Friday, July 3, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/29/2020

Art by Sam Guay

So it’s been a very busy month at Strange Horizons. Not only was there already a special Fund Drive issue, but another special issue on top of it. This one focuses on Chosen Family, and features two new stories and three new poems, on top of a slew of nonfiction that I’m not covering here but that’s very worth checking out. The works explore the idea of chosen families quite well, showing where the bonds of biological families can fracture and fall apart, where they can be toxic and abrasive, and showing that even with family, consent is vital, choice paramount. The works find characters who have been hurt, who have been caged, and who don’t want to live that way any more, choosing for themselves who they spend their lives with, who they make their families with. To the reviews!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Knox [ep01.05 & 01.06]

Whoops! I had a suspicion I had it wrong and this one definitely convinces me that I made a rather grievous error in my early review that noted the wrong Great War (curse you unimaginative European war names!) that Serial Box’s Knox takes place after. Not World War II, but World War I. Not that it makes that big a difference, but it does put things in a different context. Completely my bad! Anyway, that out of the way, the action actually does travel back to the war and the mark it’s left on Knox. And how what she went through during that conflict has bled forward into the present case. What fun. These chapters continue the turn into the Weird and Horrifying that the previous chapters were hinting at, and things get mighty strange and ominous here. Lots going on, so I’ll get right into my reviews! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #80

Fireside Magazine Issue 80, June 2020
Art by Shaina Lu

The latest issue of Fireside Magazine is all out now, featuring five new short stories and once again harmonizing the ebook releases of the issues with the content put out for free on the website (yay!). The works range in genre, but are linked by a kind of mood that marries some more whimsical or perceived innocent things, and complicating them and giving them an added weight. The love for a pet, a family business through the eyes of a child, a date to a new restaurant, a virtual environment with a mind of its own, and even instructions for building a fantasy creature—on their surface, the stories seem to promise a lot of fun. And it’s not that they aren’t fun, but these aren’t exactly beach reads, taking those premises and crafting some wrenching and challenging experiences that interrogate safety, magic, and family. To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com June 2020

Tor slows down only a little for June, putting out three stories that crack and sizzle, that sink and sprawl. From near-future science fiction to contemporary horror to quasi-historical fantasy…weirdness, the works all take different swings at revealing a world rife with dangers and corruptions but also community and possibility. The tones of the stories couldn’t really get more different, though each has its shadows and grimness. Some are hopeful and defiant, others gutting and haunting, still others ethereal and luminous. Yet through it all the works represent some stunning glimpses into humanity, and those who live parallel to human, in a world that is often harsh, but also often beautiful. To the reviews!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons Fund Drive Issue 2020

Welcome to my review of the Strange Horizons special Fund Drive Issue! The good news is that everything was unlocked, and Strange Horizons looks to be on its way to an amazing 2021. There’s still time, too, to back the project and get yourself something nice, so if you haven’t already, do check that out. Now, I’m told that the final fiction piece that was announced is being rescheduled, so I’m covering one original story and five(!) original poems, but there’s lots more for you to check out, including lots of nonfiction in the form of reviews, interviews, and Staff Stories that are just great. It’s no secret that Strange Horizons has been one of my favorite publications for the last few years, putting out brilliant works that I can’t stop gushing about. So I’m super happy and excited to get another year of wonderful fiction, poetry, and more. To the reviews!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/15/2020 & 06/22/2020

So in case you missed it, the Strange Horizons fund drive is still going on! I’ll be covering the special fund drive issue later, but for now there’s still regular issues to read and enjoy. And the latest are a mix of elements and themes, all with the signature strangeness of the publication, all heavy at times and hopeful at times and beautiful and haunting. The story and poems weave through themes of identity and presence and, perhaps above all that, a keen sense of setting. These are works that are acutely aware of place, and isolation, and that complicate feelings of home and belonging in interesting ways. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Lackington's #21 [Cocktails]

