Saturday, July 30, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Some Thoughts on Diversity

I feel odd writing about diversity, probably because I am a white cis man. That's…not exactly the greatest cocktail for diversity, and yet I have been included in "diversity" calls for LGBTQIA+ because I'm bi. Recently Fireside Fiction put out a report on the fiction sales of black writers that I sort-of knew about when the researchers were putting things together. I can remember the sort of bombshell moment when I was presented with the number of stories by black authors published in 2015. I think my first thought was "That can't be right." I mean, I don't read every publication out there, but I do read a lot. And I know that I read a number of stories by black authors. I could rattle off a dozen stories easily. So it couldn't really be the case that those dozen stories would represent such a huge percent of the total number of stories put out by black writers. Right?

In this, I think I had a fairly standard reaction to the news. I went straight on the defensive. Because shit, wow, that's…but I read a lot of stories. I scoured my Monthly Rounds, my Sippys, hoping to assuage my sudden guilt, wanting to assure myself that I wasn't part of the problem, that I could distance myself from the numbers. And then I stopped. Not because awards and recommended readings lists aren't important. I know that they are, not only in encouraging people who might otherwise avoid genres and publications, but also to encourage publications to look at what they publish and how they're going forward. Fireside is taking the data and is doing something about it. I expect that others will as well. Which is important. Which is vital. For all that the Puppies will be up in arms, for all that some non-marginalized people seem to think reverse racism and misogyny is a thing, this is a good thing.

But I stopped counting up things because at that moment it wasn't really about me. It's not about standing up and saying "I'm not a racist." At that moment, and at this moment, this is a great time to listen. Perhaps that seems odd as a white person writing a blog post about this. But I very much want to point people toward the report and toward the responses to the report. To the efforts of so many trying to make SFF a better place. And I want to speak a bit about diversity in broader strokes. Mainly, I want to talk about a certain phenomenon I've noticed especially of late with regards to institutional marginalization and oppression. Not that it's new, but that I think people are getting distracted and sidetracked by it. And it swirls around intent and "fairness."

I think that at this point to say that you didn't mean to be racist is a pretty ridiculous thing to say. And yet it's something said more and more loudly now because I get the feeling that people "know it's wrong to be racist." My white generation is one raised on MLK, Jr. and civil rights taught in schools and it's insidious both how this teaches in some ways that racism is "over" and that racism is only racism if it's a caricature of racism. Only if you're a Nazi, only if you're in the KKK. Anything short of that and it enters this area where "wait, then you're saying everyone is racist and that's not fair." But the truth is, pretty much every white person benefits from institutional racism and white supremacy. Just because it's not any single white person's "fault" that they were born into this system doesn't mean that it's all okay, nor that there isn't an imperative to work to make the world better, to fight for social justice.

There's talk around Voter ID laws that they aren't about being racist but are about preventing voter fraud. There's talk around laws that restrict abortion that they aren't about misogyny but are about women's health and safety. There's talk around anti-trans and anti-LGBTQIA+ laws that they aren't about hate but are about religious freedom. These things go to courts and advocates for these (terrible) laws argue that they can't be unconstitutional because the stated purpose of them is noble. And yet the effects of these laws are not to prevent voter fraud (which isn't a problem), are not to keep women safe (it actually puts them at much greater risk), and are not to protect people's religious freedoms (they are about hate). The effects of these laws are to institutionalize injustice. Saying that they aren't hate-based in design first off, is wrong, and secondly shouldn't matter. If they promote hate, if they promote violence against people of color, against women, against queer people (which all of these, surprise-surprise, do), then they are wrong. Anyone still defending them is actively involved in that violence, is actively involved in the marginalization and oppression and exploitation they say is wrong.

So to pull this back to SFF. It should be obvious at this point that it is not enough to simply say "I am open to diverse submissions." It should be obvious that in order to actually promote diversity, there needs to be a step beyond that, needs to be an effort to actually fight against editorial and slush bias by instituting policies that proactively seeks marginalized writers. That doesn't make this a failure of marginalized groups to write enough or write the right kinds of things or submit enough or anything. Saying that the sales aren't there or the market isn't ready is only allowing the problem to continue and spread.

