Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Year-in-Review

I made it! Dear readers, I was not sure if I was going to be able to write those words, given what 2018 has been. Personally and globally, this has been a hard year, and there have been many times I thought I would have to pause or quit entirely with my reviewing. But 2018 is officially over, and as I release my recommended reading list for 2018 I also want to pause and look back at my own year, offering a few words and a bunch of stats.

First, a huge thank you to all of my patrons and to everyone who has contributed to my ko-fi or my partner’s GoFundMe. Without you, none of this would be possible. Running Quick Sip Reviews and doing so much in terms of reading and reviewing is not without cost, especially time and opportunities, and without the support I’ve received this year from so many people I just wouldn’t be able to continue. As it is, I think I’ve turned in a pretty solid year of regular and (hopefully) thoughtful reviews and genre commentary. The numbers by month and then overall are below, and I’ll touch briefly on the numbers and then move into a little bit of the state of the field, and then close on my plans for 2019.

The Quick Sip Reviews 2018 Recommended Reading List

Okay, so first a few disclaimers. This list is compiled from my reading, and I have a rather strict reading list. As such, there’s a lot that I’ve missed. You can find what I read here. Further, this list reflects simply my tastes when it comes to short SFF. I read a lot, and review a lot, but that doesn’t really make me an expert on what is “good.” As the title implies, though, these are definitely stories that I recommend everyone read, because they are awesome. I tried to put something of a restriction on the number of stories I’m listing here, so there are only 5 novellas, 20 novelettes, and 50 short stories (for a total of 75 works). Which means these represent something like the top 10% of the stories I read this last year. What’s more, you can find my reviews of these works by searching the site (in the top left of the blog but only if you’re not viewing in mobile mode). Most of these have also been featured in X Marks the Story at The Book Smugglers, so there’s that, too.

This is also just a gutting, incredibly difficult project for me, because I love so many stories. Needless to say there is A LOT of short SFF that appeared in 2018 that doesn't appear here that I would also recommend. In the interests of keeping the list manageable, though...I've done my best to not go overboard.

Okay, that’s about it. Without further delay, my 2018 recommended reading list!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [episodes 1-2]

So I’ve never really read a serial story before, but when I was approached by Serial Box to look at Ninth Step Station, a collaborative serial novel by Malka Older, Fran Wilde, Curtis C. Chen, and J Koyanagi, I just couldn’t resist. The premise mixes near-future politics with procedural driven police mysteries. Add a touch of cyberpunk, a dash of international tensions, and a pair of women interesting in both peace and getting at the truth, and it’s a recipe for a wonderful new project that will be launching in 2019. Because of the nature of the project, these early reviews are going to be out before the series is released (January 9), but as the series kicks off I'll slowly fall behind the schedule of the episodes. BE AWARE THERE ARE LIGHT SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW SECTIONS discussing some elements of the series. If you don't want any spoilers, please only read the No Spoilers sections and the Keywords. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Quick Sip Reviews - Fireside Magazine #62

Art by Clare DeZutti
Closing out 2018 in style, the December Fireside Magazine brings four short stories, including a few surprises that continue the publication’s tradition of taking chances with form and style and voice. Namely, it has a choose your own adventure-style story that is a complete delight. Online it’s presented as a hypertext piece, with links to the various parts. In print, though, as part of Fireside Quarterly, it’s a delightful piece woven through the entire work, a sort of treasure hunt of bureaucratic nightmares. And it shows the dedication to making the print book something to pay special attention to, what with the gorgeous fold out art and continuing dedication to pushing the envelope of what print short SFF can do. But before I gush too much about that, there’s a lot of other work to get to as well, much of it having to do with isolation, relationships, and cats. To the reviews!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #267

Art by Tyler Edlin
The last Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of 2018 brings a pair of novelettes defined by violence, age, and exhaustion. Featuring characters who have had a history of violence and fighting, and who want to make an end of it. Who want to find a way that doesn’t involve killing or spilling blood. And who are pulled back in regardless, because of what they are confronted with, because of the systems they live with that require blood and pain and exploitation. To the reviews!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #14: THE WEREWOLF OF FEVER SWAMP

[Merry Christmas! Today I'm releasing a new public Liver Beware! review, so I hope it finds you warm and well!]

