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”, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor 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