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