Thursday, May 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Lackington's #19 [Voyages]

Art by Carrion House
May brings a new Voyages-themed issue of Lackington’s, with six original short stories to take you away from the comforts of your chair and transport you to different worlds and different times. The stories are all about movement, about the itch to travel and see new places. That might be another country or another planet. It might be a moon or just a little further down the track. But these are stories that revel in the journey and the joy and the meaning to be found through voyaging. They reveal worlds strange and familiar, haunting and affirming, and before I gush too much I should get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #40

Art by Jereme Peabody
May brings a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, which this go-round has three short stories, one novelette, and one poem. Which is a little light on poetry, but things seem rather busy with the editorial staff as they have launched a kickstarter to fund their third Best of anthology. And the stories themselves very much celebrate what many would consider “classic” fantasy, with its heroes, dark wizards, vividly rendered worlds, and epic action. These are stories of adventures, of hope and confidence and fear and family. They show the strengths of the genre—the wonder and the horror only possible with a little magic. So let’s get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Omenana #13

Art by Sunny Efemena
A new issue of Omenana is out now, with six new short stories (plus nonfiction and art!). It’s an issue devoted to urban legends, exploring stories of magic and gods, monsters and family. There’s a bit of a feel of storms to the stories, too, of the natural world and all its power and rage being channeled into magic, into people and situations that can’t be stopped. That must be weathered. Or not. And it’s something of a bittersweet issue as well, marking as it does the exit of editor Chinelo Onwualu, who has given the world some truly amazing issues of a fantastic publication. I can only hope that the publication itself might continuing its publishing, and I very much look forward to the future of Omenana. To the reviews!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #80

Art by Chainat / Fotolio
Two very different stories make up the May issue of Nightmare Magazine, though both have a lot to do with history and justice. One is a ghost story, though, about curses and about betrayal—about a moment of two people finding each other in the midst of corruption and loss and helping each other a little bit find some beginning of, if not full justice, at least some revenge. And the second piece is a formally innovative one about a history that has for so long been written by colonizers, and is just now starting to include the voices of those with direct ties to the history in question. Both pieces ask what justice looks like in the midst of corruption and violence. Neither necessarily reaches a full answer, but their attempts do paint a startling and rather creepy picture. To the reviews!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/06/2019 & 05/13/2019

Two short stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons' May, and a lot of them are very much about homes. About places. The fiction especially gives a presence to the places where people live. To the rooms. The attics. The strange constructions. It gives them a sort of autonomy and voice. It grants them action, and in a way that is not always healthy for the people who would live with them. Because these places know what it is to be abandoned. To be left. And they don't seem to want that to happen again, regardless of what it might cost the humans they so desire. It's a very strange pair of issues, but also just vivid and surreal and worth some careful consideration. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex Magazine #120

Art by Godwin Akpan
Well this is it. The final (for now) issue of Apex Magazine. It's also a special guest-edited special issue from editor Maurice Broaddus. The stories are a mix of hope and fear, exploring futures torn apart by climate change, xenophobia, corruption, and conservatism. Per the mission statement of the publication, these are stories that walk the edge of bleakness and despair, that do not sugar-coat the violent or cruel depths that humans are capable of plunging headlong into. Through that, though, they explore hope in the has of annihilation, resistance in the face of corruption, life in the face of oppression. The stories see worlds only a step from our own and offer guidance, and dire warnings, of what might come if we don't do something now to spread compassion instead of exploitation. So for the last time (for now) for this publication, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #28 [May stuff]

Art by Galen Dara
Given that May contains Mothers’ Day, it’s perhaps rather fitting that a lot of the most recent Uncanny Magazine features mothers in SFF. At the very least, the issue takes a keen look at parenting, loss, trauma, and what healing can look like. The stories show characters dealing with their feelings about their parents, about their mothers, their fathers, their sons. About what to risk, and how to put those relationships in context with a larger identity and world. And it’s a dazzling collection of works, at turns heartbreaking and terrifying and fun, and always gorgeously rendered. There’s quite a bit to get to, though, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #277

