Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Quick Sips - Urban Fantasy #8

Two stories anchor another fine issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine this month. These stories do a great job of capturing the feel of Urban Fantasy, the magical intruding into the mundane world. Of course, they handle those intrusions very differently. In the first, the intrusion is forced, the protagonist not prepared for what she is confronted by. In the second, the protagonist seeks out the magic, is more or less prepared for what she finds, though she still has much to learn. Both make good use of the magical elements, and are worth checking out. To the reviews!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quick Sips - Omenana #3

Hey, the newest issue of Omenana is out! Always an exciting day, namely because Omenana is new and so far has never been disappointing. There are always stories that surprise me, stories that enchant me. This issue is once more a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and for those who think publications shouldn't cross genre lines, I'd say "Shut up" but also "Look at Omenana and try to tell me it isn't incredibly successful at capturing a coherent feel." The issue does an excellent job working as a whole, the stories all adding to a larger thematic narrative of growth and seeking, seeking connection or forgiveness and perhaps not quite finding it, but giving the feel that there's time yet, hope yet. It's a very good read. So let's get to it!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Be the Change

It's creeping up on my six month anniversary for Quick Sip Reviews, and as such I will have some stat-posts at some point to geek out about numbers and such. For now, though, looking forward to that, I want to take a moment and think through some things. Namely, hurrah, I've made it to six months (almost). I have reviewed a lot of things and grown traffic to the site month after month (not hugely, but it has increased). So that's good. But also, why the hell I'm doing this.

I think I started this because of a Twitter conversation that I had seen where some writers were speaking of the need for more short fiction reviews. The only place that really reviews whole issues of stories is Tangent, they said, and Tangent is…not always what it could be. Not that it's all bad, but Tangent is normally (in my mind) a little too focused on plot and genre. I, personally, kind of hate talking about genre unless it is to speak to how a story might subvert genre expectations. I've written about genre here before, though, so I won't go more into that now. Just so that it's clear that I had some frustrations about what I could find in short fiction reviewing with places that review whole issues.

Now, there is a lot of great short fiction reviewing going on. There are tons of incredibly talented people out there writing about short speculative fiction. I agree, though, that the reviews can be a little tilted toward a few stories a month, the ones that get the most attention. These are the "best of" columns (and hey, I do one, too, so I can't complain about them). They are amazing resources, but it does hurt a bit to be left off those lists. To know that your story was passed up in favor of another, perhaps one in the same publication. Not that it's a bad thing, necessarily, but I can understand the frustration that writers feel when you get something out (finally, after much work) only to have your story be ignored. Or, worse, for the only review you see to be a line or two long.

[ASIDE: As a writer I find that this happens and that it is SO frustrating! I want to know what people think of my story, what to know that people might be engaging with a story. To finally get a story out and have someone saw "Only an okay story" and that's it is rather…well, it doesn't feel good. I never want to be that person that is supposed to be taking time to think about a story and only have "well, it was a story" to say about that. In my opinion, that is failing as a reviewer. Sometimes I can forgive someone who is reviewing an awful lot of stuff, because I understand how much time it takes, but I've had reviews of my stories where the main thrust of the review is talking about the genre and how my story wasn't really horror and…again, I hope I am never guilty of that. Which informs how I review. I review as I want to be reviewed. Not always positively, but with an attempt at honest engagement. END ASIDE]

So, in the vein of "Be the change you want to see in the world" I decided to start doing more reviews. And…well, I've had to adjust down a little what I can get to, but I still manage to do about 18-20 publications a month and I think that's pretty good. Of course, I feel like I'm barely keeping up even with the rather limited number of places I review, and I apologize that I can't review more, but I do what I can. I wish there was a me that got paid to do this, in which case I would review, like, everything. But alas, this is a labor of love (and also craft, because it probably doesn't hurt my writing that I read so much), and as such it is limited by the resources I have to give. I try. Please know that I try. But I will never be able to get to everything I want.

So why am I doing this? Because I like to. I genuinely do like reading and engaging with stories. It helps that there are so many very talented writers out there. I also do this because I feel like I can and so I should. Like with writing, there's probably some amount of arrogance involved, that belief that I can do good by telling stories, by reviewing stories. But it's what I hope. I wish everyone would review everything that they read. That they would think critically about everything that they read. I think the world would be a better world if everyone did that and I want to live in that world. So that's what I try to do. Indeed. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Quick Sips - Book Smugglers June 2015

The new Book Smugglers story is up and saves me from having to really scramble to find something to review today. More than that, it takes a trope (alien lawyer SF) and makes it something that I want to read, that I want to read more about. Boasting a great sense of humor and very realized characters, the story manages to do something I wasn't expecting and keep me smiling throughout. To the review!

