Monday, September 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #156

Art by Beeple
September brings just five new stories to Clarkesworld Magazine, but given that none of them are under 6800 words, it’s not exactly a light issue. It’s not light in terms of themes, either, with a lean toward works that explore abuse and damage, with people struggling to find meaning and connection in environments and situations that have been built on misconceptions, corruption, and exploitation. The result is the issue has its share of grim moments, but I feel out of that springs a lot of hope, with characters finding ways to trust and believe in themselves and others, working for a future that can be better for everyone. Or, at least, for the people who are trying to make things better for everyone. And there’s a lot to cover, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Samovar 09/02/2019 & Strange Horizons 09/09/2019

September kicks off with a bang with a new issue of Samovar to enjoy before settling back into regular Strange Horizons content. The translated issue features two stories and a poem, while the "regular" issue has another short story and poem, so all told it's a rather full two weeks. It's also a rather difficult few pieces, dealing with colonization, identity loss, and some dense literary comparative theory. And for all that the fiction is strong and unsettling, chronicling people struggling and often succumbing to the violence and corruption of their systems, I also want to point specifically to the poetry in these issues, which is pretty amazing and worth checking out. So let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2019

GigaNotoSaurus is back! Editor LaShawn Wanak ushers in a new day and after having had just one other issue this year, the publication returns with a dose of magical Western in a novelette that mixes blood, sand, and compulsion. The piece follows a man made to suppress his nature, made into the semblance of something he used to be—fully human. It’s a rather bloody tale of covert action and a slight drive toward oblivion. But it’s also a fine taste of an interesting and intricate world, and might just whet your appetite for more. To the review!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2019

September brings a somewhat grim collection of short fiction to Flash Fiction Online, with three pieces very much about accidents and loss, grief and the slim margins of hope. In many, death rides heavy in shotgun. In some, grief and loneliness seem like they will be too much for the narrators to bear. There is a sharp edge of bleakness in many of the stories, and how they approach grieving and sorrow. But there’s also hope to many of them. That even when you lose someone, not everything is lost. Even when it seems that way. And not everyone who leaves does so entirely, leaving pieces of themself behind in memories, in acts of compassion that linger long after their footsteps have faded to silence. To the reviews!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #52

Art by chainatp
Both of the original stories in this month’s The Dark Magazine deal with stories, with fairy tales. One of them in a more meta, way, weaving a woman’s harrowing struggle into a song that she can sing into life to give herself the happy ending she needs. The other is more of a fairy tale retelling, taking the familiar shapes and characters and themes and boiling them down into something thick and hearty. The result is an issue that is very aware of the price that women often pay just to live, and the injustice of that price. Both works find characters breaking free from the cycle that seems poised to consume them, and finding room for family and for hope. To the reviews!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #112

Art by Galen Dara
Two novelettes and two short stories means a fairly full issue of Lightspeed Magazine this September, with a focus on history, freedom, and struggle. Often in the stories, characters find themselves being controlled or manipulated, either by another being or by their own insecurities and fears. What results is an issue that looks at people struggling with the implications of their own drives, their desire for freedom over comfort, meaning over survival. There are stories of future incarceration, science gone wrong (or right?), struggles linked by music, and even a Weird Western where magic springs from decks of special playing cards. The worlds are vividly rendered and the characters often wrenchingly portrayed, but instead of just telling you about them here, let's get to the full reviews!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [ep01.09 & ep01.10]

We’ve reached the end of the season for Alternis, the serial project from Serial Box. It’s definitely been a bumpy ride for Tandy and the rest of Team USA, competing in a game structured as an MMORPG and populated by teams from all over the world, a “friendly” endeavor meant to peacefully allocate resources on a global stage. And while that mechanic of the story is still a little murky, the obvious truth is that the world is in a bad way, on the edge of all out war, and only the game seems to be keeping things from boiling over. So, you know, no pressure. Since the beginning, Tandy and company have been trying to put USA on the leader board, and finally they are poised to do just that. Can they seal the deal, though, or will their efforts crumble to dust. It’s a thrilling cap to what has been a very entertaining season. To the reviews!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Regular Sip - The West and Everything Above (Neon Hemlock Press)

