|Art by Julie Dillon|
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Uncanny meets June with three stories and two poems and a decidedly dark tone. In these pieces people struggle with big issues. With systems and environments that are broken, that are hungry for blood. Where monsters and demons lurk. And they are settings where the characters are expected to accept their victimization, where if they struggle it will only hurt them more. Only, of course, these characters don’t accept that. Instead, they push back against these environments and when they meet someone who might have the power to change things, they seek to use that power. To convince it or take it in order to remake the world. Or to right a wrong situation. The stories are often violent, and uncomfortable, but they also shine with resilience and with care, and with the hope that things can get better. To the reviews!
Monday, June 18, 2018
Relationships move to the foreground for the June stories from Shimmer Magazine. Whether just beginning, in the case of a certain skeleton detective and the guy she meets in the forest (not as creepy as it sounds, tbh). Or at the possible beginning of the end, as in the case of a woman dealing with a partner trying to “fix” something that isn’t really broken. In both situations, one of the people involved has something that sets them apart and that makes them vulnerable because of how people might see them. And in both, the characters make steps toward seeing themselves as not broken, as worthy of decency and respect. And before I give too much away, to the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
Friday, June 15, 2018
The first two weeks of June’s Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems. The fiction is a mix of fantasies, one with magic and ghosts and monsters and the other with a looser grasp on reality. Both feature characters charged with watching over a space through. For one, it’s through elaborate ritual. For the other, it’s by house sitting. In both, there’s a feeling of something being trapped, of something being infested, and of the characters having been wronged. The poetry deals with myths, with mythical creatures, and with longing and endings and beginnings. And all together it makes for a rather lovely but haunting collection of short SFF. To the reviews!
|Art by Kelsey Liggett|
Thursday, June 14, 2018
June brings three novelettes and two short stories to Clarkesworld, with an interesting look at humanity, alien worlds, and human connection. For each of the stories, the setting is another character to contend with. Either in the form of an oppressive state, a far-flung world, the cold of space, or even an Earth that-might-have-been. And the characters in the story must navigate these worlds, surviving the many dangers, seeking to find connection where there seems only hostility. It’s a goal that is not always successful, and is occassionally laced with tragedy, but there’s also some hope to be found as well. That sometimes, even against the most overwhelming of situations, people can find each other. By and large it’s not a very cheery collection of stories, but it’s an interesting mix and I’ll get right to reviewing them!
|Art by Sean Andrew Murray|
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
It’s a pair of stories about women weavers in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Except that neither of them make cloth, exactly. For one, the weaving, the tailoring, involves emotions—woe and guilt and sorrow. For the other, it involves transforming beast corpses into all manner of objects. And yet both are about legacy and about skill. Both feature the main characters coming up against something that shakes them to their core. And having to find a way to keep going, to find faith in themselves even when they might find it difficult to have faith in justice. There’s a wonderful magic to both stories, as well, that complicates the ways that these characters face their challenges. That give them strength, even when things seem their bleakest, that life goes on. To the reviews!
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
June brings a novelette to GigaNotoSaurus, steeped in mythology and gods and tricksters and, of all things, balloons. It’s a piece that examines morality through the lens of stories, and does so in a very timely and complex way. Because even now the world seems beset by those who would use the letter of the law in order to undermine the ways that law should work—to protect people from abuses of power. It’s a detailed and lovingly rendered setting and a fresh and unique aesthetic. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!
Monday, June 11, 2018
June brings three original stories to Flash Fiction Online that explore difference and corruption and hope. In the two speculative stories, people are faced with an unjust system, with a situation where some people are being treated as less than people—where they are being confined, mistreated—with two very different results. The question becomes whether to go along with what’s happening to push back, resist. The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, comes down to what side of the divide a character is on—are they being oppressed, or complicit in the oppression. In the final piece, parenting is explored and your heart might just melt a little bit. Let’s get to the reviews!
