Thursday, December 31, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #189

The pair of stories that anchor this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are rather steeped in blood. Both follow the paths of a killer, one a professional assassin, one a trained duelist. Both find themselves drawn into a difficult situation, and both have a lot of dead bodies to create in their quest to get what they want. The stories pair well, though they fall a bit heavily toward the masculine-uberkiller tropes. The stories are more action-oriented, stripping the plots down for easy consumption. So let's get to reviewing!

Art by Xiao Ran

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/21/2015

Oops. Turns out I had expected something to come out on the 28th and no such luck, but it's still a pretty full review for the latest from Strange Horizons. Perhaps because everything looks interesting, one story, one poem, and two pieces of nonfiction. Definitely enough to keep me busy for this review as the end of the year draws near. A very eclectic collection of things, but quite good and quite a lot to think on. So let's get to those reviews!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Quick Sips - Terraform December 2015

It is only slightly odd when none of the fiction published at Terraform turn out to be flash fiction. Though the publication normally keeps things pretty short, it is rather notorious at breaking its own rules. Regularly stories stretch long, and here again we have no story under two thousand words and one that nearly makes it to six. Not that I'm really complaining. There's even a graphic story this month, which I think might be a first for the publication. All in all, lots to see and lots to review. So let's go!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers December 2015

So December sees the third and final installment of the Spindle City Mysteries from The Book Smugglers (for now, at least) and manages to bring to a satisfying conclusion a series that I have absolutely loved. With all three-part stories, there is some question as to how things are going to go. Will the story bring the characters through the storm of pain and problems that have been plaguing them throughout, or will there be a more tragic end in store for Jimmy and the gang? With a whole lot of happily ever after baggage to unpack, this series continues to impress, and I will just get to reviewing it already!

Art by Melanie Cook

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Quick Thoughts - A Year Older, No Wiser

So I started this blog the first week of 2015. As the year comes to a close, I'm almost surprised to still be at it. Not because it's something I don't like doing, but because fuck is it a lot of reviewing. I started this blog thinking "There should be more short SFF reviews out there. Of whole issues, including poetry and maybe some nonfiction." You see, I was reviewing for Tangent at the time, and growing more and more dissatisfied with it. So I started Quick Sip Reviews hoping to do reviews my way. I thought, I'll keep it short, I'll read a lot, it will be good. I should have known that I'd never be able to escape myself.

I have a tendency to overdo things a bit. It's why, when I started this blog, I was reviewing for Tangent, Book Reporter, and Nerds of a Feather on top of starting this new project. And that...well, wasn't exactly good for my mental health. So I stopped reviewing for Tangent. I have recently stepped back from Book Reporter as well. And already I can feel the guilt start to creep in. That I'm not doing enough. Even as my reviews creep longer, as I have done over 300 posts for QSR in 2015. Over 300. On top of over 100 reviews spread over my other contributing sites this year. When I think of how much creative writing I could have done in that time, my brain explodes a bit. And yet...the world is probably better served by me reviewing.

So this last Quick Thoughts is my look back before the new year prompts me to look forward. It has been a very good year. I have published quite a few stories and a poem and been paid for it. And I have started this blog and tried to turn it into something that people might maybe possibly want to read occasionally. To get people interested in short SFF and maybe get people to read stories they otherwise wouldn't have. Also to have a place to put my thoughts about things effecting short SFF. It's interesting year for short SFF. And I can only hope that I will be able to keep at this, keep reading and reviewing and thinking and maybe even trying a few new things in 2016.

I'm not sure exactly what people expect when they visit this site. I don't feel like much of a proper reviewer. I'm not really a critic. I'm a fan. I gush and I hesitate and I try to be honest. Or at least earnest in my reviews. I try to engage. And that can be a tricky thing sometimes, because it means going into each story with a sort of innocence, or perhaps a sort of willingness to believe that the story will be good, that I will like it. I think too often reviewers that do full issues, that basically aren't going around picking out the stories they think they will like, can become a bit...resistant or closed. Not that reviewers can't dislike things, but I see an unwillingness to engage stories, an insistence that stories must pass some sort of "objective" test of "good fiction." Which can be quite...discouraging when those reviewers also claim to be authorities, when they believe that their tests actually determine whether a story is good or bad.

And maybe I fall victim to this, too. Or will. Maybe I'll become jaded and see every story as boring, forgettable, mediocre. Maybe I'll start writing two sentences and call them reviews, or will spend my reviews debating what genre the story deserves to be labeled as. Maybe I'll decide that certain stories aren't worth my time, because in a world where short SF far outweighs my ability to read it, isn't my time precious? Aren't I under-appreciated and over-qualified and don't I deserve to be able to decide what gets published and what doesn't and don't I have the right to be outraged, outraged(!) when I read a story that isn't good enough. I mean, come on, I probably didn't pay to read it, but come on, come on, outraged! Ahem...and maybe I'm drifting a bit from my point. Sometimes I feel like a raw nerve.

So I've been at this a year, and I guess I still haven't learned to protect myself, to distance myself. My first goal is always to engage with the story. To let it work on me and see how it feels. It's incredibly personal and perhaps not very useful to other people. Your mileage will vary. I am by no means a universal reader. My experiences in life are incredibly limited. I've been at this a year, but I'm no closer to being able to say what makes a story "good." I have no map. I know what makes a story "good to me." A story I want to promote and talk about. And I know what makes a story one I'd rather avoid. Not bad, but nothing I'd want to read. I won't be changing that. My reviews will still be filled with "I think" and "I feel" and "to me" because that's what's honest. Congrats, you've found a review site run by someone who completely rejects the idea of objectivity. I cannot tell you truth. But I can be honest.

