Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #687 & #689

July brings two original stories to Escape Pod, both featuring families and very vividly drawn distant worlds. Of course, these worlds couldn't be more different from each other. On one, exploitation is the name of the game, everyone essentially being born into debt and striving to buy their way out and reach for a better life for them and their families. On the other, a majority-neuroatypical population has built a world that functions for them, where people have what they need and are protected from abuse. At first glance, from a neurotypical point of view, it seems almost dystopian. But digging deeper reveals the true nature of this world, and makes me really want to move there. It's a great pairing of stories that offer very different feels, and before I give too much more away, I'll get right to my reviews!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #282

Art by Artur Zima
The two stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies have everything to do with war and survival. With people who have lived despite the horrors they have seen and, in some way, despite the horrors they have authored. And both characters find that conflict is finding them again, putting them back in a place where they will be witness and conduit for something large, something powerful and shattering. For something that could spark a new war, and stop one from reigniting. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #53

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories in this month's Diabolical Plots bring two very different moods and styles. One is a slice of the absurd, a satire of politics and social media and authoritarianism. The other looks at a situation no less corrupt, no less dominated by abuses of power, but with an entirely different feel to it. It's dark and it's visceral and it's rather disturbing, looking at punishment and justice and religion in some uncomfortable ways. Both do interesting things with their worlds, though, and work to expose hypocrisy of systems that don't lend themselves to introspection. Let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #82

Art by Rosario Rizzo / Adobe Stock Footage
The two stories in this issue of Nightmare Magazine feature monsters and characters not really satisfied with their lives. Aside from that, though, these two stories are about as different as they can be, one a thriller of a read where a man must navigate a forest and a storm populated by a living nightmare, and the other a much more sensual piece about choice and longing. They’re both told in first person, both feature nameless narrators, and both are very light on dialogue, but thematically they contrast nicely, asking what it means to be a monster, and exploring how people seek to take control of their own lives. To the reviews!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #29 [July stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
This month’s Uncanny Magazine gets dark. From monsters and murder to abuse and death to magic and exploitation, the fiction features a number of characters facing their own demons. The dark places inside themselves, and the dark forces outside seeking to use them for further harm. Who are seeking to devour them, to corrupt them, to twist them. The works don’t have a lot of bright spots to them, and poetry gets in on the darkness as well, featuring doomed astronauts and haunting songs. The issue on the whole is difficult for me, visceral and tragic, though not entirely without warmth. To the reviews!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #154

Art by Axel Sauerwald
There’s A LOT to get to in the latest Clarkesworld, with seven new stories including three different translations (from Chinese, Korean, and Spanish). These are stories that tend to focus on relationships, on whether the world is worth saving, and on how to live in bleak times. The stories approach those ideas in many different ways, sometimes hopefully, sometimes...not. But they offer a lot of interesting worlds to explore and futures to imagine. Or pasts. Or alternate dimensions. It’s a nicely balanced issue that shows the beauty and tragedy and joy of humanity, and doesn’t really have any easy answers, but often finds comfort in the small connections people make with each other in the face of the giant and annihilating forces of the universe. There’s also an editorial on the state of short SFF that is well worth checking out. To the reviews!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 07/01/2019 & 07/08/2019

The Strange Horizons fund drive is going on now, but that doesn't mean the regularly scheduled fiction and poetry isn't charging ahead full steam. I'll be looking at the special bonus fiction and poetry at the end of the month instead of breaking it into the normal releases (an extra Monday helped make that decision, because I don't know what the end of July will bring for the publication). And these issues are, well, these stories are difficult, full of death and loss and grief and guilt. They examine what it means to survive, and what happens with that survival is threatened, and it looks at complicity and systems. And really it's a grim pair of issues, but ones still very much worth lingering on for their innovation, beauty, and power. To the reviews!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #281

