|Art by Victo Ngai|
Friday, August 31, 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!
Thursday, August 30, 2018
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 review...now!
|Art by Luis Carlos Barragán|
Monday, August 13, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!