Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #59

All right, so now that the stories are out I can review the latest issue of Lightspeed. As always, two science fiction and two fantasy stories. Unlike some months, this issue is a bit lopsided. The sci fi stories are quite short, and the fantasy stories quite long. Which is all right, but a little jarring, especially when the longest fantasy story, the one released latest in the month, is so dark. Still, though, there's a lot to enjoy here, and while two of the stories seem to center on human failings, on loss and perhaps futility, there is some hope here as well, and some great humor. So yeah, let's get to it!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quick Sips - Terraform April 2015

Another month, another handful of stories from Terraform to review. This month the stories are mostly on the longer side for the publication, but they are an interesting mix. I suppose now would be a good time to reiterate my review policy, though, in regards to negative reviews. Some stories...well, they bug me. I either find the messages that I pull from them a bit offensive or else I just find them not effective at doing what they seem to set out to do. As always, that a story did not work for me does not mean that I think it is "bad." These reviews are only my quick reactions to stories. Unfortunately, given the amount of time they take, I cannot always linger and reread and really figure out every story. So I might miss things. How I interpret a story might not be how it was intended. That said, these are my interpretations and thoughts and I feel that I should keep them honest. So what they hell am I talking about? Read on to find out!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Quick Sips - Urban Fantasy Magazine #6

Today I'm reviewing the newest Urban Fantasy Magazine. I must say, the magazine does what it sets out to do: providing some solid urban fantasy stories and nonfiction. I'm just looking at new, non-serial fiction this week. two stories, one taking on the adapted fairy tale route with the Swan Princess and the other being more of an X-Files type tale with a secret government agency tasked with dealing with paranormal threats. Both are interesting stories, the first being the more complex, showing just how nuanced urban fantasy can be and the second is a bit more shoot-from-the-hip fun and gun. So let's get to it!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #171

I'm reviewing the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies today. Two stories, as always, and quite different in their themes and styles this time. Sometimes the stories in an issue have some clear links, but here I can't quite find any. One is a second-world fantasy with action and magic and the other is a historical weird fantasy with a much slower style and not as much overt magic. Still, for all their differences they are still both entertaining and the issue itself stands up pretty well. But you don't have to take my word for it—to the reviews!

Art by Christopher Balaskas

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Quick Links - 04/26/2015

Wow, this week has a lot of reviews for my Quick Links. I had a review go up at Nerds of a Feather and Teenreads, plus mostly caught myself up on my Goodreads reviews. So there's a lot to enjoy. Most of the entries are a little on the meh side of things, but there were a few that brought the average up, and no stinkers, so that's always good. Hurrah!

Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams by Ysabeau S. Wilce (Nerds of a Feather, my score 6/10) - A good collection with a great structure and idea. I wanted so much for this to succeed a bit more than I feel it did for me. Still fun, though.

Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams by Ysabeau S. Wilce (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - And here is my inevitable review for myself. Once again, the theme is that I liked it, but wanted a bit more cohesion and a bit more of a complete picture. Still, some very good stories.

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler (Teenreads) - I did my Goodreads review of this last links, but here is my more "official" review. Basically, it is a great story. Science! The entire time I was thinking of Bill Nye taking apart Ken Hamm's "science" argument. Good times...

Prince of Dogs by Kate Elliott (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - I liked this entry in the series a bit more than the first book, which bodes well for the rest of the Crown of Stars. Of course, it might be a year or two before I read the next book, but it's still a good read.

Mameshiba: On the Loose! by James Turner, Jorge Monlongo, and Gemma Correll (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - So Mameshiba is adorable! Go look it up on YouTube if you don't know what it is. Bean Dogs! Random Facts! Good life decisions!

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - I read this out of order as part of a challenge and it was pretty good. I really didn't care for the ending, but I loved the Pigoons!

The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - This one took me forever to read. I was hoping for more spec but it's definitely in the lit camp and as such is tragic and slow and a bit of a slog at times. Still, an interesting read.

And there you go, seven reviews for your viewing pleasure. And lots of things to come in the next week, as I reach the end-of-the-month crunch. Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Urban Fantasy, Terraform, Lightspeed, and all on the docket to review this week, plus a book of poetry I was approached to review. That might not go up until I have an open day, but we'll see. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quick Thoughts - New Project: The Postcard Chronicles

Okay, so some people might have noticed that I have a new project that I just started with fellow Wisconsin writer Jes Rausch. It's called the Postcard Chronicles and it's quite a lot of fun. Of course, at the same time that it ridiculously fun, part of me is wondering if I am insane for starting up a new project.

