Monday, February 29, 2016

Quick Sips - February 2016

The stories from this month seem to be all about offering some fresh twists on old classics. From a zombie story that's unlike any I've seen before to a steam-powered take on Sherlock Holmes (though not in the way I expected), the stories take some time-honored tropes and proceed to stuff them in a stack and beat them with sticks. What pours out afterward is a slurry of interesting ideas, complex characterizations, and brilliant world-building. Now, time to review!
Art by Sung Choi

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Quick Links - 02/28/2016

Oh fuck. Welp, because of the Sippy Awards, my Sundays were full there for a while, and because I'm just sort of a lazy bastard I've been rather terrible about posting my review links. But here they are. There are a lot, but my #KTBookChallenge has begun. I think most of the books here from the end of 2015 count toward it, too, so hurrah! Anyway, there's a lot to get to, so here you go!

Blacksad: A Silent Hell by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - I rather love the artwork of this series a bit more than I like the plots, because while Blacksad has a nice noir feel to it and it does some interesting things, the art steals the show every time.

Brightness Falls From The Air by James Tiptree, Jr (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - This is the first I've read of James Tiptree, Jr.'s novel-length work, and it was weird and difficult and there was a lot going on and things went really, really strange there for a while. But vastly imaginative and sad and good.

Dare by Philip José Farmer (Goodreads, my score 1/5) - My only 1-star rating on Goodreads for 2015, and I'm not sure it completely deserves it more than some of my 2-star reviews, but this one is just...well, calling it dated I don't think really goes far enough. It's...I did not enjoy it at all.

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - I like how this collection takes on the idea of World SF and complicates it. A very interesting and rather important idea, and one that the anthology handles very well.

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad (Nerds of a Feather, my score 8/10) - And the second review of it (or really the first, as I normally do all my NoaF reviews first and then Goodreads second for books that I review for both. Still a very good collection.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (Goodreads, my score 5/5) - This was one of my favorite books of 2015, with a great style and innovative structure. The whole thing is a mystery set in an alternative past that has space travel and is just rather charming all the way around!

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (Nerds of a Feather, my score 9/10) - Another review of this book, which really I would just keep on reviewing. It's great, and there's so much to think about and read into and just all the yes!

Dowry Meat by Heather Knox (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - Speculative poetry from a local poet that I actually went to university with. I ran into her at the local grocery store and learned that this book exists and it is great!

Marginalia to Stone Bird by R.B. Lemberg (Goodreads, my score 5/5) - More speculative poetry and another great one, filled with poems that cross borders and boundaries. Many of these I had already loved from when they came out around the web in 2014/2015. Very, very good!

Marginalia to Stone Bird by R.B. Lemberg (Nerds of a Feather, my score 9/10) - And hey look, another book that I reviewed twice. It's always nice when I really like the books that I have to write this much about! :)

Half World by Hiromi Goto (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - This is the first I've read of  Hiromi Goto's novel-length work and it is delightful. Lots of really weird and unsettling places while maintaining a nice YA feel and setting. And now I want more.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (Goodreads, my score 4/5) - This is the first I've read of Nalo Hopkinson's novel-length work, too, which I guess makes sense as it was her debut. A great and rather uncomfortable story of family and magic.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (Nerds of a Feather, my score 9/10) - A book so good I've reviewed it three times now. Seriously, seriously good, and probably tied with The Summer Prince as my favorite YA I read in 2015.

**NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART** - my ongoing reviews of graphic erotic works, mostly manga and graphic novels

Love on the Job Vol 1 by Chihiro Harumi (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - This is a rather cute het romance/sex romp, just fun and ridiculous and lots of sex. Rather vanilla stuff, but still a fine read.

Club for Cross Dressers by Kuromame (Goodreads, my score 3/5) - Ah, cross dressing. I quite like most of the stories in this book, but...hmm, I'm just not sure on some things about it. As written/translated, these are non-explicit m/m romance stories.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet

In case I didn't annoy everyone enough about it on Twitter, my story "Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet" is out in the new Dreamspinner anthology, Simmer. Woo!