Friday, June 8, 2018
The June issue of The Dark Magazine focuses very much on tropes and moving pictures. On television and movies. On slash movies from the 80s and teen detectives from the 70s. They look at history, and the weight of expectations, and how hard it can be to try to escape the gravity of harm and abuse and pain. These are stories that get into the heads of characters struggling to make sense of their lives, succeeding or failing at defining themselves outside of the roles that people want for them. It’s a chilling but lovely pair of stories this month, and I’ll get right to the reviews!
|Art by grandfailure|
Thursday, June 7, 2018
June brings four original stories to Lightspeed Magazine (one novelette and three short stories), many of which deal with oppression and voice. With characters who have survived something, or who are trying to survive something systemic and violent and difficult. Who don’t know how they can keep going, or what their struggles matter in the face of larger tyrannies. And yet each of these stories is hopeful in their own ways, where characters are able to find some way to move forward, to keep going, to stay alive even when everything around them seems to be hungry for their deaths. It’s a fairly difficult and dark set of stories this month, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t very good. So let’s get to the reviews!
|Art by Reiko Murakami|
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Welcome to a new Quick Questions, my interview series where I talk with genre professionals about short fiction & more. I'm joined today by two amazing editors from the Women Up To No Good anthologies from Upper Rubber Boot Books, which are currently running a Kickstarter to fund two anthologies: Broad Knowledge and Sharp & Sugar Tooth.
From the Kickstarter: "The Women Up To No Good series are anthologies of dark fiction by marginalized voices—primarily women and authors of marginalized sex and gender identities, and we additionally strive for diversity in race, national origin, sexual orientation, and ability."
Octavia Cade (@OJCade) is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science communication and a particular interest in science history and marine studies. She has most recently been researching the reproductive strategies of Zostera muelleri seagrass. She has had around 30 short stories published, in places like Clarkesworld, Asimov’s,and Apex Magazine, amongst others. Her poetry collection on the periodic table, Chemical Letters, was published by Popcorn Press and her novellas have been published by Masque Books, Paper Road Press, and The Book Smugglers. She has been nominated for BSFA and Elgin awards, and has won three Sir Julius Vogels – twice for best novella (The Ghost of Matter and The Convergence of Fairy Tales) and once for best fan writing, for a series of columns on food and horror, which became Food and Horror: Essays on Ravenous Souls, Toothsome Monsters, and Vicious Cravings (Book Smugglers, 2017).
Joanne Merriam is an immigrant to Nashville from Nova Scotia, whose writing has appeared in The Glaze from Breaking (Stride, 2005), and in dozens of magazines and journals, including Asimov's Science Fiction, The Fiddlehead, The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Pank, and Strange Horizons. She runs Upper Rubber Boot Books, administers Small Press Week, volunteers for Postcards to Voters and More Than Medicine, and runs a surgical fellowship and the lives of four oncologists for a local hospital.
Now, without further delay, the interview is below!
A novel excerpt and a short film keep Motherboard’s Terraform fiction lineup a little lean for May, but there’s still two pieces to look at that challenge what the future might look at. The stories are very much about loneliness and isolation and the injustice of systems. In both, people become trapped by the world as it is defined by money, by injustice, by misogyny. Moments of real human connection are sparse and, where present, precious. It’s perhaps not surprising that the publication features a brand new depiction of sexbots (a popular trope for Terraform), but I continue to be impressed by the nuance and care given to these stories. It’s not a piece that’s about sex, but rather the power of small moments of vulnerability and mutual comfort. Anyway, it’s a short but moving pair of stories and it’s time to review them!
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
It’s certainly an interesting mix of stories for May’s Tor dot com lineup. One novella, one novelette, and three short stories mean that there’s a lot to get to, and whatever your poison (contemporary fantasy, near-future science fiction, far-flung space soap opera, and more) there’s probably something that you’ll like. A lot of the stories are actually a lot to do with aging, too, though not all of them about the same kind of aging. But dealing with the particular trials and tribulations of a certain time in a person’s life (puberty, adolescence, early adulthood, middle age, and nearing retirement). The stories all show the baggage that the characters bring to these epochs, these events, and how that shapes them going forward. How they might be able to overcome isolation and fear and the changes happening to them, and how they might not be able to overcome. So yeah, to the reviews!
|Art by Feifei Ruan|
Monday, June 4, 2018
It’s a full month of fiction at Fireside Magazine, with five original releases (five!). Most are flash fiction, but all of them are powerful and ready to fight. For me, so many of these stories are about resistance. About the refusal to play along with the rules so long as those rules are unjust. These stories are full of characters who find, either through others or on their own, that the way the world works often only works because people accept it. Which means that if the system is broken and corrupt, and people are willing to break the chains holding them down, are willing to believe in a system that doesn’t carry such harm with it, they can start to make that a reality. Here we find characters struggling against prophecy, against rules, against the threat of loss, all to reach somewhere better and freer. It’s a wonderful bunch of mostly very short fiction, so let’s get to the reviews!