I continue to be impressed by the way that Beneath Ceaseless Skies can pair stories together without soliciting specific elements or themes. Here we have two stories (one short story & one novelette) that feature family and bones and magic and reaching for a better station in life. For both main characters, a situation presents itself where they can accept a lot in life that might be simple and boring and familiar, or they can take a risk and maybe grab something better. And of course they both reach for that something better. The stories explore just how that act of reaching changes them, and how the outcomes aren’t certain, and even if they do grasp what they sought, it might not be exactly what they expected. To the reviews!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [s01.01 & s01.02]

I’m starting my look at a new serial project from Serial Box, Alternis. It is available for preorder right now and will drop in just two days. Two days, people! For those not looking to be spoiled, keep it to the No Spoilers section (of ep01, as the ep02 recap has mild spoilers)! Like with the previous Serial Box works I’ve covered, this project is imagined as a show in text form, these two episodes representing something of the pilot and immediate follow up. And as an introduction to this new world they do a fine job of conveying both the terror living in the background, the threats of global war and catastrophe, and the weight of the foreground, the grind of trying to get by in a world where the safety nets have largely been cut away, leaving everyone one step away from the abyss. The main character here is our entry into all of this, a woman hustling to live and reach for something like security when that seems the more impossible of dreams. Only her portal into a better world ends up being a bit more literal than she thought, and through a strange confluence of events she’s thrown into a global competition that will decide the course of human events. It’s an ambitious opening, and one I’m very excited to see where it will go. To the reviews!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #152

Art by Matt Dixon
There’s only one translation this month from Clarkesworld (from Chinese, for those curious), but there’s also another two short stories and two novelettes that explore science fiction and its sweep and flow. From far flung planets and evil empires to much more terrestrial prejudice and fear, the stories look at how people come together. How they relate to one another and how they seek to avoid each other and how they seek to understand themselves. Not always successfully, not always neatly, but always with an eye on human connections and relationships. The stories explore change, and transformation, and love, and they do so with depth and complexity. These are not overly easy reads, but they are indeed rewarding, and worth spending some time with. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2019

May brings a slew of mother-themed stories at Flash Fiction Online, only one of them speculative but all of them wonderful in their own way. The mothers in the stories aren’t always the main characters. They don’t always have all the answers. But they are largely defined by their willingness to treat their children as people, regardless of what age they are. And that’s something deeply moving to see, definitely worthy of celebrating in this well-paired issue of flash fiction. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #48

Art by grandfailure
Both stories in the May issue of The Dark Magazine feature women and isolation. Women in isolation, pushed by expectations and roles to a place where they don’t know what to want or what to do. Until they are confronted by shades along the edge of the vision. A hint of movement. A promise that maybe the loneliness they feel will be lifted, their solitude broken. Only what they find in the dark isn’t exactly what it seems at first, and both have to make choices about how they will confront what lurks in the dark, waiting to be let in. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #108

Art by Julie Dillon
Two short stories and two novelettes make for a rather full month at Lightspeed Magazine. The thematic threads are at times hard to connect, but I do read a concern with conflict and a deep desire for peace and compassion. That looks different for different people, and the stories reveal how often the ability to have peace is determined by how corrupt the world is where the characters live. For those who are in a place where heroism is very real and the Bad Guys are expected to lose, it seems fairly easy to take on small concerns. When the system is built around colonization, war, and domination, though, trying to just skate by isn't enough, and more decisive resistance is required. It's an interesting mix of work on display, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [episodes 7-8]

It’s my penultimate look at the first season of The Vela from Serial Box. And as the first season charges for its conclusion it pulls out all the stops. I know, I know, I didn’t think there were any stops left to pull, but the pacing is unrelenting, the impact devastating as Asala has to deal with having the people she trusts the most betray her. And worse, betray her because they don’t trust her, because they’re afraid that she might act in a way they don’t want, which they aren’t willing to let happen, despite that Asala is a professional and knows how to survive and how to fight, a skill that people should probably be deferring to. Instead, everyone is still sticking to their own agendas, something that seems poised to destroy everyone in a blaze of glory and spite. To the reviews!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/29/2019

