Friday, October 19, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus October 2018

October brings a fittingly creepy fantasy novelette to GigaNotoSaurus—one that blends magic and mundane, horror and memory. It looks at identity, and what it can mean to be effectively cut off from what’s supposed to define you, what’s supposed to give you meaning and depth. And instead having to find that yourself, build it up in the place of what might have been. It’s a slow and strange and often painful journey that the story describes, and it definitely keeps the month focused on the dark and wrenchingly hopeful. To the review!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262 [part 1/2]

The anniversary offerings continue with a second special double issue from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Again, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to break this out into two parts. The first features a novelette and short story that for me deal very much with narratives and with learning. They both have the feel of engaging with fable, with magic, and with characters learning lessons that they weren’t really expecting to. Whether that lesson is about the nature of growing up or of becoming a better person, in both there’s a focus on people seeking something that will give them power and answers and then, ultimately, wondering if that’s what they really want. Both carry a sense of strangeness and wonder, as well, and are warm and cozy at the same time. Before I give too much away, though, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Mats Minnhagen

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Regular Sips - Between the Firmaments by JY Yang

Okay, so I always appreciate the hell out of the serial projects that The Book Smugglers come out with. Two years ago it was the Spindle City stories, and last year it was Hurricane Heels, and now there’s the serial novella, Between the Firmaments. And it lives up to the fragile beauty and persistent will that drove the previous worlds. Here a planet has been subjugated and stripped of almost all of its gods, their divinity used for the wealth and comfort and grandeur of the alien invaders. And one god, laid low but uncaptured, must walk the line between annihilation and lust, between hope and despair. Through a gauntlet that seems impossible to survive he has to run and hope to fate and luck and the strength of the bonds he’s built between those he loves that when the smoke clears there’s still something left to salvage. So yeah, let’s get to the review!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [October Poetry]

Four poems close out Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! And most of the poems share a theme of expectations and recovery. Featuring characters who are being pushed in certain directions because of their bodies, because of their injuries, because of what other people want. And who, in defiance, decide to embrace what they want. And they do show the rather revolutionary act that self care and affirmation can be for disabled characters, when everyone wants to control the narrative of what being disabled is, to make it into something broken and wrong in need of fixing. These are some wonderful pieces, and I’ll just get right to the reviews!

Art by Likhain

Monday, October 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [October Fiction]

It’s the second month of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! As before, I’m breaking October’s offerings into two parts, the fiction and the poetry, and starting out with the six new stories exploring futures near and far. This month’s pieces definitely focus on some grim realities—hospitals and universities and families and cities where disabled people are not exactly the priority, or at least not in the ways they want. The stories look at characters trapped by circumstance and (largely) by tragedy, brought to a crisis because their situation is getting worse and worse. And in each case, they must make decisions either to sit down and be quiet or to fight back, to try to follow their own hearts. The works are often dark, often difficult, but ultimately I feel reaching for healing and for peace, for a space that the characters can have as their own, which is much more about freedom than confinement. To the reviews!

Art by Likhain

Friday, October 12, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/01/2018 & 10/08/2018

Two stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons' October issues. And they are filled with yearning, with family, with hurt, and with the hope of healing. In all of the pieces, though, that healing looks very different. For some it's a personal thing that comes with freedom from other people's expectations. For others it's a societal thing that comes only through a collective effort to work for justice and against the pull of authoritarianism. In all of them, though, there are characters seeking to come to terms with their lives and the tragedies that have found them. Dark but glowing with a persevering light, they are difficult and beautiful, and I'll get right to reviewing them.

And fyi, the Strange Horizons funding drive is on, so get on that and help this amazing publication continue!