A year older, no wiser. That's how it feels much of the time. But I'm still here. I will be starting some new things this year maybe, but we'll see. I do still intend to write fiction and poetry (regardless of how futile it often seems to be), and part of stepping back from other sites was to give myself more time for fiction. But I still very much believe that short SFF reviewing is incredibly important. I'm so honored to be a part of it alongside so many talented and insightful people. And I hope that anyone out there reading finds these useful. To all of you, thank you! Here's to another year!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, December 25, 2015

Quick Bonus - Wrapped, Waiting

Hi all and merry Christmas! No review today, but I thought I would post this piece of microfiction. Astute readers probably will figure out that this was submitted to the Apex Christmas Invasion Contest, but it was sadly not accepted. That said, I doubt this one stands a snowball's chance of getting sent out elsewhere, so I'm just putting this here as a Christmas Bonus! I hope you enjoy! Be safe out there!

Wrapped, Waiting
by Charles Payseur

They're calling it Christmasland, and why not? It certainly looks the part, a mismatch of every Christmas color, red and green mostly but also blue and gold and silver and things that mean wealth and safety and nostalgia. Scooby-Doo and Grumpy Cat and Norman Rockwell all torn and reformed, a landscape choked in festive jolliness.

There is talk of bombing it, nuking it from orbit, but really? It covers nearly half the continental United States, everything east of the Mississippi, and bombing it would mean bombing our buildings and monuments, our shopping centers and football stadiums.

Some expect parlay, for some word from the conquered lands. From what? A delegation of misfit toys? Maybe from the poor souls who couldn't run fast enough, who found the Chirstmas patterns wrapping their arms and legs, ribbon circling their heads in pristine bows? Those who got out are sure they're all dead, but maybe we'll see them soon enough, Christmas mummies, soldiers of some unknown enemy on the march, looking to expand.

It came from the trash bins. From the unfinished rolls waiting for another year. From the bargain clearance at Walmart. It rose and it covered, fulfilling the purpose we gave it. Maybe it's done. Maybe it's waiting now for us to come in, tear it all down, unwrap our present. Or maybe we'll return only to find another's name on the card, or that when we tear away the paper, nothing remains.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #10

Though it comes at a bit of an inconvenient time to review quickly, the new Fantasy Scroll is out and it is a mostly enjoyable experience. As always, there's a nice mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. The fantasy here is perhaps a bit revenge-focused, but the science fiction and horror both shine here, and as always there is a great graphic story to get a new chapter of. Overall, it's still a great source of stories, putting out nine original fiction pieces and a graphic serial. To some reviews!

Art by Joshua Hutchinson

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Quick Sips - Urban Fantasy V2 #2

For the December issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine, the theme seems to be moving on. Moving on from abuse and trauma. Moving on from the safe world of childhood magic. The stories take very different tracks, but both features moments of chaotic violence nestled into stories that are slower, that show the unraveling of something that seemed to take up the whole world and are revealed to be only a beginning, a jumping-off point. An opportunity to make a fresh start. So make a fresh start with some reviews!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Quick Sips - 12/2015

Well I was reassured by that their fiction releases are just on a holiday schedule and not suddenly disappearing. The schedule suits me (as it gives plenty of room for the holidays), though it's a bit sad to have less to read, because the stories this month are fairly strong. We have a new installment of the Mongolian Wizard series, which I hope is on its way to really complicating itself, as well as a few rather short short stories taking on the roll of the Supreme Court and...goblins. All in all, a good month of fiction, and things will probably return more to normal (read: more releases) in the new years. So to the reviews!

Art by Wesley Allsbrook

Monday, December 21, 2015

Quick Sips - Nightmare #39

Mans, Nightmare Magazine is reminding me why it's consistently one of my favorite reads. Two stories, as always, that explore the darkness that lurks at the edge of our vision, at the periphery of our world. Not necessarily just monsters waiting in the dark but the darkness of human abuse and pain, neglect and dependence. The stories here explore monsters of various sorts, but mostly how evil perpetuates itself, how it abuses and twists the mind of those it touches. These are stories of victims and escape, standing up and giving in. And both are quite good.

Art by Kerem Beyit

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Quick Links - 12/20/2015

Apparently I've been a bit busy trying to clear some of my TBR stack ahead of the new year. My #1 target seems to be graphic novels and manga, because I can get to more of them I guess. Not a bad thing, I hope, but obviously it was a mixed bag. I haven't rated anything a 1/5 yet this year, which is always a good thing, but this batch does see two different 2/5 scores. Still, some very good books in here as well, including a rare 5/5. So yeah, check it out!

Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef by Cassandra Khaw (Nerds of a Feather, my score 8/10) - I continue to quite like this novella (it's my second review of it, with probably one more to come yet for Goodreads). Dark and complicating the idea of opting out in a corrupt place.

Fables vol. 8: Wolves by Bill Willingham (Goodreads, my score 2/5) - My enjoyment of the Fables books is at an all-time low at the moment with this volume. I might keep going, I might not. I'm in no hurry, at least.

Maus: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (Goodreads, my score 5/5) - It seems vaguely criminal that I've never read all of Maus before, but I'm glad I'm getting to it now when I'm able to see more of what's going on. A very, very good book.

Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1 Edition, Vol. 3 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Kowaru showed up! Finally the m/m tension I'd been hoping for. The series is still going strong!

Catchee Monkey by Sean Cameron (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - Won this one through the First Reads program and actually it's not a bad comedy/mystery. Not a huge fan of the voice (reminds me a bit of John Dies at the End), but it was cute.

I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson (Goodreads, my score 2/5) - I did not really care too much for these stories. I understand that many of them are rather old but they are...well, the dude was obviously working through some woman issues, and it shows.

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART (my reviews of smut, mostly graphic, probs NSFW)

The World's Greatest First Love, Vol. 1 by Shungiku Nakamura (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - A cute romance set in a manga publisher. Not really steamy but sweet and fun.

Hide and Seek, Vol. 3 by Yaya Sakuragi (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Now this one is much steamier, and very nice in that it's two grown men in a completely consensual relationship. Rare and very refreshing.