There’s a new issue of Lackington’s out and the theme is just my thing--cocktails! There are seven stories that explore the different ways people can mix drinks and mix drugs and mix all kinds of things, up to and including people. The stories are strange and moving, complicated and a wee bit haunting (and okay, sometimes more than a wee bit), so it’s an issue well in keeping with the reputation Lackington’s has earned for itself over the years. These are pieces that delight and confound, that beckon and tease, and that ultimately deliver sever different great takes on the themes. There’s a nice mix of genres, from fantasy to science fiction to horror, and lots of worlds to see and tastes to enjoy. To sit back and let this issue mix you up something memorable. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Knox [ep01.03 & 01.04]

I’m setting a faster pace with reading and reviewing Serial Box’s Knox in part because I’m still behind the release dates and want to catch up. But really, if I’m being honest, it’s because I reaaaaally want to know what happens next and have been having such a good time reading the series that I find myself cheating a bit to push it up on my schedule. It’s really is a tense and gripping read, a paranormal thriller with a robust queer cast and noir atmosphere that I just want to sink into...well, except for the horror elements that keep me on the edge of my seat. It’s good, people. And I’ll get right to my reviews!

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #64

Art by Joey Jordan

Though the release schedule got a little skewed this month, the latest issue of Diabolical Plots is all out now and includes two new stories that offer up some emotionally powerful situations. In one a lonely house has to try and figure out how to help a grieving family heal. In the other, a dance becomes something much more than that when a robotic ballerina decides to make a statement about how their body and autonomy has been politicized. The works carry some deep shadows, but retain some level of hope, or at least resilience. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #306

The two new stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies bring pieces that deal with interesting takes on time and memory. In the first, a man loses his long term memory and has to piece together his mission based on instinct and training and a single directive to kill. In the second, an augur knows the future well enough to know he can’t fight it, but a new connection in his life makes him want to, even as he has to face his own advancing age. It’s a complex issue that mixes action and introspection, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #14 [part 2]

I’m taking the opportunity of a slight downtick in things to cover this month to go ahead and finish up my review of the latest issue of Mithila Review. There’s another three stories and three poems, so still a lot of content to get to on top of the reprint fiction and other nonfiction the publication puts out. And the works range widely in themes and length, from a very short almost microfiction to a rather long short story, everything still dealing with some heavy themes, from misogyny and pregnancy to family and abuse. The works lean rather fantasy, though I guess they really lean rather literary, as two of the three fiction works don’t have huge speculative elements. But there’s a lot of strong works to see and experience anyway, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #93

Art by grandfailure/fotolia

The two stories in the most recent issue of Nightmare Magazine might not seem super similar at first glance. One is a slow building horror about punishment and guilt, about a story literally coming to life. The other is a story of strange people doing strange things, only for the frame to shift a bit and reveal that the real strange people might be those we consider normal. But in both we are faced with characters who care. And whose caring is starting to eat them up inside (and out, kinda). And both need to work through their fear and their insecurity, their doubt and their shame, to reach a point where they can care for themselves, and find some release and healing. It’s a great issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #14 [part 1]

Mithila Review continues to put out regular and giant issues of SFF short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and it’s been a boon, let me tell you. And okay, the pieces by and large in this first half of the issue might not exactly be light and happy. Indeed, most of the pieces are pretty solidly horror. But there’s a lot to be said about reading horror in horrifying times. And these do challenge and provoke, unsettle and just creepy the fuck out of. Though there is a bright spot or two mixed into that for good measure. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Knox [ep01.01 & 01.02]

Thanks to a full schedule and my own general messiness, I’m a little late to the party with regards to Serial Box’s latest supernatural noir, Knox. But with a kickass team of writers and a description that seems Just My Thing, I am happy to jump into a new project. And so far? Yes please! The series joins a noir-ish detective feel with paranormal elements, a diverse cast of characters, and some grisly murders. It’s great! There’s just enough weird here are the start to set the hook, and I’m both terrified and excited about where the action will go next. But it’s a smart, tightly paced suspense story with a sprinkling of speculative elements and the promise that things are going to get bloody and weird and I am Here For That. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews of the first two episodes!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #34 [June stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
The June original content at Uncanny Magazine is out and features two short stories, one novelette, and two poems, as well as a wealth of excellent nonfiction that I won’t be covering here. The works showcase a variety of genres and styles, though there is a distinct fantastical lean to these works. There are superheroes and sirens, magical communing over dresses, ghosts and memories that go deeper than the skin, deeper than the consciousness. The works show people reaching for expression, trying to push back against the forces trying to silence and co-opt them. It’s a wonderful collection of SFF this month, and I’ll dive right into the reviews!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #165