I’m doing something a little different today, looking at a new chapbook from an emerging queer publisher, Neon Hemlock. The chapbook itself, The West and Everything Above, is the winner of the 2019 Outwrite Chapbook Competition and contains three stories exploring trauma, family, memory, and hope. They reveal characters who have been hurt, who have been scarred by a world that often seems indifferent to their suffering. That doesn’t cut them any breaks, and often seems poised to stomp them out entirely. The characters are survivors, though, finding ways to weather any assault or else craft themselves into nails to punch through the thick sole bearing down on them and strike back against the seemingly-unstoppable forces at work. It’s a difficult and often unsettling handful of stories, grim but with a resilience and determination to refuse the rigid structures imposed by the dominant culture and find a way forward embracing a universe where they can exist without compromise. To the reviews!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform August 2019

Only one story in August's Terraform offerings, which I hope is just a temporary lull. The good news is that it brings all the signature terror and sci fi dread that I've come to expect from the publication. It's not an easy read, all about the price of money, the cost of capitalism, and the way that corruption can get inside a person or a place and rot them from the inside out. It's difficult and disturbing at times, and before I give too much away I should get to my review!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #285

Art by Noah Bradley
It’s another fantastically paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which at this point should really surprise no one). The themes of the issue swirl around rulership, specifically women in positions of power and weakness as heads (or nearly-heads) of state. Both stories find women who are in situations that they didn’t really want or choose. Wars that they would have avoided, marriages that they never asked for. They have all experienced loss and must deal with the complicated emotions surrounding those losses. What they also have is a plan, though, for a way forward, a way to maybe reach around the obvious traps of power and corruption and toward something better. Something where peace is possible, and people can be free. It’s a somewhat violent issue, but very much worth confronting, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Quick Sips - PodCastle #589

The latest story from PodCastle mixes a rather dark setting and premise with the promise of magic and the hope of a young woman to escape the cage that’s being presented to her. It’s all wrapped in magic and ceremony, but the message is largely the same—some people are just destined for a bad death. To be mauled by a bear, or pecked apart by birds, or murdered by their intimate partner. Helga’s only a child, and yet her entire village has largely accepted that she’s one of those people. That doesn’t mean she’s just going to accept that, though, and the piece explores what happens when the only options given are bad ones. Let’s get to the review!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com August 2019

Art by Rovina Cai
One short story and two novelettes makes for a pretty standard bunch of fiction from Tor dot com this month. And the genres span science fiction and historical fantasy, with two pieces that look at how things might have been if magic (or superpowers) were a bit more real. And really in many ways the stories are about isolation, about people who are on the outside looking in when it comes to community and acceptance. Each has a place they feel like they belong, be it a physical location or personal relationship, and the works show how that effects their lives and decisions, how it leads some down some very dark paths, but maybe eventually into light. To the reviews!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/19/2019 & 08/26/2019

August closes out Strange Horizons with a new short story and two new poems that deal with magic and technology. From a hologram of a historical figure that has a surprising amount to say to a poem exploring the shifting end of the world, the pieces tend to look at damage, at the toxicity of expectations and roles. They examine the ways that people accept the world around them, taking it as permanent and right even as they know it isn't, even when they can see and hear from others that it has been different, that it can be different. But often it's very hard and painful to push against The Way Things Are to try and find peace and belonging, and there's often a price to be paid for it. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #70

Art by Francesco Giani
Four stories and a poem make August's Fireside Magazine a hearty helping of short SFF. Of course, I've made a bit less work for myself as the poem, "How to Spend Your Free Time," is by me(!) and so I will not be reviewing it. The fiction this month is very strong, though, and moves from deserts to cities, from post-apocalyptic ruins to post-death traumas. The moods range from isolated and free to crowded and pained to all points in between. The pieces examine injustices and how people approach them, how they move on given the severity of the things they've suffered. How they retain hope, and how they reach for healing. To the reviews!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #694