I'm fairly certain I've mentioned before that I'm a great fan of food. And cooking, really. And fun smuts. So when I saw that Dreamspinner was open for a cooking-themed M/M anthology I was all about that! Of course, me being me, it's a contemporary fantasy about Bastian, who runs his own restaurant, and a mysterious line chef named Colin (An aside: there were apparently three different stories that used Colin as a name for one of the main characters and because I was out of town when the email got sent asking who wouldn't mind changing names, my Colin was the only one to remain Colin…ah, the little weird things that happen in anthologies…). Well, after a rather disastrous night in the kitchen, Bastian finds things really weird when he goes to sleep and enters a strange dream-like world where Colin isn't exactly who he seemed to be.

Basically, I had a lot of fun with this story. To super serious foodies, I apologize, because I am all sorts of amateur and just sort of modeled Bastian after some chefs I've known from small (and really, really good) restaurants I've been to regionally. Hilariously, the first editor to look at the story seemed…not impressed with what I was having him cook, but I think I worked enough with the rewrites to leave everyone satisfied. I really have no training with cooking aside from messing around with cookbooks and on Pinterest-found mommy blogs. I was a cook at a bar/grill for a little while, but that's a whole different world. I actually got to contribute a recipe with my story, which isn't really the most inspired thing (a variation on bacon-wrapped water chestnuts), but OH MY GLOB THAT SAUCE. It has bourbon and buckwheat honey and maple syrup and is so good!

Ahem. This also represents my first attempt to write something a bit smutty without sex. YES YOU HEARD ME! So for anyone who does not like erotica but enjoys some romance, this is probably the work of mine you want to track down. I mean, I'm pretty sure some of the other stories in the collection have sex in them, but for whatever reason I tend to associate Dreamspinner with romance instead of erotica so the stories I've had accepted at the big DSP have been of the sweet variety. Which are also fun to write. Indeed, in many ways I get even more time to do world-building and develop side characters outside of the main pairing. Here it was just fun to get to write about some chefs finding each other. Also Legolas jokes, because I am mature (and the fae might be involved).

In the end, part of what I love about M/M romance is also what makes it frustrating at times and why I don't think I could ever write just it. It requires a happy ending. I tend to get away with just sort of implying the two guys are going to start dating and take it from there, but there is something both stifling and freeing about writing with the mandate of a happily ever after or happily for now. Most erotica/romance calls necessitate it, and for me it's an excuse to just sort of have fun and write drama and sappy love. In the face of the endless slew of rejections and how difficult writing non-smut SFF can be, sometimes it is just nice to sit down and write some happy stories. They're fun. And this one has some weird to it and hopefully a good deal of funny. I'm really not sure because feedback on smut is both easier and harder to come by that non-smut. Or perhaps I just tend to run in more non-smut circles.

Anyway…magic! M/M romance! Cooking! Go check it out and thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quick Sips - Plasma Frequency Q1 2016 (Part 1)

I was rather bummed when Plasma Frequency announced that it would going on indefinite hiatus last year. Especially with how many projects had been shuttering, I feared that it was gone for good. But after a successful Kickstarter campaign the publication is back in a big way. And I do mean big! The first of the quarterly issues has a full thirteen stories in it, seven of which I will be looking at today. From fantasy worlds to distant stars, the stories range pretty far and wide, but there's a nice balance to everything, and I do appreciate Plasma Frequency's commitment to publishing new authors. I'll be back again either late March or sometime in April to close out this first issue, but for now I'm just going to get to the reviews!
Art by Tais Teng

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #193

There must have been some memo I missed about making the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies as violent and uncomfortable as possible. Valentine's Day is over, I can tell you that. It's a dark issue, circling around ideas of violence and religion, faith and punishment, sacrifice and salvation. And it is a rather shocking issue that requires quite a few trigger warnings. Otherwise it also features bad-tempered mounts, which really doesn't add much to the stories but is all I can think of to put a brighter spin on this pair of deeply disturbing works. To the reviews!
Art by Leon Tukker

