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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #97

June brings four original stories to Lightspeed Magazine (one novelette and three short stories), many of which deal with oppression and voice. With characters who have survived something, or who are trying to survive something systemic and violent and difficult. Who don’t know how they can keep going, or what their struggles matter in the face of larger tyrannies. And yet each of these stories is hopeful in their own ways, where characters are able to find some way to move forward, to keep going, to stay alive even when everything around them seems to be hungry for their deaths. It’s a fairly difficult and dark set of stories this month, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t very good. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Reiko Murakami

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Quick Questions - Octavia Cade and Joanne Merriam of Women Up To No Good

Welcome to a new Quick Questions, my interview series where I talk with genre professionals about short fiction & more. I'm joined today by two amazing editors from the Women Up To No Good anthologies from Upper Rubber Boot Books, which are currently running a Kickstarter to fund two anthologies: Broad Knowledge and Sharp & Sugar Tooth.

From the Kickstarter: "The Women Up To No Good series are anthologies of dark fiction by marginalized voices—primarily women and authors of marginalized sex and gender identities, and we additionally strive for diversity in race, national origin, sexual orientation, and ability."

First, a little bit about my guests:

Octavia Cade (@OJCade) is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science communication and a particular interest in science history and marine studies. She has most recently been researching the reproductive strategies of Zostera muelleri seagrass. She has had around 30 short stories published, in places like Clarkesworld, Asimov’s,and Apex Magazine, amongst others. Her poetry collection on the periodic table, Chemical Letters, was published by Popcorn Press and her novellas have been published by Masque Books, Paper Road Press, and The Book Smugglers. She has been nominated for BSFA and Elgin awards, and has won three Sir Julius Vogels – twice for best novella (The Ghost of Matter and The Convergence of Fairy Tales) and once for best fan writing, for a series of columns on food and horror, which became Food and Horror: Essays on Ravenous Souls, Toothsome Monsters, and Vicious Cravings (Book Smugglers, 2017).

Joanne Merriam is an immigrant to Nashville from Nova Scotia, whose writing has appeared in The Glaze from Breaking (Stride, 2005), and in dozens of magazines and journals, including Asimov's Science Fiction, The Fiddlehead, The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Pank, and Strange Horizons. She runs Upper Rubber Boot Books, administers Small Press Week, volunteers for Postcards to Voters and More Than Medicine, and runs a surgical fellowship and the lives of four oncologists for a local hospital.

Now, without further delay, the interview is below!

Quick Sips - Terraform May 2018

A novel excerpt and a short film keep Motherboard’s Terraform fiction lineup a little lean for May, but there’s still two pieces to look at that challenge what the future might look at. The stories are very much about loneliness and isolation and the injustice of systems. In both, people become trapped by the world as it is defined by money, by injustice, by misogyny. Moments of real human connection are sparse and, where present, precious. It’s perhaps not surprising that the publication features a brand new depiction of sexbots (a popular trope for Terraform), but I continue to be impressed by the nuance and care given to these stories. It’s not a piece that’s about sex, but rather the power of small moments of vulnerability and mutual comfort. Anyway, it’s a short but moving pair of stories and it’s time to review them!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com May 2018

It’s certainly an interesting mix of stories for May’s Tor dot com lineup. One novella, one novelette, and three short stories mean that there’s a lot to get to, and whatever your poison (contemporary fantasy, near-future science fiction, far-flung space soap opera, and more) there’s probably something that you’ll like. A lot of the stories are actually a lot to do with aging, too, though not all of them about the same kind of aging. But dealing with the particular trials and tribulations of a certain time in a person’s life (puberty, adolescence, early adulthood, middle age, and nearing retirement). The stories all show the baggage that the characters bring to these epochs, these events, and how that shapes them going forward. How they might be able to overcome isolation and fear and the changes happening to them, and how they might not be able to overcome. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Feifei Ruan

