Friday, August 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/06/2018 & 08/13/2018

Two short stories and two poems flesh out the first two weeks of Strange Horizons' August offerings. And, to be honest, the pieces would have to be really trying to be more thematically different from one another. The fiction starts off with something lighter and fun and then veers sharply into the bloody and horrific. The poetry is a bit more linked, circling around relationships, the first blush and long contentions and the hope and the way that society sometimes gets in the way and fucks things up. It's a varied and interesting collection of short SFF, showing how such disparate works can be united by the speculative and the strange, in every shape that takes. To the reviews!

Art by Shel Kahn

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #111

It’s a special Zodiac-themed double issue of Apex Magazine this month, guest edited by Sheree Renée Thomas (who also just guest edited the SEUSA Strange Horizons special issue in late July). There’s A LOT of fiction and as with most of the Apex special issues, poetry is back! There’s actually six short stories and well as six poems in this issue, making it perhaps the biggest I’ve read from the publication. And it all swirls around the idea of the Zodiac, of divination, of astrology. Not always literally, though the actual signs and horoscopes make an appearance or two. Instead, the stories look very much at the stories that we tell. At the ways these stories then become everyone’s stories, our minds making them personal, intimate, and topical. Because our lives have a way of getting into the stories we tell and the stories we take in, and then we might mistake our pulling them out again like a bit of magic and mysticism. But there’s a lot of different takes on stories and truth to find in these SFF works, and I should just quit talking about reviewing them and get to reviewing them!

Art by Stacey Robinson

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

X Marks the Story - August 2018

My monthly short SFF review column, X Marks the Story, is up now at The Book Smugglers, and features a host of ghostly stories to check out. For those wanting to find out all my thoughts on the spectral and haunting stories, definitely go check it out. For those just wanting the list, it's below. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #143

Three short stories (including one translation) and two novelettes round out Clarkesworld’s August, with a bit more fantasy that I was expecting. Or what would have been more fantasy than I was expecting, except that a number of the stories this month play with that in subtle ways, slowly revealing that what seems like magic is actually something different, something much more technological in nature. Not that the issue is completely sci fi, but I feel like the uniting thread is more that each story plays with expectations in interesting ways, and leading the reader through worlds where they must piece together the rules, only to occasionally find that the final piece of the puzzle is a leap of faith. It makes for an interesting bunch of stories, which I will!

Art by Luis Carlos Barragán

Monday, August 13, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus August 2018

August brings a short story to GigaNotoSaurus, though a fairly long one. And it’s a piece that looks very candidly at pain and at trauma. Unfolding after a devastating war, it looks at two survivors in particular, and the ways that they’ve been touched by what’s happened. It’s a piece that explores ways to keep moving, to relieve the pain that comes with being in one place for too long, and before I give too much away I guess I should just review it!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257

I am sorely tempted to guess that the link between the two latest stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is that their both authored by a Christopher. Because, at first glance, these two pieces are very different in terms of character, tone, and theme. Looking closer, though, and the stories seem paired not because of how well they work in harmony, but in how well they contrast, showing two sides of the same coin. On one, we get to see a man on a quest realize that he’s in danger of losing something of himself and pause, take stock, and find comfort and guidance in another person. In the other story, though, we find a man who has fully embraced his quest, regardless of who he needs to destroy or hurt. Both stories feature mostly conversations and philosophy, but in one a lesson is learned, and in the other it is utterly destroyed. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online August 2018

I wasn’t sure if I was going to review this issue of Flash Fiction Online, because it is entirely made up of reprints. But because these reprints are from Flash Fiction Online, making up something of a “Our Favorites” issue chosen by the editorial staff, and because I don’t want to skip the publication this month, I’m going to do ahead and review the stories that I haven’t already reviewed (all of them but the Samantha Murray piece, which I did very enjoy). Many of the stories are about families or children, though in very different ways, and many of those feature a focus on the ways that adults impact young people, for good and for ill. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #39

August brings two stories of hauntings to The Dark Magazine. In one of the stories, the haunting is of an exorcist who thinks he has lost everything. In the other, the haunting is of a man wandering a ruined world. In both, their special sight gives them a power and perhaps a way out of the darkness that surrounds them. Only for one of them that way out might well be a terrible trap, while for the other it might require a confrontation with some difficult truths. It’s a well paired and creeping issue, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

