Thursday, February 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/04/2019 & 02/11/2019

Two short stories and two poems open up February’s Strange Horizons offerings. The fiction at least focuses on history and fairy tales. On the injustices that people layer onto those who don’t have power. On the children and peasants of the world. But how the truth and the dark realities that the powerful author and ignore have a way of coming back, of being felt in strange and haunting ways. The poetry mixes the wonders and chaos of creation and universe-exploding potential with…the wonders and chaos of day to day life and partnering and cohabitating. And it keeps in perfect harmony with my own feelings about the publication—often lyrical, often heartbreaking, always Strange. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #26 [February stuff]

Art by Julie Dillon
It’s a full February at Uncanny Magazine, with two poems, two short stories, and a novelette to round out this shortest month of the year. The fiction is broken situations. People who have been abused and are looking for a place to belong. And yet finding that place isn’t always easy—often what might seem safe could be a new abuse in disguise, a sort of pitcher plant designed to lure in the desperate. For those who can avoid the traps, though, the pieces also focus on the joy that can be found in finding a place, and a people, who make you feel at home. With a purpose that rings true and the ability to live, even if it will always be tempered by the ways the world is broken or corrupt. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #149

Art by Arthur Haas
Clarkesworld hits February running with five short stories and a novelette, all taking on some big issues. From genetic manipulation to colonialism, from empathy to divinity, the stories tackle some Big Ideas, with some mixed results. The joy of reading SFF is that it can often make literal circumstances that would otherwise be purely figurative or philosophical. What if the world worked quite differently? What if people could experience an alien afterlife? It allows us to explore moral and ethical concerns without test subjects, but that’s not to say that means no harm is done. Though often careful, I find myself hesitating around many of the stories here this month, that seem to bring up some Big Ideas without fully examining how those ideas are in conversation with real world injustices and harms. But before I get too much into that, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex #117

Art by Julia Griffin
February’s Apex Magazine is a little shorter than usual, with only two short stories (though there’s still over 12,000 words of original content), but the pieces definitely don’t feel small. Indeed, they’re about people who are tired of being forced into boxes too cramped and confining. Roles laced with pain and abuse. Situations where hope seems hidden behind a veil. They are done being expendable, being victims, and they are fighting back. Both pieces balance action and heavy emotional lifting, blending wonderfully realized and magical settings with careful character work that doesn’t make light of what they’ve gone through or where they’re going. So let’s jump right into the reviews!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2019

Art by Dario Bijelac
February brings a batch of short SFF to Flash Fiction Online featuring a sense of longing, community, and the threat of loss. In each of the stories, characters deal with a fragile connection to someone else. To a child, or a student, or a part of themself. And in each that connection is under attack, is threatened in a way that makes any action dangerous. That makes any movement perilous. And in each story the characters’ movements are explored—their hesitation or their determination to keep going or stand still. And it makes for a rather quiet, rather wrenching month of stories, with a delicate but resilient hope that shines even in the darkness. To the reviews!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #45

Art by Peter Polach (Apterus)
February brings a pair of stories to The Dark Magazine that center energy in different ways. Ghosts, in different ways. Exploitation, in different ways. But both look at women moving through a world where it’s dangerous to exist. Where it’s dangerous to be competent and independent. And where they can’t really maintain what they have without a little help. Now, for one of the characters that help is freely given, a form of justice and strength and hope. For the other...well, for the other it is something taken from those with less power, with less rights, and with less ability to fight back. And both are great dark fantasies that look at the abuses of society and show how hard it is not to be pulled under by the currents of societal roles and expectations. To the reviews!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #105

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
The February issue of Lightspeed Magazine runs a little long with two novelettes and two short stories that look at confinement in a lot of different ways. That look at freedom and what happens when people’s freedoms are taken away, by an outside force, by nature, or by fate. Each piece finds people struggling with systems that limit them. That might mean man-made systems of criminal justice, or social convention, or something a bit more divine, like fate or death itself. The stories show how characters either try and fight back against these systems (where they are corrupt) or learn how to accept or embrace them (where they are just). It’s an interesting bunch of stories with a slower, more ponderous feel to the issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [episodes 5-6]

I’m looking at another pair of episodes from Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station. The whole look and feel of Serial Box mirrors television, with projects coming out in seasons and taking on tropes and genres that feel TV-ish, but in a way that television might not be able to really pull off. Which is something of a shame because I would watch the hell out of this show. Still, coming in fiction form is just as good, and I love how each episode comes alive a little different for each of the serial’s authors. Today marks the halfway point in the first season, and so it’s rather apt that the focus (while still featuring individual mysteries) grows a bit broader to look at the setting and just where Emma and Miyako might be headed now that they’ve come to a better place as partners. They’re beginning to trust each other at lost last. Which means it’s time to throw a wrench (or a few Chinese detectives) into the works at see how it plays out. To the reviews!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #270

Art by Flavio Bolla
The second Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of January brings with it two stories about war and conflict and the women, reaching for each other, who are pulled apart by conflict, death, and grief. It follows two women in two very different situations, but both of them hurt by war, by what it has taken from them. And they both have to figure out what to do and where to go when what was familiar and relatively safe for them is taken away. Is made not an option. And it leaves them struggling to snatch something back from the jaws of war, from the gravity of sorrow. So let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #63

Art by Galen Dara
There's some big goings-on at Fireside Magazine in 2018, and January kicks off with five original stories plus an original poem. The pieces can be rather short (the poem might be longer than a number of the stories), but that doesn't mean they pack less of a punch. The pieces range from deeply dark to lighter and so so cute, from epic and unexpected to unsettling and tense. The relationships that the pieces introduce, though, are complex and interesting and enlightening. From a father desperate to give his son a better life to a spouse unsure how to talk about what's happening to them without draining those they care about. The piece looks at impossible situations, or situations that seem impossible, and shows how people move forward regardless. To the reviews!