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!