Art by Artur Zima
It’s another well paired issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two works (one short story and one novelette) that very much involve bargains, bodies, and children (or at least the specter of them). For all that they go very well together, the stories diverge strongly on how they approach children and child bearing. Both characters are looking to make bargains, to find a way to get what they want, but what exactly they want is very different. Freedom and relief mean different things for them, but both know that they’re willing to do just about anything, pay just about anything, for what they want. If you want to know what that entails, though, you’ll have to follow me to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Fiyah #11

Art by Seth Brown
Four stories and two poems breath life into a rare unthemed issue of Fiyah Magazine. Despite the lack of theme going in, though, a theme might just develop after the fact. For me, at least, most of the pieces deal with traditions, with storytelling. Most of them are about facing a future, whether it’s a future of conflict or movement or rebirth. And they circle around questions of how to honor the past while pushing for something new. Something better, perhaps. But one that builds on the foundations of the past and present. One that takes strength and resilience and integrity. And it’s another beautiful issue from a publication that’s once again having a magnificent year. To the reviews!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online July 2019

The editorial in July’s Flash Fiction Online says that the stories of the issue are linked by their focus on choices, and I agree with that. These are stories where the characters are faced with a decision of how to react to a situation. Of how to move forward in a place where their options are not infinite, and in many ways where their options are not even very good. They are being limited by loss, by the malice of others, and by systemic corruptions. And it leads the characters in very different, and interesting directions that speak to how people hold to hope when their worlds seem to be pushing them into impossible choices. To the reviews!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #50

Art by Tanya Varga
It’s a special anniversary issue of The Dark Magazine as the publication turns 50! 50 issues, that is, and to celebrate there are all new stories, four in total, to terrify, unsettle, and maybe inspire. It’s a nicely paired issue, as well, with the stories looking at complicity and injustice, each one finding characters dealing with how to live in a world that is dangerous, where there are forces that want their destruction. Do they slink back, try to hide? Do they run? Do they try to fight back? Are they crushed all the same? The works show how complicity works in many ways, how it’s often nearly impossible to reject completely, but how sometimes people can resist allowing injustice to continue, and by standing up to it can begin to work towards a world where it doesn’t play as huge a role in society. To the reviews!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #110

Art by Sam Schechter
Two short stories and two novelettes make for a fairly substantive issue of Lightspeed, with a return to some old friends and a focus on tricksters of various sorts. For some this means literal trickster gods part of a great diaspora. In others this means people just trying to get by with a little graft and gumption. For others still it means meeting a vast and strange universe with energy and a true neutral outlook on morality. Whatever the case, these feature characters trying to make it in environments maybe not designed for them, but where they can make a home for themselves all the same. And before I give too much away, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [s01.05 & s01.06]

With the two episodes of Serial Box’s Alternis I’m looking at today, the series’ first season passes the halfway mark in impressive style. Though the project has been largely dominated by false starts and level grinding, the kid gloves come off and all bets are off as Tandy and the team deal with trying to learn to trust each other just as all hell breaks loose. It’s an impressive turn in the direction and pacing of the project, and if you weren’t absolutely invested before this, you will be after. To the reviews!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform June 2019

There’s four new speculations on possible futures in June’s offerings from Terraform. As always, the pieces cover a range, unified by their focus on the future, mostly the near-future, and what might be in store for humanity. It’s…well, it’s not always bleak picture. Some, indeed, seem to focus on what might be considered accidents. Some happy, some not-so-happy, and all of them leading the characters in unexpected directions where they have to make a choice of what to do, where to go, and how to balance survival and living. To the reviews!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com June 2019

Art by Gregory Manchess
Two short stories and two novelettes make for a fairly full month from Tor dot com. On top of yet another Mongolian Wizard story, there are works about inter-dimensional airships, torture in the name of psychological research, and a group of young women camping in the woods. The pieces lean on the dark side, highlighting drain and the stress of living in situations where exploitation is the law of the land. But some also find people trying to break free of the cycle, even as others show people being consumed by it. A nice range of stories, which I'll get right to reviewing!