August brings only a single story to Escape Pod, but it’s a rather delightful experience all the same. The work explores what it means to just sort of roll downhill through life, taking the path of least resistance, going where the wind blows, etc etc. It introduces the reader to a great wide universe and the rather limited way that the narrator lives, drawn into things they don’t really understand or care about. Almost sacrificed for another person’s greater good which turns out to be...well, that would be telling. So let’s get to the review!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Anathema #8

Art by Jade Zhang
A new issue of Anathema Magazine brings with it four short stories and two poems, the works mixing despair and joy, trauma and resilience. It starts off with a heavy piece about assault and trust and relationships before segueing into a much more joyful and light read (which nonetheless ends with a devastating force). From there it gets grim once more before closing on a sense of hope and wonder. The issue captures danger and the happiness that live hand in hand for many queer people of color, a living truth that is presented here without apology or hesitation. It’s on the reader to read with the same bravery, finding the beauty and meaning and impact in the works here. To the reviews!

Friday, August 23, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #22: GHOST BEACH

Right, so, ghosts. The Goosebumps series has already featured a number of ghost stories so far, including the very first installment, Welcome to Dead House (though let's not forget Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, too). This book dives back into the idea but with a very key twist. It takes place...on a beach! A GHOST BEACH! Get it? Haha—kill me now...

Anyway, to celebrate this incredibly clever idea, I'm drinking. As much as possible. To stay on theme, I'm having some Ghost Ship, a white IPA from Capital Brewing (based out of Madison, WI). It certainly fits the theme and hey, it's booze, so it makes everything just a little bit easier. That out of the way, let's dive right in!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #54

Art by Joey Jordan
Two stories round out Diabolical Plots' August offerings, with two rather twisted takes on familiar tropes in SFF. The first takes a look not only at inspiration but at corporate culture as well, revealing a novel way of looking at innovation and greed. The second takes aim at zombies, tying them explicitly to colonization and then complicating them further with a deconstruction of belonging, identity, and isolation. Both works definitely work with some grim themes, though they often find strange moments of beauty tucked into the gritty realities they expose. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #83

Art by Dominick / Adobe Stock Image
The stories from August’s Nightmare Magazine are all about growing up. About rituals that come at the dawn of adulthood, during those awkward teen years. When people aren’t children but don’t know how to be adults yet, and are still dealing with all their shit, with the expectations and realities that they don’t want or need but have to deal with anyway. The stories are dark but carry with them a certain beauty, as well, and a yearning for things to be better. Most of all, they carry with them the knowledge that things should be better, and that tradition is no reason to pass along abuse and damage generation after generation. It’s a great dark issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #284

Art by Noah Bradley
Two nested stories make for a nicely dense and meta issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Both are framed as found texts, stories that have been uncovered that give added context to some mysterious events. They provide their settings with more history, with more philosophy, and with some deep truths to grapple with. Both look at the ways that narratives can influence the ways people view history. Can erase people, or ensnare them. And how scholarship can be necessary to see the difficult truths and seek to fix persistent problems. These are stories with layers and nested narratives that invite readers to dig deep after justice. to the reviews!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #41

Art by Jereme Peabody
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly brings three stories and two poems in their latest issue, and the works mix fast action, wrenching tragedy, and a pervasive grimness. The stories are by and large dark, exploring situations ripe with death and danger, with damage and hard decisions. The characters are out to do violence, to put an end to their enemies. But somehow it doesn’t work out how they thought. Something interferes, or their victory is stolen from them, turns to ash and blood in their mouths. Whatever the case, the stories and poems each introduce carefully built and interestingly imagined worlds to explore, and it’s a very strong issue. To the reviews!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/05/2019 & 08/12/2019

