Thursday, January 31, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com January 2019

Art by Ashley Mackenzie
January sees a return to form for, which took most of November and December off of fiction releases. They’re back, and with two short stories and two novelettes covering a lot of thematic ground. From living space ships to food magic, from jinni to wraiths. Most of the pieces deal with haunting, as well, in some form or another. And perhaps more specifically, with people haunting themselves. Holding themselves to the past in ways that are like chains, that offer them no hope or help to move forward. And the stories show how these characters seek to sever the ties with those pasts, with those dreams they have outgrown, so that they can put new ones in their place. The pieces lean dark and quiet, and it’s a wonderful collection of short SFF. To the reviews!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/21/2019 & 01/28/2019

Art by Rachel Quinlan
January keeps on going with two new issues from Strange Horizons featuring an original short story and two original poems. The works cover a lot of ground, thematically, dealing with memory and with place, with visions and perspective. The story takes an interesting look at fate and communication, while the poems bring a rather dark mood that flourishes in the sweeping stanzas of their forms. And mostly it shows the publication doing what it does, providing weekly SFF content that challenges and inspires. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform January 2019

It’s a full month of short SF to kick off 2019 at Motherboard’s Terraform. As always, the pieces on display look at visions of the future, taking trends and projecting them out, wondering what if and guessing at the shape of things to come. Or, perhaps more accurately, guessing at the shape of things that should not come, as each of these stories is a warning against a future full of heightened oppression, fear, insecurity, and corruption. They look at the pressures to conform and the way that mob mentality infects and can drive institutions that shouldn’t be handled by popular demand. The stories skew a little long for the publication, though still very manageable, and they pack rather a strong emotional wallop. So hold onto your feels and get ready for some timely science fiction. To the reviews!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Liver Beware! You’re in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #15: YOU CAN’T SCARE ME!

The title exclamation mark is back, the first time it’s shown up since Let’s Get Invisible! back in #6. I’m beginning to get a feeling that these Exclamation! books are all linked, if not in precise continuity, then in spirit and general construction. There have been three so far from the main series, Say Cheese and Die!, Let’s Get Invisible!, and now You Can’t Scare Me! In each of the books, there is an extended core cast (made up of four kids of mixed genders), and the stories tend to involve the kids stumbling across something weird and having to figure out a way to get distance from it. This was a stronger connection between Say Cheese and Die! and Let’s Get Invisible!, but there’s also an element of it in You Can’t Scare Me! as well. There’s also a blending of magic and science that gives them a more resonating feel to them. Hmm. I wonder if this stylistic consistency will hold up throughout the rest of the series, but for now I find it interesting that here we have another exclamation mark in a title and more similarities with some of the older books.
Oh! But hey, I should talk about what I’m drinking. It’s a Smoked Bock from Lazy Monk Brewing, based right here in Eau Claire, WI. It comes in a 16oz. can and it’s delicious! Definitely something that goes nicely with a book that’s all about mood and scares. So let’s GO!

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Sippys Are Coming...

No reviews today, my darlings. Instead, I want to remind you all of what's coming up on the horizons. That's right, it's almost time for the short SFF award that no one asked for! THE SIPPY AWARDS!

Now, many of you will already be familiar with these awards, which look at short SFF of any length (so up to novellas) across five award categories. These categories are mostly thematic, looking at the different aspects of SFF that I love and seeking to celebrate short SFF that other awards, by separating categories by length only, don't really do. And though I do not have the funds to make actual awards to send to people, I do make up little graphics, especially for the top story in each category, which I call the Big Sip Award Winner.

But what are the categories? So glad you asked! As a refresher, the five categories are...

The "I'd Ship That" Sippy for Excellent Relationships in Short SFF
This looks at stories that feature amazing relationships. Those might be romantic, sexual, friend, enemy, family, or really any way that people relate to people. It doesn't have to be "healthy" relationships (whatever that even means) so long as they're compelling to me.

The "I'm Sleeping with the Lights On" Sippy for Excellent Horror in Short SFF
This isn't just about horror. This is about the intersection of horror and SFF, which is something that has whole publications devoted to it but often finds itself on the outside looking in when it comes to awards. So I want to look at what makes me afraid, and what freaks me right the fuck out.

The "There's Something in My Eye" Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF
Okay, so I'm something of an emotional reader, and sometimes I read a story that leaves me sobbing into my coffee (or stronger adult beverage). I want to honor the stories that do more than tug at the heartstrings--I want to celebrate those that rip those strings out and leave me an emotionally devastated mess.

The "Time to Run Some Red Lights" Sippy for Excellent Action in Short SFF
EXPLOSIONS! SWORD FIGHTS! MAGIC FERRETS! Okay, well, maybe not that last one. But I do want to look at short SFF that features pulse-pounding, jaw-dropping action in a way that only SFF can. Because who brings a gun to a mecha fight?

The "Where We're Going We Won't Need Categories" Sippy for Excellent I'm Not Sure What in Short SFF
And finally, this one is for those stories that just don't fit anywhere. That really experiment with what SFF can look like and how it can feel. These are the stories that are hard to pin down, and that's what makes them so special. Sometimes, when something doesn't fit into a box, the best way to celebrate it isn't to try and force it, but to throw away the idea of boxes (but still, you know, give an award...).

So there you are! The four runners-up as well as the Big Sips for each category will be announced together on consecutive days in February, so look forward to that! Also, this is the fourth year of these awards. If you want to find the previous years, you can check them all out here.



Thursday, January 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #47

Art by Joey Jordan
It’s my pleasure to announce that starting today I’m adding a new publication to my reviewing list—Diabolical Plots! The venues tends to come out with two original stories a month, but kicks off 2019 with three short stories that present a mix of styles and structures. Indeed, the stories are linked perhaps by the novel ways they approach storytelling, with each taking a style that isn’t precisely new (a travelogue utopia/dystopia, a portrait of the mundane, and a list of words and definitions) but doing something different and delightful with them. There’s also a decent amount of darkness to even the brighter of these stories, and a humor to even the darkest of them. And they certainly don’t take the road most taken to reach their literary destinations. To yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #269

Art by Tyler Edlin
The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a lot to do with transformations, with the threat of revenge, and with the need for freedom. It finds characters who are caught in circumstances of waiting to be punished. To be found out. And trying to find a way free of the things hanging over them. Now, some of those things are no fault of their own and some of them...well, the characters aren't always quite so innocent. But the piece looks at freedom and who can hope for it, and what it might cost. The stories deal with the weight of revenge and the feelings that can come when that weight is lifted and set down. To the reviews!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #26 [January stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
The new year brings a new month of short stories and poetry to Uncanny Magazine, with a fresh focus on broken worlds, battered families, and audacious hope. The pieces here outline pathways of resistance, of fighting back against oppression, of refusing to bend under the weight of damage that has been done to the world. It finds characters struggling against their expected roles and finding ways of living true to themselves even in situations where they can't fully escape the touch of injustice or the lingering scars of devastation. Through it all, though, they find moments of tenderness, compassion, and love, and armed with those they go out into a world they can make better. Not whole, perhaps. Not fixed. But soothed a bit under their careful administrations. To the reviews!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #76

Art by Kevron2001 / Fotolia
Nightmare Magazine kicks 2019 off with a pair of short stories very concerned with falling. In both, it’s not so much the landing that’s the problem. It’s the feeling of freefall, of not having a ground beneath your feet. Of knowing that the world is run on money and that’s something that you either don’t have or know is tainted with blood. It’s a story of slow and wrenching climbs that can be toppled with a sudden shift or jolt and lose all the progress gained. These are not easy reads, but through the dense gloom and creeping horror they do offer a way forward, though not perhaps in an expected way. To the reviews!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 01/07/2019 & 01/14/2019

The first two Strange Horizons issues of 2019 feature two short stories and two poems, which deal with hauntings and injustice, with generation oppression and with seeking to come to terms with the past. The stories and poetry weave a picture of characters caught in the wake of tragedy, trying to make sense of the world around them, the losses that don't seem necessary, that all seem pointed and corrupt. These are not very easy pieces to open the year on, but given the global nature of the publication and the global issues facing us at the moment, they are perhaps incredibly fitting. They are difficult, about tracing the contours of loss and pain while still leaving a path open toward healing and hope. To the reviews!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex #116

Art by Tangmo Cecchini
January might not bring a fan-appreciation issue like in the last few years, but it doesn't mean that there isn't a lot to read, with three short stories and a novelette that definitely bring the strange and luminous to Apex Magazine's usual run of dark SFF. The pieces all deal with memories, and with something strange and almost magical brushing against the more "mundane" realities of the worlds they reveal. Our world, in some cases, but not always. And it's certainly a mix of interesting and delicately-imagined settings, ripe with injustice, hurt, and longing, and before I spoil too much, let's get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #148

Art by Pascal Blanché
January brings a slew of new science fiction to Clarkesworld Magazine, which probably isn’t much of a surprise, given the venue’s track record. What is something of a surprise to me is that the publication is taking a month off from translations, as there are five originals all in original English here. But these stories have more in common than just rough genre. They are all stories of planets, of movement. That find characters travelling across great distances to find new worlds and new homes. To be confronted by the lessons of the gods or experience a moment of peace and hope. The stories are all touched by darkness but much more about near-misses, about how situations might devolve into chaos and death but...don’t. Where something brighter manages to hold on and win the day. So without further delay, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #268

Art by Tyler Edlin
It’s a pair of stories about decline and confrontations with gods in this first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of 2019. Both pieces feature villages that have suffered great losses, that have been transformed by what they’ve had to do in order to survive. And both find themselves faced with a situation where they must put themselves in the power of a god (or godling) in order to try and save as many people as possible. More than that, though, both villages have to rely on their own very mortal humanity in order to stand up to the tyranny of gods who have lost their way and role. To the reviews!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Anathema #6

So I might have missed when this latest issue of Anathema dropped on the last day of the year. My apologies! I’m super glad I caught it, though, because it’s an amazing bunch of stories, featuring six different works that explore grief, loss, and a palpable powerlessness. The characters are dealing with things that cannot be changed (or that seem like they cannot be changed) and finding out what they can do about it. That sometimes means learning how to accept things and try to move on, though that’s complicated by grief, by pain, and by the fear of losing more. It’s an emotional and often devastating read, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus January 2019

January brings a short story full of magic, dancing, and...trolls to GigaNotoSaurus, where a young troll comes against the prejudice of humans and the pressure to conform to stereotypes. It’s a piece that looks at art, and the acceptable ways that people are expected to perform—the emotions and characteristics they are allowed to conjure to their audience. And the strength and bravery it can take to break out of those roles and refuse the conventional portrayals and wisdoms concerning different groups. It’s a piece with a breath of the forest, of the damp earth and cool air of a mountain hall, and a troll who wants nothing more than to fill the world with dance. To the review!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [episodes 3-4]

Good news, everyone! Ninth Step Station is available now from Serial Box! So for this exciting release day I’m looking at two more episodes of the sci fi mystery series (be sure to check out my reviews of the first two episodes here). The series mixes near-future political science fiction with police procedural-style mysteries and it’s just a lot of fun. After a strong (if rocky) start to their relationship…well, Miyako and Emma are still definitely trying to figure out how to work together. But split allegiances and outright lies aren’t really helping things. Throw in some invisible men and serial killers and this represents a very tense pair of episodes. And before I can give to much away, let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #9

Art bDustin Bolton
A new year means a new issue from Fiyah Literary Magazine. Which comes with some news. Namely, that co-executive editor Justina Ireland is stepping down and leaving the publication and DaVaun Sanders is stepping up into that role. The issue also steps back from the tradition of centering around a specific theme, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few that sneak in. Namely, a lot of the works look at infection, disease, and affliction. They map the devastation that pandemics create, whether the plagues are medical, magical, or moral. And they find characters who are faced with the sicknesses draining their worlds and have to decide what to do about it. Fight back? Seek a cure? Flee? Or weather the storm as much as possible? It’s an issue full of defiance and strength, though it recognizes that sometimes even that isn’t enough. There’s four short stories, one novelette, and two poems to get to, so let’s dive right into the reviews!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online January 2019

Art by Dario Bijelac
Kicking off the year with an issue full of food and drink, Flash Fiction Online opens 2019 with three stories that explore the comforts, fears, and griefs of cooking. From a couple who use food in intimate and foundational ways to a young woman trying to connect to a dead relative through a special libation to a pair of chefs searching Mars for a vital ingredient, the three pieces all show the power of food and drink to bring people together. To connect people through flavor and through labor, through joy and through sorrow. It’s a story full of strangeness, and the danger of dissolution, but also full of the love of food, and family, and all the flavors of home. To the reviews!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #44

Art by grandfailure
January 2019 seems a great time to remind readers by The Dark Magazine is named, well, The Dark. Because it sets a course for visceral horror and does not waver as it sails directly for it. Through a quiet, almost somber tone, it takes readers on a descent, through the crust of the earth to the roiling innards and deeper, deeper, cutting through the societal niceties and norms and finding a raw and bleeding heart crying for change. The stories feature characters trapped in many ways by their roles, by their jobs, and by their responsibilities to their families. They take two very different paths, but both works explore what lurks beneath the surface, and what darknesses can come back up when people dip down and try to rise.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #104

Art by Reiko Murakami
A new year brings some familiar faces to Lightspeed Magazine, including two new stories from larger works that have appeared before at the publication. More than that, though, the stories have a certain focus on them, of growth and cycles and family. Of people in situations where they are questioning the givens in their lives—the rules and the goals that they’ve always thought they were working towards. For some of them, this moment of crisis and examination causes their outlooks and their motivations to crack. For others, though, it allows them to remember what they are doing and why they are doing it. The stories look at cycles, at the ways that people fall into patterns of harm and isolation, and how they can seek to break through that and forge into uncharted territory, toward a future made better by their efforts. To the reviews!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/17/2018 & 12/31/2018

You know, I kinda thought I was done with the year when I didn't see a new Strange Horizons issue out on the 24th. But, of course, the best laid plans of mice and reviewers and all that. So instead of having just one story and one poem to cover for today, it's one story and five poems. Strange Horizons certainly is sending the year out in style with extra poetryrific experience. For my part, I'm already drinking mimosas on New Years Day and I will be damned if I'm going to let that stop me from closing out my reviews of 2018. So let's get to the reviews!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform December 2018

Well, Terraform got one of its stories in just under the wire, meaning I'm a little late in posting this today because of the holiday and everything. But the month certainly brought a rather...apocalyptic bunch of stories forward, focusing on dramas both personal and global and keeping the tone dark and foreboding. From the ways that devices can be used to gather data on consumers (for both good and ill) to ways that the planet has to be completely re-imagined if it's to survive humanity, the pieces are perhaps a little doom-and-gloom, though not without some heart and some hope for the future. Fitting, for the final works of the year. To the reviews!