Art by grandfailure

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #23 [August stuff[

The second half of the special Dinosaur issue of Uncanny Magazine brings even MOAR dinosaurs, with five new stories and three new poems. Two of the poems aren’t really dinosaur-centric, but the issue as a whole offers up a great diversity in styles and ways of incorporating the source material and expanding the shared space of the issue. Here we are treated to more stories of dinosaurs displaced in time, landing on the Oregon Trail, or in a strange fairy tale, or in the middle of a small town. There’s not quite the same focus on communication and understanding as before, though. Instead, these pieces look a bit more at violence, and hunger, and corruption. They don’t flinch away from showing some dinosaurs getting their feed on, as well as getting their freak on. It’s a strange, rather wonderful collection of short SFF, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Monday, August 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #99

The four original short stories of August’s Lightspeed Magazine have a lot to do with age and aging. They find characters at different stages of their lives, from adolescents running afoul of a truly foul justice system to people pushing middle age and having to make some hard decisions to older characters making a difference even after their so-called retirement. The worlds explored here are varied and strange, bent reflections offering views through which we can examine areas of our own world, our own lives. It’s a varied and interesting slew of short fiction, so without further delay, to the reviews!

Art by Waiji Choo

Friday, August 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/30/2018 Special SEUSA Issue

It’s a special issue of Strange Horizons to help close out July, which focuses on SFF from the Southeastern USA. The stories range quite a bit in style and location, but they are linked by their connections to the American South as well as to magic. Of the six short stories, all of them land on the fantasy side of things, focusing on gods and ghosts most of all. And perhaps that’s not surprising, because the story looks at power, and systems, and the ways that South is built on injustice, on suffering. On how it can be such an oppressive place, but also a place of power for the oppressed. Because they have connections there, a well of pain and resolve and survival that they can draw on to keep them moving foward. It’s a wonderful bunch of stories and poetry, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Geneva Benton

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine July 2018

Five stories fill out the July offerings from Fireside Magazine (all of them, I believe, also available in the inaugural Fireside Quarterly). And the SFF on display rangers from the aching and luminous to the powerful and auditory. Most of the stories, too, feature a voice that is pointed outward. Told in the second person and playing with myth, archetype, and overcoming adversity, these stories are bits of advice wrapped in narrative structure. They offer readers a voice that might just drown out the inner demons trying to be heard, and replace those with resolve and reassurance—not a guarantee of victory or success, but a promise that trying is still worth doing. It’s a somewhat melancholy month of stories, touched with bittersweet notes, but the take away for me is strength and perseverance, and a will to stand in the face of injustice. To the reviews!

Art by Chris Loke

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Talking About Short SFF (ep 001: Writing for Markets)

Hey everyone! Instead of a review today I wanted to share the transcript to a recent audio thing I did covering a short SFF topic: writing for specific markets. The full audio can be found on my Patreon. Just fyi, it's thanks to my patrons and their amazing support that I am able to do projects like this, and if you find what I do valuable and want it to continue, please consider joining them and becoming a patron. Not only will you get exclusive access to special reviews and fictions by me, but you help me continue to keep up Quick Sip Reviews at the level it's at now, and even grow what I do into new areas, like audio! Okay, so full transcript after the bump!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2018

It’s a full month of rather short stories at Motherboard’s Terraform, with four pieces all exploring some rather grim futures. Or at least most of them are bleak indeed, featuring futures where humanity isn’t exactly in the same place anymore. Or, when it is, showing the world itself some place completely different. And each seems to point to the idea that humans, if they don’t change, will bring about the destruction not only of the natural world, but of the manufactured world as well, the one of houses and the feeling of safety. Because without the natural world, without trying to push back against the exploitation and aggression that feeds war and conflict, all that will remain will be dust, heat, and silence. To the reviews!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2018

It's just a pair of stories this month at Tor dot com (two novelettes, to be specific), and both deal with memories, paranoia, and family. Though, as one is a second world fantasy with magic and the other is a contemporary/near future science fiction/horror, they go about approaching these themes very differently. But at their cores I feel like there are links, with showing a situation where someone is trying to hide their true face in order to approach something they feel is evil and expansive. Now, in one of these situations the character is facing an authoritarian and brutal regime, and in the other something much different and much less defined, but in both there is a sense of hiding and waiting for the right moment to strike. To the reviews!