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #261 [part 2/2]

I don’t think I was expecting another novella in this anniversary issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but it seems like the issue is holding nothing back with a new novelette and novella on offer that explore resistance and corruption. Both stories, after all, focus on people who are drawn into seeing the system they are a part of as standing in the way of progress and justice. Both settings unfold in a sort of wounded state, the people weary after war and loss and flight. And yet in that weariness they have allowed complacency to lead them into tragedy and abuse and folly. And the main characters are out to change that, against all the power and pressure to stay silent, to go with the flow. They risk everything for what they believe, what they know to be right, and to try and save those they love. It’s a pair of beautiful if brutal stories, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

Art by Mats Minnhagen

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #8 [Pilgrimage]

October brings a new issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine, and with it four new stories and two new poems exploring the theme of “Pilgrimage.” For the fiction, the theme tends to move around action and movement, flight and escape. From astronauts fleeing destruction and death to young women navigating a post-apocalypse, the characters find themselves cast adrift, unmoored what they expected their lives to be. What their lives could have been if not for the violence that chases them, the corruption and injustice that hounds them. If not for their own dreams and hopes, reaching toward a future where they can be powerful and free. These stories feature characters dealing with isolation, trying to make connections, even if it’s with themselves. And the poetry takes the theme is a bit of a different direction, showing a pilgrimage not just of moving through space but through narrative itself. The pair of poems explore being cut off not from a place but a literary and narrative tradition that keeps the narrators out or else pushes them to conform to the way things are. It’s a deep and complex issue, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Edge

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online October 2018

October’s Flash Fiction Online seems to me to focus on some strange and dramatic resolutions. Whether it’s from a living dead woman to finally be buried and done, or a supervillains deciding that it’s time for villainy (and heroism) to be snuffed out, or even a father who seems ready to battle the entire universe to solve a mystery near to him and his family, the stories all focus on moments of strangeness that come amidst other strangenesses that people have already accepted. Being dead and hollow while still alive. Heroes and villains fighting for dominance in an endless cycle. Ethereal gorillas watching everyone. And the stories represent a moment of change, and attempt to cut through the strangeness and re-establish a status quo that’s more...well, more normal. It’s an interesting issue and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, October 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #41

The two original stories from The Dark Magazine’s October issue occupy the thin and nebulous space between the “normal” world and what lurks beneath and around that. The world of dark magic and death, of beings willing to make bargains, even if those bargains are always made in bad faith. And they feature characters made desperate because of the plight of their families, their parents or children. Willing to do something but not exactly sure how to start. And the stories are tragic but not crushingly so, sharp but with enough hope to smooth some of the rough corners and make for an interesting and entertaining issue. To the reviews!

Art by Gloom82 (Anton Semenov)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #101

October brings something of the spooky to Lightspeed Magazine, with a novelette and three short stories that examine the darker sides of humanity. From muses and obsession to lust and monsters, the works all show people trying to find happiness in (perhaps) all the wrong places. Finding instead addiction and decay and a deterioration of their relationships. But at the same time, these disasters also break down the walls that they’ve built to keep their true selves hidden and safe. They are revealed even as they are threatened with complete destruction, and it’s a beautiful and haunting experience. To the reviews!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform September 2018

I'm closing out my September reviews with a look at Motherboard's Terraform, which brings four new looks at rather terrifying possible futures. As usual, the stories range from predictive to outlandish, but all of them lean toward warnings. Signs for people to read and pay attention to. Turn back now. Avoid this possible time when humanity has lost respect for our world and our selves. These are pieces look at the way things could be with an unblinking gaze and invite readers to look into that abyss. It's a nice range of works, too, from far future space extinctions to much more grounded political sci fi, where corruption and injustice are only a step or two beyond what we have now. It makes for a strong month of stories, which I'll get right to reviewing!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #261 [part1/2]

It’s another stuffed anniversary issue, this time from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and once again I’m breaking out my review into two parts (mostly because half the stories are being released in September and half in October). The first pair of stories are an interesting mix, one an invigorating adventure with a cat protagonist and the other a much darker and more difficult look at the ways that misogyny perpetuates tragedy. For their many differences, though, they are linked by a connection to what lurks under the surface. Under the surface of the earth, where gems and sleeping dragons lie. And under the surface of people, where reputation can seem to mean much more than what’s truly lurking in the hearts of people. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Mats Minnhagen

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com September 2018

September is a bit of a...light(?) month from Tor dot com, with only two novelettes released. But given the weight and power of the works, I don't think light is exactly the word for it. Instead, these are stories that look at myth, that look at harm, and family, and abuse. Featuring characters who are not defined by the traumas they've endured, the broken world they have to live through, but have certainly been touched by them. Who, despite everything, are still trying to find a way to make the situation better, to make a better life for themselves and their families. These are difficult stories about inheritance and about hope, and they pack quite the punch. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Keith Negley