And there you have it! Quite a bit I've been reading lately, and still some more to go in my push to the end of the year ahead of the K. Tempest Bradford Challenge. Which will be awesome. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Future Husbands

So my first poetry sale (not to the university magazine where I went to school) is out now at Strange Horizons! The poem is "Future Husband: A Letter" and I am thrilled to have it out there.

I will admit that this poem did not exactly come from a very happy place originally, but it did go through some extensive and more level-headed revisions to make the finished product that you'll see there. And this poem actually has a rather specific...uh...inspiration? Or rather, I wrote it from the anger at the song "Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor. I'm...not the hugest fan of the song, though I can see why people might like it. It's just...I can understand the idea of a woman wanting to find empowerment in her preferences. To refuse to settle.'s just the way that it goes about doing that plays into just about every gender stereotype and binary that exists. The song plays on a sort of false retro that sets up an "empowered" woman who doesn't have to settle but instead gladly skips into standard feminine gender roles as long as she gets the man off her list. Perhaps that's harsh, but I have a weirdly visceral dislike of the song.

This brings me to actually writing the poem, which came out of dislike the song and imagining how it might change is the narrator were not assumed to be a woman. I kind of love queering music. There are so many songs that completely change if you drop the assumptions that they are coming from a completely cis-straight mentality. There are songs I like for exactly that reason, because the meanings deepen for me when I make the story they are telling not a standard straight romance but something different. I grew up listening to Garth Brooks and still do in part because so many of his songs (and many of his love songs) don't actually identify gender. So "The Night Will Only Know" becomes the story of two men finding love away from their "straight" marriages and then witnessing a crime they can't report because they would not only have to admit their cheating but their sexualities as well. "The Red Strokes" similarly does not allude to gender at all, to nothing at all of "Nobody Gets off in This Town." Long story short, queering music (like queering TV or movies or comics through fanfiction or shipping or whatnot) is something that I fully endorse.

"Future Husband: A Letter" is then my taking the idea of a letter to a future husband and flipping the script, as it were. The narrator here is a man speaking to another man who might exist. The counter voice is in some ways a Clippy-esque commentary on the letter, on the need and drive of it. Most people who have used word will probably recognize the Clippy reference, and the Clippy half of the poem (which is a bit heavier, denser, etc.) is seeking to impose some sort of structure on the Letter half of the poem. What results is this back and forth that I hope is both entertaining and meaningful. I'm not new to poetry, but I haven't been the most educated in it. I just...I play around sometimes and this poem felt better being split across the page like this. And in the end I can only hope that it works and maybe people will enjoy it.

So yeah, this is a poem kind of about a song, kind of about form and breaking form, kind of about being lonely and wanting something very badly. I have other poems but I find it much more difficult to send out poetry than short stories. I think I take their rejections harder or perhaps I just don't feel incredibly qualified to write poetry. But getting a poem published at Strange Horizons is amazing. I even tried to do the podcast portion myself, so people might actually get to hear my voice reading the poem when that goes up at the end of the month. Anyway, thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #188

The first Beneath Ceaseless Skies of the month features two new stories, both of which focus on women haunted by their paths. In the first, a woman is running from a lost love and a banishment that has left her raw and chasing death. In the second, a woman with a special gift is both trying to escape and desperately trying to hold onto the loss of her family. Both explore what it means to lose, and what is left afterward. Powerful tales of magic and betrayal, they introduce worlds rich with potential. So I should just get some reviewing done!

Art by Xiao Ran

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/23/2015. 11/30/2015, 12/07/2015, 12/14/2015

It's another rather full four weeks of material from Strange Horizons. Two stories, three poems, and three pieces of nonfiction. Now, there would be a fourth poem, but as it is by me I will not be reviewing it. What remains is a pretty great collection of things to read, including some incredibly interesting nonfiction. I know I don't always review nonfiction, but I do think that it's an often-overlooked medium that more people should check out. The fiction and the poetry are great as always, and really show why Strange Horizons is a must read each and every week. To the reviews!

Art by Jonathan Apilado

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quick Sips - Shimmer #28 (December Stuff)

The final Shimmer stories of the year certainly show off a nice depth and a strong darkness. From a story about a girl who can find anything lost to a story about historical erasure and discovery, these stories thrive on balancing moments of subtle art with moments where message takes center stage, unavoidably and unwilling to disappear. Both feature characters striving to regain something. Their place in history, the people they have lost, the things that gave their lives meaning. What results are stories that creepy like frost, sinking into the bones of the reader, slow but with a weight that sits on the chest like a twenty pound cat napping. And now, to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Monday, December 14, 2015

Quick Sips - Apex #79

It's December and this year it means the results from the Apex Magazine Christmas Invasion microfiction contest. As well as, you know, an issue of fiction that is incredibly dark and rather disturbing. The stories are mostly dealing with the line between the perceived and the real, the line between how people are interpreted and how they interpret themselves. It makes for a very strong issue, one that is quite difficult to read at times. Trigger warnings abound in this issue, so that should tell you something. For me it means that these are stories that might require more than one sitting to take in. But they are very good. Now to the reviews!

Art by Irek Konior

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Bookmas

Greetings all. The "holiday season" is in full swing now and the weather is still teetering here between autumn and winter. No snow on the ground, really, but just generally crappy out most of the time. Which I will take if it means not having to shovel. But the holiday season for me also means betting to participate in Bookmas with my partner. I actually see the hashtag on Twitter occasionally as I'm updating my list, so I'm not actually sure if it's "a thing" or, if it is, if I'm doing it correctly. But Bookmas for us means twenty-four days of books.