Monday, June 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine May 2018

It’s a full month of fiction at Fireside Magazine, with five original releases (five!). Most are flash fiction, but all of them are powerful and ready to fight. For me, so many of these stories are about resistance. About the refusal to play along with the rules so long as those rules are unjust. These stories are full of characters who find, either through others or on their own, that the way the world works often only works because people accept it. Which means that if the system is broken and corrupt, and people are willing to break the chains holding them down, are willing to believe in a system that doesn’t carry such harm with it, they can start to make that a reality. Here we find characters struggling against prophecy, against rules, against the threat of loss, all to reach somewhere better and freer. It’s a wonderful bunch of mostly very short fiction, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Maggie Chiang

Friday, June 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/21/2018 & 05/28/2018

The end of May brings one story and two poems to Strange Horizons (as well as a bunch of nonfiction you should check out), and it’s an emotionally resonating bunch of SFF that centers difference, isolation, and joy. Here we find characters who don’t quite fit in, who are able to see something, to feel something, that they’re not really supposed to. For some, this puts them into the realm of monsters, deserving of pain and isolation. For others, it means being able to make lives easier for people, but being limited in how much you can do. For all of them, the point seems to be to reach for a place where they can be fulfilled and happy, even if perhaps that place doesn’t exist yet. It’s a great mix of fiction and poetry, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Gabriella Eriksson

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers May 2018

The Awakenings season has begun at The Book Smugglers! The theme is perhaps the vaguest of their guiding ideas so far, but if this first story is anything to go by, it’s going to be another amazing year of short SFF. Because kicking things off is a story about magic and about portals. About escape and about bodies. And yes, about awakening, not to this secret world where everything is perfect, but rather to the knowledge that the world is complicated, and often corrupt, and magic and happiness are things that must be worked at, especially if you’re one of those who don’t want what the world wants for you. It’s a lovely and inspiring read, even as it doesn’t put much stock in escape fantasies. To the review!

Art by Emma Glaze

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #252

Competition can bring out the worst in people, but as this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies proves, it can also bring out the best. Both stories this issue are about races, and magical ones at that, featuring women who find themselves squaring off against their lovers (former or current) for the chance to win a great prize. In both stories, though, the actual prize might not matter as much as the competition itself, as the thrill of the race. Because when these characters are faced with what they’d do if they won, the results are...interesting. It’s a wonderfully fun pair of stories, expertly paired, and I’ll stop yammering on in introduction and just get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Regular Sip - Susurrus on Mars by Hal Duncan

So Lethe Press is one of my favorite publishers, thanks in large part to the excellent queer SFF that it puts out. I’ve had the pleasure of reading original novels and reprinted novels, original anthologies and reprint anthologies, but I think that this is the first time that I’ve read a novella from the publisher. And now I want more. Seriously, part of what warms me about this book is how it delivers a story that I’m just not used to seeing...anywhere. One lyrical and beautiful but not built on top of tragedy or pain experienced by the main (queer) characters. For me, at least, this is not a story that hurt, except by how it reminded me how much I expect stories of queer characters with a literary touch to be painful and doomed. But before I give too much away, let’s get to the review!

Monday, May 28, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #5: THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB

Oh glob, where to start with this one?

Well, I suppose I should begin with a quick look at what I’m drinking. If you don’t know about Founder’s Brewing, you should. Their Breakfast Stout is a Christmas morning tradition in our house, and I’m just sort of a fan of a lot of what they do. I’ve been waiting, though, to be really impressed with their IPAs, and with Azacca I think I have found one I am fully satisfied with. And hey, it's named after a Haitian god and tastes magical, which is much more than I can say about this book. So ONWARD!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Lackington's #17 [Gothics]

It’s a huge issue of Lackington’s out this month, focusing on the Gothic. And from literal Ostrogoths to exquisite corpses, there’s a lot to see and a lot of amazing interpretations of the theme. There are eight original stories (and a reprint that you should definitely check out but that I’m not reviewing this time) and each of them feature themes and settings that embrace the Gothic aesthetic. Haunted houses, neglected estates, and isolated villages all make the stories ripe with shadows that just might swallow up the unwary traveler. These are pieces about facing the strange and the dangerous, the supernatural and the all-too-human. And, well, not always coming out the other side. There’s a great mood to these stories that really gets at the heart of the theme, and it’s a fantastic way to explore what is one of the oldest kinds of SFF stories. So let’s get to it!