Monday, October 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #59

The four stories from Fireside Magazine this month deal with violation and consent, with connections and deceit and fate. There’s a good mix of fun and serious, fantasy and science fiction. There are alien sharks and magic curses, spirits trying to reach out and friends trying to keep each other safe. It’s hard to pin down a possible unifying theme, but I think they all come together in how they reveal the societal pressures at work that try and leave people open to harm. That try to keep people from banding together, from helping each other. And how individuals can push back against that, though often don’t, or often still fall against the pressure to conform, to accept the values and taboos and corruptions of the way things are. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Michelle Wong

Saturday, September 29, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #12: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

Do you hate children? Because if so, this is probably the Goosebumps book for you. Yes, yes, I know, the books are about children and most of them do involve putting said kids in deadly danger for the reader’s enjoyment and terror. This is, presumably, horror, after all. But this book takes things to a whole new level. It introduces a character only to torture her, to teach her that the world is a cruel, dark place, and every kindness and good deed will return back to her as sorrow and pain and hate like some sort of goddamn shit-boomerang. This is the lesson of this book, that there is no hope but the release of dark magic and that no matter how good your intentions you can’t escape the injustice of genetics, longing, and pre-teen girls. Also, I’m drinking a Luna Coffee Stout from Hinterland Brewing, a drink nearly as dark as this story, though much sweeter. ONWARDS!!!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/17/2018 & Samovar 09/24/2018

It’s a bit of a surprise to close out the month as Strange Horizons and Samovar both have new issues to look at, highlight short SFF both in translation and not. It’s perhaps extra appropriate, though, that even the non-translated work is about translation. Is about trying to be understood across the barriers of ability and culture and language. Is about trying to find a place to be safe and secure and finding that it doesn’t always exist, that sometimes people intrude, and trespass, and violate. And it’s a beautiful if dark collection of works, moving as they do around various kinds of violence and damage. Through systems that are decidedly not just, where people are trying to get by any way they can. But it’s a deep and rich bunch of short SFF that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Art by Kali Gregan

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers September 2018

September brings a new short story to The Book Smugglers’ Awakenings season of short SFF. And it’s a striking and difficult piece about bodies, identity, and perfection. Or perhaps about the push to perfection, both the reaching for it and the way that for some people the world seems to demand it. Extort it. And how people can become ground to dust by the pressures to succeed and be flawlessly successful. It’s a powerful story, and I’ll get right to my review!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #10 [poetry]

With the fiction done yesterday, it’s time to look at the poetry from the latest Mithila Review! And wow, there’s a lot of it. Seven poems and all flesh out themes of cycles and birth and death, family and resistance and war. These pieces together seem to me to speak to the strengths of language and poetry—to capture the mercurial and the non-literal, to evoke sensation and meaning, and to make brilliantly alive all those things that might be obscured by darkness. Poetry is often a light to shine on truths otherwise too difficult to face, and even in the storms of violence and tragedy, poetry can find beauty, and hope, and connection. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #10 [fiction]

It’s been a while since the last issue of Mithila Review, and I’m happy to say there’s a new huge issue with tons of short SFF to read and enjoy. Because there’s so much, I’m once again breaking my review of the issue into two parts. And today I’m looking at the first part, covering the fiction! There are eight different stories presented here, covering a nice range of genres, though leaning a bit toward the weird and on stories that unfold in strange cities and desolate wastes. There are pieces that look at escape, at legends, and at food. And overall this is a very visceral issue, one that doesn’t hesitate to unsettle or confront the reader with themes and formats that are difficult. And overall I think there’s a great deal to take away from this issue’s many hungers and truths and warnings. So without further delay, to the reviews!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #45 [September stuff]

September’s Shimmer Magazine releases two very different stories—stylistically, thematically, and tonally. And yet I guess at their core these are stories about three people. In each, a man and a woman meet under slightly unusual circumstances, brought together because of their shared connection to an absent man. And in both, these people who meet awaken something in each other, in such a way that it feels that there’s really no going back afterward. Of course, in one of these cases this is a wrenching, difficult experience. And in the other, it’s a fun and bloody romp. But it’s a very interesting pair of stories, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, September 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #72