Art by Anna & Elena Balbusso

Friday, July 27, 2018

Regular Sip - Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Returning to a beloved setting and checking in with its characters and world is always a treat, and one of my favorite speculative worlds from the past few years has been revealed in the Australian superhero stories of Tansy Rayner Roberts (starting with “Cookie Cutter Superhero” and further expanded in “Kid Dark Against the Machine). Now, the setting has a new(ish) novella thanks to The Book Smugglers’ novella initiative and I could not be more excited to dive back into the world of superheroes and villains and people young and old whose lives have been impacted and shaped by the machines from space with the power to give people powers. To make superheroes. So without further ado, the review!

Art by Emma Glaze

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Arsenika #3

So it turns out I had a bit of time this week and instead of just letting a day go to waste, I opted to review the latest issue of Arsenika Magazine. It’s a publication that launched last year and that I’ve very much been meaning to check out, as a fan of both flash fiction and poetry. This third issue does not disappoint, with three stories and two poems that challenge form and expectations within short SFF. The issue has a rather literary bend to it, but decidedly SFF sensibilities, telling stories that celebrate their speculative elements while also making good use of subtlety and uncertainty. From Greek myth to deep space, from moths to possibly vampires and everything in between, it’s a solid issue that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Art by Aspen Eyes

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/16/2018 & 07/23/2018

There’s two poems and a short story across these two issues of Strange Horizons. And really, these pieces are very much about revisiting the past. They feature characters and narrators who find themselves revisiting stories and ideas, traditions and actions, in order to find new ways to live and move forward. Because for each of them, retreating into the past and the possible comforts there doesn’t really work. The comforts are hollow, or don’t fit, or can’t be reached. And so they are pushed to make their way forward, into a situation they might not feel ready for. And they meet these challenges with various levels of eagerness, from grim resolve to sad acceptance. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #256

It’s an art-focused issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies that I’m looking at today, featuring two short stories that look at family, loss, and art. In both, artists struggle with both the limitations of their gifts and systems that seek to exploit and control what they create. In both, the artists also must balance their power and magic and the good they can do against the harm that they can cause. To very different effect. And the two take very different approaches to setting, the first building up a vivid fantasy world and the second bringing a spot of magic to what feels a more historical look at our own world. But regardless, these are two interesting pieces that I should just review!

Art by Mihály Nagy

Monday, July 23, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #9: WELCOME TO CAMP NIGHTMARE

People, remember when I said that last book marked something of a turning point in the series, where Stine seems to have just given up trying to some degree? I’m happy to report that my suspicions have more or less been completely confirmed! This book is...well, it represents a further stepping away from the weird-infringing-on-our-world feeling of the early books, or even the horror-lurking-in-the-hidden-corners-of-the-world themes of the strangest of these books so far. And Welcome to Camp Nightmare certainly starts things out as if it’s going to play ball nicely, it proves to be something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to lay it on thick.

But first thing’s first. I’m drinking. Given then ending of this book, I’m drinking A LOT. I started with some regular Leinies a while ago and have now refined my palate with some IPA from Blue Oskars Brewing, which is pretty good. If I make it that far some Java Lava and bourbon is on the horizons after this, so forgive me if I descend into incomprehensibility. So now that you’ve been warned, onward to the book!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #70

The pair of stories from Nightmare’s July issue focus on people trapped in situations where they don’t have a lot of power, mostly because of their age. They weigh in on opposite sides of the specrtum, though, one character made vulnerable because of his old age, put in a home where he might be preyed upon at any moment and aware always of his own approaching death. The other piece focuses on a young person in a stifling household, living with rules that aren’t designed to protect him so much as to make his parent’s life easier. In both situations, the toxicity of the environment manifests in ways great and small (and sometimes furred) and forces the characters to choose if they’ll stay and try to face them or try to escape from a power they might not be able to defeat head on. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Chorazin / Fotolia

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #44 [July stuff]

Shimmer is ending. The announcement has been made that 2018 will be the last for the publication. It’s a bit of a poignant moment for me, because Shimmer was one of the first publications I reviewed, back when I was at Tangent. Since then, it’s been a source of some of my favorite stories, and has provided a consistent and luminous stream of short SFF. The July offerings are no exception, with two quite haunting tales about the pressure that a setting can put on a person. The pressure to conform, and fit in, and succeed in the expected ways. The pressure to suppress hungers that aren’t appropriate for human communities. The stories are at turns tragic and grimly hopeful. Not that pain or rending flesh or burbling lungs can always be avoided, but that life can sometimes move beyond those hurts and take forms more suitable to thriving in oppressive situations. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

X Marks the Story - July 2018

Hi all! The latest X Marks the Story is up now at The Book Smugglers! It features five in-depth reviews and a nice list of further X-plorations. Be sure to go check out the column, and for those who just want my picks this month, the list is below. Cheers!