It’s the last Liver Beware! of the year, so it’s time to send the year out with style! Which means, of course, with werewolves and incredibly bad science! Are you ready? Just let me introduce my drink of choice today—Hop Freak, a particularly appropriate Double IPA from MKE Brewing. It comes in a tall can and is delicious and the picture of the Hop Freak is this giant hop monster with the most unimpressed/grumpy expression it is perfect, just perfect. So yeah, with that out of the way, to the story!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Quick Sips - Anathema #5

Art by Maria Nguyen
Well I wasn’t really planning on reading or reviewing this issue of Anathema Magazine. I’ve known about it for some time and been excited about everything I’ve seen it do, but as my reviewing queue has been full, I’ve been hesitant to start. Well, thanks to a slow December I decided to just fucking do it. I cannot guarantee right now that I’ll be able to continue reading and reviewing the publication, but with a range of stories like this issue I really hope I do. The work here is challenging, often gutting, but shines with a beauty and a power that cannot be denied. These stories are sharp and focused and for me focus on magic and on change. On bodies and transformations. On betrayals and a hope for a better future. So yeah, a bit unexpected, but let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #115

Art by Ronnie Jensen
It’s beginning to look a lot like winter in this latest issue of Apex Magazine, with three short stories that capture the feel of decline, loss, grief, and a desire to escape. The stories look at place, both in terms of physical location (a city, an island) but also in a more psychological sense. They look at people who feel trapped by their own thoughts and feelings. By the sense of loss or grief or decline around them. And they all yearn for escape, for release. How they go about working for that, though, is very different, and often quite dark. To the reviews!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #46 [part 2/2]

Art by Sandro Castelli
It’s happened. Shimmer Magazine has put out its final issue. And though the stories will be coming out on the site through April, I’m closing out my look at the giant final issue today. There are six stories, from authors old and new to the publication. And I have to say, for a publication that has always leaned toward contemporary fantasy, these stories show that Shimmer has always been into science fiction as well. Because a lot of these stories take on some classic sci fi tropes, from time travel to resurrecting dinosaurs to space exploration. These are stories full of ghosts, which is wrenching but appropriate. Firstly, because Shimmer has always been interested in ghosts, in hauntings. And secondly, because the publication might be gone, but its presence is going to be felt for a long time to come, a ghost full of words and worlds to revisit. A memory and a promise of magic and stars. And okay I’m not crying you’re crying. To the reviews!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

X Marks the Story - December 2018

The end has come to X Marks the Story. The final installment is up at The Book Smugglers now. Super proud of the work I've done on the project, and looking forward to seeking what the Smugglers get up to next year. The full column is only at their site, but here's a quick look at the stories covered.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #75

Art by Chainat / Fotolia
The stories in Nightmare’s final issue of 2018 is focused very tightly on violation. On women who are targets and who have been hurt. Who have been put into a situation where they don’t really have many choices left. They can fight or they can submit, and often that choice is rather loaded because there’s so rarely an expectation of victory. And loss can be so terrible. But the stories both take on this idea in very different ways, one of them featuring a woman fighting against the pressures to give in and the other…not doing that. Which makes for two stories that could almost not be any more different, but that provide an interesting contrast. To the reviews!

Monday, December 17, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #13: PIANO LESSONS CAN BE MURDER

Welcome back, dearest readers. I have good news! This book is LOADS BETTER than the previous two. I also have bad news! It’s probably because the main character is a boy. That said, we’re a bit more on track for what I remember Goosebumps to be—ridiculous plots, interesting visuals, and endings that just make no damn sense. Plus, this book dips back into one of my favorite parts of Say Cheese And Die! Namely, evil mad scientist magic! Because just some of that would be too boring. WE MUST HAVE IT ALL! Oh, before I forget—I’m once again drinking Voodoo Ranger from New Belgium (it’s been really cheap here for some reason). But before you start telling me that’s what I always drink, wait! This is the regular IPA Voodoo Ranger. Totally different from the Imperial IPA or Pumpkin Ale I’ve had previously. Because branding! But enough of beer. Let’s get to the Goosebumps!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Samovar 12/03/2018 & Strange Horizons 12/10/2018