Art by Melanie Cook

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/15/2015 and 06/22/2015

And today I'm looking at two weeks of Strange Horizons. Just one short story, but two poems and two nonfiction pieces that I just had to dive into, making this one of the more varied reviews I've had for a while. The story is well done, a bit sad but lovely, the poems dealing with robotics and humanity and all points in between, the nonfiction covering space and also identity and the power of dressing up. There's just so much to enjoy, so much to think about. I guessing (hoping?) that this represents the last updates for June, but if not I'll just pick the rest up next month. In any event, to the reviews!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #7

So the new issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine is out. And, if the news that they will be upping their output means they can continue to put out this level of quality, I am quite pleased. Back by popular demand (including mine) is the graphic continuation of Shamrock, and overall the issue has some gems. Stories about freedom and escape and confinement. Stories of Hell and dragons and futures where author's lives are boiled down to their vices. Not as many flash fiction stories as most issues, but still a mix of shorter and longer works, and nothing too too long, so things move quickly and the issue is definitely a satisfying one. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Andreas Rocha

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quick Sips - Apex #73

So another issue of Apex Magazine is up and once again the stories are dark and the poetry shines. I actually found this issue a bit funnier than the average issue, not without exception, but the poetry had me kind of nodding along, walking the edge between humor and disturbing. Which is just how I like it. The fiction moves about a bit, all of the stories this issue more science fictional than not. Not real fantasy pieces, which perhaps explains why I felt a little unbalanced reading through it all. But still, a solid issue. Onto the reviews!

Art by Tori K. Roman

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Regular Sips - Sorrow of the Cthulhu Spawn by Alex Ness

So today marks the first time I'm reviewing not a magazine publication (gasp!). I was asked to review this collection of poetry, prose, and art, and as it looked pretty interesting I agreed. I'm not sure how many of these I will do, but probably if people keep giving me interesting things I will continue reviewing them. So here begins Regular Sips, which will denote anything that I'm going to review that is not a multiple-author collection. Onward!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Poetry and Me

So I grew up reading poetry. I think that most people do. The first books I read were Dr Seuss books. I remember being exposed to Shel Silverstein in school and being fascinated by Where the Sidewalk Ends. I remember being enthralled by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with the vivid poetry. I remember finding the poems of Frost and Dickenson and e.e. cummings and others yet. Hell, there was a whole Batman: The Animated Series episode about "Tyger, Tyger" (it was a pretty awful episode, but I really liked the poem and still do). Beast (on the X-Men cartoon) was always spouting poetry as well. But so what? Well, I guess I'm saying that, for me, getting into speculative fiction, into science fiction and fantasy, was one that was not divorced from poetry.

And I'm writing about that because I feel like poetry really doesn't get the love it deserves in speculative circles (or at least the circles that I move in). I understand that there are a great number of people out there writing poetry, reading poetry, and talking about poetry, but in more short fiction and novel circles (and especially with science fiction and fantasy fanboys), poetry is often ignored or (again especially with those fanboys) outright derided. I can recall a certain review comparing the relative merits of the debuts of Uncanny Magazine and Terraform and looking at the nonfiction and fiction of Uncanny and just…sort of hand-waiving the poetry away. No one talks about it, they wrote. Not important, they all but shouted by not even bothering to examine it.

And it's not like it's an isolated thing. For all that Tangent Online doesn't always live up to its reputation, one might expect that as the one place on the internet that reviews basically everything coming out at the professional level fiction-wise it would also be looking at the poetry coming out at those same venues. Poetry is short (mostly), probably wouldn't take too much extra work. At least the poetry could be mentioned? But no, there is a sense that no one really wants to talk about poetry. Or perhaps it's just a grand case of insecurity, a sense that no one is qualified to review poetry. Many people consider themselves to be writers, after all, and especially fiction writers. I know that many who review fiction also write it, if not always professionally. But somehow it's like if they don't personally write poetry then they don't want to talk about it.