Art by Em Allen
Two stories and two poems open up August's Strange Horizons content, and they swirl around isolation, distance, and a spot of magic. Both stories unfold in a mostly-contemporary setting and focus on relationships between women. Romantic or not, generational or not, the relationships bring into focus what each person has been lacking and how they're attempting to find in someone else a cure to that lack. The pieces are lovely but touched with melancholy and sadness, hopeful but still recognizing the burden of societal expectations and values, especially when they don't meet up with how the characters need to live. It's a lot of stunning work, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #29 [August stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
Three short stories and two poems make August rather standard in amount of content for Uncanny Magazine. The quality of the work, though, makes it another stand-out issue, though, that looks at family and history, magic and love. It’s a mix of science fiction and fantasy, from a story about religion and dragons to one about an exploitative Magician to one featuring the distant origins of a lunar colony that wants to break free of colonization. Add in poetry that echoes back with notes of war and love, and the entire issue flows quite well, leaning a bit grim at times but resolving into beauty and community. To the reviews!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #155

Art by Roman Kuteynikov
It’s another full issue from Clarkesworld, with six stories (four short stories and two translated novelettes) that cover a wide range of pasts, presents, futures, and never-wases. The stories are mostly science fictional, though there’s one fantasy and one alt-history, and they examine hope and progress, what makes a person human or makes them...different. It features naturalized aliens, uploaded consciousnesses, artificial wombs, and colonies on Neptune. And through it all it remains fairly philosophical, wrenchingly visceral, and intimately emotional. There are spills and chills, laughs and more than one heartwarming moment, so let’s cut the chitchat short and get to the reviews!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2019

The stories in the August Flash Fiction Online deal with family in different ways. And time, and memories. They find people in a moment of distress and doubt. Of loss and uncertainty. Where each person is faced with something of a choice. To accept the world as they have known it, as it has been sold to them, or to question it, and try and find their own way forward. For many, it means having to go against what their family might have wanted for them, but it also means being true to what they believe in, and reaching for a future and a home where they might belong. It might mean addressing past harms, or dealing with grief and guilt, or trying to find comfort in the unknown. But I should just get to those reviews!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #283

Art by Artur Zima
This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings two stories that embrace the weird and magical. That find characters struggling with their desires of freedom and peace even as they are a part of a military system that thrives on order and, most importantly, the sacrifice of the “expendable” so that those with power can maintain it. Both feature monsters to fight against but also to twist in service of the state, and characters trying to use those creatures as a tool to do some actual good. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #51

Art by grandfailure
The two stories from The Dark Magazine this month follow characters who are in some ways trapped. By a curse. By a haunting. By guilt. By fear. They each seem to be waiting, and luckily (or not) for them, their wait seems to be over with the arrivals of mysterious women. With these new companions, the main characters are sent into a confrontation with what has been holding them back, and are given a change to change the context of their chains. They are strange, sometimes sensual, and very much worth spending some time with. To the reviews!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #111

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
The stories in the August issue of Lightspeed for me deal with sudden and huge changes. Moments when characters are confronted with things that force them to either suppress what they've seen or completely alter their way of seeing the world. Even so, their reactions are quite different. Some are left rather broken by the experience, while others just sort of shrug and get on with it. Some are pushed past a wall of trauma so that they can't seem to feel at all, while others find their lives changed and wonder at how it all went pear shaped. Whatever the case, the pieces look at ways that lives can change, at what is powerful enough to really impact a person. Maybe AI are more advanced you thought and your employer is lying to you. Maybe a woman shows up claiming to be your husband's daughter...but not yours. Maybe your whole village is destroyed by raiders. Or maybe you see something you shouldn't have. The stories bring a nice breadth of styles and stories, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [ep01.07 & ep01.08]

After the rather intense last few episodes, Serial Box’s Alternis takes a needed breather with these two episodes, wrapping up some loose ends and tying back to some earlier moments in the series. What a difference only a handful of episodes have made, from the team at each other’s throats and trying to cheat to get ahead to working together and learning the joy of the game. It’s certainly a much more harmonious party that’s on display here, and despite the stress and storm of the battle royale, everyone seems to have emerged in a better place, ready to play their hearts out. To the reviews!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2019

It's a rather brief month of stories from Vice's Terraform, with just two stories (one of them very short). But what the offerings lack in total word count they certainly make up for in impact, unfolding in a ways meant to challenge and terrify The futures here are cautionary but nothing without hope—bleak, but not without beauty. One acts as a sort of fairy tale for the age of family separation and immigration abuses, where a young girl and a drone must navigate a world hungry for tragedy. In the other, a school puts on its best face, which just happens to be one full of teeth. The stories are heavy but leave room for hope, and definitely tackle issues that need to be addressed. To the reviews!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2019

