Tuesday, October 31, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 10: "When It Rains..." "Tacking Into the Wind" "Extreme Measures" "The Dogs of War" & "What You Leave Behind"

Welcome back to a year-long celebration of everyone’s favorite plain, simple Cardassian. Every month I’ve been looking at various media starring Elim Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and this month I’ve reached the end of the television series. The culmination of all the various plot lines that had been building over seven years of Garak stories. It’s...well, it’s big. And it pays off in huge ways, just as it disappoints in others. But if you’re just checking out the Year of Garak, I very much recommend starting at the beginning, as there are things that will be referenced from previous talks. You can find all the posts here: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September.

And I’m flying solo this month, looking at the final episodes of DS9. Or, at least, the parts with Garak. The finale of DS9 spanned a great many episodes, after all, and a great many plot threads. Garak returned to play a rather significant role, though, first with Kira and Odo helping in Damar’s resistance, and then on Cardassia itself, helping to push the people toward open rebellion against the Dominion. The finale as a whole does a great job of wrapping up everything that DS9 had begun, weaving together character arcs and larger political arcs to bring the Alpha Quadrant to a whole new era. So buckle up and get ready for a whole lot of me talking about Garak. Cheers!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com October 2017

It's another rather light month from Tor dot com, with one short story and one novella, though the two pieces deliver powerful messages of art and fear and the way that a toxic culture can lead to people falling victim to demons internal and external. Both look at characters being pushed to participate in systems that are...not exactly healthy. One is a model influenced by financial reasons and a pursuit of "the art" who nearly helps to usher in a true nightmare. The other focuses on a young man pressured by his own insecurities, fears, and weaknesses toward self-destruction and endless anger. Both stories show a sort of abuse that is insidious and deep, and how characters can begin to push back against it. To the reviews!

Art by Goñi Montes

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Regular Sip - "Reenu-You" by Michele Tracy Berger [Book Smugglers]

Okay, so I’m a little behind in my novella reading, but I’m making a start of things with this, the second of the Book Smugglers Novella Initiative releases. It’s a story that revolves around hair and community, injustice and identity. Hair is something that is not politically neutral, after all, carrying with it a slew of expectations, prejudices, and exploitations. And, of course, these pressures and pitfalls fall along racial, gender, and social lines, explored in this novella to sharp and shocking effect. As a bald white guy, it’s something that both is hard to understand as well as incredibly easy to see. After all, if someone started poisoning hair products aimed at white men like me, desperate to retain or regrow hair, the reaction, I imagine, would be immediate and intense. But of course, likely things would never have gotten that far. Testing and science already favor white cis men as research subjects, skewing most data about health risks, and that’s not even mentioning what happens when corruption and systemic racism mix to fail to regulate products and services aimed at people of color. So yeah, sorry, I really should just get to this review!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/16/2017 & 10/23/2017

It’s a somewhat brief two weeks of content from Strange Horizons in some ways, and I’m looking at a story and two poems. In other ways, though, the content is a bit deceptive, as one of the poems is certainly story-length and there’s a very in depth and expansive essay on Blade Runner that everyone should read but that I’m not going to react here, mostly because I’ve not seen the movie. So yeah. But there’s a sense of transformation and time captured in all of the pieces that I’m looking at, a sense of different worlds coming together or diverging. In some ways these works explore perspective and scope and the way that individuals lose themselves—to collectivity, to dreams, to time. The people in these works are looking for something and are giving away themselves in that pursuit, though whether to become more themselves or more something else is something you as a reader will have to decide. To the reviews!

Art by Sarah Webb

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Quick Sips - "The Splendid Goat Adventure" by R.B. Lemberg

It’s not super often that I look at projects that aren’t available for the general public, but when certain stories come along I just can’t help myself. And getting a chance to tell you about a new BirdVerse story? Well, I kinda gotta. The story is available as a download to any and all backers of R.B. Lemberg’s Patreon, found here. And for this story alone, the price of admission is well worth it. I myself am a patron, just for full disclosure. But this story. Told originally as a serial story, it features a fairly minor character from “A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power,” Marvushi, and gives them their own epic adventure. Or, if not exactly epic...at least very fun and blissfully ridiculous. Often the BirdVerse stories can be deep and wrenching and just a bit shattering, but this story...well, goats! Academics! The promise of a Secret Goat Society! People, this is exactly the joy you might need right now. So yeah, definitely go and support R.B. and their Patreon, while I jump into this review!