Art by Suleiman Gwadah
It’s a special release from Strange Horizons to close out April, featuring two short stories and three poems celebrating Nigerian SFF. The works bring a fresh feel to fantasy that weaves magic and creation, persecution and resistance. It finds characters who just want to be free to live their lives being pulled into plots and intrigues that they want no part of but that threaten them all the same. And only through connecting to their power, their families, and the people they have chosen to surround themselves with can they fight back and perhaps fully embrace their potential. It’s a wonderful batch of short SFF, and a treat for readers hungry for more international SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Anathema #7

Art by kiDChan
Slipping in at the end of the month, Anathema drops four new short stories and two new poems in an issue full of hurt, inheritance, and struggle. The piece focuses on the systemic harms that are passed down, that seem to grow in power and influence the more generations are saddled with them. And it finds characters trying to push back against the weight of history and tradition in order to create a new space for themselves and others to exist. Safely. Where they can express themselves and begin to heal these generational wounds. Only there always seems those eager to destroy the work of dismantling systemic oppression, and these are not easy works, but rather challenging reads that push the reader to confront the world around them through these mirrors that reflect the struggles going on in the real world every day. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #66

Art by Cat O’Neil
Five Tuesdays make for a busy April with Fireside Magazine, which released five short stories and a poem this month. The piece run the gamut of emotions, from slow and dark to fast and violent, from fun and sweet to numb and hurt. The connective tissue of the issue seems to me to have more to do with cycles, with systems and how they produce justice or injustice, depending on how they are structured. And what people do when faced with these systems. How they play into them. How they resist them. How they try to ignore them. And by and large the stories are challenging, presenting readers with visions they might wish to look away from, but which we all should see, and examine, and complicate. To the reviews!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform April 2019

Things get profoundly weird in these April short stories from Motherboard’s Terraform. Very. Very. Weird. From planets where people worship different body parts of their prophet to visions of the future or present where people experience alterations in their perception, the works are all about bending the rules of what makes logical sense in what might be attempts to shake and call into question the fundamental and assumed orderliness of the universe. It finds characters embracing the dark and the unknown, rushing into the jaws of chaos, and struggling against the feelings of stagnancy and inertia. There are some really strange works on display here, but I’m going to give it my best in reviewing them!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2019

Art by Keith Negley
April marks a rather full month of short SFF releases from Tor dot com with three short stories and a novelette, a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, all of it unfolding in the “real world,” though sometimes twisted by technology, sometimes touched by magic, and always heavy with a waiting darkness. The stories certainly lean on the dark side of things, revolving around exploitation, grief, and death. That might come in the form of a family who transforms when they die into heirlooms for their relatives to treasure and care for, or in the form of a military experiment targeting a person who can’t feel physical pain but can definitely experience other kinds. There’s artificial intelligences helping to facilitate social justice, and even a creepy dog who might hide a menacing secret. It’s an eclectic month of fiction, to say the least, offering a solid tour of how SFF approaches death, recovery, and hope. To the reviews!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #276

The two latest short stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies provide an excellent one-two punch of women with power dealing with ghosts, family, and hope in settings touched by devastation and twisted magic. Both stories find characters on journeys who come across situations that maybe they should have just left alone. But, drawn into the intrigue, danger, and violence of them, they choose to move forward and through, fighting their way to a place where maybe justice can mean something again, where they can be helped and healed by family (even those not related by blood). These are some thrilling and epic reads, and I’ll get to my reviews!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/15/2019 & 04/22/2019