I will confess: I write poetry. But I think that most people have written poetry. Because I enjoyed it, I wrote poetry in middle school, in high school, in college. It was largely terrible (as most writing is at those ages). I didn't show it to many people because I was afraid they wouldn't like it. Or perhaps that they wouldn't "get" it. And that right there is what I see as a large problem. There is this sense out there that one must "get" poetry to talk about it. Now, I have some of this problem as well. When I feel I didn't really "get" the poem, I tend to hem and haw and say things like I was a bit lost but this is what it means to me. And I think that is something less people are willing to say.

To me, reviewing is at its core confessional in nature. It's not really all that much about the story. It's about how I interpret that story. I don't like to do just plot summary with a good or bad at the end, a summary judgement. Normally I try to wrestle with the story, with the poem. Normally I try to say what I got out of it. Each review is a way of seeing into my brain, into how I think. I miss things. Sometimes big things, either because I'm missing some reference or some background or some cultural experience or because I'm just dense sometimes. But I try to give my thoughts on each piece I read. I feel it makes me a better reader and I hope maybe that others can find it helpful or entertaining or something like that. I'm sure that's not always the case.

Anyway, I am constantly terrified someone is going to read an interpretation of mine and tell me that I'm wrong. I imagine that is why many people don't like reviewing poetry (and some might take it so far to have a pathological avoidance of even reading poetry). That they have been taught that poetry has a right and a wrong interpretation. What's more, that they believe that even fiction has a right and a wrong interpretation (but that with fiction they have access to the "right" answer). And that is immensely troubling to me. Again, I try to present my reviews not as some sort of "right" interpretation but how I interpret a story or poem or piece of nonfiction.

And what I love about poetry is that it gives the reader a bit less of a strict map when it comes to interpretation. The pieces are generally shorter, but the impact can be much greater, because with poetry it's so much easier to see that the text changes meaning from reader to reader. A specific line can mean completely different ways because of how a reader interprets the meaning of one word. One. With fiction, there is often the illusion that the author writes a story with its meaning all in one go and that's it. The reader finds that meaning, all is well. And that. Is. Shit. Utter shit. It promotes the idea that authorial intent is the be all/end all. And while I think an author should be able to do certain things with their stories, interpreting them for the masses is not one of them.

Ahem. I like reviewing poetry. Even when it frustrates me, even when it makes me feel stupid. Sometimes especially then (come back on Monday to see me struggle my way through the Apex offerings for June). I think it's something that does help me as a reader, even as a writer. I think it's something that helps me as a person. That my truth is not everyone's truth. That there is no Truth. That poetry doesn't reveal Truth. It reveals ourselves. Like all texts, it is a mirror with which to examine ourselves and our world. And poetry does it so well. So powerfully. That is why I review poetry. That is why I read poetry. That is why I write poetry.

So yeah, that's my rather long rant about poetry. I'm not sure what the point is. Really I just had this rant inside me and had to let it out. Thanks for bearing with me, and, as always, thanks for reading.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Quick Sips - Nightmare #33

The middle of the month means a new issue of Nightmare Magazine, and this issue definitely brings it with the dark and rather disturbing. Of course, the two stories approach horror in two very different ways. One is a sort of fairy tale filled with a sense of justice and things unable to stay buried. The other slips on the classic trappings of survival horror to offer up a bit of a thrill ride with plagues and things more dangerous still. It's an interesting month of horror, and I'm jumping right in!

Art by Okan Bülbül

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #61 QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION (part 2: the full-length Fiction!)

Okay, so apparently I miscounted when I originally said how many original fiction pieces were in Lightspeed Magazine's Queers Destroy Science Fiction. I had said there were ten stories. There are eleven. Eleven stories that are all worth checking out. I mean, wow. There is so much good fiction here. From stories dealing with the end of the world and cataclysmic war to seemingly smaller (or at least a bit more personally important) moments dealing with online harassment and the loss of a parent, the stories range wide and far. Characters are richly diverse, stories at turns funny and uplifting and heartbreaking and tragic. There is so much to like. So let's get to it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #175

This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a nice mix. One story short, one long. Both focus on women dealing with facing some difficult ideas, with some choices. Both are stubborn, resistant, but in very different ways, and to very different outcomes. Really, both show the value of freedom, of not imposing your own definitions on others. About trusting people to rule themselves. It's an interesting issue, and one that I think I should get down to reviewing. So here I go!

