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)