The latest two issues of Strange Horizons bring a new short story and two new poems into the world, touching on language and grief, movement and gaze. The pieces follow in the wake of loss, revealing holes where people used to be. For some people, those holes represent a sort of unfillable gap, a vortex threatening to pull them under. For others, what grows to take that space can be something beautiful in its own right, a sort of freedom that comes if the situation before had been less than ideal. And for some it’s a mix, a mess of emotions and intentions and hurts, and the pieces treat all of this with care. So let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #27 [April stuff]

April brings three short stories and three poems to Uncanny Magazine, most of them dealing with romantic relationships. About both the ways that people can find ways to help and affirm each other and the ways that people can hurt each other. Relationships are moments of vulnerability, and some of the characters understand and respect that, working to try and make something beautiful and resilient. Others, though, can only imagine relationships in terms of dominance and superiority, of being able to control and own their partner. It’s a month that has plenty of uncomfortable moments, but also a lot of beauty. Let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #50

Art by Joey Jordan
Two new short stories mark the fiftieth issue of Diabolical Plots, and the works seem very much to be concerned with generational shifts and issues. To me, at least, the stories focus on the ways that the past builds up systems designed to exploit rather than help younger people. That envision the past and present as castles that must be defended, as sacred objects that should not change or adapt because for the older people policing them, they are comfortable and safe. Only the story reveals how that’s often not even the case, and makes compelling strides to complicate and challenge those systems by showing just how much they tend to let everyone down. Let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #79

Art by Chainat / Fotolio
It’s springtime in horrorland with two new stories from Nightmare Magazine that examine tropes and truisms. The stories revolve around ideas, the first around the genre of gothic horror, celebrating it without defending the parts of its history that have been riddled with Issues. Meanwhile the second looks at a saying about hearts and wolves, making literal something that might have otherwise been purely figurative. And in both stories the focus is on escaping the gravity of oppressive and prejudiced violence. It finds characters seeking to pull free from the expectation or requirement that they suffer, that they die, that they become consumed to support the dominant narratives. Subversion rules the day in these stories, which I will get right on reviewing!

Friday, April 19, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #18: MONSTER BLOOD II

It's a first that I'm exploring this month for Goosebumps. No, no, I'm not doing this sober, don't get too excited. No, I mean that this book represents the first actual sequel that the series has thrown up. As we go, this will happen more and more, as popular individual books become series. In fact, Monster Blood has four different books in the original run of Goosebumps, which makes it one of the most popular ideas to explore. Luckily for me, I've got a growler full of Chocolate Shake Porter from Boulder Beer, so that might make this experience a little easier to handle. Ready? Let's go!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex #119

Art by Marcela Bolivar
I wasn't expecting to say in this introduction to the April Apex Magazine a goodbye. But with the announcement that the publication will be going on indefinite hiatus following the next issue (which will be guest edited by Maurice Broaddus), it means this penultimate-for-now issue is the last from the current team of publisher/editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore and managing editor Lesley Connor. I've followed Apex Magazine for a long time, having read every original story and poem put out since I started Quick Sip Reviews (and even before then as part of my reviewing elsewhere). And Apex has always been a venue of challenging, sometimes upsettingly dark SFF. The stories do not seek out the best of humanity, but rather reveal the depths that we as people can sink. Through that murk and grime and grit, though, there's also found the diamond-hard, shining bits of kindness, compassion, and empathy that even the harshest world cannot fully kill, cannot extinguish forever. The latest batch of stories are no exception, and stand as a solid sendoff to a stellar editing team. All health and hope and happiness to all the people involved with Apex, and a huge thanks for showing the light in the dark. To the reviews!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #275

The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #151

Art by Arthur Haas
It’s a full month of fiction and Clarkesworld, with seven stories (six short stories, one novelette), including two different translated pieces (one from Chinese and one from the brand new line of Korean SFF that the publication will be putting out this year). And the pieces by and large focus on the past, and on family, and on trying to recover from the world having gone in some unexpected directions. The characters are looking for people that they cannot find, that are no longer there to be found, and it’s some emotional, rending work, but also full of resilient hope, and audacious survival, and there are tons of moments of tenderness and compassion and love even in settings torn apart by war and violence and loss. And yeah, let’s dive into the reviews!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus April 2019