The June Clarkesworld hits a mid-year stride with five stories (two short stories, two novelettes, and one novella) that bring on different kinds of science fiction, from deep space federation drama to much closer to home terrestrial time travel story. There are multiple takes on future and science fictional systems of governing and organization and how those organizations (ranging from out of control capitalism to a kind of micro-managed religious order) impact the characters, walling them in, making them want to push back against those walls, with sometimes dramatic results. It’s a fantastic issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/01/2020 & 06/08/2020

Did you know that the 2021 Strange Horizons Fund Drive is going on now? Have you backed it yet? I'll be covering the content of the special fund drive issue later (hopefully when all the content has been released), but in the mean time there's still lots of regularly scheduled Strange Horizons stories and poetry and nonfiction to read. I'm here looking at the first two issues of the month's fiction and poetry. And it's some strange, moving, wonderful work that is formally challenging but thematically rewarding. It's sharp and emotional and just what I've come to expect from the publication. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #305

The latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings two stories of women dealing with systemic issues separating them from their happiness. Intent on punishing them for taking strides toward embracing their own desires and needs. In both instances, the idea of justice is perverted in order to try and destroy the freedom of women who only want to protect themselves, and each time that idea of justice is wielded by a man to try and silence them. It’s not a super happy issue, but there is a a rising sense of breaking cages, and reaching for freedom, that makes it exhilarating at the same. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.09 & 02.10]

The second book/season of Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station has drawn to a close, even if that close is the literary equivalent of shoving the reader out a plane and then just sort of leaving them to fall endlessly (or at least until season 3 comes out). Emma and Miyako have been through a lot this season, and are still keeping some huge secrets from each other. Worse, the line between enemy and ally has become blurred as invader and criminal, military and civilian have all been muddled and obfuscated. The detectives are left having to rely on their best judgment, with only the information they’ve managed to gather on their to help guide them. In such a situation, they might find that even their own actions seem out of control. As partners, they’re supposed to be able to rely on each other, but with the city falling to pieces around them, do they have even that any longer? To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus June 2020

I’ve been consistently impressed with GigaNotoSaurus since its return from hiatus, and that continues today as I look at the June story, a wonderful fantasy featuring food, festival, family, and a dance that for the main character has been on hold for over twenty years. The piece mixes elements of myth with a strange kind of diaspora, building up a place and people that are unique and captivating, familiar but surrounded by magic. It’s an invigorating read, and continues the trends of the publication in putting wonderful works of longer-than-average length. To the review!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction June 2020

From mothers to children, this issue of Flash Fiction Online shifts the spotlight to young people. Young people who are dealing with Some Shit. From parental strife to a sibling with a terminal illness to having to take care of a parent, the stories here all focus on children who have had a lot put on their plate, and who are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Who indeed are coping like champs, though that takes a lot of forms. And who, even when things are hard, still manage to reach out a bit with kindness. Mostly, at least. It’s a great collection of stories around a pretty solid theme, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #61

Art by grandfailure
The June The Dark Magazine brings a pair of stories that revolve around objects that come to carry a certain kind of power. That link our world with...something else. The first involves a bowling ball--and while that might seem like a setup for a joke, I assure you it’s not a funny story. The second centers a zoetrope, an old kind of moving picture device, and one that seems to be reaching across the mortal plane. Both stories feature people who feel helpless in the face of a hungry violence they witness. Both feature people who have to decide what to do, and how much they can do to escape, or fight back. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #121