Art by Julie Dillon

Monday, June 15, 2015

Quick Sips - Shimmer #25 (June Stuff)

Well Shimmer continues to be the place to go to when I want stories that will make me cry and also want to whoop with excitement. This month there are two stories dealing with expectations and not fucking giving in to them. Whether it is being a "good" girl or letting your family decide where you will live and how your husband will be cared for, these stories feature women who are not going to let other people tell them how to live. For this, most of the characters are viewed as somewhat monstrous, as dangerous, and yet in the end they find a strength and a pride in their refusal to conform. Excellent reads! So to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Rubbing is Writing

Okay so that title turned out to be a bit more suggestive than I had imagined. Ahem. If you hadn't guessed, though, it's time for me to talk about my new story that is out, "Rubbing is Racing." Go check it out right now at Lightspeed Magazine! I still can't really believe that it got into the issue. That I am in such an amazing collection. But I will do my best to write about the story a bit, in case anyone is interested.

Sometimes a story surprises you. Sometimes a story just flows out in one go like uncorking a bottle and it's all you can do to slow down the thoughts enough that your hands can keep up. Sometimes you look up after a very productive few hours to find a story staring at you in the face. "Spring Thaw" was a bit like that, a story that was drafted in a day and that didn't require too much major revision. "Rubbing is Racing" was definitely not one of those stories. For all that, as I reread it now, it seems like it should have been easy, that it should have been as quick to write as it is to read, it was a bit of a chore, to be honest.

It started life as that first image, the lights of a racetrack which I always thought was a neat way of racing, blinking the red, then the single yellow, then green. I had thought that this was going to be something fun and fast and I started writing it and…well, it just wasn't working. I got about 2500 words into it, in which the pilot had to deal with a lot more, where there were one-on-one duels between people and one of the pilot's ex-lovers (a different pilot) was there as a secondary character. It was a mess. I didn't even get them to shore. It was bloated and I just sort of stared at it for a while wondering what to do about it.

A few days later I came back to it and tried to push on. I was writing toward an ending where the pilot would get shot down and be stuck at one of the checkpoints and meet one of the natives and that was going to be the story. Only the story did not want to work that way. It felt…well, it felt bad. So I scrapped it. Or most of it. The first five hundred words or so I still liked, so I kept it. I began again, but still the damned story was not cooperating. I just couldn't figure out how to maintain that speed at the beginning. I wanted to do too much after the shore. I wanted the checkpoints to lead all over, wanted a race to the ship that would house all the smaller ships in their escape. I wanted too much. So after having written another thousand words or so, I scrapped that, too.

The thing is, there was still something about this story that I liked. The tone, or the character, or the situation. Most of the time when a story gives me this much trouble I just forget it and move on. But I decided to cut out everything but the core. Keep the pilot, keep the premise. Shift things around a bit and cut out everything after the city. And that's when the character starting making sense, not as just someone addicted to adrenaline but as someone who was saved from their planet in this fashion. As someone who races in part to save others in the same manner. And to relive the fatality of the event, the drive, to make up for having lived. That's when the story made sense to me, and how I finished it.

Of course, I hadn't been planning on submitting it to Queers Destroy Science Fiction. It still wasn't what I consider Flash (being over a thousand words) and I was already submitting to QDSF like crazy. But all my other Flash stories (and regular stories) got rejected and this was the only other science fiction Flash that I had. So I submitted it. And here it is. Probably the least painful editing process I've ever had, too, which was nice. Of course, rereading it makes me feel almost like someone else wrote it. Which is a little odd. But I am just so honored to be included in this issue. It is amazing and I will be doing a special two-part review of it soon (the first part is already up!), so look forward to that. Look forward to it! And thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, June 12, 2015

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #61 QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION (part 1: the Flash!)