X Marks the Story - July 2018

“Meat And Salt And Sparks”, Rich Larson (Tor, June 2018)

“Nussia”, Michele Tracy Berger (The Book Smugglers, June 2018)

“Kylie Land”, Caspian Gray (Nightmare #70, July 2018)

“You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me”, K.M. Szpara (Uncanny #23, July 2018)

“The Athuran Interpreter’s Flight”, Eleanna Castroinni (Strange Horizons, July 2018)


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah Magazine #7: MUSIC

It’s an especially big issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine this go, with five stories and three poems, and focused on the theme of Music. Now Fiyah has featured a number of stories that have celebrated and complicated music during its run, but here the lights are on and focused on the stage, on performance. Each of the stories deal with people not only embracing music, but having to navigate the different stages they live with. From the literal stages of jazz clubs and private concerts to the much more metaphorical stages of magic prisons, family roles, and dark nights full of terrors—these character know that they have to wear different masks for different occasions, whether it’s to blend in among “polite” society or break free from the restraints of injustice. It’s a vivid and wonderful assortment of stories, leaning heavily toward fantasy this go around, at least where the fiction is concerned, but spanning many styles, genres, and time periods. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Mariama Alizor

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #110

It’s a big month at Apex this July, with two short stories and two novelettes. And it’s all fascinating work. If I had to pick a theme that resonates through each of the stories, though, I would say that it’s cycles of abuse and trying to break them. In each of the pieces, there are wrongs being done. People being hurt. People hiding from the harm they’re doing, and people trying to avoid the difficult discussions with their families and loved ones. The darkness of these stories comes from the weight of the history here, from the pain and tragedy that has piled up because people have avoided resisting them directly. But these are also hopeful stories, of people pushing past the inertia of mistakes and finding the strength to create a momentum toward justice, affirmation, and understanding. To the reviews!

Art by Kim Myatt

Friday, July 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/02/2018 & 07/09/2018

Two new issues of Strange Horizons means two new pieces of short fiction (one short story, one novelette) and two new poems, all of which look at distance and drive, humans and aliens. For the fiction, there's not a whole lot to link the pieces together, one of which looks at language and abuse, the other at speed and drive and competition. Similarly, the poem isn't incredibly similar either, one looking at the inhuman at the end of a long mission, the other at changes in body and relationship while also showing those changes striking toward a more stable truth. What does link everything together, though, is a wonderful and moving style, and a range of speculative visions all reflecting back the ways people are hurt by others, and the way people hurt themselves, all reaching for connection, community, and belonging. To the reviews!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #255

Sickness links the two new stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. In the first, the sickness of the main character is what gets her to embrace a new life, a new opportunity, which eventually allows her to escape the pain and despair she was living with. In the second, sickness is what surrounds the main character, taking away those he loves, and waking him up to the corruption that is the true sickness of the city he lives in. With both stories, sickness provides the goad to do something, to take action to not only escape a bad situation, but to help others to escape as well. The stories are rather different aesthetically, but they show characters acting to try and spare others from having to feel the pain that they did. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Mihály Nagy

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #142

Freedom and artificial intelligences make the July issue of Clarkesworld full of some difficult and thorny philosophical questions. In large part, these questions circle around freedom and survival. Mainly, is the human race worth surviving, and is there a moral way to do so? Is it worth it to fight against injustice and push for freedom, if it means making humanity less likely to survive in a hostile universe? It’s a difficult bunch of stories, and few of them entirely pleasant, but they introduce a lot of ideas that are well worth exploring. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Luis Carlos Barragán

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus July 2018

July’s GigaNotoSaurus brings a long short story about corruption and colonization, about power and privilege. It features a habitated Mars, though not exactly a utopia or a desolate hellscape. Instead, it’s a complex mess, a recently fallow field where humanity is now starting to take root. Snaking through this new growth, though, are weed that threaten to choke the weak and marginalized among the colonists. It’s a piece about the power and usefulness of art in the face of injustice, and the hope and action needed, even through doubt and fear and guilt. So yeah, let’s get to the review!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2018