Art by Reiko Murakami
I kick off my coverage of June short SFF with a look at the latest issue of Lightspeed, which contains three short stories and one novelette. And the stories seem to circle around isolation, finding characters who out of choice or circumstance are living largely on their own on in a small group. And who find, in that isolation, that the rules of the world seem to bend a bit. That stories become incredibly important, because of how they define the world, how they give shape to its nebulous shadows. And how they order and organize forces that don't have a great explanation, but through the lens of those stories have meaning. It's a great variety on display this month, and I'll get right to my reviews!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Quick Collections - The Book of Shanghai: A City in Short Fiction, ed. Jin Li & Dai Congrong

So I admit I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into when I agreed to look at this anthology. I’m no stranger to translated fiction, but my reading is heavily SFF, and this collection doesn’t pretend to be trying to be entirely that. Most of the stories are fiction, many with moments of weirdness, of dream-like fluidity, but few are really speculative in nature. Rather, the anthology seems to be (from what I gather from the introduction and from the mood and themes of the stories) an exploration and a sort of mapping of the city of Shanghai, its literary movements and moments--a feel of what the city is to those writers who know it, who might bring it to life in some ways as a character. And so we have The Book of Shanghai: A City in Short Fiction from Comma Press.

Regular Sip - Cradle and Grave by Anya Ow (Neon Hemlock)

Art by Y.C. Yang
I’m back with a look at another novella from Neon Hemlock. This one shoots the action into the far future, or onto another world entirely, where a cataclysmic event has resulted in a world shattered, broken, and with signs that the breaking might just be getting worst. The piece looks not just at the ravages of climate change but on an assault on reality itself, where humanity’s desire for order has backfired and created a society living beside the white-hot mutating chaos of a city and a water that can turn people into insectoid monsters. It’s a bold piece, solidifying the feeling I have that Neon Hemlock is a publisher willing to take some risks that, for me at least, have paid off big. To the review!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com May 2020

Art by Max Loeffler
2020 continues to be a rather busy one for Tor dot com, and May is no exception, with three new short stories and a novelette that's almost a novella. The pieces take on some interesting SFF contents, from the superpowered world of Wild Cards to trying to bring back extinct animals to wars that span planets and galaxies. They feature characters mostly just trying to do their jobs, and finding that those jobs are complicated by the need to please bosses who can be at times a bit authoritarian, and a bit unreasonable. But the job still needs doing, and these works find ways to keep that moving and tense. To the reviews!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #625 & 627

PodCastle’s May originals bring an interesting look at romantic relationships and loss. Both deal with characters who have lost and who are hurting. People who find it difficult to be vulnerable, though for very different reasons. One has been hurt too badly, betrayed too intimately, for trust to come easy. The other is physically incapable of being vulnerable because...well, because they’re dead, and beyond that. Kind of. Sort of. What remains for both characters, though, is the need to move on. To maybe heal and to maybe heal by helping others to heal. By holding to love and trying to express something fragile and wonderful and magic. To the reviews!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #79

Art by David Plunkert
So first thing first, these reviews are no longer neatly meeting up with the issues as listed on the Fireside Magazine site. I first noticed that last month, where there were more stories in the issue than were released on the website. The spill-over from last issue appears in this issue, and so I'm assuming that the spill-over this issue will appear next issue, and on until it's all caught up. Just an FYI, but I go off the online releases typically when reviewing Fireside so that I can get approximate word counts. So. The good news is that the fiction is still sharp and punchy, the stories short enough to be very quick reads but still hitting above their weight. There are some fun pieces and some harrowing ones, and all in all it's another wonderful month from the publication. To the reviews!

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.07 & 02.08]

As the second season draws toward the finale, things in Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station are really heating up. Emma and Miyako are both compromised in some profound ways, but that’s not going to stop them and might not even slow them down as they investigate murders in a Tokyo cracked by invasion and occupation. They have to balance the things they’ve betrayed, the people they stand to hurt, and the people they are determined to protect as they navigated the weaving lines of nationalism, corruption, and opportunity around them. And as the half-way point recedes, the season finale starts to loom, with the promise of something Big lurking closer. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/18/2020 & 05/25/2020