Art by Red Nose Studio
Two stories might seem a little light for a month's offerings from Tor dot com, but the works (one short story and one novelette) are both very strong, at turns delightful and challenging, and both with solid boundaries of dark and blood. Stylistically, the two pieces are very different, linked by a dark magic and a bend toward the past, both of them historical fantasies that find the main characters with plenty of blood on their hands...or paws, as the case might be. And both do look at community and family in pushing back against injustice and corruption, but one through the lens of cats fighting for the soul of a human and the other through humans fighting for their own safety and freedom. They're not always easy stories, but they are powerful and complex and I should just get to the reviews!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Quick Sips - PodCastle #585

July sees a single new story out from PodCastle, and it definitely dredges up some dark shadows from contemporary fantasy. The piece deals very intimately with eating disorders, and how they can act as infections, as invasions. And how sometimes it's not one a person can effectively fight against. That sometimes it's not something a person wants to fight against. It's a story that I very much think people should enter with an open mind but an awareness of the content warnings. And before I give too much away, let's get to the review!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/29/2019

Well it turns out that Strange Horizons wasn't quite done with July despite already putting out five issues. This latest one contains what the publication is calling three poems, though the later two are graphic as well as text. Mixing art and poetry is always an interesting experience, and the two works on display (by the same author with different artists) do a fine job of showing how the two mediums can synergize, building off each other to be more than either of them would have been separate. It's a great way to close out the month and celebrate what Strange Horizons has managed to do with its Fund Drive, and what it always does with its mix of strange, speculative art. To the reviews!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #69

Art by Mary Haasdyk
It's another full month of content from Fireside Magazine, with five stories and one poem full of magic and family and cages. Whether the cage is more literal or figurative, though, varies from piece to piece. Sometimes the cage is a bargain there's no getting out of. Sometimes it's a future you're trying to avoid. Or a society's expectations that wrap tighter than chains. Or a promise made to a friend that takes on a life of its own. Whatever the case, the pieces show characters dealing with these constraints, these cages, and seeking perhaps to break free, to shatter the bars, to reach for freedom. To the reviews!

Monday, July 29, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #21: GO EAT WORMS

Hey, a new Goosebumps that has an exclamation mark in the title! For a while, I thought this might be code for the stories dealing with science and magic merging in some weird ways (beginning with the first example, Say Cheese, and Die! However, given that You Can’t Scare Me! really wasn’t about science (though it was awesome) and this book also really isn’t about science (not...really), I’m going to have to revise my theory. Maybe it’s this: if the title has an exclamation point, I’m going to hate the main character. Because yeah, Todd, this books “protagonist,” is literally the worst. Just...awful. To the point that I suspect this book is actually a sort of psychological test of utter brilliance. What it asks is simple: will we condone mental and emotional torture if the person being tortured is an asshole? Well, dearest readers, buckle up, because we’re about to find out!

Friday, July 26, 2019

4000 Reviews: An Introspective

A Look Back

Every now and then I get to check in with my reviewing, for a number of reasons.

1. I am tired, and if I don’t recognize my own milestones and achievements, it seems unending and impassable.

2. I think some introspection is healthy in order to avoid getting stuck in patterns that might not be working.

3. I genuinely like thinking critically about reviewing, about my methods, and about SFF as a field.

So that said, I’ll begin as I normally do with some background. I got into reviewing a while ago, probably in 2011 or so, with a personal blog that is luckily not on the internet any longer. I did all sorts of book reviews, D&D commentary, and whatever else struck me. I really wasn’t on social media and I’d be surprised if anyone ever visited or remembers it. But it captures a bit of my approach to blogging and being an internet person, meaning mostly that I've always liked the work for its own sake, and thrown it at the internet with some abandon even when I don't get much feedback.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons Fund Drive 2019