It works kind of like this. For the entire year partner and I stockpile books for each other. If we see something we really want but feel guilty because we're not going to be getting to it any time soon, so tend to buy it and put it away into a closet where it waits for Bookmas. After we have roughly twenty-four books in the stack, we have to sort-of cut ourselves off from book buying (though cheating does inevitably occur). Then, every day of December leading to Christmas, we give each other a book. We have this cute little advent calendar with doors and in the doors go little slips of paper with clues that point to a location in the house where a book is hidden. So scavenger hunt + book gifts = all the win!

This year we're also gearing up to do the K. Tempest Bradford Reading Challenge, focusing on not reading any straight, white, cis-men for an entire year. We've also pushed a bit for reading less straight, white, cis-women as well, but a few might slip in (mostly for reviewing purposes). It is incredibly exciting to watch the books pile up. This pile becomes our new TBR pile for the new year, and helps us cut back a bit on buying tons of books because we try to not buy too many more than would go in our Bookmas stacks (plus maybe some for Christmas itself). It works out...all right. The first year we did it I read almost all of the Bookmas books. This last year...well, not so much. But I'm hoping this year I will be able to get to all of them. All of them! We shall see.

Anyway, just a bit of a glimpse into a tradition in our house. Below is the list of books that I've received so far through Bookmas. So excited!!!

Day 01: Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott
Day 02: City of a Thousand Suns by Samuel R. Delany
Day 03: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Day 04: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
Day 05: Mothership: Afrofuturism and Beyond eds. Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall
Day 06: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Day 07: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Day 08: Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston
Day 09: The Time and The Place and Other Stories by Naguib Mahfouz
Day 10: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Day 11: Chasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez

And still not even halfway there! I'll probably do a Thoughts at the beginning of the year with a full list of my TBR challenge books. Obviously that will change as the year progresses (though if you're interested the updating list can be found here on Goodreads, and throughout the year I will be adding updates and reviews, so yeah...), but I'm super excited. A bit ashamed, too, to be honest, because I've never read these books, but there's no time like now to start. Indeed! Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Monthly Round is Up!!!

It is! And you can find it at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

This month's picks are:

"Demon in Aisle 6" by Matthew Kressel (Nightmare #38)
"The Price You Pay is Red" by Carlie St. George (Book Smugglers)
"First Do No Harm" by Jonathan Edelstein (Strange Horizons)
"Even In This Skin" by A.C. Wise (Shimmer #28)
"To Die Dancing" by Sam J. Miller (Apex #78)
"Sleeping With Spirits" by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Mothership Zeta #1)


"Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast" by Stewart C. Baker (Fantastic Stories #231)
"Vaquera" by Kim Henderson (Flash Fiction Online)
"Noah Takes a Photo of Himself Every Day for 10,000 Years" by Ryan Vance (Terraform)


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantasy #59 QUEERS DESTROY FANTASY

2016 has been the year for Queers Destroying, with Queers Destroy Science Fiction! dropping in June, Queers Destroy Horror! in October, and now December seeing Queers Destroy Fantasy! There are four original stories, and they range widely, from stories about wars in the dining halls to battles between heroes and monsters where love is a weapon. Women swap heads and young men banish ghosts, both for a price. These are stories of longing and love, violence and tenderness. They are not about queerness so much as they let their queerness subvert and, yes, destroy. These are stories that some might say are common enough now, no big deal. But fuck that, really, because what that argument does is erase those who have worked and are working to change things. These stories are still vital because, as seen in the Bowes story, though things have gotten better, they are not equal. So more of these projects, please. More destruction. But first, reviews!

Art by Priscilla Kim

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #67

With the end of the year looming, things are getting...weird with the stories coming out, and Lightspeed Magazine keeps that trend going with four original stories steeped in the strange. Mad Hatters stand beside visions of humans among the stars so odd they're barely recognizable, and grief and loss and guilt become a tangible thing following the loss of a parent. From epic revenge tales to the dissolution of relationships, the stories this month are not the cheeriest of adventures, but most offer a bit of hope through it all, and a healthy spoonful of weird. To the reviews!

Art by James Ng

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quick Sips - Farrago's Wainscot #16

Ahh! Apparently I completely forgot about Farrago's Wainscot, which came out in October (curse you OCTOBER!!!). Instead of skipping it, though, I'm just going to treat it like a December release. After all, it has a rather trippy Christmas story, and all the stories deal with the ways in which fiction can effect the real world, the ways in which art make reality. And, of course, there is more weird than you can shake a stick at. What fun! To the reviews (and sorry I missed this in October)!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #111

For it's December issue, Clarkesworld's gift to you and me is a month of great fiction. Four stories anchor the issue, all of them science fictional in nature. This issue manages to mostly stick to hope, most of the stories finding a way forward despite ugliness, despite despair, despite adversity. And all of them tell some fine tales about the edges of space, about the edges of human achievement. About people surviving and thriving in environments that could easily kill them. It's a full issue of fiction, plus an interesting nonfiction piece dealing with a topic I have OPINIONS(!) on, the Classics. So let's get to it!

Art by Peter Mohnbacher

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Questing for Good Erotica

So after a very long wait (for me, at least), my story "Questing" is now available in the Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica anthology. This was actually my first erotica sale from about a year ago, and also the story that I've probably done the most editing to once it was accepted.

It always surprises me how much erotica and romance tend to ask for edits. At least, some of the time. This story especially was tricky because it's Arthurian but set in the present day using a variant of my headcanon Arthur myth. Namely, the knights are all "immortal" following drinking the grail, and they keep getting reborn into new bodies. In this story things are kept pretty simple because it's a standalone and because I didn't really want to get into too much. Mostly I wanted an excuse to write a fun story featuring Lancelot and Palomides. Palomides is one of my favorite knights because he's always in the background, always getting beat by the Top 4 (Lancelot, Tristram, Lamorak, Gareth). Of course, he's also one of the only knights to best most of the Top 4, which means he's quite high on my list of best knights. 