Strange Horizons closes out May with its regular number of fiction and poetry offerings, and they are as wonderful as they are challenging. The poetry takes on some very difficult content, from the fear and violence people react to snakes with to the harrowing experiences on both ends of an alien abduction. The fiction doesn't offer any lighter revelations, keeping things heavy and intimate, looking at the way that violence and toxicity can take hold and manifest in something truly terrifying. Let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Quick Sips - Glittership Winter 2020

Not sure if you missed it, but the latest issue of Glittership is available for purchase Right Now!!! Four original short stories and two poems, plus five reprints (which I’m not covering but that you should definitely check out!) make for a jam-packed issue of queer short SFF. Some of the works are smoking hot, some smoldering--some lighter and fun, some with a bit more heft and depths. Whatever the case, though, they follow through on the Glittership promise of featuring SFF works with queer characters. Adventures are had, mysteries are explored, relationships are formed, and evil is thwarted in these tales of people mostly just trying to live their lives, and finding out that along the way they might just need to change the world. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #304

Art by Anton Ninov
It’s another wonderfully paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with two tales of people doing their best to save their loves. To risk deals with fairies and gods to try and win back a person who has fallen into darkness, who is in danger of losing themselves to death and enchantment. And in both cases the characters find that there is a way forward, a way back, as long as they hold to their love, as long as they are willing to keep reaching. This might seem to put a rather uneven balance to the relationships revealed, where one person has to do more of the emotional labor, but I think it’s a bit more about how sometimes someone does need to be saved, and how that act can be both selfless and selfish, both freeing and bonding. It’s a beautiful issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #13 [part 3]

Art by John Glover
I’m back to finish off my look at the latest issue of Mithila Review. And the works are a mix of strange and devastating, haunting and interesting. The works look at damage, and the need for people to take control of their lives, their stories. The need for people to craft their own present, their own future. whether that means embracing the past or, more likely, rejecting it in order to do something fully new. There are two stories and three poems, and I definitely suggest people check out the reprint as well (which I have already reviewed on this blog), plus all the nonfiction. It’s a wonderful issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Anathema #10 [part 2]

Art by Cindy Fan
I return to the latest Anathema Magazine issue today, closing out my look at two more new stories and one new poem. The works continue to be complicated and deep, exploring the intersections of identity, always informed by how people are vulnerable and marginalized--through race, sexuality, poverty ,ability, and more. They find characters who are put in positions where “winning” isn’t exactly possible, where “safety” is a dream they can’t afford to believe in, because what needs doing isn’t safe, but it still needs doing. And there’s still love, and family, and hope, even if those things must constantly be fought for. It’s a stunning issue, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #92

Art by Alexandra Petruk / Adobe Stock Images
There are two new speculative horror stories in this month's Nightmare Magazine, both of them in some ways dealing with rooms. It's the natures of the rooms that make them both interesting and terrifying, building off of traditions in horror that stretch far back into fable and myth. The pieces are visceral, revealing women who have been deeply hurt by intimate partner abuse, who have survived despite the crushing weight of it and the lack of support they've gotten, and they both move in very different directions around their themes. As an added bit of news from the publication, it sounds like an editorial shift is on the horizon, with Wendy Wagner taking over editorial duties in 2021 while John Joseph Adams So yeah, let's get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #63

Art by Joey Jordan
May brings two new stories to Diabolical Plots, and they're an interesting mix of feels and genres. The first work is a contemporary fantasy exploring abuse and grief, while the second is, well, a second world fantasy about revolution...and skateboarding. Both works find characters dealing with rather oppressive situations, though, and abuses that are intimate and pervasive. Both deal with the traumas of having to live in those situations, and the violence often required to get out of them, to avoid being destroyed. They aren't overly happy tales, but they are both moving and careful and, in many ways, hopeful. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Quick Sips - Uncanny #34 [May stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
May brings three short stories and two poems to Uncanny Magazine, and there’s plenty of strangeness to go around. Now, I’ve seen it said that the publication lacks a central guiding aesthetic, and to a point I agree that it is eclectic and shows a wide range of the genre, but I also think that the title gives a lot away. There is a general feeling of the uncanny that I think the publication maintains, and this month is a great showcase of that, with three stories that are very different, but that carry along visions of the uncanny, worlds and people who are almost like our own, but different in some ineffable way that leads to a kind of disquiet and tension through which we can examine those strange new worlds as well as the reflection they cast back on our own. So yeah, to the reviews!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #44