The September horror from Nightmare Magazine certainly lives up to the name, bringing two pieces that definitely lean toward the bloody and gruesome side of things, though in very different ways. The first takes splatter horror and runs with it, featuring hungry houses and the people who feed them. The second outweighs the first in terms of atrocities committed, though, if not perhaps on the grisly details. For it, though, the horror is more about how this kind of thing is normalized and even used as entertainment. And together they make for a rather unsettling, rather shocking, but very interesting issue of speculative horror. To the reviews!

Art by Grandfailure/ Fotolia

Thursday, September 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - September 2018

It's that time again! I look back at some recent favorite reads, a lot of which feature weirdly specific but wonderful facets. Wise chickens, psychic detectives, romantic Death, and much more! The list and links to the stories is below, but check out the column at The Book Smugglers (with X-tra X-plorations)!

X Marks the Story - September 2018

“The Privilege of the Happy Ending”, Kij Johnson (Published in Clarkesworld #143, August 2018)

“The Barnum Effect” by Celia Neri (Published in Apex #111, August 2018)

“A Taxonomy of Hurts”, Kate Dollarhyde (published in Fireside Magazine #37, August 2018)

“What Man Knoweth”, Russell Nichols (Published at Strange Horizons, August 2018)

“Momento Mori”, Tiah Marie Beautement (Published in Omenana #12, August 2018)

“The House on the Moon”, William Alexander (Published in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction!, August 2018)


Quick Sips - Apex #112

It’s another rather large Apex Magazine this month, with three short stories and a novelette full of darkness, damage, and families. For most of the works, at least, the focus is on the pressures that people, especially women, face to blend in and accept a world that is so actively harmful to them, loaded against them. That they are pushed into participating in a system that harms and abuses them, without real help in dismantling that system. And for some, this is something to fight against, something to push back against, and maybe win some room, some progress towards a better world. And for others it’s something where any attempt to push back is met with brutal punishment and constant bombardment of abuse and humiliation. The stories map the complexities of desire and hope in settings where darkness holds sway, and they are all beautifully devastating. So, to the reviews!

Art by Joel Chaim Holtzman

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #260

The first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of September brings a pair of stories that certainly shake of the summer heat, opting instead of a colder, darker tone and feel. In each we find young women who make bargains that they don’t completely understand when they make them. About finally getting something they want in a setting where women’s desires are often the first thing suppressed in favor of survival and subsistence. Without anywhere else to turn, they get approached by witches, who in turn seek to take more than is offered. In one of the stories, though, the bargain’s toll goes much beyond even the steep price that was set, and in the other the price is still under negotiation, though a negotiation that now involves a gun. To the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #144

Clarkesworld keeps things a little light this month, maybe as a slight reprieve as convention season winds down, with two short stories and two novelettes. For me, the stories have a lot to with movement, with generations, and with harm. They find characters on the run because of the violence they were brought up to value, and having to decide to reject it or revel in its flavors. The pieces explore family and connections and hope, and the impulse to reach for the stars, be they celestial bodies or human celebrities. It’s a rather complex, moving, and sometimes hilarious issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Monday, September 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 09/03/2018 & 09/10/2018

Strange Horizons opens September with two new short stories and poems. And the feel of these pieces very much faces the bleak and desolate for me. People who are struggling against a world that seems like a hostile waste, where they can't find connection, where those people they care about don't seem to stick around, don't seem to really understand. Where they are pulled by ghosts, of those they have lost and by the ghosts of their past selves, toward ends that mean destruction or worse. It's a rather rending month of short SFF, so let's steel ourselves and get to the reviews!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2018

It’s a new short story for September’s GigaNotoSaurus, and it’s a dilly of a tall tale, complete with traveling librarians, horses that can ride galaxies, and whole lot of open desolation. The piece looks at the utility of tall tales, the function of them in places like the American colonial frontier, where people were coming across environments so unlike anything they had known that making larger-than-life figures seemed to give them a bit of security, knowing that somewhere out there someone was beating back the loss and the danger and the seemingly random catastrophe of the West. It’s a story of love and adventure and oh so much longing, and I’ll get right to my review!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Poetry]

