult truths. It’s a well paired and creeping issue, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

Art by grandfailure

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #23 [August stuff[

The second half of the special Dinosaur issue of Uncanny Magazine brings even MOAR dinosaurs, with five new stories and three new poems. Two of the poems aren’t really dinosaur-centric, but the issue as a whole offers up a great diversity in styles and ways of incorporating the source material and expanding the shared space of the issue. Here we are treated to more stories of dinosaurs displaced in time, landing on the Oregon Trail, or in a strange fairy tale, or in the middle of a small town. There’s not quite the same focus on communication and understanding as before, though. Instead, these pieces look a bit more at violence, and hunger, and corruption. They don’t flinch away from showing some dinosaurs getting their feed on, as well as getting their freak on. It’s a strange, rather wonderful collection of short SFF, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Monday, August 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #99

The four original short stories of August’s Lightspeed Magazine have a lot to do with age and aging. They find characters at different stages of their lives, from adolescents running afoul of a truly foul justice system to people pushing middle age and having to make some hard decisions to older characters making a difference even after their so-called retirement. The worlds explored here are varied and strange, bent reflections offering views through which we can examine areas of our own world, our own lives. It’s a varied and interesting slew of short fiction, so without further delay, to the reviews!

Art by Waiji Choo

Friday, August 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/30/2018 Special SEUSA Issue

It’s a special issue of Strange Horizons to help close out July, which focuses on SFF from the Southeastern USA. The stories range quite a bit in style and location, but they are linked by their connections to the American South as well as to magic. Of the six short stories, all of them land on the fantasy side of things, focusing on gods and ghosts most of all. And perhaps that’s not surprising, because the story looks at power, and systems, and the ways that South is built on injustice, on suffering. On how it can be such an oppressive place, but also a place of power for the oppressed. Because they have connections there, a well of pain and resolve and survival that they can draw on to keep them moving foward. It’s a wonderful bunch of stories and poetry, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Geneva Benton

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine July 2018

Five stories fill out the July offerings from Fireside Magazine (all of them, I believe, also available in the inaugural Fireside Quarterly). And the SFF on display rangers from the aching and luminous to the powerful and auditory. Most of the stories, too, feature a voice that is pointed outward. Told in the second person and playing with myth, archetype, and overcoming adversity, these stories are bits of advice wrapped in narrative structure. They offer readers a voice that might just drown out the inner demons trying to be heard, and replace those with resolve and reassurance—not a guarantee of victory or success, but a promise that trying is still worth doing. It’s a somewhat melancholy month of stories, touched with bittersweet notes, but the take away for me is strength and perseverance, and a will to stand in the face of injustice. To the reviews!

Art by Chris Loke

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Talking About Short SFF (ep 001: Writing for Markets)

Hey everyone! Instead of a review today I wanted to share the transcript to a recent audio thing I did covering a short SFF topic: writing for specific markets. The full audio can be found on my Patreon. Just fyi, it's thanks to my patrons and their amazing support that I am able to do projects like this, and if you find what I do valuable and want it to continue, please consider joining them and becoming a patron. Not only will you get exclusive access to special reviews and fictions by me, but you help me continue to keep up Quick Sip Reviews at the level it's at now, and even grow what I do into new areas, like audio! Okay, so full transcript after the bump!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2018

It’s a full month of rather short stories at Motherboard’s Terraform, with four pieces all exploring some rather grim futures. Or at least most of them are bleak indeed, featuring futures where humanity isn’t exactly in the same place anymore. Or, when it is, showing the world itself some place completely different. And each seems to point to the idea that humans, if they don’t change, will bring about the destruction not only of the natural world, but of the manufactured world as well, the one of houses and the feeling of safety. Because without the natural world, without trying to push back against the exploitation and aggression that feeds war and conflict, all that will remain will be dust, heat, and silence. To the reviews!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2018

It's just a pair of stories this month at Tor dot com (two novelettes, to be specific), and both deal with memories, paranoia, and family. Though, as one is a second world fantasy with magic and the other is a contemporary/near future science fiction/horror, they go about approaching these themes very differently. But at their cores I feel like there are links, with showing a situation where someone is trying to hide their true face in order to approach something they feel is evil and expansive. Now, in one of these situations the character is facing an authoritarian and brutal regime, and in the other something much different and much less defined, but in both there is a sense of hiding and waiting for the right moment to strike. To the reviews!