Art by Rengin Tumer
There’s a new Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and this issue brings three short stories (two just shy of novelettes) and two poems. Each of them explores a different world, even if those worlds are also kind of our own. They also deal a lot with religion, with faith in the face of prejudice and the threat of violence. The characters are caught at times between what they’ve been taught or are expected to believe and the reality that they observe. But as the publication promises, these are largely fantasy stories that deal with heroics, or perhaps anti-heroics, as people fight, love, and make sweet art amidst danger, intrigue, and betrayal. To the reviews!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/04/2020 & 05/11/2020

Art by Nina Satie
May opens Strange Horizons with two new issues including (among a bunch of nonfiction I definitely recommend you check out) two new short stories and two new poems. The work, as might be obvious, is full of strangeness, with eateries serving magical fare, children on Mars making their own entertainment, and poetry that challenges and delights. The pieces are often heavy but carry a certain whimsy as well, that weaves into the hardships and injustices and tastes a bit like hope, a bit like heartbreak. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Quick Collections - Weird Dream Society, ed. Julie C. Day, Chip Houser, & Carina Bissett

Today I’m looking at a rather large anthology of dark and strange fiction, benefiting RAICES. The stories are mostly reprints (entirely reprints?), but in their curation and presentation they capture something new. There are twenty-three stories in total, from a wide range of authors and genres, but at its core I feel that the anthology is what it says on the cover, a collection of weird, dream-like stories that capture a sense of loss and yearning in their recognition of the grim realities of the world, and those places between our world and a speculative reality lurking beneath it. Few of the stories deal explicitly with immigration, but the project as a whole does turn a critical eye on borders, and the dangers, joys, and devastation that can come from crossing them. The anthology can be pre-ordered now, and will be on sale May 26, 2020.

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [ep02.05 & 02.06]

Season two has already brought a delicate status quo to Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station, and there’s no signs that it’s slowing down yet, with plenty more explosive revelations--and grisly murders--in the latest two chapters. The project continues to blend mystery, crime drama, political thriller, and science fiction all into one pulse pounding package, and I really couldn’t be happier. The fictional Tokyo that the series conjures into being, though, might have a few choice words about the situation, though, as it continues to be pulled between the Chinese and American forces occupying it, all while the various Japanese elements seek to profit, or just survive, amidst the turmoil. Let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #303

Art by Flavio Bolla
It’s a new nicely paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies to look at, with two new short stories that both lean a bit on the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Not in ways that might seem obvious, either, both of the stories wandering rather far afield when building their versions of events. One is fairly faithful but extends far beyond that story, to the magical repercussions of what happened. The other completely changes things, creating an entirely new world of myth and magic for the action to play out in, and ditching a girl bringing her grandmother a basket of goodies to a new mother bringing home her child through a moonlit wood. Both stories are filled with darkness, external and internal, and both feature women trying to reach safety through a deadly dangerous situation. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #164

Art by Thomas Chamberlain-Keen
Clarkesworld comes with three short stories and three novelettes this month, which is about average for the publication but does mean a heck of a lot to cover. Luckily the works are interesting and varied, offering up pretty much entirely science fictional visions of futures that revolve around loss and destruction. Invasion and exploitation. And characters trying to get by, trying to survive, and trying to save the world. It’s a neat mix of near future, far future, humor, apocalyptic, and giant robot stories that hopefully has something for every fan of the genre. So let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2020

Flash Fiction Online is celebrating Mother’s Day with an issue full of SFF stories dealing with motherhood. Now, not all of them are precisely happy, but they show the many ways that mothers give for their children, and sometimes how those children give in return. The pieces move from near future science fiction to dark contemporary fantasy, all of them dealing in some ways with sacrifice and care. In each, there is a person who is sick or otherwise trapped, and it’s down to their family to try and free them, or at least be there with them to make what’s happening a bit more bearable. There’s a mix of light and shadow, hope and grimness, and it’s a great way to complicate and interrogate a topical holiday! To the reviews!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus May 2020