And now for the poetry from Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! Now, in years past it has been flash fiction that rounded out the original offerings in the Destroy! issues. But, as Uncanny normally publishes a selection of excellent poetry, this special issue continues the tradition. Now, I find poetry some of the most difficult things to review, in part because they rely so much on what the reader brings to the piece. But I do find it valuable as a reader to approach poetry with a critical gaze, searching for meaning and seeking to understand and examine how I read and respond to poetry. And the selection here is amazing, moving from self and body outward into the universe, which can be beautiful and terrifying and freeing and confining and just, really, it’s a great celebration of speculative poetry that I’m going to do my best to review. So let’s get to it!

Art by Likhain

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Quick Questions - Aidan Doyle of Sword and Sonnet

Hello and welcome to a new Quick Questions, my interview series where I sit down with people in short SFF and talk stories! Today I'm joined by Aidan Doyle, co-editor of Sword and Sonnet, a new anthology of short fiction featuring battle poets. But don't take my word for it! Here's what the anthology's website has to say:

Sword & Sonnet is an anthology of stories devoted to the union of battle and poetry. We successfully funded in December 2017 through Kickstarter; the book features genre stories about women and non-binary battle poets. Lyrical, shimmery sonnet-slingers. Grizzled, gritty poetpunks. Word nerds battling eldritch evil. Haiku-wielding heroines.

Art by Vlada Monakhova

And before we get into the questions, first a little about my guest:

Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. His short stories have been published in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Fireside. He has been shortlisted for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and XYZZY awards. He has visited more than 100 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia, and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea. He co-edited Sword and Sonnet, along with Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler.

And now, the interview:

Quick Sips - Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Fiction]

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! is here!!! And with it comes a whole heck of a lot of fiction and poetry. To be specific, ten stories and ten poems. But, because this is also a regular issue of Uncanny, the work will be released publicly over two months. And so, to keep things manageable for me, I’m going to be tackling this extra-big issue in four parts—September fiction, September poetry, October fiction, and October poetry. So let’s dig in! The first half of the issue’s fiction is up and features five short stories touching on aliens, assistive devices, families, and a whole lot of disabled characters getting shit done. The work in these focuses primarily (for me, at least) on occupations and growing up. About facing down intolerance and violence and finding ways to find community, hope, and beauty in a universe that can often be ugly and cruel. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Likhain

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online September 2018

It’s a very culinary issue of Flash Fiction Online, with three new stories all focused on food and the different ways people approach them. For some, eating is a way of finding comfort in a world that can be often cruel and uncertain. For others, it’s a form of seduction, a sensual experience of temptation. And for still others it’s a way of connecting with and putting to rest the past and the griefs of the dead. These are stories that revel in tastes and smells and strangeness, and though not all of them are necessarily speculative, they are all alive with flavors and very much worth checking out. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Monday, September 10, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #40

The stories of the September issue of The Dark Magazine deal with a classic horror trope: The Sacrifice. In both stories, the characters are faced with having to sacrifice someone because of their own desires, their own wishes. It’s part of a deal, a bargain by which they hope to escape something or gain something. And for both stories, the sacrifices are supposed to confront the characters with the cost of their desires. Whether they decide that it’s worth it, though, is a bit different from piece to piece. Still, both do engage with what it means to be trapped by expectations, by place, by distance, and how desperate people can be to find some way to escape their circumstances. To the reviews!

Art by Abigail Larson

Friday, September 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #100 [part 2 - fantasy]

The anniversary fun continues with a look at the Lightspeed Magazine #100 fantasy fiction! By and large, the fantasy stories found in the issue range a bit shorter than the science fiction (with all five stories being short, and one of those crossing into flash fiction). They also deal a lot with ghosts, and loss, and longing. Indeed, a great deal of these stories focus on relationships and what happens when they end or are in danger of ending. They show people whose connections have been severed by death, by grief, by violence, and how those wounds can perhaps be healed by compassion and love. It’s a rather lovely if dark bunch of stories, heavy with sorrow but rising toward something lighter (though no less strong). And with all the fiction to look at, I should get right to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #100 [part 1 - science fiction]

