Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2018

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com July 2018

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

Art by Anna & Elena Balbusso

Friday, July 27, 2018

Regular Sip - Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts

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

Art by Emma Glaze

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Arsenika #3

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

Art by Aspen Eyes

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

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

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #256

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

Art by Mihály Nagy

Monday, July 23, 2018

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

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

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #70

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

Art by Chorazin / Fotolia

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #44 [July stuff]

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

Art by Sandro Castelli

X Marks the Story - July 2018

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

X Marks the Story - July 2018

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Fiyah Magazine #7: MUSIC

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

Art by Mariama Alizor

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #110

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

Art by Kim Myatt

Friday, July 13, 2018

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

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #255

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

Art by Mihály Nagy

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #142

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

Art by Luis Carlos Barragán

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus July 2018

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2018

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

Art by Dario Bijelac

Friday, July 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #23 [July stuff]

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

Art by Galen Dara

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #38

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

Art by Gloom82 (Anton Semenov)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #98

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

Art by Saleha Chowdhury

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform SF June 2018

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers June 2018

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

Art by Kristina Tsenova