He's also just a lot of fun because being always on the outside of greatness looking in, he always has something to prove. I try to think when planning more contemporary stories how who the characters were in the original stories would evolve to who they are today. The Lancelot, that means a man obsessed with the game. With the quest. That's how I saw him most of the time anyway, not really caring about Guinevere but caring about winning her. About winning in general. And that's still the same, though his game is now the Game that he plays with his faction of knights who want no part of holding to old hatreds. Old lusts…well, that's something else. Because while Lancelot is not one to keep it in his pants, I see Palomides as much more willing to wait for the right moment. Which is where the story opens. 

I will admit that I chose the quest I use (searching for the Questing Beast) both because it ties into Palomides' back story (as the Questing Knight) but because it does look a bit like a Hodag depending on descriptions. And I'm a big fan of Hodags. So I get to mix Northern Wisconsin tall tales with Arthurian myth. And sex. Quite a bit of sex. So this was a lot of fun to write and I'm very glad that it was picked up. I'm a little bummed that the anthology is ebook only but them's the breaks I guess. I still had a lot of fun writing it. It's not exactly how I'd set up a non-erotic Arthurian setting, but it's getting there. The Game is part of my headcanon. And I do like Palomides and Lancelot together, at least for a fling. I will admit that I don't see the relationship lasting, but while it does I see it being quite steamy. I see Palomides being the one to break it off, and I see Lancelot never quite getting over it. But ah, the stories I will likely never write. 

So yeah, definitely go and check that out. It's fun and sexy and has a little bit of non-sex action as well as Palomides and Lancelot confront the Questing Beast. But I hope it's cute and fun, mostly. Indeed. Thanks for reading. 

All the best, 

Charles Payseur

Friday, December 4, 2015

Quick Sips - Crossed Genres # 36 - Pronouns

This is it, folks, the last issue of Crossed Genres. I will admit that I will miss this publication. The theme this issue is pronouns, and the stories do indeed challenge linguistic ideas of pronouns, showing how they are used and how they can be tools to prop up some antiquated (and shitty) systems and ideas. But also about how they can free. These stories are provocative and a fitting way to send Crossed Genres Magazine out in style. Review time!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Quick Sips - Uncanny #7 (December Stuff)

So Uncanny Magazine is closing out it's first full year of publication, and what a year it has been. It definitely produces a very bright and shiny issue every two months, and free content spread over each and every month, and it's definitely something I look forward to whenever it comes around. This month sees three stories, a single poem, and two pieces of nonfiction out, and while it might not be the most holiday-themed, it does a nice job of giving a wide tour of SFF, from devils to sentient spaceships to vast conspiracies involving dead writers, this issue is bound to have something for everyone. To the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online December 2015

This month's Flash Fiction Online is all about the holidays. Well, mostly all about the holidays. Three stories anchor the issue, two of them rather explicitly holiday themed and all of them offering a mix of darkness and hope. In each there are hard truths that are cut by slivers of hope. Elves are exploited and risk death to escape their master, the world stands on the brink of a new mass extinction, and two girls are trapped in a Christmas that never ends. But through all that there is some light, the light breaking through the glass, the light of human kindness and human invention. That all is not lost. That this winter might not be our last. A fine issue that I'm going to get to reviewing!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Quick Sips - November 2015

I'm not really sure what's happening over at right now. I mean, perhaps the novella push their doing has diverted some attention away from original fiction. Perhaps there is some sort of massive push in store for December. All I really know is that there are only two stories out this month. Not a problem, exactly (less to review I guess?), but Tor normally puts out some very good stories so I'm slightly bummed to see the smaller output. Probably I'd just be complaining if there were a lot of stories, though. What's here are two tales dealing with children, and how children fit into their worlds. Some strong stuff about aging and displacement. To the reviews!

Art by Keith Negley

Monday, November 30, 2015

Quick Sips - Terraform November 2015

I'm actually rather surprised at Terraform this month, because for once it actually mostly stuck to its guidelines and all the stories are at least under 3K. The stories are quite different this month, ranging from a humorous string of inter-office emails detailing a crisis with a microwave to a very serious examination of art over time and the rise of AI and immortality. Most of the stories are fun, though, even as they examine future that it's probably best to avoid. And mixing the commentary with humor makes them a little easier to swallow. All in all, it's a fine collection of very short stories, which I will get to reviewing now!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Thankful

It's Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Or it will have been by the time that this appears on the blog. As I write this it's still a day away. I was going to write up something on the "morally complex YA" thing going on right now but there are better minds doing that and so I thought I would step back and concentrate instead on things I am thankful for. Because while a lot about the holiday is pretty side-eye, I do think that it's important to reflect every now and then on what's good.

First off, I am thankful to my partner, for putting up with me. In about two weeks it will have been nine years since our first date, and when I think about how much we have changed in that time I am filled with hope and joy. It is my greatest pleasure and honor to be able to share my life with someone so amazing, and though I don't often talk about nem in this space (for a variety of reasons), ne is first in my mind and in my heart. And without nem I would not be doing what I am doing. 

I am also thankful for great stories, which should come as no surprise. To both the writers writing and the publications publishing them, many thanks! I have said it often enough but this is an amazing time to be a reader. A scary time, because there is a feeling that it is fragile, that things might at any moment be taken away, but it is also invigorating, challenging, and rewarding. My thanks as well go out to other readers and reviewers, who provide something equally vital, which is engagement. It's sort of my core mission with Quick Sip Reviews to engage with short SFF fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, but without others I'd just be shouting into an abyss. And while it can feel at times like that's all I'm doing, seeing other people out there reviewing is heartening. It's what gave me courage to stop reviewing for a place I couldn't feel comfortable at and make a space of my own. So for everyone out there, from Goodreads reviewers to the biggest names in SFF reviews, thanks! 

Of course I am thankful to my readers! This blog started pretty small and has picked up steam pretty much every month it's been around. Which is a great feeling personally as I hope it means people out there are reading and liking what I'm doing. So thank you, everyone who checks in and everyone who spreads the word. My sincerest thanks for finding my thoughts on stories and such worthy of your time (I know how precious that can be, often). An especial thanks to any and all who have offered up words of encouragement as I struggle onward, to everyone who said what I am doing is worth something. It means an awful lot to hear that every now and then. Sorry that I seem to whine an awful lot. 

I am thankful for craft breweries, good bookstores, and the internet. I am thankful that there's a place for me to be me even if it's only within the walls of my home and in the boundless reaches of digital space. I'm thankful to all the people who have bought my stories, and for all those who read them and enjoyed them (not quite so thankful if you read them and hated them, but thankful at least you didn't feel the need to tell me about it). I'm thankful for my pets, who are adorable and furry and make life interesting. For all this and much more, I am thankful. Thanks for reading! 

All the best, 

Charles Payseur

Friday, November 27, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #187

Beneath Ceaseless Skies must really care about my sanity, because they came out with their latest issue a whole two days early (at least, I think they normally drop on Thursday and this was out on Tuesday) so that I could get ahead on reviewing before Thanksgiving. I'm sure that was the reason. Yeah. Anyway, this issue features two stories, one featuring a returning storyline and one all new. They are quite different. The first features a more traditional fantasy plot, breaking into a prison to commit a crime. The other looks at the nature of history and conflict. The stories scratch two very different itches, but both are interesting and well written, and while my personal tastes run a bit more toward the later, I enjoyed myself throughout. So to the reviews!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers November 2015

This month The Books Smugglers offer up a double-helping of fairy tales mixed with noir mysteries. And the stories are delightful! I'm not incredibly into noir stories most of the time because they tend to be rather full of some...not-that-great tropes and cliches, but these stories subvert in the best of ways while providing fast action and excellent world-building. 

Art by Melanie Cook

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quick Sips - Mothership Zeta #1

Amid some more somber news of publications closing, there are still some rays of sunshine, and Mothership Zeta is certainly one. Coming in as an ezine, the Mothership is the home for fun. Mostly, at least. The stories do have a flare of the fun, voices that roll from the tongue, a wry sense of humor and healthy amount of sarcasm. But stuck in here too are stories that slow things down. That break the humor in favor of topics that are much more serious. The issue manages to balance itself quite well, starting and ending with flash and moving between those two points from humor to sweet to dark and back again. There's also nonfiction and a reprint to enjoy that I will not be talking about here, but below are reviews of all eight of the original fiction stories. Here we go!

Art by Frank Wu

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quick Sips - Urban Fantasy Magazine V2, #1

Two pieces of fiction round out the November issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine, though sadly only one of them is original. In order to make more of a review of this issue, I'm looking at both stories, and I don't think you could really ask for more different tales, though at their heart I see two stories about a deep dissatisfaction with "the way things are." In both stories there are characters faced with reality and their own unhappiness, and in both those characters chose to make a change, chose to drop the security of their own misery and try something new. It's an interesting contrast to look at them together, but worth doing. Time to do just that!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Quick Sips - Nightmare #38

This is perhaps my favorite issue of Nightmare Magazine so far this year. Two stories, as always, but two stories that really bring the dark. These stories reveal damaged characters, characters haunted by their pasts, by the hurt they caused others. By their mistakes and by their inability to really change what they've done. Stories about reaching out and about being selfish and about pain and pain and pain. Really this is an amazing pair of stories that you should read immediately. Time to review them!

Art by Bruno Wagner

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quick Links - 11/22/2015

Oh Glob I'm behind on this. Bad me! Post more! Anyway, I have had a few reviews up in the last month. They are linked below.

The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari (Kidsreads) - A kind of cute story that plays on the spy kids tropes, but here the kids' greatest asset is being invisible. Which introduces some problems into the mix.

The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - And here is my personal review of the book.

Scarlett: A Star on the Run by Jon Buller and Susan Schade (Kidsreads) - This book is weird and I didn't know the authors did Ten Thousand Baseball Cards Under the Sea, which I think was the first book I ever read completely on my own. This one involves genetically modified pets.

Scarlett: A Star on the Run by Jon Buller and Susan Schade (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - I will reiterate that this book was weird. Like, rather mundane except for the genetic experimenting and dumpsters full of dead cats and dogs. 

The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett (Nerds of a Feather, my score 7/10) - This was a solid action book with some big concepts that probably would have worked a bit better having read the first two books in the series. Still, a fine read.

The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - And here again. I swear, this is my last double. I loved the voice of this book, and the violence, and the weird characters. It reads like a Kung Fu movie.

Pluto Vol. 7 by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Finally I got back to this series after having gotten the final volumes some time ago. And though it doesn't offer up too many surprises at this point, the plot is tight enough that it doesn't need to. It's a very good series, and the push to the end is something to see.

Pluto Vol. 8 by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Things get a little transparent in this final volume, with some of the metaphors becoming...well, a bit obvious and a little simpler. But mostly this volume is about kicking ass and learning how to be human instead of wanting to lord over humans. It's about war and forgiveness and love. I really enjoyed the series as a whole.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - My first Miéville and one that's a bit middlegrade but as I read a lot of that it works. I loved the idea of the UnChosen One, and the UnGun, and all of it. The characters were great and the story line compelling. A lot of fun, this one.

Eden: It's an Endless World Vol. 10 by Hiroki Endo (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - This series continues to be rather conflicting to me. On the one hand, it's still exploring doing good in a fallen world. And the bits with the Closure Virus transforming into the Disclosure Virus are promising. But it is an ugly read at times and I do not like how most of the women are around basically for violence to happen to them. It's making a point, but still... 

The Case of the Little Bloody Slipper by Carlie St. George (Nerds of a Feather, my score 8/10) - And finally a review of a novelette that was a lot of fun. Not sure if I'll do these longer reviews for all three stories in the series but otherwise the reviews will be on this site direct soon enough. Indeed.

