Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #219

Beneath Ceaseless Skies specializes in second world fantasy as well as some historical fantasy, so it's no great surprise to find that the two stories in this issue build up some incredibly original and visually stunning settings that twist expectations and conventions. From a world that is an enormous cliff to an ocean plain where aquatic-dinosaur riders roam and cause trouble, readers are treated to journeys through strange and at-times unsettling places where violence lurks in every shadow. These pieces feature characters hoping to return home and unable to do so, balancing their weariness at the constant travel and struggle with their resolve to keep going, to keep pushing forward. These are some great stories that mix moments of action with quieter moments of contemplation and grief. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Monday, February 27, 2017

Quick Sips - The Sockdolager #8 Women of War

February has decided that it's going to be very full of fiction, and contributing to that is a special Women of War issue of The Sockdolager. Now, the issue actually contains eight stories, but three of them are reprints and because of time I'm not going to review those, though I do very much recommend people check them out. As it is, there are five stories seeing their first publishing and they definitely capture the theme well. Women are front and center here in all aspects of war—as soldiers definitely and as revolutionary, as monsters and nurses and victims and mothers. These stories focus on family and love and conflict and blood, and they are at times difficult to read because of the unflinching look they take at war. At what it means to go to war, especially for women. It's a wonderful collection of stories, and I'm going to charge right into my reviews! 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 2: DS9 episodes "The Wire," "In the Pale Moonlight," & "Afterimage"

Welcome back to The Year of Garak!

Lat time I looked at a tie-in novel that explored the relationship between Garak and Sisko and also followed up on "In the Pale Moonlight," and so I thought it would be worth pursuing to look at some of the DS9 episodes that informed that novel and also will inform a lot of the works coming after this. Namely, the trio of "The Wire," "In the Pale Moonlight," and "Afterimage." These are some of the strongest Garak episodes, and I'm very luck to be joined by fellow Garak enthusiast and writer Nicasio Andres Reed to discuss all things Garak. Warning, this is a fairly long post. And only one part of a much longer conversation that we'll be having throughout the Year of Garak. So get comfortable and settle in for what I hope is an interesting examination of these episodes and the character of Garak.

Oh, and in case you don't know my guest today:

Nicasio Andres Reed is a Filipino-American writer and poet whose work has appeared in Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Shimmer, Liminality, Inkscrawl, and Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy Comics Anthology. Nico currently lives in Madison, WI. Find him on Twitter @NicasioSilang.

so without further delay, let's delve into the episodes!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #31

With the giant novella-length epic poem done with, this latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly brings things back to basics with four original stories and two poems (of much more modest length). The stories build up worlds filled with magic and darkness, where there are things lurking at the periphery, at the edges of the world, in the blank space of maps. The stories look at characters who are seeking something. Themselves or a much-deserved rest or gold or even escape from certain death. And none of the characters find the situation easy. The stories embrace their magic and their mayhem as the character work against the monsters and circumstances arrayed against them and attempt to wrestle some sort of victory from the jaws of defeat. These are fun, sometimes thrilling pieces that build very different world, especially once the poetry gets added in, but it's also a strong issue that does a lot right. So yeah, to the reviews! 

Art by Jereme Peabody

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #93

Love is in the air for Apex Magazine's February issue. Er, well…maybe not exactly love. What's sort of like love but awful, horrifying, and uncomfortable? Well, the issue is probably first and foremost concerned with the loss of agency. With the way that (mostly women but also other) people can be stripped of their autonomy. Their will. Their bodies. Their souls. The way that they can be made into dolls and puppets and controlled. So okay, maybe the story's not about love so much as about people and things that mistake abuse for love. Who think that love means cutting away what makes a person human. It's a difficult issue with a wide range of stories, some hopeful and some…decidedly not. But that's the nature of dark SFF, so let's just get to the reviews! 

