Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform April 2019

Things get profoundly weird in these April short stories from Motherboard’s Terraform. Very. Very. Weird. From planets where people worship different body parts of their prophet to visions of the future or present where people experience alterations in their perception, the works are all about bending the rules of what makes logical sense in what might be attempts to shake and call into question the fundamental and assumed orderliness of the universe. It finds characters embracing the dark and the unknown, rushing into the jaws of chaos, and struggling against the feelings of stagnancy and inertia. There are some really strange works on display here, but I’m going to give it my best in reviewing them!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2019

Art by Keith Negley
April marks a rather full month of short SFF releases from Tor dot com with three short stories and a novelette, a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, all of it unfolding in the “real world,” though sometimes twisted by technology, sometimes touched by magic, and always heavy with a waiting darkness. The stories certainly lean on the dark side of things, revolving around exploitation, grief, and death. That might come in the form of a family who transforms when they die into heirlooms for their relatives to treasure and care for, or in the form of a military experiment targeting a person who can’t feel physical pain but can definitely experience other kinds. There’s artificial intelligences helping to facilitate social justice, and even a creepy dog who might hide a menacing secret. It’s an eclectic month of fiction, to say the least, offering a solid tour of how SFF approaches death, recovery, and hope. To the reviews!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #276

The two latest short stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies provide an excellent one-two punch of women with power dealing with ghosts, family, and hope in settings touched by devastation and twisted magic. Both stories find characters on journeys who come across situations that maybe they should have just left alone. But, drawn into the intrigue, danger, and violence of them, they choose to move forward and through, fighting their way to a place where maybe justice can mean something again, where they can be helped and healed by family (even those not related by blood). These are some thrilling and epic reads, and I’ll get to my reviews!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/15/2019 & 04/22/2019

The latest two issues of Strange Horizons bring a new short story and two new poems into the world, touching on language and grief, movement and gaze. The pieces follow in the wake of loss, revealing holes where people used to be. For some people, those holes represent a sort of unfillable gap, a vortex threatening to pull them under. For others, what grows to take that space can be something beautiful in its own right, a sort of freedom that comes if the situation before had been less than ideal. And for some it’s a mix, a mess of emotions and intentions and hurts, and the pieces treat all of this with care. So let’s get to the reviews!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Quick Sips - Uncanny #27 [April stuff]

April brings three short stories and three poems to Uncanny Magazine, most of them dealing with romantic relationships. About both the ways that people can find ways to help and affirm each other and the ways that people can hurt each other. Relationships are moments of vulnerability, and some of the characters understand and respect that, working to try and make something beautiful and resilient. Others, though, can only imagine relationships in terms of dominance and superiority, of being able to control and own their partner. It’s a month that has plenty of uncomfortable moments, but also a lot of beauty. Let’s get to the reviews!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #50

Art by Joey Jordan
Two new short stories mark the fiftieth issue of Diabolical Plots, and the works seem very much to be concerned with generational shifts and issues. To me, at least, the stories focus on the ways that the past builds up systems designed to exploit rather than help younger people. That envision the past and present as castles that must be defended, as sacred objects that should not change or adapt because for the older people policing them, they are comfortable and safe. Only the story reveals how that’s often not even the case, and makes compelling strides to complicate and challenge those systems by showing just how much they tend to let everyone down. Let’s get to the reviews!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Nightmare #79

Art by Chainat / Fotolio
It’s springtime in horrorland with two new stories from Nightmare Magazine that examine tropes and truisms. The stories revolve around ideas, the first around the genre of gothic horror, celebrating it without defending the parts of its history that have been riddled with Issues. Meanwhile the second looks at a saying about hearts and wolves, making literal something that might have otherwise been purely figurative. And in both stories the focus is on escaping the gravity of oppressive and prejudiced violence. It finds characters seeking to pull free from the expectation or requirement that they suffer, that they die, that they become consumed to support the dominant narratives. Subversion rules the day in these stories, which I will get right on reviewing!