And there you have it. Obviously a lot of these books here graphic in nature (manga or graphic novels), which means it's nearing the end of the year and I'm picking up things I think I can clear out of my TBR stack quickly. There's some novels in there, though, and there will be more. Hopefully I'll manage to post another link post before the end of the year. Otherwise, thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Awards and Eligibility

So I'm under no real illusions that I've done anything that would produce awards buzz this year, so I'm not entirely sure what to do around "awards season." Mope? I think it's a bit weird, as a writer just sort of starting out, or at the very least just starting to get things professionally published, to think about awards other than "I hope [insert story I really liked] wins something." I suppose in some ways because I read as much as I can probably see that there's just so much out there that is so good, and though I want desperately to write as well as the stuff I see out there, I don't think I'm there. Yet. And if I can try to think of it that way, maybe I can write more that's better and not just wallow in my own mediocrity.

So instead of doing an eligibility post for myself, I'm going to announce something tangentially related. Namely, that I'm going to run a little award through this site to highlight the stories I liked the most this year. Which is kind of weird, I admit, because yes, I already have a monthly review/recommendation column that I run at Nerds of a Feather. But this would be for the year. For. The. Whole. Year! I've been planning on this for a while now, trying to figure out how it will work and how I want to do it. Keep in mind, this site is a product of one person, so the jury on these awards is going to That said, if people had a problem with my opinion of things then they probably aren't reading this anyway, so hurrah.

So, The Sippys!

It will work like this. I am looking at anything that I have reviewed for this site that came out in 2015. There will be five awards categories, and for each I will have five total stories, four Sippys and one Big Sippy. The categories will be:

The "I'd Ship That" Sippy for Excellent Relationships in Short SFF

The "I'm Sleeping with the Lights On" Sippy for Excellent Horror in Short SFF

The "There's Something in My Eye" Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

The "Time to Run Some Red Lights" Sippy for Excellent Action in Short SFF

The "Where We're Going We Won't Need Categories" Sippy for Excellent I'm Not Sure What in Short SFF

So finally, the Awards that no one asked for! The Sippys! I'll be rolling out the awards in January, with each category getting its own Sunday spotlight. Because I need more to do! Anyway, there's something to look forward to, I hope! Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, November 20, 2015

Quick Bonus - as always

as always

We wreck ourselves in these still moments
when, storm fled, the choice (as always)
is to let ourselves down to rest,
bandage the broken horns, the bloodied
shoulder where the earth met us
on our way down or
unsure of our feet,
knowing (as always) that
we might falter now and lose everything;
our pride, our status, our minds,
all in the distance our legs can raise us.

And here is the silent war we wage
not with opposition but (as always)
with fresh wounds and the old ache
of our joints as we move,
the creeping doubt that somehow,
we were wrong, we are nothing
but voices calling into an empty room
hoping for a response that might (as always)
be our own echo.

It is moments, only, though doubt lingers
and the fear (as always)
grinds at us, mortar and pestle,
blood smeared hands helping us to
to take stock of ourselves, our injuries,
to find our way back to friends,
neighbors, brothers, sisters,
and you
and I
(as always)


I wrote this back in 2012 after the unsuccessful recall of Scott Walker here in Wisconsin. I am putting it here because I'm a little drunk and I still like it. I put it on Facebook at the time, so no worry about selling it ever. Just...I thought of this.

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #186

This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features a pair of stories that show just how unjust the world can be to those that lack power and favor, either from the Divine or from the more terrestrial powers that be. First is a return to an Italy in danger of being overrun by creatures of the night, followed by a story of a pair of sculptors trying to make good on a promise to a volatile Empress. Both tales highlight ways that those with power act, and learn, at the expense of those that live beneath them. In the first, the relationship is parasitic, a group literally sucking the blood of those lower. In the second, the relationship is much more subtle, and yet much more devastating. So to the reviews!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/26/2015, 11/02/2015, 11/09/2015, and 11/16/2015

Well this was certainly another full few weeks of Strange Horizons, though I suppose that's more my fault for letting four weeks go by without checking in. In that time there have been three short stories, four poems, and three nonfiction pieces (at least, three nonfiction pieces I'm looking at). But Strange Horizons shows just how strong it can be with stories that show loss and hope and rebellion, poems that unsettle and shadow the dark corners of the world, and nonfiction dealing with everyone's favorite topic: sex. It's a full four weeks to get through, but very rewarding and enjoyable, even when it is uncomfortable and challenging. To the reviews!

Art by Stephen Hamilton

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #231

The longest name in short SFF is back this month and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination offers up a pair of stories, one about as long as they publish and the other about as short. The two tales are quite different in tone, in message, but both do present science fictional looks at space travel and both are, admittedly, quite good. There is a feeling in both of feelings just below the surface, of characters facing situations they didn't exactly expect when venturing into space. Both in some ways also explore the idea of people who leave Earth behind still being connected to it, and in that it's a rather thematically tight issue of the publication, at least where original work is concerned. But enough of my ramblings. To the reviews!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quick Sips - Shimmer #28 (November Stuff)

It's November, which means autumn is already in the decline here, and yet Shimmer is keeping the fall alive with two stories that take us into the woods where the wild things live. Where magic is possible, but only at a cost. The pair of stories offered this month are powerful and dark and focus on choice, on family, and on leaving people behind. Both feature characters who have to give something up in order to be faithful to themselves, in order to honor those they care about, even if it means they can't see those people in the same way again. They are stories full of the feel of dead leaves and long dusks, and it is my pleasure to review them today. 