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Quick Sips - Orthogonal SF "The War at Home"

A new publications has appeared! Orthogonal SF is a new speculative fiction venue (despite the name, these are not all science fiction, which I like FWIW) formed a bit out of spite. And anger. And that does come through a bit in this first issue, which is fairly dark but also nicely balanced. The stories are moving and do have a strong vein of anger to them, as well as the claustrophobic feel of being trapped and trying to get out, with a bit about anonymity and archetypes thrown in for good measure. It's an interesting mix of stories, and I'm just going to get to the reviews, shall I?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #11

The February issue of Fantasy Scroll is out and it's a bit of a departure from what I'm used to from the publication. Not in a bad way, as this issue certainly brings the weird and revels in some strange visions of speculative fiction, from dragon bodies turned into houses to lost children living in a state of suspended bliss, the stories are often uncomfortable in a very effective way. The issue takes a lot of chances and, I think, they mostly pay off. There's a lot of stories full of the Valentine's spirit (and many more with a twist on the romantic impulse) as well as more than a few that feature some sort of revenge. All in all it's an eclectic issue that's unified by a feeling of unease and some fantastic stories. To the reviews!
Art by Jeremy Vickery

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Romance, SFF, and Toxic Masculinity

First, an aside.

Hi all. I think I started writing this post intending it to be about blogging and nonfiction and how I feel rather terrible because I read an admittedly small amount of commentary and blog posts. I try to read reviews, and I try to check out things I see people talking about on Twitter, but if we're being wholly honest I'm on Twitter for fairly brief periods of time in order to link to my own reviews and signal boost when possible projects and people I like and occasionally rant. Otherwise I'm normally stuck off in my own little world feverishly reading fiction and poetry and nonfiction and working on reviews (or I'm at work doing prepress stuff). So I don't read as much blog content as I'd like and feel a bit "out of loop" and somewhat "out of the community" because I just can't be around keeping track of what's going on. But yes, I read the Book Smugglers essay and thought it was quite interesting. This is not a review of that essay, nor really a response to it. As always on Saturdays, this is just something that got me thinking, and so yeah, I'm thinking a bit about romance. And me. And masculinity.

It's sad that I feel the need to preface pretty much everything after this two ways. First, I am a writer of romance. Queer, mostly M/M romance. Second, this is all my opinion. With a grain of salt and all that. I say it's sad because all that qualifies one to speak on any subject is having eyes that see and feelers that, well, feel. I don't need to read romance, or write romance, in order to have opinions on it, nor to make those opinions valid. To most romance gatekeepers, I have not read enough romance. To most SFF gatekeepers, I have probably not read enough SFF. There is no magical amount of romance one needs to read to have an opinion, though, nor some very-logical-I'm-sure amount of old SFF I need to have read to stand here (well sit, but still), and say something about it. My first point (indeed most of my point) is about perceptions, after all, and genre, so...

In some ways Masculine and Feminine are among the oldest genres that exist. Labels that "ease" in categorizing people and actions. Sewing? Feminine! Racing? Masculine! Love stories? Feminine! Spaceships? Masculine! It's an old old old old lie that people use to try and value things based on perception and power. I don't believe in masculine or feminine actions or ideas or ideals or emotions. Why? Because the same action being performed by two different people can be either masculine or feminine, depending on how the person performing the action is perceived. A woman sewing a blanket? Feminine! A man sewing a leg wound? Masculine! A man racing down the freeway for the thrill? Masculine! A female racing down the freeway because kids are late for school? Feminine! And even further. A man will be judged more masculine for being argumentative about something he's passionate about and a woman more feminine. A man is more masculine for forgetting where his keys are (a typical guy, right?) but a woman is more feminine (what an airhead!). These actions are the same. And colors and other "gendered" things that in the past have been coded masculine are now coded feminine, and vice versa, so any argument that masculinity and femininity are innate and objective are just bullshit. Giving birth is not feminine and ejaculating through a penis is not masculine.