The three original stories from Flash Fiction Online’s June issue feature women put into difficult and oppressive situations. By their partners or by their mothers, intentionally or not, they are stuck. Stuck in an abusive marriage, or a work that they are toxic to, or a place where they can’t express themselves. They struggle with the weight of doing what is expected of them, of being the good wife or perfect princess. And they falter, and they stand. They push back against the expectations put on them, and embrace a part of themselves they had always struggled accepting, and it’s just rather fantastic. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Friday, July 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #23 [July stuff]

It’s dinosaur time at Uncanny Magazine, with the first half of the special shared-universe series of stories. These works (the fiction, at least) sets up a Jurassic Park-esque world, except instead of using DNA to recreate dinos, there are portals and a bit of magic going on. And some of the stories take on the world-building of the setting a bit more than others. In that respect the issue starts strong, with back-to-back stories about the history and development of the dinosaur programs and science as filtered through the very personal lenses of characters struggling with betrayal, loss, and identity. And really the stories as a whole show just how much space the setting opens up to explore. Basically, I love it all, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the second half of the issue! Until then, to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #38

The stories of July’s The Dark Magazine offer up characters stuck in terrible situations. Trying to get by, but also caught in a way where doing something they know or feel is wrong seems to be their only way out. Their only way to claw their way up from the depth that the world has pushed them. Except, even then, there seems only to be more misery waiting, more danger and more trouble. These are stories that don’t offer much comfort or hope, but rather see that certain times, in certain situations, there’s nothing but a doom gliding toward you on a collision course. So let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Gloom82 (Anton Semenov)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #98

It’s a rather dark collection of SFF stories in this July’s Lightspeed Magazine, with four short stories that flit between exploitation, extinction, war, and guilt. In most of the stories there’s a focus on a relationship amidst the harsh realities of the world (or possible worlds). In most, a character must face the pain of being at the mercy of others—being considered not a full person, or judged guilty be virtue of species, or conscripted into a war full of horrors. They must navigate the pain and death around them and try to find a way toward something better. Whether or not they succeed depends on the character and the story, but each is an interesting exploration of people stuck in awful circumstances. To the reviews!

Art by Saleha Chowdhury

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform SF June 2018

It’s a substantial month of science fictional visions at Motherboard’s Terraform this June, with four pieces (including a novelette told in two parts). The visions of the future focus on transportation and violence. In many, people seek to navigate a world made deadly through corruption, through public and private institutions being twisted to the goals of a very few, not to make the world better but to maximize profits and avoid culpability. The stories are by and large grim and difficult, but offer some hope as well. Mainly, in saying that it might not be too late, that by tackling the issues the stories identify head on, the future could turn out brighter than this. Better. Whether or not that will happen, though, is squarely up to us. To the reviews!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers June 2018

June brings a new...novelette? novella? to The Book Smugglers, and people, you’re gonna wanna buckle up for this one. Combining aliens and friendship with trauma, horror, and compulsion, the piece took my expectations, froze them in nitroglycerin, and smashed them with a hammer. The piece does not pull its punches and while it centers a fourteen-year-old black girl, this isn’t what I would consider “for kids.” Instead it’s a brilliant and wrenching look at hope, abuse, and the way that toxic systems poison everything they touch. So yeah, to the review!

Art by Kristina Tsenova

Friday, June 29, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com June 2018

June brings three original stories to Tor dot com (two longer short stories and one short-ish novelette) that find some interesting ways of taking the unexpected and even a bit goofy and making it resonant, powerful, and subtle. Which I didn’t think I’d say about a detective chimp story, but here we are. The stories look at characters who feel on the outside looking in or on the inside trying to get out. For the first two pieces, the main characters aren’t human, and yet find themselves partnering with humans, navigating a human world, and trying to do their best to build community and connections. In the last story, a bit of the opposite happens, where a woman is trying to leave the traditional kind of humanity and leave the corporeal world behind. And whatever the case, these make for complex and rewarding pieces that I should just review already!