Art by Adrian Borda

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Lackington's #12 (Animals)

The latest issue of Lackington's has a theme of Animals to it. And while it does feature a number of precocious and mischievous characters, this isn't exactly an issue I'd recommend giving to a young child as a diversion on a rainy day. Unless you want some very interesting conversations (and maybe therapy) later. The issue is full of stories that twist the unexpected, that show that just because there are talking animals in a piece doesn't mean they're all going to be sweet. Many of these are dark. And violent. And beautiful. The prose flows in good Lackington's style and the themes approach justice and human (and animal) nature, as well as loss, and dissolution, and expectations, and roles, and…well, you get the idea. It's a big issue full of characters and beasts great and small. And it's time for me to get to my reviews! 

Art by Pear Nuallak

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #35 (February Stuff)

The stories in this month's Shimmer Magazine look at very different sides of love. In the first, love is something dangerous and alive, tarnished by pain and loss and hate. And in the second it is a kind of magic that transforms the random daily acts of parenting into larger-than-life confrontations and accomplishments. These are stories that don't precisely flow thematically, but after the first the second is a welcome respite from the pain and damage that life can bring, that broken systems encourage. These are stories, though, that both flow and weave language into beautifully poetic form. These are certainly stories that shimmer, though in very different ways. To the reviews! 

Art by Sandro Castelli

Monday, February 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #14 (February Stuff)

The pieces in the February content from Uncanny do a great job of giving a wide ranging view of what makes up short SFF. From stories about love and immigration and Poe to a poem about being hot for Mars to nonfiction that educates and challenges, the issue provides a stunning arrangement of SFF that pushes the boundaries on narrative form and style. Plus there's a story just in time for a certain romantic holiday that is incredibly appropriate and rather fun. The story brings the laughter and the tears and the raw silences and does it in a way that is inspiring and imaginative. So yeah, let's get to the reviews! 

Art by John Picacio

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Quick Thoughts - Some Small Changes Coming

Hi all! I've been thinking recently that my level of output for Quick Sip Reviews has been getting…well, slightly more than I can handle. Which is why I'm planning on making a few rather minor changes to the way I do things. But before you think that I'm going to be cutting reviews or anything like that, please remain calm. The changes are slight and designed mainly to streamline what I do and give myself permission not to stress out about certain things.

First and mainly, I will probably be stepping back from having a Quick Thoughts post every week. Now, I love writing things directly and I think that many of my Thoughts posts have been some of my best work here at QSR, but I also know that I struggle some weeks to find topics and things to write about. I'm not getting rid of Quick Thoughts, but I do think that I'm not going to push so hard to have something every single week. For instance, I'm going to be running some of my extra projects like Year of Garak and probably Quick Questions on Saturdays, which will mean that I won't be having so many weeks of having a post up every single day.

Now, if you still want to hear me talk about things every week, I have been doing a weekly post on my patreon where I give little updates and I will continue to do those. Speaking of my patreon, I think I'm going to restructure it a little bit and streamline some of the reward tiers to de-clutter things. I want things to make sense and make sure that anyone awesome enough to support the work I do here at QSR is completely satisfied with being a patron. Which, if you're looking for ways to make sure that QSR can continue for a long time to come, please consider becoming a patron. It means a lot to me and it does help me stay on top of life and get my reviews done.

In the grand scheme of things, not much will be changing. My Patreon has added a bit to my workload and I just want to make sure that I can maintain what I'm doing. I do struggle some with feeling that I have to do a certain amount every week and every month or I'm somehow failing. At being the reviewer that I want to be. At being a resource that people can use to find and think about great stories. Even into my third year now I feel weird about everything and like I'm not exactly "legit." So it's difficult to find that I'm struggling to keep up with everything even when I recognize that I'm writing more than I ever have for QSR. Because the last two months I've done more than fifty thousand words in nonfiction (reviews, thoughts, patreon stuff, etc.) for QSR and that's not a pace I can keep up indefinitely. So I'm going to try and practice just a bit of self care and hope it doesn't negatively effect your experience. Thank you for being awesome and for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur



Friday, February 17, 2017

The Monthly Round is up!!!