But I'm not a publisher. I'm not an editor. So what can I do? Well, I can make sure that the money I spend on fiction, on SFF, goes to publications and publishers involved in fighting against this problem. I can refuse to take the easiest option, which is to just go with the flow. I can decide I'm going to search out publications that are doing work I want to support. I can try to help signal boost others, and I can speak up when I see shit going down. As a reviewer I can seek to meet stories on their terms instead of demanding they exist to make me comfortable. And I can refuse to skip over stories that don't fit my preconceptions about what SFF has to look like or be about. I can listen. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, July 29, 2016

Quick Sip - Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #235

I almost thought that Fantastic Stories of the Imagination wouldn't manage to get this issue out in July, but here we are at the end of the month with a pair of stories about absences and choice. About the distance between people and how, sometimes, there is no closing that distance. About taking control and about seeking happiness and about the ways that we get trapped by relationships. In unhappiness. And the stories show different glimpses of people realizing that they do have a choice. That they do have a recourse. That they don't have to live in a stifling relationship just because their partners want them to. The stories complement each other quite well, and I'm going to get to reviewing them! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #204

The second issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies this month features a pair of stories that look at quests and stagnation, hope and transformation. In both stories characters confront the trajectories of their lives, the directions that seem inevitable but which are made by their choices. And both face regrets and face a future that is full of possibilities and yet defined by duty and care for others. There is a balancing of the selfish desires of life and knowledge that sometimes environments are kinds of prisons. Systems oppress. But belonging is not impossible. These are some complex and moving stories and I'm going to jump right into those reviews!

Art by Martin Ende

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers July 2016

The Year of the Superhero continues at The Book Smugglers with a story that complicates the idea of the superhero. That looks at invulnerability and pairs it with a very aching sense of vulnerability. Both of the physical sense, because the main character is not unable to be very injured, and the emotional kind, which is even more complex and moving. The story weaves together the ways we think of strength and provides a touching and great narrative about a failed super soldier and love and family. Time to review! 

Art by Melanie Cook

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quick Sips - Nightmare #46

The two stories in this month's Nightmare Magazine both seem to look at the effects of trauma. The ways that people can react to extreme emotions and situations, the ways that people can fracture. These are both sorts of ghost stories, or maybe stories of hauntings. Not necessarily literally but both stories question whether a thing must be literally true to be real. To have a deep and meaningful impact. These are rather shocking stories, and ones that are difficult to face. Because the situations are terrible, violent, and tragic. And because these things happen, because these tragedies do happen in literal ways, in the real world, these are important stories to face and examine, and I will waste no more time in getting to the reviews!
Art by Rod Julian

Monday, July 25, 2016

Quick Sips - Apex #86

The stories in this month's Apex Magazine deal with superpowers. Certainly not in the most standard or typical of ways, but both look at what happens when young men realize that they have powers beyond those of normal people. The stories also are about rage and privilege. About responsibility. And about art. They are two incredibly paired stories for the issue, and make for some great reading. The poety is also tight, looking at departures, looking across space, looking across cultures. It's fascinating to see how all these works play off each other, and I guess I should stop talking about it and get right to the reviews! 

Art by Sunny Ray

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Updates, Announcements, and Plans

So I feel like it's been a bit of a busy summer for me. Since May I've had almost a thing out a week until the end of June/beginning of July. Which is good news for people wanting all the things by me but also has been rather exhausting for trying to keep up with everything. You can, of course, head over to the My Work!!! to check out anything you might have missed. But I thought I would also take this time to give people some me-things to look forward to.

First up, my Patreon is up and I've hit my first goal to continue with at least 4 review-posts a week for Quick Sip Reviews. And I'm about 3/4 of the way to hitting my next goal for the Liver Beware! series of Drunk Goosebumps reviews. I've done a freebie to give people a taste of what those will be like for Escape from the Carnival of Horrors. So that's rather exciting.

In other news, it looks like my story, "What Dora Saw" will finally be seeing the light of day in the Another Dimension anthology which has an official release for the beginning of September. This is a story that's...been in development a while. But it involves a psychic, the ocean, and some disgusting mac n' cheese.