Friday, April 19, 2019

LIVER BEWARE! You're in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #18: MONSTER BLOOD II

It's a first that I'm exploring this month for Goosebumps. No, no, I'm not doing this sober, don't get too excited. No, I mean that this book represents the first actual sequel that the series has thrown up. As we go, this will happen more and more, as popular individual books become series. In fact, Monster Blood has four different books in the original run of Goosebumps, which makes it one of the most popular ideas to explore. Luckily for me, I've got a growler full of Chocolate Shake Porter from Boulder Beer, so that might make this experience a little easier to handle. Ready? Let's go!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Apex #119

Art by Marcela Bolivar
I wasn't expecting to say in this introduction to the April Apex Magazine a goodbye. But with the announcement that the publication will be going on indefinite hiatus following the next issue (which will be guest edited by Maurice Broaddus), it means this penultimate-for-now issue is the last from the current team of publisher/editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore and managing editor Lesley Connor. I've followed Apex Magazine for a long time, having read every original story and poem put out since I started Quick Sip Reviews (and even before then as part of my reviewing elsewhere). And Apex has always been a venue of challenging, sometimes upsettingly dark SFF. The stories do not seek out the best of humanity, but rather reveal the depths that we as people can sink. Through that murk and grime and grit, though, there's also found the diamond-hard, shining bits of kindness, compassion, and empathy that even the harshest world cannot fully kill, cannot extinguish forever. The latest batch of stories are no exception, and stand as a solid sendoff to a stellar editing team. All health and hope and happiness to all the people involved with Apex, and a huge thanks for showing the light in the dark. To the reviews!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #275

The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #151

Art by Arthur Haas
It’s a full month of fiction and Clarkesworld, with seven stories (six short stories, one novelette), including two different translated pieces (one from Chinese and one from the brand new line of Korean SFF that the publication will be putting out this year). And the pieces by and large focus on the past, and on family, and on trying to recover from the world having gone in some unexpected directions. The characters are looking for people that they cannot find, that are no longer there to be found, and it’s some emotional, rending work, but also full of resilient hope, and audacious survival, and there are tons of moments of tenderness and compassion and love even in settings torn apart by war and violence and loss. And yeah, let’s dive into the reviews!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus April 2019

After a short hiatus GigaNotoSaurus returns with a bloody novelette for April. With the shift in editorial staff, the publication is off to a strong start, definitely taking some chances in terms of content and tone. This is a story about anger and hunger and how those things are suppressed, how they are hurt out of people. Taught to be feared, to be hated, to be reviled. But how they persist all the same, in the face of abuse and destruction, and how they are powerful enough to topple governments and bring about lasting Change. So without further delay, to the review!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/01/2019 & 04/08/2019

Two short stories and two poems open up Strange Horizons’ April content, and it’s an incredibly strong bunch of short SFF. The fiction looks closely at homes and at monsters, at people who are trying to escape in some ways the burdens of their histories and who instead find they are trapped by the need to return. Forced into systems that they don’t necessarily want to be in. And it pushes them then to confront the monsters without and within in order to try and work toward healing and hope. It’s a bracing and beautiful batch of fiction and poetry, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2019

There’s aren’t any fools in April’s Flash Fiction Online, just three stories touched by grief and loss, defiance and denial and the need for something to change. In some of the story, the pressure comes in the form of another person, though that might be an abuser or a lover. For others, it might be a situation, a constant droning noise that won’t stop. But each of the characters loses something. Their freedom, their expression, their love. Even as they reach for something else, something they can’t quite name but for the want of it. And they reach, and reach, and the stories detail how they might finally take control of their futures, or fall victim to them. To the reviews!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Fiyah Literary Magazine #10: Hair