Hi all! My monthly column pairing my favorite short SFF reads with booze is up right now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. So definitely go check that out! For those who just want those mouth watering stories, the list of my picks is below:

Tasting Flight - January 2017
"Chesirah" by L.D. Lewis (Fiyah)
"A Series of Steaks" by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld)
"Mag, the Habitat and We" by Lia Swope Mitchell (Apex)
"Bodies Stacked Like Firewood" by Sam J. Miller (Uncanny)
“Requiem for the Unchained” by Cae Hawksmoor (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
"A Human Stain" by Kelly Robson (Tor)
"The Twelve Rules of Etiquette at Miss Firebird's School for Girls" by Gwendolyn Kiste (Mithila Review)
"A Song to Charm the Beasts" by Wendy Nikel (Fantastic Stories)
"It Happened to Me: My Doppelganger Stole My Credit Card Info, and then My Life" by Nino Cipri (Fireside)




Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/06/2017 & 02/13/2017

Two weeks have passed and Strange Horizons has put out both a pair of stories and pair of poems that continue their focus on global and domestic justice. These are stories and poems that look at the harsh realities of injustice. At the way that hatred and misunderstanding and frustration can fuel people to commit horrendous acts against one another. The way that the danger of those acts can push people to hide themselves, to quiet themselves, to censor themselves. These are pieces that remove the censor, that explore what stories are told not to heal wounds but to make them just bearable enough that people won't try to stop those responsible for causing them. It's a rather difficult collection of speculative work, but also moving, beautiful, and important. So yeah, to the reviews! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #218

The first issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies' February offerings serves up two pieces about women in difficult situations. Women of magic and of power who have been tasked with using their abilities to fight against the weight of oppression. To fight against a cruel king. To fight against a cruel cost. Both women find themselves at a moment when victory seems distant, when the eye of justice seems to have gone blind. And both women have to find their own ways to move past their grief and their loss and use their magic to pave a way forward. To keep fighting. These are moving stories of resistance and struggle, and I'm going to jump right into my reviews! 

Art by Florent Llamas

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #125

February is a short month and for Clarkesworld that means this issue has slightly less than I'm used to seeing, but still provides four original stories, including a translated novelette. All four stories are science fictional, one of them near-ish future Earth sci fi but the rest either off world or so otherwisely alien that it might as well be. These are sweeping visions of the galaxy and universe that imagine humanity in a much different place than now. As still learning from past mistakes but no less in love with the feeling of discovery. With pushing the boundaries of what is known and what is possible. The stories all look at the damage that can cause, but also at the progress that can be made. In how it seems to take us farther and farther away from our roots but actually returns us closer to them. It's a nice collection of stories that lean toward action and keep things going at a fast pace. So let's get to the reviews! 

Art by Benedick T. Bana

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership February 2017

It's my second month of reviewing Glittership and February brings a pair of original stories that mix caution with wild abandon, curiosity with extinctions. The tones of the stories are quite different, the first piece fun and free and the second more tinged with grief and a suffocating anticipation. And where the first story looks a future where people bound forward with a rush of enthusiasm, the second story holds back, the whole world wincing as people wait for the next shoe to drop. Both stories, though, capture a bit of what makes humanity interesting. Our resolve in the face of adversity, yes, but also our creativity, our curiosity, and our passion. And both stories show that the human spirit resists cages, and yearns to find people to connect to, new adventures to experience. So let's get to the reviews! 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Quick Thoughts - Some Things I Do

I feel weird saying that I'm busy, but in some ways it's difficult to avoid. I mean, I feel like this is an excuse I have to give fairly regularly when faced with someone asking if I'd like to do something. Or…maybe it just feels like an excuse because whenever I say it (or write it) I inevitably feel guilty about it. After all, I argue with myself, look at all the time I have. Look at how much I do that I do because I want to and not really because it makes me money or furthers my…career? Ah, sometimes I feel that I'm just so desperate to keep my head above water, to try to find some meaning to my life, that I lose sight of things. That I get lost in the pressure to perform and to justify my existence. And it's hard not to.