I've also sold a story to F*CKING LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE!!! The title will probably change but it's a contemporary sci-fantasy featuring a queer Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed and is a bit dark I will admit. This was the first story that I got to workshop with my writing group, the Chippewa Valley S.P.A.C.E.C.A.T.s and it turned into a pro sale, so I've super excited about that. We're not a huge group, but we are an amazing group, so I only hope that the success for us continues.

I also have a bunch of smut news. My story, "Defying Gravity," will be appearing in the Dreamspinner Press Starstruck anthology! This is a superhero story and I'm 90% through production on it so it's rather close to being completely done. I actually liked writing that one so much that I decided to do a quasi-follow up set in the same world as a Christmas story and just found out that it will be appearing as part of Dreamspinner's Advent Calendar this year. It's a supervillain story titled, adorably, "How the Supervillain Stole Christmas." I must say that I completely love writing superhero stories, and these two are super cute and hopefully people find them enjoyable and fun. "Defying Gravity" doesn't really get too steamy but "How the Supervillain Stole Christmas" definitely has some naughty bits. So yeah, all that.

My m/m/m erotic SFF story, "Riding Red," will be showing up this year, too, in Less Than Three's Fairy Tales Slashed Vol. 8. It's, you guessed it, a take on Little Red Riding Hood only add in crossdressing, shifters, deadly witches, and a man named Jack. There's magic and there's decapitations and there's lots of sex.

As for upcoming projects? Well, I'm working on a few short stories right now that I hope might spread their wings and fly. And I'm working on a novella that I would describe as Mech-Suit Queer Arthurian Retelling Set in a Second World Fantasy. So if that's something that sounds interesting, well, cross your fingers that I can finish it and sell it. But yeah, that's it from me for now. I hope to have more to report soon. Until then, though, thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, July 22, 2016

Quick Sips - Harlot Media July 2016

I must say, Harlot continues to be a delight when it comes to finding speculative stories that don't shy away from sex or sexuality and that paint moving and gripping portraits of characters in conflict. From science fiction to fantasy to this piece, which is a metafictional experience that I would probably describe as a contemporary alt-history memoir, the stories show the power of speculative fiction to open up spaces between the "real world" and the infinite worlds beyond. So, without further hesitation, let's jump right into the review! 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Quick Sips - Shimmer #32 (July Stuff)

After taking a trip among the stars with science fictional tales last issue, Shimmer is back to its roots rather literally with two contemporary fantasies about family, abuse, and magic. Both of these stories look at how family shapes people, about how daughters are pressured to become vessels, how sometimes there is no option for them to prevent pain. Sometimes, though, as these stories show, it is possible to escape being the one sacrificed. The one stuck. There is a price for this, because there is always something hungry lurking, and the stories show the dark paths that sometimes are the only ones to freedom. To the reviews! 

Art by Sandro Castelli

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quick Sips - Uncanny #11 (July Stuff)

A new issue of Uncanny Magazine is out and for July it means three new stories and a new poem, as well as some nonfiction and a reprint story that I won’t be looking at but which I encourage everyone to check out. And this month the stories seem linked to me be a focus on fate. About fighting against the circumstances of birth that these characters can’t control. Being born into a dangerous family, or being born a ship without the ability to travel through space, or being born to parents who can write attributes into your skin. These tales look at the injustice of birth and the ways that people seek to change their fates and, perhaps failing that, how they hope to save others from the same cycle, from the same damning force. So let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Javier Caparo

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #203

The two stories in this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are about transformations. From man to woman. From woman to asp. They both circle similar ideas of freedom, though they reveal two very different worlds. Both are alive with magic, though, and characters yearning for change, for escape, for some reflection of themselves they can be at peace with. These are stories of revolution, even if it's only of a single person refusing to give into the inevitable course their life seems on. To the reviews!

Art by Martin Ende

Monday, July 18, 2016

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/27/2016, 07/04/2016, & 07/11/2016

It's probably no real surprise that in the pieces for the first half of Strange Horizon's Our Queer Planet there is a sense of longing. A hunger. To see and be seen, to comfort and be comforted. To reach out and act on desires that are dangerous, to fly in the face of convention and doubt. These stories and poems and works of nonfiction are affirming and powerful. Beautiful and refined and raw and bleeding and staunched and just so good. These are stories that I as a reader am hungry for, poems that I want to see more of, nonfiction that helps me both think about my reading and writing and also about my queerness. There's so much good here and I'm going to get to those reviews! 