Art by Anna & Elena Balbusso

Friday, July 27, 2018

Regular Sip - Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Returning to a beloved setting and checking in with its characters and world is always a treat, and one of my favorite speculative worlds from the past few years has been revealed in the Australian superhero stories of Tansy Rayner Roberts (starting with “Cookie Cutter Superhero” and further expanded in “Kid Dark Against the Machine). Now, the setting has a new(ish) novella thanks to The Book Smugglers’ novella initiative and I could not be more excited to dive back into the world of superheroes and villains and people young and old whose lives have been impacted and shaped by the machines from space with the power to give people powers. To make superheroes. So without further ado, the review!

Art by Emma Glaze

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Arsenika #3

So it turns out I had a bit of time this week and instead of just letting a day go to waste, I opted to review the latest issue of Arsenika Magazine. It’s a publication that launched last year and that I’ve very much been meaning to check out, as a fan of both flash fiction and poetry. This third issue does not disappoint, with three stories and two poems that challenge form and expectations within short SFF. The issue has a rather literary bend to it, but decidedly SFF sensibilities, telling stories that celebrate their speculative elements while also making good use of subtlety and uncertainty. From Greek myth to deep space, from moths to possibly vampires and everything in between, it’s a solid issue that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Art by Aspen Eyes

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/16/2018 & 07/23/2018

There’s two poems and a short story across these two issues of Strange Horizons. And really, these pieces are very much about revisiting the past. They feature characters and narrators who find themselves revisiting stories and ideas, traditions and actions, in order to find new ways to live and move forward. Because for each of them, retreating into the past and the possible comforts there doesn’t really work. The comforts are hollow, or don’t fit, or can’t be reached. And so they are pushed to make their way forward, into a situation they might not feel ready for. And they meet these challenges with various levels of eagerness, from grim resolve to sad acceptance. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #256

It’s an art-focused issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies that I’m looking at today, featuring two short stories that look at family, loss, and art. In both, artists struggle with both the limitations of their gifts and systems that seek to exploit and control what they create. In both, the artists also must balance their power and magic and the good they can do against the harm that they can cause. To very different effect. And the two take very different approaches to setting, the first building up a vivid fantasy world and the second bringing a spot of magic to what feels a more historical look at our own world. But regardless, these are two interesting pieces that I should just review!

Art by Mihály Nagy

Monday, July 23, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #9: WELCOME TO CAMP NIGHTMARE

People, remember when I said that last book marked something of a turning point in the series, where Stine seems to have just given up trying to some degree? I’m happy to report that my suspicions have more or less been completely confirmed! This book is...well, it represents a further stepping away from the weird-infringing-on-our-world feeling of the early books, or even the horror-lurking-in-the-hidden-corners-of-the-world themes of the strangest of these books so far. And Welcome to Camp Nightmare certainly starts things out as if it’s going to play ball nicely, it proves to be something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to lay it on thick.