Friday, June 28, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #20: THE SCARECROW WALKS AT MIDNIGHT

People, this is going to require a grown up drink. Because, well, because we get into some stuff that’s fairly common in horror but that Goosebumps hasn’t as a rule gotten into so much. So I’m drinking a whole pint of German IPA from Lazy Monk Brewing, a local favorite right here in sunny Eau Claire. Because this book. Oh this book. I guess let’s begin...

LIVER BEWARE! You’re in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #19: DEEP TROUBLE

So if you measured my slow descent into madness through my reading of the Goosebumps series, this book marks a new twist in an already interesting experience. In some ways it reminds me of The Girl Who Cried Monster in the way that it takes its speculative core and doesn’t even bother pretending that it isn’t real. But unlike that read, which was very much about the horror of not being believed, of something terrible hiding in plain sight, this book...well...huh. I’m not sure I’d call it a horror at all, despite the cover, which really brings to mind all the terror evoked by the sea and other deep waters. It’s actually about...uh...mermaids. And sweet Christmas, where’s my drink?

Oh right, drinking. So I recently came across a brand of seltzer that had names I could not resist. And one of them is Mermaid Songs. Which is...weird. Like, I’m not sure if mermaids are known for their songs, but whatever. Given that this book is similarly weird, though, I figured slapping some gin into the mix would make for an appropriate fuel for this review. So yeah, let’s get started!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #68

Art by Ora Xu
Four short stories and a poem make June's Fireside Magazine a wonderful buffet of short SFF, with works tackling ancient myths to futures post-apocalyptic. From noodle shops and court intrigue to strained familial relationships and diasporas. A lot of the works here deal with masks, with people playing roles in order to try and make their lives run smoothly. Only sometimes these masks are prisons, holding them back by trapping them in roles they aren't suited for. It's a rich and lovely look at short SFF, and I'll get to the reviews!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/17/2019 & Samovar 06/24/2019

Art by Galen Dara
June sees a new issue from Strange Horizons and a new issue of SFF-in-translation from sibling publication Samovar. Together they offer up three short stories and two poems, all that carry a heavy edge of weird with them. The stories are rarely straightforward, taking innovative approaches to time, voice, and setting, weaving tales that blink across year or unfold in the nebulous space of dreams. They are full of strange characters, dark secrets, and small watchful eyes. For all that they also seem to reach for justice, and if not for hope than for something deeper and darker. It's a rather difficult pair of issues to describe, but I'll give it my best as we get to the reviews!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #280

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two stories (one novelette and one short story) that feature cities where unrest and conflict are starting to boil. In one, the greed and corruption of the elite have created a situation where the slightest spark might ignite a bloody revolution. While in the other, a city is built on the labor of a conquered people, only for a new status quo to arrive with a shattering impact. Both show characters having to decide how to use power in complex situations where people will die either way. And having to walk the line between doing what’s right and what’s easy. It’s a complex issue that I’ll get right to reviewing!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #683

So when I ran a poll to see which of the Escape Artist podcasts I should add to my regular rotation, the results were...very close. As in, separated by a single vote. So while PodCastle won, Escape Pod was very much close behind, and when I crunched the numbers I found out that I can actually fit both publications into my regular reviews. So good news—I did just that! Starting this month I’m looking at the original releases from Escape Pod, and it kicks off with a compelling and compassionate look at AI and Armageddon. To the review!