Art by Alex Araiza

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quick Thoughts - "Burning Day"

So in case people missed it, I have a story, "Burning Day," out in the latest issue of Unlikely Story, the Journal of Unlikely Observances. This is my second Unlikely sale, and the first to appear for free on their site (my other Unlikely story is "Pushpin and Pullpin" in Clowns 2.0: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix).

This also represents something of the end of a storm of publications that I've had out since May. Just looking at my Thoughts, pretty much every week has been about a different story or poem. Which is very nice, as a writer, but also sort of exhausting to constantly have things out. Especially because it might be a few months until my next story is out (I know I have something in September, and maybe something else then too, but otherwise…). Plus I recently launched a Patreon for my work here on Quick Sip Reviews. Plus all the everything else. But this is the writing life. If one isn't furiously treading water it feels like one is drowning.

But "Burning Day." This is actually a story a long time in the making. It started life as something completely different. In its original form it was about a man dealing with his own shit and eventually throwing himself on a pyre because the celebration is supposed to be about throwing out the unnecessary, the unfinished projects, the clutter. Following the collapse of his relationships with his wife and son he sees that he's unnecessary and goes into the fire. It…wasn't exactly a good story. And I had retired it by the time I saw the call for Unlikely Observances. Well, after that, really, because my first attempt to write a story for the theme was a similar failure, about a man who commits murder and then has himself frozen. He awakes in a future just after he thinks the statute of limitations has run out and it's like being reborn only he finds out that he's actually awake a few days early and get arrested anyway.

So this story is really the collision of a number of things I wrote poorly. I still wanted to write something for the call and that's when I revisited the idea behind Burning Day. The thought comes from the tradition in Wisconsin to get rid of brush piles either the first or last snow of the year. The thought is that the fire can't spread while there's all that snow on the ground, so people get rid of their yard waste. This takes it a step farther. Like with the story I recycled, the holiday is an excuse to get rid of the old, the unwanted. But here's a bit more personal. Here the main characters are a couple who take the opportunity to burn their personal Wraiths, dog-like creatures who are basically little bundles of destruction. Added burdens that the character are plagued by and for one day only get to live free of. They play, they fuck, they fall asleep free. In many ways this is one of the more personal stories that I've told, and one that despite the darkness is probably one of my most hopeful. A hope that things will change for the better and that with a great deal of work socially and politically and personally, burdens can be eased.

This is also my fourth SFWA qualifying sale (does a little dance). I seem to be much better at placing shorter stories than longer ones, and this one is another flash piece at a little over 1300 words. I actually have a fifth SFWA qualifying sale forthcoming, and even with that one I'm still 200 words shy of the new 10,000 word gate. Which hey, cool, I guess I'm exactly the kind of writer the new rules are designed to keep out (under the old rules I would have been in on sale #3, and under the new rules I'll need probably 6—totally not bitter about this, either). But this is also my first story that uses non-binary pronouns, which is rather cool. My headcanon for my Betwixt story, "Nothing," had the main character non-binary but this is my first story I've sold where it's been explicit. It's also a story with a nice bit of sexy times, which is fairly common in my work. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Monthly Round is up!!!

Here we go! My monthly recommendations (and drink pairings) for June 2016 are up over at Nerds of a Feather

The tl;dr results are:

Tasting Flight:
"Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic" by José Pablo Iriarte (Strange Horizons)
"Omoshango" by Dayo Ntwari (Lightspeed)
"Kid Dark Against the Machine" by Tansy Rayner Roberts (The Book Smugglers)
"Nothing But the Sky" by Gwendolyn Clare (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
"Things with Beards" by Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)
"The Drowning Line" by Haralambi Markov (Uncanny)

"u wont remember dying" by Russell Nichols (Terraform)
"Morning Cravings" by Nin Harris (Lightspeed)
"Choose Your Killer" by Abhishek Bhatt (Mithila Review)


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #118

This issue of Clarkesworld takes things to the future and the future is...weird. From far-off worlds where people are perhaps bred to be food to an Earth where people might be made into sentient rosary beads, there's a lot of high concepts zipping along. A lot of violence, too, and conflict. Wars both personal and galactic. There are quests and transformation, small moments of personal discovery and loss. And through it all a nice vision of technology and science and progress, even if it's happening in reverse. It's a great issue that I'm going to review...NOW!