Part of what bothers me about genres, then, is that they force things into boxes that don't really fit and that exist in a constant double-standard where some genres are valued and some are not. And romance occupies a very interesting place as far as genres go. Because in many ways anything that codes as too feminine just sort of gets lumped in that direction. It becomes anathema to anyone who builds their libraries around ideas of masculinity. Which brings me back to me. I grew up on "masculine" fantasy, believing that the books I was recommended by librarians and classmates where what I should be reading. Books by white men. So, as an adult, when I joined Goodreads and started putting up the books I had read, lo and behold I find that probably out of the first 500 books I had read growing up, maybe 20 were not by men, maybe 50 by not white men (and that's probably being generous). And when I was younger I probably would have been right there defending my reading choices as good because "I just like science fiction and fantasy." Which, in some ways, is true. I do like science fiction and fantasy. But what I probably should have said was "I am desperately afraid."

Because, really, that's what it is. Young boys are taught to fear emasculation. Under threat of violence, social shunning, and a slew of other tools. You know, I love the episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where Rom and the rest of Quark's employees decide to unionize. Not because it's the greatest episode but because of something that Quark says. To paraphrase, he describes why the effort to unionize will fail. People don't want to dismantle the system of exploiter and exploited, not because they like being exploited, but because they want to be the exploiter. So no matter how they suffer under it, they still cling to it, prop it up, perpetuate it in hopes of gaining access to the class of people who are on top. Even if they never manage it, even if it's mostly illusion used to make them compliant. And that idea works for much more than economics. In my mind that is how much of masculinity operates, where boys cling to masculinity because it offers them a way to be better than others, to have power over others. And it's not just boys, but a whole maculine/feminine hierarchy that creates a system of privilege.

But wait, what about romance? I found romance fairly late (kind of). I mean, there's a lot of SFF that would be considered romance if published with different covers. There are whole slews of urban fantasy/paranormal romance books that could be one or the other or both. This is partly why I find genre such a frustrating thing. Because a book written with a female-sounding name is a romance but with a male-sounding name is urban fantasy? Again, this is why masculine and feminine are such dangerous and misleading categories. For what it's worth, romances do typically have to have some, you know, romantic elements, but most stories do so yeah, there you are. Which is not to say that romances are all good. But neither are all SFF. The bad can be incredibly, incredibly bad in both. But it's the same kind of bad. The same adherence and propping up of genre and gender roles, of systems of oppression (and just some bad writing, which again, exists in both). But there is progressive, subversive romance just as there is progressive, subversive SFF. To me, there's not an awful lot of difference (and in some instances the people writing the stories in both "genres" aren't even different).

So what? A thousand words later and what the hell am I saying? That I wish that genres didn't exist, in many ways. Genres are toxic. For whatever good they might do in helping people identify as fans, and more easily find books to read, they do way more harm in how they gatekeep and how the herd and how they prop up oppression and pass along abuse. Chances are boys and men who want to cross the aisle and read from the romance shelves have to deal with a lot of shit. Not misandry, whatever anyone says, but misogyny. This does not somehow make men "the real victims." This is not me saying "WHAT ABOUT TEH MENS?!" Toxic masculinity does not harm everyone equally, though it does harm everyone. Men are the least harmed group because they get the most power from the system, because they have quickest access to become the exploiters and the least incentive then to dismantle the means by which they are privileged. What I had hoped in rambling my way through my own thoughts was to basically argue that any argument that uses genre, that uses femininity/masculinity, as a primary given for something being bad, is flawed to me. (Not that I believe this was the case with the Book Smugglers essay, which I thought was talking about a certain kind of character and situation [the trope in question in the title of the essay] rather than a certain genre, and definitely not a trope absent from books marketed as romance, but present across genres, as the essay did rather show).