|Art by Maggie Chiang|
Friday, June 1, 2018
The end of May brings one story and two poems to Strange Horizons (as well as a bunch of nonfiction you should check out), and it’s an emotionally resonating bunch of SFF that centers difference, isolation, and joy. Here we find characters who don’t quite fit in, who are able to see something, to feel something, that they’re not really supposed to. For some, this puts them into the realm of monsters, deserving of pain and isolation. For others, it means being able to make lives easier for people, but being limited in how much you can do. For all of them, the point seems to be to reach for a place where they can be fulfilled and happy, even if perhaps that place doesn’t exist yet. It’s a great mix of fiction and poetry, so let’s get to the reviews!
|Art by Gabriella Eriksson|
Thursday, May 31, 2018
The Awakenings season has begun at The Book Smugglers! The theme is perhaps the vaguest of their guiding ideas so far, but if this first story is anything to go by, it’s going to be another amazing year of short SFF. Because kicking things off is a story about magic and about portals. About escape and about bodies. And yes, about awakening, not to this secret world where everything is perfect, but rather to the knowledge that the world is complicated, and often corrupt, and magic and happiness are things that must be worked at, especially if you’re one of those who don’t want what the world wants for you. It’s a lovely and inspiring read, even as it doesn’t put much stock in escape fantasies. To the review!
|Art by Emma Glaze|
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Competition can bring out the worst in people, but as this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies proves, it can also bring out the best. Both stories this issue are about races, and magical ones at that, featuring women who find themselves squaring off against their lovers (former or current) for the chance to win a great prize. In both stories, though, the actual prize might not matter as much as the competition itself, as the thrill of the race. Because when these characters are faced with what they’d do if they won, the results are...interesting. It’s a wonderfully fun pair of stories, expertly paired, and I’ll stop yammering on in introduction and just get to the reviews!
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
So Lethe Press is one of my favorite publishers, thanks in large part to the excellent queer SFF that it puts out. I’ve had the pleasure of reading original novels and reprinted novels, original anthologies and reprint anthologies, but I think that this is the first time that I’ve read a novella from the publisher. And now I want more. Seriously, part of what warms me about this book is how it delivers a story that I’m just not used to seeing...anywhere. One lyrical and beautiful but not built on top of tragedy or pain experienced by the main (queer) characters. For me, at least, this is not a story that hurt, except by how it reminded me how much I expect stories of queer characters with a literary touch to be painful and doomed. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!
Monday, May 28, 2018
Oh glob, where to start with this one?
Well, I suppose I should begin with a quick look at what I’m drinking. If you don’t know about Founder’s Brewing, you should. Their Breakfast Stout is a Christmas morning tradition in our house, and I’m just sort of a fan of a lot of what they do. I’ve been waiting, though, to be really impressed with their IPAs, and with Azacca I think I have found one I am fully satisfied with. And hey, it's named after a Haitian god and tastes magical, which is much more than I can say about this book. So ONWARD!
Friday, May 25, 2018
It’s a huge issue of Lackington’s out this month, focusing on the Gothic. And from literal Ostrogoths to exquisite corpses, there’s a lot to see and a lot of amazing interpretations of the theme. There are eight original stories (and a reprint that you should definitely check out but that I’m not reviewing this time) and each of them feature themes and settings that embrace the Gothic aesthetic. Haunted houses, neglected estates, and isolated villages all make the stories ripe with shadows that just might swallow up the unwary traveler. These are pieces about facing the strange and the dangerous, the supernatural and the all-too-human. And, well, not always coming out the other side. There’s a great mood to these stories that really gets at the heart of the theme, and it’s a fantastic way to explore what is one of the oldest kinds of SFF stories. So let’s get to it!