Art by R.B. Lemberg

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #18 [October stuff]

October arrives at Uncanny Magazine with a flush of monsters and love letters, a complex web of desires, communities, and speculative traditions. The stories aren’t really what I’d consider spooky, though they do have an eye toward “classic” costumes—monsters, historical fashion, and robots. Instead, the stories and poems as well seem more concerned with the ideas and styles of the past, about the ways the present erases the past in order to create a new vision of the future. Or, perhaps, the ways that people now imagining the future come to override the imaginings from the past, so that what is futuristic and what is contemporary and what is anachronistic all are thrown into question. In some of the pieces, it means the styles of the past are updated and reinvigorated, while other works seek to find strength and joy in how the past imagined the future and how the past actually was, before time and taste and injustice erased everything that didn’t fit into the dominate narrative of history. So yeah, these are some complex and deep stories that still manage a sense of fun and focus. To the reviews!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #236

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings a pair of stories very much concerned with harm and vulnerability. Both present tales where pairs of people circle around each other, trying their survive and thrive but also trying to do the right thing, to find some measure of peace and healing for themselves. In both stories, though, that healing isn’t really wholly possible. In one of the stories, the harm done cannot be erased, has to be faced and dealt with every day, at every moment. In the other, the characters try to erase the harm, to just ignore and forget about it, and yet that ignorance is fragile, no where near as strong as the awful knowledge the other story’s characters live with. So really it’s another very well paired issue involving people living on the margins of their communities, subject to violence and other dangers the moment a scapegoat is required. To the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Monday, October 23, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #39 [October stuff]

October at Shimmer Magazine brings a pair of stories that are very much concerned with place. In each, characters move through a world that is full of small wonders and magic. Their lives, their dreams, their identities—these are all tied to where they are and where they are from. Their homes, beautiful and yet, as the stories reveal, not without their problems, not without their shadows. Because in both stories the characters are faced with evidence that their worlds are not as innocent as they want to believe, and in both those characters must decide whether to retreat from the hard truths facing them to face the darkness and expose the truth of what has been done. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Monthly Round - September 2017

The Monthly Round, which pairs my favorite short SFF with booze, tasting notes, and reviews, is now live at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, covering my selections for September 2017. Please go check it out here.

For those just wanting a list and links, though, I've provided those below.

Tasting Flight - September 2017

“Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)
“The Last Spell of the Raven” by Morris Tanafon (Glittership)
“On The Other Side of the Sea” by Nerine Dorman (Omenana)
“Feeding Mr. Whiskers” by Dawn Bonanno (Fireside Fiction)
“They, We, Me” by Ryan Bloom (Terraform)
“Stories We Carry On The Back Of The Night” by Jasper Sanchez (Mithila Review)



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #101

October has arrived at Apex Magazine and I have to admit, I keep expecting the month to be a bit…spookier than it’s shaping out to be. Which isn’t really a complaint, because what I’m getting instead are much subtler dark stories, full of atmosphere and a sort of suffocating oppression that sinks into every nook and cranny of these stories. We find a piece reimagining the fate of Hitler in powerful fashion, a story of performance and pain and destruction, a story of yearning and possibility and potential, and every a flash fiction with some suspect Salisbury Steak. So it’s a rather large issue of Apex, all told, and one that brings many different flavors of dark SFF. Some tinged with hope and others more heavily laced with despair and crushing need. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Rubén Castro

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #61

Hey horror fans, it’s October, which means the specter of Halloween is out in full force and for Nightmare Magazine that means there’s a pair of gruesome little horror stories to enjoy. The pieces are very much concerned with the way that we tell stories, both the ways that we imagine horror and the ways that horror tinges even those stories we think of as innocent and pure. Both pieces look beneath the words we tell to find fresh terror and inventive hells for unwary readers to stumble into. These are some dark and deliciously affronting stories that don’t pull their punches. They hit and hit hard and force the reader to confront the depths of the human psyche in all its profound capacity for horror. To the reviews!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus October 2017

October’s GigaNotoSaurus brings a sort of paranormal Western longer novelette, with a whiff of ash and the taste of blood and coming violence. It’s a storm of a story, sweeping through the life of the main character and leaving nothing untouched. It’s a piece that explores the vast frontier that the American West used to represent, the potential or at least the hope of renewal and forgiveness. And yet it was all built on murder, and exploitation, and blood, and the story paints this place as incredibly dark, perilous, and toxic. It’s a wonderful take on the setting and genre, though, and before I give to much away, let’s get to the review!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #133

The October issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is a wonderful examination of isolation and change. In each of the stories, characters find themselves in situations that they didn’t really expect. Situations that push them away from people, into their own heads, their own regrets, and their own desires. Whether the setting is a world where squids have taken the oceans, or where a group of young people find themselves trapped beneath a sea, or a religious man and his ship of Greeks are stranded on a nomad planet, or a world where nanobots build endless cities of no one to inhabit—these are places defined by boundaries and decline. And the stories focus how, even in these settings, people find ways to connect to one another. Not always in the healthiest of ways, but in order to make sense of their lives and to try and find a way forward. For some, that forward isn’t possible, or is lost, or was a lie all along. They are not overly happy stories, but they possess a power and a beauty and I should really just get to the reviews!

Art by Marianna Stelmach

Friday, October 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/02/2017 & 10/09/2017

Strange Horizons is back to your regularly scheduled content now that the fund drive has been successful, which means two stories and two poems to kick off its October releases. The fiction, and perhaps a bit the issues in general, revolve around loss and around connections. Whether because of natural disaster or murder, the stories are about people who have been suddenly cut off from a person or people and forced to keep on going, to try and find a way forward to healing and hope. The situations vary widely, but the core of the stories remain the desire to reach out, and the ability of people to help other people to begin to overcome trauma and loss and start to make some positive change. So let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online October 2017

Well, this wasn’t exactly the issue I was expecting from Flash Fiction Online in October, a month that’s normally reserved for tales of horror. Instead, there are three very nicely paired stories about relationships and the prospect of loss, grief, and despair. Each of the stories follows a narrator that is in danger of losing the person that they love. To illness or a call from beyond, they must navigate how to deal with the weight of that potential parting, needing to decided when it right to go out and pull their partner back into the light or whether it is more powerful, more right, to let them go, and try to find a way forward without them. Obviously there’s not always a choice in these sorts of things, and the stories explore what happens when the unthinkable happens, and what it means for those left behind. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #89

Well Lightspeed is getting in on the novella game this month, with a sci-fantasy novella alongside two sci fi short stories. Which, the magazine does shine in the ways that it brings science fiction and fantasy together, which makes the new project in keeping with what I’ve come to expect and appreciate from Lightspeed. In my opinion, though, it’s the shorter works this month that stand out a little more, capturing setting with a present and pervasive darkness but also finding something bright within. A spot of kindness. A small connection. Of course, in all of these pieces the worlds revealed are not exactly kind, and find characters just trying to make their own way. Mostly, trying and failing. But there’s some beauty in the trying, and some hope that won’t be killed. So let’s get to reviewing!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Quick Sips - Fiyah #4: Roots

Fiyah has reached a full year of releases with this issue and it’s time to celebrate! In this case, it means getting back to roots, the theme of the issue. It’s a theme very well captured by the stories and poetry, which find characters approaching the past, reaching back into it, finding strength from it, and in some instances having to kill it. The issue opens with the sound of a gun’s report, with a touch of brutality and loss, but slowly brings things out of the shadows and into a place more open and hopeful. These are stories about people coming into their power, and mostly about people overcoming the looming specters and fears plaguing them in order to find a bit of healing and relief. It’s about the power of community and the horror that can happen when that community is lost and isolation reigns. And it’s just an amazing collection of short SFF that you should read and I should get to reviewing!

Art by Geneva Benton

Monday, October 9, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235

It's celebration time at Beneath Ceaseless Skies as the publication hits it's ninth anniversary with a special double issue! And it's a challenging bunch of stories, swirling around the ideas of war and damage, travel and healing. It's also, to me, a story about faith, and repentance, and the road to healing. These are stories full of characters running from something, whether it's a past full of death or a present full of chaos. They find themselves with their entire worldviews thrown into question and disarray, forced at last to question their most deeply held beliefs and face their most daunting fears. These are fantasy stories that either build sweeping new worlds or complicate the past of our own, building histories that never were to reveal truths that can still ring forward through time to us now. It's a great way to mark another excellent year of content. To the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Friday, October 6, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #29

October is the month of Halloween, so you better bet that The Dark Magazine has come prepared, with two stories that excel at atmospheric horror and some pretty shocking violence and just solid creepiness. This month also marks the publication moving into the translation game (I can’t remember now if this is a first or if it’s happened before), which is always nice to see. Both pieces make good use of classic horror tropes and ideas, from secluded islands and malevolent ghosts to a village hostile to outsiders in a pretty dramatic way. Both feature younger characters trying to make sense of the world around them, and fighting to protect their families. What that looks like, though, is very (very!) different from story to story. In the end it’s a great pair of horror stories that might have you reaching for the light switch come bed time. To the reviews!

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com September 2017

Okay I just kept waiting and waiting for Tor dot com to put out another story in September but I guess it's just this one piece. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the story is punchy and captures the great sweep that space opera can offer, with its smugglers and outlaws, people trying desperately to hold a piece of the heavens where they can belong, where they can be safe, even if that safety often has to be fought for. It's a story that reminds me what space opera done right looks like, with a diverse bunch of characters all navigating the perils of corruption, freedom, faith, and love that makes even the great void of space seem claustrophobic at times. So yeah, to the review!

Art by Micah Epstein

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction September 2017

Well it's another pretty full month of fiction from Fireside Fiction, with three flash fiction stories, one short story, and two more chapters of the ongoing novella. What surprises me most about the month's releases is that two of the pieces might not be speculative, though they are definitely still worth checking out. There's only a few SFF publications that also put out stories that are completely without SFF elements, but it's nice to see, to give some variety and to show that the editorial vision is not going based on what kind of elements are in the story, but how the piece feels and impacts. And in that department these are all rather hitting stories, some of them rather fun but mostly stories about danger and injustice and the push to fight back against that. These are some excellent pieces of fiction and I'm going to get to those reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform September 2017

So Terraform appears to be back! I guess I missed a story at the very end of August and so this go-round there are four pieces to look at. The structure has changed to pair each story with a piece of nonfiction that explores something from the piece. The nonfiction reads are quite interesting and I must say I think the format plays more to Terraform’s base and larger place in the landscape, though I perhaps wish there was a bit more communication from the editorial staff about what’s going on. Still, for now I’m rather happy that the publication is picking up again and the stories are right back to the normal quality that I expect. It’s a great mix of stories this month, and without further hesitation, I’ll get to reviewing them!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/18/20017 & 09/25/2017

Okay, so it’s a rather huge two weeks from Strange Horizons / Samovar, in part because THEY FUNDED 2018! Woo! So on top of the regular content there’s more bonus stories and poetry. And, well, on top of that, the last release of September is a new issue of Samovar! Now, because of time constraints I’m not going to be looking at the reprinted translations (there are two, one from the bonus content and one from the regular issue), but I definitely recommend you take a look at both of them. That still leaves me with three stories and four poems, though, so it’s a full review. The content gets a bit strange, I admit, but hey, it’s in the title of the publications. These are also rather emotionally heavy stories about war and revenge, about how the narratives we tell can shape the universe around us, for good and ill. And the pieces over all just go to show that Strange Horizons is a great publication and I’m so glad they funded. To the reviews!

Art by Odera Igbokwe