But for the sake of argument I will say that I try to stay busy. I am passionate about what I do and believe that it has value. Most of the time, at least. Sometimes I'm convinced that I'm just fooling myself and there's no point and at those times I try to remind myself that hey, I also love what I do here. I love reading. I love reviewing. I love SFF. Things at the moment are…a little stressful. For a number of reasons. But that doesn't mean that I'm slowing down. Today I just want to go over some of the projects that I do and will be doing this year. In part this is just to get it all straight in my head. In part this is to let people know what I'm doing, because maybe it will help people better direct their queries to me and also because it might clear a few things up without my having to say no to anyone. So, a list:

QUICK SIPS – First, here is a list of what I review. It's fairly current and I have no real intention of changing it for 2017 now that I've made some adjustments. This is the bulk of what I do here at QSR and that's not about to change, but to editors/people wondering if I'd be interested in adding magazines/publications to my reviewing roster, I'm sorry, but probably not. If you really, really think it's something I'll want to read, then of course you can send out a query, but as far as regular publications go, I'm pretty full and adding more would mean I'd have more publications than days in the month, which is not a situation I really want.

REGULAR SIPS – Though I'm not really looking for more in the way of regular short fiction publications, if you have some single work that runs on the longer side, it's possible (though still not incredibly likely) that I'll be interested. My Regular Sips are often for things like novellas that are published on their own. I haven't done very many but I am interested in reading more novellas and this is something that's less time-sensitive so I'm a bit more willing to give things a chance when it's just one work and I can fit it into my schedule. I'm still rather picky and still can't fit in a whole lot, but if you have a project that you think would be a good fit, then feel free to query me and we'll go from there.

QUICK SPOTLIGHTS – Similarly, I've just done my first spotlight, and it was rather fun, so it might be nice to do more occasionally. These would be for authors who maybe feel their work flies under the radar but who still publishes enough that I could look at three or four stories. Like with Regular Sips, I can't guarantee that I'll be able to say yes, because these are things that have to work around my Quick Sips, but it's something I want to try out and am interested to see where it leads. I'll probably give some preference to writers whose stories I've read and enjoyed otherwise, but even if I've never read one of your pieces, for now at least feel free to ask.

SMUTTY SUNDAYS – This is actually something I really want to do more but am hampered because there's money concerns. I've put this as the $75 goal on my Patreon and if I can hit that I'll be able to start reviewing erotic speculative fiction from all over. If this is something you want, I encourage you to spread the word and hopefully we can raise support of Quick Sip Reviews to the level that I'll be able to consistently branch out into smutty good times. When/If I do get to this I will probably opt to pick what I want to review and buy it, though, so perhaps hold back on querying. I mean, suggestions are always welcome, but as this isn't a thing quite yet I'm just saying now that I'm not accepting anything to review quite yet.

QUICK QUESTIONS – These are interviews and are also on my Patreon as my $100 goal. Now, I'm doubting I'm going to suddenly shoot up that high any time soon, so this is a bit more of a humble project at the moment, and one that I'm probably not going to be able to do very often yet. So please keep in mind that queries about interviews will probably be met with reluctant refusals. I'm trying to balance out everything that I do but reviews are still my primary focus. Given more time and resources I'd love to do more interviews, but for now it's not something I can say yes to often.

THE YEAR OF GARAK – I'm doing this and I don't care if no one wants it. I've technically rolled it into my $50 goal on my Patreon but that's really just to increase the scope of it so that I can do something every month. It's limited in that it's only 2017, but it's something I very much want to do and I'm trying not to feel guilty about it.