But first thing’s first. I’m drinking. Given then ending of this book, I’m drinking A LOT. I started with some regular Leinies a while ago and have now refined my palate with some IPA from Blue Oskars Brewing, which is pretty good. If I make it that far some Java Lava and bourbon is on the horizons after this, so forgive me if I descend into incomprehensibility. So now that you’ve been warned, onward to the book!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #70

The pair of stories from Nightmare’s July issue focus on people trapped in situations where they don’t have a lot of power, mostly because of their age. They weigh in on opposite sides of the specrtum, though, one character made vulnerable because of his old age, put in a home where he might be preyed upon at any moment and aware always of his own approaching death. The other piece focuses on a young person in a stifling household, living with rules that aren’t designed to protect him so much as to make his parent’s life easier. In both situations, the toxicity of the environment manifests in ways great and small (and sometimes furred) and forces the characters to choose if they’ll stay and try to face them or try to escape from a power they might not be able to defeat head on. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Chorazin / Fotolia

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #44 [July stuff]

Shimmer is ending. The announcement has been made that 2018 will be the last for the publication. It’s a bit of a poignant moment for me, because Shimmer was one of the first publications I reviewed, back when I was at Tangent. Since then, it’s been a source of some of my favorite stories, and has provided a consistent and luminous stream of short SFF. The July offerings are no exception, with two quite haunting tales about the pressure that a setting can put on a person. The pressure to conform, and fit in, and succeed in the expected ways. The pressure to suppress hungers that aren’t appropriate for human communities. The stories are at turns tragic and grimly hopeful. Not that pain or rending flesh or burbling lungs can always be avoided, but that life can sometimes move beyond those hurts and take forms more suitable to thriving in oppressive situations. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

X Marks the Story - July 2018

Hi all! The latest X Marks the Story is up now at The Book Smugglers! It features five in-depth reviews and a nice list of further X-plorations. Be sure to go check out the column, and for those who just want my picks this month, the list is below. Cheers!

X Marks the Story - July 2018

“Meat And Salt And Sparks”, Rich Larson (Tor, June 2018)

“Nussia”, Michele Tracy Berger (The Book Smugglers, June 2018)

“Kylie Land”, Caspian Gray (Nightmare #70, July 2018)

“You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me”, K.M. Szpara (Uncanny #23, July 2018)

“The Athuran Interpreter’s Flight”, Eleanna Castroinni (Strange Horizons, July 2018)


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah Magazine #7: MUSIC

It’s an especially big issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine this go, with five stories and three poems, and focused on the theme of Music. Now Fiyah has featured a number of stories that have celebrated and complicated music during its run, but here the lights are on and focused on the stage, on performance. Each of the stories deal with people not only embracing music, but having to navigate the different stages they live with. From the literal stages of jazz clubs and private concerts to the much more metaphorical stages of magic prisons, family roles, and dark nights full of terrors—these character know that they have to wear different masks for different occasions, whether it’s to blend in among “polite” society or break free from the restraints of injustice. It’s a vivid and wonderful assortment of stories, leaning heavily toward fantasy this go around, at least where the fiction is concerned, but spanning many styles, genres, and time periods. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Mariama Alizor

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #110

It’s a big month at Apex this July, with two short stories and two novelettes. And it’s all fascinating work. If I had to pick a theme that resonates through each of the stories, though, I would say that it’s cycles of abuse and trying to break them. In each of the pieces, there are wrongs being done. People being hurt. People hiding from the harm they’re doing, and people trying to avoid the difficult discussions with their families and loved ones. The darkness of these stories comes from the weight of the history here, from the pain and tragedy that has piled up because people have avoided resisting them directly. But these are also hopeful stories, of people pushing past the inertia of mistakes and finding the strength to create a momentum toward justice, affirmation, and understanding. To the reviews!

Art by Kim Myatt

Friday, July 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/02/2018 & 07/09/2018

Two new issues of Strange Horizons means two new pieces of short fiction (one short story, one novelette) and two new poems, all of which look at distance and drive, humans and aliens. For the fiction, there's not a whole lot to link the pieces together, one of which looks at language and abuse, the other at speed and drive and competition. Similarly, the poem isn't incredibly similar either, one looking at the inhuman at the end of a long mission, the other at changes in body and relationship while also showing those changes striking toward a more stable truth. What does link everything together, though, is a wonderful and moving style, and a range of speculative visions all reflecting back the ways people are hurt by others, and the way people hurt themselves, all reaching for connection, community, and belonging. To the reviews!