But wait, I just said toxic masculinity, didn't I? Yes, kind of. What I mean by toxic masculinity is the very belief that masculinity and femininity are innate. Immutable and all powerful. Self-referential perhaps, but in my mind a fine way of conceptualizing the issue. And yeah, there you are, my hopefully somewhat coherent thoughts. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, February 19, 2016

Quick Sips - Nightmare #41

The latest issue of Nightmare Magazine is out and features a nice pair of stories that focus on family and fear. Isolation and oppression. Both that which arrives from a place, from a situation, to that which arrives from something a bit closer to home. Both stories feature characters that are tired, that have been fighting for a long time. Against expectations and against difference and again a lack of options. The stories go to some pretty dark places, but the name of the publication is Nightmare, after all, so it rather fits. Time to review!

Art by Steven Stahlberg

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/01/2016, 02/08/2016, & 02/15/2016

February is here and at Strange Horizons that means an excellent mix of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Unfortunately I'm a bit short of time so I'm not reviewing the very good but very long nonfiction up this week, but I do want to point people in it's direction. Fascinating! Anyway, the fiction this month is urban fantasy flavored and the poetry ranges from mythic to fairy tales to lake monsters, and the nonfiction takes an interesting look at the changing face of science fiction. Lots to read, lots to like, lots to review!
Art by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Quick Sips - Unlikely Story's CLOWNS: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix

So, full disclosure, I'm in this special print anthology of Unlikely Story's Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix. As such, I will not be reviewing my story, "Pushpin and Pullpin." As Unlikely Story is on my list of regularly reviewed publications, though, I will be looking at the rest of the original short stories. I've already read the five that originally appeared for free online in the Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia, and those can be found here. There's tons of original flash in this print anthology, though, and I'm in superb company in the ToC. There are clowns for every preference, of every taste and shape (though I do not recommend tasting the clowns). And the anthology as a whole plots a rather deep descent into the dark possibilities of clowning. It's difficult in ways that one might not expect from a clown flash fiction anthology, but it is incredibly good. So without further ado, to some reviews! 

Art by Linda Saboe

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Quick Sips - Apex #81

After an absolutely packed January issue, Apex Magazine is back down to its normal output. Three original stories this month and four poems. I debated reviewing the reprint (which I do recommend people go out and read) but as it's quite long and I'm a bit crunched for time (sorry!), I'm just looking at the original work this month, which is still amazingly good. The fiction hits just the right balance of dark and all hell and yet compelling and entertaining and fun, and the poetry mixes subversive elements with plain ol' weird. Everything works and captures the darkness that Apex is known for, while not really getting bogged down in grit or grim. Anyway, to the reviews!

Art by David Demaret

Monday, February 15, 2016

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #69

The February Lightspeed Magazine is here and it's quite an impressive array of stories. Four tales, as usual, two science fiction and two fantasy. The science fiction takes a look at visions of the possible future. Dystopic, some might say, but more about finding humanity in isolation. More and more people are little islands, and the science fiction explores that, in some literal and metaphoric ways. The fantasy is all magic realism this month, a pair of quasi-portal fantasies that touch on the need and the want to get away, to escape. Plus I get to rant a bit more on my ongoing thoughts concerning "Millennial fiction." So to the reviews!
Art by Elizabeth Leggett

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Quick Thoughts - My 2015 Writing Statistics

So today I thought, because I've been doing a lot of looking back at 2015, and because I just announced some works in progress, I'd give a bit of a peak today behind the curtain of my writing. Admittedly, I've been a bit down in terms of production for a little while. Part of this is because of other projects but I figure as 2015 is firmly behind and I'm feeling a little better at the moment about it, I'd go ahead and look at my writing statistics from last year. Nothing too thorough, but I do love me some statistics.