Lightspeed Magazine has reached issue #100 and is celebrating with an issue stuffed to the gills with short fiction. And, well, because ten stories (many of them novelettes) would be a bit much to fit in a single review, I’ve decided to split the offerings up into two posts. The first will cover the science fiction (that’s this one) and the second (tomorrow’s) will cover the fantasy. Not that there isn’t a bit of a fantasy touch to some of the science fiction on display, with a few stories playing with history and at least one with a strangeness that could almost be magic. These stories are about how humans interact with the universe, though. How we make stories, how we form communities, how we accept and exclude from those groups. It’s an issue that really does get at some big ideas but never loses sight of the character who anchor the narratives. So yeah, there’s a lot to get to, so let’s tackle these reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Omenana #12

Omenana’s second issue of the year is out and it contains four new SFF short stories. Things are leaning rather dark in these pieces, too, where characters must navigate situations where they must struggle against powerlessness. For most of them, who they are makes for some difficulties. They must deal with the world not really being set up for them, not really fair for them. They must deal with other people’s expectations on how they act and what they do. And each of them must decide whether to accept that or whether to push back and try to take back what power they can. Not always kindly. But with strength and resilience and cleverness. With kindness and cruelty and hunger and hope. It’s a wonderful bunch of stories, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by Tamara Reddy

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform August 2018

Motherboard's Terraform seems to be going through a new transformation of sorts. Not in its schedule or really even in the themes and genres it publishes, but rather in the length of works it focuses on. For a little while now, the bulk of the work it's been publishing has been ranging less into the flash fiction length and more solidly into short stories. Which means a bit of extra space to explore the futures these authors imagine—which can be both a good and a not-so-good thing, given how dark and gritty a lot of those future are. This month five short stories reveal futures full of slavery and corruption, drugs and borders. They star characters trying to heal the fissures they've opened up in their lives, or falling headlong into them. So yeah, let's get to the reviews!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #259

It’s something of a strange issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories that strike much more of a science fantasy feel than is standard. In both, characters struggle with loss and with injury. With hope and with community. In one, it’s a community that is systematically dismantled, while in the other it’s a community that seems able to heal, or at least that is still in a place where it can try. The stories are tonally rather different, though both center their action on an unexpected arrival, and on a rather wide cast of secondary characters. It’s stories about violence, flight, and confrontation of the fantasy variety, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Friday, August 31, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com August 2018

Two short stories and a novelette round out the SFF originals from Tor this month, with a definite focus on science fiction, on futures of humanity interacting with the universe and, perhaps more importantly, with the Earth. Whether that means dealing with the touch of climate disaster and change, or working to move beyond the bounds of our terrestrial home through uploading and flight, or gaining a new and non-human presence to co-inhabit the planet with, the pieces look at how humans see the Earth, and how that perspective shifts as the gaze becomes less incorporated in a human body. It's a month full of strangeness and longing, risks and looming dangers, and it makes for a fascinating bunch of stories. To the reviews!

Art by Victo Ngai

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #58

August brings two short stories and two very short flash fictions to Fireside Magazine, each of them circling around memory and difference, hurt and acceptance. In each of the stories, a character is dealing with being put into a hostile situation, where they aren't wholly sure of the rules. For some, this means they try to define those rules, to give them shape when it seems there isn't any. For others, though, it means deciding to act regardless of what rules they might be breaking, and forging their own ways forward despite the danger and oppression. It's a rather wrenching month of stories that have a definite fantasy lean, and a fantasy where magic is pushing in on the "real world" to varied results. So let's get to the reviews!