Art by Lasse Perala

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Quick Sips - Lackington's #10 - Governments

There are few enough themed publications left, but Lackington's continues to put out issues of stories linked to a central idea. This issue it is governments that is being looked at. Full disclosure: I have a story in this issue, which I will of course not be looking at but which you can check out if you wish. But the stories are, by and large, deconstructions of government, of ways of governing. They examine the abuses and excesses, yes—the violence and the corruption, certainly. But they also look for hope, for ways of governing better, for fighting against tyranny, and for seeking love in the midst of turmoil. So time to review! 

Art by Likhain

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus July 2016

The story in this month's GigaNotoSaurus is on the short side for the publication when it comes to word count, but it certainly reads like a longer piece with a great mood, complex world, and amazing characters. It's often difficult to find hope in apocalyptic stories, and especially ones that involve climate change, and I think that's something this story both recognizes and complicates, infusing a bit of magic and human fucked-upness into a world on the decline. But before I spoil everything, I should just start my review! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2016

Dishing up a rather dark and disturbing and beautiful trio of stories about parents and children, the July issue of Flash Fiction Online is probably the most intense I've seen from the publication. Trigger Warnings abound [mostly loss of a child, so be warned]. These are stories that dare the reader to watch, to experience, to feel what it is to suffer and to lose and to grieve. These stories hit and they don't stop hitting, their power coming from the well of sadness and tragedy that human life can be. A reminder that there are things that so alter the world that there is no real going back. No erasing certain pains or wounds. So before I lose my nerve, it's time to review! 

Art by Dario Bijelac

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Selling Out

So I've started a Patreon. The good news is that I've already achieved my first goal, which was to keep doing what I've been doing here at Quick Sip Reviews (*pause for cheers*). The…other news is that it's a weird, strange thing to go from doing something for free to asking people to give you money for it. Suddenly there are all these…ethical questions and doubts. Not that those weren't there before. There is a strong urge in reviewing to be impartial. Objective. And…that's a whole big complex thing that I want to try and think about today.

So when I started reviewing I was something of a non-entity. A published writer maybe, but not pro and with very few connections to SFF as a field. And for reviewing I feel that's sort of the easiest place to be in. I didn't know anyone so my opinions about their works weren't biased by my knowledge of them as people. My opinions of publications were based solely on what I saw and could afford and not what I was sent for free or what published me personally. Now, over a year and a half later, things are a bit different. I have been published more. I do know more people in SFF. And now I'm taking a step further and asking the world for money so that I can continue to run my little review site. But then, the amount of time I spend on QSR has increased as well, as has my ability to make some money doing other writerly things, like producing fiction. I love reviewing, though, and don't want to stop—but, essentially, my need to have a place to live outweighs my desire to review.

So what to do? My decision was to start a Patreon. If you like what I do here and want more of it, I encourage and am incredibly grateful to anyone who contributes. But I also understand that the largest portion of patrons will be writers who I have probably reviewed (and probably, if they're giving me money, that I've reviewed positively). Of course (and as I've seen some people complain about my reviewing style), about 95% of my reviews could probably be considered positive, so maybe that's not so big an issue as I thought. But I do see the appearance of corruption, and the slippery slope that corruption can be. Yes, I get free copies of certain publications. Yes, I get published by certain publications. Yes, I am a fan of certain writers as people and interact with them online (and sometimes in real life). Yes, I am now accepting money from certain writers (and non-writers) for my work as a reviewer. What does this mean for you as readers of my reviews? What does that mean for my own integrity and ethics?