Art by Sandro Castelli

Monday, November 16, 2015

Quick Sips - The Dark #10

This latest issue of The Dark Magazine certainly doesn't shy away from tackling some very dark and disturbing themes. Trigger warnings include: sexual assault of a minor, incest, murder, rape culture, murder, cats, and murder. And while at times the extreme content of the issue can seem a bit much, I believe that most of the stories do a very good job of justifying the use of such heavy tools to do their work. The stories are shocking as well as moving, questioning the institutional ways in which women are targeted for violence. There's a lot to cringe at, yes, but also a lot to think about. So let's get to reviewing!

Art by NKMandic

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Quick Thoughts - The Cost of Voice

So a while ago I posted about "the state of short fiction" following a piece by Clarkesworld and a subsequent bump in commentary about it. The piece by Clarkesworld was about a possible contraction in short SFF markets, and some of the commentary was blaming "those kinds of stories" on this possible contraction. Since then (and it's only been about a month), Crossed Genres magazine has announced that it's closing it's doors. It is an incredibly sad event because Crossed Genres was explicitly trying to publish stories that made me excited to read. Since that, I have seen a lot of places say basically "you need to vote for what you like with your wallet" (and also a few veiled implications that Crossed Genres was publishing "those kinds of stories" and that's part of why they weren't supported). It's to these things I kind of want to speak to now.

When I talked before about the Hungry and the Full, I said that a reason why short SFF can seem different than novels is that those people who aren't really being pandered to on the novel level can come to the short fiction level and find stories that they really like. I did not say, though, why they weren't getting pandered to at the novel level. Which is, of course, power and influence. The reason why the market at the bottom seems so much different than the market at the top is partly because the market at the bottom is in part geared towards people who don't exactly make up a strong and consistent market (kinda sorta). At least, because short SFF is a much smaller market, people with less money can get more "bang for their buck" or even get stories for free. The problem is that these same people are being blamed for the viability of publications, are being asked to "vote with their wallets" for what they want to see. But you know, when you make voting about who can spend more money, those with the most money have the loudest voice (as evidence: AMERICA RIGHT FUCKING NOW!). And those people hungry for stories about them, stories that speak to them, stories that they cannot find anywhere else, are not the loudest voice.

What is the Puppies if not an attempt to buy out the Hugos? It's not like the Hugos are free to vote for. Why is it easy to mobilize uncomfortable dudebros? The same reason it seems like every god damn piece of media is already geared toward them: they have money. They have privilege which gets them money which gives them power which makes this whole thing go 'round. So why do people get upset at short SFF, why is there a movement to "take it back"? Because it can be kinda shit as a business model and that is exactly why it is important and vital. Not that publications have to be losing ventures, monetarily, but sometimes not caring about turning a profit is the only way that certain stories ever see the light of day. I'm a little tired of people saying that the problem is people not supporting things. God, I would give all the money to places. I subscribe where I can, how I can, and I review and I spread the word and of course I believe that people need to be paid and that these things are important. But in my little heart of heart I also believe that these stories should be free. That stories should be free. Not only free to read but free from the expectation that they make money in order to justify their existence. And in some ways they are. There are libraries and there is the internet and hurrah for all of that. Seriously, it is amazing. But what I keep seeing in publishing is people throwing up their hands and saying "we publish what sells." And there is just something so gut-wrenchingly sad and disgusting about that.

Because it blames the people who are already being denied representation and voice. It's saying that to have a voice you must buy it. We are told that things fail because people didn't like them enough. People didn't care enough. People didn't buy enough. Because those things are conflated. Care=money. The message becomes that if there aren't enough people with enough money to make a thing financially successful then it doesn't deserve to exist, or that it doesn't deserve to exist unless everyone's doing it for free. That no, people don't deserve to get paid for it because who will buy it? Diversity is important, yes, but if it doesn't bring in enough money it's not really possible, okay? Which is shit. Don't tell me that all I need to do is spend my money enough and it will work. Don't tell me that if I want better I need to support what's out there now, that incremental change is the only change possible and some people just need to wait their turn and be patient. That puts all the responsibility on being heard on the people already being ignored. Basically, SFF should not be run on a trickledown system. Like with regular politics, that only really helps the people at the top.

You know what happens when you're told to "vote with your wallet"? You're being told that there's basically a two-party system. The people with a lot of money (those already being pandered to), and those with less (which encompasses every other group). Those in the "those with less" category are told that they need to pool their resources so that they can make it better, but in order to reach as much money as possible the party platform isn't really about doing what's right by everyone. It's about being better than the other party, yes, but pretty much just that. Even within the "those with less" group, it focuses on those with more money to spend within that group. It never goes far enough, and it never really questions the whole "voting with your wallet is right" mentality. It's still all about money. Which has nothing to do with fairness or equality.

So yeah, I pretty much hate the entire idea behind "voting with your wallet." Yes, of course, paying artists for their art is incredibly important and vital. I'm not saying don't pay for stories. Definitely do pay for stories and give what you can to support artists and people doing good work. But don't treat it like people who can't pay deserve shit heaped on them, deserve to have whatever good they can find taken away. Saying you don't deserve a voice if you don't have the money to buy it is saying that only fiction that sells the best deserves to be published, like selling well is not mired in a bog of privilege and oppression, like only stories that appeal to enough people with money to spend deserve to be published. Fuck diversity, fuck justice, hurray capitalism. Because capitalism is not moral, has no interest in justice that is not profitable.

Not selling well is not a moral failing or a lack of skill. It's not proof that the market needs to focus on more "commercial" stories. It's sad, and especially so when it means publications like Crossed Genres close. It is a symptom that something is wrong. That something needs to change. But not the way that some people seem to be suggesting, to make things more about money, about who can spend more. That only doubles down on a system that does not work for a great many people, and blames those either unable or unwilling to spend money on stories that are not popular enough or "commercial" enough for not getting the stories they want. Despite the fact that a great many people who like the stories already very popular can read as much as they want without having to spend a dime and never be in danger of their voice or their stories being taken away.

So maybe, just maybe, when a publication closes, or a book doesn't sell, don't blame the people who loved it.

All the best,

Charles Paysuer