Art by Richard Wagner

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q36

The second issue of the year has dropped at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, featuring three stories (2 shorts and 1 novelette) and three poems. And it’s an issue that definitely walks a fine line between darkness and hope, between violence and justice. The stories feature characters who are struggling with their choices, their paths. For many of them, they want to reach a place beyond the corruption that is holding them down, that is hurting them and those around them. For some of them, this means taking arms against a sea of trouble, and for others it means striving to consume and become that sea of trouble. But whether trying to break down or co-opt corruption and injustice, the stories show how close the two can be, and what might tip people toward one or the other. It’s a very strong issue of fantasy short stories and poetry, and it’s time to get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #22 [June stuff]

The May fiction and poetry from Uncanny Magazine has something of a yearning quality to me. The pieces deal with desire, and with longing, and with reaching both backwards in time and forward. Memory and comfort, lust and power all mix and mingle here with characters who want to find something that seems to be missing in their lives, some vital spark that can’t seem to light in the environment they find themselves in. So they must move, or seek aid, or change their environments to better suit their needs. The stories are on the short side, the poetry very concerned with myth and women, and the issue as a whole is a wonderful way to usher in the arrival of warmer weather. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Julie Dillon

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #251

It’s a rather quick issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories linked in a way by their length (neither of them over 2500 words, which is unusual for the publication). But it lends both stories a sort of impact, and a feeling of anticipation. In the first, that means having to wait for the results of a very important test. In the second, that means having to wait for the results of a very important confrontation. In both, there are certain indications that might guide readers otwards guessing what happens next, but both times it’s left up in the air what _actually_ transpires after the final stories end. What it is certain is that both look at characters struggling to solve tricky problems, ones where they have been made culpable of a misstep and are desperate to find a way forward. So yeah, to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Monday, May 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #43 [May stuff]

It’s a rather dark May for Shimmer Magazine, with two original stories that explore the idea of home, sacrifice, pain, and death. Of course, for those similarities, the stories themselves are very different, the first a contemporary fantasy with Norse gods, sex, and cycles of abuse while the second is a science fiction story about distance, longing, and the annihilation of self when confronted with the alien. Both feature people reaching to reconnect with something that seems to have changed in their absence. When, really, what’s changed is them, and the nostalgic vision of their homes that have got them through so much ends up being not enough when it’s finally reached. These are two beautiful stories, so let’s get right to the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, May 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/07/2018 & 05/14/2018

Strange Horizons launches into May with two stories and three poems (hey, bonus poem!) that deal with myth and pain and narratives. That trace the ways that people struggle and push back against the weight of inertia and tradition. The way that people need to struggle and push back against the ways in which abuses and harms are accepted and passed down. Because without standing up to them, without fighting to make things better, the world slides into a very dark, very violent place. The stories find characters trying to change things, trying to invent new ways of thinking and acting in order to face the increasingly dire state of things. It’s a strong collection of works, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #140

May finds Clarkesworld back down to four original releases, though the word count still tops out around 40k of new work. Two short stories, a novelette, and a novella make for a weighty issue, which to me swirls around fate, injustice, time, and struggle. In each, characters push against the frustrations of a world that doesn’t really live up to their expectations. They are let down, hurt, perhaps even nearly destroyed, and in the face of that it might be easy to embrace bitterness, despair, and violence. And yet the characters here mostly just want to be happy, to find ways to survive and maybe work to fill the holes inside themselves. It’s a wrenching, often difficult issue, and I’m going to get right to the reviews!

Art by Arthur Haas

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

X Marks the Story - May 2018

It's that time again! Let's search for some speculative treasure this month with another 6 spotlighted stories. The post is live at The Book Smugglers now, so go check it out! For those wanting just a taste, the list of the main stories is below.

“Logistics”,  A.J. Fitzwater (published in Clarkesworld #139, April 2018)

“Murders Fell From Our Wombs”, Tlotlo Tsamaase (published in Apex #107, April 2018)

“Into the Gray”, Margaret Killjoy (published at, April 2018)
“A Most Elegant Solution”, M. Darusha Wehm (published at Motherboard’s Terraform, April 2018)
“Origami Angels”, Derek Lubangakene (published in Omenana #11, April 2018)
“Silence in Blue Glass”, Margaret Ronald (published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, May 2018)