LIVER BEWARE! – These are my drunken Goosebumps reviews and I do these, at the moment, exclusively for my patrons. But as part of my $50 goal I'm going to be migrating some from Patreon to QSR for everyone to enjoy. Not all of them, but enough so that maybe more people will be interested in checking out my Patreon to get access to the rest. These have been very fun and I'm quite glad I get to continue them.

#PATREMONDAY – I've fallen a bit behind on this but this is where I gush about Patreon projects that look awesome. If you're on Patreon and think I might love what you're doing, feel free to let me know about it!

ANTHOLOGIES – Ah, this is probably where I fail the most but it is rather difficult to find the time to review entire anthologies around everything else that I do. For now, I'm rather full up on anthologies and am not looking for more, but there is a part of me that wishes I could. I will start to get some up, but this project is still something I aspire to do more than am capable of doing. So while, again, I won't say people can't ask, I probably won't be able to say yes to any queries concerning anthologies. My apologies.

And that's about everything that I do. Which, yeah, is kind of a bit. Probably more than I can healthily do, considering that I also try and want to write fiction. But there are the projects that I'm currently engaged in. For more, please check out my Patreon or follow me on social media. Most of what I do is provided free to everyone thanks to the amazing support I receive from my Patrons. If you find any of this exciting or valuable, please consider becoming a Patron yourself—Quick Sip Reviews would love to have your support!

All the best,

Charles Payseur



Friday, February 10, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2017

The story in February's GigaNotoSaurus is definitely romantic enough to feel appropriate for the month many associate with love. And okay, yes, it has lesbians in space. But more than that, this is a story that looks at love in the face of destruction, hope in the face of despair. The story is one that takes on some of the flaws in humanity, some of the tendencies that seem to lean toward exploitation and extinction, and finds a way forward, through those obstacles. The story doesn't center humanity's heart in fear and hate, but in empathy and effort. The story is difficult at times because it does deal with some heavy themes, but through it all there is also a lightness, a rising warmth that does make it romantic, that does make it affirming and inspiring. That it can contain all the harm that humanity is capable of but still not implode. It's an impressive feat and I'm going to get right to my review! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2017

February can be a month of love and Flash Fiction Online has certainly taken that broad idea and twisted it mercilessly, presenting three stories that each challenge the clean and saccharine nature of love that is often peddled this time of year like a box of unwanted cordials. The stories move from the doomed love of sentient appliances to how love marks us to how…well, just gonna skip that last one. These are stories which offer a lot of very different takes on love. Some of them touching, some of them humorous, and some of them something else entirely. So yeah, "love" is in the air and I'm ready to get to these reviews! 

Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #53

The stories in this February issue of Nightmare Magazine look at the worth of a life. In both pieces, the main characters are asked what their lives are worth, and this central question drives most of the tragedy and horror in the stories. Which only makes sense. The question of what makes life worth living, and conversely what makes sacrificing a life a decent bargain, is not an easy one. And the stories here reveal how difficult it can be to justify life and death, action and inaction. The stories look at characters who end up defining a lot of their worth in someone else. In those that they love. And these are two rather difficult but rather rewarding stories that look at magic and death and the vastness of choice in rather interesting ways. To the reviews! 

Art by grandfailure / Adobe Stock

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #21

Both original stories in the February issue of The Dark Magazine deal in some way with loss and with the generational passing of knowledge and potential. Both stories look at losses that are transformative, but experienced from opposite positions. In the first story, the main character is a governess, a care-giver to a group of girls. In the second piece, the main character is a bit younger, and learning from her elders about some of the dangers of the world. The stories are worlds apart in terms of tone but both circle around how people react to loss and, more telling, how unprepared some people can be to experience it. To find themselves in a situation that has gone beyond their control. These are interesting stories and contrast nicely while both looking at the supernatural and the ways that the older generations care for the younger ones. Time to review! 