Art by Caroline Dougherty
December brings a new Samovar to the world, as well as a new issue of Strange Horizons. Between them, they feature two short stories, a novelette, and two poems. And the works as a whole are strange ones (perhaps not so surprising, given the name of the publication), featuring ghosts, post-apocalyptic horrors, and a rather shocking take on prophecy. They reveal characters who think they know what they’re about—inventors, judges, inmates—who find that the shape of their worlds, be it a tiny cell or a vast and untamed world, are not what they thought they were. And they have to deal with the changing definitions as best they can. Some find it easy to shift, to edit the rules of their existence. Others find it much more difficult, if not outright impossible. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #25 [December stuff]

Art by John Picacio
It’s a month of ghosts, cyborgs, and mages at Uncanny Magazine this December, with three stories and two poems fleshing out a vibrant range of short SFF. The pieces very much represent a wide swath of genre work—one contemporary fantasy, one near-future science fiction, one mix of fantasy and horror and science fiction. The poems look at language and at loss and rebirth. And together there’s an interesting take on family and vulnerability, showing characters trying to find ways of dealing with a new and possibly destructive present while changing their assumptions and focusing on adaptation and perseverance. It’s a great bunch of works, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #147

Art by Pascal Blanché
December brings a whole lot of fiction to Clarkesworld Magazine, with well over forty thousand words spread over three novelettes and two short stories. A lot of the stories focus on corruption and pollution and people trying to find happiness and freedom in situations where great harm has been done both to the planet and to human rights. Where people have become cogs in the machine of human exploitation. It’s not exactly a cheery issue, but some of the stories at least reach through the fog and smog of pain and isolation to show the strength and necessity of human connection to push back against the tide of crushing corruption at work in the world. Let’s get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #266

Art by Tyler Edlin
As the year nears its end, Beneath Ceaseless Skies takes a moment to step into the dark forest in these two short stories from the penultimate issue of 2018. The pieces follow characters who are compelled to enter the woods, to revisit old feelings and old fears as they face the unavoidable and often unjust rules that draw a wide line between the natural world and the civilized one. Both main characters travel not so much because they want to, because each has their own reasons to want to avoid the shadows of the trees. But they go, because of their devotion to those they care about, because of their ties to their families, and for themselves as well, to prove that they can, and to make a stand. They’re two rather bittersweet stories, full of hope but also an acknowledgment of issues that cannot be easily defeated, shadows that linger among the tall trees of the forest. To the reviews!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus December 2018

GigaNotoSaurus closes out 2018 with a novella, a military science fiction about trauma, growth, and healing. And while it might walk the border of a sort of inappropriate humor and a heartbreaking tragedy, it manages to resolve into something that isn't quite either. That, out of the horrors that the story reveals, something new and delicate and beautiful can grow. And it's by no means an easy read, but it does a lot of really interesting things with naming and with memory and with hope. Plus it has an awesome alien goat slug thing. Let's get to the review!

Also, this month marks a new transition for GigaNotoSaurus, with the arrival of new editor Elora Gatts. Rashida J. Smith has done a stellar job with the publication, and I'm saddened to see her go, but also excited what the future holds for the this awesome venue!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online December 2018

It’s a month of literary original stories at Flash Fiction Online, focusing on family and more specifically on dysfunction and the breaking of familial roles. Because, as the stories show, those roles can become prisons. They can become suffocating with how little seems possible, how little the future offers for them. And yet when people try to push outside they face the specter of violence, of coming up against the expectations and investments of parents who rely on their children at times to give meaning to their own lives. Which is difficult and real and well handled in these stories. So yeah, to the reviews!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #43

Art by Anna Mei
Christmas comes a little early with a special all-original issue of The Dark Magazine, featuring four new short stories. The pieces go a bit weirder and meta than I am used to seeing from the publication, but there’s no question that they are indeed dark. From the end of the earth to a storm that twists reality, from death and revenge along the highway to a family with a dark legacy, the works find characters who really never expected to find themselves in the situations they are in. Who couldn’t really prepare for the darkness they walked into. But who are hell bent on not giving in to the gravity of their destruction. Not that they can always do much about it. But there is a resilience I feel in these stories, and will to keep going. So let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #103