Art by Olivia Stephens
A new issue of Fiyah Literary Magazine brings out four new stories and three new poems, all exploring the theme of Hair. It’s a complicated theme, one that grows out of the ways that black hair has been politicized and policed. But like all hair it’s also a source of identity, expression, and pride. The works explore how hair brings people together, through magic and through care, through defiance and through rebellion. How people suffer when they are dehumanized by those who want to control their hair, restrict and legislate their hair. The works run from contemporary fantasy to second world heroics, and feature characters very much battling against systems of oppression trying to define what beauty, value, and power should be when it comes to hair. To the reviews!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #47

Art by Ksenia (Iren Horrors)
It’s an interesting issue of The Dark this month, with two new stories aimed directly at history and the military and South America. Both pieces deal with women running up against a wall of tradition, of a history of abuse and hunger. They go in wanting to succeed, wanting to excel, and find that the system isn’t set up to let them do that. Instead, pushing only seems to make them targets, to put them on the menu for the appetites of those with power. It’s a creepy and at times difficult pair of stories that challenge but also take on the weight of corruption, slowly crushing the reader beneath the tide of corpses the past keeps bringing forward into the present. To the reviews!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #107

Art by Reiko Murakami
Lightspeed Magazine brings four new stories out this April (three short stories & one novelette) that space from near-past science fiction to mythological fantasy, moving from a Mars where humanity has suffered a great loss to a village where the injustices are a bit more nuanced. The issue also includes a conclusion to the Banker cycle that’s been recurring in recent months, though I dare say it’s probably not the last readers will see of the characters or setting. And all told there are a lot of characters bound by their promises, having to navigate situations where what they said they were going to do might be more ruinous than breaking their word. So yeah, to the reviews!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [episodes 5-6]

I’d say that reading The Vela was a little bit like being trapped on a runaway train as it barrels toward a cliff, but if we’re being honest I don’t think that does it justice. The train has already crashed through the boundaries and into the open air and is plummeting down, on fire, while on board there are hungry lions, bandits with guns, and maybe a murderous AI for good measure. The phrase “going from bad to worse” definitely applies in terms of the issues the characters are facing, all while building up a stunning science fiction setting with high stakes, brilliant action, and shattering emotional moments. I’m tired just reading about what these characters are enduring, but I’m also super excited to find out what happens next. To the reviews!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: Ninth Step Station [episodes 9-10]

Season one of Serial Box’s thrilling Ninth Step Station comes to a close with its first two-part episode, bringing together basically all of the unresolved elements from the series so far and setting the characters on a collision course with disaster and war. The episodes today stick with the murder mystery premise, but the solutions to these whodunnits aren’t really...straightforward. Instead, they are labyrinths that, if Emma and Miyako aren’t careful, they might get lost in. There’s a lot up in the air as the episodes progress, and the stakes skyrocket when assassinations, military aggression, and systemic corruption make honest police work impossible. And it’s a gripping payoff for readers of the season so far, though also something of a cliffhanger and a reason to very much hope there is a season 2.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Vulture Bones #4

Art by B R Sanders
Vulture Bones is a new speculative magazine focusing on trans and nonbinary writers. It is published quarterly, and I will be looking at issue #4. Content warnings are included in the table of content of the magazine, so I will forgo including them in my reviews. The six stories in this issue run through with unsettling details which make them a deliciously creepy read. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Huge Thank You!

Hi all!

I’m super excited to say that I’m a Hugo finalist! Twice, actually! For the second year in a row I have been nominated in the Best Fan Writer category, and, rather surprising me this year, Quick Sip Reviews has also been nominated in the Best Fanzine category. My eternal gratitude goes out to everyone who nominated me and QSR for this honor!

I am, as with most things, pulled between feelings at all of this. Mostly, I am so grateful for all the people who have helped to make Quick Sip Reviews what it is, and who have helped me find a place in fandom that is personally rewarding as well as appreciated. It’s easy to feel alone as a fan in SFF. For me, at least, being geographically rather removed from a vibrant SFF community, most of my footprint has been online, most of the people who have helped me and people I have in turn reached been those I have never met in person. Part of what pushed me to start QSR was that feeling of isolation and loneliness, and so to be recognized for my work online, as an advocate for and critic of short fiction, is just amazing.