So there is a slight conflict of interest with my review of the latest Lightspeed Magazine, which is the special Queers Destroy Science Fiction Issue. Namely, I'm in it. My story, "Rubbing is Racing," is one of the flash stories. Which I will (obviously) not be reviewing today. And there was a little voice in my head that said that maybe I shouldn't review the rest of the issue either (but probably because the issue is HUGE and will take a lot of time and not because it is anything other than awesome). But I think I will have satisfied objectivity simply by not reviewing my own story and leave it at that. As I said, this issue is HUGE. It's as big or bigger even than most anthologies. As such, there is no way that I could read it in the same space I normally read just four short stories. There are ten short stories and (including mine) twelve flash fiction stories to read. Which means, unfortunately, that I'm not going to be reviewing the nonfiction. You should really read it, though. Nonfiction is great, but I don't have the space this month. That said, and from the title of the post, you might have figured out that I am splitting my review of this issue into two parts. The first part is the flash fiction. The second part, to come later in the month, will be the full length fiction. So watch for that. Reviews this month for Lightspeed might also be a little shorter than my normal just because there are so many. I apologize for that. Hopefully they are still useful. So onto the reviews!

Art by Elizabeth Leggett

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/25/2015, 06/01/2015, and 06/08/2015

So apparently I've been a little behind in getting to Strange Horizons, as evidenced by there being three weeks of reviews this week. That said, there is only one piece of fiction to get to. Three poems, though, and a piece of nonfiction. There's even more up, including a HILARIOUS review of the short story category/Puppy slate. That is one cutting review. But as I'm not the point of reviewing reviews (yet) I will leave it at that. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Vlada Monakhova

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Quick Sips - Uncanny Magazine (June Stuff)

Today I'm looking at the June content for Uncanny Magazine. For a relatively new publication, it still knows how to bring in the talent, and the stories and poems here are indicative of a zine that knows how to deliver. Now that time is passing there does seem to be something close to a core emerging from the stories, a common theme that makes this publication a bit more connected. And it's that idea of the uncanny, of something that can't quite be explained. In these stories it takes the form of a magic library and a song that might be able to tap into a power no one knew existed. But for both there is a great sense that not quite everything is explained. We (the readers) are simply presented with these vision and asked to accept or reject them. And I find accepting them much more rewarding. To the reviews!

Art by Tran Nguyen

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #105

Well, not quite as huge an issue of Clarkesworld as last month, but still a very good one with four pieces of original fiction and two pieces of nonfiction that I'm looking at. There is more nonfiction and some reprints as well, and certainly give those a look as well, but there's only so much I can get to in a month so yeah. Really this is an interesting issue, with a lot connecting to a sort of alien presence. In a few of the stories this is stronger than others, but in at least three there is a human character connecting with something decidedly not human, and in the last there is an altered human connecting to a alien realty, to an altered space beyond c. Lots to read and enjoy and some very insightful nonfiction as well. With spreadsheets! And if my profile picture is anything to go by, that might be something I enjoy. So yes, to the reviews!

Art by Liu Junwei

Monday, June 8, 2015

Quick Sips - Crossed Genres #30 Success

The theme for this issue of Crossed Genres Magazine is Success. Which is an interesting and wide theme to play with, not really a content restriction so much as a way of ending. And the three stories tackle the theme in different ways, some of them having victory but at the cost of bodies on the ground, mass death and sickness and some having a bit more personal of success, a new way of seeing the world, a new way of doing a job. In all the characters overcome some aspect of the world that is oppressing them. Not always completely, but these are most definitely success stories. Onward with the reviews!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Birthdays and Checking In

So my birthday was on Wednesday. I am (for those who would like to imagine me as some magical, ageless voice from the internet, look away now) 29 years old. Which feels to me both very young and also no longer very young. I mean, I'm under thirty, so I can't really be anywhere approaching old yet. I'm not even really middle aged. But I am almost out of my twenties. And my early twenties seem so long ago that it's like I was an entirely different person then. But I am a year older, and the blog is now over five months old, and so I figured I would take this time to check in with a sort of mid-year retrospective.

Spoilers: this years has been awesome. In so many ways this has been a great year even as I feel most of the time like I'm just spinning my wheels. I've had many stories out already (though none forthcoming so a little worried there, to be honest), including my first two professional sales! Which is huge. I was not really expecting them to come so close together, but it is amazing and I feel quite lucky that I'm already halfway to SFWA qualification (now that it's 10k of stories and not just three stories equaling $250 at at least six cents a word). A bit more difficult (and for which I feel really guilty about) is that it seems even harder now to handle the rejections. I mean, I get lots of practice (I just passed 100 rejections for the year so far this last week). But somehow it feels worse now. Paradoxically. Like somehow having that taste of success has changed things. But I'm just complaining now. I will move on.