Art by Kevin Tong

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers August 2018

There’s two new Awakenings season novelettes at The Book Smugglers! The first evokes and complicates fairy tales and specifically a fairy tale romance, and is cold and in some ways very cruel. As cruel as reality, at least, which it turns out is quite cruel indeed. It’s a story that in some ways embraces what it means to be a fairy tale, full of darkness and magic and hope. But at the same time, it seems to me to hesitate short of providing a completely expected experience. Instead, it challenges the reader about their assumptions about what these kind of stories look like, and how they should end. And the second looks follows a young girl growing up, reaching for an adulthood where she can finally take control of her own life after years and years of dealing with waiting, abuse, and a pressure to conform. Both stories do a lot of interesting things, and build maintain very different styles while still pairing well, showing the world in all its complex, beautiful cruelty. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Jennifer Johnson

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 08/20/2018 & 08/27/2018

The second half of August brings two poems and a novelettes to Strange Horizons, as well as other nonfiction content that is well worth checking out but that I’m not looking specifically at. The fiction is intense, a noir mystery that’s really a revenge story, but circles around justice and guilt, denial and tragedy. The poetry is actually very nicely linked, as both pieces are framed as advice, as instructions. For very different things, it turns out, but still very important things. And the issues as a whole have a rather bleak feel to them. Of harm that cannot be erased or ignored. Of the slow approach of death, and fragile beauty of voices raised against the tide of time, holding on to what they can. To the reviews!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Regular Sips - Lost Objects by Marian Womack

I’m switching things up a bit today with a look at a slender collection of short SFF from Spanish author Marian Womack, Lost Objects. And in doing so I hope to sort through my own hesitation to look at short fiction collections here at Quick Sip Reviews. I will not be looking at each story individually, but rather will try to wrap my thoughts around the project as a whole, with special attention to perhaps some of the stories that I found most appreciated or challenging. That all said, I’ll go ahead and dive right in to this luminous and haunting book!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #37

August brings a new Heroic Fantasy Quarterly into my greedy hands, with four stories (one novelette and three short stories) plus three poems, all diving into myth and magic, war and longing. The pieces have a bit more of a battle focus in this issue, moving from battlefield to battlefield and finding knights, giants, dragons, and necromancers aplenty. The stories do more than just provide an action-packed fantasy read (though they do that, too). They dive into the realities and horrors of battle, and the reasons people have for entering into them anyway. It’s a varied and resonating issue, and before I give too much away, I’ll get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #258

These two new stories from August’s Beneath Ceaseless Skies turn the action up to eleven with stories of teamwork and fighting against horror and oppression. In both works, the settings are defined by loss, by conflict. In one, people must live above a storm that ravages the ground below because of a war that involved separation and enslavement. In the other, a world must sacrifice its future to an alien creature in exchange for a twisted taste of immortality. And in both, people find that talking doesn’t work, and so resort of fists and blades and magic and flight to fight back against the tyranny and reach for a future that people tell them is impossible. To the reviews!

Art by Piotr Dura

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #44 [August stuff]

Shimmer brings a pair of stories this month that deal with memory and time. In two very different ways, the stories feature characters looking back on their lives and what they’ve accomplished. For one of them, the view is a rather idyllic one, where their art has touched lives and continues to touch lives. Where they can feel the warmth they inspire in others. For the other, though, the reverse is true, and they are trapped in a sort of hell rather than a sort of heaven, transfixed by the gazes of those they have wronged or allowed to be wronged. The stories look at age and justice, on the rewards of what people do in life. And before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #71

The August issue of Nightmare Magazine offers an effective one-two punch of dark SFF focused on family, weight, and the (sometimes) futile efforts to escape from a bad situation. Both situations feature characters who have suffered, and who are dealing with that. Who are holding onto someone else in the hopes of overcoming the darkness swirling around them. But who, ultimately, learn to make the bargains they can to save who they can, even if it means losing themselves to the dark. These are two rather unsettling and moody stories, full of longing and fragility that cannot withstand the knee-jerk force of the quick pull of the noose or the terrible chaos of a car crash. But even there, the stories find beauty, and meaning, and something even more terrible. To the reviews!

Art by Itskatjas / Fotolia

Monday, August 20, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Reviews of Goosebumps #10: THE GHOST NEXT DOOR

Well, I continue to stand firmly in my belief that R.L. Stine just sort of...gave up trying to make these make sense. I mean, if you thought that The Girl Who Cried Monster was weird and kind of messed up—JUST WAIT! Though before I get to far I should say I’m drinking Banjo Cat today, which is a black IPA from a Madison brewery and pretty darn good. Given how fucking dark this book gets, I think this is a fitting drink. Anyway, let the horror commence!

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!