|Art by Brent Hardy-Smith|
Friday, March 30, 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!
Thursday, March 29, 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
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
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
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!
Friday, March 23, 2018
Thursday, March 22, 2018
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
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)
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!