As I said, Quick Sip Reviews is now over five months old. That's…well, not as old as I am, but it seems like it's doing okay. It's a lot of work to do, to review everything that I read, but I hope that it's also worth it. I'm one who rather obsessively searches out reviews of my works. I want to know if people are reading, what people are thinking. And while it is heartbreaking to read a bad review, and probably I should stop caring and stop paying attention to reviews, I find it so difficult. Because, as a reviewer, I do like to see what people think. And, heartbreaking as it can be, I do want to know the problems that people have with my writing. What works and what doesn’t. How I maybe can do better, or at least be aware if I'm succeeding at what I want to be doing. N.K. Jemisin had a great article last year about reading reviews and I try to keep her advice in mind when both reading and writing reviews (basically, learn what you can ever from negative reviews, even from reviews that you might not have a lot of "value").

So the reviews continue. There are a few things that I'm still figuring out. I am going to start doing (probably a very small amount) of reviews of slightly longer things that are more like collections. I’m not sure when the first will go up, but soon, soon. And I don't know, there are things that I think would be really cool to do. Like having a Quick Questions segment that I could fun on Sundays instead of my Quick Links (which have been slightly difficult to keep up on recently). I'd love to just send a few short questions to various writers asking them about their process or their thoughts or maybe other reviewers as well. Not sure, really, and I'm a bit busy just at the moment to make it happen, but maybe the time will come to reach out and see if there is any interest there.

Anywho, it was my birthday on Wednesday. I guess that's conducive to looking back. Taking stock. I'm super happy where the blog is after just five months. I hope that it's something that I can continue indefinitely. At the very least I want to see how I feel in another five months, or in another seven when the blog will be a year old. Because birthdays mean that time is passing, time that seems to pass quickly and yet take forever. Already January seems ages ago. But times marches on. There are stories to read, reviews to write, and trials to survive. As always, thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Monthly Round is UP!

No reviews here today because the Monthly Round is up over at Nerds of a Feather!

So go check that out and see what my top picks for May were. Plus booze pairings!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online June 2015

Another three stories from Flash Fiction Online, and this time there's even a waffle recipe to go wtih the third story. Which is great. I always enjoy pairing things with stories. For me, it's normally drinks, but having an actual recipe to go along with a story is a nice touch. All in all, the stories here are about loneliness. For most of them they feature characters unable or unwilling to reach out, though in the case of the first story this is overcome (though not by choice). It's a solid collection of flash fiction, so let's get started!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Quick Sips - Book Smugglers May 2015

So Book Smugglers is back to publishing original fiction. Last time it was retold fairy tales and now the theme is First Contact. Only one story a month, but that's fine by me. Gives me a relatively short reviewing day, which can be nice. And the story this month is quite interesting in terms of form and structure, told as a questionnaire. Really Book Smugglers just continues to show that they have a good eye for fiction and for stories that push boundaries. They might be relatively new as a fiction market, and might have a fairly small output, but they are definitely a place to watch. So let's get to it!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #174

So apparently this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is quite concerned with rivers and prices to be paid. Sometimes the stories in each issue are very different, but these two are very strongly linked thematically. In both there is the crossing of a river, and in that crossing there is a buying into an agreement, a sort of cycle. There is no way to avoid paying for either main characters of these stories, no real way to get around the fact that by accepting help in crossing the river they have entered into a bargain that binds them. And yet both character do manage to twist that bargain into something that changes them and their function and also changes the one that takes them across, giving those characters a release. Interesting apart, this is an issue that begs to be analyzed together. Which I always love to do. Also, despite releasing this issue in the last few days of the month, the stories are fairly short for the publication, which I always appreciate. So yes, let's get to it!

Art by Christopher Balaskas

Monday, June 1, 2015

Quick Sips - Tor.com May 2015

Well I guess I was right that Tor would also win the "wait for the last possible moment to release their longest story of the month" award. I'm fairly sure this is something that only bothers me because it means that I was not able to get the review up on Friday. Of course, Tor was nice enough to make it up to me by publishing some great stories. Really, it's a full month, with four stories and a graphic story. So a lot to look at and none of it bad. Indeed, Tor is a great resource for some amazing stories, many of which tie in to other, larger works. So it's the gateway drug of fiction sites. It gave me pet elephants to cry about and ghost busting to cheer. There is an abundance of talent here and I'm just going to get to it, okay?