Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #226

It might be summer now but the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies imagines worlds much more in the grips of long winters. In both tales this issue we get to see people who are acting according both to their mission and their nature. People fall, or seem to fall, into very neat categories. Hunters and demons. Knights and maidens. The stories begin with a rather clear idea of who the good guys are and who the bad. But in both that idea is muddied as the characters seek to find out not just what those around them want but what might be locked in their own hearts as well. These are pieces that can get rather dark at times but keep their sights locked on a hope of freedom and a release from damaging cycles. So yeah, time to review!

Art by Ashley Dotson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Regular Sip - HostBods by Tendai Huchu

Today I'm looking at a special project from Future Fiction featuring two stories by Tendai Huchu. One is a reprint and one is new for the ebook, HostBods. These are stories that both look at the boundaries of the artificial and the human, the virtual and the real. Both stories feature characters who are dealing with family and obligation while also trying to do right by those they care about. In both pieces, though, the environment is full of decay and corruption. The threat of violence and subjugation are real and present and provide the characters with a motivation to try and survive, to try and find a way to endure and, perhaps, reach a better place. These are two stories that take very interesting SFF looks at technology and the end of the world and I'll get right to the reviews!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Glittership Spring 2017, part 1

People, Glittership now has POETRY!!! Rejoice! Queer speculative poetry is like the best so I am ALL ABOUT this decision, and especially with poetry being discontinued at Apex I love that a venue has re-upped on the form. Plus, you know, awesome SFF short fiction. Today I'm looking at half of the most recent issue, some of which is available online for free right now and some that will be available soon. I do recommend that if you like the publication you go and either buy the issue or become a Patron, which will also get you access to the back issues of the ebook as well. The stories are largely about challenge and about the strength it takes to keep going in the face of pain and loss and adversity. These are stories of people overcoming the tragedies in their lives and finding people who make going on easier. And along with the poetry the issue is one about hope in darkness, and the coming of light. It's an amazing issue that I will review presently!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 5: "Face Value" & "The Lotus Flower" by Una McCormack, "The Calling" by Andrew J. Robinson

Hello and welcome back to the May installment of the Year of Garak. For those playing along at home, please feel free to check out the festivities so far with January | February | March | April. Today I'm flying solo and looking at a trio of stories surrounding everyone's favorite plain, simple Cardassian. Two of the stories are from the Deep Space Nine anthology, Prophecy and Change, while the other is half of the first Worlds of Star Trek DS9 book. The names should be familiar, as they're the two biggest influences on Garak in Star Trek canon. Andrew J. Robinson is the man behind the mask, the actor himself and author of A Stitch in Time, while Una McCormack has been prolific in bringing the story of Garak forward in time.

Chronologically, "Face Value" is the earliest of the stories, taking place during the last few episodes of the series while Garak, Damar, and Kira were trapped on Cardassia. "The Lotus Flower" is set after the events of A Stitch in Time but definitely before "The Calling." There will be spoilers for events in the show and novels, so for those not wanting that, #sorrynotsorry. I think the biggest take-away here is the abrupt change in tone from the end of "The Lotus Flower" to the beginning of "The Calling," and how "The Calling" leaves Garak as a character, person, and Cardassian. All of these stories help to flesh out Garak, though, and show how he deals with being back on a Cardassia that is much different than the one he'd hoped would be waiting at the end of his exile. So without further hesitation, to the reviews!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Quick Sips - The Archipelago Prologues

With the march of time and technology, the methods and mediums for telling stories can change rapidly. Though books and more traditional publications still dominate the market, there is growing room for alternative funding for stories, and one of the most popular recent additions to the landscape is Patreon. Already many authors use the site in order to bring stories directly to those willing to pay a small monthly cost. And now there’s a new project innovating Patreon storytelling—a joint venture featuring three writers sharing a setting but with audience participation and a unique feel. Archipelago reveals a speculative past where portals to another world have opened, and with them come brand new opportunities of exploration, exploitation, and disaster. The three authors all have very different takes on the style and tone of the project, but all of them work with each other, creating a gestalt that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and a brilliant start, and I’m going to be looking at the prologue stories, all of which are free to read, so that you might whet your appetite for this interested new venture. There’s currently a Kickstarter as well as the ongoing Patreon, and I certainly encourage you to check out both. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #32

It’s a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and it’s a rather full one with two short stories, two novelettes, and two poems. And everything has a lot to do with violence and cycles. Again and again we see settings that have been torn apart by war and strife, by carnage and murder, trying to find some way forward. Sometimes that means descending down into the muck and mire of killing, but sometimes that means being able to rise up and do something new and different. Sometimes that means finding hope in unexpected places and finally bringing destructive cycles to an end. Whatever the case, it makes for some great reading and I’m going to get to the reviews!

Art by Mark Molchan

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #225

May is off to a great start at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with a pair of stunning stories that center on the ideas of work and care, love and loss. The worlds that the stories introduce are full of brokenness, full of inequity, full of people dealing with bad situations and the whims of a universe that doesn’t really seem fair. For some, this means using the realities of the world to define what they should and should not expect. For others, it’s about standing in the face of the expectations and declaring that there are some things that cannot be sacrificed, even as some other things need to be. These are very difficult and wrenching stories that focus on hope and healing even as they reach for a place where the trauma might have been prevented entirely. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Ashley Dotson

Monday, May 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #16 [May stuff]

This is another full issue of Uncanny Magazine, with May containing three original stories, two poems, and four different nonfiction pieces that I’ll be looking at. There’s a reprint and another nonfiction piece that I won’t be looking at because I’m not familiar with the text it’s discussing, but otherwise this is a very nicely balanced issues that focuses on resistance and fighting back but knows that there’s no hiding from the despair of oppression and the harm being done. And while many of the stories are quite hopeful, and while much of the nonfiction is about how to resist and how to maintain hope even in a very bad situation, there are also stories that know very well that there is also exhaustion, there is also hurt. And while none of the pieces stop there, some of them do carve out a space to feel that pain and recognize it. To show that it’s okay to hurt and to focus on that, while still leaving a path forward for when healing is possible and the fight can be resumed. It’s a powerful issue and I’ll get to those reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Friday, May 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #96

The May issue of Apex Magazine features two original stories and one reprint that explore trauma and distance, time and space and hope. It’s an issue that’s about the telling of stories and the reaching back for some semblance of comfort and closure. It features characters who are living on borrowed time, who are fighting against the weight of the forces that have doomed them. For most of them, it’s not a doom that is avoided, either, but that comes with the power and relentlessness of a train, of a storm, of a sun exploding. These pieces explore darkness in different ways, revealing it as both a source of comfort and fear. So yeah, join me as I jump into the reviews!

Art by Marcela Bolívar

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #37 [May stuff]

Well, May at Shimmer Magazine is a special one for me this year. Why? Well, because maybe a story of mine is appearing there! Yes, after nearly 30 rejections I have finally landed at one of my favorite publications! As such, I’ve also saved myself a bit of work, as I won’t be looking at my own story. I will definitely be looking at the other May release, though, which is the cover story. It features youth and a rural environment where nothing really grows right. It circles around abuse and toxic masculinity and trying to find a nurturing environment when everything seems poisonous. It’s not exactly a cheery tale, but not without its hope, the implication that maybe, somehow, there can be something beautiful and right to grow out of a fallow field. So yeah, to the review!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Monthly Round is up!!!

Head over to Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together to find my favorite SFF short fiction from April 2017 paired with thematically appropriate booze and reviewed! I call it my Taster's Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, and it's a lot of fun.

For those just wanting to know what I picked, the list is below. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - April 2017

"Underworld 101" by Mame Bougouma Diene (Omenana)
"Champollion's Foot" by Haris A Durrani (Mithila Review)
“And in That Sheltered Sea, a Colossus” by Michael Matheson (Shimmer)
"Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus" by Bogi Takács (Clarkesworld)
"It Happened To Me: I Was Brought Back to Avenge My Death, But Chose Justice Instead" by Nino Cipri (Fireside Fiction)
"And Then There Were (N-One)" by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus May 2017

It’s May at GigaNotoSaurus and apparently that means dipping back into the realm of fairy tales. Or, at least, fairy stories, as this month’s almost-a-novelette piece features an interesting take on the story of Tam Lin, who has gotten in a bit deep with a certain fairy queen and has made a few hasty bargains in order to try and get free of the messy situation he found himself in. Add to that a neatly rendered world of construction and underwater reconnaissance, and it’s a winning recipe for romantic mishaps. Like with all fairy tale retellings, it lives and dies by how it updates the themes of the original while adding new visuals, new voices, and a new style. And before I give away too much, let’s get to the review!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/01/2017 & 05/08/2017

May opens with a pair of stories and a pair of poems from Strange Horizons, all of them interested in the lines between achievement and destruction, success and oblivion. The stories look at two strikingly different situations stitched together with a thread of oppression and the looming threat of violence. These pieces are about struggle, whether through art or through organized action, and show characters moving according to their inner drives and needs. The poetry is interesting because both pieces take on an almost archaic feel in order reveal very modern concerns and warnings. There's a lot to see and experience with all this content, so I'll just jump right into the reviews!

Art by Matthew Filipkowski

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Queer Smut Reviews - Show Yourself To Me by Xan West

Welcome to the first ever Queer Smut Reviews! Way back in April of 2016 I sort of joked about moving the site to cover solely queer smut. I say sort of joked because this isn't something where I'm like "Queer smut, isn't that ridiculous, haha!" I write queer smut. I read queer smut. I think that it is both important and artful, no less so than the stories that we would call "just" SFF. Which is another reason that I've wanted to look at it, because I do believe that the divide we put up between SFF smut and SFF is largely artificial and harmful.

I'm not going to stand here, though, and defend queer smut's many problems, or be an asshole to ace/aro people for whom the emphasis on relationships and sex is not at all what they want to read. I will say simply that SFF smut has no more or less issues than the rest of SFF but receives a disproportionate amount of derision from all quarters. These complaints are not all without merit, as queer smut is dominated not by concerns about presenting queer relationships accurately or to be affirming for queer readers but rather to cater to the tastes of the readership, which is largely (but certainly not exclusively) white straight ciswomen. Still, there are stories that are being told in SFF smut that are being told no where else, and for people looking for representation not just of sexualities but of sex, smut is one of the very few places to find that.

For me, writing and reading about queer sex has helped me come to terms and make sense of my own identity. First through fanfiction, but more and more through published original works. Again, this is not to knock fanfiction, as it provides a largely anonymous place for people to write all kinds of stories, but I do think that writers should be paid for their work, and I think that part of that means telling and paying for original stories, and seeking out where these stories are being told and sold. Which, in turn, has pushed me to want to start this project, where I will be looking at published SFF romance and erotic romance and erotica short fiction.

My first entry into this feature is looking at three stories from the (oh glod incredibly hot) short fiction collection Show Yourself To Me by Xan West. (and I must say that Corey Alexander aka Xan West, who is a tremendous resource and advocate for writers and queer people in general, is currently in danger of becoming homeless and I hope you will consider helping out here and/or going out and buying this collection). I actually came across the collection from a recommendation from Bogi Takács (and/or R.B. Lemberg) and thought it looked interesting. And, of course, I started reading it in an airport. Now, I'm pretty used to reading sexy-times so doing so in public isn't usually an issue, but wow, let me just say that this collection is steamy! I mean, very much so, and yet the stories also show an awareness and emphasis on consent and care. Let us just say that I had to take numerous breaks to cool down because I CANNOT OVERSTATE THE STEAM!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #56

It’s a bit of a treat this month at Nightmare Magazine. Why? Well, because they’re publishing one of my stories! Which means, on top of having the honor of my story appearing in a pretty awesome publication, means I’m off the hook for reviewing it! Which means that while I encourage you all to go and check it out, I’m really just looking at one story today. It’s certainly a weird one, filled with a pervasive darkness and the shadows of the surreal reaching through some veil of stories and into reality. It’s tense and creepy and it might make me even more nervous about weird people coming up to talk to me at bars. Which is a difficult thing to make me more nervous about. So yeah, let’s get to the review!

Art by Natalia Maroz

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #128

The stories in this May issue of Clarkesworld all seem to circle around nature and art and technology, drawing the lines of where humanity’s place in the natural world is. And it shows the ways that humans seek to reach beyond the known and comfortable, how people are constantly striving to do more and be more. For some that might mean rewriting their genetic code, and for others it might just mean chilling in a giant floating whale. Whatever floats your boat. But these are stories that mix moments of intense action and terror with softer moments of study, introspection, and thought. They’re rather contemplative stories, and as such deserve some time and consideration. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2017

It’s May and so it’s rather fitting that this month’s stories from Flash Fiction Online focus on growth and transformation and budding love, all blooming in the shadow of loss and destruction and doom. The stories all feature characters caught in a moment of change. For some it might be a sudden shift to their world, a loss of the people who kept them safe and secure. For others it might be dealing with the prospect of change, with the advancing doom that seems like it might devour everything, that might take everything the characters have left. These are stories of spring, though, and hope, and pushing forward despite the hardship and despite whatever doom might come. The stories feature these characters choosing to grow and adapt and move forward, and they are beautiful to behold. So yeah, let’s get to those reviews!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #84

The May issue of Lightspeed Magazine brings its share of strange journeys, showing characters transported from their familiar surroundings to...someplace else. People find themselves in the past, or in a painting, or in a different body, or in Heaven. These stories also very much deal with violence and consent. Most of them directly tackle themes that ooze violation, that show characters either taking people against their will or characters taken against their will and put somewhere they don't really want to be (though they might start off okay with that). The issue as a whole is a dark one, without an awful lot of hope (save for one story). By and large they map injustice, expose it some, but do not try to tear it down (again, save for the one story). It's a somewhat conflicting month of stories for me, too, so let's get to the reviews.

Art by Sam Schechter

Monday, May 8, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #24

The two original stories from May’s The Dark Magazine are rather slow explorations of death and termination. Of something rotten that seems to be spreading. Of a realization that things aren’t quite so normal and good as they seem. These stories both focus in many ways on people moving around an elephant in the room (though not actual elephants), where the main characters don’t see or don’t want to see what’s happening around them. They want to just continue on as if everything was fine. But it’s not. And they don’t long get to put off their confrontation with reality and darkness. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Vincent Chong

Friday, May 5, 2017

Regular Sip - Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth by Cassandra Khaw

I'm dipping back into the Rupert Wong pool today with a look at this new novella from Abaddon Books. Like with the previous installment, things get messy quickly, which is all in a day's work for a cannibal chef. As followers of my reviews might know, I'm a sucker for SFF stories that bring in interesting takes on food and this is definitely a unique example. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, though, and it does require wading through an impressive amount of bloody carnage. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the review!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #224

The last April issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies provides looks into worlds alive with shadows. With talking animals and talking vegetables. Both stories feature characters seeking to overcome things. For one, it’s an injury he suffered that requires him to change how he operates. For the other, it’s a pair of deaths that leave her completely alone. Where the first is able to make bargains with magical beings in order to help his situation, though, the second faces entirely different prospects. The stories are about protection and judgement, about trades that don’t necessarily go as expected. They are rich in fantasy and deep in characters, and I should really just get to the reviews!

Art by Ashley Dotson

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2017

It's another fairly full month from Tor dot com, but still nowhere near as busy as last month. There are five stories to explore, one novelette and four shorts, and the pieces all center science and study. These are pieces that look at the role that humans can play in researching other species as well as humanity itself. They look at how medical science can be used to ease burdens and to create them, how studying and interacting with other species can teach us more about ourselves and more about the universe. These are stories about pain and disease and exploration, and people coming to terms with a universe that is vast and sometimes very cruel. And they are at turns beautiful and ugly, affirming and devastating. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Micah Epstein

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction April 2017

It's another rather full month from Fireside Fiction with four original short stories. Most of them weigh in as flash fiction, but that doesn't mean that they aren't dense and complex. What strikes me most about the stories, though, is their sense of fun (well, for most of the pieces). With one exception, the stories hold a flare for the mischievous, for the sly, for the sarcastic. The characters are wise in their own ways and certainly wiseasses, by and large, but also endearing and sincere in their ways. And the stories feature a range of setting and situations, from corporate time travel to magic schools and resurrections. There's a touch of tragedy to many of the stories as well, but a breath of hope and resilience in the face of destruction. To the reviews!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Omenana #9

It’s a new issue of Omenana! The first of 2017, it boasts six original stories that show stunning and often horrifying visions of SFF. These are pieces that largely lean toward speculative horror, toward the way that people can hurt each other and deceive each other and prey upon each other. The ways that humans can be made into vessels for their own destruction. The way that people seem to circle abuse and injustice like courting a mate. It’s not an entirely bleak issue, though many of the pieces are quite grim. There’s also a sense of hope to some of the pieces, that maybe we can find a better way, that maybe we can fly instead of impacting on the rocks of destruction. And before I give any more away here, let’s just dive into the reviews!

Art by Sunny Efemena