Time. Sometimes it really sucks. And I feel like I'm never doing enough. Not writing enough, not reading enough, not reviewing enough. Not that I'm sure what enough would look like, but it's my fear that I should always be doing more, that if I'm not then I'm just sort of sitting back on my privilege and being a rather shitty person. So I like to be doing a lot. I love reviewing and I love reading and I love writing. But sometimes I think I spread myself a little thin and think that I wonder where it would be best to spend myself. And sometimes I just want to write a little, and this project does just that, gives me a way of getting out small bursts of writing during the week.

Which maybe I should talk about. So I've perhaps not been writing as much recently as I would like. I've been busy, it happens. But it does weigh and wear on me, and so I've been trying to find ways to sneak in little writing projects. The Postcard Chronicles is one. I can't take credit for the idea. Jes had approached me with the idea to exchange postcard micro-fiction. It sounded amazing. So we exchanged a few postcard-stories as tests and it was great. The main problem was that we didn't really know what postcards to send. So we decided to choose a set we could buy online and go from there. The TASCHEN's Magic set seemed perfect. They're old and rather creepy and seem absolutely ripe for micro-fiction.

The first round of stories is up now, and they make me super excited for to continue on with this project. Like, seriously excited. It's fun to see how my stories and Jes' differ and how we both interpret the story at hand. Maybe some of these will prompt some longer pieces. Or maybe it's just a fun little exercise in writing. Even if that's what it is, I think it's well worth doing and I hope that it's entertaining for anyone wanting to follow along. And at some point maybe we'll see if anyone else feels like participating, to see if we can get some bonus stories for the Chronicles. For now, I hope people find what we're doing a pleasant diversion.

So go check out the Postcard Chronicles if you haven't and thanks for reading! 

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quick Sips - Lackington's #6 - Seas

Today I'm looking at the latest from Lackington's. There's even a theme this issue, Seas. And each story does do a nice job of capturing the feel of the sea, even when the sea is not water, as in "Spider Moves the World" and "Excerpt from UNLANGUAGE." Most of the stories use the literal seas, the watery kind, and there's a lot to draw up from the depths. As is usual with the publication, the stories are a bit strange, focusing on form and style perhaps more than plot and action. Not that there's not action. "The Selkie" has quite a bit of tense action, Nazi ships exploding and all. But the stories are a bit more layered than that, some a bit hard to pull apart but all of them beautiful in their own way and worth pouring over. So to the reviews!

Art by Tomasz Wieja

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #6

Today I'm looking at the latest issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine. Six new stories that I'm looking at and a few reprints that I'm skipping over for now. It's a solid issue, though I am a little sad that there is no further graphic adventures in this issue. Maybe in later installments. The editorial wasn't lying when it mentions young women taking charge in this issue, though there is also a deep vein of family running through it as well. The shorter stories might tend toward a bit more humorous, but most of the others circle around some sort of loss. That takes the form of dead parents in two of the stories, a dead grandmother in one, and a sick child in another. All well done, and the magazine continues to provide a nice read with a large number of stories.

Art by Franklin Chan

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quick Sips - Farrago's Wainscot #14

Today I'm reviewing the latest issue of the revived Farrago's Wainscot, which has its second issue of new life this month. The first issue was certainly strange and this issue continues with the idea of the literary weird. This issue benefits from having stories with a bit more structure to them, though, a bit more of a standard narrative. Not that the bizarre structures that the stories in the last issue were bad, but that I found this batch of stories to be a bit easier to understand and get meaning from. Which made them more satisfying. The poetry is quite good again, with some long pieces mixed in with the shorter ones. All in all, four stories and four poems and a quite satisfying experience. To the reviews!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/06/2015 and 04/13/2015

Well it's been a busy two weeks over at Strange Horizons, it would seem. Today I'm looking at two stories, two poems, and three pieces of nonfiction, which makes this a pretty meaty review. As is usual with the publication, the stories and poems aren't really linked thematically, so everything is interesting in its own way, more to be taken separately than together. Which is just fine by me when the quality of the work is so high. Few enough places put out such a great range of stories, poems, and nonfiction, which is probably why Strange Horizons nabbed a Hugo nomination this year. So to the reviews!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Apparently I Write Horror?

Well, it's happened. My story, "Spring Thaw," is up now at Nightmare Magazine. It's…well, I guess it's horror, as Nightmare is a horror publication. Or maybe it's a dark fantasy or dark science fiction. But then, I'm weird about genre so it is whatever people want to claim it is.

This story has a fairly solid origin story, too, which I get into in the author interview for Nightmare only briefly. Basically, I was out on a bike ride with my partner after the worst winter in a long time. And for Wisconsin, that's a bad winter. Nearly record-setting cold. It didn't get above zero for weeks at a time. There was over a foot and a half of snow on the ground for something like three months, which is crazy. It was just so cold that it never melted. And when it did, that's when everyone rushed out to enjoy the warmer weather, and we were out biking. And we saw them.

So many bodies. I think we passed four on the way to the bookstore. And of course my partner had to snag one of the skulls on the way home and ride with it on their handlebars. I could not do that. I am squeamish. But they are not, and so we have a deer skull for…reasons, I am assured. But anyway, the story. I wrote it because I know the cold. Wisconsin winters are no joke and I have this love/hate relationship with winter. It's not the cheeriest of times. So we were out when it was finally warm and I was thinking about spring. About how it's not really about rebirth. I think that's in the story (I don't want to go back and look because fear that I'll see something wrong). But it's about the revealing of what winter has erased.

Apparently this is also a response story to my story that appeared at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, "Handful of Spring," which also deals with the seasons but in a much different way. I wasn't satisfied with how I had defined spring and winter in that story, so here is this one. Only damned if I could figure out where it belonged. When I was writing I was thinking that what they find in the snow is this creature. This Cthulhu-monster thing that could be alien or could be terrestrial but passed out of memory and geological history. And that, in a way, what they're fining are themselves, for in that frozen intelligence I wanted them to see that maybe it was like them, from some race that had ruined the Earth so long ago that this was the only trace left.

So yeah, this story is something of a global warming story, because that too is nearly seasonal to my mind. The melting polar ice is a sort of spring, further troubling the idea that spring is positive, that spring is beautiful. The spring that melts the polar ice is dangerous. Is serious. And shows that we are losing our respect for the world, for ourselves. That idea that if we respect the world it won't let us down. But we obviously don't respect it if we're just pushing and pushing it. Which is what I wanted that last line to capture, that idea that we have lost our respect for the world, which means we're likely to break through and die, and sometime later all that will remain will be our bodies, our bodies in the melting snow to act as a warning to whatever finds us.

Or something like that. Anyway, that's what I tried to do. Probably I shouldn't try to explain it, because it shows what a crappy job I probably did. And, of course, that it's what I was trying to do does not mean that's what I succeeded in doing. But maybe that will add an extra wrinkle to any analysis of the story. Anyway, thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Quick Sips - Shimmer #24 (April Stuff)

This month's Shimmer includes two stories, and they are not exactly the happiest of sorts. In both, a character seems paralyzed by the tragedy of their own story. Both main characters seem to be in some ways avoiding the present by trying to escape into the past, into a time when their situation wasn't so dire, wasn't seeming so hopeless. As they are similar, though, there are also some key differences. For while both characters are not where they want to be, the first story shows a life that has made its own mistakes and can't deal with them while the second shows a life made horrible by more external circumstances, by the sinking of the world into chaos. Both are powerful, though, and a bit disturbing. So let's get to them!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Quick Sips - Nightmare #31

So this issue of Nightmare Magazine is a little special to me. Why, you ask? Well, it's not because 31 is my favorite number. It might have more to do with the fact that I'm in the issue! Now, as is my regular policy, I will not be reviewing my story. Which is free to read starting today. Just saying... Anyway, I'm not reviewing my own story, but I will still be reviewing the rest of the stories in the issue. Or, in this case, the rest of the story in the issue, as my story represents half the original fiction in this issue. But also go check out the reprints and the nonfiction, which is solid. And also maybe check out that other new story, "Spring Thaw," which is the first pro-sale of a certain reviewer you may be familiar with. To the review, though!

Art by Dariusz Zawadzki


"The Island" by Desirina Boskovich (6015 words)

This story takes the older idea of a family going to live on an island and twists it, presents a darker take on the idyllic situation presented in those older texts. A family does go to live on an island, and builds a home and at first things seem perfect. They even manage to keep some electricity, and want for nothing, really, except other people. More children are born until there are six total, but the parents are slowly drifting apart and becoming more and more unbalanced, more abusive, and then there's a storm. The prose is interesting, a mix of the childlike wonder of the island, the hope and unlikely successes the family has. Somehow they get a television and phone to work, but that's not really enough. The storm is sort of the dysfunction of the parents made material. It opens up a fissure in the island, inside of which are dark shapes. This fissure only widens as the parents fight and move apart and try to pull the children into their struggle. The television and phone and radio are broken, and the children seem like they might fracture into groups, but they stay together. To kill their parents. It's a bit disturbing how easily they fall into it, but it does seem to solve many of their problems. The treasure of the island only returns once the parents are gone, a sign perhaps that the children need to escape the pull of their parents to be successful. More than that, though, the fissure starts to close. A tree-like thing grows from it, but otherwise the children all do just fine. And then visitors come. I like the feel of the story, the way that the children manage on their own, the way they create a system that works but one that is tainted by the tree, by the act of killing their parents. The ending hits hard and is nicely creepy, showing that taint of violence and how it has worked its way into the children. And it's always interesting to see how a group trying to escape the ills of civilization tends to bring the worst with them when they leave. A fine story.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #170

Two new stories are the subject of today's review, from the latest Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Also a new cover! The cover art at BCS is always exceptional. Anyway, the stories are both thematically similar, featuring women who are at least part of a wild, magical world. In the first, the main character is a dryad and in the second the main character is not exactly human. Both stories focus on how humans seek to exploit the magic of these individuals, how those in power try to tame the wild to make weapons and servants. And how that urge, to exploit the wild magic, to turn them into weapons, often leads to those weapons getting free. In both stories, that journey, from wild to weapon, is a tragic one, filled with pain, but it's also a necessary one, that these creatures take hold of their own power to fight back. It doesn't make them less tragic, because something is lost in that turning that cannot be regained. But at least it's giving back agency to those who've been exploited and used. Anyway, that's a rambling intro. To the stories!

Art by Christopher Balaskas

Monday, April 13, 2015

Quick Sips - Apex #71

Today I'm looking at the latest from Apex Magazine. As always, there's a lot to like, including five short stories, two poems, and some nonfiction, of which I'm looking at one. Also, that cover. Amazing. The stories are fairly dark and most with some lingering questions after the final words fall. Which leaves it up to the reader to draw conclusions and find meaning. To introspect. It's a neat tool used to great effect in this issue. So without further delay, the reviews!

Art by Adrian Borda

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Books, Collecting, and Letting Go

So I love books. I know, big surprise, right? But at the same time, I feel that my love of books can occasionally be…unhealthy. And not just that I'm going to be buried in a horde of books at some point (though I might). I mean that sometimes my obsession with collecting and holding onto books does me no favors when it comes to being a well-rounded reader and person. I will explain:

Take a look at the background of this blog (if you can). That is a section of my bookshelves. Yes, an actual picture. I keep meaning to clean it up, even out the highlights and glare, etc., but for now it's the background and it's a bit telling about my book collecting. Not so much about me, though, or at least not as much as it could be. Or maybe I just don't like all of what it's saying. You might see, for example, a ridiculous amount of Stephen King on my bookshelves. Because I have a ridiculous amount of his books. And I've read…three of them. That's…not good. Why the hell do I have so many of his books if I've only read three of them? What's more, though I kinda-sorta want to read more of his stuff, I'm in no hurry. I might, but not in the next two years or so. Because that's how far I tend to plan a lot of my reading. So again, why all the Stephen King?

Well, the easy answer to that is that I knew who Stephen King was from an early age. And my public library growing up had a Friends of the Library section all the time where I could buy paperbacks for a quarter, hardcovers for fifty cents. And I knew who Stephen King was. So did other people. So I thought it was cool that I had his books. That if people saw them on my shelf they might think I was cool. Smart. Well read. So his books stacked up. And stacked up. And as I moved my books sometimes I would cull some that I hadn't read. And who would get sent back to the used book places? Something by an author I had never heard of that looked interested based on the description or something by Stephen King? Well, you can guess. It meant that I probably got rid of books that I would have really liked to hold onto the image of someone who reads what is popular and cool.

Now, no one really sees my personal library (blog picture aside). It's really not for other people. It's for me. It should be for me. I do believe in an aspirational library. By that I mean a personal library where I haven't read all the books on the shelves. Because there should always be options. But I want those books I aspire to read to be books I want to read. That will get me excited. That speak to something in me. Not that I don't like Stephen King. But I don't need thirty of his books (especially ones in not-good-condition). And so I need to cut back. Which is very difficult. Because getting rid of books seems blasphemous. But I have to come to terms with the me that picked out those books. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be told I was reading the right books. That I was smart.

And now…well, and now I read anything I damned well please. I read paranormal romance and science fiction and fantasy and mysteries and graphic novels and nonfiction and just about everything that strikes me as interesting. I read erotica and I read steampunk and I read and I read and I read. And I put things on the shelf now I would have wanted to hide at the back of my closet or under my bed. But part of being honest and proud of who I am means not setting aside precious shelf space I have because they enhance my image.

So the bookshelves will be reorganized. Which, as I love organizing and reorganizing, is a good thing for me. And I will try to face the book choices of my past and ask myself what I really want to keep and what I'm clinging to for the wrong reasons. Maybe at some point I'll check back in and examine how I did. For now, I'm off to stare at books.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, April 10, 2015

Quick Sips - Uncanny #3 (April Stuff)

Today I'm looking at the April stories and poems from Uncanny Magazine. Three stories and two poems this time. The stories are a mix of longish to incredibly short. All told, though, it's some good material, visiting some popular ideas (circuses, Orpheus) with some new twists. Quick good stuff, so I'll get right to it!

Art by Carrie Ann Baade

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantastic Stories of the Imagination April 2015

Another month's Fantastic Stories of the Imagination is what I'm looking at today. Two stories, are is usual, and these two once again rather strongly thematically linked. Both are science fiction stories, though the second has some definite fantasy elements. Both deal with leaving Earth behind, deal with raising children, deal with loss, deal with generations. They're both rather sad, but there is a hope to them as well, a indomitable will to them that gives them an optimistic feel. But you don't have to take my word for it; to the reviews!


"All That We Carry, All That We Hold" by Damien Agelica Walters (2095 words)

A rather touching and tragic story with a hopeful end, this one focuses on a woman as she grows up around giant ships that ferry humans to the stars. At first, as a young girl, the ships are monsters and she fears them. Slowly her perception changes, but the ships never really become something she likes. They are vessels that take away those she cares about. Her first love. Her husband. It's only with her daughter that the ships become something different, because to her daughter the ships are wonderful, are full of possibilities and freedom from the sorrow and trouble of Earth. And when that daughter gets cancer and dies, the ships become the one thing that the mother clings to in order to keep going. To her they are still monsters, but she also sees them in the reflection of her daughter's eyes. As freedom. As escape. And so she goes out on a ship to a distant planet in order to begin something there. And to end something, as she takes her daughter's ashes and spreads them on the wind. As I said, a bit of a tragic story, but the focus is on the healing, on the possibility and freedom that space brings. So while the story might be a bit of a downer (few stories featuring childhood cancer are light), it's still got a nugget of hope and yearning that makes the story a solid read.

"Molten Heart" by Alexis A. Hunter (725 words)

In this story a sort of golem, created of clay, helps to raise a young girl to her thirteenth year. A mix of fantasy and science fiction, the golem is magic but the story takes place on a terraformed world. The golem is made to help raise a child, but is made imperfect in hopes that the child won't bond with it too closely. It lakes eyes and a mouth. Lacks a voice. But still the golem loves the child, and child loves it. This is another story about loss and about generations, but this one is a bit different, showing that when the child grows up and has a child of her own, that the golem is revived. So that it's not really gone, just dormant, and that it can still love and share its love across the generations. It's still a bit of a sad story, because the golem can never stay, because there is that limit of thirteen years even if everyone wants it to be longer. But at the same time, there is progress, and this time the golem is given a voice. And maybe, the implication seems to be, there will be a time when it can stay. At the very least, it's continued presence from generation to generation means that it's never really dead, that its love keeps it going, and that it can share it always. A very short story, this one, but with a nice sad loveliness to it that made it impact just right.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Quick Sips - Crossed Genres #28 - Silent Communication

I look at the latest issue of Crossed Genres today. As always, there is a theme to work with. In this case, it is Silent Communication. I must say the three stories take that in three very different directions, but all stick closely to that idea to make their point. In the first, a man is silent mostly because he has trouble speaking, but there is also silent communication all around him, trying to warn him of something coming. In the second story, the main character is physically mute, so the use of the theme is pretty concrete. In the last story, lack of a shared language divides two family members until a moment of crisis forces them to work together. All in all, some good stories. So let's get to it!


"Loud as a Murder" by Sarah L. Johnson (4572 words)

In this lovely horror story, an autistic man named Henry finds that love is...a bit different than he thought it would be. Lonely in his home and in his work as a proofreader, Henry's one thing to look forward to each week is a visit from the UPS man, Dev. And Henry is in love with Dev, who seems so understanding and kind and patient. Only Henry starts to receive a package in the mail he thinks is for his work. And, thinking that, her ignored the warning that it is trying to give him. What he doesn't realize is that he's become entwined in something bigger than him. Much bigger. Something is hunting him, and the only thing trying to protect him is a bird, a crow, who puts a message in the manuscript he thinks he's supposed to proof. A message he misses because of how he works, because of how his mind operates. And so he opens himself to something that might have best been avoided. It's a chilling tale, an excellent portrayal of the way he operates, his infatuation and his frustration and his loneliness. He needs contact and yet can't handle much. Which makes the ending that much creepier, that confrontation with love that much more unsettling. A great story.

"Trollbooth" by Maureen Tanafon (1915 words)

This story mixes some classic fairy tale elements with a mute protagonist desperate to get back her two young relatives who wandered too far away from home. I like how the story builds up this strange and dark world where the humans live along the edge of a fairy wood and how the main character, though mute, is the only one who knows how to communicate with the fairies. Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone listens to her, as her uncle decides he knows how best to handle things, blaming the fairies for the disappearances and setting out to hunt them. The main character, meanwhile, learns that the children weren't taken by fairies, but by something more dangerous. A troll. The children walked over its bridge, which is to say its body, and so it took them. But the main character offers up a sacrifice to the troll, who amusedly accepts, thinking she means herself. She volunteers her uncle instead, though, and leaves the troll and her uncle to find out which is the bigger monster. And I like that ending, how she doesn't really commit any crime. She might offer up sacrifice, but in offering her uncle she isn't necessarily condemning him to death. He has weapons. It's just that she wouldn't be much upset whatever happens, as her uncle is himself something of a monster, with a taste for killing now that he's hunted the fairies. So I like that she gets away and leaves the payment to those bullies who are hottest to pay. A fun ride with a good payoff.

"A Language We Shared" by Megan Neumann (3025 words)

This story focuses on the relationship between a girl and her grandfather, divided by their cultures and their languages. The grandfather, Gong Gong, speaks only Cantonese, while the granddaughter, June Mei, speaks only English. It's something that keeps them distant, as neither has interest in reaching out to the other. And yet they are family, something that is brought home to them when they are involved in a car accident where they are both in a car that goes off a bridge and into water. Gong Gong is injured but conscious. June Mei's mother is knocked out completely, so it's up to June Mei to act. In that moment, though, she discovers that she can understand Gong Gong, and he can understand her. Working together, they get themselves and June Mei's mother to safety, and Gong Gong explains that this ability runs in the family. Only after they are healed it seems to disappear. But the prompt is there for June Mei to reach out, to try and learn Cantonese and speak with her grandfather. Unfortunately it's not quite to be, but the experience is a striking one for June Mei, and the story is a nice one, resonant with themes of family and communication and connecting across many divides. Things are left a bit open as to whether the telepathy really happened, but whatever the case it did bring June Mei and Gong Gong closer, which is a magic all its own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #103

Today I'm looking at the latest from Clarkesworld. Four new stories, most of them on the longer side of things, but a good mix of the serious and the lighter hearted, the luminous and the sarcastic. Pretty much all what I would call science fiction, too, this month, which is a bit different from what I'm used to with Clarkesworld but not in a bad way. In any event, enough with the into; let's get to the stories!

Art by Julie Dillon

Monday, April 6, 2015

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2015

Looking at Flash Fiction Online today, which if nothing else endears itself to me because it is consistently out early on the first of the month. Which for a reviewer is nice because with the early days of the month crowded with releases, having something a little shorter to look at is a great way to start things off. It helps that the quality of the stories is also consistently high (or at least consistently interesting to me). So yeah, on with the flash!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Quick Links - 04/05/2015

Hey everybody! Finally I got back to some reviews this week. So that's always good. And the majority of them I quite liked. Not all, unfortunately. But most. My search for good science fiction with some steamy bits continues. So yeah, here are my reviews!

Young Woman in a Garden: Stories by Delia Sherman (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - I quite enjoyed this collection of short fiction, which I would categorize as Gothic with a bit of a much-needed update. I love many of these stories, but some can be a little slow. Pacing aside, though, there is a great sense of dark and magic in these tales. Good times.

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Another book of stories that can be a little slow going at times. Though there are a number of very short pieces. And The Book of Sand is amazing. That entire collection is amazing. There's a lot here, though. Seriously, the book is huge. Worth reading, but maybe don't do them all at once like I did.

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - This is a great sciencey book about bugs and family and it is just rather amazing. I loved all the digs at young Earth theories and how the book comes down very firmly on the "recognize the scale of the universe" side of things. A great way of making a point, to basically say we're like bugs in the grand scheme of things. Much recommended.

Born of Night by Sherrilynn Kenyon (Goodreads, my score 2/5) - And then there was this one. I want to find some science fiction that also has some romantic elements and is fun but this was not it. Really, shouldn't the future have less unintended pregnancies? I was willing to forgive a lot in this book before it went completely off the rails. Probably give this one a miss.

Also, as I announced earlier this week, The Monthly Round is up at Nerds of a Feather. Great tasting and satisfying fiction and drink pairings. Go see!

But yeah, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Destroying Science Fiction

Some of you might have heard the good news: I'm going to be destroying Science Fiction! One of my flash fictions was picked up by Lightspeed Magazine's Queers Destroy Science Fiction. Go check out the Table of Contents for original fiction and see the full awesome of the project. I am so excited to be a part of this project. Also scared. And nervous. But very, very excited.

All right, self promotion aside, my thoughts today are focusing on the destruction of Science Fiction. It's an interesting idea, because on the one hand it seems completely ridiculous and on the other hand it seems completely necessary. Because to me, destroying science fiction is impossible. Science fiction is not an institution. It's a way of telling a story. Or maybe a collection of elements that make something science fictional. It changes. It is constantly changing. And it's any number of things. Science fiction exists in romance form, in action form, in near-future bio-thriller form, in a galaxy far, far away form. All are science fiction, even if not all of them are marketed or thought of as such. Science fiction is a way of looking at a story. But it's open, subjectively defined by the reader or writer of a text.

And yet, to some people there is definitely Science Fiction that can be destroyed. That is an institution. That is rigidly defined, objectively Real. That shouldn't  be changed. They task themselves with protecting it from outsiders, from what is decidedly not Science Fiction. And that is something that should be destroyed. Because many of those people have power, and leverage that power to try and invalidate other people's science fictions. They want to slap down anything that seems to them to fall outside their normative view of Science Fiction as an objective category. At the very least they want it defined as not Science Fiction. They want it subcategorized as soft, as light, as sci-fantasy or romance or something else. As Other.

It's...disappointing to see people argue that the genre is in need of saving. That it is being destroyed by those interested in a diversity of voices in science fiction. That it is being destroyed because tolerance of being a terrible person and writing awful stories is becoming less acceptable. There are many people, apparently, who believe that Science Fiction peaked in the great white, straight, cis-male past and is in need of rescue from the usurpers. That social justice has ruined it. That people are too politically correct. That people are scared lest the politically correct mobs descend on them and harass them and ruin their lives. Because the harassment is totally coming more from the social justice side of this.

And so in that case, yes, I am destroying Science Fiction. Or helping to. Or trying to help to. I am not, however, destroying science fiction. I have always been writing science fiction. Anyone who chooses to can write science fiction however they want. If they want two sentient sex toys to talk about their feelings on the goddamn Moon for five thousand or fifty thousand words, that is science fiction. Science fiction is amazing, is freeing, is exciting in its diversity and complexity. Science Fiction is bullshit and mainly used to try and reinforce shitty social and economic power structures that benefit the gatekeepers of Science Fiction. Not that works of Science Fiction aren't also science fiction. It's not the stories themselves that are shitty. It's the idea that any group should be able to control how science fiction is defined. That any group should be able to decide what is and isn't acceptable and valuable.

So let's burn this shit down. As someone with some serious problems with labels and assumptions of objectivity, I see that Science Fiction needs to be destroyed. I love, absolutely love, that there is a movement to do just that. Not to replace it with Science Fiction 2.0, but live up to a future without limit, a universe without borders, a science fiction with unbridled possibilities. To create a landscape where we don't feel the need to erect walls of Science Fiction to keep some people out and others in, but can be comfortable and safe writing and reading the stories we want to without someone telling us we're doing it wrong.

Anyway, that's my take on the whole destroying Science Fiction thing. I think. I hope. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, April 3, 2015

Quick Sips - Unlikely Story #11.5 - The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia

This month's Unlikely Story is the disturbingly named Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia (fear of clowns). It is...interesting. When I first heard about the project I was assuming there were going to be some strange stories, and this mini-issue does not disappoint. Collected are five clown stories that run the gamut from creepy to rather heartwarming. Also, for fans of the issue, Unlikely Story is running a Kickstarter for a whole collection of clown stories. So check that out. First, though, let's send in the clowns!

Art by Linda Saboe

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/23/2015 and 03/30/2015

No fiction these two weeks from Strange Horizons. But two poems and some nonfiction definitely worth checking out. And charts. Oh the charts! You might not know this about me, but I love spreadsheets. I know, how were you to know? So the SF Count is incredibly interesting to me and everyone should go and read it and look at the data and see how representation is going. Ahem. Before all that, though, some poetry and different column. Onward!


"Endurance Is Not Bravery / Do Not Declare Love by Staring" by Elizabeth R. McClellan

This poem stars children's toys, a paper ballerina being the narrator and a group of tin soldiers being what might be the antagonists. The tin soldiers, beings of war, are made to destroy, are made to see women as things, as spoils of war. And so the ballerina is happy when one is crippled and then thrown into a fire. And yet its a fate that she shares, as she drifts into the flames, is consumed. It's a strange poem, and I'm not entirely sure that I get all of it. Certainly it seems to be approaching how men are raised to treat women, how they are designed to be brutal, to see the woman as prey. To stare. I guess I would draw the poem back to the title to find the meaning, that the soldier that was melted stared at the ballerina and thought it love, but it wasn't. Or, at least, if it was then the act of staring was not a loving act. It was objectifying. Perhaps if he had tried to view the ballerina as a person he would have lived. he would have had a chance to be with her. Instead they both burned. It's a vivid poem, the images moving nicely, the form simple stanzas, ones that get a bit longer as the poem progresses. But I will admit that I'm not entirely sure I got this one. I did, however, enjoy reading it. (Addendum! The author reached out to say that the poem references a story by Hans Christian Andersen [The Steadfast Tin Soldier]. That clears things up for me. It twists the "love" story of the story and shines a light on the problematic aspects of it, giving the ballerina some of her agency back and showing the soldier's love as not noble. And now I like the poem even more!)

"Magpie Wings" by Jaymee Goh

Here is a poem about the celestial love of the two lovers Altair and Vega. In it, the two stars who are also deities, separated and only able to meet on one night of the year, long for the time when their celestial orbits will be closer, for when the Milky Way will be some entwined that they will be able to be together always. I like how it reverses the normal practice of observing something in the stars and making a story about it. Or maybe it just takes it to the logical conclusion. Here the story is continued based on what we know of celestial movements, so that the story can be brought to a happier ending, not stuck in the constant cycle but resolved. And the images of these deities, these people, living out in the stars, that metaphor of more ancient times made real, literal, is neat, is fun and tragic at the same time, because it implies the time that this will take. Billions of years. Who knows how long those stars will even last. Will they make it to that joining? I'm hoping so, because it would be nice for the stars to be released of the grim narrative that humans put on them. There should be a happier ending, and the poem provides one, shows that road where the story doesn't always have to be about loss and longing. So yeah, it's a poem well worth checking out!


"Matrilines: The Woman Who Made Fantasy: Katherine Kurtz" by Kari Sperring

I have to say that I have never actually read any Katherine Kurtz. And yet I liked the look of them enough to pick them up and put them on my shelf. They are "when I get to it" reads that probably inform a bit that I am not untouched by the sexism that has relegated the author to more obscurity than is her due. I have seen her name come up as very influential and important at a formative time in fantasy and I am interested in reading some of those books I have. The article itself is well written and makes the argument that the overlooking of Katherine Kurtz is not because of a lack in her writing. Having read some of the other names in the article, I'm fully willing to believe that she is just as good, and any problematic elements would likely be no less problematic than in the books of her contemporaries. It does make one wonder who else in in the process of being forgotten. Or has been already. So yeah, it makes me want to give those books a go. So well done, column, mission accomplished.

"The 2014 SF Count" by Niall Harrison

Fascinating! I always love counts and things like things. With charts. There are spreadsheets, people. Get all on that! I love spreadsheets. I love data and I love that people are actually paying attention to this and keeping track. Not keeping score, in my mind, though if it was then we'd all probably be losing. But at least keeping track. Which is quite important, because if people weren't looking there would be even more assumptions about the need for change and what shape that should take. But for now it looks like perhaps magazines should look to take on some challenges to review more books by women and POC. Maybe consciously. I know there can be intense backlash against that, but maybe... Obviously these places are not reviewing all the books. So there is room for them to improve. For everyone to improve, probably. I will be fascinated how similar statistics would play out across other venues and levels of reviewing. Also I would be curious to see how many queer authors are reviewed but I guess that would be much more difficult to discover because for many it really isn't safe/advisable to be out. Still, it would be interesting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Quick Link - The Monthly Round is Up!

The Monthly Round is up right now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

So go on, get over there. For those not familiar with the column, it's where I recap my favorite stories from the month and pair them with thematically appropriate drinks. So yeah, go ahead and check that out.

That's it. Back to our regularly scheduled reviews tomorrow!