2015 total submissions: 198
2015 total rejections: 196
2015 total acceptances: 7

And that seems about right as far as year over year numbers go, though acceptances were definitely up more in relation to everything else. FYI this is only what I would consider "pro SFF fiction stats," so no smut and no poetry. But it shows a bit of an increase across the board from 2014, probably because I've gotten better at timing submissions and knowing where to submit stories in what order. The second half of the year continues to see a slow-down in submissions and rejections, probably corresponding with submission hiatuses at a few places, and especially bare are September and December, when things probably get a bit more busy personally as well as run into a great many publications being closed to subs.

Of the seven acceptances, two were accepted at the first place submitted to while others hit on their sixth, seventh, eighth, eleventh, and fourteenth submissions. The professional sales account for both(!) of the first submission acceptances as well as the eighth submission acceptance. Which leads me to assume that either I'm pretty good at targeting my submissions (both the first sub acceptances came from open themed flash calls) or else my stories are more sink-or-swim when it comes to hitting at a pro market.

August was an incredible month for me, with three acceptances, plus an additional one in September. Otherwise, my acceptances were clustered at the beginning of the year, with one each in January, February, and March. Which means during those times I was feeling quite good, but also means that I saw zero acceptances at all in April to July and in October to the end of the year. Very much a feast or famine kind of year, which was both incredibly cool and incredibly suck at times. Starting out the year with three solid acceptances (two of them pro) and then not selling another for another five months was tough. There were some smut sales in there, but still…

Lifetime through 2015 I'm sitting at 535 submissions and 497 rejections (which means I passed 500 rejections early this year, so hurrah?), with 16 acceptances. Which could be much worse. My longest sale in 2015 was just over 4000 words ("Nothing" at Betwixt) and my shortest 998 ("Capital Coffee" at Electric Spec). Four of the seven stories were flash, all under 1300 words. So flash is what seems to be selling, which is probably no surprise.

Anyway, there are my 2015 in writing stats. Maybe interesting to some? Whatever the case, thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Monthly Round is Up!

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

My favorite stories from January! With drink pairings! Go check it out!

For those looking for the TL;DR version, here you go:

Tasting Flight:

"Godfall" by Sandra M. Odell (GigaNotoSaurus)
"Angel, Monster, Man" by Sam J. Miller (Nightmare)
"Secondhand Bodies" by JY Yang (Lightspeed)
"The Mama Mmiri" by Walter Dinjos (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
"Tower of the Rosewater Goblet" by Nin Harris (Strange Horizons)
"The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon (Apex)


"America, America" by Okafor Emmanuel Tochukwu (Flash Fiction Online)
"You, an Accidental Astronaut" by Sonja Natasha (Mothership Zeta)
"While I Wait" by Layla Al-Bedawi (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #192

The two stories that take up this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are about price and cost. The cost of freedom, the cost of morality, and the cost of wealth. In both, the main characters struggle in some way with their position, with their power, with rising in wealth and privilege. And in both they are faced with a drastic change in that and how to deal with it. Where to bend and where to stand and what to sell and what to buy and through them both there is a subtle commentary on culture and on money and on power. So yeah, time to get reviewing!
Art by Leon Tukker

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quick Sips - Shimmer #29 (February Stuff)

February might be considered the month of love by many people (and spec publications), but Shimmer is taking a rather...interesting approach to the idea with two stories about relationships that, well, aren't exactly romantic. From the complex web of love and hate and missed connections that fill an old apartment building to a relationship dashed by infidelity and lies, the stories look at the ways love can fall apart and the ways that love and longing can be twisted to hate. And, just maybe, how that hate can be harmonized back into something redemptive. So yeah, time to review!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Quick Sips - Uncanny #8 (February Stuff)

Well Uncanny Magazine is certain keeping its February interesting, and vaguely relationship-heavy with three very different short stories and two poem. Unfortunately I'm pressed for time so not looking at the nonfiction but I certainly encourage people not to overlook it. But the three fiction pieces showcase relationships and loves ranging from oppressive and doomed to hot and conflicting to distant and freeing. These are stories that look at relationships from many angles, not necessarily leaving us with a happy ending every time, indeed arguing that sometimes a happy ending isn't exactly possible. But it's a good issue with some solid work! To the reviews!

