Friday, February 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #48

Art by Joey Jordan
February brings a pair of stories to Diabolical Plots that look at aliens and learning. That deal with difference and hope. In very different ways, mind you. And really, the stories are ones that carry with them a note of humor over a well of darkness, that handle some very real and heavy material with care and a slyness that's refreshing and interesting. The stories are fun without being crass, and they feature some great character moments and delightful voices. To the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The "Where We're Going We Won't Need Categories" Sippy for Excellent I Don't Know What in Short SFF

Welcome back to the fifth and final category of the Fourth Annual Sippy Awards! It’s doesn’t have the history or prestige of the Hugos or Nebulas or...well, any other award, but I like to think the Sippys represent a much needed niche in the award season. For me, at least, it’s a chance to celebrate the stories I loved from the last and remind myself that not everything is about the Big Awards. Sometimes it’s rewarding to just love what you love, and make no excuses for it. In that vein, the Sippys were born, and I definitely encourage everyone: don’t be shy about celebrating the stories you loved. Make awards for them, write reviews about them—have fun and add a bit of joy into the universe!

But anyway. I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, hidden under the covers from the scariest horror, wept rivers for the most emotional tear-jerkers, and drove fast and took chances with the most pulse-pounding action! Which leaves just one category to go, and it’s...

The “Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories” 
Sippy Awards for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF

So what's the deal? Well, the thing is, categories are tricky things, and no matter how I refined my original ideas for them, there seemed to be something...missing. Because what about those stories that just...don't fit? Part of why I love SFF is that the stories can be almost anything, can cover ground that's never been explored, can blaze trails and innovate in ways that other genres just can't. SFF is the genre of dreams, of strangeness, of uncharted stars. It's a place where things can get downright weird on a regular basis, and that's completely Okay! In fact, I love that! And this category is where everything goes that just doesn't fit anywhere else. They inspire, and they provoke, and they challenge, and they entertain. I don't know what else to call them, so I'll just call them excellent!

For venues, there's two making their first appearance in this year's Sippys. The Dark just managed to punch its pro-paying ticket, and though that might change with the recent updates at the SFWA, for now it's definitely a voice from wonderful (and as the name implies, certainly dark) SFF. And Fireside Magazine is putting out tons of amazing work. Though much of its content leans short, it's also put out novelettes and even novellas, and is (I hope) a rising star in the field. Returning to the Sippys are works from Clarkesworld, Uncanny, and Apex, who all definitely put out a lot of content that's often hard to quantify. So yeah, let's get to the awards!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #39

Art by Jereme Peabody
Feburary brings the first Heroic Fantasy Quarterly of 2019 and the publication is definitely sticking to its mandate to publish action-forward fantasy that’s very much concerned with what it means to be heroic. There are two novelettes, two short stories, and two poems to enjoy, and the fiction at least is largely about men dealing with honor and justice, trying to figure out what the limits are to trying to do the right thing, and what happens when you step too far outside what is right. It’s an issue full of gritty fights, eldritch horrors, and perhaps a little simmering desire as well. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The "Time to Run Some Red Lights" Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF

Welcome back to the Fourth Annual Sippy Awards! Some part of you might be wondering, “why?” The answer: to celebrate short SFF across different styles that make excellent use of various elements to shine as examples of why I love this field. There’s no panel of judges or voting population, just me and my inflated ego and love of short SFF. Given how most short SFF awards focus on length, I wanted to look instead at how stories use different elements to stand out and be powerful. This year I’ve already shipped some excellent relationship, cowered before some excellent horror, and bawled from the some emotionally devastating reads. Which means today it’s time to put the pedal to the metal with...

The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy Awards 
for Excellent Action! in Short SFF

These are stories that got my blood pumping, that made me want to run outside and punch an eagle in the face. Or, perhaps more accurately, they made me want to climb into a mech suit and punch the moon! I mean, come on, the moon is pretty smug up there, always looking down on everyone. Just saying. Anyway, the action doesn't always have to be traditional battles and brawls. Some of these stories are about a chase, or a race. Some are about war and the struggle of the individual against the weight of history and press of injustice. But these stories run hot, fast, and furious, and I think that stories like that deserve to be seen, because they do show how much fun and thrilling short SFF can be without sacrificing nuance or meaning.

As to the venues, there's perhaps less surprises here as they have been in other categories. All the venues are pro-paying and rather high prestige. Uncanny and Strange Horizons are both making second appearances in this years Sippys, and Lightspeed punches its ticket along with both Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It's not that, in my opinion, any of these publications are more action-focused, but when they choose to go for it, they do brilliantly. So let's get to the awards!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #271

Art by Flavio Bolla
The stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies show once again that the publication (and editor) does a great job in pairing stories by theme and feel. Because here are two pieces that take place in vastly different worlds, but where gender roles and societal outlooks do a lot of harm in how people relate to one another and how they handle loss and grief. Both stories find people desperately trying to push forward their craft, to cheat death. And, well, that rarely works out so well. Through it, though, there are moments when people have the opportunity to push through the prejudices and problems of their times and cultures...and sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. The result is the difference between tragedy and hope, between life and death. So let’s get to the reviews!

THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The "There's Something in My Eye" Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

The 4th Annual Sippy Awards keeps right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for...

The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 
for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

When it comes to venues, it's once again a rather eclectic mix. I'm so happy to include a Shimmer story here, in part because it was the publication's final year and they've definitely given me a lot of stories over the years that have made me weepy. And there's the second story from Omenana to receive a Sippy, too. Seriously, if anyone is missing this magazine, reconsider. There's so much amazing work. Tor makes its first appearance in the Sippys this year, as does Terraform, two publications that are part of larger publishing bodies that definitely flex their reach to bring in some awesome stories each year. And the winner here is from what was probably my favorite publication of 2018, Strange Horizons (at least, it definitely led the pack with stories that made it to my recommended reading list). So yeah, a diverse bunch. To the awards!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #77

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
The two original stories from February’s Nightmare Magazine deal with death and life, hunger and desire. And the ways that those forces are corrupted and twisted so that they become prisons. So that a family is caught in the web of poverty and place as their town goes to the ghosts. So that a woman is caught in a marriage she doesn’t really like but that she’s unwilling to give up. So that all the characters end up making choices and hurting people because they just want what they were promised—security and safety—that might always have just been a carrot to keep them in line with a society that doesn’t actually benefit them. These are some dark and layered horror stories, and I’ll get right to the reviews!