Because even as I started the project and my work online, I have hardly been alone. I have been helped by so many, encouraged by so many, that it would be impossible to list them all. But I do want to take the time to say my thanks to a number of people who have helped to make these nominations possible. And I know, this is normally saved for an acceptance speech at the awards themselves, but as there is no way that I can attend this year, and because last year I didn’t publicly thank those who helped me get to be a Hugo Award finalist, I do want to take the time now to say a few words, if for no other reason than it’s always good to say, and to recognize those who have helped me.

So I want to thank The G and Vance and all the Nerds of a Feather crew for giving me my first real home in fandom I could be proud of. Thanks to A.C. Wise, who might be the kindest person in SFF, the most supportive of new voices and just an amazing advocate for short SFF as a writer, editor, and fan. Thanks to K. Tempest Bradford for giving me a boost just when I needed it. Thanks to Ana and Thea at The Book Smugglers for being awesome in general and for making me a part of the Smuggler Army. To Nicasio Reed for spending so much time talking Garak with me, and for introducing me to so many amazing things. To R.B. Lemberg for always giving me advice I need to hear. To Sam J. Miller for being amazing and encouraging and for writing stories that make me cry on the regular. To the entirety of PQ because you are all wonderful. To Sigrid Ellis for all the support and wisdom. To all my patrons, without whom I would not be able to keep doing this, and who put up with me drunkenly reviewing kids’ books when it has nothing to do with short SFF.

Thanks to the SPACECATs for being a little pocket of awesome in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. And last and most, thanks to my amazing partner Matt, who has been with me through everything and who I am nothing without. I am so much better because of nem, and would not be a fraction of the reader or reviewer I am without nem to break down my expectations and my defenses and show me a universe so much darker and larger and more beautiful than anything I might have found on my own.

There are many others who I am probably forgetting to mention, too, who have been instrumental to me being in short SFF. Who have helped me to grow and learn the ropes. I feel often like I have unpopular opinions about reviewing and about talking about short SFF, but I suppose I have to revise that sentiment in the face of the support I receive. Definitely there are a lot of people who find what I do valuable, and I’ll not lie and say that doesn’t feel good. In turn, I appreciate all the writers, editors, readers, and fans who make short SFF a space that I want to be in. Not that it’s always easy, but having been a short SFF reviewer now for over five years, I’m still inspired and challenged by the work being created. I’m still in awe of the creativity and humbled by the bravery of so many excellent people.

So to you all, again, thank you! Whatever happens at the awards ceremony this year, it’s always rad as fuck to be recognized with a nomination, and I’ll try to earn the trust that’s been put in me by this honor. Cheers!


Quick Sips - Terraform March 2019

There's a lot going on at Motherboard's Terraform this month, with not only the three short stories I'm covering, but a reprint and an excerpt that you could check out as well. The original fiction covers a number of rather bleak futures ruled by corporate greed and government overreach. Not, mind you, over-regulation, but rather looks at how governments can be tools of oppression, punishing those already suffering from intense pressure and a general hopelessness about the future. It shows how people can be funneled down paths that are supposed to keep them "safe" and "happy" without ever really getting there and without ever being satisfied or content with the actual work they do. The stories show how these harsh futures push people into isolation, and how people seek to reach back out in any way they can. It's not a light bunch of stories, but they're definitely worth grappling with. To the reviews!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Regular Sip - The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum by Cynthia Ward (Conversations Pieces #62 Aqueduct Press)

Following the alt historical queer romp through science fiction and gothic horror that was The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, this latest installment of the Blood Thirsty Agent series (published by Aqueduct Press in their Conversation Pieces line) leaves boats behind and takes the action to the continuing World War raging between the Allied and Central forces. Lucy Harkness is back, still in a relationship with the upiĆ³ry Clarimal, and the piece keeps the literary references fast and furious while increasing the scope, scale, and carnage of the action. The pacing and feel are pure pulp, and the series continues to be a h*ckin’ fun time. To the review!