Art by Priscilla H. Kim

Monday, February 8, 2016

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2016

My second month of reading GigaNotoSaurus keeps things Earth-bound but, a bit like last month's piece, an Earth that is much different from the one we live in. Where steam technology is ascendant and humans are not necessarily alone as the most advanced beings on the planet. The story is compelling and fun and definitely makes me glad that I've started reading and reviewing the publication, which continues to be exceptional!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Rollercoaster

I don't think it's controversial to say that writing is a fucking nightmare at times. And that it is amazing and uplifting and affirming (sometimes). I think I've written before about how sometimes I wish someone had warned me about writing, because fuck is it not easy. And part of that is the nature of it, the irregularity of it. I can write every day and have a routine and a method and a discipline. Does it mean I'll get paid? Hah! Sorry, though, that sounds rather bitter (because perhaps it is), and I want to hasten to say that I've been extremely fortunate and that I've sold any of my writing at all is at times unbelievable. But part of being a writer for me seems to be the peaks and valleys, the rollercoaster of publications and…well…not.

Which is to say that back in October I was having an amazing time of things. Many things coming out and quite a few acceptances and then, well…that sort of stopped. Lots of promising leads. Lots of "close and please try again" and even a few "I'm sure you'll have no problem selling this elsewhere" but, alas, no sales. Which, not to be all "poor me I had a good thing and then didn't" but yeah, it's not the easiest to go from thinking maybe, just maybe things are getting easier to…back to being unable to sell anything for months. It's the joy and frustration of writing, that things aren't certain, that you can be running hot for a while and then dry up. It sucks, but it's life.

Anyway, this post is part rather-apologetic complaining (sorry for venting!) and part hey I have some things coming out soon that I want to tell you about. Because The future is once again looking bright and I should try to be confident and all while I have good news to report. First, some ongoing things.

My story, "Alexa," a dark fantasy about attraction and loss at sea, is set to appear in Eldritch Embraces: Putting the Love Back in Lovecraft from Dragon's Roost Publishing. I was in their Desolation: 13 Tales for Tails anthology as well, so that's kinda cool, and I'm glad "Alexa" has found a home after some near-misses elsewhere. I believe it was called a lyric, lightly erotic fantasy by one of the places that rejected it, and that was a great compliment. It's been in the works for a while, but finally contracts are signed and I'm hoping for a contributor copy in the next month or so.

Much longer in development has been "What Dora Saw," which was originally picked up by Wily Writers back in…June of 2013 for their psychic detective theme call. Sadly, Wily Writers stopped putting out new material and by June 2014 I was sending it back out again because the contract expired. I was then contacted because Wily Writers become Another Dimension and was offered a new contract for the story (and paid!). That signed, things were primed again, except Another Dimension didn't fund its Kickstarter, so instead it launched a single anthology which says it's coming out in early 2016. I'm not even sure at this point if I'm getting a contributor copy but I was paid so I'm trying to be patient. It's an urban fantasy/science fiction story featuring a psychic and some bad macaroni and cheese.

Available for preorder right now is the Simmer anthology from Dreamspinner Press, a collection of m/m romance and erotic romance with a cooking theme. My story, "Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet" is much more romance than erotic (sorry, no fucking in this one, though more on that in just a moment) and is a contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy with cooking and Legolas jokes and is hopefully cute and fun. I think it's bordering on novelette length but might not quite have tipped the scales over 7500 words.

In more Dreamspinner news, my story "Field Work" was accepted for inclusion in the Dreamspinner Press 2016 Daily Dose: Walk on the Wild Side, which features stories featuring shifters. This one is definitely a novelette at over 12k words and is an urban fantasy m/m romance (again no fucking but wait one more moment) set in Chicago and again is hopefully fun and features my definitive stance on pizza (spoilers: Chicago deep dish is the best thing ever). That will be coming out in June sometime.