Good news! Strange Horizons has successfully funded for 2020! That means more excellent prose, poetry, artwork, and nonfiction! Wooo! As part of that celebration, they’ve released a special fund drive issue, including two short stories, four poems(!), and some special nonfiction as well. It’s all very much worth checking out, but I’m sticking to the fiction and poetry today, which shines with complex relationships, a few tarot complications, and a whole lot of longing and sex and resilience and family. If you want to know the kind of thing Strange Horizons puts out, this is a great taste! As an added aside, this marks a milestone for me, as well, because with these reviews I’m over 4000 here at Quick Sip Reviews since I began a bit over 4.5 years ago! Thank you all to everyone for making that possible (more to come on that tomorrow)! For now, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/15/2019 & 07/22/2019

Art by Vlada Monakhova
While the Strange Horizons 2020 fund drive is going on right now (and aiming for stretch goals!), it's also business as usual, with two new issues covering one new short story and two new poems. The work continues the long and proud tradition of the publication being, well, strange. Haunting. Kinda creepy. Oddly heartwarming. And amazing. There's perhaps a bit of a focus on death in some of these pieces, which is just fine, because there's also the focus on journeying into the unknown, in defiance and resilience, and there's a lot to be said about that. But first, let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #687 & #689

July brings two original stories to Escape Pod, both featuring families and very vividly drawn distant worlds. Of course, these worlds couldn't be more different from each other. On one, exploitation is the name of the game, everyone essentially being born into debt and striving to buy their way out and reach for a better life for them and their families. On the other, a majority-neuroatypical population has built a world that functions for them, where people have what they need and are protected from abuse. At first glance, from a neurotypical point of view, it seems almost dystopian. But digging deeper reveals the true nature of this world, and makes me really want to move there. It's a great pairing of stories that offer very different feels, and before I give too much more away, I'll get right to my reviews!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #282

Art by Artur Zima
The two stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies have everything to do with war and survival. With people who have lived despite the horrors they have seen and, in some way, despite the horrors they have authored. And both characters find that conflict is finding them again, putting them back in a place where they will be witness and conduit for something large, something powerful and shattering. For something that could spark a new war, and stop one from reigniting. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #53

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories in this month's Diabolical Plots bring two very different moods and styles. One is a slice of the absurd, a satire of politics and social media and authoritarianism. The other looks at a situation no less corrupt, no less dominated by abuses of power, but with an entirely different feel to it. It's dark and it's visceral and it's rather disturbing, looking at punishment and justice and religion in some uncomfortable ways. Both do interesting things with their worlds, though, and work to expose hypocrisy of systems that don't lend themselves to introspection. Let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #82

Art by Rosario Rizzo / Adobe Stock Footage
The two stories in this issue of Nightmare Magazine feature monsters and characters not really satisfied with their lives. Aside from that, though, these two stories are about as different as they can be, one a thriller of a read where a man must navigate a forest and a storm populated by a living nightmare, and the other a much more sensual piece about choice and longing. They’re both told in first person, both feature nameless narrators, and both are very light on dialogue, but thematically they contrast nicely, asking what it means to be a monster, and exploring how people seek to take control of their own lives. To the reviews!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #29 [July stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
This month’s Uncanny Magazine gets dark. From monsters and murder to abuse and death to magic and exploitation, the fiction features a number of characters facing their own demons. The dark places inside themselves, and the dark forces outside seeking to use them for further harm. Who are seeking to devour them, to corrupt them, to twist them. The works don’t have a lot of bright spots to them, and poetry gets in on the darkness as well, featuring doomed astronauts and haunting songs. The issue on the whole is difficult for me, visceral and tragic, though not entirely without warmth. To the reviews!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #154

Art by Axel Sauerwald
There’s A LOT to get to in the latest Clarkesworld, with seven new stories including three different translations (from Chinese, Korean, and Spanish). These are stories that tend to focus on relationships, on whether the world is worth saving, and on how to live in bleak times. The stories approach those ideas in many different ways, sometimes hopefully, sometimes...not. But they offer a lot of interesting worlds to explore and futures to imagine. Or pasts. Or alternate dimensions. It’s a nicely balanced issue that shows the beauty and tragedy and joy of humanity, and doesn’t really have any easy answers, but often finds comfort in the small connections people make with each other in the face of the giant and annihilating forces of the universe. There’s also an editorial on the state of short SFF that is well worth checking out. To the reviews!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/01/2019 & 07/08/2019