Quick Sips - PodCastle #577

It’s a new day at Quick Sip Reviews. Or, I mean, every day is a new day, but not every day I get to add a new publication to my review rotation. So today I’m welcoming PodCastle to my regular schedule. It’s part of the larger Escape Artist umbrella of SFF/H podcasts, and it earned the top spot in a recent poll I ran on my Patreon for which I should add. And I picked a great month to jump on this bandwagon, as this month’s story features one of my favorite topics to tackle in short SFF—Food! It’s a complex and rather deliciously imagined story about faith and family and flavor, and before I give too much away, I’ll get right to the review!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #52

Art by Joey Jordan
June brings a pair of SFF stories to Diabolical Plots that are very much about places. Two very different places, perhaps (one bustling city, one small village), but still stories that really dig into the ways that settings shape a whole lot about the lives of the people living in them. And how no place, no setting, is inherently free of problems or dangers. Cities might contain multitudes, and promise wonder and magic, but they also have a weight to them that can be crushing. And small towns might seem idyllic for their connectedness, but there’s also an atmosphere of silence that can grow to resist shattering that community, even at the expense of the most vulnerable. So let’s explore some speculative settings and get to the reviews!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #28 [June stuff]

Art by Galen Dara
June's Uncanny Magazine brings a bit of heartbreak, a bit of horror, but also a bit of romance. At least, two of the stories feature some rich romantic themes, and develop characters reaching out in compassion even as the world around them seems to descend into some very dark waters. The works explore worlds dominated in many ways by cruelty, and seek to find compassion and empathy, sometimes rather forcibly. Throw in a pair of poems taking on some different meta-fictional lenses, and it's an issue that will make you think even as it entertains. So let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Glittership Autumn 2018

Having a new issue of Glittership to read and experience is always reasons to celebrate, so break out the rainbow streamers and mix up something fruity as we celebrate Pride with a slew of queer short SFF. I should note that despite the cover reading Autumn 2018, these stories and poems are all 2019 originals (well, aside from the reprints) and should be considered for this year's awards eligibility. It's a great mix of work this issue, with three original stories, three poems, and three fiction reprints (which I won't be looking at today but which look very much worth checking out). They cover a range of genres and identities and really, if you're looking for some wonderfully queer works to read to celebrate the feeling of the season, you should pick up the issue or stream the podcasts immediately. To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #81

Art by Alexandra Petruk /Fotolia
It’s a tightly paired issue at Nightmare Magazine, with two short stories looking at the power of storytelling itself. Which is always an interesting metatextual choice, using the form itself to examine the methods and strengths of stories to inspire and distract, to explain and to obfuscate. The piece shows a woman using stories as a sort of promise and prayer, and another using stories as confession, as a final explanation at the end of the world. Both stories are layered, revealing both a world that has becoming increasingly bleak and one where maybe things…aren’t okay exactly, but where relief is possible, and a laying down of burdens. It’s a difficult issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Quick Sip - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #40 (addendum)

Art by Jereme Peabody
Because of the special fortieth(!!!) issue, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has done a special update this month, including a new story featuring dragons, quests, and song. The piece takes a rather interesting and deep look at stories themselves, and how they can shape how people experience reality. It’s a bit strange and even a little experimental for the publication, but I feel like it pays off in some interesting ways. There’s a bit of fun, a bit of humor, and a touch of something dark to the piece, and before I give too much away I should just review it already!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 06/03/2019 & 06/10/2019

Two stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons’ June offerings, and they feature a fascinating mix of horror and trauma. In both of the stories released, people cope with the realities of their lives, the magic and the hurt that they never chose, but that has very much shaped their worlds and their futures. For the characters in the stories, there is a choice to be made, to either continue being passengers in their own lives, defined by the journeys and desires of others, or to take control of themselves and try to steer towards a future where they don’t have to carry the burdens of their pains any longer. It’s a difficult and wrenching mix of works, but beautifully told and rendered. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #279

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two very different stories that both revolve around romance, monsters, magic, and healing. Both the main characters are women seeking change, though how they’re seeking that is a bit...misplaced at first. What they need isn’t something they’ll find in the healing of a preacher or the absolution of a mermaid, but rather a chance to really embrace who they are and explore the future with a kindred spirit, a person they can share with and who can help them heal and embrace who they really are. That’s not without risk, though, and both stories show how the main characters must fight in order to break free or through the forces trying to keep them from what they want. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #153

Art by J.R. Slattum
It’s another big issue from Clarkesworld, with five short stories (including one Korean translation) and one novelette. And a lot of the stories deal with colonization and death, religion and intolerance. The characters are often faced with people who are different, and must decide how to approach that. With fear and hatred? With distrust? With a hunger for exploitation? At their most hopeful, the stories imagine a future with humans among the stars, embracing a vast community and cooperation. At their bleakest, they reveal people victimized and destroyed by dogma and fear. All in all, though, it’s a rich and complex issue full of big ideas and careful character work. To the reviews!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online June 2019

Art by Dario Bijelac
June brings three new stories to Flash Fiction Online that deal with meetings and relationships. Not all of them are romantic, but they feature people trying to navigate their lives and facing intrusions into that space. A sphinx who appears in the garden. A pain that comes from outside a person’s body. An intruder on the moon. The pieces explore how these things are faced, confronted, and either defeated, endured, or integrated into a new status quo. The pieces are heavy with loss and longing but bright with hope and possibilities. To the reviews!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #49

Art by Jonathan Simard
The June issue of The Dark focuses on systems and being stuck in them. It finds two characters who have been pulled into a situation they didn’t chose and don’t want. Where they are pressured into becoming an instrument of death, a pawn in a hunger they don’t want to have. They have two very different paths through these troubled waters, though. Because not all hungers can be refused, and not all chains can be broken, even if sometimes hope and family are enough to reach for freedom. To the reviews!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #109

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
It’s a rather weighty issue of Lightspeed Magazine this June, with four stories all over 5000 words. The pieces are eclectic, following far future bureaucracies and fables full of gods and jinn. All the stories feature women dealing with situations they didn’t really chose, though. Systems that are not exactly built for justice. The worlds they grow in are touched in profound ways by darkness and corruption, and yet they all seek in different ways to bring in some light, some hope that people can do better, and find happiness. To the reviews!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [s01.03 & s01.04]

After a pair of episodes penned by the same author, these two new installments of Alternis from Serial Box come from different sources. The authors do a good job of flowing the style and feel of the world and characters, though, creating a mostly seamless transition and exploring the world of the game further. And it is in many ways about the shock of a rather idealistic creator finding out exactly what her game is being used for, facing the criticism from people who have very different styles of play, priorities, and stakes. All while keeping things weird, charming, and tense. To the reviews!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [s01.09 & s01.10]

I need to remember to be careful going into the last episodes of Serial Box projects, because The Vela continues the tradition started by Ninth Step Station of me getting to the end and then attempting desperately to scroll for more. What do you mean it’s the end of the season?!?! What do you mean I have to wait for more?!?! There’s going to be more, right? Right?! This story has taken the main characters and put them through the wringer. You thought the finale would be all bunnies and down pillows? Buckle up, dearest readers, we’re in for a thrilling ride!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com May 2019

Art by Gregory Manchess
Well what started as a large month at Tor.com sort of tapered off quickly, with only one short story and one novelette in May. Both works are linked by being part of larger series, though, the first one of the Mongolian Wizard cycle starring Ritter and Freki, the other one a new work in the Wild Cards universe. Both do interesting things with the settings and characters, featuring people on missions that…aren’t quite what they seem. If that means a journalist who ends up uncovering a story he wasn’t prepared for or a detective solving a crime that never happened, the pieces are all about the unexpected. My role in all of this isn’t, though, so as usual, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform May 2019

It’s a fairly full May from Terraform, with five short stories taking on superheroes, robotic soldiers, historic justice, mental health, and death tourism. These are some interesting and largely bleak looks at the future, though not without exception. Though most of the stories look at a future with some huge and fundamental problems, there remains in most of them a hope. Not necessarily that humans are going to fix everything. But that people might find a way to break free of the cycles of oppression and injustice that lock the planet on a trajectory toward destruction and tragedy. They’re some cutting looks at the present through the lens of future speculation. So let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #67

Art by Matthew Davis
Four short stories and a poem make for a fairly standard month at Fireside Magazine, though it's perhaps a little unusual that none of the fiction falls under 1000 words. It doesn't mean the stories are long, but the extra words give the month a bit more of a melancholy feel. The stories are infused with loss and yearning, with characters moving through a world that is often harsh, often corrupt, and filled with trauma. War, governmental abuse, and complex family dynamics make for a wrenching bunch of stories, and for me there's a sense of wondering what can be done in the face of loss suffered when relatively powerless. How it complicates and deepens hurts. But before I give too much away, let's get to the reviews!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/20/2019 & 05/27/2019

Art by Charis Loke
Strange Horizons closes up May with two issues covering one short story and two poems (plus lots of nonfiction that's very much worth checking out). The pieces look at place, and at personhood, at anger and hurt and destruction. The publication very much stays in keeping with its title, with pieces coated in weirdness, in metaphor and darkness and resilience. They find non-human characters dealing with having been made into something to serve humanity, with wanting to reach forward to a time when maybe they can be free again, and can exist without the demands that humans place on them. It's a difficult pair of issues, but very much worth checking out. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #278

Art by Victoriya "Anda" Shamykina
The second May issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features two stories very much about the abuses of monarchies and the hard work of pushing for systemic change in authoritarian situations. Because change is dependent on one person seeing other humans as people, as worthy of consideration. For those who have been raised in affluence, that’s not always an easy thing. So we find two stories where two very different characters have to face how they will deal with a future that could be full of blood and loss, and how they might minimize the damage. It’s an issue of sacrifice and blood, and it resonates with power, death, and hope. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #51

Art by Joey Jordan
Loss infuses the two original stories from Diabolical Plots this month, with narratives centering sacrifice and violence, history and resilience. They are two very different pieces, one growing out of a willing compact between a town and the sea, the other looking at a different and less consensual sort of link between a place and people. Both in some ways are about cities, though, and the darkness and the hurt and the loss that lives in the heart of of them, that flows through their histories like water. And they look at the weight of tragedy and a couple of moments where people are able to push back and survive. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Lackington's #19 [Voyages]

Art by Carrion House
May brings a new Voyages-themed issue of Lackington’s, with six original short stories to take you away from the comforts of your chair and transport you to different worlds and different times. The stories are all about movement, about the itch to travel and see new places. That might be another country or another planet. It might be a moon or just a little further down the track. But these are stories that revel in the journey and the joy and the meaning to be found through voyaging. They reveal worlds strange and familiar, haunting and affirming, and before I gush too much I should get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #40

Art by Jereme Peabody
May brings a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, which this go-round has three short stories, one novelette, and one poem. Which is a little light on poetry, but things seem rather busy with the editorial staff as they have launched a kickstarter to fund their third Best of anthology. And the stories themselves very much celebrate what many would consider “classic” fantasy, with its heroes, dark wizards, vividly rendered worlds, and epic action. These are stories of adventures, of hope and confidence and fear and family. They show the strengths of the genre—the wonder and the horror only possible with a little magic. So let’s get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Omenana #13

Art by Sunny Efemena
A new issue of Omenana is out now, with six new short stories (plus nonfiction and art!). It’s an issue devoted to urban legends, exploring stories of magic and gods, monsters and family. There’s a bit of a feel of storms to the stories, too, of the natural world and all its power and rage being channeled into magic, into people and situations that can’t be stopped. That must be weathered. Or not. And it’s something of a bittersweet issue as well, marking as it does the exit of editor Chinelo Onwualu, who has given the world some truly amazing issues of a fantastic publication. I can only hope that the publication itself might continuing its publishing, and I very much look forward to the future of Omenana. To the reviews!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #80

Art by Chainat / Fotolio
Two very different stories make up the May issue of Nightmare Magazine, though both have a lot to do with history and justice. One is a ghost story, though, about curses and about betrayal—about a moment of two people finding each other in the midst of corruption and loss and helping each other a little bit find some beginning of, if not full justice, at least some revenge. And the second piece is a formally innovative one about a history that has for so long been written by colonizers, and is just now starting to include the voices of those with direct ties to the history in question. Both pieces ask what justice looks like in the midst of corruption and violence. Neither necessarily reaches a full answer, but their attempts do paint a startling and rather creepy picture. To the reviews!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/06/2019 & 05/13/2019

Two short stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons' May, and a lot of them are very much about homes. About places. The fiction especially gives a presence to the places where people live. To the rooms. The attics. The strange constructions. It gives them a sort of autonomy and voice. It grants them action, and in a way that is not always healthy for the people who would live with them. Because these places know what it is to be abandoned. To be left. And they don't seem to want that to happen again, regardless of what it might cost the humans they so desire. It's a very strange pair of issues, but also just vivid and surreal and worth some careful consideration. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex Magazine #120

Art by Godwin Akpan
Well this is it. The final (for now) issue of Apex Magazine. It's also a special guest-edited special issue from editor Maurice Broaddus. The stories are a mix of hope and fear, exploring futures torn apart by climate change, xenophobia, corruption, and conservatism. Per the mission statement of the publication, these are stories that walk the edge of bleakness and despair, that do not sugar-coat the violent or cruel depths that humans are capable of plunging headlong into. Through that, though, they explore hope in the has of annihilation, resistance in the face of corruption, life in the face of oppression. The stories see worlds only a step from our own and offer guidance, and dire warnings, of what might come if we don't do something now to spread compassion instead of exploitation. So for the last time (for now) for this publication, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #28 [May stuff]

Art by Galen Dara
Given that May contains Mothers’ Day, it’s perhaps rather fitting that a lot of the most recent Uncanny Magazine features mothers in SFF. At the very least, the issue takes a keen look at parenting, loss, trauma, and what healing can look like. The stories show characters dealing with their feelings about their parents, about their mothers, their fathers, their sons. About what to risk, and how to put those relationships in context with a larger identity and world. And it’s a dazzling collection of works, at turns heartbreaking and terrifying and fun, and always gorgeously rendered. There’s quite a bit to get to, though, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #277

I continue to be impressed by the way that Beneath Ceaseless Skies can pair stories together without soliciting specific elements or themes. Here we have two stories (one short story & one novelette) that feature family and bones and magic and reaching for a better station in life. For both main characters, a situation presents itself where they can accept a lot in life that might be simple and boring and familiar, or they can take a risk and maybe grab something better. And of course they both reach for that something better. The stories explore just how that act of reaching changes them, and how the outcomes aren’t certain, and even if they do grasp what they sought, it might not be exactly what they expected. To the reviews!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Alternis [s01.01 & s01.02]

I’m starting my look at a new serial project from Serial Box, Alternis. It is available for preorder right now and will drop in just two days. Two days, people! For those not looking to be spoiled, keep it to the No Spoilers section (of ep01, as the ep02 recap has mild spoilers)! Like with the previous Serial Box works I’ve covered, this project is imagined as a show in text form, these two episodes representing something of the pilot and immediate follow up. And as an introduction to this new world they do a fine job of conveying both the terror living in the background, the threats of global war and catastrophe, and the weight of the foreground, the grind of trying to get by in a world where the safety nets have largely been cut away, leaving everyone one step away from the abyss. The main character here is our entry into all of this, a woman hustling to live and reach for something like security when that seems the more impossible of dreams. Only her portal into a better world ends up being a bit more literal than she thought, and through a strange confluence of events she’s thrown into a global competition that will decide the course of human events. It’s an ambitious opening, and one I’m very excited to see where it will go. To the reviews!