Art by captblack76

Monday, February 6, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #81

February is a month of love but you might not know it from reading the latest issue of Lightspeed Magazine. Though all of the stories do show a certain amount of love for tropes. For classic stories. This love, however, comes with an edge. Destroys even as it embraces. The stories all take on some classic ideas. Superheroes. The End of the World. The Chosen One. The Gunslinger. And they manage to tell stories that at the same time celebrate these kinds of stories for the imagination and the hope that they can inspire…and they also tear them apart. Subvert them. Twist them. What is left are stories that are fun but obliterating, funny but bleak as fuck. It's a great issue, though, and I'm going to get right to my reviews!

Art by Alan Bao

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Author Spotlight - Priya Sridhar

So today I'm doing something new. I'm looking at a number of stories from one author that have fallen outside of the scope of my reviews. Now this isn't exactly an unusual thing, that I would read and very much like a story by an author only to find that they have a larger body of work out there. In this case, the story that I read was "The Jeweled Nawab Jungle Retreat" by Priya Sridhar (appearing in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #214). In this case, though, the author reached out and asked if I'd be interested in reading/reviewing more. And given that I liked "The Jeweled Nawab Jungle Retreat" enough to put it in my Monthly Round, and because I had some time, it worked out. So yeah, I'm not sure how often I'll be able to do spotlights like this, but here's the first!

Art by L.E. Badillo

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Quick Thoughts - "Snow Devils"

Okay, when I said I had some other, non-lumberjack stories coming out I was kind of thinking this wouldn't be my next one to appear. But despite it being my most recent sale, "Snow Devils" is out in the wild and does fit in thematically rather nicely with some of my other pieces recently. It appears in Persistent Vision, fyi, and the art is amazing.

Art by S. Bell

Friday, February 3, 2017

Regular Sip - Kaiju Revisited #1 (from Apokrupha Press)

So I'm trying something a little new. I've been trying to step out of my shell a little more with regards to novellas, and so when the opportunity arose to look at a series of kaiju-inspired tales from Apokrupha, I sort of jumped for it. I'm a little late to the game as the first two in the series came out in 2016, but I hope I'm not too late to point people toward what is a rather delightful first installment in the series. I will admit, part of the draw of kaiju stories is that they are…well, a little over-the-top. Giant monsters bent on city-wide destruction. There's a nice vein of horror there, but this first entry into the series focuses on something a bit different—humor. Through a charming voice the story reveals a situation equal parts nightmarish…and funny as hell. So yeah, the review!

Art by Christopher Enterline

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction #39

I had almost given up on seeing a January release from Fireside Fiction, but lo and behold on the last day of January we have three short stories, two of them flash length, that explore the boundaries of Otherness. All three, in their own ways, look at how people relate to each other. How labels are powerful. Monsters and gods, good and bad, black and white. And each story complicates nicely these concepts, breaking down binary thinking to show just how complicated the supposed dichotomies are. Looking at power and prejudice, the stories don't flinch from getting really fucking dark, but that also gives them a deep strength and lasting impact. These are stories that use voice to great effect, as well, letting the various characters speak and letting their words guide understanding and conflict. It's a great issue and it's time to review it!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/16/2017, 01/23/2017, & 01/30/2017

I almost thought this was going to be a light three weeks from Strange Horizons. Trust providence to throw an extra-big issue on the penultimate day of the month! As much as a beleaguered reviewer might find such last-minute work a bit harrowing, it's impossible for me to be anything less than thrilled because the work in these three weeks is pretty awesome, and finding out that instead of one poem a major SFF pub has released six? Well, that's a pretty good thing. So between these three weeks there are two original stories and eight original poems, plus many reprinted poems and nonfiction that's worth checking out, including two different awesome round tables (one of which I got to participate in!). It's an excellent assortment of pieces that tackle resistance and colonialism, passion and pain. So let's get to these reviews! 

Art by Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy