Sunday, December 31, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 12: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack

We're here. It's not the end, exactly, but it is an end. Of the year, at the very least. On this last day of 2017 I think I can fairly's been hard. On almost every level. It's been hard. But I think this series has made my year at least a little brighter. I hope it's brought you a little brightness in the dark as well.

We've reached the twelfth chapter in the Year of Garak, and are looking at the most recent major Garak project, Enigma Tales by Una McCormack. After everything, I think it's a fitting way to close out the year. With hope. With triumph. With the prospect of healing. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Please, if you haven't, go and check out the posts so far, including a lot of discussions about everyone's favorite plain, simple tailor. You can find all the posts here: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November.

To the review!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/18/2017

Taking the last week of the year off means that Strange Horizons closes things out with a novelette and a poem, about difference and transformation. The story focuses on the harm that people can do, on myths and the idea of justice. It's also about hope, though, and about isolation and about survival. And facing the terrible beauty and possibilities of a changing world. The poem takes on a more romantic feel and features two people who shouldn't work, who couldn't work, and yet who somehow do. It's a yearning way to close out the year, which seems rather fitting for 2017. To the reviews!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform December 2017

December comes to Terraform with four original stories, (okay three but I missed the last November piece so that's here too) which cover a lot of ground, from nightmare Christmas to sex in the future, to combat in the Ukraine, to the extinction of human life on Earth. Woo. These are pieces that do a good job encapsulating what Terraform does as a publication—offering up glimpses of possible futures that lean on the technology and trends of today. Some of them...are a bit more successful than others, imo, but they all have something interesting to unpack. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241

With its last issue of the year, Beneath Ceaseless Skies delivers two very dark fantasy stories about expectations and rules, curses and sacrifices. In both characters find themselves playing out roles that have been laid out for them, having to find ways to exist in stifling situations. In both, the main characters must contend with the weight of tradition and expectation. In both, the main characters are faced with strong willed women who want to change things. Who want to break the Rules. And in both stories the main characters have to face what the world is like, what their life might be like, should those Rules shatter. It’s an interesting issue that asks some very difficult questions and reveals some visceral hurts. To the reviews!

Art by Dimitrije Miljus

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Quick Sips - Two Stories from Prime Books

In something of a departure from my normal schedule, I’m looking at two short stories released individually from Prime Books. The stories fall heavily into military science fiction, with wars that take place across solar systems and beyond, and soldiers trapped, for all the broad horizons of warfare, into suffocating roles thanks to loss, grief, and the drive for conflict. Nestled into narratives about corrupt empires and delicate subterfuge are themes of family, resolve, and the way that justice blurs into something else in the face of atrocity. These are stories of soldiers facing the unknown, cut off from orders or the immediacy of battlefields, having to change the way they think about conflict, or else be ground up by it. So yeah, without further dalliance, to the reviews!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #40

It’s a pair of December stories from Shimmer Magazine that focus on love, on relationships, and on distance. That reveal characters dealing with new realities that their skills and their lives have brought them. Unexpected sentience and unexplored magic. That allow they to experience love and yearning, to brush against acceptance and community, only to have part of that taken away. These are not the happiest of stories, and yet they are both beautiful and alive with feeling, with heart. They show characters trying to make connections despite their fears, despite how their uniqueness might make them targets. And even when things fall apart, the stories show the fragile grace of love and compassion. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #103

December’s Apex Magazine looks at the end of the world, or at least two visions of it. Two very different visions of it. And yet both look at how people face destruction and the prospect of having broken a system so wholly that there might not be any going back. In one story, though, humanity has destroyed the Earth through what might be negligence, or might be random chance, and in the other it comes from hubris, from pushing too far, too fast, even after having prevented environmental ruin. The stories look at characters faced with knowledge of the end and how they adapt, what they reach for. Comfort, perhaps, but mostly other people. Community. A way to work together in order to perhaps salvage something from the end. And maybe even do something about it. Before I give too much away, though, to the reviews!

Art by Clarissa Ferguson

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #19 [December stuff]

The holidays come a bit early this year with an extra-big issue of Uncanny Magazine, stuffed with four short stories and four poems. Of course, perhaps because we are finally in winter’s talons, the work has a decidedly complex and not-exactly-happy feel to it, the pieces confronting some very heavy issues and finding characters not always able to escape the harsh realities of their situations. From new gods born from misery and exploitation to an android finding their future grim indeed, from a young girl dealing with trauma and stress to a hero who knows that heroes are anything but always heroic, the stories are tinted windows into humanity, revealing us not always through contemporary humans but through our stories, our creations, and our works. It’s not the brightest of pictures, but it does create for some captivating and compelling short fiction, with a whole slew of poetry that ranges from sweet to brash and back again. To the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #63

The stories in the December Nightmare Magazine send 2017 out with a whimper of fear and the crushing knowledge of harm and abuse. The stories take full aim at the ways in which people suffer, showing both the strength and the draining weakness that can come from being at risk, from being hurt, from being killed. Both feature dead girls and women dealing with their situations, trying to find some way forward despite, you know, being dead. How well they succeed—how well they are capable of succeeding, in some ways depends on how much hope you as a reader enter into the stories with. Whatever the case, the stories are ripe with darkness and horror and do a wonderful job exploring pain and injustice. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Breakermaximus / Fotolia

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Monthly Round - November 2017

The Monthly Round is up now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Go check out my favorite short SFF stories of the month and see what kind of adult beverage I think they pair well with. There's tasting notes and reviews, too. Just the list is included below. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - November 2017

“The Summer Mask” by Karin Lowachee (Nightmare)
“The Sound of His Voice Like the Colour of Salt” by L Chan (The Dark)
“Hungry Demigods” by Andrea Tang (GigaNotoSaurus)
“A Pestilence Come for Old Ma Salt” by Dayna K. Smith (Lackington’s)
“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)
“Making Us Monsters” by Sam J. Miller & Lara Elena Donnelly (Uncanny)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Samovar 12/04/2017 & Strange Horizons 12/11/2017

Strange Horizons actually starts the month off with a new issue of it's sibling publication, Samovar, which focuses on translated SFF. Now, because the issue contains two reprints, and because I'm short on time with the holidays approaching, I'm giving those a pass for reviewing but I very much recommend people check them out. As it is I'm looking at an original translated novelette, as well as a short story and poem original and originally in English. The content speaks of strangeness and dread, destruction and hope. The stories are both dark and feature people trapped in a situation, finding that their imprisonment isn't quite what they thought it was, though they take two very different roads from there. And the poem is just a delight, fun and full of a nostalgic joy. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Art by Jabari Weathers

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #240

As always, it’s a nicely paired issue from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two novelettes that deal with men’s power over women. Which, hey, might not seem like the greatest of things to focus this many words on, but I love how these stories contrast, the different ways they show forward for men who realize that they are in power, and realize that their power gives them a unique standing over those they care about, those that they are supposed to love as an equal. The stories do a great job of defining these relationships, the men struggling with the amount of power their station gives them, with the certainty that they can act and not be stopped. In one of the stories, though, the man learns how to be an equal to his partner, to care about what she wants, and in the other the man decides he knows best for the woman he cares about, and though he does give her something she wants, it poisons the relationship they share. These are interesting takes on power and relationships, and I’m going to get to those reviews!

Art by Dimitrije Miljus

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #135

The December Clarkesworld Magazine is all about oppression and corruption, about settings that where hope is a fragile, dangerous thing and where the characters are living in equal parts running from their lack of options and toward a future they’re not sure exists. They are dealing with the hurt and despair from having to live in situations that seem crushing, that seem all-consuming, where they don’t really have the power to fight back, where their tools have been made by their oppressors and where any resistance to the situation seems pointless. And yet the stories also look at what resistance in these situations looks like. The stories explore how these characters survive and try to thrive despite everything. Whether by finding an exit they didn’t think possible or trying to make connections in order to make change through cooperation, the stories use their SF elements to explore what it means to hope when hope itself has been twisted into a tool of oppression. To the reviews!

Art by Peter Mohrbacher

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus December 2017

December brings one of the longest stories to GigaNotoSaurus, a novella with an interesting mix of elements and its sight set on retribution, rot, and stubborn pride. The setting finds magic weaved into everyday life, though in strange ways, and sets up a situation where a woman running from her mistakes falls in with a group of police officers to help with magic-related mysteries. It’s a wonderful setup that evokes both noirish grit (there’s plenty of blood, grime, and spit) and some more modern sensibilities. It’s also a lot of damn fun, so let’s just jump right into the review!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online December 2017

This is something of an unexpected month from Flash Fiction Online, with two very short flash stories that are also not-really-SFF. All the stories are powerful in their own ways, though, beginning with a tense and wrenching piece about conflict and safety and moving to a pair of stories that tackle romance in very different, but heartwarming, ways. The result is an issue that recognizes the harsh realities of winter, of December, without succumbing to them, reaching instead for the warm of human compassion and love and finding a way to banish the cold for just a little while longer. For all that the kindness and safety are fragile, tenuous things, they also have their own strength, and their own gravity, and are capable of so much. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Friday, December 8, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #31

December brings a pair of stories to The Dark Magazine that focus sharply on observation and theater. In both, women drawn into roles where they are closely watched by men, and in both these experiences are further framed in terms of a sort of voyeurism. In one, a woman is filed, in the other, a woman is part of a play. Both feature stages and bring the reader in as spectators and in some ways as participants. We are the eyes that act as camera and as audience. We get to peek into the private worlds of these character, the inner thoughts dragged out into the light. These are two interesting and at times very unsettling stories that do some fascinating things with style and tone. To the reviews!

Art by Sandeep Karunakaran

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #91

December finds Lightspeed Magazine wondering about what ifs. Because the four original stories all seem to circle around the idea of what if? The characters feel the pull to embrace something that is in some ways against the very core of their beings. A cyborg chef, a religious woman tempted with a dark cure, a young woman trying to break her (literal) programming, and a person faced with doors into other words. For some, they can embrace this pull, can travel boldly into other worlds or find the obsessive joys of cooking meat. For others, they define themselves by how they resist, how they refuse to take the easy road, even if I seems the entire reason they exist. For all of them, though, the stories unfold as they confront their roles and seek to find ways to retain who they are in the face of a world, or worlds, that want to change them. Some are more successful than others, but all make for great reading. To the reviews!

Art by Christopher Park

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Quick Sips - Tor dot com November 2017

November is another short one for Tor dot com, with a pair of new SFF novelettes. The two stories couldn't be much different if they tried, with one a near-future sci fi with a YA flare and the other...just...weird. The stories deal with themes of deceit and discovery, exploration and growing, but in some starkly contrasting ways. I'm not gonna lie, the first story is a lot easier to parse than the second, but that doesn't mean that both don't have interesting depths to mine. The world building in each is stunning and the character work compelling with flashes of fun. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Armando Veve

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/20/2017 & 11/27/2017

It's another two weeks of content from Strange Horizons, featuring a stunning horror novelette and two poems that explore art, voice, and freedom. The pieces weave together quite well, crafting narratives and experiences that deal very strongly with pain, expression, and community. They feature characters often dealing with the disconnect between rich inner lives and an external world that doesn't allow them to be at peace, where abuse is rampant and where true freedom can seem impossible. Instead they focus on the ways they can at least partially escape their oppressions, ways that they can still look for beauty and release and relief. These are some wonderful explorations of SFF and possibility, and I'm going to jump right into reviewing them!

Art by Tihomir Tikulin

Monday, December 4, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction November 2017

The content continues to pour out from Fireside Fiction, with three flash fiction pieces, a short story, and two more chapters of the serial novella they've been releasing. It's a lot to take in, from pieces that feature a lot of fun but sneak in some incredibly profound and stilling moments as well. These are stories that capture a feeling of people struggling against injustices, against the limitations of their realities, against forces that want to keep people still and controlled. And it's about rebellion and the cost of rebellion. But the reward as well. Some of the pieces feature characters able to fight back, to win openly against injustice. Others must accept a more measured gain, a more incremental victory. And others still find that their victory is tenuous and might be taken from them, leaving them voiceless and abandoned. It's a neat mix of SFF stories, so let's get to the reviews!

Art by Max Cole-Takanikos

Saturday, December 2, 2017

So You Want To Be A Short SFF Reviewer?

Hi. My name is Charles Payseur and I began reviewing short SFF in early 2014 for Tangent Online, with Dave Truesdale as my guide and mentor. If you shuddered just a bit there, I’m sorry. But imagine, little baby queer me, just getting into the field in my mid 20s, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And running into that. I’ve had an Education. One that’s been somewhat dearly bought, but here I am, closing in on four years later.

Short SFF is a field dominated by broken stairs and strange pitfalls. What's more, it seems to attract some (fairly loud) people who really like to make objective statements of merit with regards to stories and are absolute shit at admitting when they’re in the wrong while simultaneously being wrong fairly frequently and jerks generally. It's a field that chews and spits out a great many excellent reviewers while seeming to find time to praise and promote the most toxic and insensitive. It's often tiring, draining, and infuriating. But it's also kind of amazing. Welcome!

My general goal in this is just to give something of a guide for people wanting to get started in short SFF reviewing. Because the field needs more and more diverse voices if it's to self-govern away from the most toxic examples of short SFF reviewer. It's not a comprehensive guide, but I've left my contact info toward the bottom if you have any more questions. So yeah, let's get started!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform November 2017

There are two new short stories from Terraform this month and they both offer very chilling glimpses of the future. These are stories that reveal incredibly suffocating settings, where people struggle to get even the freedom to breathe. Everything here has progressed technologically, but the stories ask what good technology is when legislation does not keep up to protect people against exploitation, against abuse from the systems of industry and government. The result is stories about people ground under the wheels of corporation and bureaucracy, forced to endure what they can't and then pushed further, into a realm where there is no safety, and no way out. To the reviews!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

YEAR OF GARAK, part 11: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack

We are one step closer to the end of the Year of Garak and I'm actually really sad about that. Because I have loved every moment of thinking and discussing everyone's favorite plain, simple tailor. Garak is a character that grows a lot during his time on the original show, and yet it's not until after the show ends that I think we find the most interesting stories about him. That deal with his fated return to Cardassia and what it has become. It's something we've explored a great deal already but coming into the home stretch we're looking at two incredible books by Una McCormack. First up of those is The Crimson Shadow, which finds Picard and the Enterprise dealing with a messy situation on Cardassia Prime. Do please, if you haven't, also check out the Year of Garak so far, because there might be some spoilers. You can find all the posts here: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October.

I'm also briefly joined again today by Nicasio Andres Reed, so please welcome him back. If you're unfamiliar with his work (first off, how dare you?), here's a reminder:

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!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #239

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies brings an eye toward fable and parable, as well as interesting takes on nobility. In one, nobility is embodied by a couple trying in the face of great loss to operate within the bounds of their morals while still pursuing their business interests. It finds them relying on each other and discovering what their devotion has allowed to bloom. In the other, nobility is something someone is born into and that one exploits, kills, and betrays to maintain. It features wealth without consideration of wisdom, and it offers a brilliant counter to the other piece. It’s a dizzying one-two punch when it comes to looking at what nobility can mean, and what it can conceal. So yeah, review time!

Art by Veli Nyström

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q34

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly closes out its 2017 offerings with a new issue full of fiction and poetry that explores magic and mystery, darkness and the light of hope. With three stories and three poems, it’s a nicely balanced issue, closing the mega-narrative it began with the last issue and offering yet more worlds to explore. The pieces range from strange and disturbing to more joyous and tongue-in-cheek, and in general the pieces do a great job of evoking a sort of classic feel while remaining wholly original and fun. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Monday, November 27, 2017

Quick Sips - Shimmer #40 [November 2017]

Shimmer Magazine brings two stories to its November offerings full of science and family, hurt and regret. Both piece feature characters who are driven to study, to document, to create. They let this desire drive them on and on, not quite seeing in time that their drive is taking them very much away from those that they care about, and away from the peace they can have with themselves. These are situations where they are touching great power and learning how to harness it, and any question of should is ignored and forgotten, sacrificed at the feet of necessity, or desire. The stories are ornate and moving, strange and wonderful, and present two very different ways of showing how scientific drive can be a double-edged sword. Now, to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, November 24, 2017

Quick Sips - Apex #102

November brings a pair of rather interesting and wrenching stories to Apex Magazine. Stories that are touched by darkness but that, ultimately, give way to joy and healing and the hope for better days. These are stories that focus on unlikely pairs and unexpected meetings. That show that sometimes the characters that seem most strange can see more clearly in instances where the system fails. Where hope fails. Where there seems to be no way forward. Because they can see in different ways, it makes them guides, even when they are younger, and seen as a bit odd. These are stories about friendships, about connections, and about finding ways to understand and be understood. They are very different pieces, but make for a wonderful issue, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Max Mitenkov

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Quick Sips - Uncanny #19 [November stuff]

It’s an extra helping of SFF poetry for November’s Uncanny Magazine, with three original stories and four original poems, all exploring love and resistance, history and harm. The stories range quite widely, from a wrenching historical fantasy to a strange alt present to a love story from an artificial to a human. They interrogate art and love, design and trajectories. They feature characters wondering what to do next, fleeing violence and abuse, reaching out for kindness and trust. The poetry is rich and reveals a sense of place and family and the need to come together and work toward a better world, to rewrite the accepted past in order to find justice and identity and a space to be. It’s a full month of content and an excellent crop of short SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Quick Sips - Nightmare #62

It’s November at Nightmare Magazine and the month has brought a definite feel of impending winter. Of a chill that sinks into the bones. The stories actually take on different aspects of beauty and art. The first looks at the beauty of murder, the art of the killer, imagining a future where anything is possible, and the form of being a serial killer has been spread out among the stars. The second looks at beauty and disfigurement, ugliness and sacrifice. It shows a very different sort of artist, a more conventional kind of artist, seeking to find the magic of beauty, and to give himself to that magic. Both stories are dark and difficult and rather unsettling, but it makes for a great descent into these colder months. To the reviews!

Art by Psychoshadow / Fotolia

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/06/2017 & 11/13/2017

Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems to its early November offerings—pieces that swirl around growing up, danger, and being trapped. These stories feature women trying to navigate waters where they're not really protected from abuse or damage, where they are expected to act as lifeguards of their own bodies but are also essentially stripped of any ability or power to act when bad things happen. A lifeguard without the ability to swim or a floatation device isn't so much a lifeguard any more so much as a witness to drowning. The pieces show how abuse and vulnerability is passed down while keeping a taste of magic alive, in all its beauty and darkness, in all its complexity and tension. It's a lovely two weeks of content, and it's time to get to the reviews!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quick Sip Reviews 2017 Recommended Reading List

[This list is now complete through December 2017. There are currently 78 stories from 23 publications, by 72 authors]

Hi all! It's that time of year, so I'm going to be posting up my recommended reading list. Just some wonky details first, though, so I'm up front about the limitations of the list. This comes courtesy of my monthly recommendation column, The Monthly Round. The rules are fairly easy, in that the stories must come from publications I regularly read. It's the single greatest limiting factor for the list, because I do not read everything, but this prevents me from essentially cherry-picking stories from other publications. So there are my favorite stories published at the places I read regularly and have reviewed. There's a whole wide world of other stories out there, but I did dearly love these. So I hope that, even with that limitation in mind, the list is helpful for finding some truly awesome short SFF. If you want more info on any of the stories, there are links to each or you can do a search of this blog to find my more in-depth reviews. Okay, enough preamble. To the list!!!!

Charles Payseur 2017 Awards Eligibility Post

Hi all! Going to keep this rather brief, but here it is, the things I've done in 2017.

Short Stories

Special attention to:

"The Sound of" from Nightmare Magazine #56 (May 2017)
Science fiction horror; bi main character; themes of erasure, self-censor, defeat.

Other stories:

"A Lumberjack's Guide to Dryad Spotting" from Flash Fiction Online (January 2017)
"Snow Devils" from Persistent Visions (January 2017)
"Feathers and Void" from Shimmer Magazine #37 (May 2017)
"Rivers Run Free" from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #230 (July 2017)
"Shoots and Ladders" from Diabolical Plots #33B (November 2017)


"Those I found in the dark" from Twisted Moon #2
"becoming, c. a. 2000" from Glittership

Other things

I am NOT eligible for the Campbell

I very much am eligible for fan writer-type awards for my work on Quick Sip Reviews, Nerds of a Feather, and much more.

Oh, and projects are eligible for Best Related Work (I would say The Year of Garak with Nicasio Andres Reed is actually maybe worth checking out for that).


Friday, November 17, 2017

The Monthly Round - October 2017

The Monthly Round turns 3 today over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Go check it out. For those just interested in knowing my favorite short SFF reads of the month, the list is below. Cheers!

Tasting Flight - October 2017

“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny)
“Barbara in the Frame” by Emmalia Harrington (Fiyah)
“To Us May Grace Be Given” by L.S. Johnson (GigaNotoSaurus)
“My Struggle” by Lavie Tidhar (Apex)
“Claire Weinraub’s Top Five Sea Monster Stories (For Allie)” by Evan Berkow (Flash Fiction Online)
“The Whalebone Parrot” by Darcie Little Badger (The Dark)


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quick Sips - Lackington's #15 [Diseases]

Lackington’s is back with a new issue, and this one’s all about diseases. Ick. And yet for an issue devoted to sickness and corruptions of various sorts, the stories are as beautiful as I’ve come to expect from the publication, with prose that sings and stories that provide some complicated and lovely views of disease and those effected by disease. As much as the stories are about sicknesses, too, they are also about conventions, about the ways that we are taught to treat disease, and how effective (or not) those treatments can be. Often times, the stories show that diseases are but symptoms themselves of deeper maladies, ones that cannot be easily excised, that must be confronted and dragged into the light, dissected and examined and exorcised. My diagnosis? Review time!

Art by Gregory St. John

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #238

I will continue to say that Beneath Ceaseless Skies impresses me nearly every issue with how well it puts together stories that amplify each other. That resonate. That enrich each other. And here I find a pair of stories very much about pageantry and theater, about masks and masquerades. About playing different parts, and about theft, and about freedom. About people finding places to belong and people to belong with. And fuck is it a joyful, beautiful issue that makes me want to cry for how amazing it is. I know, I’m known as something of a positive reviewer, but if all stories were as fun as these, all issues as healing and hopeful as these, then I think any reviewer would be hard pressed to be negative. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus November 2017

November brings a rather kickass novelette to GigaNotoSaurus, filled with magic, cooking, and family complications. I love pieces that look at food and how it’s used in speculative situations, and this is a wonderful spread of tastes and smells and spells. It moves quickly, part mystery and part action, an urban fantasy that adds a dash of romance and a heaping helping of fun. And it features characters dealing with the weight of what their parents want from them, walking the difficult path toward a future where they can be happy and themselves. It’s a path made easier, and safer, when not walked alone. So yeah, before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #134

November seems a rather experimental month for Clarkesworld, with five stories that are all a bit weird in some ways. They are five very different stories, about progress and about loss and about wonder. They feature settings deep in space or on Earth’s very different from the one we know. And really, for me, what binds them together is memory. The stories all deal with characters looking back on events, trying to form a picture of what’s happened and being confronted with the story that time has told. For some, it’s a way of moving on from the past and reaching toward the future. For some it’s about mapping a present that’s a closed loop, where progress is impossible. For some, it’s about tracing the paths of harm and hope to try and make sense of a present that is uncertain. But these are stories of time and memory, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Jonas De Ro

Friday, November 10, 2017

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online November 2017

The November issue of Flash Fiction Online takes on the theme of being thankful with three original stories that all revolve around ideas of finding kindness in the heart of struggle and hardship. In each of the stories the main characters find themselves in a bad situation, faced with being a witness, participant, and victim of pervasive conflict and loss. In the face of this, they all face questions of what to do, whether to turn away from the struggle and try to find an easier road for themselves, or to face the larger issue and resist it. The stories show characters finding small ways to push back, even when it seems hopeless, even when it seems useless. It reveals the power of hope, and how helping even one person makes a difference. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #30

The Dark Magazine brings a pair of original stories to their November issue that have a lot to do with hunger and with death. With souls and with moving on. In each the main characters face settings that are characters in themselves, places that define the rules of their lives—and the rules are as corrupt as the surroundings are fetid and worn. Survival isn’t the only dilemma, though, and in many ways it’s the least worry, almost an impulse. The real conflict is finding ways to try and make things better, to try and thrive despite the oppressive nature of the setting, and the cruelty of the other people living (or dying) around them. These are stories that balance tragedy and hope and try to reach for some way for the characters to remake themselves, and in doing so remake a bit of their world. To the reviews!

Art by Tomislav Tikulin

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #90

The November issue of Lightspeed Magazine is full of twists and turns, adventures and magic, dark bargains and chance encounters. And, for me, the issue is all about connections. About strangers and family. The pieces as weave around the bonds made between people who might not be related by blood. Who are drawn to each other by care and by shared memory and by the mutual desire for something different. The story is about finding friends in odd places and having that bond, that friendship, become something transforming and affirming and amazing. The stories are not exactly romantic so much as they show how powerful human connections can be, how trust and love go beyond the romantic or sexual and unite people trying to create better worlds, even when it seems impossible. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/30/2017

It’s a special Arab SFF issue of Strange Horizons, thanks to the successful stretch goal from the fundraiser earlier this year. Two stories and four poems anchor an issue that is loud in its quiet, that keeps the speculative elements subtle and wrenching, and that focuses on frustration, fear, and corruption. These are works that show characters trying to live their lives and finding that other forces and factors are making that difficult where it’s not impossible. The works look at immigration and distance, voice and home and faith, and they all do a great job of showing why international SFF is important to experience, to find the visions of the world that we might not otherwise be exposed to. So let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers October 2017

Just when I thought the season was over, The Book Smugglers return for a special Halloween story. It's...well, it's not incredibly Halloween-y, but it is a rather touching and ultimately dark story about utility and purpose and humanity. The story does a great job of building up a weird, slightly magical science fiction setting with a great hook and a devilish ending. It does have something of a ghost story aesthetic going for it, too, so I suppose you can consider it fit for the season. In any event, it's unsettling at times and decidedly creepy and before I give too much away let's just get to the review!

Art by Desirina Boskovich

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Regular Sip - "Bearly a Lady" by Cassandra Khaw

I’m back looking at the Book Smugglers Novella Imitative, this time with a paranormal rom-com featuring a werebear, the London fashion scene, and the trials and tribulations of magical dating. In the past, Book Smugglers certainly have not avoided romantic stories or plot lines, and this piece revels in the high tension, high drama world of dating within the supernatural population, full of strange abilities, powerful appetites, and occasional blood-lust. It’s a fun story, wrapping as it does some of the difficulty of dating while large, dating while bi, navigating an industry and world where toxic men seem most insulated from harm and already marginalized women are most at first. To be powerful in this setting is itself an aggressive act, one met often with cruelty and abuse, and the story does a fair job of balancing that. But before I give too much away, to the review!

Art by Muna Abdirahman

Friday, November 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Fireside Fiction October 2017

October's Fireside Fiction offers up five short stories (four of them flash fiction) and two more chapters of the ongoing Fisher of Bones novella. The fiction is definitely fitting for the season, dealing with monsters and with children, with harm and with ghosts. The stories circle around the idea of victims and how those victims seek to find voice and power. And how, occasionally, that power isn't enough, and the flow of power and history is too much to fight against. The stories carry with them a darkness and a creepiness, but one that is offset by hope, and by people helping people. Sometimes the help isn't quite enough, but often it is, and in any event it makes for some very compelling reads. To the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform October 2017

Just in time for Halloween, the October Terraform story are a bit spooky. They explore what it means to be human, and especially what it means to be human in a time when technology and abuses both personal and societal are accepted and normalized. It visits people and robots and ghosts and stranger beings still who must grapple what is to live with the inheritance of humanity, or by changing themselves who try to avoid it. It's about reinvention and learning, about compassion and movement and evolution. And the stories are beautiful and just a bit eerie, which makes them perfect for the season. So let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #237

Whenever I get a new issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, my first inclination is to find out how the stories fit together. More than any other publication, BCS does an excellent job of pairing its stories. Perhaps because it does just two an issue, but there’s almost always something to link the tales, and this issue is no different. While the stories are thematically rather distant, and aesthetically fairly different as well (though each with perhaps a bit of a Western feel), they are linked by some key ideas. Metal, first and most. The first story deals with Iron, the second with Silver. And in each, these metals are used for magic, for a perceived justice, only to have that justice come into question, and the righteousness of the main characters comes into conflict with the harm that they do. These are stories of elections and revenge, voice and hunger. The pieces go together well, drawing a picture of desperate people and the complex idea of freedom. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!
Art by Veli Nyström

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 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