After a short hiatus GigaNotoSaurus returns with a bloody novelette for April. With the shift in editorial staff, the publication is off to a strong start, definitely taking some chances in terms of content and tone. This is a story about anger and hunger and how those things are suppressed, how they are hurt out of people. Taught to be feared, to be hated, to be reviled. But how they persist all the same, in the face of abuse and destruction, and how they are powerful enough to topple governments and bring about lasting Change. So without further delay, to the review!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/01/2019 & 04/08/2019

Two short stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons’ April content, and it’s an incredibly strong bunch of short SFF. The fiction looks closely at homes and at monsters, at people who are trying to escape in some ways the burdens of their histories and who instead find they are trapped by the need to return. Forced into systems that they don’t necessarily want to be in. And it pushes them then to confront the monsters without and within in order to try and work toward healing and hope. It’s a bracing and beautiful batch of fiction and poetry, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2019

There’s aren’t any fools in April’s Flash Fiction Online, just three stories touched by grief and loss, defiance and denial and the need for something to change. In some of the story, the pressure comes in the form of another person, though that might be an abuser or a lover. For others, it might be a situation, a constant droning noise that won’t stop. But each of the characters loses something. Their freedom, their expression, their love. Even as they reach for something else, something they can’t quite name but for the want of it. And they reach, and reach, and the stories detail how they might finally take control of their futures, or fall victim to them. To the reviews!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #10: Hair

Art by Olivia Stephens
A new issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine brings out four new stories and three new poems, all exploring the theme of Hair. It’s a complicated theme, one that grows out of the ways that black hair has been politicized and policed. But like all hair it’s also a source of identity, expression, and pride. The works explore how hair brings people together, through magic and through care, through defiance and through rebellion. How people suffer when they are dehumanized by those who want to control their hair, restrict and legislate their hair. The works run from contemporary fantasy to second world heroics, and feature characters very much battling against systems of oppression trying to define what beauty, value, and power should be when it comes to hair. To the reviews!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #47

Art by Ksenia (Iren Horrors)
It’s an interesting issue of The Dark this month, with two new stories aimed directly at history and the military and South America. Both pieces deal with women running up against a wall of tradition, of a history of abuse and hunger. They go in wanting to succeed, wanting to excel, and find that the system isn’t set up to let them do that. Instead, pushing only seems to make them targets, to put them on the menu for the appetites of those with power. It’s a creepy and at times difficult pair of stories that challenge but also take on the weight of corruption, slowly crushing the reader beneath the tide of corpses the past keeps bringing forward into the present. To the reviews!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #107

Art by Reiko Murakami
Lightspeed Magazine brings four new stories out this April (three short stories & one novelette) that space from near-past science fiction to mythological fantasy, moving from a Mars where humanity has suffered a great loss to a village where the injustices are a bit more nuanced. The issue also includes a conclusion to the Banker cycle that’s been recurring in recent months, though I dare say it’s probably not the last readers will see of the characters or setting. And all told there are a lot of characters bound by their promises, having to navigate situations where what they said they were going to do might be more ruinous than breaking their word. So yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [episodes 5-6]

I’d say that reading The Vela was a little bit like being trapped on a runaway train as it barrels toward a cliff, but if we’re being honest I don’t think that does it justice. The train has already crashed through the boundaries and into the open air and is plummeting down, on fire, while on board there are hungry lions, bandits with guns, and maybe a murderous AI for good measure. The phrase “going from bad to worse” definitely applies in terms of the issues the characters are facing, all while building up a stunning science fiction setting with high stakes, brilliant action, and shattering emotional moments. I’m tired just reading about what these characters are enduring, but I’m also super excited to find out what happens next. To the reviews!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [episodes 9-10]