Art by Scott Bakal

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine June 2018

Did you know that Fireside Magazine now has a print edition? Called Fireside Quarterly? That is not only awesome in its content, but is also an impressive bit of layout, design, and printing? Seriously, it’s beautiful and you should check it out. But sorry, back to June’s fiction, which contains four stories (three of them flash-length). If I were to pick a theme that I felt echoed through all of these, it would be seeing the world in new ways. In each of the stories, characters are confronted with things that seem at first familiar. But which, nonetheless, have changed. Altered. Complicated themselves. From friendships to memories, from magic to superheroes, the pieces all explore what people do when they have to face the dissonance between what they thought was going to happen and what has happened. And it makes for some compelling reads. To the reviews!

Art by Katie Chandler

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/18/2018 & Samovar 06/25/2018

The final two weeks of June bring a new issue of Strange Horizons and a new Samovar, which means two original stories and two new poems. There’s also a reprint translation that I am not looking at here, but definitely do go and check that out! To me, the fiction of these issues takes on the idea of fables. In both, the action of the piece provides the kind of cyclical storytelling that is very popular for moral stories. And yet both stories also bring in modern touches, showing how corruption can influence people seeking justice. The poetry, too, has a lovely cyclical feel to it, bringing things around again and again, linking beginning to beginning as all part of one dance, one action, full of beauty and darkness. To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #254

The two novelettes from the most recent Beneath Ceaseless Skies find characters looking for ways out of oppressive situations. People who have dealt with the loss of their parents and other family members, and who seek through building families of their own to try and find a place of safety in an unsafe world. Unfortunately, both main characters also discover that even just trying to be questions the foundation on which injustice is built, at least in their cases because of who they are. And so trouble comes looking for them, and both must decide if they will try to bend to the will of those with power or if they will embrace a power of their own, even if it leaves a trail of bodies in their wake. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Mihály Nagy

Monday, June 25, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #8: THE GIRL WHO CRIED MONSTER

So we can all agree that Goosebumps is a pretty weird series, right? I mean, last time we saw a story that revolved around sibling jealousy and also ancient wizard-curses. But I feel that, by and large, the series has been pretty tame so far. Yes, there have been plant-men and vampire ghosts and evil mad scientist magicians, but... I think through all of this, the horror of the stories was still largely based so that the reader was uncertain if the magical or weird elements was truly happening. In essence, that the stories all operated on the hope that the readers would, like the characters, try and find ways to explain away the weird, and that they could not was where the horror sprang from. Why do I bother mentioning this now? Well, dear readers, SHIT IS ABOUT TO GO OFF THE RAILS!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #109

The pair of stories that appear in the June Apex Magazine are very much about possession and bodies. About being coerced into doing something with your body and dealing with the aftermath The physical and emotional ramifications of what happens, when those consequences couldn’t have been known ahead of time. Because in both cases judgment has been impaired—through alcohol of through a sort of alien touch that can effect human emotions. Neither story offers the most in the way of light takes on the matter, but the heaviness of the stories fits with the gravity of the real world abuses they are dealing with. And by wrestling with them and the darkness they carry, a better idea of justice and consent can be approached. To the reviews!

Art by Sin and May

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #69

June brings a pair of stories to Nightmare Magazine that certainly aren’t squeamish about blood, or guts, or scale. Both stories confront the reader with visions of blood and violence, though not always involving humans. Still, they are lessons in empathy and the shock of seeing something—someone—pulled apart. Both look at the way that such a confrontation can make someone numb to it, and the ways that there’s still some horror lurking under that acceptance. More, the stories look at scope in terrifying ways, revealing darknesses so vast that it seems to consume light and hope and joy. What remains is somewhat up to reader to contextualize. Good or bad, right or wrong, the stories are often bleak and draining, and yet there’s something of a warning to them as well, that people can confront their demons in stories and learn their lessons without the gore and violence spilling over into the real world. To the reviews!

Art by Andrey Kiselev / Fotolia

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - June 2018

Hi all! June is many things (Pride, my birthday month, summer where I live) and to celebrate I have a new X Marks the Story up at The Book Smugglers. Go check that out!