And now the fucking news! My erotic contemporary fantasy story, "Trickster69," was accepted for inclusion in the Torquere Press A Fool for Love anthology. The anthology is of April Fool's Day themed stories and "Trickster69" features the god of mischief himself, Loki. Plus Thor. And it is the most fun I've had writing anything in a long time. It could almost be considered fanfiction but these are the mythological figures (kinda) and not the Marvel characters, so…I'm almost surprised this sold because my erotica had been having a difficult time of it of late (pro tip: places apparently are hesitant of threesomes).

And lastly, my flash fiction "Beyond Far Point" (not actually a TNG reference) was picked up for publication! Not saying where yet because contracts have yet to be finalized, but I'm rather excited about. The story is a second world steam fantasy featuring a woman, a robot, a baby dragon, and the posse hot on their heels. Just sort of a short, fun piece. Not sure when that will be out, but I'll probably shout about it when I know.

There! It might be a long time before I have so many things to be happy about, but for the moment it seems like I'm still doing all right at this whole writer thing. Now if I could just get some more writing done… But that's a post for another day. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, February 5, 2016

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #113

I think it might be stretching things a bit to say that the February Clarkesworld is Valentine's Day themed. However, there are a number of stories that do a fine job of being romantic at the same time they are action-packed and morally dense. Most of the stories here lean science fictional, but there is fantasy as well, and a 15k genre-bending story that makes the issue a rather heavy one. No new translations this month, but a fine mix of stories that challenge and provoke. About AI and about  dragons and about the humanity of everything. So let's get to those reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2016

February at Flash Fiction Online means a focus on love. And loss. And redemption. All three stories are somewhat bittersweet, about knowing the value of something after it is gone. In some, it's not too late to do something, to fight against the tides of loss and darkness and doubt. But there is a sense of choice that runs strong and true throughout the stories, a great message for a holiday that can sometimes tout the often fraught concept of "true love." Here the love is true where it is given freely and without coercion, or it is lost because it is taken from granted. A fine way to get into the spirit of the month. Now to the reviews! 
Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Quick Sips - The Dark #11

Well, as always, The Dark Magazine offers up just what it promises, four stories of inky darkness that frighten and delight. The issue has a nice mix of dark fantasy and outright horror to satisfy fans of all stripes, though things are kept strictly speculative. And, more than the darkness, the stories carry with them a sense of mystery, that idea that the dark here is concealing something too horrible or glorious to behold, something full of sublime that we can only glimpse the reflection of. From alien threats to mental illness, the stories build worlds where the dark is encroaching into the lives of the characters. So time for me to get to those reviews!

Art by Daniel Bérard

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Quick Sips - Mothership Zeta #2

The second issue of Mothership Zeta has landed and once again it proves to be a well balanced and mostly-enjoyable mix of genres with an eye on fun. Humor is a very difficult thing, at times, and fun perhaps just as elusive and varied from person-to-person. What Mothership Zeta proves itself capable of, though, is providing a wide range of options arranged in a way that flows nicely from piece to piece. The issue doesn't really bog down, and there's a momentum behind it that makes it difficult to put down once its been started. And this issue also shows how genres can be bent, broken, stitched back together, and reanimated to some great results, the stories excelling at not being limited to anything other than "fun." So yeah, time to get to those reviews!

Art by Elizabeth Leggett

Monday, February 1, 2016

Quick Sips - Lackington's #8 - Dreams

So this technically came out a few months ago (very definitely in 2015), but the latest Lackington's just became available for free online and that means now is the time I'm reviewing it. The theme for this issue is Dreams and that combined with Lackington's emphasis on poetic style means the issue as a whole is surreal, strange, and quite good. Alien landscapes, creatures pulled from the deeps, an entire universe of dreams: the stories range far and wide but they keep the idea of dreaming, both in a literal and symbolic sense, in sharp focus. So without further ado, time to review!
Art by Gregory St. John