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!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #152

Art by Matt Dixon
There’s only one translation this month from Clarkesworld (from Chinese, for those curious), but there’s also another two short stories and two novelettes that explore science fiction and its sweep and flow. From far flung planets and evil empires to much more terrestrial prejudice and fear, the stories look at how people come together. How they relate to one another and how they seek to avoid each other and how they seek to understand themselves. Not always successfully, not always neatly, but always with an eye on human connections and relationships. The stories explore change, and transformation, and love, and they do so with depth and complexity. These are not overly easy reads, but they are indeed rewarding, and worth spending some time with. To the reviews!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2019

May brings a slew of mother-themed stories at Flash Fiction Online, only one of them speculative but all of them wonderful in their own way. The mothers in the stories aren’t always the main characters. They don’t always have all the answers. But they are largely defined by their willingness to treat their children as people, regardless of what age they are. And that’s something deeply moving to see, definitely worthy of celebrating in this well-paired issue of flash fiction. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Quick Sips - The Dark #48

Art by grandfailure
Both stories in the May issue of The Dark Magazine feature women and isolation. Women in isolation, pushed by expectations and roles to a place where they don’t know what to want or what to do. Until they are confronted by shades along the edge of the vision. A hint of movement. A promise that maybe the loneliness they feel will be lifted, their solitude broken. Only what they find in the dark isn’t exactly what it seems at first, and both have to make choices about how they will confront what lurks in the dark, waiting to be let in. To the reviews!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #108

Art by Julie Dillon
Two short stories and two novelettes make for a rather full month at Lightspeed Magazine. The thematic threads are at times hard to connect, but I do read a concern with conflict and a deep desire for peace and compassion. That looks different for different people, and the stories reveal how often the ability to have peace is determined by how corrupt the world is where the characters live. For those who are in a place where heroism is very real and the Bad Guys are expected to lose, it seems fairly easy to take on small concerns. When the system is built around colonization, war, and domination, though, trying to just skate by isn't enough, and more decisive resistance is required. It's an interesting mix of work on display, and I'll get right to the reviews!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Quick Sips - Serial Box: The Vela [episodes 7-8]

It’s my penultimate look at the first season of The Vela from Serial Box. And as the first season charges for its conclusion it pulls out all the stops. I know, I know, I didn’t think there were any stops left to pull, but the pacing is unrelenting, the impact devastating as Asala has to deal with having the people she trusts the most betray her. And worse, betray her because they don’t trust her, because they’re afraid that she might act in a way they don’t want, which they aren’t willing to let happen, despite that Asala is a professional and knows how to survive and how to fight, a skill that people should probably be deferring to. Instead, everyone is still sticking to their own agendas, something that seems poised to destroy everyone in a blaze of glory and spite. To the reviews!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/29/2019

Art by Suleiman Gwadah
It’s a special release from Strange Horizons to close out April, featuring two short stories and three poems celebrating Nigerian SFF. The works bring a fresh feel to fantasy that weaves magic and creation, persecution and resistance. It finds characters who just want to be free to live their lives being pulled into plots and intrigues that they want no part of but that threaten them all the same. And only through connecting to their power, their families, and the people they have chosen to surround themselves with can they fight back and perhaps fully embrace their potential. It’s a wonderful batch of short SFF, and a treat for readers hungry for more international SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Quick Sips - Anathema #7

Art by kiDChan
Slipping in at the end of the month, Anathema drops four new short stories and two new poems in an issue full of hurt, inheritance, and struggle. The piece focuses on the systemic harms that are passed down, that seem to grow in power and influence the more generations are saddled with them. And it finds characters trying to push back against the weight of history and tradition in order to create a new space for themselves and others to exist. Safely. Where they can express themselves and begin to heal these generational wounds. Only there always seems those eager to destroy the work of dismantling systemic oppression, and these are not easy works, but rather challenging reads that push the reader to confront the world around them through these mirrors that reflect the struggles going on in the real world every day. To the reviews!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine #66

Art by Cat O’Neil
Five Tuesdays make for a busy April with Fireside Magazine, which released five short stories and a poem this month. The piece run the gamut of emotions, from slow and dark to fast and violent, from fun and sweet to numb and hurt. The connective tissue of the issue seems to me to have more to do with cycles, with systems and how they produce justice or injustice, depending on how they are structured. And what people do when faced with these systems. How they play into them. How they resist them. How they try to ignore them. And by and large the stories are challenging, presenting readers with visions they might wish to look away from, but which we all should see, and examine, and complicate. To the reviews!