|Art by Richard Wagner|
Thursday, May 24, 2018
The second issue of the year has dropped at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, featuring three stories (2 shorts and 1 novelette) and three poems. And it’s an issue that definitely walks a fine line between darkness and hope, between violence and justice. The stories feature characters who are struggling with their choices, their paths. For many of them, they want to reach a place beyond the corruption that is holding them down, that is hurting them and those around them. For some of them, this means taking arms against a sea of trouble, and for others it means striving to consume and become that sea of trouble. But whether trying to break down or co-opt corruption and injustice, the stories show how close the two can be, and what might tip people toward one or the other. It’s a very strong issue of fantasy short stories and poetry, and it’s time to get to the reviews!
|Art by Jereme Peabody|
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
The May fiction and poetry from Uncanny Magazine has something of a yearning quality to me. The pieces deal with desire, and with longing, and with reaching both backwards in time and forward. Memory and comfort, lust and power all mix and mingle here with characters who want to find something that seems to be missing in their lives, some vital spark that can’t seem to light in the environment they find themselves in. So they must move, or seek aid, or change their environments to better suit their needs. The stories are on the short side, the poetry very concerned with myth and women, and the issue as a whole is a wonderful way to usher in the arrival of warmer weather. Let’s get to the reviews!
|Art by Julie Dillon|
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
It’s a rather quick issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories linked in a way by their length (neither of them over 2500 words, which is unusual for the publication). But it lends both stories a sort of impact, and a feeling of anticipation. In the first, that means having to wait for the results of a very important test. In the second, that means having to wait for the results of a very important confrontation. In both, there are certain indications that might guide readers otwards guessing what happens next, but both times it’s left up in the air what _actually_ transpires after the final stories end. What it is certain is that both look at characters struggling to solve tricky problems, ones where they have been made culpable of a misstep and are desperate to find a way forward. So yeah, to the reviews!
Monday, May 21, 2018
It’s a rather dark May for Shimmer Magazine, with two original stories that explore the idea of home, sacrifice, pain, and death. Of course, for those similarities, the stories themselves are very different, the first a contemporary fantasy with Norse gods, sex, and cycles of abuse while the second is a science fiction story about distance, longing, and the annihilation of self when confronted with the alien. Both feature people reaching to reconnect with something that seems to have changed in their absence. When, really, what’s changed is them, and the nostalgic vision of their homes that have got them through so much ends up being not enough when it’s finally reached. These are two beautiful stories, so let’s get right to the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
Friday, May 18, 2018
Strange Horizons launches into May with two stories and three poems (hey, bonus poem!) that deal with myth and pain and narratives. That trace the ways that people struggle and push back against the weight of inertia and tradition. The way that people need to struggle and push back against the ways in which abuses and harms are accepted and passed down. Because without standing up to them, without fighting to make things better, the world slides into a very dark, very violent place. The stories find characters trying to change things, trying to invent new ways of thinking and acting in order to face the increasingly dire state of things. It’s a strong collection of works, and I’ll get right to the reviews!
Thursday, May 17, 2018
May finds Clarkesworld back down to four original releases, though the word count still tops out around 40k of new work. Two short stories, a novelette, and a novella make for a weighty issue, which to me swirls around fate, injustice, time, and struggle. In each, characters push against the frustrations of a world that doesn’t really live up to their expectations. They are let down, hurt, perhaps even nearly destroyed, and in the face of that it might be easy to embrace bitterness, despair, and violence. And yet the characters here mostly just want to be happy, to find ways to survive and maybe work to fill the holes inside themselves. It’s a wrenching, often difficult issue, and I’m going to get right to the reviews!
|Art by Arthur Haas|
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
It's that time again! Let's search for some speculative treasure this month with another 6 spotlighted stories. The post is live at The Book Smugglers now, so go check it out! For those wanting just a taste, the list of the main stories is below.
“Logistics”, A.J. Fitzwater (published in Clarkesworld #139, April 2018)
“Logistics”, A.J. Fitzwater (published in Clarkesworld #139, April 2018)
“Murders Fell From Our Wombs”, Tlotlo Tsamaase (published in Apex #107, April 2018)
“Into the Gray”, Margaret Killjoy (published at Tor.com, April 2018)
“A Most Elegant Solution”, M. Darusha Wehm (published at Motherboard’s Terraform, April 2018)
“Origami Angels”, Derek Lubangakene (published in Omenana #11, April 2018)
“Silence in Blue Glass”, Margaret Ronald (published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, May 2018)