Season one of Serial Box’s thrilling Ninth Step Station comes to a close with its first two-part episode, bringing together basically all of the unresolved elements from the series so far and setting the characters on a collision course with disaster and war. The episodes today stick with the murder mystery premise, but the solutions to these whodunnits aren’t really...straightforward. Instead, they are labyrinths that, if Emma and Miyako aren’t careful, they might get lost in. There’s a lot up in the air as the episodes progress, and the stakes skyrocket when assassinations, military aggression, and systemic corruption make honest police work impossible. And it’s a gripping payoff for readers of the season so far, though also something of a cliffhanger and a reason to very much hope there is a season 2.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Vulture Bones #4

Art by B R Sanders
Vulture Bones is a new speculative magazine focusing on trans and nonbinary writers. It is published quarterly, and I will be looking at issue #4. Content warnings are included in the table of content of the magazine, so I will forgo including them in my reviews. The six stories in this issue run through with unsettling details which make them a deliciously creepy read. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Huge Thank You!

Hi all!

I’m super excited to say that I’m a Hugo finalist! Twice, actually! For the second year in a row I have been nominated in the Best Fan Writer category, and, rather surprising me this year, Quick Sip Reviews has also been nominated in the Best Fanzine category. My eternal gratitude goes out to everyone who nominated me and QSR for this honor!

I am, as with most things, pulled between feelings at all of this. Mostly, I am so grateful for all the people who have helped to make Quick Sip Reviews what it is, and who have helped me find a place in fandom that is personally rewarding as well as appreciated. It’s easy to feel alone as a fan in SFF. For me, at least, being geographically rather removed from a vibrant SFF community, most of my footprint has been online, most of the people who have helped me and people I have in turn reached been those I have never met in person. Part of what pushed me to start QSR was that feeling of isolation and loneliness, and so to be recognized for my work online, as an advocate for and critic of short fiction, is just amazing.

Because even as I started the project and my work online, I have hardly been alone. I have been helped by so many, encouraged by so many, that it would be impossible to list them all. But I do want to take the time to say my thanks to a number of people who have helped to make these nominations possible. And I know, this is normally saved for an acceptance speech at the awards themselves, but as there is no way that I can attend this year, and because last year I didn’t publicly thank those who helped me get to be a Hugo Award finalist, I do want to take the time now to say a few words, if for no other reason than it’s always good to say, and to recognize those who have helped me.

So I want to thank The G and Vance and all the Nerds of a Feather crew for giving me my first real home in fandom I could be proud of. Thanks to A.C. Wise, who might be the kindest person in SFF, the most supportive of new voices and just an amazing advocate for short SFF as a writer, editor, and fan. Thanks to K. Tempest Bradford for giving me a boost just when I needed it. Thanks to Ana and Thea at The Book Smugglers for being awesome in general and for making me a part of the Smuggler Army. To Nicasio Reed for spending so much time talking Garak with me, and for introducing me to so many amazing things. To Rose Lemberg for always giving me advice I need to hear. To Sam J. Miller for being amazing and encouraging and for writing stories that make me cry on the regular. To the entirety of PQ because you are all wonderful. To Sigrid Ellis for all the support and wisdom. To all my patrons, without whom I would not be able to keep doing this, and who put up with me drunkenly reviewing kids’ books when it has nothing to do with short SFF.

Thanks to the SPACECATs for being a little pocket of awesome in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. And last and most, thanks to my amazing partner Matt, who has been with me through everything and who I am nothing without. I am so much better because of nem, and would not be a fraction of the reader or reviewer I am without nem to break down my expectations and my defenses and show me a universe so much darker and larger and more beautiful than anything I might have found on my own.

There are many others who I am probably forgetting to mention, too, who have been instrumental to me being in short SFF. Who have helped me to grow and learn the ropes. I feel often like I have unpopular opinions about reviewing and about talking about short SFF, but I suppose I have to revise that sentiment in the face of the support I receive. Definitely there are a lot of people who find what I do valuable, and I’ll not lie and say that doesn’t feel good. In turn, I appreciate all the writers, editors, readers, and fans who make short SFF a space that I want to be in. Not that it’s always easy, but having been a short SFF reviewer now for over five years, I’m still inspired and challenged by the work being created. I’m still in awe of the creativity and humbled by the bravery of so many excellent people.