Please believe me when I say that I struggle with these questions every day I write or review. In the back of my mind, every sale I make is suspect because I am a reviewer and because I'm not sure how much unconscious bias I get for being more "out there." Do I get preferential treatment because maybe editors or first readers or anyone else might be familiar with my work? Do publications fear that if they reject me I might give them a negative review? Would other writers be unwilling to call out my shit in general because I have a venue, because I might retaliate with negative reviews? I have actually come across a conversation on Facebook where a writer had a complaint about my reviews and was cautioned away from confronting me about it because I might react…poorly. And that's on me. All of this is on me. It is paralyzing at times, and might be part of why I escape into writing smut (because smut really doesn't care about me or my SFF reviews). But I feel that if I'm going to be a reviewer then I have to try to earn people's trust. That I have to try and be proactive in how I handle criticism and seek to improve. And how can I when I'm now taking money?

Here is part of my philosophy when it comes to writing and reviewing. I want to believe in people. I want to believe in stories and approach them openly and without reservation. That's not to say without bias. I am not and have never claimed to be objective. I don't think people can be. But I do try to be honest. And I do try, even when a story is deeply and personally upsetting or offensive, to believe that the author was acting in good faith. That won't stop me from reacting genuinely to the story, or from trying to write down my thoughts about the story. For all that people say I'm enthusiastic about everything, there are stories I cannot be very positive about. But positive or negative, I try to examine my reactions and provide as detailed an analysis of a piece as I can in the time and space I have. In essence, I try my best to always act in good faith and try to expect that people do the same in return.

This is, perhaps, naïve or lazy on my part. And if it were all I did to avoid corruption I would agree with that sentiment. But I also try to be as aware as I can be of what people are saying about my site and my reviews and my writing, and I try to approach all of that criticism as openly as I can. I am not perfect or above anything. I want to encourage anyone who finds anything that I do questionable or troubling or problematic to talk about it. To me, if possible, or to someone else. I should have a place where people can leave anonymous feedback about the site and I apologize for not having done that before. I will continue to try and improve. I am truly grateful to anyone who decides to support me and QSR monetarily. It will not mean I will only give you positive reviews. It will not mean I will review more of your work. Just as a publication accepting one of my stories can't expect I will suddenly review all of their issues. Or like what I do review.

But this isn't something that will ever "go away." I think I will always struggle with these questions and doubts. And really, I think I should. Because corruption and influence are things that people should always be mindful of. I will strive to be as transparent as possible and I'm hoping to change as little as possible about what I'm doing here. But there will be some changes. I will be putting up a Thank You! page to show my appreciation for my patrons. I will probably be running some ads along the side of the site. I am selling out. But I will also still be here, providing as good of reviews as I can manage. So thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, July 8, 2016

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #74

Rarely do I find an issue of Lightspeed Magazine as thematically linked as I do with this month's original fiction. The stories are mostly about cycles, about progress, about comfort and change and perspective. The stories are also about stories, about the narratives we use to change the world and the narratives we tell about the world that keep us stuck in destructive patterns. There are AI and science summer camps and gods and stones. The issue shows a hunger for change, and many different ways that it can be achieved. It's a compelling collection of stories that I'm going to get to reviewing! 

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Quick Sips - The Dark #14

I'm actually super glad that The Dark Magazine is out so promptly at the beginning of every month. Not so that I can get it out of the way but so that I can have the entire month to recover. Once again The Dark more than earns its name with two stories about artifacts. In one, the artifacts are postcards from a sister. In the other, they are bits of scrimshaw. Both sets of artifacts tell a story, and both stories are in turn interpreted first by someone within these tales and then by us, the readers. The effect is to both create distance from the events, from the traumas described and eluded to, and to obliterate that distance by deconstructing the way that we interpret those artifacts. It's a pair of complex, layered stories, that hit with the vengeance of a storm and have left me a bit adrift in still waters and both glad I have a month's respite before the next issue and hungry for more. So let's get to those reviews! 

Art by Ben Baldwin

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Quick Sips - Unlikely Story 12.5 - The Journal of Unlikely Observances

The latest offering from Unlikely Story is out, and this time it's The Journal of Unlikely Observances. The call for this issue included a list of elements, a certain number of which had to be in each story. Water fights. Resurrections. Celebrations. What comes out of those guidelines is a very fn and mostly joyous issue. Now, full disclosure, I have a story in this issue as well, and as my custom I will not be looking at it here. But that still leaves a bunch of stories to see and experience and love. Stories that touch on what it means to live and be free and imagine a different world. Stories that touch on death and rebirth and cycles and history. Stories that I should really just start reviewing! 