May brings a new short story to GigaNotoSaurus, and while that’s on the short side where the publication is concerned, the story brings ideas and themes more than big enough to make up for it. This is an ambitiously built world, one where hair is magic, and where most people live in fear of that fact because of how easy it is to get a hold of someone’s hair...and use it against them. From there the story branches out, building mystery and danger and a budding friendship that might make the difference between tragedy and triumph. Let’s get to the review!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Regular Sip - Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlen (Neon Hemlock)

Art by Crystal Araiza
Today I’m reviewing a recent novella Neon Hemlock Press, which has already run a successful kickstarter for a slew of SFF novellas that all look amazing! This one deals with shifter, punk rock, and some shady business going down around the local music scene. It’s got a robust and fabulously queer cast, world building that gives me shifters and witches that do not disappoint at all, and enough romance, action, and mystery to keep hopefully even the pickiest of readers engaged and entertained. At least it certainly worked for me. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the full review!

Quick Sips - The Dark #60

Art by denissimonov
The two original stories in the May The Dark Magazine have some pretty heavy content warnings to them (perhaps to be expected given the publication). They both also find women dealing with abusive relationships and having to navigate their own shame and feelings of culpability for their pain and harassment, their oppression and fear. The situations they find themselves in are wrenching, dangerous, and dehumanizing, and the women are left having to make some impossible decisions. Accept the course that the men around them have laid out, even when it contains their own annihilation...or stand against them, and take whatever power is possible to smash the walls threatening to box them in. It’s not an easy month of stories, but it’s some moving and powerful horror. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #110

Art by Galen Dara
I kick off my May reviews with this look at Lightspeed, where again it's all short stories. And it marks a return to a few ongoing projects, both in the form of a new work set in the same universe as Ada Hoffmann's The Outside, as well as a new excerpt from Alex Weinstein's Lost Travelers' Tour Guide. Throw in a pair of wholly original stories that deal with romance and love amidst fear, uncertainty, and shame, and it makes for a very interesting issue, one grounded very much in love and communication, and the fragile lines between people. There are some stunning visuals and deep character moments, and if you don't believe me yet let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Quick Sips - Anathema #10 [part 1]

Art by Cindy Fan
There’s a new issue of Anathema out and for my sake I’m breaking it up into two parts, the first covering the first three stories and poem. The work is stunning, building broken worlds and situations populated by people who have lost and who are in the process of losing. Who are desperate for relief, for comfort, for understanding, and who don’t really get that right away. Who have to wait for it. These are some fairly grim stories, but nothing without a bit of hope to them, a bit of light and warmth. It might not be enough. It might not always sustain. But for most of the characters there is the possibility, the promise, that it might grow into something more, larger--that it will give them something like freedom. To the reviews!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #622-623

PodCastle has two new stories this month, and show some very different flavors of alt-history fantasy. One is a post-disaster magical resurgence story (paradigm shift story?) about love, true and otherwise. The other is a historical fantasy featuring a couple living in the shadow of the Vietnam War. Both deal with our world and how magic might shape it, though, either a magic that has always been present and is now being twisted for war, or a magic that was absent and is now returned in the form of dangerous new rules, creatures, and hardships. The characters are in turn shaped by the conflicts that magic creates, struggling to find love and build families amidst the ruin and devastation. To the reviews!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2020

Art by Ashley Mackenzie
So I'm used to Tor dot com releasing up to four stories a month, which means this month's six stories represent something of a surge in fiction. Perhaps it's that the venue knows that more people are home right now, and so might be more available to read some great fiction. Whatever the reason, I'm glad, as the stories are a great mix of science fiction and fantasy, featuring portals inside little free libraries, psychic investigators battling malevolent, and a whole cartography of a new and strange world...that's really not all that strange at all. The works are careful and full of quiet longing and intense action, and I'll get right to reviewing this cornucopia of SFF!