So to you all, again, thank you! Whatever happens at the awards ceremony this year, it’s always rad as fuck to be recognized with a nomination, and I’ll try to earn the trust that’s been put in me by this honor. Cheers!


Quick Sips - Terraform March 2019

There's a lot going on at Motherboard's Terraform this month, with not only the three short stories I'm covering, but a reprint and an excerpt that you could check out as well. The original fiction covers a number of rather bleak futures ruled by corporate greed and government overreach. Not, mind you, over-regulation, but rather looks at how governments can be tools of oppression, punishing those already suffering from intense pressure and a general hopelessness about the future. It shows how people can be funneled down paths that are supposed to keep them "safe" and "happy" without ever really getting there and without ever being satisfied or content with the actual work they do. The stories show how these harsh futures push people into isolation, and how people seek to reach back out in any way they can. It's not a light bunch of stories, but they're definitely worth grappling with. To the reviews!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Regular Sip - The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum by Cynthia Ward (Conversations Pieces #62 Aqueduct Press)

Following the alt historical queer romp through science fiction and gothic horror that was The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, this latest installment of the Blood Thirsty Agent series (published by Aqueduct Press in their Conversation Pieces line) leaves boats behind and takes the action to the continuing World War raging between the Allied and Central forces. Lucy Harkness is back, still in a relationship with the upióry Clarimal, and the piece keeps the literary references fast and furious while increasing the scope, scale, and carnage of the action. The pacing and feel are pure pulp, and the series continues to be a h*ckin’ fun time. To the review!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #274

Art by Vicky J. Bawangun

It’s been a while since I could say I made a little less work for myself, but I’m only reviewing half of the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Why? Well, the other half happens to be written by me, and it’s my policy to not review my own work. If you want to go read it, awesome (you can listen to the amazing podcast, too). But I will be focusing on the other story, a novelette that reveals a very grim world and a character who has faced violation and pain and now stands on the precipice of something else—power. It’s a difficult read but a powerful one, full of damage and hope and destruction, and I’ll get right to my review!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com March 2019

Art by Armando Veve
Coming off a full February, Tor's March lineup relaxes a bit with just one short story and one novelette (so far, at least, assuming nothing new slips in before the end of the month). The two pieces take on some very interesting settings, though, where the world has been changed by some rather huge events. In one, some animals have become Knowledgeable, uplifted to "human levels," though the true implications of the world are much more complex than that. In the other, we return to the Wild Cards universe, where a virus makes certain people develop power, turning them into Aces...or Jokers. The stories look at people trying to get by and maybe do the right thing, though in very different ways and tones. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #65

Art by Bernard Lee
March brings a four short stories and a poem to Fireside Magazine, each of them full of darkness and light in warring measures. In each piece, people grow up hoping to find a place to belong. A world that matches the hope and brightness of their dreams and the stories they are told. But as they grow they find other fates waiting for them, trying to claim them. Trying to make them victims of the hunger darkness around them. Without the protection of a just system, these shadows do try to take many of the characters. But not all of them fall into the dark. Some of them are able to rise up, to join with others to fight back and seek to build a space to be true to themselves. It’s a defiant, inspiring issue of fiction and poetry that acts as a sort of extended hand to the weary, urging them up and forward to further the fight. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/18/2019 & Samovar 03/25/2019

Late March brings new issues of Strange Horizons and Samovar, as well as editorial changes. There are two new poems, a short story, and a novelette to check out, as well as extra nonfiction and a reprint story that I won’t be covering here but that are always worth checking out. And the stories deal with some very heavy and potentially disturbing subjects. Lies in the face of global destruction. Family abuse and sexual assault. The zombie apocalypse. The works are all careful with their content, though, working hard to paint pictures that challenge and bring the reader to confront some difficult topics in nuanced and compassionate ways. That ask hard questions that need to be asked, and that don’t shy away from the often harsh realities that some people live with. These are stories to provoke and upset, but also uplift and inspire as well. Plus Strange Horizons has announced that editors Kate Dollarhyde and Jane Crowley have stepped down, replaced by new editor Vanessa Rose Phin. I want to just say how much I’ve appreciated the exiting editors’ work in making Strange Horizons my favorite publication in 2018 and just all the incredible SFF they’ve helped to publish. All luck to them and to the new staff! To the reviews!