Art by Marcel Mercado
December brings a somewhat dark collection of short SFF to Lightspeed Magazine, though in some unexpected ways. Women seek to thrive following the collapse of nations. A scientist goes looking for answers deep beneath the waters and finds some she did not expect (or want). A river goddess desires a man but has some very strange demands for their relationship. And baking with grandma takes on a positively wicked edge. Many of the stories feature women stepping out of their expected roles and navigating a landscape defined by misogyny and violence. Some find ways to flip the script, while others are pulled down under the weight of history and injustice. And it’s a wonderful collection of stories that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform November 2018

Three short stories anchor Terraform's releases in November, as well as a strange video thing on Cyber Monday that I won't be looking at. The fiction, though, looks at identity and disaster and, ultimately, isolation. In all of the stories, characters fight for their lives, or what of their lives they can have any control over. The worlds revealed are ones of narrowing futures, where technology or climate or a combination have made it so only the ultra rich have the freedom to do as they want. For everyone else, life is navigating the thin spaces left to them, trying (and mostly not succeeding) to save what they can to the creeping loss effecting the globe. To the reviews!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Quick Sips - Lackington's #18: Magics

Art by Carol Wellart
Lackington’s gets magical this issue with six new short stories circling the theme of magic. It’s not exactly wizard duels or hidden schools that populate the worlds the stories reveal, though. Rather, the magic is often much thornier, and more subtle. Concentrated into witches, or gods, or lovers trying to make the world a better place. And in good Lackington’s fashion, the pieces all have a rather heady style to them with an emphasis on language. The stories evoke tragedy and romance, comedy and philosophy. It starts off weird and really only gets weirder from there, flowing seamlessly from one experience to the next. Each one might take a little bit of care and deliberation, but these are some fantastic works to wade into, that come alive with resolve and tenacity and, yes, magic. To the reviews!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com November 2018

Art by Rovina Cai
Well it turns out it's a rather light month from Tor's short fiction, with only a single novelette on offer for November. Luckily for readers, it's a very good one, exploring a magical linguistic academia with shitty advisers, entrenched sexism, and a whole lot of bullshit put up to hamper innovative research in favor of traditional lines of inquiry. The main characters are queer and bring to their studies an entirely new way of approaching the work, in part because it's work that's never cared about including people like them in an official sense. And it shows them hitting the limits of what's expected of them and then blowing past those barriers. So yeah, to the review!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #61

Art by Satu Kettunen
November’s Fireside Magazine focuses on relationships. Mostly romantic, where people are learning to navigate this shared space with their partners. Where each of them bring to the mix something wonderful and alive and warm, but also some damage. Something that makes it tricky sometimes to know what to do or say. The stories follow the ways that these people can hurt each other, and how they can set each other free. They are at turns beautiful and tragic and excellent, and I should get to reviewing them!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/19/2018 & 11/26/2018

Art by Cindy Fan
No surprises this month from Strange Horizons, as November closes out with one more original story and two poems. And the story is full of teeth and the feel of fairy tales twisted into something new and exciting. The poetry uses a light touch in order to build up moments of devastation and change. Of effort and solidarity and resilience. And all together it’s a literary but also thrilling glimpse of short SFF through some very interesting uses of form and structure, voice and character. Some are a bit more ambiguous, some are a bit more solid, but it’s all really interesting, and very much worth checking out!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #265

Art by Veli Nyström
Families anchor both stories in this latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And specifically, fathers and sons. In both, fathers are faced with the prospects of being separated from their children. In one, that separation comes in the form of an abduction, and in the other it’s more from a break between the father and mother. But in both it pushes the father to try somewhat desperate things in the hopes of reconnecting. In the hopes of not completely losing their children. In both, though, they also rely on violence to get what they want, falling back on the things that might have strained their relationships in the past. These are some complex and wonderfully-imagine stories dealing with parenting and hope, loss and healing. And I’ll get to the reviews!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q38

Art by Toe Keen
Four stories and three poems anchor a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly that seems to linger on feeling trapped. Because most of the pieces build up a situation where the characters are either physically confined or philosophically confined. Either they find themselves on a raft at see, or in a vault deep in a keep, and they must try to find their way out of a situation with ever-narrowing options, or else they are in a situation where change seems impossible, where disaster and war seem inevitable. The stories and poems all show people fighting back against the gravity of corruption and violence and greed and finding that often times there is no winning there. That the best they can hope for is to delay the final crushing blow. But fighting against that weight isn’t useless. Isn’t pointless. Sometimes, it’s all a person has. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Glittership Spring 2018

There’s a new issue of Glittership out!!! Cue the queer dance party! The issue is dated spring on the cover but the pieces inside are definitely more appropriate for autumn. At least, there is a strong theme of death and hurt that grounds the stories and poems in rather dark territory. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope, but rather that the works recognize the dangers waiting for those who are different, who are queer. The violence lurking, ready to pounce. The promise and power of community when isolation often means abuse and exploitation. For all that, there are moments of tenderness, defiance, and freedom to be found here as well, though not easily won or without scars. To the reviews!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

X Marks the Story - November 2018

My penultimate X Marks the Story is now up at The Book Smugglers! I actually have something of a theme this time, of broken worlds and people helping people to heal and to fight back. The whole column gets into the stories in depth, but for those just looking for the links, they are below. Cheers!

“The Fortunate Death of Jonathan Sandelson” by Margaret Killjoy (Published at Strange Horizons, October 2018)
Between the Firmaments” by JY Yang (published at The Book Smugglers, October 2018)
“Talk to Your Children about Two-Tongued Jeremy” by Theodore McCombs (published in Lightspeed #102, November 2018)
“What the South Wind Whispers” by H. Pueyo (Published in Clarkesworld #146, November 2018)
“How to Swallow the Moon” by Isabel Yap (Published in Uncanny #25, November 2018)
“Toward a New Lexicon of Augury” by Sabrina Vouroulias (Published in Apex Magazine #114, November 2018)


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #46 [part 1/2]

Art by Sandro Castelli
Weep, friends, for the final issue of Shimmer Magazine has landed. But also rejoice, because it’s full of awesome. And I should say that online releases for the publication will continue through April 2019! But that in the interest of reading the stories in the year they are technically coming out in, I’m going to cover the issue spread over just November and December. Which means that I’m looking at six stories today, many of which look at family, consent, and magic. These are pieces that look at darkness and follow characters coming up against the pains and injustices of the world. The things that you don’t get to control. Aging. Family. History. But just because you don’t get to choose these things doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about them. And the stories follow characters pushing against the gravity of their own erasure and pain. Reaching for a place where they can be free and empowered. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #74

Art by Christina M. / Fotolia
Nightmare Magazine throws a bit of a curveball this month with not a pair of stories but a single longer work. And wow, it’s a creepy one, unfolding like a boulder rolling downhill, set to crush all unwary enough to be caught in its path. The story combines cosmic-level horror with much more visceral and grotesque beauty and brutality. It’s a story that looks at possession, and in some ways at addiction, that circles an abyss like water circling a drain, moving incrementally closer and closer until the inevitable plunge. So let’s get to the review!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #114

Art by Godwin Akpan
November at Apex Magazine brings three stories (two shorts and one novelette) that look very closely at memory. That feature characters who have to face events in their pasts…or try to obliterate them. For some, this is an incredibly traumatic event. It ends in death and murder. Or revolution. For others, it’s a chance to walk back from an edge. From an abyss. From despair and loss. For all of them, though, memory is something that is confronting them with something. With the weight of their own existence or the depth of their love. And these are stories that find different ways for the characters to face their memories and move forward into a world drastically changed by that confrontation. To the reviews!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Charles Payseur 2018 Awards Eligibility Post

Hi all! This has been...a year. Not a super great one in terms of number of stories published. But have definitely been some bright spots and in case people want to consider me for various awards/etc., or just want to catch up on some reading, I figured I would post some things.

Short Story

"Humans Die, Stars Fade" (published at Escape Pod)

The full text and audio are up on this story about stars and trauma and learning to heal and trust again. It's a story with a fragile kind of hope to it, but ultimately I want to say that it is a strongly optimistic piece about science, the future, and love.

I have others, but most of those are...decidedly smutty and so I'm not going to list them because those really don't have a snowball's chance wrt SFF awards. If you want to find those, though, all of my works can be found in the My Work!!! tab at the top of the page.

Fan Writer

I got a finalist nod for last year's Hugo Awards and it was such an honor! This year I have been back to it, and have reviewed 684 stories and 137 poems (for a total of 821 reviews) here at Quick Sip Reviews. I've also done...

The Sippy Awards: My yearly SFF awards covering five categories. Basically what I read and loved the most for short SFF.

X Marks the Story (at The Book Smugglers): 12 posts in all (2 forthcoming) covering a ton of stories from all around the genre.

Some Queer Short SFF (at my Patreon): every month I round up a bunch of links to some queer short SFF.

Liver Beware! (at my Patreon and on QSR): I also drunkenly look at the Goosebumps series in these hopefully fun but also drunkenly philosophical posts.

There's more, too, from my review of Sam J. Miller's Blackfish City to a few posts about reviewing, and even some Quick Questions interviews. Plus this recent post on WisCon. I also got a chance to Shout About Queer SFF.

Things I haven't really been able to do is a lot of longer form essays or analysis this year, which is too bad because those are things I like to do as well (and things that seem to go down a bit better wrt what tends to get recommended for fan writing). Mostly what I do is a lot of reviews. Mostly of short SFF. Because, for my money, short SFF is where so much amazing and innovative work is being done. It's what I love and what I spend most of my time trying to celebrate and complicate. So yeah, I would definitely appreciate any considerations for fan writer.

[note: I will try to have my own recommended reading list up soon, and will update it for the end of the year to make sure I cover everything. Thanks.]


Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 11/05/2018, 11/12/2018, & more

Good news, everyone—Strange Horizons funded for 2019! The fund drive had been running for a while, complete with bonus fiction and poetry, so it’s a bit of a larger release than usual today, with three stories and five poems to look at. And there’s a lot of damage on display in these works. A lot of characters trapped by circumstance in situations where there really doesn’t seem like a good way out. Where their pain seems inevitable and unavoidable. And, often, pain is unavoidable. But the shape of that pain is often something that can be effected, and here we see how these characters seek to choose the pain they have to experience. And it’s just a wonderful collection of short SFF, really showing what Strange Horizons does as a publication, and I’ll get right to my reviews!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #25 [November stuff]

Art by John Picacio

After a few special issues, it’s a relatively small month from Uncanny Magazine. That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t A Lot to enjoy. Anchoring things is a novelette that blends magic and song, sword and myth. And really both of the stories this month deal with stories, with narratives, and how they can be twisted. How specifically women can alter the narrative structures that keep them prisoner and use them to cut their way free of the conventions and expectations that would keep them caged. That, plus two very short but densely powerful poems, and it’s one heck of an issue. So let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #264

Art by Veli Nyström
For me, this latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is all about stories. About the stories that people tell about other people. About women in particular. The whispers and the myths that seem to crop up wherever there are women trying to live and thrive on their own. In the mountains or in the bakery, wherever it happens that they make their homes. And how these stories push them into keeping secrets. From the outside world, yes, but also from themselves. And how they struggle but ultimately come to terms with those secrets, and try to live honestly, at least to themselves, and in these cases how they mostly succeed to do that. These are some very dark stories, but they also give way to hope and maybe healing as well. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #146

Art by Helen Ilnytska
A single novelette and four short stories make for a nicely balanced month at Clarkesworld, where the theme as I can find it is ghosts and hauntings. In very different ways, the characters of these stories are being haunted. By guilt and by the past. By their mistakes and by the memories they leave behind. These are stories of people being confronted with the ways their paths differ from how they hoped. Disaster looms. And yet most of them are able to snatch back from the edge of the abyss something to help them move forward and not fall in. It’s an interesting bunch of stories, so let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus November 2018

The latest release from GigaNotoSaurus is a longer novelette about the end of the world. Or rather about what the world becomes when so much that we depend on is lost. The internet gone. The infrastructure shattered. Where people are left having to figure out how to survive, and what that means. Having to decide what laws are still important, and which they can no longer afford. It’s a gripping read that sees this post-disaster scenario in all it’s shades of gray, so let’s get to the review!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online November 2018

Art by Dario Bijelac

The original fiction at Flash Fiction Online comes single word titles this month. Which okay, isn’t a super strong connective tissue, but it does set up three stories that for me are all about social contracts. In each story, characters run against the ways that people make unspoken arrangements, which in turn lead to unspoken transgressions that in turn lead to very much spoken tragedies. It’s a rather resonating theme that in each, the ways people break the rules that are supposed to govern how people treat each other. So yeah, to the reviews!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #42

Art by Laura Sava

The stories in the November issue of The Dark look at distance. The distance between people and their societies. Between people and their families. For some, the distance is the result of strife, and difference. For some it’s the result of violations that leave scars that cannot be wholly healed. And for some it’s the result of a refusal to really struggle with and face the beasts of their unconscious. The beasts of hate and anger and violence and guilt. And that in trying to deny and avoid that confrontation, tragedy ensues. So yeah, to the reviews!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #102

Art by Galen Dara
It’s an issue of return in this November issue of Lightspeed Magazine. Two short stories and two novelettes make the issue a bit heavy, and for me a big theme running through the pieces is the idea of cycles and returns. Returns to childhood dreams, to classic books, and to familiar settings. There’s a look at childhood and how children are often confronted by some very upsetting things that they can’t quite handle, that they certainly shouldn’t have to deal with. And it’s a rather dark issue, centering death and abuse and trauma and a shift of the familiar for the strange, for the new and dangerous. Even so, there’s a beauty and a light that shines through a lot of these stories, where children can find their way through the darkness to someplace safer and free. Where even if there is loss, that loss can be honored, and remembered. And yeah, let’s just get to the reviews!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com October 2018

Art by Mary Haasdyk
It was a fairly light month from Tor dot com, with only two stories (one short story, one novelette), and one of those coming from the shared Wild Cards setting. For that, there's an interesting focus on ethics and morality. The pressure to act, and the ways that moral action can be muddied by a number of factors. At their cores, though, the stories are about conversations, and about understanding. About overcoming prejudice in order to see that someone's seemingly strange or wrong view of a situation actually makes a lot of sense, and give them a valuable (if often inconvenient) perspective on what's going on. So yeah, to the reviews!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #60

Five Tuesdays in October means five new stories from Fireside Magazine, featuring interesting twists in form and expectations. From battles entirely fought inside the minds of special warriors to a man deeply effected by loss, from a paper on self-driving cars to a split narrative on charms, the pieces often look at symbol and metaphor becoming literal. That there is a power that comes from approaching a difficult and incorporeal idea by putting it into physical reality. And it's a strange and moving collection of stories this month, leaning dark perhaps to go with the season's spookier connotations. Whatever the case, it's a solid issue that I should get to reviewing!

Art by Saleha Chowdhury

Friday, November 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform October 2018

Thanks to a novel excerpt that I’m not looking at, the October Terraform stories from Motherboard are a little light this month. Three flash fictions, though, deal with some rather heavy themes. Appropriate, given the goal of the publication to put out topical science fiction. Because most of what’s topical right now is the nightmare that world and domestic politics has become. From international war to exploitation and death on a mining colony in space to the much more intimate hurts that family can inflict on each other, these works aren’t exactly a cheery bunch. They reveal characters wanting to find something better, though in very different ways. So let’s get to the reviews! 

*UPDATE: They sneaked in a Halloween novelette on me, so some of the above isn’t accurate.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Quick Sips - The Book Smugglers October 2018

It’s another novella live at The Book Smugglers, this time a political fantasy all about fate and fighting against it as part of their Awakenings themed short fiction. About sins and defilement and cleansing. About how a society can be arranged in order to codify imbalances in power. Where some people are born to rule and others to be crushed under the boulder of history rolling always downhill. It’s a complex and exciting read, full of death and magic and a main character just starting to figure out what she can do, never given much time to think but rather learning to run before she walks. To the review!

Art by Autumn Evelyn

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #11: THE HAUNTED MASK

Happy Halloween! Things are a bit messed up this month because as I read this book back in early September I was struck that it’s a Halloween book, and as the holiday was only a month away, I thought saving this review for all you good people to ring in the season would be a good idea. So yeah, sorry that things are a bit weird, timing-wise, but I assure you that things are about to get SUPER SPOOKY, so there is that. Things are also about to get SUPER AWFUL because, let’s face it, the series is back into another slump following some rather ridiculous installments. I’m not sure where this book falls in the popularity of the series as a whole, but it’s still fairly early and it certainly feels to me like Stine is struggling to figure out exactly what to do, throwing darts at a big board of ideas while still kind of trying to keep things serious. Which might sound weird, considering, but stay with me.

Also, fittingly, my drink is a bit out of hand as well. I’m having New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin and...okay, before I critique Goosebumps allow me to say that this Voodoo Ranger sub-brand is getting out of hand. Already there were three different Voodoo Rangers, and they represent New Belgium’s line of IPAs (what used to be Ranger, Rampant, and...whatever the third one was). Having one name and different colors for them now is just...kinda confusing, but at least they’re all IPAs. And then Atomic Pumpkin shows up. I will admit! The art is very well suited to a pumpkin beer (skeletons and all). BUT! It’s not even an IPA. It’s a pumpkin and habanero spiced ale. Which is delicious and burns a bit but is not really in keeping with the rest of the line. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense while still being rather Halloweeny—which ends up being very well suited for today’s adventure. So, without further beer-rants (I hope), let’s get to it!

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #263

The anniversary issues might be over but the great stories continue at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with a pair of pieces that look at nobility, conflict, and the future. That find two very different characters deals with their worlds falling part. In one, a woman blessed and cursed to see the future must find a way to keep going when everything seems futile. And in the other, a woman who often hears the voices of the past must navigate a world unlike anything anyone has ever experienced. In both, the characters don’t really choose the disasters that find them, but both have to find ways to wrest what agency they can from the situations in order to save what they can, and to still work for a better future. To the reviews!

Art by Veli Nyström

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #73

October brings a fittingly creepy issue of Nightmare Magazine, with a pair of stories very much focusing on families, on abuse, and on the need to escape the darkness that can seep in through the pores when living with abuse. Both stories show women who are trying to flee abusive parents, who find that even so something of those relationships is haunting them. Either literally, through the ashes of a dead mother, or metaphorically, through a new abusive relationship that very much mirrors the same old manipulations and hurts. And both stories imagine what it might take to break free, and what kind of moments these characters might need in order to realize that they need to take action. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Freshidea / Fotolia

Monday, October 29, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #113

October certainly brings a creepy batch of dark SFF to Apex Magazine, with three short stories delving into violence, voice, and transformation. In each of the stories, there is a woman facing violence from men. Not always of the physical kind, but always of an unjust kind. Misogynist. Racist. The men of these stories all know that they’re doing wrong, that they’re hurting women. And yet all of them justify it somehow. Because they’re a devil, or because of their ambition, or because that’s all they know. But it leaves women in the position where they must either ask men for what they want or, being denied, take what they need. That can come with a violence of its own, or it can come with a flight. With an escape. With a hope that there is a place beyond this corruption. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Vinz El Tabanas

Friday, October 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 10/11/2018, 10/15/2018, & 10/22/2018

The Strange Horizons fund drive is in full swing, which means extra fiction and poetry as they reach closer to their goal. Along with two regular issues, that means two novelettes and two poems to look at today, all of them building interesting worlds around hurts, around injustices. That might be the more mundane march of capitalism toward a future defined by its inequality and greed, or it might be a vivid world that has developed in the ocean, where those people who were cast away have built a society for themselves only to find the toxic influences of the very people they hoped they'd escaped lingering and infesting them. It's a dark collection of works but ones with sparks that cannot be completely extinguished, and there's a strong hope to themes on display. So let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262 [part 2/2]

I think this is it for this year’s anniversary shenanigans from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with another two novelettes that explore corruption and tragedy, friendship and betrayal. And really, I think the pair do a great job of examining where friendships can fracture and break apart. They show the great pressure that comes from people growing and living and trying to pursue their dreams amid cruelty and corruption and violence. Tyranny and war. They show two pairs of women who begin the closest of friends, so hopeful of what the future will bring, and then follows the trajectory down into despair, into hurt, into betrayal. It’s a difficult issue, but very much worth grappling with. To the reviews!

Art by Mats Minnhagen

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

X Marks the Story October 2018

My latest guide to the wide world of short SFF is up today at The Book Smugglers, covering a bunch of stories that put me in the autumnal spirit. Go check out the full list and further X-plorations! For those who just want the main reviewed stories, that's included below. Cheers!

Coyote Now Wears a Suit”, Ani Fox (Published in Apex #112, September 2018)
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth”, Daryl Gregory (Published at, September 2018)
Shadowdrop”, Chris Willrich (Published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #261, October 2018)
Ten Deals with The Indigo Snake”, Mel Kassel (Published in Lightspeed #101, October 2018)
Saudade”, Nelson Rolon (Published in Fiyah Literary Magazine #8, October 2018)
The Palace of the Silver Dragon”, Y. M. Pang (Published at Strange Horizons, October 2018)