Monday, July 31, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, Part 7: The Never Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack

Welcome back! The year of Garak continues in glorious fashion, though this week we might be sidelining our hero to look at a work where he's not really the focus. For those just tuning in, I've been looking at various Garak media, from short stories to novels to the original DS9 episodes. Basically, if it's got Garak, I want to examine it, because I love Garak and something needs to distract me from...other things 2017 has brought with it. If you want to catch up, here's links to the previous posts: January | February | March | April | May | June.

I'm joined again today by SFF poet, writer, and all around awesome person Nicasio Andres Reed. We're looking at another tie-in novel by Una McCormack, The Never Ending Sacrifice so SPOILERS apply. Feel free to jump into the comments (they are moderated so it might take a little while for them to show up but I will try my best to check in regularly). Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the discussion!

Also, in case you forgot...

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.

And now, to the discussion!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #6: LET'S GET INVISIBLE!

Can I just say that I love that these titles feel the need to use exclamation points. Like LET'S GET INVISIBLE would have been too weak and dull. No, fuck that! the book seems to say. If we're doing this then WE'RE FUCKING DOING THIS!!! I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense when you've got death in the mix. SAY CHEESE AND DIE! seems like less an overstatement, same with TICK TOCK, YOU'RE DEAD! But...getting invisible just doesn't have the same weight to it. The same need for that exclamation point. Maybe if it was LET'S GET INVISIBLE...TO DEATH! I could more fully behind it. As it is, and especially with how this book turns out, that exclamation is a promise that the book does not follow through on.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Queer Smut Reviews - Nasty: Fetish Fights Back, eds. Anna Yeatts & Chris Phillips

Welcome to the second installment of Queer Smut Reviews. So make sure you’re wearing your protective poncho and buckle in, because it’s a rather wild ride. I’m looking at a collection of short stories today, Nasty: Fetish Fights Back, edited by Anna Yeatts and Chris Phillips of Flash Fiction Online. It’s smut for a good cause, too, as a portion of proceeds go to Planned Parenthood (which is even more important now, given all the health things going down right now). There are 27 stories in all, And full disclosure, I wrote one of them. So really I’ll only be mentioning 26 stories in this review.

Now, I tried to look more closely at the stories that were specifically SFF. That doesn’t mean I just skipped the rest, but you’ll probably notice that my reviews are more robust for the SFF stories. This is both because smutty SFF is exactly what I want to be looking at and because if I wrote long thoughts on them all my hands would fall off. It’s a rather great collection, though, and I definitely recommend that people pay attention all of the stories. Part of the reason I want to look at smutty SFF with a critical lens is much the same reason that this collection exists—to try and bring people together to resist the idea that sexuality and bodies are topics that don’t belong in polite conversation. Where the stories shine the most, I feel, is where they look at consent and transparency, people talking to people and negotiating to make sure everyone is safe and getting what they want. Where I think the stories falter a bit is when they neglect that.

But enough stalling—let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Regular Sip - In Search of Lost Time by Karen Heuler

I’m back for a new Regular Sip review of a recent novella out from Aqueduct Press. My main familiarity with the press has actually been through WisCon, as the press until recently had produced small collections that would collect work from the Guests of Honor of the convention. And their table is always well worth checking out in the dealer room. This novella is part of a line of theirs called Conversation Pieces, which are typically small paperbacks meant to promote, well, conversation. And in that this novella is incredibly fitting, providing a dense and fascinating experience focusing on moral dilemmas and personal tragedies. But before I give too much away, I’ll just jump right into the review!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #17 [July stuff]

July finds Uncanny Magazine full once again, this time with three original stories, two poems, and two nonfiction pieces. And may of the pieces examine the idea of home. Of community. Of something encroaching, and how people react to that. In some of the pieces, how is a physical building, a place of healing and haunting. In some it is a neighborhood, or a country, or a place among the stars. Many of these works show people reaching for a home that is different, that is better, where change is possible, where injustice and corruption can be put aside at last. These are stories, poems, and nonfiction pieces that reveal stunning compassion and blistering resistance. They are sometimes tender, sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, and all in all an incredibly collection of SFF. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #98

July’s Apex Magazine features a nice little editorial that celebrates the USA’s birthday in a rather nice way. And the stories it brings to the table are an interesting pair, keeping things firmly in the realm of science fiction, probability and time travel, rabbits and desperation. In both we find characters on missions. In the first, it’s a mission to make sense out of a random universe. In the other, it’s a mission to undo what is being perceived as a great wrong. The stories differ greatly and offer up some very different interpretations of dark SFF, but they offer up some interesting and rather philosophical points to ponder. And before I get to distracted, it’s time to review!

Art by Quentin-Vladimir Castel

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #38 [July stuff]

It’s a bit of a strange month at Shimmer Magazine, with two original stories that full embrace the weird. Whether that means imagining a world where mutant zombie-lizard-people face some Western-tinged gunslinging or a world something like 1920’s France where people are deconstructing themselves in the face of war, these are pieces that embrace SFF’s ability to be different. And they are stories of characters in turmoil, in pain, trying to make sense out of a world that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. These are story with action and with something distinct and rather undefinable about them and lacking the language to describe them in broad strokes, I’ll try to get to specifics in the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, July 21, 2017

Regular Sip - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #230

Okay, so...this is something of a special review for me. Firstly (and most importantly), it's NEW BIRDVERSE OMG YAAAASSSS!!! Ahem. Aside from that, it's the longest title that I've read from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a stunning novella that is available for free both to read and to listen to (as a 5 hr podcast!). The second part of the novella is also appearing alongside a short story of mine, "Rivers Run Free," which of course I am not reviewing but hey, if you all want to read and review it, feel free! :D Anyway, this novella is one of my favorite reads, proving once and for all that one of the sexiest things in the universe is consent. So without further ado, the review!

Art by Jeff Brown

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #130

It’s a rather dark month of content at Clarkesworld, where the CW might well stand for content warning for most of the pieces. These are stories that take a look at the aftermath of harm. They look at post-apocalypses, post-traumatic plots that lead to further traumas. These are stories where, by and large, characters find themselves in situation they never asked for. Pressed into guarding a strange bridge. Woken from a space hibernation. Taken by raiders to do dangerous work. The stories are not as a general rule very happy. Instead they are full of violence and the looming threat of violence. But many of the stories are also full of hope and resistance. Some…not so much, but it’s a very interesting group of stories. Review time!

Art by Eddie Mendoza

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #58

The July stories from Nightmare Magazine seem to me to be all about consent and victims. About the ways in which people seek their own gratification, their own wishes, without pausing to think about what they’re doing. Or, when they do stop, they still privilege their own wants over the safety of others. These are some complex stories that look at the ways that relationships fall apart and people can turn on each other, hurt each other, by not asking the right questions, by losing sight of those around them in their pursuit of what they want. These are some rather uncomfortable and violent stories, and yet the violence is pointed and impacting, revealing the systems in place that reward ignorance and punish empathy. It’s definitely a matter of degrees, though, and the stories show different kinds of hope in moving forward, in reaching for a world without these cycles of violence and abuse. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by grandfailure / Adobe Stock Art

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus July 2017

July’s long short story from GigaNotoSaurus explores war in a way that’s deep and moving and a bit weird, frankly. On an incredibly refreshing note, it’s a story about World War II that doesn’t involve Nazis, which I am always up for reading. It’s also a story that’s somewhat difficult to define, which is also something I appreciate. It’s not traditional fantasy and it’s not exactly historical science fiction. It’s some mix of things, a literary speculative history story that focuses on two sets of twins and how they handle the circumstances the war finds them in. And before I spoil too much, I should just jump right in to the review!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/03/2017 & 07/10/2017

It's another stellar two weeks of content as Strange Horizons moves into July. It's full of weirdness, with two original stories where magic is bleeding through into the more mundane world, where the main characters are looking either for escape through this magic or escape from this magic, and it makes for a wonderful pairing, where people find in the magic around them a pervasive danger and darkness, shattering any illusions that magic might be bright or safe. The poetry is at turns beautiful and rending, about connections and relationships. And there's even some wonderful nonfiction. I'm actually skipping one of the nonfiction pieces because it's more a review and I'm not familiar with the text, but I do very much recommend reading all of it. So yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Quick Link - The Monthly Round June 2017

The Monthly Round is up now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Go check it out.

For those not in the know, the Round is my monthly column where I pair my favorite stories from the month with tasting notes, thematically appropriate booze, and reviews. So if that sounds like something you're into, go give the full column a read. If you just want to know my favorite stories, those are below.


Tasting Flight - June 2017

“The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson (Book Smugglers)
 “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny)
“We Lilies of the Valley” by Sonja Natasha (Shimmer)
“Utopia, LOL?” by Jamie Wahls (Strange Horizons)
“Of Letters They Are Made” by Jonathan Edelstein (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
“Water like Air” by Lora Gray (Flash Fiction Online)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229

It’s something of a treat from Beneath Ceaseless Skies this issue as there are two longer stories to sink your teeth into. And okay, one of those is a novella which is only half-released (though the entire piece can be listened to via podcast), but people, it is so good. So so so good. And both stories explore themes of difference and violence, systems of violence and learning and possibilities of freedom and escape. These are works that feature young people starting to come into their powers and finding that they have a lot to learn. But these are also characters who have been hurt and who are not quick to trust for very good reasons. Both have found or find that the world they live in is often unfair and brutal, and that provokes something equally intense in themselves. The stories are deep and expressive and offer up fantastic worlds to explore, though many carry within them dark shadows. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jeff Brown

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #86

The July Lightspeed Magazine offers up a pair each of science fiction and fantasy short stories that balance hope and despair, pain and longing. The stories examine injustice, characters caught in moments that they want to escape, situations that are deeply unsatisfying. For some it’s a humanity that has lost its spark, and for others it’s a world that doesn’t allow them to be themselves. In some the pressure is external, a threat or invasion, and in others it’s the seeming-injustice of chance. Whatever the characters and whatever the stories, though, the pieces all examine what it means to be discontent, to be angry and hurting. To want change. And the stories differ widely in how that hope is portrayed, and how close the characters are allowed to come to it, but all the pieces are certainly interesting, and it makes for a fascinating issue I should just review already.

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2017

It’s solidly summer time now and the July issue of Flash Fiction Online brings with it a mix of stories that burst with life and possibility even as they don’t overlook the grief and hurt that walk hand in hand with the brightness of summer. There’s magic that pulses through these stories, in the visions and hopes of the characters—a wish for a different world, the magic of wings, the consuming darkness. In all of the stories the characters must face that what they want, that where they want, might not fix all their problems, but most of the characters are determined to go anyway, to find whatever is waiting there, be it family or love or freedom. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #26

July has arrived at The Dark Magazine with a pair of original stories that deliver characters driven toward a singular goal. For one of the characters, it’s a release from an oppressive setting where he must constantly live in fear of his skin. For the other, it’s respect and power that he craves, that leads him down a rapidly darkening path. Both men face danger and face difficulty, but they handle things in very different ways. The stories show how the pursuit of a goal can be affirming or destructive, how it can work to free a person or chain them to a string of bad decisions. These are stories that show how both characters do not shy away from violence, but that they eventually have to make the decision of how that violence will define them. Will they overcome it, and find a more peaceful way out, or will they embrace it, and let it lead them toward their desires? It’s a great month of stories and I’m going to get right to those reviews!

Art by Vincent Chong

Friday, July 7, 2017

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #3: Sundown Towns

The third issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine has arrived and the theme this time is Sundown Towns, the practice where black people had to leave certain cities before sundown or face the prospect of arrest or mob justice. It’s a heavy theme and it shows in many of the stories and poems. These are pieces that look very closely at place, at the idea of home, that complicate how people can feel belonging when they are not truly safe, when they are never really in control of their spaces. Many of the stories deal with protagonists working in nearly-hopeless situations—being exploited and legislated against, being constantly in danger from forces mundane and supernatural. But the pieces all show what community and hope can do, how resistance and beauty still flower in the harshest of realities. The stories are at turns tragic and inspiring, and the issue as a whole is another phenomenal experience. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Geneva Benton

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com June 2017

It's just a bit of a short month for Tor dot com in June, with three original stories offering a nice variety of science fiction and fantasy and horror. The stories examine the damage left behind by abuse of different sorts, whether corporate, societal, or achingly personal. The stories look at loss—of freedom, of life, of security, and show how transformation is possible, how resistance is possible. In all of these stories I see characters who don't know quite what comes next, but who find that they might have access to a power that they didn't have before. That suddenly they are able to change something, even if it's only their own feathers. But it's a great mix of stories and I'll get to reviewing!

Art by Jon Foster

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers June 2017

Book Smugglers is back for its 2017 short story season! This year’s theme is Gods & Monsters and the two first stories up are a science fiction tale that definitely leans on some tropes surrounding gods—well, more like goddesses, and a contemporary fantasy full of heart and dark magic. These are stories that unfold across a galaxy rich with life as two women discover the joy of experience even as they run up against the limitations of it as well, or inside a world quite familiar, full of middle school dances and carrot cake as two sisters and their dads find out that there is more than dust bunnies lurking in the shadowy spaces of the globe. Both are stories about change and about moving on, about discovery but also autonomy, and they are a great way to kick off another year of stories from one of my favorite publishers. To the reviews!

Art by Sparrows

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction June 2017

July brings four original stories to Fireside Fiction, but with three flash fiction pieces the total word count is back down from where it's been the last few months. Still, the stories presented are full of fun flourishes and dark implications. Many of the stories are about technology, about the friction between convenience and oppression, the way that they can feed each other and fuel tragedy. There's a nice mix of styles and genres, though, from science fiction both near and far in the future to fantasy that images whole nations of clockwork people to one that explores a much smaller plot of land, though one teaming with magic and danger. And these are stories that carry with them a heavy darkness, none of the pieces really ending in the happiest of manners, instead flavoring every victory with a hint of fear and the promise of pain. But they are also beautiful stories that explore what it means to be live and long and reach for freedom. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Monday, July 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform June 2017

It's another month of content from Motherboard's Terraform and I continue to not be sure what's going on with the release schedule. There's only one new piece out this month, but as it's the last chapter in the long-running Highwayman series, there's still a lot to digest. Now, this series has had some ups and downs for me personally, but it's continually told a captivating story with some interesting visuals and a great style. The ending certainly comes with a bang, leaving me to wonder that now that it has wrapped up, what might be on the horizons for the publication. But enough speculating—time to review!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Quick Sip Reviews Twitter AMA/Recstravaganza

I'm excited to announce the Quick Sip Reviews Twitter AMA/Recstravaganza for 7/9/2017!

I'm going to be holding a bit of an event in order to raise awareness of my Patreon and really just to have some fun connecting with people. The idea is that I will be available on Sunday, July 9th, for the world to ask me anything, but also to challenge me in another way--by getting SFF short fiction recommendation challenges. I'll let my graphic explain.

Yes, I like making graphics for things. But basically, if you've been wondering if there's a SFF short story out there that includes "lesbians" "whales" and "post-apocalypse" then ARE YOU IN LUCK! (btw, "We Who Live in the Heart" by Kelly Robson). Want "food" "horror" and "magic"? Try "Candy Girl" by Chikodili Emelumadu. Just send me three keywords and I will do my best to find you a short story that fits. I have no idea if this will work but I'm excited to try. To yeah, mark your calendars!