Monday, March 25, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Reviews of Goosebumps #17: WHY I'M AFRAID OF BEES

Readers, I’m not entirely sure what to tell you about this book. I feel like we’ve left normalcy so far behind that the concept of normal has lost all usefulness or meaning when talking about this series. To compensate, I’m drinking the appropriately-paired Imperial IPA with Wild Honey from 3 Sheeps Brewing, which is just about strong enough to make reading this book tolerable. Not by much, but if you have to subject yourself to something like this, best to bring some help. Some liquid help. So booze in hand, let’s get to it!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #49

Art by Joey Jordan
Two new stories featuring religion and the afterlife round out the March fiction from Diabolical Plots. The stories are heavy with their implications and with the feeling of change and fear. The characters are caught between the status quo they have known and the future they’ve been working toward. And now that that future is at hand, the reality isn’t what they thought it would be. For some, it gives them pause in the face of what could be their greatest adventure. For others, there are things to overcome first more than doubt. For both, though, the situation calls for faith. Not necessarily in a higher power, but in other people, in compassion and hope. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #78

Art by Yupachingping / Fotolia
March brings a pair of rather chilling tales to Nightmare Magazine even as spring arrives to the Northern Hemisphere. The stories look at broken systems, broken worlds, that push people into places where they can only participate. Where they can only choose how much they want to be victims or perpetrators. Where opting out isn’t really possible. This might take the form of a legacy and a world that bring about drastic and violent changes, or a criminal justice system where the justice part has been shattered entirely. The stories provoke and challenge, putting the characters in impossible and horrifying situations and forcing the readers to sit there with them, experiencing those no-win scenarios first had. It’s effectively done, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #273

Art by Flavio Bolla
The first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of March features two stories (one short and one novelette) about boys fighting back against the traumas and restrictions of their pasts. Seeking to gain some semblance of freedom from the harsh realities that seem to require their suffering and subjugation. And yet both resist the pressure to conform to the toxic and abusive cycles that they are unwilling parts of, seeking instead to break the systems and free themselves and those with them to reach for something better than they were given. These are two rather dark stories made light by the hope the characters manage, and the cages they escape. To the reviews!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Glittership Summer 2018

A new Glittership is out and super queer!!! Now, though the cover says Summer 2018, these are all original to 2019, which means that people nominating for awards should consider these very much eligible as 2019 releases. That said, there are three original stories and three original poems, as well as three reprints (two of which I’ve reviewed when they originally came out, I think). And the stories are wonderfully defiant, full of characters dealing with systems and settings where they are oppressed, where they are criminalized, and where people try to bend them to fit into what is comfortable and allowed. But even facing the threat of violence and erasure, these characters manage to reach for the unknown, for space where they can be safe and free. Not all of these are incredibly happy, but they are all driven by hope in the face of tyranny, and they are all amazing. So let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #27 [March stuff]

Art by Christopher Jones
Three short stories and two poems usher Uncanny Magazine’s March offerings in with style, revolution, and heartbreak. The pieces move around survivors. Not people who have outlasted others, but those who are surviving their own personal hells and oppressions, their own personal griefs and losses. They are survivors by necessity, their worlds condensing in a squeeze of despair that makes everything seem impossible. And yet at the same time, these stories work to show people helping people. Showing main characters able to move to more active resistance and freedom because they are not alone, because they have the support they need to make their stories about more than just enduring the hardships they face, but rather excelling in the face of them to find healing and hope for the future. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!