For those just wanting the sweet, sweet links, here's the six stories that I feature:

“I Sing Against the Silent Sun”, A. Merc Rustad and Ada Hoffmann (Lightspeed #97, June 2018)
“Leviathan Sings to Me in the Deep”, Nibedita Sen (Nightmare #69, June 2018)
“The Cook”, C.L. Clark (Uncanny #22, May/June 2018)
Susurrus on Mars by Hal Duncan (Lethe Press, 2017)
“Salt Lines”, Ian Muneshwar (Strange Horizons, May 2018)
“What the Skeleton Detective Tells You (while you picnic)”, Katherine Kendig (Shimmer #43, May/June 2018)



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #22 [June stuff]

Uncanny meets June with three stories and two poems and a decidedly dark tone. In these pieces people struggle with big issues. With systems and environments that are broken, that are hungry for blood. Where monsters and demons lurk. And they are settings where the characters are expected to accept their victimization, where if they struggle it will only hurt them more. Only, of course, these characters don’t accept that. Instead, they push back against these environments and when they meet someone who might have the power to change things, they seek to use that power. To convince it or take it in order to remake the world. Or to right a wrong situation. The stories are often violent, and uncomfortable, but they also shine with resilience and with care, and with the hope that things can get better. To the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Monday, June 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #43 [June stuff]

Relationships move to the foreground for the June stories from Shimmer Magazine. Whether just beginning, in the case of a certain skeleton detective and the guy she meets in the forest (not as creepy as it sounds, tbh). Or at the possible beginning of the end, as in the case of a woman dealing with a partner trying to “fix” something that isn’t really broken. In both situations, one of the people involved has something that sets them apart and that makes them vulnerable because of how people might see them. And in both, the characters make steps toward seeing themselves as not broken, as worthy of decency and respect. And before I give too much away, to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, June 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/04/2018 & 06/11/2018

The first two weeks of June’s Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems. The fiction is a mix of fantasies, one with magic and ghosts and monsters and the other with a looser grasp on reality. Both feature characters charged with watching over a space through. For one, it’s through elaborate ritual. For the other, it’s by house sitting. In both, there’s a feeling of something being trapped, of something being infested, and of the characters having been wronged. The poetry deals with myths, with mythical creatures, and with longing and endings and beginnings. And all together it makes for a rather lovely but haunting collection of short SFF. To the reviews!

Art by Kelsey Liggett

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #141

June brings three novelettes and two short stories to Clarkesworld, with an interesting look at humanity, alien worlds, and human connection. For each of the stories, the setting is another character to contend with. Either in the form of an oppressive state, a far-flung world, the cold of space, or even an Earth that-might-have-been. And the characters in the story must navigate these worlds, surviving the many dangers, seeking to find connection where there seems only hostility. It’s a goal that is not always successful, and is occassionally laced with tragedy, but there’s also some hope to be found as well. That sometimes, even against the most overwhelming of situations, people can find each other. By and large it’s not a very cheery collection of stories, but it’s an interesting mix and I’ll get right to reviewing them!

Art by Sean Andrew Murray

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #253

It’s a pair of stories about women weavers in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Except that neither of them make cloth, exactly. For one, the weaving, the tailoring, involves emotions—woe and guilt and sorrow. For the other, it involves transforming beast corpses into all manner of objects. And yet both are about legacy and about skill. Both feature the main characters coming up against something that shakes them to their core. And having to find a way to keep going, to find faith in themselves even when they might find it difficult to have faith in justice. There’s a wonderful magic to both stories, as well, that complicates the ways that these characters face their challenges. That give them strength, even when things seem their bleakest, that life goes on. To the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus June 2018

June brings a novelette to GigaNotoSaurus, steeped in mythology and gods and tricksters and, of all things, balloons. It’s a piece that examines morality through the lens of stories, and does so in a very timely and complex way. Because even now the world seems beset by those who would use the letter of the law in order to undermine the ways that law should work—to protect people from abuses of power. It’s a detailed and lovingly rendered setting and a fresh and unique aesthetic. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online June 2018

June brings three original stories to Flash Fiction Online that explore difference and corruption and hope. In the two speculative stories, people are faced with an unjust system, with a situation where some people are being treated as less than people—where they are being confined, mistreated—with two very different results. The question becomes whether to go along with what’s happening to push back, resist. The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, comes down to what side of the divide a character is on—are they being oppressed, or complicit in the oppression. In the final piece, parenting is explored and your heart might just melt a little bit. Let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #37

The June issue of The Dark Magazine focuses very much on tropes and moving pictures. On television and movies. On slash movies from the 80s and teen detectives from the 70s. They look at history, and the weight of expectations, and how hard it can be to try to escape the gravity of harm and abuse and pain. These are stories that get into the heads of characters struggling to make sense of their lives, succeeding or failing at defining themselves outside of the roles that people want for them. It’s a chilling but lovely pair of stories this month, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by grandfailure