Art by Linda Saboe

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #13

As if deeply understanding the shit that has been world news of late, the most recent Fantasy Scroll arrives to lighten the mood. Mostly. There is a definite sense of fun to a lot of the stories in the issue, and as always with the graphic series Shamrock. But more than that there's also a great momentum to the issue, moving from light and funny to more serious themes. Even at its darkest and more bleak, though, the issue's stories know how to hold onto the light, onto hope, and in the midst of some truly frightening events happening around the world, the issue is a pleasant distraction and a nice mix of genres. So time to review!

Art by Todor Hristov

Monday, July 4, 2016

Quick Sips - Terraform June 2016

This month's Terraform shakes things up a bit with a return of graphic fiction as well as three stories that use form and voice to very good effect. These are stories about travel and about reaching. In each of the fiction stories there is a feel of people wanting an escape. From a place they can't relate to, from overcrowding and colonial guilt, and from the constant threat of violence and death. The stories confront the reader with how these various situations effect family, effect ambition, and effect life, prompting the reader to examine how the characters respond and how it's possible to respond. Is reconciliation possible, or escape, or even life? These are serious stories that still manage to hold onto moments of humor and comedy. And without talking them to death, I'm going to get to reviewing! 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Patreon GO!!!

Well, it's officially been a year and a half since Quick Sip Reviews first started, and in that time…well, I actually don't have the numbers on it but I'm guessing in that time I've read and reviewed over a thousand pieces of fiction alone, and hundreds of poems and nonfiction works. That's…a lot. In some ways it surprises me every month that I'm here still doing this, because the hours get a bit long and sometimes these stories reduce me to small puddles of feels just wanting to take time to recover. But I try to brush myself off and get back to it, because there's work to do and because I want to give back in some small way to a genre and to a form that has given me so much.

And I do want to be doing this. Part of me struggles with that, with the idea that because I want to and because there is a need, or at least a desire, for reviews like I'm doing, I'm obligated to do so, and to do so without compensation. That the work should be reward enough. And in some ways it is, if I had all the time. Unfortunately, I do not, and so I've decided to give people the option of contributing to Quick Sip Reviews (and maybe a side project or two) by setting up a Patreon. I want to keep doing what I'm doing here. For years to come.

I want to talk a bit about the different goals and rewards, so that you might get a bit of an idea of what I hope this Patreon might help me do and what you can expect by supporting.

Goal 1: Four Review-Posts a Week.
That is, four reviews of complete issues every week (or in the case of some publications, a month's worth of stories). Which I am technically doing now, but which I want to keep doing. This level of funding is enough to keep me going basically as things are now. I'll probably still slip in a fifth review-post many weeks, and I will continue to do my Quick Thoughts on the weekends.

Goal 2: Liver Beware! You're in for Drunken Reviews of Goosebumps! (Patreon Exclusive)
I've mentioned the desire to this before and figured this would be the perfect platform to do it, because it would allow me to add something to my plate. I learned to read on Goosebumps! and have been itching to go back and reread the entire series. I actually have them all collected from thrift stores and from my own childhood collection, and there are so many that I could do one a month and it would be lots of fun. Drinking! Nostalgia! Probably being disgusted at a treasured part of my youth! WOOO!!!

Goal 3: Smutty Sundays
I love smut. I write it and I read it and I want to be a better resource for SFF smuttiness, and especially queer smut. This goal would allow me to take some time to buy and read more SFF romance and erotica, which unlike more traditional SFF isn't normally available for free online. This would primarily be reviews but I might want to pair this with other features. Because SFF smut is amazing and I want to talk more about it.

Goal 4: Quick Questions
If I hit this goal I will invite SFF short fiction writers to the blog to talk stories and craft and drinks and everything! Probably the interviews wouldn't be incredibly long, but I feel like they might be illuminating for people who want to think more about short fiction and poetry and nonfiction and the genre and hopefully it would also be fun.

So that's what I'm thinking for the Patreon. I welcome any feedback or things that you as readers of this blog might want to see. For a year and a half now I've been very fortunate to be able to read and review so many amazing stories. Thank you to everyone who has made that possible and super extra thanks to anyone who decides to support me via Patreon. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur