Friday, March 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #274

Art by Vicky J. Bawangun

It’s been a while since I could say I made a little less work for myself, but I’m only reviewing half of the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Why? Well, the other half happens to be written by me, and it’s my policy to not review my own work. If you want to go read it, awesome (you can listen to the amazing podcast, too). But I will be focusing on the other story, a novelette that reveals a very grim world and a character who has faced violation and pain and now stands on the precipice of something else—power. It’s a difficult read but a powerful one, full of damage and hope and destruction, and I’ll get right to my review!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com March 2019

Art by Armando Veve
Coming off a full February, Tor's March lineup relaxes a bit with just one short story and one novelette (so far, at least, assuming nothing new slips in before the end of the month). The two pieces take on some very interesting settings, though, where the world has been changed by some rather huge events. In one, some animals have become Knowledgeable, uplifted to "human levels," though the true implications of the world are much more complex than that. In the other, we return to the Wild Cards universe, where a virus makes certain people develop power, turning them into Aces...or Jokers. The stories look at people trying to get by and maybe do the right thing, though in very different ways and tones. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #65

Art by Bernard Lee
March brings a four short stories and a poem to Fireside Magazine, each of them full of darkness and light in warring measures. In each piece, people grow up hoping to find a place to belong. A world that matches the hope and brightness of their dreams and the stories they are told. But as they grow they find other fates waiting for them, trying to claim them. Trying to make them victims of the hunger darkness around them. Without the protection of a just system, these shadows do try to take many of the characters. But not all of them fall into the dark. Some of them are able to rise up, to join with others to fight back and seek to build a space to be true to themselves. It’s a defiant, inspiring issue of fiction and poetry that acts as a sort of extended hand to the weary, urging them up and forward to further the fight. So let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/18/2019 & Samovar 03/25/2019

Late March brings new issues of Strange Horizons and Samovar, as well as editorial changes. There are two new poems, a short story, and a novelette to check out, as well as extra nonfiction and a reprint story that I won’t be covering here but that are always worth checking out. And the stories deal with some very heavy and potentially disturbing subjects. Lies in the face of global destruction. Family abuse and sexual assault. The zombie apocalypse. The works are all careful with their content, though, working hard to paint pictures that challenge and bring the reader to confront some difficult topics in nuanced and compassionate ways. That ask hard questions that need to be asked, and that don’t shy away from the often harsh realities that some people live with. These are stories to provoke and upset, but also uplift and inspire as well. Plus Strange Horizons has announced that editors Kate Dollarhyde and Jane Crowley have stepped down, replaced by new editor Vanessa Rose Phin. I want to just say how much I’ve appreciated the exiting editors’ work in making Strange Horizons my favorite publication in 2018 and just all the incredible SFF they’ve helped to publish. All luck to them and to the new staff! To the reviews!

Monday, March 25, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Reviews of Goosebumps #17: WHY I'M AFRAID OF BEES

Readers, I’m not entirely sure what to tell you about this book. I feel like we’ve left normalcy so far behind that the concept of normal has lost all usefulness or meaning when talking about this series. To compensate, I’m drinking the appropriately-paired Imperial IPA with Wild Honey from 3 Sheeps Brewing, which is just about strong enough to make reading this book tolerable. Not by much, but if you have to subject yourself to something like this, best to bring some help. Some liquid help. So booze in hand, let’s get to it!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #49

Art by Joey Jordan
Two new stories featuring religion and the afterlife round out the March fiction from Diabolical Plots. The stories are heavy with their implications and with the feeling of change and fear. The characters are caught between the status quo they have known and the future they’ve been working toward. And now that that future is at hand, the reality isn’t what they thought it would be. For some, it gives them pause in the face of what could be their greatest adventure. For others, there are things to overcome first more than doubt. For both, though, the situation calls for faith. Not necessarily in a higher power, but in other people, in compassion and hope. So let’s get to the reviews!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #78

Art by Yupachingping / Fotolia
March brings a pair of rather chilling tales to Nightmare Magazine even as spring arrives to the Northern Hemisphere. The stories look at broken systems, broken worlds, that push people into places where they can only participate. Where they can only choose how much they want to be victims or perpetrators. Where opting out isn’t really possible. This might take the form of a legacy and a world that bring about drastic and violent changes, or a criminal justice system where the justice part has been shattered entirely. The stories provoke and challenge, putting the characters in impossible and horrifying situations and forcing the readers to sit there with them, experiencing those no-win scenarios first had. It’s effectively done, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #273

Art by Flavio Bolla
The first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue of March features two stories (one short and one novelette) about boys fighting back against the traumas and restrictions of their pasts. Seeking to gain some semblance of freedom from the harsh realities that seem to require their suffering and subjugation. And yet both resist the pressure to conform to the toxic and abusive cycles that they are unwilling parts of, seeking instead to break the systems and free themselves and those with them to reach for something better than they were given. These are two rather dark stories made light by the hope the characters manage, and the cages they escape. To the reviews!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Quick Sips - Glittership Summer 2018

A new Glittership is out and super queer!!! Now, though the cover says Summer 2018, these are all original to 2019, which means that people nominating for awards should consider these very much eligible as 2019 releases. That said, there are three original stories and three original poems, as well as three reprints (two of which I’ve reviewed when they originally came out, I think). And the stories are wonderfully defiant, full of characters dealing with systems and settings where they are oppressed, where they are criminalized, and where people try to bend them to fit into what is comfortable and allowed. But even facing the threat of violence and erasure, these characters manage to reach for the unknown, for space where they can be safe and free. Not all of these are incredibly happy, but they are all driven by hope in the face of tyranny, and they are all amazing. So let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #27 [March stuff]

Art by Christopher Jones
Three short stories and two poems usher Uncanny Magazine’s March offerings in with style, revolution, and heartbreak. The pieces move around survivors. Not people who have outlasted others, but those who are surviving their own personal hells and oppressions, their own personal griefs and losses. They are survivors by necessity, their worlds condensing in a squeeze of despair that makes everything seem impossible. And yet at the same time, these stories work to show people helping people. Showing main characters able to move to more active resistance and freedom because they are not alone, because they have the support they need to make their stories about more than just enduring the hardships they face, but rather excelling in the face of them to find healing and hope for the future. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/04/2019 & 03/11/2019

Art by Helen Mask
Two short stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons’ March content. The fiction shines with magic and with beings who are a bit different than humans, passing through a world where they are set apart by their passions and their hungers and their hurts. Looking for ways to find expression and acceptance. The pieces swirl around love and art, meaning and freedom, and the poetry adds some excellent layering to the themes, revealing people and feelings ripe with longing, uncertainty, and, as always, strangeness. To the reviews!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex #118

Art by Aaron Jasinski
Despite editor Jason Sizemore’s continued health issues (hope there's improvement, Jason!), Apex Magazine definitely isn’t slowly down, with three original short stories and a new novelette, all looking at history and memory, violation and revelation. The stories explore the ways that people build prisons, for themselves and for others, and how much it hurts to have to inhabit those places, barred in and often cut off from hope. They run the gamut from historical fantasy to humorous science fiction, showing that humanity casts a long shadow on history, and in that shadow all manner of greater darknesses can lurk concealed. It’s a gripping, rending issue, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #150

Art by Arthur Haas
There’s lots of news in this March issue of Clarkesworld Magazine, plus six new stories (five short stories and one novelette). Mainly, the publication will be adding more translations to its offerings, replacing reprints with new translations of Korean SFF. I trust this doesn’t mean that the Chinese translations will stop, though the current issue again doesn’t have a translation. What is here are some stories that deal very poignantly and viscerally with grief, with oppression, and with people reaching out to other people. That finds people dealing with loss in very profound ways but working through those losses to try and find community, or joy, or love, or purpose. The stories feature moments great and small of people starting something, taking a chance and sparking change. And life. And hope. So without further delay, let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #46

Art by grand failure
It’s a strange month at The Dark Magazine, with two original stories that take some very novel approaches to some rather tried and true subjects for dark SFF—mummies and science. These are pieces that don’t really retread ground, though, instead blazing very new interpretations on the ideas and tropes they tackle. The results are stories that are anything but expected, that are fun and mysterious and weird. And before I give any more away, let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online March 2019

Art by Dario Bijelac
Loss anchors the stories of March’s Flash Fiction Online. Loss and yearning and something dark and oppressive. For some, the loss is of identity, or family. For some, the darkness is a totalitarian regime, or an abusive parent, or death itself. And in each characters must struggle to find something that makes dealing with the darkness worth it. Music. Desire. Ghosts. The sad thing about the stories is that none of the characters seem entirely successful in escaping their darknesses. But there’s still some hope to be had. And plenty of good reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #106

Art by Grandfailure / Fotolia
March often means spring and new beginnings but a lot of the stories in this month’s Lightspeed Magazine are a bit more about grief and yearning. Which hey, might be very appropriate for some, like me, who are so desperate for spring we’d burn our favorite Garak trading card if only it would make the winter stop. The stories often linger on distance, and on parting. On loneliness and fear and all the negative emotions that we try to vanquish in order to be happy. More than that, though, they also reach for hope and joy, and reveal some characters who manage to grab something precious and affirming and some characters who…don’t. To the reviews!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [episodes 7-8]

Things are certainly heating up in the latest episodes from Serial Box’s Ninth Step Station, with plenty of murder, yes, but also a widening scope and political scene, with politicians and terrorists both making life much harder for Miyako and Emma. There’s some further exploration of each characters romantic lives, as well as plenty of office politics to go along with the global politics they’re trying to keep from exploding back into war. And the series continues to hit its television-like feel, with one “Emma episode” and one “Miyako episode” that give a little each character the chance to grow and be challenged. So let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [episodes 3-4]

Today's the day! The Vela is now available for your greedy eyeballs! And people, it is so worth it.  For those who missed it, I just reviewed the first two episodes, and I’m back looking at the next two as the series continues to deliver when it comes to action, political intrigue, and all the power of a solar system’s slow demise. Where the first two parts focused on Asala and Niko’s personal reasons for taking the mission, these parts move into the actual hunt for the missing Vela, and all the danger and corruption surrounding what happened. In the outer planets, with extinction knocking on the door, there is a desperation that gives rise to predators. And Asala and Niko have to decide if that’s what they’re going to be, or if there’s another way to move foward. It’s thrilling, tense, and harrowing, and I should just get to my reviews!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com February 2019

Art by Soufiane Mengad
Four works (three short stories and one novelette I kinda missed from the end of January) make for another full month of fiction from Tor dot com. Further, all the stories are science fiction and most focused on the strength and fragility of relationships. They feature characters who are lonely, and who fear being alone, who are struggling against a culture that often doesn't care about them or their happiness, that wants them to bend to its desires and the fabricated needs of its demands. The pieces explore darkness, self destruction, and what peace looks like in a world that might not be full of war but is full of violence all the same, just a kind that is a bit more socially acceptable. And these are difficult, beautiful works that explore futures (and maybe a near-alt-historical past) that are broken, but not without hope. To the reviews!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #272

Art by Flavio Bolla
The two stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies are linked by water, by characters who find being submerged to be more natural than being on land. Who are not afraid of the dark and deep. But who are also not free. Who have to live on the demands of others, bound to service that they don’t exactly understand. And they both want freedom, though of different sorts. And when the time comes where it’s within their grasps, they have to make the decision of if they will reach for it, and how. The pieces are very different in tone and style, but both are intense and satisfying reads and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #64

Art by Ashanti Fortson
Four stories and a poem make February a rather full month for Fireside Magazine. Though most of the fiction is fairly short, the pieces end up packing a rather palpable emotional punch, from a story about sentient spaceships to a piece about gods and grandmothers to a guide to surviving on Mars. The longest piece, too, is a great exploration of the magical girl idea through a very new lens and split between different perspectives that have some disagreements on What Actually Happened. Throw in a poem full of history and hurt and hope and the issue is a strong one that shows just what makes short SFF so wonderful. To the reviews!