The Strange Horizons fund drive is going on now, but that doesn't mean the regularly scheduled fiction and poetry isn't charging ahead full steam. I'll be looking at the special bonus fiction and poetry at the end of the month instead of breaking it into the normal releases (an extra Monday helped make that decision, because I don't know what the end of July will bring for the publication). And these issues are, well, these stories are difficult, full of death and loss and grief and guilt. They examine what it means to survive, and what happens with that survival is threatened, and it looks at complicity and systems. And really it's a grim pair of issues, but ones still very much worth lingering on for their innovation, beauty, and power. To the reviews!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #281

Art by Artur Zima
It’s another well paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two works (one short story and one novelette) that very much involve bargains, bodies, and children (or at least the specter of them). For all that they go very well together, the stories diverge strongly on how they approach children and child bearing. Both characters are looking to make bargains, to find a way to get what they want, but what exactly they want is very different. Freedom and relief mean different things for them, but both know that they’re willing to do just about anything, pay just about anything, for what they want. If you want to know what that entails, though, you’ll have to follow me to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Fiyah #11

Art by Seth Brown
Four stories and two poems breath life into a rare unthemed issue of Fiyah Magazine. Despite the lack of theme going in, though, a theme might just develop after the fact. For me, at least, most of the pieces deal with traditions, with storytelling. Most of them are about facing a future, whether it’s a future of conflict or movement or rebirth. And they circle around questions of how to honor the past while pushing for something new. Something better, perhaps. But one that builds on the foundations of the past and present. One that takes strength and resilience and integrity. And it’s another beautiful issue from a publication that’s once again having a magnificent year. To the reviews!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2019

The editorial in July’s Flash Fiction Online says that the stories of the issue are linked by their focus on choices, and I agree with that. These are stories where the characters are faced with a decision of how to react to a situation. Of how to move forward in a place where their options are not infinite, and in many ways where their options are not even very good. They are being limited by loss, by the malice of others, and by systemic corruptions. And it leads the characters in very different, and interesting directions that speak to how people hold to hope when their worlds seem to be pushing them into impossible choices. To the reviews!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #50

Art by Tanya Varga
It’s a special anniversary issue of The Dark Magazine as the publication turns 50! 50 issues, that is, and to celebrate there are all new stories, four in total, to terrify, unsettle, and maybe inspire. It’s a nicely paired issue, as well, with the stories looking at complicity and injustice, each one finding characters dealing with how to live in a world that is dangerous, where there are forces that want their destruction. Do they slink back, try to hide? Do they run? Do they try to fight back? Are they crushed all the same? The works show how complicity works in many ways, how it’s often nearly impossible to reject completely, but how sometimes people can resist allowing injustice to continue, and by standing up to it can begin to work towards a world where it doesn’t play as huge a role in society. To the reviews!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #110

Art by Sam Schechter
Two short stories and two novelettes make for a fairly substantive issue of Lightspeed, with a return to some old friends and a focus on tricksters of various sorts. For some this means literal trickster gods part of a great diaspora. In others this means people just trying to get by with a little graft and gumption. For others still it means meeting a vast and strange universe with energy and a true neutral outlook on morality. Whatever the case, these feature characters trying to make it in environments maybe not designed for them, but where they can make a home for themselves all the same. And before I give too much away, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [s01.05 & s01.06]

With the two episodes of Serial Box’s Alternis I’m looking at today, the series’ first season passes the halfway mark in impressive style. Though the project has been largely dominated by false starts and level grinding, the kid gloves come off and all bets are off as Tandy and the team deal with trying to learn to trust each other just as all hell breaks loose. It’s an impressive turn in the direction and pacing of the project, and if you weren’t absolutely invested before this, you will be after. To the reviews!